Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll © 2009 By Cyberdyke

This story depicts a consenting sexual relationship between adult women, oh and a man and a women too. There is occasional bad language and violence.

Disclaimer: All characters are fictitious and made up from the depths of my mind. Any similarities with living or dead people just sucks.
I would like to thank the following people who helped me with this book.
Beta readers: Paula Brooksby, Stephanie Solomon, Captain Skip Ward, Cynthia Renfro, Amy Spreadborough, Kate Moreno, Tasa Wolfstar
To Elizabeth White for supplying the heart felt lyrics
To Dr. Kate Felmet for all of her medical advice
To Tarpon S. Wallenda for his legal advice
To Jerry Dupree for all his help with weapons advice
To Steve Padgett my editor for all his help and support

Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll  - Part 1

1

The evening was warm, the hot temperatures of the day dying with the help of a cool breeze off of the river, typical weather for late August in Portland, Oregon. Most of the people out at this late hour were dressed in short sleeved shirts and light clothing. The main streets surrounding the concert hall, usually busy and noisy with the heavy flow of traffic, were quiet with only light travel. With the end of the concert, bodies began to pour out of the hall, the empty gray brick sunken terrace plaza quickly flooded with people. Soon the thousands of voices disrupted the relative quiet of the city, the parking lots across the street from the hall began to come alive with the excited concert-goers, preparing to make the trip home.

Everyone was leaving, except one, who waited patiently in the shadows. Her back was pressed against the still-warm concrete of the hall. Like a heating pad, the warmth felt good and helped relax her as she watched and waited. The target, laughing and carefree, emerged from the hall. For the last time, the assassin checked the mental picture against the actual face; there could be no mistakes. The assassin started to cross the distance between them. Walking alongside the target, looking very nervous as he constantly scanned the crowd, was a man – probably a bodyguard – and a woman – the target’s date, no doubt. Pretty woman, the killer noted: mid-twenties wearing expensive clothes that hung just right for all of her nice curves. The bodyguard was nothing special, average height and weight, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. Slipping in behind the trio, the executioner began following their path. The bodyguard spotted her and then dismissed her as not a threat.

‘Rank amateur,’ the assassin thought with a smile. Closing to within a couple of feet, she removed a silenced automatic pistol and fired off two quick shots, then turned around and walked away at a normal pace. The smell of cordite hung in the moist night air as the girlfriend screamed and the target stumbled and fell to his knees. A small spot of red quickly began to stain his yellow cotton polo shirt.

The bodyguard, standing protectively over his wounded employer, pulled out a gun and turned in the crowd, searching for the gunman. Only one person didn’t turn around when the girlfriend screamed. The bodyguard took aim and fired. Gunfire sounded like an explosion to the unsuspecting crowd, who collectively shrieked and scattered. The bullet ripped through the assassin’s skin, the burning sting taking her breath away as she ran, hunched over, along with the panicked crowd. Reaching a black metal railing, she placed her hand on it and swung her legs over the top. A 15-foot drop to the city street below, felt farther than it had looked in the dark. Hitting the sidewalk hard and jarring her injury, she desperately tried to get a sense of where she was. And more importantly, where her escape lay. A young couple enjoying a private stroll was startled when the assassin dropped down from the railing and ran past them into the night.

2

The young woman with the cat-eyed horn rimmed glasses turned to her guests. “We’re going to come out of commercial and then I’ll introduce you.” She turned back to the camera as a stage hand held up three fingers closing one and mouthing, “two.” As he closed one of the remaining fingers, he pointed to the young woman and closed his last finger.

“Hi, I’m Josie, and this is Uptown Beat. With me today are the founding members of Scarecrow, Tony Rain Cloud, Kris Cutler and Rick Cutler.”

Rick turned his dazzling smile on the host as he took her hand in his. “Thank you so much, and let me tell you how pleased we are to be here with you today.”

Josie tittered while smiling and blushing a little. “Wow! I guess the reports of your charm were all true.” Looking at the camera and flexing her eyebrows, she said, “And girls he’s just as drop dead gorgeous in person as the pictures in the CD’s.”

Kris and Tony shared a knowing look before Tony replied, “Oh boy there goes another one.”

Josie’s eyebrows rose as she looked expectantly at Tony. Before she had a chance to ask a question Rick piped up, “Ignore them they’re just jealous.”

Kris looked incredulous as she broke in, “Jealous? Jealous of what?”

Josie’s interviewing skills finally kicked in. “Do I sense some sibling rivalry?”

Kris smiled wryly. “Sure, what family doesn’t?”

Rick turned and smiled good-naturedly at the other women.

Josie was completely in interviewer mode. “You all seem to get along pretty well. Is it true that you all share a house together?”

Tony flicked her long jet-black locks over her shoulder. “That’s true. It just seemed like a natural since we spend so much time together anyway.”

Josie put the end of her pen to her lips. “Now how much time is that exactly?”

Kris considered the question. “Well it works out to about 330 days a year, 24/7…”

Josie looked astounded. “I couldn’t spend that kind of time with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sibs, but Jesus, we would be at each other’s throats after about a week.”

All of the guests laughed, nodding their heads in understanding.

Rick replied, “Oh we have our moments…”

Tony interrupted, smiling, “Yeah you should see us after about three months of a nine month tour!”

Kris chuckled. “If you asked any of the crew or the rest of the band, they would say that we don’t really get along well.”

Tony pulled on her earlobe. “Since we met, we’ve always gotten along well.”

Josie adjusted her glasses. “Right. So it’s true that you aren’t all related?”

Rick rubbed a hand across the stubble on his cheek. “No we’re all related, by marriage.”

Kris and Tony exchanged a look before Kris replied, “Well, Rick is my younger brother, Franklin my older brother, married Tony’s mom.”

“Now when was this? How old were you?”

Tony took up the narrative. “Ah, we must have been in our early teens.”

Josie looked very interested in this story. “So then you aren’t all siblings?”

Kris replied, “Well technically no. Tony is our niece…”

Rick interrupted, brushing his platinum bangs out of his eyes. “We have always thought of her as a sister though.”

Josie straightened her skirt a bit, “Well that explains the reason you,” she pointed directly at Tony, “Look different from Kris and Rick.”

Tony laughed. “Well you could call me the black sheep of the family.”

Kris laughed as she gave Tony a high five. “Nice one!” She turned and addressed the host. “Tony is a full blooded Apache.”

Josie looked a little shocked. “Really? Wow that is so cool.” Looking down at the index cards in her hand, she became a bit more serious. “There is one question I would like to ask you.”

Tony looked expectantly, giving the woman permission to quiz her.

Josie sat a little more forward in her chair. “Why do you spell your name with the male spelling?”

Tony chuckled and held her hand out to Rick. “Dude, you owe me; pay up.”

Rick scowled as he reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. He proceeded to take some cash out of it and hand it to the dark haired woman. “I should have known – you suckered me into that one.”

Tony took the money with a flourish. As she was counting it, she and Kris both said at the same time, “Sucker.” They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Through her laughter Tony replied, “To answer your question, my mom always spelled it that way, and I prefer it that way.”

Josie had just made the major mistake of an interviewer, ‘don’t let the interviewee take control.’ She addressed the camera, wearing a tight smile. “When we come back, we’ll talk about their latest album and tour, Cornfields; stay tuned.”

Stagehand, “And you’re clear. That’s two minutes.”

The set suddenly exploded with activity as people came from everywhere. Some were checking Josie’s makeup, some were adjusting the lights, while still others were consulting notebooks and then talking to no one.

The guests were watching all the activity and being quite entertained.

Stagehand,  “Thirty seconds; places people.”

As suddenly as they had appeared, the people and activity stopped.

Once again the stagehand did the countdown with his fingers.

“Welcome back, and if you are just joining us, I’m Josie and today’s guests on Uptown Beat are the founding members of Scarecrow.” She turned to her guests and smiled warmly. “I wanted to say how cool it is that we could finally get you on the show.”

Kris returned the smile. “Thanks. We’ve been wanting to do the show for awhile too – I’m glad our schedule finally worked out so we could make it.”

Still smiling, Josie took charge. “You have a new album out…”

Rick picked up the ball. “Yes we do. Cornfields. It’s our eighth album, and we are out on tour promoting it.” Looking directly into the camera, and giving a dazzling smile, he said, “In a city or town near you!” He winked and pursed his lips before turning his attention back to the host.

Tony slapped his arm. “You are shameless!”

Josie smiled as she looked to the stagehands. “Can we show the tour info at the bottom of the screen?” She looked back at the camera. “And as a special treat, we will be airing their latest video from the new album on tonight’s show.”

Kris looked almost like an Elvis impersonator as she held both of her hands like guns turned on their sides and pointed at the camera. “Just for you babies out there!”

Both of her siblings give her a sidelong look, looking perplexed.

Tony stated, “You’ll have to forgive her, her meds haven’t kicked in yet.”

Josie gave her an indulgent smile. “What can we expect from this album?”

Rick ran a hand through his shoulder length hair. “Oh just the hard rockin’ head pounding music we’re known for.”

Kris shook her head in disbelief. “What my little brother is trying so hard to say is that the album is chock full of hard rock and head pounding songs, but I think that the lyrics will have many of our diehard fans playing the songs over and over and saying ‘Interesting’.”

Josie looked interested as she asked, “And why is that?”

Tony was smiling mischievously. “Kris and I barricaded ourselves in the studio and wrote the songs.”

Looking intrigued, the young woman asked, “So this album has a decidedly feminine tilt?”

Rick sat up straighter, “Ah… I wouldn’t go that far…”

Tony swatted his arm again as she interrupted, “Pasha, he’s worried that his machismo is going to take a back seat.”

Kris jumped in. “It’s true that rock and roll has been a boys’ club – but it’s no secret that chicks can kick ass and rock on with the big boys.”

Josie turned to the camera, smiling and a little surprised. “Do I hear a challenge?”

Kris replied, “We’ll let our fans settle that one.”

Josie looked into the camera. “When we get back, we’ll have some final comments from our guests as well as the premier of the latest video, Will You be There.”

Once again the set exploded with activity.

A guy that looked to be about five years younger than any of the band, with long red hair, approached them, his hand offered. “Hi, Darin Stevens, MTV networks; we are really happy you could make the show.”

Rick took the proffered hand. “Thanks; Darin was it?”

Darin pushed his hair out of his gray eyes. “Yeah; look, we’d really like it if you could do some spots before you bail today….

Kris interrupted, “Ah man you should have checked with the powers-that-be for that; we’re on a really tight time line…”

Darin looked at her, and she swore she could see his acne. “No prob – we padded the time you were scheduled here so keeping you on your schedule should be a no-brainer.”

Stagehand,  “Thirty seconds; places people.”

Darin reached out and took Rick’s hand, said, “Thanks man!” And he was gone.

The three exchanged puzzled looks.

“We’re back. Our guests today have been the founding members of Scarecrow, Tony Rain Cloud, Kris and Rick Cutler.”

The camera came in for a close up on each one in turn.

Tony smiled warmly. “Josie, thank you for asking us, we’ve really had a great time.”

Josie smiled to the camera. “Now, the moment you’ve all waited for, the premier of Will You be There off the new album CornFields. Any last words?”

Tony replied, “This is a song that Kris wrote, and I really like it!”

Josie was wrapping things up. “Great! Look for Scarecrow out on tour, and their new album Corn Field in stores, and of course their videos right here on MTV!! Good night!”

3

“Kris! Wait up.” Tom grabbed her arm, stopping her journey to the elevators. “Hey, on the Gray Skies number – I hate the way Rick has got us doing his live version.”

“Oh, totally! The meter is off and we sound like we are trying to swim up stream.” Steve shook his head in agreement, while standing on her other side. His reddish-brown ponytail swished across his broad back. His kind hazel eyes turned up slightly at the corners when he smiled. The thin, mostly red, goatee looked distinguished on him, even though he looked kind of like a kid playing dress-up. He always reminded Kris of a boxer dog; he was stocky and well-built, but so kind and gentle.

“Well, it is his song. Have you talked to him about changing it?” Kris started toward the elevators again, flanked by the two guys.

“Yeah, I mentioned it to him but he wasn’t listening,” Tom replied in a rather loud voice. The headphones he was wearing masked the true volume of life. His normally smiling face was filled with frustration. The baseball cap turned backwards did nothing to hide his thick long brown hair. His baggy pants and oversized black T-shirt that read “Beethoven Rules” made him appear much younger than his twenty-five years.

“I was thinking if you were to do sort of a blues beat, it would help smooth out the song,” Steve suggested, smiling encouragingly.

“Ah now fellas, you know what will happen if I try that without running it by him. He’s going to ream me a new one!” Kris protested waving her hands back and forth in front of her.

Tom was walking backwards in front of the other two. “What if you did it during the sound check…”

“Give him a chance to wrap his mind around the idea,” Steve interrupted. Tom’s enthusiasm had overflowed to Steve.

Kris laughed as she clapped both men on the shoulders. “You’ve had this planned for some time.”

Giving her his best puppy dog eyes, Tom pleaded, “Come on Kris. You are one of the founders. You have a heavier vote than we do.”

“Besides, you can always drum him into the floor!” Steve laughed.

“Hey, if I didn’t know better I would say you two are trying to butter me up!”

Tom reminded her, “Well, you are his big sister…”

Kris chuckled as she cut Tom off, “I haven’t been his big sister since I was twelve!”

Steve was trying his best to look innocent. “Butter you up? Us?” He flashed her a charming smile. “We are only telling you the truth.”

“Stop! I know when I’ve been had. I’ll talk to him, but no guarantees.” She shook her index finger at them, trying to look stern.

Tom leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “I don’t care what anyone says. You are the best drummer – even if you are a girl!” Kris lunged at him but came up with only air as he danced out of her reach.

“You! I’m going to get you for that!” she promised. Her brown eyes sparkled with mischief. He laughed and kept out of her reach.

Steve put himself between the two. “Now, Kris, remember he’s immature, and if you break his neck we’ll have to find another keyboard player.”

“One that’s better looking than Little Richard, I hope!” She lunged at Tom again.

“Ooo, good one!” Steve raised his hand as he and Kris did the high five.

Tess could hear the laughter across the large, mostly empty lobby. Looking up from her clipboard, Tess’ face broke into a delighted smile when she saw the trio. She stopped, clutching the clipboard to her chest, and watched the woman. Kris threw her head back; her short mostly brown hair fell to her shoulders as she laughed. Even though she was in her early thirties, the gray hairs, which had started to arrive in high school, were making their presence known more and more lately. Her very dark brown eyes sparkled with the toothy smile that graced her full lips. It was one of those infectious smiles that leaves the person it is turned on smiling too. She had the fresh-faced good looks of a cheerleader or the girl next door. Kris’ faded Levi’s 501’s framed her tight butt and muscular legs and flared out slightly around her ankles. The soft, dark blue, long-sleeve oxford shirt really highlighted her dark coloring. She was at least a head shorter than the two guys she was with. It made her look at times like a little kid looking up to Dad.

“Kris, I need to talk to you for a moment.” Tess’ shoulder-length strawberry blond hair was highlighted with deep red and platinum blond strands. Her baby face always got her carded at the bars, but, in truth, she was pushing thirty. Her svelte form told the story of her dedication to working out. Even in her loose-fitting Levi’s and a light blue, short sleeve blouse with a gray tweed vest over the top, she was an attention-getter. Chocolate brown eyes were dark and promised mystery, while a lopsided grin that constantly teased her lips offered good-natured fun.

Kris smiled and waved at Tess. Turning back to the boys she said, “Get out of here before I kick your butts!”

“Later,” Tom replied, looking over his shoulder to where Kris’ attention was. “Tell her all work and no play makes a frigid bitch.”

Kris gave him a scowl, before turning her attention back to the blond. “What’s up?” Kris stepped away from the men and waited for the woman to catch up.

“Rick and Tony wanted to find out from you what songs you think we should rotate into the next gig.” The woman held out her clipboard.

“I missed you the other night, Tess.” Kris’ tone was hushed, as she looked at the clipboard, not really seeing what was written there. They waited for Kris’ companions to board the elevator.

“I’m sorry, I got hung up with the roadies. Problem with one of the trucks breaking down,” Tess replied, matching the hushed tone.

“Why don’t we just rotate one new one in for the next gig. I thought the last two performances went really well, and the crowd liked the mix.” Kris’ normal speaking tone had returned. The two women moved closer to the elevator as the doors closed, taking the men with it. They continued on to the stairway door and stepped inside, finding themselves alone. Tess put her arms around Kris’ neck and kissed her passionately. A door opened somewhere above them, and echoing voices filtered down. Startled, they quickly parted and left by the same door they had entered. The elevator they stepped onto was empty.

Kris’ face was flushed. “Why don’t I come in for a quickie?”

“Well, since you’re my boss, I don’t suppose I can really say no, right?” Tess smiled seductively as she ran her hands through Kris’ short, thick, brown hair.

“It’s never stopped you before.” Kris nipped Tess’ neck.

Tess moaned and tilted her head back exposing more of the tender flesh. A little out of breath, she asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be dining or at a drum clinic?”

“I’d rather dine on you.” Kris captured her lips again. The doors to the elevator opened on Tess’ floor, and the women stepped off. They were alone in the hallway. Tess’ lips seized Kris’, and she pulled Kris back until her own back was pressed up against the tan wall beside her door. Tess pulled a key out of her pocket and fumbled with it, found the slot, and opened the door, never breaking the kiss. Kris had devoured her lips as they stumbled into the room. Tess kicked the door shut, and they made their way across the neutral carpet of the typical motel room to the bed. The room phone began to ring; Tess picked up the receiver.

“Hello?” She sounded a little out of breath. Kris brushed the honey-colored hair from Tess’ neck as she kissed and nibbled her neck. Her hands caressed Tess’ torso and worked their way around to the front to begin unbuttoning her shirt. Tess batted at her hands as she tried desperately to concentrate on the phone call. Finally, Tess hung up the phone. Kris covered her mouth with her own and laid her back on the bed as she removed the rest of her clothes. “Kris, I really need to go…” Tess panted, torn between really wanting to do this now and having her duties to attend to.

“Whatever it is, it can wait ten minutes,” Kris interrupted as she placed her mouth over Tess’ breast. Tess let out a little moan of pleasure, as Kris’ tongue flicked over her erect nipple.

“Kris… one of the equipment… trucks is broken down,” Tess managed as her ability to speak disappeared along with her concentration. Kris brushed her fingers against Tess’ sex, feeling the slickness there as Tess took in a sharp breath.

“Well, if you really must go…” Kris said, bringing her wet fingers up to her mouth and slowly licking the luscious juices off her fingers one by one. Tess’ mahogany eyes watched in hooded pleasure, her heart pounding faster.

Tess reached out and put her hand behind Kris’ back, pulling her down. “Come here.” Her voice was husky with need as she ravaged Kris’ mouth, her hands pulling at her still-clothed body. Tess’ voice was low and ragged. “Take this off!”

Kris sat back and slowly removed her shirt, pulling it over her head. Tess licked her lips as the bare breasts of her lover came into view. Kris laid her body on top of Tess’, both women moaning with the skin-to-skin contact. Kris was supporting most of her weight on her elbows, which were straddling Tess’ chest. The women’s lips locked as their tongues danced in mutual exploration. Tess broke the kiss and moved so that she could take Kris’ right nipple into her mouth. Kris whimpered in pleasure as her head fell back in total abandon. She arched her back into the exquisite torture. Tess lavished the same attention on the other breast as Kris’ hands roamed over the satiny skin of her lover. Kris’ desire for the woman lying underneath her was beginning to overtake her. Reaching out, she began to nibble and kiss the sweet flesh of the exposed neck that was within reach. The growl that vibrated from Tess’ mouth across her breasts sent an electric charge straight to her core. Tess’ hands were blazing a trail down closer to the damp, dark curls that covered Kris’ sex. Dipping a finger into the silky folds, she felt Kris’ hips buck as she gasped in surprise. Smiling against the erect nipple that she was suckling against, Tess again slipped a finger into the warm folds of the dark-haired woman, feeling the dripping welcome there. Lightly running her finger over the tight bundle of nerves before moving down to her waiting core, she felt Kris’ back arch into her, wanting more. Slipping two fingers through the opening, she felt the muscles pull her deeper inside as she matched Kris’ own rhythm. The smell of Kris’ arousal made Tess dizzy as she pushed her fingers deep inside the warmth and silkiness, making her own need burn hotter. She could feel the muscles tightening around her fingers as Kris’ ragged breathing sounded in her ears. Knowing that her lover was nearing the edge, she rubbed her thumb over the nub. Kris’ body stilled as the climax rolled over her, delicious in wave after wave.

They lay next to each other, breathing hard on the crumpled sheets, as Kris ran her hand lightly over Tess’ soft skin. Tess felt safe and relaxed here with Kris. She didn’t really ever want their time together to end. She would often pretend that they were a couple with no press conferences, interviews or broken down buses to deal with. That Kris didn’t have to hide her homosexuality from the world. But of course, this wasn’t the reality that they lived in. She leaned over and kissed her lover ever so gently on the lips and sat up. Her body screamed in protest at the lost contact with the warm body next to her. Their clothes were scattered about the floor in chaos. Her mind was so like the clothes as it warred with itself. She did need to get up and take care of her duties, but every fiber in her body only wanted to lie back down next to the naked woman beside her. Kris ran her hand through the silky tresses and lightly caressed the velvety skin underneath. With a sigh, she succumbed and lay back down.

“Why do we have to do all this cloak-and-dagger stuff?” Kris asked.

“I don’t think it would look right to the others to have you seeing the help,” Tess replied, holding Kris close to her, feeling the warmth of her naked body touching her own.

“I see your point,” Kris sighed.

“Besides, you’re not out, and this could damage your career,” Tess continued.

“Someday, I sure would like to stop hiding everything in my life.” Kris sounded a little frustrated.

“Well, it’s your life,” Tess reminded her.

“True. Are you happy with this situation?”

“What do you mean?” Tess asked, a little hesitant.

“Are you happy with our couple of rendezvous a week?”

“Yes, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know. I think there should be more…”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a commitment of some kind.”

“I thought we agreed there’d be no strings?” Tess replied.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Look, with our schedules, this is all we can ask for right now.”

“Is it?” Kris questioned. They were silent for a while.

“What’s this on your arm?” Kris asked, being careful not to be too rough.

“The other night I was checking some equipment crates, and I tripped in the gloom inside the truck and ran into a sharp corner.” Tess looked at the angry, ragged horizontal wound surrounded by what looked like it was going to be a nasty bruise on her upper arm.

“You need to be more careful. I wouldn’t want you to really get hurt. Then what would we do without an Assistant Tour Manager?” Kris asked, smiling.

“Oh, I can tell you’re really concerned with my health and well-being!” Tess joked, trying to pretend she was hurt. “What about that nasty scrape on your back?”

Kris shrugged. “You remember; I got it at that last gig – Rick raked me with his guitar in the limo?” Tess tried to remember the incident but couldn’t. The phone began to ring again. Kris reached out, put her hand on it, and, speaking very close to Tess’ ear, said, “I’ll show you how concerned I am.” And laying her other hand on Tess’ mound, began to finger her opening.

divider

They dressed and stepped into the elevator. Reaching the ground floor, they ran into some members of the band.“So, you’ve got the changes then?” Tess was trying to sound and look very professional.

“Right, no problem,” Kris replied, as they went their separate ways.

“That’s where you were? I’ve been looking all over for you. You have an interview in fifteen minutes.” Paul Fence, tour manager for the band, caught up to Kris. He was around six feet tall, in his middle thirties, with collar-length sandy hair. His eyes were brown and warm, and danced when he smiled. He was wearing jeans and a light blue turtleneck sweater, with a gray sports coat over it, and carried his ever-present clipboard.

Kris gave her flippant answer. “Yes’um Massa!” Her mind was distracted with images of her lovemaking with Tess. Licking her lips she was sure she could still taste her lover on them. A smile crept across her face.

4

The concert had been over for a while. The constant ringing in her ears had begun to subside. Everyone had played very well, and Kris was feeling in a particularly good mood. She felt like painting the town tonight. After she had finished dressing, she went next door to her brother’s room and knocked on the door.

A strikingly handsome young man answered. His muscular, tanned body was complemented perfectly by his shoulder-length platinum blond hair and baby blue eyes. When he walked into a room, heads turned. He knew he was good looking, but he wasn’t conceited about it. All he had to do was simply smile at women and they practically threw themselves at him. Even so, he was very down-to-earth, and with women drooling over him, he really enjoyed life. “Hey Sis, what’s shaking?” Rick backed out of the doorway to let her in.

Kris moved into the room. “I feel great! Let’s go out tonight.” She began drumming on the arm of the couch.

“Are you sure you want to do that? I mean, last time we did that, we nearly caused a riot.” He draped his 6" 5" frame over the couch.

“Man, I am so jazzed! Wasn’t tonight’s gig great? We came, we saw, we conquered!” Kris felt like she was bouncing off the walls. “How can you lie there and be so calm?”

“I suppose,” he sighed, feigning boredom and stifling a yawn. “If you insist. I guess I’d better go and keep you out of trouble.” He jumped to his feet, poking his sister in her most ticklish spots, running for the door, keeping out of his sister’s reach and calling over his shoulder, “Let’s find out if Tony wants to go.”

“Punk,” Kris swatted at her brother, but his extra foot in height kept him well out of her reach. He was easily more of a troublemaker than she was. Tony, their niece, was the worst by far.

“Why am I always keeping you guys in line?” Kris closed the door. But if the truth be told, she was the worst prankster of the bunch.

“That’s what big sisters are for!” He gave her a charming smile, but his eyes were filled with sarcasm.

“Yeah, right! I knew there was a drawback to this birth order thing!”

As they neared the door to Tony’s room, he leaned closer to her ear and said in a conspiratorial tone, “So are we going to lose our shadows?”

Kris pondered his statement, trying to figure out what he was talking about. “What?”

“The bodyguards.” He rolled his eyes as if she were a brain donor. “Do you know how hard it is to score with tall, dark, and rock solid standing there?”

“Oh please! When was the last time you didn’t score?” Kris chuckled from the absurdity of the statement.

“I didn’t say they stopped me, just made it difficult,” he amended.

“Since they are total party poopers, and don’t we always lose them?” Kris said as she knocked on Tony’s door.

The first time that Kris and Rick met Tony was when Franklin, their older brother, had brought his new wife Bridget and stepdaughter Tony home to meet the family. Kris thought Rick’s penis was going to become a ballistic missile, while her own mouth went dry, and her pulse quickened. Tony was a knockout with jet-black hair cascading past her shoulders, and soft kind brown eyes to match. She was taller than Kris, around 5' 10", with her dark Native American skin and a body a model would kill for.

The three musketeers, as all who knew them called them, set out to have some fun on the unsuspecting burg. They walked a few blocks from their hotel and found a nightclub. Inside, it was dark, and rock ’n’ roll pulsated the walls, while a crush of bodies seethed on the dance floor.

Struggling to be heard, Tony shouted, “I’ll get the first round while you two go out and warm up the floor.”

Kris and Rick moved out into the throng and began to dance. The band was decent, and the ambiance was laid back. Kris loved to dance, and it had been awhile since she had had the chance. The song ended and was followed by a slow number. The siblings went to find Tony and their drinks.

Kris really loved doing this: she loved watching her brother work a room. Already many women had noticed him and some were working up their nerve to come and talk with him.

“You know, I love to come out with the two of you,” Tony shouted to be heard over the music, as they all sat down at a cozy table.

Rick shouted back. “I enjoy myself so much more when the three of us go out together.”

“I love watching the two of you in action,” Tony replied.

“What do you mean?” Rick looked puzzled.

“You’re like a male peacock, flashy and attracting every female for miles. Kris waits for the dust to clear and then like a cat subtly checks out her prey.”

Rick sounded genuinely surprised. “Really?!”

“Yeah, you two have almost the same taste in women,” Tony stated.

Kris protested. “Oh no, we don’t; I like mine with scruples, a brain, and way less make-up!”

“I guess that’s true enough. I don’t remember you jumping into bed with too many,” Rick reflected.

“Then you haven’t been paying attention!” Tony stated.

“Hey! I’ve slept with my share, I just don’t share my brother’s appetite for tabloid covers.” Kris explained.

“That’s true. You must be very discreet about it, and for that we all thank you,” Rick stated.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tony asked.

“Wait, wasn’t I supposed to say that?” Kris asked.

“Yes, but you were too slow. Explain yourself, man!”

“It probably wouldn’t be too good for business if the news ever got out,” Rick said.

“You mean, if on the cover of every teen magazine and tabloid, the headlines read, ‘Rock star spotted with new mate at posh restaurant’?” Kris quoted from a recent tabloid headline, crossing her arms over her chest and looking annoyed.

“Yeah, sort of. But what I do is different. I’m supposed to gallivant about. It’s expected of my persona.” Now both women sat with their arms crossed, looking annoyed. He realized he was only digging himself in deeper.

“So you’re saying that the double standard is expected?” Kris asked.

“No, what he’s saying is that the double standard is cool as long as you’re not gay!” Tony stated.

A beautiful young woman walked up at that moment and asked Rick to dance. When he started to get up to join her, both Tony and Kris jumped up.

Kris grabbed his arm and shouted, “Sit back down here. This conversation is NOT finished!” Her eyes were spitting daggers.

He decided that he should sit back down, and made his apologies.

“So explain yourself!” Tony demanded.

“Yeah, I guess I’m saying that the double standard is OK I don’t want the world reading about my sister’s sexual escapades. I don’t want anyone thinking you’re cheap and easy!”

“Are you saying that just because I’m bringing home women?”

“No! I would feel the same way if it were men. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that either one of you is cheap and easy!” Another very attractive woman approached the table and Rick was up and gone.

A nice athletic looking guy approached and asked Tony to dance. She too went off to the dance floor. A nice looking guy approached Kris, but she declined politely.

Tony and Kris were opposites in many ways. Kris was basically shy, but could become the life of the party at the drop of a hat. Most of that had to do with her stage persona. Tony was quiet, always observing, and with a very caring heart. Kris always felt that music was the bridge that allowed Tony to reconcile the modern world with the old ways her Grandmother had taught her. Tony was almost an exhibitionist when she was up on stage, a completely different person. But then, they all had Jekyll and Hyde transformations when they stepped out on stage.

Although they were related only by marriage, she had never really wondered what it would be like to sleep with Tony in all the years they had known each other. She did know that Rick wondered. He used to confide in her about it when they were younger. Suddenly, she found herself fantasizing about it, too. She felt quite ashamed of herself. When Tony returned to the table, Kris was not able to look at her.

The band announced that they were taking a break, and the din quieted down as the jukebox came on at about half the volume the band had been at.

“Kris, can I ask you a question?” Tony finally broke the silence.

“Sure.”

“What’s it like being with a woman?”

Caught completely off-guard, she felt as if Tony had been reading her mind.

“Well, it’s probably just like being with a guy.” She felt her face flush as she answered.

“It can’t be! You don’t have the right equipment. And what do you mean ‘probably’?” Tony protested.

“You don’t have to have a penis to make love!” Kris explained. She was suddenly transported back to high school, when she had her first gay experience. She had fallen in love with a classmate. It had gotten pretty serious, until their parents found out. They packed her classmate off to a boarding school back east, faster than you could blink an eye. Kris never heard from the girl again. Her own parents never forgave her for it either. To this day they treated her as if she had leprosy.

“Kris, Kris, Earth to Kris, come in, over,” Tony teased

Kris came back to reality. “What? I’m here.”

“Where did you go?” Tony asked, and Kris shrugged her shoulders. Tony asked again, “What do you mean ‘probably’?”

“I guess you could say that I’m a virgin. I’ve never been with a man,” Kris answered, taking a large swallow of her drink.  She announced, “Hey I like this song, let’s dance!” The two women got up and headed for the dance floor.

The song had turned into two, but they returned to the table to sit out a slow song. “Thank you for the dance, Milady,” Kris said, affecting a courtly tone.

“Kris, how do you know when a woman is right for you?” Tony asked.

Kris nearly choked on her drink. “Boy, don’t ask the easy questions. Well, when you see someone or meet them…”

“Don’t give me a textbook version, how is it for you?” Tony interrupted.

“When I see a woman who interests me…”

“…How do you know she interests you?” Tony interrupted again.

“It’s the way she looks.” Kris thought for a moment. She had never had to put this into words before, nor had she had to analyze something she just took for granted. Looking around the crowded room, she spotted a woman she wouldn’t mind getting to know. Pointing to the woman, she continued, “See the blond in the faded Levi’s and cowboy boots?” Tony nodded, and Kris continued, “She has my interest. I guess you’d say she’s my type — I think I might be able to get somewhere with her…”

“…Score.” Tony interrupted once again.

“No. Unlike my brother, sex doesn’t drive my initial interest in a woman.”

“What do you mean by ‘get somewhere with’ then?”

“I want to be sure that I can at least talk to a woman and have a reasonable chance of getting the same back. When I ‘check out the babes,’ using my brother’s term, I see if there are any women that are attractive and my type.”

“Which is?” Tony had become fascinated by this conversation. She had often wondered how Kris operated. It was so subtle, so different from Rick’s approach.

“First, if she’s attractive. Yes, looks are also important for queers. Then I check out the way she holds herself. Her hand gestures, but this is hard if she’s alone. The way she is standing, the way she walks. How much and what kind of jewelry she’s wearing, the kind and cut of clothes she is wearing…”

“…Whoa! You lost me; what do jewelry and hand gestures have to do with anything?”

Looking around the room Kris continued, “Do you see that woman over there with the green dress?” Tony nodded yes. “Do you see how she is using her hands?” Tony’s face was a complete blank. Kris explained, “Do you see how she uses her hands from the wrist a lot? For lack of a better term, the prissy way she flicks her hand from the wrist? When a man does that, he is called a limp wrist.” Suddenly the light went on Tony completely understood.

“So what you’re saying is that if she looks ‘prissy’ then she’s probably straight?”

“Yeah, maybe. But she may also be a lipstick dyke.” Again Tony’s face was a blank.

“There are several types of dykes. Lipstick means that she likes to wear makeup and high heels, dresses in ‘prissy’ things…”

“…You mean she acts like a woman?” Tony interrupted.

“Well, if that’s easier for you to understand, OK.”

“Lipstick, got it. What are the others?”

“Lipstick can also be called femme. Then you have ‘diesel dykes’ – these are women that you would not want to meet in a dark alley. Lots of leather, scary!”

“I take it these are not your type?” Tony asked, smiling.

Kris shook her head no and looked frightened as she continued, “Baby dykes are young women.”

“Jail bait?”

“Yeah, you’ve got it. The last category is what I lump everyone else into. Butch is the technical term. These are women who wear comfortable clothes and maybe have a few characteristics of all the other groups.”

“You. You’re a ‘butch’?” Tony asked.

“Yes, I guess I am.” Kris had never really had to sit down and think about it.

“So what does that make me?”

“What? You’re straight!” Kris reminded her niece.

“Well of course I know that, but what category would I fit into if I weren’t?” Tony probed.

“Tony, you don’t have something to tell me, do you?” Kris looked concerned and then smiled.

“I don’t think so. Just answer the question.”

“Well if I had to analyze you, I’d put you in the middle between femme and butch.”

“Why femme?”

“You’ve ‘dressed up’ from time to time. Don’t tell me you don’t own a dress.”

“OK, you’ve got me there. Wow, this is a lot more complicated than I’d ever imagined. Not only do you have to find someone who attracts you, but also first you have to make sure that she might be gay. Does Rick know how easy he has it?” Tony looked totally surprised as this realization hit her.

Tony made her way to the bar to order another round. She came back, a little out of breath, and asked, “So now that you’ve checked her out, what happens?”

“You mean once my ‘gaydar’ is tuned in and I’m interested?” Tony nodded her head yes. Kris continued, “Like anyone else, my pulse quickens, my mouth goes dry, and I become nervous. I have to work up the courage to approach her.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because she might not notice me, or she might think I’m a dud.”

“Oh, so that’s the same? What happens if she thinks you’re OK?”

“Then I talk with her and find out what kind of person she is. Verifying that she’s gay and single and if she’s someone I want to spend more time with. Someone who’s more than what’s on the surface. If that’s true, then I learn more to see if this is someone who gets me hot. That is, someone who is visually and mentally appealing. If all conditions are good, and if we are in sync, we are both receptive to the idea of moving forward in the relationship, and we both feel an attraction, then and only then we might sleep together,” Kris finished as another man approached to escort Tony to the dance floor.

Rick returned, very sweaty and thirsty. “This was a great idea! The babes in this town are hot! Speaking of which, I’m going to have to go out for some air.” He made his way through the throng and disappeared.

Kris had to admit she was really enjoying herself. Although Tony had known almost from the moment they’d met that Kris was gay, the two never really talked about it. Kris was always afraid of making Tony uncomfortable. To be honest, she was afraid to make anyone uncomfortable with her homosexuality, so she kept it to herself.

“Hey, what are you thinking about?” Tony returned to the table.

“That I’m really enjoying myself, thanks!” Kris replied.“For what?”

“For letting me talk about being gay.”

“I’m really enjoying this as well. I never realized how complicated your life is. You know, come to think about it, I don’t think we’ve talked much about this before. I don’t know why, except I have always been a little embarrassed to. I mean, it’s personal.”

“Tony, you don’t need to feel embarrassed. You can ask me anything.”

“I’m going to take you up on that! But I’ve been hogging you all night. At this rate you are going to go home empty-handed.”

“Like I said, that’s really not important. If I go home alone, so be it. Besides, I’m enjoying talking with you.”

“Oh, but now that I know what the rules are, I want to watch you play the game.” Tony showed a slight pout. Suddenly her face brightened. “Let’s go to a gay bar!”

“Right now?! Why?”

“Because then you will be in your element, and I’ll get to see you at work!” Tony beamed, and jumped to her feet.

“Slow down there, girl! Have you ever been to a gay bar?” Kris pulled Tony back into her seat. Tony shook her head no, and Kris continued. “Girlfriend, you will be eaten alive in a gay bar. Are you ready for that kind of attention?”

“Will it be any different than being in this meat market?” Tony asked.

“Well, you’ve got a point there.”

“Thought so. So let’s go.”

“Are you sure?” Kris asked again, not believing that Tony knew what she was letting herself in for.

“Yeah, what the hell!” Tony got up and headed for the door. They ran into Rick and told him where they were going; he was quite surprised. Tony stopped at a pay phone and began leafing though the yellow pages.

“What are you doing?” Kris asked.

“I’m trying to find where the gay bar is.”

“Do you think it will be listed in the phone book?”

Tony opened the book, and listed under bars was a club that advertised female impersonators. “Ha! Let’s get a cab,” Tony exclaimed as they headed outside.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” Kris hailed a cab.

“Now, when you said that you wanted to make sure the woman you were cruising for wasn’t acting too prissy, was that because you like more…what’s the term?”

“Butch,” Kris offered.

“Yeah. That’s it.”

“To answer your question, I do like a woman who isn’t totally femme. But usually the ‘prissy’ ones are straight, and you want to stay away from them like the plague!”

“Why?

“Because they are way more trouble than they are worth. Usually they’re in it just for the experience. They want to experiment. They’re in that in-between land where they’re not straight, gay or bi – just out to have a good time, at your expense. We call it heterosexual privilege,” Kris explained. The cab driver, a large burly man, was watching them in his mirror almost more than the road. His tongue had nearly fallen out of his mouth when Tony got in, but now he was having second thoughts.

“Wow, this just keeps getting more and more complicated,” Tony mused.

“Hold on to your hat. There are couples out there, both straight and gay, that have ‘an understanding’. Be very afraid of this! Usually what it means is that they have their S.O.’s permission…”

“…S.O. — what’s that?” Tony interrupted.

“Significant Other. Anyway, they have their permission to screw around with other people. Unless you are into that sort of thing, run away!”

They had arrived at their destination, a unique addition to the otherwise drab neighborhood. Loud music poured out the door, and rainbow flags adorned almost every inch of the walls. A few small groups of men loitered outside the club, enjoying the view, as other men, scantily clad or in skin-tight jeans, sauntered by. As she got out of the cab, Tony asked, “How do you know all this stuff?”

A line of motorcycles was parked in front, and a couple of large, tough-looking women dressed in leather sat there, giving Kris and Tony the once-over.

“While you are away every vacation in Arizona, I’m stumbling through yet another disastrous relationship,” Kris replied.

“You know, I’ve noticed lately that when the vacation ends and we are all back together rehearsing, you always look more stressed than you did before the last tour ended. Now I know it’s because of your love life.”

“Well actually, to be more precise, because of my lack of one.”

“You have always had such bad luck with love. Maybe you’re chasing the wrong gender?” Tony smiled.

“Oh, look who’s giving me advice! Miss ‘I’ve never been in a long term relationship’.”

“I’m just taking my time, trying to pick the right guy.” Tony tried defending herself.

“Admit it, you’re afraid of commitment.”

“Aren’t you?” Tony looked surprised.

“Sure, relationships are scary. But I’m tired of sleeping around, aren’t you?” Kris asked.

“I’m tired of worrying about catching something, that’s for sure!” They moved toward the building.

“Wow! That woman is gorgeous!” Tony drooled as a fairly tall person dressed in an evening gown, with her hair piled high above her head, passed them.

“Tony, that’s a guy in drag,” Kris laughed.

Tony looked at her with suspicion. “No way! How do you know?”

Kris pointed to her throat. “Adam’s apple.”

Several women walked past, some in jeans and T-shirts, and some wearing evening dresses and jewelry.

Several college-aged boys walked by, and one them said, as if the word were a huge insult, “Faggots!” Kris stopped in her tracks and said in a loud and clear voice, “Hey mama’s boy, did you say something to me?” All the boys were snickering except the instigator, who scowled at Kris.

“What did you call me?” His face flushed a deep red.

“I’d write it down for you, but you couldn’t read it. For your information, male homosexuals are called faggots and females are called dykes.” His friends were carrying on behind him, and the instigator was getting madder and madder. “If you intend to insult someone, you should be smart enough to tell the difference between genders. Or maybe that’s why you’re hangin’ out down here, to get an education?”

“Shut up, whore!” he spat out at her.

“Now you’re wrong again; I don’t turn tricks, and here’d be a pretty dumb place to try, don’t you think?”

“Shut your mouth, cunt!!” he yelled.

“You know, there are two things I dislike: one is stupid little boys with vulgar mouths, and the second’s being called a cunt. Why don’t you go on home to Mommy, before I wash your mouth out.” Kris turned to go back to the building.

The boy suddenly grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around. “Don’t you go talkin’ about my mother.”

“Let go of me, Mama’s boy!” Kris pushed his hand from her shoulder. He lunged forward and took a swing, catching Kris in the face. She stumbled back a couple of feet while the youth advanced and took another swing, coming up with empty air. Kris put both hands up in front of her, palms out. “Look, I don’t want to mess you up, so back off.”

Sneering, he wound up for another punch. Kris ducked, and after he had completed his swing, she hit him square in the face. He fell back, stunned.

“Now we’re even,” Kris stated, while he pulled himself together.

He let out a yell and charged at her. Kris made contact again, this time in the nose. He stumbled back, and his buddies began to advance, ready to get into the action. The biker dykes stepped forward and flicked open their switchblades.

“Ah, ah, ah.” One of the bikers shook her head warningly.

“Let’s keep this fair, boys,” the other one said as she cleaned her fingernails with her four-inch-blade.

Tony stepped in and grabbed the attacker’s arms from behind.

Kris asked the squirming youth, “Didn’t your mutha’ teach you it’s not polite to hit a woman?”

The wail of sirens could be heard far off as one of the knife-wielding bikers came over. “You OK?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Kris turned and looked up and was surprised to be looking into laughing green eyes, set in a very pleasant face, perched atop the widest shoulders she had ever seen. It brought back memories of Joan Crawford in the movies of the ’40’s. She was not much taller than Kris, but her upper arms looked the size of Kris’ thighs. She looked like a moveable wall.

“If you need witnesses, we saw the whole thing,” the other biker chick offered. She was slender, but the muscles rippled in her exposed arms. Kris suddenly realized how much she liked to see women in sleeveless muscle shirts.

Flashing red and blue lights bounced off the building as Kris replied, “Thanks again.”

“Officer, I would like to press charges of assault and battery on this guy!” Tony announced, struggling with the kid as the police got out of their car and approached.

“All right, let’s all just calm down.” One of the officers took the kid from Tony’s grasp.

“Hey man! She attacked me, and while I was trying to defend myself, this one grabbed me,” the boy shouted, pointing to the two women.

“Officer, I saw the whole thing from inside the doorway there.” The bouncer, a giant of a man, came over to join them. He towered over everyone at seven feet tall, and probably weighed in at close to three hundred pounds.

“Who are you going to believe? Me or the queers?!!” the boy demanded, but the officers simply exchanged knowing glances.

Tony went over to Kris, whose face was gushing blood. Her lip had been split.  “Man, you look like something the cat dragged in. How are you doing?”

“Oh peachy, and you?” Kris replied.

“But you should have seen the other guy!” they both quipped at the same time, Kris wincing through her smile.

“Somehow that always sounds better when Rick says it.” Tony sounded a little disappointed.

“Maybe we should get you to a hospital?” one of the officers suggested from behind Tony.

“No really. I’ll be O.K,” Kris replied.

“Let’s get you some first aid anyway, and you can tell me what happened.” The officer gently took Kris’ arm and headed for the patrol car. He opened the back door and directed, “Sit down here and I’ll see if I can get the bleeding stopped.” He handed her a cold/hot chemical pack while she held a tissue to her gushing lip. Kris, Tony and the bouncer recounted their tale.

“If you could come down to the station, we’ll have you sign a complaint, Ma’am.”

“I’m not sure I can do that.” Kris answered around the cold pack.

“Are you having second thoughts about pressing charges?” the officer asked.

“No. I definitely think he needs to be taught a lesson. It’s just that we’re passing through, and it will be difficult to get back for a court date,” Tony stated.

“I see. Can you explain this, please?”

“You see, we’re in a band on tour. In fact, tomorrow morning we’ll be gone,” Kris replied.

The bouncer gave a little start. “Of course! That’s where I know you from! All this time I couldn’t place you! Kris and Tony from Scarecrow! Wow! Man, you look a lot different in person than you do on your videos,” he enthused. “I was telling my S.O. the other day, I just knew you were gay! This is so cool!”

“Go ahead and fill out the complaint; we’ll talk to our lawyer and find a way to make the court date,” Tony assured the officer.

“Thanks again, officer. You’ve been a great help.” Kris shook his hand. By the time the cops had driven away, Kris and Tony’s true identities had been passed all over the club.

“Well, now that that’s over, shall we?” Kris motioned toward the club.

“Are you sure you feel up to it?” Tony looked at Kris’ bruising face. “Rick is going to shit a brick when he sees you.”

“You wanted to be here. Don’t tell me I defended your honor and now you don’t want to enjoy the spoils of victory?” Kris teased.When they walked into the club, wild applause and cheers broke out. Tony turned to Kris and asked in a shout, “What is this all about? Does this happen every time you enter one of these places?” They were ushered up onto the stage. The bouncer had a mic in his hand and tried to get the crowd to quiet down. Finally after some time he could be heard.“Quiet, quiet! I want to introduce to you Kris Cutler and Tony Rain Cloud from the band Scarecrow.” Applause, and the bouncer worked to quiet them again. “I’m not finished. Listen! They were able to quash some homophobic children right here in our fair city!” Even louder cheers and applause, as the bouncer handed the mic over to Tony. The crowd became quiet once again, waiting expectantly for her to say something. Her mind was a blank, and she had no idea what to say to this adoring crowd.

“Thank you. I don’t really know what to say.” Laughter as she continued, “Kris was the one to actually slay the homophobic beast.”

More cheers filled the club as Kris took a bow and accepted the mic from Tony.

“Thank you. What a very nice crowd! Did any of you catch our show tonight?” Cheers. “I thought some of you looked familiar.” Kris laughed along with the crowd. “Earlier this evening we were at another bar with my brother, and he was telling us a new version of the old double standard – you know, it’s cool for men to sleep around but women aren’t allowed – but if you’re gay, like me, you should be seen as straight and never let anyone know you aren’t.” Boos and hisses filled the air as Kris continued, “But I just realized now our evening’s little escapades are going to be on the cover of every tabloid and a few newspapers by morning. I had been trying to come to grips with coming out publicly, but was never really sure how… I guess I just figured it out!” The room exploded. A couple of the impersonators came up and stood with them until the crowd settled down.

“Aren’t they just scrumptious? Couldn’t you just eat them both right up? Why don’t we let them relax and enjoy the show? It sounds like they’ve had a very busy night.” The impersonator began to applaud as the bouncer helped the women from the stage and escorted them to a table with a good view of the stage. People passed by and patted them on the back, shook their hands or kissed them on the cheek. Phone numbers were being dropped like confetti. One woman sat down in Kris’ lap and began to French kiss her.

“Wow, this is some place!” Tony remarked, looking around at all the goings on. “Does everyone who comes out get this kind of response?”

“You do if you are in a gay-friendly spot,” Kris answered. The show started and drinks were brought to the table.

“Excuse me, we didn’t order these,” Tony told the barman.

“Compliments of the lady at the bar.” He pointed to a very attractive woman who was watching attentively. Kris picked up a glass and in a mock salute took a sip. The woman waved.“Friend of yours?” Tony looked puzzled, as she shouted to be heard.“Not yet!” Kris was smiling broadly. Just then a very formidable-looking woman dressed in a black leather vest, white tuxedo shirt, black jeans and shiny black combat boots came over and stood next to Tony. Her hair was brown and cut very short. She wore a delicate silver bracelet on one wrist. There was a silver pinky ring on one hand and a very long silver and turquoise ear cuff dangling from one ear. She wore no other jewelry. Tony looked up, a little frightened.

“Hi! After hearing what happened outside, I’d like to talk a little business with you two,” the woman said, as she towered over the table.

“Uh, sure. Join us. I’m Kris and this is Tony.” Kris offered the woman a chair.“Nice to meet you. My name is Rita.” She produced a business card from her vest pocket. “I specialize in protection. It seems to me that you ladies need a bodyguard if you’re going to go out bar hopping.”“A bodyguard? Our tour management supplies them,” Kris replied.

“If you don’t mind me saying so, they aren’t doing you very much good,” Rita countered.

“They’re mostly for the concerts,” Tony put in.

Rita smiled, and looked from one woman to the other. “You ditched them at the hotel, right?”

“It’s hard having fun with the goon squad hanging around!” Kris protested, a little pissed that they had been caught. “Besides they do a fine job.” She was trying to be nice and let Rita off easily. She’d had enough excitement for one evening. It was all starting to catch up with her, and she felt as though she’d been up for a week.

“I’m not sure I agree with that. If you gave them the slip, and I’ll bet this isn’t the first time, then what are they earning their money for?” Rita sipped her drink, looking serious.

Tony liked this woman. “I think it would be nice to have someone watching out for us who wouldn’t stick out in a place like this.” Tony gave her a warm smile.

Rita returned the smile. She could tell Tony was nervous about being here, but was enjoying herself nonetheless. “Let me do you a deal. I’ll work as your bodyguard for a week, and if you’re not satisfied with my services, no hard feelings and we each go our own separate ways.”

“That sounds like a deal. What do you think?” Tony kicked Kris under the table.

Kris’ mood was beginning to sour as the pounding in her head began to pick up momentum. “Yeah, I guess we can try it.”

“Can you start tonight, or would tomorrow morning be better?” Tony asked.

“Tonight is cool. I’ll be around if things get heavy. Where are you staying?”

Kris grudgingly supplied, “The Marriott downtown.”

“Enjoy yourselves, and thanks!” Rita shook their hands and got up. Tony leaned across the table and said, “Was that a diesel dyke?”

“Yeah, you’re catching on!” At that moment, the woman from the bar approached them.

“Hello, my name is Nancy, and I couldn’t help but notice you from the bar.”

“Thanks for the drinks, won’t you sit down?” Kris replied. “Nancy, I’m Kris and this is Tony.” Nancy sat down next to Tony. If she were any closer she would have been in Tony’s lap. The newcomer was shapely and delicate, offering an overall package that was quite pleasing. Both Kris and Tony watched as Nancy’s short, slinky evening dress crept even higher when she sat. The plunging neckline revealing very nice cleavage didn’t escape their attention, either. Nancy caught them looking and smiled. Even though she was not very tall, her legs seemed seven feet long. Her light Asian complexion was quite a striking contrast to Tony’s darker Native American coloring. Nancy’s dark eyes twinkled in the dim light and her smile was friendly, but Kris had seen that smile on her brother too many times before. It was the look of a predator closing in on its prey. Kris made a mental note to warn Tony before she got in too deep.

A thin woman dressed in a pink stretchy top, a short black leather skirt, black stockings and stiletto heels came over and sat down next to Kris. They talked for quite a while. Tony was curious to see how much interest Kris showed for this woman. Suddenly, the woman slapped Kris’ face, and then got up and stalked away. Kris watched her go, smiling bemusedly.

Rita appeared out of nowhere. “Are you hurt?” She formed a wall around Kris as she kept her head and eyes moving constantly, judging the danger and where all the exits were.

“What did you say to her?” Tony looked baffled.

“When she propositioned me, I said I wasn’t interested in going to bed with her.” Kris looked both amused and puzzled. “I’m fine, really. Where did you come from?” Kris looked puzzled at Rita.

Rita smiled and said, “I’m close by.”

“Are you all right?” Nancy asked.

“Your lip is bleeding again. Maybe you’d better go take care of it.” Tony suggested.

“Right.” Kris put her hand up to her lip and her fingers came away smeared in blood. She began to make her way through the crowd.

“I’ll be fine. Stay here,” Kris suggested as Rita began to follow her through the throng.

The noise level had grown as the show got under way. The flicker of colored lights danced across the room and bounced off the stage and performers. As she made her way through the throng, people slapped Kris on the back and congratulated her. A woman grabbed her and kissed her full on the mouth, but Kris struggled to get away when the woman began to play tonsil hockey. Losing her balance, she stumbled into another woman and nearly knocked her down.

“Hey! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” shouted an attractive woman dressed in a short-sleeved purple oxford shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. Her shirt was unbuttoned to her cleavage and Kris could see the hint of a small tattoo. The woman’s shoulder-length curly blond hair cascaded down her head, framing her tanned face.

“Are you all right?” Kris yelled back in a dreamy voice. She held the woman’s upper arms as they both regained their footing.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” The woman looked up at Kris’ face for the first time. They stood like that for a while, mesmerized. Everything around them seemed to stop. As far as they were concerned, they were the only ones in the room. Finally the woman said, “Your lip is bleeding.”

Kris moved like she was in slow motion, reaching up to touch her lip. “Oh yeah.”

“Here.” The woman produced a tissue, and Kris dabbed at the mess.

“Would you like a drink?” Kris’ tone was hopeful as she shouted near the woman’s ear.

“Sure.” Her smile was warm and inviting, making the corners of her stormy blue eyes crinkle. They returned to the table, Kris pulling out a chair for her to sit in. Tony could tell that Kris was a goner because her eyes never left the woman’s face. Kris didn’t seem to remember that anyone else existed, so Tony made the introductions.

“Hello, I’m Tony, this is Nancy and it seems you’ve met Kris.”

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Melissa.”

“Melissa.” Kris repeated it like it was a sacred word.

“What do you do for a living?” Tony asked Nancy, leaning across the table to be heard and feeling very out of her element. She could not get over how beautiful Nancy was.

“I’m a teacher, grade school,” Nancy replied, also leaning over the table, giving Tony a better view of her cleavage. “Did I hear you say you had been at another bar tonight?” “Yes, one not too far from our hotel. We had been dancing, and then I suggested we come to a gay bar,” Tony answered.

“Did you now?” Nancy quizzed, licking her lips till they glistened in the dim light.

“Yeah, and get this, of course we don’t know your town, so she just walked over to the phone book and looked up this place! Can you beat that?!” Kris left her reverie long enough to tell the tale and join the laughs, but her gaze hardly strayed from Melissa’s face.

Nancy laid her hand on Tony’s forearm as she suggested. “I’ve an idea. Let’s go dancing. This place is too laid back.”

“That’s a great idea!” Tony agreed, standing up so fast she nearly knocked over the table.

“Would you like to go dancing?” Kris asked Melissa.

“Sure, sounds fun.” Melissa stood up.

When Kris rose from her chair, Rita materialized at her elbow.

“Apparently, we’re going dancing. Would you get us a cab?” Kris requested.

The cab’s interior was a little on the cramped side. Kris suggested that Nancy sit on Tony’s lap, and Melissa had Kris sit on hers. As the cab started to roll, Rita remarked, “Next time you decide to go out on the town, may I suggest a rented car and driver. Much better security.”

“So noted,” Tony said, thinking that this partnership was going to work out better than she had thought.

The cab driver asked, “All right ladies, where are we off to?”

“The Egyptian Club on Division, please,” Nancy replied.

“You know, you are going to have a nice bruise and swollen lip tomorrow,” Rita told Kris.

Kris grunted, “Yeah,” while she drank in every detail of Melissa’s face.

The silence inside the car began to grow and Tony felt quite uncomfortable. Suddenly she blurted out, “Why teaching?”

“I was really interested in music, so I decided I would major in it in college. After I graduated I found out that there really wasn’t much to do with it. So I got my teaching certificate, and now I give piano lessons on the side.” Nancy settled comfortably on Tony’s lap with one arm around her shoulders, her eyes never leaving Tony’s. “How about you? How does one go about becoming a world-famous rock star?”

“Well, ah…we kind of fell into it.” Tony swallowed hard as she felt Nancy’s warmth so close to her. “Rick had been in bands all through high school. Kris and I had played, but only at school and at home. When Rick graduated, he got a deal to do some tour dates, opening act for some medium popular band. When the summer ended, a couple members of the band decided that they wanted to go to college instead. Rick asked us to fill in for the rest of the year. When the tour dates were over, this record exec came to us and gave us a contract.” By the time Tony finished, Nancy was playing with Tony’s hair. Tony felt overwhelmed and out of control.

“You know, I really like your music. Your latest album, ‘Corn Fields’, is the only one I own, but I felt that you really touched a chord in my soul. I loved the show tonight. The energy was so high! I want you to know that I never pictured myself talking with you. This is quite a thrill!” Nancy began to babble.

“Thank you. I’m glad that you were able to get a positive message from our music,” Tony replied.

“Oh yeah, music is a passion for me,” Nancy purred.

“That’s great. I really feel free when I’m playing.” Feeling that Nancy was about to kiss her, Tony suddenly asked, “How about you Melissa, what do you do?”

“I manage one of the nurseries in town, ” she replied. In the relative quiet of the cab, Melissa noticed that Tony had a slight accent, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“How does one get into the nursery business?” Kris felt that if she didn’t hold back, she would fall into Melissa’s eyes and be lost forever.

“I graduated from college with a B.A. in Landscape Architecture, worked for a landscape company for a few years, and then decided to go back and get my Masters in Horticulture. While doing that, I worked part time for the nursery I manage now. When I graduated, they put me in charge.” Melissa ran her fingers through Kris’ hair. It was thick and so very soft.

Rita broke the silence. “Which nursery?”

Melissa’s voice was dreamy and detached. “Portland, on Division.”

“The Egyptian Club. That’ll be $10.50,” the cabby announced. Tony quickly got out and paid the driver.

Kris looked into Melissa's eyes and felt her heart stop. She had to kiss this woman and right now! She leaned forward and captured Melissa’s lips. They were sweet and oh so soft, just like Kris had known they would be. As their lips touched, a bolt of electricity

went through Kris. The kiss ended and Melissa pulled back and looked deeply into Kris’ eyes; both were breathing a little hard. Everything else around them fell away, and it was just the two of them, as time slowed to a stop.

The annoyed voice of the cabbie broke the spell, “Come on ladies, either get a room or get out.”

Rita had been patiently waiting beside the cab, keeping her eye on Tony, watching as Nancy devoured Tony with her eyes. Touching Tony’s arms and hands as she talked and letting her hands linger a little longer than was necessary.

Kris blinked a couple of times to bring herself back to reality and the voice of the cabby. She was experiencing feelings that she had never had before, and it scared her. Swallowing hard, she looked away.

Melissa smiled, a warm and understanding smile. Chuckling she replied, “I guess this is our stop.”

Kris looked deep in thought as she emerged from the cab. Turning, she extended her hand to help Melissa out.

Rita whispered into Tony’s ear as the party approached the club. “I hope you don’t think me out of line, but that Nancy is hot for your form!”

Tony turned and looked over her shoulder at the muscular woman, her face etched in worry as she swallowed hard.

The music hit them like a wave when they opened the door. The place was dark as a cave, but flashing colored lights ricocheted off every surface. The crowd inside was like one large organism undulating on the dance floor. The air was thick with smoke, with undertones of stale beer and sweat. Every surface vibrated with the music.

“I’ll get some drinks if you find a table,” Nancy shouted. The three moved deeper into the club and found a table in the back, away from the stage, and sat down.

Tony took advantage of the situation. “Kris, Rita says that Nancy is hot for my form. I think I’m in over my head. Help!” she yelled next to her while keeping Nancy’s whereabouts in focus. Turning, she found Melissa with her back up against a nearby wall, hands tangled in Kris’ hair, and a major lip lock on Kris.

Rolling her eyes, Tony muttered to herself, “Figures!” Moving closer to the duo and in a much louder voice, “Kris I really need to talk to you.”

The two parted reluctantly. Kris ran her fingers lightly over Melissa’s cheek. Melissa’s face was flushed and her lips slightly swollen from the kiss. She smiled at Tony and, putting her finger to Kris’ lips stated, “I’ll just go powder my nose.”

Tony faced her aunt. “Kris, I’m in a little bit of trouble here…” She realized that Kris was busy watching Melissa’s retreating form. Waving her hand in front of the older woman’s eyes she called out, “Earth to Kris, come in!”

Kris blinked a couple of times and then focused her eyes on the woman standing in front of her. Her eyebrow raised in annoyance. “What’s got your panties in a wad?”

Sighing in frustration, Tony began again. “Kris, Rita says that Nancy is hot for my form. I think I’m in over my head. Help!”

“Oh yeah, I meant to talk to you about that. I think Nancy may be in it for the conquest. Don’t take this wrong, but she may want to sleep with you because you’re famous,” Kris advised, trying to keep her concentration on the topic at hand and not Melissa.

Tony was near panic. “Great! What the hell do I do?”

“Do what you’d do if she were a man. These women are no different. If you say no, she’ll respect that. Don’t treat this situation any differently than if you were at a straight bar…”

“…If we were at a straight bar, I sure as hell wouldn’t have let some man sit on my lap, nor would I have sat on his…” Tony interrupted Kris.

Kris turned around and interrupted her. “But you would not have agreed to it if you weren’t interested in doing it. Come on, you enjoyed it just a little. Her attention is flattering, no?”

Tony had to stop and think about that one for a moment. “O.K., so you’ve got me there. But I don’t think I’m ready for sex with this woman!” Tony groaned.

“Fine, it’s your decision. You’ll have to make that clear when the time comes,” Kris said.

Melissa and Nancy returned to the table almost at the same time.

Melissa shouted, without even sitting down, “Kris, would you like to dance?”

Kris took the proffered hand and left the table.

“How about it?” Tony asked Nancy. They too moved to the dance floor. Tony was in quite a quandary. She wasn’t sure that she was ready to have a relationship with this woman. It was true that she was beautiful, and Tony did feel slightly drawn, but she had always thought of herself as straight, and now she couldn’t be sure. But was it love? Lust? Or the power trip from Nancy’s conquest desires? Tony wasn’t sure that a person could fall in love quite this quickly, so that moved her down to lust. Could she lust after a woman? Never having had those feelings before? This she could not be sure of, either. That moved her down to flattery. Kris was right; it was very flattering to have this woman’s attentions, no matter what the reason. In the past men had lavished their attention on her, but she knew it was only because they wanted to get into her pants. At times, this had interested her. Somehow the fact that this woman wanted in her pants was a little frightening. At the same time, she was also really excited by it! She needed to talk to Kris alone, and soon.

The music vibrated the air around them as they found a spot on the dance floor. Melissa didn’t let go of Kris’ hand and pulled her close, putting her arms around Kris’ neck. They began to move slowly to the music. Kris put her arms lightly around Melissa’s waist.

Being around this woman is intoxicating! Kris thought as she felt the warm body pressing against her own, the gentle pressure of Melissa’s breasts against her own, and the firmness of her hips pressing against Kris’. Gods, how she wanted this woman!

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Kris yelled into Melissa’s ear as they danced, bodies pressed close together.

“Sure.”

“Are you seeing anyone right now?”

“No. I just ended a relationship a week ago.” Melissa turned her head to the side and smiled slyly. “Afraid of a jealous lover breaking up the action?”

Kris’ head fell back and she laughed. “Something like that.” Her dark eyes shown with mischief.

It was like all the sounds from the club were gone. Melissa’s knees felt like they were made out of Jell-O as the sound of Kris’ laugh met her ears. This woman had gotten under her skin. She had felt something at the bar when Kris had helped her up, and then there it was again when they kissed in the cab. She had never felt anything like this for someone before. If it hadn’t been happening to her, she would have said it was impossible.

Melissa heard her own voice ask, “How about you?”

Kris’ eyes darted away as she pondered that for a moment. “Not seriously.”

Melissa felt the bottom of her stomach fall. “What does that mean?”

“I’m engaged in clandestine meetings with someone, purely for pleasure, of course.”

Melissa stopped moving and turned puzzled eyes up to the dark-haired woman, “Huh? Once more in English.”

Kris smiled wryly. “I’m secretly fucking an employee, just for the sex.”

It was Melissa’s turn to laugh, “I guess I asked for that one. Is that how you treat all of your employees?” Her eyebrow raised in question.

Kris’ eyes twinkled with mischief “We have a great benefits package.”

Melissa’s fingers were threading their way through the back of Kris’ hair. She began to slowly sway her hips to the beat as she gave Kris a slow sexy smile. “You sound like you care a great deal about your employees’…welfare.”

Kris began to chuckle. “Oh yeah, intimately!”

Melissa leaned forward and brushed her lips lightly against Kris’, then came back in and kissed her again. More pressure this time, but it wasn’t rushed; it was filled with promise and passion. Pulling back, she looked up into Kris’ eyes and in a more serious voice asked, “So no relationships on the horizons?”

It took a moment for Kris to jump-start her brain after the wonderful sensation her lips were still tingling from. “No, there’s no illusion about long-term, permanence.”

Melissa rested her forehead on Kris’. “Really?”

Kris could smell the faintest hint of licorice from Melissa’s hair. “You sound surprised.”

“I guess I am,” Melissa replied, pulling back to look at her and caressing Kris’ cheek with the back of her hand. “What I mean is, that I would think that you’d have… someone.” Melissa was afraid that she’d put her foot in her mouth and grabbed a word to finish the sentence.

The corners of Kris’ lips twitched in amusement. “Why? Because I’m famous?”

“Yeah,” Melissa replied, and with a quick up-and-down glance, made an evaluation of Kris’… assets. Quickly adding, “That, and the fact that you are really good-looking.”

“Thank you.” Kris raised an eyebrow at the frankness of the blond woman. She’s flirting with me big time!

Melissa could feel herself blush to the roots of her hair, and was glad that it was dark in the club.

“Just because I’m famous doesn’t mean that I’d automatically be involved in a long-term relationship.” Kris leaned forward and brushed her lips ever so lightly against Melissa’s, returning the earlier favor. In a voice husky with desire, she said, “Your beauty takes my breath away.” Kris leaned forward and captured the blond’s lips in a kiss that spoke of passion and hunger. Melissa put her hand on the back of Kris’ neck and pulled her in closer, deepening the kiss as she ran her other hand down the solid back.

The kiss ended as the two broke for a much-needed breath of air. Kris held Melissa in her arms; they had long ago given up the pretense of dancing and were just holding each other.

Melissa laid her hands out flat on Kris’ chest as she tried to steady herself. She sounded out-of-breath. “Whoa! That was intense.”

Kris’ head was reeling. She had never felt this way for someone before. Oh sure, she had felt lust for someone, but this was deeper, going beyond sex. She just wished she knew what it was. Nuzzling Melissa’s neck, Kris asked, “Come back to the hotel with me?” Raising her head to capture those soft, sweet lips, her eyes half closed, she found herself stopped from her quarry.

Melissa was pushing against Kris’ chest with her open hands, keeping her at bay. “As flattering as that offer is, I’m not interested in being another notch on your bedpost.” It had come out harsher than she had intended. Softening her tone, “Maybe we should just slow down?”

Kris looked at her, her brow furrowed. What had she done wrong? This had always worked before. “Slow down? I’m outta here in a few hours.”

“Is this the way you start all your relationships?”

Kris dropped her hands from around Melissa and stepped back. “Relationship? We hardly know each other…”

Melissa raised her chin a little defiantly. “Exactly. I don’t know about you, but I don’t make it a practice to jump into bed with every gorgeous stranger that knocks me off my feet.” She smiled wryly, taking the sting out of her words. “Let’s get to know each other, and see where it takes us.”

Kris dropped her head so she was looking at the floor. She stayed this way for a few moments. She had to admit it was an appealing idea, well fantasy really, that they could start a relationship, that she didn’t have to be off to Gods only knew where at the break of dawn.

Kris raised her head, and ran her hand through her hair. She wasn’t sure why, but she decided to humor this woman. “Tonight we pretend I’m just Jane Average and will be around tomorrow and the day after.”

Melissa gave her a very big smile, then moved forward and kissed her lightly on the cheek.

Kris wrapped her arms around the blond woman and whispered in her ear, “I’d really rather take you here, on top of a table, in front of everyone.”

Melissa couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran down her spine at the words and the images they invoked.

Kris’s hands fell away and she took a step back, smiling her most charming smile.

Melissa could feel herself being pulled into those dark chocolate eyes, as the temperature in the room seemed to climb into the triple digits.

Kris extended her hand. “May I have this dance?”

Melissa smiled and took the proffered hand, as they began to once again dance, standing further apart than last time.

Kris held her lips close to Melissa’s ear. “Just to set the record straight and ease your apprehension, I don’t sleep around a lot. I can probably count on both hands how many women I’ve slept with in the last year.”

Melissa felt a familiar warmth stir in the pit of her stomach as the warm breath tickled her ear. Maybe I should just let her take me here? She mentally slapped herself. What am I thinking? She had been telling the truth about being flattered, but something was holding her back. But every moment in this woman’s company was chipping away at that resolve. “I didn’t mean to imply…”

Kris cut her off, making a dismissive gesture with her hand, “Stereotype. Everyone is always jumping to that conclusion. My baby brother is the slut in my family.”

Melissa couldn’t help it; she tangled her hand in Kris’ dark locks. “Let me guess; it’s O.K. ’cause he’s a guy, right?”

Kris met Melissa’s gaze. “Double standards are standard operating procedures with us.”

Melissa felt the need for a subject change. “Why aren’t you involved in a long-term relationship?”

Where did that come from? Kris stiffened for a moment and then answered. “In my situation, being on the road 200 days a year, it’s hard to meet women. When I finally do, they are usually more interested in my money and celebrity or just… making me another notch on their bedpost.” Whoa! Honesty; that was new! Why am I sharing this with her? Kris couldn’t help but smile, lightening the mood as the panic she was feeling was pushed back down. “Just can’t find the right woman to commit to, I guess. What about you?”

Interesting. Melissa was stroking the back of Kris’ neck. “That sounds…. lonely.” Melissa looked up and met Kris’ gaze. “I decided three girlfriends ago that I would stop looking for love in the bars.” Noticing Kris’ raised eyebrow, Melissa explained, “When I was younger, I was a regular barfly and hardly ever went home alone.”

Kris smiled. “Ah you’ve studied at the same school as my baby brother!”

Melissa found herself wanting to tell this stranger the intimate details of her life. It was easy to talk to her. “Well let’s face it, if you want to get laid, the bars are the place to hang, but if you are looking for a keeper, the odds are slim at best. I too can count the number of women I’ve slept with on both hands in the past few years. I finally realized that great sex doesn’t make a relationship…”

Kris looked very serious as she interrupted, “It doesn’t?” then gave a dazzling smile.

Melissa returned the smile, as she playfully batted Kris’ arm. Shrugging she finished. “The same, I guess.”

Kris gave her a smirk. “I see. So a long-term relationship is in the realm of possibilities?”

“Sure. Why not?” Melissa asked, smiling.

Kris took a deep breath. “I’m probably going to screw this up, not really good at this… but would you like to ah, go someplace and talk?”

Melissa smiled. “Yeah that would be really nice.” She looked around the bar. “Don’t you have to get “the gang” together in order for that to happen?”

Kris was still gazing at the blond. “Mmmm… what? Oh yeah.” Kris put her index finger up to her lips. “Shhhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, and we can maybe sneak out of here.” She took Melissa’s hand and started to head off the dance floor. The band took that moment to end their set, announcing that they would be back after a short break.

Tony looked a little agitated as she cut through the crowd and grabbed Kris’ arm. “Excuse me; Kris, can I have a word with you?”

Kris looked less than excited as she excused herself from Melissa. Tony and Kris were standing a short distance from the table where Melissa and Nancy were sitting and talking.

“What’s up?” Kris peered around Tony to gaze at Melissa.

In a very sarcastic tone, Tony replied, “I don’t mean to be rude, but could you please tear yourself away from your new toy for a minute?”

Kris narrowed her eyes and looked at Tony for the first time since they had gotten to this place. Tony looked troubled and unhappy.

Kris’ voice filled with compassion, as she put her hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Hey, what’s up?”

Tony ran her hands through her hair, grabbing all of it into a ponytail before throwing it over her shoulder, looking very worried. “I’m really scared!”

Kris looked puzzled. “Why?”

Tony looked up, annoyance clear on her face. “Because the ozone has a hole in it… What do you think? I’m on a date with a woman!!” She nearly screamed this.

Kris reminded her, “As I recall, this was your idea,”

Tony shook her head yes, as she put her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “True. But I didn’t think my date would turn out to be a woman!”

Kris looked doubtful. “Oh, come on! You must have had some idea it would come to this when you suggested a gay bar!?”

Tony looked resigned. “Yeah, maybe. But what do I do now?”

Kris looked incredulous. “Are you asking my permission to go to bed with her?”

Tony was clearly flustered and embarrassed. “No!”

Kris was trying very hard not to laugh. “Well, I’m not giving you any pointers, either. So what gives?”

Tony was kicking the floor with the toe of her cowboy boot. “I’ve never done this before; I don’t even know if I’m gay. Up until an hour ago I would have sworn that I was straight, but now I don’t know…” Tony distractedly pushed her hair away from her face. She looked up, her eyes searching Kris’.

A knowing smile played at Kris’ mouth. “I hate to be cold, but welcome to the club.”

With dawning understanding, Tony asked, “Was this what you went through?”

Kris nodded her head yes. “Every queer has stood on this same step, agonizing over this same question. Eventually the choice is clear.”

Tony looked like a drowning woman frantically searching for the life preserver. “When will I know?”

Kris suddenly had an Asian accent, putting her hands together as if to pray, and then bowing. “Ah Grasshopper-san, all will be revealed.”

Tony’s voice was filled with anger. “That’s not funny!”

Kris patted her niece’s shoulder, looking earnest. “You’ll only know you made the right decision because you’ll feel it. Suddenly life will make sense. It’s like understanding E=mc2 for the first time.”

Tony grew more animated as she spoke. “That’s just great. I come to you for help, and suddenly you’re the Psychic Friends Network. Maybe you should wear a turban and get a crystal ball!?”

Kris couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sorry. But you should see yourself! Can I get back to my date now, please?” Kris waved to Melissa as she sipped her drink at the table with Nancy.

Trying to look surprised, Tony replied, “Oh, am I keeping you?” In a very sarcastic tone she continued, “You know, you really are a shit!” But her indignation was very forced.

Kris chuckled evilly, then sobered and said, “By the way, Melissa is not my toy, she is my date. And I would appreciate it if you referred to her as such.” Clapping the younger woman on the back, Kris turned to walk away.

What the hell? She’s never acted this way towards anyone before. Tony stood slack-jawed, looking at Kris’ retreating back.

“Oh my God! You’re Tony Rain Cloud!!” A well-meaning fan had just blown their anonymity. Kris, now a couple of steps from her niece, turned around and Tony looked up in surprise as people began to mill toward them.

“Yep, that’s right. Can you keep your voice down?” Tony asked, pulling the woman close and trying to find something with which to sign an autograph. Before they knew it, a wall of people separated them from their dates, and surrounded the two women. Melissa got to her feet and moved toward Kris, but was pushed away by the swell of bodies. She could see Kris trying to communicate with her, but too many bodies and too much noise made that impossible.

Kris and Tony tried to back away from the crowd, effectively taking the crowd outside with them. Suddenly their backs were pressed up against a car, and the mob threatened to swallow them. A forest of hands surrounded the two women, grabbing at their bodies. Kris felt her clothes ripping, but couldn’t hear it through the din of voices. Something that felt like small rodents ran all over her, but it was those faceless hands. Kris was pushed so tightly up against the car that she couldn’t move any part of her body. She could barely breathe, and panic swept over her. For some reason the crowd surged backward, and Kris took in a lungful of sweet air. Just as quickly the crowd surged up again, almost squeezing the air from her lungs. The mob surged back once more, and suddenly Kris felt her feet fly off the ground. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the floor of a limo. Her clothes were ripped to shreds, her body battered and bruised.

“Drive!” Rita shouted, and the car took off with a lurch and a squeal of rubber. “Are you two all right?” Rita’s concerned face was inches from Kris’. Kris nodded yes as she tried to regain her breath.

Tony was the first to recover, pulling herself up onto a seat. “Wha…What happened?”

Rita was looking calmer as she explained, “You were mobbed by the crowd.”

Kris climbed up onto one of the seats and noticed that the passenger side windows were shattered. “Jesus, did they do that?” she asked, raking a shaking hand through her hair.

Rita replied, very nonplused, “Yep.”

Tony took in her surroundings. “Where did the limo come from? I don’t remember getting here in one. And I don’t think I’m that drunk.”

Rita offered, very matter-of-factly, “I took the liberty of renting one while you were in the club, Ma’am.”

Tony’s smile was wide as she clapped her hands together. “Very good! You are very resourceful.”

Kris found the stereo and began to tune in a radio station. As she pulled a cut-crystal container of amber liquid off the bar, pulling the top away, she took a long pull, feeling the abject terror that had consumed her being pushed slowly to the back of her mind. Kris’ eyebrow rose. “Where in hell did you find a car at this time of night?”

“Well, I have a friend who knows someone… I pulled some strings.”

Tony stretched back and relaxed against the leather seat. “Great! Get the driver to charge it to our room, and management will pick up the tab. Some time tomor… today after we get to wherever we’re going next, let’s sit down and talk.”

Kris looked out the smoked windows at the darkened city speeding by. “Where are we going?”

Rita’s brow furrowed slightly. “Back to the hotel…”

Nearly jumping off her seat, Kris protested rather loudly, “…No! I can’t just leave Melissa….” Kris stopped abruptly when she realized she didn’t know Melissa’s last name.

Rita was the voice of reason. “You can’t go back there. The safest place for you is the hotel.”

Kris was very agitated. “Wait! You don’t understand… at least give me the opportunity to apologize…”

Rita wasn’t budging from this point. “…You’ll have to do it over the phone.”

Kris’ voice was beginning to rise. “That’s an excellent idea. Do you know what her last name is? Because I sure as hell don’t!”

Tony patted Kris’ thigh. “Oh, that’s a tough break!” She looked sideways at her aunt-by-marriage. “Apologize? You really like her?” Tony was a little surprised at Kris’ reaction. She had never shown this much interest in anyone before. Very interesting. “Maybe she’ll call you?” Tony tried to console Kris, putting an arm around Kris’ shoulders and hugging her tight.

“Yeah, maybe.” Kris looked as though she’d lost her last friend. She laid her head on Tony’s shoulder as Tony held her and stroked her hair.

Safely in the hotel suite she shared with Tony, Kris sank down onto the couch and, grabbing the remote, she turned on VH1. She let the images and the music wash over her, not really watching. Her mind was occupied with thoughts of Melissa.

Tony looked down at the rag she was wearing. “This was my favorite shirt!”

Kris looked up at her niece. “Yeah, you really looked hot in it, too.”

“Well at least they didn’t get my boots.” Tony flopped down on the couch and began to remove them. Kris got up and went over to the mini refrigerator and grabbed a can of beer. Holding it up, she asked, “Want one?”

Tony looked up briefly. “Yeah, sure. Man, am I bushed.” She yawned and did a full body stretch to emphasize her point. “Hey, are you going to be OK tonight?”

Kris moved back toward the couch. “Oh, sure.”

Tony put her hands on her hips and looked down at the older woman. “Why don’t you take something for your insomnia?”

Kris sipped her beer. “When this tour is over.” She took a long pull from her drink. “I’ll try to keep the volume down.”

“Right. You always say that, and then around dawn you get bored and I get blasted out of bed.” Tony kicked her socked feet up onto the coffee table. Turning serious, she asked, “It’s that same nightmare, keeping you up?”

Kris sipped her beer, shrugged her shoulders, and nodded her head yes.

Tony looked very concerned. “Why don’t you talk to the doc about it?”

Kris didn’t make eye contact. “I’ve been down that road with the headshrinkers; I don’t like the neighborhood.”

Tony picked up her hands and then dropped them back on her thighs in frustration. “I think as long as I’ve known you, you’ve had trouble sleeping.”

“Yeah, it started in high school.” Kris sat back on the couch and handed Tony the beer. Tony’s hand was shaking as she took the can.

Kris’ eyebrow arched and she observed Tony closely. “You OK?”

Tony opened the can and took a long drink. “Yeah. The realization of what happened tonight just hit me.”

Kris reached out and squeezed Tony’s thigh. “I’ll bet I’m not the only one who has trouble sleeping tonight.”

Tony ignored the comment. “Paul is going to have a conniption fit when he hears about the mob.”

Kris up-ended her can. “He ain’t gonna to hear it from me.”

Tony eyed the older woman seated next to her. “It was rather stupid of us to be out like that…”

“…Probably. But aren’t you tired of spending all of our lives locked away in these hotel rooms?” Kris got up and grabbed another round.

They sat and watched the videos in silence. Tony finished her beer and grabbed the next.

Kris had a sly smile on her lips. “Pity you didn’t get your question answered tonight.”

“You’re a shit.” Tony popped the can open in Kris’ direction, spraying her with a little foam.

Kris brushed the droplets from her face, “Look at it this way, now you’ll still wonder whom you’d rather be with. And more importantly who you are.”

Tony took a swig. “As far as I’m concerned I’m straight, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

Kris turned her head to the side and looked doubtful. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, Sistah!”

5

When the howling sirens began to disperse the crowd, Melissa had climbed atop a table to try and get a look outside. She had managed to catch a glimpse of a limo pulling away, but that was all. She had been near panic, wondering what had happened to Kris and Tony. Were they all right? Then the realization hit her hard; how was she ever going to find out? Unless it was on the news or in the papers, she would probably never know.

By the time the police left, it was after two a.m. Melissa was done in and more than ready to go home. She was really glad that none of the bar’s patrons had noticed that she and Nancy had been in the company of Kris and Tony. She knew she was going to have nightmares about watching the mob swallow them up. That was one of the most frightening things she had ever witnessed, and she was glad not to have been in the middle of it herself.

Stepping out of the bar, the cool night air helped clear the fog from her mind. She realized that her car was parked back by the other bar, many blocks away. Oh well, the walk would probably do her good. This had to be the strangest night of her life!

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When Rita’s taxi arrived at the bar, only a few stragglers remained outside. She had decided against coming back in the limo, thinking such an arrival might not be good for her health. She asked the cabby to wait, and ran into the club. Looking around the nearly empty bar, she didn’t spot Melissa.

“Shit! This is going to be really hard!” she mumbled to herself.

Rita’s heart had nearly broken when she’d seen Kris’ face as Kris realized that she was never going to see Melissa again. She knew that she would have to do something to help get them together. After all, she had always been a sucker for romance. Tough on the outside, but a marshmallow on the inside, that described Rita perfectly. She would never admit that she cried during old movies, and she’d kick the ass of anyone who said she did.

Rita grabbed a passerby. “Hey, I’m looking for someone!”

“Yeah, well, it’s that time of night; everybody’s looking for someone!” the waitress replied.

“Maybe you’ve seen her, about this tall, blond curly hair, very attractive…”

The waitress put one hand on her hip looking very tired and replied, “…Sounds like a lot of people.”

Rita pointed to her own chest. “She has a tattoo here.”

The woman narrowed her eyes and regarded Rita. “Who are you, anyway?”

Rita felt that her quest was at an end; she let the excitement enter her voice. “I have a special message for her.”

The woman stood with her hands on her hips, looking unimpressed. “Yeah, right. Nice try!”

Trying another tack. “Look, you obviously know Melissa, can you just tell me her last name?”

The woman looked critically at Rita, then she made a very small nod, obviously coming to a decision.

“Yeah, but you’d better not be some wacko! It’s Davis.”

“Thank you very much!” Rita shook the woman’s hand and went back out to her waiting cab.

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“Kris, looks like you had another long night,” Rick jeered.

Kris took an empty seat at the breakfast table. She propped her elbows on the table and her head in her hands. Her hair was dripping wet, and her dark sunglasses looked out of place in the relatively dim lighting of the dining room. “Little brother, you were always so good at stating the obvious,” she sneered at him.

Tess slid into the empty seat next to her.

“How many is that this morning?” Tess looked at Rick, indicating the can of Coke that Kris had pressed to her forehead. He shrugged.

Kris replied in a tired voice, “This is my first, but I think it’s a two-Coke morning,” She reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a small tin box. Opening it, she removed half a dozen of the white pills inside. Popping open the soda can, she threw the pills into her mouth and took a long drink. “It’s gonna be a six-aspirin morning, however,” she stated after swallowing.

Tess chuckled as she read the menu. “It looks like you painted the town red last night!”

Paul barged up to the table. “Well it’s about time you got up! Would you like to explain this?” His voice boomed around in Kris’ head, and she jumped when he slammed the morning newspaper down in front of her.

The headline read, “Celebrities Cause Riot in Front of Gay Bar,” accompanied by a lovely picture of the crowd pouring out of the bar and onto the street. Kris raised her head to speak, and the damage to her face was apparent.

Rick sounded cross. “What the hell happened to your face?”

Paul’s expression changed immediately to concern. “Jesus! Are you all right?”

Kris instinctively and nervously covered the damage with her hand. “We went out and tried to have a little fun,” she replied, as she looked away. “Tony, why don’t you tell it?”

Tess was gently probing the affected area on Kris’ face, making Kris feel self-conscious. Kris gently batted Tess’ attentions away. “And will everyone, including Rick, stop talking so loud!” Kris looked a little green, as she replaced her head on the table and covering it with her arms.

Tony looked worriedly at Kris. “Sure. You don’t look so hot.”

“Thanks.” Kris’ voice was muffled.

Tess laid her arm across the back of Kris’ chair and lightly ran her fingers over the other woman’s back, in a soothing manner.

“Did we have a little bit too much to drink last night?” Tom smiled knowingly with a contagious smile that danced in his brown eyes. He again wore his backwards baseball cap and the earphones that were practically a permanent fixture and still spoke too loud.

Tony began her tale, “Well, last night after we left Rick in the bar, we ended up at…” She realized she didn’t know the name of the bar. “…Some gay bar…”

Kris prompted in a whisper. “…Don’t forget the female impersonators.”

Rick’s arms were crossed across his chest; impatiently, he asked, “Can we get on with the story, please?”

Tony met his gaze, and pointing her index finger at him, began again. “Right, we were at this bar, and we met Nancy and Melissa…”

Tess couldn’t help herself. “Nancy and Melissa? Who are they?”

Both Rick and Paul looked at her, and in annoyed tones said, “Do you mind?”

Tony was finding it hard to suppress the smirk as she continued, “But before that we met up with this group of creepy boys out front and Kris got into a fight with one of them and he got hauled away to jail… Oh no! We forgot to sign the complaint!” Tony exclaimed, trying desperately to get the waiter’s attention.

Kris gripped her head tighter and moaned, “Tony please, keep your voice down!”

The waiter arrived at her elbow; his cultured accent asked, “Yes Ma’am?”

Tony’s voice was filed with urgency as she ordered, “I need a phone right away!”

Rick was rubbing his eyes, his voice filled with astonishment as he asked, “Did I hear this right? You got into a fight?”

Everyone stared at Kris, who was still lying with her head buried.

Tess softly prompted, “Kris, I think he was talking to you.”

Kris muffled voice sounded very much like a petulant child. “Yeah, but I didn’t start it!” She hadn’t moved from her position.

Paul was rolling his eyes as he broke in, “Kris, really, this could be a serious publicity issue.”

Kris sat up and took a long drink of her Coke. “Sorry Paul, but I think that will probably be the least of our troubles for awhile.”

The waiter brought their food and the phone.

Rick somehow managed to frown and look angry all at the same time. “What did you do?”

Kris held the can up to her forehead; her voice sounded tired. “We were recognized after the fight at the gay bar, and, um, I sort of came out in front of about 200 witnesses.”

Rick sat in silence, arms crossed across his chest, glaring at his sister.

“Atta girl!” Tom announced loudly.

Kris winced through a smile and said, “Thank you.”

Paul reached into his briefcase. “I’d better get our publicist on the phone. Damage control will have to be implemented.”

Kris glared suspiciously, over the top of her sunglasses at their tour manager and rubbed her temples. “What do you mean, ‘damage control’?”

Paul already had the cell up to his ear. He spoke with resignation as if explaining something to a child. “I mean we are going to have to have a statement ready for the press to denounce the whole situation….”

Kris cut him off. “I don’t want it denounced. I want the press release to confirm it…”

It was Tom’s turn to interrupt. “Paul, how bad could it be?”

Tony piped up, “When Melissa Etheridge came out, her record sales skyrocketed.”

Steve spoke up from under his headphones. “Look, if you ask me, and I know you haven’t, but it seems to me that this concerns all of us, and I for one have to side with Tom. I think if we play it right it could actually help.”

Kris sat up a little straighter. “Well, it seems that you’ve been overruled, Paul. Why don’t you call our publicist anyway, have her get in touch with Melissa Etheridge’s publicist and we’ll take it from there,”

Paul turned his back to the group as he returned to his phone call. “Yes I understand that, but it’s too late. It’s in the local paper, which means that the wire service has picked it up.”

An angry male voice on the other end of the line replied, “Damn it Paul! Must I remind you that you’re there to make sure that those dim-witted musicians do what we want them to do?”

Paul sighed; he never liked the way the record company suits, as the band called them, referred to the band. The suits acted as if the band were mindless chattel, nothing more. “No you don’t have to remind me. Did it ever occur to you that Kris is allowed to live her own life?”

“That’s the kind of ‘thinking’ that gets us in situations like this.” The voice paused and Paul thought he could hear the man running a hand over his chin. “Alright, well the cat’s out of the bag – we’ll just have to put a positive spin on it. It would have been better if we could have continued to parade her as the single hot straight chick. Who knows, maybe this will pull in a bigger audience, especially with the three-some crowd. Paul, I’m counting on you to keep a tighter rein on them; don’t make me send someone out there to check up on you.”

The line went dead. Under his breath, Paul replied, “Bite me asswad!”

Rita arrived at the table out of breath, and cupping her hand to her mouth, bent and whispered something into Kris’ ear.

“Fuckin’ great!!” Kris shouted, then wished she hadn’t as she grabbed her head. She jumped to her feet, grabbed Rita’s face in her hands, and kissed her on the mouth. Kris scrambled past the table and left. A stunned and blushing Rita glanced around at the watching assemblage, feeling very awkward, then beat a hurried escape, following after Kris.

Paul sounded annoyed as he looked at Rick. “Who the hell was that, and where are they going?”

Rick looked indignant. “Don’t look at me!”

Paul began to dial his cell phone. “Well she is your sister.”

Tony explained around a mouthful of toast. “Oh, that’s Rita. She’s our new bodyguard.”

Paul’s frustration overcame him. “You already have bodyguards.”

Tony didn’t meet the manager’s gaze. “And now we have another one!”

Paul’s face was starting to turn red as the frustration was getting to him. “You can’t do that…”

“…Too bad, it’s already done.” Tony smiled and batted her eyelashes as she stuffed the last bite of toast into her mouth.

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Sleep had eluded Melissa until almost dawn, the events of the previous evening playing over and over in her head. When she arrived home from work the next day, her brother’s car was parked in front of her house in its customary spot. She wanted to park on the driveway, but a heated basketball game was in progress. She groaned and parked on the street, in front of the neighbors’. It had been a long day at work, complicated by unusually warm weather and the slight hangover that she had. She had not been pleased by the headline in the paper, either. All in all, her mood had seen better days.

“Hey, Sis, think fast!” Her brother Brandon threw the ball at her. He was about six feet tall, in his early twenties, with sandy blond hair and blue-gray eyes. She managed to catch the ball and nearly made a basket as she returned it.

He grinned wolfishly. “Did you have a good time last night?”

She regarded him curiously “Just your typical night out, why?”

He didn’t reply, but walked alongside her as they headed into the house, smiling broadly and gesturing behind his back to his friend to wait. When Melissa opened the door, the smell of roses almost overpowered her. Stepping inside, she was stunned to see that the living room was filled with six huge vases, each filled with two or three-dozen red roses.

“These are for me?” She was dumbfounded as Brandon handed her the card. Melissa eyed him suspiciously. “You didn’t read this, did you?”

He tried to look hurt and innocent at the same time. “Me?!! Of course not! I would never do anything like that.”

“Because the envelope feels a little wilted, as if someone had tried to steam it open…”

He gave his best innocent look as his words trailed off. “Well, it’s a hot day out…”

“Uh huh.” She began to tear the envelope open.

He mumbled under his breath before he sidled closer, hoping to read over her shoulder. “Damn steam burnt my fingers!”

“What did you say?” She turned so that he couldn’t see the note.

He met her gaze. “Nothing. Who’s it from?”

Melissa,

Allow me to apologize for running out on you last night, and leaving you in the lurch. I know that these flowers can’t make up for the rudeness of my departure, but hopefully they will soften your anger toward me. I thought they would go nicely with your tattoo! I’m really sorry we didn’t have a chance to get better acquainted. I find you very interesting and would love to spend more time with you and get to know you. Much more time!

Would you permit me the opportunity to call you and apologize in person, so to speak? If you would like to get in touch with me, call my secretary, Candy, 213-555-9458, she’ll be able to get you in contact with me.

And you didn’t even think I knew your last name! :)

Friends,

Kris Cutler

AKA Jane Average

Melissa’s heart pounded as she read and re-read the card, feeling completely floored that Kris, the rock star, had gone to this much trouble over her. She sat breathing in the sweet scent of the roses, trying to decide if this was real or not.

Brandon’s patience was wearing thin. He had had to wait all day for her to get home, and burnt his fingers. He wanted some answers. “Well? What does it say?”

Melissa gestured to the flowers. “Nothing really. They’re an apology.”

“Wow! What the hell did she do?”

Melissa smiled, as she looked out over the flowers. “Left earlier than expected.”

Brandon looked in awe. “Damn! I wonder what she would do if it were something serious? So, who is she?”

“A friend.” Melissa still couldn’t believe this was happening. She was hesitant to tell her brother, for fear it would break the spell. Melissa put the card back inside the envelope, and her brother pointed to the front.

“The Marriott. I’ll bet she’s not an employee there.”

Melissa walked over, cupped several of the blossoms, and bent over to take a deep breath of their scent. “No, she’s not an employee there.”

Brandon was still fishing for who the mystery woman was. “Where did you go last night anyway? I thought you said you were going to Darcelle’s.”

Melissa was trying hard to ignore him. “That’s where I was, alright.”

“Then you took a side trip over to the Marriott…”

Melissa’s eyes were beginning to get stormy. “…Brandon, do you have a point to make, or are you just trying to get me pissed off?”

He knew that to push any further would be foolhardy. “All right, I give. It’s your business. But I want you to know you’re killing me here!”

“Thank you. I’m going to take a shower and then watch Xena. Got a problem with that?” She headed toward the bathroom.

“No.” He watched her walk away and when the door closed he reached for the envelope. At that moment the guys from the basketball game came into the house.

A blond young man asked, “Hey man, did you forget about us?”

Brandon stepped away from the card and regarded his friends. “No, just talking with Mo.”

A topless boy replied, “Well I’m grabbing something to drink while you talk to your sis.”

A chorus of agreement as they trouped into the kitchen, Brandon was about to follow when the doorbell rang.

He turned and pulled open the door. “Hey.” His greeting was less than enthusiastic.

A woman in her mid to late twenties with short brown hair stood in the doorway. “Hi, Brandon, is your sister home?” She was about five foot seven inches tall with a stocky and formidable build. Her dark brown eyes were cold and cruel.

Brandon motioned her inside. “Hey, Mo, you’ve got company!” he called down the hall, then entered the kitchen with his friends.

The visitor couldn’t help but notice the abundance of flowers in the living room. She stepped over and pulled one out of a bouquet, holding it to her nose and inhaling deeply. Noticing the card, she picked it up and read it. Her eyebrows rose when she saw who had signed it.

Luxuriating under the hot water, Melissa had been trying to convince herself that all of this wasn’t a dream. Last night seemed like such a very long time ago. She giggled at the thought of Kris being interested in her! It was a very pleasing idea, but realistically, how could she compete against all of the star-struck groupies that Kris was probably used to being with?

When Brandon called to her, Melissa almost skipped out of the bathroom, hoping Kris had come to visit. She threw on a robe and hurried to the living room, but the joy on her face died when she saw the woman standing there.

Melissa marched over and forcibly took the card from one hand and the flower from the other woman. “You!!! What the hell do you think you’re doing?!!”

“So that’s what you were doing last night. I hope she was good in bed!!”

Brandon stood watching the scene from the kitchen like a train wreck.

Melissa insisted, “That’s none of your business! Susan, what are you doing here?!”

“I just dropped by to see if we could go out for a cup of coffee.” Susan twirled her ring of keys around her index finger. “But apparently you’ve replaced me!”

Melissa was angry and wanted this woman out of her house. “I told you last week that it was over between us.”

The boys stuck their heads out of the kitchen at the sound of the commotion.

Susan took a step toward her. “So to prove your point, you go out first thing and find a new fuck?!”

“My life is none of your business. You lost that right when we broke up…”

Susan interrupted, taking another step. “…You mean, when you dumped me?!”

Brandon pushed his buddies back into the kitchen.

Melissa crossed her arms across her chest. “Fine, if you want to look at it like that. I’m telling everyone that it was a mutual break-up. You can tell them that you dumped me if you want!”

Susan’s voice softened. “What I want is you. I always have…”

Melissa’s voice grew a harder edge, “…Well you can’t have me. I was never yours to own.”

“You’re wrong!” Susan slapped Melissa across the face with the back of her hand. “If I can’t have you, no one else will, either!” Susan loomed over the crouching and startled Melissa, glaring at her menacingly.

“That’s more than enough! It’s way past time for you to leave.” Brandon came up behind Susan, pulled her hands behind her back, and escorted her to the door. No small feat, since they were nearly the same size.

The boys from the kitchen suddenly appeared in the room standing behind Brandon, looking surprised and a little embarrassed.

“That bitch will never have you, I’ll see to that!!” Susan shouted as Brandon dumped her on the front step and quickly closed the door in her face.

He came over to Melissa, “Are you all right?”

She sat down but was still holding her face.

Brandon turned around and found his buddies standing there. In a quiet voice he said, “Guys, why don’t you give us some space?”

The boys nodded yes as they moved toward the back door, all looking anywhere but at each other and Melissa.

Brandon moved past them into the kitchen and got some ice. “Let me see. Oh yeah, that’s going to bruise up real nice for tomorrow.” He gently laid the ice on her jawbone. They could hear Susan still yelling out in the yard.

Melissa started to get up. “I’d better go out there and calm her down…”

Brandon put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her back onto the couch. “…Are you out of your mind?! You aren’t going anywhere near her. If she’s not gone in ten minutes, I’ll call the police.”

Melissa smiled weakly at her brother. “Thanks for being here.”

“No problem. I don’t mind telling you that she scares me, and I’m really glad that you broke it off with her.”

“Me too. She wasn’t really like that when we started seeing each other, but within the last month or so she changed, and not for the better.”

Brandon looked at the front door, and then back at his sister. “You may want to talk to a lawyer…”

“…I think once she gets this little tantrum out of her system, she’ll be O.K.”

divider-a bomb

6

“What do you mean he was wearing a bulletproof vest!!!”

“How was I supposed to know that? I got in close enough that he should have been mortally wounded, with or without the vest,” the assassin explained.

“Well apparently he’s going to be just fine!!” The anger in the man’s voice radiated through the phone.

“Not if I have anything to do with it. I expect that he is going to suffer an accident in the very near future.”

“Too late, I’ve turned over the contract to someone else.”

“This is my job! After all the business we’ve done together, you’re going to give me the cold shoulder, just like that?”

“You of all people should know that there can never be any mistakes.”

“And you of all people know that occasionally, under the best circumstances, things happen.”

“You don’t understand. You’re through.” His voice was filled with finality as the phone line went dead.

7

Groggily, Kris stepped off the plane and onto the jetway. It was cold and gray outside, which was just fine with her and her headache. Pressure changes never were really the best thing for a hangover.

Vancouver, British Columbia, the band’s next stop after Portland, brought them bad weather and a nasty surprise: an impromptu press conference at the airport.

Tony grabbed Kris by the arm as they neared the vultures. “Before I forget, I had Paul run a check on Rita’s references, and everything looks good.”

Kris was looking gloomily at the reporters. “I can’t believe you remembered to do that!”

Tony confessed, “Well, Paul actually came to me.”

Talking a deep breath and heading into the lion’s den, Kris said, “So that’s what we pay all those people for.”

“Kris, can you tell us why you chose this particular time to ‘come out’?” a reporter shouted.

Kris replied with a sarcastic grin, “Everybody else was doing it, I didn’t want to be left out.”

“Kris, do you frequent female impersonator clubs?”

Kris was blinded for a moment as a cluster of flash bulbs went off, setting off a new intensity of throbbing in her head. “Actually, that was my first time.”

“Rick, can you tell us how you feel about this?”

Rick looked upset, and in a sarcastic tone replied, “I was really glad she picked that secret to go public with.”

“Tony, you were there also; are you coming out as well?”

Tony was trying to be the comic relief. “No, I’m actually a female impersonator.”

“Rick, was this a surprise announcement for you?”

His body language screamed ‘I’m pissed’. “No, but the way it was handled, maybe.”

“So then you’ve known for some time?”

Crossing his arms across his chest, Rick replied, “Yes, it’s been no secret from me over the years.”

“Kris, how do you think your parents will react?”

Kris visibly stiffened. “No comment.”

“How many cities in this tour?”

Paul replied, taking the spotlight off Kris for the moment, “A hundred cities, in the US and Canada .” Paul announced, “And we have time for just one more question,”

“What do you say to the conservatives and the Christian coalition, who say that homosexuals deserve the HIV virus?”

“I say if they are truly Christians, then they need to look deep into their own hearts and see the truth. After all, isn’t it their book that says, ‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.’”

Afterwards, on the way to their hotel room, Rick asked sarcastically, “I think that went well, don’t you?”

Kris looked drained. “Oh yeah, it was like a piranha feeding frenzy.”

Paul chastised them while reading from his clipboard. “We have a really busy day; no one goes off without telling me!” An audible groan went up from the band as the limo traveled through the city. “Right. We have the concert tonight at 8:00, sound check at 6:30. Radio interview at 3:30. Rick, the local newspaper is going to interview you 12:00 to 3:00. Kris has a drum clinic from 12:00 to 3:00. Tony, you have a luncheon with the Native American Council. Tom, Steve, you have a public appearance at one of the local music stores.”

Tom rolled his eyes. “Oh goody, one of those sign-the-instrument gigs!”

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Although Kris normally enjoyed the drum clinics, the pounding in her head had taken most of the enjoyment out of everything today. When she got to the hotel room, it was quiet and she was alone. She flopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV, surfing through the channels until she found MTV. She was just beginning to relax when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

A male voice replied, “Kris? It’s Malcom Ferry from Epic.”

Sounding suspicious she replied, “Yeah?”

“How are things going? Looks like the Canadians were a bit rough on you, after you landed.”

“Well you know the Canucks, always feeling superior to their southern neighbors.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, I guess that is true. Sounds like your first night on tour was anything but dull.”

“We have an image to live up to – if we don’t get some free publicity then we aren’t representing your interests to the best of our abilities.”

He sobered some. “Ah well, that’s something I wanted to discuss with you.”

Under her breath, “Here it comes.”

He pressed on without noticing. “You know we aren’t interested in you guys’ private lives, but I’m wondering if going public with the whole gay thing was a good idea?”

Kris rubbed her temples as her headache was back in full. “Why wouldn’t it be?

“Maybe you should have consulted with us before you said anything?”

The door to the room opened and Tony came sauntering in. She flopped down on the other end of the couch and mouthed, ‘who’s on the phone?’ By the look on Kris’ face she knew it couldn’t be very good.

“Why would I consult you about something that is none of your business?”

He tried to sound placating, “This news is going to alienate some of your fan base…”

“My fan base?” Kris interrupted as she rolled her eyes at her niece.

“Yes we have always tried to portray you as single…. available for a certain demographic…”

Kris sounded tired. “You mean you have always implied that I was straight and available for all of those adolescent boys’ fantasies. Now you think they’ll stop jerking off on my picture and then stop buying our records?”He cleared his throat. “Well that’s one way to put it. We have spent considerable time and resources to cultivating a certain ‘image’ if you will – for all of you. This announcement of yours is going to throw all of that out in the trash.”

“Let me get this straight; you want me to lie to the public so that you can keep peddling me as straight and available to keep the money flowing?”

“Let’s just put our cards on the table. You’re a smart girl; I’m sure there is a way for you to denounce your little ‘bombshell’ and get everything back to normal.”

Kris sat with her mouth hanging open as she held the receiver to her ear. “You are fucking kidding me, right?”

Malcolm sounded a touch angry. “Kris, I am as serious as a lawsuit…”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Now there is no reason why we can’t come to an understanding about this….”

Kris sat up and replied, “Understand this!” And slammed the phone down.

Tony didn’t take her eyes of the TV, “Crank call?”

“I cannot believe the fucking nerve of that bastard!!!”

Tony looked at her aunt, a slight smile playing around the corners of her mouth. “Let me guess, the suits want you to take back your gay announcement?”

Kris looked puzzled. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

Tony chuckled. “They already called Paul and read him the riot act, and I was standing next to him. Talk about an unhappy camper.”

Kris was incensed, “Can you believe the huevos on those assholes? I can’t believe they are trying to run my life!”

8

This was the first night in over a week that they were going to be off the damn bus. Six concerts in six days, and this tour was just getting started. Today she had done several public appearances, a couple of phone interviews and a live radio interview. Kris was suddenly hotter than sliced bread. Everyone wanted to talk to her, which was both pleasing and exhausting. The band was also getting a lot of exposure, but hopefully it wasn’t going to have a negative impact down the road.

Tony and Rick were talking about going out, but Kris really wanted to try to call Melissa again. Besides, she was too tired to go through the game. All she really wanted to do was try to get some sleep. She walked into the suite alone, throwing her black raincoat onto a chair. She unbuttoned her shirt as she headed toward her bedroom, then noticed an open bottle of champagne in an ice bucket on the coffee table. As she neared the couch, a beautiful young woman with long blond hair rose to her feet. She was dressed in tight jeans and an equally tight knit top that showed lots of cleavage. Her lithe body and deeply tanned skin caught Kris’ eye, not to mention the fact that her nipples seemed to be about ready to pop through her shirt. She looked to be all of 18.

“Hi, I’ve been waiting for you. Want some champagne?” She lifted a half-full flute from the table. When Kris reeled in her tongue and her brain came back on-line, she tried to button up her own shirt. The woman watched every move and husked, “You don’t have to do that.” Kris felt exposed; giving up on the buttons, she pulled the material together, crossing her arms across her chest nervously in an attempt to keep it closed.

Kris looked skeptical. “You’ve been waiting for me?”

The girl held out the glass, taking a step towards Kris. “Yes, are you sure you don’t want some champagne?”

Kris took the champagne and tossed back the whole glass, handing it back empty. It had done nothing to relieve the dryness of her mouth.

“What are you doing here?” Kris wasn’t really grasping the situation, but her desire to call Melissa was evaporating by the second.

“I told you, I’ve been waiting for you…”

“…I know, I heard that. How did you get in here?”“One of your staff.” She filled Kris’ glass and handed it to her again, then slinked onto the couch and tucked her legs up next to her, sprawling seductively. “I have found myself drawn to you for quite awhile and have suspected that you were gay, and now my suspicions are confirmed.” She sipped her champagne seductively.

“As flattered as I am by this, I think you’d better leave.” Kris smiled warmly and moved toward the door.

“No, I’m a big fan of yours, and I really want to get to know you. I recently realized that I too am gay, and I want to share this experience with you.”

Kris couldn’t believe this was happening. “Um, what’s your name?”

“Amy.”

“Amy, I am very flattered, but I don’t really get into this. This is something my brother is famous for.”

“Please don’t throw me out!” Amy pleaded, pouting a little and looking even sexier if that was possible.

Gods, it’s hot in here! Kris thought, “Look, if you’d like an autograph, I’d be happy to do that for you.”

“That would be great!” Amy instantly brightened. Kris sat at the nearby desk, found some stationery and a pen, and began to sign a very personalized autograph. Amy came over and stood next to Kris, so close their bodies were actually touching. Kris could smell a pleasing, musky scent wafting off her guest.

Kris stood up. “Here you go.” They were face to face, only separated by the tiniest amount of space. Suddenly Amy leaned forward and captured Kris’ lips. Kris was surprised and hesitated for a moment before trying to break away. By then it was too late, Amy had her arms around Kris and was caressing her body. It felt so nice. Kris felt her defenses going out for coffee, and tried to rein in her hormones. Amy had opened Kris’ shirt and slid her hand inside before Kris finally broke the kiss.

“Stop it. Please!” she managed to say, trying to move away. Amy’s grip was surprisingly tight when Kris tried to push her away.

“I want you,” Amy said in a voice filled with desire. Kris could feel shivers of pleasure going down her back, at the thought of sleeping with this woman. This woman was here and she clearly wanted Kris, and she seemed to be old enough to consent, so why not? Kris felt like she was about to explode. If she didn’t stop this right now, they were going to have sex. Amy stuck her hand down the front of Kris’ pants and that did it. Kissing and groping, they made their way over to the couch. The sex was hot and hurried, as if they couldn’t get satisfied fast enough. Kris fell into an exhausted sleep on the couch, with Amy curled up next to her.

The door opened, and Tony entered the suite. Everything was quiet and all the lights were on, which she thought was strange. Walking further into the room, she saw them lying on the couch. She stopped in her tracks, amused at the sight. Being a little more than tipsy, she wanted to see Kris squirm, so she cleared her throat loudly. Pulling the champagne from the ice bucket, she smiled as she read the label and the vintage. She poured herself a glass and sat down on the arm of a nearby chair.

Kris’ eyes opened slowly, and she remembered where she was. However, it must have been a dream, having sex with that child. Then she moved her arm and could feel the naked body lying next to her. No, it most certainly had not been a dream.

Tony was sitting on the arm of a nearby chair with her legs crossed, sipping her champagne and smiling. “Did we have a good time?”

Attempting to sit up, Kris asked, “What time is it?” She untangled herself from Amy, who didn’t move.

Tony smacked her lips. “A little after two. Where oh where did you find her?”

Kris pushed her disheveled hair out of her eyes. “She was waiting for me when I got in tonight. How do you suppose she got here?” Kris raised a knowing eyebrow at Tony.

A sly smile played at the corners of Tony’s mouth. “Are you implying that I might know something about it?”

Kris tried to look unhappy. “I should tan your hide for this!”

“Why?” Tony asked, quite surprised.

Kris pulled on her shirt. “You know how I feel about jail bait.”

“You’re angry!” Tony was shocked. “That’s the thanks I get…”

Kris stopped what she was doing and looked at the dark haired woman. “…Why?”

“I thought this would be the perfect way to consummate your coming out of the closet.”

Kris asked, shaking her head, “Where did you find her?”

“She was sitting front row center tonight, with a big sign that said ‘I love Kris’. Knowing your preference for blonds with hard bods, and since it’s hard for you to see that part of the crowd, I had Rita pull her backstage and ship her over here for you.”

Kris narrowed her eyes at Tony. “And I didn’t get anything for you! Just wait, I’ll get you back!”

Re-filling her flute, Tony said, “That’s gratitude for you!”

Amy opened her eyes and looked from one to the other.

Tony gazed lasciviously at Amy. “I very much approve of the covering you have for your couch,”

Amy smiled seductively as she slowly stood and stretched like a cat.

Kris looked pointedly at Tony. “How was the bar?”

Smiling, and not taking her eyes off Amy, Tony replied, “Pretty dead. Rick came home empty handed!”

Kris looked genuinely shocked. “Wow! Should we alert the media?”

Tony pulled Kris close, looking into her eyes and whispering, “Why don’t you have her spend the night?”

Kris realized there was no reason not to and shrugged. “Amy, you’re welcome to stay if you’d like.”

Amy’s face reflected her pleasure. “Great! You’re very good in bed. I guess age does help.”

“Ah thanks, I guess,” Kris blushed slightly.

Tony turned away and headed for her own room.

Kris caught her arm and whispered in her ear, “I know what I can get you….” Tony looked at her in confusion. “Why don’t you take Amy to bed with you?”

Tony smiled shrewdly at her friend. “Why would I want to do that? I’m straight, remember?”

Kris wore a devilish smile, “Now, how are you going to know for sure if you don’t give the other side a try?”

“Oh, but she’s not even my type….”

“Are you kidding? Blond hair, nubile body…” Kris’ voice trailed off as they both looked over at Amy, who sat on the couch naked, sipping champagne.

Tony swallowed hard. “What I need tonight is sleep!”

Kris was prodding her old friend. “You know you want to. I can see it in your eyes.” Kris could feel that she was getting to her niece. Almost on cue, Amy strode over and draped her arm across Kris’ shoulders.

“Amy, how would you like to spend some time getting to know Tony?”

Amy smiled and giggled. Not letting go of Kris, she brushed the knuckles of her free hand across Tony’s soft cheek. Tony closed her eyes to the warm gentle touch. Amy traced Tony’s lips with her finger, then she slowly moved along the outline of Tony’s jaw and down her neck. Kris watched as Tony arched her neck for more contact. Amy took the hint and moved in, planting her lips on the exposed skin. Tony let out a soft moan. Kris lifted Amy’s arm off her shoulders, kissed the back of Amy’s hand and then wandered off alone to her room. “Mission accomplished.” She chuckled to herself.

picture of a musical note dividing sections 

“Kris! Wow, you look different this morning.” Rick came up next to her as she waited for the elevator.

She stepped into the car. “Morning to you, too.”

Rick was giving her the once over. “I mean it, you look different. What’s up?”

Kris tried to assure him. “Nothing, really.”

They headed into the dining room, Rick watching her surreptitiously.

Tess looked up from her paper, surprise evident. “Wow! Kris, what’s up?”

Kris looked around at the others, most of who were looking at her. “Nothing. What’s going on with everyone this morning?”

Tess looked her up and down, smiling. “Kris, where are your sunglasses? And your hair is mostly dry; you don’t look like a drowned rat.”

Rick took a seat next to Tess; he was smiling as he kidded his sister , “Yeah, Sis. You look like a human being this morning.”

Kris was beginning to tire of the attention. “Alright, can we just have breakfast?”

Tony came in wearing a sly smile and squeezed Kris’ shoulder as she sat down next to her. “Ah, Kris you look rested this morning.”

“And you as well.” A knowing grin passed between them.

Rick nudged Tony as she looked over the menu. “What happened to her last night?”

Tony smiled like a cat with a canary. “Nothing really, she just had some R&R.”

Rick looked a little disappointed. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

Tony smiled, never taking her eyes off the menu. “Not even. Get used to disappointment!”

divider

“Hey, stranger.” Tess approached Kris backstage. The sound check had just finished and the band had some time on their hands before the show started. People were milling about and prerecorded music bounced around the empty arena.

Kris turned around and was quite surprised to find Tess standing next to her. “Hey, I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Kris felt a little nervous and forced a smile. She hoped it didn’t look that way. Since she had met Melissa, her “outings” with Tess had cooled off.

Tess grinned wolfishly. “You’ve been a very busy girl.”

“You’re telling me! Hey, I hope you don’t think I’ve been ditching you?”

“No. We don’t have that kind of relationship. We’re just convenient to each other, remember?”

Kris was surprised. “Is that the way you think of what we have?”

Tess met her gaze. “I’m a realist; I know there can’t be anything more between us.”

Kris looked sternly at her. “That’s pretty cold, don’t you think?”

“Maybe, but can you stand there and tell me you love me?”

With relief, Kris saw Rick approaching. She guiltily took a half step away from Tess, feeling like a schoolgirl caught by her parents.

“Hey Tess!” Rick put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. “You feel like a little bar-hopping tonight?”

“I’m not sure I can tonight; I’ll have to see how the loading goes.” She smiled seductively at him, batting her eyes. Kris couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. Tess was gay, why was she playing up to Rick?

He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “We’ll wait for you if you want.”

“I’ll let you know later.” She smiled again. Kris was beginning to feel sick watching the two of them. Rick kissed Tess again and turned to leave.

“I think I’m too busy to go tonight anyway, but thanks for asking!” Kris called after him, annoyed that he had ignored her.

He smiled over his shoulder. “Good! Because you’re not invited.”

Kris yelled after him, “Oh bite me!!!”

Tess laughed, taking a step closer. “He only does that because he knows it pisses you off.”

“I’ll get him tonight during the show…”

“…What are you thinking of?” Tess asked

Kris’ eyes glinted mischievously. “When he is in the middle of a solo, I’ll speed up the tempo until he screams uncle!”

Tess laughed. “You two!”

“Me? What about you? What was all that crap?” Kris batted her eyelashes and cooed in a high voice, “Oh Rick, you’re so manly!!” Kris stuck her index finger in her mouth like she was going to vomit.

“I like to pull his chain.” Tess laughed, and then added, “It’s too bad that you’re busy tonight…” Tess looked alluringly at Kris, not finishing the suggestion.

“Yeah.” Kris felt her breathing quicken and her heart start to pound. “Maybe I could get a rain check?”

“Oh, I’m sure that could be arranged,” Tess purred, the desire evident in her eyes.

Tony came up to them. “Kris, hey Tess. Can you come and help me with a solo in the new song I’m writing?”

Kris addressed Tony, “Sure.”  As Tony took her by the arm and escorted her away she looked back at Tess and asked, “Catch you later?”  As they had moved out of earshot from Tess Kris prompted, “You have some questions to answer, young lady!”

Tony feigned innocence. “What are you talking about?”

“You know damn well what I’m talking about! I don’t really need to ask if you enjoyed it. I was afraid that the hotel management was going to break down the door, followed by the police, with all the noise you were making.”

Tony blushed as she sat down in the dressing room and picked up her guitar. “Sorry, I guess I didn’t realize how loud we were.”

“That was no ‘we’, girlfriend, it was all you.” Kris slapped Tony’s knee playfully and sat down across from her, then watched her expectantly.

Tony finally asked, “What?”

“Do I get my toaster oven or not?” Kris laughed.

Tony looked doubtful. “I’m not sure.”

Kris held out her hands in question. “What’s not to be sure about?”

“All right, I never realized that sex could be so, so…” Tony struggled to find the right word.

Kris offered with a smile, “Wonderful? Spectacular, stupendous, awe-inspiring, phenomenal?”

Tony smiled, not meeting Kris’ gaze. “It was pretty wonderful!” She looked up, blushing slightly and looking like a little kid who’s gotten away with something. “I never felt that way with any man…”

Kris interrupted, her eyebrow arched. “And you’ve been with sooo many!”

“Hey, I’ve been with as many men as you have women… up to this tour, that is,” Tony replied.

Kris nodded and made a gesture of acquiescence.

“The thing is, I’ve always thought of myself as straight…” She dropped her gaze again and strummed her guitar nervously.

“…And me as gay. And since we already have one…” Kris raised her eyebrows expectantly at her niece. Tony could only nod her head yes.

“Life isn’t all black and white. Things change. You can’t deny who or what you are.” Kris’ voice held no anger or sarcasm.

Tony quickly looked up, surprised. “You’re not mad?”

“As a hatter, you bet. But at you, never!” Kris rose and put her arms around Tony. It was a little awkward around the guitar, but they managed. When they parted, Kris moved back to her chair, looking sad.

“What’s up?” Tony asked with concern.

“Nothing. Was there something about a solo?” Kris smiled weakly.

Tony played her new song on the guitar while Kris kept the beat on her thigh.

“So, what do you think? I feel that there is something wrong, but can’t put my finger on it.” Tony looked at Kris, who seemed to be somewhere else. “So I’ve decided to get a sex change, and I want to be known as Butch from here on out,” Tony finished, smiling and waiting.

Kris blinked a couple of times. “What?”

Tony tilted her head sideways and regarded her aunt. “Where did you go?”

Her voice was dreamy “I’m sorry, I was thinking of Melissa.”

“I see. Has she forgiven you for leaving her so abruptly?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to her…”

“Why not?!” Tony interrupted, a little more edge on her voice than she had expected.

“Every time I try, no one’s home, or it’s too late. I just can’t seem to get my timing right.”

Trying to be practical. “Have you tried dropping her a note?”

Kris was looking at the floor. “I don’t really know what to say. What if she hates my guts?”

“Oh you’re right, it’s so much better to find that out over the phone than by mail!” Tony scolded. “You certainly didn’t have any trouble talking to her the night we met… oh wait, you didn’t talk – you just kissed a lot.”

In a quiet voice, Kris confessed, “I’ve never felt this way towards anyone before; I’m scared.”

“If you don’t get off your ass and do something, she’s going to be gone!” Wait, did she just say what I thought she said? “Scared of what?”

“I don’t know, it’s just this feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of her.”

“Well, we all know I’m no expert, but I would conjecture that you’re in love.”

Kris looked sideways at her. “Love?! I hardly know her.”

“Like I said, don’t take my word for it. But if I were you I’d call her, and soon.”

Kris got up and started to pace running her hand through her hair. Love?! Jesus, was that possible? The possibility had never occurred to her before.

Tony recognized the nervous gestures. “Kind of scary thought, huh?”

Kris tried to play it down. “Yeah,” she snorted, “Like that’s ever going to happen to me.”

Tony stopped what she was doing and looked up at her friend. “Why not?”

In a voice tinged with anger Kris replied, “Love isn’t in the cards for me,” And left the room.

9

“What’s with Kris’ mood?” Rick whispered, trying not to be heard by Kris, who sat across the breakfast table from him.

“Tell you later,” Tony whispered back, reading her menu.

“She’s been like this for days.”

“Later!”

After breakfast, Kris headed to her room to pack up her stuff. As she neared the elevator, she noticed Rick, Steve and Tom standing down a hall, all clustered together and looking like they were up to no good. Kris walked up behind them and tried to see what they were so interested in. They were peering in a window overlooking a workout room, in which a very attractive woman was doing some stretching exercises.

“Whoa! Would you look at the hooters on her?” Tom asked.

Steve mused, “Man, wouldn’t you like to have ten minutes in a quiet hallway with her?”

“I’d like to slip her the old salami sandwich!” Rick said.

Tom challenged, “Oh, you couldn’t get to first base with her!”

“Yeah? I bet she wouldn’t even notice if you said something to her,” Rick counter-challenged.

Behind them, Kris asked disgustedly, “Why do you guys do this?” They all turned around, surprised. “Why don’t you just go over and ask her if she’s interested?” She put her hands on her hips.

“Why don’t you?” Rick asked, a little annoyed.

Boasting, Kris replied, “Alright. I bet I get farther than you can!”

Tom pulled out his wallet. “I’ll take a piece of that action.”

Kris held out the money. “Five bucks says I can get farther than you.”

Tony approached the group. “What are you doing?”

Rick smiled smugly. “You’re on! You can even go first.”

Kris nodded and entered the room, went over to the woman, and began to talk to her.

Steve sounded surprised. “Wow, she’s actually talking with Kris!”

“Yeah, it’s been almost a minute,” Tom replied.

Tony couldn’t believe what lengths these guys would go to. “You’re timing this?”

“This is the critical moment, she’ll either slap her face or…” Rick’s voice trailed off as the two women headed for the doorway. They emerged from the weight room and got on an elevator.

“Well I’ll be damned!” Steve was absolutely surprised.

Rick sounded pissed. “That little bitch!”

“You didn’t think she could do it, did you?” Tony laughed as they all boarded another elevator.

divider

A little later, the group was sitting around Rick’s room while he packed up his things. Tony answered a knock at the door, finding a very relaxed Kris leaning against the doorjamb.

“Hello everyone.” She entered the room, a mischievous grin on her face.

“What do you want?” Rick asked, closing his bag.

“I came to talk with Tony.”

Tony looked curious “What’s up?”.

“Did you forget how to do it?” Tom joked with Kris.

“No, we’re all finished,” Kris replied.

Tom looked quizzical. “It’s only been half an hour, are you done already?”

“Well, we only had time to do it once…”

“…How do we know that you actually did it?” Rick asked suspiciously.

“Go next door and ask her. I left her sleeping in my bed.” Kris smiled wickedly, then turned to Tony. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” Kris pulled her off to one side and lowered her voice. “I thought if you were interested…”

“Not really, no. But thanks for thinking of me,” Tony replied in a whisper.

Kris stated aloud, “Rick, I think you owe me some money,”

The phone rang. Steve answered, grunted twice, hung up and announced, “That was Paul; he says it’s time to load up the bus.”

“I can’t believe your sister beat your time!” Tom elbowed Rick, earning a scowl in response.

“Well yeah, with a lesbo, of course.”

Kris smirked. “Ah, let’s not be too quick to jump to conclusions! She’s straight… or rather she used to be straight.”

“Ah, but now she’s seen the light!” Tony quipped as they left the room.

divdider

Tony sat waiting in the limo with Paul, listening to her MP3 player. Another morning, after spending yet another lonely night in yet another nameless city on this unending tour. It was so hard to tell what day it was when you were on tour. Everything seemed to just run together into one long, long day.

Kris joined them, slumping down in her seat. Rita arrived also, looking her usual tough-as-nails self.

“You’re all set; don’t let them get into trouble.” Paul glared at Kris and Tony who were basically ignoring him. “I expect you back here by noon.” Rita nodded, closed the door, and the limo pulled into traffic.

Tony was concerned about Kris. “You look wiped!”

“Thanks! Where are we going?” Kris pulled down her dark glasses and sounded even more lethargic than she looked.

“We have an autograph party to attend.”

She replaced her glasses and laid her head back on the seat. “Oh goody!”

Tony turned down the volume on her MP3 player. “I feel like I haven’t seen you for weeks.”

Kris’ head was still lying on the seat. “This tour has been one big blur of activity.”

“It’s your own fault for coming out!” Tony chuckled.

“Yeah, well, I’ll think twice about doing that again. You know what? I don’t understand how our own stud muffin can do it night after night, after afternoon, after day, after breakfast…” Kris broke off to stifle a yawn. Taking a long drink from her can of Coke, she continued, “I’ve only been with a few women since I officially came out, and I feel like death warmed over.”

Tony laughed out loud, and Rita tried to bite back a case of the giggles.

“So, you’ve found that being a world-class lover is hard work?” Tony was laughing so hard that tears filled her eyes.

Kris threatened good-naturedly. “Laugh it up, funny girl; you’re going to get yours!”

Turning slightly serious. “Well you know, it might be easier on you if you actually slept.”“Well, there is always that,” Kris agreed. “The other thing is none of the women I’ve been with have held my interest.”

Tony slapped Kris’ knee. “Don’t worry, you’ll meet Ms. Right.”

Kris sighed. “That’s the problem; I think I already have.”

Tony rolled her eyes. “But of course. And how is that going?”

Kris looked away. “I still haven’t talked to her.”

Tony was incredulous. “Why the hell not?”

“Because it’s never the right time.” Kris drank her Coke.“What about now?” Tony asked. Kris looked at her like she had just heard the secret to the universe. She picked up the car phone, took the phone number out of her wallet, and breathlessly listened to the ringing and the static. Sighing, she hung up.

“What happened?”

“Answering machine.” She hung up the phone.

Tony prompted, looking at Kris like she was an idiot. “And you didn’t leave a message because…?”

Kris looked a little flustered. “I don’t know; I’d rather talk to her in person.”

Tony chided. “Yeah, but maybe it would be nice to hear your voice, and know that you’re still interested? You didn’t think of that, did you?”

Kris tried to look angry. “Oh forgive me, great relationship wizard! I know not what to do!” Kris bowed her head.

Tony was doing her best to look superior. “Hey, someone needs to teach you a thing or two…”

“…And you’d be the perfect teacher? Just when was your last relationship, anyway?” Kris poked her in the ribs.

“Um, that depends on your definition of relationship…”

“…Being with someone more than one night, and actually letting someone know that you have feelings for them,” Kris explained.

“Hey, I let him know how I felt about him….”

“…After he had gotten involved with someone else!” Kris put her arm across Tony’s shoulder. “We’re quite the pair. You end up in disastrous relationships, and I can’t get one started.”

The limo pulled up outside a local record store, where a line of hundreds of people had formed. The two women emerged from the car to a roar of cheers. Rita hustled them into the store, escorting them to the table where they were to meet their public.

Kris promptly laid her head down on her arms on top of the table.

Tony nudged Kris with her elbow. “Hey, is that any way to greet your adoring fans?”

“I’m awake, I’m awake. What city are we in?”

“Salt Lake. I’ll be right behind you if you need anything.” Rita’s low voice seemed to be just inches from Kris’ ear. She turned, looked over her shoulder, and lowered her glasses at Rita.

“You know, with a voice like that, you could be giving women wet dreams if you ever decided to go into radio.” She winked wryly at the bodyguard, and thought she detected the slightest blush. Which brought an impish grin to Kris’ face. She removed her hat, glasses and coat, getting ready for the long morning before them.

The time passed, but it had been anything but long. Kris enjoyed this particular meet-and-greet session more than any they had done for a long while. Most of the crowd were women, and were eager to tell Kris how happy they were she had come out. Even Tony seemed to be enjoying herself, with more than her share of young hunks drooling over her.

“Wow! I can’t believe it! You are even hotter in person than in your videos!” A young man babbled as he set his CD down for Tony to sign. Kris momentarily had no one standing in front of her.

“Thank you. How would you like it to read?” Tony smiled sweetly at the youth.

“To Marv, my best friend.” He had a dreamy look on his face. Tony tried not to laugh as she began to write. “Sincerely, Tony XXXOO,” he finished. She looked up at him doubtfully, then went back to writing.

“Here you go Marv. Thanks.” Tony handed him the CD.

He took it and wandered away in a daze. Kris started to laugh.

Tony scolded her, trying desperately not to start giggling, “Stop, he was sweet.” Kris was on her feet, stretching out the kinks, when two women walked up and stood in front of her.

“Hi, this is so cool, we finally get to meet you!” one of them spoke, while the other nodded emphatically and smiled from ear to ear.

“Do you have tickets for tonight’s show?” Kris asked, genuinely interested.

“Oh you bet! Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Talkative said, while the other continued nodding. Kris rubbed her own neck, unconsciously sympathizing with Nodder’s muscles.

Kris uncapped a pen. “To whom do I make this out?”

Talkative said, “Gloria. I mean I’m Gloria and this is my friend Sarah.” She stuck out her hand and Kris shook it, taking the offered CD.

“Thanks, look forward to seeing you at the concert.” Kris smiled her award-winning smile, then suddenly Sarah opened her shirt and blurted, “Would you sign these?” Her voice was pure velvet, low and husky. Kris’ mouth fell open when Sarah revealed her rather well endowed chest, unencumbered by undergarments. Tony kicked Kris under the table to bring her back to Earth. Kris continued to stand, although her knees were wobbly, and with great difficulty signed her autograph on each of the woman’s breasts.

“Wow! My boyfriend is never going to believe this!” Sarah snapped her shirt closed and bounced away, with Gloria trailing behind. Kris just stood there watching them go, and Tony burst out laughing.

Kris blinked a couple times to bring herself back to reality, and found another woman standing before her. Before Kris could sit down, the woman took the pen from Kris’ hand, flipped that hand over palm-down, and proceeded to write her name and phone number on it. After which she leaned very close to Kris’ face and whispered, “I can make your stay here the most memorable part of your last three tours.” She licked Kris’ earlobe for good measure, then sauntered away. Tony pulled Kris down into her chair.

“What did she say to you?” Tony asked, watching Kris blankly stare straight ahead. Before Kris could answer, a very tall, athletic woman approached them. She looked down at Kris with a seductive smile and said, “I was wondering if you would mind autographing this?” She pulled out a very sheer, lacy pair of underpants, leaning over and delicately laying them in front of Kris. Tony could see the woman’s cleavage quite clearly from where she was sitting, and wondered what else Kris was able to see.

“Who….” Kris croaked, cleared her throat, and tried again. “Who do I make, ah, these out to?”

“Jasmine,” she purred. It was all Kris could do to concentrate on spelling the woman’s name. She was acutely aware of the sweet, musky smell of the woman coming off the underwear. Her heart was pounding and she felt a little dizzy as she handed the undergarment back to the woman.

“Are you, um… see you at the concert tonight?” Kris stammered.

“Front row; I’ll make sure you see me.” Jasmine reached out and cupped Kris’ cheek before slinking off.

“Earth to Kris!!! Come in!!!” Tony tried to get her attention.

Kris looked blankly at her after Jasmine had left their sight. “God I love my job!!!” Her voice was full of pride and happiness, her face slightly flushed. “I’d like to see Rick top this one today!!”

“Hello Salt Lake!!!” Rick yelled into his mic as their first song ended. The roar from the audience felt like an electric charge. Their next song was quickly burning up the chart, and the crowd responded by coming right up to the barricades. Kris noticed that the last women that she had signed autographs for were all standing at her feet at the edge of stage left. She usually played barefooted, for more control and to stay cooler. A couple of songs later, she glanced down and found the area around her left foot surrounded by roses. Looking down into the crowd, she noticed that the women were holding up signs saying ‘Kris Rules!’ and ‘We love Kris!’ She smiled and waved to them, laughing to herself and having a great time.

“You guys are really good!” Kris complimented the crowd, after the last chorus of the last song. The audience cheered loudly in response.

“Oh, do you want us to do another?” Tony asked. A roar erupted from the crowd.

“This place is fired up! You’ve been the best crowd so far this tour!” Kris yelled.

“Yeah, I just booted it up,” the assassin replied into her cell phone.

“Mrs. Gladwin was very happy with how the job turned out, by the way.” The woman’s voice sounded pleased.

“That’s good to hear. Here it comes now. How many faxes?”

“Four. I think the middle two will be of the most interest to you…”

“Marcus has got to be kidding, right?”

“We can only hope; I knew you’d laugh when you saw that.” The woman chuckled.

“Oh, Jolie, before I forget, I’m going to need some supplies. Have them delivered in Phoenix. And call Marcus back and tell him to fuck himself.”

Jolie’s voice was filled with sarcasm. “I’m sure I’ll think of something tactful to say.”

“Oh, this is a good one! I like the looks of this. Call Odessa and have her agree to my terms and then set it up for me.” The assassin changed shoulders with the phone. “This one’s going to be a challenge.”

Jolie’s voice was filled with concern. “You sound happy about that. You’re not getting bored, are you?”

“Yeah, a little maybe. I just need a vacation,” the assassin confided.“Oh, I don’t like the sound of this. Look, boss, do us both a favor. Go out and get laid tonight and forget all about the business. Get your head on straight.”

The assassin laughed. “Jolie, it’s nice to hear that you are so concerned, but I’m fine really.”

“Yeah, like you were after Portland?”

“Let’s not talk about that.”

“What is all that noise? It’s hard to hear you.”

The assassin shut the door, blocking some of the music. “All right, so Odessa and Jason for sure. I’ll have to think about this last one. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Continued in part 2

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