An hour later ...
Disclaimer: See title page. Lyrics of 'Thankyou' by D Armstrong and P Herman reproduced without permission but absolutely not for personal profit.
Cadie took in the activity around her as if it were some bizarre movie she was watching in 3D. Police swarmed over the house, taking fingerprints and photographs. A contingent had gone with the man Jo had been fighting when they arrived. He was being taken by air ambulance to the nearest big town. Another group of police had dealt with the body of the second man, sliding it into a bodybag and removing it. And now they were cleaning up, washing blood away after taking samples, sweeping up broken glass, putting a new makeshift front door in place of the one they'd smashed through with the battering ram. They'd found another man tied up not far from the house and he too had been carted off to hospital.|
Ken Harding had said nothing to Cadie, he just moved around the house supervising the Airlie Beach police and giving out instructions. Eventually things seemed to be as resolved as they were going to be and the big detective wandered over, taking a seat opposite the couch.
"We're about done here, Miss Jones," he said quietly. "The bad news is I do need to talk to her before I go." He nodded at the still slumbering Jo.
Cadie looked down at the dark-haired woman. Jo was deeply asleep, her face half-buried in Cadie's shirt, her arms loosely wrapped around the black cat, who gazed up at the blonde with sleepy, golden eyes. She swallowed as another wave of protectiveness washed over her, and she looked back up at the detective.
"I'm sorry," he said, his hands restlessly searching for his cigarettes in his inside jacket pocket. "But it's got to be done. Better we sort this out now with one conversation than have to keep revisiting it." He tapped a cigarette out of the damp, crumpled packet. "Tell you what. I'll go out and smoke this while you wake her up, yeah?"
"Okay," Cadie said quietly.
She waited until Harding was out on the verandah before she looked down at Jo again, taking in the dark woman's angular features.
She looks so young, Cadie thought, stroking Jo's hair. It's a shame to wake her. Gently she shook Jo's shoulder, careful to avoid the wound on her upper arm, which thankfully seemed to have stopped bleeding. Need to get her cleaned up, thought the blonde, continuing to coax Jo awake with as little drama as possible.
The tall woman stirred slowly, disturbing the cat who stood, stretched and leaped off the couch in search of food.
"Jo-Jo," said Cadie softly, shaking her shoulder again. "Come on, hon. Wake up."
Jo's response was to make soft, objecting noises as she burrowed even further into Cadie's shirtfront.
Cadie's heart melted.
Even covered in mud and blood. Even after the day she's had. She still gets to me.
One more shake and Jo's eyes fluttered open, blinking sleepily for a few seconds as she tried to figure out where she was and what smelled so good. And what felt so soft and warm against her face.
"Hello there," a voice said. Jo rolled blue eyes upwards to meet the sea-green ones smiling down at her.
"Ummmm, hi," Jo replied. She sat up carefully, pulling away from Cadie, feeling embarrassed about falling asleep on the blonde. Not to mention … "Um, sorry about that," she said awkwardly, unable to meet Cadie's eyes as she swung around and dropped her feet to the floor. She winced as every muscle and joint in her body protested.
"There's no need to apologise, Jo," said Cadie gently. "You were in shock, and exhausted. And I offered. It's not like you bushwhacked me."
"Bushwhacked?" Jo couldn't help smiling at that, though she still didn't turn to look at the blonde. "You've been listening to Paul too much." She groaned as she tried to stand up, eventually falling back onto the couch. "Goddess, I hurt."
"And you're probably going to need some stitches in that arm."
Jo looked down and gingerly lifted the bloodied sleeve of her shirt. An angry, deep graze sliced across her upper arm. It was crusted over and she poked it experimentally.
"Lucky," she grunted. "Bullet just brushed me. Another half inch and that would've been really nasty. No stitches though. Can you help me clean it up later?" For the first time she glanced up at Cadie. "That is … if you …" She stumbled for words.
Cadie leaned forward and placed a hand on her thigh.
"We have a lot to talk about." She watched as Jo visibly swallowed and nodded silently, avoiding eye contact. "Yes, of course I'll help you clean it up. And anything else you need help with, too." Cadie patted her leg again. "And now Detective Harding wants to talk with you before he leaves." She nodded towards the verandah where the big detective was lounging against the rail, cigarette smoke curling around him as he watched them.
Jo leaned forward, elbows on her knees, hands clasped in front of her. She focused on a spot about three feet ahead rather than face Cadie's open gaze.
"I guess he told you everything, huh?" she said quietly, hating the fact that circumstances had taken away the chance to tell Cadie about herself.
Cadie watched her sympathetically.
"He told me the bare bones, Jo," she replied. "That you were involved in some criminal activity for a while. But he also told me that because of you a lot of bad people are in jail today." She reached forward to touch Jo's leg again, but saw the tall woman flinch away from the contact.
She's scared to death, Cadie realised, a light coming on in her brain. She thinks I'm going to walk away from her because of this.
Just as she had an hour or so earlier, Cadie reached out and gently drew Jo's face around with her fingertips.
"Listen to me." Wide blue eyes stared back at her, uncertainly. "I want to hear all about it. From you. I'm not interested in Det. Harding's perspective. I want to know what it was like for you. Please?" Jo nodded slowly, and Cadie slid her hand around to cup the tall woman's cheek. She felt Jo lean into the touch slightly. "And I'm not going anywhere, okay?" she said with a smile. "So just relax."
Tentatively Jo smiled back and she let out a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding.
I can't believe she's seen what she's seen today and hasn't run a mile, thought Jo, watching Cadie get up and go to the verandah door to speak with Harding. Either she's in shock and the reality of the day hasn't hit her yet or … Jo swallowed hard. Or, you idiot, she just might care enough about you not to care about your past.
Jo shook her head disbelievingly.
But my past was very much here in the present today. That's got to be scary for her. Doesn't it? She watched as Harding tossed his cigarette butt over the verandah - good thing we've had some rain, thought Jo absently - and followed Cadie back inside.
"I'm going to explore your kitchen and rustle up some coffee," the American said, gesturing to the kitchen area at the other end of the living space. "Okay?"
Jo nodded quickly as Harding sat down opposite her.
"That would be great Cadie. Thanks." They exchanged smiles before Cadie walked off, and Jo sat back in the couch and fixed her gaze on the big policeman.
Harding looked out of place on the soft leather chair. His cheap suit was drying in wrinkles and he patted at his shiny forehead with a greying, tattered handkerchief. He looked hot and tired, perched on the edge of the chair like a middle-aged Buddha on a bed of nails.
Uncomfortable, thought Jo with a smile.
"So," she said, breaking the silence.
"So," replied Harding.
Harding nodded slowly.
"Yeah, he's not too bad," he answered. "Cuts and bruises. A bit freaked out. We talked to him and he's agreed to go with the home invasion angle when it comes to telling his parents what happened. I don't think it'll do anyone, least of all you, much good to tell them any more than that, do you?"
Jo winced. Josh's parents were good people. She hated being less than honest with them about what had happened to their son.
"Not too many burglars come in gangs of three, carrying semi-automatic weapons, mate," she said to the policeman.
He nodded again.
"I know but what's the alternative? Tell them their son's been cat-sitting for an ex-assassin with underworld connections?" He shook his head. "Keep it simple, Madison. The kid's agreed so go with it."
Jo sighed. Like she had any choice.
"Did he need hospitalisation?"
"Nope. The paramedics patched him up and we took him home. Gave him the name and number of a head-shrinker type in case it jumps up and bites him in the arse later on."
Jo nodded. Standard procedure.
"I owe him and his parents an apology at the very least," she said quietly, guilt washing over her in a sickening wave. "I'll give them a call in a couple of hours, when things have settled a bit." She rubbed her hands over her face tiredly. "Do we know yet how they got past the security system?"
Harding snorted quietly.
"They knocked," he said. "Told the kid they were cops and he let 'em in. Next thing he knew he was tied up and getting familiar with the point of Marco's boot."
"Jesus," Jo exhaled. "I should've known. Been more careful. Not left the kid on his own like that. Goddammit."
Harding looked at the tall woman.
She's changed, he thought. Time was it wouldn't have bothered her a damn. Now she looks like she's gonna beat herself to death with it.
"Let it go, Madison," he growled. "It's been five years for chrissakes. Fair enough to think you were beyond all this shit. You weren't to know Marco was just biding his time."
She looked up sharply at the detective.
"Yeah I should've, Harding. Of all the people in the world, I should have known exactly that. Marco's always been a psychotic prick with a long memory." She slumped back in the seat. "I got complacent. Forgot who I was."
Cadie listened quietly from where she stood in the kitchen, fixing three cups of coffee. It worried her to hear Jo beating up on herself for what had happened. Absentmindedly, she stirred a teaspoon of sugar into Jo's coffee, then wondered briefly if Harding wanted sugar. She glanced over at the big man and smiled as she tipped three teaspoons of the sweet stuff in and stirred. Carefully she picked up the mugs in both hands and wandered back to the sofa.
"That one's yours," she muttered, offering Jo the nearest cup to her. Then she turned to Harding and waited for him to take his before she straightened up again. "I'm going to go sit on the verandah," she said, starting to move in that direction. She was stopped by Jo's hand sliding into hers.
"Stay?" Jo asked quietly, looking up at her with irresistable blue eyes. "There isn't anything I don't want you to hear, or ask about. Please?"
"Okay," Cadie replied softly, following the tug of Jo's hand and sitting down next to her. She sat back and gently placed her hand against the tall skipper's lower back, rubbing in small, light circles.
Goddess that feels good, thought Jo gratefully. How does she know just what I need? She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at the blonde, saying thank you with her eyes before she turned back to the detective, who was watching the exchange bemusedly.
"So," Jo said again. "Just how much trouble am I in?"
Harding shook his head.
"None." She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Seriously," he said, reassuring her. "There's nothing I've seen here today that doesn't scream self-defence, Madison, and that's what the paperwork will reflect."
"You've got to be kidding," she said, incredulous. "I killed a guy, Harding. And I … " She swallowed. "And I would have killed another one if … if Cadie hadn't …" She felt Cadie's hand press against her back comfortingly.
"For a start," replied Harding. "There were almost as many of my bullets in that moron as there were of yours. He came in here spraying bullets, Madison. It was a good shoot. Forget about it." He took a sip of his coffee, sighing happily at its sweet richness. "Nice cup of char, miss, thanks." Cadie smiled at him and he turned back to Jo. "As for Marco, I frankly don't give a shit what you would have done. He came in here intent on hurting you, at the very least, and you defended yourself. That's what I saw. End of story."
"Actually, he was making me a job offer," Jo replied quietly.
She shook her head.
"Nope. Offered me my old job, plus the added incentive of being his whore." She ran a hand through her hair, still very aware of the warmth from Cadie's hand as it circled gently in the small of her back.
Harding snorted in derision.
"What a dumb shit," he laughed. He looked around at their luxurious surroundings and the panoramic view across the Whitsunday Passage and the islands. "Like you're gonna give up all this to go back to that life."
"Mmmmmmm," she replied noncommittally. "I wouldn't have gone back with him if I were living in a cardboard box off Oxford Street. He just pissed me off and then I lost my temper." She wasn't very proud of that, she realised. And she was scared by it as well.
Scary to know how little it took to make me go back to that kind of violence, she thought morosely. Harding broke into her reverie as he noisily drained his by-now lukewarm cup of coffee.
"Well, I'm going to head off," he said, putting the mug down on the small table next to his chair. "Got some paperwork to do."
"You right for a lift, Ken?" Jo asked, standing up with him. He did a double-take at her use of his first name.
There's a first, he thought.
"Yeah, no worries, thanks," he replied. "Got a car waiting for me outside. Listen, swing by the Airlie Beach cop shop in the morning, eh? We'll take a statement and get this all squared away."
"Will I have to testify?" she asked.
"Probably. But not for a while. He's going to be in prison hospital for a bit yet." He grinned lopsidedly at her. "Plus then we've gotta do the whole extradition thing back to Sydney, and all that. So don't hold your breath for it. See you in the morning, eh?" He put his hat back on his head, and started for the door.
Jo followed him.
"Harding, how did you get up here so quickly anyway?" she asked.
"I was already here," he answered. "Came up on a hunch."
Jo was speechless, impressed he had remembered her at all, let alone been concerned enough to follow a hunch over five years after their last meeting.
"Well … jesus. Thanks Harding," she said, offering her hand to the man.
He took it, shaking it slowly.
"No thanks needed," he replied gruffly. "Besides it was your little mate over there who found me and got me here. Until I ran into her I was wandering around with my head stuck up my arse trying to figure out where to find you. She's a determined little bugger. Wasn't gonna let me keep her out of the action either."
She grinned at him and turned back to Cadie where she had stayed quietly on the couch, flashing the blonde a brilliant smile. Cadie returned it in kind, feeling the blush slowly creep up her neck.
"It was blind luck honestly," she said. "Lucky timing for us all."
"Well, whatever it was, I'm glad you found me. See you tomorrow ladies," Harding said, tipping his hat and walking out the door. Jo closed it carefully behind him, checking the lock on the rough new door and resetting the security system. She turned and walked back into the living area, suddenly feeling unsure.
Cadie watched Jo stand uncertainly in the middle of the room, gazing out at the view of the Passage. The ocean and islands were slowly turning shades of orange as the sun began to set. The glow made Jo seem golden as she stood there.
She looks like a goddess, thought Cadie, not for the first time. A dirty, bloodied, lost, scared goddess.
The blonde stood and walked over to Jo, taking her hands in hers and looking up at her. Jo looked down and half-smiled.
"Why don't you go get cleaned up, put some fresh clothes on?" suggested Cadie. "It'll make you feel better."
"Good idea," replied Jo. "Hey, do you still have the cellphone? I'm amazed we haven't heard from the Seawolf."
Cadie looked up at her sheepishly as she unhooked the cellphone from her belt and handed it back to its owner.
"Well actually there's a very good reason for that," she said apologetically. "I switched it off."
They held each other's gaze for a few seconds.
"You're worried about Naomi's reaction to us being away together?"
"Oh yeah. And if we're going to be away all night she's going to go ballistic," she replied quietly, dreading her next conversation with her bad-tempered partner.
Jo thought hard.
"Well, I can try and get you back to the boat tonight," she said, chewing her bottom lip as she tried to figure out how. "But the water taxis stop running in …" She glanced down at her watch. "Half an hour. And the only other way back is Bill's helicopter." She paused. "Hey. Where is Bill, anyway?"
Cadie started pulling Jo towards the bathroom.
"He offered to go with Josh when they took him home," she said. "He said he would come back first thing in the morning to hold the fort here for as long as you need him to."
Jo followed her, stopping only at the linen cupboard to pull out a couple of fresh bath towels.
"He's a good man," she said. "So ... he can't get you back tonight." She bit her lip again as they entered her spacious main bathroom. Cadie dropped the lid of the toilet and sat down as she watched the tall woman moving around, getting ready for her shower. "Cadie, I don't think I can get you back there tonight," Jo said worriedly.
"It's okay," she replied. "We just need to get our story straight." She grinned wryly at Jo. "Somehow I don't think telling her the truth is going to make her any calmer."
Jo raised an eyebrow and grimaced a little at the thought.
"Nope, I don't suppose it will. She hates my guts now, so telling her I'm a former underworld assassin isn't going to improve my reputation with her." She stopped still when she realised Cadie probably hadn't heard the truth so baldly expressed before. She looked up and met a steady sea-green gaze. Cadie smiled gently back at her.
"The important word in that sentence was 'former'," the blonde said quietly. "I'm not afraid of your past, Jo. So stop worrying that I'm going to run from the truth. 'Cos I'm not going to."
"Why not, Cadie?" She sat down on the edge of the bathtub and leaned down, untying her bootlaces and pulling the heavy boots and socks off. "I have killed people," she said bluntly. "I killed someone today, and would have done it again if you hadn't stopped me. Why wouldn't you run a mile from that? From me?" She threw the dirty socks over to the laundry hamper in the corner of the room with just a touch of venom.
"Because I know you," Cadie said calmly. Jo looked at her quizzically and the blonde raised a hand to stop the skipper's protest. "I know, I know. I've known you, what? A week?" She stood and moved over to help Jo when she realised the tall woman was having trouble lifting her injured arm above shoulder height.
"Hang on a minute, let me help here." She pulled Jo's shirt up. "Bend over a little and hold your arms out for me," she said. Jo complied and Cadie slowly slid the shirt off her, mindful of the nasty graze on her upper arm. She turned and tossed the soiled shirt over to the hamper. "Damn, Jo," she said quietly when she turned back to her. "You're a walking bruise."
Jo had stood and was looking back over her own shoulder at her reflection in the mirror.
"You should see my back," she muttered.
Cadie walked around Jo and hissed involuntarily at the sight of the left side of the skipper's back, which was a purpling mass of bruising.
"What hit you?" she asked.
"A tree," Jo said shortly. "When you guys were lowering me down and the chopper got caught by a windgust."
"Damn. We ought to get you to a doctor, Jo. Your ribs have got to be badly bruised at the very least." Gingerly Cadie allowed her fingertips to roam over the discoloured area, feeling the heat beneath Jo's skin.
Jo winced slightly at the touch, but was relieved not to feel too much more pain than that.
"No, I think it's okay," she said, twisting back and forth experimentally. Her eyes widened suddenly as she felt something other than Cadie's fingertips brush against her skin, a warm tingle radiating out from the point of contact.
Did she just kiss me? Jo thought.
I can’t believe I just did that. Cadie pulled back from where she had planted a tender kiss on Jo's bruised shoulderblade, just under her black sports bra. Is it hot in here?
She cleared her throat and moved back around Jo, avoiding eye contact as she felt a blush rising.
"Well," she said awkwardly. "I guess I'll leave you to grab your shower." She began backing out of the bathroom. "Or bath. Or whatever you're going to … um … do."
Jo chuckled and grabbed the blonde's hand before she could retreat completely.
"Why don't you do the same?" she said with a gentle smile. "You can use the ensuite in my bedroom. And in the top drawer of my dresser you'll find a whole pile of clean tee-shirts and shorts. There should be something in there that will fit you." She squeezed Cadie's hand reassuringly and handed her the other bath towel. "And Cadie?" She waited until the blonde was forced to look up and meet her gaze.
As their eyes met the electricity immediately sparked between them, and both let several seconds pass as they just swam in the warm feeling.
"Mmmmm?" Cadie murmured, her eyes dropping slightly to focus on Jo's gently-smiling lips.
"Thank you," Jo said softly. "For everything."
Cadie's eyes flicked back to the brilliant blue ones above her and she let the smile she was feeling deep inside reflect in her face.
"I just called in the cavalry. You were the hero today. Don't argue with me," she said quickly as Jo opened her mouth the protest. "You got Josh out of there, Jo, and three more bad guys are off the street."
"But if … "
Cadie stepped closer and reached up, resting two fingers across Jo's lips. They both were distracted momentarily by the contact but it was the American who regained focus first.
"No buts, Jo. We'll talk about it all later, okay?" She withdrew her fingers, somewhat reluctantly. "Right now you need to feel human again, and I don't know about you, but I could eat a house." She grinned.
Jo relaxed and smiled back.
"Okay. See you in a few."
Jo leaned her forearms against the wall of the shower, resting her forehead on her hands and letting the cool water flow down her back. She ached from head to foot, but slowly the high-pressure jet began to work the kinks out. The events of the day played over and over in her mind, but two things stood out.
It's just possible I may finally be free of that other life, she pondered. Marco was the last of them. There's none of that old crowd left who would care to come after me. Tony's dead and Marco's going to be put away for a long time.
And Cadie didn't run a mile. She couldn't help smiling at that thought. She knows the truth … or at least the basics. And she's still here. Not just here, but touching me … kissing me … and wanting to know more about me. The smile turned into a grin. How is that possible?
She reached for the soap and began washing the grime and crusted blood from her body, desperate to remove the evidence of the day's bizarre activities.
Hard to believe that it was just this morning that I was watching her sunbathing and fantasising about touching her, Jo thought as she stepped further under the spray, rinsing away the soap. And now she's as naked as I am, on the other side of this wall.
Jo reached forward and pressed her hand flat against the back wall of the shower, trying to picture Cadie.
…niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice, thought Cadie, pressing her hand flat against the shower wall. Why is it we can be at the end of the crazy day we've had and all I can think about is how soft her lips felt against my fingertips?
She closed her eyes and called up that sensation again in her mind's eye, remembering the soft touch and warmth of Jo's breath gentling her skin.
Cadie reached for the shampoo bottle in the shower recess and squeezed an amount onto her palm.
How do I get through this night without … without what, Jones? She laughed at herself as she spread the shampoo through her hair and began to lather up. Ravishing her? Confessing undying love? The unspoken dialogue in her mind began a back and forth debate that she'd had many times with herself since Naomi had revealed just how little their relationship meant to her.
I don’t want to think about Naomi, she thought morosely as she rinsed the shampoo out of her hair. It's over with goddamned Naomi. She sighed. One step at a time Jones. Let's just get through this night.
When Cadie emerged from Jo's bedroom 10 minutes later she found the tall woman sitting on the couch, trying to wrap a bandage one-handed around her upper right arm.
"Hang on, let me do that," she said, sitting down next to Jo.
"Thanks. I was going cross-eyed." Jo pulled up the sleeve of the long, pale blue silk robe she wearing, revealing the bullet graze on her arm. Now that it had been cleaned of dirt and crusted blood it was weeping again. Cadie winced.
"Are you sure this doesn't need stitches?" she asked uncertainly.
"Positive," Jo replied. Cadie looked at her with raised eyebrows. "Honestly," Jo reassured her. She pulled over the first-aid kit she'd brought out from the bathroom. "Here ya go. Just put a cotton pad over it and wrap it with the bandage."
"It's going to leave a scar, Jo," Cadie said quietly as she tore open the packet holding the sterile cotton pad.
"That's okay," she shrugged. "It'll be a nice reminder. Besides, I'm not planning on entering any beauty contests any time soon." She grinned.
Cadie smiled back.
"You could you know," she said matter-of-factly, putting Jo's hand over the cotton pad while she rerolled the bandage the skipper had been trying to apply herself.
"Aaaaaaaaaaw quit it, will ya. You're making me blush."
Cadie looked up and noticed it was true.
Well, that's a first, she thought, smiling as she began winding the bandage around Jo's arm. She secured it with the two clips provided and patted it gently when she was done.
"How does that feel? Not too tight?"
"Nope it's good. Thanks," said Jo, letting the sleeve of the robe drop.
"No problem." Cadie tugged lightly at the sleeve. "I like this. The colour brings out your eyes." She smiled mischievously up at Jo.
"I came out of the shower and realised I didn't have any fresh clothes in there. So rather than scandalise you, I threw this on." She grinned. "I'll go change in a minute."
"No need on my account," Cadie replied. "If you're comfortable, stay as you are."
Jo nodded, letting her eyes sweep up and down the blonde's outfit, which consisted of one of her white tee-shirts, about two sizes too big on the American, and a pair of soft cotton drawstring shorts.
"I see you found something you could live with," she said, smiling.
There was a long pause as they contemplated each other openly, eyes drifting and then meeting again, small smiles exchanged.
Finally, Jo cleared her throat.
"Um, did you say something about being hungry enough to eat a house?" she asked.
"God yes," Cadie replied. "It feels like about three days since we had those sandwiches on the pontoon out at Heart Reef."
Jo nodded in agreement, then rubbed her face wearily.
"It's been such a weird day," she said. And suddenly Cadie could see that lost, uncertain look shading across the dark-haired woman's face again.
"Come on," she said, patting Jo's thigh as she stood up. "Let's rustle up some food, and we can talk it out over dinner." She held out a hand and when Jo took it, pulled her up.
"Sounds like a plan," said the skipper, a smile returning to her eyes. "There's just one more thing we need to do before we can relax."
"Call the Seawolf, yes." She took a deep breath. "Can't say I'm looking forward to that. Are we going to stick with the burglary story?"
Jo looked down at her as they moved into the kitchen.
"Do you think Naomi will go for that?" she asked, opening the fridge and pulling out the makings of a salad.
"At this point, I don't think it makes much difference what our reason is. She's just gonna hate that I'm here regardless of why."
Jo placed a lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, avocadoes and bean sprouts on the counter, along with a glass salad bowl and a bottle of homemade salad dressing she was glad to see Josh hadn't raided too badly.
"Well," she said. "If she's going to be pissed off no matter what we tell her we might as well get it over with. Then at least she'll have until tomorrow morning to calm down about it."
"You don't know her very well. She'll just use that time to work up a head of steam about it, if she hasn't already." She looked so glum about the prospect, Jo felt a pang of remorse.
"I'm sorry I involved you in it all, Cadie," she said quietly, beginning to slice the tomatoes on the wooden chopping board. "I should have just had Bill drop you at the boat before we came here."
Cadie shook her head emphatically.
"And then how you would you have gotten yourself down to the ground, or found Det Harding?" she replied. "You needed me." She grinned up into azure blue eyes that sparkled back at her. "And there really wasn't time, Jo-Jo. Think about how fast that storm came in. We only barely got back to Shute Harbour as it was."
Jo tossed the tomato quarters into the salad bowl and reached for the cucumber.
"That's true, I guess," she answered. "Tell you what. You finish this salad. There's some eggs in the fridge if you want to hard-boil a couple to add in later, if you like. And I will call the Seawolf. I'll tell her you're asleep, okay?"
Cadie was tempted. The thought of not having to talk to Naomi tonight was definitely a pleasant one, but she knew the senator wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"Call them, Jo. But I will talk to her. It'll only make it worse if I don't." She took the knife from Jo and moved around the counter. "But thanks for offering."
Jo picked up the cellphone and rested her back against the counter, feeling Cadie shift and lean slightly against her as she pulled up Paul's number on the speed dial.
She looked down at the blonde while she waited for her crewman to answer. Cadie looked subdued as she finished slicing the cucumber and Jo took a moment to slide her left hand around the smaller woman's waist. A little smile crept to the corners of Cadie's mouth at the movement and Jo felt her lean more in response.
She's a bit scared of the senator, Jo thought grimly. For about the millionth time since she'd met the odd couple, she wondered how on earth they had gotten together. I guess tonight is the time to ask, she thought, realising they had an interesting evening ahead of them. Finally, Paul answered the phone.
"Jesus, skipper, where the bloody hell are you?" he shouted goodnaturedly. "We'd just about decided you been washed off the pontoon. Is Cadie with you? The senator's going nutso here."
"One question at a time, mate, okay?" she answered. "Yes, Cadie's with me and we're at my place. I got a call from Josh while we were out at Heart, telling me he'd disturbed a couple of burglars. I needed to get here quickly and that storm was coming in fast, so Bill just brought us straight here. By the time I got done with the cops and all that crap it was too late to try and make it back tonight."
"Bloody hell. Is Josh okay?"
"Yeah. A couple of cuts and scrapes but nothing too serious. Scared silly, I think, but he'll be fine. I've got to do a bit more paperwork with the cops in the morning, but we should be back by lunchtime for sure. How did you guys do with the storm?"
Cadie moved around the kitchen, finding a pan for the eggs and filling it with water, before exploring the oventop range and putting the eggs on to boil.
How does she make that outfit look so sexy, Jo thought as she listened to Paul's response.
"Yeah not too bad, skip," he answered. "We moved round the south point into the bay and we were pretty sheltered. Things got a bit choppy though. Couple of cases of seasickness on board, but things have settled now." Jo could almost hear his grin.
"That's good," she replied. "Any damage?"
"Nothing too noticeable," he said. "We got everything pretty well tied down before the wind got too strong. I figured we'd stay here till you get back."
"Mhmmm, sounds like a good idea. Let those landlubber stomachs settle a bit more." She grinned at Cadie who had looked up quizzically.
"Skipper, the senator's pretty keen to talk to Cadie," Paul said quietly.
Jo pointed at her and mouthed 'Naomi'. The blonde rolled her eyes and nodded.
"Yeah she's here, mate. Put her on." Jo handed Cadie the phone and watched as she rested back on the counter next to her, again leaning against Jo's shoulder.
Almost immediately she could hear the senator's argumentative tones blaring through the cellphone's little speaker at Cadie. Jo grimaced.
"Naomi ..." Cadie tried to find a break in her partner's onslaught, with little luck. "Naomi ... " She held the phone away from her ear when it became obvious there was no stopping the senator until she'd said her piece. Finally there was silence. "Are you done?" Cadie said quietly. "First of all, as much as I'd like to 'get my ass back there' as you so charmingly put it, it's not possible tonight." She pulled away again at another barrage from Naomi. "No, there's no way out there tonight."
She listened again as the senator let rip once more, and Jo found her arm curling around the smaller woman's shoulders in a protective gesture she just couldn't help.
"Dammit, Naomi would you just listen for five seconds? There wasn't time to take me back to the boat before the storm. Or perhaps you would rather have had us risk flying twice as far in that weather, just to keep you happy? Not to mention that it was important for Jo to get back here as quickly as possible."
Cadie closed her eyes and dropped the phone away from her face for a couple of seconds before she made another attempt at reasoning with her partner. She nestled in closer to Jo and felt the taller woman squeeze her protectively.
It's almost worth this bullshit just to feel her arm around me, Cadie thought wistfully as she waited for Naomi to take a breath.
"Naomi, Jo did the safest thing for all of us. She thought we'd be able to get back tonight and it wasn't her fault that we're stuck here. You're just going to have to live with it. No ... no, I'm not going to let you rant at her. No."
Jo guessed the senator was giving her a fair bucketing judging by the frustrated look on Cadie's face.
Time to stop this in its tracks, she thought, gently taking the phone from the American.
"Senator, it's Jo. I will get Cadie back to the Seawolf as quickly as I can. But that's going to be tomorrow morning at the earliest. There just isn't any faster way of doing it," she said quickly before Naomi could object. "What's that? Sorry, you're breaking up. Nope, can't make you out at all. Hanging up now. Bye." She closed the connection, feeling Cadie shaking with silent laughter against her side.
"Oh you're baaaaaaad," the blonde said with a giggle, slapping Jo gently on the stomach before she moved away to rescue the eggs.
"Sorry, but there's only so much bullshit a girl can take," grumbled Jo, carefully switching the phone off and putting it back on the counter. "I gather I'm public enemy No.1."
"Oh yeah," said Cadie, draining off the hot water and pouring cold over the top of the hard-boiled eggs. "Plenty of ranting about what she'd do to either one of us if we laid a hand on each other. Blah, blah, blah." She went quiet as she started to peel the eggs, hearing Jo rummage around in the pantry. "I'm sorry Jo. She shouldn't take it out on you."
"Well, I'd rather it was me than you, to be honest," she replied, pulling out pasta and olive oil. "How would you like to try my world famous vegie pasta?"
"Sounds great. That salad dressing is killer," she said, throwing the diced-up egg into the mix and pouring the dressing over the top of the lot, sucking a dribble off her fingertip. "Naomi's always been a very possessive person. It's one of her least attractive qualities. It's always been paranoia in the past, though."
Jo looked over at Cadie.
"And this time?" she asked quietly.
Sea-green eyes met hers and held steady.
"And this time she's right on the money," Cadie replied softly, letting more than a little of what she was feeling show on her face.
Wow, thought Jo. We do have a lot to talk about.
An hour and a half later the two women were relaxed, full of good food and sprawled next to each other on the couch. Jo had pulled a coffee table over and they had their feet up on its glass surface, their plates piled up next to the half-empty bottle of red wine. Both women were nursing their glasses. Cadie had explored Jo's CD collection and been delighted to find they shared a taste in music. She had selected an Eva Cassidy disc while Jo had moved around the living room lighting a series of candles and oil burners before they'd settled in to eat.
The conversation through dinner had been light-hearted and flirtatious, and despite the events of the day, they were able to find plenty to laugh about.
Now they were quiet, just enjoying the peace of the cool seabreeze coming through the open french windows and the waxing moon spilling silver across the verandah onto the polished wooden floor in front of them.
"I can't believe you're into Eva Cassidy," Cadie said quietly, leaning back and closing her eyes as the silky tones of the young folk singer filled the room. She slowly twirled the wineglass resting against her belly.
"Hey, this may be a cultural backwater, but there are some of us who like to expand our horizons occasionally," Jo replied with a smile. She leaned towards Cadie conspiratorially. "Don't tell anyone but I even have some Cris Williamson and Tret Fure somewhere." She let the smile broaden and Cadie found herself just inches away from one of her companion's trademark stellar grins.
Of their own accord, her fingers wandered up to trace Jo's lips, the mutual shock of the contact keeping them both very still.
"Jo?" she whispered.
"Mmmmmm?" came the quiet response.
"I think if I don't get to kiss you very shortly, I'm going to explode." Cadie couldn't take her eyes off Jo's mouth and she caught the slight upturning at the corners as the taller woman smiled against her fingertips. She let her eyes wander up to the brilliant blue pair gazing down at her. "And I was wondering what you thought about that."
Jo said nothing. Instead she sat up and carefully took Cadie's wineglass out of her hands, placing it on the coffee table along with her own before she turned back to face the blonde.
As Jo leaned towards her, a sexy half-smile on her face, Cadie slid her arms around the tall woman's waist, revelling in the feel of the cool silk and the warm body beneath it. She pulled gently and Jo came closer until they could feel each other's breath on their lips.
"Arcadia?" Jo breathed.
"I think it's a very ... very ... good idea."
Their mouths came together in a tender explosion of sensation that took Cadie's breath away. Softness mingled with a rush of tugging, aching passion as their mouths melted into each other. Jo slipped her arms around her, pulling her closer as the kiss deepened and intensified. She felt Cadie open to her and marvelled at it, following the blonde's lead into a slow, delicious exploration of tongues and lips. Small incoherent, passionate sounds mingled with the music that played softly in the background, and it was with a shock that Jo realised she was making at least half of them. Gently she cradled Cadie in her arms as they kissed, shifting position slightly and slowly lowering them down on to the couch, never breaking contact.
Cadie's mind had come to a complete standstill, overwhelmed by the surging ache that built then receded, and climbed again as she and Jo moved sensually against each other. She felt Jo take her down till she was flat on the couch, and she surrendered to the sensation, tugging the taller woman down with her, loving the feel of Jo's weight above her. She slid her hands down to the small of Jo's back, pulling her even closer, eliciting a groan from the dark woman that gave Cadie chills, even as she deepened the kiss once again.
Every gaze, every spark of the past week coalesced in the long embrace. Hands moved slowly, tugging at clothing, teasing. Legs tangled together.
Cadie's hands moved slowly up Jo's sides and across her shoulders until she cupped the taller woman's face, her fingers tangled slightly in her long, dark hair. Jo broke the kiss and pulled back as they both gazed deep into each other's eyes, breathlessly. Cadie looked up into startlingly blue eyes, their colour deepened by desire.
"Oh, Jo," she whispered, brushing fingertips across the dark, full lips inches from her own. "This feels so …familiar." She smiled at the slightly raised eyebrow that elicited.
"Familiar, as in boring and unexciting?" Jo asked softly, leaning down to nuzzle the blonde's neck, working slowly towards the soft spot just below Cadie's ear, the tip of her tongue drawing a long, low groan from the American. Jo chuckled softly, a deep rumble close to her ear that made Cadie shiver. "I guess that answers that question," the skipper whispered.
Cadie nodded, smiling as she tried to find the words to explain what she meant.
"I am SO not bored and unexcited, trust me," she whispered, feeling Jo chuckle again at that. "I guess I meant that this feels like …" She hesitated and Jo pulled back again to gaze down into the blonde's gorgeous green eyes. "It feels like we have done this before. Like our bodies know just how to …" Her eyes drifted back to Jo's mouth again and Jo closed the distance till they were almost kissing once more. "Respond … to each other …"
Jo's answering 'mhmmmmm' mingled into another deep, melting kiss and they both forgot all thought for a few more minutes as the sensuality washed over them. This time was less urgent, but no less pleasurable. When Jo's hand gently cupped Cadie's breast through the soft fabric of the tee-shirt, it sparked the blonde into an arching stretch under her that gave the tall skipper goosebumps. The intensity of it took them both by surprise and once again they found themselves blinking at each other breathlessly.
"Wow," Jo said quietly, shivering.
"Oh yeah," Cadie agreed. Impulsively she pulled Jo close again, wrapping her arms around her and hugging tight, burying her face against the tall woman's shoulder and neck. She suddenly felt tears close, overwhelmed by what she was feeling and what the consequences might be for them both. For all three of them, she reminded herself. Jo sensed the tears and held her close, making soft, comforting noises until they subsided, content to let Cadie tell her what was happening in her head when she was ready.
Finally the blonde loosened her hold somewhat and Jo let her lie back on the couch, reaching out and gently wiping away a tear with her fingertip.
"Sorry," sniffled Cadie. "I don't usually do that as a response to being …" She laughed weakly. "So ... incredibly ... turned on." Jo smiled broadly. "Mind you, when I think about it, I'm not sure that's true," Cadie corrected.
"What do you mean?" Jo asked, puzzled.
"I mean, Jossandra Madison, that I don't think I have ever in my life, felt like this. So I don't really know if this is how I'd usually react." She smiled softly at the confused look on Jo's face.
"It doesn't feel like this with …?" Jo jerked her thumb over her shoulder, roughly in the direction of the Seawolf, lying at anchor off Whitsunday Island.
Cadie shook her head and had to laugh at the slight widening of Jo's eyes.
"Never. Not ever." She reached up and cupped Jo's face with her left hand. "You and I, my love, are in a lot trouble." She tried to make light of it, but Jo caught the flash of fear and uncertainty that crossed her face.
"You're scared?" Jo asked softly, afraid of the answer. Cadie nodded distractedly and Jo pulled away. "Of me," she said with certainty and a sinking heart. She sat up quickly, swinging her feet down to the floor and resting her head in her hands dejectedly. "I can understand that. I mean, you saw me at my worst today. I'm a killer and it doesn’t matter how many years go by, that's what I'll always be."
Damn, thought Cadie, as she felt doors slamming closed. Gotta be careful of that with her. She's so quick to condemn herself.
Quickly she sat up and slid in behind the tall woman, wrapping her arms around Jo's waist, holding her firmly between Cadie's legs.
"No," she said definitely, gently shaking Jo for emphasis. "Understand this, Jo." She waited for the skipper to turn her head slightly towards her. "I have never felt safer than when I'm with you. And that included this afternoon when you had Marco where I know you wanted him." She smiled gently, seeing the slight upturn of Jo's mouth at that. "It's not you I'm afraid of, Jossandra. And no matter what you've done, or do, or will do in the future, it's not possible for me to be afraid of you."
She leaned back into the couch, pulling Jo with her until they were sprawled together, Jo's feet back up on the coffee table and her head tucked under the blonde's chin, against her right shoulder. Their hands were clasped together across Jo's belly.
This probably doesn't look it, but it's so comfortable, thought Cadie, contentedly, certain she'd soothed Jo's fears, at least for the time being. I want her to feel as safe with me as I do with her.
Jo relaxed, loving the warm rush as Cadie enfolded her.
"So what is it that you're afraid of?" she asked softly.
There was a pause as Cadie reached for the right words.
"Change," she finally answered. "To borrow a line from an old movie, you and I changed our direction tonight, and it's going to have a ripple effect."
"You mean you and Naomi."
"Yes, but not just that," she said.
"But after that conversation we overheard, you weren't planning on staying with Naomi regardless of what might happen with us. Were you?" Jo asked uncertainly, a cold trickle of fear working its way through her guts.
"No. But Jo … and this is something else you're going to have to understand about me … I am going to leave her, but I have to do it the right way." She looked down at Jo, who suddenly felt restless in her arms. "I want to be with you, Jo. But it will be better for both of us if I make sure I come to you with all loose ends tied."
"Okay," Jo said, nodding slowly. "So, what's the right way?"
Cadie sighed, resting her cheek on the top of Jo's head.
"Right now Naomi thinks she's just going to dump me at her convenience." She pushed down the rising anger she felt just remembering that damn conversation, and Jo's thumb brushed reassuringly across the back of her hand. "Well, I'm not going to let that happen, because I'm going to leave her the moment we get back to Chicago. But I need her to understand why I'm leaving her. That it's about her and me, and not about meeting you. If you'd turned out to be a hairy man with a wooden leg and bad breath, I'd still be leaving Naomi."
"Damn. You've discovered my real dark and mysterious past," she said quietly.
Cadie laughed out loud, hugging Jo close as they both shook from the belly laughs.
"I understand what you're saying," Jo said when they'd both recovered. "You don't want to give her any excuse to duck responsibility for what's happened to your relationship."
"You don't think maybe it's a little late for that? I mean, she's been thinking the worst of me from the moment she met me. You're going to have a hard time convincing her that this isn't all about you and me."
"I know," Cadie sighed. "But I have to try." She hesitated a little before going on, not sure how Jo would react to what she had to say next. "Honey, there is something else that concerns me." Jo looked up at her questioningly. Cadie took a deep breath. "I've never lived alone." She felt the tall woman go very still in her arms. "I went straight from my parents' home to college and then I was with Naomi. I think …" She hesitated again. "I think I'm going to need some time to myself."
Jo's heart sank, but she had known that being with Cadie was never a fait accompli. There were just so many complications. She swallowed.
"Cadie. I never expected us to have even this," she gestured generally. "Anything you can give me …" She swallowed, suddenly choked up. "I'll take any time I can get with you, and call myself lucky to have known you."
Cadie squeezed Jo tight, fighting tears of her own.
"I want to be with you Jo," she said fiercely. "I do. I just have so much I need to get cleared up first. Some time to get my ducks in a line, if you like."
"I understand," she said softly. She disengaged herself slowly and stood up, picking up the dinner plates and wineglasses as she did so. She wandered over to the kitchen and placed the dirty dishes in the sink before walking back to the stereo system and selecting another CD. Cadie watched all this silently, wondering what was going on behind the cool, blue eyes.
I've hurt her, and that was the last thing I wanted, she thought sadly.
Jo's mind was going in 15 different directions, but the one thing she was sure of was that she wanted to make the most of this evening. She keyed the stereo and the funky, mellow rhythms of Dido wafted out. She walked back to Cadie who was looking up at her with uncertain eyes. She smiled and held out a hand.
"Dance with me?" she asked softly. Cadie beamed back at her and took her hand. Jo pulled her gently into her arms, and she snuggled in, fitting herself to the tall skipper's contours as they swayed together to the music.
Several minutes passed in companiable silence as they let the music flow through them, directing their movements. Jo rested her cheek against Cadie's head and she could feel the blonde's warm breath on her neck.
"Which old movie?" Jo asked suddenly.
Cadie looked up at her quizzically.
"You said you borrowed a line from an old movie," she reminded her.
"Oh." Cadie laughed quietly and burrowed back into Jo's embrace. "An Affair to Remember."
"Hmmmm. Don't think I've ever seen it."
"Mmmmmmm. Deborah Kerr. Cary Grant. They fall in love on a cruise. It's very romantic." Cadie felt Jo squeezing her gently, as they fell back into comfortable silence.
"Are you angry with me? For starting something I can't finish yet?"
"No," she answered simply. "For a start you beat me to it by about two seconds." She felt Cadie laughing at that. "And for another, I think it's been inevitable for about a week, don't you?"
"How do you explain it?" Cadie wondered. "I've never felt this before. Not even in the earliest days of my relationship with Naomi."
Jo considered her response for a few moments.
"Do you believe in soulmates?" she finally asked.
Cadie looked up at her.
"You mean, two souls going through time, meeting each other again and again? That kind of thing?"
"I never really thought about it before," she said honestly. "You think that's what's going on with us?"
Jo shrugged slightly as they danced.
"Well, think about it. When was the first time you felt like you knew me?" She looked down into sea-green eyes.
"That's easy," Cadie replied quickly. "I saw you from my hotel balcony when you pulled the Seawolf into the Hamilton Island marina. I can remember thinking how I felt like I'd seen you before somewhere." She grinned up at Jo, whose eyes had widened perceptibly.
"That was you, wasn't it?" she said wonderingly. "Wow."
"So maybe your theory is right," she muttered, snuggling back into Jo's arms, squeezing her back softly. "This certainly feels right."
"Yes it does," Jo murmured, kissing the top of Cadie's head. She started singing quietly, following along with the music they were dancing to.
I want to thank you
For giving me the best day
Of my life
Oh, just to be with you
Is having the best day
Of my life
"Mmmmmmmmmm," purred Cadie. "You are so good at that."
"I only do it when I'm inspired," she said, lifting Cadie's chin and ducking her head to meet soft, willing lips. She felt the blonde's hand slide to the back of her neck and into her hair, pulling her closer. Jo moaned softly into the kiss and Cadie met the sound with one of her own, their bodies surging together as the passion intensified once more.
"Oh god Jo, I want you so much," Cadie gasped when they broke off again. Jo's hands slid down to her backside and she felt herself lifted up. Quickly she wrapped her legs around the tall woman's waist and found herself, for once, at eye level. It was an intriguing perspective.
"And I want to make love with you all night," Jo growled, kissing the blonde again, deep and soft and open. Cadie melted against her. "Instead, I'll make do with the next five minutes," she muttered as she started to walk them both into the second bedroom. Cadie groaned, recognising Jo's willpower was the only thing stopping her breaking her own promise to herself.
They kissed hungrily as Jo backed up against the bed and sat down slowly, giving Cadie a chance to unwind her legs before she leaned back onto the mattress. The blonde straddled Jo's hips, her hands on either side of her head. She gazed down.
"You are so beautiful," Cadie murmured, tracing Jo's collarbone with her lips. The tall woman's hands on the blonde's hips pulled her closer and both women groaned at the contact. "You are so beautiful and from the moment I saw this robe, I've been wanting to peel it off you." Her fingers trailed down the edge of the robe, teasing the skin below.
"Almost as much as I want to pull that tee-shirt off you," Jo replied, even as she used her greater strength and body weight to flip them over, pinning Cadie. They grinned at each other breathlessly. "And you too, are beautiful, Arcadia," she said softly, leaning down and kissing the hollow at the base of the blonde's neck. She lingered, brushing her lips against the soft skin. "And I cannot wait for the day … or night … when I can undress, and tease, and excite you." She interspersed each phrase with a kiss up Cadie's neck, until finally she reached her mouth, parting her lips tenderly with her own, beginning a long, deep exploration.
Cadie moaned softly, arching under Jo, aching to be touched.
"Two out of three isn't bad, skipper," she muttered when the kiss finally ended, and she felt Jo's smile against her neck. "I'm sorry Jo," she said quietly.
The skipper pushed up on her elbows and looked down at Cadie.
"Don't apologise for any of this, sweetheart," she said gently. "There are two of us here and, if you hadn't noticed, I seem to be a more than willing participant." She kissed the blonde once more and then reluctantly disentangled herself. "But right now, I'm going to leave you here, before we both explode."
They spent a few more seconds gazing at each other with open desire, then sighed in unison. Jo growled in frustration as she stood up, provoking a giggle from her supine companion.
"Sleep well, gorgeous," Jo said as she walked out of the room.
"Aye, aye captain," Cadie replied cheekily, saluting the retreating woman.
"Oh shut up," came the response.
Cadie laughed quietly and lay back on the bed, hands behind her head. Her body was still tingling with desire and she just absorbed the feelings for a few minutes, listening to Jo moving around in the living area before going into her own bedroom.
What a day, she thought as she slid the shorts down over her hips and off, tossing them on to the chair in the corner. She's a complicated woman and I … She gasped, suddenly realising what she was thinking. Cadie crawled under the top sheet and curled up on her side.
Jo slid out of the robe, dropping it on the foot of the bed. She stretched wearily, feeling every ache in her muscles and joints, as well as the more pleasant ache of lust. She smiled softly and walked to the dresser, pulling out another old tee-shirt and slipping it over her head. Seconds later she was curled up in bed, gazing out at the moonlit ocean and wondering at the strangeness of the day.
I should be exhausted, she pondered. But I feel like something new has begun. And Cadie … goddess, she makes me feel so good. She grinned at the moonlight. I don't care how long I have to wait for her. She's worth it.
Jo closed her eyes, letting the pleasant tingling echoes of Cadie's touch ripple across her skin.
"Jo?" Cadie called out.
"Goodnight." I love you, Jo.
Jo smiled again.
I love you, Cadie. "'Night."
Cadie wasn't sure what woke her but she suspected the big, black cat sitting next to her might have had something to do with it. The wind had picked up again, and occasional flashes of lightning through her bedroom window suggested another storm had rolled in. She reached out and scratched under the feline's chin.
"Hello Mephisto," she whispered. "Did the thunder scare you, boy?"
A soft miaow answered her and the cat jumped down from the bed and headed for the door. He stopped once to look over his shoulder and miaowed at her again.
Intrigued, Cadie disentangled herself from the sheet and padded after him.
"If this is all so you can show me a half-chewed dead mouse, I'm not going to be happy, cat," she muttered.
Finding a black cat in a dark room wasn't the easiest task, but finally an opportune sequence of lightning showed her the way. He sat, washing his face, in front of Jo's open bedroom door.
"Okay, so what's up?" she whispered.
Fortunately she didn't have to wait for him to answer her back. She could hear low sounds of distress coming from Jo's room and tentatively she stepped through the door.
She's crying, Cadie realised. As her eyes grew accustomed to the dim light she could make out Jo's long shape moving restlessly under the sheet, her pale face framed by the fan of dark hair splayed out on the pillow. Her head turned from side to side as she moaned through whatever nightmare visions she was experiencing behind fluttering eyelids, and Cadie could see tears streaking her cheeks.
"Nooooooo, no please," Jo moaned. Her hands came up in a defensive gesture and she squirmed. To Cadie's eyes it looked like she was trying to back away from something menacing. The blonde's heart melted all over again at the sight and she moved forward slowly, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
She reached out and gently took Jo's shoulder, shaking her slightly.
"Jo." The dreaming woman thrashed away from her touch but Cadie persisted, leaning over Jo and taking both her shoulders in her hands. "Honey, please wake up," she said firmly.
Suddenly Jo surged forward. Sitting bolt upright, eyes wide and frightened, she initially pushed Cadie away. As the dream dropped away and she came fully awake, she pulled her back, clinging desperately to the smaller woman. The blonde wrapped her arms around her, stroking Jo's hair as the skipper took in deep, gulping breaths.
"It's okay, baby, it was just a dream," soothed Cadie, rocking them both back and forward slowly.
"S-sorry," muttered Jo.
"There's nothing to apologise for, Jo-Jo." She felt her shivering. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
Jo shook her head.
"N-no. D-don't want to go back there now. Maybe in the morning?"
"That's okay, sweetheart. Do you want to try and go back to sleep?" Jo's only answer was to hug her even closer. "How about if I stay with you?"
She felt Jo relax perceptibly against her, and Cadie suspected she was already drifting back towards sleep. But she was still shivering.
"Come on, Jo-Jo. I'm not leaving you on your own like this, so let's get snuggled in." Gently she pushed Jo back into the bed and watched the half-asleep woman curl up on her side, facing the ocean. Cadie slid under the sheet and cuddled up against Jo's back, wrapping arms around her and tucking her head against her shoulderblade. She felt Jo take her hands and pull Cadie closer and she smiled, placing a kiss against the soft cotton of Jo's shirt.
"Thank you," Jo mumbled sleepily.
"Sssssssh. Go back to sleep, gorgeous."
As Cadie drifted off herself, she felt Mephisto jump up onto the bed, circle a couple of times, and then settle into a furry ball behind her knees. She smiled softly.
Guess that's the feline stamp of approval, was her last cogent thought.