Double-Word Score

by Geonn Cannon

Copyright © 2013 Geonn Cannon

Tanya still had the toothbrush sticking out of her mouth when she answered the door, so her expression of surprise came out sounding more like "Whu" than the "Whoa" she intended. She blinked at the two uniformed police officers standing just off the porch, their presence implying that the tall woman in the trenchcoat that had rung the bell was a plainclothes detective. Tanya took the brush from her mouth, realized that it might be considered a weapon, and then winced as she swallowed the mouthful of toothpaste so she could speak clearly.

"Ugh. Minty. Uh. Sorry. Hi. Hello." She smiled nervously, aware of the froth at the corner of her mouth making her look rabid. "I'm suddenly very aware of everything I've ever done wrong in my entire life."

"I'm Detective Roosevelt, this is my partner, Detective Ames. Are you Rebecca Tull?"

Her relief felt almost like a physical thing. "No. Tanya Clinton. Hey... look at us. Couple of presidents." The detective raised an eyebrow and Tanya winced. "Sorry. No funny. Uh, no. Rebecca is my roommate's girlfriend. They're not here right now."

"Do you mind if we come in?"

"I guess not." She stepped back and let them enter the house. The officers remained by the door and Tanya led the detectives into the living room. She looked down at her toothbrush and, after a moment of debate, put it on the back of Tommy's armchair. She wiped her hands on the front of her pajama pants and watched as the detectives scanned the room.

"How long has Miss Tull been staying here?"

"Three weeks maybe? She kind of moved herself in gradually."

Roosevelt nodded slowly. "She does that."

Tanya straightened slightly. "Wait, so she's done this before?"

"She's an identity thief," Detective Ames said. "Finds a mark, gets in, goes through his information until she has enough and then vamos. Out the door and on to the next sucker."

Tanya punched her fist into the palm of her other hand, then pumped her arm. "I knew it! I knew that bitch was trouble. From day one I told Tommy it was a scam but he was in love." She hugged herself, hands cupped around the opposite elbow, and she bounced on the balls of her feet. "So you're here to arrest her?"

"Just wanna talk to her," Roosevelt said. She was by the window, gazing down at the Scrabble board she had set up in the nook.

Tanya smiled. "You play?"

"Usually just on my phone."

"Most people are the same way. Don't like keeping score, I guess? But I love it. The tiles and the ritual of putting them on the board? I love it. Tommy doesn't play, so usually I end up playing myself a lot."

"How does that work?" Ames asked. Roosevelt had picked up one of the tiles to run her thumb over it.

"If there's a decision I have to make, I let the board decide. Left is one choice, right is the other. I play both sides the best I can, and whichever one wins is the decision I go with."

"Hm." Roosevelt put the tile back down and drifted away from the board. "Do you know what time Tommy and Miss Tull will be home?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. Tommy should be at work, but Rebecca can sometimes talk him into skipping out. Good way to get fired."

Roosevelt nodded. "And that would require him to fill out applications for other jobs, which includes his social security number."

"Oh, that's devious."

"Well, she's had a lot of time to perfect her craft."

Tanya scratched her neck. "Well. They're usually home in time for Jeopardy!, so that puts their ETA at no later than six-thirty. You're more than welcome to stick around."

Roosevelt looked at her. "You wouldn't mind?"

"No way. Cop stakeout in my house. That's totally going on Twitter." She dropped her smile. "After she's arrested, of course."

"Of course," Roosevelt said. Again she looked away, but Tanya thought she could see a hint of a smile on the corners of her mouth. Tanya appraised the detective and liked what she saw: tall and slender with broad shoulders and a long neck, her hair cut short in a mannish style, most likely so it would be more manageable. She had small features, but the tip of her nose extended out just a little longer than it should have, making her look slightly like Pinocchio after his first fib. "I meant you wouldn't mind having us here while you're at work."

"Oh! I work from home. Website development. I would just be in that room there..." She pointed to a small room off the kitchen where a three-tiered desk was set up. "If I would be out of your way, you're more than welcome."

"It wouldn't inconvenience your work to have us here?"

"Please. If it means getting rid of the leech and freeing Tommy, I'm willing to take the day off."

Roosevelt and Ames looked at each other, and Ames shrugged. "Up to you. But you heard what Baltimore said. This girl spooks like a rabbit. We don't wanna give her a reason to run."

Tanya tilted her head to the side. "Well, if you want to make things look nice and innocent when she shows up, I have an idea that could work."


"Quay. Thirty-two points."

Tanya made a sound of disgust. "Right out of the gate? I hate you. You're a ringer."

Abby Roosevelt smirked and marked down her points as Tanya examined the board and ran her fingers along the tops of her tiles. Eventually she played DUTY using Roosevelt 's Y and gave herself fourteen points.

"Slow but steady wins the race."

Abby chuckled and began contemplating her next move. The original plan was for Ames and the patrol officers to wait down the street until they were certain Rebecca Tull was in the house. Abby's cover was that she was just a friend visiting Tanya from out of town. She suggested setting up the game board to make it look like they were playing, but both agreed it would be more realistic if they actually played a real game. Not to mention more fun than just randomly putting words on the board.

"So do you often get to play an opponent, or is it just you and your indecision?"

"Mostly just my indecision. Tommy gets too bored. He's a board-flip risk."

Abby wrinkled her nose as she used a blank tile as a U and spelled QUAKE off the first letter of her first word.

"Holy crap. If you keep playing like this, I could become a board-flipper."

"It's only eighteen points. And remember, I have a gun. Flipping the board at me could be seen as a sign of assault."

"Is that how you win all your games? Threatening your opponent?"

"Nah. I don't have to... whoa!"

Tanya played REVIVE off of quake and gained twenty-four points. Tanya smiled and brushed off the shoulders of her shirt.

"You lulled me into a false sense of security. All right. Now the gloves are coming off."

Abby got TOXIN with the X on a double-letter space, matching Tanya's twenty-four points. Tanya hit back with AGONY and got thirty points. The game went back and forth with Abby staying in the lead with Tanya hot on her heels.

They quickly became wrapped up in the game, taking long pauses between moves to consider their tiles and the possibilities on the board. They talked during these long contemplative moments and soon Abby felt herself relaxing. She was still ready and very aware that the criminal she sought could walk through the door at any moment, but it was easy to relax with Tanya. She was at least five years younger than Abby, with long dirty-blonde hair that kept getting caught on her glasses. She had changed out of her pajamas into a vintage rock concert T-shirt and baggy jeans.

Abby rested her chin on one fist and smiled as Tanya played CAREX. A few minutes later she spelled out GOON using tiles that bridged three other words and she carefully added up her score before looking up to see Tanya staring daggers at her.

"Remember. Gun."

Tanya showed her teeth in a feral display of animosity and then bent forward to get a closer look at her tiles. "I'm going to destroy you. Humiliate you. Take this lead and shove it down your throat."

"You're threatening a police officer."

Tanya stuck her tongue between her teeth and bit down, and Abby leaned back to wait until she made a move.

By the time they heard the key in the lock, they were both so caught up in the game that Tanya actually looked surprised when Abby lifted her radio and spoke into it.

"We've got company. Got eyes?"

"It looks like her."

Abby returned the radio to her coat pocket and looked across the board at Tanya. Her entire demeanor shifted, from relaxed to poised for attack. "Just act normal, okay? If anything happens just get down and stay still. All right?"

"Yeah, yes." She sounded half-panicked.

Abby reached around the board and put her hand on Tanya's. "Just relax. It'll be fine. It's not like the movies, okay?" Tanya nodded and Abby patted her hand as the front door opened.

Tommy and Rebecca came in, Rebecca laughing and clinging to Tommy like he was dragging her. She looked into the living room and flipped a stray hair out of her face, standing up straight when she saw they had a guest. "Well! Look here, little Tanya is socializing. Wonders will never cease! Hi, Tanya's friend."

"Hi. Abby."

Tommy lifted his chin. "Hey. I'm Tommy. I'm her roommate."

Rebecca held up her hand. "Rebecca."

"Rebecca Tull?"

Her smile faded. She tensed, looked at Tanya, and then let go of Tommy's arm. "Ah, hell."

Abby stood up and revealed her badge. "Detective Abby Roosevelt. Rebecca Tull, you are under arrest for multiple counts of identity theft. Please turn and face the wall."

She tightened her jaw and tensed, looking for a moment like she was going to flee. But one of the squad cars pulled up in front of the house with a quiet squeak of tires, its lights filling the yard and foyer with flashing red and blue. She realized it was pointless and turned to rest her forehead against the wall. Abby moved forward and cuffed her as she recited the Miranda warning, then handed the prisoner off to a uniformed policeman.

Tanya watched the whole surreal moment from the center of the living room. Tommy was pressed against the wall, eyes wide as he watched his girlfriend being led off. Abby ran her fingers through her bangs and then let them fall across her forehead again, then turned to face Tanya. "Sorry for interrupting your evening. And for walking out in the middle of the game."

"It's fine. You're, uh... busy. I'll leave the board up for a few days if you get some time and want to come finish me off."

Abby started to dismiss the offer, but the idea of a Scrabble date appealed to her in a strange way. She nodded slowly and then chuckled. "You know what, that doesn't sound half bad. I might take you up on it. Thanks for your help, Miss Clinton."

"Any time, Detective. And, uh, Tanya."

Abby nodded, then nodded again at Tommy in apology. "We'll need to take a statement from both of you. I'll have someone come in and do that so we won't take up much more of your time."

Tommy nodded in a numb, disconnected way, and Abby went outside. As soon as she was gone, Tommy frowned at Tanya.

"Identity theft?"

Tanya gave him a sympathetic look and put her hand on his shoulder to guide him into the living room where they could wait for the cops to come back and take their statements.


The weekend passed, and every time Tanya went by the Scrabble board she resisted the urge to clear away the tiles from the in-progress game. She moved the notepad with their scores so it was lined up with the edge of the board. She had Scrabble on her Kindle, and she had Words With Friends, but she loved the real game so much that she splurged and bought the special premium wooden board that looked like it belonged in a museum. Mahogany sides and tile trays, carved tiles, a recessed board that held the tiles when the board was turned for the other player to see the board... it was a work of art. The downside was that very few people wanted to play her. She'd even made sure the TV was visible from the game table, but still her friends would turn down requests for a quick game when they came over. Eventually she stopped asking.

But Abby was a good opponent. She was great! Tanya wasn't used to starting a game in a deficit, and she was really unaccustomed to staying in the rut. It was thrilling to play someone who would use QUAY right out of the gate, and she was curious what other words she might have come up with given the chance. She was patient enough to wait a few days to see if the detective came back for the end of the game.

Four days after Rebecca's arrest, when Tommy finally managed to get out of bed and went back to work, Tanya was loading the dishwasher when there was a knock at the door. She wiped her hands on a towel as she crossed through the kitchen, pausing to peer out the window as she passed it. She smiled when she saw who her guest as, and she chuckled quietly as she opened the door. Abby was dressed casually, a T-shirt under an unbuttoned blue top and a black skirt.

"Well, well. Back to get your ass kicked, Detective Roosevelt?"


Tanya rolled her eyes and stepped aside. "All the big words in the world won't help you if the tiles aren't there. C'mon in."

"Thanks. How is your roommate taking the news?"

"He's starting to bounce back. He's at work today, and he actually did a load of laundry yesterday. I'm hopeful."

"Good. Good..." She looked at the board. "You really kept it up."

"Well, of course. How else would I come from behind and kick your ass?"

Abby sat down. "What did you say about big words...?"

"Trust me, I got the tiles to back that up."

"Save your words for the board. Whose turn was it?"

They picked up right where they left off, taking time between turns to really examine their tiles before making a move.

Ten minutes in, Abby refreshed her tiles and leaned back in her chair, hissing through her teeth. Tanya watched her. "What?"

"Oh, I couldn't do that to you..."

"You're a saint. Play the tiles, Detective Roosevelt."

She put down BA next to EN, making BE and AN. Then going down she spelled out the rest of the word BAITING. She received a bingo bonus for using all her tiles, the B was on a triple-letter spot, and so was the N. The resulting score was a whopping seventy-nine points, catapulting her into the lead. Tanya stared as the word was spelled out and then let out a breath of air once all the points were tallied. After a moment she began to slow-clap.

"That was a beautiful thing to behold, Detective."

"Glad to see you're not a sore loser."

"Game isn't over yet." She placed FAUNA on a double-word space and gained sixteen points.

In the last batch of letters, Abby wound up with a row full of vowels while Tanya had a sudden burst of great letters. Abby had two rounds where she was forced to pass or settle for four-point words while Tanya built off some of the longer words to beef up her score. Tanya played her last tile, bringing the game to an end, and Abby tallied up the score. She grinned and tapped the sum. "Three-oh-five to me, and you... three-oh-one."

Tanya threw her fists in the air. "Curses! A pox on your house! How dare you defeat me on my home turf! I demand a rematch!"


Tanya laughed. "I was just messing with you."

Abby shrugged. "That's fine, too. But I wouldn't mind playing again if you have the time."

"Yeah, I got all day. You?"

"Day off."

Tanya raised an eyebrow. "And you want to spend it here, playing Scrabble?"

Abby said, "Why not? It's doing wonders for my ego."

"Yeah, well, I let you win."

"You planted those letters in the bag, huh?"

Tanya nodded. "Yep. I wasn't going to say anything, but this time it's personal. You're toast, Detective."

"Call me Abby."

"You ready to lose, Abby?"

She rubbed her hands together. "Sure. Might be interesting to see what it's like."

Abby glared across the table as she shook the bag to mix the tiles up again.


"So, Robbery. There aren't a lot of cop shows about robbery detectives."

Abby smiled. "That's because it's not as gripping as murder cases. No body, no interest. But that's one reason I chose robbery over homicide. Less grief. I couldn't handle the families, the survivors. It would get to me. So I chose robbery, and I sacrificed my peace of mind."

"How so?"

"Well, statistically, few people will ever murder someone else. But robbery? People rob each other every day. And when I investigate it, I get it into my head how easy it is. So I go around locking doors and windows every night before bed. It's almost obsessive-compulsive. It's not so bad when I'm alone, but if I happen to have someone spending the night I have to explain I'm not just a loon."

Tanya nodded, irritated that Abby had just said ‘someone' and not a gender. On the bright side, the idea of someone staying over being a ‘sometimes' event meant that she wasn't in a steady relationship. So there was that.

They had started talking about their personal lives during the second game. Tanya talked about some of the websites she'd designed, and Abby talked about growing up in Maine and making her way slowly across the country working odd jobs after college. She finally ended up in Washington , she said, because she had run out of land. Tanya was the opposite; she lived four blocks from where she'd grown up. Working from home meant she could do it no matter where she lived, and she saw no reason to move away just for the sake of being somewhere different.

But now, after spending a few hours hunched over the game board sharing their life stories, Tanya sensed it was time to end things. They both had two wins, so they agreed it was best to quit while they were tied. Abby stretched and then tugged her shirt down, rolling her shoulders as she looked at the walls for a clock. "I'm kind of hungry. Skipped breakfast, and we played through lunch. You want to go grab something? My treat."

Tanya smiled. "We should have made that the prize. Whoever loses the last game has to buy the winner lunch."

"Nah, I don't mind. I enjoyed myself today, and it's down to you, so I'm happy to buy you lunch as a thank you."

Tanya accepted with a gracious dip of her head. "Well, I certainly won't turn that down. Give me a few minutes to get changed and we'll head out. I feel like... steak and lobster."

"Don't push your luck. I'll put away the tiles and everything."

"Okay. Thanks."

She got up and went into the bedroom to change. She chose something nice, but not so nice it looked like she was going out on a date. She checked her hair and considered swapping her glasses for contact lenses, but that was something she would do on a date. She didn't even know if Abby was gay. Her gaydar was leaning toward no, but it had been wrong before. She left the glasses on, put her hair in a ponytail, and grabbed her wallet on the way out.

Abby was examining the bookshelf when she returned. Abby smiled and gestured at the books with her head. "So that's where you got words like fauna and carex."

"Bad habit I picked up from my father."

"I have that disease," Abby admitted. "Although now I have one of those e-readers that holds, like, ten thousand books. Much easier to hide when guys come over and you don't want to scare them."

Damn , shit, fooey and dagnabbit. "Nice trick. Can't have the boys getting too intimidated right off the bat."

Abby smiled. "So, I figure you get to eat for free, you might as well choose where we go."

"There's a little place nearby. Best homemade burgers you'll taste, guaranteed." Plus they were relatively cheap. If it wasn't a real date, she didn't want to make Abby pay too much. "I still expect a rematch, you know. Ties don't sit very well with me."

"A woman after my own heart."

If only, Tanya thought.


After lunch they arranged to have a rematch the next day, Sunday, and Tanya surprised herself by showering and doing her hair as if she was going on a date. She was ready to lie and say she had just come back from church when Abby arrived dressed in a white silk blouse and black skirt. "Sorry," the detective said. "I didn't go home to change after church."

Tanya chuckled. "No problem. C'mon in, I have the board all set up. Did you have lunch? I have some stuff in the kitchen I can whip something."

"No, we had snacks at church. But I won't mind if you eat."

"I had a pretty big breakfast. So let's get to the game. Winner of the last game goes first, and I believe that was you."

"I believe you are right." She sat down and smiled as she placed her tiles on the rack. "Is today the deciding match? Whoever walks away from this victorious...?"

"We can play best of three," Tanya suggested.

"Sounds good." Abby considered her tiles and, after a moment of studious concentration, played SMILED. "There you go. A nice word to build off of."

"Thank you. I've been doing some reading, and I think you'll find I'm a much more formidable opponent." After some debate she added WOOD to the board.

"Hm. Want to put your money where your mouth is?"

"Are you suggesting playing for money? Because I should remind you, there is a cop in the room."

Abby grinned. "I won't tell if you don't. And we don't have to play for money."

"Aha. Strip Scrabble. I haven't played that since college."

Abby played WHILE. "So if we ever get bored playing this game the old-fashioned way, we have a Plan B."

"Give me some warning. I want to dress in layers." She sucked in a breath and then carefully, placing each tile with precision, she spelled out QINTAR. "Thirty-two points, please."

"Qintar? What is that?"

"Are you challenging? You lose a turn if you challenge."

They stared at each other across the board. Finally, Abby said, "Okay. Challenge."

Tanya smiled. "It's an Albanian coin."

Abby growled and shook a fist, then relaxed. "Okay. Okay. I can skip a turn. It just means I'll have fewer points when I destroy you later on."

"Sure you don't want to play for money? I have a few qintar I can spare."

"What did you do, pour through the dictionary looking for Q words?"

"Yeee-up," Tanya said as she searched for another word to play.

Abby laughed. "Sorry I intimidated you so much."

"Keep chuckling, copper. We'll see who gets the last laugh."

Tanya took an early lead, and soon she was taking her time to make sure she didn't sacrifice a higher score for the obvious choice. Several turns later, Abby leaned back in her seat, hands clasped in her lap, and found herself idly examining the room as Tanya rearranged her tiles in an almost ritualistic way.

"What are the rules on... you know, what constitutes a word? No proper names, no businesses. Oreo is out, but what if it's a made-up word that exists on a TV show?"

"Does it have a definition? Or is it like when Homer Simpson says d'oh?"

"It's similar to d'oh. I'm not sure if there's a definition." She took out her phone and Googled. "It's on Urban Dictionary."

Abby said, "I'll allow it."

Tanya examined the board again, then winced. "It's so many points."

"Think I'm scared of you?"

Tanya put the tiles on the board. All seven of them. The final one was a blank tile, but it connected to an H so she figured it was either I or A.

"What the heck is Bazingi?"

"Bazinga," Tanya said. "It's Dr. Sheldon Cooper's catchphrase on The Big Bang Theory . He says it as the punchline to a clever prank. I can show you on my phone." She tapped the screen a few times and then passed it over the board. Abby took the phone and watched a quick YouTube montage of the character speaking the catchphrase. When she was done watching, Tanya had added up the points.

"It's a bingo, and there's a double-word tile, so in all... ninety-five points. That is, if you agree that it's a playable word."

"I'll concede," Tanya said. "I'll concede that it's a word with meaning, since the other characters seem to know what it means. Ninety-five points to you."

"Awesome. And I won't count that as a challenge, so it's your turn."

"You're too kind." She scanned the board, looked at her options, and then picked up the S tile. "Is bazingas a thing...?"

Tanya laughed. "I'd be willing to allow it."

"Nah. I don't need your pity."

"Oh, so it's pity that's making you allow all my weird words. I may have to start abusing your trust. Qzuv, a traditional Middle Eastern dish."

Abby shrugged. "Hey, if you have to cheat to win..."

Tanya stuck out her tongue and Abby played SLOOP.

"Like the Beach Boys song."

"Like the boat my grandfather used to take me on when I was a kid. My earliest memory is being held up so I could see over the railing at the water."

Tanya smiled. "Wow. That's really cool. I've never really liked the water."

"I could take you out sometime. A friend and I sort of share a boat. Kind of have to do the time-share thing on my salary." She grinned. "Give me a few hours some afternoon and I'll change your mind."

"You're welcome to... t... r... y." She placed the three tiles and accepted her six points.

Abby clucked her tongue. "Wow. I guess bazinga was your limit, huh?"

"I'm just trying to lull you into a false sense of security. I'll pounce when you least expect it."

"Yeah, yeah. Remember what we said about big words."

Tanya eventually won the game with an impressive lead, and as loser Abby had to clear the board and shuffle the bag of tiles for the next round. Tanya went into the kitchen and came back with two cans of beer, placing one in front of Abby as she reclaimed her seat.

"Thanks." She popped the top and lined up her new tiles on the rack. "Where's your roommate? Tommy, right?"

"Yeah. He's got this softball league on weekends."

"I hope he doesn't mind me hanging around. Being the one who, you know, destroyed his last relationship."

"You saved him from an identity thief. Trust me, he's looking at the big picture. As for you being over here all the time, he... uh. Well, he probably just thinks you're my girlfriend."

Abby raised an eyebrow. "Oh. You're gay."

"Yeah. Is that an issue?"

"Not for me. My partner is bisexual."

Tanya grinned, but she was dismayed. She had finally gotten an answer about Abby's sexuality, and it came couched in a "I'm not gay but my girlfriend is" joke. Still, she had decided she enjoyed Abby's company regardless of whether or not it went anywhere romantically. Still, it was disappointing. Abby was sexy, smart, funny, and she played a mean game of Scrabble. She liked the way her hair fell across her forehead, how she nibbled her lip when she was considering her tile. Damn it, it would have almost been easier if she was straight. Completely out of bounds.

Abby's foot suddenly rubbed against the inside ankle of Tanya's right foot. Tanya snapped back to reality and realized her eyes had been wandering along with her mind, and she'd been staring at the V formed by Abby's collar.

"Uh... sorry."

"It's okay."

"I mean, your partner."

"Yeah," Abby said. "My partner. All day at work, hearing him talk about the guys he picks up over the weekend." She rubbed the back of her foot up Tanya's leg and then back down.

"Oh! Your... partner is bisexual."

Abby's smile widened. "Yeah. Sorry. I was trying to be coy."

"No need to apologize." She cleared her throat and tried to ignore Abby's foot. "Uh. The game. We should get back to the game."

"Right. It's your turn."

"Right." She frowned in order to focus her concentration on the board and the tiles in front of her.

After a few minutes Abby took pity. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I just thought you were attractive and wasn't sure if you'd be... receptive."

"It's fine. I'm just a little surprised. Caught me by surprise. That's all, I swear."

"Good. I tried to get some clues from your bookshelf, but that didn't really help."

"I keep all my lesbian stuff on my Kindle. Otherwise Tommy goes through them trying to find all the sexy bits."

Abby snickered. "I kind of do the same thing sometimes."

Tanya relaxed slightly and said, "It helps if there's a story, but I confess. I confess, Detective, lock me up. I skip to the steamy parts, too."

Abby laughed. She looked at her tiles and, after a moment, played KISS.

"Hm. Nice word."

"Thanks. I like it."

Tanya picked up a tile to play GRIP, but then she saw another opportunity. She looked at the letters for a moment and then placed them on the board. GROPE.

"Want to challenge?" Tanya asked.

Abby shook her head. "Nope. I'm familiar with it." She didn't have to consider her play long; she used the G and spelled GASP going down. She spun the board carefully and leaned back with her hands laced over her stomach.

Tanya tapped her fingers on the edge of the table. She used Abby's S and spelled SIGH.

Abby chuckled softly and rubbed the arch of her foot against Tanya's.

Tanya stared at her and spoke in a low, horrible British accent. "You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work."

"It hath worked," Abby replied in an excited lisp. "You've given everything away." She considered the board, raised an eyebrow, and very deliberately played FINGER.

"Is that a noun or a verb?"

"Do the rules say I have to specify?"

Tanya shook her head.

"Then use your imagination."

"Oh, I am. Believe me." She took a deep breath in the hopes of steadying herself. She leaned forward to look at her tiles, but she couldn't make anything prurient out of them.

"Have you kept track of the score on the last two words?" Abby asked.

"Sh. I'm thinking." She rearranged her tiles, ignoring the tremor in her fingers. She was missing two letters. If she just had a U... She looked for one on the board and couldn't find one, so she picked up the bag and began rifling through it.

"Whoa! Now that's just illegal."

Tanya ignored her and found the letter she needed. She took the tiles off her rack and spelled down off the E in Abby's last word: TONGUE.

"So it's a theme game, I guess?" Abby asked as the board was turned back to her.

"Shut up and play."

Abby opened the bag of tiles, took out what she needed, and played WET.

Tanya took an M from a word she had played earlier: MOAN.


"Illegal, Detective."

"Not if I say it fast enough."

Tanya broke up another word and spelled BEDROOM.

Abby looked up from the board. They were both breathing heavily, drawn into their game. Tanya slowly licked her lips and looked down at the tiles still in front of her. Abby looked down as well and, since it was her turn, she dug through the spilled tiles lying to one side of the board and spelled out one word. Three letters, six points.


Abby almost knocked her chair over in her haste to get up. She stepped around the table and Abby rose to meet her. They kissed hard enough that their teeth clacked, and Abby twisted to press Tanya's hips against the edge of the Scrabble table. Tanya put one foot up on Abby's chair, stretching her other leg out to point her toes on the floor. Abby stood between her legs and took two handfuls of Tanya's thick blonde hair, arching her back to get a better angle for a softer kiss. After the initial burst of passion they settled into a more relaxed rhythm.

"I don't want to rush this," Abby said against Tanya's mouth. "I've rushed before, and it feels so great, but I always regret it." She moaned and kissed Tanya again, furrowing her brow as they pressed against each other. "It would be amazing to take you to the bedroom, and undress you, and make love to you all night--"

"If you're not going to do it, you need to stop talking."

Abby gripped Tanya's hair. "But I'm willing to sacrifice that for the long run. These games have been a highlight of my year. My life. And I think we can build that into something big. But only if we do it right. And unfortunately that means stopping while we're both still dressed."

Tanya swallowed hard. "I hate that plan. It makes too much sense and it doesn't get me laid."

Abby grinned and kissed her. "At least not today, this minute. But one day. Soon. After we've had an official date."

"Can Scrabble count as an official date?"

Abby laughed. "Yes."

Tanya kissed her hard, stroked her cheek, and then squirmed out of her grip. She tugged down her shirt and smoothed down her hair where Abby had gotten a good grip. She sat down and began gathering the tiles from their aborted game. Abby sat down in her seat, scratching at her neck as she watched the game being put away. They locked eyes as Tanya shook the bag, the tiles they'd used as foreplay clinking and clacking together as they were mixed up. She undid the drawstring and they each retrieved seven tiles. Tanya was rearranging her letters when Abby said, "You can go first."

Tanya had already seen a word, and she smiled as she laid it across the center of the board. Abby smiled when she saw what the word was, and she dutifully counted up the points to give Tanya her score. Five letters, all counting as a single point, double-word score for going first. It wasn't the biggest score, but it carried a lot of weight.

The word was START.


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