Murder at Bardcon - Chicago

by GS Binkley


xxgsb@hotmail.com

© 2003 Binkley

Synopsis: Murder at Bardcon is filled with deception, intrigue, jealousy, murder and sex played out in the high stakes arena of the ultimate fandom as writers and fans converge at the Bard's convention in Chicago. While Cale confronts her haunting past and Lindsey faces her own secret desires, they find love in the midst of all the mayhem.

Sexual Content: F/F partners

Code:

L: Love between two people with kisses, embraces and tender moments.

LS: Love scenes described in more detail, involving scenes of lovemaking.

ES: Explicit love scenes.

· This story is rated: LS

Fiction (Alternative)

Language: Expletives spoken within the character's personality, mood and circumstance.

Acknowledgement: The songs mentioned in this story are 'Let's go to Bed' by No Angels, 'Skin on Skin' by Sarah Connor and 'Unbreakable' by Westlife. All three songs are hugely popular in Germany. And, besides that, they're great.

This is copyrighted material, © 2003 Binkley…all rights reserved. It may be reproduced, duplicated or printed for personal use only. For all other uses, please contact xxgsb@hotmail.com


Chapter Five

Kate Bradshaw tapped the microphone. "Welcome to Bardcon Chicago." She paused briefly until everyone was seated. "As I said welcome to our first Bardcon here in Chicago. The turn out was even better than we expected so thank you." She waited for the clapping to die down. "We're here to celebrate our two favorite heroines and the writers who bring them to life and, of course, the readers who give them a home in their hearts."

"You got that right." Judith yelled from the audience.

Kate smiled. She had been to several other bardcons and Judith was a well-known fixture. "It's good to see you again, Judith. Read any good stories lately?"

Judith stood up. "Every one!"

"It's enthusiastic readers like her that keep the next people I'm about to introduce in business… not to mention myself." Kate moved around the table. "First off, I want to let everyone know we have a great and very exciting Bardcon ahead of us. We are very fortunate to have several popular and famous writers among us today." Kate glanced at Terry Lang before she joked. "And some infamous."

When the crowd roared, the amicable Terry Lang jumped up. She turned to the audience. "You know you love me." Terry flashed a smile that gleamed almost as brightly as the silver tips on her cowboy boots.

And that prompted Chris' response. "Hey, that's my line."

Terry jabbed a finger in the air at Chris. "They let you out?"

Chris crossed her arms. "They figured out I was too crazy for the insane asylum. Besides, I heard you were on the waiting list."

An unknown audience member yelled. "Where's CrazyBard?"

"Yes, well…" Kate began when Savannah Miller suddenly looked up from her notes. "She's here along with Beth Ann Thornton and Lori Colter." Both women stood. "Of course, X. Straud DeNair has already made herself known."

Chris stood back up, raising her arms above her head like a fighter in prized condition. Cale yanked her back down. "Would you get over yourself?"

Chris waggled her eyebrows as she perused the crowd. "What's the fun in that when there are so many good looking women here I'd rather get over?"

"Where do you think she is?" Cale searched for the one person she came to see.

"And don't let me forget our very own Romance Queen, Linda James." Kate said. "Her latest story was number one on our list for the last three weeks."

The tall, dark haired Linda James stood, adjusted her scarf, and waved to the crowd. An impromptu chant started. "Sex, sex, sex, sex….."

Kate tried to quiet the crowd. "Okay, okay…. I think everyone knows how just how good… okay… great Linda's stories are. So you will definitely want to attend her segment later today on 'The Making of a Great Romance Story' or also known as sex, sex and more sex."

The crowd roared again.

"Now I've got a little announcement to make. As you all know, my partner and I run the Bard's Legend Tome website and each week we list the top ten stories read. Today, as we do every Saturday, it's time to announce the writer who took the number one spot with over 4500 hits."

Thinking her favorite author overtook Linda's story for the number one spot, Kelly yelled. "That's a record."

"It certainly is and the same writer is here today. Her story 'Murder at Fountain Blue' captured the number one spot and she will host a workshop tomorrow entitled 'How To Commit A Murder'. So everyone welcome…."

"Come on, Kate, come on. Say her name." Cale scanned the entire room, looking for one certain person. Her eyes briefly softened when she saw Lindsey before they turned cold blue then rubbed her sore cheek. Quickly dismissing the ungrateful blonde, Cale made her wish known. "Where oh where are you, lover girl?"

"LG Wellington." Kate waved at the blonde who stood up and took a brief bow.

"Oh….. my…… god!" Shocked, Cale paled at the realization that her 'lover girl' and the blonde were one in the same.

So stunned was Cale that she never heard Kate conclude by announcing that a play would be held that night featuring the fan's two favorite heroines that they had all come to love.

**********************

"No offense, Lindsey, but I never thought anyone would top Chris' record." Kelly said with astonishment. Chris Strauda's stories always made the number spot with ease. She held the number position for more weeks in a row and up until now had the most hits to her stories in one week's time.

Lindsey shrugged. "I can't believe it myself, Kelly. I better hurry up the panel I'm on is starting." Lindsey joined the group seated at the front table.

The panel consisted of Terry Lang, seated in the center with Lori Colter and Beth Ann Thornton on either side of her. CrazyBard and Lindsey served as bookends.

"Alright let me start this out. You all know me." Terry said to an eager crowd. After allowing all the writers to introduce themselves, Terry continued. "How did I start writing fan fiction? I guess like everyone else… I watched the show and loved it. Eventually, I started writing contemporary stories… what we know as Uber."

Terry Lang was referring to the modern day stories that featured the likeness of the characters in their favorite television show albeit different names with similar mannerisms.

"I still think of them as our dynamic duo." Beth Ann inserted even as she had written a very popular Uber story that took not only the Texas' fans by a storm but all of the fandom.

Lori Colter cupped the naïve writer's hand. "Keep that to yourself, Beth Ann. Just don't the let publishers know you think that, my dear. Copyrights?"

The audience laughed.

Lori Colter was a seasoned writer to the fandom with numerous stories, all of which had been published. The one question she always got from any crowd that she appeared before at these conventions was the one she addressed upfront. "Yes, I'm married with three kids and I write lesbian stories. Why you ask?"

"Because you're a latent lesbian yourself." Judith laughed. Lori and her had had this exchange before.

Kelly grumbled a whisper to a member of the audience. "Does she ever shut up?"

Lori, the good sport that she was, agreed. "There might be something to that, Judith. My characters do seem to have a lot of fun. I don't think it matters so much the gender for me as the person. And right now my husband's the one for me."

"You don't know what you're missing." Someone shouted.

The easygoing writer laughed. "Contrary to popular opinion here, you can be straight and have a lot of fun, too."

The crowd laughed.

Lindsey supported her fellow writer's claim. "That seems perfectly natural to me."

Without a beat, Cale asked. "And how would you know?"

Stumbling on her words, Lindsey spoke. "I… I… I have a boyfriend."

"Ah… huh.. sure you do." The wanton looks Lindsay gave Cale last night at the bar had convinced the older woman to which team the writer batted for. And Cale was secretly betting they would end up on the same side. Together.

"It's true." Lindsey stammered before reclaiming her composure. I did have one at least. "Although I agree completely with Lori about the person and not the gender that would interest me."

Cale, from her front row seat, crossed her arms and asked. "And what does interest you, Blondie?" She ended her question with waggling eyebrows.

You. "You!" This answer stumped Cale until Lindsey continued. "Yes, as a matter fact you interest me Cale Bennett…."

At least she knows my name. Cale was not rattled by the writer's cutting words.

"…your skepticism about what I feel or for whom. Even a Neanderthal has more sensitivity to others."

Suddenly heated from Lindsey's sharp response, Cale fumed. "I can't believe someone that writes such beautiful words…." And speaks to my soul. "… would have such a cavalier… pat answer." Although Lindsey's story was about murder the beautifully written love story woven within it countered the hard edge storyline with tenderness and gentle strokes of passion.

As the room filled with tension you could slice with a handy sword, Terry joked. "Well, folks, Kate did promise us an exciting time."

The levity in her words soothed the rough edges from Cale and Lindsey's smoldering exchange. Adding to the newfound jovial attitude of the crowd, Chris jumped up. "Anyone wanna know how I got started?" She paused just long enough to get the audience's undivided attention. "I did it by hand." The crowd moaned. "No, really, I didn't have a computer so I wrote with my hand."

Again, Cale jerked Chris down. "That's not the only thing you did with that hand."

"Uh huh…" Chris raised both her hands. "I'm ambidextrous."

************************

The sunny afternoon provided a warm and lovely backdrop for lunch on the hotel's patio. From her chair near the fountain, Lindsey watched Kelly idly playing with the single chain linked fence that surrounded the patio. The blonde noticed Chris and Cale walk through a fence opening on their way to one of the wrought iron tables.

Kelly unhooked the chain from one of the poles. Holding it with both hands, she jerked it twice then twisted it around. "You know, Lindsey, you should have used it. It would've been really sadistic."

"My character wasn't sadistic just jealousy." Lindsey countered, referring to the character in her story that committed the murder. Admiring the lantern on her table, she concluded. "Besides, I like lanterns."

Kelly shrugged before she replaced the chain on the hook and sat down. "To each its own. That's why I like Chris' stories so much. Yeah her characters are a little whacked out but she can still tell a great love story in the midst of all the mayhem."

When Judith plopped down next to Lindsey, she let out a deep breath. "Wow…. what a morning!"

Karen Watson took the empty seat between Judith and Kelly. "Are you going to Linda James' segment or CrazyBard's workshop?"

"Neither." Kelly piped up, looking past Karen in order to see her favorite author. For all her bravado, Kelly secretly dreaded approaching Chris Strauda, fearing rejection. It took all of her determination and numerous drinks in order for her to summon enough courage to sit down next to the popular writer last night in the bar. Only to leave me for that… Kelly glared at Cale. She muttered softly. "Slut, ho… pick a name."

Judith's keen hearing picked up Kelly's spiteful words, offering her comment with a menacing grin. "Referring to yourself?"

Before Kelly could respond, Karen asked Lindsey. "Are you going to be at the autograph session this afternoon?"

Lindsey nodded. "Sure, I've brought a few books I'd like to get signed."

"What about you though? You're going to be giving autographs, too, right?" Karen asked.

"I don't have a book published." Lindsay said then added. "What would I sign?"

"No problem." Judith inserted. "People will still want your autograph. Some of them print off a title sheet of your story or even your bio and have you sign that. As a matter of fact, I should have you sign this for me." She quickly looked around for any prying eyes before kidding. "Do you think it would fit in a backpack?" The taller blonde grabbed the lantern's handle. However, Lindsey snatched it away from Judith.

Kelly's smart aleck comment stalled on the tip of her tongue when she saw Cindy Townsend sit down next to Chris.

************************

After she sat down, Cindy jostled her overloaded backpack on the table in front of her. "Hi." She jabbed out her hand to the writer. "I'm Cindy Townsend. We've emailed back and forth a few times."

Chris flashed a sexy smile to the uninvited guest. "Please sit down."

Cale shook her head.

"Thank you." Unbeknownst to the writer, Cindy had bombarded Chris with numerous emails praising her stories. Under an alias, she had also covertly sent a short story she had written asking the writer for her opinion.

As Chris' habit, she flirted mercilessly with nearly all women but opted to change her pick up line and asked. "So what can I do for you?" Instead of the usual 'so what can I do to you?'

"I'm glad you asked." Cindy pulled out a piece of paper, shoving it at the writer. Chris ignored it even as Cindy explained. "It's a petition… sorta. I'm trying to get as many accomplished writers as I can to sign it." The short brown haired woman vaguely saw Cale pick up the piece of paper. "I'm hoping the writers will give back to our huge community of readers by participating in this auction."

Chris leaned in close to the eager woman. "Sure, anything I can do to help. I love all of my fans."

The writer's words nearly melted the already withering young woman before her. Cindy watched Chris sign the petition with a distinctive flair. "Thank you so much. I'm sure with your support everyone else will fall into line."

When Chris flashed the excited woman another sexy smile, Cindy gathered her bag, waving goodbye. "I'll see you at the autograph session."

"Ta..ta." Chris waved.

"Got a new one on the hook?" Chris raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her friend. "She hits on you…you hook her, give her a line and then sink her?"

"Nah. Not my type." Chris stretched her long legs and shot her friend a challenging look. "I like blondes."

Waggling her long finger at Chris, the taller woman warned her best friend. "You can like as many as you want… love 'em and leave 'em if you want but there's one….." Cale shot a quick look toward Lindsey. "…that one's for me." Even if she doesn't want me. "By the way, o sexy one, did you even read what you signed?"

************************

Lindsey shifted uneasily when she felt invading eyes staking claim on her. Refusing to look at the tall attractive woman, the blonde asked. "Did anyone see the fountain lights last night?"

"Sorry…. no." Judith answered. "I was a little busy last night."

Karen swallowed the last bite of her sandwich. "Why? Is there something special about it?"

Kelly was pre-occupied with having watched Cindy Townsend spend some quality time with her favorite author but added her two cents. "She's got a thing about the lights."

"At night, the fountain lights up the whole area and Danny…" The quizzical looks caused her to further explain. "…. he's the maintenance man has set the lights for blue all weekend." The blonde pointed her finger toward the light panel. "They've got all the colors of the rainbow to use if they wanted to."

Judith leaned toward Lindsey. "What is it with you and that fountain? You obsessed or something?"

"It's in her book." Kelly off-handedly replied, having read Lindsey's story before she fell asleep the night before.

"I'm not obsessed. I just love water." Lindsey defended herself.

Suddenly, Kelly got up. "Excuse me."

Judith grunted. "There's no excuse for you." However, Kelly walked away without paying attention to the snide comment.

"Talk about obsession. There goes one." Karen said as they all watched the determined Kelly make a beeline toward a certain irresistible dark haired woman.

*************************

Because Cale kept one protective eye on Lindsey's table, she was the first to notice the light brown haired woman approach. "Here comes another one that has you in the cross hairs."

Chris sipped her drink. "And the hits just keep coming."

The determined woman walking toward them felt a surge of panic. Flushed and ready to flee, Kelly spared a glance back at Lindsey before taking the final steps up to the writer's table. She stood stock still until Chris offered her a seat. "Oh, yes, I… thank you."

Chris winked. "What can I do for you?" Once again, the usually flirtatious writer held her teasing in check. "Want an autograph?"

"I already have all my books autographed by you." Kelly ran a nervous hand through her light blondish brown hair. "I'm looking forward to your next story being published."

"It should be out in June." Chris supplied the information Kelly was already well aware of.

"We've met before at last year's convention in Orlando." Summoning up all her courage, Kelly continued. "I was wondering if you…" Kelly spared Cale a hasty look, wishing the other woman were somewhere else. Damn, I wish I had waited.

"Wondering….?" Chris prompted.

Caught and with nowhere to go, Kelly ploughed ahead in spite of her reluctance. "If you were going to the play tonight and…. well, with anyone?" Again, Kelly shot Cale a jealous look.

Uh oh! "Matter of fact…." Chris reached over to her friend, pulling Cale into a loose hug. "My… friend and I are going together."

The implication the writer threw at Kelly hit home. "Oh." Kelly swallowed her pride. "Of course." Her hopeful wish spiraled into a darken jealous abyss.

Wanting to console the dejected fan, Chris offered. "Listen, email me with your home address and I'll send you a personalized autographed copy when my next book comes out."

"Thank you." The smile barely covered Kelly's very deflated heavy heart as she walked away.

"Well, well… Miss rude and crude has a heart after all." Cale taunted Chris, nudging her.

"Me? Hey, I'm a sweetheart. What's with you and that blonde though?" Chris threw a pointed thumb over her shoulder toward Lindsey. "I've never seen you act that way before. You picking up my bad habits?"

"I don't know what you mean." Cale knew her friend was referring to her over the top antics last night at the bar.

"Police detective, security specialist even a short stint in the military and you're telling me you don't have a clue." Chris knocked on her friend's head.

"Stop that." Cale pushed the writer's irritating hand away.

"I've never seen you try to get under someone's skin before." Chris waggled her eyebrows. "Or is it the other way around?"

"Knock it off." Then Cale grinned. "Or I'll tell your new 'friend' that we're not an item like you so overtly suggested."

Chris drowned the last of her drink before she got up. The writer had used her friend as a deterrent when she wanted to distract a particular woman's attention. "Oh, no. Can't have that." She turned, allowing her hand to drop on Cale's shoulder. "And I'll stay away from one particular blonde but the rest are mine. Besides, I need that favor tonight."

Cale followed her friend and couldn't help but notice Lindsey's green eyes track her. It was when the blonde writer's face suddenly turned from an intrigued smile to a hard glared frown that Cale blew a sarcastic kiss to Lindsey before she ducked through the hotel's revolving door.

The security expert couldn't have known that the frown Lindsey deployed was prompted by Kelly's devastating admission that the dark haired woman was involved with Chris.

Judith jacked up in her seat after seeing the rude display by the tall woman. "You're right, Lindsey. She's just taunting you. You want me to talk to her?" The shorthaired blonde always liked Lindsey's work and since meeting her came to like her very much as a person. As an experienced convention goer, she felt somewhat protective of the novice.

"No need for that, Judith." Suddenly, Lindsey was tired. "I'd just like to kill her…." Judith interrupted Lindsey before she could finish her sentence with the word Judith supplied.

"Attitude? A few good pops outta realign her it." Judith winked, clenching her fist.

"Now you're acting like Kelly." Karen observed.

"You know, Karen. Self-proclaimed fan extraordinaire…. you are a cull." The irascible Kelly spat.

"One of a kind?" Karen grinned. "Why thank you."

"Girls… come on." Lindsey was becoming the resident referee but no one paid attention as she asked. "Can't we have a simple lunch in peace?"

"I don't think that's what Kelly means." Judith said.

"Oh, I know that she's mean, Judith." Karen re-interpreted the older blonde's words.

Kelly flew up from her chair. "I outta…."

The masculine voice from behind stopped Kelly in her tracks. "Ladies!"

Slowly, Kelly twisted around to see just who was referring to her as a lady. When she saw the tall, strapping young man before her with a rake in his hand, Kelly pursed her lips tightly together. "What are you some kind of knight in shining armor?" Shaking her head, Kelly grumbled. "I've got a headache." With that announcement, she left.

Judith grabbed her bag sans the lantern she liked so much and followed suit, leaving Karen and Lindsey alone at the table.

The tension between the women had put Lindsey on full alert and welcomed the sight of her new friend. "You arrived just in the nick of time."

"I was watching from over there." Danny jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "When I saw that woman…." The maintenance man was referring to Cale but both Lindsey and Karen understood him to mean Kelly. "Anyway… I thought I'd hang around a bit."

"Thank you, Danny." Lindsey looked at Karen. "Guess we need to go. I want to sit in on Linda James' segment. Goodbye, Danny. See you later."

The tall young man took her kind words to mean something more. He smiled. Tonight. I'll be waiting.

Chapter Six

The room quieted down as Kate Bradshaw took the microphone in hand. "Just a couple announcements before Linda James gets your undivided attention. Immediately after this workshop is the autograph session. Then that will conclude the activities for the afternoon. However, I hope to see all of you at the theater. The evening we have planned will sure to entertain, delight and intrigue you with perhaps even a few surprises."

As Kate informed the audience with the directions to the theater, Linda gathered a few notes together before she took center stage. Her lover, Shelby, nudged her. "What?"

"Isn't that the one?" Shelby pointed.

With her mind dedicated to her notes on the three by five cards, Linda James barely scraped a glance in the direction of her lover's pointed finger. When she saw the woman in question, Linda offered a weak nod. "Uh huh." Returning to her notes without further ado.

Linda's redheaded lover jabbed her curly blonde haired friend, Lois. "I told you. That's her."

Lois peeked over her glasses. "She's the one I saw in the lobby. Made that snide remark about Linda."

The chubby cheek blonde's partner Tonya finally spoke up. "Didn't Linda say something about her being the one behind those vicious emails attacking her stories? The BigK or something like that?"

From across the room, Lindsey felt an ominous gawp beading down on her. Curiously, she looked up, seeing the threesome looking her way, she smiled only to be met with a hard glare. She was going to ask her friends if they knew anything more about the trio but Kelly was busy scanning the crowd, Judith was in deep conversation with Tippi who sat in front of her and Karen was reading her book.

Karen had one of Linda's books opened to a dog-eared page, reading it out loud. "She scraped her blunt nail across her lover's nipple."

"Oh!" Drawing Judith's attention away from the redhead in front of her. "Read that again."

"Hold on, hold on. I absolutely love this next part." Karen's gray eyes hazed over. "Zane's eager tongue washed over the blonde's swollen bud, spiraling the darken aroused tip, bringing it to a fevered pitch before hungrily swallowing the succulent mound with her mouth."

"God, I think I just wet my panties." Judith admitted.

Kelly's attention returned long enough to comment. "So, that's what I smell."

Sitting between the two feuding women, Lindsey caught both dangling arms before they made contact. "Would you two just stop it?"

Both woman sat back in their seats, crossed their arms and pouted as Karen continued. "She sucked greedily….."

Seeing Linda take the stage, Lindsey snatched Karen's book.

"Hey!" Karen protested causing Tippi to turn around and look at her.

"You can have it back …. tonight. When you're alone…. and can do something about it." Lindsey shook her head.

Waggling her eyes, Karen smiled. "Not if I get lucky."

"Honey, you'd have to come into a windfall of luck before anyone would….." Kelly's words died on her lips when Lindsey bumped against her side.

Sucking in a deep breath, the blonde writer exhaled slowly. "I can't for the life of me figure out why the three of you keep hanging around each other when you can't seem to get along for even one minute."

The clueless trio looked around as if to say 'what do you mean we don't get along?'

"Ladies, please welcome Linda James." Kate passed the microphone to her friend.

"Hello everyone. Welcome to 'The Making of a Great Romance Story'."

As usual, the chant started. "Sex, sex, sex, sex……"

"Alright already… let's get down to it." Linda caved. "I had some notes but…" She pitched the three by five cards in the air. "… if it's sex you want then let's get all hot and bothered."

The crowd roared.

"Too bad I didn't bring any toys. Whips and chains anyone?" Linda joked, referring to the activities her characters nearly always engaged in during their lovemaking. "As one of my most popular characters says 'live by the toy but oh to die by the toy… is nothing short of heaven."

One of the audience members yelled. "Do you write from experience?"

"I do consider myself a good writer."

"Excellent." The same audience member inserted.

"I won't disagree with that." Turning her brown eyes to her lover, Linda blushed. "However, there's no substitute for experience." Linda didn't notice Lois' gritted jaw at that remark.

From behind Lindsey, a velvet voice broke through the crowd's roar. "If it's experience you want, you've got my number." Cale discreetly handed the blonde one of her security business cards before slipping away into the crowd.

Lindsey rubbed the back of her tingling neck, pulling her collar closed. God, that woman is driving me….. She swallowed hard; silencing the word she was not ready to admit.

For the next forty minutes, Linda James regaled her audience with excerpts from her stories. Before she was done, the room's temperature was rising from the lust filled audience's reaction to every detailed description that Linda painted. As at every Bardcon she attended, her segments were the most popular and everyone loved them. Except the rare few jealous writers and fans who fed more and more into a little resentment known as envy.

Kate gave the crowd a few minutes to 'cool' off before starting the autograph session. In the meantime, she had asked Danny O'Brien to check the room's temperature.

Danny was adjusting the thermostat when Linda James' entourage passed by him. They stopped right in front of Lindsey.

"Hi!" Lindsey smiled. Pulling out a card, she immediately noticed it was the one Cale gave her. Quickly, she stuffed it back in her vest pocket before retrieving one that had her story's website addy on it. "I was wondering if you'd be interested in reading…."

The cubby cheeked blonde cut her off. "We only read what Oprah recommends."

Lindsey crushed the card in her hand. "Oh." She dropped her head as the threesome walked passed her offering a platter full of smirks and giggles.

Danny's blue eyes turned cold upon hearing the nasty rejection that slapped the blonde directly in the face. He was about to offer her comfort when Charles intervened, barking. "Are you through yet?"

Dejected, Lindsey rushed away, desperately needing a breath of fresh air. Her hand curled around the cell phone, hoping that her best friend would be there as always to comfort her.

Judith and Kelly noticed the sad face on the blonde when she hastily ran past them. "What'd you do this time?"

Kelly grunted. "Nothing. It wasn't me. Damn that, Cale." Her reason for targeting the security expert was more selfish than honorable.

"We don't agree on much but I'm with you on that one." Judith planted her hands on her hips. "Come on." The unlikely duo marched away on an unspoken mission.

************************

Lindsey flipped the phone open and punched in the numbers. She began shaking more with each ring. "Come on, Rachel…. answer."

"Hello."

"Thank God you're there." Lindsey welcomed the relief she felt at the sound of her best friend's voice.

"What's going on?" Rachel asked.

"What isn't?" Taking a brief moment to calm down, Lindsey evened out her breathing. "Just remember, friend, you owe me big for talking me into this whole thing and then backing out at the last minute."

"You're right." Rachel admitted. "Randy and I broke up."

Temporarily forgetting her own problems, Lindsey was shocked by the news. "What?"

"You said it would never last." Rachel said. "We got in a fight over of all things…. Eric."

"Eric? What does he have to do with it?" This was really too much for Lindsey to comprehend.

"Your boyfriend stopped…"

"Ex-boyfriend." The blonde said with absolute assuredness.

"Ex-boyfriend." And good riddance. Rachel never liked Eric, thinking that he was all wrong for her friend. "He stopped by when I was out getting Randy some medicine from the store and…" The blonde sucked in a deep breath before spilling the unsettling news. "… Randy told him where you were."

Lindsey opened her mouth, paused then closed it, expelling a deep sigh. "Are you saying that I could see him at any moment?"

"I'm afraid so, Lin."

When Lindsey automatically scanned the area around her, she saw Cale near the water fountain's edge. "Rachel, if I get through this weekend without murdering someone, it will be a miracle." Lindsey's steely frown shed quickly into a half smile when Linda James' entourage walked by, smirking with a gleam of loathing in their eyes. Maybe I'll just kill myself and get it over with.

"Hey, Lindsey." Karen rushed up. "They're ready to start the next segment."

Nodding, Lindsey said. "I'll talk with you later, Rach. I gotta go."

Lindsey and Karen walked the few steps to the revolving door when they ran into Judith and Kelly. "You guys coming?"

They were about say 'yes' but Cale came into view. "We'll be there in a bit." Judith answered.

Two sets of eyes followed Cale walking in front of the fountain to a small stone bench where Chris Strauda sat, soaking up the April sun.

Cale straddled the bench. "You going in?"

Her head lifted toward the sun and with eyes closed, Chris nodded. "I guess. Though I don't know who doesn't have my autograph yet." When she opened her eyes, Chris zeroed in on the two women making a beeline toward them. "You gotta save me, Cale. Here she comes again."

Swinging her head around, Cale wasn't surprised. "She never gives up. You need to drop it down a notch… stop oozing with all that charm of yours." Her voice turned serious. "You sure she's the one?"

"Yep." Chris stood up. "At least I think so. Gotta talk with Kate first."

"Alright, you get going and I'll handle this." Cale promised.

Just as Judith and Kelly arrived, Chris made haste with an apology. "Ladies, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta sign my life away." Chris joked, pretending to scribble in the air.

Both Judith and Kelly's eyes tracked Chris as she left. "Hey!" Cale's voice drew their attention back around. "You guys going to the play tonight?"

Kelly crossed her arms. "I wouldn't miss it."

"Me, neither." Judith echoed.

Cale stood, stretching to her full height, a good two inches taller than either women standing in front of her.

Standing so close, Kelly couldn't help but compare her height to Cale's as Chris was nearly as tall as her friend was. I'd fit perfectly. As much as Kelly pretended to be tough, it was a deception she faltered under time after time again. This knowledge burned at her soul. But she still nudged Judith.

"Yeah, well… listen, Cale." Judith shifted unsteadily. "Lindsey's our friend and….."

Cale's glacier blue eyes drilled into them. "And…. what?"

Summoning her courage, Judith continued. "We don't want to see her hurt or…."

Cale took one step closer. That's all it took. Judith crumbled but in an unexpected move, Kelly stepped up, surprising even herself. "She's too good a person to be toyed with… by you or anyone else."

"Toyed with? That's not my gig." Cale smiled. "Talk to Linda James about that one. She's into whips and chains… among other things."

"That's not what we meant." Kelly insisted.

"Well, ladies, I agree with you." Cale smiled. "Unless you're involved with her…." Seeing neither woman acknowledged such, Cale continued. "…what goes on or doesn't go on between that woman and me is none of your business." With that, Cale left them behind to fume alone. God, this place has one too many blondes.

"Yes, but you're involved already…." Yelling, Judith started.

Quietly, Kelly finished. "And don't give a damn about that."

************************

Lindsey was shocked when another fan requested her autograph. Taking the cover sheet of her bio, the blonde looked up into fluid brown eyes. The woman standing in front of her wore wire-rimmed glasses that framed her face nicely. She has a nice smile.

"I really loved your story. Are you writing another one?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I am. It's a romance." Lindsey posed her pen to start writing when she asked. "Whom should I write this to?"

"Robin." The tall woman with short dark hair answered. "Robin Hart."

"I love that name." Lindsey autographed the cover sheet. "It would be great in a story."

"Go ahead. Please..… use it." Taking the piece of paper, Robin said. "Thank you." With a confident sexy walk, Robin walked across the room and through the door, passing Cale.

Cale leaned against the doorway watching Lindsey's genuine excitement from all the unexpected attention her fans were giving her. She's so beautiful.

Chris tapped her on the shoulder. "Fantasying again?"

"What are you doing? Thought you were supposed to be up there."

"Ah… you know me. I can't stay still for too long. I like bouncing around." Chris paused long enough to sign another book a fan shoved in front of her. "Besides, I had to get away. CrazyBard? She really is loopy. One minute she's signing an autograph and the next she's acting out one of her scenes using a very sharp marker, jabbing it in the air over and over again. Cale, I swear you should have seen that crazed look in her eyes."

"Nuts, huh? Like your characters."

"Oh, no, she way surpasses anything I write. Sure my characters are a bit twisted and nasty…" Chris winked. "… hers though… sadistic through and through. Actually…" Chris leaned in closer. "… I get the distinct impression they're only reflections of her many, many warped personalities."

"Takes one to know one." Cale teased her good friend.

"Crushed." Chris grabbed her chest. "Why couldn't you at least wait till I turn my back and stab me then… like any good friend would do?"

"Because I'm your best friend. I'm not afraid to look you in the eye." Cale shot back.

"All kidding aside…" Chris patted her friend's cheek. "What are you gonna do about her?" She nodded toward the elusive blonde.

Cale leaned her head against the doorframe. "Take a different tact?"

Shaking her head, Chris suggested. "Guess you should sign up for a segment called 'how to court a bard'."

Cale rolled her blue eyes. "Would you shut up?"

"Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures."

************************

When Lindsey met Karen, Judith and Kelly in the lobby before they headed off to the theater, Judith stopped suddenly. "Can you guys wait a minute? I forgot my ticket. Be right back."

She ran past the writers Terry Lang and Lori Colter. "Judith, you're going the wrong way woman!" The tall very short dark haired writer yelled. "Damn, Lori, which one of us do you think scared her?"

Lori's brown eyes soaked in the tall drink of southern comfort before replying. "Had to be you, Tex?"

"You got me mixed up with Beth Ann. She's from Texas. Kentucky's my home." Terry clicked her cowboy boots against the marble floor. "By the way, where is she?"

Standing close by, Lindsey answered. "I saw her just a few minutes ago. She's in the bar… waiting."

Terry bowed at the hips, tipping her invisible cowboy hat. "Ladies, shall we? The limo awaits."

"First we round up Beth Ann." Lori insisted.

"We'll be along shortly…. Judith." Karen said, indicating the reason for their delay.

***********************

Cale slid into her tight leather pants. "Hope it doesn't get too hot in that theater tonight." She tucked in her black top before buttoning her pants.

"Ha! A room full of women." Chris fanned her face as she studied the woman in front of her. "Don't you look great…all leather and lace." Her mind turned back to the woman she came to meet. "And I haven't even mentioned the two look alike beauties who will be entertaining us on stage." Chris pondered about one of the actors. "You think she'll look exactly like her?" Chris referred to her favorite blonde television star.

Cale turned around. "After a couple drinks, my friend." The slightly taller woman put three fingers to her lips, kissed them and said. "Presto… an exact replica." The clothes Chris was wearing drew Cale's undivided attention. "Is there some reason you're dressing just like I am?"

Chris marched past her friend. "You're smarter than you look. I gotta think ahead…. just in case."

Tapping her finger to her chin. "Don't tell me. Once again, I get to play 'diversion'." Shaking her head, Cale repelled the unspoken request. "Nope. Can't… not this time. I've got to round up all my attention on….."

Chris pouted, diverting her friend's plans. "Do you mind? Please …. pretty please." Chris dropped to her knees in front of Cale. "What if she's the one?"

Cale's tongue ran over her pearly white teeth. "Oh…. okay. But after tonight, you've got to help me." Chris nodded happily like a little puppy after having got her way. "Because this one…" Referring to Lindsey. "I'm sure… I think she's the one."

"Okay, here's the deal. " Chris started, filling her best friend in on the plan. Since Chris had never met Debbie Crane, she requested Cale whish her away after the play and she would meet up with the actor so they could be alone. As suave as Chris was in most circumstances, this situation was totally different. The woman that would be on the stage tonight had intrigued the writer. This time Chris had a major crush that had to be satisfied. Their nightly phone calls had quickly become overheated, sizzling toward a hopeful night of unbridled passion.

***********************

Judith stepped out of the third floor elevator and ran into Cindy Townsend. "Excuse me." She said, before hurrying off.

Her friend, Tippi, steadied Cindy as the woman recovered. "That whole group needs some lessons in manners." Cindy straightened her dress.

Tippi held the elevator door open. "Are you coming?"

Cindy caught a brief glimpse of Linda James and her friends as they rounded the corner. She jumped in the elevator and pressed the button to close the door. "Come on…close!"

"Wait!" Tippi said. "Isn't that…."

With the door sealed shut, Cindy let out a breath she was holding. "Yes, it was. I didn't want to…. engage her just yet."

"But what about getting her to…."

"Later." Cindy cut her friend off. The brunette fussed with her short hair. "She does look good tonight. Too bad she has such jerks for friends."

"Uh huh." Tippi agreed dryly.

Cocking a hand on her hip, Cindy swung around, facing her friend. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You're just avoiding her because you don't want her to know you dissed her last two stories." Tippi supplied the missing motivation behind Cindy's actions.

"That's a lie."

"You did, too."

"Yes, but she doesn't know it was me. I use an alias." Cindy was quite sure she would never be found out. She played the game well, having several different email addys. As a frustrated writer, Cindy hated when her work was dismissed as she considered her prose to equal that of any of the popular authors.

Shaking her head, Tippi gave her friend something to think about with her next statement. "There are ways to get that information, Cindy." When her friend quirked an inquisitive eyebrow, Tippi continued. "You! You can't keep it to yourself when you think you've written a particular scathing critique, you tell nearly everyone."

"Yes, but… " He words quickly surrendered when logic failed her. "Let's just have a good night, okay?" The usually high-strung woman was on edge even more so this night.

************************

The way Judith was running you would have thought she was a metal ball in a pinball machine. She had practically clipped Terry Lang in the main lobby, ran smack into Cindy Townsend and now as she rounded the corner, Judith bounced off the tall woman. "Whoa… oh…. sorry about that." The blonde haired woman apologized to the woman who stood nearly two inches taller than her five foot seven inch frame.

"Get outta the way." The curly blonde, Lois, shoved Judith aside as Shelby stepped in front of Linda James.

Linda intervened before her other friend Tonya got into the fray. "Hold on. It's okay… I'm okay. How about you, Judith? You okay?"

Backing up, Judith confirmed. "I'm okay… if you are." Three sets of glaring eyes pushed her back another step. The blonde wanted to make amends for her blunder so she complimented the famous writer. "I've got all your books. You're great." The unbelieving trio set of glares didn't fade. "That black pant suit is just delicious. And that pink scarf looks beautiful on you."

Lois' jealous eyes flared. It should be. I gave it to her.

Judith reached to touch the scarf. "Is that some kind of dragon imprint on it?"

Shelby took one giant step forward. "What do ya mean by that?"

"Ah…nothing… I…" Being a physical therapist, Judith always considered herself fairly self-reliant but with three bulldogs breathing down her neck she was a little reluctant to get in an all out scrape with the pack.

"Cool it girls." Linda commanded, making her friend's overt growls drop to a low grumbling groan. "I guess you're in a hurry so…"

"Yeah…" Judith took her exit without haste. "Bye."

Linda led her friends to the elevator door before turning on them. "What's with you guys these last few days?"

Lois spoke first. "She was with them."

Since Linda's rise to fame, her partner, Shelby and her friends and especially her ex-partner, Lois, was ever protective and much too vigilant when it came to the writer's fans. "Would you just let it go? Nobody's out to get me."

"Ha!" Lois smirked. "They were all too happy when that blonde knocked you out of first place."

The foursome stepped into the elevator and Tonya pressed the ground floor button. She would press it several times more after the elevator unexpectedly stopped between floors.

"Press it again." Lois demanded.

"You do it. I've pressed the damn thing twenty times now and we still aren't getting anywhere." Tonya moved away from the panel.

"Here let me." Shelby offered.

Yanking the redhead back, Lois jammed a finger on the button. "These elevators have always been fussy." Nothing happened. She hit the panel with the palm of her hand. Still nothing. "Damn it."

"Why don't you use the phone?" Shelby asked. "You used to work here… someone will pick it up and help us, right?"

Twisting around, Lois glared at Shelby. "Yes, I did and when we get out of here, I'll talk to Charles and who's ever responsible… I'll have him fire his ass. That good enough for you?" Lois resented Shelby. The chubby blonde had spent years supporting Linda in her career. She even offered her covert services as a beta reader in order to get a first look at any up and coming author's work. It gave her access to an array of great story ideas and then she would pass them on to the unsuspecting Linda. And all she got in the end was a boot out the door to make way for her sneaky friend Shelby to take Linda's side. A place Lois vowed to reclaim.

"Ladies." Linda offered a calm voice in a sea of rising anger. "Lois, would you call someone please?"

Standing next to the elevator's main panel after shutting down the system, the smiling figure mused. You're not going to get away with insulting her without having to pay some kind of price.

************************

As Cale and Chris strolled down one of the third floor hallways, Judith streaked by. "Excuse me."

"You know we're gonna be the last ones there." Chris said.

Which was exactly what Cale was opting for. She needed time to think. For some unknown reason, every time Cale was near the blonde that filled her every waking and dreaming moment she would say something or do something that was uncharacteristic of her. She knew it was driving a wedge between them instead of getting the desired effect she craved.

Chapter Seven

The theater offered an intimate setting for the crowd of nearly two hundred. With less than twenty or so seats still available, Chris and Cale took their reserved places in the back row, centered with a perfect view of the stage. The sound system churned out some easy listening background music, barely masking the underlying chatter from the anxious patrons.

"Where's the popcorn?" Chris asked, trying to cover her nervousness.

Shaking her head, Cale said. "It's not that kind of theater." Jabbing the play's program against her friend's chest, Cale said. "Here. Check out your girlfriend."

Chris quickly perused the actor's short bio next to the thespian's picture. "I knew it. She looks just like her." Nudging her best friend, Chris didn't even take the time to see if Cale was listening. "Says here she is working her way through college."

"You already knew that." Cale said.

"Yes, but it looks great in print. Educated woman…." Chris said proudly. "I'm moving up. She lives right here in Chicago, studying biology." Again repeating what she already knew, Chris gave her friend a brief glance then asked. "Do you think she'd want to play doctor?" Returning her green eyes to the photo, Chris concluded. "Debbie Crane, you are absolutely stunning. But I can't tell the color of her eyes. Cale? What'd you think?"

"I can't believe that in all of the time you two have talked you never asked the color of her eyes."

Waggling her eyebrows, Chris smiled when she thought of the heated exchange between her and the actor on the telephone. "We had more… important things to talk about."

Sparing a momentary glance at the black and white photo, Cale guessed. "Green?"

With a longing gaze at the picture, Chris revealed. "I'm a sucker for short blondes…. wish she had brown eyes though." The house lights dimmed once. "All right, bring it on, baby." Chris yelped but her friend knew Chris' overconfident attitude would melt when she came face to face with the blonde actor.

And it was Cale that received the scathing look from Lindsey who sat five rows in front of them. The tall raven-haired woman sank in her seat, bringing her fist up under her chin. I just can't seem to get a break.

Lindsey for her part was trying to ignore the tall, dark, crude and rude beauty but her eyes continuously scanned the entire theater until they fell on Cale, never straying from the woman until Karen jabbed her.

"Stop staring… she has a thing for Debbie Crane." Karen referred to Chris Strauda but Lindsey thought she meant Cale. However, the angry Kelly squinted her dark eyes in anger. She had heard the rumors about Chris' obsession with the part-time actor.

Just as the house lights dimmed one last time, Linda James and her crew rushed into the theater, claiming their reserved seats, center stage. "Can you believe it?" Lois bellowed, referring to the maintenance man. "That man was toying with us."

Shelby snickered. "How would you know? You never knew what to do with 'em."

Twisting to her side, Lois glared past her ex-lover to Linda's new partner. "And you can't get off without 'em." The chubby cheeked blonde had an aversion to using the toys her ex-lover enjoyed so much. She secretly blamed the redhead for the break-up between her and Linda. Still glaring at Shelby, Lois revealed a small evil grin. One of these days all you're toys are gonna come up missing and then see just how satisfying you can be. I'm still pissed that she didn't clock that bitch. Linda needs protecting. And of all nights, Linda had to wear the scarf I gave her.

"Quiet up front." Chris screeched from the back. "My woman's coming…" Before the writer could finish her sentence, the curtain's opened and the spotlight framed the short blonde actor.

Upon hearing the crude remark, it unsettled Lindsey to no end. Jerking her head around again, green-piercing daggers ejected, heading directly at the wrong tall dark haired woman.

Cale's eyes adjusted to the dim lighting just in time to catch a glimpse of the projectiles heading her way. When they finally struck, the last scrape of hope for winning the blonde writer's heart shattered.

For nearly the next two hours, the actors enthralled the crowd bringing smiles, giggles, laughs, applause along with some moans, sighs and even a few hot flashes. When it was over, the actors took center stage as they were greeted by a thundering applause and numerous wolf whistles.

The audience was on their feet as each actor took one step forward and bowed to the delighted crowd. "Brava!" Several audience members called.

As the blonde actor took her bow, Chris nudged her friend. "Come on, Cubby…. go talk to her. I want to meet her." Earlier in the week, Debbie had agreed to meet Chris after the play.

The taller woman's mind was reeling after she saw Lindsey offer a few lusty yells for the tall dark haired actor on the stage. "How could she go for her? She's too tall and I bet those are colored contacts."

Chris squinted her eyes, trying to get a closer look. "What do you mean? How can you tell she has contacts?" The writer turned to her very pre-occupied friend. "Too tall? It says right here she's five four. Just perfect for me."

"Yeah, she's perfect for me and too damn blind to see it." As much as Cale was totally frustrated with the short blonde writer, she wavered under the overwhelming feelings Lindsey was stirring up inside of her. No other woman had ever done that before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. "That's it… I'm gonna tell her and see where it falls."

"Whoa…." Chris yanked her anxious friend back. "I think I'll go talk to her myself." The writer scooted in front of Cale. "We've never fought over a woman before and… well, actually, Cale, I thought you liked Lindsey."

Bringing Cale out of her frustrated haze, she asked. "What? What are you talking about? I'm not going to fight you."

"Good to hear it. She wrote to me not you." Chris tried to be reasonable.

"Who?"

"Debbie Crane… " Chris swung one long finger toward the stage. "…that hotty right there."

From the nearby seat, Savannah Miller diligently jotted down every word said by the feuding friends. "Betrayal…. it makes for a great story." The CrazyBard mumbled as she walked off.

Realization dawned and before Cale could turn down her friend's request to intercede, she saw Lindsey stroll up to the stage and engage in a very intimate conversation with the tall actor. "Fine. I'll do it." Cale fumed.

"Do what?" Chris asked. "Make her run for her life? Never wanting to see me?"

"I don't know why I always have to set you up with women."

"It's just in the beginning…. once I get over that first hump… I can take it on my own." Chris waggled her eyebrows. The ever sexy and very charming writer shied when it came to women she was really interested in.

But once her initial nervousness waned, it didn't take long to set in motion a libido that became a hot sexed steamroller.

"Fine. Let me by. Or you'll have to be getting over that hump on your own… alone." Cale pushed past her friend. "Meet me outside by the car. It won't take long to find out if she's still interested in meeting you."

A brief cloud of doubt rose from Cale's words. She dismissed them quickly and was only too happy to duck out the side door since she saw Judith and Kelly maneuvering through the crowd, heading directly toward her.

Cale negotiated her way up to the stage where Lindsey was still in a deep conversation with the tall actor. Stepping up to them, she paused for only a brief moment before the true blue eyed woman stepped between the actor and Lindsey. As Cale brushed against the blonde writer, she whispered so only Lindsey would hear. "Settling for second best?"

Lindsey's fist clenched when Cale taunted her, only allowing the interrupting taller woman a small hint of her aggravation before she returned all of her attention to the actor. "As I said you were wonderful…. absolutely wonderful." The blonde poured it on, knowing that Cale had heard her. Even surprising herself by adding. "Are you doing anything… later?"

That last comment by Lindsey was enough to push Cale as far away from the blonde as she could get. Determined, Cale shoved past a couple of fans in order to talk with the blonde actor. She didn't hear the rejection Lindsey received.

"Actually, yes, my partner is expecting me home soon. And that's not all she's expecting…." The tall actor arched a teasing eyebrow. "We're having a baby, too."

"Oh, I'm sorry…" Feeling a bit embarrassed about asking the actor out. "I mean, congratulations… I wish you both the best."

"Thank you." The actor excused herself, leaving Lindsey standing alone.

The blonde summoned all of her courage in order to turn and see where Cale was. As expected, Lindsey pursed her lips tightly together as Cale wrapped a protective arm around the blonde actor and escorted her away from the other adoring fans.

************************

On the way back to the hotel, Kelly fumed. "I think she's avoiding me."

"Who wouldn't?" Judith guided the car around the street corner.

Karen stuffed her program into her bag. "This was the best play yet. Every year it gets better and better. What'd you think, Lindsey?"

Staring out her backseat window at the damp streets, she shrugged. "I suppose."

"Huh?"

"Leave her alone. First, she got dissed by the actor and the other one choose another." Judith chose not to mention any names.

"Maybe that's why she left so quickly. She couldn't take it that her…." Kelly couldn't even say the word. "… so called friend made a beeline to that blonde actor." Kelly had an idea. "She'll need consoling."

Karen leaned over and touched the blonde's arm. "Do you, Lindsey? Why don't we all go back to my room and have a little party?"

"Not me." Judith refused as she pulled the car into the parking lot. "I'm gonna stop by the bar first and see what's going on there."

"Count me out." Kelly silently recounted her plans again.

When the car stopped, the four women got out. Karen halted Lindsey. "What about you? You up for a little slumber party?"

"No, no, thank you, Karen. I think I'll just sit out by the fountain for a bit." Noting the damp chill in the air, Lindsey said. "Think I'll get a sweater first."

When they came to the elevator, Judith broke from the group, waving goodbye while Kelly took her leave without a word. Karen pressed the button. They rode to the third floor in silence.

When they came to Karen's hotel door, Lindsay bid her goodnight.

"If you change your mind, Lindsey, just give me a call. I'll be up for awhile… maybe read." Of course, I could stop at the bar for a bit. See what comes up.

"Goodnight, Karen." Deep in thought, Lindsey arrived at her room before she realized it. It was only the loud moans wafting through the hotel room's door that shook her out of her musings. She inched closer to the door across from her room. There was no denying what was taking place behind the gray door. The green-eyed monster inside her woke. How could I… what is she… why am I feeling so…so…. Dejected, Lindsey ran from the harrowing sounds she knew would be her undoing.

************************

After sucking in several deep calming breaths, Lindsey determinedly strode through the patio, negotiating the wrought iron tables until she came to the single chained fence. Instead of unchaining it, she opted to step over it. She gave a brief thought to lighting the lantern on the nearby table but quickly rejected that idea. Lindsey wanted to sit quietly on the stone bench and enjoy the flickering blue lights the fountain was emitting. Still unnerved by the disturbing sounds coming from Cale's room, the blonde shivered. Thinking she was alone, she said out loud. "Why does it bother me so much?"

A voice interrupted the answer to the question Lindsey posed. "You couldn't sleep either?"

Startled, Lindsey jerked around to see a tall womanly silhouette standing in the shadows. "No… apparently no one can."

Revealing her identity, the dark haired woman stepped into the light.

"You? I.. I thought you were….."

"Chris?"

*************************

After being discarded by her favorite author along with an evening of spiraling frustration, Kelly swallowed the last drop of courage she would need that night. Someone needs to teach that bitch a lesson. Plan alpha was quickly dismissed when Kelly saw Cale leave the hotel through the revolving doors. Hellooooo plan beta. Always good to have the back up plan handy. With a sharp twist of her hips, she headed for the elevator.

*************************

Studying the woman, Lindsey said. "Or Linda James. You all sort of look alike in the dark, same height, lean." Then she realized. "And have the same fashion sense."

Cale tugged at her black shirt. "Hey, Chris dressed after I did. She's always copying me. Guess she looks up to me." A nervous Cale joked.

Remembering their identical raunchy bar behaviors, Lindsey agreed. "I can see that… the two of you are… shall I say a bit… rowdy."

"May I?" Cale nodded at the stone bench. After Lindsey scooted over, Cale straddled it. "That's not really me… and Chris? It's all an act really."

"Not you? Right. The way you leaned over on that piano… showing nearly all of your assets." She tried to show disgust but the ample vision played before her green eyes again. Instead, she summoned up a mild displeasure at the woman sitting way too close to her.

Cale smiled. "Only a lucky few get to sample my…. assets."

Lindsey rolled her eyes before she turned slightly around.

The tall woman leaned in, whispering. "Hellooooo….. lucky."

A sink heating lust filled missile hit the blonde's core making her shiver from Cale's words.

"Are you cold?" Cale was well aware of the affect her words had on the shorter woman.

"Of course not." Hot more like it but I'll never tell. Regaining her composure, Lindsey offered some evidence to support her earlier statement. "See… just what you said then… it's more than rowdy. Vulgar would be a better word." It wasn't what she was really feeling. However, to reveal that to this woman who rattled her to the core was unacceptable.

"I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me." When you're around.

Lindsey let out a miffed grunt. "From what I heard at your bedroom's door, I can only imagine what came over you."

Ahhhh…. jealous? Instead of teasing the blonde, Cale simply stated the truth. "That wasn't me."

Twisting around, Lindsey asked. "It wasn't?"

Shaking her head, Cale confirmed. "Nope… Chris and her blonde."

"The actor?"

Cale confirmed with the nod of her head.

"Does she get everyone she has her sights set on?" Lindsey asked, happy it wasn't who Cale was after.

Cale shrugged. "Mostly… the flowers and autographed book helped open the door. I gotta say though that deep down Chris is a real sweetheart."

"Uh huh. In a goofy kinda a way?" Lindsey had her doubts.

"It's true." Cale stopped the blonde. "Her raunchy comments and crude way of flirting is really just to cover her…" The taller women looked away. "… fear of rejection."

"Does that explain your behavior, too?" A minor in psychology came in handy some times. When Cale refused to look at the blonde, Lindsey hooked the taller woman's chin so she could look into the face that filled her dreams. "That's it, isn't it?"

"I don't have any excuse for my behavior." Cale wasn't about to take the easy way out.

"That's not what your friend told me." Lindsey recalled the night Chris escorted her back to her room after the blonde had slapped Cale. Just because she wanted to protect me.

"Aaahh… she's gotta take up for me. I'm her boss." Cale dismissed her friend's ever-loyal support.

"Oh?"

"Yeah…" Cale scratched her neck. "We have a security consulting business…. and do a little investigating on the side. She joined me a few years after I started it. I've been trying to get her to partner up with me but…." Cale misread Lindsey's quizzical look. "No! We're not, you know… like that. Oh, she's hot all right. Just not my type."

"And what is your type?" Lindsey asked more hopeful than she wanted to reveal. Me?

You! You're just my type. A slight flush covered the older woman's face. Even in the ambient blue tinted light the fountain offered the night didn't cover the slight pinkish blush hue on the taller woman's face. "I don't know." Cale turned.

Lindsey tapped one finger to her lips. "Let's see, Chris is tall, dark and……"

"Crude?" Cale offered.

"Let's just say…… unrefined. I'm sure the right woman would smooth those rough edges of hers."

"What about my rough edges?"

"You don't have any." Lindsey answered quickly but before Cale could protest, the blonde continued. "I would think your type is shorter?"

Cale smiled.

"Lighter hair not dark."

Cale gave a half nod.

"And the eyes….. that's what I think your perfect woman and Chris have in common. Green eyes?" Lindsey knew she had described herself to a 'T' but on some unconscious level still didn't translate that to herself.

"I do like green eyes… a lot."

"I like blue." Lindsey gazed into the depths of Cale's blue eyes and knew that she had never seen such a beautiful sight. She has the bluest eyes in ….. in….. "Where are we?"

"Chicago."

"Yeah… the bluest eyes…. in Chicago." Lindsey finished. Rousing briefly from her sexual haze, Lindsey asked. "How am I doing at playing detective so far?"

"Perfect." Cale desperately wanted to kiss the blonde in front of her but was getting mixed signals and she refused to move too fast.

"You came to the right place then. I've seen plenty of blondes and quite a few with green eyes, too." Then, of course, there's me. Lindsey put her hands in her vest pocket, nervously fiddling with the business card housed there.

But none of them are you. "Yeah, it's a player's field all right." Cale quipped a bit sarcastically.

"What? Not enough women for the 'I'm too sexy for myself' Cale Bennett." Miffed, Lindsey spat out her frustration, originating from the bombarding feelings she was unable to control.

"I didn't mean it that way." Cale pulled Lindsey into her arms. But as the blonde withdrew her hand from the vest pocket to push Cale away, the business card dropped unnoticed to the ground.

"I… I… need to think. Please." Lindsey turned, shielding the emotions that would be to easily read on her face. "I think I'll take a walk. See you tomorrow."

God, I am such a jerk. I hurt her. The only thing the older woman could do was watch as the love of her life walked purposely away from her.

You hurt her. Cold blue eyes watched from a safe distance after tracking the two women's every move. You'll never do that again.

**********************

"Hurry up!" The naked woman demanded.

Tossing out item after item from the small bag, Linda proclaimed. "I can't find it." She let out a frustrated upward puff that blew her bangs.

Shelby shot up from the bed. "Here let me see." She grabbed the bag from her lover's hand. "I know it's here somewhere."

Linda walked the short distance to the open sliding door. "Why can't we just once do it the old fashion way?"

The shorter woman pitched the bag aside and slapped her head. "I left it in the back of the 4Runner when I was getting those extra books for you to sign."

Linda didn't want to know but she had to ask anyway. "And you took it out of the bag because……"

Cocking both hands on her curvy hips, the redhead finally admitted. "One of your fans was helping me and she wanted to see the … you know… toy you described in your last story…. so I showed it to her."

"Did you give her a demonstration, too?" Linda quipped sarcastically before she took the final two steps out on the balcony. Running her hand threw her long dark mane, Linda peered below to see Lindsey walking near the fountain. "That reminds me."

"What?" Shelby stood naked as her lover marched passed her without even a glance.

"I've got some fences to mend…" While at dinner, Tonya was bragging about how Lois totally dissed Lindsey with the Oprah comment when the writer asked them about what stories they read. Linda was livid. She constantly had to make up for her ex-lover's over protectiveness. "….and I'll get the toy. Gotta keep one of us happy." She said flippantly as she put on her lightweight black nylon jacket and then left the room.

***********************

The sounds from the hotel room were unmistakable. As Kelly pressed her ear to the door, her heart sank to the depths of an ocean. That bitch drove you to this. Her heart cried out as a single tear dropped.

***********************

Earlier when Linda and her gang arrived back at the hotel, Lois was agitated and knew that Shelby's amorous behavior and comments would send her and her lover to the bedroom for a little one on one. So instead of going back to their room, she suggested to Tonya that they check out the bar. What I need is a good stiff drink. For the next twenty minutes, the chubby blonde drowned her miseries in the three drinks she had ordered. Tonya tried to keep up. When the waiter showed up again, it was Tonya that ended the drink-a-thon.

"Come on, honey. It's time to go to bed." Tonya implored. She hated when they got together with their old friends. Inevitably, Lois would take a destructive and drunken walk down memory lane, recalling happier times with her ex-lover. That was one of the reasons Linda and Shelby moved a few states away and ultimately why Tonya talked Lois into moving an hour outside of Chicago. There were too many memories that haunted the jilted lover.

Tonya got so far inside the elevator before Lois stepped out just as the door was closing. "I'll be up in a minute. I just want to take a short walk." Lois waved with her fingers as the elevator door closed. "I'll be good." Sucking in a sobering breath, Lois followed the magnetic scent of the woman she longed to hold in her arms once again. There's only one woman I know who wears that perfume.

*************************

It took a few moments for the shell-shocked security expert to respond but she did. "Hold up, Lindsey." Cale couldn't let the blonde walk away without trying to explain her behavior.

Lindsey kept walking and had rounded he corner when a hand grabbed her arm. When Lindsey turned around, she deliberately glanced at that very same hand holding her in place.

As if she had touched fire, Cale jerked her hand back. "Oh, sorry." She drew in a deep breath as she closed her eyes before trying to formulate her next words. "I know I've been a complete jerk."

Lindsey crossed her arms and tapped a shoe on the concrete below.

"I… I… "God, why can't I say this? "It's like this, Lindsey…. I care about you."

"Ha…. you sure have a uncouth way of showing it." Lindsey spat.

"Fine!" Cale threw up her arms and backed away. Cale had opened her heart and the woman she desired threw salt in it. Unconsciously, Cale rubbed her cheek.

What's wrong with me? Lindsey stepped forward. "I'm sorry. Does it hurt?"

Confused momentarily, Cale shook her head. Forever in the pursuit of redemption, she had closed the pipeline to her emotions many years ago after the 'incident'. It was hard for her to open up and admit her feelings. "Of course not. Why would it? It's just words. I don't really care."

"I… what are you saying?" Lindsey touched the older woman's cheek, surprising Cale. "Hold still." The blonde carefully studied the chiseled beautiful face before her. There's… some kind of connection. It's like were…. intimate strangers in a way. "I don't see any bruising. I'm glad."

Realizing that Lindsey was talking about when the blonde hit her, Cale shook her head again. "No, it's fine. Really." Cale basked in the blonde's touch and wished to the stars above that this moment would last forever.

Transformed for an instant somewhere in time, Lindsey relished this brief magic moment before the spell was broken. "And I'm sorry for what I said….. about you being crude. I can see… much more." When Cale closed her hand over the blonde's hand, Lindsey backed up. "But I need to think. Please."

Bringing the blonde's hand to her lips, Cale kissed it. "Take all the time you need…. I'll be waiting.

************************

Linda James stepped out into the cool April breeze. She wrapped her scarf around her neck tightly. After looking around for a minute and not seeing the person she wanted to talk with, Linda debated trying to find her or head to the parking lot.

************************

Heaving heavily, she exited the hotel as her brown eyes searched frantically for the woman who stood in her way. The cold shock of air she drew into her lungs forced her to take stock of the moment at hand. Wavering a bit from the intoxicating drinks and heady murderous thoughts, the woman shook her head in an attempt to clear her clouded mind. A splitting headache was at her temple door, putting her hand to her forehead she wondered. Okay, okay, okay… why am I here?

************************

Following the scent she had once got down on all fours to sniff, the obsessive woman hurried through the revolving doors into the dark night.

************************

The fountain lights lit up the surrounding area and just as the maintenance man indicated it was the only lights available except for a few stray parking lot lights on the side of the hotel. The water in the fountain gurgled and spewed blue streams of lighted water, illuminating the whole area, brightly lighting some places but offering shadows in others.

With an unbalanced walk, a stalking figure carefully crossed the patio upon seeing a shadowy silhouette near the stone bench. It's now or never. "Why are you with her?"

The aggravated voice from behind grabbed her attention. Turning around, the shadowy figure crossed her arms. "And who should she be with? You?"

"That's not what I mean and you know it." The stalking woman's head cleared with each sobering breath. "It's not her I'm…"

"Then who is it?" The shadow demanded, having little patience with where this worn out conversation was going.

"You! You're the one. You want it both ways… but you can't have it that way. Not anymore."

Maybe a different tact was in order so she asked. "Why don't you just calm down and we can talk?"

"Fuck you!"

"Such pretty language." The shadowy figure turned to leave. "I don't have time for this nonsense."

"You cheated… it's you that's the problem not her. I used to think otherwise… that's …. but it's not true. I won't be avoided, ignored or dismissed so easily anymore."

"People get avoided because they're too obsessive…. too aggressive… which one are you?" The tall shadowy figure stepped back, realizing she couldn't derail the steaming woman in front of her. "It can never be."

"What the fuck do you know?" Eyes flared as she stepped forward. "If I had just half the chance… but you won't allow that."

"You had your chance. I can't help it if it's not working out the way you want it." Wanting to calm the infuriated stalking figure came the voice of reason. "Why don't we just leave her out of it?"

"You don't really want her… it's just a ruse." The stalking woman started to step over the single chain barrier but became unsteady. Halting further progress, the stalker said. "I know the truth…. I know who you want."

Fed up with the belligerent talk, the shadowy figure turned away. "Go back and crawl into the bottle you crawled out of."

"Oh, no, you bitch. Don't you dare move…. stay where you are." The stalker wavered again, falling up against the wrought iron table. "I said don't move."

"I've had enough of this. Go away."

"Don't you dare walk away from me!" The aggravated stalker stood tall. "Do you hear me?"

Over her shoulder the tall woman uncharacteristically spat. "You're nothing but a real pain in the ass bitch."

The raging volcano inside the stalker erupted. As the stalker stepped forward, a foot caught on the leg of the chair. Swinging a head back, the stalker caught sight of the lantern. Grabbing it, the fuming figure stepped over the two-foot high single chained fence. "Damn it, come back here." When the tall woman refused to stop, uncontrollable rage washed over the smaller figure as the stalker smashed the lantern upside the dark mane.

Blood splattered as the shadowy figure fell to the ground, landing near the stone bench.

Stunned, the stalker unconsciously dropped the lantern. Oh, my God… oh, my God. What have I done? Yet, even in a shaken state, the woman had the presence of mind to act when a car door slammed. Furiously, frightened eyes scanned the seemingly empty area around the fountain. The woman didn't have a clue as to what should be done next until relieved eyes caught a glimpse of the gray panel box on the wall. Grabbing the lantern, the stalker used it once again to smash the box. As sudden darkness fell, the maddening woman grabbed the only thing handy and reasoned there was only time enough to wipe away any traces of incriminating evidence. Until a thought took root as the figure clutched to the lantern.

Chapter Eight

The big black truck backed up next to the fountain. A strapping young man with long blonde hair jumped down from the cab. "Ready when you are."

Fidgeting, Charles straightened his tie. In the fifteen years he had worked at Safe Harbor not once did he ever have to deal with murder. It was unnerving to the placid man. Flipping his hand in the air, he ordered. "Clean it up. Just…. clean it all. I want that fountain scrubbed clean."

"Aye, aye." The young man shook his head at the sight of the red tinted water.

"Hold on." The tall detective commanded. Shaking his finger, he spoke to the young man in the tight blue jeans. "This is evidence. Get that rig outta here." The young man shrugged before returning to his truck. "And, you…. Charley, is it?"

"Charles." The hotel desk manager informed the detective.

"Nobody touches a thing until we're through here." Martin Lewis ducked under the yellow police tape. "I want all the names of your employees that worked last night. Fred?" The 6' 1" detective yelled at a blonde cop. "When you got time." He pointed to the patio area. "Now, Charley, it's like this…." Martin sat down on the wrought iron chair. He immediately felt the morning dew on the seat. "You got a place inside that's a bit more dry?"

Charles watched the sun peeking up over the horizon to a golden time of day on this clear April morning. "Huh?"

"You know… I need a big place. Where I can gather up all the usual suspects." Martin jotted a few notes on his pad.

"Usual suspects?" Again, Charles straightened his tie. "I can assure you we have only the most prestige clientele."

"Sir." Fred ran up. "We got an ID and we're running the prints now."

Martin's pen stopped. "How many times I gotta tell ya? I ain't no sir."

"Yes, sir." Fred disappeared.

Looking at Charles, the detective felt inclined to explain. "You get promoted and all of a sudden they treat you like your some higher up."

"I would never make that mistake." Charles said with contempt. His remark bordered on the edge of sarcasm.

Martin cased the man. "No, I guess you wouldn't." He stood, towering over the shorter man. "A nice big room. And I'll need a list of all your high kafluten clientele." The detective walked away. "Coffee and donuts would be nice. You know how us cops love donuts."

************************

The police did a thorough job of collecting the evidence. Not one detail was overlooked. And when Martin Lewis walked into the room, he was confident he knew who the murderer was. However, there was one question that nagged at him. He didn't need to satisfy that question with an answer but Martin Lewis didn't rise in the ranks of the Chicago police department due to some obscure luck. No, he was methodical and needed an answer to this very important question if not for the prosecuting attorney than for himself.

************************

One by one, bards and readers alike gathered in the big room for the scheduled Sunday morning brunch.

"Why are they having it in here?" Daisy Newton asked. "All I see is donuts."

Cindy Townsend passed by, making her observation known. "What can you expect? This isn't one of the classier Bardcons." My Bardcon will be the very best.

Her friend shook her head. "Cindy, sometimes I wish you would just shut the fuck up."

Startled by Tippi's uncharacteristic remark, Cindy twisted around. She fumed when the beta reader Daisy and her friend, Kip Reynolds couldn't suppress a giggle. "Obviously, Ms. Sevenson, we no longer see eye to eye." Cindy glared at Tippi. "You are an ungrateful…..

A well-placed hand stopped the upset woman. "You better be careful what you say, Cindy. I'm familiar with the skeletons in your closet." Tippi grinned before taking her seat.

"Atta girl, Tippi." Daisy cheered from a distance.

Grabbing her friend's arm, Kip pulled Daisy to their seats. "Over here." Kip waved to Terry Lang, the writer she beta read for.

Clicking her heels against the hard wood floor, Terry finally sat between her two friends. "How's my two favorite beta readers?"

"Hungry." Daisy frowned.

"What's going on? I thought we were supposed to meet this morning in the café." Kip asked. Her motto was 'when in doubt, ask Terry'. If Terry didn't know, then she would soon find out.

Terry shrugged. "Beats me. But give me a minute and I'll rattle some bones around here. Get the skinny. In the meantime, look out for Beth Ann and Lori." Terry leaned over to Daisy. "I heard they had a wild time last night."

She teasingly pushed Terry away. "That's par for the course. You blaming them so you won't get in trouble. When your wife finds out you practically hung from the chandelier…."

Terry grabbed her chest. "Cut me to the core, Daisy. You know I'm pure as the driven snow."

Kip nudged her friend. "Terry, there ain't nothing pure about you."

"Hey, you two. Ganging up on me?" She turned to Kip. "And you… my favorite beta reader. Just for that I shouldn't let you read my next story. It's a humdinger."

"Uh huh…. you wouldn't dare." Kip easily dismissed the mock threat. "Even with the spell check on your computer you refuse to make the corrections. When the word is underlined in red… that means it's misspelled."

"I'm not an English major." Terry stood. "I just write the stories that all the young girls love to read."

"Wait till your wife hears that." Lori Colter walked up behind the trio with Beth Ann Thornton.

"You wouldn't dare." Terry glared at Lori then a smile widened across her face, knowing her friend was teasing.

"Terry, go find out what's going on. You're getting too big for your cowboy boots." Daisy quipped.

The Texan Beth Ann sat next to Kip. "What's going on?"

"Now that's the question of the day." Kip replied.

************************

"What's going on?" Lindsey walked through the door with Karen and Judith. "Everyone looks so… so glum."

"Too much partying last night I guess." Judith shrugged.

"There's Kate." Karen grabbed Lindsey's arm. "Save me a seat."

Lindsey nodded but her eyes were on Cale Bennett who was huddled in the corner talking with Chris and a handsome suited man. She tugged at Judith's sleeve. "You know him?"

Judith studied the man briefly. "Nope. We have some men bards but… I never saw him before."

***********************

"I know… I know, Terry. Believe me, I know. But it will only take….. " Kate Bradshaw rubbed her head not wanting to face the inpending storm front. The pounding headache she had was now screaming. Who am I kidding? This is a disaster. I can't believe it. "Please Terry… just go back and sit down." Kate saw the self-proclaimed fan extraordinaire Karen Watson approach. "And please do me a favor…. take her with you." Kate turned Terry around to meet the approaching Karen.

"Okay…..but this better be good." Terry was only half-heartedly kidding her friend but something was amiss. She just knew it. Hooking Karen's arm, Terry escorted her away. "Come with me, my dear lady."

Thrilled by the bard's attention, Karen soon forgot about what she wanted to talk with Kate about. "Okay."

Terry leaned down. "I hear you've read all my stories."

"I have." Karen assured the writer. "Judith acts like she's the most read person here but it's really me. And if there's anything you want to know, ask me."

"Then tell me, my dear. What's going on?" Terry surveyed the morning gloomy faces of the group gathered. "You'd think someone died."

Karen tepidly laughed out loud.

*************************

Frantically, Lois rushed around her hotel room. "Tonya, come on. Let's get going!"

Tonya hurriedly stuffed her bag with clothes, zipping it. "Why? It's been one hell of a morning already." She slipped on her jacket as she asked. "Why don't we just skip it and get out of here?"

Lois jerked open their door. "Would you come on!"

Taking one last glance at her packed bag, Tonya shook her head as she walked toward the door. She searched for the 'do not disturb' sign. Grabbing it, Tonya hung it on the doorknob.

"What are you doing? This place looks like a train wreck." Completely irritated, Lois tossed the little sign back in the room. "Now, come on."

"What's the rush?" As she was about to close the door, Tonya spied the revealing item and quickly grabbed. I better take that.

When Shelby opened her door, Lois was still in a desperate hurry.

"Maybe Shelby doesn't want to go." Tonya tried to be considerate.

The unusually calm Shelby replied. "I'm ready. Let's go."

"But…" Tonya stopped the door from closing. "We have a minute before we go down."

"No!" Lois barked, pulling the door to Shelby's room shut. "I don't want to be late."

As both women marched off, Tonya anxiously scratched her neck against the itchy material. Damn it!

************************

Cale grabbed Martin Lewis' arm. "Marty, you can't just accuse her."

"Arrest her." Martin corrected his old partner. "I'm going to arrest her for murder."

Chris pushed Cale forward. "Stop him."

As Martin Lewis walked up to the microphone, Cale's mind raced.

Kate Bradshaw tapped the microphone. "May I have your attention please?"

"You can get all of my attention with some food." Judith called from the galley.

"Yes, yes, of course. We'll get to that later." Kate's nervousness washed across the room.

"Hey, it was only a joke." Judith twisted in her chair uneasily.

Kate shifted her eyes briefly toward the man next to her. "This is Detective Martin Lewis. He… he has something he would like to say to everyone."

Martin waved off the use of the microphone. His booming voice would be heard since what he had to say would garnish the group's undivided attention.

When Kelly Winslow walked into the room, she glanced around before her eyes fell on the tall figure at the front of the room and her face paled. She quickly sat next to Judith.

"Looks like you've seen a ghost." Judith kidded.

"Kelly. Is something wrong?" Lindsey asked.

Shaking her head, Kelly sank in her chair. Covertly shifting her eyes toward Cale, Kelly stared hard at the imposing woman. After last night, I thought…..

"Kelly? Are you okay?" Lindsey repeated. "What's wrong with your eye?" When the blonde touched Kelly's temple, she moved away.

"Nothing. I'm fine." Kelly crossed her arms, wondering if she should find another seat.

"Could I have your attention, ladies?" Detective Lewis asked and got the crowd's full attention. You could hear a pin drop. "A member of your group was….. murdered last night."

With that said, Tonya walked in the room holding on to distraught Shelby and shaken Lois. The two women's teary eyes provided the answer everyone in the room was seeking.

"Oh, my God." Judith said too calmly. "It's Linda."

Breaking free from Tonya's grip, Lois rushed ahead, screaming. "You killed her." The accusing finger pointed toward the surprised blonde who sat dead center in the eye of the storm, approaching her.

In less than a heartbeat, Cale flew across the room with Chris right behind. Pushing the chubby cheeked woman aside, Cale took up a protective stance in front of Lindsey. Chris held the frantic crying Lois at bay.

Slowly making strides toward her intended target, Shelby's usual placid façade was coming undone. Glaring at the woman, she declared. "I will see you pay for this."

Martin Lewis ambled forward, negotiating his way through the crowd. "I believe that's my job." Giving one final look at his old partner, Lewis started. "Ms. Wellington, I'm placing you…."

"Hold on, Marty." She grabbed his arm. "Chris." Cale nodded for her friend to stand by Lindsey. "Come with me." Cale directed Martin away from the group of women. "You owe me."

Martin nodded. It was a debt unpaid from many years ago when Cale was on the police force as his partner. Cale's lover was pregnant. They had only been together for six months but Cale was excited about sharing this ill-conceived child with her lover. She had taken the week off in anticipation of the impending delivery. It was late at night when an injured Martin called his partner after a drug bust turned sour.

"I know she didn't do it." Cale started to explain.

"Listen, Cale…. you said yourself she left alone."

"What if she didn't?"

"What's it gonna be? Are you telling me she was with you?"

Cale would be hard pressed to make that claim stick since there would be someone else to counter her claim of an alibi for Lindsey. "What if I did?" Once again, guilt plagued Cale's mind. Remembering haunting shadows of the fateful night her girlfriend died during childbirth, Cale held on precariously to her shaking fragile emotions. I should have been there with her instead of….

"I'd say you were lying." He ran a hand through his short brown hair. "The time of death… it's too wide open. And we have a match on the prints that leads us to her."

"Will you stop accusing the woman I love?" Cale barked.

This revelation came as interesting news to the detective.

"Please… Marty." She pulled him closer. "Get rid of everybody and we can talk about it…. figure it out. I need time." And I shouldn't have left Lindsey last night either. Hell, I screw everything up. Cale felt a deep needed desire to right a wrong so many years ago that had manifested into an invading nightmare. I won't fail Lindsey, too.

He was about ready to agree when a very shocked Karen looked at Lindsey and said. "You did say that you were going to kill someone, Lindsey. But why Linda?"

"I didn't say that." Lindsey corrected her as she clutched the lapel of her shirt.

"Oh, yes, you did." Tonya added. "I overheard you talking on your cell phone as we walked by yesterday…. I didn't think anything of it... then."

The blonde Judith chimed in all to quick. "Was it because you could be number one on the website without competition from Linda?"

"What?" The walls were closing in on the under the gun blonde.

Judith continued. "I remember you said you would like to knock her off."

"Knock her out of the number one spot on the website." Lindsey stepped closer to Chris, seeking refuge behind deep cover. "It was just about my story… nothing personal."

"No. That was Cale she said she wanted to murder." Kelly inserted.

Cale's emotions waged a war between fire and ice as she stared at Lindsey for a long time before she inched back to her. "You… you wanted to kill me?"

"No…NO!… not really…" Reluctantly, she admitted. "I thought about it." Blue eyes couldn't believe what the blonde was saying. "It flickered through my mind a couple of times… that's all." But Lindsey could see the doubt in Cale's blue eyes. It was a moment of truth for the blonde. Pulling the older woman closer, she whispered sincerely. "I don't want you dead. I want you in my bed."

That was enough to get Cale's mind off murder. "What? What did you say?"

"Cale?" The detective sought and got his friend's attention.

Brushing her lips against the blonde's ear, Cale vowed. "We'll get back to that….. request later." Stepping forward, Cale cranked her investigative mind into full throttle. "Okay, here's what we do."

Continued in Part 3.


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