Disclaimer: See Part 1

Sands of Change

By J.A. Zollicoffer




Chapter Nineteen

“Is that him?”

“No, babe.”

They were leaning against the side of the car watching each vehicle that exited through the base gates, but so far, no Brian.

“Oh, look. Here comes another car.”

Morgan held her breath, crossed her fingers, and began counting, because if Brian didn't get out of this next vehicle she was going to have to hog-tie Shannon in the backseat of the car. It only took a count of five before she heard a loud squeal pealing through the air…Brian had arrived.

The short woman took off running in her brother's direction, and it reminded Morgan of the night the little blonde went running toward the beach to retrieve her brother, after the trooper trainee had let her go.

“Briaaan!” she yelled just before jumping into her brother's outstretched arms.

“Shannon!” was said with just as much enthusiasm.

Morgan slowly walked toward the siblings and took a visual inventory of her brother-in-law. She had to admit he made a dashing figure in his dress blues. Ribbons were spread out across his chest, and his highly polished lieutenant's bars sat proudly on his shoulders. His curly brown hair was cut short, forming deep waves all over his head, and the smile on his face was infectious.

“Well, if it isn't, Lieutenant Brian Reynolds,” Morgan said before pulling the shorter man into a hug.

“How have you been, Morgan?” he asked with a deep measure of warmth in his voice.

“I'm great,” then a crooked smile pulled at her lips. “You little shit.”

The guards at the gate looked out on the street when they heard the young lieutenant's laughter fill the area.

“You big bully,” Brian teased back.

“Pick up your gear, soldier-boy, we're taking you home.”


Brian was headed for his old room with his duffle bag slung over his shoulder, but stopped when a thought came to him. “You haven't turned it into a sewing room since I've been gone, have you?”

“What am I, sixty? You know I don't sew. But you might find a bar and strobe lights in there,” Shannon yelled to his back. “You haven't lived here in three years.”

When they were left alone Shannon was practically bouncing on her toes. “He looks good, doesn't he?”

“Yes, he does, love.”

Morgan followed her into the kitchen, where the little social worker was busy reheating dinner for Brian.

“Shouldn't you ask him if he's hungry before you go piling all of that food on a plate?”

Shannon ignored her spouse and sat the plate on the table before grabbing a cold drink from the refrigerator. “He looks a little thin.”

“But, you just said he looks good.” Morgan said in a teasing voice.

“Forget what I said, and listen to what I'm saying.”

“Is this a new rule, one where you only mean what you say when you say it?”

Shannon turned and placed her hands on her hips. “No.”

Morgan tilted her head. “Is that no gonna turn into a yes later?”

Shannon reached up and pulled Morgan down by two fistfuls of hair. “Maybe.” The kiss she initiated was so intense that the tall woman's knees began to buckle.

Brian's clearing of his throat broke them apart. “Excuse me, but there is another person in the room.”

The kiss ended, and Morgan turned them around so that they were facing him. Her arms were wrapped around the shorter woman's waist holding Shannon close. “I hope you're hungry, ‘cause your sister has prepared a plate for you that's big enough to feed the three of us.”

They sat around the kitchen table, talking, laughing, and sharing, while Brian dug into his much appreciated meal.”

“I'm happy to see that you still have a healthy appetite,” Shannon said.

“I miss this kind of food, Shannon. Don't get me wrong, the food over there is delicious, it just isn't this.”

“You should have said something. I would have sent you a care package.”

“I could have used one back in March, after the earthquake. Although there was only minor structural damage to the base, the power went out, so we were forced to eat canned, or cold food.”

Shannon's stomach churned at the reminder. When the reports of the devastating earthquake hit the news Morgan thought she was going to have to tranquilize Shannon to stop her from booking a flight to Japan. But, thankfully, Brian called to let his sister know that the area near, Misawa Air Base was only mildly affected by the tragedy, and he was fine.

“It must have been horrible to witness such destruction.”

“It was, Shannon, but you know what? The Japanese people are some of the most resilient people I've ever seen. They have joined together and are rebuilding, determined to make all as it once was…maybe even better”

“Well, since the quake, what have you been up to?” Morgan asked, to lighten the mood.

“After I got myself thoroughly familiarized with the Thirty-Fifth Communications Squadron, I was very curious as to the sights of Japan, so, every day that I had off I went sightseeing.”

“Have you seen anything interesting?” Shannon wanted to know.

“Plenty. The air base is close to Towada, Aomori City, and it's a beautiful place to experience. I have visited The Aomori Museum of Art, Mount Hakkoda, and Lake Towada. But what I'm most looking forward to is attending the Aomori Nebuta Festival in August.”

“Oh, yeah? What's that about?” Morgan wanted to know.

“Nebuta is a summer festival that is famous throughout Japan. About twenty Nebuta.” He translated after Shannon gave him an odd look. “Giant human-shaped floats.”

“Thanks, continue,” Shannon offered.

“Anyway, the Nebuta are paraded down the streets to the stirring music of taiko drums, flutes, and haneto dancers, shouting the traditional cry of “rassera”. Before he was asked, he added. “It doesn't really mean anything, but shouting it is supposed to shake away the sleepiness of summer.”

Now, Shannon was really interested. “How did the festival start?”

“One of the theories is that the Nebuta festival is the offspring of the Tanabata Festival in China. One of the customs during this festival was, Toro floating. A toro is a wooden frame box wrapped with Japanese paper.

A candle would be lit inside the toro and put out to float on the river or the sea. The purpose for doing this was to purify themselves and send the evil spirits out to sea. Toro floating is still one of the most impressive and beautiful sights during the summer nights of the Japanese festivals. But in the beginning, it was on the final night of the festival when Toro floating would be accompanied by a large display of colorful fireworks.

This is said to be the origin of the Nebuta Festival, and gradually the floats grew in size, as did the festivities, until they are the large size they are now.”

“Wow, Brian, it sounds like you are living a very full life,” Shannon beamed.

Brown eyes went soft, and the young man smiled at his sister. “Yes, I am, and it's all because of you,” He then looked up into startled blue eyes. “Both of you.”

“Don't get all mushy on me, Brain.”

The officer understood. Morgan was never overly emotional with anyone…except Shannon, but he wasn't going to let the opportunity to tease her pass him by. “What? You afraid I'm gonna make you cry, Morgan?”

Shannon intervened, and changed the subject before this turned into a tit for tat match, and knowing her spouse, and her brother, it could last all night. “Brian, make sure you give Jim a call. He's looking forward to seeing you.”

“I can't wait to see him either. Since I've been gone I've thought about Jim a lot.” He looked at his sister with reminiscent eyes. “Do you remember the boxing lessons?”

Shannon laughed. “Oh, yeah. We were just talking about that the other night.”

Brian's focus turned inward. “I remember him putting me in little league and the boy scouts. The long talks and the way he tried to build up my confidence,” Brain was silent for a moment. “He was the best dad a kid could have.”

When nothing more was said, Morgan took notice of the contemplative look on Brian's face, and she got the sense that the young man needed some alone time with his sister, so she decided to make herself scarce. She stood up and stretched her arms to the ceiling.

“Well, it's getting late, and I'm getting tired.” She leaned over kissed Shannon, then waved in Brian's general direction. “I'll see you guys later.”

Shannon knew that Morgan was leaving so that she and Brian could talk. She mouthed a “thank you” and lovingly smiled at her spouse. “I'll be in, in a little while.”

Before she was out of the room, Brian called out to her. “Hey, Morgan?”

The tall stopped and turned around.

“Thanks for taking us on as a responsibility.”

A half smile tugged at Morgan's lips. “You're gonna think this is crazy, Brian, but I think Shannon has always been my responsibility, so it felt very natural to offer help to the two of you.” She didn't say anything else, or wait for a response.

Once Morgan was out of the room, Shannon turned to her brother. “So, what's on your mind, Brian?”

“What makes you think there is something on my mind?”

“Don't play innocent, little brother. I know you too well. That sudden trip down memory lane wasn't some random journey.”

Brain didn't stutter, or pause for effect. He just told Shannon what was on his mind. “I want to find them.”

She felt like she had been dosed in the face with ice water. She didn't have to ask who, she knew. Brian wanted to find their parents.

Well, I don't, Brian,” she said with barely controlled anger.

Never recognizing the volatile energy in the room, Brian dismissed his sister's first reaction, he had expected it. “Come on, Shannon. It's been fourteen years.”

Green eyes blazed. “And it can be a lot longer than that as far as I'm concerned.” What is going on? First Michael calls and ruins Morgan day, now this. Suddenly it's raining parents.

“Things are different now, Shannon. All of that stuff happened in the past. I think we should forgive and forget. That was another lifetime.”

Shannon couldn't believe what she was hearing. Why did Brian want to have this discussion on his first night home? And why didn't the hell she when through seem to matter to him? The hell she still went through on occasion. It was almost like he had forgotten. That was the thought that made her speak without thought, letting her hurt feelings and sense of betrayal guide her vicious tongue.

“That's easy for you to say, isn't it?!”

Brian stepped back, his sister had never focused her anger on him, and he wasn't sure why she was doing it now…he didn't have to wait long to find out.

“I'm the one that had to find us food when there was none!” she yelled while pointing to herself. “I'm the one that had to figure out how to keep us warm when money went for beer and cigarettes instead of the heating bill! And damn it! I'm the one that got her ass beat every fucking time those drunken idiots got it in their liquor-soaked minds that it was time to play kick the kid.” She was breathing hard, and her chest was heaving, but she wasn't done. “It was me, Brian. Not you…me.”

Morgan heard the raised voices, and bolted from the bed, but before she went rushing into the living room to save the day, a thought hit her. She needs this. She needs to get this out…and Brian needs to know how she feels. Morgan left the door open and sat on the bed. She wasn't eavesdropping, she just wanted to be ready if things got out of hand.

Shannon's eyes narrowed, and she leaned in. “And what did you do, Brian? Huh? What did you do? I'll tell you what you did. Absolutely nothing. No. Wait. You did do something. You hid in the corner and watched until it was over. That's what you did!”

“I…I…I was a kid, Shannon. There was nothing I could do,” he stammered.

“What about me, Brian? I was a kid too,” she sobbed. “What about me?”

The young air force officer looked like he'd been punched in the gut. And when silent tears started making tracks down his stricken face, Shannon came back to herself and ran to him.

“Oh, God. Brian I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I…I didn't mean that.”

“Yes you did. But that's okay. You're right. You were a kid. Sometimes I forget that. It wasn't fair of me to ask you to help me find them. I'm the one that should be sorry, Shannon, not you.”

He wrapped his arms around his sister, a sister that was now shorter than he was, and cried in her hair. This was the person who had always put his safety and wellbeing above her own, and he wanted to kick himself for hurting her.

“You've done so much for me, and I'm not sure I've ever really thanked you for it.” Here he barked out a laugh. “Heck, you even found me the greatest stepparent a kid could ever have.”

Shannon looked up into her brother's handsome face, and her heart clenched with emotion when he returned her gaze with the same love-filled, little-boy eyes that he had always looked at her with. The devotion she saw in them made the decision for her. She was an adult now. Their parents couldn't hurt her anymore.

“I've changed my mind. Let's look for them.”

Brian didn't know how to react to the sudden change in attitude. “Are you sure?”

A vision of unfaltering, always supportive blue eyes, and a set of broad shoulders to lean on, passed through her mind, and she knew there was enough power and love in her life to face down her past.

“Yeah, I'm sure. Let's get a phonebook.”


The next morning, while still in bed, Shannon snuggled close to Morgan's side and started caressing the skin between her breast. Morgan grabbed the wondering hand and pulled it to her lips for a kiss.

“What's on your mind, babe?”

“What makes you think there is something on my mind?”

“Because that was your, how do I ask Morgan a question she may not want to answer, approach.”

“I do that?”

“Every time.”

“You know me so well.”

“Stop stalling. What's on your mind?”

After coming to bed, Shannon had only shared a few tense moments of her conversation with Brian, before going to sleep, so Morgan knew there would be more to talk about this morning.

“Do…do you miss your mom?” When Shannon felt the hitch in Morgan's breathing she wanted to take it back. “You don't have to answer. I know you miss her.”

“No, no. It's okay. I'll answer. I…I miss having a mom. It would have been nice to have a woman in the house, someone I could identify with. I don't really remember her that much. Kevin and Philip have more memories of her than I do, but they never talked about her. I'm not even sure of what she looks like. After she left, dad destroyed every picture there was of her in the house, at least that's what he told me when I asked if I could see what she looked like, and her parents were long dead by the time I got old enough to ask them about her”

“I know you tried once, but why don't you try looking for her again.”

The wide shoulder Shannon was resting on shrugged with indifference. “It's been twenty-six years, if she wanted to find me she could. It's not like dad has moved away.”

“That's true,” Shannon said, but she sounded like her mind was someplace else.

Morgan looked down at her over the bridge of her nose. “You okay?”

“Yeah, it's just that after everything that went on between me and Brian last night it got me wondering.”

Morgan waited. Shannon would get to it when she had it fully formed in her head.

“I…I know I could never have a relationship with my father…there's just too much shit to forgive, but my mother…I don't know, maybe I could work through her never stepping in to help.”

“You have a big heart, baby. I can see you letting your mom in.”

“You know, there were times when I hated her more than I hated him. I mean…how do you sit there and watch your husband beat the crap out of your kid?”

“She was sick…they both were.”

Green fire turned in Morgan's direction. Was Morgan trying to justify their behavior?

“Hey, douse the flame, fire starter. You know I'm on your side.”

Shannon relaxed and kissed the smooth skin close to her lips. “I know. It's just, after last night, with Brian wanting to join hands and sing kumbaya, I thought that maybe you were feeling the same way.”

Morgan snorted. “Not likely. I think they are both deplorable human beings, but… I also want you to know that if you ever decided you wanted to try and have a relationship with one or both of them, I'm with you.”

“And that is just one of the many reasons why I love you.”

Morgan pulled Shannon closer. “Oh, yeah? What are some of the others?”

A wicked smile formed on Shannon's lips as she started a descent down her lover's long body.

“Well, there's this,” she said as she kissed a perky nipple. “And this,” she kissed the other. She moved down to a quivering stomach, where she kissed and licked each muscle. “And these.”

As she moved lower, Morgan reminded her that they were not alone in the house. “Shannon if you keep going, Brian is going to hear us.”

“Then I guess you'd better put a pillow over your head, because I'm not done counting.”


Sitting at the breakfast table, the three adults ate in silence, until Brian cleared his throat.

“I see some things never change.”

Curious blue eyes looked at the young man. “Like what?”

Brian cleared his throat. “Let me see if I can get this right.” He cleared his throat, and started to do an imitation using a deep throaty voice. “Oh, oh, Shannon. Right there. Yes, yes, yes!”

Shannon's face turned beet red, and Morgan spewed coffee across the table. While Brian broke out into hysterical laughter.

Morgan wiped the liquid from her chin, and glared at her brother-in-law. Then she smirked.

“You, little shit.”

“Hey, is it my fault you can't keep it quiet?”

Seeing that Shannon was about to spontaneously combust, Morgan changed the subject to something less erotic. “I understand you guys are gonna look for your parents.”

Brian was a little skittish about answering, considering his sister's initial reaction the night before, but when he looked across the table and saw encouragement in her eyes, he embraced the subject.

“Yep, that's the plan, but they aren't listed in phonebook, so we were thinking about hiring a private investigator.”

Morgan gave him an odd look.

“What?” Brian asked, feeling like he'd left his fly open.

“Before you go spending a boatload of money on a P.I., did you ever consider taking a trip to the old neighborhood, walking up to your old house and knocking on the door?”

The siblings pointed at each other, and spoke the same accusation.

“Why didn't you think of that?”

Morgan just shook her head in pity. “That's just sad.”

Chapter Twenty

The weeks that Morgan and Jim were spending together on the undercover operation reminded her of their early years together, when most of their days were filled with hours of unexpected downtime instead of the often fantasized high-speed chases she thought the job would be. Those times had been special to Morgan. She and Jim had talked and bonded with each other in a way that would have never been possible if they had been surrounded by constant chaos. Their conversations were at times, humorous, insightful, and personal. And now, today, for Morgan she needed this to be one of those personal times.

“Hey, Jim?”


“I…um…I want to talk to you about something.”

The hesitation in the usually confident woman's voice, made Jim give her his full attention. “What's on your mind?”

Morgan was debating with herself. She wanted to talk to Jim about Shannon going to see her parents, but she didn't want to betray her lover's trust. She really needed to let this decision marinate in her mind for a moment.

The woman remained quiet for so long, Jim was getting worried. “Hey, Morgan. Is everything okay?”

Finally, she smiled. Shannon loved Jim. Morgan was sure her partner wouldn't mind if she talked to him about her concerns.

“Last night Brain and Shannon talked about finding their parents.”

Jim wasn't expecting that. “Damn, he just got here. They sure didn't waste any time.”

“There was no “they” to it, it wasn't Shannon's idea, this was all Brian.”

Knowing how much Shannon had suffered at the hands of her father, Jim whistled and ran his hand through his hair. “How is she taking it?”

The memories of what happened earlier that morning made Morgan blush. She found herself getting caught up in the memories of lips and teeth and tongues and… “She's doing remarkably well.”

Either he didn't notice the sudden reddening of her skin, or he wasn't in the mood to tease her, but Jim didn't mention her heated face. “Are they sure about doing this? Do they have a plan?”

Morgan rubbed her chin. “Yeah, they seem pretty sure about it, and as of this morning, they plan on going to the old house, knocking on the door, and see who answers.”

Jim mimicked Morgan's action, and rubbed his chin. “Are you worried?”

“Are you serious? Of course I'm worried, but I have faith in how strong Shannon has gotten over the years. I know she can make it through a visit with those reptiles.”

“True, but what about Brian?”

Morgan looked at him with question. “Brian?”

“If this doesn't go well Shannon has you to lean on. Who does Brian have?”

Morgan's temper was making a slow rise. What was Jim saying? She loved Brian, and she would always be there for him. “Brian has me too.”

It was almost like Jim wasn't listening. “If there is a problem, if this thing goes bad, you send him to me…on second thought, I'll give him a call later.”

“Jim, did you hear me?”

Still no response. The man was deep in thought.

Morgan decided to let him be. Maybe Jim was right. If things didn't go well, how much of herself could she really give to Brian when the majority of her focus would most likely be on Shannon.

They sat in silence, each in their own head. One thinking about the woman she had vowed to love, cherish and protect, the other worrying about the young man who he loved in his heart like a son. Then the quiet was broken by the crackling of the CB radio.

“Anybody out there interested in having dinner?” the feminine voice asked.

Morgan got a curious look on her face. There was something in the voice that pulled at her. So she signaled for Jim to respond.

“Yeah, I'm looking. It's been a long week and I sure could use some dinner…and a movie.”

“Dinner and a Movie?” the voice sounded unsure.

“Yep, I'm real hungry and in need of some quality entertainment.”

Morgan listened, fascinated by how quickly Jim had learned the lingo, and how seamlessly he could carry on the clandestine conversations.

“Can you afford a meal and a show?” the voice asked.

“You bet I can. I just got paid, and my money is burning a whole in my pocket.”

“Okay, but I can't stay out too late.”

“Not a problem. I'll get you back home early. So, um…what do you look like?”

They heard the slight clearing of a throat. “I'm about five-three, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

“Oh…nice. You should come by so that we can visit a little before going out.”

“If you tell me what color your house is I'll be right over.”

“My house is red, and I'm number four on my block.”

With Jim set up on a “date”, everyone got into place. Jim was in the driver's seat, the officers stationed around the lot moved into position, and Morgan hid behind the door separating the sleeping compartment from the main cab.

After checking the recording equipment Morgan focused on Jim. “Are you ready?”

“As ready as I'll ever be,” he answered. “I hope this ends soon because I gotta tell you, Morgan, it's getting depressing watching these girls walk around selling themselves, and not being able to do anything about…it kinda eats away at your soul.”

“Don't worry, Jim. It's gonna end today…I have a feeling.” She paused in thought. “There was something about her voice, it sounded strong and confident, but I think I heard something like a plea in there.”

Jim exhaled a long breath. “Women and their feelings.”

“Morgan snorted. “Really, Jim? Are you really saying that? Wasn't it just the other night that you claimed to be half a woman yourself? With hot flashes and all,” she teased.

Before Jim could say anything, a knock sounded on the side of the truck door.

Morgan, whispered into her mic. “Everybody, hold your positions.” She nodded her head, and slipped back behind the panel. Once Morgan was out of sight Jim leaned over to open the door.

When the girl stepped up into the truck, she wanted to turn and run. This man was humongous, and she wasn't sure that she could handle his appetites. But just as she was about to back out of the cab she looked out of the windshield and saw Tammy drive by. Shit, she thought, and climbed all the way in. She sat in the passenger seat and waited.

“There's no need to look so scared,” Jim reassured. “I'm not going to hurt you.”

When the girl finally looked up at the man, she saw the truth in his kind golden-colored eyes. That's when she made a decision. It was a chance she had taken before, and it had failed every time. She could only hope that this time would be different.

“Look, mister. I know you probably don't care nothing about some kid hookin', but I really need your help.”

Jim's heart rate picked up. Morgan had been right. This girl was about to say something very important. “I might surprise you. Tell me what's on your mind.”

The girl couldn't believe what she was hearing, could this be the chance she had been praying for? She quickly reined in her feelings, there was no time to be chasing around fleeting thoughts, Tammy would be driving around again…soon.

“My name is Kathy Simpson,” she said hurriedly, “and I need your help. These assholes snatched me and my friend out of the park a little more than a month ago, and they have been holding us like slaves ever since.”

When Jim didn't say anything, she talked faster. “They have been making me hook in these crappie ass lots for weeks, and I need to get away. If you drive me out of here, I'll do anything you want.” Then as an extra-added incentive she threw in. “Free of charge.”

“Did you get all of that?” Jim said out loud.

Morgan came from behind the door, startling the girl. “Yeah, I got it.” She looked at Kathy and gave her a reassuring smile. “Don't be frightened. You're safe now. “I'm Detective Sergeant McCray, and this is First Sergeant Driscoll, and we are going to take you out of here.”

Kathy couldn't believe it, this nightmare was finally over. Then the pretty detective smiled at her, and held her in a blue haze of compassion…that's when she lost it. She cried, for the first time since she had been drugged and taken from the park. She let her feelings surface, and allowed herself to experience them honestly. Everything that she had been through. Every humiliation that she had suffered was acknowledged and mourned, because now, she could let go, knowing that when the tears dried and she opened her eyes she wouldn't have to look for the strength it would take to go through it all over again…she was free.

Jim patted her on the shoulder. “It's gonna be alright, kid. We're gonna take you home.”

A fresh round of tears started. Kathy couldn't believe how wonderful those words sounded to her. I've gone insane, she decided. Strange thoughts were swirling through her mind, and she was amazed when she realized that after everything she had been through her uncle seemed fairly harmless. At least he never made her do anything, he only asked. And when she refused he left her alone until he got high enough to ask again.

Yeah, home, she liked the sound of that…she was going home.


Morgan was sitting behind her desk, tapping the end of a pencil on her ink blotter. “We've got Tammy in lock up, and the other girls are in an interrogation room. But, so far no one is telling us anything. So, it looks like it's all up to you, Kathy.”

It aggravated Morgan that the other girls were unwilling, or too afraid to talk. From what she could tell it was all a part of their training. All any of them would say was that they were doing nothing wrong, they were just out hitchhiking, and there was no law against hitchhiking. But as frustrating as that was for her to hear, Morgan knew they didn't have the time for long drawn-out interrogations, it wouldn't be just a matter of hours before the people in charge found out that everyone had been arrested, and when that happened they would disappear and setup shop somewhere else. She couldn't let that happen.

“None of the other girls will admit that they are being forced to prostitute, and Tammy refuses to answer any questions at all.” She tried to convey the seriousness of the situation. “Without your cooperation these people could walk free.”

Every face, and every action that she had seen of the last month paraded through her mind, and the thought of any of those people left to run loose, grabbing unsuspecting girls was all Kathy needed to envision, she was more than willing to cooperate.

“I'll tell you everything I know, detective.” Kathy took a deep breath and gave up the information. “From what I could tell, there is a woman in charge, her name is Angela Delmar. She's the bitch that sent Paul and Tammy out to troll the parks and beaches for girls.” Kathy stopped talking and started bouncing her leg. You got a cigarette?”

“I'm sorry, no I don't” Morgan was shocked when she realized that she really was sorry she couldn't give the girl a smoke to calm her nerves. After the things Kathy had been through, Morgan knew she needed something.

“That's okay. Anyway, this Delmar twat.” She looked up at Morgan. “Sorry, but she is.”

Morgan mentally agreed. “Go on.”

“Well, this twa…I mean, bitch.”

Okay, that's a better name. Morgan continued to silently take notes.

“She has like three houses that she sells pussy out of. I mean prostitutes.”

Morgan secretly smiled. This was the toughest, crudest, foul-mouthed kid she had ever met, but as rough around the edges as Kathy was, the girl still wanted to show respect, and that made the detective like her even more.

“Do you know where she gets the girls from? Are they all kidnapped?”

“I don't think so. Once I was with Tammy when she went to the bus station to pick up a few girls. It looked to me like they knew what they was there for.”

“Did you work in the houses, Kathy?”

She didn't answer right a way. “No, not me. I worked the truck stops, but…but Ginny did. She…um…she couldn't be trusted to leave the house. She wouldn't relax and wait for the right time. You know what I mean?”

“Ginny? Are you talking about Ginny Edwards?”

“Yeah, you know her?”

“No, but her mother has been looking for her.”

“I told her that her mom cared about her,” Kathy said in a sad voice.

“Where is she, Kathy? Where is Ginny?”

“I…I kept telling her, you know, keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, But Ginny…she's kinda one of those spoiled kids.”

This got a raised eyebrow, and it made Kathy laugh. Morgan liked the girl's laugh. It sounded carefree and innocent.

“Hey, us hardheads come in every variety, detective.”

“I can see that,” Morgan smiled back.

“Um, you know Ginny's mom is a stripper, right?”

Morgan started writing faster. “No, Miss Edwards never divulged that to me.”

“Well, she is,” Kathy shrugged her shoulders. “But, hey, it's a livin' ain't it?”

“That it is,” Morgan said without judgment. She didn't want to make Kathy feel uncomfortable or rushed, she wanted the girl to take all of the time she needed to get the whole story out.

“So, because her mom always had spare cash on her, Ginny thought that she should get whatever she asked for…you know?…spoiled.”

“Ah, I see.” Morgan said.

So when the people that took us told us what we were gonna be doing, Ginny freaked out and told them that she wasn't gonna sell her ass to nobody. Well, she shouldn't have said that. They took her to the basement and kept her there for a couple of weeks. They let her out a few days ago, and sent her out to the truck stop with me.” Here, Kathy just shook her head. “Do you know what that stupid, spoiled, little bitch did?”

“No, but feel free to tell me.”

“The first trucker she hooked up with wanted a BJ, and as soon as he got her in position…she nearly bit the tip of his dick off.”

Morgan's eyes grew wide. “You're kidding?”

“Nope. It's the truth. Ginny has a big problem with giving BJ's. Needless to say, they took her simple ass back to the basement, and I ain't seen her since.”


Kathy had given Morgan an address and directions to the house where she was held. The local police had been informed, and they would be a part of the bust. Before leaving for the house, Morgan called Shannon and asked if she could meet her at the address. “I'm sure there are a few girls there that will need the help of a social worker,” she had said to her wife, and wasn't disappointed when Shannon agreed to be there.

Chapter Twenty-One

The house was located in a fairly nice neighborhood. The streets were tree lined. The lawns were mowed, and there were even a few yards with children's toys in the driveway. Morgan just shook her head. These days people have no idea or interest in who their neighbors are, she thought. She checked her weapon and gave the signal. After today they will probably form a neighborhood watch.

When the signal came the officers that were surrounding the perimeter swarmed the premises from every direction, ensuring that no one escaped through a back exit or an open window. The front door was rammed open without warning, and a sea of law enforcement officers flooded the house, there was immediate chaos.

People were yelling, weapons were drawn, handcuffs were pulled out, and even a few suspects had to be chased down before they could jump out of a window. Screams of, get on the floor, put your hands up, or you're under arrest, filled the area. Girls crying, men cursing, and few pitiful pleas of, please don't tell my wife, wafted through the air.

And in the middle of all of the pandemonium, Morgan made her way through the kitchen, in search of the door leading down into the basement. She smiled to herself when she saw it located exactly where Kathy said it would be. She slowly opened the door, and flipped the light switch, illuminating the stairs. Cautiously she made her way down, stopping every few steps to listen, and when she was certain there was no one waiting to ambush her, she moved more swiftly toward the room across the concrete floor.

She stood and looked at the out of place room that was no more than an eight-by-eight area where someone had erected four walls and a door. She stared at the enclosure for a moment before walking around it to see if there was another way in. There were no other doors or windows, just a couple of small air vents high on the sides. Morgan returned to the closed door and tried turning the knob, it wouldn't budge, obviously locked. She put her ear to the door.

“Is anyone in there?”

She wasn't positive, but she thought she heard a whimper.

“I…I can hear you. If you can hear me, I am Detective Sergeant McCray, and we've come to rescue you.”

Morgan was sure this time, someone was on the other side, and it sounded like they were crying. She looked around the area for something she could use to open the door, but all she could find was a hammer. She turned the tool over in her hands, observing the claw on one end, and the round tip on the other. She thought maybe she could pound the wood until it began to splinter enough for her to slip her hand in and unlock the door, then she remembered the hinges and started working on knocking out the pins.

When the back end of the door was free she kicked the edges until it was hanging open from the wrong end. As the air began to circulate through the wide opening she was met by a stench that was a mixture of vomit, waste and blood. The room was still dark so she felt around the wall for a light switch, but didn't feel one. So she moved further in and waved her hand through the air until she felt a string hit her on the wrist. She pulled, and the room came aglow. And almost immediately she wished it hadn't.

Lying on the bed, tied face down was the body of a girl. Morgan felt ill when she saw that the girl was naked, gagged, and whipped. Her back was covered with bloody stripes, some dried over, others still oozing.

“Jesus,” she hissed.

The girl began to twist and turn, trying to get free. Morgan was thrilled to see that she was closer to life than death, and quickly set about freeing her.


When Morgan got the girl untied and found a blanket to wrap her in, she led, who she had discovered was Ginny Edwards, up the stairs. The atmosphere was now much calmer, people had been subdued, rights were being read, and names were being recorded. In the midst of this sat Angela Delmar. As Morgan made her way across the room someone pointed out to her who the woman was, and it pissed the detective off that she was sitting quietly in a wing backed chair looking like everything that was going on around her didn't involve her.

She felt the top of her head begin to steam, and she handed Ginny off to one of the paramedics before heading in the woman's direction. But before she could reach her target a firm hand grabbed her by the arm, stopping her progress. She was about to pull away and rip the offender a new one until she saw who it was.

“You need to put that fire out, love,” Shannon whispered to her in a soothing voice.

The tension drained so quickly from Morgan's body, she felt weak in the knees. “When did you get here?” she asked as she pulled her spouse in for much needed contact.

“About half an hour ago. I had decided that if I didn't see you soon I was going to form a search party.”

“Well, there's no need for that now.” She looked over at the house madam and started to grit her teeth. “Look at her, sitting there all innocent like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.”

“She's most likely a sociopath, sweetheart. Whether the butter would melt or not would mean nothing to her.”

“I'm gonna talk to her.” Once again, Morgan headed in the woman's direction.

“I'm coming with you,” Shannon said, close on her heels.


They were in the same room Morgan had just pulled Ginny out of. With the door now fully off of the hinges the room smelled better, but not by much, but it was the most private space in the house right now, and Morgan wanted to talk to this abomination alone.

All three women were silent for long moments, Morgan just staring at the woman that was sitting on the stained bed, acting unaffected by the smell or condition of the room. She couldn't have been any taller than Shannon, with dark hair and even darker eyes. She looked to be in her late thirties, and by all accounts, very normal. At least that's what Morgan thought, until she began to question her.

“Are you Angela Delmar?”

The woman said nothing.

“Okay, let's try this a different way. “I know you're Angela Delmar.”

The woman shrugged her shoulders in an arrogant manner.

This motion ignited Morgan's temper again. “Are you the sadist that beat that girl like she was a farm animal?”

“To my knowledge no one here has ever been mistreated,” Angela demurred.

“Yeah, you run a nice little home for runaway girls,” Morgan stated sarcastically.


The offhanded way that the woman answered sparked Morgan's already short fuse. “I'm not gonna waste my time by trying to get you to tell me the truth, I know it would be a useless effort, but I'll tell you this. You're gonna pay for everything you've done to these girls. It's gonna be my personal mission to see that you do the maximum time.”

Dark eyes swiveled up, and Morgan wanted to take a step back from the darkness that bore into her, but she held herself steady. Then Angela Delmar said something totally unexpected.

“I saw the way you greeted the blonde woman. I think you love her very much.” She turned to Shannon. “And I think others would love you too. How would you like to work for me?”

Shannon was shocked. Is this woman saying what I think she is saying? Was that really a job offer?

“You could make a lot of money. A fair-haired beauty like you could set her own price.” A sinister smile broke across her face. “You're a little older than my clients usually request, but with that nice round ass and those sweet rosy lips, you could bring in…”

Her words stopped abruptly as a gun was forcefully pressed into her forehead. “You don't talk to her. You don't even look at her, and if you say another word to her I'll splatter your brains all over the walls.”

“Ah, now we see why you chose this secluded location for your questioning. How very…street of you, detective.”

“You don't know me, lady.”

“And you don't know me. I was only offering her a job as a freelance youth counselor,” Angela said as if a gun wasn't being pointed at her head.

“Liar,” Morgan accused.

“Thug,” was the return.

Shannon could see that this situation was quickly deteriorating, and soon it would be out of her control. “Put the gun down, baby,” Shannon said with a nervous shake to her voice. It was plain to see…Morgan was on the edge.

“No. I can't,” Morgan responded, her voice just as unsteady as her mate's, but for a whole different reason.

“Yes you can.”

Blue eyes never strayed from their target. “Then let me rephrase that. I won't.”

“You can't do this, love. You can't play god.”

The gun was moved to a better position. “Why?! Why can't I, Shannon? People like this play god everyday. They ruin lives without a second thought. Why can't I give her a taste of her own medicine?”

“Because you're better than that.”

The gun began to shake with Morgan's effort not to give in to the calling. She wanted to pull the trigger and erase the smug look off of this arrogant woman's face. Heart wrenching faces started floating through her vision. All of the young girls at the truck stop, Kathy, trying to stay strong, Ginny Edwards, beaten bloody for resisting. It was a horrible picture show, and she wanted it to end.

“I am so tired of people like this being arrested, just to have some scumbag lawyer put them back on the streets. I am so tired of watching the dirty money buy these people's freedom. I am so tired of feeling helpless, only able to stand on the sidelines and do nothing while young women are losing their lives and their freedom because of people like this.” Sad eyes tracked to her spouse. “I'm so tired, Shannon.”

The short woman moved closer and put her hand over the gun. “I know, love. But this isn't the way to fix it.”

Morgan's dark head bowed and the gun dropped to her side. “I know you're right, but it's hard to be this close to evil and not wipe it from the earth.”

She shook her head back and fourth. My father's genes must be running strong, she mentally chided herself. This makes twice in less than a week that I've shoved my gun in someone's face. I swear, cold case was never like this. I don't think I've ever had to pull my weapon since I've been in the unit…not once.

Exhaling to pull her emotions together, she still couldn't stop herself from yanking Angela Delmar from her seat. “You're lucky she was here,” Morgan gritted out.

The woman was about to deliver some smart aleck retort, but changed her mind. Waving a red flag in front of a charging bull wouldn't be a wise or healthy maneuver.


Morgan stood near the parked cars and watched her partner talk to the battered Ginny Edwards. Soothing her in the same manner a wrangler would a wild horse, with gentle pats, and soft words. A cotton gown had replaced the old blanket, but the worn cover was still draped over her shoulders like a cape.

After a while, a fast approaching red car stopped at the curb near the social worker, and since Morgan didn't know what kind of a maniac would be brazen enough to recklessly speed onto a crime location, she swiftly moved forward, knowing that she didn't want the person anywhere near Shannon.

But when she saw Heidi Edwards jump out of the car and run to her daughter, she slowed her steps, giving mother and daughter the opportunity to reunite without judicial interference.

When the stunned mother pulled her daughter to her and held her tight, rocking her back and forth, Shannon wiped her eyes as she stood off to the side witnessing the tearful reunion. But the link was broken when Heidi Edwards saw Morgan approaching. She released her daughter and flung herself into the tall detective's arms.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew you would find her,” the young mother said with gratitude.

“You're welcome, Miss Edwards, but I didn't do it alone,” Morgan reminded her as she gently pulled out of the woman's grasp.

“As far as I'm concerned you did. Please, let me cook something for you, as a way to say thank you,” Heidi begged as she stepped closer.

Shannon stood silently listening, and watching the woman's actions, and was quickly reminded of who this woman was.

“You've already thanked me, Miss Edwards. Nothing more is necessary.”

“Stop with the Miss Edwards shit, call me Heidi. At least let me buy you dinner.”

They were now almost breathing the same air, the woman was so close.

“I've told you, Miss Edwards, I'm married.” Was this woman really trying to rope her into a date at a time like this?

“Hell, we all know what the little woman doesn't know won't hurt her,” Heidi pushed.

It was the sound of the short blonde behind them, clearing her throat that got Heidi's attention. “Yes?” she asked, annoyed by the interruption.

Shannon extended her hand. “Let me introduce myself. I'm the little woman.”

Heidi's hand instantly went limp in Shannon's firm hold. Then her head began to whip back and forth between the tall brunette and the short blonde, then the photograph on the detective's desk presented itself to her memory.

“Oh, shit.”

Shannon smiled sweetly, remaining professional. “Everything is fine,” she said, maintaining her composure. Then she leaned in close so that the traumatized girl wouldn't hear the exchange that was about to take place. “But if you continue to hit on my wife I won't be responsible for my actions.” She squeezed the hand she held just a bit tighter. “Do we understand one another, Miss Edwards?”

Heidi pulled away and was held in place by unflinching green eyes that left no room for games. This one doesn't share. “Um…yeah. I understand you perfectly…Mrs. McCray.”

“Good. Now go over there and help your daughter. She needs you more than you need a date.”

Morgan had quietly watched the intense exchange, and confessed that it was taking all of her self-discipline not to laugh at the scene unfolding in front of her. Heidi Edwards stood a good three inches taller than her wife, but when it came to Morgan, the little social worker loomed like a giant. She smiled as her spouse came over and joined her. “I thought women flirting with me didn't bother you.”

“It doesn't,” Shannon said, hooking her arm through her lover's. “But when it's done in my face I'm obligated to mark my territory.”

The couple walked away, toward their cars. “So, I'm your territory?”

“Every beautiful inch of you.”

Morgan leaned down and kissed her wife softly on the lips. “Ditto.”

Heidi Edwards held her daughter in her arms, thankful beyond words that she was going to be okay, but as she watched the devoted couple walk away, arm in arm, the emptiness that had always been her constant companion expanded just a few more inches.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Eight men were seated around a large mahogany table, looking like something out of the godfather movie, but this was no cinematic reenactment. This was real. A woman's houses had been seized, people had been taken into custody, and sooner or later someone was going to talk.

“You got any information for us, Michael?”

“Nah, I thought I had a plan, Frank, but that fell through. We'll have to think of something else.”

“We? You promised you'd take care of this. Angela Delmar wasn't a part of our network, but her people are known to us.”

“I will take care of this, Frank. Stop worrying. I've got an inside track on things.”

“That's what you said before, but you didn't get a heads-up on that big bust. Your daughter didn't tell you anything at all. I don't like where this might lead, Mike. She might get curious and turn her attention to the harbor, and if she does that we are fucked.”

“Something needs to be done,” a stumpy, dark-haired man said.

“Something like what?” Michael asked in a dangerous tone.

“I don't know,” the man shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe somebody other than you needs to pay your daughter a visit.”

“Somebody with more of an iron fist,” someone else added.

Michael didn't like where this was going. All it took was for one of these rock-apes to think he could get a rep by roughing up Morgan, and it could become open season on her. But that wasn't a line he was going to allow them to cross. Before anyone could give a yea or neigh, the option was taken off of the table when a solid fist slammed down on the table.

“If any one of you goes anywhere near my kid I'll kill you.” His blue eyes blazed around the table. “We understand each other? This is my operation, and I will decide how it's handled.”

Several okay, calm downs were heard around the room. These men knew Michael McCray's temper and had no desire to poke at it, but Frank wanted to make one point very clear.

“We ain't gonna touch your kid, Mike. You're right, this is your operation, but we have an interest in this business too. If you go down because of family loyalties to a kid that despises you, you'd better make damn sure you don't take us down with you. We understand each other?”

Michael knew the point had to be respected. “Yeah, Frank. We understand each other.”

When nothing more was said, Philip and Kevin leaned over to give the three of them a little privacy, and whispered harsh words to their father.

“I ain't going down for some shit Morgan might get into,” Kevin gritted out.

“Me either,” Philip added.

“Then what do you two geniuses think we should do? She don't know what we're doing, so she ain't no threat. Hell, she ain't even lookin' at us.”

“Not yet,” Philip said.

“I say let them have her,” Kevin finally said what was on both of the boys minds.

Michael's eyes came to life again, not sparing his sons any of the heat he had just showed the other men at the table.

“I'm gonna tell you two idiots the same thing I just told them,” he said pointing outwards. “If something happens to her and I find out that you had anything to do with it I'll cut your nuts off.” He looked back and forth between his sons, the hardness in his eyes conveying the truth of his words. “Do we understand one another?”

Both Kevin and Philip squeezed their legs together at the thought of their father carrying out his threat. “Okay, okay,” Philip said.

“I hope you know what you're doing, dad, ‘cause if Morgan decides to go hunting in the woods the most lucrative part of our business is gonna be in jeopardy, not to mention our freedom,” Kevin warned.

Michael almost laughed out loud. “Who the fuck taught you a ten-dollar word like, lucrative?”

Kevin rolled his eyes. “I'm serious, dad, save the insults for later.”

Michael looked around the table and saw that the other men were waiting for the private conversation to end, so he waved his sons off, ready to get back to business. “Don't you girls get your panties in a twist, I'll handle everything.”

Michael decided it was time to move on with his day, pushing the problems that Angela Delmar's arrest might cause to the back of his mind. He returned his attention to the other men at the table, and started the meeting.

“Johnny, what's happening with the girls we're shipping up north?”

“Just got a new batch in last night. My guys snatched them up skipping school in Georgia. Told them they were looking for models or some such shit. After we get done with the training I'm taking them to the harbor and putting them on a boat.”

“Have you talked to our New Jersey contact?”

“Yeah, he's got a buyer lined up over seas who is willing to pay big bucks ‘cause they're young and blonde.”

“Good to hear. Mel, tell me about the car I saw in the shop this morning…”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Shannon picked up her briefcase and was headed for the front door. “Brian, if you want a ride over to Jim and Maureen's you'd better get a move on!”

The young man came rushing out of his room, tucking his shirt into his pants. “Stop yelling, I'm ready.”

Shannon just rolled her eyes, and opened the door.

“Hey, Shannon, you think we could stop and get something to eat on our way?”

“Aren't you about to eat breakfast with Jim?”

“Yeah, but I need a first layer.”

Shannon shook her head. “My brother, the bottomless pit.”


Jim dipped the tip of his toast in the runny egg yolk before taking a bite with a strip of bacon, and sipped his hot coffee, all while staring at Brian shovel fork full after fork full of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns in his mouth.

“When was the last time you ate something?” Jim asked.

The fork stopped midair as Brian thought about the question. “Shannon took me to Duncan Donuts on the way over here. Does two crullers and a small orange juice count as eating?”

Jim just shook his head. “Yep, that counts.”

Brian went back to eating, and Jim continued to stare. Brian had filled out a little since the last time Jim had seen him. The short-sleeved shirt he was wearing revealed a couple of inches added to his biceps. He could tell the young officer hadn't bother to shave that morning, because he could see the beginnings of a shadow growing along his jaw line. With his head down, Jim could see the deep waves in his short hair, and for some reason it caused him to remembered the day he tried to keep Brian still so that he could gave him a haircut.

“I don't want my hair cut short, Jim,” the little boy whined. “I like it the way it is.”


Jim rested his large hands on his hips and looked down at the seated boy. “Don't you want to look sharp?”


Curious brown eyes looked up at the surrogate father. “What's sharp?”


“You know, clean-cut, short hair, clean crisp suit, shinned shoes…a look a man can be proud of.”


The boy thought for a moment, then changed his mind. “Okay, I wanna look sharp.”


Jim smiled and pulled out the scissors so he could remove the large brown curls before giving Brian a trim. “Now hold still, I don't want to cut off an ear.”


The sound of Jim's quiet chuckle got Brian's attention. “What's so funny?” he asked while chewing.

“Oh, I was just remember a little boy that didn't want a haircut.”

Brown eyes rolled. “Man, I was so stubborn back then.”

“And look at you now, an Air Force Lieutenant looking…sharp.”

Brian held Jim's eyes. No words passed between them, none were necessary. The love they had for one another flowed easily between them, bonding them closer as father and son.

Jim cleared his throat to break the mood. “So, have you and Shannon decided when you're gonna go looking for your folks?”

Brain drained his coffee cup and leaned back, patting his full belly. “Shannon wants to go by the old house day after tomorrow.”

“How you feeling about that.”

“O…okay I guess. I mean it was my idea.”

“That doesn't mean you can't be a little…” Jim wanted to be careful here. “scared.”

Brian smiled inwardly. Jim could always read his moods. “Well, maybe just a little,” he said, holding up his thumb and index finger to indicate distance.

“You know whatever happens, good or bad, I'm here for you, right?”

Brian gave a small crooked smile. “Yeah, I know.”

“Good, now, since it's my day off how about you help me out in the garage?”

Brian stood and rinsed their dirty plates off in the sink before putting them in the dishwasher. “You still working on that old truck?”

Jim was already walking toward the door that led to the garage. “Hey, the nineteen fifty-five Ford F-one hundred is a classic machine, I'm gonna be buried with it.”

Brian followed him out of the kitchen. “I'm sure Maureen will be pleased,” he said as he closed the door behind them.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Shannon had invited Vicky over for game night, and the four adults were in the middle of the longest game of monopoly ever played.

Vicky rolled the dice and landed on New Jersey Avenue, immediately annoyed that she had to pay Brian rent. She counted out the money and handed it over to the way too thrilled man.

“Why are we even playing this game? It's so…it's so…retro. I feel like it's nineteen ninety-four and I'm sitting at my parent's dinning room table watching them high-five each other because my dad was able to buy Park Place and Boardwalk before one us kids could.”

“Stop complaining, Vicky. It's Brian's turn,” Shannon said, waving her hand at her brother, encouraging him to roll. “Besides, it's family game night and this is what we do.”

Brian rolled the dice and moved his racecar seven spaces, landing on chance. As he read the card Vicky looked at the other women at the table. Morgan and Shannon were sitting beside each other, and they seemed to be in constant contact. A thigh rub here, an arm squeeze there, and even the occasional peck on the lips. Seeing how much in love they were, and Shannon bringing up family game night caused Vicky to wonder out loud about why the couple hadn't started a family. With her elbow propped on the table, and her chin resting in her palm she blurted it out.

“Why don't you two have any children yet?”

The question was so foreign and unexpected that even Brian stopped what he was doing to look at the redhead.

“What?” Shannon asked as if she didn't understand the straightforward question.

“You heard me. How come the big bad police detective hasn't knocked you up yet?” she asked her college friend.

Morgan almost choked on her drink. “What the hell, Vicky?”

Shannon patted her spouse on the back and laughed. “Believe me, Vicky. If she could do it the old fashioned way we would have a houseful by now, but since that's not the case, children are something that have to be planned out.”

“Ten years isn't a long enough time to plan a baby?”

Shannon was really giving it some thought now. Why hadn't they talked about having a baby? Sure, they had entertained the thought when they first got together, but that was mostly new love talking. Everybody wants to procreate when they first fall in love, but it wasn't something they had discussed for quite a few years.

“I…I don't know why we haven't,” she finally said.

Vicky turned to Morgan. “What about you, blue eyes? Don't you wanna be a daddy?”

The laugh that erupted was sudden and full. “You are a dumb-ass,” Morgan said once she stopped chuckling.

“Maybe I am, but you guys should really think about it…I think the two of you would be great parents.”

“Me too,” Brain chipped in. “I mean, look at me. The two of you did a great job taking care of me.”

Vicky tilted her head in Brian's direction. “If I were you I'd listen to the kid. Look at him, he's not broken, and there's not a crack on him anywhere,” then she wiggled her brows. “well, except…”

Brian wrinkled his nose. “You are gross, Vicky. Stay out of my pants.”

The redhead waved him off. “Anyway, as I was saying. He has all of his limbs, and he actually got a college degree. That's more than a lot of parents can get done.”

Shannon shrugged her shoulders and looked thoughtful. “Considering who raised me, I'm not sure of what kind of mother I would be…” Shannon trailed off and stopped talking.

“Hey,” Vicky said, getting her attention. “Don't let those dipsticks ruin your chance to experience being a parent.”

Shannon began twirling a strand of her hair. “Maybe I'm just feeling this way because we're going to see them tomorrow.”

Vicky snapped her finger. “That's right, tomorrow is the big day. Are you really going to go to that house?” she asked with doubt.

Brian looked a bit uneasy. Although Shannon had agreed to go, it still made his insides jump when someone brought up the impending visit.

“That's the plan,” she said, winking at Brian, hoping to calm his nerves.

Vicky looked in Morgan's direction. “Are you going with her?”

“She doesn't want me to,” was said with a pout.

“Don't be that way, sweetheart,” Shannon soothed. “We don't even know if they still live there, besides, haven't you had enough of parents for one week?”

That made Morgan blush. “You have a point there.”

“And that point would be?” Vicky was curious.

Shannon looked at Morgan for confirmation. The only thing Vicky knew about Morgan's family was that they owned a few businesses around town, and she didn't talk to them. The redhead didn't know why and had never asked. When the dark head nodded approval, Shannon answered her friend. “Recently, Morgan went to see her father.”

Russet brows rose with interest. “Ah…the infamous Michael McCray. How's the handsome devil doing these days?” Vicky inquired.

Morgan could feel the laughter bubbling up again. Vicky had always been good with injecting humor into a situation. That was one of the reasons she liked her, her ability to make Shannon smile had endeared her to the tall woman years ago.

“You've met my dad?”

“Nope, but like most of the people in the area I know of him. I mean, who among us hasn't gone to buy chicken at M & M's drive-in and seen him there?”

“Me,” Morgan said.

Vicky rolled her eyes. “Other than you. But I must admit, Morgan, the man fries a hell of a bird.”

This made the entire table laugh, giving Vicky the opportunity to ask a couple of questions that she had been curious about.

“Morgan, are your grandparents still living?”

In a split second Morgan had to decide how she wanted this conversation to go. Would she cut Vicky short and risk possibly hurting her feelings, or would she simply answer her question and avoid any friction developing between them? She chose the latter.

“I was told that my mom's dad died when I was eight, and mysteriously, my grandmother died a couple of years later. I guess she missed him and lost her will to live,” Morgan said with wonder. “But I really wouldn't know. After my mom left we never saw that side of the family.”

“What about your dad's parents?” Vicky figured while she had Morgan talking she might as well find out everything that she could about the extremely private woman.

Morgan's eyes looked sad. “My dad's parents died in a house fire when he was thirteen.”

“That must have been awful for him.”

“It was, he was an only child, and was left alone.”

“There were no relatives he could go to?”

Morgan shrugged her shoulders. “There might have been, but my dad wasn't interested in staying with relatives, or being turned over to the state. Right after the funeral he set out on his own.”

This shocked Vicky. “Seriously? A thirteen year-old kid took care of himself?”

Morgan's sight turned inward, and she spoke, as if to herself. “He started out begging for coins. That kept him fed. Then when the need for clothes and shoes became an issue, he moved on to offering services for money. Things like, mowing lawns, trash removal, or painting. You name it, any kind of manual labor, he was willing to do it. But no matter how much work he did, he still had to sleep on the beach, or under the boardwalk. No one was paying him what his hard work was worth, so his moneymaking endeavors began to drift toward the easy money. He used to say, trying to find warmth in a snowstorm will motivate a person to do things he never thought he would in order to find shelter. He started out stealing car radios for some guy up in Baltimore, those little jobs made him enough money to rent cheap hotel rooms. Then he moved on to stealing the cars, that's when the real money started rolling in and he could finally afford a decent place of his own. When he got older he stopped working for other people, and started stealing for himself.”

The story wasn't what Vicky had expected to hear. She thought Michael McCray's story would be one about how the underdog persevered through the hard times and came out on the other side a winner. But this story's outcome was very different from the sappy little ending she had envisioned.

“And now he's an entrepreneur with several businesses under his belt.” Vicky said in an odd far-off voice.

Morgan looked at the woman for a couple of beats. “That's true. He is very successful. But there is something you should always keep in mind, Vicky. You can take the man out of the streets, but you can't take the streets out of the man. Everything isn't always as it seems.”

She knew there was a message she was missing, but Vicky didn't want to decipher it. Like most of the people in town, she had no clue as to Michael McCray's secret dealings. To her he looked like a man that had pulled himself up by his bootstraps and became a successful businessman. And that's all she wanted to know. After what she had just been told she didn't want to delve any deeper into that pool. Somehow it didn't feel very safe to do so.

Morgan, in her silence, was dealing with opposing feelings. She felt pride for the kid, barely into his teens that had found his own way, but was equally disappointed in the man that could not let the larcenous side of his life go and be satisfied with making the businesses he had established legitimate.

Feeling like the silence was going to go on indefinitely, Brain cleared his throat. “Um, Shannon, it's your turn.”

As if she were waking from a dream, the social worker picked up the dice and rolled. Although she knew Michael McCray's history, hearing it again, the night before she would go looking for her own parents, filled her with a sense of foreboding.

God, I hope tomorrow goes well.

Chapter Twenty-Five

In the early morning hours the two women laid in each other's arms, bring in the new day with quiet conversation.

“Maybe going to see them might finally exorcise your demons, Shannon, and the nightmares can stop.”

“You may be right, I never thought of that.”

Morgan gently ran her hands through golden strands, stopping every few inches to massage Shannon's scalp. “When you think about it, you were a fourteen year-old kid the last time you saw them. You were powerless and had no voice, but now…”

Shannon cut her off with a tender finger to the lips. “Now I'm an adult, confident, self-assured, and a lot stronger than I was back then.”

Morgan's eyes filled with love. “And just to add to your list of accomplishments, you're a college graduate, a well-respected social worker, and the most loving person I know…you're my hero, Shannon.”

The tears that tracked down Shannon's cheeks made her feel silly, especially considering the resume of strengths and achievements that had just been recited, but Morgan calling her a hero was the biggest accomplishment of them all. This woman who stood up to the bad guys, put herself out there for the public's safety. This woman who would stand between her and any foe, accept any challenge to keep her safe, even take a bullet for her. If this woman thought she was a hero, she knew she could never receive a higher compliment.

“You make me feel like I can do anything,” she whispered.

Morgan kissed her softly, then held her gaze, conveying a message of power. “You can.”

Shannon knew, that look and those words was the shield she would carry with her when she visited her childhood home.


Shannon couldn't believe she was on the porch of the home she had not seen since the day paramedics wheeled her out of it fourteen years before. Not much had changed. The front yard was still nothing more than several square feet of dry dirt, and the screen door still had the same hole in the bottom left corner that had been put there when her foot went through it when she was eight.

Standing there, she hated to admit what she was feeling. In fact, she despised the emotions for their uninvited intrusion. But she became awash with memories from her childhood, and not all of them were bad. Like the day her parents brought Brian home from the hospital. She was standing on this porch, excitedly jumping up and down as they brought the tiny bundle up the stairs, or the old two-wheeler her father had found somewhere and given to her. The days she had spent riding it up and down the cracked sidewalk were filled with fantasies of far-off places and mythical lands.

But that had been a very long time ago. As she got older, things became more violent in her life, and the small amount of peace that had existed was gone. Shaking her head to clear it of the past, Shannon mumbled just before knocking on the door. “What the hell am I doing?”

When the knock ended, almost immediately a woman's voice was heard on the other side.

“Dave, hurry up and answer the door. That kid is back with the beer.”

Shannon looked at Brian and shook her head. “This is gonna be bad,” she whispered.


When the door opened, Shannon and her father just stared at each other for several minutes. The daughter trying to find her father in the rail-thin, balding man that reeked of cigarettes, and the father trying to figure out who the beautiful blonde was on his porch. Then their eyes met and held, and when he saw the nervous shifting of the green orbs the pieces began to fall into place.

“Well, I'll be damned,” he said with a bit of a slur.

“What's taking so long, Dave?”

Audrey stepped up beside her husband and almost fell over. Unlike Dave, she knew immediately who the visitors were. They were older…a lot older, but these were her kids. And even if she hadn't recognized them right away she would have known Shannon anywhere. Her daughter was looking at her with those same accusatory green eyes.

“Well look at what the cat dragged in,” she practically snarled.

This made Dave snort with laughter. “You're a card, Audrey.”

The disheveled woman looked the visitors up and down, making Shannon think she was trying to decide whether or not she should invite them in, or order them off of the porch. Finally she begrudgingly asked them in.

“Well don't just stand there,” she said reluctantly. “Come on it.”

As soon as they crossed the threshold Shannon was assaulted with familiar sights and smells. She couldn't believe her eyes…or her nose. The place hadn't changed a bit.

The air was still stale from nicotine and alcohol. Bottles, cans and debris were littered around the room, and the same tattered furniture, and stained curtains still decorated the living room. When the siblings took a seat on the sofa it took every ounce of their good manners not to wipe off the fabric before it came into contact with their clothes.

Before any words could be passed a second knock was heard. Dave went to the door again, and this time returned with a twelve pack of the cheapest beer on the shelf. He handed one to Audrey, then popped one open for himself.

“You want one?” he asked his children.

They both shook their head, “no”.

After a few sips, Dave looked at his son and took in the crisp uniform, the ribbons across his chest, and the bars on his shoulders. “What are you? Some kind of soldier or something?”

“Um…ah…yes, sir. I'm in the air force.”

Dave took another big swig of his beer, then burped. “If you ask me, they're a bunch of pansy-asses.”

Nobody asked you, Brian thought.

“Everybody knows that real men join the marines.”

Brian mentally rolled his eyes. This coming from a man that never served a day in any branch of the military.

He looked over at his daughter. “What about you? What do you do?”

“I work for the department of social services,” Shannon answered without hesitation.

This seemed to pique Audrey's interest, and she leaned forward a little. “You got anything to do with the welfare office? ‘Cause if you do my benefits…”

Shannon cut her off before she could finish. “No, I'm a social worker with child services.”

“Oh,” Audrey said with just a hint of contempt in her voice.

Feeling a little judged? Shannon wondered.

No one said anything for a few long minutes as Dave and Audrey downed another beer. They were feeling really put out that their precious drinking time was being intruded upon, but they would try to make the best of it. After all, their guest couldn't stay too much longer…could they?

“So…you stationed over at Andrews?” Dave asked his son.

“No, sir. I'm stationed at the Misawa Air Base in Japan.”

The way the answer was given. The pride that could be heard in the words, even the way the young man's back straightened as he passed on the information, all combined together in his mind, causing Dave Reynolds to become irritated.

“Don't, sir, me you puffed up little ass-wipe. Just ‘cause you're wearing shiny shoes, dressed in a decorated monkey suit, and got a government sponsored trip out of the country don't make you better than me.”

“I never thought it did,” Brain said, not understanding where the anger was coming from. How come our parents aren't proud of us? he wondered.

Shannon was sadden, but not surprised that their parents were still the exact same people they were fourteen years before. As far as she was concerned, the sooner this visit was over the better, there was nothing here for her…there never was.

Audrey didn't miss the judgment that had settled in her daughter's eyes, and it raised her hackles. She didn't need this. No one had invited the girl here. Who was she to come into her house and try to make her feel bad?

“What did you come here for?” Audrey asked. “What do you want from us?”

Shannon just stared at the woman who had given her life, and something turned over in her. Something that left her numb in that place where mothers lived. “Nothing, we don't want anything. Brian just wanted to come and see you.”

“And what about you?” Audrey asked her daughter. “Did you want to see us?” When she didn't receive an answer she turned to her son. “I have her answer, so what about you? Why are you here?” she questioned the young man.

Brian was flustered. This isn't at all how he had expected the reunion to be. He knew there wasn't going to be a big celebration, or endless rounds of hugs and kisses welcoming them home, but he did expect his parents to show some level of joy at seeing them again.

“D…don't you even care that we're here?” Brian asked in an unbelieving voice.

When no answer came, Shannon stood to leave. “Come on, Brian. It was a mistake coming here.”

It seemed like the condescending tone in Shannon's voice woke something up in Dave, some deep down need that had long gone unsatisfied. “Did you bring your haughty ass in here to rub our faces in your fancy lives? ‘Cause if you did, we ain't impressed.”

“No, we came because we thought that maybe the two of you had changed, but I see that was a ridiculous thought,” Shannon challenged.

Dave's eyes narrowed. “You calling me stupid, little girl?”

The look on his face, and the danger in his voice made Shannon's insides quiver, but she refused to show any fear to this bully.

“No, I'm not calling you anything.” She looked down at his scuffed-up shoes with the turned over heels, and wondered why he had taken so much pleasure in kicking her as a child. There were times when he had used his fists, but his method of abuse always returned to kicking. She held her head high, and for the first time in her life looked him in the eyes without fear. “Why, dad? Why did you treat me the way you did?”

For a fleeting instant, Shannon thought she saw a veil of shame pass over her father's coarse features, then it was gone.

Dave shrugged his shoulders with indifference. “All children need to be disciplined.”

“You call what you did to me discipline? Are you insane?”

Dave stood up and took a threatening step forward. “You back to calling me stupid again?”

Shannon didn't move. She stood her ground, and stared her abuser down. “You bastard,” she said in a strangled whisper. “You have no regrets, do you?”

“Regrets for what?” the man sneered.

Brain moved closer to his sister. If their father made a move to put his hands on her, the man would be met with resistance, no longer would he be the frightened little boy in the corner.

“For everything you did to me,” Shannon accused.

Dave looked his daughter over and sucked on his stained teeth. “Looks to me like you did okay for yourself. Maybe you should be thanking me instead of accusing me.” He looked over at his wife. “What's that old saying, Audrey? Something about adversity and building character?”

“Yeah, that's it, Dave,” was Audrey's tipsy response.

“You can't be serious.” Shannon was amazed by these people. She turned to her mother. “Didn't you ever wonder what happened to us?”

“We knew the state had you,” Audrey said in a way that made the listener think she thought her response made perfect sense.

Shannon felt like she was losing her mind. “That was okay with you?!”

“Hey, they got more money than we do. Besides if they was gonna come running in here every time you had a bump or bruise, it was probably best that they took responsibility for you,” Audrey informed her daughter.

Shannon looked at the stranger that had given birth to her, and asked the question that she had always wanted answered.

“Why didn't you ever help me?”

Audrey looked truly confused. “Help you? Help you do what?”

“Why didn't you stop him from kicking the shit out me?!” Shannon stated with disbelief.

“It was his right as your father to make you obey in what ever way he thought was best.” The answer was given in a “that is the dumbest question I've ever heard” tone.

The numb feeling inside of Shannon went cold. “You are a disgrace to the word “mother”. You shame every woman that has ever sacrificed herself to protect her children,” the corner of Shannon's lip twitched with loathing. “If being a mother means so little to you, why did you even have children?”

The question made Dave laugh so hard he fell back into his chair. “We was too drunk to prevent it,” he said between cackles.

Audrey joined her husband, the laughter seemed to be contagious. “Yeah, Dave, when you was ready, you was ready.”

“Don't put it all on me, you wasn't no nun.”

Audrey's laugh got even louder. “Maybe that's what I should have said to you. You ain't getting none.”

The play on words made the older couple laugh so hard they were doubled over, and tears were running down their faces.

Brian and Shannon just looked at each other. “We're in the twilight zone,” Shannon said, bewildered.

“I am so sorry I asked you to do this,” Brian apologized.

Shannon reassured her brother. “Don't be sorry. I think I needed this.” She pointed to their inebriated parents. “Look at them. I can't believe that is what has been giving me nightmares…they're nothing more than two pathetic drunks.”

Unfortunately, those were the words that pierced through the drunken giggles, and Dave was furious. He jumped out of his chair and headed for Shannon, hand raised and fist balled. “I'll teach you to disrespect me in my own house, you stuck-up little bitch!”

He was about to bring his arm down, aiming for the young woman's jaw, when his strike was stopped mid-arc. Unfocused, confused eyes tracked down to his wrist, then followed the path of the hand that held him until he met furious brown eyes.

“If you touch my sister I'll break this,” Brian promised.

Dave Reynolds was taller than his son, but he was in far worse shape. Years of drinking, smoking, and doing nothing more physical than lifting his hand to his mouth had left him soft. Where, on the other hand, Brian was young, strong, fit, and ready to protect the one that had always protected him.

“You threatening me, boy?” Dave tried to be intimidating.

Brian squeezed his father's wrist a bit tighter, just for emphases. “No, I'm not threatening you, I'm promising you. If you ever hurt her again you will answer to me.”

Dave twisted his arm away and shot daggers at his son. “So, you man enough to be making promises now?”

Brian didn't flinch. “Yes, I am.”

“Yes, I am,” Dave mimicked in a nasal voice.

Audrey stood on wobbly legs and got between her husband and her son. “Don't waste your time fighting with him, Dave. He'll just end up calling the law on you again. It ain't worth it.”

Brian turned his focus on his mother, amazed by the detached way she mentioned the last day they had spent in this house. “Shannon was lying unconscious on the floor. What did you expect me to do?”

“I expected you to sit still and wait for her to wake up. She always woke up…given enough time.”

The young man was having trouble comprehending the person in front of him. “What kind of woman are you?! With him it was just a matter of biology, he supplied the genetic material that helped create us, so you could almost make an argument for his detachment,” Brian said, pointing to his father. “But, you. You carried us for nine months. It was your body that gave us nourishment and shelter. It was your life force that kept us alive until we could survive on our own. For a short time we were practically one being. That's why I don't understand how can you feel nothing when you look at us,” he practically screamed.

Audrey chose to ignore her son's outburst, he was inconsequential…always had been. Instead she turned her focus on Shannon, figuring her to be the instigator in the accusations. Her eyes became slits and a feral sneer tugged at her mouth. She had to have put the boy up to this. He would never have the balls to confront us like this on his own, she thought.

“Do you have any children, Miss I got a good government job?”

The question caught Shannon off guard. “N…no.”

“Then don't you judge me,” Audrey spewed. “You have been judging me from the second you walked through the door. But you have no idea what it was like to have kids. I thought my body was being taken over by aliens. I couldn't smoke, I couldn't drink. Well, mostly I couldn't. I puked my guts out every morning. I craved food that I found revolting. And the pain. Let me tell you about the pain. It felt like my entire body was trying to turn inside out by way of my lower body. Then when you got here, the never-ending need. The feedings, the diaper changing, the washing.” She stopped talking, looking like she wished she could pat herself on the back for a job well done. “The thing I'm most proud of is that I got you to a place where you could finally take care of yourself and stop depending on me.”

“You're serious aren't you?” Shannon asked, unable to believe what she was hearing.

“As a heart attack,” Audrey delivered with concrete certainty.

Shannon tried logic. “So, it doesn't matter to you that we were helpless infants and couldn't do for ourselves?”

No answer.

“If we were so unwanted why did you keep us? Why didn't you put us up for adoption or turn us over to social services. Why keep us and make our lives miserable?” Shannon wanted to know.

Then, as if the clock had been turned back, and she was a pregnant twenty-two year-old again, Audrey shrugged her shoulders. “Our parents wouldn't let us. Said we was grown-ups. Married and all, and that it was time to act like it.” She looked to Dave. “Guess they thought a couple of snot-factories was gonna stop us from partying.”

Dave popped open another can of beer to emphasize his point. “Guess they was wrong…but they was good for money. The state assistance came in real handy.”

Brian had heard enough. He grabbed for Shannon's hand then turned to his parents. “As cheated as you might feel about how inconvenient we made your life, remember this. We didn't ask to be born. That was something that the two of you made happen, and it wasn't fair for you to make us pay for that choice.” He started for the door pulling Shannon along with him. “Let's get out of here. I see now that we are orphans, always have been. I was just too young to identify the bodies.”

The siblings walked out of their childhood home for the last time. Even when they heard the door slam behind them they didn't turn around. This chapter of their life was closed for good, and neither one felt the need to ever pull this book off of the shelf again.

Chapter Twenty-Six

When they returned to the house, Morgan was sitting in the living room watching television. The slamming of the door, and the stomping of feet made her push the mute button and wait.

Brian quickly made his way to the room he was using, and changed his clothes before heading out, intending on going over to Jim and Maureen's house. “I'll be back in the morning he yelled before closing the front door.

After he left, Morgan rose from the sofa and made her way to the master bedroom, where she found Shannon in the middle of undressing.

The angry blonde was standing in front of the closet wearing nothing but a pair of panties as she forcefully shoving her clothes back onto the hangers, mumbling under her breath.

“I guess it didn't go well.”

“That's an understatement.” Shannon turned to her mate. “Those are the most vile creatures to have ever set foot on this earth.”

Morgan gave a quiet laugh. “I think you're exaggerating a bit.”

Shannon exhaled. “Maybe I am, but not by much.”

“Where did Brian run off to?” Morgan wanted to know.

“To see Jim. He said he needed to talk to him. I think they got to him too.”

Morgan looked at the upset woman with compassion and understanding. She moved forward and pulled Shannon into a loving embrace.

“You must really feel bad for me,” Shannon mumbled into Morgan's neck. “You haven't made one comment about me being naked.”

“Oh, I noticed. Believe me, but you aren't naked, at least not totally,” Morgan snapped the elastic in the waist of the dark panties for emphasis. “Tell me what happened, sweetheart?”

Shannon exhaled a long breath, and pulled Morgan over to the bed. They sat on the side, and Shannon began her story.

“When we got there they were both half drunk…


By the end of the story Morgan was wide-eyed. “Brian stood up to your father?”

“Just like a grown man would,” Shannon said with pride.

“And your demented mother thought that infants should come already potty-trained?”

“Mother of the year, that one is,” Shannon practically snarled.

Morgan rubbed her wife's back. “What about you? How did you feel when all of this was going on?”

“I…I felt like that unwanted little girl again,” she admitted.

“I wish I had been there for you.”

“You were,” Shannon promised. She put her hand over her heart. “Right here.”

“I should go over there and…”

“No,” Shannon whispered. “I need you here.”

That's when Morgan saw the deep hurt in her lover's eyes. It made her pull the woman close. “What can I do, love? Just tell me and I'll do it.”

“I need you to make me remember that I'm not that unwanted little girl. I need you to help me remember who I am and who I belong to. I need you to love me, Morgan.”

“As you wish,” was the solemn promise.

Morgan got off of the bed and removed her own clothes, then she laid Shannon on her back and reached for the waistband, pulling off the panties that she was still wearing.

“I love you so much, Shannon.”

“Show me.” It was nearly a plea.

When soft lips met her own, Shannon immediately gave in to the kiss, sending her tongue out in search of it's mate. And when a large hand reached down and cupped her breast, her nether regions flooded with passion. That's when Morgan tuned onto her back and used both hands to position Shannon on top on her.

The shorter woman was now straddling her spouse's firm stomach. It was a position she loved to be in, and Morgan knew it. The moonlight streaming through the window, allowed her to look into love-filled eyes that showed their surrender to her. Always her. Only her. Whenever they made love it was the look in Morgan's eyes that always let her know that they both lay vulnerable to each other.

As she swam in the blue pools, she could feel the wetness leaving her body to form a slick puddle on her wife's skin, but she wasn't ashamed. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last time she painted her spouse with her passion.

She felt safe and secure in the knowledge that the woman beneath her knew all of her secrets, because they had never held anything back from each other, especially in this. In this there was no hiding. In this she was open and exposed, but she knew Morgan was too.

The love they shared always beckoned her to take this journey with her heart. Trusting that when they reached their destination it would meet it's mate there and join as one.

Her hips started a slow roll that was so erotic it caused another flood of arousal to escape from her body. Then it was made that much more delicious when two strong hands rested in the curve of her waist, anchoring her to the firm flesh she was sliding against.

“Yesss,” she hissed, with painful pleasure, because that's what it was. This felt so good it hurt.

“What do you want me to do?” Morgan asked in a choked voice. She was just as turned on as her mate.

“I want to ride you.”

Releasing one hand from the soft skin of her wife's waist, Morgan worked it between their bodies and positioned two fingers where her lover needed them most.

“Take me,” Shannon whispered.

Morgan slowly circled her wife's entrance, and then, before another thought could enter her head, Shannon felt strong, talented fingers enter her. She closed her eyes and leaned forward to grip the larger woman's shoulders, needing to hold on for the ride.

Her hips began to slowly rotate in a circle as her inner muscles clamped down on the fingers buried deep inside of her. Each time she rocked her pelvis forward the long digits touched something in her core, causing her to piston up and down before resuming her slow swivel.

“Oh, god, oh, god,” she chanted.

Morgan leaned up and captured a pink nipple with her lips, swirling her tongue around the tip. That caused the silky smoothness that surrounded her fingers to grip even tighter, so she brought her thumb up and started massaging Shannon's swollen clit.

“Oh, shit,” she screamed and started moving her hips faster, sending the fingers even deeper.

Feeling the erotic movements that were being used to milk out Shannon's pleasure caused Morgan's passion to rise faster than she had expected, and she quickly found herself in need of some relief for her throbbing center.

She was so caught up in the new feeling of the thumb pressed up against her clit, Shannon was oblivious when Morgan flipped them over and started riding her thigh, seeking out her own pleasure.

Because Morgan's fingers had never left her body, it wasn't until she heard her lover's grunts in her ear that she realized she was on her back. The purposeful hip thrust and the soaked curls clued Shannon in to her mate's needs, so she slipped her hand between them and easily entered Morgan's slick heat, pleased when she received a deep groan as her reward.

For the next several minutes the room was filled with moans and the sound of skin slapping together as the women lost themselves in each other. Then it was like a bell rung and the slapping noises became faster and faster, and the women knew the end was near.

“I…I'm gonna come, baby,” Morgan strained out.

“Me…me too,” Shannon panted.

They held each other tighter as their bodies rushed to keep up with the orgasm that was sweeping through them, threatening to leave them behind if they didn't hurry. When they reached their destination they exploded in mutual pleasure, overcome by the euphoria that always waited for them at the end of this ride. Their bodies tensed and shuddered with their final release causing both women to collapse onto the bed. Morgan rolled off of her smaller spouse to prevent squashing her, but she didn't go far. She remained attached to Shannon's side. Running her hand up and down the sweat-covered body as the random shudders slowly diminished.

“You feel better, baby?”

Shannon's chest was heaving. “I…I'll let you know…after I catch my breath.”

Morgan gave a soft laugh. “Take your time, sweetheart.”

While she waited, Morgan snuggled even closer to her spent mate, burying her face against the softness of a full breast. She didn't think she could ever get close enough to Shannon. Sometimes it frightened her how much she loved the woman. But she never wanted her emotions to overwhelm her wife, so she didn't voice her feelings. Then, as if Shannon knew exactly what was going on in Morgan's head, she spoke a few words that reaffirmed their mutual obsession.

“Sometimes I wish I could crawl inside of you and share your body.”

Morgan started laughing, but when Shannon felt a few tears added to the sweat on the side of her breast she was confused.

“Are you okay, baby?”

“Yeah, I'm fine. It's just so amazing that you always know just the right thing to say at just the right time.”

Shannon ran her fingers through her lover's damp tresses, trying to untangle the dark hair. “And what mental ramblings did I rescue you from this time?”

“Just me worrying about whether or not I smother you.”

Shannon let out something between a snort and a laugh. “Right. You smoother me. Trust me, you are no worse than I am. I'm the one that needed you to make love to me so that I could feel whole again…remember?”

Morgan wiggled around until her head was in the exact right position to achieve maximum comfort on a plump breast. “Then I guess we are a perfect match.”

Shannon kissed the top of her spouse's head, and yawned as she felt herself drifting off. “That's right, my love. A perfect match.”

Concluded in Part 4


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