~ Echoes of the Past ~
revised and reedited
J. M. Dragon & E. O'Reilly
That night, as she discussed with Sophie, Olivia’s call, Parker avoided the woman’s eyes. Speaking with Olivia while undressed was so familiar to her that she tuned out everything else. The last thing she ever expected to happen was for Sophie to see her naked. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Sophie wanted more than a business relationship. That would never happen.
On the other hand, for Sophie, seeing Parker’s buff body only solidified her desire. She leaned into the woman next to her and allowed her breast to rest on Parker’s arm. “Hmm,” she whispered, “this is nice.”
Parker moved as close to the couch’s arm as she could only to have Sophie move too. “We’ll need to leave first thing in the morning and that means we pack tonight and get the car loaded up.”
When Parker turned her head, Sophie leaned in and kissed her. The kiss was exactly as expected–warm wet and sensual.
“Shall we move into the bedroom?” Sophie asked.
To her surprise, Parker said, “No.”
She ran her finger along Parker’s lips. “Just you and I snuggled together making love…how divine,” she cooed. “Come on, I promise you’ll love every minute…and no one will ever know.”
“I will,” Parker said as she stood up. “We need to get some sleep it will be a long day tomorrow.”
“It’s all the more reason why we should sleep together so we’ll be well rested in every way when we set out.”
“Sophie, it is my responsibility to keep you safe. In order to do that effectively, I must keep my emotions in check. Having sex with you will distract me from what I need to do to be successful.” There was no way she was going to let Sophie ruin the plan…not now not when she was so close. “I won’t sleep with you.”
Sophie folded her arms across her chest and stuck out a lip. She let her gaze hungrily ravage Parker’s body lingering over her breasts and crotch. “What I want is to make love with you all night long.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Fine,” Sophie said before she stomped away. Over her shoulder she said, “It’s your loss Parker.”
+ + +
The next morning as they made their way back to Portsmouth Sophie looked out the window pondering why Parker refused to sleep with her. It was clear that Parker wanted Olivia Santos but Sophie had other plans for her protector. When she wanted something, Sophie got it and Parker Davis was no exception. “I still don’t understand why we had to leave at this ungodly hour,” Sophie whined. “What’s the big rush? Just because Olivia says jump doesn’t mean we have to. Who put her in charge anyway? What harm is there in getting there at five instead of two?” she said stifling a yawn.
“After all, a girl needs her beauty sleep.”
Parker shook her head as she looked in the rearview mirror noting that it didn’t appear that anyone was following them.
“Look at you sitting there with your arms crossed pouting like a spoiled brat.” Parker countered. “How on earth did you take care of yourself for all those months?”
“I took care of myself just fine thank you,” Sophie spat.
“By pitching a fit when you didn’t get your way or had to pick up and leave when you thought you were spotted?” Parker shook her head. “I sure read you wrong Sophie.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I thought you needed help…protection. Just how did you manage to stay hidden for all that time Sophie? By finding some idiot like me or Camille to hook up with until you grew tired of them.”
“Stop the car!” Sophie screamed. “Stop it right now! How dare you insinuate that I used Cammie? For god’s sake she was murdered because of me!”
Parker knew her foul mood for the last twelve hours was directly associated with the conversation she had with Olivia. She glanced at Sophie who had tears running down her cheeks. “Listen, if it helps I didn’t want to leave either.”
“Then why have we?” Sophie whispered. “I liked being at the farm…and I liked getting to know you.” She pressed two fingers against her eyes in an attempt to stave off the tears. “All the time I’ve been hiding, I never had anyone to protect me until Cammie.” She blew her nose and turned watery eyes on the driver. “I like it…being taken care of…no one ever did that before.”
“I thought your grandmother took care of you.”
“Being responsible for someone doesn’t mean you care about them,” she whispered. “I guess my grandmother loved me, but I was more of an afterthought than anything else.”
“Didn’t she protect you from your father?”
“No, I was a pawn in their chess game for the queen.” She rested her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes. “When my grandmother left me everything, it was checkmate…I had control over all her businesses. Essentially, I became my father’s boss.” She turned her head and watched the passing trees.
“I don’t understand. If you own everything why did you leave…who’s minding the store?”
Sophie laughed. “There are CEO’s, CFO’s and all kinds of lawyers to do that.” She shrugged. “You see, the final twist in their chess game was the codicil to the will. In her own warped way, I think grandmother wanted to tempt my dad into finding a way of getting rid of me.”
Parker frowned as she tried to digest all that Sophie said. “I can’t believe that…why would she do that?”
“She always blamed him for my mother’s death and wanted him to pay. That’s why she left it all to me. My grandmother loved to manipulate people and situations…she was a master in doing that. Even in death, she’s still has control.” Sophie wiped the tears from her cheek with her hand. “I’m tired of running…I just want this all to be over…the best thing for me to do is go back to Philly and deal with it.”
With a slight turn of the wheel, Parker guided the car to the shoulder and stopped–there was no way she was going to let Sophie do that. “Look at me Sophie.” When she refused to make eye contact, Parker placed a hand on Sophie’s cheek and turned her head. “No one is going to harm you.”
“How can you say that? They murdered Cammie didn’t they? It’s very likely they’ll do the same thing to me.”
“Not on my watch,” Parker said firmly. “They will expect you to be in Portsmouth for the funeral...they’re counting on that. That is why Olivia wants us there…she has a safe place for you to stay and we can keep an eye on whoever your stepmother sent.”
“How do you know that? Why does she have to be involved?”
“Because she’s the best and right now that is what you need. Trust me, Olivia wouldn’t tell me to come there right away if she didn’t have a place for you to stay.” Parker stroked Sophie’s cheek. “I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”
Sophie closed her eyes and leaned into the hand. “At this point, I am too tired of running away to argue anymore.” She opened her eyes and looked at Parker. “I do trust you though.”
“Glad to hear it. Now, let’s get a move on…I don’t want to be late.”
As Parker put the car in gear and started down the highway again, Sophie said, “Late, can’t keep her waiting can we?”
“Not if we want her help.”
“That sounds like an ultimatum to me.”
“Take it anyway you want Sophie,” Parker said. “But, that is what we are doing.”
Sophie just looked at Parker who kept her eyes on the road. She leaned back, yawned and closed her eyes. She wondered if it would ever end before sleep overtook her.
Sophie’s eyes opened and for a moment, she didn’t know where she was. She looked over and studied the driver as she remembered the night before. She felt her cheeks grow hot. It was only a matter of time before the woman was in her bed. She reached down and pulled the lever that let the seat back rise.
Parker looked over and smiled. “Did you get a good sleep in?”
Sophie shook her head and said, “I’m hungry maybe we can stop at Good Eats and have some of Dolly’s wonderful chicken noodle soup.”
“We can’t do that.”
“Why not? Your friend Olivia said she’d taken care of that man.”
“That guy worked with someone Sophie and he might be there. If you show up in town, everyone there that you care about will be in jeopardy.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Hey, I want to apologize for acting like a brat earlier.” A weak smile crossed her lips. “I…I just feel like I don’t have any control.”
“Do you want me to back off?”
Sophie reached over and touched Parker’s arm. “No, I want you on my side…you make me feel safe.”
Parker briefly looked at the woman next to her. “In about thirty miles there’s a decent place to eat.” She looked at the dashboard clock. “We are making good time and I think we both will need to stretch our legs by then.”
Sophie’s face lit up. “You know, a big juicy hamburger with greasy french-fries sounds really good to me.”
+ + +
Parker watched with amusement as Sophie finished off the last of her double cheeseburger. “Where do you put all that?” she asked with a laugh.
“Are you going to eat your pickle?”
“No, go ahead and take it.”
“I just love pickles,” she said as she snagged the pickle.
With a laugh, Parker picked up the check. “Then it’s a good thing you’re with me.”
Sophie reached across and plucked the check out of Parker’s fingers. “This one is on me.” When she saw a touch of irritation in Parker’s eyes she said, “Please let me do this for you.” She batted her eyes. “It’s the least I can do…you’ve done so much for me.”
“Ok, but you know I’m still using the money your stepmother gave me and it only seems fitting that she pay for your meal.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Sophie said as she fished her wallet out of her bag. “I’d just as soon not have anything to do with her.”
“I can understand that.” With a quick glance at her watch, Parker said, “I don’t want to be late so we’d better get a move on.”
Once they were back in the car and heading toward Portsmouth, Sophie took a deep breath. “I know we spoke of this earlier, but I still don’t understand what’s so important about being there at a certain time?” Her answer was a glare. “Hey, I’m sorry didn’t mean to touch a sore spot.”
Parker ground her teeth, looked at the road ahead and looked in the rearview mirror. After thirty minutes of silence she said, “I don’t want her angry with me.”
“Is she that important to you?”
Parker blew out a breath. “It’s complicated. I want her to help us and if we are late she might not.”
“We don’t need her Parker. We can just drive west and see what’s out there. I bet we can make two months pass by real quickly that way.”
“Do you honestly think that after chasing you down for ten months she will suddenly stop? The next two months will be crunch time for her…going west will not stop her,” she said. “You don’t know it yet Sophie, but we will need Olivia if we are to stop your stepmother’s plans.” Her eyes fixed firmly on the road. She didn’t want Sophie to know that she was integral to her plans.
“I bet you are just good as she is.”
Parker looked over at her passenger. “No, I ’m not Sophie…I don’t have the stomach for what she can do or her resources.”
Parker guided her car through the streets of Portsmouth to the place she once worked. She pulled the vehicle into a spot directly opposite the building. “We’re here,” she said. “Nothing seems to have changed since I was here last.” She pointed to a window. “See that window up there on the third floor? O and I used to work there.”
Sophie heard the fondness in her companion’s voice when she spoke of the past. “You miss it don’t you?”
Brown eyes captured blue. “Sometimes, but…everything just went bad. It’s kind of hard to think of the good times and not be reminded of the bad.” She held up her cell. “I guess I better call. O will be surprised that I’m here early.” She dialed Olivia’s private number and frowned when she got voice mail. “That’s strange she said she always answers that number.” She dialed 555-7282 and when she heard ‘hello’ she said, “Dr. West this is Parker Davis. Olivia told me to call you if I couldn’t reach her…she said to say ‘mysteries of the universe’.”
Amelia smiled at the code it was another of Olivia’s quirks. “Hello Ms. Davis, you made good time, Olivia
didn’t expect your arrival for at least another hour or so.”
“Sorry,” Parker said with mock sincerity. “Olivia is such a stickler for promptness and I arrived early.
Should I wait until she can speak with me?”
Amelia felt her face contort in surprise as her lips tugged into a smile. “I hardly think the fact that you made good time warrants you having to wait.” Amelia chuckled then added, “I see you know Olivia pretty well?”
“Ah, yeah I guess,” said Parker as she fought the urge to say more. “Are you the one I need to speak to about what we should do next?’
The tentative question made Amelia smile even more–the woman was clearly afraid. “Yes, I can deal with the next stage of the journey. Is the car you’re driving a rental?”
“No, why?” She looked toward Sophie who raised her eyebrows and smiled. Parker shook her head and mouthed, “I’m getting directions.”
Amelia frowned. “I hope you’re not very fond of it. Olivia wants you to leave it in a no parking zone and wait near the inside entrance of the library across the street from the precinct.”
She glanced down the street and saw the library. “Sure, no problem the car is a junker that I picked up a week ago under an assumed name…no loss to me. Will we meet you in the library then?”
“Yes, I’ve been given your descriptions by Olivia.” Quickly checking the time, Amelia continued. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes tops.”
“Ok, can you make that thirty minutes, I need to wipe the car down.”
Amelia laughed. “I was supposed to remind you of that. I’ll see you and Ms. Durant shortly, goodbye Ms. Davis.”
Parker felt a smile fill her face. Perfect. She ended the call and turned to Sophie. “We need to go to the bus station and stow our bags in a locker then move the car and make sure that we leave nothing behind that could lead to either of us.”
“Then what,” Sophie asked as she took the plastic gloves that Parker handed her.
“We go to the library.” She rummaged through a bag in the back seat and pulled out her blonde wig. “Put this on and wear your sunglasses…we can’t take any chances.”
The call Amelia received from the Davis woman was earlier than Olivia expected. When Amelia asked about the timing of their arrival, Olivia called Parker a tortoise on wheels–she was wrong. She turned her head and glanced at the half open door of the room where Olivia was soundly sleeping. She expected her partner to wake when the phone rang. Since she didn’t, Amelia would let her continue sleeping and take care of the two women. Selecting the keys for her vehicle, she headed for the car and the library.
Twenty-five minutes later, having found parking almost impossible, Amelia entered the library and glanced around for the two women. When she saw them, she almost burst out laughing at their absurd garb.
With amusement brimming from her eyes, she headed to the two women sitting on a bench trying to appear nonchalant. The get ups were so bizarre that she suspected instead of trying to be invisible they attracted interested eyes. Seconds later, she stood in front of them. “Hi, do you have the time please?”
Parker couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked up at the woman who asked the time. She attempted to speak, but words would not find their way out of her mouth. Standing before her was the woman who helped her pick out a cantaloupe.
“It’s one twenty-five,” Sophie offered.
Amelia smiled. “Thanks. I said I’d meet some friends here in thirty minutes and I’m five minutes early. Could you point me in the direction of the bathroom?”
“Hmm, yes, I believe it’s down that way,” Parker said pointing toward the center of the library. “Actually we were going that way, why don’t I show you?”
As she smiled her gratitude, Amelia had a distinct impression she’d seen the woman before. She hadn’t heard either of the women’s names before so she shook the idea away. As they walked at a steady pace toward the bathroom, Amelia searched the area for any evidence that anyone was following them–she saw none.
“I’ve been watching everyone since we arrived and I don’t see any threat,” the taller of the two women whispered before she opened the bathroom door.
Once inside, Amelia watched as the taller one checked for any evidence that anyone else was inside–there wasn’t.
“It’s safe,” Parker said before extending her hand. “I’m Parker Davis and this is Sophie Durant.”
Unable to suppress the laughter anymore, Amelia giggled as she shook each of the woman’s hands. “I figured you were Ms. Davis.” She smiled. “When we entered the bathroom, you reminded me of Olivia.”
With her eyebrows creased, Parker cocked her head. “I do?” She shrugged. “Never saw the resemblance.”
“Actually it isn’t the resemblance. Hell would have to freeze over before Olivia would look like the two ugly sisters.” She looked at Parker. ”It’s the way you checked out the room–she does it everywhere we go. I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself properly, I’m Doctor West…Amelia West.” Amelia grinned as she shook her head at the disguises again.
“I hope you don’t take exception to our apparel my dear Dr. West. I’ll have you know that some of the finest designers of our time made them.” Parker grinned and waved her hand down her body then did the same to Sophie. “As you can see, we are dressed for a night of partying.
“Yeah, and I am the blonde bombshell of the pair,” Sophie offered.
Amelia giggled at the repartee from the one called Parker Davis. Sophie Durant was a little drier, but who wouldn’t be in her position. “I’m afraid all I can offer you are three meals a day and a bed. The partying is more Olivia’s forte.”
Parker laughed. “Your offer is exactly what I am looking for Dr. West.” She felt Sophie touch her arm. “My friend Sophie is more the party type.”
Sophie slapped Parker’s arm. “I’m not.” Then she chuckled. “Well if the company is right…”
Amelia saw the interaction and mentally noted their body language toward each other. “I’ll let Olivia show you the sites…you can ask her anyway. We need to go now. My car is parked in the furthest part of the lot so I’m afraid so we have a fair walk.”
Just then, the bathroom door opened and Parker instinctively put herself between the door and the two women. When an elderly woman walked in, she relaxed her stance. “No problem with a long walk,” she said. “We need to get Sophie out of the public view,” she whispered as she held the door open.
As they walked rapidly toward her car, Amelia glanced again at the disguises. “If I were you I’d removed the …” she pointed to the extra clothing. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want Olivia seeing you like that,” she said quietly so that only Parker could hear.
For a moment, Parker felt taken aback by the off handed comment. She looked at Sophie who was walking ahead of her. Parker was a master of disguise and obviously, the doctor didn’t understand the necessity. “We left our bags in a locker at the bus station and will need to collect them.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. Either Olivia or myself will collect your belongings later.” She looked at the two again and smiled before shaking her head. “Never mind, Olivia could do with some light relief when she sees you.” Once she opened her vehicle, she motioned for them to get in. “Let’s go home shall we.”
Parker bristled at the woman’s comment as she entered the vehicle. She inhaled deeply as she looked out the window as they passed by familiar sites. It wasn’t the time to let her jealousy cloud the purpose of her mission. She needed a clear head and all her faculties for what lay ahead.
A buzzing noise woke Olivia out of her dreamless sleep. Disorientated, she looked around to verify that she was actually in her own home–she was.In a slow fluid movement, she raised herself from the sofa and flexed her back cautiously. The sharp pain in her shoulder had diminished to a dull thud. In its place, was the tightness from five stitches that she received the previous day. The drugs that the doctor gave her for pain had made her head feel fuzzy, but overall, she felt a hundred percent better than she had when she arrived home from the farm.
She looked for Amelia but didn’t see her. Her eyes caught the time and she gaped in amazement–almost two. Speculating that Amelia went out for lunch, she reached for her cell only to frown when she saw that she’d missed call. “Shit,” she said. “Of all people it had to be Parker.”
Her attention turned to the whirring sound of the garage door lifting open. Once she made her way to the vehicle, she frowned when two other figures climbed out. She ground her teeth for two of Amelia’s charity cases weren’t what she needed. Her eyes took in the ridiculous clothing and accessories that she was sure were a throwback to the sixties. If she had to promise not to bring woman to the warehouse, Amelia could do the same with the strays she liked to pick up.
Amelia stepped out of the vehicle. “Good you’re awake. Did you sleep ok? How’s the shoulder?”
Olivia frowned slightly. “I’m good, you should have woken me,” she replied.
“I guess I should have.” She walked around the vehicle and stood within a foot of Olivia. A soft sigh of appreciation passed her lips as she felt her friend’s strong aura envelope her. Olivia was back to normal.
When she captured Olivia’s eyes, she saw a question. “You needed the rest. I figured I could handle this.” She motioned at the two women who were standing on the other side of the vehicle.
“Handle what?” Olivia tore her eyes from Amelia and scrutinized the women critically. Her eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as she realized who they were. “Oh my god I don’t believe it…Parker!” Her hands waved over the outfits. “What the hell is all this about?”
Parker took her eyes away from scrutinizing the innards of the building and fixed them on Olivia. The reference to their dress made her grind her teeth in irritation. She turned to Amelia and asked, “If someone asked you to describe either Sophie or myself what would you say?”
Amelia gave her a strange thoughtful glance as she considered the question that she thought was odd. “I would say…that on reflection…”
“Amelia for god’s sake stop beating about the bush, they look like a pair of clowns. Where did you learn to dress like that Parker? That look went out with the sixties,” Olivia snapped. She was more irritated that Amelia went to get them than anything else.
Parker shook her head at the rejoinder. “Amelia, will you shut your eyes please.”
Amelia shook her head in amusement. “Look, I could do with some refreshment and I’m sure Sophie could too.” Amelia smiled at the silent woman then back to the belligerent attitude of Parker. “Ok, ok. If this is a game between you two, let’s get it over with shall we. I’ve shut my eyes…now what?”
Parker smiled in satisfaction then reached out and touched Amelia’s arm. “What color are Sophie’s eyes? Is her face round, thin, fat, pock marked or smooth? How tall am I?”
Olivia initially watched the exchange with boredom then, when Parker touched Amelia, she felt her hackles rise. No way would she allow Parker to get her hooks in her partner.
Amelia pulled out every damn file she had on memory of the two women and for the life of her couldn’t actually recall their real features. “I think you’re both around…my height, average kind of build that kind of thing?” She opened her eyes and smiled. “Ah, I see. I get the message, but it wasn’t me who said anything about your attire.”
Parker laughed. “Remember your old motto Olivia? Dress so they don’t recognize your face.”
A scowl replaced the bored expression on Olivia’s face as she tightly replied, “We all use our skills as we see fit and that was never my motto. You made good time…what happened, did you finally find a decent car that allowed you to drive the speed limit,” she said sarcastically.
Amelia watched the standoff. Parker Davis was the first person other than herself that actually could get under
Olivia’s skin. Obviously, there was a history and she wanted to know what it was.
In an effort to calm down, Parker drew in a deep breath, looked at Amelia and smiled. “I thought I heard something about refreshments.” Then she turned her attention toward Olivia. “I won’t speak of your habits if you don’t speak of mine."
Amelia grinned and turned to Sophie. “Would you like to freshen up Sophie? We can leave these two to argue about goodness knows what. I’m sure I have something else for you to wear.” When she saw Sophie smile she added, “Then maybe we can all settled down and relax for a minute.”
Olivia totally ignored the comment and retorted tightly, “I’ve got work to do.” She turned on her heel toward the center console and took a seat.
Sophie looked at Parker then at Olivia who was sitting in front of a computer monitor. The connection between the two needed severing and she was just the woman to do that. She smiled at Amelia and said,
“Yeah, thanks I’d like that.” As they walked away, Sophie said, “You really don’t like this get-up do you?” Both women laughed and went into Amelia’s bedroom.
Standing alone, Parker watched Olivia at what she assumed was the hub of the building’s security. It was clear to her that Olivia didn’t want her there. All the words that had gone unspoken over the last ten years screamed for release. She closed her eyes, sucked in a breath, and looked at the woman hunched over a keyboard again. She was so close to her plan coming to fruition…she needed to be patient a bit longer. When she heard Amelia and Sophie laughing, she smiled as she turned away from Olivia and went to join them.
After a delicious meal, Amelia, Parker and Sophie sat on a comfortable couch listening to relaxing music.
From Amelia’s point of view, the meal progressed remarkably cordially after Olivia decided to be pleasant toward their guests after she goaded her into acting civilly. She looked in Parker’s direction and saw her casting a glance in the direction of the closed door. “Hey Parker, why don’t you go ask Olivia if she wants to join us for coffee. I’m sure she’s checking on her mail or something like that.
Parker didn’t want Olivia to join them just yet.No, she wanted to find out more about Amelia and her relationship with Olivia. The woman was formerly a nun so she doubted they had a sexual relationship but there clearly was a connection between them. She looked at Amelia and recalled the meeting at the grocery store and the impact she made on her. “You have great taste in music Amelia. What piece is this? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it before.”
Music was one of Olivia’s favorite leisure activities and one that they shared. “It’s wonderful isn’t it? It is Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto. Actually, both Olivia and I love it…she bought it for me one Saturday at a classical music fair about a year ago.”
“Will you two excuse me,” Sophie remarked. She rolled her eyes and shook her head at Parker’s unsubtle flattery. “I need to use the bathroom.”
Parker carelessly threw back, “Don’t be long,” before turning back to Amelia. The woman’s fond words about Olivia and the wistful expression that crossed her face didn’t sit well at all. Olivia never shared music or any of that stuff with her and jealousy clawed its way to the surface. It was time for her to stir the pot. “Are you and Olivia partners in every sense of the word?” she asked.
“Well yes, I guess we are. We are business partners and we live together and share the daily stuff around the place except for the security…that’s all Olivia’s.” Amelia innocently answered unaware of the meaning behind ‘every sense of the word’. “Would you believe that I’ve even taught her how to cook the odd dish?”
All Parker could do was smile at the woman’s apparent naiveté. “The Olivia I knew never entered a kitchen unless it was to have a meal.” She eyed Amelia. “Do you find it hard to work together and live together at the same time? I know it was hard for me and my partner to do that.”
Sophie stood at the edge of the room listening to Parker’s seemingly pitiful attempts to find out if Olivia and Amelia were lovers. She coughed and when they both looked at her, she said, “I think Parker wants to know if you and Olivia are lovers.”
Parker’s eyes flew open while she chuckled inside–Sophie was playing right into her hand. The look on Amelia’s face was icing on the cake. Her opinion of the Amelia she met at the market didn’t matter–she had to be a casualty.
It was a like a punch to the stomach on a raw wound. Amelia realized that the association she had of partner was in total contrast to what the other women did. It suddenly dawned on her that it was exactly what everyone thought. With cheeks flaming, she stood up and walked unsteadily toward the door. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom. Please make yourself at home.” She fled before anyone else could comment.
+ + +
From her vantage point at her console, Olivia heard the distinctive rat, tat, tat on the floor of Amelia’s gait. “Hey, everything ok?”
Amelia’s response was a shake of her head as she made her way to her room and slammed the door.
Olivia’s temper flared as she stood up and roared into the room where the visitors were. “So help me Parker if you’ve hurt her in any way you’re dead!” she growled.
Both Parker and Sophie looked up saw an enraged Olivia. “Oops,” gulped Sophie.
“Oops?” Olivia scowled. “Is that all the goddamn you have to say? Fuck you Parker! I don’t know why I ever thought I wanted to help you.”
Parker refused to allow Olivia to provoke her into a senseless argument. “I need to see Amelia,” she said through gritted teeth.
Olivia glared at her old lover.“You think I’m going to allow you within a foot of her unsupervised? Think again.”
Sophie moved slightly to shield Parker fearing Olivia would become violent. “It wasn’t her fault. I misinterpreted something and my question upset her…I’m sorry.”
Parker ignored Sophie as she gently moved her out of the way and took a predatory stance before piercing Olivia with her eyes. “Get over yourself Olivia. For once in your life, let someone else take the lead. That attitude along with your out of control temper is what got you in trouble ten years ago,” she spat. “I want to see Amelia and I will! Either you tell me where she is or I will start opening doors until I find her. It’s your choice.”
Sophie’s eyes bugged out. In the short time she’d known Parker, she never heard her raise her voice or get angry. “Hey,” she said touching Parker. “We can work this out without coming to blows can’t we?”
For Olivia, the unexpected body blow from Parker’s words reminded her of their acrimonious past. It didn’t ignite the fire of her temper, but deflated it totally. Her body sagged against the wall just as if someone had physically hit her. “She’s in her room….”
Sophie watched Parker push past Olivia and leave the room before her eyes turned to the woman she considered both scary and dangerous. Now, she saw her in a different light. She was just like everyone else.
She was unable to stop the steamroller of her inner emotional needs. The revelation didn’t change her opinion of the woman she was still a dangerous bully. “I’m sure it’s going to be ok,” she said with a slight shrug. From the way Olivia backed down, she guessed Parker hit a raw nerve. She inwardly shook her head while fixing her eyes on Olivia. For a split second, she saw a bleak expression cross the woman’s features.
Olivia’s cold and unfeeling response was in total contrast to her facial appearance. “I need to know everything, and I mean everything, you know about your stepmother. I want to know her habits, routines and anything else about her. Go back as far as you can remember and include your stepbrother too.” Her jaw set as she sank into her favorite armchair–her emotions in check. “Also, tell me about your father. Is he involved too?”
Sophie, with a wide unbelieving expression, felt her body automatically fall back onto the sofa–Olivia was back in scary mode. With a deep sigh, she haltingly began to dredge up old, unwanted memories of the woman who wanted her dead. “To my knowledge my father is not involved…but I wouldn’t put it past him. It all started when my mother died…”
Parker made her way toward Amelia’s room. It was time to make an alliance with the woman who now shared Olivia’s life. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” she said softly as she raised her fist and knocked.
“Amelia, it’s Parker, may I come in?”
There was silence from the room.
“Please Amelia, we need to talk.” When she still received no reply, she put her hand on the knob, opened the door and went in. Amelia was lying on her bed with her face hidden by a pillow. Parker crouched beside the bed and softly said, “Hey, I’m sorry.”
“Didn’t your parents bring you up to understand another’s personal space?” Amelia said through the pillow.
“Go away please.”
“I won’t leave until you speak with me Amelia.” She reached over and gently pulled the pillow away. Parker resisted the empathy that threatened to overtake her emotions…it wasn’t the right time for sympathy. She saw the tearstained cheeks and said, “I once was on the police force and when we were searching for clues I would be single minded in the pursuit. My partner would always tell me that if I concentrated on the miniscule I would overlook the obvious.”
Amelia’s curiosity got the better of her as she responded to the softly spoken words. “Have you found something obvious you’ve overlooked?”
“Not me Amelia, you and Olivia.” She gently touched the woman’s cheek and wiped a tear away. “I was in disguise when you gave me a cantaloupe you chose for yourself. At the time, I thought you were one of the kindest people I ever met. I wished that I had more time to spend with you. You seemed like an angel to me.”
A spark of remembrance ran in Amelia’s consciousness. A weak smiled played on her lips. “Oh, that’s why you looked so familiar to me. I saw through your disguise you know. In fact, I mentioned you to Olivia. Funny really, because I called you a friend and I hardly spoke more than a sentence or two with you.”
“I saw into your heart and that was enough for me Parker. We each follow a path and ways, which define the people we instinctively know as good.”
Parker could see Amelia’s innocent appreciation of humanity reflecting in her eyes and smiled. “Not too many people bother to see another in that light Amelia.” She reached out and took the woman’s hand. “I’ve been around you and Olivia for what,” she looked at her watch. “About three hours and the obvious thing that I see is a deep loving relationship. Naturally, I thought that you and Olivia were partners in life as you are in business. I’m sorry if that upset you…I upset you. I never intended that to happen.” She cast her eyes downward.
Amelia graciously accepted the apology. “I should have known that people might think that, but you see, up until yesterday, I didn’t even know Olivia was …well. I won’t say that you’re wrong about me loving her because you’re not. You need to understand how I see this relationship.”
“Tell me.” Parker could feel the smile that wanted to react to what she hoped would be a revelation about the woman’s relationship with her ex-lover. Who knew it might just be the ace up the sleeve she needed.
Amelia drew in a deep breath before staring off into the distance. “Sometimes it feels like I’ve known Olivia forever. The fact is, we met a little over two years ago when I was a nun.”
Parker kept her eyes steady and her emotions in check. “Go on,” she said quietly.
“To cut a rather long and terrible story short, my life was turned upside down. I was going through an inner turmoil anyway. People I trusted…we both trusted, betrayed us, and people we loved and respected died.
With the aftermath, all we both knew was that together we could face the world and all its problems. Alone, I doubt either of us would have been much of a survivalist. Of course I love her, she’s the most stable part of my life and I think I am for her too.” She shrugged. “I doubt she’d admit that openly.” Amelia gave a tight smile and looked over to Parker who appeared to be lost in her own memories.
“That partner I spoke of used to tell me that by taking chances we experience the best life has to offer.” Parker paused as she pondered the wisdom of admitting who the partner was before deciding that it wasn’t time but it would be soon. “Are you afraid to admit your love to Olivia?”
Amelia laughed softly. “I still don’t think you understand Parker. What we share is far more complex than physical love. It goes beyond that. What should I call it? Hmm, let me see now…an eternal need. Yet, it’s as simple as adding one and one together–we make the perfect pair.”
Parker listened to the heartfelt words and scoffed at how naïve the woman was. She had a fairytale take on love but she would expect that for the woman had no point of reference for what she was feeling. She took a cleansing breath and said, “Being in love encompasses more than a physical desire, but at the same time it is though touching that we convey our deepest feelings for another.” She paused to collect the raw emotions that threatened to engulf her. “I think it was Helen Keller that said something like…if you stay in the shadows you will never see the sun. Come out of the shadows Amelia and see the real world for it isn’t all rosy and bright. There are many dark areas. Despite how well we think we know and understand a person they always hold a part back. No one is completely honest…no one.”
In that one brief moment, Parker let her guard down and spoke from her heart. She couldn't let that happen again–she was too close to the end game.
“With that take on life Parker you should have been a psychiatrist like me. What you say has merit though.”
The comment had taken Amelia off-guard and she diverted the conversation away from herself. “Has that happened to you?”
Parker refused to go down that path. Amelia had to have strong ties to her faith and that would be her undoing.
“Are you afraid of the way Olivia makes your body feel?” As the brown eyes met, she held them. “It’s a strange sensation isn’t it? You are so overtaken by her presence that you think you’ll never breathe again.”
She couldn’t let Parker’s ideas influence the way she lived or the teachings of the church. What she shared with Olivia had to be enough for them both. “Both Olivia and I have issues from the past to deal with. Until we do well...” She spread her hands out in a resigned gesture. “Take you and Olivia for instance.”
With a shake of her head Parker laughed. “Is our acrimonious relationship that obvious?”
“To me yes. Do you know the name of our Agency?” Amelia chuckled changing the sensitive subject matter.
“Yeah, I do. WHMH, right?”
Amelia nodded. “Ah, but do you know what the initials mean?”
Parker grinned. “Nope, but I bet you’re going to tell me.”
With a smug expression on her face, Amelia replied, “When Hell Meets Heaven. Kinda fitting don’t you think.” She smiled. “Thank you.”
“Caring enough to make sure I was ok…and for the apology.”
“Like I said earlier, I wished we had more time to get to know each other.” She tipped her head to the side.
“Perhaps after this is all over…who knows what the future holds.”
Out of her element, Amelia said, “We’d better go join the others before Olivia takes it into her head that I need saving.”
This time Parker laughed as they headed for the door. “All I need is for her to think I’m invading her territory.”
With a pang of jealousy tugging at her heart, Parker smiled. She was sure she planted more than enough seeds of doubt for Amelia to rethink her relationship with Olivia.
They entered the room hand in hand. With a twinkle in her eye, Parker said, “Don’t worry Mom. We kissed and made up.”
It was one in the morning and Amelia silently watched Olivia at the console. From her vantage point, she considered her options. She could breeze by and say goodnight as she normally did or she could do nothing and leave her to it. She hadn’t spoken much except to Sophie since Parker and she had their talk. That thought created a pang in her chest.
“You’ll bore a hole in my back if you don’t shift your gaze…unless that’s the intention.” Olivia swung her chair around and gazed in Amelia’s direction with an unreadable expression.
With a gentle smile, Amelia shrugged. “I’d never intend that,” she replied softly. She walked over to within a foot of Olivia. “How’s the shoulder?”
“It’s tightening up a little,” Olivia grudgingly admitted. “I think the doctor needs to hone his skills with the needle.”
Tilting her head to one side, Amelia gave her a serious look. “Want me to take a look at it? I might not be adept with the needle, but I can probably see if the stitches are getting infected?”
Under any other circumstance, Olivia would have gratefully accepted the offer, but she didn’t want the others to misconstrue the situation. “I’ll manage. Hey, it’s late and you need to get some sleep.”
“What about you getting some sleep too?” Amelia warmed to the concern she heard in Olivia’s voice.
Olivia removed her eyes from Amelia and glanced back at the console. Several messages from DOCO needed her immediate attention regarding O’Donnell. “I’ll go to bed as soon as I’ve dealt with the mail…and before you say it, I promise.”
“Olivia about today…about Parker…”
A hand in the air silenced the rest of the words. “It’s not my business Amelia. I tend to forget you can handle most things.”
There was a heavy silence between them as Amelia contemplated the bleakness of the words. “Most things yes, though not everything. I’ve still got you on my side for those times, right?”
Olivia felt her throat go dry, as she irrationally wanted to shout, ‘until the end of time’, but instead avoided looking directly at Amelia. She said, “Sure, until you find someone else more suitable.” She felt her heart breaking with the realization of the truth of her words. One day there would be someone for Amelia and it sure as hell wasn’t her.
Amelia pursed her lips. They needed to talk but right now wasn’t an option with strangers in their home.
“Goodnight Olivia.” She gently placed a hand on the uninjured shoulder and squeezed. “Don’t stay up too long, ok.”
The touch, which felt like it scalded her skin, made Olivia almost jump out of her seat. She unsteadily whispered, “I won’t. Goodnight Amelia, pleasant dreams.”
The rat-tat tat of Amelia’s steps taking her across the floor to her bedroom allowed Olivia to pick up her scrambled nerves and concentrate once again on the information on the screen. Amelia had gotten under her skin and she thanked god that the woman didn’t seem to realize it. If she had, Olivia knew she’d lose and
Amelia and she would be lost forever.
Sophie was the first to wake and quietly made her way to the kitchen to make coffee. She noticed a newspaper lying on the console in the other room and took it with her. While the coffee brewed, she looked at the front page. Funeral for Slaying Victim Tomorrow. Her hand went to her mouth as she gasped at Camille’s face smiling up at her. “Oh, Cammie,” she sobbed.
“Hey,” a soothing voice said. “What’s the matter?”
Turning around, she saw Parker and collapsed against her chest. The taller woman’s eyes looked over Sophie’s shoulder and read the headline.
“I have to go to say goodbye,” she sobbed.
“I don’t think it is wise for you to go to the funeral.”
A petulant expression overtook the anguished one. She lifted her head to pierce Parker with a glare. “I’m going and you can’t stop me! Don’t you think they’ve taken enough of my life already?”
“And, how do I protect you Sophie? Even with Olivia’s help, we can’t cover all the areas that we’d need to keep you safe.” When she saw Sophie’s jaw set she added, “All it would it take is someone with a long distance rifle on a roof or in a window. Your life would be over just like that.” She snapped her fingers to emphasize the point. “If you’re out in the open, it will be impossible to stop.”
“Have you ever considered that I already think my life is over? Living like this for all these months has taken its toll. I’m tired of it Parker. Tired of running away and not facing up to that witch,” Sophie said bitterly.
“Remember, I promised to keep you safe.”
Olivia entered the building in stealth mode via the side entrance. She adopted doing that to accommodate Amelia’s sleeping pattern, which was much longer than hers was. Each morning at six am, she’d be off either to work or taking a run–today she ran. The exercise helped release built up tension and she had plenty in her life. While she took off her running shoes, she heard voices and listened just as any good private detective would. Then she quietly made her way to the kitchen.
The strong hands that held Sophie made her feel better, but for quite different reasons than the one Parker offered. With an unsteady breath, she replied, “Yes, you promised, but what about my promise to Cammie…or the one about not having anyone else getting hurt. I’m going Parker and neither you nor the Latina Amazon is going to stop me.”
Parker couldn’t believe her ears as she stepped back and held Sophie at arm’s length. “Latina Amazon? Where did you come up with that?” She felt anger well up. “I’ll have you know that you’re damn lucky to have Olivia on your side.” She leveled her eyes at the woman. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“I don’t care what you think right now Parker; you’re too damned wrapped up in your own stupid life.
Besides, you’re only doing this for the money, which means you work for me so you’ll do as I say.” Sophie interjected unhappily.
Olivia was incensed. The comment about her stature and ethnicity, which she had to admit, was a new one, along with the tone of the spoiled brat’s voice, had her hackles rising. “Lady, you’ll do what Parker tells you or you can leave this place, right now and to hell with you! Believe me…hell is exactly where you’ll end up within twenty-four hours.”
Dumbfounded, Parker shook her head twice. It was exactly what she hoped for–Olivia defending her. “Sophie, is that what you want?”
Sophie was at a loss for words as she faced the angry woman who had surreptitiously entered their conversation. With a deep breath, she looked at Parker and said, “Please, let me go to the funeral. The last thing I can do for Cammie is to pay my respects.” Then she glared at Olivia and said, “If it was her funeral,” she hooked her thumb in Olivia’s direction, “you’d want to do the same regardless of the danger, wouldn’t you?”
Parker’s eyes softened, as she looked first at Sophie then toward Olivia. “I would be at her funeral come hell or high water…nothing would keep me away,” she replied quietly.
Amelia heard the raised voices and ventured out of bed as she sighed heavily. She hadn’t voiced her uncertainty about mixing the business with their home life but the sound of the battlefield in the main room, made her regret she hadn’t. She pulled on her dressing gown and made her way to where the three others were. It looked like a stand-off, but experience told her that Olivia wasn’t happy. “Hey guys, good morning. Is anyone in need of a caffeine fix?”
Parker’s face lit up with the arrival of Amelia, a smirk traveled across her face as she saw the furry animal slippers the woman wore. “Good morning Amelia. I’d love a cup. I think Sophie already has a pot going.” With a wink she chuckled, “Love the slippers.”
“Thanks, Olivia thought they’d keep my feet warm especially in winter this place costs a fortune to heat.”
Amelia giggled, as she looked at the pink fluffy slippers with rabbit ears that Olivia had bought for her one Saturday morning when they’d spent time at the local market in town.
Sophie, thankful that Amelia had eased the tension, seized the opportunity. “Yes it’s on the boil I’ll fetch it if you like.”
Amelia slowly walked toward Olivia and stood close enough so that their hips almost touched. With a twinkle in her eye, she whispered, “Good morning, did you run off all that built up tension this morning?” With a teasing smile, she walked toward Sophie who was trying to peel away from the quartet. “I’ll help you Sophie.”
Parker saw the closeness and silently ground her teeth at the action-it should be her not that nun. Taking the opportunity to approach Olivia, “I think we need to come up with a coherent plan. Do you think it would be too risky to use Sophie as bait to find the killer?”
Olivia still watching Amelia, felt her anger abate somewhat. She let Parker’s question whirl around in her head before saying, “Everything to do with this case is risky Parker. I need you to look at the information I’ve received from some of my contacts. We’ll build a strategy for the funeral after that.”
Not prepared for the jolt she felt, Parker reached out and lightly touched Olivia’s hand. “Sounds like a plan and I have to admit I would love to know more about your gadgets.” She shrugged and added, “Just how do I get my hands on some of them?”
Olivia looked down at the hand on hers as a fleeting memory of how her body was set aflame with passion when Parker touched her struggled for acknowledgment. No way was she heading in that direction again. It was over, just like the rest of her past. She mentally shook her head. “You can see, but can’t touch. There are some toys in life that you can’t buy with currency,” she replied cryptically.
As they entered the area of the console and Olivia’s ‘toys’, Parker let out a genuine laugh. “You always did know how to pique my interest didn’t you. Look, but don’t touch, sounds like a challenge to me.”
Olivia gave Parker a hard stare. “Some challenges can be deadly Parker. We need to formulate that plan,” she retorted heading for the stairs. As she walked toward her equipment, she thought about some of the items that were still in the prototype stage. “Wow, I can’t believe all this,” Parker said with wide eyes. She looked at Olivia and creased her brow. “How did you get all this stuff,” she asked. “Are you sure I can’t touch…I’d love to see how that one feels in my grip.”
Olivia watched the genuine fascination in Parker’s eyes. “I’ll let you loose on some of this stuff after we plan out what to do tomorrow. Right now, we need your planning mind focused on what to do, ok?”
Parker stopped and waited until Olivia turned to her. “Olivia, I want you to know how much it means to me…I mean you’re helping me out.” She bit her lower lip. “Sometimes it feels like old times, but I know it is a moment I can’t get back.” She blew out a breath, pursed her lips and shrugged. “I guess we better get started on making a plan.”
Olivia sat down in her console chair and motioned for Parker to do the same. Parker took the seat next to Olivia relishing the prospect of working close with her ex-lover again.
Flipping open the notebook she always carried, Parker began making notes as Olivia showed her computer plans of the church and surrounding area. They became so engrossed that neither realized that their bodies were touching.
Then Olivia lifted a hand to touch the screen and it encountered Parker’s breast. The jolt it gave her surprised her and she pulled away immediately and gave Parker a sudden intense look.
Parker needed to feel the contact with Olivia flesh on flesh instead of the barrier of clothing. “You ok?”
The question had a multitude of answers for Olivia. The overriding answer was a categorical, no. Without thinking, she leaned in closer to the screen and this put her inches from Parker’s lips. It would be so easy for her to kiss those lips and forget about everything.
Parker felt her heart beat race as she moved the fraction of an inch that made her lips almost touch Olivia’s lips. For a moment, she thought she would attain one of her goals until they both heard the footsteps on the metal staircase. Once Olivia swung her chair to the other end of the console, Parker closed her eyes and regained control.
+ + +
Amelia and Sophie arrived downstairs with the coffee and several slices of toast. As Sophie went to the dining room with the heavily laden tray, Amelia approached the console and the two women.
Unconsciously, Amelia placed a gentle hand on Olivia’s forearm and smiled into the eyes that turned to meet hers. “I think you and Parker need to eat breakfast and definitely have that caffeine fix.” When she saw the confused expression, Amelia was perplexed. There was definitely a heightened color in her friend’s cheeks.
“Are you ok?” she asked tempted to reach out and touch Olivia’s forehead. Instead, she raised her eyebrows and fixed them on Olivia expecting the usual negative reply. “You need caffeine…right?”
As Olivia looked at Amelia, Parker’s words kept echoing in her head. ‘It is a moment I can’t get back’,played like a broken record. She felt unsettled as the words hit a cord regarding a situation she needed to rectify sooner rather than later. Because of the mental distraction, she let her guard down and said, “You’re always looking out for me aren’t you Amelia?”
Amelia became self-conscious when she realized Parker was there and moved away. Quietly replying, “Someone has to and I’m happy to serve. Come on you two or the toast will be cold.” She headed toward the dining area without looking back.
“I guess we should do as we’re told,” Parker said avoiding Olivia’s eyes.
Olivia glanced up to the kitchen and for a moment watched Amelia and Sophie who appeared to be sharing a joke. Parker’s numerous plans and the hundreds of reasons why it wouldn’t work, irritated her to no end.
Parker knew that the irritation of spending four hours without a break was getting to Olivia. Working side by side with the woman brought bitter sweet memories of their time together as lovers. To her, the hours together felt so natural and right. Their love was destined to be. When she saw Olivia’s attention turn to Amelia, it felt like a body blow. “Are you listening to me?” she snapped.
Olivia returned her gaze to Parker. “When you finally decide on a plan YOU think is executable, I’ll be fully attentive. Have you come up with something you find satisfactory?” she asked. “We’ve talked around the houses for the last three hours Parker. I think the first plan you came up with was the best. I think with my contacts, we can keep Sophie…and yourself relatively safe. There are no promises here though, I hope you know that.”
“We need a plan that will produce as little collateral damage as possible. This rain is supposed to continue for several days and that is to our advantage. Hired killers use one of two weapons, a long range rifle for distances or a hand gun for close up. Rain means umbrellas, which is to our benefit since this Shamus fellow can’t go for a distance shot. He will want to make a visual before he makes the kill. The downside is that civilians might be in the line of fire and, like it or not Olivia, their safety is important to me.” She shook her head. “Can we justify harming an innocent,” Leveling her eyes on Olivia. “And, just so you know, I want in on the action…I don’t need your contacts to keep me safe. I am capable of doing that all by myself.”
Olivia sighed heavily. It was the same old Parker arrogantly refusing to heed reasoning. “There are no guarantees in this world especially in this situation.”
With eyes fixed on the furthest point in the building, Parker blew out a breath. “Sure, let’s go with that plan? We’ll need to let your contacts know…I take it you’ll do that.”
Olivia inwardly sent out a thank you that they’d finally fixed on something. “The plan is executable. Yes, I’ll personally inform everyone that needs to know.”
“Ok, sounds good to me.” She already knew the answer, but figured she’d ask anyway. “Do I get to be in on the meeting with the people who we’ll be working with?”
“No,” Olivia said as she stood up, flexed her muscles and felt a tug on the stitches.
“You don’t work with them, I do. Your priority is to stay with Sophie and ensure she doesn’t get in the line of fire.” She saw movement toward the kitchen door and, glad of the break, moved away.
“That is unacceptable! I’ll not sit back and let people I don’t even know do my job! I will be in on the capture or chase or whatever happens. This is my plan and mine to execute!”
Olivia turned around and pierced Parker with a soul-searching look. “You want in do you? Do you want me to explain what in means Parker? If you get involved on that level there’s no going back.”
“It’s my client, my job…my call!” She eyed Olivia in question. “How can you know that?”
The old familiar hatred she had for Parker exploded into rage. “Know, how do I know? Ten years ago I sold my soul to that particular devil and trust me, there’s no return.”
Parker felt her heart pierced and the sensation was so real that she had to look to see if blood was seeping onto her shirt. Defeated by the words and unable to stop the lone tear that streaked down her cheek she looked back at Olivia. “I’m sorry for making you go there,” she whispered.
Olivia’s lips twisted in self-derision. “You didn’t. I walked into that fire pit all on my own when I shot my brother’s murderer.”
Parker felt Olivia’s pain of loss as acutely as her own. “Is there any chance of redemption?” she asked softly.
“I’m working on it a step at a time.” Her eyes lifted and settled on Amelia as she walked down the stairs with Sophie behind her.
As she watched Olivia’s attention focus solely on Amelia, there was nothing Parker could say. She needed to regain Olivia’s attention without alerting her to the fact. Dr. West was a definite determent to her plans and she would have to be careful in how she eased the woman out of Olivia’s life. She cleared her throat and said, “I…I want you to know…I”
Olivia whipped her head around and said, “Know what Parker? What exactly do I need to know? Do you want to know if I could toss you to the baying wolfs and still live with myself?”
Parker looked again at her shirt sure this time she would see blood oozing–she didn’t. “How can I get out of this place?” she asked softly.
Olivia, surprised at the response, saw the anguish on Parker’s face. “I’ll let you out. When you’re ready to come back, press the button on the door and it will activate the security sensor so we know you want back in.”
Parker gulped back the emotions she felt. If she was going to win back Olivia, she needed to regroup and rethink her plan. “I’m really not hungry…please tell them I’ve gone out for a walk.” She refused to look at
Olivia and nodded at the control panel. “Will you open the door please?”
Softly Olivia answered, “Sure.” She pointed to the side door she used earlier and activated the switch that unlocked the door. “You be careful out there, ok.”
Without a word, Parker walked toward the exit and disappeared through it.
Olivia saw and heard the door bang close and her eyebrows knitted as a sudden chill spread over her body.
“You coming,” Amelia called.
She turned toward the sound of the voice that she always found soothing. “Yeah, be right there.” She looked back at the door and shivered once again before leaving the area.
Cold damp air hit Parker squarely in the face as she exited the warehouse. The rain that had been falling all day turned into a fine mist that coated her bare arms. “Shit!” she screamed as she felt her emotions spiral out of control. “Damn you Olivia Santos! Damn you to hell!” The flood of tears that she held off for the better part of the last four hours finally cascaded down her cheeks as she lifted her head to heaven. Her plans were falling apart and she needed to get hold of her scattered emotions if she was going to pull them off. She looked toward the building’s camera and screamed, “If you’re watching Olivia, tell me why you treated me like the enemy? I didn’t betray you. Why did you ruin everything and then walk away like it meant nothing?” She extended her middle finger toward the camera. “Fuck you!” She hoped Olivia was watching…she knew all too well the type of response her words would bring out in her ex-lover–anger followed by remorse.
She looked down the street and saw the blinking lights of a bar about a half block away. A good stiff drink would do her a world of good. She had put in too much time and energy into her campaign to get Olivia back to be derailed now. She needed to settle her emotions and come up with a new strategy.
By the time she walked to the bar, Parker’s clothes and body were wet. A warm blast of air along with the heady smell of beer greeted her when she opened the door. Once her eyes adjusted to the dim light she looked around. It was like every other bar she had ever been in; wooden chairs arranged around tables that were dark and probably sticky to the touch.
She took a seat at the bar and instantly heard a woman’s voice ask, “What’ll it be?”
“Whatever you have to take away the pain and clear my mind,” Parker said without looking up.
The reply was a throaty chuckle. “Well, I’m not sure that what I have to offer will clear your mind but it will help with pain. What kind of pain you’re in?”
She lifted her eyes and gazed at a tall brunette woman with laughing green eyes staring at her. “Love gone wrong…broken heart…unrequited love…betrayal…arrogance…pigheadedness, you pick, they all apply.”
“I’ve got just the thing.”
When the woman came back, she sat a shot glass and a bottle of beer in front of Parker. With a practiced touch, the woman filled the glass with Cuervo.
“So, this will cure me, huh?” She fished in her pocket, found a fifty and laid it on the bar. “Keep ‘em coming till this runs out,” she said before lifting the shot glass to her lips.
“Are you driving?” the woman asked.
“Nope,” Parker said as her eyes captured the woman’s gaze. “I’ll even buy you one,” she said as she downed the tequila. “It’s the good stuff so come on and drink with me,” she said as she looked around the bar. “It’s only you and me in here.”
The woman’s laugh was genuine as she poured herself a shot. “I don’t get a lot of customers in the middle of the afternoon,” she said as she filled Parker’s glass. “Once the factory a couple blocks down ends a shift, I’ll be real busy.” She lifted her glass. “I’m Faith, I own the place. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in here before.”
Parker found the diversion the woman offered appealing. “Well, that’s because I’ve never been in here before, Faith.” She laughed and took a swig of the beer. “I’m Parker.”
“So, Parker, tell me about this guy that broke your heart and drove you to drink?”
Faith poured another and watched as Parker quickly threw it back. “Have you had anything to eat today?”
Faith pulled a Corona from under the bar and opened it before giving it to Parker. “We don’t serve food, but we do have a lovely selection of beer nuts, pretzels and chips though.”
Parker laughed. “I’ve had all the nuts I’ll ever want.” She looked around the bar. “Hey, since no one is here, you want to go to that little Italian place I saw on the corner?”
Once again, an unadulterated laugh filled the room. “Exactly how can I do that…who’d mind the store?”
“You own the place. Close it for an hour or two,” Parker said and fished in her pocket. “Here,” she said putting a wad of bills on the bar. “This will more than cover any business you might lose.”
Parker interrupted, “No buts just go with it.”
For a long moment, Faith just looked at Parker while she debated the wisdom of closing her bar. “Let me see if I can find you something to eat. We always have some sort of cold cuts in the frig.” Faith started to pick up the bottle of tequila and Parker immediately grabbed it.
“Leave it. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”
In a few minutes, Faith returned and placed a paper plate with a sandwich in front of Parker. “Sorry, ham and cheese is all I have.” She grabbed a bag of chips from a rack. “I’ll even throw in a bag of chips.”
“How generous.” Parker picked up the money on the bar. “Take it out of that.”
“It’s on the house.”
Parker nodded a thank you before taking the bottle and pouring liquid into two shot glasses and picking one up.
“Here’s to true love and plans that go awry,” she said before she swallowed the tequila. Then she took a bite of the sandwich, and smiled. “So how’d you come to own a bar in....”
Olivia sat down at the table without a word. Her mind filled with the thoughts of Parker and her sudden departure. She gazed at Sophie and snorted.
“Will Parker be joining us?” Sophie asked. When she received no reply, she looked across at Amelia who was sitting next to Olivia.
Amelia shrugged then poked her elbow into Olivia’s ribs. “Sophie asked you a question are you going to answer her?” A sweet smile pulled at her lips until she felt the heat of the glare from Olivia.
“Sorry, I was preoccupied. No, she sent her apologies. She’s not hungry right now…went for a breath of air.”
Sophie gave a petulant scowl. “Damn, I made a special treat for her. She has a sweet tooth, but then you know that don’t you? I mean, you did live together so you’d know that.”
Amelia raised her eyes at the revelation, but instead of commenting picked at her salad instead. Her mind churned, desperate to ask several pertinent questions.
Olivia’s hackles rose. She didn’t like Sophie; she was a spoiled brat who didn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. Olivia’s voice dropped to a quiet menace as her eyes bored into the woman. “I did know that, thank you for reminding me…on both counts.” She placed some of the salad on her plate and proceeded to eat mechanically.
Sophie felt a chill go down her back. The cold, blue gaze that caught hers for a few moments dropped to dissect the food on her plate. “I’m not hungry either. I think I’ll take a nap.” She stood up and left but not before she snagged the dessert, she’d baked.
“That was great, thanks,” Parker said with a forced smile. “Are you a good listener? I have a story for you." She eyed Faith, who smiled gently in encouragement and continued. “Ten years ago the love of my life walked out on me and I thought it was over.”
“But, it wasn’t.”
“I kept tabs on O’s whereabouts…I knew our love wasn’t over. Circumstances brought us together again four days ago and I finally could reveal myself to her. Like a shot in the gut, all the old emotions and feelings bowled me over and I know it was the same for O.”
Faith poured Parker another shot and watched as the woman across from her downed it in one gulp. “What did he say?”
Parker laughed and shook her head. “There you go being funny again.” Parker took the last bite of the sandwich, shrugged and said, “She thinks she’s moved on.”
Faith said, “Ouch that must have been hard to take.”
“Not really…she only thinks she’s moved on.” Parker looked around and saw a jukebox. “If I find a good song will you dance with me?”
For a moment, Faith didn’t know what to say. All it took was one look into what she thought were forlorn eyes for her to make her mind up. “Sure why not? Just make it an upbeat song and not a sad one.”
Parker stood in front of the jukebox with its flashing bright lights and looked over the selections. She chose three songs and turned to find Faith standing behind her. When she folded her arms around the woman, Parker felt the disappointment she refused to acknowledge overwhelm her. As they moved in time to the music, she closed her eyes remembering how two nights earlier Olivia laid next to her rubbing her belly. When the music changed and Roy Orbison and kd lang began to sing Cryin’ the need to feel Olivia close again seemed to engulf her. She moved away from Faith and looked down to see if her broken heart was bleeding. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Lately, no matter what I do it just never seems to be enough.”
“Hey, it’s ok.” Faith pulled Parker back into her arms. “I like dancing with you.”
The woman holding her allowed Parker to hide the tears. It had been a long time since she allowed that emotion but the anonymity of the bar and the woman allowed her to give in to the emotion. “I miss being with her,” she whispered before burying her head in Faith’s shoulder. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Faith pulled back slightly and smiled before she leaned in and kissed Parker’s cheek. “No one here is going to judge you so go ahead and cry…it’s good to let it out.”
Neither Amelia nor Olivia spoke, each contemplating several tumbling thoughts.
“I guess she has a sweet tooth too…”
“…Look, I was going to tell you,” they both said at the same time.
Olivia pushed away her plate. “I think this lack of appetite business is catching.”
It would have been so easy for Amelia to cause a commotion over Olivia’s failing to mention that Parker was that close a friend. Her mind flashed over the body language between the two women and she couldn’t deny that they had chemistry. She mentally shrugged. “You should eat Olivia,” she whispered softly. “You barely had breakfast. Making plans, and then implementing them requires nourishment…not to mention you’re injured.”
Olivia felt her throat constrict as she tried to reply. Amelia had given her another get out of jail free card. She wondered how many more she would give before Amelia decided that she wasn’t worth the effort.
“Thanks Mom,” she replied. With a deft move, she pulled the plate back and began to munch on a lettuce leaf.
“I’m going into the office this afternoon. I’ve brought a couple of my clients forward so that I can be at the funeral in the morning.”
Olivia swung her body around to within inches of Amelia. “It’s too damn dangerous…you’re not going! How can I do what I have to if I’m worried about you as well as them?”
Amelia heard the panic rise in her partner’s voice. “I’m sorry, but when did you become my keeper Olivia. I’m going. I’m perfectly capable of standing next to a grave to support these people and pay my respects. You just do your job and I’ll do mine.”
“For god’s sake Amelia, this isn’t a family picnic and you’re no longer a nun responsible for saving people from themselves. This situation is fraught with untold dangers and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you become a target as well as Parker and that…that woman,” she spit out.
Amelia hackles rose at the reference to her old profession, but heard the bitterness at the end of the sentence.
“What exactly do you have against Sophie? Is it because she gave away another of your secrets or…that she has a thing for someone you cared about. Maybe cared is the wrong word…you might still care and it’s getting up your nose. Have I hit the nail on the head Olivia?”
Olivia wanted to strangle Amelia. Instead, she stood up and walked to the other end of the room. “I don’t care about Parker…I mean I do, but not how I once did. How can I continue to love someone who betrayed me and even worse…she betrayed my heart?”
Amelia heard the pent up pain of years gone by. “I’m a good listener, why don’t you tell me.”
“What will that do exactly? If I shed some of the weight I carry on my back in the form of a confession, I’ll feel lighter. Give me a break Amelia. I told you when we first met that I didn’t need a shrink and that situation still applies,” Olivia replied acidly.
“I never said it would, but to share your pain with a friend, one who cares about you, might make you feel less alone. I think that’s your problem Olivia…you won’t let anyone in because you’re afraid that if you do it will happen all over again. I’m not Parker. I don’t know what she did or you perceive she did to you, but I will never knowingly hurt you. You have my solemn promise.” Amelia caught Olivia’s angry gaze and allowed her love for her friend to show.
Olivia felt the gentle entreaty and knew the truth behind the words. It is too late, too damn late. “Parker was the one who told the police that I’d shot my brother’s killer. I told her in confidence as a lover shares secrets with someone they love and trust. She chose not to keep my secret and when they arrested me…well…it was the last time I saw her until the other day.”
Amelia suddenly understood the body chemistry between Olivia and Parker. It was a love-hate kind of relationship. “If you had seen her immediately afterwards, what would you have said?” Amelia asked quietly.
A feral look appeared in Olivia’s eyes. “There wouldn’t have been words Amelia, I’d have shot her like I did my brother’s killer. As it turned out, I think she received the worse of my actions because of what she did. I …” she shrugged. “Well, I went away.”
“What happened to Parker?” Amelia felt a measure of fear at the retort but intrigue was there too. She was seeing a part of Olivia’s life that she had been unaware.
A defeated air surrounded Olivia as she sank into the nearest chair at the table. “She committed the worse sin possible in the eyes of some cops. She gave me up to the authorities without giving me the chance to do it myself. From what I heard later, they made her life hell. Somehow she survived it and ended up here.”
“Would you have turned yourself in?” she asked starkly.
“No, the scum deserved everything I gave him. He robbed me of my brother I returned the favor and took his life. Don’t you say and eye for an eye in that damned bible of yours.” Olivia’s words rang with power of revenge, remorse far from her heart. Amelia’s heart broke for both women. What Olivia did in an act of revenge shattered both their lives. “I guess at the time what happened to Parker would have made you happy.”
“Yeah I was happy. The place where I was at that time was still in the vengeful mode. I have to hand it to her though. It took some guts to ask me for help. If the circumstances had been reversed, I wouldn’t have,” Olivia remarked quietly.
“I think you should tell her that and tell her that you’re proud of her and what she did with her life after you effectively destroyed both your lives. Don’t you think she deserves that Olivia?” Amelia smiled slowly as she placed a hand on Olivia’s uninjured shoulder. “I’m proud of how you’ve turned your life around Olivia, and the person you are today.”
Olivia felt the words keenly for Amelia was right; she had destroyed both their lives. As reprehensible as
Parker’s betrayal was, what she had done was ten times worse. Amelia’s words helped her achieve what her best efforts over the years hadn’t. Her hand touched the fingers on her shoulder and rested there for a few moments. “Thanks. I guess talking to a friend isn’t so bad after all.”
Amelia chuckled softly. “I guess not. Now, will you eat something… please?”
Olivia sighed and gave her friend a grateful smile. “For you, I will. Pity Ms. High and Mighty took that dessert away. I was looking forward to a piece of that carrot cake.”
“I’ll bring you some when I’m done at the office, now eat.” Amelia grinned as she pushed the salad plate toward Olivia.
When other customers began to come in for an after work drink, Parker took her seat at the bar and kept her glass full. For ten years, she’d held her love for Olivia above all else. Olivia decided that it was over–but it wasn’t for her. Since the fateful day when she last saw Olivia, her mission was to get the woman back in her life. The vision of the day that ended her happiness filled her consciousness.
She remembered the sound of the tires on the gravel road as the dark sedan approached the mausoleum. She shuttered as she remembered the fear she felt knowing they were coming to arrest Olivia…
“I guess that decision is out of both our hands now,” Parker said pointing her chin toward the two men exiting the vehicle. David Tourney and Roger Beasley entered the building.
Olivia glanced at the two men approaching. Neither had their weapons drawn and that was something for which she was grateful. As she stood up, her mind filtered through the fact that they were there and she wondered how they knew where to find her. Then she gazed at Parker who didn’t seem at all phased by their appearance. With gritted teeth, she savagely whispered, “It was you! You told them where I’d be. There I was feeling sorry for you, and you led them to me. Is that what you call love?”
“NO!” Parker exclaimed. “How could I have done that Olivia? I didn’t know where you were…I had to search for you.” She saw the cold detached gaze her lover gave her and she shivered once again. “You have to believe me…I never did that!”
With a bitter laugh, Olivia bit out, “You knew…from the first day we met you’ve known where I was every damn second of my life! Well aren’t I the lucky one. Not only have I freed up my demons I’ve become free of you too.” The words echoed ominously as Roger Beasley placed his bulk in front of her.
“You’re going to come with us now Olivia… peacefully. It’s what your daddy would have wanted,” Captain Beasley said.
Parker stood with her mouth opened as she felt her world falling apart. She couldn’t and wouldn’t lose Olivia…not to another woman, jail, or even death. “I want to come along,” she said as she gently placed a hand on Olivia’s arm. “I’ll find a lawyer for you.”
David Tourney saw the dark expression in Olivia’s eyes and as she was about to speak, he chose that moment to intervene. He liked Parker and he understood that Olivia was creating an unreachable chasm for Parker’s own good. Placing his body between Parker and his friend, he insisted quietly, “Leave it be Parker. We can sort all this out at the precinct. Right now, Olivia needs to come with us. Why don’t you follow behind?”
Olivia seethed inside. She didn’t want anyone’s help especially from Parker. Her anger fed on the woman’s insistence to always be at her side. Her expression turned ice cold before giving Parker one last concentrated look. “You’re out of my life Parker. I never want to see your face or hear your voice ever again.” She then turned to Beasley and said, “The air is getting stale in here. Let’s go Captain.”
Stunned, Parker watched as David fitted handcuffs around Olivia’s wrist and he began reciting the Miranda warning. As the two men walked Olivia outside, Parker watched them as she tried desperately to awake from the all too real dream she was sure was taking place. Then, what was surreal became clear as she heard,
“Olivia Santos, you’re under arrest for the murder of Damien Reeves. You have the right to…”
“That was the last time I saw her,” she whispered to the shot glass. She looked at her watch. “I should check out that church.” She stood up and the room began to spin.
“Besides, it’s raining.”
“Not a problem,” Parker said with a wave of her hand. “I don’t have far to go.” She gave Faith a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thanks.” When Faith nodded she added, “You’re a great dancer…can I come back sometime and dance with you again?”
Faith smiled. “You get over her first.”
When rain started pelting the metal roof all the walls reverberated magnifying the sound. Sophie, who returned to join Olivia, heard the sound and glared at the woman. “She’s been gone a long time, aren’t you worried?”
Olivia avoided looking at her. “No, I’m sure she is over at the church or the cemetery. Parker is a master tactician and she doesn’t leave any stone unturned. She needs to be certain that everything goes according to plan tomorrow.”
+ + +
No sooner had Parker left the bar then, the clouds opened wide and a cold rain poured down. With a shivering body, she stood close to the building near the door she went out four hours earlier and pressed the button.
All eyes turned toward the control center when a loud buzz echoed throughout the warehouse. “I bet that’s her now,” Olivia said. She went to the control panel and activated the camera aimed at the door. Her eyebrows creased as she saw Parker huddled next to the door. “You stay put,” she said as she pointing at Sophie. She pushed the button then, with cat like ease, pulled a blanket off the back of the couch and hurried toward the door.
“Parker where on earth have you been?” she exclaimed in irritation “You look like a drowned rat.” She took the blanket and tried to put it around Parker’s shoulders.
“Stop it,” Parker shouted as she pushed the arm away. “What are you doing O, putting on a show so the others think you’re a caring person? You’ve made it perfectly clear on more than one occasion over the last four days exactly what you think of me, so stop this holier-than-thou crap! Ah, I know, it’s for the nun right! What a pathetic person you’ve become!”
With her eyes hooded and inscrutable, Olivia said, “Suit yourself…I don’t need this from you,”
“Great, we agree. Now get away from me and go back to playing housie with the nun.” Parker looked around and noticed that Amelia’s car was missing. “Oh, I see she’s not here. Does she make you hot and bothered O? Too bad she isn’t interested in bedding you…I know how much you enjoy frequent fucks. You know she’ll never be as good as I am in bed, don’t you. What would a virgin like her have that could keep a fiery woman like you satisfied?” Parker’s eyes widened. “That’s it! You want to add a notch on your belt with a virgin!” she growled. “Just leave me alone I don’t need anything from you!”
From her vantage point on the couch, Sophie listened to the heated exchange and had to keep herself from going to the aid of Parker. The look in Olivia’s eyes when she told her to stay put scared her so much that she didn’t move an inch. When an obviously furious Olivia came back into the room, Sophie gave her an open mouth expression. She stood up and glared at Olivia. “Where’s Parker,” she demanded.
“In her room.”
“What did you do to her?”
As Sophie pushed past the woman she muttered, “Lair.”
+ + +
Sophie didn’t knock, but opened the door and went in. Sitting in a chair shivering and soaking wet sat Parker Davis. “Look at you,” Sophie softly said. “Let’s get you out of those wet clothes.”
“Don’t be silly.” With great care, Sophie undressed the woman then gently dried her off with a soft, fluffy towel. “Come on, let’s get you in bed.”
Even under the blankets, Parker still shivered. Desperate to help, Sophie began looking in the drawers and in the closet for an extra blanket.
“They’re in the linen closet,” a low smoky voice said.
While waiting for the blanket, Sophie sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed Parker’s body. “Are you feeling any warmer?”
“A…a little,” Parker chattered as she pulled the covers closer.
“We’re getting you another blanket.” Sophie turned to see if Olivia returned and nearly jumped out of her skin.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said gulping in a deep breath.
“I brought two.” Olivia’s eyes turned to the woman in the bed and gentled. She finally said, “Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Get the fuck out of here Olivia…I can’t stand the sight of you,” a drunken Parker slurred.
Sophie leveled her eyes on Olivia and pierced her with an angry look. “This is your fault,” she said between clenched teeth. “All she asked for was your help.”
“And, I’m giving it to her. If she wants to go out in the rain the day before a big job and get drunk it has nothing to do with me!”
“It has everything to do with you and you know it,” Sophie ground out. “Please leave and close the door behind you.”
Olivia stood in the doorway debating if she should dismiss Sophie and be the one to help Parker. It would be so easy to do but something was holding her back.
Sophie turned away from Olivia and spread the two blankets over Parker. When she heard the door close she stood up, undressed, crawled in next to the still shivering woman and pulled her close. “There, do you feel warmer?”
“I once heard that this is how people who are stuck in the snow without heat get warm,” Sophie said as she rubbed her hand up and down Parker’s back.
The two women lay close until Parker finally stopped shaking. “Thank you,” Parker whispered.
“After all you’ve done for me, I don’t need thanks. It feels good to take care of you for a change.”
“Guess I will have a lot of apologizing to do tomorrow.”
“Olivia for one…I should never said that to her.”
Sophie moved so she rested on her elbow. “How can you feel that way Parker? She has done nothing but put you down and glare at you here and at the farm,” she bit out angrily. “You owe her nothing.”
Parker closed her eyes before she began shivering again.
Sophie put her arms around Parker again and held close. Sophie’s lips kissed the cool cheek, then move to
Parker’s forehead and finally found their way to the lips. “Hold me please.”
Olivia’s eyes that she wanted nothing to do with her. She needed to think to reappraise the situation and come up with a better plan. When she felt Sophie’s lips kissing her shoulder she felt repulsed as a vision of Olivia began to fill her mind. Her body began to respond to Sophie’s advances and the visions of Olivia turned into ones of the passion only Olivia could make her feel.
Wordlessly, she began exploring Sophie’s body with soft touches and kisses. When she felt Sophie respond, her fingers moved lower only to have them stopped.
“No, let me love you Parker. You just lay there and let me love you.”
She had no fight left so she did as requested and closed her eyes as Sophie’s lips continued to assault her body. As she felt the tongue lick her, she let her body drift into the feelings the tongue and fingers elicited in her. Parker knew that if Sophie continued she would come so she reached down and pulled her head up. “Not yet, let me touch you.” After Sophie crawled up her body, Parker began her exploration.
Their love making wasn’t a display of fiery intense passion, but of a slow, gentle discovery. Then, out of mutual need and desperation, they clung to each other as both felt the rush born out of want and need.
“Now that’s the perfect way to get warm,” Sophie purred as she kissed the arm holding her.
Parker’s lonely soul cried ‘I love you Olivia,’ as a lone tear rolled down her cheek.
Amelia parked her vehicle in her place in the warehouse and was surprised that all the lights were low, even at the center console. A quick glance at the dashboard clock showed it to be eight pm. She climbed out of the vehicle, picked up the container with the slice of carrot cake and sighed as she flexed the muscles of her back. She walked over to the consol and placed her car keys in the appropriate spot. A tender smile crossed her face as she thought of Olivia’s fetish for having a place for everything.
She debated whether to make coffee, take a shower or just chill for half an hour, first. Her mind was still coming to terms with the fact that Olivia and Parker had been lovers. Her heart, on the other hand, probably never would. That fact alone had her emotions zigzagging in a pattern she’d never experienced before. She couldn’t decide if she was envious, angry or shocked. Deciding on the chill factor she automatically headed for the couch. Upon entering the room, she flicked on the low lights and gasped as she saw Olivia. “Hi, what are you doing in the dark?”
Olivia had been thinking and when the sun went down, she hadn’t noticed enough to turn on any lights. Her eyelids fluttered at the rush of light and shot her head around to gaze at her friend. “I was thinking, just didn’t notice.”
Amelia stepped closer so she stood beside Olivia’s armchair. “Do you want company or would you prefer to sit in the dark again?”
A debate went on in Olivia’s head at the question. She didn’t really want company but she did want Amelia there. “I always love your company you know that. Come on, sit and tell me about your afternoon. What time is it anyway?”
With a smile, Amelia sat on the floor at the foot of Olivia’s chair and nestled into the strength of her long legs. “Eight, you know I can’t tell you about my clients. By the way, Teal wants to know when you’re going to be done with this case. Apparently, Mr. Ryan is calling every two hours for your help. I think she’s getting desperate.”
Olivia smiled. Somehow, Teal and desperate don’t gel. “I’ll call Teal the day after tomorrow. We should know then if it’s all over or if we have to take drastic measures.”
“Dare I ask what the drastic measures are?”
Olivia absently trailed her fingers in Amelia’s hair. Although neither woman would admit it, the small gesture settled them both. “New identities for them both and get them the hell away from here…the farther the better.”
“Don’t you think that’s over the top? It reminds me of Sister Marie and what you did for her.” A gentle sigh escaped. “Her baby will be almost two years old by now. I guess it’s not a baby anymore.”
“Nope not a baby.”
“Just out of interest where are our house guests?”
“They decided to turn in early. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow everyone needs a cool head.”
“Tomorrow might not go cleanly Amelia. The guy who’s after them is a true professional…he’s among the top five assassins.”
Amelia’s gaze settled on Olivia and her quiet retrospect. When she realized the full meaning of the words, her eyes opened wide. In horror she said, “There’s a table of assassins.”
This time Olivia smiled affectionately. “Not exactly. It’s important to know the enemy’s potential…lives depend on that knowledge.”
“I’ve never asked Olivia, but these people who are helping you, how do you know them?” Amelia refused to allow Olivia to turn away. She knelt in front of her and gently pulled her friend’s face toward her so their eyes locked.
“After I murdered that man and the authorities had me in their custody I was given two options…prison or go to work in covert operations.” She shrugged slightly. “As you see, I’m not in prison.”
Amelia unconsciously rubbed her thumb over Olivia’s clenched jaw. “These people are old colleagues then?”
The gentle touch of her friend had Olivia’s senses hot-wired. “Kind of, I call on them when I need them…”
“And, they call on you when they need your skills I presume. Is this co-operation for life?” Amelia queried.
She felt her breathing became shorter as Olivia’s presence drew her in.
“My life…perhaps, or until they decide I’m too old. I guess I haven’t outlived my usefulness yet.” She shrugged as a self-depreciating smile crossed her face.
A tear rolled down Amelia’s cheek at the price her friend had paid for that folly called revenge.
Olivia was horrified to see the shadow of hurt in Amelia’s features. “Hey, it’s ok. I brought it all on myself by taking another man’s life. There has to be a penance Amelia or our world would be lawless. At least I get to lead a fairly normal life.” She smiled fondly. “It allowed you to enter my life, right?”
With a sob, Amelia buried her head on Olivia’s shoulder. “You’ll always have me,” she whispered. They held each other in the quiet reassurance of their friendship. They both knew it could easily change if the circumstances changed.
Parker opened her eyes and immediately closed them. Her head was exploding and her mouth tasted like...her eyes flew open and she cautiously moved her head–Sophie wasn’t there. Then her eyes rested on the woman curled up in the overstuffed chair in the room. She imagined Olivia berating her for becoming personally involved. That was all she needed.
Even though the room was spinning and her head felt like a bomb had just gone off, she got out of bed and made her way to the bathroom. She needed a shower to wash away the cobwebs that were clouding her thinking. She needed to be at the top of her game if they were going to outsmart O’Donnell.
“Why are you sleeping in the chair?”
“With all the grief Olivia has given you, I thought it best not to have her see us in bed together.” She stretched.
“Good thing I did because she came in twice to check on you.”
Parker creased her eyebrows. “She did?”
“Yeah, she came into the room and stood by the bed both times.”
A shrug along with a sigh was Parker’s reply. She pulled on her clothes then looked at Sophie. “After today we can leave here and Olivia will have to find someone else to be the target of her disapproving glares. You should get a shower and dress.”
Sophie looked at her watch. “It’s only four.”
“Yes and the funeral is at eleven. If we are going to make this plan work we need all the time we can get.”
With a pout, Sophie got up. “Ok, but only on one condition.”
Exasperated, Parker said, “I really am not up for this.”
A sly smile crossed Sophie’s face as she moved so she stood in front of the woman. Then she leaned in, wrapped her arms around Parker and kissed her. When she pulled back she said, “When this is all over I intend on doing more of that with you.”
Parker patted Sophie’s backside and shook her head. “Go and get ready so we can start the day.”
+ + +
Parker spied Olivia sitting at the control panel typing what she assumed was an email. She wasn’t sure if Olivia would want to see her, but she spoke anyway. “Good morning,” she said. “We have a big day ahead of us.”
The sound of a familiar voice in the low lighting felt ethereal almost. Inwardly Olivia chuckled–ethereal and Parker just didn’t quite fit. “Yes we do. I’ve advised my associates of the plan, and although we gave them short notice they’re in the process of setting everything in motion.” Olivia answered.
“Good. I think we need to go to the church and cemetery. Who knows, this Shamus guy might be there already…probably is.” She shrugged. “That’s what I’d do.”
Olivia lifted an eyebrow. “I agree. Amelia has found some old clothing she hasn’t taken back to the church, which she’ll pass on to Sophie. Does she know anything about the plan yet?”
“Yes, I spoke with her earlier. This is all happening so fast and that makes me uneasy.” Parker cleared her throat. “I don’t like a situation where we haven’t dotted all the i’s crossed all the t’s.
“Fast isn’t always a bad thing, especially under these circumstances. We have support and technology in the equation that O’Donnell won’t expect. I’m counting on him thinking that it is only you and you’re a hick private detective,” Olivia said. She turned her attention to the console when she heard the alert of a new message.
Deftly she punched in a code and watched the message appear on the screen…
“Well, you always were the more confident one.”
Olivia scowled. “Confidence is a question of experience in my opinion. My skills, for want of a better term, have been honed in a much wider field than yours.”
“Delinquent is not a word I’d used to describe you Parker nor should you be so hard on yourself. You were and are a master at tactics. I respect that skill. If I didn’t, do you think I’d be putting Am…everyone in danger. My associates are in place, now all we need is for O’Donnell to show. We’ll bag him and then get him to implicate the stepmother.”
“You make it sound so easy and it isn’t. Let’s not forget that everyone there will be in danger until he’s unarmed…especially Sophie. You think I don’t see through you O, but I do…all you really care about is Amelia’s safety. ”
The antagonistic words washed over Olivia. Under normal circumstances, she’d punch Parker’s lights out, but this wasn’t the time or place“You and I will sit down and thrash out what you think your beef with me is, but at the moment, we have more pressing concerns. If you can’t keep your personal opinions in check tell me now, because I sure as hell don’t want a liability by my side.”
Parker ground her teeth and flexed her jaw. “Liability…now that’s an interesting choice of words Olivia.” She took a deep cleansing breath. “Rest assured that as soon as O’Donnell is in custody and has implicated Sophie’s stepmother, I’ll leave. There will be no need to sit down for I already know how you feel.” She rubbed her temples. “I need a cup of coffee,” she said.
“Here, I made this for you…I thought you might need it this morning.” Olivia threw her a small packet containing a powdery substance. “You always could hold your liquor Parker, but you were as grouchy as a bear in the mornings.”
After catching the packet, Parker cocked her head in question. “You remember that?”
With a tight smile, Olivia replied. “Sure, I remember lots of things about you…about us. You never forget the past Parker, but you have to live for the future. It’s the only thing that keeps you going, trust me on that.”
“Yeah, do you remember how I like it?”“Yes,” she said. “The funny thing about the past Olivia…if it is left unresolved you never get over it.” She tilted her head and pursed her lips. “Be right back with the coffee then we need to check out the sites.”
Olivia nodded. “I take it Sophie is up. I’ll need to go wake Amelia she’s not an early riser. For a nun, you’d figure she would be wouldn’t you.” An amused smile curved around her lips. She stood and headed in the opposite direction.
Amelia watched as Olivia and Parker stood together going over the plan for the day. Now that she knew about their past, she watched them in a different light. Their body language told her that there was a definite connection between them. She saw the way they would almost touch, the looks they gave each other and their familiar, comfortable relationship and she felt like an outsider. “I thought Olivia only was that way with me…how wrong could I have been,” she whispered.
When they were finished with the final details, Olivia and Parker advanced toward the two disguised women. It was Olivia that took the lead.” Do you understand what will take place?” Olivia asked. They nodded.
“Good. Do you have your bullet proof vests on?” Again, they indicated yes. “I will go ahead and make sure all my people are set up at the church and cemetery. Parker will bring you,” she pointed to Amelia and Sophie, “to the church.” She looked at them intensely. “Under no circumstances will either of you do anything that will put yourself in danger or in the line of fire.” Her eyes narrowed. “Is that clear?” When they shook their heads in agreement, she pulled on her helmet, mounted her bike and once the door opened, sped away.
Parker watched Olivia go. Part of her understood the need for someone else to take charge of her case, but a greater part was livid. She wasn’t a nursemaid. She turned to Amelia and Sophie. “You two ready?”
Amelia, said, “Yes,” as she eyed Parker in a new light. She had never felt jealous before, but now she did and didn’t know what to do with the emotion. To her, Parker was a rival and a threat to her relationship with Olivia.
Sophie folded her arms. “Why do I have to wear this ridiculous costume? Just look at my face with the gigantic mole on my nose…and, this vest thingy is too tight. Can’t I change into something nicer?”
With irritation clearly etched on her face, Parker put her hands on Sophie’s shoulders. “If I had my way
Sophie, you wouldn’t be going at all so stop your complaining and get your butt in the car.”
“Yes,” Sophie said before she slammed the door.
As Parker passed Amelia on her way to the other side of the car, she reached out and gently squeezed her arm.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “She’s a bit of a prima donna.”
Amelia continued to the other side without reaction or a comment. Once seated in the vehicle, she hung her head and felt the need for silent prayer.
+ + +
The chapel looked innocuous enough. It was much like any other Protestant church. The white wooden structure had lost some of its brightness due to the dull, rainy day that greeted the mourners. The gray day understandably reflected the general disposition of most of the people there.
Olivia silently watched people she didn’t know file in and take their seats after they passed by the casket. Some touched, while others prayed, but most just walked solemnly by. When the door of the chapel finally closed and the minister stood at a small pulpit, everyone became silent. Olivia looked around at the pews filled with the friends or family of Camille Peterson…it was standing room only. Her eyes traveled to Parker who had strategically positioned her body so she could protect both Amelia and Sophie.
She contemplated if any of them would draw that many mourners as her eyes focused on Amelia. Her business partner and friend had a kind heart and she was certain there would be a large turnout for her. She didn’t know enough about Sophie to speculate but she did know Parker. In their line of work, neither would find one pew filled. Olivia slid behind a stanchion and began her systematic search of faces. She knew O’Donnell was there somewhere.
While the choir sang Amazing Grace, she covertly brought her hand to her face and quietly said, “Dan, have you anything on your side? Mine’s clear.”
A reply immediately vibrated in her earpiece. “No, he might be waiting for the burial.”
Olivia considered that as she scanned the people on her side again. A tiny smile gathered on her lips when she again spied Amelia and Sophie standing near a side entrance. It wasn’t hard to miss them since they were the only ones there wearing a habit. A speculative look came over her features, as she realized not for the first time how cute Amelia looked in the garb. She was certain that the Mother Superior would be spitting feathers if she could see how they were using the garb of nuns. Her eyes drifted to the stained glass window and a picture of Jesus ministering to the sick and she shook her head–he definitely wouldn’t be happy.
“My gut tells me that with this weather he’ll try here first. It’s what I would do. Wouldn’t you, Dan?”
Dan whispered, “Yep, sure would.”
“Trust me, he isn’t far away…I can feel it.” She switched channels and whispered into the miniature microphone on her wrist, “Stevie anything with the facial recognition software yet?”
Her gaze settled on the woman who once was her lover, as she stood between Amelia and Sophie ready to protect if danger appeared. That’s my girl. Olivia’s mind somersaulted as the words echoed in her brain. Parker still had the ability to make her sit up and take notice. “Parker, everything is green so far. Has Sophie mentioned if anyone near the family isn’t a relative or close friend?”
Parker scowled as the earpiece echoed in her ear. Her gaze fell on Olivia. There was no doubt in her mind that if anything happened to Amelia, Olivia would blame her and probably would shoot first and ask questions later. “No, the family is here. Parents, aunt and as far as Sophie knows the other people in the front two rows are close friends of Camille or the family. I think he’s waiting for us to take it outside…too many witnesses here.”
Amelia nudged Parker in the ribs gently. She nodded toward the minister who began speaking. She was certain that the people around them were giving Parker severe glances–they weren’t. Her religious training said to show the proper respect when in church and that included no talking–she hoped God would forgive them.
Olivia heard the young preacher begin and chose not to reply. She continuously scanned the crowd and frowned when she saw an odd movement from a figure dressed much like all the men in the room–dark suit, dark tie. She lifted her hand to her mouth and said, “Dan, move to the right a couple of feet and check out the guy…wait, wait he’s moving.” With a swift movement, she re-positioned herself to see the man clearly.
“That’s O’Donnell,” Stevie said into everyone’s ear. “It’s a one hundred percent match.”
Seconds later, Olivia and Dan moved forward. She glanced in Parker’s direction, and saw her old partner touch Amelia’s shoulder and the two nuns immediately fell to their knees. “Let’s get him.”
Parker looked to her left and spotted O’Donnell and moved to shield both the praying women. She reached inside her jacket and allowed her hand to rest on the nine millimeter in the small of her back. She saw O’Donnell move for the door near them and was tempted to take him there. When she saw the other agents closing in on him, she waited.
O’Donnell spotted the two figures behind the stanchions and the others heading toward him, he immediately made them out as feds. He opted for plan B–go to the tree line a hundred yards from the burial spot where he left a high powered rifle ready and waiting. A satisfied grin crossed his face knowing he had chosen the perfect vantage point in the church to make a getaway. With a turn and a push, he shot out of the side door.
When he saw pursuers following him out the door, he reached inside this jacket pocket and pulled out a cylinder. He stopped, turned in their general direction and let the powerful pepper spray lose on them. A sneer crossed his face as he watched his pursuer’s hands reach for their eyes.
Olivia glanced across at Parker who was urging the two nuns to stand up. “Parker, get them to a safe location now!” she shouted into her wrist. Olivia rapidly switched channels. “Dan, remember our earlier discussion?”
“Perfectly,” Dan answered. He was to ensure that no harm came to Amelia, Parker or Sophie. Olivia had warned him that Parker was going to want to get in on the action. She made it clear that under no circumstances should he allow that to happen. He sighed. There was no way he’d be able to prevent Parker from participating. “Damned if I do…damned if I don’t,” he said under his breath.
Parker shot Olivia a look of disgust before she whispered, “Let’s go.”
Amelia looked anxiously at Olivia and was dismayed to see that her friend was already at the exit. She couldn’t recall a time when Olivia didn’t check on her before leaving.
Sophie defiantly stood still. “I will not leave until the service is over.”
“Damn it Sophie, stop arguing with me! This is the real thing and your life and all those in this chapel are in jeopardy. So get your ass out the door!” Parker whispered forcibly.
Amelia gave Parker a severe look for her language in church then gently touched her arm. “Let me.” She linked her arm with Sophie’s and began walking toward the exit. “The service is still going on and everyone is wondering what the uproar is all about.” She saw Sophie try to turn around and look. “Don’t turn around…you’ll be spotted.” Once they were outside, she let go of Sophie and looked at Parker. All thoughts of her animosity toward the woman erased as she acquiesced to their protector. “What now?”
+ + +
Once outside the church, both Parker and Dan Estevez eased their guns out of their holsters. With Amelia and Sophie in tow behind them, they rounded the corner to the side of the church where the other agents exited.
When Dan saw his compatriots crouching on the ground, he wanted to go to them, but understood the importance of the mission and stayed with the three women. When the acrid smell of pepper spray wafted in their direction, Parker led the two women to a safer location. When Parker heard the squeal of tires, she automatically turned her head and saw a black Corvette speeding away followed. Her eyes then tracked to an equally black motorcycle that left a spray of water in its wake.
She turned to Amelia and Sophie. “Now, I’ll make sure you and Sophie get back to the warehouse and that no one is waiting for you there. Once you’re inside, engage every security device and don’t…I repeat, don’t allow anyone in. The only two people you respond to are me or Olivia.”
“Does that include the phone?” Sophie asked trying to be part of the conversation.
“The only calls you answer are those that come on Amelia’s private line…and you say nothing until you hear the code.”
“I can do that,” Amelia said.
Parker scanned the street and thought she saw the faint remnant of the motorcycle’s taillight, before she said,
“I’ll take you to your car.”
Dan touched Parker’s arm. “You’re supposed to go with me.”
Parker nodded and let a slight smile curve her lips. “After we get them situated and safe we can join the chase.
The direction they’re going is toward the warehouse so we shouldn’t be too far behind.”
Dan wiped his brow and shrugged. “You know Olivia said I shouldn’t let you do that,” he said.
Parker fixed him with a look. “So, she isn’t the boss.”
Dan grinned. “But she thinks she is.”
With a snort, Parker winked. “I’m going to see to it that we catch O’Donnell and deal with him. As for Olivia…I’ll handle her…or have Kate Edstrom take care of it.”
Dan shook his head and picked up a mic. “Bravo two, what’s your twenty?”
The moisture on the road after a long period of dry weather meant that the surface was slippery particularly around bends. Throwing caution to the wind, Olivia, with her head down, focused on catching up to O’Donnell.
She would bring him down along with anyone else involved. The chapel was about a mile from the center of town and close to a thriving suburban area. She noted, with mild surprise, how remarkably light the traffic was.She glanced at the speedometer and saw that O’Donnell was traveling close to seventy. Olivia ground her teeth as she revved up the bike to begin the maneuvered to overtake the Vet.
As she closed the distance, she anticipated the capture. For a few seconds she sped alongside the vehicle as the final bend before Portsmouth proper came upon them. For a split second, she turned her head and gazed through her dark visor at the man behind the wheel. “I’ve got you now you son-of-a-bitch.” She pulled forward to use her bike as a roadblock not anticipating the greasy, wet surface. As she hit the brakes, the bike skidded catastrophically across the path of the speeding vehicle. By a miracle and the odd inch or two, she crashed into the side of the hill rather than under the Vet’s wheels.
As the bike hit, Olivia felt the full force of the impact on her helmet as her body crashed against the hard rock.Then her body listlessly settled in a watery culvert.
Minutes later, several vehicles with flashing lights in pursuit of O’Donnell rushed past her limp, unmoving body. One of the cars skidded to a stop and a lone figure emerged. “I’ll take care of her. You go on,” a woman’s voice said before she raced toward Olivia.
+ + +
When Amelia took an unexpected turn, Dan said, “She’s supposed to go to the warehouse.”
“Don’t worry it is the same shortcut she used to go to the church.” Something caught Parker’s eye and she twisted her body to see what it was. “Shit that’s Olivia’s bike,” Parker said. “We’ll have to make sure someone helps her,” she said.
Dan picked up the mic. “Green team what’s the condition of the fallen one?”
A women’s voice replied, “Banged up, probably a concussion.”
Parker, feeling better about Olivia’s condition, let out a breath. Olivia wouldn’t be taking part in O’Donnell’s demise. It was for the best since she was certain her ex-lover’s mind would be on the nun and not on the mission–it always came first.
Once Parker and Dan made sure that Sophie and Amelia were safely ensconced in the warehouse, they set out to catch up with the others.
“Take a left here,” Parker ordered. “We should come up right behind them.”
Dan nodded and once he spied the other black sedans, he sped up.
As the vehicles raced through the middle of Portsmouth in hot pursuit of O’Donnell, Parker felt exhilarated.
“The suspect is turning onto Canal,” a voice said over the radio.
“Yep, got it,” Dan said as the car screeched around the slick corner. As they followed the bumpers of the other cars Dan said, “I don’t have a good feeling about this.”
“O’Donnell is one bad dude, but he hasn’t met me yet.” She thought of Olivia injured on the side of the road as her mind flashed back to ten years earlier and a similar car chase on that very street. She remembered holding on as Olivia sped up saying, He’s made one big mistake…this is a dead end street. She spoke into the mic,
“There’s a park in another block…with no outlet.”
“Guess O’Donnell wasn’t expecting us so he couldn’t utilize his exit plan. He should’ve known better and had a backup for his backup,” Dan said.
Parker remained quiet as she watched the familiar area fly by her. She remembered how pumped they were when they got home. She shivered at the passionate memory.
“Olivia said I should stop you from trying to be in on the chase,” Dan said.
For a moment, Parker considered that Olivia did care about her safety. She turned to the man and said, “While you’re telling me about Olivia’s orders there’s an assassin running toward the woods… we’re wasting time …let’s go.”
Dan’s eyes fixed on Parker. “Olivia will have my ass if you die?”
“Knock it off Estevez…remember who’s in charge. The suspect is getting further away. Let’s take care of
O’Donnell and worry about Santos later.”
Dan motioned to the right. “Red went left, blue straight ahead, we go right,” Dan said. The rain had picked up making visibility poor. “There.” He pointed to an area filled with dense trees and large boulders.
“Got it,” Parker said as she ran parallel to the area.
The sound of gunfire rang out and they took cover. Parker got off several rounds before crouching behind a tree. From his position, Dan signaled Parker to continue right as he moved forward.
The rain soaked ground made her movements noiseless and she went from tree to tree. She felt endorphins rush through body and mind pumping her so high that she felt invincible. Once she put the creep O’Donnell away, Olivia would see her in a different light and realize all she’d been missing.She ducked as numerous shots filled the air with loud pops. After she molded her body against a large tree, she peered around and saw the flash that preceded the firing of a bullet. She lifted her wrist and whispered, “I’ve got a bead on him. He’s behind the second big boulder to the right of middle.”
She heard, “Yeah I see him. You stay put and I’ll take it from here.”
“The fuck you will,” Parker said as he reyes narrowed as they scanned the area between her and O’Donnell’s position–a piece of cake. She quickly mapped out a plan of attack then carefully moved between the trees and rocks. She stopped when the man was in her line of vision. With one hand holding her weapon and the other propping it up, she held it in the direction of the suspect. “End of the line O’Donnell.”
Shamus turned his head and saw a woman standing ten feet away with a gun trained on him. “Ah, you’re the Davis woman that Mrs. Durant foolishly hired. I told her she needed a real professional and not some loser amateur.” He furrowed his brow. “You must have had help to pull this off Davis. Never mind, I’ll take care of them after I’m done with you.” He shot a few rounds toward the others before his blue eyes turned cold and dark. “I figured you betrayed Ms. Durant and took up with her daughter. It wasn’t hard to figure that out since your apartment was empty and the girl in your office didn’t know where you were,” O’Donnell said derisively. “Pity about her…if only she told me what she knew,” he taunted.
“You killed her?” Parker asked.
The man shrugged one shoulder and leveled his gun at her from his crouched position. “She was most uncooperative,” he said with a sneer.
She tightened her grip on her Sig Sauer. “Evelyn Durant hired you I take it.”
“Someone had to do the job, you sure couldn’t.”
“You’re a hired gun not an investigator. Why does she need you?”
“Are you dense or something?” Shamus spit out.
“No.” She felt ice in her veins as she thought of Camille Paterson and her office help, Reggie Bullitt. The bastard was going down. “Put the gun down and raise your hands,” she said in a cold, calm voice.
With a loud laugh, Shamus stood up and said, “We both know you won’t shoot me bitch…you don’t have the stones.” He leveled her with a cold gaze. “Your style is betrayal…isn’t it Davis. You don’t discriminate…partners, clients you treat them all the same. You turned on your partner didn’t you…what kind of shit would do something like that,” he taunted.
Parker gulped at his knowledge of her past as Olivia’s words rang in her ears. Never let the enemy see your weakness Parker. It can make the difference between life and death. “I won’t tell you again,” she said with a low ominous growl. “Throw the gun down, butt first!” The mission was paramount; she couldn’t let the past or Olivia get in her way.
“No! You’ll have to kill me and we both know you’ll never do that,” he said with a sarcastic chuckle.
“That’s what you think asshole…someone is feeding you the wrong story.” Parker’s finger began to squeeze the trigger.
Amelia walked around the warehouse like a caged animal. Her gut aching from a combination of emotions, most of which she didn’t understand. When Parker shielded them from a perceived threat, she felt terror and when they violated God’s sanctuary, she was angry. However, Olivia’s ignoring her in the presence of danger, caused her the most acute pain.
She could only surmise that Olivia’s confession of the night before embarrassed her so much that she couldn’t look at her. The Olivia she knew would want to forget it ever happened and go on as before. She flopped down in a chair and tried to make sense out of something that made no sense. In all the time they’d known each other, Olivia never focused so totally on a job that she lost sight of where Amelia was. Her stomach reacted violently as she considered the worse possible scenario…Parker Davis appeared on the scene.
The possibility that seeing Parker again may have triggered the love she still felt loomed heavy. She wrapped her arms around her stomach as she considered what she would do if that were true. It was clear that she couldn’t satisfy Olivia’s physical need for sex which meant what…Olivia would look elsewhere…like with that Jerry woman. Of course, with Parker back on the scene why would Olivia look anywhere else. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” she whispered
Sophie broke into her thoughts. “Amelia, want any coffee? I need something to do other than wait for Parker to come and tell us that they have that murderer and my stepmother.”
Amelia bit her bottom lip. “Thanks, I’m a little edgy too.”
Ten minutes later, they sipped coffee as they anxiously waited for word of what was happening.
“I’m sorry we…that is I, jumped to the wrong conclusions about you Amelia. I didn’t know you were a nun before.”
Stunned at the apology, Amelia didn’t know how to answer. Perplexed, she asked, “What are you saying? If you’re a nun you can’t love anyone else?”
Not wanting to offend the woman again, Sophie replied, “No, no I meant another woman…romantically. It goes against the church teachings doesn’t it? At least that’s what I hear when it’s discussed in the newspapers.”
“Yes it does. Nothing can prevent your mind from ignoring the standards we are taught to believe in…the heart on the other hand is a different matter altogether. Anyway, though not required, thanks for the apology. I wish someone would call it feels like we’re frozen in time.”
“I know what you mean. I wish I’d been able to stay for the burial.” She scrunched her face into a frown.
“Who am I kidding? I should never have gone and destroyed that final journey for Cammie and her family.” Sophie’s voice rose in her frustration. “I’m just a selfish bitch who always wants her own way.”
Amelia heard the irritation and self-loathing and shook her head. “Hey, don’t beat yourself up. Maybe this way they’ll catch her killer. If Olivia has anything to do with it, all this will be a bad memory by this evening.”
Sophie heard the confident assurance and replied, “You think the sun shines out of her ass don’t you? Why?”
Surprised at the crude statement she replied, “Because, she always does…I guess,” she said. “The only way she’ll fail me or you, is if she’s…” She lifted her eyes heavenward. “We won’t go there.”
“If she’s dead…that could happen to Parker too.” Sophie reached out and squeezed Amelia’s hand. “You know when you look at them together with their supreme confidence you can’t help but think it will all work out.”
Amelia closed her eyes at the word ‘dead’. “Yes.” Her cell rang. “Sorry.” A reassuring smile crossed her face when the caller ID showed Teal’s name. “Hi Teal, what is it…Mr. Ryan again?”
At her end, Teal frowned. “No, look Amelia…I’ve received a call from St. Mary’s hospital.”
Amelia’s heart thudded and then stopped beating. “What’s happened?”
“There was an accident,” Teal said cautiously. “Olivia crashed her bike. I don’t know all the details. They found her business card and rang the office for next of kin.” She laughed slightly. “You know Olivia…she doesn’t take any personal stuff with her…”
“Teal, I need you to get here as fast as you can.”
“What about the office we have…” Teal looked around the reception area. “…three people hoping to get an appointment today.”
Amelia had no interest in the office or the people waiting. “Forget the office Teal! It’s not important right now! I need you to get over here as fast as you can…please.”
The worry in Amelia’s voice communicated down the line. “Ok, give me half an hour tops and I’ll be with you.”
Amelia’s ashen features had Sophie holding her breath in anticipation. “What’s wrong Amelia?”
With a composure that she dredged up from an unknown source, Amelia stiffly replied, “There’s been an accident. I need to go out. An associate of ours will arrive soon so you won’t be alone.” She turned away from Sophie and walked with unsteady steps toward her room to pray for Olivia.
All Sophie could do was watch as she wondered who was in an accident. When she considered the question, she knew it couldn’t be Parker for Amelia wouldn’t have reacted like that.
+ + +
Teal arrived at the warehouse and pressed the side doorbell. Within seconds, she heard the security latch unlock and entered. As soon as she walked into the main area of the building, Amelia pounced on her.
“Is there any more details Teal? Is she badly hurt? What did they say exactly?” Amelia asked with a shrill, agitated voice.
Sophie waited in the wings. Amelia did venture from her bedroom and told her, as she suspected, that Olivia was injured.
“They weren’t very forthcoming with information. They won’t tell you anything unless you’re a relative and the patient consents to them imparting the information. From what I gathered, they want to keep her overnight.”
Amelia’s hand shot to her mouth as panic set in with the realization of the seriousness of the situation. “Her injuries aren’t life threatening, Amelia.” Teal said.
“Oh, ok that’s good…isn’t it? You’re certain that she just needs to spend the night?”
“Then I’ll fetch a change of clothes and her nightwear…what am I saying…she doesn’t have nightwear.”
Teal smirked at the revelation.“You sit down and pull yourself together and I’ll take care of it Amelia. You’re in no condition to drive. Once I’ve pack a small bag for Olivia, I’ll drive you to the hospital.”
“No! I need you to stay here with Sophie.”
With a puzzled frown, Teal looked past her friend and realized someone else was silently watching them. With a nod of acknowledgement, she asked, “And just who is Sophie and why do I need to stay?”
“The case Olivia was working on Teal…remember?” Amelia left for Olivia’s room in search of the items she needed, without another word.
“Oh, not the Shrek case!” Teal watched Amelia leave and shook her head. “I thought I was doing that.” Her gaze fixed on the other woman. “Hi Sophie, I’m Teal an associate of Olivia and Amelia.”
“Hi.” Sophie’s brow furrowed. “What’s all this about Shrek…what’s a Shrek?”
Teal rolled her eyes, but before she could answer, Amelia came back and grabbed her car keys. “Thanks for doing this Teal. I will activate the locks from the car.” She pointed to a button on the console. “This is the button that will disarm the alarm. Under no circumstances allow anyone in unless it’s me, Olivia or
Parker…Sophie knows who Parker is.” She quickly ran toward her car, climbed in, started the engine, opened the garage door and left with a screech of the wheels.
Sophie stood with her hands on her hips. “I wanted to go too, but she didn’t give me a chance.”
Teal nodded. “Happens like that with those two. Tell me about this Parker person so I’ll know her when she arrives.”
Sophie’s face softened and she smiled. “Well, she’s taller than me with short black hair and a beautiful face. She is keeping me safe from my stepmother…she and Olivia worked together a long time ago and Parker asked for her help on my case.”
Never one to pass up an opportunity, Teal noticed the blush on the woman’s face. “Are you a couple or is she just your protector?”
Sophie felt her cheeks burn. “Well…we have been intimate.”
Teal felt a hallelujah scream for release but said, “Right my dear, the Shrek case huh.”
“Exactly what is a Shrek?” Sophie asked again.
“Does an heiress, a wicked stepmother and a murder sound familiar to you?”
“Just come with me and you will learn about all things that is Shrek. You’re in for a treat especially here. Olivia has the best money can buy in the home theatre equipment. Just step this way.” Teal steered Sophie toward a small theater.
Dan Estevez, with his gun still pointing at O’Donnell, hurried to the spot where the man laid. Even though there was a gaping hole in his head, he nudged the man with his foot and kicked away his weapon before he put his Glock back in its holster. Satisfied that Shamus O’Donnell was dead, he looked toward the area where Parker had stood.
“No, no, no,” he bellowed. He ran toward Parker’s prone body, certain that a bullet hitting her vest only stunned her. “It’s all over Parker we got him.” When he turned her over, he saw the blood on her shirt. He shouted, “We’ve got one down.”
Dan ripped Parker’s shirt open and tore at the Velcro straps that held the bullet proof vest in place. He quietly said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.” Once he exposed Parker’s chest, he took the remnants of her shirt and pressed it against the oozing blood. “We need to get her to the hospital immediately,” he shouted.
From the group of four other agents Stevie Jenkins stepped forward. “St. Mary’s is on Concord about three blocks from here,” she said.
“Damn you, O’Donnell. Why didn’t we know he would use amour piercing bullets? Can someone tell me who the fuck was responsible for getting that information! SHIT! Get me his gun.” His eyes traveled to the large muscular woman kneeling beside him. “Put pressure on the wound while I pick her up?” He secured Parker in his arms and looked at the rest of his crew. “Don’t just stand there like fuckin’ idiots…you know what to do. Make certain that you leave no traces.” He nodded to the blood on the ground. “Especially that.”
The car sped down the road without lights flashing or the siren blaring. They were fortunate not to have alerted the local authorities when they chased O’Donnell. Dan knew that Olivia’s friend, Captain David Tourney, at the police department knew of their mission and agreed to let them deal with O’Donnell. He knew if the papers ever got hold of that information a juicy scandal would erupt.
Stevie called the hospital to alert them of their situation. “How are you going to explain the gunshot?” she asked.
“Attempted suicide,” Dan said. “We can’t compromise the mission.”
Parker’s eyes fluttered open and, as the first wave of pain hit, she scrunched her face in agony. “Did we get him?”
“Yes, he’s dead.”
She swallowed. “Good.” Her eyes focused on Dan. “Olivia won’t be happy. Where are we?”
“On the way to the hospital,” Dan said. When he noticed her eyes closing and her breath becoming shallow, he said, “Stay with me Parker. Open your eyes…come on open them.” He breathed a sigh of relief when her eyes blinked open just as they arrived at the hospital. He looked out the window and he saw a gurney and several people waiting for them.
Once Parker was loaded onto the gurney, Dan followed them into the hospital. A man, that Dan thought was too young to be a doctor, examined the wound. “We have extensive bleeding,” he said to a nurse. “Hang a bag of ringers on one side and let’s get some O neg going too. Nancy, type and cross match her and alert OR that we’ll be sending her up.” The doctor looked at Dan. “Who are you?”
“I’m the one that found her.”
“Do you know if she has any allergies or medical problems?”
“I’m certain she doesn’t.”
“How did this happen?”
“She’s been depressed over her boyfriend leaving her…guess it was too much.” He shrugged and blew out a breath. “Is she going to make it?”
“Right now I’d say her chances aren’t good.” The doctor shook his head. “Men usually go for the head and women for the body.” He looked at Parker’s face. “I wonder if she thinks he’s worth it now.” He scribbled on a chart before placing it on the gurney. “Let’s get her to the O.R.”
After making the necessary calls, Dan paced the floor of the waiting room until he looked at the wall clock and snorted. It was only five minutes later than when he last looked.He knew he had to face Olivia and let her know that O’Donnell was dead and Parker was fighting for her life. He picked up the hospital phone. “Can you tell me what room Olivia Santos is in?”
“Are you a family member?” the woman on the other end asked.
“Yes, she’s my sister.”
+ + +
Dan stood at Olivia’s door and took a deep before he entered. “Hey how are you doing?” he asked tentatively.
Olivia grimaced, “I’ve not been stricken dumb Amelia.”
Amelia winced at the censure then gave her friend an apologetic smile before she squeezed the larger hand.
“Sorry, I guess you being here kinda makes me nervous. Why don’t I go get some coffee while you two visit?”
Olivia blinked at the man she knew since joining DOCO and gave him a dour smile. “Yes she is. Have we caught O’Donnell?”
“She seems nice.”
“And the mission?”
Dan shuffled from one foot the next.“We tracked O’Donnell to a park…we had no choice…we killed him.” He saw Olivia’s eyebrow rise in question. “But, Parker got him to tell her who he was working for.”
A spark of interest flickered in her eyes. “You got a recording of his deathbed confession I assume?”
He averted his eyes. “No, but we all heard him…the Durant woman was definitely involved. Apparently he also killed a woman that worked in Parker's office."
“Christ Dan, didn’t you learn anything when we worked in OPS together? You can’t convict a person on hearsay…especially if they’re dead.” Olivia allowed the frustration of being confined to the hospital transmute to anger toward the man. “When Parker gets here she better have a plan set in stone that will get that bitch.” She thought for a moment before frowning. “I thought I told you that Parker wasn’t to be involved.
Can’t you get the smallest thing right?”
Dan sucked in a deep breath and prayed that the woman wouldn’t suspect anything. “I couldn’t stop her…she refused to stay behind and I needed to catch up to the others or risk losing O’Donnell all together.” He watched the myriad of emotions that crossed Olivia’s face.
Olivia finally snickered and blew out a breath. “She can be stubborn. When she gets here, I’ll take up her lack of following directions.”
“She won’t be coming…O’Donnell shot her.”
As numerous emotions tumbled in Olivia’s already scrambled head, she tried to take in the blunt statement. “Dead or alive?”
“Someone neglected to find out about that shit using armor piercing bullets, Olivia. Parker took a hit in the chest.” He could see the concern on her face. “She’s in surgery…it doesn’t look good,” he said.
Olivia closed her eyes. “How close was she?”
“Ten feet, she managed to get a shot off before his bullet hit her.” He saw a moment of horror cross Olivia’s face. “She missed.”
“She missed, how the fuck did she miss that close? No, don’t answer that Dan. Why, in god’s name did you allow her to get that close? You heard my instructions clearly didn’t you?” Olivia’s voice dropped to menacing tone as she glared at the man.
Dan felt his face flushed knowing he had to play the scenario out to its conclusion. “As I told you before she wouldn’t listen. In hindsight, it was a good thing. You were out of the picture along with the agent helping you so we were short by two.” He closed his eyes. “She was amazing Olivia, you should have seen her. She tracked him and got the drop on him without him knowing she was there. She missed because my bullet hit him first.” He took a deep breath. “I take full responsibility.”
“I need my clothes. Throw me that bag over on the chair,” Attempting to clear the cobwebs and let the light in,
Olivia shook her head. “You said you shot him…exactly where?”
Olivia’s eyebrows knitted. “You did know that we needed him for information didn’t you?”
“Then why the fuck did you go for a head shot?”
Dan wiped a hand over his face. “He was going to kill Parker and I wasn’t going to let that happen. At the time, a kill shot seemed appropriate.”
“No one is so important that we jeopardize the mission,” Olivia growled. “When will she be out of surgery?”
Dan looked at his watch then at Amelia and nodded in her direction. “Is it ok to speak?” When he saw Olivia nod, he said, “She will be out of surgery anytime now. It depends on how much damage the bullet did.”
“The moment she’s out of recovery I want you back here with a wheelchair. Then you will escort me to her room. Once we get there, you will ensure that no one disturbs us until I’m done. Do you think you can you follow those instructions to the letter?” Olivia snarled.
“What’s going on? Which room, why?” Amelia felt the sparks of anger flying from Olivia’s bed toward the man.
Once Dan left the room, Amelia looked squarely at Olivia. When she caught her partner’s eyes, she was unable to prevent her frustration and anger from showing.
“It doesn’t concern you Amelia. Your priority right now is to go home and keep Sophie safe.”
Olivia glared in annoyance at Amelia. Her frustration at her incapacitation fueled her angry words. “For god sake, will someone today just do what I ask? Maybe then we won’t have anyone else hurt.”
Amelia visibly upset at Olivia’s attitude, asked, “All I want is a simple explanation as to why you want me to leave. Why should I be the one to watch Sophie? Won’t Parker be back at our place by now checking on her?”
Amelia’s hand shot to her mouth as she realized the enormity of the words. She moved instinctively closer her friend and placed a hand on one clutching the blanket. “I’m so sorry Olivia. Can’t I stay please…for you?”
The touch ignited that flame inside of Olivia that gave her the extra strength she needed for Parker.
Belligerently she replied, “I don’t need you Amelia. Please go.”
Amelia blinked back tears when she heard the final dismissal in Olivia’s voice. “I understand…you still love her don’t you.” Without waiting for an answer, she rushed out of the room as unshed tears finally flowed.