The Mentals were ready to bowl away a week’s worth of frustration. Jo and Boney had managed to work through their insecurities and feelings of betrayal and remorse. In fact Teela had noticed that extra gleam in their eyes. She found that rather comforting. It was very disturbing to have long time partners reach the brink of separation.
Teela wanted to unleash the frustration brought about by the day’s unending emotional barrage that culminated in Nona Reece’s medical and psychiatric needs. The process of determining why a person’s behavior was out of the norm, especially with hallucinations and delusions, was hair-pulling all by itself and did not need the added obstruction of physicians she encountered.
This day of all days she had grown weary of playing the game of “Who Knows Best”. For the majority of the time, the social worker and nurses were caught in a three-way tug of war. The players: physicians like Nona’s with their God-Complex and egos, the State and Federal Regulations for patient care, and the family. All claimed to know or want to do what’s best for the person despite how they are named: mom, dad, resident patient, recipient. It was a beautiful and satisfying experience when all three worked together in one direction. When they did not, it could be an ugly and disorganized nightmare. Today, Nona’s attending physician had exasperated Teela to no end.
Harley wanted to throw strikes tonight and release the fear that had threatened to smother her. The mild panic attacks she had initially after Emily was shot had lessened their frequency and intensity. She had only been able to take a few steps away from the apartment at first, before her throat seized shut and she turned and tore frantically back into the apartment. Harley’s chest heaved for fear that Emily would have been gone in the time she was out of sight. Emily would awaken startled, look deep into her terrified eyes and open her arms wide to hold her. Emily knew her words of reassurance and love would help them both. Emily knew. She always knew.
That was then. Harley was now able to get through four hours of separation before she gave in to the compelling urge to call home. Tonight she would call home only once to check on her lover. She felt good for her small success in exercising control. Harley felt doubly confident that she would throw strikes tonight as her mother-in-law’s face had become a virtual image on the head pin.
“Well since our opponents are waiting for their sub to arrive, I’ll go check on the pizza,” Boney offered.
“Make sure they made it deep dish,” Teela ordered.
“With light sauce,” added Harley.
“And that they are light on the onions in case there’s smooching later in the parking lot.” Jo’s brows wiggled at her wife.
Boney reached into the pocket of her bowling bag and retrieved a small bag of peppermint candy. “I thought you would never ask,” she stated with a lecherous grin.
“Eeeww! Must you?” Teela’s face soured, she turned and winked at Harley.
“What?” She turned her hooded eyes upon her friend.
Teela leaned across the table and Jo followed her towards the center of the small square block. She grinned and whispered. “Be lesbians in public.”
“Do you think it’s contagious?” Jo glanced at Harley and gave her a quick nod of her head. On cue, Harley poked Teela’s shoulder with a lone finger. “There’s one next to you.”
“Tag you're it!” Boney pointed at the social worker and laughed along with her teammates.
Teela’s entire body shuddered in the metal padded chair as if to shake off the contamination. “You people need help.”
“They get help from me.” Jo’s hands flowed from her stomach up through her chest and outstretched to each side above her head. “Ta-da Super-Shrink Woman!”
“I rest my case.” Teela’s head shook in disbelief.
“I’ll go get the pizza,” Boney volunteered and stood. She turned back to her wife, “I’ll miss you.”
“Me too. Hurry back.”
“You’re right Teela, yuck!” Harley agreed laughing.
“Now ya see what you’ve done, Jo? You’ve made Harley sick.”
“Not me,” Harley jumped to correct Jo. “I have a wonderfully fine woman, better than any woman in this room or on the planet. No offense.”
“Arrogant little shit,” Teela groused feeling awfully single at the moment. She detested being the fifth wheel in any scenario. Although Emily was not physically present, Harley’s constant reminder of her lover compensated for the absence.
“Uhm Teela, we’re the same height. So that makes you a little shit too.”
“God!” Teela threw her hands into the air. “I am surrounded by smart asses.”
Harley glanced across the table at Jo and shrugged her shoulders. “At least she selected intelligent company.” She laughed uproariously with her friend and they gave each other high-fives.
One of the women on the opposing team stood and waved furiously their way. The three Mentals turned behind them toward the door to see who deserved the fanfare. Jo’s face quickly darkened and the smile faded to a menacing scowl. Autumn walked past Jo and straight to her teammates table. The Mentals’ opponent for the night included the one woman in the entire state that Jo truly hated.
Although Teela was concerned about the black storm clouds that hovered over her friend, she couldn’t help the immediate comic visual of Jo’s crimson red face with steam blasting out of her ears. “Jo, are you okay?”
“Don’t tell me I have to put up with that bitch all night?”
“Looks like it Jo.” Teela chewed her bottom lip briefly. “What do you want to do?” Jo gave her friend an evil grin. “I am not going to be a party to murder. Think of something else.”
Harley watched the three-way tennis match as her eyes snapped between Jo, Teela, and the brown haired woman at the next table. “Who is she? What did she do?”
“Tried to take my Boney from me.”
Boney took that moment to set the tray with the pitcher of beer and four glasses on the table. “Who tried to take me?”
“Autumn is the sub they were waiting for.” Teela jerked her head towards the table behind her.
“What?” Boney’s head snapped to the next table and then to an enraged wife. “What do you want to do sweetheart? I don’t mind forfeiting and leaving.”
Gaze fixed upon the woman across the isle, Jo snarled even more menacingly as Autumn removed her bowling ball. It was identical to Jo’s only the green twelve pound orb had a Michigan State Spartans symbol on it. The Spartans were the age old rival of the University of Michigan Wolverines.
This will certainly not do, Jo determined. “No forfeit. We’ll stay and beat the shit out of them.”
“Are you sure Jo? I am with the other two. We don’t have to do this,” Harley provided her support.
“We stay. We fight. If she gets on my nerves I take revenge. Simple.”
She blinked out of her trance like stare, “I am fine sweetheart.”
Teela glanced once more over her shoulder at their opponents then back to her friend. The uneasiness continued to grow. Teela knew something was going to happen tonight. She just wasn’t sure what it would be. She felt it though. Jo you’re starting to scare, me my friend. Teela had never seen the psychiatrist so jealous and defensive. Other women had come onto Boney in the past but they had not elicited this type of a reaction from Jo.
“Harley is up.” One of the women behind them shouted.
Harley slowly rose to her feet looking at Jo once more to be sure this is what she wanted. Jo gave her a slight nod and Harley approached the lane and faced her opponent. This is so intense. I would act the same way if someone tried to steal Emily from me. Harley nodded to the older woman allowing her to approach the lane first. Her ball hit the head pin firmly and resulted in a bedpost split leaving the seven and ten pin. Harley picked up her ball, settled into her stance behind the dots on the floor. She approached the foul line and as soon as the ball was released from her fingers, Harley knew it was a good ball. It felt right. It sped down the alley and slammed into the pocket of the one and three pins. Harley backpedaled and pumped her fist into the air at the first strike of the night.
“Way to start us off Harley!” Teela cheered.
Jo stood and made her way down to the lane after receiving a high-five from Harley on her way to the table.
“Think she will be okay tonight?” Harley asked eyes transfixed upon Jo.
“Hope so. Jo can be one hell of a protective momma bear otherwise,” Boney warned.
“It’s a good thing that you are here to help her.”
“If she stays calm, fine.” Boney nodded and then pointed to Teela. “If she gets any angrier you will be dealing with her and the sharp claws.”
Mouth gaping, Teela shook her head. “She’s your woman Boney.”
“And I claim her. She is just hard to handle when she is enraged.” Boney shook her head and poured them each a glass of beer.
Jo picked up her easy spare and passed Boney on the way to take her turn. Boney groaned as she stepped to the ball return opposite of Autumn. Boney glanced back to her table knowing that Jo’s brown-black lasers were targeted upon her and Autumn.
“How are you Boney?” Autumn’s brown eyes twinkled at Boney.
“Don’t speak to me. Bowl.”
“We can have a friendly game, can’t we? Better yet, how about a private bet between your score and mine, winner’s choice?”
“Don’t…speak to me,” Boney hissed. She took her ball and found the dots for her stance upon the floor.
Boney’s unbalanced approach to the foul line was obvious to those who watched. Boney felt the ball roll off her fingers as usual, but far off the arrow for which she had aimed. At the last second before release, her right wrist twisted outward. Damn! The colorful red and yellow ball spun down the freshly oiled lane, curved to the right and dropped into the gutter just before it got to the number three pin. Damn, damn, damn! She turned and gave Autumn an evil glare. She stepped off the alley starring at the ten pins not wanting to turn and see her lover’s face. Autumn’s first ball faired better knocking down six.
Boney inhaled deeply and released her tension on the exhale. She let the ball roll off her fingers once more conscious to not let her wrist twist again. She turned toward her tablemates and gave them a two-snap up for the obliteration of all ten pins. It’s a spare and that will do, she thought.
Boney passed Teela on her way to the lane and returned to her wife’s side. Before she sat at the table, Boney silently wished she had an asbestos suit in her bowling bag. Her wife was sizzling and was throwing flames from her body in all directions.
Boney leaned over and whispered into her wife’s ear, “She can’t hurt us Bunny. Let it go.”
Jo registered the new term of endearment from Boney. Her lover had a bizarre sense of endearment at times, but Jo felt the goose pimples spread across her forearms and the flush in her cheeks all the same. The wall of anger lessened to irritation. Jo surprised herself at the level of animosity towards Autumn. A psychiatrist should know jealousy is an unproductive and unhealthy emotion. She showed no respect for our marriage and caused a lot of strife between me and Boney. For that, I want to rip off her tits and shove fresh cow pies in the holes.
“Harley, how is Emily coming along?” Boney asked.
“Good. So you believe she is real now?”
“Sure.” Boney produced a cheesy smile.
“Boney, Boney, Boney,” Harley shook her head saddened at the misguided woman across from her. “Emily is real. I wished her mother wasn’t. Jo you need to do something about your wife’s perception of the world around her. She has a bizarre sense of reality.”
A small grin turned the corners of her mouth. It was as close as they had seen to a smile since Autumn entered the bowling alley. “Why? Her world view is a lot healthier than mine right at the moment.”
“Now you listen to me Johanna Karasi Forrester!” Boney’s voice deepened. Jo’s head snapped to the side and Harley’s eyes grew wide. Boney leaned her face closer to Jo’s so that she could see the blaze that brewed within them. “I understand how angry you are at seeing her. We all do. But she is not a threat to us. I know where my heart lies and you being so pissed is a clear sign that you do not believe in me, again.”
Jo lowered her eyes lips set in a thin line. After a moment her voice was calm and even. “Boney, can I speak to you in private please?” She stood and left the table. Boney watched her head for the women’s restroom.
“I’m impressed Boney. Never thought you could be so…” Teela trailed off unable to find the correct word.
Boney stood squared her shoulders and adjusted the waist of her jeans in a John Wayne cowboy fashion. “When she needs a firm hand, I give it to her.” She strutted toward the bathroom.
Jo stood just inside the door of the women’s bathroom, her back to Boney when she entered. As the door closed, Jo turned suddenly and pressed Boney’s back against the door. Her arms locked around Boney’s neck. Jo pressed her lips against her lover’s. Startled, Boney’s arms were pressed wide against the flat of the door as her wife’s arduous attack.
She felt the softness of Jo’s lips and the tongue requesting entry. Boney’s arms wrapped around her lover as their kiss deepened with a softer passion. Jo curled her fingers at the nape of Boney’s neck feeling the soft fuzz there and her wife shiver in her arms. They continued to reach deeper into one another’s mouths to taste all that the other had to offer at that moment. Their passion was fueled by a fury that heated their centers with instant desire and total disregard for what they were doing in a public place. Boney pressed her thigh in-between Jo’s, hands firmly grasped the psychiatrist’s ass and pulled her closer. She accepted Jo’s moan and mingled it with her own.
They finally had to part for lack of air. Through the lustful haze they communicated their love for one another and a commitment that could never be broken. Boney’s hands gently rose and cupped her beloved’s face; she guided her once more to her lips with such tenderness the tears streaked from Jo’s eyes before she could control them. Boney’s gentleness stole the breath from her lungs and made her soul take flight in the midst of the brick and tile of the bathroom. She felt the pool between her legs soak through her underwear and onto her inner thighs.
They parted for a second time. Boney held her lover’s face and spoke barely above a whisper. “You are priceless to me and cannot ever be replaced.” Boney lightly kissed her below each eye taking away the salty tears upon her lips. “Okay?” Jo nodded.
“Me too.” She placed a loving kiss upon her forehead. “Come on.”
They returned to the table and Jo went to take her turn on the alley. Teela and Harley waited patiently for Boney to say what happened. They received a knowing smirk from their teammate.
“Like I said. When she needs it.” Boney picked up her glass of beer and took a long drink then belched.
The Mentals were re-energized by Jo’s changed disposition. She channeled her vengeful jealousy and let it explode on the innocent bowling pins. Her first frame after the discussion in the bathroom was not a very good one. Those that followed were either strikes or spares. Her final score had been nearly two hundred, her highest yet.
They started the third game and were leading that as well. The spirit of the Mentals returned with their easy banter and laughter to near obnoxious proportions. It disrupted their opponents tremendously. The game was halted by a mechanical delay, so Harley took off for the bathroom to do her business. Boney had just said something that sent Teela and Jo into gales of laughter when Teela looked towards the door and she froze, mouth gaping and petrified.
Eyes wide, she saw the lean figure cane in hand limping towards her. In a leather short jacket and jeans, hair pulled back, Teela’s heart thundered and her chest heaved as she couldn’t fill her lungs to breath. Pax? Is that you? You’re here. Teela smiled broadly. Wait something is different.
Jo and Boney followed Teela’s direction and inhaled as they saw Pax standing near the service desk looking around the alley. Her glance traveled their way and continued past them without recognition. Jo and Boney turned to one another identical open mouths.
Harley came out of the women’s bathroom and turned when she heard her name called. Her face brightened into a smile and she quickly walked to meet Emily by the service desk.
“Hi.” Emily beamed at her lover, blue eyes twinkling.
“What are you doing here?”
Emily walked a few steps away from the desk. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.” They stared at one another mentally touching. Then her brows drew low, “How did you get here?”
“I didn’t drive, Randy dropped me off,” Emily said proudly as she had successfully averted a dressing down by her partner.
“That’s good but still you should be home resting honey.”
“Naw, I’m okay Harley.”
“But you shouldn’t be on your leg so much yet.”
“I’m fine honey. I wanted to see you.”
“Oh honey.” Harley smiled and wanted desperately to caress her lover’s face. Instead, she let her see the love and devotion through her eyes and the soft touch upon her hand. “Come on over and meet The Mentals.”
“The Mentals?” Emily was suddenly skeptical.
“Yes, that’s the name of my team, remember?”
“Baby, should I be worried?” She frowned.
“Only about Boney.”
“Wait. Boney? Is this person hurting you?” Emily’s defenses were activated.
“No sweetie, relax. They are my friends.”
“Okay.” Emily was grateful Harley had turned away from her and did not see the look of guilt upon her face. I should have paid more attention to who was in your life all these months, who has been occupying your time. If I had, I would know who your friends are.
Harley’s eyes sparkled with excitement as they came to the table. She tilted her head and questioned the stupefied looks upon the faces of her teammates. She knew her lover was beautiful, but she had never seen people with their mouths so blatantly gape before.
“Guys, is something wrong?” Harley asked and looked at each of them.
“Ahm… no,” Jo stammered.
“Then why are you looking at Emily like that?”
“Emily?” Teela whispered and felt the ice blue chips lock upon her without emotion. She is not Pax? My God, she could be her identical twin. Teela let her eyes travel over Emily’s body and back to her face before turning to Jo and Boney who had done their own perusal.
“Why are you guys acting so weird?” Harley looked at the wide eyed gazes of her friends. She glanced at Emily and back to her bizarre friends.
“You look like Pax,” Boney informed her.
“Who?” Emily asked.
“Teela’s ex, Pax.” Boney volunteered and shook away her feelings. I guess she is real. And she looks like my friend. Too weird.
“Boney!” Teela yelled.
“It’s true Teela. Emily could be her twin,” Jo agreed. “I’m sorry, Emily, you just caught us off guard really. Except for the length of hair and the absence of the scars, you really could pass for her twin.”
“Ookkay,” Emily drawled and looked at her lover. Maybe you should get another hobby with more normal people honey.
“I’m Jo,” she reached out her hand to shake Emily’s. “This is my wife Boney.”
“The one I am to watch out for?” Emily turned to Harley.
“Huh?” Boney asked.
“Just a joke,” Harley reassured.
Emily reached her hand out towards Teela, “I am sorry if being here is reminding you of your ex-lover.”
“No,” Teela was finally able to breathe. “It’s alright.” She continued to stare into the blue eyes and recalled an identical pair that had looked upon her with warmth and love once upon a time.
Harley situated Emily in the chair next to her and went to bowl. Emily removed her jacket. Boney and Teela watched the sensual play of muscled arms beneath the short sleeve black t-shirt. Teela noticed the snug fit across the chest. Her shoulders were square with an athletic build just like Pax. Teela eyes traveled Emily’s body once more and she held the involuntary shiver inward. Emily felt very uncomfortable under the six pairs of eyes that tracked her every movement.
Emily turned to look at the screen above the alleys where the scores were computerized. The Mentals were in the sixth frame and were ahead in total points. With their handicap, they were going to win big. All four were well above one hundred already.
“Emily, how are you feeling?” Boney started the conversation her curiosity was getting the best of her.
“Good thank you.”
“Harley told us what happened. She was so frightened.”
“What really happened? How did you get shot?”
“Boney!” Jo pinched her lover’s thigh deeply.
“I’m sorry, Emily.” Jo smiled politely. “Boney can be spontaneously insensitive and doesn’t think sometimes.”
“And the results are usually painful for her. Isn’t that right Boney?” Teela added with a smile.
“Bite me Teela.”
“Sour meat Boney.”
“Then take a bath sometime. You wouldn’t draw flies.” Emily’s head joined Jo’s in watching the bantering tennis match. Harley stepped up behind Emily and noticed the slack jaw of her lover watching the women.
“You’re a sick perv.”
“Takes one to know one.” Boney stuck her tongue out.
“Jo, do something!” Teela yelled in frustration.
“Leave me out of this one.” She rose and went to bowl.
Harley sat next to her lover. “My team, The Mentals.” She laughed.
“I guess I am going to worry about you,” Emily whispered.
“Naw, Boney can be harmless. A little touched, but harmless.”
“I wish you people would find another target for the brunt of your jokes. I do have feelings ya know.”
“Aww Boney, you are the best brunt around here,” Teela said.
“I am seriously warning you.” Boney narrowed her eyes and Teela shivered visibly in her seat laughing. “So Emily…”
Uh oh, she groaned inwardly.
“What part of Michigan are you from?” Boney finished for Teela and grinned.
“I’m not. San Antonio.”
“Yeah. Came here ten years ago.” She looked at Harley. “Second best thing I ever did.”
“Eeww!” Boney frowned. “Must you be lesbians in public?”
Emily’s brow furrowed in anger. “Excuse me; do you have a serious problem or what?” Emily sat erect her muscles tightened under the t-shirt with her hands placed firmly on her thigh. Boney’s eyes grew wide at the vein that stood out in the woman neck so visibly beating.
“She didn’t mean it that way Emily,” Teela jumped to Boney’s defense. “It’s a long running joke between us.”
“She didn’t mean anything by it honey. Relax,” Harley coaxed and stroked her lover’s forearm.
“Yeah, I didn’t mean anything by it. Honest.” Boney saw the woman’s bicep twitch. Jesus, is it a full moon tonight or what? Everybody is so fucking high strung.
* * ** * *
“It was so nice of you to come to watch us bowl tonight.” Harley purred as she snuggled closer to the lean torso of Emily. They had returned home an hour ago showered and lain in bed holding one another in comfortable silence.
“I was there to see you. I have been missing you so terribly.” Especially when I realized how close I came to losing you, that I could have been killed that night.
“I’ve been missing you too.”
“Are they always that way with one another?”
“Who the girls? Yeah. They are very close to one another.”
“The way they talk?”
“Sure. Means they are very comfortable with each other honey.”
“It would make me feel uneasy.”
“That’s because of your training sweetheart. You’re used to looking for the hidden meaning in what people are saying.”
“This is true.” Emily kissed the crown of Harley’s head. Harley is relaxed now and comfortable. It is as good a time as any to bring it up. “Honey…”
“The physical therapist gave me a glowing report today. She says the strength is coming along well.”
“That’s good news honey,” Harley replied tightly and kissed the space between her lover’s breasts.
“Ya know,” Emily paused and shifted her head to the side to see into her lover’s face. “We have never talked about my getting shot Harley.”
Harley burrowed further into her lover. “I don’t want to think about it. It scares me too much.”
“Me too baby, but we need to get it out in the open,” she replied softly and kissed the crown of Harley’s head. Emily waited for her lover process whether or not she wanted to talk. It generally took her several minutes to become ready to talk about painfully intense issues.
“Emily…” Harley’s hand made small circles along Emily’s side. “Tell me sweetheart,” she whispered stroking the silky black hair.
“I feel the way I did when we first got together and you were a beat cop. Then, I was so afraid for you to leave and go to work. I was terrified that something would happen and you would not be here when I returned from work.” She paused and inhaled. “I still panic, but it has gotten slightly better. Not much though.”
“Until I return to duty.”
“I’m not sure how I will be honestly.”
“You know they will release me to light duty soon. You know this.”
“I know.” She paused for so long that Emily feared she had drifted to sleep. “Tell me how to not be afraid,” she whispered.
Emily tightened her arms around Harley, kissed her forehead and whispered, “Tell me how to not be afraid.”
Harley’s hand paused in their ministrations. She raised herself on one elbow and looked deeply into the blue eyes of her true love. She saw them darken and well with tears. Harley stroked Emily’s cheek with the back of her hand and lightly brushed away the running tear.
“You are afraid?” Emily sniffed and nodded. “Tell me.”
“I am…I just am. I don’t want to do this anymore Harley. I am so sick of the filth and horrible things that people do to one another.” The floodgate opened and poured from her finally. “I was there and they shot Jimmy. He may never be the same again. In the blink of an eye, it was all taken away from him.” She choked out. “His life changed and I don’t want that to happen to me, to us.” She reached out and stroked her lover’s cheek. “I don’t want to die on the street somewhere because I’ve lost my nerve, my edge.”
“Oh honey.” She lay upon her lover as Emily’s arm clasped around her neck and their bodies melded into one. Hips lined together in the full body hug. Not sure if she should be happy that Emily wanted to quit the force or if she should be sad that her partner was giving up something she had dearly loved, Harley’s sobs blended with Emily’s. Their sobs released the tension and soothed their fears. “After all this has happened, I have wanted to ask you to quit but didn’t know how. Didn’t know if I had a right to ask.”
“You have a right to ask, but you don’t have to.” Emily brushed Harley’s hair away from her face placing the long strands behind her ear. She loved looking into her lover’s eyes that showed her rich heritage.
“Are you certain Emily?”
“You want me to stay an undercover cop?”
“No. Not if you do not want to.” Harley mentally crossed her fingers and hope Emily was sincere. But what would she do?
“Then I agree with whatever you decided. To be honest, I am thrilled that you have decided to not be undercover any more.”
“Not just undercover. I want to retire from the force.”
“Harley, I have a job waiting and I would like to take it, try it out for a while. If you don’t want me to though, I won’t. We have enough in the savings account to carry us for almost a year until I find something else,” she rambled on nervously.
“What kind of a job?”
“Private Investigator with Kronk and some other retired detectives.”
“I remember that name.”
“I told you about him a long time ago. Kronk and another entrepreneur opened a firm a few years back.” She paused to watch her lover process the idea. “He’s been after me to join his team.”
Harley hesitated and thought about the opportunity. It sounded safer than being undercover for the police force. “Will it be the same thing as now Emily?”
“Not really. He says that they handle routine PI stuff. Occasionally there will be trips to the neighboring states, but nothing major.”
“When do you start?” She smiled.
“Does that mean its okay? You don’t have a problem with me doing this?”
“Honestly?” Emily nodded reading her lover’s darkening large brown eyes. “I feel less uncomfortable with you being a PI than you returning to the force. Besides…” she grinned. “That means you get to keep your handcuffs?”
“I get brand new ones.” She laughed then sobered. “Thank you Harley Goldberg hyphen Oliverez.”
“Goldberg hyphen Oliverez huh?”
“Yeah. Got a problem with that?” Her lips found that corner of Harley’s neck and took purchase.
Harley’s eyes rolled back in her head and the low moan hissed through parted lips. Their bodies pressed closer together and started the slow rhythm of their own. The harder Emily pulled the sweet flesh into her mouth, the louder Harley groaned. She felt the twinge in her right thigh from the pressure of Harley’s body but she didn’t care. She wanted this woman in the worst way.
Emily flipped Harley onto her back and kissed her deeply. Harley’s hands went to the hem of Emily’s tank top and stole beneath it all the way up to the broad shoulders. She dragged her fingernails down Emily’s back making her hiss and arch outward and into the nails.
“God, Harley,” she panted. “Do that again.” Harley did as asked and Emily arched again, eyes shut tight opened her mouth and groaned.
Emily rose up on her hands as if doing a push-up to allow Harley to pull the thin tank top quickly over her head. It sailed to the end of the bed somewhere. Harley pulled off her own tank top, eyes never leaving Emily’s. Emily smiled down upon her lover. For a small woman, she had large breasts with dark nipples. Emily loved them and the sight of Harley breasts made her swear she felt her clit as it swelled and began to throb.
Emily lowered herself onto her lover and sighed as their breasts kissed hello. Harley pulled Emily closer reveling in the heat of their skin touching. “You feel so wonderful against me. Soft, hot, solid.” The nip to Emily’s shoulder made her cry out and press her hips further into Harley’s thigh between her legs.
“Baby,” Emily whispered and planted kisses along her shoulder.
They found a deep grinding groove and their bodies meshed and slid along in the sheen of sweat that quickly developed between them. Emily’s hands roamed the skin beneath her, down Harley’s side and to her hips to cup one butt cheek Harley lifted her leg to wrap it around Emily giving her ample room to feel her slick mound rubbing against her thigh.
“Tell me what you need Emily…. Tell me.”
“You all of you. Just love me the way you want.”
A loud animal groan split the air and Emily found herself with her back upon the bed. Her Harley was a tiny woman but when aroused she could possess the strength of ten women. Emily shivered as the room air hit her nipples when Harley left her skin for a few seconds to reach in the nightstand by the bed. Emily suddenly found her arms above her head, fingers gripping the headboard and wrists handcuffed.
Harley returned to sit upon Emily’s hips and began to gyrate with heated friction. Her fingers waltzed across Emily’s bared torso to the shoulders and up the arms to link their fingers together. Harley placed her dangling nipple just outside of Emily’s reach. She moved it across her face as her mound spread her excitement across Emily’s skin.
“Tell me the word baby.” Harley’s lips touched Emily’s and felt her groan hips raised for more contact. “Mmm, can’t go on if you don’t tell me the release word.” She washed Emily’s face with her nipples once again.
“Cat,” Emily panted. “Now give me!”
Harley lowered her breasts so that Emily could reach. Emily immediately suckled and groaned. They were perfect and did not need her hands to pull them into her mouth. Gravity in this position was doing everything for her.
Harley pulled her nipple from Emily’s lips with a resounding smack and a growl of disappointment from her lover. Emily’s hips continued to spread herself over her lover as she climbed higher upon her body coming to rest lightly upon her knees by Emily’s shoulders.
Emily inhaled deeply her lover’s scent, a mixture of exotic flowers and musk that made the bundle of nerves pound with want and need. Her hips were moving wildly beneath but there was nothing to contact, nothing to add the needed pressure she desperately wanted. This coupled with not being able to touch her lover, Harley knew this would drive her mad. She wasn’t far from the coveted place of sensual insanity. Her fingers released Harley’s and clutched the headboard.
Harley saw her lover’s intensity build when she grabbed their bed. This made Emily’s lean biceps bulge sensually and Harley could not help herself and began to lick and suck the muscle. It was another of Emily’s many sensitive spots when making love. Emily’s responded with a deep groan and her legs fell momentarily still.
“Harley,” Emily whispered and rocked her head from side to side. “Goooddd!” she cried and her legs tightened the muscles so tight it pulled her toes up and backward leaving her suspended slightly off the sheets. “Baby….”
Harley filled Emily’s mouth once again with her breasts and let her take her fill. She alternated giving attention to each as well. Emily’s hands went frantic opening and closing. She could not reach. Involuntary she pulled against her restraints before returning to the headboard. The knuckles remained white at the moment, Harley contained them.
Emily let Harley know she did not appreciate the sudden interruption of her love making. She was afraid however; when she looked into the face of her tormentor and saw the evil grin grace Harley’s beautiful face.
Harley sat back on her haunches once again near Emily’s stomach and just lightly off her mound. Emily’s hips loved the return and quickly moved to welcome the pressure. She felt the throbbing bundle of nerves beating wildly against her skin. Harley’s hands caressed her own body. They moved beneath her breasts, lifted them and squeezed. Emily could see Harleys nipple pressed between her fingers. Harley threw her head back and thrust her hips forward upon Emily.
“Harley…” Emily panted. “Let me out I need to touch you.”
Harley lowered her head and gazed through her clouded vision into her lover’s face. She carefully watched Emily’s eyes to read for distress. She did see desperation and lust for her touch. It was not a panic. “Are you still feeling safe?” she asked to be sure.
“Yes, but that’s not the point. You are driving me baby… I have to touch you now!”
“Like this,” Harley grinned and placed her hand between her own moist lips and inserted two fingers inside. Her head fell back onto her shoulders and she let out the loud vocal moan.
“God Harley….” Emily squirmed beneath her.
Harley removed her fingers and brought them out for Emily to see. She moved them closer to Emily’s mouth and the outstretch tongue. Just as quickly pulled them back and began to pleasure herself once again. Her free hand returned to Emily’s breast to play and squeeze. Harley felt Emily begin to tremble and the light spasms that occurred in her arms as her release was near.
“Harley…please…don’t tease me.”
Harley chuckled at Emily and reached back into the top of the dresser and withdrew the handcuff key.
“Is this what you want?” She dangled the key in front of her frustrated lover.
“Will you be a good little detective?”
Harley folded the key in her hand bent over Emily’s breast and took the hardened morsel savagely between her lips. Emily bucked and filled the room with the sounds that erupted from her vocal chords.
Harley climbed Emily’s body once again and allowed Emily to taste her. Neck stretch high off the bed, Emily drank from Harley, moving her tongue around the silken folds and inside of where Harley’s fingers had been. She felt her own wetness pour from between her legs. She wished she were free. She wanted her freedom and now.
She reached up and loosened one cuff but did not completely remove it. “Do not touch,” Harley warned.
“Harley… “Emily’s voice trembled her plea. “When?”
“You’ll know when.” Harley moved to straddle Emily backwards.
Harley moved out of Emily’s reach and took Emily in her mouth without warning. Emily gasped, eyes wide as her fingers shot into the air spread and locked in finding relief from the grip curled into the wood.
Harley’s tongue batted Emily’s engorged center and she wrapped an arm around the hip that threatened to pull her lips away they were moving so wildly.
Harley lifted the trapped leg and used her free hand to glide into her lover’s opening. She heard the gurgling and felt them rumbled from Emily into her own body. It wasn’t but a few seconds and Emily had adjusted to the presence of her and began undulating her hips again.
“God Baby….” Emily whispered with eyes closed, she felt the trickle of tears run down the side of her face. It felt so wonderful. She saw nothing, felt only Harley and fullness. Her hand broke free from the loosened cuff and easily found her lover’s moist lips. She plunged her own fingers deep within her lover causing her to lose her grip upon her momentarily as her body shuddered in an arch into the air. Her hips drove slowly back and forth upon Emily’s hand.
Harley lowered her head and continued to flick her tongue back across the center of her lover until she sucked her completely into her mouth and her fingers began to thrust faster and deeper into Emily. She felt her muscles expand and she easily slipped a third finger with the others. Emily yelled and her body tightened as her orgasm rocked the room. Harley could not keep her lips upon Emily as she needed to sing along with Emily as they reached orgasm together. The strength and fierceness of their deep sensual ride to orgasm caused them to bounce upon the bed.
They cried out each other’s name, murmured I love you’s as the oh Gods continued to fill the air around them. Just when their bodies began to relax, Emily began to speed up once again and re-ignited Harley, so Harley’s lips returned to her lover once again. After the third time, to her amazement, she slowly released her lips but allowed her tongue to keep circling and taste what she had created. They each pulled out of the swelling muscles releasing a sated sigh. Harley lazily turned about and released her lover’s wrist from her bind.
Harley lay upon her back and pulled Emily into her arms to snuggle close.
“You are amazing,” Emily said just before sleep claimed them both.
____________________________ Chapter 14_____________________
Pax sat in her office going over the budgetary figures that she had received. When she came across the section for the viper pit, her skin involuntarily crawled. Instantly paranoid she glanced about the floor. The visceral images came flooded before her as the numerous vipers slithered across the linoleum. The ghostly diamond back uncoiled and sunk its fangs into her pliant flesh once again and caused Pax to jump back in her swivel chair.
Pax closed her eyes and shivered at the memories as she wondered for the hundredth time who could have brought the snakes to her office. She shook her head and thanked whatever higher power had been watching over her that day.
Unable to concentrate any longer she threw her pen upon the desk and sighed at the numerous documents before her. I hate paperwork. She gathered the papers into a neat pile and shoved them into the left top drawer of the desk. Pax took the key from her pocket that fit the small lock so that she could safely tuck the figures away. She craved a different environment and away from the suffocating four walls.
Pax left her office and made her way down to the long corridor to the last door. She inhaled deeply, then her nose wrinkled at the faint stench wafting from behind the door. Pax squinted as she looked through the small window pane in the door at the large animal rocking gently behind the steel cage that held him. Your new home should be contacting me soon boy. Then you can be somewhere safe until you get through this, Pax told him.
Pax reached down and turned the volume off on her walkie-talkie She reached inside the leg pocket of her cargo uniform pants and turned her cell phone to vibrate. She slapped her pockets to ensure that nothing else would rattle or make noise that would agitate Bomba.
Pax eased the door open and stepped inside. With her back to the door, she stood waiting for Bomba to acknowledge that there was something or someone in the room with him. The cold black eyes pinned her where she stood. His head pressed rhythmically against the steel bars. She waited several moments before speaking in a low non-threatening voice.
“Hi boy.” She took a hesitant step away from the door. Eyes locked upon the large animal Pax tried to convey that she was a friend and would not harm him in any way. His look remained leery of the human that approached.
“It’s Pax, Bomba. How ya doing boy?” Pax inched her way closer to the animal.
Her eyes surveyed the iron bars the elephant’s head pushed against. The hinges on the door gave just a little with the pressure he consistently applied. She made a mental note to notify maintenance and arrange a time for them to repair the hinges. She visually checked the remainder of the hinges and bolts that secured the structure that prevented Bomba from hurting himself, another animal, or human.
I know you are in torment big guy, the pains of coming of age. Be comforted in the fact that you are not alone. We humans go through it too and it can be just as painful.
“Today,” she slowly reached through the bars and rubbed the wrinkled skin on his head. “You are going out to stretch. Would ya like that boy?”
Pax remained in front of the cage for several more minutes letting Bomba get used to her presence. She turned and moved the cage’s top bolt painstakingly slowly, eyes locked upon the enormous animal. At just the same speed Pax slid the thick middle and lower bolts from their latches and then stepped aside as she opened the steel door. She released the breath she did not realize she held as the five ton animal languidly walked out from his prison and headed for the entrance at the far end of the room.
A shiny silver chain glistened in the corner of the room. Each link had to be two to three inches thick and the leg cuff at the end even heavier. They finally got a new one, Pax grinned. That rusted wire of a chain they had would not have held you boy for very much longer. Pax debated whether she should attempt to get the cuff around his massive leg. That would require another person to help her and that was unwise at this point.
Since her return to duty, she had overheard the others talk about Bomba. They were eager to witness their first musth and Pax could understand their excitement. Unfortunately, that eagerness could transform into mistakes and misinterpretation. That in turn could lead to Bomba or someone else getting hurt. Not on my watch, she vowed. So she would continue to care for Bomba alone until his transfer. Pax thanked Max Caldwell for helping the expert from Indiana care for the animal in her absence. Now that she was back, she again made Bomba her responsibility.
She weighed the risk of agitating the large animal by getting the ankle cuff on versus leaving it off. Decision made, she only hoped that he would follow her command to return to the room and his cage. She watched his languid saunter into the vacant area the zoo held for animals in the winter.
Pax returned to Bomba’s cage and wrinkled her nose, wishing that she had a respirator with her to prevent inhalation of Bomba’s scent. She quickly set about the task to muck and clean his stall. She checked her watch and calculated a short time before Bomba would become bored in the area by himself. She had to get the place cleaned and return him before he developed his own ideas for exercise and sought out a female.
Pax thought of closing the small four-foot wooden gate that separated the two areas. A wry chuckle escaped. That would not stop that animal if he decided to blow into a rage and charge back in here. Her eyes found purchase at the door she had came through initially. To the left side behind the breakable glass were a mid range and long range and handgun and rifle. Both were loaded with darts with enough animal tranquilizer to stop Bomba if need be. Pax was thankful that there had never been a reason to free the guns. Hopefully, there never would be.
Pax hummed to herself and the time flew by quickly. She was nearly done with Bomba’s home when she stopped and cocked her head to the side. She opened her hearing to reach beyond the room and determine the cause of the unfamiliar noise she heard. She prayed it was not Bomba as she closed her eyes and listened closely.
A screeching whimper and then something pawed at the door across the room. Just as Pax stepped from inside the cage, the door crept open and in scampered the little chimp. Cloe made her way further inside of the room saw her human friend an unpleasant scowl marred her beautiful face.
Pax put her hands upon her hips, glanced at the direction where Bomba exited and then back to the little chimp. “How did you get here? How are you getting out?” she asked.
Cloe sat upon the floor. She tilted her head back to lock her sparkling mischievous eyes upon clouded blue ones. Cloe raised her right hand and placed it over her left breast to cover her heart. She gave Pax a full yellowed chimpanzee smile with her lips pulled up and back to expose the pink flesh beneath.
“Cute, but that won’t work.” Cloe blew her a kiss. “As soon as I’m done here….” Pax shook her finger. “We’re going to find out how you keep getting free.” Cloe’s face took on the appearance of innocence and blew Pax another kiss. Pax struggled to keep the laughter from spilling free. “Not going to work. Who has taught you that anyway?”
Cloe took her right hand and put it to her lips and threw Pax a slopping kiss complete with smacking sounds. Her hand returned in succession back over her heart. Who has been teaching you stuff? “Stay out of trouble.” She warned and returned to finish the cage.
Cloe scampered out into the near empty room to peek into every nook and cranny. She was naturally curious and had to examine everything that caught her attention especially the shiny chain.
“Get away from there. Come over here Cloe.”
Dutifully Cloe ambled across the room intent on exploring something else. Less than ten minutes later she decided to climb the shiny grey bars and watch her friend below.
Finally finished with Bomba’s cell, Pax stepped out of the area and looked up into smiling black eyes. It made her laugh softly. “Okay you brat, let’s go.” Pax opened her arms wide a signal for Cloe to jump.
Cloe fell four feet into Pax’s arms and wrapped her furry ones around Pax’s neck. “I want you to wait in my office until I’m done. Don’t get into anything either.” Pax stopped at the door and turned back to peer across the room. She was suddenly torn as to how to pull this off. She could not leave Bomba unattended outside of his cage, neither could she let Cloe free to roam. Both could get into trouble. Cloe definitely would. She looked upon her furry friend; she could not let her remain with her while she attended Bomba.
Biting her lower lip she decided to take the risk. She inhaled deeply with a slow release prepared to run full out as best she could — a mad dash to her office with the heavy furry critter and back to the room before Bomba returned. Pax flung open the door to the hall just as her assistant, Gary Matthews, approached the exit door across the hall.
“Gary. Perfect timing.”
“For?” He grinned at Cloe’s excited chatter.
“Our little escape artist found her way to Bomba.” Her brow stretched into her bangs as Cloe blew a kiss to Gary who laughed uproariously. Cloe’s arms immediately stretched out for the assistant.
“Hey girl. Bomba’s room is not a good place for an adventure Cloe.” He shook his finger at her and watched as the chimp covered her eyes with her hands. Gary cradled the chimp and laughed again when she placed a sloppy kiss on his cheek.
I should have guessed it was you. “Is there something you two want to tell me?” She chuckled.
“Can’t help my animal magnetism Pax. The ladies tell me that all the time.”
“Yeah right. Listen, just get little Houdini here and put her in my office will you? I am almost done with Bomba and then I’ll bring her back to her home.”
“No problem.” He smiled and received another kiss as he walked towards Pax’s office.
“And make sure the door is shut tight,” she called after him and stepped back into Bomba’s room. Her nose wrinkled again at the onslaught of the urine and sweat.
“Pax?” Dr. Caldwell called after the retreating figure down the hall. He had jogged to the end of the adjoining area when he heard her voice. Only Gary was remained visible at Pax’s office door.
“In with Bomba Dr. Caldwell,” he said and headed back towards the exit.
“Do you want me to go get her for you?” Tammy asked as she caught up to the vet. God, it feels like I am walking around with a full army pack on with all this weight on me. She was sweating beneath her clothes.
“No, I can catch up to her later.” He smiled at the young woman beside him. Right now I would rather be in your company. You are just exquisite my dear.
“Are you sure?”
“Thank you Tammy but no. Now where were we? Aahh yes, lions and their favorite prey,” he prompted and opened the door they stood in front of. He stepped back and allowed Tammy to enter first.
She calmly stepped through the doorway and smiled despite the shiver of disgust that infused her body at the touch of his hand on her lower back. “You were about to say how lions hunt.”
His eyes quickly cast downward to watch the movement of her buttocks. He felt himself start to stiffen as he thought about riding the round, plush backside. It was more than he was used to and he definitely wanted to try this lovely specimen.He absently licked his lips and scratched the itch in his palm. Ooh to give that a sharp smack.
“Oh yes, they are excellent predators and stalkers. That is why they are king of the jungle as it were.” He chuckled and followed her into the room. He began his diatribe to impress the Enviro Tech and had forgotten to close the door to the room.
Down the hall Pax’s office door crept open and a small black furry head with large ears peaked through the opening. Cloe looked down the hall where she had last seen her human friend and then up the empty hall. Her decision made, she pulled her little body through the door and ran up the hall towards the one that stood open.
Cloe heard the voices as she neared and slowed to a stop just outside of the entryway. She turned her head around the corner and saw beneath the table two sets of khaki colored legs across the room. She slipped into the room undetected by the talking humans and hid behind a stack of boxes.
“Let me ask a hypothetical question Max.”
“Sure.” Chest puffed the vet stepped a little closer.
“Let’s say the great hunter is tracking the lion, but does not want to kill it. What would they use to stun the thing?”
“Probably use a strong tranquilizer.” Max laughed and inched further into Tammy’s personal space.
Tammy understood what he was doing and stepped back. She absently picked up one of the glass vials from the tables surface. “Ya know doctor there was this guy in my neighborhood who shot a stray dog with a gun. He did not kill it. It just went to sleep.” Max nodded and smiled at the cute way she tilted her head. “What kind of gun could he have used to make that big of a dog fall flat and go to sleep?”
“Hmm. I have an idea but what kind of dog?”
“A big one, probably a hundred or hundred and twenty pounds. The thing was all muscle and my neighbor stood on his porch and shot the thing across the street.”
“He probably used a long-range projector rifle with some kind of animal tranquilizer in the darts.”
Max chuckled “A chemical to put the animal to sleep.”
“No kidding? Where would he get an animal tranquilizer?”
“Not sure most are a controlled substance. What we use here is a tranquilizer made of telazol and zolazem. Telazol is a powerful animal tranquilizer and can have an anesthetic effect.”
You are just too easy old man. “So you think he used that huh?”
“Perhaps or something similar.”
“It’s a good thing that the dog was not closer to him. He probably would have had a hard time getting a quick aim to fire.”
“Then he could have had a handgun with the darts for short range.”
“Amazing so that stuff I’ve seen on those jungle Tarzan like movies really exists huh?”
Max laughed and rubbed her shoulder. So naive but it works in my favor. “Sure it does Tammy.”
“Have you ever had to use that stuff here?”
“We have on occasion. There are a couple of rifles and mid range guns behind protective glass in certain areas of the complex.”
A loud crash and screeching erupted in the room and their attention snapped to the far corner. Cloe stood among the books and files spread across the floor. Her hands were high above her head as she jumped frantically in place.
“That damned chimp!” Max said. “Pax has spoiled her and now she gets into everything.” He stomped over to the small frightened animal and Cloe immediately clung to his legs. He picked her up. “And how did you get free this time?” The chimp whimpered. “Tammy, can you take her and wait with her in Pax’s office?”
Tammy looked at the furry critter and cringed. I’d rather poke my eye out with your tranquilizer dart than touch that ape. She didn’t like the creature and it did not like her. She hesitated but could not concoct a plausible excuse not to do as Max requested. He stepped up to her and Cloe’s grip around his neck tightened further.
“Cloe you are choking me. God you are a strong little thing.” He offered the chimp to an equally reluctant Tammy. “Tammy will take you back to Pax.”
Max placed the chattering animal in Tammy’s arms and stepped out of the chimp’s reach. He looked curiously into the piercing black eyes and waved as Tammy left with the chimp tucked in her embrace.
As Tammy left the room, the chimp continued to whimper and fight to get out of her control. “Stop wiggling you hairy shit.” Tammy hissed and tightened her grasp.
As she came closer to the door labeled Pax K. Baldwin, Cloe reached out and drug her nails across Tammy’s right forearm. Three deep tracks quickly welted and began to bleed.
“Ow!” Tammy yelled and released her hold upon the chimp. “Goddamnmotherfuck,” Tammy spewed and covered her arm with her left hand.
Cloe dropped to the ground with a thud and took off at a limp a few paces. She turned to see the dark human glowering at her. Cloe chattered once and then gave Tammy the finger, her latest trick she had learned from Gary.
“You fucking piece of…” Cloe charged away from the woman to where she had seen Pax last. Tammy stood stunned not only by the throbbing her arm was emitting, but by the chimps sign language. She shook her head and then ran after the little chimp.
Cloe managed to get to the door where she had found Pax before. She turned the knob and threw it open. As soon as she entered, she let out a loud screech to alert her human friend that something was wrong. Pax slid the bolt across Bomba’s cage door as her head simultaneously snapped back towards the door. Her eyes grew large as Bomba released his own roar and charged headfirst against the bars of the cage.
The force of his ram hurled Pax back several feet to crash against the floor. Bomba roared again and started a steady pounding against the bars. Pax looked between her raised knees at the furious animal and heard her heart thundering in her ears. She twisted her head behind her in time to see Cloe run to her and land on her stomach. A loud oomph escaped from Pax as she lost her breath as the chimp landed on her chest. Then all fell silent under Bomba’s loud roar.
Through the door came a puffing Tammy. Bomba gave his ear piercing elephant yell once again. Pax scrambled to her feet and hobbled over to the cage. Swiftly she pushed the upper and lower bolts into the place effectively sealing the outraged animal behind them. She painfully made her way back to the center of the room, grabbed Cloe by the hand, and stalked to the door to glare at the Enviro Tech.
“What the hell are you doing? Just what the fuck do you think you are doing?” Blue eyes fired upon the trembling woman.
“I…I” Tammy stammered eyes locked upon the raging caged animal. You are easily excitable aren’t you big fella?
Cloe’s hand firmly clutched in her own, Pax used her other hand to shove Tammy toward the door and through it. She released the chimps hand and pointed at the animal. “Take Cloe back to her cage. Lock it!” She then punctuated each word with a single finger directed at Tammy. “I will deal with you later.”
Pax wanted desperately to slam the door but had to settle for the stunned looked upon the woman’s face when she closed it firmly. Her ears vibrated painfully with the screams of Bomba. Back against the door, she spied the guns upon the wall.
Mouth gaping wide, Tammy stared at the back of the woman’s head on the other side of the door. She saw it turn to her left as if thinking. Tammy slowly turned around and felt her body began to tremble. Her chest heaved from adrenaline of the fright at the enormous beast ramming into the cage and the uncontrolled surge of animosity that spectacularly fought to control the moment. Bitch who the fuck do you think you are dealing with? Just who the fuck!
Tammy looked down at the cowering chimp. Her eyes blazed with irritation as her arm began to throb and the claw trails swelled. “If this gets infected, I’ll kill you.” She yanked on the small hairy arm and dragged the chimp back to her cage.
“I have not seen you in a few days Pax. Besides Cloe, what has been going on?” Felicia asked pointedly.
“Nothing much.” She lowered her head as she had chosen to study the half filled coffee cup instead of locking eyes with her sister-in-law across the kitchen table.
“Any interesting new people you’ve been having lunch with?”
“Yeah, Cloe took me out the other day after we hung around the jungle gym.”
“Any humans take you to lunch?” Felicia shook her head at Pax and sipped her coffee.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Robin Rippington called me the other day. She is absolutely delighted that my beautiful sister-in-law is interested in her daughter.”
“Is that right?” Pax smiled and sat back in her chair. Amanda had told her that her mother was an instigator and often jumped to the wrong conclusions. Now it seems as though Robin has started to work on Felicia.
“Hmm. In fact she suggested that since we are practically family, she would like to have a dinner with the Baldwins and the Rippingtons.”
“You have got to be kidding me?”
“She said that it’s to get the families acquainted with one another.” She chuckled wryly. “Is there something you want to tell me my beautiful sister-in-law?”
“There is nothing but friendship between Amanda and me. I’m sure Robin knows this.” Pax was sure that Amanda would not let her mother believe otherwise. Amanda was still smarting from her breakup with Toni.
“Why is that?”
“Why is what?”
Felicia looked deeply into the identical pair of eyes of her husband. “You are not attracted to Amanda?”
“We are friends. Focus on that.”
“What type of feelings do you have for her?”
“What? Are you listening to me? Felicia, we have been to lunch a few times that’s all. We’ve watch football with Boney that’s all. She is my friend. That…is…all.”
Felicia threw her hands in the air in surrender. She waited a few beats before she asked, “Did she stay at your place?”
Pax’s mouth fell open and the skin from her neck to her hairline flushed pink. “While her place was fumigated for mice and I offered my spare room. She did not want to be at her mother’s.”
“Felicia, nothing happened. Amanda is very nice and attractive, but I am not interested. Besides she knows how I feel about…”
Pax stood and began to pace in the familiar kitchen. Damn it Felicia, don’t make me go there. She counted the fifteen steps across the first path and turned to walk the other way of fifteen. If she circled the island, she would be able to add another fifteen paces to her trek.
“How do you feel about Teela?”
“Make up your mind Felicia, whether you want me with Amanda or with Teela? Either way it’s not going to work.”
“Amanda was a prelude to me asking about Teela.”
“A diversion.” Like I am trying to create. Why am I running so much? I know what I want and what should be done. It would save a lot of grief if I just did it.
“Yeah something like that. So how do you feel about her?”
“You do know that you are relentless and confusing as all hell don’t you?”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.”
“If I wasn’t still in love with her, I probably would consider dating someone else.”
“I was wondering when you were going to admit it.”
“Admitting and accepting are two different things. I’m not sure if I can trust her again.”
“In time you could learn to trust her again. Do you think that’s what scares the hell out of you?”
“Could be. Tell me Felicia, how do I know this time she is sincere?”
“I can’t tell you that for sure Pax. That is something that you will have to determine for yourself.”
Pax nodded thoughtfully. “When she came to the house last week, I aahh…” Pax stopped wearing a groove into the floor and faced the back door to peer at the yard blanketed by snow. The area was not pristine and undisturbed. It would never be with two small boys in the house. Pax smiled at their matching snowmen wearing parts of their mother’s and father’s clothing
“You pulled your tough routine.”
“Sort of yeah.” Pax sighed and stared out at the snow couple. Her gaze seemed fixed on the yard, and what she saw, but did not see anything. She recounted to Felicia the visit with Teela in her living room. Felicia heard the inflection changes in Pax’s tone when she mentioned certain parts of the conversation. When she was finished Pax released an uncertain breath.
“You remember the day we were in the mall and what I asked you?”
“Felicia, there were many days that you had me stuck in that mall and you said a lot of things to me each time. Can you be more specific?”
“I asked you would you be ready to talk to her when she found the answers she was looking for?” Felicia watched the recognition spread across Pax’s face and she resumed her pacing. “You remember now what you said to me?” There was no response from the zoologist, but Felecia knew she remembered.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“You lie too. You told me not to hold my breath. Thank God that I didn’t listen to you.” She sighed heavily. “What do you think now?”
“What are you doing, taking Dr. Phil’s correspondence classes or what?”
“Comes in handy doesn’t it? Look, I want to see you happy again. I believe deep down you have been waiting for Teela to find what she needed.”
“Good God girl, are you getting A’s in your courses as well?”
Pax took the long way to pace and included the kitchen island to her path. She rubbed her hands across her face and continued to take another pass before she spoke. “Alright. I admit it; I am still in love with her, but there is a lot of hurt and mistrust there as well. Those two things are like oil and water.”
“It will not be easy. Give her a chance to show you that she meant what she told you that day.”
“Felicia?” Came a deep bellow from the front of the house.
“In here honey,” she directed her husband. The twitch of Pax’s shoulders did not go unnoticed.
Zander walked into the kitchen paused briefly at seeing his sister standing by the island. A twinge of the old Zander and the thoughts that got his nose broken briefly flashed before him. Go away. She is family. She’s visiting. It’s alright. I’m okay with this. He smiled in relief in accepting his affirmation. He did less and less of this of late with his sister or when his wife stated she was going out to meet Pax. The counselor was correct. The process of change is slow and would take time. He turned, bent to kiss his wife deeply, and greeted her hello.
“Hello Pax. Good to see you.” He smiled broadly.
“Hello Zander.” Pax lifted the corner of her mouth into a grin and turned back to the window in thought.
“What are you doing home so early?”
“Judge adjourned for the day. That damn attorney stated she found new evidence in favor of her client.”
“I take it that is a bad thing?”
“Could be. Depends on what she has uncovered. How’s things with you sis? Any word on the investigation?”
Pax remained quiet for a beat. She was not ready to discuss her life with her brother. “Actually no. They are at a dead end. The box is from a company that we received office supplies from but the items were checked in days before. Max Caldwell thinks that the box may have been in the garbage room waiting to be broken down. No help there.”
“What about fingerprints on the box or the fake invoice?” Zander slipped into attorney mode.
Pax smiled genuinely at her brother. She recognized the change in his vocal tone. “Sure about twenty. All people who would have access to the box or its contents after being checked in by supply.”
“So what now?”
“How’s the arm?” Zander pointed and walked towards his sister. He noticed her stiffen slightly and decided at the last minute to turn and open the refrigerator.
“Smarts a little but it doesn’t need to be amputated.” Zander’s head shot above the refrigerator door and looked at his sister in disbelief. She raised her hand to eye level and flexed her fingers then smiled and winked at her sister-in-law. “I was kidding Zander. It’s fine really.”
A grin slowly etched across his lips and he stood erect beer in hand. “That’s good, sick, but good.” Pax shrugged. “So, are you staying for dinner?”
Pax’s heart fibrillated at the relaxed invitation from her brother. She looked into hopeful eyes and found it hard to resist. He was trying to be her brother. His vigil at the hospital had proven that to her. As with Teela, she was cautious in giving her complete trust. Pax looked towards Felicia and saw the pleading in her large hazel eyes.
“Depends on what Felicia’s cooking,” she said with a full toothy smile and received one from Zander as well. In unison they turned towards his wife.
Before Felicia could respond to them their telephone rang. Zander left the room to answer it.
“Thanks for giving him a chance Pax.”
“Yeah.” She found her boots interesting. A chance, but not forgiveness. That does not come easily with what he tried to do to me.
“It means a lot to him. The other day he was talking about getting a small fishing boat and asking you to go with him this summer. Maybe teach the boys how to fish.”
“Really?” Pax’s head jerked towards Felicia. Before they hit their teens, she and Zander would go fishing down at the river nearly every weekend. They would drag Damian with them, but he always became bored and whined to return home. She and Zander spent many summer hours of their youth lazing on the bank of that river and shared dreams of being rich and famous.
Zander returned with a puzzled expression and sat at the kitchen table next to his wife. Pax and Felicia looked at one another and felt an unease overcome them.
“That was Community National Bank in Montego. The safety deposit box that dad had needs to be renewed or claimed. Since they could not get in touch with dad, I was listed as the next contact.”
“Montego?” Pax questioned as she returned to sit at the table. “Why would dad have a safety deposit box at a bank there?”
“You never knew anything about it either?”
“Hell no. Would Damian?”
“Don’t know.” Zander glanced at his watch. “It’s two in the afternoon. I can drive over there and be back in a couple of hours. Why don’t I meet you two and the boys at Damian’s restaurant?”
“That sounds fine honey. What do you think is in it?”
“Don’t know sweetie.” He kissed her on the lips before standing. “We are going to find out though.” He placed the half empty bottle of beer in the sink and left the room heading for his home office.
He was soon back in the kitchen with a manila folder in his hand. “I had to get some papers I think they might need. I hope they accept this. I don’t have a key.” He kissed his wife again and left.
Pax flipped open her cell phone and called Damian. She filled him in on the telephone call and that they would all be there for dinner before five. He told her that he had plans to meet Linda there near that time so it was perfect.
Zander pulled into the parking lot of the Community National Bank. He turned off the SUV’s powerful engine and stared at the small brick building. What is so important that you had to put it in there dad? What is so secretive that you couldn’t tell us in life, but preferred to tell us in death? With a worried sigh, he pulled his bulk from behind the wheel and headed for the glass entrance.
After arriving, Zander spent the first fifteen minutes proving his identity, the death of his father and incapacitation of his mother. Only when the manger was satisfied was Zander ushered into the room at the back of the bank. He now waited for the clerk to retrieve the box and bring it to the small room.
On the hour or so drive to Montego, he tried to guess what would have made his father get a deposit box and what he placed inside so far away from where he lived. The only answer was that it was something that he never wanted found or to fall into his family’s hands, at least until he was ready to have whatever it was known to them.
Zander recalled the reading of his father’s will. He and Damian sat on either side of their mother and heard his father’s wishes and assets. There was never a mention of the bank or the box. The door crept open and the young woman had returned carrying the small metal box. The woman sat the box on the table before Zander, handed him the second key from the manager and closed the door behind her when she left.
Taking a deep breath, Zander rubbed moistened palms across his dark slacks. He did not realize that they were shaking until he picked up the key and tried to place it in the small lock. He chuckled nervously and inhaled again to steady himself.
The lid easily lifted and Zander looked inside. His brow wrinkled at the letters within. He took out the small bundle. They were addressed to his father at his business address and not to their home. The returned address written in beautiful penmanship any English teacher would be thrilled to see. He chuckled nervously and compared it to his chicken scratch handwriting.
“B. D., P.O. Box 5690, San Antonio Texas. What the hell?”
Each of the letters was crisp, and the only sign that they had been read was the neat opening slit across the top. Zander looked at the post mark on each of them and found the earliest one.
Funny, I have always been afraid of saying that to someone. Now I find that I have to but it is not because I have found someone else. It is because I have something to tell you and I know that you will be shocked. I was too. This morning I realized that I am late with my cycle. I went to the doctor’s and found out the truth as to why.
John I am pregnant.
“What the hell?” Zander spoke aloud and reread the passage again. “Oh my god, Dad!”
I am pregnant with your child John. I know that you are very shocked and probably angry. I assure you this is not something I am saying to trap you or try to get you to come back to me. You must believe me it was not done intentionally. I know that you have a family and that you were going back to them to make things work with Maureen. I understood that. You made it very clear that you loved your wife and missed your three children.
I just wanted you to know I loved the time we had together and that I loved you enough not to force you to do anything or try to come between you and your family. I am going to keep the baby. It is a gift that you have given to me that I will cherish until my dying breath. I just wanted you to know.
“Holy shit Dad.” Zander sat back looking down at the letter held between his hands. I have another sibling. We have another brother or sister. Holy shit Dad! He couldn’t believe it. His father had another child somewhere. Wait. You were unfaithful to Mom while you were in Texas that year!
Zander stared at the beautiful handwriting once again. He searched his memories for a time when his father was not with the family. “Oh god, I remember now.”
He looked at the paper and the date. That was when he was twelve. His father was absent from their home. His mind let him relive the turbulent night he overheard his parents fighting about the company that his father worked for. John wanted to pack the family and relocate to Texas for a temporary assignment and his mother had been firmly against uprooting the children. He recalled his mother’s words concerning how well adjusted he and his siblings were. He also heard her use selfishness when she described their father.
The Baldwin children were on their best behavior that year when their father had left them to help restructure his company. The three Baldwin children had gathered one night in Pax’s room and vowed to be good for their mother’s sake. From that night on, they only had to be told to do something once. They had witnessed the sadness in their mother’s eyes and saw how she struggled to maintain the home and care for them. Zander remembered that summer as he often heard his mother crying during the night. He folded the letter and returned it to the pristine envelope. He took the next and read it as well.
The third letter from the woman named B congratulated his father on becoming the father of a baby girl. The tiny hospital picture fell from the envelope and Zander raised it to eye level. The pink wrinkled baby had a pink knit hat on and lots of black hair poking from beneath it. The magnetic blues eyes stared back at him. He read through the letter and discovered his half sister was named Angelica.
Zander looked further into the metal box and extracted an official copy of Angelica’s birth certificate. His eyes immediately searched for the full name of the mother.
“Brenda Devereaux,” he read aloud. “Who are you? How did you meet my father and how long did the affair last?” He shook his head sadly. Dad, did you leave us for the good of your company or for her that year? “Pax and Damian you are not going to believe this but we have a sister somewhere.”
His brows knitted in wonder at his mixed feelings on the discovery. He had only known his parents to have two fights in his entire childhood. One was about moving, the other over Pax. During the rest of their lives together they showed their children and others that they were a loving couple.
Two of the remaining letters from Brenda had Angelica’s first and second birthday photos. The black raven hair and ocean blue eyes that were inherited from their father. The three of them had his hair and eyes, and they were clearly evident in young Angelica.
“What kind of person have you grown you be Angelica?” Zander asked the photograph. “Where are you now? Do you want to know that we exist?”
Zander sat the letters aside and returned to inspecting the other documents hidden within. His father had established a five thousand dollar Certificate Of Deposit in Angelica’s name two weeks after she was born as well as small life insurance policy.
The last item in the box was another bundle of letters. On top was a letter addressed to the three of them, a second and slightly thicker one addressed to Angelica and the third taped to the front of heavy and thick brown office envelope for Pax.
Linda, Pax, and Felicia sat in the empty banquet room of the Lexicon sipping their tri-colored shakes and laughing. Both she and Felicia felt comfortable with Linda and were glad that her brother and brother-in-law had good sense to try and make things work with this one.
Linda had been regaling them of the antics of Damian and her six year old son Michael when Zander came through the slightly closed partition that separated them from the patrons of the Lexicon. All merriment ceased. They looked upon his blanched complexion that usually was tanned even during the winter months.
“Zander?” Felicia called concerned at the look from her husband. “Are you alright?”
“Dad!” Effraim and Luke bellowed and ran to their father. Zander lowered to one knee and braced himself for the double impact. His sons crashed into his body and nearly tumbled him backwards. He held firm and pulled his boys close to his body.
“Wait ‘til I tell you what happened at school today dad. You are not going to believe it!” Effraim the oldest of his adopted sons jumped excitedly.
“I want to hear about my boy’s exciting day but I need to talk to your mom and auntie first. Okay?”
He looked at his brother and they nodded in unison. “You promise?”
“Promise.” He grinned and watched them move back to their places a few tables over. They sat with Linda’s son Michael and continued to color and have the conversation of little boys.
“Hello Linda. Nice to see you.”
“You too Zander. Is everything alright?”
“Hey Zander, I saw you walk in.” Damian greeted as he entered the room. He clasped his brother’s hand in his own for the firm handshake their father had taught them. Pump once, twice and then release. Zander grinned, their father had been a good man and mentor despite what he was about to tell his siblings.
“So what did you find out?” Pax asked.
Zander fingered the bundle of envelopes and papers in his hand and shook his head. He had thought of how to break the news to them while he drove back from Montego. He was unable to find any gentle way of letting them know.
“I found Angelica Devereaux.” He sighed and removed his coat to sit next to his wife.
Zander pulled out the baby picture and laid it in the middle of the table so that they all could see. “Her name is Angelica and she is our half-sister.” He saw their mouths fall open.
Zander nodded to confirm. “That’s what I thought as well. Do you guys remember the year that Mom and Dad split?” He gazed from Damian to Pax. Both nodded.
“I was about ten, I think,” Pax said.
“I was eight. That was the year I wanted to start little league football and wanted dad to teach me to play. He wasn’t there,” Damian added.
“I was twelve. From what I can gather, when dad went to Texas, he met a woman named Brenda Devereaux. They had a brief affair and then along came an unexpected Angelica.”
Pax stared at the wrinkled baby girl in the photograph. Unbelievable Dad. She looked at her two brothers who had the same awed expression upon their faces.
“There are a few letters from Brenda to dad and they were all addressed to dad’s firm.” He laid the letters upon the table along with the birth certificate. Pax grabbed the document and read each line closely. Damian opened one of the letters and began to read. Felicia rubbed her husbands arm giving his support and comfort.
“This letter is thanking Dad for paying the hospital charges for Angelica’s birth and for the money that he sent to get her things that she needed,” Damian said.
“I never knew a thing. What about Mom?” Damian’s head snapped in her direction. “Do you think that Mom knew?”
“No.” Zander answered with confidence. He tossed the letter addressed to the three of them from their father upon the pile in the center of the table. “He wrote that to us. It explains about that year, about this Brenda woman. He also states that he could not bear to let mother know what he had done.” He lowered his eyes as his voice softened. “He didn’t want to chance losing her again.”
Silence fell among the group as laughter rang from their children’s table. Felicia glanced their way and made sure that all was well before turning back to her family. “So what are you going to do?”
“Find her,” Damian said drawing all eyes to him.
“Damian it doesn’t bother you knowing that father was unfaithful?” Pax asked.
“Sure it does but what can we do about it now? What can we truly do about it?” He looked from his sister to his brother and then at the picture of the dark haired one year old in his grasp. He turned it out to them. “We can still be angry at father but she is not to blame. She is our sister, and I say we try to find her.”
Pax smiled at her youngest brother with love. “What if she doesn’t want to be found Damian?” Pax asked. “What then?”
“Then we will know. At the very least, these things are in her name,” he fingered the envelope addressed to Angelica. “We can deliver them to her.”
“I know I am not family,” Linda hedged. “But I think Damian is right. She may want to know that she too has siblings somewhere.”
Silence fell between them again until the uncharacteristic chuckle escaped from Pax. “Sorry. I was just thinking that I could have used a sister growing up with you two.” She smiled.
Damian returned a grin to her. “You should…could have. I could have used a slave for me like you two turned me into.” He glared at his siblings.
“Ooh but you were so good at it Damian,” Pax cajoled.
“Bite me Pax.” He stuck his tongue out at her. “It was hell being last born with you two. Everything Zander did to you Pax you in turn did to me. I had no one to pass the torture to.”
Pax shrugged her shoulders with a grin. “Sucked to be you didn’t it?”
“You never knew the half of it.”
“Ok ok.” Felicia intervened. “I agree with you Linda. So how do we go about finding this Angelica Devereaux?”
“Let me talk to a few people at the office tomorrow,” Zander offered. “Maybe they could recommend a good Private Investigator to track her down.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Me too,” Damian said and looked at his new sister’s portrait once more.
“There was one more thing.” Four pairs of eyes turned to Zander who met only Pax’s gaze. “There was this for you.” He handed her the envelope written in their father’s handwriting.
Pax slowly reached for the massive envelop and felt her breath quicken. A letter for me? What could he possibly have to say to me that he and mother hadn’t said years before? Her hand touched the paper and flashes of her childhood danced before her open eyes.
She was daddy’s little girl from the beginning. He taught her how to stay upright on the small pink two-wheeler with the pink and purple streamers at the end of the handle bars He was the one who taught her how to slide into home base and patched her skinned knees. He was the father who remained silent upon the couch the day his wife called her an abomination.
Pax vision tunneled and the four pairs of eyes held steady upon her face faded into the blackness. Pax only saw the white sheet of stationery and the blur of the black ink across it. She inhaled deeply and forced her eyes to focus on the words that formed across the page.
My Dearest Daughter,
Can you ever forgive the cowardice of your old man? I say this because that is what I was when your mother handed down the law and said that we disowned you, when she told you that you were no longer apart of this family, I should have been a man and told her to be quiet. I should have told her that you would never be banned from the name of Baldwin.
There are a lot of should haves for me. I should have stood up for my child. I should have had more backbone for myself. I should have searched and found you. I should have brought you back home. Regrets every one…
Know this. With all of my heart, with all that I am, I have always loved you. I always will.
I have thought of you daily and wondered if you were well. I feared going against your mother not only because of her temper but because of what you and your brothers now know.
I had hoped to give you this letter while I still drew a breath. The fates saw otherwise. Again it seems that I have chosen the coward’s path and you have this when we cannot be face to face. I am sorry Pax that I have failed you as a father.
P.S. In the second envelope is your inheritance. The boys have by now received theirs at the reading of my will. Your mother forced me to change our wills to exclude you. Again, for not coming to your defense I am sorry. However, neither she nor the boys know about your inheritance. It is more than originally planned or what the boys have received. Inside is fifteen thousand dollars tax-free cash and three CD’s drawn on the Community National Bank in Montego. Yes, in some way it is my attempt at making restitution (of a sort) to you and it may be wrong of me to try and do so. I cannot think of another way other than words. More important because you are my child, and you deserve an inheritance as the others received, lesbian, bisexual, or straight I’ve always loved you. I was just too afraid to show it.
Pax wiped tears from her eyes and did not look up to see the curious faces at the table. She closed her eyes briefly and tried to define what it was that she should feel. Her father admitted not protecting her it’s a start that cannot be finished…father. She stumbled over the strange word she had spoken only three times in twenty years. John Baldwin lay on his hospital bed near death and she’d hoped he heard her whispers. You abandoned me to begin with, a low level of animosity stirred deep within. She inhaled until her lungs filled and then released the breath slowly to capture her center. She could not bring herself to feel that for him. I am tired of being angry. It takes too much energy and is unproductive. She had spent twenty long years wallowing in the emotion and it was time she felt to move on.
She slowly opened the brown envelope and peered inside. She immediately saw the bundle of cash atop of papers. The yellowed sheets she withdrew and unfolded them. She briefly read each one unable to stop her brows from disappearing into her hair line at the amount of each of the CD’s.
“Jesus dad!” she whispered. Restitution indeed, but money cannot replace time lost with you and the family nor take back the ugly words uttered by mother.
“Pax? What did he say?” Damian asked concerned that the color drained from his sister’s face.
She looked at him and then to Zander. She folded the documents carefully and replaced them in the envelope. “He said that he loved me always had. He said uhm…” She took a sip of her water mouth parched from the discovery. “That he did not have the courage to go against Mother and come find me.”
“He and I did talk about you quite a bit, especially the week before he died,” Damian offered.
“He did?” She smiled and wiped the tears before they could fall.
“What else Pax?” Zander sensed there was more.
“He uhm. gave me an inheritance.”
“Really?” Zander looked at her curiously.
“Yes. He had hidden it from all of you. Obviously.”
“That is wonderful Pax,” Damian congratulated her. He recalled the sad moments spent at the attorney’s office shortly after their father’s death. They sat in the stoic chambers alongside their mother as the man read John Baldwin’s Last Will and Testament. He and Zander had each been granted thirty thousand dollars. Pax knew if she revealed her fifteen thousand in cash and three twenty thousand dollar notes, her siblings would definitely feel envious and bitter.
Zander looked to his brother as he recalled that day so very clearly. Zander used his money to purchase the home his family now lived in. After Damian had returned from a week in the Caribbean, the remainder of his inheritance was a down payment for the restaurant.
“Any thoughts as to what you are going to do with it?” Damian asked.
“No. It’s not that important at the moment Damian.”
Pax dragged her tall frame into her home and upstairs to her bedroom. She went into the bathroom and immediately drew a hot and steamy bath. Across town at the dojo, a knife plunged into the already tattered punching bag. The sand immediately spilled upon the carpeted floor. As Pax eased her aching limbs into the soothing heat, chairs at the dojo were flipped and exercise mats were sliced beyond repair.
High on the wall, the portraits of the schools master, sensei, and instructors were dislodged and shredded as well. The lone figure cloaked in dark clothing in the equally dark dojo removed the cans of spray paint from the canvas bag upon the floor. The evil laugh barely sounded above a whisper as a message was written upon clear surface of the room including the carpet and across the students’ trophies that lined the arena.
Finished with the new decorations at the Okinawian school, it was only a short trip to Pax’s front door. All the lights were out in the house except the one in the far corner at the rear. The vandal withdrew two cans of red spray paint and proceeded to continue the message left at the dojo across the surface of Pax’s truck and front door.
_______________________ Chapter 15______________________
Pax stared at the columns of figures on the proposed budget documents upon her desk. Her eyes long since blurred with numbers floating before them since she had arrived less than two hours ago. She could not recall when she had such an unproductive and distracted morning as this day.
Her morning did not start out very well to begin with.
She was jarred awake from a deep slumber at five a.m. by the doorbell and pounding upon her front door. When she had finally stumbled down the stairs in her lounge pants and a sweatshirt she opened her front door to not just a winter morning chill that iced her bare feet but to pair police officers.
“Can I help you officers?”
“Are you Pax Kattapolous Baldwin?”
Pax heart stopped as she thought about her family. Something has happened to them. “Yes I am. Is my family alright?”
“Yes ma’am. This is not about your family but about you ma’am. You apparently have been the victim of vandalism.” He tipped his pen towards her front door. Pax groggily followed his direction and then her mouth dropped fully open.
“What the hell?” She read the obscenity sprayed across her front door in bright red paint.
“One of your neighbors reported seeing the graffiti this morning when she retrieved her newspaper.”
“Did she see anyone? When the hell did this happen?”
“She did not report seeing anyone when she retrieved her morning paper, not sure when it occurred ma’am.”
Pax stared at the large bright “DYKE BITCH” across her front door and shook her head. “I cannot believe this is happening.” The landlord is going to just love me for this.
“And also across your truck ma’am.”
“What?” Pax screamed. “Not my truck!” She took two steps outside before jumping back inside onto the barely warm flooring. “Mother…” She spun around and ran upstairs to retrieve her socks and a pair of shoes. She returned back to the living room pulling on her work jacket and stepped outside with the officers to view her truck.
Her beloved F-150 now appeared as a billboard for her sexuality. Sprayed across the doors, windows and hood were “dyke”, “bitch”, “whore”, and “thief”. I’ll kill the motherfucker who did this. I swear to God I will. “I can’t believe someone did this. Was anyone else vandalized?”
“No ma’am. You seem to be the only one.”
“Great. That’s just ducky!” She turned and stomped back towards the warm of her home. “What do you need from me?”
“A statement ma’am.”
“Fine,” she groused. “Follow me. I need coffee now.”
She led the officers into her kitchen and began answering the questions that were rapidly fired at her. Her morning did not get any better. While the officers were struggling to ask her thorough questions about her evening, her vehicle, and other things related to the vandalism, the doorbell rang. While the officers were debating on how much further to stretch out the interview in order to have another cup of coffee, Pax returned to the kitchen with two detectives in tow.
The four officers of the city looked at one another and then turned to Pax. “As you can see two of your colleagues have already interviewed me about my whereabouts last night in relation to my new outdoor decorator.” The sarcastic smile did not reach her eyes. “I’m sure they would be willing to share the information with you two detectives.”
“We would like to hear it from you ma’am and then compare notes,” Said the tall woman detective.
Pax fought to keep her irritation to a low simmer at the invasion and accusing tones of the people who barged into her usually tranquil morning. She inhaled deeply and released the air at a very slow and patience inducing speed.
When she opened her eyes she noticed the woman’s eyes upon her with something more than just need for information. She saw them travel quickly over her body to linger upon her breasts. Pax waited until their eyes locked before raising her eyebrow in question. You are supposed to be working detective, not checking me out. As she tipped the coffee to her lips, she let her eyes travel the same pattern across the detectives body and saw the woman flinch a little uncomfortably in acknowledgement. You are no comparison to Teela.
“What is it that you want to know detective…”
“Sierra Mollier and Rod Odesser.” She nodded toward her male partner. “As we said Mrs. Baldwin…”
“It’s Ms. Detective.”
“Ms. Baldwin…the karate school where you are a teacher was vandalized last night.”
“Are you kidding me?” I can’t believe this. “How did they get in if the place is alarmed? Was anyone hurt?”
“The alarm was deactivated so the person knew what they were doing. No one was hurt the place was empty. There was, however a lot of equipment damaged and your name written across the walls and floors.”
Pax set her cup down hard upon the counter. “You have got to be kidding me? First my house and now the dojo?” What the hell is going on around here?”
“Or it could be the other way around.”
“Either way makes no difference.”
“Do you know of anyone who has a grudge against you of some kind?” Detective Odesser asked. His pen poised above the small notebook in his hands. He had been steadily writing on the tablet.
“No. No one.” Why is this shit happening?
“When was the last time you were at the school Ms. Baldwin?”
“Two days ago. I closed the place after the last class for the evening. I should call Master Min to make sure he is alright.”
“We just left him at the school. His children and several students are with him.”
“That’s good.” She sighed gratefully. “I have to let him know I had nothing to do with this.”
I shouldn’t have come in anyway. This was a waste of time. Too much had happened in too short of time for her to process and sort logically. Her head swirled in circles from the surprising revelations that surfaced in her life over the past several days.
First, Teela wanted back in her life, a fact that she was cautious about. Teela was a beautiful woman. That was a given. Last summer she had come into Pax’s life and claimed her heart so quickly, it was as if a coup had occurred and Teela became the new reigning monarchy.
Pax closed her eyes and raised her chin and willed their time at Nettles campground to come to her, to play before her once again. Their kiss was beyond electric. “Explosive” did not come close to describing it. What word could completely describe the moment another touches your soul? That time and space when nothing mattered but the caress of you truest love… The moment of your complete and utter surrender… Their parting was also indescribable. “Heartbreak” did not come close to describing the rending of that same surrendered soul, to that moment when the body, the mind, and the spirit lay upon the flooring scattered among the dust.
Pax forced her eyes open to thoughts of her new sister. Angelica Devereaux was somewhere out there in the world. The realization that her father was unfaithful to her mother was not so far beyond her comprehension. How should I feel? Knowing the way Mother was with me I don’t blame Father for wanting to get away from her for a while. Mom could have gave in and taken us all to Texas, she thought. But that does not excuse dad for doing what he did. Her brow creased as her internal voice sought justification for condoning his affair with Brenda Devereaux.
She rubbed her chin and drummed her fingers across the desk top. Maybe the reason I am not more angry with Dad is because now I know that he wanted to fight for me and couldn’t. More like wasn’t strong enough to go against Mother’s rule. To confuse the situation even more, there was the large sum of money he left her as an apology or inheritance. Does it really matter which? She had it. Now what to do with it? Should I even keep it? I could give it away. Her anger simmered below the surface. It’s tantamount to hush money, a bribe for being exiled from the family and not being allowed to return. That’s what it is.
She let the anger rise completely as she slammed her fist upon the hard surface. Now there was the destruction of the dojo. Who ever did that definitely wanted to get my attention. It also had to be the same person who painted my truck. She groaned and shook her head at the image of her vandalized beauty came across her vision. I’ll kill the fucker.
Pax felt her heart break as the taxi pulled out of her drive. She kept her eyes glued to her truck until she could neither see it nor the police surrounding it in her driveway. After answering all of their questions, she left them to their work, trying to get fingerprints other than her own from her beauty. Following that, she would have to find a body shop that could repaint the F-150. She’d called the rental car company as instructed by her insurance agent and was now driving a sleek glistening white and chrome Dodge Ram. Even that did not lift her spirits.
Who? She focused her thoughts on who could be the menace cowardly plaguing her. Tanesha? Why? Oh I know why, but why now? She has to know that she would be the first one the police would look at. Dumb bitch!
Pax placed her head in her hands and shook the burdened rock. Her landlord was not thrilled but she appeased his anger when she volunteered to pay for the new door and installation. He assured her he would have it fixed later that day. Too much drama. Absofuckinglutely too much drama. Well Pax just pick one and focus. Start at the beginning and work to the present. That means, Teela.
Her mind circled back to Teela and their conversation several days before. She finally decided to relent and take the social worker at her word. Now the problem was on how to approach the small blonde to let her know she wanted to try things again. Frustrated to no end, Pax shoved the papers once more into the left side of her desk and locked the drawer. Ten minutes later she was leaving the parking lot behind the wheel of the pretty white truck.
Teela walked down the hall carefully in her high heels. The housekeeping department of the ARCC was extremely adept at their jobs. The floors shown brightly beneath the high wattage lighting system throughout the buildings as they were waxed, polished and buffed nearly daily. Generally she had a fast gait when she wore flats, but not today.
It had been several days since she had her strange behavior and she had not demonstrated that level of agitation since. A frown covered her face while she read the latest notes from the staff regarding Nona Reece. The physician had ordered an antipsychotic medication to be administered twice a day to Nona. Teela didn’t mind the physician doing so but the dosage was too high to her mind. The side effects were immediate. Nona became groggy and lethargic in a matter of three doses. So instead of reducing the dosage the physician, discontinued the medication and refused to attempt another kind. Declining her request for Nona to be transferred to the psychiatric unit the physician did not leave Teela very many options. She did the only other thing that she could think of.
She called the woman that was heading towards her down the hallway, Dr. Tanesha Evans.
Teela felt the cold shiver course through her veins at the smile that stretched across Tanesha’s face. This is strictly business. She is just trying to unsettle me and I refuse to let her win. I can’t believe I slept with this woman. What was I thinking? She inhaled several times letting the breath out slowly between her lips as they approached one another.
Teela’s eyes spotted several CNAs running from room to room and residents in wheelchairs propelling themselves. Many used the wooden hand rails to pull themselves along at a faster rate than using their hands to spin the wheels. Teela gave Tanesha her brightest professional smile as she extended her hand.
“Thank you for coming on such short notice Dr. Evans.”
“No problems Ms. Pheamster. I don’t have another appointment until later this afternoon so I am free until then. What can I do for you?”
“Nona Reece. Follow me.” Teela took several steps before turning back to Tanesha to wait until she came to walk beside her and not behind. She looked at the smirk across Tanesha’s face and continued to lead her towards her office. “We need advisement on whether she can be treated here safely at the ARCC or should she be admitted to the psychiatric unit?”
Teela went on to explain to Tanesha about Nona’s behaviors and her observed condition. She explained about Wilbur and how they had related his appearance to a urinary tract infection. They treated Nona with a course of antibiotics. The infection went away and so did Wilbur. Now he had returned. Teela opened the large clinical record with Nona’s name on it before Tanesha as she told her other details about the woman.
Feeling that she had enough information, Tanesha followed Teela down one of the halls to speak with Nona.
Teela knocked on the open door and waited for Nona to open her eyes. Nona was lying on the bed with her hands folded across her midsection. “Nona?” Teela called and knocked again. She saw the gray eyes flutter open and lock with her emerald ones. “Hi Nona, it’s Teela.”
“What do you want?”
“I brought someone to see you Nona.”
“We are in the middle of our nap. You children never learned when to stay out of our bedroom. How many times have we told you about that?”
“I’m sorry Nona, but the doctor came to see you.”
“Oh?” Gray eyes tracked to Tanesha and her brow furrowed. “I don’t recall a colored doctor? I know there have been some advancements and all, but aren’t they supposed to work on their own people?”
“Not any more Mrs. Reece,” Tanesha replied sweetly and stretched out her hand towards the woman. “I am the new doctor working with your Dr…”
“Merkin,” Teela whispered.
“Dr.Merkin.” She smiled and waited for Nona to take her hand.
“Well if Dr. Merkin said you were okay, then it’s fine by me. What do you want?”
“I’ll just leave you two to get acquainted.” Teela was amused.
Teela had taken three steps outside of the room when Kat spotted her and approached. “Ok, how bad is it?”
“You know Teela, I am beginning to get the feeling that you do not like me.”
“Oh poo, Kat. You know I like you. It’s just that every time that I see you always have new people for me. This means a lot more work than I need.”
“Are you saying that I am bad news?”
“Most of the time.” She laughed at the playful shove her friend gave her.
“Then I should not even tell you that Belle is coming back tomorrow.” It was Kat’s turn to chuckle as Teela’s face light up like a child opening presents.
“She is? They were able to repair her hip then? Is she walking?”
“Yes. Yes after the infection was cleared. No.”
“Sorry Teela. They are going to try therapy here.”
“There’s still a good chance then.”
“I’ve missed her.”
“Me too. I’ve missed my daily hugs. Tell me something Kat. Why is it that we are upset at them for being who they are when they are naughty, but when they change and go downhill, we miss how they used to be, so naughty and all? Why is that?”
“Hmm don’t know Teela. That’s deep.”
“Yeah I know. I have my moments.”
“Bite me.” She laughed with her friend. “Thanks for telling me.”
Teela was just outside her office when the page for her came over head. She stepped to her desk quickly and punched in the number.
“Hello this is Teela, how can I help you?”
“This is Michael Burnam from the Merchants National Bank Visa recovery department.”
“How can I help you Mr. Burnam?” Teela frowned quickly trying to think if she had sent her monthly bill into the credit card company.
“I would like to speak to Mr. Mark Duncan. Your receptionist stated that I would need to speak with you in order to do so.”
“That was wise of her Mr. Burnam as I am Mr. Duncan’s social worker. May I inquire as to why you need to speak with him?”
“Well, he has not made a payment on his credit call bill in over six months and I am calling to discuss the matter with him. We are very close to starting legal proceedings.”
Teela looked at the receiver in disbelief. “Mr. Burnam can I get a direct number where I can reach you. I am not in an ideal place to have this conversation, nor is Mr. Duncan readily available.”
Teela pulled the pen from her pocket. Not having any paper handy she wrote the number on the palm of her hand. She returned the phone to the cradle and went to the nursing station, pulled the clinical record labeled Mark Duncan, and opened it to the Admission Face Sheet. She found his son’s work number and made the call.
“Yes?” The high pitched male voice came through the receiver.
“This is Teela Pheamster, the social worker for your dad at the ARCC.”
“Yes Teela, what can I do for you?”
“I just received a bizarre call from a Michael Burnam of the Merchants National Bank Visa recovery department wanting to speak with your dad.”
“Yes. He stated that he was calling to ask him why he had not made any payments on his account in six months.”
“Oh no.” Thomas groaned. Teela heard the barely audible curse leave his lips.
“Is everything alright Thomas?”
“It’s my sister Ms. Pheamster. My brother and I have discovered that she signed Dad’s name to several credit cards last year and has used them to their limits. Now they are trying to collect from Dad.”
“Oh no are you kidding me?”
“Wish I were.”
“That is awful Thomas.”
“Jonathan and I are trying to find out just what damage she has truly caused. Now we have another one. I hope there is an end to the discoveries soon.”
“I am so sorry this is happening to you and the family. That is so unfortunate.”
“Yes I know. The best that we can surmise is she got those pre-approved applications that fill your mailbox. You know the ones that I mean?”
“Oh yes. I shred each one of them.” Teela shook her head in disbelief at the amount of wasted paper and resources from those companies on the mailings.
“Well she got Dad’s social security number and things and did it that way. This Michael…”
“Burnam appears to be number four.”
“What is going to happen?”
“We haven’t decided yet. She has gotten at least sixteen thousand dollars’ worth of stuff on these cards. I am afraid to find out what this Michael says she owes.”
“Yes. Well thank you for the information. How is Dad by the way?”
“Today he is alert and watching everyone pass by. Yesterday he kept his eyes closed. He is still eating well so no problems there.”
“Good. My brother and I really appreciate you people. We both agree that it takes special people to work in a nursing home dealing with the things that you guys see and do every day. We really appreciate the care you give to Dad.”
“Well thank you Thomas. I will be sure to pass that onto the staff for you.”
“Bye.” She returned it to the cradle and looked to her doorway. “Well, how is Nona?” she asked Tanesha. A movement on the other side of the nurses’ station caught her eye. She looked past the woman in the doorway and saw a large grey tail waving high into the air. She grinned, “Excuse me a moment Tanesha.”
Puzzled Tanesha turned her upper body just slightly and narrowed the space that Teela had to go through to leave her office. Outwardly she appeared interested in what had stolen Teela’s attention. Inward, she shivered with arousal as their bodies brushed against one another.
Teela walked to the end of the nurse’s station and stood with her hands on her hips. She came chest to muzzle with the enormous Great Dane. The large tail thumped the station as it wagged happily at the attention.
“Boston where is your momma?” The pink tongue hung through the jowls and the tail thumped faster and harder. “You are supposed to be visiting your grandpa not running free in the halls.”
“What the hell is that?” Tanesha asked mouth ajar and eyes wide.
Just then a young woman approached them laughing. “Boston gets that reaction all the time.” The large head swung back toward the familiar voice. “You are supposed to be visiting Grandpa Boston. You are going to get us into trouble.” She waved the folded lead in her hand. “You would think for a dog this size you’d hear him, but he can be quiet as mouse when he wants to be sneaky.”
“Is that right Boston?” He gave them a loud woof that rattled Teela’s ear drums and shook his jowls.
“Who left the barn door open?” They all turned to see the little lady in the wheel chair behind them. “Janet,” her sparkling hazel eyes bore into Teela. “Go tell your brother that the cows are out of the barn again.”
Teela looked upon the resident who was irritated and chuckled inwardly. She thinks Boston is a cow. I guess it would seem so from where she is height wise and mentally. “Emma, Boston is not a cow. He’s a dog, a very big dog.”
“I know a cow when I see a cow Janet. I’m going to go find your father.” She huffed.
Just then an aide approached them softly chuckling as well. “Hey Anna, let’s go play Bingo.” The aide met Teela’s smile with her own as she stepped around to face Anna. She read Teela’s lips as she mouthed a thank you. “It’s going to start soon.”
The scowl upon Anna’s face quickly disappeared and her eyes glistened even further. “Yes.” The aide turned the woman in the chair to face the direction they would soon be heading.
“You make sure to tell your brother to get the cows and fix the fence.”
When she was farther down the hall, Teela turned to Boston’s momma and Tanesha laughing. “Sometimes I love my job. She is really an interesting character when you get to know her.”
“I bet,” the owner replied. “Well I better get the cow back into the barn.” She snapped on the leash to the large leather color around Boston’s neck. He shook his large head in protest. “Tough buddy.”
Tanesha finally managed to snake her hand out to try and pet Boston on the head. Boston turned towards her and stepped closer to his momma. He made it known that he did not want Tanesha’s attention.
“Now Boston, that was not nice. You behave or no ice cream cone for you.” The dog sounded with a woof and turned for a fast walk down the hall his mother nearly dragged behind him.
“Good lord that dog was big,” Tanesha said.
“Yeah,” Teela replied her thoughts still focused on Boston’s reaction to Tanesha. “You should see his sister. She is just as big.”
“You let them come in here?”
“Sure, why not?”
“I would think it would be dangerous.”
“No. Any animal that is aggressive or dangerous is not allowed. Most residents like Boston and his sister, Terrier.”
“Boston and Terrier.” She laughed. “That’s rich.”
“Working here, you get to know all manner of people. You get glimpses into so many different lives and lifestyles. It’s amazing sometimes you get to hear about America’s history from so many points of views.”
Tanesha stared at the beautiful blonde noted the passion she emanated. She loved her job as stressful and harried as it could be. She could tell it was moments like those before that the social worker found rewarding. Tanesha shifted uncomfortably as she felt the stirring of desire begin between her legs. I was a fool then Teela. It will be better this time. I swear to you. Ah ha, Tanesha cheered inwardly. That makes things a lot easier now that there is no more Pax I see. Her eyes glanced down and noticed Teela’s empty ring finger.
Teela recognized the transformation on Tanesha’s face. She had seen that sultry look before. She wanted to forget it. “So,” she hoped for a detraction and back to business. “How do you find Nona?”
“Nona is psychotic and needs to be on medication,” she replied simply.
Tell me something I don’t know. “What do you suggest?”
Teela sat behind her desk and placed her hands softly on it. She knew what Tanesha was thinking by the flash in her eyes. For anyone passing by the office Tanesha displayed impeccable professional demeanor. Albeit, her back was to the door, but from the front Teela perceived it told a different story
“I would suggest the use of Zydis. It is one I favor because it is easily administered and simply melts on the tongue upon contact. Therefore quick absorption. Does she ambulate?
“Start her out at about five milligrams at night, monitor for lethargy. And re-evaluate in one week.”
“She can be treated in-house then and you do not feel that she needs to be sent out?”
“I would say give this Zydis a try for a few days. If her psychosis does not lessen then I will come back and complete your certification for admission if you want.”
Teela couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. She was happy that Nona did not have to leave, causing possible transfer trauma and more disorientation. She only hoped that Tanesha did not misinterpret her happiness. When their eyes met she knew that she had done just that.
“I’ll just write her report and I can call the physician and explain my recommendations if you would like?”
“That might be helpful. Thank you.”
“Is there family support?”
“One hundred percent.”
“Excellent.” Tanesha’s smile beamed. “I love cases like this when everyone works together don’t you?”
The silence fell between them as Tanesha held Teela’s gaze and refused to let go. Teela broke the connection and busied herself with the papers spread across her own desk. Tanesha placed the large notebook upon her lap and began to write her report.
They had spent fifteen minutes in Teela’s office, neither speaking each focused on their task. Tanesha was painfully aware of Teela’s presence. Her light perfume wafted in the air sent her senses aflame. She forced herself and kept her eyes open but allowed the daydream to play before her. She saw them making love once again. In the hospital, it was her second most repetitive thought. The clarity so clear, she felt her excitement coat her thighs and pressed them tighter together.
Tanesha cleared her throat to break the silence. “Okay Teela.” She set the clinical record upon the desk. “I gave her Dementia with Psychosis on Axis one. First recommendation is to use the Zydis. Stay away from using Ativan. Personally I think it can do more harm than good.”
Teela listened as Tanesha explained her finding concerning Nona. She was surprised when she found herself admiring Tanesha’s clinical skills without animosity for her personally. Teela hated to admit that she felt rather comfortable with Tanesha at the moment.
“I am sure the physician will not have a problem with your recommendations. Personally I think he was a bit frustrated dealing with the whole thing.”
“Could be.” She paused transfixed upon the lips of the social worker. The lights from the fluorescent bulbs overhead cast their glow around her gorgeous woman. “Are all of your cases this fascinating?”
“Some can be.” Ill at ease under Tanesha stare picked up the yellow report form and glanced over the neat penmanship. “Are you sure you are a doctor your handwriting is easy to read?” She laughed.
“I assure you I am.” She chuckled. “That case was enough to work up an appetite. I’m starving.” Tanesha checked her watch and sighed. “Fancy having lunch with me?” She saw Teela’s mouth take on that fish out of water movement and held up her hand to stop her. “Teela, I know that I acted like a jerk several months ago. I truly regret that. I was wrong. I have no ulterior motive other than to have lunch and intelligent conversation with someone that I know. That’s all.”
“She already has a lunch date.”
They turned to see the six foot zoologist affixed in the door.
“Pax.” Teela started. Pax nodded to her but kept her cold stare on Tanesha.
Tanesha smiled and stood. “I did not know that you two were still together. I mean…” She looked back to Teela and trailed off with a point to her empty hand. She turned back to Pax and extended her hand professionally. “I certainly did not mean to cause any trouble between you two.” She waited for Pax’s response and when she did not receive one she turned to Teela gathered her coat and briefcase in her arms. “Well, Teela if there is nothing else. I will see you next week.”
Taking a deep breath Tanesha turned and faced Pax with a toothy grin. She took a step and paused to wait for the towering dark woman to step aside. I can play this game too you pile of baboon shit and I…will…win. You were lucky last time.
Pax reluctant gave her ground and moved out of the doorway. Their gazes locked in defiance as Tanesha walked through and continued down the hall. She did not look back and Pax knew that was hard for the woman to turn her back upon a former opponent. If they were anywhere else Tanesha would have walked away facing her.
Teela’s gaze never left Pax or the dark cloud that loomed over her former lover. The three scars left from the tiger years ago were near crimson. She was unsure of what to say. Teela was just so surprised to see her there. Of all days she had to come to her when Tanesha was there. Great!
Pax opened her mouth to speak and then closed it. Teela saw the light shudder begin at her shoulder and course down the six feet to her toes. It was as if she has tasted something sour.
“Pax? Are you alright?”
Finally able to meet her eyes once more, her voice was soft and caressing. “I thought maybe we could have lunch and talk some more.”
Teela beamed as the butterflies took flight within her hearts garden. “I would love that very much.”
Teela and Pax sat at the small diner not far from the ARCC. They had their first lunch earlier that year. The nervous silence wafted between them while the bustle of the restaurant continued to buzz.
“Thank you Pax for inviting me to lunch.” Her words were soft. “I didn’t think that I would see you again.” The storm held firm in the eyes across from her.
“What was Tanesha doing in your office?” Pax asked after several long moments. “Are you seeing her?”
Teela’s gazed never wavered. She knew Pax was having the same thought flashes as herself, specifically to the night at the golf course when Tanesha uttered crude and revealing things to all within hearing distance. She needed to set the record clear right away. “No,” she answered quickly. “She is the assigned psychiatrist through a contracted agency with the ARCC. I didn’t know she was assigned to us until the other day.”
“Yes. She works for Forensic Psychiatric Services. They provide psychiatric services to several nursing homes.”
“So that means you will be seeing her a lot?”
“She is scheduled to be at the ARCC every other week.”
Teela watched as Pax picked at her food. “I have no control over this Pax. You have to believe me.”
Pax shoved her food around the plate a little more before laying the fork down and looking into the green eyes she had missed more than she cared to admit. “I know, but why her?”
“It was who Dr. Parellis had available. I wish it were different. Believe me I was just as shocked as you are.”
“I see.” She crossed her arms and leaned on the table.
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure,” Pax conceded a little too happily. She couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that pervaded within. Tanesha took no for an answer too easily. What is she up to now? Whatever scheme Tanesha concocted had worked. She would be able to see Teela more often. I won’t have her around my girl. I’ll…My girl? What the hell?”
“It is good to see you.” Teela gave her a shy grin and hoped they could have a more enjoyable part of lunch. She had missed the zoologist hoping that she would get the chance to prove that she had changed over the past several months.
“Are you sure?”
Teela’s head tilted as she was puzzled by Pax question. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” She watched Pax shrug her broad shoulders and study her coffee cup. Teela inhaled and steadied her own nervousness. “Was there something specific that you wanted to talk about? I mean…I am just…pleased that you came and asked me to lunch.”
“I’ve wanted to for some time now, but…”
“But…” Oh please don’t let Tanesha ruin it. Again.
“I see” Teela paused and thought about how to get Pax to say what she truly wanted to without the cryptic messages. This hidden communication never was between them before, at least not from Pax. “Something that you want to share?”
Pax glanced about the restaurant. Teela could see the struggle behind the stormy eyes. What can’t she say?
“How is Thumper?”
Teela smiled. “She misses her chew toys.” That brought a brief smile to Pax’s sensual lips.
“I bet she does. Nothing like string of Hanes Her Way underwear stuck between your teeth is there?”
“And I missed you.” Teela held her breath and waited. There I said it and now you know it.
“I’ve missed you too Teela.” Pax gaze held Teela’s. “As much as I have tried to forget you, thoughts of you kept coming right back to me. I wasn’t very successful.”
“Is that a good thing?” Teela heart stopped as the butterflies took flight.
“Honestly, it hasn’t always been.”
Teela watched the brief shadow cross the zoologist’s face and disappear. All was not mended as of yet. “If you could not forget, does that mean that you can’t forgive either?”
“I didn’t say that.”
There is hope then? Teela’s heart flew another pass around her soul. “Okay. What do we do now Pax?” She waited for Pax to answer. When no response came, Teela decided she should change the topic to something safe for the both of them. “How is Cloe?”
Pax’s smile returned brightly. “Being an imp more than ever.”
“Still painting?” Teela picked up her fork and took a small bite of the still warm food.
“Yes. She believes that she is Picasso reincarnated.” Pax laughed grateful for the change.
“She could be. Her work is one of my prized possessions.”
“Tell her that and the fur between her ears will swell.” Pax picked up her fork and stabbed a piece of country fried steak smothered in the white sauce.
“I doubt that. She is too humble.”
“Yeah right,” Pax said with a head shake. “She has become a thief and an escape artist.” Just like you stole my heart and ran.
“Oh how so?” She laughed.
“Now when she enters my office, instead of asking for an apple, she just waltzes right up and takes it.”
“The nerve.” Teela chuckled.
“But she has also managed to get out of her cage repeatedly. Can’t figure out how she is doing that.”
“You were the one that told me chimps were smart.”
“Too much so. She has terrorized the aviary and the owls, has gotten into the mail room and wreaked havoc.”
“Mischievous as well.”
“I hope you figure out how she is escaping so she does not get hurt.”
“So do I.”
Lunch ended on a better note than when it began. Pax drove Teela back to the ARCC and parked next to the curb at the employee entrance. She hesitated before turning to the social worker and clearing her throat.
“Thanks for lunch.” That was good Pax, short, simple, and to the point.
“I had a great time.” Teela paused. “This is new,” she said indicating the truck. “When did you get rid of your other one?”
“I didn’t. It’s in the shop.” Pax thought of telling Teela about the dojo and her suspicions of Tanesha’s involvement. Where was her proof? It would just sound like paranoid ramblings.
“Well at least you have a beautiful loaner.” Sempra Fi Pheamster and quit stalling. “Pax is there any chance that you are free for dinner this evening?”
YES!! Teela mentally pumped her fist into the air. Sempra Fi indeed. “Say around seven?”
“Seven is good.”
“Great. I’ll see you then.”
Pax watched Teela walk briskly to the employee entrance and make it through the glass doors. She waved back to the woman in the vestibule then turned and pulled out of the parking lot. It was only then did she let her heart do a single flip before returning back to the cage where she held it captive and safe.
___________________________ Chapter 16__________________
Emily hobbled into the kitchen as she finished the preparations for their dinner. Randy would be coming over to join them. Tonight he would learn of her plan to resign from the force to join Kronk’s team.
“He is not going to like it.” Emily sighed as she checked the scalloped potatoes once again. She needed to find a way to explain to her partner that she did not want to be on the force anymore, a fact that he would find hard to believe given her record of resolved cases and arrests.
“And Harley is not going to like it that we are eating fatty foods tonight.”
Harley had been overly insistent that Emily have only health-fortifying foods to hasten her healing. Harley had gone as far as to call her mother for remedies and foods. Most of it tasted like crap, and she had to force herself to use them. Of course she had to give Harley a hard time and balk in taking the potions and teas. If she had given in on the first try, her tough bullet-biting cop reputation would have been in jeopardy.
She took the stuff because it made Harley happy. Besides, it was working. She admitted it to herself but not to Harley. The soreness in her leg had decreased tremendously since Harley started applying the poultice, or special cream, mixed by her mother’s friend in Florida. Initially Emily was skeptical that the potions and medicinal teas would work. She should have known better.
She had met her holistic in-laws a couple of times and on each of those occasions she and Harley were left with an abundance of herbal remedies and concoctions. Harley had been raised to believe in holistic medicine, to meditate, and to be spiritual. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, Harley had lost her complete faith in that medical system. It was now ironic that she worked for a gynecologist instead of becoming a mid-wife as her mother wanted. When seriously in trouble, Harley knew enough to come in out of the rain and call her mother for assistance.
She turned and spread the flour on the counter and dumped the risen dough from the bowl. She absently wiped her hands on the burgundy apron with the slogan “Kiss the Chef” and big red lips across the chest. Emily began to knead the dough for her homemade biscuits and turned her mind to her partner, Randy, and how to break the news to him.
“That was some fine eats there Harley.” Randy leaned back from the table and rubbed his protruding midline.
“Thank you but Emily was the cook tonight.”
“Huh? No way?” He surveyed his partner and laughed. “She told me that she couldn’t cook.”
“I told you I don’t like to cook.”
“Sure you don’t. That means it was taken out then.”
“Kiss my ass boy.”
“Dare you to bare it girl.”
“Must you two resort to such language and behavior at the table?” Harley laughed.
“Sorry Harley she starts these things.”
“Sure I do.”
“Especially when we are on stakeouts, her boredom takes her to some strange places Harley.”
“I know that’s why I try my best to keep her occupied.”
“Hey you two! I am right here ya know.”
“Can’t wait for you to get back though Em. They let Valdrin out and we’ve been tailing him. Penny is nice and all, but she is not you. All she talks about is her boyfriend and shopping.”
Emily chuckled at him. “It’s a good change of pace for you Randy. Maybe she can teach you some sensitivity to use with your next girlfriend.”
“I’d rather talk about guns and ammo like we always do.” He pouted easily.
“Well,” she hedged. “That might not happen again.”
Brown eyes shot to her and held. “What do you mean?”
Emily looked towards Harley and received the imperceptible nod. “I’m gonna resign Randy.”
“You heard me Randy. I’m quitting.”
His mouth was ajar and moved several times without a word coming out. He looked between the two women and focused angry browns upon his friend. “You can’t quit now.” His voice boomed. “We have them on the ropes.”
“Why not? It’s the perfect time to cut loose.”
“Emily, we are in the middle of the biggest case this state has seen.”
Stunned he flopped back against the chair. “And I need you partner. I need you with me. You know those scumbags better than anyone. How are we gonna finish the job if you are not there?”
“Get with Penny. She can help you. She knows them too. We were undercover at the same time.”
Randy used both hands to scruff his face and the bearded stubble. He felt the veins pop fully loaded at his neck. He was losing his partner. That could not happen. He would be lost. They had been through too much together for her to simply walk out. This is not acceptable.
“I thought you wanted justice? What about Jimmy?”
Emily heard the strain of control in her partner’s voice. She had heard it a million times. She also sensed his hurt and vulnerability at the moment. Sometimes he could be a little boy when things did not go his way. Tonight, he would just have to handle it as an adult.
“Jimmy has to deal with this his own way.”
“That’s chicken shit and you know it.”
“There isn’t any justice out there Randy!”She snapped and leaned across the table. “We bring them in and then what? Randy you know how it will go. Process them, slap them behind bars until they post bail, and they will. Wait months for the trial only to have the witnesses begin to disappear. Then the case is dismissed and they are back at it again. What’s the fucking point? Where is the goddamned justice? Sure I want revenge, but I am not willing to risk my life any further to get it. I will not die for nothing and leave Harley alone.”
He turned his angry scowl at the woman across the table. “So it’s because of her then?”
Emily got to her feet knocking the chair over behind her and pointed a deadly finger close to Randy reddened face. “You watch your tone! Gimp leg or not I will whip your ass from here to kingdom come.”
“Emily.” Harley placed a soothing hand across her lover’s forearm. Her heart blossomed at her chivalrous love protecting her honor. “It’s alright, Love.”
“No it’s not. I will not have you insulted in our own home or anywhere else for that matter.”
The detectives’ eyes were locked on each other, as they heatedly ignored the silent pleas of the target of their anger. It was some time before Randy shifted to his feet, leaned behind his former partner and righted the chair behind her legs. He resumed his seat and looked directly at Harley.
“I’m sorry Harley.” Randy truly meant the words, for he did not wish to offend the beautiful and sweet wife of his former partner. He loved them both. It was just that he did not want Emily to leave the department. Maybe after they had closed the case…maybe…Maybe nothing I love her more than she will ever know. At least I saw her everyday. Now how will I survive? He returned Harley’s accepting nod and lowered his eyes while he took a long pull on the bottle of beer.
Emily leaned across and placed a chaste kiss upon Harley’s temple before she retook her seat. “Sorry Love.”
“It’s just hard for me to believe that you would rather chase cheating spouses than perps.”
“They are criminals too perpetrating crimes against the heart. Hopefully they are ones that don’t shoot.” She sighed and studied the ravaged plate of food in front of her. “I am burnt out Randy. Can’t you understand that? A burnt out cop is a dangerous cop. We both know that.” She turned pale blues eyes upon him. “It doesn’t thrill me anymore like it does you. If I don’t have the edge then I could be a dead cop. In a situation we both could be. You know I’m right.”
Randy found himself reluctantly nodding. “Have you spoken to the captain about this?”
“Not yet. The doctors will release me for duty after the first of the year. On that day he will get my resignation. I would appreciate it if you don’t say a word to anyone.
“You know you don’t have to ask me Emily.”
“You’ve been a good partner Randy. The best, and this is for the best.”
Shortly afterwards, Randy decided that he had to leave. He suddenly remembered something that he needed to do or someone he needed to see. He kissed Harley on the cheek and thanked her for dinner before quickly leaving. She had worked with the man too closely and for too long not to recognize when he needed to run away to sort things in his head.
Emily kept her thoughts to herself as she followed Harley back into the room to clear away the table and load the dishwasher.
“You want to talk about it hon?” Harley asked.
Emily kissed her lovers temple. My baby always knows. “Not yet sweetheart.”
It was not long before they were snuggled deeply inside their bed watching the movie that arrived in the mail earlier that day. Harley buried herself further into the side of her lover and let her finger dance lightly around the taught belly button. She giggled softly at the play of muscles that jumped beneath her touch.
“You are doing that on purpose.”
“Yep.” She giggled again.
“Harley…cut it out.”
“Because I said.”
“And that means what?”
“You are going to get into trouble.”
“No I am not. I want you to tell me what you are feeling.”
“I am feeling horny.” She let out a loud oomph as Haley slapped her tummy. “Well you asked.”
“That is not what I meant and you know it.”
“But it is what I feel.”
“What about Randy?”
“What about him?”
“He did not take the news very well.”
“He’ll get over it and survive just fine.” She kissed the top of her head with tenderness.
“And you my love?”
“I am taking it just fine. I was thinking. What do you say we take a mini-vacation before I start with Kronk? Go somewhere for a few days?”
“Sounds great love. Can we afford it?
“Don’t know, but we’ll make a way. The place does not have to be fancy. I just want to be somewhere where it is only you and me for a while. Is that ok?” She had been thinking about her priorities more often of late. The bullet that grazed by her neck had let her know how fleeting life really could be. No more wasted opportunities Oliverez, this lady will know how much you love her everyday.
“It’s more than okay”
Pax stepped out of the shower with the towel wrapped around her wet hair and another draped around her waist. Dark nipples erected immediately with the kiss of cool air. She walked the short distance to her bedroom and looked upon the clothing laid across the bed. She had selected a pair of light blue loose fitting jeans and a dark blue buttons down shirt.
She sat on the bed and reached for the new scented body butter she decided to try, Wild Honeysuckle. The scent was a bit more floral than she normally wore, but she wanted something different for a different occasion. Tonight she was having dinner with Teela. Her heart skipped a beat and she smiled. The nervousness returned as it had their very first date.
Was this a date? Don’t be stupid. Of course it is. Don’t be stupid. She dipped her fingers into the creamy mixture and rubbed it between her palms. This is only dinner and nothing else. No expectations beyond that. She rubbed her hands across one long calf and foot. She hurried and did the companion leg, her torso, breasts and collar bone. The room filled with the unique scent of Pax and the Wild Honeysuckle.
Once dressed she looked at her image in the mirror. She nodded in satisfaction and headed for downstairs. She bundled warmly in the down filled jacket and scarf. She opened her new front door that the handyman installed that afternoon and stepped quickly to the pretty dodge truck with the heated seats.
Pax was beginning to like the new truck. Her F-150 was not that old and normally she would never have thought of getting another one. They were just too expensive. She smiled, but thanks to Dad, I could consider getting one of these outright, no payments just insurance and repairs. Besides, she chuckled. It has such butch qualities to it. Not to mention Boney’s tongue would fall out of her head. She laughed aloud in the cab’s silence.
It didn’t take her long to reach Teela’s neighborhood. She checked her watch and noticed that she was an hour early. Geez Pax nervous much? Why didn’t you check the time before you left home? Pax quickly pulled into the next driveway and turned around heading anywhere to kill time.
Teela moved about the kitchen and made sure the glasses were chilling properly for the wine as well as rearranging the table setting for the tenth time in twice as many minutes. She then turned to the tapers that sat across the room on the counter and debated on their use. She wanted Pax to feel relaxed and comfortable in her home, just as she had before she made a mess of things. Although she truly wanted the night to end in their being closer together, she did not want to be pushy or overly suggestive with the lighting.
By the end of the night she would be sure that Pax would know her desire. It was just a matter of time before she felt comfortable to accept it from Teela. It was her hope.
She decided to leave the tapers out and put them back into the cupboard. “Well I think that we are ready Thumper,” she said and looked down at the large pit bull. “Think she’ll like it?” The dog whined. Teela placed her hands on her hips and stared at the dog with menace. “Now you listen to me T-Dog, you are to be nice to Pax tonight. Do we understand each other?” The brown animal lowered its hazel eyes but her head remained held high when she turned it with a grumble. “I mean it now. She said that she misses you.” The dog walked away into the living room and slumped in the doorway to guard the front door. Shaking her head, “What is with you two anyway?”
Their meal had been delivered and arranged to warm in the oven ten minutes before the door bell rang. Thumper woofed loudly as if knowing who was on the other side. Teela shushed her protector and shooed her back into the living room. She ran nervous hands across her sweater in adjustment and checked her jeans. More importantly, she wanted to wipe the moisture from her palms. She inhaled deeply and released it slowly before she opened the heavy front door.
“Hurry, come on in.” Teela said. The wind had picked up within the last hour or so and it seemed to freeze everything it touched. Pax was bundled warmly in her goose three quarter length jacket, gloves, and scarf.
“Thanks,” she said and entered. “I had forgotten how bitterly cold Michigan could be.”
“Oh, that’s right. This is your first winter back isn’t it?” Pax nodded not bothering to stop the shudder as the heat of the home warmed her face. “Poor thing come on.” Teela comforted. “The best thing you can to is take off the layers now and let the place warm ya. Give me your coat and things.”
“Thanks.” She took off her outerwear and handed it to Teela. Just then, her nemesis appeared in the door way as a guard. “Hello Thumper.” Pax smiled. “Nice of you to let me in the door at least.”
Teela playfully slapped Pax’s arm. “What is with you two anyway?”
Pax smiled looking at the dog. “It an Alpha thing ya know.”
“Well stop it.” Teela turned and placed Pax’s things on the coat tree.
“She started it. Remember my…” Pax trailed off from the memory they were now sharing. That first night in her home. They had made passionate love throughout the night. When she had awakened the dog had chewed her underwear beyond repair.
Teela swallowed and smiled. “Yes I remember well.” Teela found it hard to read Pax’s blue eyes as the color changed so quickly in them, always a reflection of her feelings.
“Yeah well. I do have something for you Thumper.” She watched the dog’s ears perk as she reached into the brown bag she held. Pax withdrew the enormously long and thick rawhide and held it up so the dog could see. Thumper licked her lips. “A peace offering again.” The dog hesitated then took a step back from Pax. She grinned knowing the dog had a memory as well. “Nothing is on it this time I swear.”
Pax leaned forward and let the dog sniff the rawhide. She waited patiently for the dog to decide whether to take it. After a test lick of the end, the dog opened her mouth pulled her lips back to bare her canines and latched onto the bone. Pax chuckled at the meaning behind the dog’s actions. Without a wag or so much as a thank you, Thumper turned and walked back into the living near the fireplace.
“Did you see that?” Pax laughed while Teela shook her head. “Your dog has issues.”
“You both do, when you’re near one another.”
“I knew you would take her side.” Pax watched the laughter take over Teela’s beautiful green eyes. Her heart warmed quicker than her skin did. I have missed those sparkling eyes of yours. I have missed you. May I say how fantastic you look in that sweater.
“Come on in.” Teela laughed.
Teela watched Pax as she sat at the table waiting for her to return with their meal. As with their first time, she was sure Pax would guess that they were eating another catered Greek meal. Teela smiled to herself, who says you can’t go back to the past? In some things you can. At least this time I know what I am eating.
Pax poured the wine into the chilled glasses as Teela delivered their plates. Taking the first bite she began to chew and her eyes rolled upward and closed. “Oh this is heaven Teela.”
Teela felt the flush of heat rise from her neck through the top of her scalp. It was not from the compliment that Pax had emitted. It was how she said it. Her voice was low and deep, the pleasure of her taste buds exploding visibly upon her face. Her head slightly tipped backward exposing the long sleek neck that Teela’s memories reminded her frequently of the loss of its taste and the sensation beneath her finger tips. How could one bite of food cause such an aroused reaction in one’s body? Teela could not help but sigh and pray for a gust of wind to sweep the dining room to cool the raging fire below.
“I uhm…glad that you like it.” She reached for the wine glass and took a chilled sip.
“You have become proficient in Greek cooking again?”
“Sure have. I just pulled the menu from the drawer and expertly dialed the number.”
“I see.” Pax laughed between bites. “And do we know what we ordered this time?”
“We have lamb fricassee with lettuce, Aginares A La Polita and Makaronia Sto Fourno.”
“Ah, very good. Which means?”
“Lamb Fricassee with lettuce, artichokes in olive oil and baked macaroni. For desert we have Amgthalota, or almond pears.”
Teela raised her glass to Pax’s, and they clinked them together softly. Pax’s resolved melted further as she withered beneath the seductive emerald eyes across the table. Don’t break my heart anymore. Please. “No octopus this time for you eh?”
“Not even close to being funny.”
Their meal was relaxed, and light conversation that easily flowed between them. Teela talked about the bowling league and the Mentals. Pax was interested in the new friends of theirs, Emily and Harley. Pax had always found detective work fascinating, but it was not something that she had ever considered as a profession. She wouldn’t be of use to any police force in the shape that she was in at the moment. Just then, she felt her foot begin to tremble upon the floor and the spasm traveled up her leg. Her eyes shot to Teela grateful that she was engrossed in spearing another piece of her lamb to notice the tightened jaw of her dinner companion as she fought to control the involuntary movement.
Goddamn you Tanesha. I should have ripped your fucking head off and spit down your neck for what you did to me. Pax cursed each time the spasms occurred. She laid her fork down and slipped her hand beneath the table to add pressure onto the twitching muscles. “Thank you for dinner Teela. It was wonderful.” Pax grinned and patted her full stomach.
“I’m glad that you liked it.” They stared at one another uncertain how to proceed. “Why don’t we adjourn to the living room and relax?”
The outward smile remained visible to Teela as Pax was not about to have their time together shaded by the leg spasms. She silently willed her leg to carry her to the couch. In slow, measured steps, taking care her limp was not severe enough to be detected, she followed Teela into the living room and sat at one end of the couch. She watched as Teela took the other end and drew her legs beneath her. They faced one another feeling the warmth of the hearth’s fire. The only sound that disrupted the silence was the soft crunch of Thumper’s strong jaw and teeth crushing what remained of the enormous rawhide. Pax smiled inwardly at Teela’s strong and fierce bodyguard.
Pax sipped her wine and watched as Teela left the couch for the stereo across the room. With a few switches turned, the lilting sounds of smooth jazz filled the room. The first song featured a sensual saxophone pleading to the other instruments, releasing the painful want for the unobtainable something or someone. Pax felt the stirring in that space beyond her heart as she watched Teela place another log upon the fire and then return to her end of the couch.
Teela matched Pax’s stare with her own. Throughout dinner she felt the looks, could sense Pax’s internal monologue because it matched her own. Now sitting here in the heat of the fire and the blue of those eyes upon her, Teela found it hard to resist the urge to slide across the cushions and wrap herself around the zoologist. Most of what Pax had said during dinner was lost for her sights were not focused on what was spoken, but on the luscious lips that formed the words and sentences.
“Teela,” Pax interrupted her musings. “That Christmas dinner with Jo and Boney is a week away.” Would you mind being my date for the evening?
“Yes I know.”
“Who’s going to be there?”
“Well Jo and Boney, Emily and Harley. I am sure you’ll like them. Actually, the first time I saw Emily, I could have sworn it was you. The two of you could be twins.”
“Poor girl.” Pax chuckled.
“Stop that. An OBGYN Tech and a police detective they make a very cute couple.”
“Another mixed marriage like Jo and Boney?”
“Something like that.” Teela smiled. “I’ll be there most of the day helping Jo while Boney finishes decorating the tree.”
Pax twisted the wine flute between her hands and glanced over at the dog chewing happily. Small remnants of the bone were lying around her paws. “Oh good.”
Teela tilted her head towards Pax and smiled. “You are pleased about that, I take it.”
Oh go on and ask her Teela you know that you want to. “Will you be bringing someone with you?”
Their gazes locked upon one another as Pax said, “No. Will you?”
“No.” Not wavering contact Teela continued, “No one holds my interest except you Pax.” Teela sighed heavily and forged ahead. “I am sorry if this scares you, but I need to be honest with you. No beating around the bush as it were. I want you back in my life as my friend and my lover. Those are my intentions.” She paused to gauge how her message was being received. She saw the slight coloring rise across the chiseled features but nothing else. She was unreadable. “If you feel that I am wasting my breath or my time,” she hesitated and released a nervous pocket of air, “please let me know now.”
Teela held her breath while Pax studied the wine glass in her hand. After what seemed like hours Pax turned and placed the glass on the end table behind her. She faced Teela and opened her arms wide. Teela put her glass down and quickly closed the distance between them. She stopped just shy of reaching the safety Pax guaranteed within her strong arms. Then she laid her head upon the broad shoulder and felt the protection envelop her. They both sighed with the feel of being close once again. Teela moved her head to rest in the space between Pax’s shoulder and neck. Her arm wrapped around the zoologists waist and drew her closer.
A simultaneous contented sigh escaped from them both. It was as if a piece of them that had been missing had now been found.
Pax inhaled the freshness of the blonde’s hair and sighed once again. The critters within her stomach took flight or scrambled around what ever it was made her internal system quiver. She placed a soft kiss atop of the social worker’s head and held her tight.
“I have missed you,” Teela whispered.
They held one another and listened to the mix of jazz artists serenade them. There was no need for words, just the unquenchable desire to reconnect what was lost for all the wrong reasons.
It was sometime later when they reluctantly decided to move from their embrace. Pax groaned. Her joints were stiff, and her limbs were asleep from staying in one position for too long. She was unwilling to release Teela in order to shift; the momentary discomfort was worth it. Pax witnessed the frown on Teela’s face when she sat erect and knew Teela had the same misfortune.
“I should be going.” Pax forced herself to stand and stretch. She twisted her back from side to side and heard the vertebra pop into line.
“Ok. Thanks for coming.”
“My pleasure.” Pax smiled and turned.
“Just a minute, I have something for you.” Teela left the room and went back to the kitchen. She opened the door to the basement and picked up the box on the landing. She sucked in her bottom lip uncertain how Pax would react to this…what was it a gift? Unsure of what to call it so she ceased her labeling attempt of what was inside.
“That’s not a puppy is it?” Pax joked seeing the box.
“Heaven’s no. It’s uhm…” She sat the box on the sofa and beckoned Pax over to look at it.
“They are Godzilla movies.” Pax’s eyes widened as she looked down at the collection. Her face lit up in an illumination that Teela had never seen.
“Yes they are.” She smiled brightly.
She fingered the VHS boxes reverently. “Aww look at this one. I don’t have this one. I have never seen it. Where did you get these?”
The smiled faded. “They were Bess’.” She watched Pax head snap up and her brows knit together in surprise. “It seemed a shame to throw them out or sell them in a garage sale. I was hoping that you would want them, if you could overlook whose they were initially.” She chewed her lip more. “It’s a bit tacky, I’m sure, but that was not my intent.” She chuckled nervously. “I seem to be saying that a lot around you lately.”
“Bess liked Godzilla?”
“Had the same passion for him, her, it whatever it is.”
“You never told me.”
“Then I was afraid to tell you anything about Bess.” She paused and watched the conflict play across Pax’s face. “I want you to have them. I know you’ll take good care of them, and you’ll enjoy them.”
“I know. My problem is, how much of a hypocrite would I be if I accepted them if things between us don’t work out?”
“You are far from being a hypocrite, and I do not expect them to be returned if things don’t work out between us. I would still want you to have them.”
Pax glanced back at the collection of thirty or so VHS tapes and DVDs then back to Teela. “Thank you. They will be cared for.”
Pax turned and walked to the foyer to retrieve her coat, scarf, and gloves from the coat tree. She bundled herself tightly against the frigid wind she knew was waiting on the other side of Teela’s front door. Pax was already planning the hot bath she was going to soak in to warm up when she got home. The truck had heated seats but the rest of her would resemble a block of ice. This was not good weather for a transplanted Californian to be in.
Hand upon the door knob she turned to Teela. “Good night then.”
Teela stepped into Pax’s personal space eyes locked upon the lips that had taunted her throughout dinner. She needed to taste them. She felt emboldened to do so. She needed to feel them. She wanted a reminder of what she was fighting for. She only hoped that it was alright with Pax.
“Goodnight Pax.” Teela reached up and placed a soft kiss upon Pax’s lips and felt the electric current connect them once again, not as strongly as it has been that time at the Nettles campground, but it was still there. She forgot her promise to keep the kiss chaste and pure as it quickly deepened when Pax responded. Pax pulled away first, exercising a modicum of restraint in her demeanor but the clouded vision that she saw through was visible to Teela.
“Goodnight.” She quickly opened the door and was grateful to step out into the bitter cold.
Teela imagined a fine mist of steam evaporated from the neck of her sweater as she stood upon the porch in the winter night air and watched Pax climb into her truck. She knew she was smiling and did not want to stop. She had a chance to have Pax in her life once again. For this she was ecstatic and vowed not to make a mess of things again.
She made sure that she was safely inside and then drove down the street towards home. Teela stepped back inside her own home and fastened the locks across the door. Two houses down the street in the cloak of darkness a figure popped erect in the driver’s seat and turned the ignition gunning the car to life. They quickly made a u-turn to follow the sleek white truck.
“Honey, telephone for you.” Felicia called from the living room to her husband in his office. She and the kids were watching their favorite animal program and eating popcorn.
Zander placed the mobile earpiece in place and clicked the telephone. His eyes never left the computer screen. He had been working on the brief for hours and needed it completed and e-mailed to his team this evening. “Zander Baldwin.”
“Mr. Baldwin, this is Hank Stemson Private Investigator in San Antonio Texas.”
Zander froze stopped at the name of the PI they had hired for find their sister. “Yes, Mr. Stemson.”
“I wanted to provide you with an update on my finding thus far.”
Zander swallowed audibly and clicked on a new document screen then leaned back in his chair with eyes closed. “I am listening.”
“The post office box on the return address from the envelopes belonged to a number of people including Brenda Devereaux at that time. I managed to track down one of the owners who put me in touch with a person that knew her at the time.”
“It seems as though she never lived at the address but just used it to get correspondence from your father.”
“I see. Have you managed to locate her?”
“Not physically. Brenda Devereaux became Brenda Stevenson a year after Angelica was born. They lived in San Antonia. Her husband, twenty-eight year old Jonathan Stevenson, died while working a construction site a year after they were married.”
“That poor kid didn't start out with the breaks did she?”
“Not likely sir.”
“That’s where the trail runs cold. I am still digging.”
“Well you’ve done great so far.”
“I am e-mailing you a full report right now.”
“Wonderful. Keep me posted.”
“Good night Mr. Baldwin.” Hank clicked off just as Zander’s computer told him he had mail.
Zander quickly opened the e-mail and forwarded it onto Damian and Pax. He then dialed their home numbers. Surprised to find both were still out on a work night, he left them a message about Hank’s report.
Continued in Part 5
Extended Intentions comments to the bard at Jynaki@aol.comReturn to the Academy