Storm Surge

by KatLyn


Rating: NC-17

Status: WIP

Disclaimers: There mine. Do not use them, steal them, or abuse them.


Part 2

Chapter Five

Conner hung up the phone after talking to Sam and headed off to the shower. She had slept in this morning, and felt refreshed and relaxed. Now she was a bundle of energy, and what she needed now was some hard work to burn off some of the excess energy she felt.

When she walked in her room, she spotted Magnum, curled up on her pillow. "Hey, furball, only a few more days and papa will be home to take you away. Aren't we happy." Conner sat on the bed and petted the cat. "OK, so you're not so bad after all. Just don't get too comfortable."

While taking her shower, she decided to head over to the marina and check on the boat. It had been a while since she had taken her out for a good run. She had bought the boat when she and Sam were together. Sam loved to go out for long weekends of island-hopping, and clam-digging. Some of their happiest days had been spent on the boat. Sailing away from the shore gave them both a sense of freedom from the stresses of their jobs. Out on the water all they had to concentrate on was each other and an occasional squall that blew up.

Conner had not taken the boat out in a long time and sometimes thought of selling her. She deserved a proper owner, one that would care for her and treat her like the sleek sailing vessel that she was. Conner sometimes did not feel worthy of owning "Shady Lady." However, today she was not going to think about selling her. Conner was ready for a long hot day of scrubbing the decks, checking the lines, and getting the engine serviced. Maybe one day soon she would take her out.

Conner pulled into the Marina parking lot and was instantly eager to get to the boat. As she walked down the pier, several of the weekend warriors she used to sail with were loyally tending to their vessels. She spoke to several, but did not stop to linger. Climbing onto the deck, she could see how much she had neglected the boat, and knew she had a long, hard day ahead of her. Stepping below deck, the lack of attention was even more apparent. Dust bunnies flew off the captain's table as she walked past into the aft cabin. "Well, my lady, looks like I have my day cut out for me."

Conner decided to start below, and soon the deck of the boat was littered with trash and junk she had thrown up from down below. After several hours of scrubbing and polishing the teak woodwork, she stood back and admired her work. "Not bad, not bad at all," she said, smiling at her reflection in the brass metalwork. She closed and secured all of the hatches and moved next to the part she always like best, scrubbing the deck.

She pulled off her shoes, and T-shirt, donning only her sports bra and shorts. Although she was naturally dark, Conner never could get enough of the sun. Moving the dinghy, bumpers, and other movable parts over the side to the pier, she set out scrubbing the deck, starting at the bow. Before she had reached the beam, her muscles were screaming for a rest. She rinsed off the deck and headed to the cooler for a beer.

Sitting near the bow, she looked out over the marina and wondered if Alex had ever sailed. "Hey, Shady Lady, if tomorrow night goes OK, I just might see if the pretty lady wants to go out for a sail one day. I think the two of you would get along fine. She's sleek and sexy, and has the bluest eyesŠdamn, Shady Lady, I think I've been in the sun way too long today."

Conner finished off the beer and started on the aft section of the deck. She had just soaped up the deck when she heard her cell phone ring. She dropped the scrub brush and turned to reach for the phone. Just as she hit the send button, her feet slid out from under her and she went sliding toward the port side.

"Fuck!" Conner screamed as her chin hit a cleat. "Son of a bitchŠHELLO." Conner barked into the phone.

"Umm, Conner, this is AlexŠahhŠdid I catch you at a bad time?" Alex asked, well aware that she had.

Oh, damn, great, Conner, humiliate yourself again, will ya. She thought to herself.

"Conner, are you there?" Alex heard a groan from the other end of the phone. "Hello, ConnerŠare you OK?" Alex was becoming a little concerned when Conner didn't immediately answer her.

"OhŠyeah, I'm fineŠjust had a little accident getting to the phone, that's all," Conner replied trying her best to make light of the situation.

"Are you hurt? Do I need to call someone? Do you need help?" Alex was trying to stay calm, but knew she was on the verge of panic. All she knew was that Conner lived on the island, and had her phone number. Although that was enough information to deploy the EMTsŠ

Conner broke into her thoughts. "Yes, Alex, I mean, no, I'm not hurt." Conner groaned loudly, deciding to just explain what happened if for no other reason but to ease Alex's mind, that she was okay.

"Actually, I'm at the marina, on my boat. It's been a while since she has had a good scrub down, I decided today was good day to get it done. I was scrubbing the deck, when the phone rang and slipped in the soap as I reached for the phone, that's all. Nothing exciting or daring, just a stupid accident." Conner winced, as she smiled. Her chin had taken quite a blow and wasn't in a hurry to stop bleeding.

Alex let out a sigh of relief, relaxing for the first time since the conversation began. "Are you sure you're OK, no broken bones, no stitches needed?"

"Well, actually my chin did stop me from going over portside by grabbing onto a cleat. I haven't looked at it yet, but I think it's OK." Conner couldn't help but chuckle at the sight she must have been.

Alex let out a laugh, as she sat and imagined Conner sliding chin first across the boat. However, she stopped short when she realized that her phone call was the cause of the entire accident. "Jesus, Conner, I am so sorry. If I hadn't called none of this would have happened."

"Don't even think about it, I'm fineŠummŠand I'm glad you called." Conner finished almost in a whisper. She had now crawled over into the cockpit and was leaning against the console, using her discarded T-shirt she was attempting to stop the flow of blood dripping off her chin. "Actually, I needed a rest. It seems I have neglected my 'Shady Lady' for way too long. I'm sure somewhere deep in her hull she got a kick out of my slip and slide act." Conner winced again, as the smile that came to her face pulled against the gash in her chin.

They talked a while longer, confirming their dinner for the next night. "I really am sorry I caused you to hit your chin." You can have your choice of desserts tomorrow night. Maybe that will make you feel all better." Damn, Alex, she thought to herself, could you have worded that any worseŠnow she's going to think I'm hitting on her.

Conner tried to find her voice, but only managed a mumbled, "AhhŠsure, desserts always my favorite." Conner couldn't believe she has just said that and threw her head back in exasperation, instantly banging it one the console. "Fuck!" she yelled.

Not knowing what Conner what so upset about, Alex simply said, "Excuse me?"

"Oh no, I wasn't talking to you. I just hit my head." By this time, Conner was feeling like a total klutz.

"Sounds like you need to abandon ship and head for higher ground, mate," Alex teased. She knew she needed to let Conner get back to work, but wasn't ready to end the call.

"Aye, captain, I'll be heading into port soon."

"Conner?" Alex hesitated, "Will you give me a call when you get back homeŠummŠjust to let me know you're OK?" Alex asked in a quiet concerned voice. To lighten things up a bit, she added, "Between your chin and head, I just want to make sure you don't end up dangling off the lifeline using your body as a human bumper."

"Ha, ha, ha, very funny, Agent Montgomery. One day I'll get my chance to get the last laugh, just you wait and see."

"Well, will you call me then?"

"Sure, Alex, I'll give you a call. I'll probably be here another couple of hours, so it'll probably be around six. Don't send out the calvary until then, promise?"

Alex laughed at her new friend's wit. "OK, sureŠno Calvary until half past six, but not a minute later, got it?"

"Aye, captain, I'll talk to you soon then."

They said their goodbyes, and Conner remained sitting on the deck for a few minutes nursing her chin. She had been surprised that Alex had called. She really thought she would call the next day with some reason not to go to dinner, and smiled when she finally realized that they would be going out after all. OK, Conner it's not a date, for god's sake, it's dinner, that's all. Hell, the woman just lost the love of her life, not even a year ago. She couldn't possibly be ready to start going out again.

Conner crawled out of the cockpit, glanced at her watch, and knew she needed to get moving, if she was going to get home by six. Somehow, she had a feeling the calvary would be dispatched if she were a minute late.


Chapter Six

Alex set the phone down, and wondered what had possessed her to call Conner. Sure, she needed to confirm their plans for the next evening, but even as she dialed the phone, there were still questions in her mind about going through with the dinner. She had not been out with anyone since Feryle, and the thought of actually having to carry on a personal conversation with someone made her stomach hurt. Still, she had called, and now was standing there smiling over the conversation.

Conner certainly did not seem like the tongue-tied, klutzy woman that had been on the other end of the line. Experience told Alex that in order to survive the rigors of undercover work, one had to be quick witted and agile. Maybe it was meeting someone new that made Conner nervous. Sam had mentioned in her conversation earlier in the day that Conner had not seen anyone, well more than once anyway, since they had broken up two years ago. Alex chalked it up to nerves, just like the ones she was feeling.

Alex worked in the house, frequently glancing at the clock, waiting for Conner to call and say she was safe at home. A small smirk came to Alex's face when she thought about Conner's chin slide. Being home, and being safe were not necessarily synonymous considering Conner's tendency to be accident-prone lately, she thought. Alex wandered around the house, finally deciding to have a nourishing dinner of wine and cheese out on the deck.

She watched the sky begin to turn into subdued shades of gold and purple as the sun began its nightly decent behind the horizon. She watched as two women, oblivious to everything but one another, walked hand and hand down the beach. How many times had she and Feryle walked that same path; making plans for their house, and for their future. She acknowledged that those days were long gone, as a tear slowly crept down her cheek.

Today, Alex decided, it was okay to feel the pain. She almost welcomed the raw, heart-wrenching feelings that poured from her memories. Today she would allow the pain, for it provided the reminder of why she was back. Monday, she would turn the pain into the hate she knew so well. The hate that would bring Malcolm to his knees.

Alex ran a hand through her disheveled hair. Damn, if I keep this up I'll be bald. The habit was one that always gave away the fact that she was frustrated. Feryle had noticed it right away, and used it often as a means of getting the upper hand in some of their heated discussions.

Walking through the house to her office, Alex decided to read back over some of the files she had compiled on what she called now called "Feryle's Revenge." During her time recuperating after the raid, Alex had painstakingly cataloged, cross-referenced, and categorized hundreds of files, interviews, and case notes that pertained to the elusive Malcolm. As she read, she relived the fateful night of the raid. The night that she found out someone on the inside was a traitor, and the night she was almost killed because of that treason. She remembered the warehouse, the explosion, and the searing heat that radiated throughout her body as flying shrapnel imbedded itself into her back. She flinched as she remembered the pain, and literally jumped out of the chair, knocking the phone on the floor, as the shrill ringing of the damn thing broke into her thoughts.

Conner heard the receiver clattering to the floor, and Alex break into a colorful array of exasperated curses while picking up the phone, and then a breathless "Hello."

Conner was not sure how to respond, so she simply told Alex that she was home and safe.

"Good, I was about to dispatch the calvary and the Coast Guard."

Although Alex had tried to make her comment light and playful, Conner could tell the woman was upset.

"Alex, is everything OK? I mean, you sound a little upset." Conner asked, hoping Alex would not be offended by her questioning.

"YeahŠsure, Conner, I'm fine. I was just reviewing a case file, and the phone startled me, that's all." Alex hoped the lame excuse would satisfy Conner, although it was evident that her reaction had not been just the result of a ringing phone.

"OK, if you're sure. Well, I'll let you get back to your reading." Conner decided to pass the ball to Alex and let her decide if she was interested in any further conversation.

"Hold on a minute, officer," Alex almost ordered over the phone, "How's the chinŠand the headŠand the rest of your beaten and bruised body?"

"Chin hurts like hell, I now look like a cone head with this goose egg I have, and the rest of the body, well, it's not going to be very nice to me tomorrow I can tell already," Conner said, laughing into the phone

"I am sorry I caused yourŠummŠaccident. Maybe I should just page you in the future; maybe that will be safer, and easier on the body." Alex could not help but chuckle. She did feel bad about Conner's chin and head, although the visual she got when thinking about her sliding across the deck of the boat seemed to ease the pain of her guilt.

"Ha, Ha. That damn thing usually scares me worse. I have to keep it on vibrate, especially when I'm on the street, and it always feels like a stun gun when it goes off. Most people probably think I'm having the d.t.'s or something when they see my reaction.

Alex could not hold back her hardy laugh at Conner's description, and added, "Well, maybe I'll just start e-mailing you, then."

"Oh no you don't. I hate damn computers. They make me feel so incompetent. Last time I checked my email at the precinct, I had to get Buet to get me into it. I had something like a 100 emails, dating back six months. So my suggestion is if you want a timely response, just call me. I promise not to do anymore swan dives, OK."

"As you wish. It's your body, after all," Alex replied

"Hey there, I can get this treatment form the guys downtown." I'm sure I will tomorrow morning, Conner thought. "I thought you liked me."

"I do, ConnerŠI like you a lot. Why else would I give you such a hard time? I don't treat justŠanyone like this." Alex's voice took on a dark and sultry tone as she chided Conner, surprising herself when she thought back on the remark she had just made.

On the other end of the line, Conner found herself searching for her voice somewhere in the depths of her gut. Not knowing just how to respond to Alex's statement, she simply uttered a simple, "Oh, OK"

Alex knew the woman had been temporarily speechless by her comment and tried to lighten things up a bit. "I usually just body slam and cuff the ones I don't care for. You might want to watch out that you never make me mad. I just might come at you with and evil look on my face and cuffs in my hand."

Conner could feel the heat radiating in the lower parts of her anatomy. She could just imagine what Alex could look like with and evil look and handcuffs. Although lust and not anger was the emotion Conner was contemplating in her mind. "Well. If you're not careful, agent Montgomery, I just might think you're daring me here. It's been a long time since I've had a woman come after me with handcuffs, she said in an equally sultry voice.

Conner could almost hear Alex swallowing. She did not know if the silence on the other end of the phone was because of Alex being angry, or speechless as Conner had been just moments before. She knew the conversation had turned towards dangerous ground, and did not want to frighten Alex away before she really got a chance to know the mysterious woman.

Alex was trying very hard to find her voice when she heard Conner screaming from the other end of the line.

"You little shit, I'm going to kill your furry ass in about two seconds if you don't get out of my face."

Alex broke out in a hardy laugh knowing the cat that Conner was baby-sitting had managed to irritate her again. "Conner, how is it can you take down drug dealers, but can't seem to control a tiny little kitty?"

"This isn't just any tiny little kitty, I'll have you know. This is the cat from depths of hell. You should have seen my place when I got home last night. Almost everything in the house that was not nailed down was scattered in the middle of the floor. When I left, he was doing that cat thing, licking himself, and looking all innocent, but when I walked out the door he apparently found other things to take up him time." Conner finished her raging with an audible growl.

"ŠAnd if that's not bad enough, my living room smell like a dirty shoe. Seth, Magnum's daddy, decided he needed to have something that had his scent on it so the poor little thing wouldn't be frightened. Now I have an old dirty T-shirt lying in the corner of my living room, and from the stench coming from it, I think it's been worn daily and not washed in years."

Alex let Conner vent her frustrations, and laughed as she recanted her experience with the cat. At least the conversation had veered back toward safer ground. Alex decided it would probably be easier if Conner just met her at the house the next evening. Alex knew of a great Italian restaurant not far from where she lived. They talked a while longer, deciding to meet the next evening at six. Alex gave Conner the directions to her house, and her phone number in case anything came up or she got lost, and then said their good-byes.

Conner replaced the phone, and gave the cat a glaring look. "Well, I guess you did get me out of a tight situation. At least my scream broke the heavy silence that had made its way into out little conversation." With a growl, Conner gave the cat a pat on the head and walked down the hall to the bathroom, to the next order of business, a nice hot bath.


Chapter Seven

Conner relaxed in the bath as she let the warm water soothe the aches and pains that were quickly beginning to settle throughout her body. She let her mind drift back over her conversation with Alex. The conversation had taken an avenue of intimation, which allowed Conner's imagination to run rampant. She had already witnessed what those blue eyes could do to her heart the night before at Mike's. The visible pain in Alex's heart when she had spoke of Feryle had shown deeply in her eyes, turning them into pools of deep blue. She wondered just what shade of blue they turned when want and need was the emotion she felt.

The heat Conner felt drifting through her body was not from the water, which had cooled measurably, but from the thoughts that raged in her brain when she thought of Alex. The strong muscles, hidden under her clothes, were what Conner was imagining now: and how they would feel pressed against her naked body. Conner had felt the strength in Alex's hands the previous night. Hands, that could not only fire a gun or disable an assault, but were also capable of great tenderness. The full, soft lips just begging to be kissed...Conner let out an involuntary groan as the heat ripped through her body.

Realizing that she was not helping her muscles relax, she pulled the plug in the tub and stood to rinse off her body with the showerhead. "Cold water, gotta have cold water," Conner growled as she turned the spray on full force. Although the icy spray was doing its job in cooling off her libido, it was wreaking havoc on her already tense and sore muscles. Turning off the spray, Conner grabbed a towel and began to dry her body. The nerve endings in her skin were on full alert, and the usually soft towel was sending a menagerie of signals to her brain as she felt the heat begin to stir once again. Throwing the towel on the floor in a bout of frustration, she pulled on her UF T-shirt, and headed into the bedroom. There, curled up in what was now becoming his pillow, Magnum had settled down for a good night's sleep. She silently swore at her unwelcome houseguest and crawled into the other side of the bed.


Alex woke up early on Friday morning. She had decided the night before to do some more reading on the case files. After a quick shower and brewing a pot of coffee, she headed to the office. One thing that kept bothering Alex was who on the inside had turned. There were many reasons a cop would be tempted to turn, money being top on the list. Agents were always being offered bribes, payoffs, drugs, almost anything to keep them off the criminal's backs. However, it was a bad cop that would allow his or her fellow agents to be killed. Alex have given herself migraines trying to think of any agents or cops involved in the case that had shown any weakness, and so far she had come up empty-handed.

As she sat and read the files, she made a mental note to ask Conner about her fellow officers. The FBI and the JPD had worked closely on the case so it could be someone from the inside of JPD. She thought over how Conner might react to such a question. Local law enforcement officers were just as protective of their own as the FBI agents. Conner might not take it too well if she just blurted it out. Alex decided to see how things progressed during dinner and decided she would not bring it up unless the opportunity presented itself.

Alex's body started screaming for relief from sitting in the chair, and she glanced at the clock realizing it was almost one o'clock. She decided a little fresh air and a long walk were what she needed to limber her up. A few minutes later, Alex was walking along the shoreline, the cool ocean water lapping at her bare feet. She thought back to the two women she had seen the day before, and felt a sudden feeling of sadness flood over her. "Stop it, damn it, just stop it," she chided herself as she felt tears well up in her eyes. "We had some great years together. Maybe one day Feryle, when this is all over, I can focus on those times, and not hurt so badŠmaybe."

Alex knew she must look ridiculous, walking on the beach alone, talking to herself. She looked up realizing she had walked a lot further than she intended. Looking back over her shoulder, she could barely see the house beyond the dunes. Turning towards home, she began jogging at an easy gait, thinking about all she had to do before Conner arrived that evening.


Conner tried to look inconspicuous when she walked in the precinct the next morning. Of course, Buet, being a jokester, did not let Conner even get by the front desk before he was looking her over with a gleam in his eye.

"Thought you had the day off yesterday, Conner?"

"Morning, and yeah, I did, Buet." Conner said trying to sound casual, knowing Buet had spotted the gash on her chin and the bruises on her arms. As she rounded the corner, she could hear him yelling, Must have been one hell of a date, Conner. Didn't know you were having problems fighting them off. Let me know if you need a big stick." At the commotion, all the other officers within earshot looked up and wanted in on the action.

"Hey, Conner, you can borrow my stick anytime," Frank Bivins, one of the more repulsive cops in the precinct, yelled to her.

"Give your wife a break, Bivins and go fuck yourself," Conner snapped back as she headed into her cubicle.

Bivins hated being laughed at and headed over towards Conner with that macho stride he thought looked tough. He came into Conner's already cramped cubicle and sat down on her desk, making his presence known not only to Conner but everyone else within sight.

He leaned over so close Conner could smell the bacon he had eaten for breakfast, and growled, "So was your hot date with the legs that came in to see the Captain the other day? I noticed how much she flustered you when she stuck her head in here. Made you spill your coffee all over the desk."

Conner sat forward, effectively pushing Bivins away with her movement, stood up, and looked him squarely in the eyes. In a voice that could easily be heard by the convening crowd outside the cubicle, Conner snarled, "You know Bivins, I'm not like you, fucking anything that walks. When and if my private life becomes your concern, I'll send you a memo."

Bivins face turned so purple, Conner thought for a second that he had stopped breathing until he leaned to whisper in her ear: "Better watch out how you talk to me Harris, one day I might have to cover your ass, and I don't think you want me pissed off when that day comes."

Conner stood her ground, not flinching when she could feel the whiskers on Bivins face brush against her smooth skin. She turned her head just enough to hid her mouth from the onlookers and whispered, "That's true, Bivins, but you also have to remember, that it might be your slimy ass I'm covering one day, and I think you want me to be a real happy camper when that moment comes." Leaning back, her voice rose just enough to include her audience again. "Now if you don't mind, get your ass off my desk, I have work to do."

Conner sat down at her desk, turned her back to Bivins, and started searching through her filing cabinet, thus dismissing him. "Watch your back, Harris," was all Bivins said as he turned and stormed off towards his own desk.

Bivins received a lot of joking on his way back to his desk. He had come in intending to intimidate her, but left being dismissed by what he would refer to as a 'dyke cop' half his size. Conner knew the danger of alienating her fellow officers. Undoubtedly some of them would side with Bivins against her. However, when she glanced a look beyond the cubicle, she saw a few respectful looks given back her way. She even saw Sonny Henderson, one of the hardest cops on the force, give her a slight nod when she caught his eye.

Conner was sick and tired of the abuse doled out by the macho boys of Precinct One. She had heard almost every insult, she could think of since she had been assigned here. I guess it's by no fault of their own, she thought to herself. She was in the middle of the Bible belt. Most of their belief system was so ingrained in them their DNA had mutated to reflect that fact. Conner finished the rest of her leftover paperwork and hit the streets.


Conner had been working on an unusual case. There had been some bad cocaine floating around the streets. It had shown up all over the north Florida area, which was a little unusual. Typically, when a load of bad drugs hit the street the affected area was confined to the neighborhood dealer, or at least a relatively small area. She had worked with some of the agencies in the other locales, and what she was hearing back did not sound good. Apparently, the neighborhood dealers, when busted, had rolled over on their suppliers, in a trade off for a deal. All the fingers were pointing to a man the JPD, FBI, DEA, and ATF had been drooling over for years. A man covered by layer after layer of protection that no one had ever been able to penetrate his shieldsŠMalcolm Hernandez.

Malcolm Hernandez began living on the streets when he was twelve. He had never known his father, and never had any interest in finding out who he was, even if his mother could recall his name. Malcolm's mother, if you could call her that, was nothing more than a junkie. The only work she did was the occasional robbery, or petty theft to feed her habit. On the days her body hurt from the need of her next fix, Maria would sell whatever she had in her possession for a hit. She was not above trading sex for her drugs, either. Malcolm had spent uncountable nights listening to his mother's escapades in the next room. Finally, after one of her friends, as she called them, had come to his room after his mother passed out, he decided the streets were safer than his own home.

Malcolm had fit in well on the streets. He made his rounds from store to store, sweeping the sidewalks for the owners in trade for food. He had always considered himself lucky the day the long black car pulled up outside of Mr. Stone's market. Malcolm watched as three big men stepped out of the car. One walked into the store, the other stood on the street with his right hand in his coat pocket. The other man calmly opened the rear door and out stepped the man Malcolm would come to call Pop.

Mr. Stone sent Malcolm on an errand when the man walked in the store. Feeling like he was being shooed away, Malcolm snuck around to the back door and crept in, hiding behind the large boxes in the storage room. Malcolm heard Mr. Stone begging as the man's bodyguard held a gun to his head. "I promise you, Mr. Gonzolas, I sent the money with my usual boy. I don't know what happened to him. I haven't seen him since yesterday morning, I swear."

Malcolm could see the sweat sliding down Mr. Stone's face as he shook with the terror of knowing he was about to die. Malcolm knew something had to be done or they were going to kill him. Slowly, he slide out from behind the boxes and eased his way toward the men. Gonzolas, looked up casually as if he knew Malcolm had been there all along. "I seen him yesterday after Mr. Stone gave him the bag. Don't know what was in it, but Joey went around the corner, and got in a big car just like yours and drove off." I promise, Mister, don't hurt Mr. Stone, he didn't do nothing."

Gonzolas, looked hard at the boy pleading for Stone's life. "What's it to you kid? Afraid you're going to lose your meal ticket?" Gonzolas asked the boy.

"No, sir I just don't want to see Mr. Stone hurt for something he didn't do."

"So how you know they didn't plan this thing together kid?" Maybe, Joey is hanging low for a while, till things settle down. Then the two of the are gonna split the money and run," Gonzolas countered.

"Don't think Joey wanted Mr. Stone to know nothing 'bout it, mister. He would always look around real nervous-like whenever that car would come aroundŠlike he didn't want Mr. Stone to know."

Gonzolas laughed deep from his belly. "Well, Stone, looks like this kid saved you sorry hide today. I'll keep you around, but only on one condition. From now on, the kid is your courier. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes sir, yes sir, anything you say, Mr. Gonzolas." Stone knew he was sentencing Malcolm to a life of darkness, but as usual, greed and his will to live won over his conscience.

Gonzolas, calmly walked toward the front of the store, removing himself from the sound of shattering bones, as the guard brought the gun across Stone's face.

Malcolm watched with blank eyes. It was not his first taste of violence, and it certainly would not be his last.


Conner worked the rest of the afternoon chasing leads. She felt like she had been chasing her tail more than anything else, but she had made a little progress. She had run down a few of her snitches, and questioned them hard. Although none would confirm her suspicions, she had gotten the feeling Malcolm Hernandez was behind the bad drugs.

At five o'clock, Conner started wrapping up her day. There was lightness in her step as she walked into the precinct and spotted Buet.

"My, my, we must have had a productive day. I haven't seen you smiling this big inŠwellŠnever, actually. What do you have up your sleeve, Conner?" Buet always liked to tease Conner. He was probably the only person that could tease her about her private life, and walk away unharmed.

Conner grinned, and headed towards her cubicle chuckling at Buet over her shoulder. "Well, Buet if I told you that, it wouldn't be a secretŠand I'm sure it wouldn't be nearly as juicy as what you're imagining."

She dropped her notes in her filing cabinet and locked it, grabbed a few files she knew she wanted to read over the weekend, and headed towards the door. She reached for the door and pulled it open. Bivins was on his way in and effectively blocked her exit as he stopped in front of her. Buet's senses came on full alert as he watched the two officers stare each other down. Bivins leaned down towards Conner and whispered. "You have a good weekend, officer Harris. Don't do anything that might make those bumps and bruises any worse." Conner shoved her way past Bivins and stormed out the front door.

"Damn, what a fucking, bitch of a day." Conner growled as she headed to the parking lot

Well, at least it's over until Monday, and I'm sure the night will be an improvement. She had just finished that thought when she rounded the corner and saw all four tires of the Jag flat against the concrete floor.

"Bivins, that mangy piece of shit," Conner growled as she walked over to the car. She glanced at her watch and knew she would not have time to get them replaced. It was five-fifteen now, and she had to be on the road by five-thirty if she were going to be at Alex's on time.

Pulling her cell phone from her pocket, she dialed a taxi.


Alex saw the taxi pull into the driveway, and wondered who it could be. She waited at her bedroom window and saw Conner getting out. A few seconds later the doorbell rang.

Alex opened the door to a clearly frustrated Conner Harris. Holding a hanging bag in one hand and a duffle bag in the other, Alex invited her inside.

"Sorry if I'm late. One of my esteemed colleagues decided to flatten all four of my tires this afternoon," Conner explained.

"Whoa, you mean another police officer slashed your tires?" Alex questioned clearly confused.

"Well, I can't prove it was himŠyet. But I have one of my famous gut feeling he is the one who did it," Conner offered, knowing she was jumping the gun accusing Bivins of the deed. She should know better, she was a cop after all.

Alex stood watching Conner, with the baggage in her hands. "Here, let me take that for you. Do you haul around luggage in your car on a routine basis?" Alex laughed as she helped Conner by lifting the weight in her arms.

"Well, actually no I don't. I didn't think I would look presentable going to dinner in my street clothes. I also didn't want to change at the station, especially after the hassle I got when I walked into the precinct this morning." Conner tried to growl but could not hide the smile coming through her voice. Turning towards the hallway Alex said, "Let me put these in the bedroom. Looks like you could use a drink and a little time to settle before we go out."

"There is beer in the refrigerator. Grab a couple and I'll meet you on the back deck."

Conner looked around the house for the first time. The house was absolutely amazing. She did not think she had ever seen so many windows in one structure. Combined with the oak hardwood floors and the high vaulted ceilings, the house was both energizing and refreshing.

She walked over to the fireplace and noticed a collection of photographs on the mantle. Several had captured Alex in an amazing smile. One that was set off by the twin dimples that usually hid within her cheeks. Her eyes were a clear sparkling blue, emitting a happiness that only love could generate. The other woman could be no one else but Feryle, Conner surmised. There were photographs taken at moments that Alex and Feryle had shared on vacations, weekends having fun, and holidays.

Alex hesitated as she entered the room. It had been a long time since anyone had been in her home, and she wasn't quite sure what she felt having a virtual stranger examining her private moments with Feryle.

"Umm, everything is in the bedroom, whenever you're ready to change. I don't know about you but I'm ready for a drink. What would you like, Conner?"

Shocked by the voice behind her, Conner turned around quickly and faced Alex. She was surprised by the contrast of expressions she saw. She was not sure if it was anger, sadness, suspicion, or all of the above that swept across Alex's face. One thing she knew was that it certainly was not the laughing happy face she had just observed in the photographs.

"Ahh, beer is fine with me, unless you'd prefer something else."

"Beer is fine with me, too. I just thought you might need something stronger, considering the kind of day you've had," Alex offered. Walking towards Conner, Alex focused on her chin. As she stood in front of her, she reached out and gently took Conner's face in her hand, and lifted her chin for a better view. "Ouch. Bet that hurts like hell," was all she could say.

Conner froze at the contact. She silently cursed her voice for turning tail and hiding in her stomach every time Alex was near. "UmmŠwellŠit does kind of smart a little."

"Have you put any antibiotic on it this afternoon?" Alex asked

"No, mom." Conner laughed, I haven't been anywhere near a first aid kit, out on the streets."

"Well, you get the beer, and I'll get the first aid kit, and see you out back," Alex said as she headed back down the hallway.

Conner found her way into the kitchen, where she retrieved two beers from the refrigerator, and headed out to the deck. When she stepped through the sliding glass doors, what she saw was remarkable. The view to the ocean was completely unobscured except for the natural dunes lying peacefully between the house and the water. The saw grass swung lazily in the evening breeze and the waterŠthe water was the most beautiful azure blue Conner had ever seen.

She looked down the beach in both directions and saw nothing but the pure undisturbed environment for at least a hundred yards on each side. The few houses she saw dotted on the landscape fit in perfectly with their natural surroundings. Conner could not believe this home was sitting close to one of the largest cities in the state. It felt more like she was on a deserted beach somewhere on a far off island.

"Well, I see you're admiring the view," Alex said as she walked out onto the deck.

Conner looked at Alex is total wonderment. "Admiring--that's an understatement--this view totally blows me away, Alex. How did you find this place?"

"I will tell no secrets until your chin has been seen to, so don't even try and change the subject," Alex said as she motioned Conner to a deck chair.

Conner could not move. She thought for a moment that she might pass out right here on the deck. Laughing at the look on the woman's face Alex laughed and grabbed Conner's arm and pulling her toward the chair. "Geez, and I thought you were a tough cop, Harris. You look like I'm about to perform major surgery here. Relax its just a little peroxide and some antibiotic salve."

Conner took a deep breath and sat in the chair, relieved that Alex did not see the terror in her eyes. Terror of having the woman so near, and touching her. She sat in the chair and nervously put her hands in her lap.

"You're pathetic, Harris. I've seen kids braver than you," Alex said kneeling in front of Conner. Touching her chin, Alex gently lifted Conner's head to get a better view of the gash. Alex could feel the woman trembling beneath her hands and wondered if Conner felt the jolting shock that she had when their skin had met.

Closing her eyes for a moment to regain her composure, Alex became aware of the delicious scent of the other woman. The clean, spicy scent that radiated from this woman made Alex want to lean in for more. When she finally opened her eyes, staring back at her were Conner's sea green eyes. Alex could almost hear herself gasp at what she saw in that instant. Desire, confusion, uncertainty, those were apparent, but also a hint of uncertainty.

Alex felt as if the air was being squeezed from her lungs. Taking a slow deep breath, and nervously licking her top lip, Alex broke eye contact first and looked down at Conner's lap. "Umm, Let's get thisŠahhŠcleaned up, so you can go get changed for dinner," Alex said in a ragged voice, as she reached for the first aid kit, giving them both a moment to recover.

Both women had to focus to control their involuntary reactions when their skin once again touched. Conner tilted her head back and stared at the sky, trying to think of her flat tires, groceries, anything but the gorgeous women touching her. The heat that radiated through her body threatened to consume her at that moment.

Alex gently cleaned the broken skin on Conner's chin, taking great care not to inflict any more pain that necessary. Her hands were visibly shaking as she dabbed the peroxide on the wound and hoped it was not too apparent. As tenderly as she could, she applied the antibiotic, and as she was beginning to sit back saw a faint scar running under the length of jaw. Unconsciously, she reached out and ran her hand down the scar, wondering how much pain this woman had endured.

Conner could not control her quick intake of breath as she felt Alex's hand stroke her jaw line. She lowered her head and looked deeply into the dark seductive eyes, asking her a wordless question. She knew if nothing else ever happened between them, that she would always remember this moment. If only she had a clue as to what Alex was thinking, then maybe she could make a reasonable choice as to how to respond. Taking the safe way out, she curled her lips into a smile and said, "Bernie Fromboiskie."

Conner's comment broke through Alex's thoughts like a knife, and she sat back on her heels looking a little confused. "Excuse me?"

"Bernie Fromboiskie," Conner said dryly. "A ten year old nightmare." The spell was broken and now Conner sat back in her chair and laughed as she remembered the night.

"My partner and I got called to a domestic dispute. When we got to the residence, this woman was beating the crap out of her kid. Seth went for the boy, and I went for the woman. Together we managed to separate them, and everyone chilled out. Seth had the kid a few feet away trying to distract him, and was showing the kid his billy club. I was in the middle of questioning his mother when out of nowhere this kid whacked me in the jaw with Seth's stick."

Alex was not having much success in holding back her laughter, her entire body shaking as she tried to keep the grin off her face.

"Hey, you're supposed to be feeling sorry for me. That kid almost killed me." She pouted.

"OK, OK, go on with your story."

"Well, anyway, as I was saying, the kid whacked me. The mom, obviously used to the brat's reactions decided to take advantage of the situation and jumped on Seth. Next thing I knew I was calling for backup and bleeding like a stuck pig."

By this time Alex was on the floor laughing so hard her side was threatening to burst.

"Hell, it only gets worse from there. The ass, that I suspect slashed my tires today, was our backup. He and his partner came riding in, broke the whole thing up, carted me to the patrol car, and sent me off with Seth to the hospital for a few stitches. By the time we got back to the precinct, the entire squad had heard Bivin's blown up story about how a ten-year-old kid beat the shit out of me. I don't think I'll ever live that one down," Conner said in a whining voice as she glared at Alex.

Alex sat up, and reached her hand out to stroke the scar once again. She looked into Conner's eyes for a moment and wanted nothing more than to pull her close and hold her in her arms, basking in the scent of the woman. Alex took a deep breath and smiled as she looked deeply into the other woman's eyes. Conner saw Alex's lips part just enough for her to see the glistening tongue that teased those inviting lips, as she whispered, "Looks like that's going to get you a double scoop of ice cream for desert." Then let flow the most enlightening smile Conner had ever seen. If she had not been sitting in the chair, she would have surely fallen flat on her face.

"No way am I settling for ice cream tonight. You already owe me big time for my chin slide. Now, since you have found so much humor in my painful experience with Bernie, it's really going to cost you now," Conner said as she raised an eyebrow, and snarled at Alex.

"OK, OK, whatever you say. Now go change so we can get moving. All that laughing has worked up an appetite in me, and I'm famished."

Alex stood up and led Conner back into the house as the two warm beers sat untouched on the deck. Alex led Conner down the hallway to her bedroom, asking herself the entire way as to why she chose to put them here, and not in the guest room. She led the way into the room and showed Conner the bathroom. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Alex left the woman to get dressed.

She immediately headed to the kitchen and pulled a beer from the refrigerator. Twisting the top off, she took a large swallow. Feeling the cold beer flow down her throat, Alex ran her hand through her hair. Damn, she thought. What am I doing? You would think I was some adolescent teenager with raging hormones.

Alex walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa, wondering just what it was about the woman that was now in her bedroom changing to go out to dinner with her. No, Alex thought, not my bedroomŠmine and Feryle's.

A few minutes later, Conner came into the room. She had changed into a pair of brown slacks and a tan silk blouse. She had let her hair down, and it now flowed freely across her shoulders. A small gold chain hung around her neck adorned with a tiny locket. Alex felt the air rush in as she took in a surprising breath. The tough street cop that sat on the deck a few moments before had transformed herself into a stunning and seemingly fragile woman.

Conner looked into Alex's eyes as she tried to read the expression on her face, but all she could do was fall deeper and deeper into the sultry eyes that stared back at her. Breaking the silence Conner asked, "Well, do I clean up OK, Agent Montgomery?" A grin across her face, as she closed the distance between them.

"Yeah, I'd say you clean up pretty well, Agent Harris. Now let's see if I can do the same. Make yourself comfortable, I'll be right back." Alex headed back towards the bedroom. She had not intended on changing clothes, but needed a minute to let her thoughts, and body, settle down. Seeing Conner as she walked in the room had set flames coursing down to her soul. Grabbing another blouse and a vest out of the closet, Alex quickly changed.

Conner was strolling around the living room, looking at bits and pieces of Alex and Feryle's life together when Alex reentered the room. This time, though, Alex did not sense the protective shield come up; somehow she knew Conner was not a threat to Feryle's memory. It was as if the more she knew of Conner, the more she could remember of Feryle, and not hurt.

They gathered their things, and headed out the door to dinner. The drive took only a few minutes. Alex had made reservations for eight o'clock earlier in the day, so she knew that they would not have a wait. As she and Conner walked into Antonio's, she was overwhelmed by the smell of the homemade Italian cuisine. She was telling Conner that this had been one of her and Feryle's favorite restaurants when the booming voice of a woman broke into their conversation.

"What do you mean, one of your favorites? You always told me it was your favorite." A grin broke across Alex's face as she recognized the woman's gruff voice behind her. Turning around the, Alex was swept up into a warm and fond embrace by the woman. "Maria, of course it's my all time favorite. I can't imagine what I was thinking." Alex placed a tender kiss on the woman's cheek.

Alex and Maria spoke for a few moments, Alex being chastised for not being in the restaurant in so long. The smiles were warm and loving on each woman's face. Conner knew there was a history here, one that involved Feryle, and she didn't know exactly what she should do at the moment, so she strolled over to the displayed menu and pretended to read.

A few moments later, Conner's thoughts were broken by a deep throaty voice in her right ear. "I was wondering where you got off to."

Conner turned her head slightly, only inches away from those tantalizing lips. She hesitated for a moment, and then almost whispered, "Well, I had a feeling that you hadn't seen each other in a while and wanted to give you a few moments to talk."

Alex tilted her head and looked at Conner with an appreciative smile. "Thanks, it has been a while. Actually, I haven't seen Maria or Antonio since Feryle's memorial service. It's really good to see them again, butŠ"

"Alex, you don't have to explain," Conner broke in, her eyes telling Alex that she understood, and that everything was OK. "IŠummŠknow it must be hard for you, coming back here, reliving all of these memories." Conner was about to ask Alex why they had come here, when she heard Maria call that their table was ready.

Maria took Alex's elbow and led the way through the dining room. She stopped at a very private table by a window overlooking the garden. Conner could see the strain in Alex's face as she sat down, and her trembling chin as she stared out the window.

"Alex, if you're not comfortable coming here tonight, we can go somewhere else. I really won't mind. I like Mexican, Chinese, Burger KingŠ"

"No, Conner it's OK, I just didn't think Maria would seat us hereŠat this tableŠnot tonightŠnot my first time back." Alex ran a hand through her hair and let out a haggard breath. "Anyway, if we left now, it would only upset Maria, and I wouldn't want to do that."

"OK, if that's what you really want, butŠ"

"Conner, it's fine...really." Alex smiled. "And furthermore, you can't find better, or bigger scoops of ice cream anywhere else this side of the Mississippi."

Conner saw a slight twinkle in Alex's eyes, and knew that she had dealt with the first, of probably many, demons, and everything was going to be okay, at least for tonight.

Maria hovered over them most of the evening. Alex, finally able to get a word into the conversation, introduced Conner to her old friend. The sideways glance, the raised eyebrow, and the small smile Maria gave Alex did not escape detection from either woman. Alex handled it well, and they ended up having a wonderful dinner.

They talked about the house, and the months it had taken Alex and Feryle to get it livable. Alex explained that during that time was when she and Feryle had met Maria and Antonio. They had completely gutted the kitchen and had to look elsewhere for nourishment. Thus, the friendship had begun. Alex also went on to tell Conner that the last night she and Feryle had spent together, was here having dinner at this very table.

Conner was flabbergasted, at the news, and suddenly felt like an intruder. Alex picked up the signs of Conner's uneasiness and let her know that it was okay. If she had not been able to deal with it, they would have gone somewhere else for dinner. This made Conner feel a little easier, especially given the thoughts she had been having about Alex throughout their evening.

By the time they had finished dinner, and had shared the biggest bowl of ice cream Conner had ever seen, it was almost midnight. The evening had been enjoyable for both women, and they had completely lost track of the time. When Maria came back by the table, Alex asked for the check. What ensued was the funniest sight she had seen in a while. The two obviously bullheaded women arguing over the check had Conner in stitches. Maria finally won, of course, saying it was a welcome home gift. Alex feigned a pout when she realized the battle was lost.

They made their way slowly back to the car. Both women felt stuffed from dinner and a little lightheaded from too much wine. The drive back to the house was refreshing. Alex had taken the top off the jeep earlier in the week, and the cool ocean breeze swept though their hair. It had been a good night for both women.

When they had driven into the drive, and gotten out of the jeep, Alex started walking them around the side of the house. There was a peaceful and easy silence between the two women as Alex led them down towards the dunes. They walked along lost in their own thoughts for a few minutes before Alex finally spoke.

"I really enjoyed dinner with you tonight, Conner."

Conner could barely make out Alex's words as the sound of the waves filled the background with soothing sounds.+

"I'm really glad you did, Alex. I was afraid that you weren't going to whenŠ"

Alex broke into Conner's words. "I did tooŠat least for a while. Somehow, it was almost surreal going back there. The memories that flooded my mind when we sat down at that tableŠthe painŠthe...the loss." Alex almost said 'loneliness,' but realized that she had not been lonely. Conner had made the trip back into Antonio'sŠbearable. Although there had been a sad veil enveloping her spirit, Conner's presence had fashioned a peaceful ambiance to the evening.

They had stopped walking, and were facing each other in the darkness, with only the glow of the full moon casting a light on each woman's face. The smell of the sea, mixed with Alex's scent, was almost more than Conner could bear. She reached out and pulled Alex into her arms.

Alex tensed at the touch of the other woman, then let herself relax and be comforted by Conner's embrace. Conner's arms surrounded her, letting Alex know the strength of the other woman's feelings. Alex slowly let her arms circle Conner's waist, and the two women stood for a long time, just relishing the warmth of each other. Lost in thoughts they were both too frightened to utter aloud.

Pulling the woman closer, Conner let out a small, quiet sigh, as she tucked her head into the soft tresses of Alex's hair, inhaling the scent of her shampoo and the essence that could only be Alex herself. Conner could feel the rapid beat of Alex's heart in her neck. Turning her head slightly, she planted a small kiss over the pulsing beat.

Conner felt more than heard the quick intake of breath from Alex. She lifted her head, and looked into the shaded irises of Alex's eyes. What she saw was a barely concealed look of want and need, what she felt was a deep burning heat that ached to find relief.

Alex was completely overwhelmed by the warmth and tenderness in Conner's embrace. She could feel her pulse pounding in her chest, making her lightheaded. The quiet moan she heard from Conner as she kissed her neck was almost as powerful as the sensation she felt coursing through her body. Slowly she lifted her head to meet Conner's eyes. There, in those eyes, was passionŠlustŠand need.

Conner's lips were but a breath away from Alex's. Her own lips parted, just slightly, in anticipation of what was to come. She slowly bent her head to kiss those delectable lips, when suddenly headlights engulfed them in a bright circle of light.

Both women jumped as the four-wheel drive truck pulled beside them. Besieged by the emotions still coursing their bodies, Alex and Conner spun around and faced the offensive lights.

Sliding to a stop beside them, Bivins let out a robust laugh. "Scared you there, didn't I, Harris?"

"What the hell do you want, Bivins? You could have killed us driving up on us like that," Conner screamed at the other officer.

"Easy, girl." Bivins snarled. "You're just pissed, cuz I messed up your little party here."

Alex could tell that this man Bivins had been drinking. She could smell it on him from five feet away. If she remembered correctly, Conner suspected this man of slashing her tires earlier in the evening. The more the man derided Conner the angrier Alex became.

"Do you mind telling me what you're doing on my beach?" Alex snarled in an equally hostile voice.

"Whoa there, sweetie," Bivins responded in a sarcastic reply. "Hey Conner, why don't you introduce me to the legs." Bivins made no show to hide the fact that he was admiring Alex's body from head to toe.

"I really don't think she cares to meet you, Bivins, and I think she asked you a question," Conner pursued.

"Well, to answer your question, legs." Bivins glared at Alex, "I don't think you own the beach, lady, as an law enforcement official in this county, I do believe this is a public beach." Bivins had stood from the car and now stood inches from Alex's face, the stench of his breath threatening to force her backwards.

Alex returned his cold glare, not allowing the larger man to intimidate her. She regarded him as she would a suspect. "I believe, officer, that you should go back and do a little reviewing. According to the law in the State of Florida, the public beach area begins at the wet/dry line. If my estimate is correct, you would now be standing approximately ten feet within my property line, and I'm asking you very nicelyŠto leave."

Even in the darkness, Conner could see the veins in Bivins neck almost explode. His breathing ragged, he growled, "And what if I don't feel like leaving, little lady? What if I feel like sticking around and getting in the game you and Harris were starting." Grabbing Alex's arm, Bivins tried to pull Alex toward him.

Before Conner could react, Alex had lifted her left elbow and allowed her forward momentum to propel it into Bivins's nose. Stunned by the quick movement, Bivins released Alex, grabbed his nose, and stepped back a couple of feet. Alex did not waste any time taking advantage of the distance. She pivoted on her left foot while bringing her right leg up, and delivered a brutal blow the Bivins's chest.

Alex never slowed, and as Bivins lay on the ground gasping for air, she flipped him over until his broken and bloody nose was pressed into the ground. She twisted his arm around his back rendering him defenseless as she pressed her right knee into his back. "Well, if you don't leave on your own, you just might piss me off, officer and I don't think you want to do that," Alex growled into his ear.

"You fucking bitch," Bivins screamed as Alex twisted his arm higher on his back. "Conner, tell this bitch who I am, tell her I'm hauling her ass in, and taking you with her as an accessory."

Even the severity of the moment could not overcome the amusement Conner felt at Bivins's prone form being ground into the sand by Alex. She slowly circled, and kneeled down close to Bivin's face openly laughing at his predicament. "Well, before I do that, asshole maybe I should make some formal introduction here. Alex I'd like you to meet Frank Bivins, a slime ball cop I have the misfortune of working with downtown." Conner's voice was full of contempt for the man. Looking towards Alex for approval, she was met with a slight nod. "And, Frankie, I'd like you to meet Alex Montgomery, or maybe I should make things a little clearer and say Special Agent Alex Montgomery, of the FBI."

Bivins strained to turn his head to look at Alex, but she kept him pinned firmly to the ground. Leaning forward so she could get closer to his ear, and unintentionally, well maybe not completely unintentionally, pressing her knee further into his back, Alex gave him a choice. "I'll make a deal with you, officer Bivins. I'll let you up and you can get back in your truck and get the hell off my beach, or I can charge you with not only trespassing and destruction of a natural resource, but with assault on a Federal Officer. I think the first choice would be the wisestŠunless of course you don't have any plans for the next couple of yearsŠor five." Twisting the arm just once more she added: "What's it going to be, door number one or door number two." Alex growled into his ear.

"Let me upŠnow," Bivins growled back.

"Remember what I told you. Leave like a good little boy, or I'm coming down hard on you, and I promise you won't like it." Alex released the pressure on his arm and stood up. Bivins stood quickly, rubbing his shoulder where Alex had strained it. Alex and Bivins glared at each other for a moment, each testing the resolve of the other. Finally, Bivins broke the stare and turned towards Conner. "Next time, I'll make sure you don't have your pet feebie with you, Conner then we'll see what a tough girl you really are." Bivins stalked to the truck, got in, and sped away, showering the two women in a needling spray of sand.

Not realizing she had been holding her breath, Alex let out and exasperated sigh, and ran her hand through her hair. Looking at Conner's face she could tell Bivins had gotten to her. The pale let Alex know she was frightened and stunned by the actions of her fellow officer. Reaching out she took Conner's hand and pulled her down to the sand.

"God, Alex, I'm so sorry. I had no idea he had followed me out here tonight." Then with a sudden realization she turned and faced Alex, "He must have been watching us all evening, or at the least lurking somewhere in the shadows waiting for us to come back to the house." Conner suddenly felt guilty. Alex had already been through enough the past year, and now she had somehow managed to drag her into the middle of this undeclared war between her and Bivins.

"It's not your fault, Conner. You can't take responsibility for someone else's actions. He doesn't seem to be a very stable man," Alex spoke to Conner in soft, soothing words. "If I were you, I think I would avoid him as much as possible, at least until he calms down a bit."

"Yes, I know what you mean. I think it's a good thing we have the weekend before I have to see him againŠat least I hope." Conner was frustrated, scared, and tired. Looking at her watch, she saw that it was one-thirty in the morning. "I need to go. I wanted you to have a good time tonight. I didn't mean to practically get you assaulted, and keep you up half the night." Conner looked at Alex guiltily.

Not knowing exactly how to express herself Alex looked at Conner, and took hold of her hand. "Conner, I really don't think it's such a good idea that you be out on the road tonight. I'm sure he is halfway back to the city by now, but you can't be too careful with people like him. I would really appreciate it if you would stay here tonight," Alex said softly.

"Alex, this has already been too much of a hassle for you. I'll just go call a taxi and get out of here so you can enjoy the rest of your weekend in peace."

Anger flashed through Alex's eyes, and her lips formed a very thin line on her face as she took a deep breath to calm herself before she spoke. "Conner Harris, you must think I am a cold bitch, if you think for a moment that I could go in and go to sleep, knowing you were out there on the road, not knowing where Bivins is at the moment.

Conner's eyes registered the shock at the declaration Alex had just made. She opened her mouth to speak but Alex cut her off before she could say a word. "As for enjoying my weekendŠwellŠI thought I might get lucky enough to get an invitation toŠummŠmeet the other terror in your life." Conner's face conveyed a total look of confusion.

"You mean you want to meet Seth's cat?" Conner asked in a bewildered voice.

"No, silly," Alex said now laughing at the confusion she saw on Conner's face. "I thought you might let me meet 'The Shady Lady'. After all she worked in concert with me to bang up that cute chin of yours." Alex reached out and gently stroked Conner's chin with her hand, not knowing if the trembling she felt beneath her finger was from her fright moment before, or her touch.

Conner smiled, and looked at Alex. Laughing quietly, she nodded her head in agreement.

"OK, then it's settled. You'll stay here tonight. In the morning, we can see about getting your tires fixed, then I'll follow you to your little island, and we can spend the day as far away from Bivins as we can get. Does that sound like a plan to you?"

"Sounds like a damn fine plan to me, Agent MontgomeryŠa damn fine plan."

Standing up, Alex reached down and offered her hand to Conner, lifting her off the sand. Stumbling from the uneven terrain, Conner found herself once again in Alex's arms. Hugging Alex warmly, Conner whispered a quiet "thank you" in Alex's ear. Pulling her face away, looking into Alex's eyes, she bent her head and gently placed a warm, tender kiss on Alex's temple.

Alex held the woman warmly, and was disappointed when Conner began to pull away, until she felt the gentle kiss Conner deposited on her temple. At that moment, Alex felt welcomed; warmth spread through her body. The two women held each other's eyes for a moment, and then they reluctantly released each other, turned, and walked slowly towards the house.

Walking up the steps of the deck, both women realized that they needed a shower to wash off the sand Bivins had sprayed in his heated departure. After showing Conner to the guest bedroom and bath, the women spent a few uncomfortable moments in silence before Alex said goodnight and left Conner alone.

Alex headed into the master bedroom. Closing the door, she let out a breath as the depth of the evening engulfed her. She had run through a gauntlet of emotions, from fear during the encounter with Bivins, to pure bliss at the moment Conner had place the tender kiss on her temple, to total confusion as to how she would respond to those feelings in the morning.

Alex showered, and slipped between the cool sheets of her bed. The chill she felt was in contrast to the warmth she felt when she slipped into Conner's arms. Laying there, thinking of the evening, Alex fell into a fitful sleep, filled with dreams of FeryleŠand the woman who now lay sleeping in the next room.

Conner took a cool shower. She needed the cool water to wash away the heat that had threatened to overtake her body. She quickly dried off and curled beneath the sheets, holding a pillow close to her body. She soon slept, and dreamed of what might have happened had Bivins not made his unwelcome appearance on the beach.


Chapter Eight

Conner woke with a start, looking around confused until she remembered the events of the night before. She lay back down against the soft pillows and listened for sounds that would indicate Alex was awake. A few moments later, the luring aroma of coffee crept into the bedroom, pleading with her to get out of bed. She quickly brushed her teeth, dressed, and headed in the direction of the tantalizing smell, knowing Alex would be waiting at the other end of the journey.

Quietly walking into the kitchen, she could see Alex sitting on the desk, coffee in hand, gazing out at the receding tide. Getting a cup of coffee for herself, she opened the sliding door, and stepped into the cool breeze one could only find near the ocean.

"Good morning, sleepy head."

The sound of Alex speaking startled Conner. She thought the roar of the ocean had drowned out her entrance. "Good morning back. Have you been up long?"

"About an hour. I just couldn't bring myself to wake you. You looked so tired last night, and I thought you needed to sleep." Alex looked at Conner as she sat down next to her. "Actually, you look like you could use a little more. Didn't you sleep well?"

"No, I slept fine," Conner lied.

A knowing looked crossed Alex's face and Conner realized she had been caught in a lie. "Well, I did wake up a few times, here and there, but overall I think I got enough rest."

"Well, I was thinking that after we both shower, you might want to get some breakfast, and then go see about your car. I would cook for us here, but I only returned to town on Tuesday, and I haven't shopped for groceries yet," Alex said sheepishly. "Any way, it gives me a great excuse to expose you to another fine dining establishment that I frequent." Alex had a sneaky gleam in her eyes, as she informed Conner of their tentative plans

"I have a feeling, maybe I should be frightened hereŠno?"

"If you think you were full last night after dinner, just wait until we finish breakfast. I know I, for one, will be feeling like a beached whale." With that, Alex puffed out her cheeks and made a face at Conner, trying to get her out of the quiet mood she was in.

Conner spilled her coffee, as she laughed so hard at Alex's sudden break from character. "And just where are you taking me this morning?"


"Sal's?" Conner raised an eyebrow, imagining a greasy spoon diner.

"Yes, Sal's, it''sŠwell indescribable, you'll just have to see for yourself. I'm famished just thinking about it, how about you? You hungry yet?"

At the question, Conner's stomach growled, which sent the women into another burst of laughter.

"Well, maybe we had better go get ready, before that thing comes to life," Alex said, rising from the chair. "I'll meet you back here in a few minutes," and turned and went inside.

Alex showered quickly, knowing Conner was hungry. She pulled on a pair of white shorts and a dark blue tank top. The top was very form fitting, accentuating Alex's firm breasts. She spent a little extra time with her hair and make-up. Looking in the mirror, as she smoothed in her blush, Alex wondered why she was being so meticulous about her looks this morning, and snarled at herself in the mirror. "OK, I like her alright. It doesn't mean anything is going to happen. I just want to look good today." She ran a hand through her hair and immediately swore, "Damn now look what you've done."

"Alex?" came a tentative voice from outside the bedroom door.

"Umm, Oh yeah, I'll be right out."

"Are you alright? I heard you talking, and wellŠahhŠ" Conner suddenly realized that Alex had been talking to herself, and smiled. Wonder what that was all about, she thought, heading down the hall to the living room. Maybe Alex wasn't the calm, cool, and collected woman she wants me to think she is. Maybe she's just as nervous and warm as I am. She was contemplating the question when Alex walked into the room.

"What are you smirking about in here?

Rising and walking to the table to get her wallet, Conner snickered. "Oh nothing, justŠstuff. Turning for the door Conner looked back over her shoulder. "You coming, or am I going to have to introduce myself to Sal?"

Shaking her head in frustration, Alex followed Conner to the jeep. Sal's it seemed was a local institution that Conner had somehow managed to miss in her years in Jax. The breakfast bar, as it was called to the regular patrons, was situated on a side street in Atlantic Beach, close to the Mayport Naval Station. It was a gathering place for many of the naval and civilian personnel of MNS and the Port Authority, as well as other early morning diners. Although it was close to ten by the time they arrived, Sal's was still packed with people eating huge plates of eggs, bacon, grits, toast, and other things Conner couldn't discern.

After a twenty-minute wait, they were finally seated near the window looking out over the St. John's River. They women ordered coffee first, wanting to take their time and look over the menu. Conner looked around and saw that some of the people eating breakfast had undoubtedly not been home yet, but were nourishing their bodies after a night out partying. The place seemed like an unusual place for Alex to frequent. Maybe this is Alex's way of letting me know she isn't the prim and proper woman she appears to be, Conner thought.

"There you go again. Am I going to have to push bamboo shoots under your nails to get you to tell me what you've been smirking about all morning, or are you going to fess up?" Alex asked in a raw husky voice that sent tantalizing shivers all through Conner's body

"WellŠright now I was thinking about how this place doesn't quite fit your personality." Looking around she could tell these people were definitely not in Alex's circle of friends.

"Well, I do have several personalities." Alex smiled, and sat back in her seat.

"OhŠOKŠwell just make sure the nice ones are out and about when I'm around."

"I'll try Conner, but sometimes I just can't control one of them. She is always trying to get into some kind of trouble." Alex gave Conner a sly smile and lifted her eyebrow in a teasing gesture."

Conner could feel the heat surge through her body, and knew Alex could see it as well. Taking a moment to regain her composure, she took a sip of her coffee. Determined not to let Alex get away with the tease, Conner leaned back in her seat, draped her arm out and over the back of the booth. "Well, then, Agent Montgomery, I wonder what would happen if both our alter egos surfaced at the same time? There might be a lot of trouble, lurking in the shadows, for us to find."

Giving Alex a dark, sultry look, Conner slowly licked her lips, and spoke the words in an equally raw voice.

Alex knew she had been called on her tease and decided to play it out a little further, just to see where Conner's interests lay. "Well, when my alter ego comes out, it's sometimes hard to get her to go away. She isn't allowed out very much and sometimesŠ"

"OhŠwell that's great." Conner broke in, "I've never been one who really enjoyed one night reviews." She hoped Alex couldn't see the half-truth in her eyes. Conner had certainly had her share of one-night stands the past couple of years, but she had never really enjoyed them. To her they were more of a purging in pent up anger and tension.

Their eyes locked and held as each woman tried to read the hidden message in the other's words. Alex knew she was playing with fire here, but couldn't stop. There was something about this woman that forced her to shed the protective shield around her. A fire stormed through Alex's body as Conner bit her bottom lip, and smiled a knowing smile.

"Alex, sweetheart, where the hell have you been?" Unlocking their eyes from one another, Alex beamed as she recognized the man waddling towards them.

"Sally, how ya doin'? Been on an extended vacation, if you get my drift." Alex rose and threw her arms around the large man.

Conner sat in a shocked silence, as Alex totally transformed into another being before her eyes. Where the hell did the Jersey accent come from? she asked herself. Trying to read the scene, she felt more than heard the two talking and looking at her.

"Sally, meet my new girl here, Connie."

Working undercover had taught Conner how to play a scene at a moment's notice, so she stuck her hand out to shake Sal's hand.

"Nice to meet ya, Sal." Although it wasn't as good a Jersey accent as Alex's, it passed. Glancing at the other woman, Conner could see a slight nod of appreciation, and admiration for playing the unexpected role.

Alex, and Sal talked about old times for a while and during the conversation Conner figured out that this was one of Alex's undercover hang outs. Conner was a little miffed that she hadn't at least warned her that she might have to role-play here.

Although, when she thought about it, she decided to give Alex the benefit of the doubt. There had been many times that Conner had found herself in situations where she had to go under at a moments notice, not affording her companions the luxury of a warning. Maybe this was one of those times for Alex. Either way, she intended to find out.

If Alex had meant for this meeting to take place, then she would damn well have to clue me in, and I expect to know what she is looking for in a place like this. It couldn't be a case, Conner thought; she just got back into town this week. Unless, she pursed her lips trying to figure all the angles, unless it had something to do with Feryle's murder.

"Now, that doesn't look like a happy thought. What are you thinking about so seriously?" Alex asked as she sat back down at the table.

"Maybe we had better talk about it after we leave. Don't want to make the natives nervous." Conner hinted to Alex that she knew this was a covert outing, and let it go at that.

Feeling relief at Conner's response, and guilt that she had unwittingly drug Conner into the scene, Alex picked up the menu and began studying the various choices. They placed their order and continued talking as if the conversation with Sal had never happened.

They ate quickly and efficiently in their haste to get moving, and on with their plans for the day. Full of nervous energy from all the caffeine they had swallowed, they headed towards the parking garage to tend to Conner's car. Conner had called the police garage before they left the house, and asked that they send someone over to replace the tires. Technically, they police department was responsible for the repair and maintenance since they owned the vehicle.

Since it was a Saturday, Conner hadn't really expected them to be there when she and Alex arrived, much less there and gone already.

The women drove up to the pleasant surprise, both happy that they had just gained a couple of more hours of playtime. Conner quickly drew directions to her condo, just in case they were separated during the drive to the island. Closing the jeep door, Conner turned back and looked at Alex, a very contented smile on her face.

"I'm really glad you thought of the idea to see the 'Shady Lady' Alex. I have a feeling we're going to have a fun day." Conner strolled over towards her car. Looking back over her shoulder, she yelled at Alex, "Wanna race?"

"I wouldn't stand a chance against that hot machine of yours. I think I'll pass and be a law abiding senior citizenŠjust for today."

Conner got in the car and leaned out the window. "Party pooper," she pouted, and stuck her tongue out at Alex and laughed. She started the car and they headed for what both women felt would be a day filled with fun and a lot of sexual tension.

Conner headed back towards the direction of Sal's. It took Alex a few minutes to realize that Conner intended to take the ferry over to the island. It was about a fifteen-minute wait before they could drive onto the ferry, and Conner walked back to the jeep, while they waited in line.

"Conner, this is great. As long as I have lived here, I've never taken the ferry." Alex's happiness was evident. The twin dimples on each side of her face popped in as she let out a glowing smile.

The two women leaned against the jeep and Conner told Alex about the history of the ferry. It ran less than a mile across the mouth of the St. John's River from Mayport to St. George Island. Until the state had built better roads, the ferry had been a major vessel of transportation to and from the island. Alex listened with interest at Conner's historical commentary, but soon the line began to move and forced the two women to part and head towards their separate cars. After they drove onto the ferry, they once again got out of their cars, and leaned against the railing, as the ferry made it's way across the St. John's River. It was only about a ten-minute voyage, but it had left Alex invigorated, and anxiously eager for their day trip to continue.

Returning to their cars, Conner led the way. They passed trough breathtaking scenery, as they traveled over both Big and Little Talbot Islands. Soon they were on the island and headed towards Conner's condo.

The island was one of the most naturally preserved islands Alex had ever seen. Although there had been a major influx of tourist and residents over the years, she could tell great care had been taken to preserve the natural landscape as much as possible. They turned onto Ocean Avenue, and Alex could see the beach a few hundred feet to her right as the waves fell gently on the shore in a lazy ebb tide.

Conner pulled into a wide drive and stopped in front of a large structure. Conner stopped momentarily as she pushed the button for the garage. The doors slide up exposing a wide double garage. Conner pulled in on the left side, and waved Alex into the right parking space. They got out of their cars, and Conner led the way into the condo.

Alex walked in and was struck by the beautiful space that Conner called home. Looking a little bewildered, Alex turned to Conner. "I thought you said you had a small condo on the island. Conner, this isŠabsolutely breathtaking."

Alex walked over to the floor to ceiling windows that spanned the entire room and looked out at a private walkway leading to the beach below. Turning around and facing Conner, Alex saw a hint of pride and embarrassment on Conner's face.

"Well it is small compared to some of the other places on the islandŠsort ofŠya know?" Conner replied sheepishly. She saw Alex eyeing the expensive artwork and furnishing in the condo, and decided she had better confess before Alex got the idea that she was on the take or something.

"OK, I'll confess the whole story, but you have to promise not to hold it against me, OK?

Alex's eyes narrowed, and she knew this was going to be interesting. Deciding to tease her a little more this morning, Alex smiled and smirked. "Well, I'm not sure I can promise that I won't hold anything against youŠI ummmŠkinda likedŠahhŠholding me against you last night."

Conner took a ragged breath and involuntarily took a step towards Alex. With dark, penetrating eyes, Conner growled, "You'll get yourself in a lot of trouble if you don't watch that teasing, Agent MontgomeryŠor is your alter ego trying to come out and play"?

Alex felt the rush of heat course through her body as Conner's eyes melted her soul. Deciding it was too early to start 'playing', Alex decided to redirect the conversation. "Well that depends if you're going to tell me the story about your mini-mansion, and then take me sailing."

"Oh, we're definitely going sailing, but I need a drink if you're going to make me spill my guts. What so you want, I have sodas, beer, wineŠ?"

"Beer is fine with me, if that's what you're having."

"Make yourself at home, I'll be right back," Conner said heading to the kitchen.

Alex looked around the room, and learned a surprising amount about Conner. She was an ardent collector of Ansel Adams photographs. She liked a variety of music. Her collection ranged from light country to bach to New Age. There were personal pictures sitting discreetly among the collections of valuable art works, indicating the things that Conner treasured were not only inanimate objects, but also the people around her. Alex was intently looking at a photograph hanging on the wall near the fireplace. The man looked vaguely familiar to Alex, but she couldn't place him. Maybe he just looks like someone I know, she was thinking.

"Ahh, I see you've met Pops."


"Yes. He is the reason for all of this." Conner looked around the room and spread her arms to indicate the house, as well as the contents.

Knowing she had to explain, Conner let go of a deep sigh. "Geez, I can see you're not going to let me get out of this, so have a seat, and I'll explain the whole outrageous story." Conner sat down and propped her feet up on what had to be a Chippendale coffee table worth several thousand dollars. She stole a look at Alex, noticing her surprise.

"Prop'm up there. I'm sure if we scratch this one, I have a few more just like it in the warehouse somewhere."

Alex's eyes widened, in disbelief. "Conner, are you mad? This furniture is worth a mint. I suppose 'Pops' has something to do with your disrespectful attitude for fine furniture." Although she was shocked, she couldn't hide her smile from Conner.

"Actually, yes and no. See, Pops was my paternal grandfather."

Alex listened intently, as Conner sat back and expounded on her grandfather's heritage.

"In the early 20th century, Amelia Island became the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry as innovators replaced rowboats and cast nets with power-driven seines and trawls. My grandfather was one of the pioneers of this new industry. He worked hard and began to buy land here on the island. Several years later, he along with a few other men, began developing the land that is now known as 'The Plantation'."

Conner pointed to an aerial photograph hanging on the wall close to her grandfather's photograph.

"Anyway, after that, he moved on to other projects, and finally, in the early '60s, moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was obsessed with developing new areas while preserving the natural environment. He was one of the old timers, like Frank Lloyd Wright, that built around the natural landscape."

Alex immediately remembered why the man looked so familiar. "George Washington Harris," Alex said to Conners amused surprised.

"Now, Alex you and I are almost the same age. How could you possibly know my grandfather? His peak was way before either of us even knew or cared about the environment, or good architecture."

"Well, if you remember, Feryle was an architect. She loved the challenge of designing around the landscape, as did your grandfather. I remember seeing his books in her office. She was an ardent fan of his work."

Conner beamed with pride that someone in this modern age would respect and refer to 'Pops's work. She immediately removed her feet from the table, in a subtle display of respect.

"Do you remember the houses close to mine at the beach?" Alex asked

"Yes, very well. I remember commenting on them. Although I didn't say anything at the time, they reminded me a lot of 'Pops's work."

"Well you should be pleased to know that Feryle had a hand in creating those homes. She was the architect for many of them, and used your grandfathers ideals and philosophy for her designs."

Conner was almost speechless. This woman, who had until now been just a figment of her imagination, was now brought to life with Alex's portrayal of her beliefs, and ideology.

"Wow." was the only word Conner could think of to say in response to Alex's comment.

"OK, finish your story, I didn't mean to interrupt."

"Hmm, well, OK. Anyway, 'Pops' spent the rest of his life in Hilton Head and Savannah, developing the area, and making obscene amounts of money. My father followed in his footsteps, and is a good developer like my grandfather. When 'Pops died twenty-something years ago, Dad decided to put all of his assets in a trust for me, and when I turned twenty-one, I got it all."

Conner looked a little embarrassed with the entire story, and Alex decided not to tease her any longer about it. It seemed almost a burden that Conner had to bear this heavy weight of her inheritance. She was obviously not a woman to flaunt her wealth, and Alex admired her even more as a police officer. Some women in Conner's position would sit on the sun deck all day, drinking coolers and spending money. Conner was definitely not a materialistic person, although she begrudgingly lived well.

"Well, you sure haven't let the wealth go to your head. Most people would, but I could already tell, before this story, that you're not like most people," Alex remarked.

"Thank you. OK, you've heard the whole gruesome story, can we go sailing now?" Conner asked sheepishly, getting up from her chair, ready to move on to other more important things.

"Yes, dear. Let's go see if you can do an encore chin slide."


Chapter Nine

On the short drive over to the 'Amelia Yacht Basin, Conner told Alex a little about the 'Shady Lady'. This was one asset Conner possessed that she had paid for with her own hard-earned money. The boat had been seized during an arrest on the open sea. The Coast Guard had boarded the boat, owned by a south Florida couple, and found twenty-five kilos of marijuana.

Conner had always loved sailing. After the case was tried, the Coast Guard auctioned off the boat. She had heard about the auction while in the office at the yacht basin, and immediately registered as a bidder. It had been a tough auction, with many interested parties, but in the end, she had won out And now the 'Shady Lady' was hers.

As they got out of the car, Conner began to tell Alex a little about the 'Shady Lady'. She's a Morgan 41 Classic, has a center cockpit, with wraparound seating. Below there are two cabins, two heads, a salon, a U-shaped galley, and a captain's workstation. She has a 13'10" beam, and a 4'6" draft. She is powered by a 27 hp Yanmar diesel engineŠ what?

Alex could not contain her laugh. Conner's excitement over her boat shined through during her commentary, and reminded Alex of a little kid.

"OK, I guess I do get a little carried away talking about her. Although I haven't paid much attention to her lately, she is my pride and joyŠmuch like a child, I guess."

As they stopped before the 'Shady Lady', Alex thought of how majestic, she looked. She had a gleaming white hull, with sparkling cleats and stanchions. The companionway and grab rails were made of very fine honey-colored teakwood. There was a dark blue stripe circling the craft at the deck line, and a biminie of the same deep color. On the transom were the words 'Shady Lady' written in a bold script.

Climbing aboard the boat, Conner continued her narrative. "She was named the 'Shady Lady' when I bought her. It's supposed to be bad luck to rename a boat once she's berthed, so I decided to leave it as it was. I sort of think it's appropriate--I do live and work in the shadows."

Conner climbed below and turned to help Alex down the ladder. She gently placed her hands on Alex's waist in case she needed some support. At least that's how Conner defended her actions to herself.

"Be careful, it's a little dark down here until I get the hatches open."

Alex descended the ladder then turned to take in her surroundings. The salon was paneled and floored in the same honey-colored teak wood as was on the upper deck. The hatches were covered with floral curtains, and there were matching pillows and cushions on the benches and chairs.

"Conner, this is beautiful. Did you decorate it yourself?"

"Yeah, you should have seen how bad she looked when I got her. The previous owners used her for nothing more than a transport boat for their drugs. The outside was sparkling, so that she wouldn't draw any unwanted attention. However, the area down below was in shambles. It took Sam and me almost a year to get her presentable."

This was the first time Conner had referred to her and Sam's relationship. Alex was curious about their past, but decided to let Conner set the pace on any disclosures.

They stowed their supplies away and went back up top so they could get underway. Conner expertly maneuvered the boat out of the slip and they were soon motoring down the channel to the intercoastal waterway. Alex sat back, watched, and listened as Conner provided a guided tour of the area, and the structures that they passed. They went by the City Marina, which was in the historic section of the town. Conner told her of the annual shrimp festival and the parade of boats.

"Šon the Sunday morning of the festival, all of the local shrimp boats are decorated like floats in a parade. They line up and slowly pass the end of the pier, where a local priest sprinkles holy water on the deck and blesses the boat and its crew. It is a symbolic gesture for a fruitful and safe shrimp season, which has turned into a tradition. I'll have to bring you back out in next March for it, I think you 'd really like it Alex."

"I think I would, too, Conner, we'll have to plan on it then."

"You bet," Conner said smiling.

Alex and Conner sat in comfortable silence as they watched the inhabited landscape fall away, and the unspoiled and lovely landscape of nature took its place along the Amelia River. Alex asked a few questions about the area as they made there way through St. Mary's Channel, finally reaching their destination off the shores of Cumberland Island. Conner cut the motor engine and dropped anchor. "This is the place I want to come to when I die." Conner spoke quietly, looking off towards the shoreline.

Alex was a little taken aback by the declaration from the other woman. "What do you mean, Conner?"

"I mean this place is so peaceful and serene, I can't think of any other place on earth where I would want to be for eternity, so it's written in my will that I want to be cremated, and my ashes spread here, where we sit."

Seeing the look in Alex's eyes, Conner regretted bringing up the topic of death. "Oooo, OK, on to lighter subjectsŠwant a beer to go with all this sunshine?"

"Yeah, a beer sounds great, but let me get them. You've been doing all the work this morning, it's time I earned my keep here."

Alex went below to get their drinks, and Conner about the woman here with her today. It had been a long time since she had had any interest in another woman for more than just a night. Alex was special and Conner wanted to get closer to her, but she just wasn't sure how close was safe for her or Alex.

Conner knew the case she was working on involved the man suspected of killing Feryle. She also knew she needed to tell Alex, but was afraid the news would push her away from involving herself in Conner's personal life. Alex had already lost Feryle to this killer, and Conner knew Alex wouldn't risk getting close to someone else that would soon be in his sights.

Alex climbed back on deck, and noticed the contemplative look on Conner's face. She knew the woman was lost in her thoughts, but thoughts about what, Alex didn't know.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Alex asked.

"Oh, deep ones I'm afraid. You know the ones contemplating life. Can't let those go cheap, I'm charging a quarter for those," Conner teased, and let Alex decide if she wanted to pursue the question further.

"Mmm, well I just happen to have a few quarters, and a good earŠahhŠthat is, if you want to talk," Alex said, handing Conner her beer and sitting down closely beside her.

Alex had been thinking a lot about Conner the past few days. Somehow, this woman had gotten through the shields she had barricaded herself behind, and made her want to explore the possibility of living again. Although the pain of losing Feryle was still raw, somehow this woman beside her lessened the ache in her heart. Alex wanted to know more. She wanted to explore the possibilities, but somehow she wasn't sure how to begin.

Conner looked back out towards the shore, and spoke in a quiet voice. "Well, I've sort of got a problem. See I've met someone recently that I think I really like and want to get to know, but I'm not sure if she wants the same thing." Conner ran a hand through her hair, and then took a long pull from her beer.

"The thing is, I'm afraid if I let her know and she isn't interested, then she'll just disappear."

Alex's heart fell a little at the thought of Conner having feelings for another woman. She knew she had no rights to feel this way, but nevertheless it still pained Alex to know she may never have the opportunity to explore her feeling for Conner further.

"That's kind of a tough place to be. Does this person have any idea how you feel?"

Conner rolled her eyes, and blew out a long breath. "Not likely, it's not like I have much experience in putting words to my feelings. I guess it's the thought of being rejected as well. I sometimes think the pain of rejection would be harder to take than the pain of not knowing. You know what I mean?"

"Well, what is this woman like?" Alex asked, wanting to learn more about the woman that was about to take her chances with Conner away.

"Well, she's probably the most beautiful woman I have ever met." Conner's eyes lit up as she described the woman. "She's about my age, a little taller than me, and a great body. It takes all I can do when I'm around her to keep from reaching out and touching her. She has dark hair, deep blue eyes, and a mouth you just want to consume." Conner's eyes had turned dark as she spoke of the woman. Her feelings for this woman were apparent in her husky voice. "Šand the cutest dimples I've ever seen pop out when she smiles." Conner smiled with the last statement, feeling she needed to lighten the conversation.

Alex felt her heart skip a beat. Could it be true that Conner is talking about me? Alex thought. The description is pretty accurateŠwell all except the great body part. Suddenly she felt like she had to know.

"Sounds like an interesting woman. Where did you meet her?"

"Umm, sort of through work." Conner realized she had offered a much too detailed description to Alex, and was sure she was about to be busted.

"Well, I can only advise you to be patient, and maybe things will work themselves out the way you hope."

"Yeah, I know, I'm just afraid I'll lose my chance if I wait too long. I mean, she's a gorgeous woman, and I don't think she will be available long, if I know the women in this city." Conner felt her frustration rising, running her hand once again through her hair. She finished off her beer and stood to get them fresh ones from below.

When Conner left Alex, she took a deep, exasperated breath. She could only wonder if the woman Conner was referring to had been her. She hoped it was, in a way; then again, she was also afraid of the possibility. She felt guilty for having these feelings so soon after Feryle's death. Although it had been almost a year, she still felt like she was betraying what they had had together.

Conner had been gone for a while. Alex was wondering what the woman was doing down below. "You OK down there?'

"Yes, I decided to make us some sandwiches. I thought we could dinghy over to the island and have a picnic on the beach." Conner stuck her head through the companionway. "Umm, if that's OK with you, or we could just stay here and sun on the boat."

"No, that sounds like fun. Need some help down there"?

Although Conner wanted Alex close, she also knew the galley was small and would require a nearness to the woman, she didn't think she could handle at the moment. She had decided to make the sandwiches as an excuse to give her more time to settle her nerves and heartbeat.

"No, I'm almost done. Why don't you change into your suit while I'm finishing up?"

"OK, if you're sure you don't need any help," Alex said as she climbed down the ladder.

"I put your things in the forward cabin," Conner said pointing the way for Alex.

When Alex walked into the cabin, she was struck with the attention that had obviously been paid to the décor. It was a very intimate and sensual arrangement. The colors were dark greens and burgundies. Bookshelves had been built into the walls. Several pillows were thrown on the bed, inviting long sensual evenings of reading and cuddling when it was too cool to be topside. The overhead hatch provided an unobstructed view of the sky above. Alex felt a warm heat pulse through her as she envisioned herself there with Conner. Shaking her head to clear the thoughts, Alex changed into her swimsuit and headed back towards the galley.

Conner looked up, and her eyes immediately went dark as Alex appeared from the passageway. The boiling heat Conner felt raging through her body threatened to overcome any patience she had promised herself to adopt with Alex. She knew that Alex could see the need in her eyes, and for once, she didn't care.

When Alex's eyes met Conner's, the naked truth was exposed once and for all. The look on her face told Alex that she indeed was the woman in Conner's thoughts a few minutes ago. The look of ragged need was so apparent on the other woman's face it gave courage to Alex as she stepped closer and closer. Alex could see Conner's barely controllable breathing, and as she moved even closer, she could see the pulse throbbing in her neck.

When Alex came within her grasp, Conner put the knife she had been using on the counter and reached for her. Alex walked gently into the other woman's arms and both gasped as their bodies responded to the sudden contact. They could feel the heat from each other's bodies. They held each other for a long moment, not knowing exactly what should happen next. Conner was trembling, as Alex finally pulled away and looked into her eyes.

"How did you know?" Conner asked, knowing Alex had discerned that she was the woman in Conner's earlier description.

"I wasn't sure until just now. I can tell you, however, that I was getting very jealous up there, hearing you talk about another woman. I'm surprised you couldn't tell from my reactions. I didn't think I was hiding them too well.

Conner smiled and pulled the other woman closer, their lips only inches apart. "Well, you don't have to hide them any longer, Agent Montgomery," She pulled the other woman down and gently brushed her lips across Alex's.

The heat from the brief contact surged through Alex's body. As Conner slowly pulled back from the embrace, she tightened her embrace urging the other woman closer, letting Conner know with unspoken words that the brief kiss was not enough to sate the desire surging through her body at the moment.

Alex took Conner's face in her hands and lowered her head to taste her once again. Her thumbs gently massaged Conner's cheeks as their lips tenderly explored each other. Conner fell into the embrace and wrapped her arms even tighter around Alex's waist.

As the moments passed, the women felt the heat surge lower in their bodies, and when Alex gently parted Conner's lips with her tongue, both women let out a yearning moan. Conner hands moved slowly up and down Alex's naked back and circled around to stroke her stomach. Alex gasped as the nerve endings in her abdomen responded to the touch, and pulled away to look into the dark sensual eyes of the other woman.

"God, Alex, I want you so bad right now, but I know you're not ready for any kind ofŠ"

Alex placed her index finger over Conner's swollen lips. After she had quieted the words, she leaned down and gently kissed the inviting lips again.

"ConnerŠGod, you taste so sweet. It's not that I don't want youŠI do." Smiling and almost shyly looking down into Conner's eyes, she continued: "I have felt the same way almost since I met you in the precinct. I don't know what it is about you, but I do know I want to explore whatever it is we are feeling for each other."

Alex pulled back a bit, but didn't break the embrace. "I think we need to take things slow and see where they go from here. I know I have several unresolved issues in my life right now, and I don't want those to come back to haunt us later."

Conner listened as Alex spoke, knowing that what she said made sense, even though her body argued the contrary. Letting out a teasing growl, Conner smiled. "Yeah, I know you're right. However, if I'm going to stand a chance of not imploding right here, I think we need to head out for our picnicŠlikeŠnow."

Alex snickered, and pulled the woman close for one more kiss, then reluctantly backed away, breaking the sweet and torturous contact.

"OK, why don't you go change and I will take this feast you've prepared for us up to the dinghy."

"Deal," Conner replied, leaning in to steal one more kiss from Alex before sliding past her and disappearing into the cabin.


Continued in Part 3.

Back To Main Page