If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother as that’s the job of my publisher’s editor.
Remmy cursed slightly under her breath, catching the cans of canned chili before the entire case fell across the floor. Once she knew she had it stabilized, she hurried after the cans that had rolled away, only stopping whey they hit the dairy cooler. Quickly collecting the runaway cans, she hurried back to her display.
“You are the oddest person I’ve ever known,” Roman said, standing back, watching the slow creation of this week’s display.
Remmy glanced up, surprised at the voice. She smiled. “Hey, man, how are you?”
“Doing okay. Just laughing my ass off here as you chase cans of chili.” He grinned, eyes twinkling.
“Laugh it up, asshole.” This, of course, only made Roman laugh harder. Remmy grinned, setting the cans down and walking over to her friend, giving him a heartfelt hug. She knew Roman wasn’t sure what to make of her and their adventures last fall. Though a good guy and good friend, he had somewhat kept his distance since she’d returned. Remmy took no offense, learning over the years how to let relationships roll off her back. “Need to pay for something?” she asked.
“Yeah. Got gas on pump 3.” Roman followed her to the bullpen, the half-door squeaking as it swung shut after Remmy’s passing. She typed in her employee code and then rung up the gas.
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Nope. On my way to work. Get all the crap to eat or drink that I need there.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Save me a lemon muffin, will ya? I’ll pick it up after work and take it home to Julie.”
Roman stopped, flipping his wallet open. He glanced up at her, a question in his eyes. “You guys shacking up?” he asked, voice quiet but filled with surprise.
Remmy silently cursed, taking the money he offered. “Not like that, Roman. I just got tired of living with my boss, so she offered me a room.” Remembering the wonderful kiss from three days ago, she couldn’t look him in the eye, instead pretending to be concentrating on getting him a receipt.
Roman watched her carefully, remembering her words to him early on in their friendship. He knew Remmy was gay, but Julie Wilson?! “How long have you been there?” He took his change, tucking the bills into his wallet and pocketing the change.
Remmy shrugged. No big deal. “Couple weeks.”
Roman nodded, taking the receipt Remmy offered. “Well, I’ll see you around.” With a final smile, the redhead left the store, trotting over to his car. The sight of it still gave Remmy the chills.
“Did you know people are idiots?” Joan called out, the back door to the store slamming as the manager made her way down the back hall, tossing her purse and keys into her office, then proceeding into the store.
“Yes, I’ve been aware of that for a very long time,” Remmy drawled, leaning back against the counter, arms crossed over her chest. “What happened that finally gave you this realization?”
“Smart ass,” Joan growled, leaning her arms on the counter. “The damn drivers in this town, I swear to god. Idiots, every single one of them.”
Remmy grinned, amused at her boss’ short tempter and lack of patience for just about anything. “That’s typically what happens when you share the road with mere mortals, Joan, unlike your godly self.”
Joan stared at her for a moment then broke into laughter. “Smart ass,” she said again, reaching out to playful swipe at her employee. She sobered, studying Remmy. “You’re in a good mood today.”
“I’m always in a good mood, Joan. It’s part of my charm. I make every room I bless with my presence glow with the golden hue of my tarnished halo.”
Joan cracked up. “You are so full of shit today! Did you get laid or something?” Joan was shocked to see the powerful blush that lit up Remmy’s cheeks at her innocent words. Eyes growing huge, she leaned against the counter again. “Julie?” she whispered.
Remmy blanched at the pure joy in Joan’s eyes. Pure joy and pure gossip-lined shock. “No, Joan. I did not get laid, and it certainly wouldn’t have been Julie if I did.”
Joan relaxed, eyeing Remmy for a moment as she chewed on the inside of her cheek. “But something did happen,” she guessed, seeing a twinkle in Remmy’s eyes that she’d never seen before.
Remmy met her gaze dead on. She was a good liar. “No, Joan. Nothing did. I’m just happy. Isn’t that enough?” She was irritated, not wanting to share something as beautiful as what had happened a few nights ago with Joan. She knew the older woman wouldn’t understand it, and would only see it for the base kissing that it would seem outwardly.
Joan could tell that her questions were not welcome, so raised her hands in supplication. “I apologize, Remmy. Truly. I’ll leave it alone.”
“How’s business?” Joan asked, reaching across to check the gas log that they kept next to the register. It was nearly half full already. “Busy morning?”
“Fairly. But, I’ve had time to figure out what to do with all that chili.” Remmy grinned, eyes mischievous. “Been working on it for awhile.”
Joan rolled her eyes. “Oh lord save us.” Setting the log back in place, she turned and headed back to her office, leaving an amused Remmy behind.
Julie hummed as she worked in the kitchen, every bit looking like the little housewife. She’d done laundry, cleaned house, and would go do yard work as soon as she finished making herself lunch.
It was heating up outside, so she pulled her hair back off her neck, twisting it into a loose bun. She had put on a baby doll tank that morning for the first time since everything had happened. It wasn’t in poor taste, but it certainly showed more skin than her usual t-shirts did. For some reason she’d felt the need to try.
Sergio had made her fear and ashamed of her own nakedness, and that was something she resented greatly. She had managed to get her bathing habits down to one or two showers a day, but still felt painfully shy about revealing anything more than what long shorts and a t-shirt showed.
As she stood there in the kitchen, she felt herself glancing from time to time at her neckline, making sure the tank was dipping too low. “How the hell did I become puritanical?” she muttered, finishing the creation of here sandwich.
She sat down at the table, glancing out the window to make sure the sprinklers she’d set near the flowers were in fact watering them, and not half the neighborhood. Satisfied, she focused on her meal, thoughts wandering from flowers and water bills. It had been three days since she had kissed Remmy. Three days, two nights. The day after the kiss, there had been a new closeness between them, a bond that was even stronger than moments before the kiss in the very room where she sat, eating her sandwich.
Julie glanced at the counter where she’d been standing as Remmy had held her, their lips softly exploring. The kiss wasn’t one of passion, but it hadn’t been exactly chaste, either. She could still feel the softness of Remmy’s mouth, the softness of her touch. It had been wonderful, and beyond anything Julie had experienced before.
Even still, over the past couple days, she had kept her physical distance from Remmy, not sure what was appropriate anymore. The lines seemed to be shifting and disappearing in the sand, leaving Julie very confused. She had seen Remmy look at her when the brunette thought she was unobserved. Her eyes spoke volumes for what Julie figured Remmy would never say. The blue depths burned with love and caring, and a deep desire that admittedly scared Julie.
The one thing that probably surprised Julie the most in the strange situation was that even though she’d only known Remmy for a few scant months, she felt as though she’d known her her whole life. Even more surprising, and definitely frightening was the realization that Julie had no idea how she’d lived the first 28 years of her life without here.
“That’s crazy,” she muttered, finishing her lunch and sliding the dishes into the dishwasher.
Remmy nearly flew up the stairs to the front porch, hot from her walk home, but damn glad to finally be home. It had been a long day, and her back hurt from being on her feet all day. Why couldn’t she have Joan’s job- sitting back in the office all day. No standing, no pain in the ass customers. “Guess that’s why she gets the big bucks,” she muttered, pulling the screen door open and using her keys to unlock the front door.
The house was quiet and smelled of Pine Sol and air deodorizer. Remmy had never known someone who was as clean as Julie was. It amazed her: when Skylar was over for the weekend, or even just the night, the house was trashed with his toys, food wrappers, video games and controllers. Julie didn’t blink an eye, though she did make the boy clean up after himself. Within an hour of his leaving, the house was in perfect condition again.
“Honey, I’m home!” Remmy called out, jogging up the stairs to her room to change clothes. She had tried to talk Joan into letting them wear shorts at the store more than once, but the older woman refused.
“How was your day, dear?” Julie said from Remmy’s open doorway, a stack of folded laundry in her hands and a lopsided grin on her face.
“Oh, it was just peachy,” Remmy joked back. “How were the Beav and Wally today?”
Julie broke into laughter, handing Remmy her laundry, accepting the thanks and quick peck on the lips in greeting. Neither reacted, as it just seemed a natural thing to do.
“Well, I’ll have a martini waiting for you downstairs, darling,” Julie said with a wave, continuing their play as she left the bedroom, leaving a very amused Remmy in her wake.
Remmy quickly put her clothing awake, shocked Julie had washed hers, too. Changing into mesh shorts and a tank top, she padded her way downstairs, tennis shoes and socks in hand. She wasn’t surprised to find Julie out back, Bonnie and Clyde involved in a very heated tug-of-war game with the new rope Remmy had bought them a month ago. Remmy sat on one of the patio chairs, slipping her socks and shoes on, her eyes on Julie.
She had been shocked to see Julie in a shorter pair of shorts than she’d ever seen her, and a top that exposed her smooth, tanned shoulders and arms, the soft play of muscle underneath as she prepared the grill for their dinner. Something was different. Dark brows drew as Remmy tried to figure out exactly what it was. She returned the smile Julie gave her, then the blonde returned to what she was doing. Remmy watched the smooth, graceful movements, the controlled awareness Julie had over her body. It was a new sort of confidence of movement she had. She seemed to stand a bit straighter, stretching her arm that much further to reach what she wanted.
“Why are you watching me?” Julie asked, her back still to Remmy, who was glad, as her eyes darted out to the yard, embarrassed to be caught.
She cleared her throat, ignoring the question, which she wasn’t sure wasn’t rhetorical, anyway. “Can I help you?” She pushed up from the chair and walked over to Julie.
“Yeah, you can. In the fridge, second shelf, is a plate with the hamburger patties already made. Grab ‘em and bring out here, please.”
Julie watched as Remmy disappeared into the house. She had felt the intense blue eyes on her, wondering what had been going through Remmy’s mind during her inspection. Considering the younger woman hadn’t responded to her question, she doubted she’d find out.
Within moments, Remmy returned, the cold plate in her hands. She set it on the small, wooden surface connected to the barbequer. She stood back, leaning against the outside wall of the house. She decided to voice something that had been bothering her. “I want to talk to you about something, Julie.”
“Okay,” the blonde said absently, adding the patties to the fired up grill. She closed the lid and gave Remmy her attention.
“I tried talking to you about this before, but you blew me off. So, I’m trying again, and this time, I really want you to listen.”
“Alright.” Julie felt somewhat nervous as she walked over to one of the patio chairs and sitting. Remmy did the same. “What’s up?”
“Rent. No, don’t turn away from me,” Remmy placed her hand over Julie’s, stopping her from getting up. “Julie, I am not going to let you let me live here without helping out financially. I don’t care whether it’s a price for the space, or if I pay for all the food, all the utilities, whatever.”
“Remmy,” Julie said, entwining their fingers. “I can afford this house just fine on my own. And now, I’ll be back with the school district here in a couple months-“
“It’s not about money, Julie,” Remmy said softly. “It’s about my not pulling my own weight. I’ve always been self-sufficient, so I’m not doing too well with this sugar mamma thing.” She smiled when Julie burst into laughter, but the smile quickly slid from Remmy’s face. “I’m serious.”
“How about this- you need a car. I hate the fact that you have to walk all over this damn town, and I’ve told you more than once that you’re welcome to use my car until I go back to work.”
“I am not leaving you stranded.”
“As noble as that may be, it still stands, I’ve offered. Take this time, Rem, save up and get yourself a car. I’m really okay with that. I mean,” she shrugged a shoulder, “you help out around the house a lot, and,” she thought back to Remmy’s own words to Joan. “You could just be the handyman.”
Remmy studied Julie’s face, seeing the slight hurt in her eyes. “You hear that?”
Julie nodded. “I did, and that doesn’t matter.”
Remmy frantically tried to think back to that conversation, trying to remember what else Julie may have overheard. She was brought out of her thoughts with a squeeze to her hand.
“I understand your pride, and honestly, I’m the same way. So, let’s find a compromise. How’s that?”
“You’ll let me pay half the mortgage, half the food and half the utilities?” Remmy said with a big, goofy grin, making Julie chuckle.
“Uhhh, no. I’m serious about the car. We’re in the middle summer right now, but I think you saw last year how ugly the winters can be. I cannot stand the thought of you tromping through the friggn’ snow.”
“Alright. Fair enough. So, what’s your compromise?”
“You save your money for a car, or for pretty things for me.” Julie’s grin was huge, eyes twinkling and mischievous. “Okay, so I’m kidding. How about I take care of mortgage and utilities, and of course my own car, and you take care of food. Okay? Except,” she held up a finger. “I’ll take care of my dogs, of course.”
Remmy sighed, seeing the wisdom in Julie’s words, as she knew she needed a car. She hadn’t bothered over the years because she’d never been anywhere long enough to bother, and it was a hell of a lot cheaper to hitch or ride the rails when she traveled than worry about gas. Finally she met Julie’s eyes. “Once I get a car, then we re-negotiate. That’s the only way this is going to fly.”
Julie smiled. “Deal.” She removed her hand from Remmy’s, holding it out for a shake, which was taken in the slightly larger hand, Remmy’s grip firm. “Good. You can start by turning over the patties.” She leaned on her clasped hands, smiling sweetly.
“This is really good, Grace,” Julie said, savoring the dinner the detective had prepared for them.
“I know,” Remmy agreed, “Who knew you could do more than bug the shit out of me.”
Chris and Julie laughed, Grace throwing a roll at Remmy’s grinning face, which she caught easily.
“Well, I figured it was about time we met under more civilized conditions rather than a crime scene,” the older woman chuckled, enjoying Julie and Remmy’s company immensely. She also found watching them one of the most amusing and entertaining things she’s seen in awhile. From the raised eyebrows she’d received from her husband, Grace could tell she wasn’t the only one who saw the heat between the two. She glanced back to Remmy, meeting her gaze with a question in her eyes. Blue eyes looked away.
Julie tossed her keys to the kitchen table, tired, but content, after a fun evening with Grace and Chris. She’d been surprised when she’d been invited to the dinner alongside Remmy.
The brunette pushed the button just inside the house garage door, sending the big door closed with a mechanical whir. She closed and locked the inside door, walking into the kitchen to join Julie, who was getting the pitcher of iced tea from the fridge.
“What were you and Grace talking about all hush hush?” she asked, pouring two glasses of tea, handing one to Remmy.
The brunette took hers with a quiet thanks. Grace had taken her aside to tell her what had happened with the Bailey case, but Remmy felt like playing. “Aren’t you little miss nosey?”
Julie could tell by Remmy’s tone that she was also in a playful mood. “I see. It must have been pretty serious business if you won’t tell me.”
Remmy mirrored Julie’s position, leaning against the counter, arms crossed over her chest. “Maybe we were planning your demise.”
“Oh yeah?” Julie raised a brow. “Is it gonna hurt?”
Remmy grinned, nice and evil. She stalked over to Julie, who moved around, the butcher block island between them. “Why do you think I would make it hurt?” Remmy purred, eyes never leaving the woman who now, too had made her way to the island, four feet of cooking space separating them, both hunched, ready to bolt or give chase at any moment.
“Well, I don’t know,” Julie said, eyes twinkling. “Maybe because the look in your eyes is pure evil.”
Remmy’s grin widened. “Evil, huh?”
“Oh, yeah.” Julie moved, never taking her eyes off Remmy, slowly trying to move her way around until she could bolt into the living room. Her glance toward freedom gave her plan away.
“What, you don’t like my company here in the kitchen?” Remmy grins, slowly prowling around the island, carefully gauging Julie’s reactions. The blonde’s eyes hadn’t yet lost their spark, her body tensed with their game.
“Well, I don’t know,” Julie said, voice entirely too sweet. She saw her chance and bolted, squealing as she heard Remmy give chase. Julie pounded up the stairs, ignoring Bonnie and Clyde who barked wildly at the two playful women.
Remmy was grinning wildly as she was hot on Julie’s trail, reaching for her, only to have Julie squeal again and manage to elude her grasp. They ran down the upstairs hall, toward the master bedroom, where Julie disappeared inside, trying to close the door on Remmy, but the brunette’s larger size burst it back open, plowing into the blonde, both of them stumbling backwards onto Julie’s bed.
Julie tried to wrestle her way away from Remmy, who held her lightly, both of them knowing that she could get away in a second if she wanted to. She realized she didn’t want to.
Remmy held herself up on her hands, which lightly held Julie’s wrists on either side of her head, her chest heaving with her breaths of exertion. Julie’s breathing was also heavy, her gaze unable to leave Remmy’s. Slowly, she pulled her hands free, almost in a dream, bringing them to rest on the brunette’s waist. She felt her heart pounding, mouth gone dry, so she ran a quick tongue over her lips, Remmy’s gaze drawn to the movement.
Slowly Remmy lowered her upper body until she was resting on her forearms, her breasts just barely grazing Julie’s. The casual grip on her waist tightened, seeming to urge her down even more. She could feel the heat of Julie’s skin through the thin layers of their shirts, stomachs pressed together.
Julie could feel the heat from the body above her, nearly burning her own. Her gaze strayed to Remmy’s lips, wanting badly to bring the dark head to her own, but didn’t now how.
The decision was made for her when the doorbell rang downstairs, shattering the spell that Julie and Remmy were under. Remmy pushed off from the bed, running trebling hands through her hair as she left the room, heading down the stairs, giving Julie a chance to get herself together. Downstairs, at the front door, she heard Matt’s voice.
“How are you?” Matt asked, doing his best to be friendly to Remmy.
“I’m great. Come on in.” Remmy held the door open, watching as Julie’s brother and Skylar entered the house. Moments later Julie hurried down the stairs, her hair put into a ponytail, eyes calm and welcoming.
“Hey, guys,” she said, walking over and giving her nephew a big hug, but didn’t hug her brother.
Matt was hurt by the snub, but understood. He knew they needed to talk. “Hey, Julies. Sorry to drop in on you like this, but I was wondering if you’d mind if Skylar stayed the night? Me and the guys are going out to play pool, and Mrs. Huxby next door couldn’t watch him.”
“of course I don’t mind.” She grinned down at the boy, inside both relieved beyond measure and irritated at Matt just dropping by, putting her on instant babysitting duty. He grinned back up at her before brushing past her and heading for the TV to hook up his video game system. Remmy headed into the kitchen, leaving the siblings alone. Julie had not told her of their fight.
“Thanks for doing this,” Matt said, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
“No problem. I love Skylar, you know that.”
Matt nodded, then looked down at his shuffling feet. He glanced toward the kitchen, making sure Remmy wasn’t within hearing distance. “Listen, I’m really sorry about the other week. That was wrong of me.”
“Yeah, Matt, it was. In fact, it was downright asshole of you,” Julie said, her voice kept low, but filled with anger. “Personally, I think you owe Remmy an apology.”
Matt’s brows drew. “What? Why? I didn’t do anything or say anything to her, Julie. I don’t owe her shit.”
“Fine. Then you owe me the right to live my life as I see fit. How’s that?”
Matt sighed, nodding. “Fine. I still,” Matt cut himself off, hands shoved into the back pockets of his jeans. “Just be sure, Jules, okay?”
Julie held his gaze, hers unwavering, which was one of the hardest things she had to do. She felt Matt’s warning was a blanket one, not knowing just how close to the truth he’d been, not ten minutes before. “have fun playing pool,” she said, voice soft. “Don’t drive if you’re drinking.”
Matt nodded with a tight smile. “Okay.” He gave her a quick one-armed hug, then left.
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