For Disclaimers see Part 1.

If you’d like to tell us what wonderful writers we are, or that we royally suck, feel free at: or



Kim Pritekel and Alexa Hoffman

Part 12

As we danced, I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would tonight affect the friendship that we had built over months? I knew that some interesting borders had been crossed here tonight, and wasn't sure what to think of it. I didn't want to think about it.

We had tonight, and after that, we'd deal with it.

A smile spread across my face, the bedding beneath my body making my over-sensitized skin hum along with the insects outside my open windows.

I rolled over onto my back, my body thrumming, overheated and just plain hot.

I thought about moments mere hours ago, back at Spunkies.

As the Ozzie, Lita song had played, I had felt Cody's body against mine, the warmth and surprising solidness of her, like a wall, yet soft in its own way. I had never touched a woman other than Rand in any way, me not being a particularly touchy-feely kind of gal, so this, oh . . . this was wonderful.

Hands, larger than mine, but still very feminine, ran up and down my back, blazing a trail of heat behind, dipping dangerously close to my butt, but then slowly making its way back up, caressing the back of my neck, freshly bared from the long, thick hair pre-haircut.

"Do you have any idea how good you look tonight?" she whispered in my ear, her lips brushing the short hairs, making me shiver.

"Tell me." I nuzzled my face against the side of her neck, tightening my arms around her neck, my body slowly moving with hers.

"I think Keith is a fool," she said. "If he saw you tonight, Ben wouldn't have a chance." That was followed by the sound of her smelling my hair and my skin.

"You, Cody Thomlin, are a charmer." I heard her low chuckle.

"You have no idea."

Not long after, we had decided to call it a night. My ankle was giving me grief, and we were both tired.

The drive back to my house was as silent as the drive to Spunkies, but now the air was charged with a different kind of energy. On the way there it had been nerves, and the unknown for me.

Now, oh no, it wasn't nervous energy. It was, it was something else entirely. I didn't dare breath its name, but I felt it running throughout my body, charging me, almost energizing me, jumpstarting something in me that had either been laying dormant inside, or may have not been there at all before.

"Want something to drink?" I asked, making my slow way to the kitchen, needing to put some ice on my ankle.

"Yeah. I'm so thirsty," was said behind me. I pushed through the kitchen door, holding it open for my friend, and headed over to the freezer, reaching in to grab some ice. "Let me." There was a warm hand on my arm, cooled by the air coming from the freezer, a body not six inches away from my own.

"Alright," I said, my voice just as quiet. I hobbled over to the counter, and hopped up, wincing at the jolt to my leg.

"You okay?" she asked, grabbing a plastic baggy from the drawer next to the fridge, glancing over at me. I nodded, looking at her, taking her in. The sweat from her body had dried, leaving her skin tight and perfect. She had taken her tank out from the belt loop, and now it rested on the counter. As Cody put cubes of ice in the baggy, I watched her, seeing the way her muscles and tendons worked together to make every motion fluid, graceful.

She met my eyes as she wrapped the baggy in a dish towel, and walked over to me, resting her hand on my shin as she gently placed the ice on target. The simple touch of her hand on my skin, which she had done dozens of time before for one reason or another, felt different somehow. As I looked at her, I realized in that moment that Cody was not a child - not that I had ever seen her as such, instead looking at our age difference for what it was - but now, some of those borders had been breached, the years melted away, and revealed a beautiful, sexual woman in its wake. That woman looked at me now.

"It's a little swollen," she said, running her fingers up and down the skin of my shin and calf. "I'm not sure if those boots did you more good or harm."

"Well, it might have been a little soon for me to be dancing the night away." I smiled, so did she.


"So are you staying?" I asked, though now when I asked that, it didn't seem as innocent as it once did. She nodded, keeping her eyes on the ice pack that she held in place. "I can hold that. Go get some juice." Cody looked into my eyes for a moment, then turned and opened the fridge again, leaning down to look for a little bottle of Tropicana.

I watched her body, tall and lithe, hardened from skateboarding or rollerblading everywhere. I wondered what she thought of my body; was it too old for her? Not as solid and hard like hers. Would she find me attractive?

I certainly did her.

With a smile I turned back over onto my side as I laid in bed, the tiredness of before catching up to me in spades. With a soft smile on my lips, I fell asleep.

* * *

I hobbled over to Kristine's cubicle, leaning over, resting on my forearms. She glanced up at me.

"Yes?" she drawled, a dark brow raised.

"Want to do lunch? I really, really need to talk to you," I said, my voice a near whisper. I huge smile broke out over her face.

"Oh, goody!" She clapped her ringed fingers together. "Gossip."

* * *

It had been a few days since I'd gone out with Cody, and so I'd had a few days to think about that night, and to mull it all over in my head. I was now officially confused.

"So, what's up?" my co-worker and friend asked, sitting across from me at Tristan's. I sighed, not sure where to begin. I thought that Kristine would be a good preliminary person to talk to, feeling that Rand wouldn't understand and would be judgmental of Cody.

"Well," I began, sipping from my water. "I went to Spunkies with Cody over the weekend." A dark brow slowly raised.



"And?" Kristine was eyeing me, waiting for me to embellish on why I'd brought her here. "How did it go?" I could tell she could tell that something was up, and was waiting patiently, sort of, for me to let her in on the secret.

"I even dug out my leather skirt for the occasion." Brown eyes lit up.

"Damn, bet you looked hot."

"That's what Cody said." I dropped my eyes, instead focusing on the complementary basket of chips with the little dish of salsa.

"Did she now? Brooklyn, what's going on with you two?" I found my courage and her eyes and took a deep breath.

"I honestly don't know. We went to Spunkies in the first place 'cause she bet me that I'd ride again after the accident, and, well, I did." She moved her hand, asking silently for more of the story. "So, we went. She picked me up, she drove us there, and then I bought us something to drink."

"Gosh, if I didn't know better, I'd say it sounded like a date."

"Uh, well, yeah. I can see that." I looked away again, for some reason having a hell of a time keeping eye contact with her. "Kristine, what do you think of Keith and Ben's relationship?"

"Wait, huh? Girl, you have just totally confused me."

Join the club.

"Well, I don't know, I mean, what do you think about it?"

"In terms of...?" She munched on a chip.

"In terms of them both being men." I followed suit, burying the corn chip to snag as much of the veggies as possible.

"I don't really think about it. I mean, we've all known that Keith was a big ol' raging queen, and so when he found a guy, I guess we all just figured that's the way it was supposed to be." I chuckled.

"Yeah, guess so. He did show lots of tendencies, didn't he?"

"Yup. You can most definitely say that again. So, what does this have to do with you and Cody and Spunkies?" She leaned her cheek against the heel of her hand. I sighed, knowing that I had to just bite the bullet and say what I'd planned to say.

"Well, we danced, had a few drinks and, well, I did anyway, had a good time." I downed the rest of my water, anxious for the iced tea that I'd ordered to get here.

"So, you guys had some laughs, a few dances, and went home?" I nodded.

"Pretty much," I said, entirely too cheerfully.

"Riiiight. So then why bring me here to tell me that?" I stared at her, mouth open, looking like a fish out of water. Kristine seemed to sense my discomfort, and a smile spread across her lips, and she leaned forward, conspiratorial, "Is she a good dancer?" I just stared at her, a little surprised by the question, then a slow grin spread across my face, and I slowly nodded. "Oh, man, I knew it!" She threw herself back against the booth, hands flopping in the air for emphasis. "That kid looks like she's filled to the brim with passion."

"For what?"

"Anything. Whatever she's into, after. She may try and make the world think she doesn't give a flying turd about anything, but you can see it boiling just under the surface."

"Spunkies with Cody was wild," I admitted. "She, god, I don't know. She walks through the door there like she owns the place. I think just about everyone there knew her, and she just gets this incredible air of confidence. It oozes off her in waves. Pretty ... interesting." My gaze drifted off as I thought about it more in my head, and I could feel Kristine's eyes on me.

* * *

After my talk with Kristine, then after a day of work, then going home and adding another thinking session atop my other sessions, I had decided that though I had greatly enjoyed my time with Cody at Spunkies, and certainly had enjoyed the physical contact, that things would stay normal between us.

But, even still, there was an interesting spin on things now, on life in general. As I walked to my car - I had just been given the go-ahead to drive - or just outside into the backyard, I realized that though everything looked the same, trees were green, sky was blue, sun was golden, things had changed. I was changing. I felt like I was stuck in some sort of revolution.

It was strange seeing her in the new way that I did, as a woman. I know I kept saying that, but it was true. She wasn't just some fun buddy anymore - there was a new angle to it, a new side that I'd never seen before. Not that it would be of consequence to our friendship, but it was there, and I saw her in all her womanly glory.

However, I did feel a new closeness in our relationship now, like we'd seen a different side of the other, and that drew us together. We'd had lunch the other day, the only thing either of us had really had time for this week.

So, padding around the house in a pair of mesh shorts and a tank, I carried the laundry basket to the washer that was next to the kitchen, and began to sort the clothes when I heard a knock at my front door.

Irritated at being interrupted, I headed toward it, flipping all the locks, and swung the door open. A grinning Cody stood on the porch. My annoyance flew out my ear, and I put on a smile to match.

"Hey, you."

"Hey, yourself." She walked passed me, and I looked down, noticing the baggy shorts she wore, which almost made her look like she was doing that ridiculous sagging style. Cody turned away from me to set her skateboard down, and as she bent over, I could see the light purple color of her underwear.

I brought my hand to my mouth, trying to muffle my snicker. Purple. Who would have thought that Cody Thomlin would wear purple underwear. But then a wave of genius struck me, and my eyes traveled back up to see what she was doing. About to turn back around, I grabbed either side of the too-big shorts, and


Down around her ankles, the purple undies stood out in all their glory. I took a step back, not sure whether to run for my life or to laugh my head off, I watched her, the giggle already forming in my throat. I looked at her, taking in the light purple bikini-cut panties. I'm not entirely sure what I thought Cody wore under her clothes, but bikinis, purple ones, it was just too funny.

Cody stood straight, her back still to me, but her hands went to her hips. She glanced at me over her shoulder.

"You think that's funny, huh?" She turned around to face me fully, careful not to trip over the shorts still around her ankles. I nodded.


"I see." She sucked in the inside of one cheek, chewing on it as she studied me, her weight shifted to one leg, hands still on her hips, the toe of her Vans tapping on the tile of the entryway. "Well, that's interesting." Suddenly blue eyes were on me, her brows narrowing, head cocked slightly low and to the side.

Oh shit.

"Cody, I'm crippled, here,"

"Uh huh," she said, carefully stepping out of first one leg of the shorts, then the other, casually kicking them aside. I began to back up.

"Come on, now. You wouldn't hurt an old woman, now would you?" She shook her head.

"Nope." But she began to advance, slow, measured steps, hands never leaving her hips. "However," She lunged, I tried to run, but found myself slamming myself against the wall to the kitchen. "I will do this!" She grabbed handfuls of my loose-fitting shorts in both fists and yanked. Immediately I felt a cool breeze from the ceiling fan on my bare skin. I looked down, seeing my black satin undies exposed to curious blue eyes, my gaze meeting hers when finally she met my eyes.

"Can I help you?" I drawled, trying to keep as much of the redness from my face as was humanly possible.

"Nope, nope. I'm good." She leaned in a little. "For now." I felt a shiver run up and down my spine, her low, smooth voice doing the trick.

"Well," I turned, headed toward the laundry room, waiting for her reaction. It didn't take long. The sharp intake of breath came just as soon as she saw the g-string in back. I looked at her over my shoulder. "Can I help you?" I asked again, a small smirk on my lips. I had the immense satisfaction of seeing her usual fašade slide right off her face, leaving an even more intense look behind. Her eyes were half-hooded, cheeks red. For just a moment I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing. "Come on, help me do laundry." I stepped out of my shorts, slung them over my shoulder, and padded toward my near forgotten laundry basket.

Cody followed me into the small room, filled with the smell of Tide with bleach from hundreds of washings. She glanced down at the laundry basket, which hadn't been sorted yet, and then whipped off her tank. I looked at her.

"Excuse me, missy," I said, wondering what the hell she was doing. She tossed the shirt into the basket.

"I stink." She grinned. I looked at her, now standing only in her purple underwear and white and gray sports bra. God, she really did have an incredible body. The feelings from Spunkies swirled around again in my stomach. I swallowed them down.

"So, what would you like me to do about it?" I said, knowing full well she wouldn't be able to ask me to wash her shirt. So, I decided to enjoy toying with her.

"Well, I don't know." She smirked. "What do you want to do about it?" She cocked an eyebrow in challenge.

"You're the one with the stinky shirt, Cody. What do you plan to do about it?" I looked at her, hand on my hip, smirk on my face.

"I don't know," She looked down, shuffling her bare foot on the cool tile. I couldn't do it.

"You are too cute." She looked up at me through long bangs. "Fine. I'll wash your shirt." I snagged it from her, and tossed it into the pile. I almost wanted to laugh, us hanging around in our underwear as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary. To me it seemed terribly funny, and a small chuckle erupted, bubbling out of my mouth. Cody looked at me, about to leave the laundry room.

"What?" She turned, hand firmly on her hip. I shook my head, which made her a little uncomfortable. She looked down at herself, seeing everything where it was supposed to be. Confused, she looked up at me, a question in her eyes.

"Nothing." I tried to wave her away, but the laughter grew. I think it was a matter of embarrassment, and perhaps something else, that was relieving itself through laughter.

"What are you laughing at?" She took a small step toward me, obviously feeling more and more insecure in her lack of clothing.

"I just, doesn't it seem a little odd to you that we're both standing here in next to nothing?" I finally asked. She shrugged, her eyes raking up and down my g-stringed body.

"I don't particularly mind it." She took a step closer. "Do you?" I looked up at her, my mouth suddenly gone dry. Slowly I shook my head. My gaze followed the lines and features of her face, ending on two lips, full, and slightly open with the smirk they held.

"Ugh!" My face crumbled into fits of laughter as long fingers began to dig into my sides, trying to find the best place to tickle me.

* * *

I strolled around the park by my house, looking up into the sky, clouds already beginning to gather as evening approached. It had been a long day for me, busy and chaotic.

Much like my life felt right now.

I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my slacks, as I had yet to change from my work clothes, or what Cody referred to as my monkey suit. I smiled, thoughts of her swirling around my brain. The slightest thought, and I was already smiling. It had been that way for a bit now. What was it about her? Why did she touch me the way she did?

Sitting on the stone bench, I watched as some boys played basketball. I bet Cody's good at basketball, her height doing wonders, I'm sure. Plus her wonderful athletic ability.

I missed her, I realized with a sigh. I hadn't seen her all week because of my busy schedule, and well, I hadn't really heard from her. My brows drawing at this thought, I grabbed my cell out of my pocket, and flipped it open, dialing the number by heart. It rang three times. I was about to hit the off button when it was answered.

"What?" She sounded irritated. I could hear a man's voice in the background.


"Yeah?" The irritation didn't leave her voice. Suddenly I felt a pang of worry crash through me. "Is this a bad time?" I stood, starting the walk home.

"Um, sort of. I'll come by later, kay?"

"Oh, alright." I looked at the dead phone, and snapped it shut. "Alrighty then," I muttered, my feelings somewhat hurt.

As I walked through the door to my house, my cell chirped to life.

"Hello?" I asked, headed upstairs to finally change into a pair of shorts and tee.

"You hungry?" asked the voice.


"Dude, you deaf? Are you hungry?" I could hear the excitement in Cody's voice.

"Uh, yes." I unbuttoned my blouse, tossing it onto the bed for the dry cleaning pile, and headed over to the dresser to dig out a shirt.

"Cool. I'll be there in like five minutes."

"Cody . . ." I looked at the phone, Cody already had hung up. Rolling my eyes, I closed the phone, and put it on the bed as I continued to change clothes.

I hurried downstairs as I heard a car pull into the driveway. Running a hand through my hair, I hurried to pull open the door, the knob nearly smacking me in the hand as the door swung open, and Cody bounded inside. I looked at her, stunned, as I saw she wore a pair of khaki pants and a button-up white shirt.

What was going on?

"Sit." She put her hand on my shoulder, shoving me toward the couch. I sat, watching as she paced back and forth, cheeks flushed with excitement.

"So, are you planning to tell me what the hell is going on, or are you going to ruin my floor?" I asked, sitting back, crossing an ankle over my knee.

"Okay." Finally she reached into her back pocket and handed me a folded piece of paper that had been hidden there. "Read."

I took the letter, unfolding it, my eyes scanning the words printed on the fine paper. Words began to catch my attention: Cody Thomlin - congratulations - accepted - Quinton College of Architecture.

I looked up at her. She was watching me expectantly, the pacing finally stopped.

"Cody, did you apply to school?" I asked, my voice quiet, filled with awe, a smile slowly spreading across my face.

"Cool, huh?" she exclaimed, grabbing me by the hand, yanking me onto my feet. She placed her hands on either side of my face, pulling me to her, placing a loud, solid smack on my lips with her own. She pushed away from me, a huge, goofy grin on her face. My smile had left my face. I looked into her eyes, still feeling her lips on mine. I reached out, grabbing her at the back of the neck, and pulling her toward me, my head moving to the side, eyes closing as I made contact.

Cody's lips were soft, stiff for a moment, then becoming pliant, my bottom lip fitting perfectly between hers. My fingers curled into the hair at the nape of her neck, my other hand resting lightly on her arm. I felt a hand gently stroke my shoulder while the other rested at my waist.

Suddenly I realized what I was doing, and pulled back, my hands slowly leaving Cody's hair and shoulder, my eyes wide as I looked at her. For just a split moment, her eyes remained closed, but quickly opened.

As I looked into her face, she looked back at me, unsure. I felt a wave wash through me, a wave of confusion, of wanting to do that again, of oh shit, of the loss of her body heat. But mostly I felt that I needed to catch my breath for a moment.

I took a step back, my fingers going to my lips, still able to feel the gentle pressure of hers. I looked down, embarrassed by what I had done, and not sure what to do now. Would she be angry with me?

"Brooklyn?" came Cody's soft voice, still standing where I'd left her. I couldn't look at her. I was too ashamed. How had I let my body dominate my thoughts? Pure stupidity.

"Yes?" I glanced at her, but only briefly. I couldn't meet her eyes.

"I . . ." She faltered, and I glanced at her again to see that she was staring out the window, the muscles in her jaws working. I sighed, not sure what to say, the apology building in my throat. "See ya." I heard the words, but they didn't sink into my muddled brain until I heard the slam of the front door.

"Co-" my voice was cut off when I heard the engine in her car start up. I hurried over to the window, mindful of my ankle, and watched as she backed out of the driveway, the slight squeal of rubber burning onto the pavement as she sped down the street. I stared, mouth hanging open.

What the hell just happened? What did I do? Is she disgusted with me? Have I read her wrong? All this time, all the flirting, innuendo, Spunkies, for crying out loud!

I ran a hand through my hair, unable to move away from the window, I guess maybe hoping that Cody would come back and we could talk. Instead, the driveway remained empty, and my mind continued to whirl.

"What just happened?" I asked myself again, still trying to keep up with the moment. I sighed, knowing full well that she wasn't coming back tonight, I turned toward the couch, and saw the forgotten letter on the floor. I must have dropped it some time between my reading it and the . . . kiss.


Picking it up, I sat, unfolding it once again, and re-reading the wonderful news. Cody had gotten herself in college, and not just college, but architectural college. When did she do this? Why had she hidden it from me?

For a moment I felt hurt, like Cody couldn't trust me to keep me in the fold, but then logic kicked in. She hadn't kept it from me. She had wanted to surprise me with it. Just how many people do you think she has told about this, Brooklyn?

"Shit." I set the letter aside, and buried my face in my hands. So why had she left? I flopped back into the cushions of the couch, and tucked my feet up under my body, Cody's letter folded neatly by my side.

* * *

"Hello? Brooklyn?"

I jerked upright, smacking my knee on the underside of my desk in the process.

"Ow, what?" I looked up, rubbing the throbbing leg, and saw Rhonda looking down at me. She smiled.

"Well, aren't we a little grumpy today?" She leaned her arm on the top of my cubicle wall. "Must be from the late night." My brows drew.

"What? What are you talking about?" I tossed my red pencil onto the desk, leaned back in my chair.

"Well, Cody didn't get home until well after midnight, so I figured she was with you."

I felt a pang shoot straight through me. Oh, Cody.

"Oh, yeah." I smiled, not sure why I was protecting Cody. Where the hell was she?

"Brooklyn?" Ron looked down for a moment, as though she were trying to choose her words. Finally her gaze met mine. "What exactly do you two do?"

"What do you mean?" I asked slowly, guilt crashing over me. I tried to do my best to hide it.

"Well, you two are together nearly every single day for at least a couple hours, and many weekends, shoot, I haven't seen my daughter at all." She smiled, then brows narrowed. "Why are you looking at me like that? I'm not attacking you, just asking. I mean, I think it's great! Cody is a different person now."

Oh, Rhonda, if you only knew.

"Well," I began, clearing my throat. "We do whatever. You know, watch movies, talk, whatever." Make out, flirt, you know, whatever floats our boat at the time.

"Hunh." She seemed to chew on this, then smiled at me. "Get to work or your boss will be mad."

"Yeah, well my boss can blow it out of her . . ." she turned narrowed eyes on me. "Nothing." I smiled, holding up my hands to show my innocence. Rolling her eyes with a chuckle, she walked away, and I took a really, really deep breath. I honestly don't think Ron meant anything by it, but damn, I felt like I had been sitting in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition revisited, and part of me wanted to bow to my knees and confess everything, praying all the while for mercy.

Glancing over to the short leg of my L-shaped desk, I spied my phone. Picking up the hand piece, I dialed the long string of numbers and waited. Impatiently.

"Hey, you've reached me, but you are not a priority right now or I would have picked up. Leave a message and I'll stick you on my to-do list."


"Hey, Rand. Damn you for being a responsible, working adult. Call me tonight." I ran a hand through my hair. "I really need to talk." I hung up the phone, and leaned on my hand. What a mess.

* * *

I sat on the couch, feeling too guilty to even talk to my parents, and did I ever need to talk. My mind was spinning, my emotions nearly out of control. What was happening to me? The way that I felt at that moment, I couldn't remember the last time I had felt that way. Hell, then I realized that I had never felt that way. My body was on fire, my heart felt like it was swelling, almost painfully. But why? I knew that Cody had something to do with it, and I also knew that I was a 26-year-old woman, and certainly not stupid by any means.

So why now?

Why what?

I was startled out of my thoughts by the sound of the phone ringing. An instasmile spread across my face. I grabbed the cordless, checking the caller I.D. screen. The smile stayed, but the intensity definitely waned.

"Hey, buttercup. What's up?" I fell back into the couch, flopping one leg over the back as got myself comfortable for a long talk with my best friend.

"What's wrong?" I could hear the concern in her voice. My smile grew. It felt good to have someone care.

"Well, isn't that the million dollar question."

"Alright, sweetie, give me three seconds. I need to get comfy for this."

"Kay." I could hear her moving around, plus the opening then closing of a door, more shuffling, then finally Rand's voice in my ear. "I'm in my jammies, got a can of cheese balls, and I'm all ears."

"Um, okay." I began to chew on my lip, wondering if this was the right thing to do. I knew how Rand felt about Cody. Could she be there for me now? I had to take the risk, or lose my mind. "Rand, I uh," I swallowed, wishing I'd grabbed some water for this. Hell, I wished I had grabbed a bourbon and coke for this. "I kind of kissed Cody." I pulled the phone away from my ear when a piercing burst of laughter erupted into my eardrum. Okay, not exactly the reaction I thought I'd get. As the laughter continued, I became more agitated. "Rand, I'm serious." The laughter stopped, which surprised me. I barely heard myself.

"Wait, what?" Any humor was gone from her voice. I felt beads of sweat burst out onto my forehead.


"What happened?" She was keeping her voice carefully bland, not allowing me to get at anything that was going on in her mind.

"She came over to tell me that she had been accepted into college, and we kissed."

"Well, it was probably just congratulatory . . ."

"The first time was," I interrupted. The line went quiet. "Rand?"

"The first time? Babe, how many times were there?" She sounded as baffled as I felt.

"Just twice."

"Honey, how did it happen at all?" There wasn't the judgment in her question that I feared I'd hear.

"I don't know, Rand." I covered my face with my hand, eyes squeezed shut. "I'm just, god, I'm so confused."

"What do you mean?"

"I couldn't, I don't know. I just couldn't help myself. Last week we went dancing at that bar that Kristine had talked about, Spunkies."


"Yes. Together."

"Whoa. Brooklyn, what's going on, sweetie? What is this between you? I think that's one of the main reasons I didn't like her."

"I don't understand." I got up, craving a beer. Grabbing the Guinness from the fridge, I popped the top and took a long swig of the dark brew, my nose scrunching from that initial strong taste.

"Well, I don't know. I guess I just sensed something between you two."

"Rand, it's not like that." I padded back to the couch, flopping back into the soft cushions, mindful of the open bottle.

"No, honey, I don't mean like that, but now. Shit, I have to wonder."

"Rand! Stop." I could hear her laughter on the other end, instantly soothing my nerves.

"I'm playing with you, so don't get your panties in a twist." She sighed, then crunched on a cheese ball. "Honey, I can't say I totally understand what you're telling me, and I'm not so sure you understand fully what you're telling me, but I want you to know, despite my . . . dislike of Cody, I'm here for you. So, with that said, why don't you start from the top and talk it through. I'll just listen, and make smart ass comments every now and then, then take everything completely out of context just so I can torture you to the absolute extent of my talents." I giggled.

"I love you, Rand. When are you coming back to visit me?"

"Soon. Don't change the subject."

Sighing, knowing full well that I could never get anything past her. So, I began my long, sordid tale.

"And, so she won the bet, so off to Spunkies we went."

"Where you guys danced together?" she clarified.

"Yes." I really wasn't sure how much I was ready to part with yet in regards to my feelings toward Cody. I didn't really understand them, and as of yet hadn't really dissected them that much. And, part of me felt like I was being unfair to Cody, ruining something by telling someone else about it. "I don't know what it is, Rand. I just," I sighed, sipping from my beer again. "We have so much fun together."

"Didn't we have fun together, Brook?" she asked, her voice unusually small for such a larger-than-life person.

"Oh, honey, you know we did, do. Comparing you and Cody is like comparing apples and oranges. There are differences that I just can't explain."

"Well, that's obvious. You kissed her, and I can't say that we've lip-locked as of yet." I grinned.

"You looking for a mamma, little girl?" I drawled. Cody's line was just too good not to steal. Plus it made Rand laugh.

"Hurt me, daddy, hurt me."

"Ew, Rand!" I threw my head back and laughed. Oh, it felt so good. Life had gotten entirely too serious lately. "No, but seriously." I may as well just be straight with her. "I don't know, Rand. I can't explain it. She just makes me . . . feel."

"Wow," she breathed into the phone. I could hear what was probably her setting the can of cheese balls on a table, and then her adjusting herself on whatever she was laying on. "So. Sweetie, what do you want?"

"That's a really great question, and certainly one that I've been asking myself over the last week. I know that I've honestly never felt like this before, but the problem is that I don't know what it is. How did you feel with Peter?"

"Peter." I could hear the smile in her voice. "I felt, feel, actually, exhilarated, charged and alive. I feel like I can do anything because I know that he'll be there no matter what, and I really want to be there for him. I want to be the first one he runs to if anything happens, good or bad. When I was still in Portland, just the thought of seeing him after my workday was a wonderful, and honestly what got me through a really shitty day at times. It was devastating if he was angry or upset with me. I mean, my usual instinct with anyone is to tell them too fucking bad and to get over it. Even you sometimes."

I smiled. Isn't that the truth. I remembered this dress she bought one time -

"And if you're thinking about that horrible pink prom dress that I got with the Dynasty-like sequins all over it, fuck off." I gave her an evil laugh. 'Yeah, so I thought I was Heather Locklear. Anyway, he just makes me smile."

I closed my eyes, hand covering my grimace. Shit. I'm screwed, aren't I?

"There's a little more, too."

"Okay. Hit me."

"If only. Well, after . . . well . . . I kissed her, she ran." I guzzled the rest of the stout, setting the empty bottle heavily onto the coffee table.

"Ran? As in turned tail and ran?"

"Essentially. But not really."


"Yes, I know. I'm confusing myself. I took a step back from her . . ."

"Wait, you took a step away from her?"



"Yeah." My brows drew, wondering what the hell she was getting at.

"What kind of kiss was it?"


"Come on, Brooklyn. I'm not getting my rocks off over here, I need to know." I could hear her shifting again.

"Okay, I guess kind of a lip over lip kind of thing."

"No tongue?"

"No." I felt shocked at the suggestion of such a thing, but not entirely too unpleasant a thought. Oh, Brooklyn, stop it!

"Well, you said there were two kisses. What was the first one like? And who did it?"

"She did. It was just a kiss, you know, a really overly excited Cody grabbing me and laying one on me."

"Okay," she drawled, tasting the information on her brain. "Then you grabbed her and gave her this lip over lip thing." More a statement than a question, so I said nothing. "Honey, maybe she felt like you were turning your back on her when you stepped away. I mean, when me and Pete kiss . . ."

"Rand, Cody and I aren't a couple."

"Doesn't matter. Friends don't kiss each other, Brooklyn. Anyway, if he did that, I'd be pissed."

"Why?" Wasn't this Rand talk supposed to help? I felt even more confused now.

"Because. It would mean rejection of my advance."

My brows drew as I contemplated this.

"Oh, shit, Rand."

"Yup, oh shit."

* * *

I walked into the Thomlin's house after Rhonda had whipped the door open, only to run after Jake who had stolen her wooden cooking spoon from somewhere dangerous. Letting myself in, I looked around. I hadn't seen Cody since the day we kissed, nor had I talked to her. That was over a week ago, and I missed her.

Even still, as I set foot in her mother's house, and that of my boss and friend, the possible ramifications of my actions closed in around me, and I felt like I'd suffocate.

Taking a deep breath, then another one, I headed toward the kitchen. I hadn't seen anyone but Ron and Jake, and wondered if either of the girls were here. Damn, I was just burning bridges all over the place.

"Can I help you with anything, Ron?" I asked as she hurried back into the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand.

"No." I had to smile. She looked so exasperated. "I'm going to kill that kid. I swear to you, Brooklyn. The next time you come over, Jake's head will be mounted on my wall."

"Oh, violence. Can I watch?" She chuckled.

"Sure. Hand me that squash, will you? I still need to smash it."

"Oh, I love that." I rubbed my hands together in anticipation.

"Good thing."

"Mom, I . . ." I turned to see Jodi standing I the kitchen door, her eyes on me. "Oh, hi, Brooklyn."

"Hi, Jodi." I gave her the best smile I could, though I knew it was weak. Rhonda please don't look at me. I think this would become my mantra for the night.

"It's Friday night, honey." Rhonda looked at her daughter as if she should be able to read her mother's mind of when it was "family dinner" night.

"Oh, I guess so." She gave me a quick, albeit genuine smile. "Mom, Cody can't get Jake into the tub, and he's nearly pulled her in twice."

Rhonda sighed heavily, I chuckled. About to open my mouth to offer to go save the girl, Rhonda turned to me.

"Brooklyn, can you finish this?" She held up the potato masher.

"Sure. Go get 'em, tiger." I smiled, beginning to work on the squash. Jodi followed her mother out.

I sighed. How had I managed to screw things up so badly in a matter of months? Now the two sisters were at odds with each other, and both of them hated me for rejecting them. It was a no-win situation, and I was about to just cut my losses, and keep my friendship with Ron intact. But then there was Cody. If nothing else happened, I did not want to lose my friendship with her.

As I pounded on the vegetable, poor defenseless squash becoming victim to my warped life right now, I thought about Jodi. I had a feeling that she didn't often pursue women, being more shy and stand-offish. Now look what I've done to the poor kid. Told her that I wasn't interested in that, and then three months later I kiss her twin sister. Talk about feeling defective.

"He's dead. His head will fit perfectly between the pictures above the mantel. He's just lucky that our vacation is coming up soon."

I looked up, taken from my self-deprecating thoughts. Rhonda ran a hand through her hair, looking weary. "I thought kids did this shit in their terrible twos? Not at three."

"Late bloomer." I smiled.

"At this rate, he'll be lucky if he reaches puberty."

"Well, I don't think you'll look good in an orange jumpsuit, so take this and pound instead." I handed over the potato masher. "I'm going to go wash my hands."

"Okay. Use the bathroom in our room. The girls are bathing Jake in the big one."

"Will do."

I snagged a paper towel, trying to wipe the gook off my hands as I headed upstairs. I walked down the hallway, the door to the bathroom almost closed, the sounds of water being splashed around, and voices drifting into the hall.

"So, I saw your girlfriend downstairs," I heard Jodi say, her voice soft, yet harsh.

"She's not my girlfriend, Jodi. Drop it." There was a short pause, then, "And if you say anything like that about Brooklyn again, I'll kick your ass," Cody growled.

"Ohhh, trouble in paradise already." I could tell Jodi was smirking.

"Jodi, I'm going to kick your ass if you don't knock it off." I was surprised at the venom in Cody's voice.

"You said a bad word!" Jake yelled from the tub.

I took this as my cue to continue on to Tom and Rhonda's bedroom.

* * *

I pulled my riding gloves on tight, flexing my fingers to make sure they were snug, then pulled on my new riding helmet. The one I had bought with Cody had been destroyed in the accident.

Taking a deep breath of the August air, filling my lungs, and building my courage, I pushed off down the driveway, the ticking sound of the bike as I coasted filling my ears. I had missed that sound.

I had put on a smidge of weight during my hiatus from riding, my gear a little more snug than I would have liked, but I knew that within a few weeks I'd be back to where I was before.

The familiar street passed me by, a little skittish when a car would come near me, but I knew I had to get over that if I wanted to get back to the level of endurance that I was before.

The path was the same, the scenery unchanged and beautiful in the late summer Oregon day. I took it slow, in no hurry as I had nowhere special to be. As the park came into view, I felt my stomach tighten up in little knots of anticipation; some good, some bad.

The gate for the skate park was open, and I could see kids all over that place like ants on an ant hill. I stopped, resting my forearms on the handlebars. I watched some kid try and flip in the air, but his board got away from him, and he went down, hard. I grimaced.

"That had to hurt," I muttered.

My eyes, safely hidden behind dark Oakleys, scanned the area. I told myself that I was just looking around, but I knew who I was looking for, and it didn't take long. My gaze settled on blue eyes that were already looking at me. I stopped my scanning, concentrating on her. Cody stood with Jimmy and some of her other boys, who began to throw out cat whistles. I saw her turn to them, saying something, because they immediately began to look away, or head off to the ramps, not giving me another glance.

I swallowed as Cody flipped her board up with her foot, catching it between her arm and her body, and looked at me again.

"Come here," she called out. I looked around, making sure she was actually talking to me. I really wasn't in the mood to make a fool of myself again. I locked my bike on a bike rail, and made my way over to Cody and Jimmy.

"Hey," I said. "Hi, Jimmy." I smiled at the boy, and he looked away, blushing.

"Hey. How's the leg?" he asked, finally finding his way back to me.

"Fine, thanks for asking." I turned to Cody, waiting for her to tell me why she'd called me over.

"You ever done this before?" she asked, indicating her board. I shook my head.

"Not when I didn't hurt myself," I said. She snorted.

"Come with me." We began to walk away from the busy skate park, finding a patch of empty sidewalk in the park proper. When we were alone, I glanced at her.

"I'm sorry, Cody."

"Don't." She held up a hand to stop me. "I'm not." We looked at the other, each challenging to look away. It was like this silent communication, heaps being said without a word being dropped. Getting the message, I smiled.

"So show me." I looked at her, and she held my gaze. The corners of her mouth worked almost of their own accord as she processed my request. Finally she nodded, her eyes never leaving mine.

"Okay. I will," she said, her voice quiet. I felt a wave crash through my body, I wave of relief, wonder, and something else. That elusive ingredient that had been there all week. "Get on," she said, her hand gently pushing on my lower back.

* * *

The doorbell rang, and I hurried to open it, hoping it was Cody. I knew she was leaving today with her family to head for their cabin near Mt. Hood. I had been invited to go, but refused for a few reasons. One, I felt like I'd be intruding on their family time. No matter how many times Rhonda had told me that I was part of the family, it still didn't feel right. And secondly, more honestly, I felt weird about it. My feelings for Cody, whatever the hell they were, overstepped boundaries, that much I did know, and I felt strange hanging out with Cody and her family, knowing full well what was on my mind.

So, I'd just deal. I was going into some strange territory, that much was obvious, but somehow this new bond with Cody seemed worth it to me.

Opening the front door, I saw a grinning Cody standing on the stoop.

"What are you smiling about?" I asked, stepping aside to allow her entry.

"Nothin." She walked in, looking around, almost as though she hadn't seen it in a year instead of the week or so.

"So are you excited to go?" She turned to me, shaking her head.

"No, not really. I really want to tell my mom to shove the whole thing, and them go. I don't care about the stupid mountains."

"Oh, Cody, come on. That's a horrible attitude. They're your family." I walked over to her, my hand on her arm. She shrugged.


"Trust me. That's not something to be taken lightly. Besides, this is probably the last family trip for you guys. Once you start school, plus working on top of it, you'll have little to no time. Believe me." I grinned.

"Well, damn. Maybe school isn't where it's at." She winked at me, then took a small step closer. "Will I still have time for you?" Her voice lowered, sending a thrill through me.

"I should hope so. You can always hang out here and study if you want."

"Cool. I can't stay. I just came by to say goodbye."

"I'm glad you did." I reached up, my arms going around her neck, and pulling her close, my head resting on her shoulder. "You guys have fun, 'kay?" I could feel her nod. Slowly she pulled away, my arms still around her neck, hers around my waist.

"I really wish you were going," she said, her eyes darting down in embarrassment at the admission. "I, well, yeah. Just do."

"I missed you, too, Cody, and will miss you this weekend." One of my hands found its way into the soft hair at the nape of her neck and began to play with the tendrils.

"We can always get together Sunday night, right?" she asked. I nodded.

"Sure. Give me a call once you're back in town."


I felt myself drawn to her, with each word that came out of her mouth, my eyes flickering to the flash of white and pink as she spoke, her lips, teeth and tongue working together to form the words. Then my sight was fixed on the lips. I knew how soft they were, no matter how brief I touched them. I wanted to touch them again. I could feel Cody's hands on my back, slowly rubbing circles on my lower back, her nails lightly trailing over the cotton-covered skin, sending chills up my spine.

"Cody?" I said, looking up into the half-hooded eyes that seemed to be transfixed by my own mouth. They flickered up to look into mine.

"Yeah?" she breathed, the soft current of air brushing against my face as her breathing got a little faster. Without a word, forgetting what I had wanted to say, I leaned in, my eyes closing as contact was made.

I felt Cody sigh as our lips touched, her hands stilling on my back as she put all of her concentration into the kiss. One of my hands slid forward until I was cupping the side of her jaw, our lips sliding against each other, feeling. Her lips opened just a bit, the warmth from her mouth coming out to meet my lips, beckoning me. My thumb began to work back and forth just under her ear as I tentatively brought my tongue out, needing to see what it was like inside that heat, wanting to know what Cody was all about.

She groaned slightly when I gave her bottom lip the tiniest lick, soon after her own tongue reached toward mine. The moment they met, we both moaned, my hand burying itself deeper into the thick hair, Cody's fingers digging into the skin of my back in a pulse-like motion, a cat kneading in pleasure.

The kiss deepened, both of us tilting our heads a bit more to get even closer.

Soon, much too soon, Cody pulled slowly away, giving me a light, gentle, almost chaste kiss before she opened her eyes and smiled at me.

"Bye," she breathed, then headed for the door.


Return to the Academy