Tides of Fate

Part 5 (Conclusion)



My gratitude and love to my partner, Bookie, for everything.

Chelsea heard the shuffling of bare feet on hard wood floors and looked up into her client's blood-shot eyes.

"Morning, sunshine." Chelsea teased.

"Coffee. I need coffee." Tracy headed for the steaming brew with her disheveled hair poking out in various directions.

"If you don't mind me saying, you look like something the cat dragged in.."

"I feel like something the cat coughed up. Every bone in my body aches." Tracy poured herself a cup of caffeine and gently slumped into the chair across the kitchen table from Chelsea, who was watching her with amusement.

"How's the hip?" Chelsea asked.

"Stiff and colorful. I never thought I'd have stitches in that particular area of my anatomy." Tracy said as she ran her hands through her dark hair to get it off of her face.

"Ouch!" Tracy held her hand out and assessed the mild swelling and discoloration.

"Let me see." Chelsea walked around the table to look at the offending appendage. "You must have sprained it when you climbed up the fence. I have an ace bandage. Why don't you wear it today and ice that. If it's still swollen tomorrow, we might need to bring you back to the ER for X-rays."

"It'll be Ok. It's just a little sore. That's all." Tracy begged off.

"Better safe than sorry. You never know if there is a broken bone, or you may have torn something." Chelsea said as she slipped the ace wrap over Tracy's hand, then retrieved a cold pack from the freezer. "Here. Keep this on for fifteen minutes or so, then keep repeating that every hour."

Tracy looked at her friend with genuine affection. "Thanks. It's nice to have someone take care of me. . ."

They were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.

"Hello." Chelsea said.

"Hi. It's James Hardie."

"Morning, Jimmie. Any news?"

"It shouldn't be long now. I just left the M.E.'s office. I showed him the pictures I took of the scene last night and of Mrs. Chandler's injuries. He said he'd have the fingerprint analysis and comparison for me before noon today. He has a soft spot for ladies in distress." James smiled.

"That's great. We'll sit tight until we hear from you. I've got a cop outside 24/7, and the new security system. Charlie and I should be able to keep Tracy safe until you can get a warrant out on Morales and get him into custody."

"I've got my men looking in every body shop and boat repair business in the county. If he is still in the Destin area, we'll find him. When that warrant gets issued we'll nab the bastard."

"Thanks Jimmie. I'll wait to hear from you. Be careful. He's getting sloppy. I don't think he cares what happens to himself. That was a huge chance he took last night." Chelsea warned.

"I'm afraid you're right. So, keep on your toes. Ok?"

"You bet. You too." Chelsea hung up the phone with the hope that Tracy's ordeal may soon be over.

Tracy had been listening intently to Chelsea's side of the conversation. "Soon?"

Chelsea smiled. "Soon. We just have to sit tight and try not to have a nervous breakdown in the meantime."

"Easier said than done. I think I'm going to take a pain pill, crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head." Tracy got up and shuffled toward her bedroom.

"Well, I guess I'm gonna work on my other case files. What an exciting day. . ." Chelsea sighed and poured herself another cup of coffee.

* * *

The groggy brunette woke to a disco beat from the 70's as Donna Summer sang of how hard she worked for the money. Tracy straightened her sleep shirt and stumbled out into the living room where she gazed in wonder at the little blonde dynamo waxing the hardwood floors while dancing to the CD blasting over the stereo. Tracy couldn't help but break into song. Grabbing the dust rag off Chelsea's shoulder she danced and dusted to the music.

The women finished all the housework, both pleasantly sweaty and tired, having forgotten for a while about the horrors of the last many weeks.

"I would love a pizza with the works and a giant glass of iced tea. I don't suppose anyone delivers way out here, huh?" Tracy inquired, hopefully.

"Nope. Sorry."

"That sucks!" Tracy stuck out her lower lip.

"Yep." Chelsea grinned at her friend's atypical behavior.

"You wanna drive into town to Italian Pie? My treat?" Tracy offered.

"We're not suppose to leave here without police protection." Chelsea stated.

"Ok. So, I'll buy Officer Danny a pizza, too. I bet if we got all cleaned up and smelling pretty we could tempt him." Tracy batted her long dark eyelashes.

Chelsea laughed and shook her head. "I'm game."

Tracy put a long arm around a sweaty shoulder. "Nope. You're gamey. . . .. Whew!" She fanned an elegant hand under her nose.

"Why . . . , you. . . ." Chelsea chased her tall friend through the house, stopping only when the bathroom door slammed in her face.

* * *

"Oh, my sainted aunt, I am stuffed!" Tracy exclaimed as she undid the top button of her jeans.

"I can't breathe." Chelsea undid the top button on her jeans, too. "Oh yeah. . . That's better."

Danny chuckled and drawled. "I've never seen two such lovely women eat like total oinkers in my entire life. Where did y'all put that pizza? I'm supposed to be protecting you two. How would it look on my record if I let y'all blow up all over this nice establishment?"

"You did pretty well yourself." Chelsea grinned.

"That's different. It's a man thing." Danny puffed out his chest. "Time to go ladies. Charlie will be expecting us to be home when he shows up to relieve me. I don't want him calling out the cavalry because we spent too much time chowing down at the pizza parlor. That too could cause embarrassment."

"By all means. We wouldn't want to tarnish that perfect record of yours." Chelsea played along as Tracy giggled.

* * *

"See ya later, buddy." Danny said as he waved goodbye.

Charlie went to his truck and took out his rod and reel in hopes of getting some fishing in between patrolling the property.

* * *

The women sat next to each other in front of the TV, eyes glazed over, too full to move more than their fingers across the remote control. However, they both jumped when the phone rang.

"Hello." Chelsea answered with her heart thudding in her ears.

"It's him."

"It's Morales?" Chelsea asked.

"Yep. We got a match. The warrant is being issued as we speak. We'll get him, Chelsea. You guys just sit tight. I'll contact you the moment we pick him up."

"Thanks, Jimmie. Thank you so so, so much. Did you fax the info to the DA's office?"

"It's done. In a few days Ms. Tracy will officially be a free woman." Detective Hardie felt a slight sting behind his eyes. He hadn't realized the emotional investment he had in this case. "I'll be in touch."

"I look forward to it." Chelsea let out a sigh of relief.

Tracy looked up at her lawyer with hope filled eyes. "Well?"

"It is Jose' Morales. A warrant is being issued and Detective Hardie will call as soon as they apprehend him."

"Yes!!!" Tracy jumped up and down with tears of joy and relief running down her face.

Chelsea hugged her client back. "We still have to be careful until they pick him up, but the charges against you will definitely be dropped."

Tracy wiped at her tears. "Thank you so much for everything you've done for me. I don't know how I'll ever repay you." The tears began anew.

Chelsea began to cry in empathy. "Just be happy and live your life, OK?"

"OK." Tracy hugged the little blonde again. "I'm so excited. Let's pop open a bottle of wine and celebrate. Do we have any wine?"

"You betcha. You get the glasses and I'll get the booze. Woohoo!!! I can't wait to tell Charlie."

* * *

"Chels, is everything all right?" Charlie asked.

"Better than all right, my friend. Jimmie just called and they got a match on the fingerprints."

"Well, don't keep me in suspense."

"Jose' Morales. They've issued a warrant and the charges against Tracy should be officially dropped in a few days." Chelsea beamed.

"That is great news! This was one hell of a case, eh boss!?!"

"You can say that again, . . . but don't. Come on up to the house and celebrate with us. I've opened a bottle of my best Ripple. Just your brand."

Charlie laughed at his boss's antics, "We still have to be on our guard 'til they pick up the bastard."

"Come on. We can't celebrate without you." Chelsea insisted.

"OK . . . , maybe just one quick drink. Then it's back to patrol for me."

"Great. Bye." Chelsea put down her hand set and toasted her client's good fortune.

* * *

Chelsea awoke to a pounding at her door which matched the pounding in her head. "Oh, crap! I drank too much." She staggered to the door, holding her aching head. "Who is it?" She rasped.

"It's me, Danny."

Chelsea let in the officer.

"Jeez, what happened to you?" Danny asked as he observed the red rimmed eyes and disheveled appearance.

"Too much celebrating last night. I need to brush my teeth." Chelsea stated as she turned around and headed for the bathroom with Danny following close behind. She pushed him out of the door. "And pee. Excuse me."

Danny found himself alone in the hallway. He went to the kitchen to make coffee for his miserable friend.

"Oh, that smells wonderful. You hear the news?" Chelsea asked.

"Yep. Jimmie called to gloat. He said he still wants y'all to have police protection until he gets the guy. So, here I am but, where's Charlie? I checked his truck, but he ain't around. You know he has to stop leaving his keys in there. Anyone could just drive off with it."

"Like some industrious raccoon? Anyway, He's either fishing or sleeping it off down by the pier." Chelsea sipped at her hot coffee and sat at the kitchen table.

"I'll go find him. Don't forget to turn on your radio." Danny instructed as he took his coffee cup and headed out to relieve Charlie.

Chelsea glanced over to the charger the two way radio was set in and noticed the green light was lit, signifying that it was in good working order.

* * *

"Why did you let me drink so much!?! You're suppose to be my friend."

Chelsea startled, nearly spilling her coffee in her lap. "Shit! Tracy, you scared me."

"I need drugs, strong drugs." The disheveled woman hobbled over to her purse and pulled out a bottle of pain pills and took two, then poured herself a cup of coffee, dumping four packets of sugar in the inky brew. "I hope this works. Ali used to always put tons of sugar in her coffee to help a hangover." Chelsea held out her cup and Tracy dumped an equal amount of sugar in hers.

The two women sat in silence for a few minutes as their pain began to fade.

"I need a hot shower and a Brillo pad to scrape my tongue. I'll see you in a few." Tracy said before disappearing down the hall.

Chelsea passed the time before she too could bathe by watching the pictures from the security cameras that were set up at the corners of the little house. She used the remote control to point one in the direction of the pier, looking for her friends. She could see movement but the distance made it difficult too impossible to make out anything other than fuzzy forms. "I really should have placed a camera out there. Anyone could get here by boat and we wouldn't know it. That was stupid of me." Just then she heard a garbled noise come from her radio. She picked it up and pressed the talk button. "This is Chelsea. Come back."

"Call "911". Charlie's hurt! We need help down here." Danny demanded as he spoke into the radio while he tried to fish his large friend from the water.

"What happened?" Chelsea asked.

"Charlie's in the water. I can't get him out alone."

"Shit! I'll get help." Chelsea's heart beat fast and hard in her chest. She grabbed the phone and dialed 911, then put on her shorts and a t-shirt as she explained the situation to the operator.

"What's wrong?" Tracy had heard the noise through the bathroom door.

"I don't know. Danny said Charlie's in the water. I called 911. I'm going out to help."

"I'm coming too." Tracy said as she fought to get her clothes on over her wet body.

"No! Stay here. Lock the doors. Watch the security cameras. If you see anything suspicious call Jimmie, number 9 on the speed dial." Chelsea instructed as she opened her dresser drawer and pulled out a .38 revolver, loaded it and shoved it into a damp hand. "If you need to. . . , use it. Just point and pull the trigger. Now, stay here!"

Chelsea ran to her purse and retrieved a .22 caliber automatic from its depths, then was gone.

"Oh, God!" Tracy exclaimed and ran to the kitchen to see the familiar image on the screen disappear into the distance. She set the gun on the kitchen table and looked at it as if it was a snake. "Lord, please let him be all right." Tracy prayed and tried not to cry.

* * *

"What the Hell happened?" Chelsea yelled as she helped Danny fish Charlie out of the water. .

"I don't know. I found him floating in the water on that paddle. . . Come on, Charlie. Give us a hand, buddy." Danny grunted as he crab-crawled back up the ladder and onto the pier.

Chelsea placed her friends bleeding head on her lap. "Come on, Charlie, talk to me." She rubbed his face as Danny briskly chaffed his arms to warm him up.

Charlie moaned and blinked his eyes open. They were unfocused. "Damn!" The big man gasped and reached up to touch the large knot on the back of his head.

"What happened?" Chelsea demanded.

"I don't know. . . I'm gonna hurl." Charlie turned on his side and vomited up wine and sea water.

Danny removed his shirt and ripped off the sleeve, then tied it around Charlie's head to slow the bleeding.

* * *

Tracy heard noises from under the house. She called Danny on the radio. "Danny? Chelsea? You there?"

"Tracy, we have Charlie and are heading back to the house. Over." Danny responded.

"I hear strange noises from under the house. What should I do?" Tracy was getting scared.

"Call Jimmie. I'm on my way." Danny made sure Charlie wasn't going to fall over, then let go and ran toward the house.

Chelsea struggled but was able to help Charlie keep his balance.

"POP, POP, POP" The sound of gunfire rang through the air.

"Shit! Charlie, I'm gonna sit you under this oak. Keep your back against the tree. Don't move." Chelsea drew her gun, released the safety, and ran from tree to tree toward the house.

"Danny! Where are you!?!" Chelsea called out. She listened to the stillness. The quiet was ominous and it unnerved her. "Damn!" She knew her main priority was to protect Tracy, so she decided to make a run for the front porch. She was no further then 8 feet from the protection of the great oak when bullets started firing her way from underneath the house.

* * *

Tracy heard the loud pops and searched the security cameras to see Chelsea set Charlie underneath a tree and pull her weapon. "Oh, my God!" The tall woman took up the revolver and ran onto the porch to see her friend lifted into the air. It was like slow motion as the small blonde's body twirled in space and landed flat on her face in the grass. "NOOOOOO!!!" Tracy screamed and desperately sought out a way to save her friends. She saw that Charlie's truck was close enough to the porch for her to make a run for it. Without hesitation she ran to it and jumped in. She prayed he had left his keys on the seat, as was his habit, and was not disappointed. She started the engine, put it in gear and drove in between the shooter and Chelsea's prone body. Tracy held on to the gun, slid out of the truck and ran to Chelsea's side. "Come on. We gotta get outta here." Chelsea moaned in agony as she tried to stand, but could not.

"Hold on to me." Tracy half lifted - half dragged Chelsea to the truck. She struggled to lift the wounded woman into the seat as gunfire rang out again. They both ducked down and rolled underneath the vehicle.

Sirens could be heard in the distance. The women felt a rush of relief until they saw a man crawl out from under the house and start walking toward them. They knew running was no longer an option. The sound of bullets hitting nearby had them both staring in terror as wood from the oak tree Charlie sat under splintered about his body.

"He's gonna kill Charlie!" Chelsea screamed, just before she saw Tracy stand and pull the man's attention toward herself.

"Over here, you son of a bitch!" Tracy held the revolver pointed in the general direction of her tormentor. He gave her a maniacal grin, but she shot first, then ducked back under the truck. She hid behind a tire while firing periodically to keep her nemesis at bay until she heard the squad cars pull up.

* * *

Chelsea and Tracy waited, hunkered together, until they got an "all's clear" from Jimmie.

Tracy rolled out from beneath the truck and yelled for the paramedics to help Chelsea and Charlie. The EMT's were headed for the man face down in the grass, whose back was covered in blood: but, Jimmie ordered them to care for his friends first.

Tracy slowly approached the still body of Morales. "Did I kill him?" She asked of the police officer who was bent over his body.

"Not unless you shot him in the back, lady."

"I couldn't have. I was under the truck . . . over there. She pointed."

The cop's eyes searched the area behind the body where the shot must have originated. "Over here! We need help over here!" He yelled to the EMT's as he ran toward Danny's body, barely visible in the tall grass beside the house.

"Danny!" Tracy ran toward her security officer and knelt by his side. He was unconscious, but breathing. There was blood all over his pants and his left leg was at an odd angle.

"Excuse me, ma'am." The EMT directed her out of the way.

She ran back to where Chelsea was being loaded into an ambulance and demanded to ride with her.

"Tracy, you can't go in there. I'll get one of my officers to drive you and I'll catch up when we've processed the scene. Come on. She's in good hands. I'll have some questions for you, but they can wait until later."

Tracy nodded and went with the police officer. She thought to retrieve her purse and cell phone so she could call Chelsea's grandfather and tell him what happened.

* * *

Tracy held on tightly to John Lambert's larger hand. She kept replaying the scene over in her mind's eye, wondering if there was anything she could have done to prevent her friends from getting hurt. Tears trickled down her angular face and she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She didn't know how badly Chelsea was hurt and the not knowing was torture. The feisty little attorney had become an integral part of her life. She was more than her legal advisor, so much more. She remembered the laughter and comfort Chelsea had brought into her life. The memories brought an onslaught of sobs.

"Hey, now. Chelsea will be fine." The older man hugged her tightly.

"I can't lose her Uncle John. I can't."

John Lambert pulled the dark head on to his shoulder. "My granddaughter is one tough cookie. She'll make it through this. I have faith in her and you should too."

Tracy nodded and sniffled.

* * *

A tall, middle aged man entered the waiting area causing Tracy and Mr. Lambert to stand in anticipation. "Is there a Lambert family member here?"

"Right here." The older man responded.

The doctor walked up to the anxious duo. "I'm Dr. Reynolds."

"I'm John Lambert, Chelsea's grandfather and this is Tracy Chandler, my niece. How is my granddaughter?"

"Miss Lambert has lost a considerable amount of blood. She is receiving 4 units of packed red blood cells now in preparation for surgery. The tibia is damaged and surgery is required to reconnect the bone by use of a titanium plate. We will also extract the bone fragments that could cause her problems in the future if not removed. I can't tell if there will be any permanent nerve damage until I get in there, but I don't expect to find any."

"Can we see her?" Tracy asked.

"Yes. For just a moment. She has been medicated for pain and will be going into surgery very shortly."

"We'll keep it short, Doctor. Thank you." John Lambert took Tracy's arm as the doctor led them to the cubicle where the petite blonde lay, bloodied and confused.

The silver haired gentleman leaned over his grandchild and gently took her hot hand in his. "Sweetheart? Chelsea, dear. It's Granddad. You're all right. You're in the hospital and they are going to take good care of you. Do you understand?"

Chelsea moaned and forced her heavy eyelids open. "Granddad? It hurts."

Tracy felt renewed tears at that statement.

"I know, Chelsea. But, you're going to be fine. You were shot in the leg and need surgery to fix it."

"They can fix me?" Chelsea mumbled.

"Yes. They can fix you up just like new." The older man rubbed his grandchild's hand to comfort her.

"What about Tracy? Is she OK?"

"I'm here, Chels. I'm fine." Tracy piped up, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

"Is it over? Did we get the bad guy?" Chelsea asked and ran her tongue over parched lips.

"Yeah. We got him. He won't be bothering anyone ever again." Tracy reassured her ailing friend.

Chelsea smiled in relief. "That's good. We did good." Her eyes fluttered shut as the medication took effect. The nurse escorted the family out of the room.

"Nurse. How long before Ms. Lambert is out of surgery and we can see her?" Tracy asked.

"It's hard to say, but the surgery should take no more than three or four hours, then an hour in recovery before going to her room. So, plan on about 5 hours before you can visit with the patient. I have to transport Ms. Lambert now. Try not to worry. She's in good hands."

"Thank you." Tracy took her honorary uncle's hand and they walked to the waiting area in silence.

While they walked side by side John Lambert took a close look at his niece for the first time since arriving at the hospital. "Tracy, I think we should have you examined while we wait. You're limping and your hand is terribly swollen and bloodied. Come on. Lets get you looked at."

"I'm OK. Really, it looks much worse than it is." Tracy lied.

John reached out and gently grasped the hand in question and shook his head when his niece hissed and pulled the offending appendage away from his probing fingers.

"Yes, I see. . . . You are seeing the ER physician, young lady, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it." The older man placed his hand on her shoulder and gently shoved her back into the ER.

* * *

Over an hour had passed and John Lambert read every magazine in the waiting room. Tracy sat pouting in the corner, hugging her aching hand to her chest. The brace really wasn't all that uncomfortable. It was all the manipulating and X-Ray taking and scrubbing off the dirt and blood that made it hurt like the dickens now. Thank God it was only a sprain and bruises. She was told to ice it and coddle it for the next two weeks. What really hurt were the stitches the Doc replaced in the tender torn skin of her bruised hip.. 'Damn, that hurt!' she exclaimed to herself. She had to keep it clean and dry, then come back in a week to have them removed.

Sitting in the waiting room, Tracy hatched a plan. "Uncle John, I'd like to take Chelsea home with me and take care of her until she's healed up."

"Well, that's very kind of you, dear. But, I have room for her and a housekeeper who is like family to Chelsea."

"I'm sure that is true." Tracy interrupted. "But, I'd like to take care of her myself. I can hire a nurse to dress her wounds and bathe her. I can work from the condo. Hell, Ms. Ada can fairly run the entire corporation without me. I want to do this Uncle John. She's done so much for me over these past months. I need to give back some of what she's given me. . . . Please." Tracy pleaded.

John Lambert took a good look into his niece's eyes and couldn't deny her. He had witnessed the friendship growing between his two favorite girls and suspected their friendship had grown into something deeper and long lasting. It brought a knowing smile to his face.

"All right, Tracy. I'll loan her to you on one condition."

"What's that?"

"That you let me visit as often as I like."

Tracy smiled broadly. "Anytime, Uncle John. Anytime at all."

"Now, I have plans to make, so I'd better get started. I'll call a cab. Tell Chelsea I'll see her in the morning. Call me as soon as you know something, OK?" Tracy cautiously bent over and kissed his cheek.

"Of course. I have your cell phone number."

"Good. Thanks, Uncle John. You don't know how much this means to me." Tracy hugged the handsome older man.

* * *

The salesman at the Ford dealership thought she was some kind of nut-case homeless person, judging by her bruised and battered appearance. However, his demeanor changed drastically when she called the bank, which verified that a check for payment in full for the baby-blue T-bird would be hand delivered to the dealership.

Tracy couldn't help but grin as she delicately slid into her new car and drove away, leaving the salesman in a state of shock.

After making all the arrangements for Chelsea's care, including daily nursing visits and a wheelchair. The exhausted woman stepped into the shower and washed away the dirt, blood and grime from the horrifying events of the day. After calling to check on Chelsea's well being and satisfied that she was sleeping comfortably, Tracy crawled into bed and fell into a deep, restful sleep.

* * *

Tracy arrived at the hospital by taxi, having taken two pain pills the doctor ordered for her in order to move her aching body out of bed that morning. She hoped the flowers she ordered had arrived as she gently knocked on the door to Chelsea's private room, then let herself in. The sight before her made her heart sink in her chest. The petite blonde lay quietly weeping in the dark, holding a pillow tightly to her chest, her leg elevated with what appeared to be screws sticking out of either side of the heavy looking cast. She didn't seem to hear the door open, or the tall woman approach the bed.

"Hey, Chels, are you alright? Do you need me to get the nurse?"

Chelsea just shook her head and reached for the tiny box of Kleenex on her over-bed table.

"Then, what is it? Why are you crying." Tracy asked as she pulled one of the two chairs provided in the room up to the bed and reached out to grasp Chelsea's hand.

"It's Danny. . . They . . . , They amputated his leg! Oh, God!" Chelsea burst into tears and reached for the comfort of Tracy's arms.

"Oh, no . . . I'm so sorry. It's all my fault. If he hadn't been protecting me this would never have happened." Tears rolled down Tracy's face as she held tightly to Chelsea.

"It was not your fault! Don't say that! He was doing his job." Chelsea held her friend at arms length and looked deep into her eyes trying to emphasize the truth of her statement.

"This is a nightmare. What about his wife and family? How are they suppose to survive now?"

"The police take care of their own." Chelsea stated and wiped her sodden face.

"I have to do something to help them. If it weren't for Danny we'd be dead right now. I'll talk to him when he is up to it. Danny might like the boat business."

Chelsea smiled. "You're a good soul, Tracy."

Tracy blushed and changed the subject. "Now, how about you? What's all this?" She asked pointing to the contraption that held her friend's leg captive.

"It's suppose to be some kind of traction machine. I hear tell my leg will be prisoner for the next few days." She frowned. "It's damned uncomfortable!" She squirmed trying to get some pressure off of her backside.

"It looks scarey. Can I do something to make it better." Tracy gave Chelsea a lascivious grin, then caught herself and felt her ears burn.

Chelsea's eyebrow went up into her hairline. 'Is she flirting with me?'

"I mean, can I get you something . . . more pillows?" Tracy tripped over her own tongue.

"No, no. I'm just cranky. My butt's asleep." Chelsea watched Tracy get up and pace, back and forth, across her small room.

"What's wrong?" Chelsea hoped the beautiful brunette wasn't about to walk out of her life now that the case was over.

Tracy saw the worried look in her friend's eyes. "Nothing. Really, nothing is wrong. I just wanted to . . . well, I wanted to ask you if . . . umm .. . ."


"I want you to come home with me?"

"WHAT?!?" Chelsea couldn't have been more shocked.

"While you are recovering." Tracy pointed to Chelsea's entrapped leg. "I've hired a nurse, rented a wheelchair and all . . . And, I just wanted to make sure it was Ok with you. Is it?"

"Is what Ok with me?" Chelsea wasn't sure if it was the pain medication or if Tracy just wasn't making any sense.

"Coming home with me and letting me take care of you while your leg heals. What did you think?"

"I really dunno." Chelsea's head was spinning and her heart was pounding at the thought of living under the same roof as Tracy for several more weeks.

"Would you rather go to live with your grandfather?" Tracy asked with trepidation. "I mean, I'll understand if you'd rather be with your family. But, I really want to have you with me. I mean, I'd like to take care of you if you'll let me." Disappointment shadowed the face that had colored Chelsea's dreams for weeks now.

"I'd rather be with you. If you think you can tolerate me. I'm a terrible patient."

"But, you're a great friend."

"What about your work?"

"I can work out of my condo and just go into the office a few hours a week. I don't want Ms. Ada to think she can run Chandler Marine on her own, although she can." Tracy grinned, much more relaxed than she was a few short minutes ago.

"I don't want to be a burden on you, Tracy. But, if you insist . . ."

"I do. So behave yourself and listen to your doctors. Ok?"

"Ok. You're the boss." The two women looked fondly at each other.

"I like the sound of that."

The End

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