For disclaimers see part 1

While editing this part of my story, September the 11th, 2001, the world was shocked by an unspeakable act of violence, when terrorist attacks hit New York, Washington and Shanksville. No words will ever be able to describe the horrific events that took place. The gap in the New York skyline will forever symbolize the gap left in the hearts of many people, not only in the USA, but around the world.

I realize how lucky I am to have my lover, family, friends and loved ones, knowing they are healthy and safe, both here as in the US. As I count my blessings, my heart goes out to those less fortunate. I hope and pray that they will somehow find the strength and courage to face difficult times ahead.

I would like to thank my friend Cyndi for betareading this part for me.

Feedback is most welcome at

The Reef - part 8

By Lois Kay

The police station was bathed in an abundance of sunshine. The small building was surrounded by a few high trees, providing much needed shade for the cars parked outside. Everything looked quiet and peaceful and with a sigh Jody parked her car next to a police cruiser. She switched off the engine and cast a look at Sam who was sitting next to her, a pensive expression on her face.

" You think we will be told off for not giving all the information before?" Jody asked. " Carol Wong might not be pleased at all."

Sam looked at Jody, a warm smile on her face.

" Don't worry about it, honey. We didn't have all the information, remember? We had some ideas, but the real proof that backs them up came last night when Tom sent me those files." Sam reached out and gently squeezed Jody's knee. " I think Carol will be very pleased."

" I hope so, " Jody sighed, covering Sam's hand with her own. " But even if she's not, I'm glad the police will take over. The thought that those….idiots tried to get to my sister just pisses me off-big time."

Sam chuckled and leaned in to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

" Lets go then, shall we?"

" Yup, let's get it done and over with."

Jody stepped out of the car and followed Sam toward the main entrance.

" Wow, it's going to be a hot day, " Jody remarked, feeling the early morning sun warming her skin with an amazing speed.

Jody's cell phone rang just as Sam opened the door and stepped aside to let her lover in to enter the building. The sound was so unexpected, that the already tense Jody nearly jumped, much to Sam's amusement.

With a scowl Jody reached into her purse and got her phone out. She looked at the display and Sam saw her brow furrow.

" Unidentified caller ID, " she explained, before pressing a button.

" Jody McDonnell."

Sam saw her face change from curiosity to surprise.

" Fiona? Aren't you supposed to be at school? Where are you calling from?"

Sam's eyes widened and she watched Jody's face like a hawk, listening intently to the one sided conversation.

" What!!? Where are you now? …..Wait a sec, will you?"

The expression on Jody's face was one of pure shock and her hands slightly trembled when she looked up at Sam, who was trying very hard not to look impatient.

" What's up?"

" Fiona is at school and she says one of those blokes that were outside the shop the other day is right outside the school. He asked one of her schoolmates to send her to him, telling the boy he was Gerald."

Sam's face lost all color and with a grim expression she took the phone out of Jody's hand. She grabbed Jody's hand and pulled her with her toward the car.

" Fiona? It's me. Are you inside the school right now?…..Stay there. Don't move. We're coming to pick you up. …Yes, now, we're on our way. Whatever you do, don't go outside!"

Sam ended the conversation and cast Jody a worried look.

" This thing is getting worse every day. Damnit!!! "

" But Sam, maybe we should…"

" We'll pick up Fiona and come back here. I have had enough of this. I want the police to protect your family."

Jody could tell Sam was upset and she knew better than to argue with her when she was that anxious. She knew her sister would be safe, as long as she stayed inside the school building, but realized Sam was making the right choice to go and pick her up to bring her back to the police station, so Fiona could tell her own story to Carol Wong. It would only emphasize the seriousness of the situation.

It took them twenty minutes to reach the school, there was a lot of traffic and every time Jody had to stop and wait Sam was getting more anxious. Her strong fingers impatiently drummed her knee and from the corner of her eye Jody could see her biting her lip, a sign she was nervous. When they finally reached their destination Sam spoke for the first time.

" Park as close to the school as you can, " she said. " I don't want any nasty surprises."

" I'm not allowed to park there, Sam, it's for school buses only."

" I don't care, " Sam remarked. " If we get a ticket, I'll pay it and get it over with. Besides, I wouldn't mind a few police officers outside right now." She looked around, scanning the area with keen eyes. " I don't know where those clowns are and I don't like that one single bit."

Sam opened the door and stepped outside, stretching her long frame, in the meantime looking at the parked cars opposite the school. She saw nothing out of the ordinary.

" Come on, " she urged Jody, putting her hand in the small of her friend's back, keeping her body between Jody's and the street behind them. She resisted the urge to look back, not wanting to let anyone who might be watching know she was nervous.

They entered the building and Sam decided to let Jody take the lead, when they were approached by a short man, who was obviously wearing a wig.

" Can I help you?" he asked, not too friendly.

" I hope so, " Jody smiled. " My name is Jody McDonnell and I came here to pick up my sister, Fiona."

Mark Richards didn't answer her immediately. His eyes curiously examined Jody and when they started to roam her body, Sam had to seriously resist the urge to grab him by his tie and wind it tightly around his neck. Instead she cleared her throat, sending him a menacing look.

" Um..right…Fiona. Well, it's a school day and since I didn't receive a note from either of her parents, I am afraid I can't let her leave the school grounds. It's against the rules, you see."

Jody could feel Sam's body tense behind her and with a small gesture of her hand she stopped her lover from interrupting.

" It's an emergency, Mr. Richards, " Jody replied politely. " I really need Fiona to come with me."

Mark Richard's muddy brown eyes took on a stubborn expression and he pulled back his shoulders, no doubt to look taller than he really was.

" I am sorry, Miss McDonnell, but as I said…."

Jody felt Sam move behind her and before she knew what had happened, Sam had gently pushed her aside and was standing in front of the teacher, stretched to her full height, looking down at him with a dangerous glare in her eyes.

" My friend here said it was an emergency. Now, you're gonna tell me where Fiona is, so we can take her with us, or I will make sure that your teaching days are over. It's up to you."

In order to see her face, Mark Richards had to crane his neck and look up and Jody saw him swallow hard. He was not inclined to give in yet.

" I don't know who you are, Miss, but you can't come barging in here like that, threatening me. I'd suggest you'll leave before I call the police."

" Oh, please do, by all means, " Sam purred, smiled, bearing her teeth in a wicked grin. " Maybe you can explain to them how it's possible for one of your pupils to leave the school grounds unseen and nearly get kidnapped. I'd love to hear your side of the story."

" K…Kidnapped?" the teacher repeated and Jody could see the perspiration form on his forehead, in spite of the air conditioning inside the building. "B…But…"

" Fiona didn't tell you what happened?" Sam inquired, her eyebrows raised into perfect arcs.

" Um..well…she did tell me there was somebody pretending to be her brother, but…I…um…well, you know how kids are?"

" Of course, " Sam smiled, but her eyes were chips of ice. " They all make up stories about being kidnapped, don't they? And of course all families react the same. I bet you already sent away a lot of worried parents this morning, didn't you?"

Sam's words were dripping with sarcasm and Jody saw the pale teacher turn another shade of white. He looked like he could pass out any moment.

" I'm gonna ask you for the last time, where is Fiona? We would like to take her with us. Now."

That last word was more like a growl and suddenly Jody realized her lover would be a worthy opponent in any boardroom. And despite the seriousness of the situation she had to suppress a chuckle when she saw her tall lover towering over the impressed teacher. Talking about taking advantage of one's height!

" She..she is in English class, I will get her for you..I…"

" No need, I'm already here, " a clear voice sounded through the hallway and when they looked around they saw Fiona's slender form approaching. Her school bag was slung over her shoulder and a wide, mischievous grin split her freckled face. Jody could tell by looking at her sister, that she had been following at least part of the conversation.

" Thanks for your cooperation, Mr. Richards, " she casually remarked while passing him, making Jody nearly choke.

" Where did you come from?" Sam asked, relieved to see her.

" I saw you two coming in, so I told Mrs. Davids I had to go. She let me, no worries, " she answered, casting a look at Mark Richards.

" Let's go, " Sam urged. " I want to get to the police station as soon as possible. " She cast a last look at the teacher. " Mr. Richards."

Without looking back she walked towards the door, closely followed by Jody and Fiona.

Muttering under his breath, Little Steven put away the cell phone, looking anything but pleased. His hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly, his knuckles turned white.

" What's up?" Fred asked, not used to seeing his partner lose his composure.

" We're called off, " the big man next to him hissed between clenched teeth.

Fred's face lost all color when he realized what that could mean. Shark's bait. A chill ran up his spine and he had to control himself from shivering.

" W…what do we do now?"

His words were nothing more than a whisper. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach and realized he was about to lose his breakfast.

" The boss wants us to meet up with him. The plan has changed. Goddamnit!!! Just when we were so close!!"

" What does he wants us to do? I mean…are ….are we in trouble?"

Little Steven cast a look at the young man in the passenger seat and felt a little bit of compassion when he saw the fear in his eyes. His face softened and he even mustered up a little smile.

" Nah. He needs us. Don't worry, mate. Your days aren't over yet. Neither are mine."

The long silence was getting more and more uncomfortable. The persistent ticking of the clock was the only sound in the room. A pair of scrutinizing brown eyes , set in a stoic face, slowly traveled between the three persons sitting in front of a desk. One was nervously clasping her hands, one was boldly looking around, the amusement evident in her dark green eyes and the last one looked very calm and relaxed, meeting the almost cold stare from the woman in front of her with a lot of self confidence.

" Why didn't I hear this before?" Carol Wong finally asked, looking at Sam.

" Because I didn't know, " Sam answered politely.

" Come on, Sam, " the police woman sneered provokingly. " I am aware you are more intelligent than that. I did do my homework, you know."

In answer a pair of eyebrows lifted above a pair of clear blue eyes. Sam didn't respond, but her eyes were hooded and her gaze was cold.

" It's amazing what a few phone calls can yield. I know you are the daughter of Richard Stevens, who happens to own a whole chain of hotels across the world, among other things. I also know you were intelligent enough to get your business degree cum laude, just like your law degree and, what was the other one? International marketing?"

Sam heard a gasp of surprise and although she didn't see Jody's face, she could feel her lovers eyes rest on her and she tried very hard not to smirk. Almost invisibly Sam shrugged her shoulders, still returning the inquisitive stare of Carol Wong.

" So, don't pretend to be something you are not, " the police woman relentlessly continued. " You're no fool, Miss Stevens and neither am I. I am gonna ask you again, why didn't I hear about this when the fire brigade hauled you off that roof?"

" I didn't know, " Sam answered again. " I had some suspicions, but no proof. I wanted to be sure something was up. I got the confirmation about that last night. That's when we decided to come and see you."

Carol Wongs eyes traveled to Jody, who was obviously still impressed by Sam's list of academic honors. Her eyes were wide and the expression on her face was one of sheer surprise.

" Jody, is that true?"

" Huh?" Jody's head turned to the woman opposite her and her eyes slowly lost their dreamy expression. " Um…yes, it is. Sam is telling the truth. Last night Tom Stevens emailed her the results of his analysis and that's when we knew what was up. Honestly."

Carol Wongs face lost some of it's stoic expression and a small smile tugged on the corner of her mouth.

" Okay, I suppose I'll take your word for it."

" Gee, thanks, " Sam mumbled, making Fiona chuckle.

That remark illicited an annoyed look from the police woman, but Sam was not impressed. Their eyes fought a silent battle, much to Jody's discomfort. Oh, my goodness. A battle between two strong willed women. This won't get us anywhere.

Jody reached out a hand and softly touched Sam's knee. It was a silent plea and when Sam cast her a look, Jody saw her relax a little. She smiled and covered Jody's hand with her own, gently squeezing it.

" So, what do we do now?" Jody asked, turning her attention to Carol Wong, who sent her a grateful look.

" Well, of course we will take over from here. We will have a look at those disks and after that I suppose we will have a talk with William Jensen. See what he has to say about all this."

" What about those goons who were after Fiona?" Sam asked with a grim expression on her face. " We don't know who they are and who sent them. I want my family to be safe."

Those last words were spoken without thought and a happy blush colored Jody's face, while Fiona looked up at Sam with nothing less than pure adoration in her expressive eyes. Carole Wong noticed their reaction and suppressed a smile.

" We will do our best to find out who they are as soon as possible, Sam, " she replied, knowing her answer would not be accepted. " As soon as we know, we will bring them in. William Jensen might help us out here."

" That is not enough, " Sam objected. " I want them safe. No risks. I don't want those idiots around Fiona or Jody or anyone else."

" I can't promise anything yet, Sam, " Carole Wong reasoned. " I understand your feelings about all this, but we don't know who they are and we don't know where they are. You know that."

" What about police protection?"

The short police woman pressed her fingertips together and creased her forehead in a deep frown. Her eyes rested on Fiona for a while and she sighed.

" I will ask my supervisor, Sam. But I have to tell you I don't think he will agree. We are badly understaffed. The only promise I can make you is that we will patrol around the McDonnell's house and Fiona's school more frequently. Any other descision is up to my superior. Like I said, I can't promise anything. I am sorry."

" Fiona's not going to school then, " Sam decided, without even looking at Jody. " I will keep an eye on her myself."

" Cool," Fiona beamed. " No objections from me."

Her dark green eyes were sparkling with an adventurous glint and Jody sighed when she saw the expression on her youngest sisters face.

" This is not a vacation, you know, " she reprimanded, but Fiona just shrugged her shoulders, a broad grin on her face.

" Oh, she will study alright, " Sam added. " Just not at school."

Fiona's triumphant grin disappeared quickly and she shot Sam a look filled with chagrin.

" Spoilsport, " she mumbled.

Sam smiled and playfully ruffled her hair.

" Come on, Fi, " she teased. " It's better than sitting in class with Mr. Richards."

"Well, it's easier to only keep an eye on the house, " Carol Wong agreed.

" She won't be there, " Sam spoke, very determined.

Jody's eyebrows disappeared underneath her hair and she looked genuinely puzzled.

" She won't?" the police woman inquired. " Where will she go? We can't keep an eye on her, if…"

" I will keep an eye on her myself, " Sam interrupted. " She will be safe, don't worry."

Those last words were spoken to Jody and were accompanied by a reassuring smile and a look that made Jody understand Sam would explain her plans later.

" Care to share?" Carol Wong asked, a little irritated by Sam's controlling attitude.

" Not really, " Sam bluntly answered. " It's not that I don't trust you. Fiona will be with me and I can be reached on my cell phone at any time."

" But…"

" It will make things easier, Miss Wong, for the both of us."

Carol Wong was truly impressed by Sam's determination and firm attitude. She leaned back in her chair, not sure whether to thank Sam for making her task easier or to pummel her senseless. The latter would not be a good idea, since Sam was a lot taller and seemed to be a lot stronger as well.

" Okay, " she drawled. " I think I can live with that. So, you're not going to tell me where the three of you will stay?"

" You can reach me on my cell phone, " Sam answered. " That should be enough."

" And you let us do our jobs then?"

" Of course, " Sam smiled, but somehow Carol Wong knew that the stubborn Dutch woman would still do some investigating herself.

She must be a heck of an opponant in any boardroom. My God, that woman has a spine made out of steel.

" Alright. I suppose you will let me know when anything happens?"

"Sure, " Sam answered, still smiling. " I will be the perfect citizen."

The long hospital hallway seemed endless. It was quiet, since visiting hour hadn't started yet. Joan McDonnell wrinkled her nose when she noticed the typical hospital smell. A mixture of dry, cool air and disinfectant. It smelled…sterile. Colorless and emotionless. Cold and distant. With every step she took, she realized it mirrored the feelings in her heart. When she had first met him, David McDonnell had been an enthusiastic young man, God fearing and full of ideas. His most important wish was raising a large family, living close to nature. Work the land and live on what it provided. Shelter his family from bad, wordly influences. Install a love for God and nature in his children. Help them grow into responsible adults who would be able to make a difference in society.

At first Joan had shared his ideas, finding his outlook on life interesting and his ideas worth fighting for. But during their marriage, her husband had gradually changed into a person she no longer pretended to know. Or to love, for that matter. He had forced his own ideas upon his children, demanding obedience, not accepting anything he didn't believe himself. Things were alright when the children had been very young, but as soon as they went to highschool and were confronted with the outside world, it had all changed. Jody had always had a mind of her own, but when she met her father's stubborn and rigid perspective, she became withdrawn. She did what was asked of her, without complaining once, but Joan had noticed real early the firey spark in those emerald greens . A determination she envied. She knew her eldest daughter just waited for her chance to go away. She was patient, never rebellious, but had made her plans very early in life. Joan sometimes compared her to an inmate. Captured between walls, just doing her time, waiting for the day to step out in the sunshine. Waiting to be free.

Lucy was a totally different story. She never took 'no' for an answer, was always willing to debate, argue and rebel. She pulled her chains at every opportunity she saw fit and never gave up voicing her frustration and discontent. More times than she was willing to remember, Joan had to save her daughter from severe and sometimes even violent punishments by jumping in the battle field, telling her husband she would deal with it, talk to her. Which she tried, but Lucy had always been as stubborn as they came. And more than once she silently agreed with her daughter when she complained about being treated unjust. After Jody left home things got worse and one year later Lucy left home as well. She never came back

 Joan reached the door of her husbands room. She tried to push down the nauseous feeling that had been assaulting her and sighed deeply, mustering up strength and courage.

As soon as she entered the room, she was greeted by a pair of indignant eyes, telling her it wouldn't be an easy visit. David McDonnell was sitting up, in a chair near the window and looked at her disapprovingly.

Before she could even say one word, he gestured her to sit down.

" Father Jamison said you weren't in church yesterday."

Joan McDonnell had not expected the news to travel that fast and she braced herself for the storm that was quickly approaching.

" I went to see Jody, " she truthfully answered.

" Jody?" he almost spat. " You chose a sinner over God?"

She's my daughter, David. She's our daughter. She needed me and I needed her. She's no more a sinner than you or me. I realize that now. I wish you would do the same.

" I wanted to see if she's allright. Her apartment got broken into."

" She's no longer a part of our life, Joan. She lost that right when she ran away from home and decided to live a sinful life. I don't want to talk about her. She's no child of mine. She chose the devil over God. There's no place in our lifes for her."

Joan cast down her eyes, to hide the tears that were stinging her eyes and threatening to appear. His words cut her soul like a two edged knife and her heart bled for her eldest daughter. Knowing Jody's pain for being disowned by her own family. And never been able to forget that look of profound hurt when Jody's father told her Sam was gone.

Soon, David. Very soon she will at least have the support of her mother. Talking about sinners. What are you? What have I been for neglecting the needs of my own child? She didn't deserve that. No child does. A parent is supposed to love his or her child, give love and support. What did we do? We pushed her away when she needed us most. It's a miracle she doesn't hate us. She was right here, came to see if you were allright. She came to comfort me. Me! Even though I haven't been the mother I should have been. Our daughter is a bright soul, David. A warm feeling, forgiving adult, with more sense in her little finger than you and I possess between us. She deserves every bit of happiness she can get. And she will, now Sam is back into her life. This prejudice and hatred needs to stop David. It really needs to….I can't believe this is what God wants. I refuse to believe that….

" Are you sure about this, Sarah?", Jody asked for the second time, searching her friends face for any sign of discomfort.

" Of course, Jody, " Megan answered, putting a hand on her lovers' shoulder. " Fiona can stay here as long as she needs to. No worries. We are glad to help you out."

" Thank you, " Sam answered, her blue eyes revealing the gratitude she felt. " I really appreciate that. I'm sorry we didn't have time to ask you before we dropped this on you, but…"

" It's all right, Sam, " Sarah spoke, a compassionate and understanding look in her grey eyes. " I know this situation must be hard on you, but like Meg said, we'd like to help you out."

Jody turned to her youngest sister, who was casually leaning against the post of the kitchen door. The expression on Fiona's face was a mixture of curiosity and mischief. Jody raised her eyebrows and cast her a warning look. Fiona didn't avoid the emerald eyes, but merely smiled.

" I will behave, sis, don't worry, " she smirked. " I can't say I'd look forward to meeting those idiots again. I will do as I'm told."

" Good, " Jody sighed.

She turned to Sam and cast her a serious look.

" I want to talk to you, Sam, " she said, not waiting for an answer but walking inside the house toward the guestroom they were sharing.

Sam raised one eyebrow and the expression on her face was so comical that Fiona started chuckling.

" You're in trouble, Sam, " she couldn't help but remarking, thoroughly enjoying herself.

Sam cast her an indignant look and without speaking one word, followed her lover, who had already disappeared into the house.

Jody was leaning against the window sill, her arms wrapped around herself, looking very vulnerable and yet determined. Her green eyes looked at Sam calmly, but deep inside a smoldering fire showed it's little sparks. Sam closed the door behind her and started to walk up towards her friend, but stopped halfway, suddenly realizing there was a certain distance between them that was not being caused by the fact there was half a room separating them.

" Why, Sam?" Jody's voice was calm, but Sam could hear the undertone of anger and hurt.

" Why what, honey?" Sam replied, puzzled.

Jody sighed and tried hard not to be captured by the confused look in her lover's clear blue eyes.

" Why did you treat me like a child when we were at the police station? As if it didn't matter what I was thinking? All the decisions you took this morning were yours, Sam. I felt left out."

With a few strides of her long legs, Sam closed the distance. Before Jody could even blink with her eyes, Sam was standing in front of her, one hand on her shoulder, the other one lifting her chin to look her friend in the eyes.

" I'm sorry I made you feel that way, honey, I truly am, " Sam whispered repentant, a sad look in her eyes. " You are absolutely right, I should have asked your opinion about it, instead of just taking over like I am in some damn boardroom, kicking…butts. But it…," she paused, looking for words. " I was so pissed off! Which is no excuse, of course, but…"

Jody raised her hand and placed her fingers gently against Sam's lips, effectively silencing her. The storm clouds in her eyes had passed and Sam sighed with relief.

" I understand, Sam. I just wanted you to know how I felt, since I'm as much involved in this as you are. I think this morning, when you were talking to Carol Wong I realized there are parts of you I'm not familiar with." Jody smiled, while her thumb traced the outline of Sam's lips. " I knew you could be stubborn, but I never saw that…executive, business arrogance before. Guess I was a bit blind sided by it. It was not the Sam I used to know."

" It's not really me, " Sam softly answered. " It's more a role I play. I learned that an attitude like that usually impresses the socks off people and in business meetings that's a helpful skill. I'm sorry I suprised you with it, baby. I didn't mean to, but at the time it seemed like the best way to handle it."

Jody grinned when she remembered the expression on Carol Wongs face when Sam told her the way things should be taken care of.

" I'm sure Carol Wong was as suprised as I was, " she laughed. " Did you see her face? She was positively shocked."

Sam smiled and brushed back a strand of hair that had found it's way across Jody's cheek. She bent her head and softly kissed her lover's forehead.

" It was quite effective, " she mumbled, hearing Jody's breathing stop for a second.

Her lips slid down, placing kisses on Jody's eyebrows, eyes, and finally her nose. Unconsiously Jody leaned into the caresses, until their bodies touched and she felt Sam's arms tighten around her. With a sigh of contentment she rested her head against a cotton clad shoulder and closed her eyes, soaking up the loving tenderness she was receiving.

" What do we do now, Sam?" she asked in a soft voice. " It's Monday. I should go back to work, but somehow I don't think you will agree."

" You're absolutely right, " Sam answered. " I'm sure they, whoever the heck they are, keep a close eye on The Reef. I don't want you near there. You do understand, don't you?"

" I do, " Jody admitted. " But I should let Brian know I am not coming in today."

" Give him a call, " Sam suggested. " Tell him they can reach you whenever there's a problem they can't solve themselves. You think he's capable of handling that?"

" Yes, he is. He has been covering for me before, but that was only for a day or two."

" Tell you what," Sam put her hands on Jody's shoulders and held her on arm length so she could look her in the eyes. " Since William Jensen won't be coming back once we're through with him, why don't you give Brian the chance to become assistant manager? Now is the right time for him to prove his worth. Is there anyone else you can give the position he is in now?"

" I…I guess, " Jody stammered. " But Sam….that's my job."

" I know, baby and I don't want to make your decisions for you. But we will need a new manager and if you want to stay at The Reef, well, I don't see why you shouldn't fill that position."

Jody leaned back a little to be able to look Sam in the eyes.

" You had all of this figured out already, didn't you?" she asked astounded.

" It's just a suggestion, honey, nothing else."

And what will you be doing, Sam? Going back to Holland? Leaving me here? Again? Or do you expect me to come with you? Would I do that? Move to a different country, away from my family, not speaking the language?

Her thoughts must have been showing on her expressive face, because Sam's eyes became very soft and gentle and she pulled Jody in a hug, holding her close.

" I am not sure how things will work out, honey. But they will. I promise. I won't leave you, you have to trust me on this one. Once this mess we're in is cleared up, I want a life with you. I know there might be a few obstacles, but lets cross those bridges when we reach them. Okay?"

Sam could feel Jody nod and with a deep sigh she buried her face in the fragrant hair, breathing in the scent that was so distinctively her lover's. When Jody's hands started wandering across her back and shoulders, Sam could feel their bodies melting even closer. She moved her head to gain access to a shapely ear, that begged her to be kissed, illiciting a very soft moan from the woman in her arms.

" Wasn't there some unfinished business we had to take care of? " Sam's voice playfully rumbled, making Jody chuckle.

" Somehow I was expecting you to bring that up, " she answered, pressing her lips against the soft skin of Sam's neck.

" But I am afraid you have to control yourself a bit longer, my love. I did hear Sarah mention something about fixing lunch and I don't think you would be very happy if we were disturbed by a lunch call, now would you?"

" Hmmm…guess not, " Sam answered, tracing a moist path across Jody's cheek, aiming for a pair of soft lips. " I have to admit I am starving, though."

" Why is it I think you are not talking about food? " Jody smiled. " I think that…"

But she was silenced by a pair of lips that were hungrily pressed against her own. All thoughts vanished when she felt Sam's probing lips and when an impatient tongue sought entrance, she willingly complied, letting her lover in. Her hands traveled up to Sam's neck, pulling her even closer. With a thundering heart her world spun out of control, until there was only Sam and herself and nothing or nobody else.

The door was closed with a soft click and with a deep sigh and sad eyes Joan McDonnell started her journey through the long hallway, back to her car that was parked close to the entrance of the hospital. Her slow steps echoed against the empty walls, in sync with the dull ache she felt, like an iron chain, clenched around her heart, chilling her from the inside, making her feel lost, like she was drifting on an vast ocean of unfamiliar feelings, with no safe harbor in sight.

Her visit had been anything but pleasant and she left with a long list of do's and don't 's, which she knew she couldn't live up to. Not anymore. The future weighed heavy on her slightly slumped shoulders and even though she knew that there were decisions to be made, somehow her brain refused to cooperate. The only thing she could think of, was her husband's cold determination when telling her not to visit her eldest daughter again. Ever.

Joan McDonnell felt a shiver run up her spine when she realized what her husband's reaction would be when he found out she was disobeying him. During all the twenty nine years of their marriage he had only raised his hand against her once, genuinely regretting that action immediately, but she knew he wouldn't hesitate to hit her agin. He had changed so much.

" Mom," a clear voice interrupted her thoughts and her eyes brightened at the sight of a slender, dark haired woman who just rounded a corner.

" Lucy," she reacted, feeling a comforting warmth spreading through her body.

Her daughter threw one arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

" Just escaped the lion's den?" Lucy joked, seeing the tired expression on her mother's face. " How is grumpy?"

In the past Joan McDonnell would have told her daughter to speak about her father with respect, but she couldn't muster up the courage or the strength anymore to do that. So she let the remark pass.

" Your father is recovering quickly, " Joan answered her daughter in an emotionless voice. " The doctor says he will be able to go home soon. Maybe in a couple of days."

" You don't sound too happy about that," Lucy replied, casting her mother an inquisitive look. " What's going on? Are you allright, mom?"

Joan McDonnell tried to swallow away the lump in her throat and tried to avoid a pair of dark green eyes, that were searching her face for an answer.

" Your father told me not to go and see Jody again. He was very determined about it," she softly answered and Lucy could hear the bitterness in her voice.

" That's not his decision to make, mom, " Lucy said, squeezing her mother's shoulder. " Jody is your daughter as well. He has no right to tell you what to do. How long are you going to put up with this?"

Joan McDonnell didn't answer right away and Lucy could see the muscles in her jaw clench. She had always known her mother to be a gentle person, very slow to anger and the times she had lost her temper could be counted on one hand. But Lucy recognized the signs effortlessly. She put her hand on her mother's arm and made her stop walking, turning her around so she could face her.

" I don't want to stir up any trouble between you and dad, because I have no right to, " she said, her eyes softening when she saw the pain in her mother's. " But mom, it is allright to be angry. God knows you have every right to be. It's not healthy to bottle it all up inside. You have to let it out, someway or the other. And I don't care how you do it, but I really think you should."

" I don't know if I can, honey. " Joan sighed. " It might just be too much. It frightens me."

Those last three words were nothing but a whisper and Lucy felt a stab of pain, when she realized how lonely and lost her mother sounded.

" Oh, mom. Come here, " she sighed, pulling her mother in a gentle hug. " Is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all? "

" Well, there is one thing, actually, " Joan answered, unwrapping herself from her daughter's arms and looking at her. " Could you pick up Fiona for me? There are some things I have to do."

" Talking about Fiona," Lucy smiled. " That's the reason I am here. Jody called me and asked me to tell you what happened this morning. Listen…"

With an impatient gesture Brian O'Conner tossed a pile of documents in one of the drawers that were hidden behind the counter of the reception desk. A quick glance at the clock taught him it was only three minutes later than the previous time he had a look at it. With a sigh he glanced at his watch to make sure the clock was telling the truth and a worried frown creased his forehead when he realized it did. Jody was never late for work and he had to try hard to push away the awful scenario's that tried to enter his mind. His manager's behavior the day before had worried him a great deal and ever since his short visit he had wanted to talk to Jody about it.

I suppose I could call her. She did tell me not to disturb her unless there would be a disaster, but still….

His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone and automatically his hand strechted out to pick up the horn and bring it to his ear.

" The Reef, Brian O' Conner speaking. Can I help you?"

" Hi, Brian, it's me, Jody"

The relief that flooded through his system was so intense that Brian slumped against the counter.

" Jody!" he sighed. " I was worried about you. Are you all right?"

" I am fine, Brian, " Jody answered. " But I won't be coming in today, or tomorrow."

" Little vacation? " Brian tried to joke, but he failed miserably, not able to hide his concern.

Jody picked up his mood immediately and after a brief silence Brian could hear her clear her throat.

" What's wrong, Brian?" she gently asked.

" The boss was here yesterday," Brian blurted. " He has a picture of Miss Stevens. I don't know what's going on, Jody, but I don't trust him. He had this strange look on his face."

" A picture of Sam? " Jody echoed. " Where did he get …..oh, wait a minute, the copies. Did he take the copy of her passport?"

" I didn't want to give it to him, Jody, but he threatened to fire me." Brian answered in a subdued voice. " I am sorry."

" That's okay, Brian, " Jody sighed. " I understand. There was'nt much you could have done about it anyway. Don't worry about it."

" What's going on Jody?"

" I can't tell you right now, Brian, but I want you to keep your ears and eyes open. Whenever you see or hear something out of the ordinary, anything, call me. Okay?"

" I will, Jody."

" Listen, Brian, I won't be in for a few days, maybe longer. I want you to cover for me. I know it will be like throwing you off the deep end, but I have faith in you. Ask Miriam to take your place, she'll jump at the chance. Sam asked me to tell you there's a raise coming with the new responsibilities."

" You think Mr. Jensen will approve of that?"

" Don't worry, Brian," Jody reassured him. " Sam will take care of that."

" Okay, Brian sighed, not knowing whether to be pleased or worried. " If I run into something I won't be able to handle, can I call you then?"

" Always, Brian, " Jody answered and he could hear the smile in her voice. " But I know you will do a good job."

" Thanks, Jody. Just one more question…Since you won't be here, who's going to handle the paychecks?"

" It's been taken care of already, Brian. The head office took care of it. The slips might be a bit later than usual, but you can tell everybody their salary will be in their accounts on time."

" Did it go through head office, but…"

" I can't explain it now, Brian, but as soon as I can I will tell you the whole story. I am sorry."

" Is The Reef in trouble? I mean, do I have to start looking for another job?" Brian feintly joked and Jody could hear the anxiety in his voice.

" No, The Reef will be okay, don't worry."

" Thank goodness, " Brian sighed. " Well, I'll do my best to run this place smoothly Jody."

" I know you will, Brian. Thanks. I have to go now, but I will call you tomorrow for an update. Allright?"

" Fair enough, Jody. Talk to you then. Bye."

Brian put down the phone and stared at the fountain that was the center of the huge lobby. His eyes didn't register the pretty sight in front of him, because his brain was quickly processing and registering the things that Jody had told him. Jody didn't have to tell him there was something going on with William Jensen, he already sensed that the moment the manager had demanded the copy of Sam's passport.

Brian sighed and scratched the back of his neck, mentally making a list of all the things he had to do. First he had to call Miriam Gonzalez, one of the chambermaids. Ever since she injured her leg in a biking accident, Jody had occassionally let her work at the reception desk, to give her a much needed break. Brian suspected she would be very pleased to be able to give her leg a rest for a while. Not to mention the raise. Miriam's husband owned a small banana plantation. They had three children and could barely make ends meet at the end of the month. Brian smiled while imagining Miriam's surprise when she would hear about the change in responsibilities.

Well, better give her a call first, see if she's able to start today. And after that I'd better take a look at the safe. Jody didn't say anything about it, but it might be a good idea to change the combination. I don't trust that manager of ours. God knows what he is up to.

With a heartfelt yawn Meghan let herself fall on the bed, ungracefully stretching her tired muscles, not bothered by the sight she was presenting.

" My goodness, honey, " Sarah chuckled. "If I didn't know better I'd be tempted to think you spent the day doing hard labor."

" Such as?" Meghan's voice lazily came from the bed.

" Oh, I don't know, " Sarah answered, amused by her partners obvious weariness." Shoveling sand? Digging holes? Chopping down half a forest?"

" Ha ha, " Meghan reacted, rolling on her side, supporting her head with her hand. " You know, you definetely are the funniest person in the universe. It must have escaped your attention, but I did help Fiona with that awful math assignment."

" So, Fiona wore you out, huh? " Sarah gently teased. " Well, I think that's a very logical thing, my love. It must have been ages ago since you went to highschool yourself."

Meghan grinned and watched her lover hitting and shaping her pillow, before crawling into bed herself.

" I'm not taking the bait, " she replied. " Besides, you're two years older than I am so…."

Sarah smiled, a mischievous glint in her grey eyes. She rolled over to face her partner, who stared back at her with an innocent face.

" Better turn off the light then, huh? " she said. " I need my sleep if I want to keep up with you."

" Mmm, yeah, that might be better," Meghan replied. " But before you go to sleep I wanted to ask you if you're okay with Fiona staying here as well?"

" Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be? Jody and Sam are our friends and I am glad we are able to help them out. Fiona can stay as long as she needs to. I like the brat, she's so much like Lucy!"

" I was just wondering, " Meghan continued. " It might be too much for you, you know, considering your age.."

Sarah grinned when it dawned on her that Meghan had been teasing her all along and with a quick movement she pinned her partner to the bed.

" Honey, I think it's about time to settle this age thing once and for all. I think it's about time I prove myself to you."

Meghan looked at the face so close to her own, resisting the urge to kiss a pair of moist, full lips. Her eyes were sparkling and Sarah could feel her body shaking with silent laughter.

" That might be an excellent idea, " she agreed. " But aren't you a bit overdressed for the occassion?"

Sarah glanced down, looking at her t-shirt and panties, before locking her gaze with Meghan's again.

" Somehow I think you will be able to take care of that, " she purred seductively, before she brought her lips in contact with Meghan's.

Immediately she felt a pair of warm hands snake under her shirt, caressing the bare skin underneath it. Meghan shifted, so their bodies came into full contact, slightly spreading her legs to allow Sarah's thigh to rest between her own. She softly moaned when her lover increased the pressure and impatiently tugged on the shirt, that had become a barrier between their quickly heating bodies. Sarah lifted her torso and felt the fabric leave her body. That was about the last thing her brain could register for a long time, because when Meghan's lips traveled down her neck, in search for her breasts she lost all coherent thought and willingly let her body take over.

Continued in part 9

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