Fiona was used to the sounds of the bush. Growing up in and around the forest, they had almost become a part of her. The familiar calls of the nocturnal animals often rocked her to sleep, giving her a sense of belonging and peace.
So when the dark-haired photographer woke up during the night, she immediately knew she was aroused from sleep by something unusual. Reluctant to open her eyes, Fiona concentrated on her surroundings. From the tiny backroom came the sound of Joshua's soft snoring and involuntarily she smiled. The previous evening, she had come to know the teenager a little better and she had been amused by the way he had flirted with her, totally ignoring his sister's warning glances.
Fiona suppressed a yawn and slowly opened her eyes a little. Glancing through her lashes, she concentrated on her breathing, while her gaze slowly traveled through the dark office that was only lit by the soft light of the moon streaming through one of the windows.
On the other side of the room she could see the dark form of Robin Adams, curled up in her sleeping bag. The manager seemed to be having a dream, because she softly mumbled something incoherent.
For a brief moment Fiona wondered if the soft sounds coming from Robin had awakened her, but she quickly disposed of that thought when, from the corner of her eye, a shadowy figure outside the window almost made her yelp in surprise.
Biting her lip, Fiona took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart, while her hand slowly reached for the cell phone she had strategically placed within reach.
And who exactly do you plan on calling, Nancy Drew? It's in the middle of the night, you're on some semi-remote rainforest covered mountain, at least thirty minutes away from the nearest sign of civilization and your only companions are a teenage boy and his overprotective sister. Good luck, McDonnell.
Fiona felt her body stiffen when the shadowy figure halted outside the window and slowly turned its head, showing a vague profile. Unfortunately, it was too dark to discern any specific features or characteristics.
Part of her was tempted to rise up from her sleeping bag to get a better look, but the fear that raced through her body kept her firmly in place. She moistened her lips and swallowed hard, while her eyes traveled from the window to the sleeping figure of Robin, who was still making soft, incoherent noises.
Fiona decided that whoever was standing outside the office should not be tempted to enter the small building and she made a quick decision.
"Robin," she whispered as loud as she dared, while her eyes darted back to the window, hoping the dark figure would not hear her voice. She knew that the room they were in was pitch dark and the person outside would probably not be able to see either her or Robin.
Robin Adams mumbled something unintelligent and turned on her side, this time facing Fiona, however, she was still fast asleep.
"Robin_" Fiona whispered again, this time a little more urgent, holding her breath when the figure outside suddenly turned around and disappeared from view.
"Robin, wake up_"
The answer was a deep sigh and for a split second, Fiona thought the manager would respond, but with a muffled mumble, Robin buried her head deeper in her pillow, without waking up.
"Jeez, woman, you sleep like you' re in a coma," Fiona muttered, carefully slipping out of her sleeping bag and crawling towards the sleeping Robin.
"It's the middle of the night," was the unexpected low growl. "I'm entitled to sleep."
"Not when there's somebody sneaking around the building," Fiona responded softly, hearing Robin's sharp intake of breath.
Fiona had reached Robin and she quickly prevented the other woman from jumping up. With her hand on Robin's shoulder, she firmly pressed her back to the floor, while whispering: "For goodness' sake. Stay down_"
Groggy from sleep, Robin shook her head in an attempt to clear it and raked her fingers through her unruly hair.
"Somebody's outside?" she repeated in a husky voice.
"Yes," Fiona whispered, relaxing her hand and slowly letting go of Robin's shoulder. "And believe me, it's not a Yowie."
"Oh, ha ha," Robin whispered, the distress evident in her voice. "What do we do?"
"I've no freaking idea," Fiona answered. "I'd like to call Trish and have her bring some of her police buddies over to make it all go away, but I'm afraid that's no option."
"Trishia Waters, my sister-in-law, she's with the police," Fiona explained absentmindedly. "But she's not here, so we'll have to solve this ourselves, mate,"she added with a sigh.
In spite of the darkness Fiona could see Robin nod, while she woman crawled out of her sleeping bag.
"You don't happen to have a gun lying around here somewhere, have you?" Fiona joked, trying to ignore the tight, nervous ball in the pit of her stomach.
"I do," was the dry answer. "If you get out of the way, I can move to the desk and get it."
"Good place to hide a gun," Fiona mumbled, obediently crawling away to allow Robin to pass. "Nobody would come up with the idea to look for it there."
"No need to get sarcastic with me," Robin snapped. "At least I do have something to defend us with. What is your contribution, Miss High-and-Mighty?"
"My wit?" Fiona quipped, not seeing how Robin bit her lower lip to suppress a nervous giggle.
For some reason Fiona didn't like the physical distance between herself and Robin Adams and when her ears picked up a faint sound from outside, she quickly followed the manager, who had reached the old desk and slowly opened the bottom drawer.
"Are...are you...going to shoot...him...her...it?" Fiona asked nervously.
"Only as a last resort," Robin answered calmly. "Unless you have a better idea."
"Maybe I can annoy it to death?" Fiona mumbled.
"I'm sure you could, but for now you'd better stay behind me," Robin ordered. "Do you have your cell phone?"
"Right here," Fiona answered, patting the pocket of her shorts.
"Good. You might want to call the police now."
"And what do we do in the meantime, Calamity Jane? Have a shootout?"
"I hope not," Robin mumbled, carefully getting to her feet and inching her way to the door.
It was sunny and warm. The sand of the beach was hot underneath her feet and she knew she had to keep moving to avoid burning her skin. The ocean was close and she could almost feel the cool water surrounding her warm skin, helping wash away the sand and perspiration. With a smile, she turned to the woman who was walking beside her, her long, dark hair disheveled by the gentle breeze. Just when she was about to tell her how beautiful she was, an insistent, annoying buzzing interrupted her words before they were even spoken.
Impatiently, she slapped away the aggravating fly that was buzzing around her head, but the soft, irritating sound did not stop. On the contrary, it seemed to intensify and with a frustrated groan she slapped the area where the noise came from.
"It's the phone, honey," a sleepy voice sounded close to her ear. "I knew I should have thrown it outside the window two days ago."
"I'm sorry, baby," Trishia answered, opening her eyes and casting a look at the alarm clock. Its green digits glowing softly in the dark.
It was just after midnight.
With a sigh Trishia extended her arm to grab the phone off the night-stand and briefly closed her eyes, hoping she would be able to stay right where she was: in bed with her warm, sleepy partner.
"Trishia Waters," she spoke, a little more gruff than she had intended.
"Trish, it's me, Jake," a hesitant voice sounded. "I'm sorry to disturb you so late, but I think you'll want to know this."
"Know what, Jake? What happened?" Trishia asked, a little more friendlier this time.
"We received a call from Kiala Park, or whatever it's called these days. It was your sister-in-law, Fiona. She's up there and apparently somebody is snooping around there in the middle of the night, scaring the bej...scaring her and the other occupants."
"Other occupants?" Trishia asked with a puzzled frown. "What are you talking about, Jake? What the heck is Fiona doing up there anyway?"
Lucy McDonnell, who heard the name of her youngest sister, suddenly rose and put her hand on her partner's thigh.
"Fiona's on an assignment," she explained quickly." It's for that new resort Sam's working on. Is she in trouble?"
"I don't know," Trishia answered. "What did she say, Jake? And who's up there now?"
"I didn't take the call, Trish, David did. But from what I understand, Fiona and Robin Adams woke up because somebody was walking around the cabin they were in. It's just those two up there and a teenage boy, Adams' brother."
Trishia frowned again and reached out her free hand to switch on the light. In her mind, she was already calculating how long it would take her to get dressed and drive up the mountain.
In the dark.
Probably around forty-five minutes, she estimated.
"Who is up there now, Jake?" she asked, turning down the comforter and swinging her long legs out of the bed.
"Two teams. Greg and Paul and Jennifer and Mac. They left fifteen minutes ago and are driving up the mountain as we speak. But it's dark there, Trish. Pitch-dark."
"Yes, I bet it is," Trishia answered. "What's their ETA?"
"Jennifer just checked in and she said five minutes."
"Alright, keep me informed, I'll get up there myself. I'll leave right away."
"Trish, there's nothing you can do, really. Why don't you let the guys check things out and..."
"I'll leave in a few minutes. Keep me informed," Trishia interrupted Jake, before putting down the phone and reaching out for her shorts and shirt.
"What's going on, honey?" Lucy asked, her voice filled with worry.
"Fiona's up that mountain and somebody is snooping around in the dark. Apparently, she's scared enough to have called the police, so they sent up two teams."
"And you are going as well," Lucy remarked, knowing her partner well. "I'll come with you."
Trishia turned around and opened her mouth to object, but when she noticed the look of determination in her partner's eyes, she slowly nodded. The horrific events that had preceded the death of Martin Coles, only a few years before, were still firmly imprinted in her mind. The McDonnells had been through a lot and deep down inside Trishia knew it would be impossible to try and convince Lucy to stay home.
"Alright, Luce. Let's get going."
"Robin, what are you doing?" Fiona whispered urgently, grabbing the hem of Robin Adams' shirt in order to stop her from opening the door. "The police are on the way. They'll be here soon."
"And probably chase away whoever is trespassing."
"And that is bad....why?"
"I want to know who is out there and why. If you are too scared to come along, you can stay here. I'd understand."
"Yeah, right," Fiona softly snorted, tugging the hem of Robin's shirt. "Listen, Lara Croft, what if that person out there is not alone? Then what?"
Robin, who had her hand on the doorknob, pulled back as if she had burnt her fingers and half-turned to Fiona, who was standing right behind her.
"I hadn't considered that option," she admitted a little more worried this time.
"No, that's obvious," Fiona responded. "Let's just stay put and keep an eye on the windows and door, alright?
The words had hardly left her lips, when the doorknob was slowly turned, creating a grinding noise that sounded loud in the quiet darkness of the night.
"Oh, crap_" Fiona whispered. "This is so not good."
"Step back, Fiona," Robin urged, trying very hard to hide the quiver in her voice. "Let's get away from this door."
Fiona didn't need more encouragement. She carefully walked backwards, making sure her eyes never left the door, while her hand was still wrapped in the fabric of Robin's shirt.
Both women inched their way to the other side of the small room. Robin almost tripped over her sleeping bag and only Fiona's steadying hand on her back prevented her from toppling over.
"Careful," Fiona urged, suppressing a startled cry when shadowy figure appeared in front of the window.
Robin muttered an expletive which would have made Fiona chuckle, if it had not been followed by the sound of a gun being cocked. It was obvious that Robin knew how to handle the weapon, but Fiona hoped no shots would be fired.
With her back pressed against the wall, Fiona noticed that Robin stepped in front of her when the mysterious stranger outside studied the window, obviously looking for a way to open it.
"Get down," Robin softly whispered, grabbing Fiona's hand and pulling her down, so they were mostly hidden behind the huge, old-fashioned desk.
A small, but bright beam of light suddenly filled the room, making Fiona and Robin duck their heads and hold their breath. The beam slowly traveled through the room, pausing when it fell on Fiona's sleeping bag. Then it suddenly disappeared and the silence was broken by the sound of running footsteps.
"Oh, thank goodness," Robin sighed, hearing the sound of an approaching car. "I think the police are here."
"In the nick of time," Fiona added, wiping the perspiration from her forehead. "Just like in the movies."
With trembling fingers, Robin pushed away a strand of hair that threatened to fall into her eyes and she slowly nodded.
"Just like in the movies," she repeated. "I think that..."
Robin Adams could not finish her sentence, because all of a sudden one of the windows on the side of the building shattered and they were showered with glass. Fiona, who was standing closest to the window, jumped aside and let out a strangled cry when she felt shards of glass embed themselves in her right cheek and shoulder. A strong hand on her arm pulled her away from the window and pushed her back to the ground.
"Are you hurt?" Robin asked urgently, while her eyes darted from Fiona to the shattered window and back again. Her ears picked up a sound coming from the backroom and she half-turned, when Joshua opened the door of his make-shift bedroom.
"Josh, get back in there," Robin called out.
"What's up, Rob, I..."
"Later, Josh. Get back in there, shut the door and stay close to the ground. Now_"
Joshua knew better than to argue with his sister. Experience had taught him to listen to her when her voice took on that low tone, almost sounding like a growl. So, the teenager nodded and, after casting a worried glance at the hunkered-down form of Fiona, he quickly retreated into his windowless room, making sure to close the door.
After Robin had made sure Joshua had stepped back into his room, she turned her attention to Fiona, who had her hand pressed against her cheek and was softly muttering a curse.
"What the heck was that?"
"I'm not sure," Robin answered. " Maybe a rock. But, whoever threw it is gone right now, because I heard him run through the bushes."
"Whatever it was, it doesn't make me happy," Fiona grunted, feeling a trickle of blood roll down her cheek. She carefully wiped it away and winced when her fingertips came into contact with the small shards of glass that were sticking to her skin.
"So much for participating in next week's beauty pageant," she joked wryly, hearing two cars stop outside.
"Were you going to...? You' re joking, right?" Robin responded.
"Why? Do you think I'm not pretty enough?" Fiona grunted with a hurt expression, which was mainly due to the cuts in her face and not Robin's disbelief.
"I don't know much about that kind of stuff," Robin mumbled while she got back on her feet again to unlock the door.
"What's there to know?" Fiona softly chuckled. "It's not exactly rocket science."
She didn't know if the older woman had heard her words, because there was no response from Robin, as she walked to the door, unlocked it and stepped outside.
"You might want to put that gun away," Fiona warned. "I'd hate to see you get some unwanted ventilation holes."
"This is not some cheap police movie, Miss McDonnell," Robin answered sharply. "Besides, I do have a permit for this weapon."
"Whatever. Suit yourself, Cagney, or is it Lacey?"
Fiona slowly shook her head as she watched Robin step outside. She could not remember having met anyone like Robin Adams, ever. The woman was positively intriguing. One moment she seemed to be genuinely warm and caring, the next moment she could be cold, sharp and cynical.
Fire and ice. Scientist and action hero...I'm sure there must be something in between those opposites, maybe the real Robin Adams? It will be interesting to find out...
"Do you always talk to yourself?" a youthful, slightly tense voice sounded and Fiona turned her head.
"Not really," she answered. "I might be a lunatic, but I do try to hide that."
"Your secret is safe with me," Joshua promised with a laugh. "What's going on here?"
"Didn't your sister tell you to stay put and down?"
"Yes, she did, but I heard the police cars and thought it would be safe to come out now. So, what's up?"
"I don't know, mate," Fiona sighed, using the sleeve of her t-shirt to wipe away some blood. She could feel there were still pieces of glass stuck in her skin and she hoped they would be easy to remove. Thank goodness, no glass had landed in her eyes.
"I woke up because I heard something and when I opened my eyes I saw somebody outside the window. I woke up your sister and called the police. Just before they arrived the...intruder threw something through the window."
"Was Robin hurt?" Joshua immediately asked.
"No and I'm fine as well, thank you for asking," Fiona sighed, wondering where the mutual protectiveness between the two siblings came from. As the youngest child of six, Fiona knew that, especially her older sisters were protective of her, but it wasn't anything like between Robin and Joshua. It was another piece of the puzzle called 'Robin Adams', that Fiona was determined to solve.
"I...I'm sorry, Fiona, I..." Joshua stammered and immediately Fiona regretted her words.
"Don't worry about it, Josh," she interrupted the teenager, putting her hand on his shoulder. "I understand. I guess I'm a little shaken up. Could you make some light?"
"Sure," Joshua answered, walking towards the desk. It only took him a few seconds to ignite a small, but bright propane light. With a smile he turned around, but when his eyes fell on Fiona he gasped in shock.
"You' re hurt_"
"I'm sure it looks worse than it feels," Fiona mumbled. "But there are some pieces of glass in my face that weren't meant to be there. Do you have a mirror and some tweezers?"
"Robin does," Joshua nodded.
"I do, what?" a voice sounded from the door and when Fiona looked up she saw Robin Adams step back into the office, followed by a familiar female police officer.
"Hello Jennifer," Fiona greeted the woman with a tired smile. "Thanks for rescuing us."
"We live to serve and protect," Jennifer Diaz answered with a warm smile. "Girl, you look like...you had a fight with a..."
"Yowie," Fiona added. "Actually it was only a window. Imagine what a Yowie can do, huh?"
"I doubt it was anything exotic like that," Jennifer mumbled, stepping closer to Fiona and examining her face. "You need some medical attention, love."
"No, thanks," Fiona immediately answered with a wrinkled nose. "I don't like hospitals and doctors. All I need is some clean water, a mirror and a pair of tweezers."
"It looks like a few of these cuts are pretty deep though."
"I'll live," Fiona grimaced. "Where are the rest of the troops?"
"Paul, Greg and Mac are trying to find some tracks, but it's pitch-dark out there. By the way, your sister is on her way up as well."
"I didn't know Trish was on duty."
"She wasn't," Jennifer Diaz chuckled. "But you know Trishia. As soon as Jake called her, she wanted to come up here and check out things herself. VIP treatment, if you'd ask me," the police woman teased.
"What can I say?" Fiona smiled. "Over the years she must have come to like me. What do you think?"
"Maybe it's only to get Lucy off her back," Jennifer answered with a grin.
"That must be it," Fiona smiled. "Don't tell me Luce is coming as well."
"Of course she is. You' re her baby sister."
"That sucks," Fiona sighed. "I didn't mean to wake up the whole family and drag them out of bed in the middle of the night. Lucy needs her rest."
Jennifer Diaz' dark-brown eyes shone with warmth and affection when she patted Fiona gently on her back. Being a close friend of Trishia Waters, she had witnessed a lot of interactions between Lucy and Fiona McDonnell. For some reason the two sisters always needed to tease each other and Fiona especially could get on Lucy's last nerve sometimes. Still, there was never real animosity between them and when push came to shove, they were always there for each other. Fiona's concern for her sister's well-being was heartwarming. Jennifer knew from Trishia that Lucy was trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately, she had two miscarriages, which had been very hard on the usually perky and quick-witted Lucy.
"Sit down, sweetie," Jennifer urged, gently pushing Fiona towards an old, wooden chair. "Let me look at those cuts. Do you have a first-aid kit, Miss Adams?" she asked, seeing Robin nod.
Without saying a word, Robin walked towards the desk and opened one of the drawers, to pull out a fully equipped first-aid kit.
"Wow, that's some kind of desk. It hold guns and bandages and who knows what else," Fiona joked. "It's like a treasure chest."
"You've watched too many pirate movies," Robin answered.
"She has," a soft voice suddenly sounded from the doorway. "And if I'm not mistaken, she does own a copy of ' Pirates of the Carribean'."
"Hey, sis," Fiona smiled, watching Lucy step inside the room. Even though Lucy McDonnell was clad in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, she still looked elegant and beautiful. Her thick, long, dark hair was pulled into a simple ponytail, held in place by a single strip of leather.
"Is Trish outside?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes, she's looking for you," Lucy answered.
"I'd better find her. I'll see you girls later."
Jennifer Diaz disappeared into the darkness while Lucy knelt in front of Fiona, her dark-green eyes, so much like her sister's, scrutinizing every inch of Fiona's face.
"What happened?" she finally asked in a soft voice.
"The window shattered and I happened to be standing next to it," Fiona explained simply. "By the way, Lucy, this is Robin and that handsome bloke over there is her brother, Joshua. This is my sister, Lucy."
"Nice to meet you," Lucy smiled at the blushing teenager and his pale-looking sister.
"You two could be twins," Joshua spoke with obvious admiration.
"We hear that a lot," Lucy nodded and she grinned. "But it's a good thing we aren't. Our poor mother wouldn't have survived two of us at the same time."
"Instead she could practice on Lucy before I came along," Fiona added. "That made my life a little easier. With the emphasis on 'little'."
That last remark made Robin smile and with a quick glance at Fiona she held up the first-aid kit. Lucy noticed the hesitancy on her face, but she immediately shook her head.
"I'm not good at this," she confessed. "I hate the sight of blood. Would you...?"
Robin managed not to let out a deep sigh and instead she nodded curtly.
"Get some clean water, will you Josh?" she asked, before pulling up another chair, which she positioned in front of Fiona. When she studied the photographer's face, Fiona noticed how dark and stormy the hazel eyes were and she decided to sit back and let Robin clean up her face. She was not in the mood for another head-butt session with the moody manager.
Joshua handed his sister a bowl of water, which she set on the table behind her. Using a clean washcloth, she carefully started cleaning the worst of the blood, so she could see where the glass was still embedded in Fiona's skin.
Fiona almost let out a sigh of relief when the cool cloth touched her burning skin. The cold water felt good against her face.
Her eyes darted through the room. Robin's face was close and if she wanted, she could look into those hazel eyes and try to get behind the stoic mask that was firmly in place. But, at the moment, Fiona didn't feel inclined to do so. Hopefully she would have time for that later, without her sister's curious eyes so annoyingly close.
"You seem...out of sorts," Lucy calmly remarked, handing Robin a clean washcloth.
"It's not every night that I wake up being stalked, in a cabin, in the middle of nowhere and showered with glass," Fiona quipped.
"Hum, I guess you have a point there," Lucy smiled, reaching out to grab Fiona's hand. She gave it a gentle squeeze and smiled when Fiona's fingers wrapped around her own. They never used to be this affectionate with each other, but in the last few years, things had changed. The McDonnell family had gone through a lot and the sisters had grown closer, especially after Lucy's miscarriages. Fiona had showed such an amount of compassion and genuine care, it had touched Lucy deeply. And it had showed her that little sister had grown up to be a beautiful person, inside and out, even though Fiona still tried her best to hide that. But her family and friends knew that the arrogant, quick-witted and sarcastic attitude was just that, an attitude. The real Fiona McDonnell was hiding behind a mask of indifference and cynical humor and only when she trusted people enough to feel safe, would she let her guard down.
Robin had cleaned away enough blood to get a closer look at the damage the glass had done and Fiona moaned when Robin's fingers gently touched a swollen area, where the biggest shard had pierced her skin.
"I'm sorry," Robin mumbled, having pulled away immediately after Fiona's expression of pain.
"It's alright," Fiona exhaled. "Don't worry about me. It needs to come out, whether I like it or not. Is it in deep?"
Robin leaned in a little closer and Fiona had to force herself not to pull away. She wasn't used to people being that physically close, except for her family, and she could feel her heart pound in her chest, while her palms became sweaty. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to focus on anything but what was happening at the moment.
"Just pull it out, Robin," she encouraged in a hoarse voice.
A little insecure, Robin cast a look at Lucy, whose worried green eyes looked so much like Fiona's, it was almost unsettling.
"Go ahead," Lucy nodded. "Fiona can squeeze my hand," she faintly joked.
"I might," Fiona grunted. "Just twist and pull, Dr. Adams."
"No twisting," Robin softly answered, grabbing the piece of glass with her tweezers. "You need to hold still, Fiona," she warned. "This might hurt, but if you move while I pull it out, I might cause another laceration."
"I'll be good," Fiona answered with clenched teeth. "I'm too pretty to want another cut."
Next to her, Lucy softly snorted and, unseen to Fiona's eyes, Robin smiled.
"Let me guess, next week's beauty pageant. Right?"
"You got it," Fiona answered.
"Nobody cares if the photographer looks like the bride of Frankenstein, honey," Lucy chuckled. "I'm sure nobody will notice anyway, since your face is mostly hidden behind your camera."
"You just gave away my secret, sis," Fiona said in an accusing tone, opening one eye to cast a look at her sister.
"She tried to make me believe she was a participant in an upcoming beauty pageant," Robin explained. "I should have known it would be as a photographer."
"Yes, although she'd have a good chance of winning if she'd enroll in the actual contest," Lucy answered with a grin.
"But then, I would have to save the world, marry a doctor and have six children," Fiona quipped. "Too much hassle for me, so, thanks, but no thanks."
"Alright, here goes. Don't move," Robin warned and, unconsciously holding her breath, the manager steadily pulled a piece of glass from Fiona's cheek. Her fingers slightly trembled when she dropped the shard on the table next to her and she let out a breath of relief, glad that she had managed to get it out without doing any more damage.
"You'd make a great physician," Lucy mumbled with a hint of admiration in her voice. "I don't think I'd have been able to do that."
Robin's face was turned away towards the table, so neither Lucy nor Fiona saw the flash of pain that briefly crossed her face. When she turned back to face the sisters again, her expression was calm and neutral, although she did look a little pale.
With gentle fingers she cleaned the small cut, wishing, deep down inside, that the cuts wouldn't leave any permanent marks on Fiona's skin.
"If it leaves any scars, at least I'll have a wild story to tell, to explain them," Fiona dryly remarked, as if she had been reading Robin's mind. "You know, the ' once upon a time' ones and I can add a bloody battle or something."
"I keep telling her to cut back watching Xena," Lucy chuckled. "She and Yarra are addicts and they have corrupted Alice as well."
Underneath her fingertips, Robin could feel Fiona's skin grow warm and, with surprise and amusement, she noticed that the stoic photographer was actually blushing. There was a little fire in the dark-green eyes when she cast a look at her sister.
"If I remember correctly, you don't mind watching it either," Fiona shot back with indignance. "As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly, it was you who wanted to borrow my season four DVD's."
"Ooh, a little touchy, are we?" Lucy teased. "But yes, you' re right. I'm guilty as charged."
While the sisters continued their friendly banter, Robin concentrated on cleaning the tiny cuts in Fiona's face, occasionally using the tweezers to remove a shard of glass. Focusing on her task, she tried to concentrate and not let herself be distracted by the sisterly banter or the closeness of Fiona. She didn't like being too close to the photographer. For some reason, it seemed to throw her off balance. During the past day, Fiona had managed to ruffle Robin's feathers on more than one occasion, which was something that had surprised her. Usually she could get along with all people, even strangers. Fiona was an exception to the rule. And it annoyed her. A lot. She had the distinct feeling that Fiona could sense her discomfort and that was another reason she really wanted to keep her distance. Those dark-green eyes gave her the eerie sensation that they could look straight through her. It was scary. It gave her a sense of insecurity and made her nervous.
Robin had been so deep in thought she almost jumped when Fiona lightly tapped her arm.
"Hey, which distant place were you visiting?"
Robin looked up and for a brief moment she met Fiona's eyes. Startled, she cast them down again and continued to disinfect and clean the freckled skin. Her fingers slightly trembled and she hoped nobody would notice.
"Just thinking," she finally answered a little gruffly, which made Joshua look at her with a worried frown.
"Mustn't have been happy thoughts then," Fiona mumbled, which earned a slap on the wrist from Lucy.
"Be nice," her sister warned. "You know the rules: never aggravate the person who is stopping you from bleeding all over the place."
"Never heard that one, but it does make sense," Fiona answered with a crooked smile. "Sorry, Robin," she mumbled, avoiding Lucy's eyes.
"It's alright, Fiona," Robin answered softly. "It's...it has been a long, tough day. I guess I'm tired. I didn't mean to snap at you."
Over their heads, Lucy's eyes met Joshua's twinkling ones and she winked at him, making the teenager grin. It was obvious that, in spite of the recent events, he was thoroughly enjoying the company. Lucy had noticed the shy admiration in his eyes every time he looked at Fiona and she suspected he had a major crush on her sister. And she couldn't blame him; Fiona was very attractive. Lucy had received a lot of requests from young men to set up a date with her youngest sister, but until now Fiona had always refused. She wasn't interested in romance. According to her, it was a waste of time and energy.
Lucy smiled. The whole family was patiently waiting for Fiona to meet somebody special and fall in love. Joshua was a couple of years younger than Fiona, but who knew? He was cute and Lucy had seen the look her sister had given him. It definitely had been an affectionate one.
Was that why Robin Adams seemed so...distant? A little gruff sometimes?
Lucy shifted on her chair and suddenly felt wide awake. She had the feeling that something was going on between Fiona and the Adams siblings and she was determined to find out what. Suppressing a smug smile, Lucy leaned back in her chair, content to wait patiently and see what the near future would bring.
As soon as Trishia had arrived on the scene, she had immediately and automatically taken the lead, being the senior commanding officer. Together with Jennifer, she had searched the grounds surrounding the cabin, looking for traces, but the earth was dry and there were no foot prints to be found. The only tracks they were able to find were some broken branches behind the little office building.
Trishia's fellow police officers, Paul, Greg and Mac had tried to follow the trail of broken branches into the forest, but because of the darkness they had to give up. They were in unfamiliar territory and knew it was easy to get lost in the dark, or slip and tumble down one of the many steep hills.
Disappointed, they returned to their cars where Trishia and Jennifer were waiting for them. Trishia's face held a thoughtful expression when she stared at the dark, impenetrable wall of foliage behind the small office building. It was obvious that, whoever had scared the living daylights out of Fiona and Robin, had known his way around the place. Nobody who was unfamiliar with the territory, and in his right mind, would ever dare to walk through the forest in the dark, unless they did know their way around, and Trishia's gut feeling told her that must have been the case with the intruder. That made the whole situation all the more intriguing. Who had an interest in sneaking around a dark forest in the middle of the night?
"Paul, I want you and Greg to stay here tonight. We might be lucky and see him come back to...do whatever he wanted to in the first place."
Paul O'Connor slowly nodded and cast a look at his partner, Greg Jamieson, who shrugged his shoulders and sent him a relaxed grin. Paul knew Greg loved camping out and the assignment Trishia was giving them was an easy one.
"Sure thing, Trish. We'll be keeping the ladies safe, no worries."
"I've no worries about that, mate," Trishia answered with a twinkle in her eyes. "The ladies will be coming with me, so, I'm sure they'll be alright. I want the two of you to secure this place and, as soon as daylight breaks, I want you to have another look around. It's possible we missed some clues because of the darkness."
Sending his partner a disappointed look, Greg suppressed a sigh and nodded quietly. He really liked Trishia and he admired her instincts and sharp mind, but sometimes he wished she wasn't so smart.
"What do you want Mac and me to do?" Jennifer asked.
"I want the two of you to go down the mountain. Keep an eye on the road that leads up to this place. There's only one, so that shouldn't be so hard. This is a private road so I want you to stop and question anyone who goes up or comes down. Any questions?"
"No, we're on it, Trish," Mac Drummond answered in a deep voice. He pushed his tall, solid frame away from the car and opened the door, gesturing to his partner to follow his example. Mac was a man of few words, but Trishia had come to know him as a reliable, trustworthy police officer, who stood for what he believed. What she didn't know was that Mac Drummond had asked for a transfer to her department after he had heard about her role in Martin Coles' case, who had been responsible for the death of Alice Wilson's mother and brother and some runaway teenage girls. The case had made his blood run cold, but it had made him decide that Trishia Waters was the superior officer he wanted to work for. In his eyes, she was a heroine, which was something he would never say out loud.
Trishia watched the car with Mac and Jennifer slowly follow the winding track that would lead them back to the foot of the mountain. Only when the car's taillights had disappeared from sight, did she turn around and strolled back to the office building, still deep in thought.
As soon as she stepped into the light, two pairs of, almost identical eyes, were raised and Trishia couldn't help grinning. Ever since the first time she had met the McDonnell, the resemblance between Lucy and Fiona had amazed her. The only differences between the two sisters were their ages and the amount of freckles. Lucy's skin was flawless, while Fiona's was liberally dotted with the little, brown specks. Other than that, they could have been twins.
"Are you laughing at my injuries?" Fiona asked, knowing her protective sister-in-law would never do such a thing. But, it was nice to tease her about it anyway.
"I'd never do that," Trishia predictably answered, ready to defend herself, until she saw the amusement in Lucy's eyes and knew that Fiona was yanking her chain, once again.
Trishia resisted the urge to stick out her tongue. Instead, she took a seat next to her lover and cast a look at Fiona's face that finally had been cleansed from all the blood. Robin had just finished putting the last band-aid on a cut in her chin and had stood up to clear away the first-aid kit.
"Thank you, Robin," Fiona spoke with genuine gratitude.
The manager just sent her a small smile, before turning around and walking towards the tiny bathroom in the corner, where she could dispose of the soiled water and wash her hands.
Fiona sucked in her bottom lip and a small frown appeared between her brows when she watched Robin walk away.
What was bothering Robin Adams so much? Fiona knew there was something, but she had not been able to pinpoint the exact problem yet. During the day, Robin had either been friendly and kind to her, or just plain hostile. Fiona knew her own attitude sometimes offended people, but she had tried to be nice to Robin and she had left her sarcastic remarks behind. Well, most of them anyway.
"Are you? Fiona?"
Fiona suddenly sat straight up in her chair and shot Trishia an almost bewildered look.
"Visiting that same place Robin just returned from?" Lucy teased
Fiona ignored Lucy's remark and turned to Trishia. Her dark eyes were hooded when she looked up at her sister-in-law, but Trishia just smiled and gently squeezed Fiona's shoulder.
"Are you alright? Does your head hurt? How are your eyes? Any complaints?"
"I'm fine, Trish," Fiona answered, cautiously rubbing her forehead. "Other than the cuts in my face, I'm alright. I don't know what came flying through that window but whatever it was, it didn't hit me."
"Good, I'm glad," Trishia smiled, switching on the flashlight she was holding and aiming it towards a dark corner. "There must be something here that will give us a clue about that."
Joshua silently pulled another flashlight from a shelf and assisted Trishia in her meticulous search of the floor. Stepping over Fiona's sleeping bag, they scanned every square centimeter of the small building, without finding any trace of a projectile that could have been used in shattering the window.
The door of the tiny bathroom opened and Robin emerged, drying her hands on a clean towel. She seemed a lot more relaxed, Lucy observed, while she intercepted the tentative, almost shy smile Robin sent her youngest sister.
As the manager walked back into the room, she dodged a piece of glass that was laying on the floor and nearly lost her balance. She would have tripped if she had not put a hand out to seek support against the wall.
Joshua grinned and slowly shook his head. His sister usually wasn't that clumsy. He was about to make a teasing remark, when Robin pulled away from the wall as if she had burnt her hand.
"Umm...Trishia?" she softly spoke, while her eyes never left a certain area of the wall. "Can you please have a look at this? Is this what I think it is?"
"What do you think it is, Robin?" Trishia asked, walking towards where the manager was still standing.
"A bullet hole?"
Fiona and Lucy looked at each other with wide eyes. A bullet hole? And if that knowledge wasn't shocking enough already, how in the name of everything that is sacred did Robin and Trishia know each other?
Lucy took in a deep breath and her eyes slowly traveled to her partner's thoughtful face.
"I have a few questions, Senior-Sergeant Waters," her voice broke the silence.
To be continued in part 3
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