For disclaimers see part 1

Booyong Mountain

Part 4

by

Lois Kay

 

"Well, well, well, look who finally managed to get up and around," Sam couldnít help saying, when she noticed three people emerging from the little house at the end of the driveway.

Sam wouldnít admit it, but she was a little tense. The fact that Robin Adams had left the mountain and, together with her brother, had spent the night at Fionaís place, worried her. Something must have happened and she had a bad feeling about it. Another factor that bothered her was that, no matter what had happened, nobody had deemed it necessary to inform her about anything.

Samís clear blue eyes traveled to Jody, who, as always, seemed to sense her mood and was sending her a warning glance. Even though her partner did not say a word, Sam knew exactly what message she was trying to convey: Let them explain first, then ask questions.

With a smile, Sam nodded and Jody silently blew her a kiss.

It was funny, Sam mused, that a simple little gesture like that could make her feel so much better. It was like a burden had instantly been lifted from her shoulders and things suddenly didnít seem so bad anymore.

Only when Fiona, Joshua and Robin were halfway up the driveway, accompanied by a bouncing Kurt, Jody and Sam noticed the small cuts and band-aids on Fionaís face.

"What the...?" Jody mumbled, rising up from her chair and walking towards the three steps that lead up to the veranda. Sam was following her closely.

As soon as Fiona made eye-contact with her eldest sister, she noticed the concern and unspoken questions in Jodyís eyes.

"Donít worry, Iím fine," she called out. "Weíll tell you all about it over a cup of coffee."

But Sam wasnít sure she could wait that long. Her eyes traveled from Fionaís face to Robin and back again. It was clear that Robin felt anything but at ease and that only contributed to Samís concerns.

"Maybe Robin and I should talk in the office," she suggested, not noticing how Robin suddenly cast down her eyes to hide the look of anxiety and guilt that crossed her face.

Fiona, who had reached the veranda, put a hand on Samís arm and looked up at her sister-in-law. Her eyes were almost pleading.

"Can we first have some coffee? Please?" she asked. "You can grill us later, right now we need some sustenance."

"I think that...," Sam caught Jodyís eyes and she sighed. "Sure, sure, Iím sorry. Of course. Come on up, Robin and Joshua. And Fiona, of course," she added with a grin. "Iím acting like a jerk, Iím sorry."

"Donít worry about it, Sam," Fiona answered cheerfully, giving the tall blonde a quick hug. "We forgive you."

"Thanks," Sam mumbled while rolling her eyes. "Youíve no idea how much that means to me."

"Oh, but I do," Fiona answered. "Since Iím the family jerk most of the time."

"Iím not going into that," Sam chuckled. "Thatís like kicking in an open- door."

Sam walked towards Jody and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Jody, this is Robin Adams and her brother Joshua. Robin, Josh, this is Jody, my wife."

If the siblings were surprised or shocked about the introduction, they didnít show it. With a smile, Jody greeted their visitors, immediately winning their hearts with her genuine warmth and friendliness.

"So youí re Fionaís Ďbig sister?" Robin smiled.

"Only in years," Fiona grinned, quickly kissing Jodyís cheek and dropping the envelope she had been carrying on the table, before falling down in a chair next to Yarra and tickling her nephewís belly.

"Honey, what happened? " Jody asked, cupping Fionaís face between her hands while her eyes scanned the freckled skin.

"I had a...disagreement with some glass," Fiona answered lightly. "Itís no big deal, really."

"Did you go to the hospital?"

Fiona pulled a face and shook her head.

"You know how much I hate hospitals. No, Robin had a first-aid kit and she cleaned me up. She did a better job than Lucy would have done, so Iím okay."

"Lucy?" Sam echoed. "What has Lucy to do with all of this?"

Fiona cast a look at Robin who seemed to be lost in thought and in no hurry to give an explanation. Turning to Sam she opened her mouth to say something, but Sam raised her hands and shook her head.

"No, wait. I want to hear the whole story, from the beginning. Iíll get the coffee first and then weíll talk."

"Sounds like a plan to me, Sammy," Fiona sighed, leaning back in her chair and briefly closing her eyes. She felt tired.

It was going to be a long day.

 

During Robinís, Joshuaís and Fionaís relating of the events, Sam had been listening quietly. Her blue eyes were calm, when they traveled from Fiona to Robin and back again. Only Jody was able to notice the turmoil that was brewing behind the carefully placed mask of self-control.

Reaching out a hand, Jody covered Samís fingers and immediately felt her hand disappear in the firm grasp of Samís larger one. The long fingers were unusually cold and Jody looked up at her partner with a worried glance.

Sam caught the look of concern that was sent her way and managed to muster up a reassuring smile, but she could not fool her partner. Jody was able to read her like nobody else could and she knew that the tall blonde was upset. To say the least.

Tightening her hold on Jodyís hand, Sam silently made a decision and exhaled slowly.

"Alright, the first thing Iíve decided is to forbid each and every one of you to go back up that mountain, until either the police says itís safe or the...person...who fired that shot is caught. Is that clear?"

Robin glanced aside in her brotherís sad eyes and slowly nodded.

"Yes, Sam, thatís clear," she softly answered, wondering where Joshua and she would spend the night. Or where their next meal would come from. She did have some money she had been saving, but that was a resource she really didnít want to touch. It was money Joshua would need when he went to the university.

Samís eyes traveled to Fiona, who looked at her with innocent dark-green eyes. But Sam was not fooled easily and the expression on her face turned into a stern one.

"Fiona?"

"Yes, Sam?" The photographer answered and Alice, who was sitting next to her, sighed deeply, exchanging a worried glance with Jody.

"Please promise me you wonít go back up there, unless youí re told itís safe to do so."

"But Sam, I..."

"Fiona!"

Samís voice was a lot more forceful this time and both Timothy and Taryn looked up at their mother with big, startled eyes.

" Alright, alright," Fiona finally sighed, holding her hands up in resignation.

"Please, Fiona, promise us," Jodyís soft voice suddenly sounded and when Fiona looked up, Jodyís eyes were dark with worry. She would never admit it, but disappointing her eldest sister was something Fiona didnít like to do. She loved and admired Jody deeply and would never hurt her intentionally.

"I promise," she spoke softly and Jody slowly nodded.

"Thank you, sweetie," she said with a small smile.

Sam gave Jodyís hand a gentle squeeze, before she let go and unfolded her long frame from the chair. She almost winced when she felt a painful pull in the muscles of her right calf. The unexpected events had her very worried and Sam knew that as soon as tension built in her body, her right leg would start to hurt.

"Honey?" Jody sounded softly and with a smile Sam looked down in the eyes she loved so much.

"Iím alright, love, just a little stiff," Sam answered, knowing Jody had noticed the small limp.

In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Jody had to suppress a chuckle. Sam could be gnashing her teeth in agony and still say she was doing fine. It was the tough act Jody had learned to see through and she made a mental note to try and catch Sam alone later and massage the painful knots in her leg away.

"Robin, can we talk in my office?" Sam suggested in a friendly way and Robin slowly nodded, while getting up from her chair. She had expected this and decided she was as prepared as she could be.

"Of course, Sam," she politely answered, avoiding a questioning look from a pair of dark-green eyes.

The two women left the veranda in silence and Joshua stared at the back of the retreating Robin with sad eyes. He plucked his shorts with nervous fingers and with his unruly hair almost falling into his eyes, he looked like a little, lost boy and Jodyís heart went out to the teenager.

"Are you hungry, Joshua?" she asked gently, immediately seeing his eyes lit up.

"A little," he grinned.

"A little?" Fiona chuckled. "Iím starving, mate. We havenít had anything to eat since...let me think here for a moment...yesterday afternoon. Baked beans, if I remember correctly."

"What? Donít you like baked beans, Fi?" Yarra teased, having shared enough campfire meals with her friend to know she hated beans.

"She did eat the bacon," Joshua helpfully provided, which earned him a playful slap from the photographer.

"Donít tell them that," Fiona stage-whispered with twinkling eyes. "Everything you say here can and will be used against you."

"Thanks for the advice, but this was about you, not me" Joshua quipped, making everybody laugh.

"Touchť, Fiona," Yarra laughed. "I see you found yourself a verbal sparring partner."

"Think what you want," Fiona snorted, enjoying the bantering. "Iím going easy on him because heís hungry and tired. Robin had to drag him out of bed after some...individuals decided to wake us up this morning."

"Oh, poor Fiona," Alice cooed with a laugh. "Look, Taryn, your auntie Fi is pouting. Doesnít she look cute?"

"Jody, theyí re all teaming up against me," Fiona whined with a mock pout. "Tell them to stop."

"Sure, sweetie," Jody nodded, getting up and reaching for the empty coffee pot. "Youí re safe with me, so, if youíll help me in the kitchen, Iíll protect you."

"Thatís blackmail," Fiona grinned, but she jumped to her feet and stretched her tired body. "But, I can hear some scrambled eggs calling my name, so I guess itís all worth it."

Bending down, Fiona quickly kissed a surprised Alice on her forehead and winked at Yarra, who laughed at the triumphant look her friend sent her.

"You wonít make me jealous, Red," she chuckled, nuzzling Timothyís soft hair and smiling at her girlfriend. "I know who she loves."

"Thatís right, stretch," Alice laughed, looking up at Fiona with twinkling, blue eyes. "But I do appreciate the gesture. Iím happy to see you again as well."

"Good ícause Iíve missed you two," Fiona admitted seriously, before turning around to follow her sister into the kitchen.

Not used to such expressions of affection, Alice and Yarra looked at each other with surprise.

"I wonder whatís gotten into her," Yarra mumbled, but her dark eyes were smiling. "But whatever it is, Iím not complaining. I like it."

 

"Sit down, Robin," Sam invited, closing the door behind her and pulling up a chair.

Robin obeyed silently and sat down in one of the big leather chairs that adorned Samís office. Sitting up straight she put her hands in her lap, making sure not to fidget. Whatever Sam wanted to discuss with her in private, she would make sure that even if her job would be at stake, she would not lose her dignity. She had been through worse.

Sam had taken a seat on the edge of her desk, facing Robin. Her eyes were thoughtful, but friendly when she smiled at the younger woman, who was trying so hard not to appear nervous.

"Did Fiona give you a hard time?" she gently asked, twirling a pencil between her fingers.

Robin, who had not expected a question like that looked up at Sam with an astonished expression in her eyes, momentarily searching for an answer, while Sam waited patiently.

"Um...yes, I mean...no, no she didnít. We...um...we did have a bit of a run-in, but that was my fault, not Fionaís," Robin answered honestly. "And we did settle that...afterwards. At least, I think we did," she added with a small frown.

"You never know with Fiona," Sam laughed. "Sheís something else."

"Iíve noticed that," Robin smiled, wondering when Sam would get down to business and tell her to find another job.

"Iím sorry about what happened last night," Sam softly continued. "It must have been a frightening experience."

"It was," Robin nodded. "I...um...I felt responsible, not only for Josh, but for Fiona as well."

"I can understand that," Sam answered with sigh, remembering how Little Steven Hayes had tried to kidnap Fiona a few years before, which seemed like a lifetime ago. With her quick thinking and wit, Sam had managed to keep Jodyís sister out of harmís way, but the responsibility had weighed heavily.

Samís eyes caught Robinís hazel ones and unconsciously the young manager held her breath. The blue eyes were so clear and focused, Robin felt like Sam could see straight through her.

"Before we start brainstorming and exploring the reason why somebody, anybody, would try to harm my family, or one of my employees, I want to ask you this: Can you think of anyone whoíd be capable of doing this?" Sam shook her head and rubbed her forehead. "No, let me rephrase that: Can you think of anyone who could have done this?"

Robin appreciated Samís direct approach and honesty, but the unwanted, yet expected confrontation with her past still hurt. Deeply.

"Ever since Fiona told me she noticed someone walking through the bushes, that same question has been on my mind. Especially since our nightly visitor found it necessary to shoot at us. Iím not sure who was supposed to be the target, though," Robin sighed and her eyes were dark with worry. "If they had someone in mind, I hope itís me and not Joshua or Fiona," she added barely audible. "But to answer your question: No, I canít think of anyone. Not right now, anyway."

"Did you talk to Trishia?"

"Briefly," Robin answered. "We didnít have the opportunity to discuss things in length, but I suppose sheíll have some more questions for me."

"Most likely," Sam nodded, familiar with her sister-in-lawís thoroughness. Trishia never did anything half. That was probably why she was on the nomination list to be promoted to Inspector. And Sam knew she deserved it. Trishia was an excellent police officer.

Sam smiled. Of course she was biased, since Trishia had saved her life.

"Are there things, details maybe, I havenít heard yet, you want to share with me?"

Robin slowly shook her head, while she nibbled on her lower lip. She was deep in thought and Sam gave her the time to collect her thoughts. It gave her the chance to study the woman who was sitting in front of her.

Robin was dressed in a crisp white shirt that contrasted nicely with her tanned skin. Her naturally curly hair was tucked behind one ear, while a few strands playfully fell down her cheek. Every now and then she pushed them away with an impatient gesture. When she cast down her gaze, the hazel eyes were hidden by thick, dark eyelashes.

Sam decided that Robin Adams was definitely as attractive as she was intelligent and the tall blonde suppressed a sigh. Somehow she expected that, due to her past, Robin would keep everyone at armís length. And that thought saddened her. The young biologist deserved so much better, but Sam did not want to interfere. Although, in the back of her mind she knew one person who could have a positive influence on her withdrawn employee.

"I think weíve told you all we know, Sam," Robin finally answered, gazing up and quickly looking away when she noticed the intensity of Samís stare.

"Alright," Sam nodded. "Iíll tell you what Iíve decided to do then."

Here we go.

Robin inwardly cringed and mentally braced herself for the things to come.

"I want to meet with you and Trishia. Today. We need to discuss a few things and go over a few possible scenarios. Do you and Joshua have any personal belongings up the mountain?"

"No, we took it all with us when we left last night," Robin answered in a hoarse voice, knowing what would come next.

"Good," Sam nodded. "That means you donít have to go back there anymore. Do you think Fionaís apartment will do? At least for now?"

Robinís mind did a double-take and she looked up at Sam with wide, round eyes.

"W...what do you mean?" she stammered.

"I was thinking of putting you and Joshua up in Fionaís apartment. At least for the time being, anyway. Iím sure I can work something out with her. Although Iím not sure if she wants to leave her precious studio," Sam added with a small frown.

"For...for how long?" Robin asked, still not sure if she understood what Sam was saying.

"Until this is over and itís safe to go back up the mountain," Sam explained, suddenly noticing Robinís pale skin. "Are you alright?"

"You mean...youí re not firing me?"

Sam shot straight up and her eyes were round, almost giving her a comic expression.

"Heavens, no! What makes you think that?"

"I...I just...," Robin shook her head and raked her trembling fingers through her already unruly hair. "I thought you might not have any use for me anymore, since weíll be way behind schedule, with the resort and all."

"Oh, no, Robin. Iím sorry you thought that. I hope I didnít give you the idea that...í

ĎNo, no, it wasnít you. It was me," Robin interrupted and she softly laughed. "It seems like I still have to work on my insecurities, huh? I was convinced youíd fire me."

"Absolutely not," Sam denied forcefully. "Youí re a conservation biologist, Robin. I took you aboard because I need you. That hasnít changed."

"Iím glad," Robin sighed. "I would have done it if Iíd needed to, but I wasnít looking forward to waiting tables again."

"You donít have to," Sam promised. "I value your knowledge about the environment and how to preserve it and I know youíll do a great job. You can work out some things from here. Weíre behind schedule with the actual restoring and building of the resort, but thatís not the end of the world." Sam stood up from her makeshift seat on the desk and put her hand on Robinís shoulder, giving it a friendly squeeze. "Iíll call Fiona in here, so we can work out some practical issues. And I want to take a look at that picture she took."

"Sure," Robin nodded, closing her eyes and saying a short, but heartfelt prayer of gratitude. She still had a job.

 

"Are you sure youíre alright, Fiona?" Jody asked again, reaching up to take a bowl from the top shelf of one of the kitchen cabinets.

Fiona put a hand on her shoulder to stop her and reached over Jodyís head to retrieve the item. Being tall had a lot of advantages.

"Thanks," Jody chuckled. "I love to cook when you or Sam are around."

"Thatís because youíre just not tall enough to reach those top shelves, Miss I-can-almost-reach-it-but-not-quite-yet," Fiona teased. "And to answer your question, again, yes, dear, Iím alright. Iím fine. Iím good."

Jody stuck out her tongue and smiled. She should have known better than to ask her ornery sister how she was doing. But seeing all those little cuts in her sisterís face had been quite the shock. Like Sam, Jody was very protective of her siblings and she hated seeing any of them getting hurt. Like Fiona, or Lucy.

Jody sighed and absentmindedly opened the door of the refrigerator to take out some butter. Staring at the top shelf, her thoughts traveled to her younger sister and a wave of sadness overtook her when she remembered Lucyís pain, especially after her second miscarriage. She had tried to be brave, but she had not been able to visit Jody and the twins for weeks. And, in spite of knowing there had been nothing she could have done, Jody had almost felt guilty for her own happiness every time she looked at her children, held them, or read them a bedtime story.

Jody swallowed when she remembered how Lucy had apologized, almost in tears. Jody had just hugged her sister, patiently waiting until the tears had subsided. That had been a difficult day for both of them, but it had brought them closer as well and for that, Jody was grateful.

"If you leave that fridge open much longer, weíll be seeing polar bears in the front yard," a gentle voice suddenly startled Jody out of her reverie and when she looked up, it was in the compassionate dark-green eyes of her youngest sister.

"Oh, um...I..uh, I was thinking about something," Jody stammered.

"That was obvious," Fiona remarked dryly. "You keep asking me if Iím alright, but how are you doing, big sister?"

Jody knew this was a side of Fiona a lot of people never got to see, and she regretted that. There was so much more to her youngest sister than met the eye, but Fiona kept that part of her carefully hidden. It was only a select few who were allowed to see the whole person behind the aloof, carefree mask.

"Iím worried," Jody sighed, grabbing the butter and closing the door of the refrigerator. "Iím worried about you. Iím worried about Lucy and now Iím worried about Robin and Joshua as well."

"I wish you wouldnít be," Fiona replied, taking the butter out of Jodyís hands and walking towards the stove. "You donít have to worry about me, Jody, really. Iíll be fine. And Iím sure Robin and Josh will be as well. We made it down the mountain alright and Iím sure this will all blow over. You canít worry about every idiot who walks on the surface of this planet. Youíd be grey before your time," she smiled, casting a look over her shoulder. "And Iím worried about Lucy as well," she added softly. "Not in the sense that I donít think she can handle the situation, but...," Fiona paused and tried to come up with the right words to describe how she was feeling.

"But it hurts to see her hurt," Jody filled in with a knowing smile.

"Yes," was the simple answer and Jody could hear the barely audible quiver in Fionaís voice.

This is the real Fiona.

Jody walked up to Fiona and wrapped one arm around her sisterís waist, giving it a loving squeeze.

"Iím hurting for her too. I hope and pray everything will be alright. According to her gynaecologist thereís no physical reason why she had those miscarriages. She called it bad luck."

"Well, whatever she calls it, it makes Lucy miserable, and Trish as well, donít forget our tough police woman has a tender soul."

"Yes, she does," Jody smiled. "They are a cute couple."

"Like you and Sam," Fiona grinned. "Do you realize that you still get that...glazed look in your eyes when Samís around?"

"Glazed?" Jody echoed, sending Fiona a doubt filled look.

"Yes, glazed," Fiona nodded, her dark-green eyes sparkling. "When Sam came back and the two of you kind of continued where youíd left off, I thought all the lovey-dovey stuff would wear off over time. But it hasnít."

"Is that a problem for you?" Jody chuckled, nudging her sister with her elbow.

"No, itís not," Fiona smiled, wrapping a long arm around Jodyís shoulders. "Donít tell anyone else I said this, but itís cute to see you and Sam together. The two of you have become the center of our family and I think thatís a good thing."

Jodyís eyes widened in surprise when she looked up at the serious expression in her sisterís face.

"Iíve never really realized that," she confessed.

"But itís true," Fiona continued. "I guess in normal families, the parents are the center, but our family is anything but normal, so itís only...logical that you and Sam have taken over that role. Face it, sis, whenever the family just visits or gets together because of some festivity, itís always here. And that was even before the tornados were born."

"Mmm, I guess youí re right," Jody nodded. "Iíve never really looked at it that way, but I see what you mean."

"Itís a good thing. You and Sam are great role-models," Fiona winked.

"Well, thank you...I think," Jody chuckled. "I hope youíll still feel that way when Sam asks you to allow Robin and her brother to stay at your place."

Fiona looked at her sister and her eyes widened.

"You think sheíll do that?" she asked slowly, not knowing what to feel about having other people around her studio.

"If I know Sam, yes, she will," Jody answered. "Robin and Joshua have to stay somewhere. Unless Sam wants to put them up at The Reef, but knowing my protective partner, sheíd want them somewhere close."

"Oh, well, I guess I can understand that," Fiona mumbled, not seeing the pleasantly surprised expression on Jodyís face. "Iím sure I could learn to share," she continued with a frown. "Although I do think the place is kinda small for three people."

"What about two?" Samís voice suddenly sounded from the doorway, surprising both Jody and Fiona.

"Two?" Fiona echoed. "I donít know, Sam. I mean, I understand your predicament and all that, but I need to work and you know I do that at the oddest hours. Iíd really like to have access to my studio."

"I know, Fi," Sam nodded while she walked over to Jody to wrap her arms around the smaller woman. Over the red-haired top of Jodyís head, her eyes met Fionaís. "Yarra and Alice will be staying with us this weekend, so we only have one room left. Next week we can make some new arrangements."

"Does that mean youíll leave me with cute Joshua? Without supervision?" Fiona joked.

Sam raised one eyebrow and rested her chin on Jodyís head, while Fiona stared at her with twinkling eyes.

"No, not exactly," she drawled. "I was thinking of leaving you with the cute Robin. How does that sound?"

Fiona shrugged her shoulders and stuffed her hands in the pockets of her shorts.

"I guess the fact that we havenít killed each other yet is a good sign," she answered with a sigh. "But I need to warn you, Sam, she can be a real...I donít know, somehow I manage to aggravate her."

"And that is a surprise?" Sam dead-panned.

"I guess not," Fiona chuckled. "It seems to me itís one of my most treasured talents."

"Then why would it be a problem?" Sam asked with her normal down to earth sense of logic.

"It wonít," Fiona sighed, looking down at the floor, knowing a pair of inquisitive emerald-green eyes were trying hard to see through her.

"Is there anything you want or need to tell us, Fi?" Jody asked softly. "I donít want you or Robin to feel awkward about this arrangement."

Fiona shook her head and tried not to sigh. When she looked up, the expression on her face was a neutral one. The one Jody knew was meant to hide what was really going on inside.

"No, itís alright. Iíll get over it. Itís only for a couple of days anyway and Iím glad youíre not sending them to The Reef. Somehow Iíd think theyíd feel better here," she answered with honesty. "And who knows what will happen, right? At least Murrook Farm has a top notch security system."

Sam nodded and tightened her grip on Jody, whose body stiffened after Fionaís words. It was true. The security of their place had been an important factor in her decision to let the Adamsí siblings stay at their place. She had no idea who had been sneaking around the new resort or who had fired a shot through the cabin window, but Sam did not want to take any chances. Her most important goal was to keep everyone safe. And that task would be easier if they were all close. Her smart sister-in-law had already figured that out and Sam sent her a grateful look.

"Thanks, Fi. Hopefully, youíll have your apartment to yourself again in no time."

"That would be great, Sam, but itís alright, honest. Main thing is to stay out of trouble, right?"

"Yes, please," Jody sighed, knowing her stubborn sister would be capable of going back to the mountain on her own, just to do some investigating herself. "You promised, remember?"

"I know and Iíll stick to that," Fiona nodded. "I wonít be going out there to look for trouble."

Trouble sometimes comes looking for me, though.

"And donít you forget that," Sam warned.

"I wonít," Fiona mumbled. "Talking about trouble, Iím sure you want to see that picture I took yesterday."

"I do," Sam nodded. "Why donít you get it and come to my office, so we can have a look at it."

"Sure," Fiona answered.

She walked towards the door to the veranda and when she passed Sam and Jody she halted, bent down and gave her sister a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Donít worry, Pea. Itíll be alright. Iíll be good."

Fiona disappeared and, with a sigh, Jody turned in Samís arms and tucked her head against the taller womanís shoulder.

"I am worried," she sighed. "I canít help it."

"So am I," Sam confessed. "Especially, since Fiona is so affectionate at the moment. Itís scary."

Sam smiled when she felt Jodyís body shake with silent laughter and dropped a kiss on the conveniently close head.

"Sheís been getting better these last few years," Jody defended her absent sister and Sam nodded.

"I know, I was just joking. Sheís changed a lot."

"For the better," Jody admitted. "She still has her cynical moments, but it seems like sheís more considerate these days. But I canít help wondering what her problem with Robin is. She seems really nice."

"She is," Sam agreed. "Robin has had a...very difficult time and I guess sheís still...recovering from that. I think Fiona rubs her the wrong way sometimes, but Iím sure theyíll work it out. Theyí re both adults."

"I hope youíre right," Jody smiled, looking up into a pair of warm blue eyes. "And knowing youíll probably have a busy day ahead of you and I wonít see much of you, why donít you come down here and kiss me, woman?"

"Oh, thatís the best proposal Iíve had all day," Sam smiled, dipping her head and capturing Jodyís lips in a long, heartfelt kiss.

 

With a deep frown, Trishia Waters stared at the dark soil that was covered with leaves and branches, which made it hard to find tracks of any kind. Stubbornly she had gone over the same area twice, only to find one indentation that resembled the imprint of the heel of a shoe. Having taken photos of the imprint, Trishia knelt down and searched the area around the print meticulously, while Paul and Gary observed her at a respectable distance. They knew when not to disturb their senior officer, who had learned tracking from the grandfather of one of her childhood friends, who had been a native Australian.

"Tall, heavy," Trishia mumbled to herself. "Probably taller than me, most likely even taller than Sam. And a lot heavier." She softly whistled through her teeth. "A whole lot heavier."

Trishia slowly rose to her full length again and stared at the path that led down one side of the steep hill. It had been the intruderís escape route, but to her frustration there were only broken branches and twigs. And the partial imprint of a shoe. It made her think that whoever had taken a shot at the girls, had excellent knowledge of the mountain and every track that lead back to the valley.

"Or night vision," Trishia mumbled, knowing it was not hard at all to purchase the special infrared goggles that would allow a person to see in the dark. It reminded her of a scene from ĎSilence of the Lambsí and, involuntarily, she shivered.

"Creepy," she whispered.

Casting a look at her watch, Trishia noticed it was almost nine oíclock already and she decided to call it a day. Paul and Gary had been on the mountain all night and they had not seen or heard anything unusual.

Mac and Jennifer had kept an eye on the only track that would allow a car to drive to and from the resort, but nothing or nobody had come down. It was like the intruder had disappeared into thin air. But Trishia knew better. Whoever had been up there during the night must have had a reason to be there. It had been somebody with a plan and an escape route. And that knowledge bothered her. A lot.

Turning around, she motioned Paul and Greg to come closer and when the two policemen obediently walked closer, Trishia gave them a tired smile.

"Thanks a lot, guys, I really appreciate you being here. I know youí re tired, but could I ask you to hang in there for another hour or so? Iím calling in a canine team. I want them to follow that track all the way down to the bottom. I need to be sure Iím not missing anything."

"You think itís serious, then?" Paul asked curiously.

"Yes, I do," Trishia sighed. "It seems to me that this was all planned. Besides, our intruder fired at the girls in the cabin. I need to take it seriously."

"Sure thing, Trish," Greg nodded. "Paulie and I will stick around until the others are here. No worries."

"Thanks, guys," Trishia smiled, patting Gregís shoulder. "Iíll make the call in the car. Iíll be right back."

With long strides, Trishia walked towards the police car that was parked in front of the office building. With a thoughtful expression she glanced at the shattered window, feeling the anger build inside when she realized what could have happened if the bullet had hit Fiona or Robin.

Trishia opened the door of the car and exhaled slowly.

Robin.

Lucy had been under the impression that she and Robin knew each other. It was a valid suspicion, since Robin had used her name without even being introduced to her. But like the manager had told Lucy, she had heard the name from Fiona and since she already had met Lucy and Jennifer Diaz, she assumed the tall woman entering the office had been Trishia. It had been a logic explanation and Lucy had accepted it.

Trishia leaned back in the car seat and smiled. Her Lucy had such a sharp mind. There was not much that went by her unnoticed. As she had told her on numerous occasions, she was convinced that Lucy would make an excellent investigator. But Lucy had just laughed, while shaking her head. She had no desire to join the police force. She was perfectly happy working as an assistant to one of the areaís most renowned lawyers. That was enough excitement for her.

Trishia smiled. Besides, they really wanted to start a family.

With a slightly nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach, Trishia thought about the upcoming appointment with Lucyís gynecologist. Jessica Winston had assured the couple that Lucy was in good health and there was no physical reason why she had two miscarriages.

Sometimes, things like that just happened, but it still hurt, Trishia knew.

With a small smile, she remembered the first time Lucy had found out she was pregnant. She had been glowing with happiness and although they had wanted to keep it quiet for a little while longer, Jody only had needed to take one look at her sister and their secret had been revealed.

They had all been so happy and supportive. Trishia grinned when she remembered how Fiona had promised to knit baby socks if Lucy happened to be carrying twins. And even though she only had to look at Sam and Jody to see how busy life could be with twins, she had almost wished for it, just to see Fiona knit.

Trishia cast a look at her watch and nodded. She would call in a team with dogs, to search the area thoroughly and then she would go home, pick up Lucy, and go to Murrook Farm. She needed to talk with Sam.

 

"Hey," Fiona greeted Robin when she entered Samís office. She put the envelope with the picture on Samís desk and sank down in one of the big chairs. "Enjoying the view?"

Robin, who had been studying some of the photos that adorned the walls, turned her head and cast Fiona a look of wonder.

"Did you take all those?"

"Most of them," Fiona shrugged. "Except for the ones on that wall. Sam and Jody made them on their honeymoon, when they were in The Netherlands."

"Theyí re excellent," Robin admired.

"Well, yeah, theyí re not bad photographers," Fiona shrugged with a small smile.

"Yes, those are not bad either, but I was talking about your work. Youí re really good. Now I understand why Sam gave you that assignment."

"Yes, well, it was not because she married my sister, if thatís what you think," Fiona answered, immediately regretting her words. Even though it was an old sore, because in the past people had made those kind of assumptions, that did not mean Robin shared their opinion.

Robin was about to give a quick retort, when, from the corner of her eye, she noticed the look of guilt and regret that crossed Fionaís face. Taking a deep breath, she pushed away the anger that rose too quickly and easily these days. There was no point in arguing. And if she had read Fiona right in the short time she had known her, humor would often be a good approach.

"Remind me not to give you too many compliments," she remarked dryly. "Iím afraid my poor head can only stand to be bitten off every now and then."

Fiona softly chuckled and cast Robin an appreciative look.

"Iím sorry," she apologized. "I was way out of line. I really shouldnít have said that, Robin. That was uncalled for, very shortsighted and opinionated."

"Enough with the self-torture, Fiona," Robin answered with a smile. "Itís alright, apology accepted. Iím sure itís a sensitive subject. I take it youíve been accused of using your sister-in- law to get assignments."

"Youíve no idea," Fiona sighed, resting her head against the back of the chair and closing her eyes. Her head hurt, but she would rather suffer than admit something like a headache.

"And you know," she continued softly. "Sam asked about five different photographers to turn in a portfolio for this assignment. She selected a few shots from every one of them and showed them to some employees. Without knowing any names, they picked out the one they thought would be the best for this job. That happened to be me."

"Sounds like a fair deal," Robin agreed, studying Fionaís face. Again she was struck by the photographerís youthful features. It was hard to believe Fiona was twenty-one years old.

"It was a fair deal," Fiona sighed. "Even my competition confirmed that. Sam would never favor family over someone else, just because theyíre family."

"Speaking of Sam, where is she?" Robin asked, casting a look at the clock on the wall.

"Smooching with Jody, in the kitchen," Fiona immediately answered, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Which it was. The whole family was used to running into Sam and Jody while the couple shared a tender moment. They felt comfortable enough around their family members to share the occasional kiss or two.

"They were pretty...involved with each other," Fiona chuckled. "I donít think they even noticed me when I walked past them."

"Thatís what you think," a cheerful voice sounded from the doorway and when Fiona opened her eyes she looked straight into a pair of laughing blue eyes.

"Mmm, thatís interesting. Arenít you supposed to be lost to the world when the woman who loves you kisses you senseless?" Fiona teased.

"That was before we had the twins," Sam quipped, winking at Robin. "We both have developed a few new senses. Itís pretty handy, you should try it," she added.

"That would require actually finding somebody Iíd like to kiss," Fiona grinned. "And, letís not forget, that same person would have to enjoy kissing me as well. Somehow I donít see that happening any time soon."

"I know a few people whoíd be very interested," Sam teased.

"I know you do," Fiona responded, enjoying the verbal sparring sessions wit her sister-in-law. "And I know them as well. Thatís exactly why Iím not interested."

Sam laughed and took her favorite seat on the edge of the huge desk. Her eyes twinkled when she looked at Fiona. It always was great fun to tease Fiona, because no matter what Sam would say, Fiona usually had an answer ready. She admired the young womanís quick wit and sharp mind.

"I still have those tickets," Sam grinned. "Iím waiting to sell them."

"You might as well just throw them away," Fiona snorted. "Itís not like youíll ever get to use them."

Robin, who enjoyed the bantering between the two women, sported a small frown when she looked up at Sam. The tall blonde caught the gaze and smiled at her.

"Fiona has always been very good at teasing family members and friends about their love lives. Years ago, Yarra said that on the day Fiona falls in love, sheíd have a front row seat. I promised to sell tickets," Sam explained.

"Now you know why I canít give into those primal urges," Fiona told Robin with an air of mock arrogance. "Face it, my life would be over."

"Sounds to me like pay backs," Robin smiled.

"Exactly," Fiona nodded while the amusement lit up her eyes. "If, and I emphasize the word if , I ever fall in love, I could never subject the object of my affection to such a treatment. Therefore, Iíll pass."

"Thatís very big of you," Robin nodded, while Sam threw back her head and laughed out loud.

"I live to serve," Fiona answered with a smug smile.

"Oh, please," Sam laughed. "Thatís enough, Fiona McDonnell. You might have it all worked out, but Iím sure that one day your theory will just bite you in the butt. After all, youíre only human."

"So they say," Fiona chuckled, enjoying the fact that she and Sam had been able to make Robin laugh. It chased away that haunted look in those hazel eyes and made her look a lot more relaxed and happy. Maybe having Robin for a guest the next few days wasnít such a bad idea after all.

Fiona leaned back in her chair and, from the corner of her eye, she cast a look at the manager, noticing she had never seen Robin so relaxed before. She smiled and briefly closed her eyes, unaware of a pair of intelligent blue eyes that traveled between her and Robin.

In spite of her headache, Fiona felt content. Life was good.

 

It was quiet, only the natural sounds of the subtropical rainforest could be heard over the steady sound of streaming water. In the small valley between two hills crystal clear, cold water came tumbling down a waterfall to land in a creek that was littered with rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes. It rushed downstream in a hurry to reach the river and, ultimately, the vast expense of the Pacific Ocean.

Close to the waterfall, a tall, dark-clad figure groaned while pulling a log from the water and hauling it up the bank of the creek. Without pausing the log was pulled up higher, sliding through the dense vegetation, until it reached a small opening in the side of the hill. It was just large enough to let a grown man crawl through and the dark figure had to wiggle his way in, feeling the volcanic rock scrape his shoulders and arms.

Inside, he was able to straighten up and with a contented smile he looked around the small area. His eyes took in every detail and finally he slowly nodded. This would do. Nobody would ever find this place.

It was time for the next step.

 

To be continued in part 5

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