For disclaimers see part 1

Booyong Mountain

part 9


Lois Kay

The shadows on the ceiling painted different shapes as Sam gave her thoughts free rein while her eyes followed a shadow that looked like a big bug. Involuntarily Sam smiled when her thoughts traveled to her two year old daughter. Taryn loved insects and whenever she spotted one, the little girl squealed in delight. It was amazing to have two children, twins, who were so different. Taryn was adventurous and reckless, always chattering to herself and her brother, while Timothy was more deliberate than his sister. More quiet. But, just like his twin, he always had a sunny smile ready for anybody who would greet them. It was a copy of Jody’s smile and Sam could not be happier about that. It was warm, friendly and always welcoming and she could only hope their children would grow up to be like her partner.

Sam let out a small sigh and glanced aside to the subject of her thoughts. Jody was fast asleep, her head pillowed on Sam’s shoulder, pinning the other woman to the mattress with an arm and leg that were draped around Sam’s body. It was, by far, Jody’s favorite position to sleep in and even though Sam sometimes teased her about it, she loved it as well. It gave her the opportunity to study Jody’s peaceful features, something of which she would never get enough. Just laying in bed, holding the woman that had stolen her heart so many years ago, was still something that filled her with awe and wonder. And the fact that their loving union had been blessed with two healthy children, only added to her gratitude.

Sam’s eyes traveled to a little box on the wall, next to the door. The feint glow of a tiny green light was reassuring. The security system was working, keeping an electronic eye on her loved ones and Sam knew it would sound the alarm as soon as somebody or something would approach the house. From any angle.

Peter Jones’ brother, Gary, kept her informed about the latest equipment and Sam was always willing to upgrade the system. There was no price too high to keep her family safe.

I haven’t heard anything yet, Sam, but as soon as I do, I’ll let you know. I promise, Trishia’s words echoed in her mind.

That evening she had spent some time on the phone with the police woman. Sam knew Trishia blamed herself for missing what she called an obvious clue. Sam didn’t blame her though. Who could have thought there might be a link between Steven Hayes, who had been dead for more than three years now, and the things that had happened in the past few days?

Trishia was going over all the information that concerned the situation with The Reef. Somehow there was a link between what had happened then and what was happening now. Trishia had told Sam that she was convinced Joe Michaels played a crucial role. But before she would head to his prison cell to question him, she needed more information. She didn’t expect much from the man, but she knew she had to try. And maybe Fred would be able to shed some light on the case.

Sam chuckled when she remembered the wry tone in Trishia’s voice when she had told her Lucy insisted she was to tell the inmate artist to stop sketching her sister. Although Fiona had not seemed to be bothered by it at all.


Sam smiled in the darkness and unconsciously tightened her grip on Jody’s warm body.

Fiona McDonnell had finally fallen in love. Or, at least, she thought she had. And Sam could not tease her. Jody had been very specific about that. But the thought alone was amazing. Sam loved her sister-in-law dearly and she truly wanted to see her happy, but as soon as she would get the opportunity, she’d make sure to let Fiona feel what it was like to be in love and being teased about it.

"What’s that smug smile for?" a sleepy voice sounded in her ear and when Sam turned her head, she looked straight in a pair of lazily blinking eyes.

"Your youngest sister," Sam explained, pressing her lips against Jody’s forehead.

"You’ re gloating because she’s in love," Jody yawned.

"Sure I am," Sam answered with a chuckle. "I’m sorry she’s having a hard time with it, but honey, it will be so entertaining to just lean back and watch all the interesting developments."

"She’s very vulnerable right now, Sam," Jody warned.

"I know, sweetheart and I promised you I wouldn’t say a word. And I won’t. But as soon as she’s figured out the specifics, she’s fair game."

"I know," Jody smiled. "And she knows that too. She’ ll be prepared, Sam."

"That’s alright," Sam sighed happily. "I love a challenge."

"You and Fi are two are so bad_ "

"But you love us anyway, don’t you, sweetie?" Sam pouted, which earned her a quick, but heartfelt kiss.

"I do," Jody mumbled, snuggling back into Sam’s arms. "Very much. G’night, Sam."

"Sweet dreams, my love," Sam whispered, brushing a strand of hair away from Jody’s forehead.

Within a few minutes Sam felt her eyes grow heavy and it didn’t take long before her breathing deepened and her body and mind drifted off in a deep, undisturbed sleep.

The green light in the security box glowed steadfastly in the darkness of the night.


Trying not to bump into anything, Robin made her way through the dark apartment. She was headed for the kitchen, to take another pain pill. In her sleep she had turned on her side and the dull, throbbing pain in her shoulder had awoken her immediately. She did not like taking medication, but if she didn’t take anything, she knew she would not be able to go back to sleep.

Finding her way in the darkness, Robin managed to find a glass and filled it with cold water. She knew Fiona had put the small bottle with pills in the corner of the counter top and it didn’t take her any trouble to find it and remove a pill. She quickly swallowed it down and emptied her glass.

Turning around to return to the bedroom, she suddenly froze in her tracks when her ears picked up the feint, but unmistakable sound of breathing. Holding her own breath, Robin stepped into the livingroom and her eyes, adjusted to the darkness, fell on the couch, where she detected the sleeping form of Fiona.

"What the...?" she whispered, convinced that Fiona had gone to bed when Robin had. She had heard Fiona go into the bedroom next to hers and she wondered why the photographer was sleeping on the couch that was way too small for her to stretch out on. It really didn’t look very comfortable for the tall woman.

Robin nibbled her bottom lip and wondered if it would be a good idea to wake up Fiona, so she could spend the rest of the night in a more comfortable bed. After a few moments of indecision se decided against it. She didn’t want to wake the other woman and rob her of any sleep.

Robin was about to turn around when her eyes fell on the blanket Fiona had given her before. It had slid on the floor next to the couch. Deciding she could at least cover the photographer with the blanket, Robin stepped closer, careful to not make a sound and grabbed the soft blanket, spreading it out and covering Fiona’s sleeping form. When she took a step back, her eyes fell on a small pile of photos that were neatly stacked on the coffee table and curiously she bent forward to take a better look.

Robin gasped and with wide eyes she reached out and grabbed the pictures, so she could study them closer. With astonishment she looked at a photo of herself. She had no idea when Fiona had taken the picture, but it must have been before her tumble down the mountain, because her face was clean and unscathed.

Robin didn’t know whether to be annoyed or flattered to secretly have her picture taken. Sinking down in the chair opposite the couch, she looked at the close-up Fiona had made.

The light of the moon was not enough to really notice any colors, but sufficient to see that the photo was a good one. Robin had been wearing her Akubra hat and was staring intently at something in the distance. A few curls had escaped from underneath her hat and were playfully dangling on her forehead.

Robin realized Fiona must have taken the picture when she had been on the mountain and curiously she looked at the other pictures in the small stack. There was one more picture of her, sitting on a huge boulder, her arms wrapped her knees that were pulled up against her chest. Again she was staring into the distance, but this time a small smile curved her lips and Robin knew exactly when the picture had been taken and what she had been staring at. She had been watching the antics of two little possums, thoroughly enjoying the solitude of the wilderness.

Robin softly snorted and cast a look at the sleeping Fiona. So much for solitude. Apparently she had not been alone. Somebody had been lurking around the bushes.

Sometimes, when I see something beautiful, or amazing, I just have to take a picture of it. It’s almost a compulsive disorder, Fiona’s voice echoed in her mind and Robin smiled.

"I guess I should be flattered," she mumbled softly, carefully putting the photos back on the table.

Leaning back into the comfortable chair, Robin stared at Fiona with pensive eyes. The photographer had talked to her about her relationship with her father, or the lack thereof and Robin tried to imagine what it would have been like, to grow up without the loving support of her own father.

It would have been horrible, she knew. She had always been very close to her father, whom she adored. His resignation from the police force and his unexpected death had left deep wounds she thought would never completely heal.

If her father would have disowned her, like David McDonnell had his two eldest daughters, she knew she would have been miserable for the rest of her life.

Thank you, dad, for loving me, no matter what.

Robin swallowed hard and rapidly blinked a few times to clear her eyes from the tears she felt stinging. With a deep sigh, she stared at the couch. She felt that Fiona had opened up a little more, which she was grateful for, but it was still hard to figure out the private person that was Fiona McDonnell.

Robin’s eyes traveled to the photographer’s face, noticing how relaxed and young she looked while asleep. Watching somebody sleep was pretty intimate and Robin felt like she was taking advantage of the situation, but still, she couldn’t look away.

Fiona’s breathing was deep and regular. She was laying on her side, with her knees pulled up. One hand was tucked underneath her chin and the dark, shoulder-length hair framed the freckled face that looked pale in the light of the moon.

Robin smiled, fighting the urge to lean forward and brush away a strand of hair that partly covered Fiona’s cheek. She silently wondered if the dark hair would feel as soft and silky as it looked. It probably would. Just like Fiona’s skin and lips.

Robin’s eyes flew open, while her heart jumped in her chest and she almost gasped in surprise. Deep down inside something stirred. Something that had been trampled on and had withered away. Something she thought was long dead.

"No, this can’t be," she whispered to herself. "Not now. Not ever," she swallowed away the lump in her throat, suddenly feeling very sad and miserable. "Not Fiona."

Trying not to make a sound, Robin jumped up from the chair and, without looking back, quickly walked to the guest bedroom, softly closing the door behind her.

In the living room a pair of dark-green eyes stared at the ceiling with a pained, troubled expression. A single tear slid down, reflecting the pale moonlight. It touched a small cut on the bridge of Fiona’s nose, before it landed on her hand.

Sleep had become elusive.


It was still dark when he left and carefully slid the huge rock in front of the opening. But that was alright. He was used to the dark. He had come to love it. There was safety in the impenetrable darkness. The night had become his friend, many years ago. The light of the day was too harsh and threatening. It was unforgiven and merciless and showed him things he did not want to see, like the look in people’s eyes, or the expression on their faces.

The emotional pain had been so much worse than the physical pain he had been through. Until one day, the whispered words and rejection had become too much to handle. He had made a mistake, he knew, a grave one and that’s when he decided to leave. He ran, looking for a place to hide and time to heal.

In the eyes of the world he was a freak, a monster and there was no chance that anyone would ever be able to see through the repulsive outside, to really see the person inside. No one would ever know about his struggle. The endless, sleepless nights, filled with pain. And regret. No one would ever know about his deep longing to belong. Somewhere. Anywhere.

The man had tracked him down. How, he still did not know. He had offered him money and a home, but he had declined. All he wanted was to be left in peace.

And then he had told him about the murder. The cold, heartless taking of the life of a person he had known so well. It had felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest and he had howled in grief, anger and frustration. And he had sworn revenge.

The man had smiled and had given him a small box. And some instructions. He had followed them to the letter and all he had to do now, was wait.

But he was ready.


With blazing eyes, Trishia slammed her fist on the table, making the young man who was sitting across from her, jump in surprise.

"For crying out loud, Fred. Why don’t you tell me the truth?"

"I am," the young man almost cried, while his brown eyes looked at Peter Jones pleadingly.

Trishia’s partner was standing behind her, casually leaning against the wall. He seemed relaxed, almost absent minded, but looks were deceptive. Peter’s eyes took in every little move Fred made and his ears picked up on every sound, no matter how soft.

"I am telling the truth. I’m sorry about Fi...Miss McDonnell’s picture. I never meant to...I never...I didn’t know someone from here would recognize her. I just drew her from memory. She’s very pretty and I just...I just..."

"We get the picture," Trishia sighed. "Listen Fred, for the...umpteenth time, I need you to tell me about Kevin Swanson. According to him, you sent him to warn Samantha Stevens about something."

"But I didn’t," Fred sighed, looking Trishia straight in the eyes. "Honest to God, Senior-Sergeant, I didn’t. I swear." Fred swallowed hard and plucked the hem of his shirt nervously.

Peter Jones cast a look at his partner and stepped closer to the table. He had not forgotten that the frightened young man had been very helpful after they had arrested Joe Michaels. And he had been very sincere in his feelings of guilt and regret.

"It’s alright, Fred," he spoke gently and from the corner of his eye he saw Trishia take a step back. Inwardly he chuckled. It was like they were playing a game of ‘Good cop, bad cop’. "I believe you, I really do. But the fact that you didn’t send Kevin Swanson, only makes this case more complicated. We really need some information, Fred. People could be in danger."

Fred nodded and cast down his eyes, fighting hard not to lose his composure in the presence of the two police officers. The last few years had been very hard on him, but he knew that when he was released from his captivity, he would make sure never to do anything that would land him behind bars again. He had promised himself that.

But how could he protect the only person in the world who meant anything to him, if he was locked up, with nowhere to go? His hands were tied and Fred knew his best option would be to trust Trishia Waters and Peter Jones. No matter what would happen to him. It was the right thing to do.

"They know where she lives," he almost whispered.

"Who?" Trishia immediately asked. "Fiona?"

"I don’t know about that," Fred answered with an audible quiver in his voice. "But they know where Nancy lives. My sister."

"And where is that?" Peter asked, not unfriendly.

Fred’s reaction to that question was unexpected and involuntarily both Peter and Trishia took a step back, when the timid young man suddenly jumped up and kicked back his chair.

"I don’t know_ " he yelled. "I’ve no damn idea where she lives_ How sick is that, huh? That’s how screwed up my life is. I don’t even know where my own sister lives. I’ve no idea how or where to reach her, while those sick bastards know exactly where to find her. They made that very clear."

Trishia and Peter exchanged a look that was a mixture of surprise, anger, frustration and worry.

"Calm down, Fred," Trishia responded, walking around the table to pick up the chair, while Peter gestured to the guard outside the door that everything was under control.

"Take a seat, mate," Peter urged the young man, pointing to the chair. "You need to tell us everything, alright? I’m sure we can help you and your sister, but you need to talk to us. We’ re your best bet to keep her safe."

"I know," Fred answered, slowly sinking back in his chair. "I know that. I’m sorry. I guess I should be glad you’re here. There was no way I could contact you."

"You could have told the guards you had some information for us," Trishia replied calmly. "I’m sure they would have contacted us."

"I’ve tried," Fred whispered, not seeing the look of surprise Trishia and Peter exchanged. "Several times, even. But nobody wanted to listen."

"I’m sorry about that, Fred," Trishia frowned. "I promise we’ll look into that, alright? I’m sure there’s a lot you should tell us, but there’s one thing I really need to know first."

Trishia paused, which had the desired effect, because Fred looked up at her expectantly.

"Do you have any idea who’s behind all this?"

Fred nodded and without looking away he answered immediately.

"Joe Michaels."


"I still can’t believe Trish didn’t want to tell me anything," Sam mumbled, using the remote control to flip through the tv channels mindlessly.

"Stop pouting, Sam," Jody answered, looking up from the photo-album she was working on. Fiona had given her some new pictures of the twins and Jody had decided to put them in the ever-growing album immediately. "You know Trish can’t tell you everything she sees and hears. She’s in the middle of an investigation."

"But it’s been almost four days," Sam sighed.

"Yes and one of those days was spent with Lucy, to celebrate," Jody replied, smiling when she remembered her sister’s unexpected, but welcome visit, after her trip to the gynecologist. Lucy had been beaming and had even cried a few moments when Timothy had crawled unto her lap to give her a hug. She had blamed it on her changing hormone levels and the two sisters had laughed heartily about that.

"I’m so happy for them," Jody spoke, letting out a contended smile.

"And I’m behaving like a...a...," Sam chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Help me out, honey."

"You’re behaving like a spoiled two year old," Jody immediately answered calmly, but there was a twinkle in her eyes.

"Our kids are not spoiled," Sam responded predictably.

"No, they’ re not. But you are," Jody dead-panned, grinning when she noticed a pair of indignant blue eyes looking up at her from the couch.

"Sam, honey, I know you want this whole situation solved as soon as possible, we all do. But Trishia has to go by the rules. She and her team are working hard to get the answers they’ re looking for. I’m sure she’ll tell you as soon as she can."

With an impatience gesture, Sam turned off the TV and dropped the remote control on the low coffee table, making a mental note to put it away later, to prevent her children from dissecting it in the morning.

"I know, you’re right, as usual," she answered with a wry smile. "I’m being a selfish, heartless, inconsiderate wench."

"I wouldn’t go that far," Jody remarked dryly. "You’ re my wench, that’s for sure."

Sam’s eyes caught Jody’s smiling ones and with little effort she jumped up from the couch, walked to the table and engulfed her laughing partner in a big hug.

"You always know how to make me feel better," she sighed happily, kissing Jody’s forehead.

"That’s because I know you so well, Samantha Stevens. Oh, and because I love you, of course," she added with a wink.

"And I love you," Sam answered, nuzzling the soft skin of her partner’s neck. "Want to go to bed?"

Jody chuckled and turned her head so she could kiss Sam’s cheek.

"Joshua’s not back home yet," she answered.

"Listen to you," Sam smiled. "‘Back home’. Does that mean we’ ll have to add on to the house? This family is getting bigger and bigger."

"I’m sure Josh has better things to do than to spend all his time with women-folk, honey," Jody answered with a chuckle. "But he and Robin are always welcome here. Right?"

"Right," Sam answered. "The more the merrier. Talking about my smart conservation biologist, how are she and Fiona doing in the love-department?"

"I don’t know and I’m not going to ask," Jody immediately answered.

"Oh, come on, sweetie," Sam urged with sparkling eyes. "I know you know something. You’re better at that stuff than I am. Come on, share with me."

"You are bad, Sam," Jody gently rebuked, but she was smiling.

"I know I’m bad, but isn’t that what makes me so irresistible?" Sam grinned, bringing her head closer to Jody’s. "Come on, baby, you can tell me," she purred in a shapely ear, chuckling when she noticed the goose bumps appear on Jody’s skin.

"Alright, alright," Jody laughed, rubbing her arm. "Haven’t you seen them together?"

Sam’s face suddenly became serious and she frowned when her thoughts went over the past few days.

"Um, no, not really," she answered.

"What does that tell you?"

"It seemed to me that, at first, they were getting along fine. You think something happened?"

"They’ re avoiding each other, Sam," Jody sighed, pressing her cheek against Sam’s shoulder. "And they both look like they’re missing a lot of sleep. The few moments I see them together, they both seem to...perk up a little. And I’ve seen the way they look at each other. But they’ re both scared out of their senses."

"Mmm," Sam sighed. "What are we’re going to do about it, love?"

"We can’t interfere in their lives, Sam," Jody answered, but Sam detected a hint of amusement in her lover’s voice and she pulled her partner closer.

"What have you done?"

"Nothing," Jody answered, too innocent for Sam to believe her.

"Oh, no, you’ re not getting out of this one, my sweet," Sam laughed. "What have you done? I know you, Jody Pea McDonnell. Confess."

"I didn’t do a thing," Jody laughed. "I might have made a few suggestions though, but that’s all."

"And those were...what exactly?"

"Oh, nothing special. It seemed to me that the girls would probably feel a bit more comfortable to be away from their curious families, so I told Robin about that really nice art gallery in Brisbane and I might have mentioned the fact that Fiona’s leaving for Brisbane tomorrow, to do that beauty pageant thing," Jody smiled.

"And you couldn’t resist and told her they could always spend the night with Alice and Yarra, am I right?"

"It doesn’t seem logical, Sam, for Robin to stay at a hotel while Fi stays with the girls."

"No, not logical at all," Sam agreed with a laugh. "And you call me bad? You’re a little matchmaker."

"No, I’m not," Jody shook her head. "But I do believe the match is there. It’s just a matter of making them see that as well."

"Do you really believe Robin and Fiona would make a good couple?" Sam asked seriously.

"Yes, honey, I do," Jody nodded. "First of all, there’s the mutual attraction. They probably think they’re doing a good job hiding it from the rest of the world, but they aren’t. Secondly, I’ve always pictured Fiona with someone who’s a little older than she is. She needs somebody stable, sensible and patient. Someone who sees through the outside facade and notices the person Fiona is really. I’ve got the distinct feeling Robin is doing just that. Thirdly, Robin needs somebody who’ll make her see all the good, little things in life. Someone who makes her laugh and who can drag her out of her self-induced emotional vacuum. Someone who shares her interests and loves her for her brain as well."

"Wow, you’re turning into quite the psychologist," Sam grinned, but her voice was filled with admiration. "Sounds to me like you’ve worked it all out."

"I’m trying to," Jody chuckled with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Now, if only the girls will follow my plan..."

"You do realize that your sister won’t be fooled by your innocent face and sweet smile, don’t you?" Sam smiled, already picturing the look of disgust on Fiona’s face after hearing about Jody’s plan.

"Of course she will, honey," Jody smiled sweetly. "She’s in love_ She’ll accept anything to be around Robin, even though she tries very hard to show us something different. She’ll accept my...subtle meddling with grace, dignity and gratitude."

"Jody McDonnell," Sam laughed. "You are priceless_ But I do hope you’re right about it. What if your plan backfires?"

"It won’t, Sam," Jody answered seriously. "They both have it bad. Besides, I do have a feeling about all this."

"Ah, your intuition," Sam smiled knowingly, seeing her partner nod. Stretching out her arms, Sam wrapped them around Jody and pulled her off the chair, straight into her arms.

"You’ re such a...sweetheart. I’m so lucky to have you in my life," Sam sighed happily, kissing Jody’s forehead.

"That feeling is mutual, honey," Jody smiled, looking up into a pair of warm, blue eyes. "I always think I’m the lucky one."

"Maybe I don’t say it often enough," Sam spoke softly, brushing Jody’s cheek with her lips. "But that day I ran into you, literally, at The Reef, has been a turning point in my life."

"I know," Jody answered, resting her cheek against Sam’s shoulder, while snuggling closer into the warm embrace. "For eight long years we hadn’t seen each other and then all of a sudden you came back into my life. And you know what?" Jody raised her head and cast Sam a look full of wonder. "We haven’t been apart since."

"No, we haven’t," Sam nodded. "I think it was supposed to be that way."

"I’d like to think so," Jody answered, reaching up and stroking Sam’s cheek with her fingertips. "I love you, Sam."

"I love you too, my beautiful," Sam smiled, reveling in the warmth and love that radiated from Jody’s eyes. "Do you think we can risk a kiss, before Joshua comes back in?"

"I’m sure we can," Jody chuckled. "And even if he’d walk in on us, I’m sure he’ll get over it. Come here you," Jody smiled, pulling Sam’s face down.

The taller woman did not object and their lips met. For a few precious moments their world was centered around each other and when they finally broke apart, they remained in each others arms, soaking up the feeling that fueled and strengthened their bond every single day.


"Thanks for giving me a ride, Fiona," Robin spoke, staring out of the car window. Somehow it was too much to look at the photographer and see the patient long-suffering in those captivating dark-green eyes.

"It’s nice to have company, Robin," Fiona answered softly, taking a quick glance at the woman who was sitting next to her in the car. As always, the far-away, almost sad look on Robin’s face caused a stab of pain in Fiona’s chest. Something she tried hard to ignore.

The last few days it had been painfully obvious that Robin Adams was trying to avoid her. The biologist had made an effort never to be alone with her in the same room. That knowledge, combined with the softly spoken words Fiona’s ears had picked up that one night when Robin had found her sleeping on the couch, caused the photographer’s heart to ache every time she laid eyes on the other woman. Fiona knew the best thing to do, was to stay away from Robin, but somehow she couldn’t. She was drawn to her and even though it hurt to be around her, the ache was even worse when she could not be with her at all. That’s why Jody’s suggestion had been so welcome. Fiona would never admit it, but she was grateful for her sister’s meddling. She had dreaded not being home for the weekend. And even though she knew there would be times she would regret taking Robin along, she was determined to soak up and enjoy every little, precious moment.

Fiona cast a look in the rearview mirror, seeing the dense green forest behind them as they slowly made their way down the hill. Kurt had finally given up following her car and the dog had returned to the top of the hill, where a big bowl of fresh water would be waiting for him. He would drink and then seek out his favorite spot underneath the tree, patiently waiting until his pack would be complete again.

Robin cast a look aside, stealing a glance of the dark-haired photographer’s face. She didn’t understand where the amused twinkle had disappeared to. It had been there every time Fiona interacted with her family, even with Josh, but as soon as the two of them were alone, it was gone, replaced by a pensive look, sometimes even by a dark, brooding one. Robin missed that mischievous twinkle and she tried very hard not to think about the reason why. Deep down in her heart she knew it though, but it was so hard to comprehend, let alone accept.

That night, when she had watched Fiona sleep on the couch, it had been as if, all of a sudden, a blindfold had been torn away from her eyes, making them hurt with the clarity of what was right in front of her. It had scared her and after she had fled to the safe darkness of the bedroom, she had been awake all night, tossing and turning, trying to come up with something, anything, that would make sense of the turmoil inside. It filled her with a mixture of happiness, pain, anticipation and, above all, fear. No matter how many times she kept telling herself that this was Fiona and not Abigail, a nightmare from the past, a persistent little voice in the back of her mind kept reminding her of the distance that needed to be maintained. There was safety in distance.

Robin sighed and leaned back in her seat, closing her eyes to block out the world around her.

How long would she be able to keep her distance? When would she cave in and let the feelings she kept fighting off, take a hold of her? When would she set herself up for another heartbreak?

Robin’s eyes flew open when the car came to a stop and when she cast a look aside it was into a pair of concerned, dark-green eyes.

"Are you alright?" Fiona asked with a small frown.

Robin tried to send the photographer a reassuring smile, but it was like her facial muscles had been paralyzed. She could only nod.

"I’m okay," she answered with a hoarse voice.

"I could turn around and drive back up, if you want me to," Fiona continued in a soft voice.

"No, it’s alright, Fiona," Robin almost whispered, avoiding the probing eyes that were so confusing. "Really."

"It’s just that...darn," Fiona sighed, raking her fingers through her hair with a gesture that showed her frustration. "Robin, you don’t have to come, if you don’t want to. If you’d rather stay here it’s..."

A warm hand was suddenly placed on her arm and Fiona stopped in mid-sentence. She swallowed hard when she noticed a pair of hazel eyes looking straight at her, and for a moment it was hard to breathe. Especially when Robin smiled. That small smile which made her heart skip a beat and her palms sweat.

"Fiona, I do want to come, alright? Stop fussing," Robin rebuked gently. "I’m a big girl and I decided to go to Brisbane, because I want to, not because I feel I have to."

"Beauty pageants are boring," Fiona remarked dryly, but there was a twinkle in her eyes and immediately Robin felt her spirit soar.

"I’ve never been to one," she confessed with a chuckle. "It might be interesting and...educational."

Especially seeing you at work. You’ re the reason I’m going anyway. The thought of not being able to see you for the next two days is maddening. Jody knows that. I could see it in her eyes. She knows...

"Robin, I...," Fiona halted and took a deep breath. What was it Jody had told her? To stay true to herself? To be honest with herself? Fiona sucked in her bottom lip and tried to ignore the nervous ball in the pit of her stomach.

What would happen if she would tell Robin? The biologist would not be angry...would she? The worst thing that could happen, was Robin jumping out of the car and walking back up the hill. In that case, Fiona knew she would never see her again. That would be too much to bear.

"I’m glad you’ re coming," she finally said, knowing from the look in Robin’s eyes that the other woman knew that was not what she had wanted to say and mentally she slapped herself. Maybe she would get another chance soon. Although the idea made her almost tremble in fear, she knew she had to tell Robin.

Fiona sent Robin a small smile, feeling a grave sense of loss when the other woman pulled back her hand. It was hard not to give into the urge to reach out and grab that warm hand and hold it between her own. Robin’s hands looked so soft and strong at the same time and Fiona wished she could hold them and run her fingers over the silky looking skin, kiss the palms and....

Robin must have read her mind, because the hazel eyes darkened and no matter how hard she tried, Fiona could not tear her gaze away. With fascination she watched a small ray of sunshine fall into Robin’s face, painting golden specks in the green, brown and grey of her eyes. And there was something else as well. A small flicker of hope and joy, but as soon as it had appeared it disappeared again, leaving Fiona wondering whether her imagination had been playing tricks with her mind.

Taking a deep breath, Fiona squared her shoulders and reluctantly turned her attention back to the road. They were are the bottom of the hill and as soon as they would pass the creek, they would be close to the main road.

"We’d better get going," she sighed, putting her car back in gear and slowly crossing the wooden bridge. The big, sturdy poles rattled underneath the wheels and Fiona chuckled when she heard Robin’s soft gasp.

"Don’t worry. This bridge has been here for a long time and believe it or not, it’s still in great condition. Sam had it inspected just a couple of months ago."

"I don’t like wobbly bridges," Robin confessed as soon as the car hit the dirt-road again. "I just..."

She was interrupted by a curse, while Fiona slammed the brakes, immediately stretching out her left arm to keep Robin from flying forward. But the biologist was wearing her seatbelt, which had tightened as soon as Fiona’s foot had stepped on the brake.

"What the...?" she could hear Fiona mumble and even though the car had skidded to a stop, the protective arm was still holding her in place.

"What is it? I...Oh, my God," Robin whispered. "Fiona_ "

"I know, I know," Fiona answered, putting the car in reverse, intending to back up on the bridge. But she didn’t get far. The sound of a muted explosion made them both jump in surprise and when Fiona looked over her shoulder, she noticed half of the bridge had disappeared into the creek below it. There was no way she could drive back up the hill and the big truck she had managed to avoid when, all of a sudden, it had pulled up in front of her, was blocking the only route to escape. Grasping Robin’s hand, she gave it an encouraging squeeze.

"Hang in there, alright?" she whispered, before a gloved hand softly, but persistently tapped the window, gesturing Fiona to open the door.

"What if I don’t?" she asked softly, aware of the nuzzle of a gun that was pointed at her chest. "You think the glass would...?"

"No, don’t risk it," Robin’s hoarse voice immediately pleaded. "Don’t try to be a hero, Fiona. Please. Let’s see what he wants."

Fiona took a deep breath, fighting the rage and fear that had welled up inside of her the moment a tall, broad- shouldered man had jumped out of the truck. He was wearing a mask and Fiona knew, without a doubt, he was the person she had taken a picture of that day on the mountain.

Exchanging a glance with Robin, who was very pale, but seemed to be calm, Fiona slowly unlocked and opened the door. She could only hope and pray that the security cameras Sam had installed were doing their job, recording every moment of their ordeal.

They were in trouble. Deep, deep trouble.


To be continued in part 10

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