For disclaimers see part one
Slowly, the car made its way down the winding road. There was no illumination at all, save the bright headlights of the vehicle that lit up the dense foliage at the side of the road, giving the trees a grayish tint. Every now and then a small animal was courageous enough to cross the road, staring at the approaching SUV with eyes that lit up brightly, once hit by the light. Lauren DarkWolf made sure to avoid the possums and raccoons, cautiously using the brakes, or steering around them. They had not seen another car ever since they had left the highway and Rachel could not help wondering where they finally would end up. Hannah knew, but she had been reluctant to ask, almost feeling paranoid about being overheard. She had decided to try and relax and see where the journey would lead them. As long as they were together, that was the main thing.
Hannah cast a look aside and watched Rachel's profile in the light the instruments on the dashboard provided. The Doctor was leaning back against the headrest and was staring outside the window, her head half-turned. Every now and then she blinked her eyes, the only movement she displayed, except for her regular, deep breathing that made her chest rise and fall in a comforting rhythm. Her quiet presence gave Hannah a sense of peace and involuntarily the blonde smiled. Even though they were on the run from Nathan, she would do her utmost to enjoy the time she would spend with Rachel and Nicky.
"Hey," she spoke softly, reaching over Nicky, who was still asleep in her car seat. She grabbed Rachel's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"Hey," the Doctor smiled back, folding her hand around Hannah's. "I thought you were asleep."
"No, I tried to doze off," Hannah confessed. "But it's hard to sleep."
"I'm sure we'll arrive soon, wherever it is we're going to," Rachel remarked with a touch of humor in her voice.
"Yes, in about ten minutes, I think," Hannah nodded.
Rachel's thumb caressed the skin of Hannah's hand, the only close contact they could afford with Nicky in between them. The desire to pull Hannah into her arms and hold her close was almost painful and she let out a small sigh. Ten minutes. After having been apart for almost four years, ten minutes should not pose a problem, should it?
"It won't be long now, honey," Hannah's voice sounded and Rachel shot the blonde an amused look. How did she do that? It was as if Hannah had been reading her mind.
"I'll hold you to it," she smiled, squeezing the warm hand that was still resting in her own.
"Yes, Hannah, so will I," a tired voice sounded from the front of the car and when Hannah looked up, she noticed Maureen Rivers had half-turned. "I'm so tired I could sleep standing up."
"We're almost there," Lauren DarkWolf spoke up. "Two more winding turns and a narrow path to the left."
"Don't tell me you have the whole route memorized," Maureen remarked in amazement.
"Would that give me brownie points?" Lauren replied with a chuckle.
"Probably," the red-haired police woman sighed.
" To be honest, I grew up around here. I think I know every tree and rock. That's what got me this assignment," Lauren explained.
That, and a little persuasion...
"Hannah knows where we are," Lauren continued, casting a look in the rearview mirror.
"My parents had a cabin here," the blonde softly explained. "I haven't been here in years ," she added with a hint of pain in her voice.
"I knew about the cabin, but somehow I've never made it there" Rachel sighed.
"Neither did I, not in the last few years. After you...after you left, Dad encouraged me to come here and relax. But that was so hard to do, I tried, but..." Hannah shrugged her shoulders and shot Rachel a small smile.
"Have you...when's the last time you were here?" Rachel asked.
"I've only been here once after they died. It was too...confronting, too painful and way too lonely for me. I couldn't stand it," Hannah answered. "Not much relaxing, huh?" she added with a wry smile.
"Not really," Rachel nodded. "Will you be okay? I mean, I'm sure it won't be easy to go back to the cabin if you..."
"I'll be fine, Rachel," Hannah interrupted. "You're here."
Lauren steered the SUV into a small path and, even though she was going very slowly, she could not avoid the car being rocked by the potholes created by rain and neglect.
"Sorry, Ladies," Lauren mumbled, casting an apologetic look at Maureen Rivers who muttered a curse when her head collided with the side of the door.
"No problem," the red-haired police woman answered, rubbing the tender spot on her head. "It's not like there's much to be damaged up there anyway."
"That's true," Lauren dryly replied, making Rachel and Hannah chuckle. "Alright, Ladies, we're about to reach our destination. Keep your seatbelts fastened until the vehicle has come to a full stop. Thank you for...traveling...DarkWolf freight company. Hopefully, you'll be using my services to return to Oklahoma City in the very near future. Until then, I hope you'll enjoy your stay here."
"Thanks...Captain," Maureen snorted, opening the door as soon as Lauren stopped the car. "Make sure to get all the bags out of the back."
"Oh, ouch," Lauren laughed, pressing her hand against her heart. "That's cold, Agent Rivers."
The dark haired agent opened the door and stepped out, unfolding her tall frame. Rachel and Hannah exchanged an amused look and the blonde chuckled.
"I guess I understand why Maureen said that. She looks pretty tall and strong."
"Six foot four, two hundred and ten pounds," Lauren grinned, opening the door for Hannah to let her out of the vehicle.
"Wow, what did your mother feed you?" Rachel teased.
"Mainly milk, cornbread and beans," Lauren answered with a relaxed laugh.
"Remind me never to pick a fight with you," Hannah mumbled, accepting Lauren's outstretched hand to help her out of the car.
"Don't worry, Hannah, she's all bark and no bite. She'll only beat you up if you're a bad guy," Maureen Rivers chimed in, opening the backdoor of the SUV and starting to unload some items.
Hannah sent the tall policewoman a smile and chuckled when she saw her roll her eyes.
In the meantime, Rachel had unstrapped Nicky from her car seat and cautiously exited the SUV with the sleeping toddler in her arms. Her eyes traveled to the cabin and even though it was dark, the outline of the structure gave her the impression the building was not as small as she had expected it to be.
"How many bedrooms does this cabin have?" she asked Hannah, who had walked up to her and had wrapped an arm around her waist.
"Four and two bathrooms," the blonde answered, suppressing a sigh.
Rachel let out a soft whistle and half-turned to cast a look at the other woman. Even the darkness could not conceal the look of sadness on the blonde's face and Rachel shifted Nicky to her other arm, so she could wrap an arm around Hannah's shoulder and pull her in for a hug.
"They had planned to move here permanently, after Dad's retirement," Hannah explained in a soft voice. "It's a real nice cabin. Come on, let's go inside."
Hannah was about to step away from Rachel, but the arm around her shoulders tightened when Rachel pulled her back.
"Will you be alright?"
Hannah nodded and rested her head against Rachel's shoulder, soaking up the warmth and affection the other woman so freely offered.
"I'll be okay," she softly answered, briefly pressing her lips against Rachel's cheek. The skin felt cold to the touch and Hannah frowned.
"Let's go inside. It's way too cold out here."
The two police officers had already climbed the three steps to the screened-in porch and Lauren was opening the cabin door, stepping inside while carrying four bags. Maureen Rivers followed her with another three bags and a few seconds later the lights were switched on.
Following Hannah, Rachel cradled Nicky in her arms, letting out a grateful sigh when she entered the cabin. To her surprise, the cabin smelled like wood polish and beeswax. It was obvious it had been recently cleaned and somebody had turned on the heater as well, because the temperature was wonderfully warm.
"Someone knew we were coming," she remarked, amazed by the speed in which things had been organized.
"The Merry Maids," Lauren smiled. "My brother's a locksmith and I asked him to open the door this afternoon. The Maids have done the rest."
"Great job," Hannah mumbled. "Thanks, Lauren."
"Don't thank me, thank Agent Rivers. It was her idea."
"No big deal," Maureen waved away the compliment. "It was just a phone call."
"I appreciate it just the same," Hannah mumbled. She opened the door to the Master bedroom and let out a soft laugh when she noticed the neatly made bed and the smaller crib in the corner.
"I didn't know the Merry Maids carried around and installed toddler beds."
"Uh...they don't," Lauren replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "I...kinda mentioned Nicky to my brother, who has four kids and he promised to bring something appropriate for the little one to sleep in. I guess he did, huh?"
"He sure did," Rachel chuckled, stepping into the bedroom, so she could put Nicky to bed. As soon as she had put the little girl down, she shrugged off her coat and quickly undressed the sleeping toddler.
"I'll go find her some pajama's," Hannah whispered, but Rachel shook her head.
"Don't worry about it, honey. She'll be warm enough in her t-shirt. We can sort out all that stuff in the morning."
"Are you sure? I don't mind ..."
"I'm sure," Rachel interrupted with a smile, turning to the blonde and pulling her into her arms in an unexpected hug. "But thanks for the offer."
"Don't mention it," Hannah sighed, wrapping her arms around the Doctor's waist and burying her face in the crook of her neck. " I'm too tired to think."
"Then we should get you to bed as soon as possible," Rachel responded, kissing the top of the blonde's head.
"Sounds like a plan," Hannah nodded. "What time is it?"
"Almost two," Rachel answered, chuckling when Hannah groaned.
"No wonder I feel like I've been mangled." Hannah gave Rachel a quick kiss and reluctantly freed herself from the warm arms. "Let's give Maureen and Lauren a quick tour and then hit the hay. I'm exhausted."
The sky was dirty gray, heavy with moisture that blocked the sun's rays. The wind was thin and icy cold, rustling the dead leaves on the forest floor, every now and then stirring them in an upward spiral, before scattering them again.
A pair of solid brown eyes quietly took in the environment, finding landmarks and setting invisible parameters, filing away the different sights and sounds for future reference. It was Lauren DarkWolf's assignment to keep Hannah Jensen and Rachel Kendrick safe and she took her job very seriously. Even though she had only been able to enjoy a few hours of sleep, as soon as daylight had peeked over the horizon, she had left the cabin to scout the area.
With a contented nod, the Agent turned around and strolled back towards the log cabin, very aware of a pair of eyes that followed her every move. She tried not to grin when she entered the porch, carefully closing the door behind her. Turning around, her eyes lazily swept the tree line again, before she turned and stepped inside the cabin.
"Do you want some coffee?" Maureen Rivers greeted her quietly when she shrugged off her coat and rubbed her hands together.
"I'd love some, thanks," Lauren answered, stepping towards the kitchen to retrieve a cup.
"I'll get it. Sit down," Maureen replied. "What were you doing up so early?"
"Habit," Lauren answered, eying the fireplace and wondering if there would be a stack of firewood somewhere. She was sure both Hannah and Rachel would appreciate a cozy, crackling fire to sit next to and relax.
"It's my habit to let the alarm wake me," Maureen mumbled, handing Lauren a mug of freshly brewed, steaming coffee.
"Thanks," the dark-haired woman smiled, breathing in the familiar scent, while she warmed her hands on the ceramic mug.
"Next time, wear some gloves," the red-head advised, sinking down on the couch and eying the woman across from her with hooded eyes.
"Point taken...Mom," Lauren grinned, chuckling when Maureen sent her a dark look. "I forgot you're not a morning person."
"Never been, never will be," Maureen admitted with a sigh. "But if you'll let me drink my coffee in peace, I promise I won't bite your head off."
"Deal," Lauren smiled, sipping the hot beverage. Maureen had made the coffee strong and inwardly she chuckled. She had a feeling her colleague really needed the caffeine, especially after the previous long day. Her eyes traveled from her coffee to Maureen River's face. The red-haired woman was pale and there were dark circles underneath her eyes. Lauren wondered if the tired expression in her eyes was caused by the lack of sleep of one night only. She really wanted to ask the other woman if she was alright, but her recently made promise prevented her from speaking. At least until Maureen had finished her coffee.
With a small sigh, Lauren focused on her own cup of hot, sweet coffee. She had known her co-worker for a few years now and knew Maureen was a very private person. If the other woman had problems or worries in her private life, who was she to make inquiries about it?
Maybe she should just wait and see how things developed. She was patient and if there was one positive side to her assignment, it was the fact that, right now, she had all the time in the world.
Hannah stirred and still half asleep, she wrinkled her nose, reveling in the wonderful feeling of warm arms that were wrapped around her and the scent of clean, fresh linens. She burrowed a little closer in the warmth that enveloped her and involuntarily smiled when her ears picked up a low chuckle.
"I am awake, you know," she mumbled against Rachel's chest.
"You could have fooled me," Rachel answered with a smile, briefly tightening her grip on the other woman. "Are you comfortable, sweetie?"
"Are you kidding?" Hannah muttered with a sigh. "If I get any more comfortable, I think I'll melt."
"Now, don't do that," Rachel's voice sounded very close to her ear. "I'd really, really miss you."
Hannah smiled and reluctantly lifted her head from its soft resting place. Her sleepy blue eyes lazily blinked against the soft illumination that spilled in from the skylight above and Rachel felt a very familiar warmth spread through her entire body.
"You look adorable," she whispered, smoothing back some of the blonde hair that almost fell into one of Hannah's eyes. "So cute," she added, gently pressing her lips against Hannah's forehead.
"I'm a mess," Hannah objected carefully shifting her body. A sudden jolt of pain shot through her side and she sucked in a breath.
"What's wrong?" Rachel immediately asked, pulling away from Hannah's arms, while her eyes shone with worry. "What happened?"
Hannah sent the Doctor a watery smile and slowly shook her head. She did not want Rachel to worry, it was nothing.
"Just a sore spot, I guess," she mumbled. "And I guess I was so tired last night, I slept in the same position for hours. I'm just a little stiff."
"Where does it hurt?" Rachel asked, not fooled by Hannah's casual words. The blonde never complained about pain, but on the rare occasions she did, she was really hurting.
"Where, Hannah?" Rachel repeated, a little more firm this time.
"My right side," Hannah finally answered in a small voice. "It didn't hurt that much yesterday. It's just stiff, Rachel."
"What happened?" the Doctor asked with a grim face. Mentally she was already bracing herself for the answer. Deep down inside she knew her cousin had something to do with Hannah's injury.
"Nathan kicked me. I...At first, I refused to go down the stairs with him and he...kicked me halfway down the first flight. I..." Hannah swallowed hard and shrugged her shoulders. "I'm sure it's just a bruise."
"I need to see it."
Hannah looked up into a pair of anxious brown eyes and she let out a small sigh. She really did not want to make a big deal out of it, but the look in the Doctor's eyes was a mixture of worry, anger and pain and she decided the only way to reassure Rachel was to let her have a peek.
Silently she lifted up her t-shirt, trying not to wince when she felt the muscles in her side protest against the painful motion.
"Damn," Rachel muttered, as soon as her eyes fell on the mottled bruise that covered a large part of Hannah's side. "No wonder you're hurting. I should have kicked that bastard into next year."
"I'm glad you didn't though," Hannah sighed. "He had a knife and I'm sure he knows how to use it."
"I'm sure I could still kick his sorry behind," Rachel responded angrily. "Even when we were kids, I was always stronger and faster than he was. That's probably one of his biggest frustrations."
"Hush, baby," Hannah responded, grasping Rachel's hand and pressing it against her cheek. "Don't wake Nicky."
Rachel cast a look at the sleeping toddler and immediately Hannah noticed the softening of her eyes. All the anger seemed to have disappeared when the Doctor cast her a dazzling smile.
"Isn't she precious?" she whispered.
"She is," Hannah nodded, grateful for the change of subject. "Now, am I getting a morning kiss or do I have to beg?"
"Mmm...now that's an interesting idea," Rachel mused, grinning when Hannah produced a genuine pout. "Don't give me that look, blondie," she gently teased. "You know I'm a sucker for the puppy dog routine."
"Exactly," Hannah responded, carefully leaning forward to bring her face closer to the Doctor's. "Did it work?"
"Yes, it was flawless," Rachel whispered, before meeting Hannah halfway and capturing the blonde's lips in a long, tender kiss. They both felt like they were too far apart and instinctively they moved closer, until Rachel was stretched out on her back, with the slightly smaller blonde on top of her. For a few wonderful moments, Hannah forget about the pain in her ribs, letting herself be carried away by a glowing, sensual haze.
When they finally broke apart, they both let out a deep, shuddering breath, which made them chuckle.
"That was nice, thank you," Hannah smiled, tracing one of Rachel's dark eyebrows with the tip of her index finger. She brought her face closer, coming nose to nose with the dark-haired woman, who looked at her cross-eyed. "You're a goof, sometimes," Hannah smiled. "But that's one of the many reasons I love you."
"Many, huh?" Rachel replied, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind Hannah's ear.
"Yes, many." Hannah nodded. "But I'm not going to list them. I'll take my time mentioning them, every now and then, one at the time, for the rest of my life."
Rachel went completely still, while her dark-brown eyes stared at the blonde, who was returning her gaze with an openness Rachel had never seen displayed before. She felt a lump form in her throat and her eyes quickly became moist. It gave her a reassurance on many different levels. No matter how quickly they had rekindled the bond they had once shared, Rachel was still haunted by insecurities and fears. Hannah's softly spoken words had wiped many of them away, brushing them aside and diminishing them, until only feelings of warm happiness and anticipation were left behind.
"That was a beautiful thing to say," she finally whispered. "Thank you."
"I meant it," the blonde replied.
"I know," Rachel smiled. "These last few days I've been wondering why I was given this second chance, because I knew for sure I didn't deserve it." The Doctor paused and playfully kissed Hannah's nose. "I guess it's time to stop wondering why and just accept it for what it is and be happy."
"Amen to that," Hannah nodded, reluctantly scooting back to her side of the bed. "I smell coffee," she added with audible appreciation. "I guess our Agents are already up and in full protection mode."
"Do you want to get up and check out that theory?"
Hannah turned her head to shoot a glance at Rachel and wrinkled her nose.
"Not really. I'd like to stay where I am, here in bed, with you, but I'm afraid that's no option. Especially not since Miss Nicky is fixing to wake up as well."
Rachel looked at the small crib in the corner and smiled when a pair of sleepy dark eyes stared back at her from underneath the colorful quilt.
"Good morning, sweetie," Rachel greeted the little girl. "Did you have a good sleep?"
"Thiwsty," Nicky responded, smacking her lips as if to prove her point.
"I can relate to that, Nicky," Hannah laughed. "I feel like I'm dehydrated."
"Well, I can't have my girls turning into parchment paper," Rachel muttered, sliding out from under the cover and padding to the crib to lift up her daughter, who wrapped her small arms around her neck to give her an enthusiastic hug and a few heartfelt, but sloppy kisses.
"Hannah too?" she asked, shooting her mother a questioning look.
"Of course," Rachel nodded. "But be careful, Hannah has a big owie."
Nicky's eyes went round and when Rachel put her down on the bed next to Hannah she gingerly scooted closer.
"It's alright, sweetie. I'm sure a nice hug from you will make me feel a lot better."
With a serious expression on her face, the toddler crept closer and carefully wrapped her arms around Hannah, who pulled the little girl in her lap with a happy sigh.
"See? I feel better already," she smiled, dropping a kiss on the soft, dark hair.
"Bettew," Nicky echoed, patting Hannah's knee with one hand. "Hannah bettew."
Gertrude Jensen slowly walked into the kitchen and, with a big sigh, sat herself down on a chair. She would never admit it, but her aches and pains were getting worse each passing year and having gone through a long, sleepless night had not helped matters much. She worried about Hannah and Rachel. Nathan's attempt to kidnap her granddaughter had been a very fearful reminder of what the man was capable of. The thought of him hurting her granddaughter, Rachel or Nicky chilled her to the bone.
The night had seemed endless. Her mind had gone over the previous day again and again. Hannah's departure had caused a throbbing pain, deep in her heart and she already missed the blonde dearly. But she knew it had been a sensible thing to do, to leave the city and create some time and distance between their stalker and themselves. It had also seem sensible for her to stay with her daughter, Mildred, until the police deemed it safe enough for her to return home.
"Oh, Hannah, sweetie, please be safe," Gertrude mumbled, smoothing the dark-colored tablecloth with fragile, bleu-veined hands.
"Who are you talking to, mother?" a voice suddenly sounded and with a tired smile Gertrude looked up.
"Just to myself," she sighed. "Good morning, Mildred, did you have a good sleep?"
"Good morning, mother," a woman with dyed blonde hair greeted her. "I had a horrid sleep! I kept dreaming about that dreadful stalker! Poor Hannah. The things she must have been through!"
Mildred took a seat across the table and stared at her mother with curious pale blue eyes.
"You look tired," she stated.
"I am," Gertrude sighed. "I'm worried about the children."
"They have police-protection," Mildred waved a jewel covered hand. "You, on the other hand have not and I..."
"He's not after me, Mildred," Gertrude explained with an exasperated sigh. "He's after Hannah and Rachel."
"Hannah would be fine if that...if Rachel had not come back," Mildred muttered.
"I don't appreciate that tone of voice," Gertrude almost snapped, her blue eyes flashing. "Rachel's return is the best thing that has happened to Hannah since...since...well, since years." Slightly trembling fingers pushed back a strand of silver gray hair, while Gertrude took a deep breath, trying to control her emotions. "What those two have is something a lot of people would be jealous of. They love each other and I don't want to hear anything negative about their relationship."
There was a brief silence in which Mildred studied her mother. Gertrude was starting to show her age and that worried her. She had always been such an energetic, bubbly person. But the loss of her son and daughter-in-law had left its marks and Mildred knew the only reason for Gertrude to hang onto life after having gone through a serious stroke, was Hannah. Like Hannah had, somehow, pulled herself together when her grandmother had needed her. They had needed each other and had managed to leave behind the dark places they were in. Together. For that, Mildred was very grateful. She knew her mother often teased her about her three marriages and the money her late husbands had left her, but just as often they had serious conversations or just enjoyed each other's company.
"I'm sorry, Mother," Mildred finally spoke. "You' re right, I shouldn't have said that."
"And I'm sorry I snapped at you," Gertrude sighed. "I'm very tired."
"Maybe you should go back to bed for a few hours," Mildred suggested. "It's still very early."
But the older woman shook her head and sent her daughter a very determined look.
"No, I'd rather not. I don't want to miss Jack Wilson's phone call."
"Are you sure he won't tell you where they are? It's not like you would tell Nathan."
"No, he won't," Gertrude answered. "It's a matter of safety. Like he won't tell Hannah I'm here with you, although I'm sure she can guess that."
Like I can guess where they took the girls.
"It feels like I'm in a police movie," Mildred muttered, remembering the specific instructions she had received about leaving the house and how to know if she was being followed.
"Hopefully, they'll find Nathan and haul him off to jail soon," Gertrude spoke. "Preferably before Christmas."
"That's only a few days away," Mildred sighed. "They'd better be quick."
She stood up and cast her mother an inquisitive look. "I'll have to run a few errands, will you be all right? If you want to come with me I..."
"I'm fine, dear, really," Gertrude interrupted her daughter with a smile. "You go and do whatever you'd planned for today."
"Okay," Mildred drawled, not entirely sure. "Promise to call me on my cell phone if you need anything."
"I will," Gertrude nodded. "Be careful."
"Of course, I'll make sure to look over my shoulder at least five times between here and Kohl's," Mildred softly snorted. She leaned down to give her mother a quick kiss. "I won't be long. Get some more rest."
"Yes, Mom," Gertrude muttered, but there was a tiny sparkle in her eyes.
When the door closed behind Mildred, Gertrude let out a sigh and slowly got to her feet to make herself some coffee. No matter how much she loved her daughter, she sorely missed her granddaughter. The quiet moments in the morning when they both were sipping a cup of coffee, were precious to her. They could talk about anything and Gertrude loved to hear Hannah's stories from the hospital. Some were very sad, while others were hilarious. She could not help wondering what would happen when Nathan was finally out of their lives. Would Hannah move in with Rachel? Probably.
Gertrude let out another, small sigh, feeling the heaviness firmly settle in the pit of her stomach. She was happy and intensely grateful that Hannah and Rachel had found each other again, but she dreaded the moment the blonde would leave home.
"I guess it's time to check out some assisted living places, Trude," she mumbled. "Time to acknowledge your age and start socializing with the other Old Timers." She let out a soft, humorless chuckle. "Time to start thinking about your last stop."
The wind was howling around the cabin, blowing leaves and small twigs against the walls and windows. Outside, branches were violently whipped by the rushing, icy air, separating the sick and dead branches from the healthy ones. Every now and then there was the telltale sound of a snapping branch that was torn off and haplessly flung through the air, until it hit something solid, like a tree and fell to the ground that was littered with debris.
"It's not exactly weather to go out for a nice walk," Hannah muttered from her comfortable spot on the couch. She was dressed in a pair of thick sweats and a fleece sweater. The cabin was nice and warm, especially after Rachel and Lauren had built a fire that was cozily crackling, almost hypnotizing Hannah back to sleep every time she stared into the dancing flames.
"It's not just dangerous with the wind and the flying debris, but it's freezing cold as well," Lauren spoke from her spot at the huge, wooden table. The dark-haired Agent was scribbling on a piece of paper, every now and then looking up to sweep the room with her eyes. "It's not safe to go outside."
"I know," Hannah sighed. "But I'd like to get a breath of fresh air. Maybe tomorrow."
"Tomorrow will be better," Maureen nodded, from the recliner where she was reading a book. "The weather forecast is good for tomorrow. Cold, but clear and not much wind."
"I sure hope so," Hannah mumbled, looking up when Rachel entered from the bedroom where she had put Nicky down for a nap.
"Do I see a pout?" the Doctor asked curiously, having seen the look on the blonde's face the moment she stepped into the room.
"I wasn't aware of the fact that I'm pouting," Hannah sighed. "But I am developing cabin fever. Already," she added while pulling a face.
"Better stay out of jail then," Maureen mumbled, which made Hannah chuckle.
"Don't worry, I will. I've always been a good girl."
She backhanded Rachel in the stomach when she snorted and cast the dark-haired woman a mock annoyed glance.
"I have too," she said with a laugh. "I've never done anything illegal."
"Good girl," Lauren grinned, without looking up from her paper. "What about you, Rachel?" she asked with a quick look at the Doctor.
"Oh, um, I've been good as well...I think," Rachel answered without much conviction. "Just a...ticket...I guess."
Hannah's interest was raised and she half-turned to face the Doctor who had taken a seat next to her on the couch. Her blue eyes sparkled when they looked at Rachel and a smile was tugging on the corner of her mouth.
"Just a ticket...you guess," she repeated with raised eyebrows. "Could you elaborate on that?"
"I could," Rachel nodded. "But I'm not sure I will," she added with a wink, laughing when Hannah stuck out her tongue.
"Don't worry, Hannah, if there's a file on her, I can find it," Maureen promised. "You might want to check out her past, to see if she's as eligible as you think she is."
Hannah pretended to give that suggestion some thought and she slowly nodded, while her eyes bore into Rachel's.
"I might hold you to that," she said in a thoughtful tone of voice. "Unless you want to spill the beans, of course."
"There's nothing much to spill, really," Rachel laughed, stretching out a hand and playfully tickling the back of Hannah's knee, which made the blonde jump.
"Up until now, I've received two tickets for speeding and one for parking in the middle of the road."
"Parking in the middle of the road?" both Hannah and Maureen echoed, while Lauren just raised an eyebrow.
"Yup," Rachel grinned, remembering the event. "I was on my way to Boston and I drove through a tiny little town, I can't even remember the name of it now. Anyway, I saw this young kid fall off his skateboard. He hit the sidewalk pretty hard and to me it looked like he was out cold for a few seconds. I stopped the car, jumped out and ran to the kid. He assured me he was fine and all of a sudden he took off like he was being chased by a herd of buffalo. Anyway, I took it he was all right and went back to the car. A police car had pulled up and this young cop, he couldn't have been older than twenty, was writing a ticket. I explained to him I was a Doctor and saw this kid fall off his skateboard, but did he believe me?"
"I guess not, seeing he gave you a ticket," Hannah chuckled.
"Exactly. Not only did he give me the ticket, he warned me to be careful about the excuses I used to park in the middle of the road, because riding a skateboard on the sidewalk was against the law and he had not seen anyone do that."
"He sounds like a good ol' boy," Lauren laughed.
"I guess he was," Rachel sighed. "I was seriously pissed at him, but decided to keep my mouth shut. I didn't feel like spending the night in jail, so I got back in the car and left town. He followed me all the way to the county line, probably making sure I wasn't going to park the car anywhere illegal again,"
"He sure spotted a crook when he saw one," Hannah teased, quickly grabbing Rachel's hand when it went straight to the back of her knee again.
"You better watch it, Goldielocks," Rachel warned in a low growl.
"Oh, I am scared," Hannah responded with a laugh. "Rachel Kendrick, FBI's most wanted street parker."
Both Lauren and Maureen laughed while Rachel just shook her head, but the amusement in her eyes was clearly visible. She loved Hannah's playful side and she was happy to see that the circumstances they were in had not been able to take that part of her away.
"You're a little troublemaker, aren't you?" she smiled.
"Isn't that why you love me so much?"
"One of the reasons," Rachel immediately answered, which reminded them both about the conversation they had earlier that day. Their smiles deepened when they looked at each other and Rachel had to fight the urge to lean forward and kiss Hannah senseless. She knew Maureen and Lauren knew about their relationship, but she had no idea how they felt about it and she did not want to provoke the agents by kissing the blonde right in front of them.
Hannah had noticed Rachel's inward struggle and she slowly let go of the Doctor's hand, after giving it a loving squeeze. There was always later, she knew, in the privacy of their room. She was confident they could wait that long and if not, well, she could always lure Rachel away with a simple excuse.
When she was finally able to tear her eyes away from Rachel dark-brown ones, she noticed Maureen had returned her attention to her book, while Lauren was looking at them with a small, wistful smile. The look on the Agent's face immediately tore at Hannah's heart and she just knew the tall police woman had gone through her own share of pain and heartache. She liked Lauren DarkWolf. The woman was very soft-spoken and kind and as soon as Nicky had entered the living-room that morning, she had taken a liking to the dark woman, climbing onto her lap and demanding stories. Lauren had willingly complied and, for a long time, she had been able to capture Nicky's attention with a variety of tales.
Hannah suddenly remembered Lauren's words from the evening before and before she could stop herself she had already asked: "Lauren, what's the story with you and Nathan? Why do you dislike him so much?"
From the corner of her eye, Rachel saw Maureen's head jerk up from her book, while the red-head's eyes flew from Hannah to Lauren and back again. Lauren's hand in which she was holding a pencil suddenly stilled and the knuckles of her hand went white. It only lasted for a few seconds, then she visibly relaxed, put down the pencil and folded her hands over the paper that was on the table. Her dark eyes held a soft expression when they looked at Hannah, who was about to apologize for her question, when Lauren shook her head.
"No, it's alright," the Agent said. She took a deep breath and her eyes traveled to the window. It was as if she was staring into the distance, when her soft voice started to speak.
"I've known Nathan for a long time," she spoke. "We went to college together and he hung out with some of my friends. He didn't have many friends of his own, but our group tolerated him, even though he seemed to be a little odd. It was like he blended into the background. He could be around and you would hardly notice him, until all of a sudden he said or did something and he was noticed. I had the impression he liked it that way." Lauren moistened her lips and leaned back into her chair, her eyes still focused on something outside. "I had a...friend," she continued, speaking the last word with a little hesitance. "She...her name was Debra and she was one of the kindest, smartest people I've ever met. We spent a lot of time together and one day I started to notice Nathan's interest in her." Lauren tore her eyes away from whatever she was staring at and focused on Hannah, who was leaning against Rachel's shoulder, the Doctor's arm securely wrapped around her shoulders. "She was blonde, like you, with eyes like a summer's sky. She was by far the prettiest girl on campus," Lauren smiled. "She could have had tons of friends, but she chose to spend most of her time with me. Nathan was jealous and although he never said a word about it, I knew he was trying to come up with a plan to come between us. I warned Debra about him, but she said I was probably just imagining things. Until that day she opened the front door and found her cat's head on the porch. Just its head, in a little box with a ribbon tied around it. The first time I saw Nathan after that incident, he had such a smug smile on his face I simply knew he had killed Booger, but I couldn't prove it. He was so slick. Then pictures started to show up. Photo's of Debra coming out of the shower or sleeping in her bed. We notified the campus police and even thought they took it pretty seriously, they never really increased their surveillance. One day when I was visiting my parents, Debra called me in a near panic. Somebody had been stalking her when she left her job that evening and she was so scared she didn't want to go back to the apartment. I told her to come to me, at my folks' house. They lived in Newalla and that wasn't too far from Moore, where Debra worked at the time." Lauren shook her head and there was a sad smile on her face. "I should have told her to go straight to the police. She called me from a payphone, at the gas station, to tell me she was only fifteen minutes away and that she thought she had been able to shake off her stalker." The Agent took a deep breath and for a brief moment they saw how she clenched her fists. "That was the last time I heard from her. She was run off the road by another car and hit a tree. They say she died instantly. They never found the driver of the other car, but, according to witnesses, it wasn't an accident."
Lauren raked her fingers through her thick, dark hair and sent Hannah a small smile.
"I know it was Nathan," she said, her voice full of conviction.
"How?" Maureen and Rachel asked simultaneously.
"Because he told me so."
To be continued in part 13
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