Disclaimer: Nah, I don't think so.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all those people who have been feeding me email throughout this whole project. Believe me, it makes writing even more fun than it already is!! A special word of thanks to AJ, CathyW and RD. You girls rock!
Oh, I do have a disclaimer (duh), this part contains some violence. Just thought I'd let you know.
Pacing the floor with long, aggressive strides, Trishia tried to walk off some of the restlessness and frustration she was feeling. She was so angry she had to control herself not to snap at anyone who was in the room. It was not their fault that Martin Coles had come up with a clever plan to escape The Reef.
"He is bluffing," she growled. "I can hardly believe he has planted a bomb somewhere. He saw the police outside and he is trying to come up with a way to get the hell out of here. There is no way he had time to pull off a stunt like this."
"What if he isn't bluffing?" Sam calmly asked. "What if there is a bomb? I can't take the risk, Trish. I will need to evacuate the building."
Trishia groaned and pressed her hand against her temple, where a dull, throbbing pain announced the upcoming arrival of a massive headache.
"He is bluffing," she almost yelled. "That sick son of a bitch is bluffing, Sam. He has to be."
Sam's blue eyes were full of sympathy when she looked at her friend, but also shone with determination when she walked towards a phone on the desk.
"I'll make the call,'' she calmly announced. "I am sorry, Trish, but the well being of our guests is my responsibility. Safety procedures require me to call in a bomb squad and evacuate the premises. In case Martin Coles is not lying I don't want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt, or worse. Besides," she added with a sigh. "We are not a hundred percent sure the call did come from him. For all I know it could have been someone else."
"You don't believe that, Sam," Trishia answered in a defeated tone.
"There is a difference between faith and facts, Trishia. I hope you understand I have no choice in the matter."
Trishia shot her resolute friend a glance and sent her an apologetic smile.
"I know, Sam. And I am sorry for snapping at you."
"No worries, my friend, I share your frustration and anger, believe me."
"Why don't you call the fire department, while I call the guys from the bomb response unit?" Trishia suggested, already pulling out her cell phone and dialing a number.
Jody pushed back her hair with trembling fingers and cast a look at the three teenagers who were quietly sitting on the couch, looking at Sam and Trishia with wide eyes. She knew they had to get ready to leave as soon as possible.
"Come on girls," she softly spoke. "Quickly get your stuff together, we will be leaving as soon as possible. Just take the bare necessities. We will get the rest after this is all over. I will need to make a few quick phone calls as well," Jody instructed, grabbing her cell phone from the table.
While the teenagers headed for the bedroom, Jody dialed the number of the reception desk, while her mind was already busy contemplating all the things that needed to be done.
"Mary? It's Jody. Listen, we will evacuate the building immediately. I want you to call any of the staff who is working in the restaurant and instruct them to follow our emergency protocol. You can start calling the rooms as well to wake people up. Ask guests who are able to do so to take the stairs, instead of the elevators. If there are any guests in the restaurant, already having breakfast, ask them to calmly leave the building and wait for further instructions from the police and fire department across the street. All right?"
"Yes, Jody," the reception desk clerk quietly answered. "I'll start right away."
"I'll be back in touch again soon, Mary. Good luck."
"No, I want those cars to stay where they are," Trishia sighed, bringing the phone to her other ear. "I still think this is nothing but a bomb scare and it wouldn't surprise me if Martin Coles will try and leave the building through one of those emergency exits. So, stay put. Reinforcements are on the way."
The tall policewoman had hardly finished speaking those words when in the distant she heard the sirens of rapidly approaching fire trucks. She tucked the phone away and opened the door to call in Gary and Peter who were quietly discussing the situation in the hallway. They both sported worried frowns.
"Peter, forget about the disguise we planned. I want you and Gary to go down to the lobby and see how things are developing. I will take the girls down to the car and see to it that they will be able to safely leave. After that I will join you and we will search every nook and cranny of this building until we find that bastard."
"On my way," Peter answered, already heading for the elevator, with a worried looking security guard in tow.
"Trish?" Lucy's shaky voice sounded right behind her and Trishia turned around to look into the moist eyes of her lover. "Are you staying inside? What if…?" Lucy swallowed hard and had to take a deep breath to prevent breaking down completely.
"I am convinced there is no bomb," Trishia tried to reassure her with all the conviction she could muster up.
She pulled Lucy into her arms and held the trembling woman close, while her anger with the man who was responsible for her partner's sadness and worry grew every passing minute.
"Where will we go?" Lucy softly asked.
Trishia's eyes caught Sam's and the two women exchanged a look of understanding.
"Back to Murrook Farm."
Trishia could feel the woman in her arms stiffen and she lifted up Lucy's face to be able to look her in the eyes.
"You won't be going alone," she promised. "I will send at least four officers with you. Sam and Jody have a top notch security system now, honey. It would be foolish not to use that right now."
"What about Alice's protection?" Lucy muttered. "It's obvious that…that… psychopath is trying anything he can to get his hands on her."
"We won't let him," Trishia promised, softly kissing Lucy's lips. "We will get him before he can even try to harm her. Go on, love, get your stuff together, we need to go."
Trishia did not want to take any risks with the safety of her family and friends and herded all of them into the elevator. It was a bit cramped with eight people in the small car, but she knew it would only be for a minute or two.
The ride down happened in complete silence and all eyes were on Trishia when the elevator came to a stop with a soft, barely noticeable thud.
When the door slid open, Trishia was holding her gun in clammy, but steady hands. Her eyes quickly scanned the small private parking area and when she did not see anything out of the ordinary, she motioned the other women to step out, which they quietly did.
Jody unlocked the doors of her car with the remote control on her key chain and the soft click echoed through the unnaturally quiet parking area. The three teenagers hopped in immediately, as they had been instructed by Trishia, helping Alice to sit on the floor of the car, so she would be completely out of sight. Lucy took her place next to the girls on the backseat, while Joan McDonnell crawled into the front.
Jody shot Sam a desperate last look, knowing her partner could not be talked into leaving The Reef. Just before they had left the top floor, she had tried to convince her lover to leave as well, but Sam had calmly answered that she had to stay and help.
"I own this place, sweetheart. I can't leave our staff to handle a crisis like this on their own. They need me here."
Jody knew her lover was right, but that had not helped her to ease the sadness, worry and frustration she felt.
"Be careful, Sam," she whispered, before stepping inside the car.
"I will be. I promise," Sam softly answered. "Remember what Trish told you, if you reach the track up to the house and you are not escorted by two police cars yet, then keep driving."
"I will," Jody nodded. "I love you, Sam."
"I love you, honey. Be safe."
In the back of the car Lucy had rolled down the window, so she could grab Trishia's hand one more time and pull the tall woman closer for a quick kiss.
"Be careful. If you'll get hurt, I will kick your butt."
Trishia smiled and kissed the back of Lucy's hand before releasing it and stepping back.
"I'd better be careful then," she gently joked, glancing at her lover one more time, before she turned to Jody to give her a nod. "Go ahead, Jody. We will see you all later."
Jody obediently started the engine and slowly backed out of the spacious parking area. She nervously licked her lips when the barrier that divided the private parking from the rest of the underground garage slowly lifted and she was forced to stop for a second, nervously drumming her fingers on the steering wheel.
In the rearview mirror she could see Trishia and Sam walking right behind the car, while their eyes darted through the dimly lit area. Their faces were pale, but shone with determination, while their eyes were alert and clear.
As soon as the red striped barrier was all the way up, Jody continued her slow drive and turned a corner, which brought her on a straight path that lead towards the exit. In the distance she could see the daylight pouring through the doors that were open wide and she slowly exhaled.
Only fifty meters to go and they would be outside.
A pair of cold, menacing eyes followed the car's progress from underneath a parked SUV. Martin Coles had shed his disguise, knowing that Trishia would have expected him to leave the building in the midst of the guests who were already hurrying through the lobby and heading for the street.
He suppressed a giggle when he realized his ex-coworker would not have anticipated his next move. It would be a glorious surprise.
With barely contained excitement he shuffled backwards, until he could crawl away from the car he had been hiding under and he quickly grabbed one of the items he had set on the floor in preparation for his final move. His eyes never left the approaching car, when his hand touched the cold, smooth surface of a bottle. He grabbed the item firmly in his hand and smiled when he thought about the effect his actions would have. It had been so easy to pry open the lids of some fuel tanks and stuff some cotton strips in them. He surely had put the shredded sheets to good use.
Holding the bottle in his right hand, he used the lighter in his left hand to set fire to the makeshift cotton wick that he had stuffed inside the bottle and that was now drenched with gasoline. He knew that anyone who paid attention would be able to see the flickering light in the semi darkness of the parking garage. But Martin Coles did not care. The time of his revenge had come.
With a rapidly growing feeling of dread Trishia followed the car Jody was driving and kept her eyes wide open. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end and a quick glance towards Sam showed her that her friend was obviously experiencing the same thing. The tall blonde's pale face made her blue eyes stand out vividly. Her eyes nervously flicked from side to side, while her hands were clenched into fists.
Suddenly Sam's nostrils flared when she picked up a scent that was unusual. The parking garage always had a distinct smell of exhaust fumes and oil, but this time she smelled something else as well and the closer they came towards the exit, the stronger her perception of the scent became.
"Trish!" she warned huskily.
"I smell it," Trishia answered while the adrenaline suddenly surged through her body, increasing her heart rate and breathing. For a brief moment her eyes caught the reflection of Jody's in the rearview mirror and with horrifying clarity Trishia knew she had to make a quick and difficult decision.
"JODY, GO!!!" she suddenly shouted, feeling the panic rise in her chest.
While the echo of her words still bounced off the concrete walls she noticed a movement to her left and her eyes caught a flicker of light.
Then, for a moment the world stood still.
From the corner of her eye she could see a burning object being thrown in the direct path of the car, shattering the silence with the noise of broken glass and the whooshing sound of erupting flames, that in a matter of second covered the floor when the gasoline quickly spread out.
A second and a third object followed, creating a blazing inferno in front of the car and Jody reacted instinctively. She hit the brakes.
Trishia had pushed Sam behind a concrete pillar and aimed her gun at the spot where Martin Coles had to be hiding. The car was in the line of fire and she prayed nobody would choose that moment to step out of it. But before she could fire only one single shot a burning object flew through the parking garage, hitting the roof of a parked truck on the right hand side of Jody's car. The fire started immediately and flames licked the smooth surface of metal, when the gasoline gushed down.
Trishia realized with horror that Martin Coles had not just aimed at that car without a reason.
"Oh, my God, no," she moaned, opening her mouth to yell a warning.
But Jody, who at first had looked at the erupting flames in front of the car with horrified eyes, had quickly recovered from her initial shock. When the parked car on her right had been hit and the flames had started to shoot skyward, she had noticed the white strip of fabric sticking out from the fuel tank. Immediately she had put the car in reverse and floored the accelerator. While the screeching tires created a small cloud of stinking rubber she backed up the car, praying that she would be fast enough.
"SAM. GET DOWN!!" Trishia yelled, jumping out of the cars path and hitting the floor with a painful thud, when her elbow collided with the cold concrete.
From the corner of her eye she noticed that Sam had heeded her advice and the tall blonde was already crawling backwards as fast as she could.
Protecting her head with her arms Trishia braced herself for the upcoming explosion and the accompanying change in air pressure.
As soon as the flames approached the opening of the fuel tank, the makeshift wick caught fire and within a few seconds a thunderous explosion lifted the truck up in the air, slamming the vehicle into the next car, while the flames already started to consume it in a blazing fire, creating an inferno of heat and thick, black smoke.
Jody had backed up the car as far away from the fire as possible and when the fuel tank of the truck in front of her exploded, she felt her own car shake violently.
In the back of the car she could hear the frightened screams of the girls, but a quick look over her shoulder showed her no one was hurt, thanks to the safety glass Sam had insisted to get installed in the car.
"Trishia," she heard Lucy shout in panic and Jody's eyes frantically searched for her partner and her sister's lover. She found them both huddled behind a concrete pillar and relief flooded through her body when she saw them move. Her knees were feeling weak and for a moment Jody feared she would be losing the contents of her stomach.
But another burning object suddenly flew through the air and Jody desperately wondered how many of those deadly cocktails Martin Coles had fabricated. With a loud, clattering noise, immediately followed by an eruption of flames, the bottle landed on the concrete floor in front of her car and she could see the burning gasoline would reach the vehicle in moments.
"Everybody out," she ordered, quickly unbuckling her seat belt. "Stay low, keep your head down. Try to go towards the corner, where the stairs are."
Lucy had already opened her door and was sprinting around the rear of the car to get to the other side. She yanked the door open, grabbed her mother by the arm and pulled her out of the car.
"Run!" she screamed, already focusing on the other door.
It was thrown open and Yarra came jumping out, pulling a terrified looking Fiona with her. Lucy pushed her sister in the direction her mother was going and expected Yarra to do the same. But the dark skinned girl turned around, extended her hand and while tears were running down her cheeks she looked pleadingly at a terrified Alice, who seemed to be frozen in place. Her face was unnaturally pale and her bright, blue eyes radiated horror.
"Take my hand, Alice," she begged, noticing from the corner of her eye that the flames were already coming closer. "Please!"
The blond teenager sat huddled on the floor of the car and her eyes stared at a point in the distance. Her heart was hammering in her chest while the sound of flames and soot brought her back in time again. She did not have to close her eyes to remember her brothers', when he was pushed back into his room. His big blue eyes wide with fear. Or the way her mother 's body had felt when she had landed on top of her, realizing in the back of her mind that the woman who had given her birth and who had proven to be her best friend, had lifelessly laid on the ground.
Again her memories went back to the eyes and hands of the person who had tried to kill her. The one who had mercilessly taken innocent lives and who had made her life a living hell.
Looking up into Jody's pleading eyes and seeing Yarra's outstretched hand, something inside Alice snapped. For the first time since her mother and brother were killed she felt a rage that was so intense, it threatened to consume her whole.
"NOOOOOO!" her voice sounded through the parking garage, reverberating against the concrete walls and chilling the ones who heard her desperate cry.
"YOU KILLED THEM, YOU BASTARD !! STAY AWAY FROM MY FRIENDS !!"
Before Yarra even had the chance to stop her, Alice had jumped out of the car and was running towards the place where Martin Coles was hiding behind a big, black truck.
"Alice ! No !" she shouted, intending to run after her friend, but she was being stopped by Lucy's hands on her shoulders, desperately looking at the blonde who was already on her way.
Trishia was frantically trying to clear her eyes from the blood that was pouring from a deep gash in her eyebrow. She had been lucky though. Her ears were still ringing from the sound of the explosion, but her body was still functioning and there seemed to be no serious damage.
"Are you all right, Sam?" she asked the blonde next to her, who was rubbing her face and looking around with a dazed expression in her clear blue eyes.
They were both lying on the floor, covered in glass, soot and debris, while they could feel the heat of the burning car that had exploded close to them. Too close.
"I think so," Sam answered, turning her head to see her lover evacuate the car.
"Jody!" she whispered.
At that same moment a blond fury came running down the parking garage and Trishia and Sam recognized her as Alice.
"Sam," Trishia croaked a warning and immediately the tall woman jumped back to her feet, ignoring the muscles in her right leg that were screaming at her in agony. She tackled the teenager, whose fall was broken by a pair of strong arms that dragged her behind the relatively safe structure of the concrete pillar.
"We need to be quick, Sam," Trishia coughed. "Before more cars will go up in flames."
"Alice!" a chilling voice suddenly sounded, eerily cheerful amidst the havoc and destruction. "I know where you are Alice. You need to DIE!"
Trishia pushed back the pain her bruised body was experiencing and shot Sam a warning look. Sam nodded and used her whole body to pin the squirming Alice to the ground, wincing when she became aware of the many cuts and small burns that were covering her body. She already heard the sound of a fire truck stopping outside The Reef's underground parking area and she knew the fire men were about to come rushing in to start killing the flames.
"Trishia!!" the police woman heard Peter's voice outside, knowing her frantic partner would have been stopped by the fire department, because entering the hot, smoke filled parking garage would be a hazardous thing to do.
Trishia knew she didn't have much time left. A look over her shoulder showed her that Lucy, Jody, Joan and the girls were huddled in a corner, behind a car, protecting their heads with their arms.
"It's now or never, Sam," she calmly spoke, checking her gun for the last time. "Let's get this bastard."
Trishia Waters rose to her feet, ignoring the horrified cries she knew were from her lover and looked towards Martin Coles' place of hiding.
"Give it up, Martin," she shouted. "For once in your life do something sensible. Surrender, Mr. Coles."
"Why should I, dyke?" was the spiteful answer.
"Because you have done enough damage already and there is no way you will be able to leave this building as a free man again," Trishia simply stated, while her heart was racing. "Are you a coward, Martin?" she added, her voice almost purring. "I think you are. Chasing girls around, preying on the defenseless. Coward."
"Like hell I am," a voice spat and behind a black truck, Trishia saw Martin Coles' figure jump up and running towards her, his gun aimed at her chest.
"If I have to die, I will take you with me, bitch!"
The next few moments happened in a blur. Trishia aimed her own gun and pulled the trigger, feeling her arm jerk by the sheer power of its blast.
A searing pain shot through her shoulder and biting her lips she fired again, vaguely registering a body crashing down to the floor. Then it was silent. Only the crackling noise of flames could be heard and Trishia slowly sank to her knees, still holding the gun, while from a distance Sam's worried voice tried to penetrate her fog filled mind.
She took a few deep breaths, hearing running footsteps, but not knowing where they came from. Her eyes misted and she was aware of the warm, sticky fluid that was slowly but surely saturating her shirt. She was pushed down on her back, wanting to fight the one who was making her to lie down, but surprisingly lacking the strength to get up by herself. Her greenish-blue eyes looked up at the concrete ceiling in surprise and she could feel somebody lifting up her head and putting something soft underneath it.
"We…need…to get…out of here…those other cars could blow," she breathed, before an excruciating pain shot through her shoulder and upper arm and she groaned.
"Lay still Trish," a familiar voice penetrated the pain filled haze. "You'll be okay. The ambulance is on its way."
Seeing her friend's pale face, the blood that liberally seeped through her shirt and the pain filled green-blue eyes Sam pushed her hand against Trishia's shoulder to try and slow down the bleeding, immediately feeling the warm blood seep through her fingers. She frantically yelled towards the exit where she knew an ambulance was waiting.
"GET THOSE MEDICS DOWN HERE."
"Lucy is all right, "Sam quickly replied. "So are Alice and the rest. Don't talk Trish, help is on the way.'
Sam heard running footsteps and did not have to look up to know that Jody would not have been able to restrain her sister any longer. Lucy fell on her knees next to Trishia and looked at her lover with panic filled eyes. Tears were streaming down her soot stained cheeks.
Through a thick, foggy haze Trishia noticed a pair of teary dark green eyes looking at her, while a familiar hand brushed away her hair from a sweaty forehead.
"Looks like I need to kick your butt," Lucy sniffed.
"I am sorry, honey," Trishia whispered with difficulty, wondering why breathing was causing her so much trouble all of a sudden. "Did I get him?" Her pleading eyes slowly traveled to Sam, who was flanked by a sobbing Alice and she repeated her question in a barely audible voice "Sam, did I get him?"
Sam looked over her shoulder and noticed a lifeless body lying close to one of the burning cars. He was lying on his back, with one hand clutched across his chest and Sam did not know if her stinging eyes were playing tricks with her, or that Martin Coles was still breathing.
Gently letting go of Trishia, while Lucy took over, she stood up, not aware of the fact that most of her clothes were shredded and her body was covered in small cuts, bruises and burns.
"I want to come," Alice persisted, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "Please? I need to see…"
Still shocked by all that had happened Sam's brain hardly registered the fire men rushing into the parking garage, closely followed by a medical team. Their trained eyes immediately spotted Trishia and a few moments after arriving into the underground parking area, they were already kneeling down next to her, trying to stop the bleeding, monitoring her vital signs and hooking her up to an IV line, all the time calmly talking to the police woman and her frantic lover.
Wrapping her arm around Alice's trembling body, Sam and the teenager warily walked over to Martin Coles, who was laying in a puddle of blood. They stopped close to his feet and looked down on the man who had managed to bring so much pain and devastation into the world.
His hand was still clutched around his gun, but his lifeless eyes were staring at the ceiling. One of Trishia's bullets had hit him in the chest, where his once neatly pressed shirt was crumpled and covered in blood. The other bullet had hit him square between the eyes, where a small trickle of blood seeped out of the little hole.
Sam heard a gasping sound next to her and quickly she grasped Alice's shoulders and turned the teenager around, facing away from the dead man at their feet. Pulling her closer to her battered body Sam winced, feeling the shifting of little pieces of glass that were embedded in her skin.
"Come on you two," Jody's strained voice sounded behind them. "We need to get out of here, before anything else blows. They are taking Trishia to the hospital and I want them to take care of you as well, Sam. You are hurt."
"Trishia and Alice first," Sam answered absent mindedly. "I am fine."
"Let the doctors and nurses decide that, honey," Jody softly replied, worrying about the controlled behavior of her lover. She knew the real shock of what had happened would probably hit the tall woman later.
Two fire men suddenly loomed up in front of them and quickly ushered them away from the source of the fire.
"Come on, Ladies, you need to get up top, away from this inferno," one said, but quickening the pace to get the women out of the underground parking as soon as they could.
In the meantime Trishia had been carefully strapped onto a stretcher, with two IV tubes hooked up to her arms, an oxygen mask covering her mouth and nose and all sorts of high tech monitoring devices that kept an eye on her blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level. The constant beeping noise was utterly distracting, as was the oxygen mask, because she wanted to tell the crying Lucy how much she loved her and that she would be all right, but she couldn't. The only thing she was capable of was blinking her eyes.
To her utter relief she noticed Joan McDonnell grabbing her lover's arm and pulling her along.
"Come with me, honey, we will follow them to the hospital. Peter says there's a police car waiting for us. Let those people do their job. Trishia is in good hands."
Feeling cold and numb and not aware of the tears that were still flowing, Lucy followed her mother to the stairs that were leading to The Reef's lobby. Right outside the main entrance an ambulance with its lights flashing was waiting and as soon as they had rushed Trishia through the lobby and had wheeled her in the back of the ambulance, they took off with breakneck speed.
Joan and Lucy were gently placed in the back of a waiting police van, together with Jody, Sam and Alice. A pale, upset looking Fiona and Yarra were already seated and buckled up in their seat belts, holding each other's hands for support. As soon as Alice took a seat, Fiona scooted over and motioned her friend to sit in between Yarra and herself and the blond teenager quietly obliged, desperately needing the warm contact of her friends, who both grabbed one of her hands in a tight grip.
"Are you all right, Miss Stevens?" the female driver asked with concern, having noticed the many small cuts on Sam's hands and arms that were oozing blood.
"I will be soon," Sam answered in a tired voice. "My brain is just trying to catch up with everything that has happened. It's not every day somebody tries to blow up my family and friends."
The tall woman turned her head and looked at Jody's pale face.
"How are you, honey?" she asked concerned. "You did a great job, Jody. I am so proud of you."
Jody swallowed hard, reliving the moment that the world had seemed to erupt in flames and smoke. She had been so scared, not only for herself, but especially for her family and friends. For Sam and Trishia who did not have the protection of a car that could keep the flames off their body. For Alice who had rushed towards their nemesis. For Lucy, who had witnessed her lover getting shot, not knowing whether she would live or die.
Jody cast a look at Lucy who was nervously fidgeting and looked like a scared, little girl. Jody's eyes filled with tears and she silently prayed that Trishia's injuries would not be serious. If anything would happen to the tall policewoman…
Jody let out a shuddering breath and could no longer control the tears. With a soft sob she closed her eyes and tried to swallow away the painful lump in her throat.
A familiar arm slid around her shoulders and carefully pulled her closer.
"Sam, you are hurt," she half heartedly objected.
"So are you," Sam simply answered. "I am sure Trish will be okay, she is strong and she is a fighter."
"There was so much blood," Lucy's quivering voice sounded from behind them. "I can't lose her, Sam. I can't," she added in a whisper.
Joan pulled her distressed daughter in her arms, trying to comfort her as best as she could. She sent Fiona a sad smile when the teenager scooted closer to her sister and threw her arms around her as well.
The policewoman who was driving the van cast a look at the officer who was sitting in the passenger's seat. They exchanged an understanding glance and without saying a word, she reached out her hand and switched on the flashing lights and siren. They needed to get to the hospital as soon as they could. Trishia Waters was one of their own.
It was already halfway through the morning when Sam finally emerged from the room where a nurse had been cleaning and bandaging the many cuts that had been caused by the shattered glass the violent explosion had blown against her body with full force.
With a pair of tweezers every little piece of glass had been carefully removed, the cuts treated with an antiseptic ointment and, if necessary covered with a small gauze or band-aid. It had been a slow and painstaking job and Sam had finally managed to convince her lover to go back to the waiting room and be with her family, knowing that Jody was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion and worry.
The nurse had also given Sam a mild pain killer, which the tall woman had accepted with gratitude. Her body felt stiff and the burning sensation of her skin was extremely uncomfortable.
As soon as she stepped into the waiting area her eyes traveled to the small group that sat quietly in a corner. On the table in front of them she noticed a few cups and a coffee pot. Four uniformed police officers were standing together and drinking coffee while they were quietly talking. Their faces were drawn and worried.
Seeing her lover approach, Jody jumped up and grabbed her hand, leading Sam to an uncomfortable looking chair and handing her a cup of coffee.
"Drink this, honey," she softly spoke, her green eyes dark and full of sadness. When she saw the question in Sam's blue eyes she slowly shook her head. "No, they are still working on her," she answered.
"How is Lucy holding up?" Sam asked, casting a look at her sister-in-law who was sitting in between her mother and youngest sister, her eyes extremely dark in her pale face.
"Hanging in there," Jody sighed. "But I pray we will hear some good news soon."
She felt Sam's arm slip around her shoulders and leaned her head against a strong shoulder. Sam tightened the grip and for a moment she rested her cheek on Jody's hair, briefly closing her eyes. Her partners' hair smelled like smoke and for a moment Sam was thrown back in time, again reliving the fearful moment when the car had exploded and for a moment she had been terrified that they all would die.
Sam swallowed hard and felt the tears sting the back of here eyes, but taking a few deep breaths, she willed them away. Now was not the time to break down. Jody needed her and so did Lucy and Alice.
Sam's eyes snapped open and traveled to a small couch in the corner of the waiting room, next to one of the vending machines. Alice was lying down in a fetal position, with one hand tucked underneath her chin and the other one holding Yarra's, whose lap her head was resting on. The teenager's eyes were closed and her breathing regular, she seemed to be fast asleep.
But behind those closed eyes Alice's mind was in turmoil. Again and again she heard the explosion of the car, and saw Martin Coles emerge from behind that black truck. The orange flames had lit up his face and she had seen the madness in his eyes. It had been the personification of her nightmares.
Trishia had saved them, Alice knew that and it made her feel guilty and sad that because of her, a team of surgeons and nurses were now fighting for the brave policewoman's life in the operating room. She knew that if Trishia would die, she would never forgive herself.
Hot tears slid down Alice's cheek and created a growing wet patch on Yarra's shorts. When the dark girl heard Alice make a noise that suspiciously sounded like sniffing, she could feel her heart clench. Rubbing the back of Alice's hand with her thumb, she silently tried to bring her friend some comfort.
Running footsteps suddenly sounded through the long hallway and everybody looked up when Peter Jones slid to a halt in the waiting room. His face and clothes were stained with soot and his eyes were wide and pleading.
"How's Trish?" he panted.
"She is still in the OR," Jody softly answered, patting the chair next to her in an invitation for him to sit down.
Peter gratefully accepted and sank down in the chair, noticing one of the uniformed officers walking up to him with a cup of steaming coffee.
"Thanks, Bert," Peter sighed deeply. "I need that."
He slowly sipped the hot coffee, clenching the mug in slightly trembling fingers, while he softly told Sam and Jody what the situation at The Reef was at the moment.
"They were able to kill the fire pretty quick," he said, feeling dirty and drained. "The evacuation went perfect, although there was a bit of a panic when that car exploded. God knows it almost gave me a heart attack, knowing you were all down there." Peter swallowed hard and had to take a deep breath before he was able to continue. "Anyway, the building has been thoroughly searched by the bomb squad, but they haven't found anything, so when the guests were able to return to their rooms I left. I just…needed to be here," he added with tears in his eyes. "What exactly happened, Sam? How did she get hit?"
"She challenged him, "Sam answered in a strained voice, still hearing the echo of Trishia's defying words to Martin Coles. "That made him angry, so he stepped away from the car he was hiding behind, I guess. I couldn't see, because I was lying on the ground. I heard three shots though and when I looked at Martin Coles' body later, I could tell he had been hit twice."
"We need statements and stuff later, Sam," Peter said, rubbing his tired eyes. "But I don't want anyone to even think about that now, while…."
Deliberate footsteps echoing off the walls in the quiet hallway interrupted Peter's words. His head jerked up and suddenly all eyes were glued to the entrance of the waiting room where a woman clad in green scrubs filled the doorway.
Her intelligent grey eyes swept through the waiting room and a tired smile appeared when they came to rest on Lucy.
"You must be Lucy McDonnell. It's nice to meet you. My name is Elisabeth Cook. Trishia told me I needed to be on the lookout for a beautiful, dark haired, green eyed woman."
"She did?" Lucy whispered with trembling lips, grabbing her mother's hand in a painful grip. Across the room she could see the relieved smiles of Jody, Sam and Peter, while the uniformed police officers hugged each other and slapped each other on the back.
"You mean..?" Lucy carefully asked with wide eyes.
"Your Trishia is going to recover completely," the friendly surgeon promised, taking a seat on the coffee table and patting Lucy's knee in a comforting gesture.
"The bullet entered her shoulder and hit the bone. Instead of getting stuck there, its direction was altered and it punctured the top of her left lung, exiting her body through the back. Except for the lung, which we were able to repair, no vital organs were damaged and before you know it, she will be as good as new. The more TLC, the faster she will recover," Elisabeth Cook smiled, glad to be able to bring some good news.
"Can I see her? Please?" Lucy begged while the tears were rolling down her cheeks again.
"Since I promised her I would bring you back, I don't have a choice," the surgeon laughed. "Don't let all the tubes scare you, all right? It all looks a lot worse than it is."
Elisabeth Cook stood up from the table and lead Lucy out of the room, towards the ICU. As soon as the two women had disappeared out of sight a collective sigh of relief penetrated the silence, making everybody laugh nervously.
"Thank you, God," Jody softly sighed, closing her eyes for a moment to enjoy the relief that was flooding through her body, relaxing muscles that had been tight with tension for hours. When she opened them again her gaze traveled to Alice, who had her face buried in her hands and whose body was racked with sobs.
"Oh, kiddo," Jody sighed in sympathy, kissing the knuckles of Sam's hand when she removed the taller woman's arm from her shoulders and slowly stood up. A few strides brought her closer to the crying girl and she sank on her knees in front of the small couch. Yarra looked at her with soulful, moist eyes and Jody smiled encouragingly.
Rubbing the teenager's back she just sat there for a few moments, trying to comfort Alice while the girl cried away the pain and sorrow.
After a while the sobbing eased off and Alice's eyes opened to be captured by a pair of emerald green ones that looked at her with genuine affection and empathy.
"Feel better now?" Jody asked, brushing Alice's hair away from her forehead.
A pair of puffy, red rimmed eyes shyly looked up and Alice nodded.
"Thanks," her voice croaked. "I was so scared. If I had not tried to run towards Martin, I…maybe she would not have been shot."
"That's not true, Alice," Jody gently but determinedly rebuked the girl. "Sam had already stopped you. Trishia challenged Martin, but my guess is she would have done that anyway."
"He is dead now," Alice stated, in a voice that was void of emotion. "He is really dead."
Jody and Yarra exchanged a look and Jody knew it was important for them all to help the blond teenager deal with all the things that had happened.
"Yes, he is dead," she nodded. "How does that make you feel, Alice?"
"I…," Alice bit her lip for a moment and her eyes were pensive. "I thought I would be happy, but…I am not. I mean…he scared me and I know he hurt a lot of people. He killed my mom and Dean…but when I saw him there on the ground…I…I was just sad that he killed so many people…it made me feel…empty."
Alice paused for a moment to take in a deep breath before she continued.
"I am glad it is all over now. He won't…hurt anyone anymore and maybe I can…maybe now I can try and…and…try to get a normal…life… again," she ended in a whisper.
"And we will help you with that, Alice," Jody vowed, leaning forward to kiss Alice's forehead. "We will wait for Lucy to come back and then we will all go home. How does that sound?"
"Wonderful," Alice smiled. "Kurt must be lonely."
Jody laughed and with a groan she pushed herself to her feet again. Leave it to a gentle soul like Alice to worry about the dog after their days of horror and close encounter with death. She knew Alice still had a long, difficult road ahead of her before she would have dealt with the traumas that Martin Coles had inflicted on her. But Jody had already learned that Alice had remarkable strength and deep down inside she knew their young friend would recover from her suffering and somehow learn to live with the scars.
Walking back to where Sam was sitting Jody passed Fiona and quickly bent her head to give her youngest sister a kiss on her cheek. A pair of surprised green eyes looked up at her and shone with all the love and admiration Fiona felt for her sister.
"Try not to look too meek, Fiona," Jody gently teased in a soft voice. "You have a reputation to uphold."
"Not today, sis," was the unexpected answer. "I'll be my bratty self again tomorrow. Right now I just want to enjoy the fact that we are all alive and together."
Fiona's eyes caught Jody's again and they looked at each other with a feeling of profound understanding.
"Thanks for using your brain and getting us out of there," she simply stated.
Jody simply smiled and took her seat next to Sam, who immediately wrapped her arm around Jody's shoulders and pulled her close.
"Let's go home soon," she mumbled, leaning in to kiss a pair of soft lips.
"Yeah, let's," Jody smiled a few moments later.
The sun had started its decent, painting the world in yellow and orange, while a soft Ocean breeze gently rustled the leaves on the trees and brought a welcome, refreshing draft.
Both sides of the driveway were adorned with torches that had been securely stuck into the ground, the soft puffs of air gently encouraging the flames to happily dance. The veranda was decorated with a variety of lanterns in all different shapes and sizes and in front of the house tables were covering the grass, all decorated with flowers and candles, which only enhanced the already festive atmosphere.
With sparkling eyes Jody leaned back against Sam's chest. The taller woman was standing behind her and had her strong arms securely wrapped around her partner's body that playfully wiggled against Sam's tall frame, knowing full well the effect that would have on the blonde.
"Are you torturing me?" a voice purred in Jody's ear.
Chuckling Jody looked up at her lover and wrinkled her nose.
"Would I do that?" she innocently asked.
"Yes," Sam nodded with a smirk. She brought her lips closer to Jody's ear and teasingly nipped the sensitive skin.
"I…I was just trying to…wet your appetite," Jody laughed, trying not to close her eyes and moan, when Sam did not stop her tender ministrations. "Oh, Sam," she breathed.
With a smug smile Sam took pity on her partner and lovingly placed her cheek against Jody's.
"I was just wetting your appetite," she repeated her lover's words with a laugh.
"And you did," Jody sighed. "It's going to be a long night."
"Mmm…but what a great night it will be. Did you see the terrible three?"
Jody playfully slapped Sam's arm and then turned around to give her a hug, immediately feeling the grip of Sam's arms tightening again when her partner pulled her closer.
"The girls were oohing and aahing over Peter and Cynthia's twins," Jody explained. "Knowing Peter he will have arranged a few nights out with his wife before this evening is over, since he suddenly has three baby sitters."
Sam's laugh rumbled underneath her ear and Jody smiled.
"I can't blame him," she said. "That is too good a deal to let go."
"I can't blame the girls either," Jody mumbled against Sam's chest. "Those twins are adorable."
With a wistful smile Sam pulled Jody even closer, basking in the love her partner always gave so freely. Her eyes met Trishia's, who winked at her and dragged Lucy to the small dance floor they had created, just for the occasion.
"You will be a great mom one day, sweetie," Sam softly spoke with all the warmth and love she felt for the woman in her arms.
"So will you," Jody answered. "I love the way you interact with kids. Peter's eldest boy adores you."
"Only because I can beat up his father," Sam joked, remembering an afternoon, not that long ago when Peter and his family had visited Murrook Farm and she and Peter had ended up in a mud fight, which she had won.
Jody snorted and squeezed Sam's waist, looking up at the taller woman with twinkling eyes.
"You can deny it as much as you like, Samantha Stevens, but I know better than that," Jody smiled. "I have seen you play soccer with the little tyke and you always lift him up your shoulders and give him rides. And I do remember some tall, cute and sexy blonde reading the kids a story. Could that have been you?"
"Must have been Alice," Sam dead panned, making Jody laugh.
Jody untangled herself from Sam's loving grip and turned around to look at all the guests, who were scattered around the place, chatting and laughing. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. Her eyes traveled to the dance floor where her sister and Trishia were doing a slow dance, while three smug looking teenagers were standing on a safe distance, making teasing remarks.
Even from the distance Jody could see the sparkle in Alice's eyes and involuntarily she smiled.
"I am so grateful that Alice is doing so well," she sighed, grinning when Fiona started to push Yarra and Alice towards the floor, obviously telling them to go and dance. The two girls dug in their heals though, until a smirking Trishia jumped from the raised platform and pulled them back up with her.
"Oh, boy," Sam chuckled. "Poor girls."
"Nah, they won't mind," Jody grinned, seeing the partly embarrassed, partly shy glances the girls were shooting each other.
Of course Yarra's two brothers noticed the situation their sister and her friend were in and they produced a few loud cat calls, immediately making Alice blush and hiding her face against the shoulder of a grinning Yarra.
"Lisa Bailey has done an amazing job with her," Sam mused. "But then, Alice is a strong willed person and she really wanted to leave the past behind and move on. Lisa told me Alice is her most determined client."
"I am so proud of her," Jody sighed, the affection in her voice evident.
"So am I," Sam agreed. "I am glad social services were easy going about the whole thing. Most wardens of the State end up in a home somewhere."
"Or with foster parents," Jody added. "That's what we are anyway, honey."
"I know," Sam answered. "But she was allowed to choose."
"Somehow I think Carol had something to do with that as well," Sam smiled, seeing the petite police woman jump up and dragging her tall husband with her to the dance floor, while the onlookers enthusiastically applauded.
"What about us, honey?" Jody asked with a mischievous smile. "I want to dance as well."
"You will have to ask me…real friendly," Sam gently teased.
"Ooohh, I can do friendly," Jody smirked, wrapping her arms around Sam's neck and pulling the tall woman down to claim her lips in a long, deep and passionate kiss. When she finally released her hold and opened her eyes, she noticed the dazed look in her lover's clear blue eyes.
"Will you, please, dance with me?"
Sam swallowed hard and fought the urge to grab Jody's hand and pull her into the house, away from all the amused faces of the people that surrounded them, so she could continue what her lover had started the moment she had zealously kissed her.
"Sure," she breathed, feeling Jody grab her hand and tugging her along.
By the time they had reached the dance floor Sam heart was beating normally again and thankfully her face felt less flushed as well. She winked at a grinning Alice and cast a look at Gerald 'Bird' McDonnell who had volunteered to be the evening's DJ, together with one of his friends.
Gerald gave his sister-in-law a friendly wave and raised his eyebrows in a silent question, holding up two different CD covers, apparently wanting Sam to make a choice. Sam's eyes sparkled when she motioned for him to play the left one and Gerald grinned with appreciation. She loved slow dancing with Jody, not caring who might be looking at them. But she knew Trishia and Lucy were still trying to get used to all the attention they received as a couple. And she loved teasing Yarra and Alice as well.
Before the last notes of the tune had faded away and the dancers on the floor had the chance to step down from the platform, Gerald had made sure that the next song already began.
With a smirk Sam noticed Lucy snuggle closer into Trishia's arms, while a stubborn Alice was vigorously shaking her head and was telling Fiona to take her place, making the dark haired teenager throw her head back and laugh out loud. Yarra was just grinning, obviously very pleased with the first dance Alice had granted her.
"Where did you say Trish and Lucy were going on their honeymoon?" Jody dreamily asked when Sam was leading her around the dance floor.
"Nice try, Sherlock," Sam chuckled. "I promised Trish not to tell a thing. Even Lucy doesn't know."
"I hope it's someplace decent," Jody mumbled, inwardly smirking when Sam took the bait.
"Of course it is," was the indignant answer. "I thought that you, of all people…oh, wait a minute," Sam grinned. "You little devil!"
Jody smiled and pressed her cheek closer to Sam's silk clad shoulder, enjoying the feel of her lover's arms around her. Being held by Sam always gave her a sense of peace and safety.
It's okay, honey," she mumbled. "I was just yanking your chain. I know Trishia asked your help in booking something because she wants to make sure it will be something unforgettable. And I am sure Lucy will love it."
"Oh, yes," Sam sighed, thinking about the luxurious cabin on the private beach, surrounded by nothing but palm trees, white sand and blue Ocean. Maybe she should take Jody up there one day soon. For a second honeymoon…
They danced in silence and the tall blonde smiled when a pair of soft lips nibbled on the sensitive skin of her neck.
"So, when will they cut the cake?" Sam asked, secretly looking forward to the sweet treats and the accompanying coffee that were awaiting them.
"As soon as they are finished dancing, I suppose, Miss Sweet Tooth."
"Good, I'll just switch the power off and they won't have any more music," Sam said out loud, knowing Trishia had heard her.
The tall policewoman looked up and grinned when she saw Sam's innocent face.
"Honey, we need to feed Sam," she stage whispered to Lucy, who lifted her head from Trishia's shoulder and looked around with a dreamy expression in her eyes.
"Oh, ha ha," Sam smirked, always enjoying the easy banter. "You better watch it, senior sergeant Waters, or I'll slow dance with your honey."
"Oh, that's a scary thought," Lucy laughed, with sparkling eyes. "Does that mean Trish gets to dance with my sister?"
"Why not?" Sam shrugged. "But I doubt Fiona would want to."
They all laughed and Fiona, who had heard the exchange, pulled a face and stuck out her tongue.
Trishia playfully swung Lucy around and lead her away from the dance floor, towards a big table in the center of the front yard.
Sam motioned two of The Reef's pastry chef assistants to bring out the cake and when the door was opened everybody was impressed with the huge, beautifully decorated cake that emerged. Without accidents the creation was carefully placed on the sturdy table.
"Thanks mate," Sam said, patting one of the young boys on his back. "You two have really outdone yourselves."
She collected the big knife that the other assistant was holding and turned around to look at the guests.
"All right, people, gather around please," she called, smiling when she saw all the happy faces.
As soon as everybody was standing around the table, Sam started to speak again.
"I usually don't do speeches very well," she stated, pulling a face at Jody who was standing next to her. "But, for this occasion I really wanted to make an exception. Especially since I have known Lucy ever since she was a little brat, much like someone else we know," she winked at Fiona who took the teasing good naturedly and just laughed. "Trishia and Lucy met during…most interesting circumstances and as family and friends we slowly but surely saw their relationship deepening. But, it took another crisis for Trishia and Lucy to finally tie the knot," Sam smiled with a wink.
"It is true, they have only known each other for a year and a half and they went through a lot together already," Sam continued, her face serious when she thought back at the time Trishia had spent in the hospital and her rehabilitation afterwards. "But we all see how much they love each other, what a cute couple they make and how devoted they are to each other. So, I will cut to the chase so they can cut the cake," Sam joked handing the knife to Trishia with a little bow of her head.
The couple stepped closer to the table and smiled at their friends and family who had been there to share their commitment ceremony as witnesses to their love.
When Trishia looked into a pair of loving green eyes she felt a warm feeling settle in her chest, quickly spreading throughout her whole body. And again the words Lucy had spoken during the ceremony echoed in her mind.
You are my best friend and a rock I can lean on. I respect you for who you are and what you do. I admire your strength and wisdom. I cherish the warmth you give so freely. And I love you for all the things that you are. With you by my side there is nothing I can't do. One lifetime is hardly enough to spend with you and on this moment I promise you, Trishia Waters, that I will always respect, admire, cherish and love you. Heart, body and soul.
"I don't really want to make a speech," her voice sounded emotional and her eyes were suspiciously moist. "I do want to thank you all for sharing this day with us, it means a lot to us to have so many caring family members and friends. I also want to thank all of you, for your love and support after…after I was shot. I will always be grateful for the support we both received. And that also includes the help we got while painting our new house," she dryly added, which earned a round of laughter. "Let's cut the cake, honey," she said, covering Lucy's hand with her own larger one and pressing the shiny metal through the layers of cream and cake.
When the first piece was cut, one of the assistants took over the knife with a friendly smile and expertly cut the cake, while his co-worker distributed the plates and forks.
Three teenagers shared a little bench and were contentedly munching on the sweet pastry, while their eyes occasionally swept over the guests, who all seemed to have a good time.
"I am stuffed," Alice sighed, placing her empty plate on a nearby table, lovingly scratching Kurt's ears, who was lying at her feet, before leaning back again.
"You?" Fiona smirked. "That's a novelty."
Alice did not answer, she just firmly squeezed Fiona's knee joint, making the other girl jump.
"Yikes! Did Sam teach you how to do that?" she asked, rubbing the offended knee.
"Yup, she did," Alice grinned. "She told me you can't stand that, so…I wanted to learn."
"You are a real nice person, Alice," Fiona replied, but she could not hide the warmth in her voice.
"Coming from you, I take that as a compliment," Alice grinned, unconsciously leaning closer to the dark girl who was sitting on her other side.
Yarra just smiled and had to fight the urge to wrap her arm around Alice's shoulders. Like Sam and Jody she was amazed at the progress her friend had made on her way to recovery. The haunted look in those beautiful, blue eyes had been gone for a while now and with the help of Lisa Bailey Alice had been able to remember all the things that had been locked away for so long.
Since Yarra and Alice were neighbors, the girls often met and took long walks through the forest, where Yarra showed her friend all her favorite spots and animals. They had often sat on the bank of a creek, with their backs against a rock and talked for hours on end, their friendship getting stronger and deeper all the time. Sometimes Fiona accompanied them on their trips, but even though it was clear that Alice and Yarra had a special bond, they made sure their friend never felt left out. And she didn't. Fiona secretly enjoyed the fact that her two best friends had grown so much closer.
"Earth to Yarra," Fiona's voice suddenly sounded, interrupting her musings. "What was that smile all about?"
"What smile?" Yarra asked with feigned innocence, not insensitive to the sparkle in Alice's eyes and struggling to keep a straight face.
" We could have used that smile to solve our future's lack of energy sources," Fiona snorted. "Come on C.J.,that was a ten thousand watt smile!"
"You are seeing things," Yarra replied with a grin. "I am just happy. It's been a great day, we are surrounded by great people, I just had a piece of great cake. Life is good."
Fiona's eyes traveled to her two sisters, who were happily chatting with each other, while they were practically wrapped around their respective partners. Jody caught her staring and winked at her, blowing her a kiss.
Fiona laughed and mimicked the gesture with sparkling green eyes.
"Yes, it's a happy farm," she sighed.
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