Part 4 of 11
By Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
DISCLAIMERS: All the characters in GUN SHY (except the gods) were dreamed up out of my bizarre little noggin and are mine, mine, mine, with the exception of any characteristics Dez and Jaylynn possess that belong to my partner, who is also mine, mine, mine. So the bottom line is: please don't steal my characters without permission. I wrote this for fun and fame, not profit, so please be kind when you critique me.
VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This novel does contain scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. The protagonists are cops, and they live in a sometimes dangerous, sometimes gritty, always frustrating world. This story contains scenes where there are assaults, shootings, car accidents, arrests, domestic disturbances, and the aftermath of one rape. If you get queasy watching "Law and Order" or "Xena: Warrior Princess," you might not want to read this. However, I would put the level of explicit violence at about PG-13. Oh yeahtheres also a little swearing here and there.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state/country where you live, you should move to Minnesota where we have human rights protections and a new governor, Jesse Ventura, to beat up anyone who's mean to us.
HURT/COMFORT WARNING: I've never totally understood what this means, but yes, indeed, each of the main characters (and some of the minor characters) do get hurt in more ways than one, and there is comfort afforded to each here and therehmmm, just read the novel to see what I mean, okay?
SUBTEXT: There is no subtext whatsoeverit's all maintext. While there are no overly graphic scenes (apologies to those of you who were hoping for that and are now sadly disappointed), there are love scenes, and the theme of two women falling in love runs throughout the story. If this bothers you, click BACK PAGE and go immediately to the Jerry Falwell v. Tinky-Winky claymation slugfest scheduled for tonight.
SPECIAL THANKS: Couldnt have done this without my trio of true blue beta readers: one scientist, a doctor, and a police officer. To Buff, Joy, and Erinyou are the BEST! Thanks to Tragedy88 and Dreambard for advice and inspiration. And many blessings to MaryD, Web Goddess Extraordinaire, for encouraging me and keeping me on track. Lastly, to MaryAnn, Linda D, and Susan who listened ad nauseum about this and read parts in the early stages and never stopped cheering me on.
DEDICATION: This ones for Diane, because she had to live with an obsessed madwoman while it was being written. Not only that, she had to read and make sense of itthree times, in factand not at all in any reasonable semblance of order. She deserves a medal.
Any and all comments are welcome, and I have greatly enjoyed what people have e-mailed so far. You can e-mail me at: email@example.com. This is part 4 of 11, and Ill keep posting regularly. J
Jaylynn thought that the old saying about March roaring in like a lion and going out like a lamb was true. She had thought January and February were cold, but today, the first of March, was colder than she could bear. It wasnt so much the temperature, which was actually in the middle 30s. It was the stop-and-go rain and sleet and the constant non-stop wind that blew down the collar of her coat and into every warm fold of her body. She felt that all shed done all evening was shiver, even with the heater cranked up. She checked her watch: 11:10. With a little luck theyd make it through the last fifty minutes and head back to the station so she could go home to a nice warm bed and maybe some hot cocoa.
The dispatcher came over the radio reporting a car accident, and upon hearing the location, Dez hit the lights and siren. She pulled off onto a side street and reversed course. It was only a mile to the crash site and they arrived in short order. Jaylynn emerged from the car into a foggy, misty night where the cold bit through her clothes and made her shiver. The two lane road, on a rise, was wet and slick from all the days rain. A gravel shoulder on either side sloped down into wide fields where an occasional stubble of cornstalk poked up from wet ground. Even through the water, Jaylynn took note of the skid marks on the pavement which dug into the gravel and into the short cropped grass as the hill gave way to the field.
Another cruiser was already on the scene. One officer lit flares to redirect traffic while the other crouched down in the hollow below the road, trying to make his voice heard over screams coming from a car upside down in the wet gully. The crashed vehicle was sunk down in a muddy depression, and shallow moving water surrounded the car. Jaylynn and Dez scrambled down the embankment to join the other cop who acknowledged them with a nod.
"Hello Reilly, Savage."
"Hey Coombs," said Dez. "Whatve we got here?"
Coombs stepped out of the ankle deep water to drier land next to them and tucked his cold hands under his arms. "Single car rollover. Four door Ford Explorer SUV. Seems to be at least two occupants. I cant quite tell. The car is sitting upside down in maybe three inches of water. I stuck my arm in, tried to feel around, but the roof is crushed in too much. No way to pull these people out."
A piercing scream came from the car. "Help me! Helpoh God, help . . ." The voice trailed off into moaning and then all was silent.
Coombs shook his head. "I dont know what else to do."
Dez stepped back, then took three quick strides forward and abruptly leapt from the drier ground over onto the undercarriage of the overturned vehicle. Kneeling on cold metal, she leaned over the far side and saw that the drivers side was mashed completely into the gully. She couldnt even see the windows on that side. She turned and moved back to the side nearest her colleagues and squatted down. Leaning over the side, she kicked her legs back, and lay flat on the undercarriage, letting her head dangle over the side and into the broken out rear passenger window. ""Hey in there," she called out.
"Help me," came the plaintive cry.
"This is the police. Were here. Well get you out."
"Its cold. Please. . . help me."
"Were working quick as we can. Whats your name?"
"Who else is in the car with you, Cassie?"
"Jordan and Francie."
"I cant see you very well," said Dez. Actually it was so dark she couldnt see anything in the car at all. "Youre in the back seat, right?"
"Yeah. And its cold."
How to ask the next question without scaring the girl? Dez decided being direct was best. "Are you able to crawl toward me?"
"No,"" wailed the girl. "Im stuck."
"Are you upside down or not?"
"Yes, upside down."
Dez slid further over, bracing herself by grabbing something that felt like the axle, so that she could peer into the rear passenger window. Still she couldnt see anything. She pulled her flashlight off her belt and shone it on her own face. "Cassie." No answer. "Cassie, can you see me?"
"Okay, so you know Im here, and were going to get you and your friends out as soon as we can." She shone the light into the car and scanned the contents. The roof was compressed most in the front and on the drivers side. Dez couldnt tell for sure, but the two kids in the front seat didnt look like they could be alive. She couldnt see their heads at all, though she could see their torsos. There was no movement, and the roof was pressed into both bodies, so she didnt hold out much hope for them. The section of the car with Cassie in it was less crushed, but she could see that the girl was resting upside down on her shoulder and neck in a painful looking position. A couple inches of water pooled around her, and rivulets of blood dripped down her neck and face and into the water. Too much blood, thought Dez. We need to get her out of there.
"Cassie?" No answer. "Cassie!
She stretched an arm in as far as she could and tried to grab the girl. She couldnt quite reach her. She pulled her arm back out.
Using the flashlight Dez punched out the few remaining shards of glass in the rear window. "Hang on there, Cassie. Okay? You hear me?"
A quiet voice answered. "Um hmm. Im . . . so . . . cold."
Dez raised her head. Across the way on the bank stood several figures. "Savage! EMTs here yet?"
"Yes, just arriving."
"We need blankets. Were going to need the fire departments jaws of life. Anyone call them?"
"Yeah," said Coombs. "I just did."
Two burly EMTs came over the rise and stumbled down into the gully carrying their tackle boxes of equipment. "Whaddya got there?" one shouted to Dez. A light rain began to drip into his face, and he wiped his eyes with a big paw.
Dez shifted from lying on her stomach to a kneeling position. She held up three fingers and said, "Three, I think, stuck in the car. We can only get to the one in the back seat." She stood and jumped off into the pool of water surrounding the car and waved the paramedics over. "We need to get in there and pull her out. Soon." She shone her flashlight in the window and gave a nod of her head. The first EMT peered in, then stood up and nodded.
"May have to wait for the Fire Department," he said. "No way can I get in there."
Dez said, "Me neither." She looked up the hill, but figured Coombs was also far too big. "Savage! Get over here." The rookie waded out into the water, cringing from the cold. She stepped on an uneven spot and staggered, but Dez grabbed her arm to help her regain her balance. "Sorry to do this to ya, but youre gonna have to crawl in there."
"Youre gonna get pretty wet."
Jaylynn shrugged. She looked up as drops of rain fell, scattered at first, and then more heavily.
Dez said, "Im not even sure you can squeeze in through the window, but I know I wont fit. I think you can do it if you get down to your t-shirt."
"Okay. What do I do when I get in there?"
"Unhook her seatbelt, work her free from whats holding her, and slide her out. If you get her close enough, well pull her out as carefully as we can."
Jaylynn took off her warm patrol jacket and handed it to Dez . She tried to hide the fact that her hands were shaking as she untucked her uniform shirt, unbuttoned it, and handed it over too, then removed her bullet-proof vest. Embarrassed, she pulled off her two layers of long underwear while Dez peered at her quizzically. That left only a scoop necked tank top. She unhooked her gun belt and set it on the car. Lowering herself to her knees, she winced as the ice-cold liquid hit her legs and saturated her uniform pants.
"Ill help you in and out," Dez said as she piled all the clothes on top of the gun belt.
The two paramedics stood on either side of the window. Dez climbed on top of the car and lay on her stomach on the undercarriage, her head directly over the window, with her arms hanging down. Jaylynn poked her head through the mishapen window frame and squeezed her shoulders in. She grabbed at something that had the texture of wet plastic and then pulled until she felt herself lifted slightly by the back of her pants belt. The frozen metal doorframe dug into her thighs. With another tug she was in far enough to feel the fabric of the car seat above her and the cloth of the jacket Cassie wore.
The cold water hit her chest and she nearly shrieked. Biting her lip, she pushed with her legs to leverage herself further into the opening and twisted halfway onto her side. She shivered as she fumbled around to locate the seat belt. Without warning the interior was suddenly flooded with light, and she squinted. The rookie saw the upside-down outline of her partners head in the window and looked back at the young girl, unconscious nearby.
Dez said, "Try to let her down real easy. Look, theres the latch for the seat belt. Kind of get under her and cushion her when it releases."
Jaylynn rolled onto her back, flinching from the chill of the frigid water. She squeezed under the girls torso, further soaking herself, then reached up and pressed the red button. Released from the harness, the girl slid onto Jaylynn, emitting a groan and a mewling whimper before going limp.
A deep male voice said, "Is she stuck on anything? Can we pull her out?"
Jaylynn replied, "Yeah, I think you can."
Dez said, "Okay, you hang onto her, and well pull you out, okay?"
Jaylynn felt a vise grip on her ankles and she was dragged through the water toward the window. She clutched at the girl feeling the heavy weight.
She heard Dezs muffled voice say, "Let her go now . . . " and the girl drifted away from her as though by levitation. "Lets get you out now, Jay." She was lifted again by her belt as Dez powered her, face up, through the window. She felt the edge of the window frame scrape across her chest and she put her hands over her face to avoid any sharp edges. It was like doing the limbo once she got her feet back on the ground. She wiggled and squirmed her way out, into the cold rain, with the help of Dezs strong hands.
Jaylynn said, "How is she?"
"We got her," came a deep male voice. The rookie stepped away, her feet numb, and trembled as she watched the two men carry the girl away. Outside the car it was clear that Cassie was just a slender slip of a thing, hardly more than a girl. The burly men slogged through the water and up the embankment carrying the slight bundle and were over the top and out of her sight when she finally shook herself out of a daze and started toward dry land. There was a splash next to her and she looked up as Dez, holding her gun belt and shirts, took hold of her arm and guided her up out of the water. The big woman held out the silk long underwear shirt, then the cotton one. She slipped the velco vest over Jaylynns head and helped her put on her blue uniform shirt, then wrapped the insulated patrol jacket around her shoulders.
"Quick," said Dez. "Zip this thing up." Jaylynn fumbled with the zipper with hands of ice.
"Here. Let me do that." Impatient fingers pushed Jaylynns hands aside and zipped up the jacket. Dez reached out and took the rookies hands into her own warm ones. "Geez, your hands are cold. Weve got to get you into the car and get the heat on."
Through chattering teeth the soaked woman said, "Arent you cold?"
"Yeah, freezing! But Ive had my coat on and Im not nearly as wet as you." Keeping hold of one of the rookies hands, Dez pulled her up the embankment as firemen suddenly dashed past and down to the car, dragging ropes and equipment.
The ambulance doors were just shutting Cassie in, and as they hastened to their cruiser, the women watched it pull away, siren blaring.
"Uh oh," said Dez. Lieutenant Andres stomped toward them, a rapidly wilting unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. He had the start of a days growth of beard and his bloodshot eyes snapped and flared at them. He held a hand up to stop them in front of the patrol car.
"Reilly! What the hell did you think you were doing? Who told you to effect a rescue?"
Jaylynn watched as Dezs face became cold and impassive, her eyes small slits.
Andres said, "If anything happens to that girl, the department could be liable."
"She was bleeding to death, sir," said Dez.
"Youre not an EMThow do you know?"
"Ive got enough training to know that, sir."
"You patrol cops dont know shit . . ." he said and continued to harangue them, emphasizing departmental liability. Dez knew Andres had never liked her and was probably squeezing his lucky rabbits foot with the hope that she made some sort of mistake for which she would be found liable.
After a couple of minutes, Dez glanced over at Jaylynn, then did a double-take in concern. Shaking with cold, Jalynn stood dutifully, her lips nearly blue. Dez unzipped her own jacket and slipped it off. "With all due respect, sir, Savage here is soaked through. She could go hypothermic if we dont get her warmed up. In fact, our shift ends in just a few minutes. With your permission, Im going to send her home to a hot tub."
Grudgingly he stepped aside. "Therell be hell to pay if you screwed up, Reilly."
"Yes, sir," she said as she opened the cruiser door and stuffed Jaylynn in. She covered the rookies legs with her own coat, then slammed the door shut, and practically ran around to the other side. She got in and started the engine, then pulled away in a spray of gravel.
"What?" said Jaylynn. Her teeth chattered and she was shivering from head to toe.
"It figures my least favorite Lieutenant would have to venture out duty tonight." She cranked up the heat as high as it would go. Once she was several blocks away from the accident site, she turned on the siren and lights and floored it.
Dez said, "Maybe we should have had the paramedics look at you."
Jaylynn shivered so hard, she was shaking. "Im okay Ill be fine." She forced the words out.
Dez looked over at her, worried. She pulled up in front of the young womans house, wrenched her door open, and flew around to the other side of the car to help the struggling woman get out.
"Im fine," Jaylynn choked out. "Just need a hot bath."
"No no no," said Dez, as she steered her up the front walk toward the dark house. "You dont get a hot bath. You have to be rewarmed slowly. You can actually go into shock if youre hit with hot waterJay? Jaylynn? Where are your keys? Your house keys?"
Jaylynn looked at her blankly.
Dez fished through the rookies jacket, patted her front pants pockets. "Jay!" She leaned down and tipped the blond womans face up so she could look her in the eye. The blond shook uncontrollably and stared, her eyes unfocused. Her skin was unnaturally pale, even whiter than Dezs. "Jay, do you have your house keys?"
"In . . .my . . .locker."
"Shit! You should have gone with the EMTs." Dez banged on the door and rang the bell. She waited, then took Jaylynns arm and dragged her back to the car.
"Ill just gotake a hot bath."
Dez paid no attention. She ripped open the passenger door and shoved the shaking woman in, not bothering to buckle her up, then ran back around to the drivers side. She hesitated long enough to crank up the heat before she peeled away.
"Jay, listen to me. Dont go to sleep. Youll be warmed up soon. Come on, stay with me!" She reached over and smacked the trembling woman on the thigh. No response.
She screeched to a halt in front of Luellas and got Jaylynn out of the car. Twisting Jaylynns arm around her own neck and with one arm around the smaller womans waist, Dez pulled her along. Jaylynn stumbled beside her in a daze. Dez went right up the stairs and beat on the front door. In a few seconds her landladys nervous face peered out the side window, and then the front door popped open.
She stood in her nightgown and fuzzy slippers, a pink wrapper pulled tight around her. "Why Dez."
"Emergency, Luella. Shes wet, probably hypothermic. I need your help," Dez grunted out as she half-dragged Jaylynn into the house. Luella stepped aside to let them through.
"What do you need, honey?"
"Need to borrow your guest room." Dez didnt wait for an answer as she guided the lurching woman down the back hall. Over her shoulder she said, "And will you go make some hot cocoa or cider, something like that?"
"Sure," Luella called out. "Theres extra blankets in the bottom drawers of the dresser." She turned and headed for the kitchen. "Two mugs of warm cocoa coming up in a jiffy."
Dez stumbled into the dark room and swatted an arm up the wall to flip on the lightswitch. A lamp on a bedside table blinked on and cast a warm glow on the pale tan walls, illuminating a small room, neatly organized with a full-sized bed, maple dresser, and kid-sized writing desk under the window. Dez moved the shaking woman over in front of the bed and steadied her. She wrestled Jaylynns zipper down and slipped her jacket off, stripped away the rumpled blue uniform shirt, then ripped off the velcro strips of the vest. The blond womans lips were blue, her eyes vacant and drowsy. She leaned back against the edge of the bed.
"Wait. Dont sit yet. Help me out. Gotta get those wet things off." She made Jaylynn stand, half-supporting her with one arm while she reached back and pulled the bed covers open. Dez pulled at the damp vest. She had to wrestle with it a bit, but she removed it and then tugged the other three layers over the rookies head, finally stripping off the blood-stained tank top last. She undid Jaylynns belt and pants, slid them down, and pushed her back onto the bed wearing only her bra and panties. Dez fumbled at shoelaces until she got them untied and pulled the shoes off, then socks. The smaller womans feet were like frozen blocks.
"S-s-s-so cold," said Jaylynn as she shook uncontrollably.
"I know, I know. Lie down," she said in a gruff voice. "Well get you warmed up soon." Jaylynn tipped over to the side and Dez took hold of her ankles and swung her legs up on the bed. She pulled the covers over and tucked the smaller woman in.
Luella appeared in the doorway. She held an empty hot water bottle under one arm as she unreeled the long cord of a heating pad.
Dez moved closer to her landlady. In a low worried tone she said, "Maybe I should have taken her to the emergency room?"
"Shes still shivering," said Luella, "so shell be all right. Its when you stop shivering that theres trouble."
"Can you keep an eye on her for ten minutes, Luella? I have to return the squad car down and sign us out, then Ill be right back."
"No problem, dear. Hurry up."
Dez disappeared from the room as the silver haired woman bent slowly and plugged the heating pad cord into the wall outlet, then opened the bottom dresser drawer and tugged two wool blankets out to spread over Jaylynn. She moved out into the living room to the thermostat and turned it up several notches. Returning to the guest room, she sat on the edge of the bed, humming to herself, her hand patting the shivering blond. Before Luella knew it, the tall cop was back.
"That was quick," said Luella.
Dez said, "Speeding is one of the few benefits of driving a cop car."
Luella stood and inspected her tenant. Hands on hips she said, "Are you as wet as she is?"
"No. No, Im fine."
"Dont lie to me, girlie. I can see youre wet. Look at those pant legs."
"Well, just my legs are wet. The rest of me is pretty dry."
Luella gave her a perplexed look and reached down to run her hand down to the knee of Dezs uniform. In her bossiest voice she said, "You are too wet. Get those clothes off right now and crawl in there and warm her up. Shes not gonna warm up quick enough without help, you know."
Dez said, "I was thinking maybe you could"
"Are you nuts? I got the circulation of a penguin. Poor girl would probably freeze to death next to me. Go on. Get in. Here, toss these over the top of her." She helped Dez spread the two blankets, then said, "Hot chocolate ought to be done now too."
Luella picked up the empty hot water bottle from the top of the dresser and shuffled out of the room, leaving Dez to strip off her own clothes and shoes and then go around to the opposite side of the bed. Jaylynn lay curled up on her right side facing toward the door, her arms clenched over her chest. Dez slipped under the covers and turned to her right side and scooted over. Before her skin even touched Jaylynns, she could feel the chill radiating off, and she winced when the cold flesh touched the front of her legs. Jaylynns back was a frozen block against her stomach, but she resisted the desire to recoil. Putting her arm around the smaller womans middle, she moved as close as she could, tucking her head up over Jaylynns left shoulder. The blond trembled violently, her teeth chattering so hard they made clicking sounds.
Luella bustled into the room with a TV tray and set it next to the bed, then left and returned with two mugs half-filled with steaming liquid which she placed on the tray. She picked up the heating pad from the floor and went to the foot of the bed. "Im going to tuck this under here on top of the sheet by your feet. I put it on high but it isnt all heated up yet."
Dez said, "Thanks Luella, youre a lifesaver."
"Im going to go fill that hot water bottle too. How cold does her stomach feel?"
Dez shifted her hands to Jaylynns middle and, a little embarrassed, pressed the flat of her hand there a moment. She said, "She feels pretty cold all overmaybe not quite as cold there."
"All right then. Ill be back in two shakes of a lambs tail." She bent slowly and gathered up the clothes on the floor.
"Luella, you can leave those. Ill get them . . . "
"Dont you worry. Looks like some of this needs to be put to soak. Ill take care of it."
Jaylynn continued to shiver, but less violently, and Dez thought she could feel some warmth generating between them. Several minutes went by, and though Jaylynn wasnt shaking as much, her skin still felt like cold jello. More time passed, and Dez began to worry. Quietly, because her lips were near Jaylynns ear, she said, "Hey, you feeling any warmer?"
Dez thought the smaller woman nodded, though she continued to shiver so she wasnt sure.
"Jaylynn, was that a yes?"
"Um hmmm," said Jaylynn.
"As soon as the shivering calms down some, you think you can drink something warm?"
"Your legs and back are a little warmer now."
Through gritted teeth, Jaylynn choked out, "Feels like Ill never get warm again."
"You will, just be patient."
"Where the hell are we?" she groused.
Luella stepped in the room just then carrying a bundle wrapped in a towel. "So, my dear, youre finally with it again?"
"Hi Luella," she said miserably. "I think so."
"Here, take this hot water bottle and hold it on your tummy." She lifted up the edge of the covers and slipped the bundle under.
"Ohhhh, this is even warmer than Dez is."
Luella said, "That girls like a furnace, isnt she? Dez, are your feet warming up?"
"Yes, Luella. My feet are fine."
"As long as you two are thawing, I may as well get together a little midnight snack. Ill be right back." She disappeared from the room before Dez could protest.
"Oh geez! Shes gonna show up with a pile of food ceiling high."
In a muffled voice Jaylynn said, "Would that be so bad?"
Dez nestled closer and lifted her chin up over Jaylynns upper arm. "Youre not shaking as badly now. I guess youre doing better, huh?" When Jaylynn assented, Dez said, "Think you could drink some cocoa?"
Dez slipped her right arm under Jaylynns neck and pulled herself up on her elbow. She snaked her left arm out from under the covers and hooked a mug. Carefully she brought it near. Jaylynn tried to reach for it, but Dez said, "No, just stay under the covers. Ill hold it for you."
Jaylynn lifted her head a bit and let Dez guide the mug to her lips. "Yum! "This is great."
"Everything Luella makes is great. Id weigh 300 pounds if I didnt fight her off daily."
Jaylynn let her head drop on Dezs arm. She shivered slightly and snuggled deeper. "I guess Id weigh 300 pounds then. I couldnt refuse her."
"Youd probably only get to about 250, with the smaller build and all."
"Thats comforting." Jaylynn pulled the covers tighter against her neck.
Dez set the mug back on the tray and picked up the other one, brought it to her lips and downed most of the hot liquid. "Whew, that is good. And its not instant. She makes it from scratch."
"Will you turn over?"
"What?" she said, confused.
"On your other side. Will you turn over? My back is feeling better now, but my stomach and legs are freezing."
Dez flipped over and faced the wall. She flinched when the chilled skin touched her back, hips, and thighs, which made he break out in shivers. In a cranky voice she said, "How can you be so cold and not dead?"
Jaylynn said, "How can you be so warm and not melted?" She pressed a chilly cheek to Dezs shoulder.
Jaylynn shuddered again. "Id be warmer without these wet underwear on."
"Yeah, me too." Neither woman made a move to remove any more clothing.
Jaylynn slipped her right arm around the bigger womans waist, placing her forearm against a taut stomach. With warm hands, Dez rubbed the cold arm and hand.
"Wheres the hot water bottle?" said Dez.
"Leaning on my back."
"Good. Here Im going to get the heating pad . . ." She reached down and snagged the cord, dragged it up, and tucked it behind the smaller womans knees then pulled the covers tight over them again and lay back down.
"Ohhh, that feels good. I can actually feel heat now. What a relief." An arm tightened around Dezs middle, and her hand came to rest just below the dark haired womans breast bone. Dez looked down and realized she was beginning to feel heat she would not want to admit to. She swallowed and tried to still her beating heart. Glad she was not facing the chilled woman, she took a deep breath and resisted the urge to flee saying, "You should have told me before you got so damn cold."
"I guess I didnt really notice until it was too late."
In a grumpy voice Dez said, "Now that you know what its like, pay closer attention next time."
Dez felt a cold hand move down to the side of her stomach and pinch the muscle there. When she jumped, Jaylynn said, "I do believe youre in a compromising position here Miss Big Shot Cop. Dont go getting grouchy on me or Ill have to tickle ya." She poked into the muscle of the brunettes stomach.
"Hey!" Dez yowled, but Jaylynns arm tightened around her before she could squirm away.
The blond said, "Im not warm enough yet."
Dez growled, "Be nice or Ill unplug the heating pad and leave you with that tepid hot water bottle."
Dez turned over on her back. "You should drink the rest of that cocoa. Im sure the 5-course meal chaser is coming any minute."
Jaylynn rolled onto her back, clutching the covers, and half sat up to grab the mug. She leaned on her elbow and sipped it. "I feel way better now, but Im still cold. My feet are freezing."
"Here, put the heating pad on em." Dez sat up and reached to the middle of the bed until she found it. The blankets fell away as she leaned forward, revealing muscled shoulders and smooth ivory-colored skin.
"Dez!" said Jaylynn, "youre letting all the cold air in."
"Whine, whine, whine!"
From the kitchen a warbling whistle trilled. Jaylynn set down her mug. As Dez settled the heating pad against her feet, Jaylynn said, "Shes not really making a 5-course meal, is she?"
From her seated position Dez looked over her shoulder, a scowl on her face. In the golden lamplight, Jaylynn couldnt quite see the blue in her eyes. They actually looked dark and far away. "I guarantee you she is making some sort of full meal. I dont know how she does it." Dez sighed. "How are your legs and feetyou feel the heating pad now?"
"Yeah, but theyre sure not as warm as the rest of me."
Dez stretched long arms under the covers and clamped hot hands on Jaylynns left thigh, then kneaded gently down to her calf and back up. "Getting any circulation now?"
Jaylynn was grateful for the dim lamplight because a surge of warmth branched out starting somewhere in the pit of her stomachor perhaps lowerand radiated outward. And then she felt the blush come on exactly when Dez leaned over more closely to give the same treatment to her other thigh.
"Does that help?"
"Yep, Im definitely warmer." Jaylynn was relieved to hear the tread of the older woman in the hall. She rounded the corner into the room carrying two tall glasses of milk balanced in one hand and a pair of three-inch tall ceramic pink pigs in the other. Dez reached across Jaylynn and took the glasses from Luellas hand and put them on the TV tray. Jaylynn frowned as she looked at the pink pigs.
"Salt and pepper shakers," said Dez.
"Arent they cute?" said Luella. "I bought em years ago at an estate sale up the street. Two more minutes and Ill be back with some goodies."
"Nothing big for me, you know," said Dez.
"Um hmm," Luella said as she rolled her eyes and headed out of the room.
"Wait," said Dez. "Can I borrow a robe or shirt or something?"
Luella paused. "Why?"
"I want to run upstairs and get us some dry clothes."
Luella disappeared for a moment then popped back in the room. She handed Dez a worn green and red plaid wrap-around robe. "It was the misters so it ought to fit you."
"Thanks. Ill bring it right back."
Jaylynn watched all of this with amusement. She wasnt used to anyone, not even the duty sergeant, ordering Dez around. Even more amusing was how meekly Dez took it from the older woman.
"Back in a second," said Dez. She threw the covers aside and stood, pulling the robe around her shoulders and tightening the belt before she turned around.
Jaylynn said, "Ive still got the heating pad, but theres definitely a chill in the bed now that youve gotten out."
From the foot of the bed Dez glanced at her, a peculiar look on her face. "Ill be right back."
Jaylynn sank down under the blankets. She kicked her feet back and forth and felt the warmth of the friction from the heating pad and sheets. Even though her body was nestled in a toasty cocoon, she still felt chilled. She hadnt been kidding when shed said it wasnt as warm without Dez. She looked around the small room she was lying in. Plain and simple. Hardwood floors with a multi-colored braided rug next to the bed. The maple dresser matched the headboard. The window shade was open and a lacy valance hung at the top of the window frame. On the desk sat an 8 x 10 photo in a frame, but Jaylynn couldnt see what the photo was of. Two of the pictures on the walls were of flowers: daffodils and jonquil in one; roses and blue bells in the other. The third picture hanging over the dresser was of two sweet children walking across a rickety bridge with a benevolent looking guardian angel hovering over them. The wide golden frame highlighted the gold of the childrens hair and the angels halo. All in all it was a cozy room to warm up in.
True to her word Dez returned carrying an armload of clothes and the plaid robe. She had changed into tan-colored wool socks, flannel sleeping shorts, and a loose black t-shirt that had a pink explosion on the front and said "Cherry Bombs Attitude Gear."
"Here," she said as she stood over Jaylynn. "Put this on." She handed Jaylynn a long-sleeved sleeping shirt. "Take off your wet things, okay?" She turned abruptly and sat on the edge of the bed facing away from the cocooned woman. Jaylynn sat forward and unhooked her bra, slipped it off, and then wormed her way into the shirt without ever taking the covers off. Over her shoulder Dez tossed a pair of red cotton shorts, soft and worn, and said, "Take the last of the damp stuff off and just wear these."
Jaylynn was more than happy to remove the wet underwear and slip on the shorts. They actually felt warm against her skin.
"Socks," said Dez. She stood and handed them to Jaylynn as Luella came around the corner bearing two plates.
"Now Dez," Luella said. "You need to keep your strength up, so I went ahead and dished you up a plate too." With fake menace in her voice, she said, "Get back in there where its warm."
"All right," Dez said in a resigned voice. She moved around to the other side of the bed, got in, shifted upward against the headboard, and rearranged the covers over her lap.
Luella set the two plates on the TV tray, then pulled forks out of her robe pocket and handed them to Jaylynn who passed one over to her glowering partner. Jaylynn paid no attention to her bed-mate. She was intent on plates filled with buttered carrots, turkey, mashed potatoes and a liberal splash of gravy covering half of each dish. Suddenly her stomach clenched, leaving her feeling weak. "I cant believe how hungry I am," she exclaimed.
Luella handed a plate to Jaylynn who passed it to a reluctant Dez, then accepted the other for herself. The older woman beamed, then went over and got the desk chair and dragged it next to the TV tray. With difficulty, she lowered herself into the chair next to the bed and then watched as the blond lit into her plate like she hadnt had food for decades.
The gravy was succulent, spiced with pepper and something Jaylynn couldnt identify. "This is so good!" She looked over at Dez who was dutifully eating the carrots.
"Now, are you girls going to tell me what happened?"
Between bites, the smaller woman told most of the story, though Dez took over for a while when it came to the parts Jaylynn was fuzzy about. After theyd explained, Jaylynn said, "I wonder how those kids are?"
In a low, flat voice, Dez said, "Probably all dead."
Jaylynn drew a quick breath. "What do you mean?"
Dez shrugged. "The kids in the front were crushed, Im sure. And the girl would be lucky to live through that. Between her injuries and the coldlook how it affected youwell, shed be lucky to live."
Jaylynn swallowed and sat back. "God, she was just a teenager. I hope she doesnt die."
Dez looked away and nodded. "Yeah. Maybe we got her out in time. Hard to tell." She set her plate on her lap. The carrots and turkey were gone, but not the potatoes or gravy.
Luella said, "Im sure you two did the best you could. Thats all anyone could ask. Ill pray for the girl tonight and tomorrow and perhaps God will see fit to give her another chance." She lifted her legs up to the edge of the bed and stretched them, leaning back in the chair. "Dont get old," she said. "Arthritis is just no fun at all."
Jaylynn set her plate aside on the TV tray. "Do you take anything for it?" she said.
"Sure, but theres only so much can be done for these ancient legs."
A low voice said, "Couldnt have anything to do with the high fat diet." Luella ignored her.
Jaylynn elbowed Dez and pointed at her plate. "If youre not going to finish that off, may I?"
Dez nodded, and the young woman snapped up the plate without a moments hesitation. "This is just the best gravy!"
With a sly grin Luella said, "Why thank you dear. Its nice to be appreciated." She squinted her eyes and gave Dez a mock dirty look, which the dark haired woman returned.
"Hey, I didnt do so bad, Luella. The turkey was great, as usual, and I did break my carb rule."
Jaylynn said, "Whats your carb rule?"
"No carbohydrates after six oclock."
Luella shook her head. "Dont pay a lick of attention to her, dear. You go right on and eat like us normal folks."
Jaylynn shoveled in the last couple of bites, then said, "Im pretty warm now, so I suppose I should get home."
But Luella wouldnt hear of it. She leaned forward and touched a moist palm to Jaylynns forehead, smoothing back the white-blond hair. "You still arent all that warm. I think you should stay put. Besides, Ive got some special breakfast goodies started. You need to stay and sleep. And you havent got any clothes to go home in until I finish your laundry anyway."
"But its the middle of the night, Luella!" she protested. "I shouldnt be keeping you up. And you dont have to do my laundry!"
"Oh, goodness, thats nothing. Its not like I sleep well anyway. And its nice to have a little excitement every once in a while. Stop worrying yourself over it. Im often up at this time." She looked at the gold watch on her wrist. "At midnight that talk show comes on that I like to listen to."
Jaylynn said, "Oh. What show?"
"I forget the mans name. Hes somewhere in Colorado, and for two straight hours he talks to people about the government conspiracy regarding aliens."
Dez said, "Illegal aliens or outer space aliens?"
Luella said, "Definitely outer space. Its quite interesting."
Dez arched an eyebrow, flicking a look over at Jaylynn before she said, "Luella, dont tell me you believe in that stuff."
"Of course not, you fool," said the older woman with a chuckle. "But its a laugh a minute listening to all the looney tunes who do." She ignored the teasing sigh of relief from the dark haired woman and lifted her legs off the edge of the bed, scooting the chair back. She stood, replaced the chair under the desk, then picked up the plaid robe from the foot of the bed. "You just wake up in the morning when you want, and Ill fix you the mother of all breakfasts. You too, Miss Health Nut. Ill make something you can eat, too. Now why dont you both get some sleep." She shuffled to the door and hit the lights and went down the hall.
Jaylynn lay in the darkened room letting her eyes adjust to the faint light coming in the window. In the compact double bed, she was close enough to Dez to feel the heat the bigger woman exuded. She would have loved to move closer to that warmth, but something held her back.
A low voice said, "I can go up and sleep in my own place if youd rather."
Jaylynn wasnt sure what to say. She opted for honesty. "Thats okay. Id like you to stay, Dez. Youre keeping me warm, you know. Even from over there."
"Are you still cold? How about your feet and legs?"
"Not too bad. The food helped. I ought to be fine by morning.
She felt the bigger woman turn away onto her side and rustle around trying to get comfortable. Very quickly Jaylynn felt fatigue coming on, and she wafted along half-awake for several minutes. Dez continued to toss and turn furtively. Finally Jaylynn put a hand out and found Dezs hip. "Hey, if youre uncomfy, you dont have to stay. Do you need more room?"
"No. I just dont want to crowd you."
Jaylynn chuckled. "Oh please! Ive got two little sisters who both crawl in bed with me every chance they get. Im past the point of feeling crowded. Just relax, okay?" She turned on her side facing Dez, scooted over a few inches and snuggled into the bigger womans side, settling her head against a warm shoulder and pressing her knees up to a toasty leg. "Good night," she said. No answer, but by then she didnt care because she was already asleep.
Jaylynn awoke a few hours later. The sun had risen and was casting rays of light through the window. She felt a thrill of contentment to find Dez pressed close behind, an arm around her waist and their legs entangled. She was warm and felt entirely protected. Shifting from her side, she looked back over her shoulder. Even in sleep the bigger woman scowled. For some reason Jaylynn found that endearing. Settling back on her side, the arm around her tightened and pulled her closer. She took a deep breath and drifted back off to sleep.
Two hours later Dez awoke to the sound of pans clanking far off in the kitchen. She was not amused to find herself wrapped around the rookie. It was all she could do to keep from leaping out of the bed. Instead she wormed away from the sleeping woman and slipped out, shaking her head with relief that Jaylynn hadnt realized she was being mauled. She wasnt sure how she would have explained herself. As she tiptoed out of the room, Jaylynn woke and said, "Hey you."
Dez stopped in the doorway. "Youre awake. You feel rested?"
Jaylynn stretched and yawned. "Havent felt this good in weeks. Bet my hairs a mess though."
In all seriousness, Dez said, "Yeah, youre giving Alfalfa a run for his money."
"Your braid is coming undone, too, so join the club."
Dez reached up to undo what was left of the braid allowing her thick black hair to spill out over her shoulders. "Ill be back with some clothes," she said as she turned on her heel and disappeared down the hall.
Jaylynn grabbed the pillow from the other side of the bed, stacking it on hers, and reclined. She continued to snuggle in the warm covers. Being so cold the night before was almost like a bad dream, ethereal and hard to believe. In a few minutes Dez returned fully dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved cotton jersey. Her hair was neatly brushed in its usual smooth French braid.
"Hey, no fair," said Jaylynn. "Howd you get tidied up so quick?"
Dez shrugged and tossed Jaylynn a pair of red sweat bottoms and an oversized blue and green wool sweater, then leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed. Jaylynn pulled the sweater over her head. The waist was fine, but the shoulders bagged ridiculously. "Too bad you didnt run this wool thing through the washer and dryer for me. Maybe it would fit after it shrank."
"Sorry. Best that I could do."
"One good thing thoughits definitely warm." She pulled the red sweats under the covers and wrestled them on, then pulled the covers back up and leaned against the pillows. "It smells fabulous in here!"
Dez nodded. "Shes in there creating sumptuous delicacies. Bet youre gonna love this."
"And you wont?"
"Like I said, Id weigh 300 pounds if I let her feed me regularly."
"Whats she making?" Jaylynn said, an expectant look on her face.
"Oh, I cant spoil her surprise. Shell probably want to tell you herself. Im not even sure how long shes been at it."
Alarmed Jaylynn said, "She hasnt been up all night, has she?"
"Oh no. She can whip up these two thousand calorie snacks in less than 15 minutes. Just wait and see. Are you gonna lay there all day or what?"
Reluctantly Jaylynn tossed the covers back and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Dez glanced down at her feet. "You want some slippers?"
"Nah, Im good in these wool socks, but thanks."
Still slouching against the doorjamb Dez said, "So, no bad after effects from last night? You feel warm enough?"
"Oh yeah! But who wouldnt with such a great furnace emanating heat all night."
Dez stood up straight, trying to hide the blush that spread from her neck all the way to the roots of her hair. Before she could say anything, Jaylynn popped off the bed and put a hand on her forearm. "Desiree Reilly, thats a good thing. Im thankful you exude heat like a pottery kiln. Sure made my life less miserable."
Dez ducked her head and shifted away, moving around to the other side of the bed. "You want to help me here?" She began pulling sheets and covers into place, smoothing the spread. Jaylynn took hold of her side and evened it up.
"How do I ever repay Luella?" said Jaylynn.
"You dont. She wouldnt think of taking money. She loves to entertain and cook for people, but shes getting to the point where friends and relatives are old and infirm or dying off, so her circle is shrinking." Dez arranged the pillows, then picked up one of the blankets to fold. Jaylynn took the other. "Shes a very social person, but all shes got left is her sister Vanita who lives on the other side of the lake near you. Neither one can drive so I run them back and forth every so often. Youll have to meet Vanita sometime. Theyre like two peas in a pod."
Dez opened the bottom drawer of the dresser and they put the two blankets away.
Jaylynn said, "She never had a family?"
Dez stood and pushed the drawer shut with her foot. "Yes she did." She stepped back and picked up the photograph from the top of the little desk. Jaylynn stood next to her and looked at a black and white studio picture of two adults and two boys. A stately black haired, dark eyed man sat in the upper left corner of the picture. His smile was wide, an obvious twinkle in his eye. He wore a dark suit with wide lapels and a black tie, and he was balancing a laughing boy of about six on his right knee. The boy was a miniature version of his father and was also dressed in a handsome dark suit. To the mans left sat a beautiful mahogany skinned woman, her hair coifed high. She wore a flowered dress and long white gloves on elegant arms, one of which was steadying another laughing child in her lap. The second little boy was a toddler dressed in light-colored slacks, a white shirt with a high collar, and red suspenders. His head was turned toward his brother and they seemed to be sharing a moment of total hilarity while their parents attempted to fight back laughter themselves.
Jaylynn leaned closer to peer at the photo Dez held. She put an arm around the bigger womans waist and leaned her head on her shoulder. "If thats Luella, she was drop dead gorgeous!"
"Yes she was."
"Shes still a good-looking woman now, but wow! Look at her." She studied the photo a moment longer, then said, "I bet she was a corker of a mom. What happened to her husband?"
Dez sighed and nervously stepped away from Jaylynns embrace. She replaced the photo on the desk. "They all died in a house fire in the 60ssmoke inhalation. Luella was staying at her sisters to help with their new baby."
Jaylynn gasped and said, "Oh, thats terrible! Such a beautiful family." She paused a moment. "Now I know one of the reasons she seems to take a person under her wing."
"Wish Id known her back then," said Dez. "I dont know how she ever got over it."
From the doorway came a voice, "I dont know how I got over it either." Both women looked up, startled. Luella gazed at them thoughtfully as she said, "It was no doubt the worst thing that ever happened in my whole life. Every other rotten thing pales in comparison. But it happened thirty-five years ago." She looked at Dez. "It does get better over time. Id have to say you never quite get over it, never forget, but after a while it feels like less a burden."
"Oh Luella," said Jaylynn. "It brings a tear to my eye to think of it."
"Mine too, at times," said the old woman. "But weve still got lives to live, things God set us on earth to do. You keep on keeping on, thats what you do." She picked up the two mugs from the TV tray near the bed. "A bodys got to enjoy what the good Lord provides today because it may not be there tomorrow. I loved those little boys and their father, and Im happy to have had them in my life, even if only for a little while. Thats how I feel about things nowadays. People too. Theyre only in your life a while, so live it up while you can."
She turned in the doorway and called back over her shoulder, "And speaking of living it up, come on in the dining room. As soon as the timer rings, apple panny-cakes will be on the way to the table, and you definitely need to see them all puffed up in their splendor and glory."
Jaylynn wiped a tear from her cheek with the back of her hand. She looked up at the passive expression on Dezs face, and when the tall woman met her eyes, Jaylynn said, "What?" She glared at the taller woman. "Are you making fun of me?"
Dez shrugged and Jaylynn punched her upper arm and said, "I can cry all I want right nowIm not a cop at this moment."
Dez protested. "I didnt say anything!"
"Hmpfh . . . but you probably wanted to."
"Lets go try out her latest recipe," Dez said as she led the way out of the small room.
She stopped abruptly in the hall and Jaylynn nearly ran into her. "Wait. You go on," said Dez. "Ill run down and bring the laundry up. There are a couple of items I"m sure youll eventually need."
"Good deal. I was wondering where theyd gone."
Continued in Part 5
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