"Where in bloody hell is she?"
"T.J., calm down." Jake tried unsuccessfully to sound patient.
"No! Whats going on, Jake?" The barkeep demanded, nearly coming through the phone line at her cousin.
"T.J she hasnt come home yet. I told you that my guy lost her down on Laurel Street. She was with that redheaded friend of hers, so he went back to Camis place to wait. She never came back."
"Jake. That was three days ago!! You mean ta tell me she hasnt come home in three days??!!" Dammit! If Reynoso has her, I swear to god Ill kill him!
"Exactly what I mean. I was thinking that maybe she is staying with one of those friends of hers, except "
"Except that both the tall blonde and the little redhead have been by the house in the past three days. They let themselves in with a key, bring in the mail, stay for about a half hour or so, and then take off again."
T.J. was silent for minute, digesting the information. If Vicki and Jo are coming by like that, they are probably taking care of the house for her. So shes either with them or out of town somewhere. "Well, thats something anyway. Means that Reynoso probably doesnt have her, otherwise her friends wouldnt know ta take care of the house."
"Thats what I figgered." Jakes voice held exhaustion as well as exasperation.
"We need ta find her before Miguel does, Jake. I dont care how." Despite her determination not to, T.J. had even gone so far as to call Camis cell phone a few times, but the calls went straight to her voice mail.
"Tell me something I dont know, cuz. Im sure shes fine."
T.J. didnt respond, lost in the image of those hurt, tear-filled green eyes that she had left behind days ago.
"Listen, I was thinking?"
"Maybe you could contact those friends of hers and just ask them where she is?" He sounded hopeful.
T.J. had no idea how to get a hold of Jo, but she had Vickis mobile number from working the charity function with her. She knew that after the other night however, she was likely not on either Jo or Vickis list of favorite people at the moment. "Maybe. But until then, have both of them followed. See if ya can turn her up that way."
"Already doin that."
"Oh." T.J. heaved a big sigh.
"Im sure shes fine. Well find her."
"Yeah. I know." Although to Jakes ears, she didnt sound convinced.
"And Jamie? If you ever want to talk, Im around, okay?" His voice was softer now; full of the compassion he was feeling for his obviously heart-broken cousin.
"Yeah, okay, Jake. Ill keep that in mind." She severed the connection and toyed with the phone, chewing on her lip. After a moments hesitation, T.J. decided to wait and see if Jakes men could find Cami before the barkeep had to venture into the lions den of a conversation with either Cami or Vicki.
Youre not bein cowardly, just prudent. The dark-haired woman toyed with the pen in front of her. Yeah ya just keep tellin yourself that, old girl.
"What do you mean you dont know where she is??!!"
"She she just vanished boss. I dont know where!"
Miguel Reynoso fairly growled on the other end of the line. "Why dont you know, pendejo?"
The flunkie on the phone, swallowed hard in fear. "She has not been home in days. We have been watching."
"Is she with Jameson?" Reynoso demanded.
"No, she hasnt been there either. She just disappeared!" He tried in vain to keep the panic out of his voice.
"Well. Then Id guess youd better pull a magic trick out of your ass and make Ms. Wells reappear, comprende?"
"Si, jefe, Si!" Came the nervous reply.
"Otherwise, you are bound to find that you disappear " The threat in his voice and choice of words was unmistakable. He slammed the receiver down and roundly cursed the stupidity of his men. But if Wells isnt home or with Jameson where in the hell has she gone?
"Carlos!" He bellowed into the other room.
His big, lumbering brother strolled into the room, munching on a drumstick. "Si?"
"Tell the men to get the car. We need to pay a visit to Senora Jameson."
"Where are you, honey?"
"Still in Milwaukee. We wrap up this series tonight and then take a red-eye to Philly."
Jo could hear the exhaustion in Camis voice coming through the other end of the phone. "You sound beat."
"Yeah. But Im strangely exhilarated all at the same time, you know? This is such a dream for me!"
"I know, hon, I know."
"Do you know what they gave Tony for a gift last night?"
"What do you mean?"
"Each of the cities are planning a farewell ceremony for Tony and giving him something to commemorate his last series in each town."
"Oh. I see." But Cami could tell from Jos tone that the redhead really didnt see. Jo was not tremendously interested in baseball, and would only go to games if Cami begged her.
"Anyway, here in Milwaukee they gave him a leather Harley Davidson jacket! It is really cool. So, of course, now all of the guys are teasing him because he doesnt even own a Harley!"
The excitement was clear in Camis voice and Jo heaved a small inward sigh of relief. The road trip had been a good idea - just what Cami needed to not constantly think about Taylor. "Sounds like you are having fun!"
Cami started to say that it was the time of her life, but before the words came out, she stopped. Thats not true. Being with T.J. was the time of my life this is "This is the pinnacle for a baseball fan like me, you know that."
"Especially one with such a huge hero-worship crush on the man whose picture you were hired to take?" Jo teased.
Cami laughed. "Yeah. Something like that. Listen, Ive got to go. The team bus is going to leave in a minute."
"Ok. Take care of yourself, woman. Promise?"
Cami smiled on the other end of the phone. "I promise, Jo. Give Vicki my love. Ill call from Philadelphia."
After she hung up the phone, Cami paced restlessly across the floor of her hotel room, before pausing at the large glass window. She stared unseeing out at the traffic below her, and tried in vain not to think about those blue eyes that were still haunting her. Give yourself time, Cam its only been a few days.
The phone buzzed and interrupted her reverie. "Ms. Wells? The bus is here."
"Thanks." She hung up and grabbed her camera case. Her suitcase was already in the lobby, but she refused to let someone else handle her camera equipment. With a heavy sigh, she headed for the door, and another brush with baseball history.
Cami wearily leaned her head against the tinted glass of the bus window. The team was chattering away around her, and she had already taken several candid shots of the players: laughing, telling stories, and swapping tips and techniques.
Cami reflected that she should be the happiest person alive right now she was living her dream. But as she watched Philadelphia rush by through the glass, she could only think of T.J. How is she? What is she doing? Did Agent Knight bring down Reynoso yet? Her most persistent thought was for T.J.s safety. The blonde knew that Taylors reasons for walking out had everything to do with the fact that Cami had gotten physically injured. When Cami was being completely rational with herself, she knew that Taylor blamed herself for what happened that night for Reynosos man breaking in like that. And, Cami also knew that the dark-haired woman had left in order, she thought, to protect Cami from further harm. But that is ridiculous! I am already involved! And with T.J. and Jakes men around to protect me
Her thoughts were broken off by the happy melody of her cell phone. For the duration of the trip, Cami had the ringer set to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which caused the team to burst out in peals of laughter every time she got a call. Glancing at the caller ID, her heart skipped a beat. It was T.J.!
Should I answer? I What if it is an emergency or something? With that logic, her heart and pride could both be satisfied. No harm in taking the call it might be important.
"Cami? Are ya uh are ya all right?"
Cami figured that T.J. was talking about the emotional wreck she had left the blonde in four days ago. "Yeah. Im ok." Not quite the truth, but
The blonde could hear a relieved rush of breath coming from the other end of the phone. "Aye. Well tis good then. I was just uh worried about ya."
"No need, Im fine."
Taylor could hear the rush of sound in the background, and the chattering of men. "Where are ya? Sounds like a party."
Cami hesitated. She was unsure how to proceed with the conversation. Why did she really call? Checking up on me because of the Reynosos or something else? Deep down in her heart, Cami hoped it was a little of both concern for her safety and the fact that T.J. was missing her as much as the blonde was aching for the barkeep.
"Im Im out of town on a job assignment."
"Oh?" T.J.s tone indicated her disappointment that Cami was not more forthcoming with information about where she was.
"Is something going on, Taylor? I mean you made things pretty clear to me the other night. I was just well I was wondering why you called?" Cami took a deep breath and mentally patted herself on the back for being so brave.
T.J. swallowed hard. Why indeed? She chose her answer carefully. "I was just concerned about ya. With the Reynosos still around ya could still be in danger. So "
"So you waited four days to find out if he had me sliced and diced?" Camis irritation was evident. Maybe she didnt really miss me at all just feeling guilty.
"No! Ya just disappeared and I was afraid that Reynoso had taken ya or " T.J. cut herself off, aware of what she had revealed.
"Taylor. Are Jakes men still following me?"
"Aye. Of course. Like I said, even though I we arent " The dark haired woman cleared her throat, trying unsuccessfully to swallow the lump. "Ya might still be a target for him."
Cami took a moment and digested the conversation. "So. Jakes men lost me. Had no idea where I went and you panicked. Thus the phone call is that what you are saying?" Not a damned thing about us just her guilt over my safety. Cami fought back the tears, willing herself not to be disappointed.
"Aye." T.J. ached to say more, to pour her heart out. But she knew that all of the reasons she had left Cami were still valid, so why put either of them through more pain.
The phone line was silent for a few seconds. Neither woman knew where to go.
Finally, T.J. could no longer stand it. "Did ya I left a box at your house the other night "
"Yeah. I saw it. You put it on the dresser."
"Did ya "
"Open it?" Cami finished for her. "No. I didnt know what it was for, so I didnt open it."
T.J.s shoulders slumped. "Oh. Well. It was uh is a birthday present for ya. But if ya didnt open it, dont worry. If ya dont want it, just um Ill get it back from ya some other time."
The disappointment in her tone was clear to Cami. A birthday present? One she left for me despite the fact that she was leaving herself "Oh. Well thanks. I didnt know it was a present. Ill of course you didnt need to do that, but thanks." Cami almost caught herself smiling, but the pain in her heart was still too much.
"Aye. Twas no trouble."
A few more seconds of silence stretched out between them. "Well, Taylor. Im almost back to the hotel, so Ive got to go. If I see Reynoso or his men, Ill let you know."
"Cami?" The barkeeps voice was deeper than usual and filled with unshed tears.
"Please take care of yourself. Be safe."
"I will. Bye Taylor." Came Camis husky reply before she severed the connection and dropped the phone carelessly into her lap.
She managed to keep the tears from falling until she was safely alone in her hotel room. No sense in letting the team see her fall apart not very professional of her, she thought.
But the minute she shut the hotel room door behind her, she broke down and sobbed.
She was so confused. Taylor seemed to be only calling out of guilt over Camis safety. And yet why mention the present? Cami crossed the room and set down her camera equipment, before reaching for the duffle bag where she had stored the little box in question.
The box was royal blue velvet, a beautiful rich color that, of course, reminded Cami of T.J.s eyes. It was obviously from a jewelry shop, and from the classiness of the box, a very expensive jewelry shop at that.
Cami sat down on the edge of the bed, and with trembling fingers she lifted the lid to see what was inside. Lying on the bed of blue velvet was an exquisite pendant necklace. Made out of sterling silver, the pendant was an exact copy of the tattoo that Cami had admired on T.J.s shoulder. Carefully detailed Celtic knot work ringed the outer edge, and in the center where the stylized yin-yang symbol was, the jeweler had used a dark blue Lapis Lazuli and a dark green Emerald to create the two halves of the design. It was absolutely stunning.
Camis heart pounded and the tears flowed freely. It was obvious that T.J. had the necklace designed and made especially for her; the craftsmanship in duplicating the tattoo was unmistakable. For the first time, Cami noticed that the blue stone that made up one half of the design was the color of T.J.s eyes. And the emerald green for my eyes. Oh god She acutely felt the loss of what might have been between them. Two halves of one whole. Oh, T.J
Turning the pendant over, she saw that Taylor had the necklace engraved. In beautiful script writing around the outer edge of the pendant was written:
For C: My Anam Cara. Yesterday, Today, and for Eternity. Yours, T.
Cami didnt even try now to hold back the tears. She simply curled up on the bed and sobbed her grief into the pillow, with the incredible necklace clutched tightly in her hand.
"The first shipment of beer arrives tomorrow."
"Aye. I got that message. Is that why ya came all the way down here? I didnt figure to see you before the shipment." Taylor commented silkily, smiling across the desk at Miguel Reynoso. They were both seated in T.J.s private office, and Miguel had dismissed his usual entourage of bodyguards.
He smiled in return, a leering grin that had T.J. holding back a shiver of revulsion. "No, Senora Jameson. I was wondering if you thought more about my offer of taking a little how should I say vacation together?"
Ah bugger. Id hoped he would have let that go. I can cooperate on the business end so Knight can bring this asshole down, but I draw the line at giving my body too.
When she hesitated in responding, Reynoso continued.
"It is my understanding that you are now available, si?"
Taylor knew exactly what the little worm meant, but she feigned ignorance. "Available? What are you talking about?"
He leaned forward, putting his elbows on the desk. He was close enough now that she could smell the truckload of cloying aftershave that rolled off of him in waves. "I was made to understand that the little blonde you were dallying with is now out of the picture, verdad?"
Rotten fucking bastard. "Little blonde?" She knit her brows together in puzzlement. "Oh! You mean Ms. Wells. Aye, I cut her loose awhile ago." She reached a hand out and ran a finger down Reynosos well-manicured hand. "But then again, I think I already told ya that."
"Si, Si. I havent seen her around in awhile, but I was just making sure that you hadnt changed your mind."
Sonofabitch! He doesnt know where she went, so hes trying to find out what I know. Like Id tell ya if I had her hidden away somewhere, ya ruttin asshole! "No. I havent changed my mind. She was just some fun but she is well out of the picture." Goddammit I hate myself sometimes. But Im glad he has no idea where Cami is that means shes safe for the time being.
"Bueno. Then perhaps next weekend? That gives me a few days to clear my schedule and make arrangements."
By next weekend your ass better be rotting in jail. "Sure. Next weekend would be wonderful." She continued to purr, playing the convincing come on.
"Well then. Be sure to have the money ready for the shipment tomorrow night, and Ill make us reservations. Farewell, senora." With a slobbery kiss on her hand, he left the office in a cloud of aftershave.
T.J. had never been so close to puking on a mans hand before. But she calmly got up from her desk and washed her hands before proceeding to the bar to talk to Knight.
The Agent already knew about the shipment arriving, and had made plans for Reynoso and his men to be taken down. The delivery was to take place behind the pub, so the least amount of civilians would be around. The contingency plans were in place and Knight had assured Taylor that after tomorrow night, her troubles would be over.
Maybe it was Taylors long experience with the seamier side of life, or maybe it was just her womens intuition, but as she wearily climbed into her car for the lonely drive home, so couldnt help but feel like her troubles were far from over.
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