Chapter 29 — Conclusion

The road trip had been uneventful, and Cami was really glad that she would be heading home tomorrow. Atlanta had given Tony a huge send off, and likewise so had St. Louis. Both cities proved that their fans were also students of the game who knew what a contribution Tony had made to the sport, and they sent him off in Hall of Fame style.

Although Cami was ecstatic with her current assignment that had her rubbing elbows with the best players in the game of baseball, taking pictures had been a challenge with the broken finger on her right hand — she had quickly adapted, but her usually adept hands seemed clumsy and very awkward. With the pain in her finger and the ache in her chest from missing T.J., Cami was certainly ready to head home.

Cami had been welcomed to her hotel here in St. Louis by an enormous bouquet of flowers from T.J. and a card that read: Hope you are having fun. I’m counting the days. Yours, T. It was likely in response to the basket of goodies that Cami had sent T.J. from Atlanta — puzzle books, a few novels and comic books, and a teddy bear wearing a nametag that said "Cami" on it. The photographer had hoped it would help the impatient barkeep to pass the time while she was confined to the couch.

Cami went into the bathroom and drew hot water into the tub for a bath. Why do most hotel rooms look the same? She mused, looking around at the strangely familiar décor. She toyed with picking up her cell phone, thinking about calling T.J., but knowing she should just wait until their usual bedtime phone call.

It had been a long five days away from Taylor, but they had made up for it by talking to each other three or four times a day on the phone. They had even made it a routine for Cami to call T.J. just as the blonde crawled into bed every night, so that T.J. could talk to her until she fell asleep. You would think that I’m a child who can’t go to sleep without my bedtime story. Camryn chuckled. But the wonder and joy in her heart at just hearing T.J.’s voice was incredible. It truly is as though we have known each other for a lifetime — or more.

Her fingers absently crept up to the necklace T.J. had given her, which she wore continuously; it was becoming a habit of hers to play with the pendant when she was thinking of T.J. - which was all the time.

A discreet knocking on her door interrupted her reverie. She checked the peephole and spotted a bellman. "Yes?" She called through the door.

"Urgent telegram for you, Ms. Wells." Urgent? What in the hell?

She reached for her wallet and fished out a tip for the man, before opening the door a bit and accepting the envelope. "Thanks."

Puzzled, she shut the door and locked it, before sitting down on the edge of the bathtub and opening the telegram. It read:

You are cordially invited to a private party on Sunday evening. Stop.

To be held at C.J.’s Pub at ten o’ clock in the evening. Stop.

Formal attire suggested, but not required. Stop.

Love, T.J. Stop.

Cami grinned foolishly to herself. What in the heck is she up to? She reached over and turned off the water so it wouldn’t overflow the tub, then headed into the room to call the enigmatic woman.

"Good evenin’, darlin’." T.J. drawled on the other end, recognizing Cami’s number on her caller ID. "Ya are goin’ ta bed earlier than usual, aren’t ya?"

"Actually, I’m not in bed yet…I just got your invitation."

Cami could almost hear the glee in T.J.’s voice. "Did ya now? And are ya callin’ ta R.S.V.P.?" T.J. inquired, chuckling to herself.

"Do I need to R.S.V.P.?" Cami teased.

"Of course, darlin’. Didn’t your ma teach ya it is good manners?"

"Actually, about all my ma taught me was when happy hour was." Cami snorted. "But. If you insist, this is my formal declaration to attend your…um…private party." Both women were grinning like fools, and loving every minute of it.

"Grand. I’ll be lookin’ forward ta it."

"T.J., what are you up to?" Cami inquired.

T.J.’s initial response was a sexy laugh that sent shivers down Cami’s spine. "Can’t a woman invite her lover out for a special evening after she has been gone a week?" T.J. teased.

Cami refused to allow the velvet and whiskey voice to fluster her. "Of course you can. But…I…but T.J., you sent a telegram."

Cami could almost see T.J. giving her a shrug. "Aye. Ya don’t have a laptop, so e-mail was out, snail mail was too slow, and well…I just thought a telegram would be fun."

"T.J., you’re crazy. You know that?"

"Certifiable." She agreed. "Now. Go take your usual evening bath, order room service and call me back when ya crawl inta bed. Naked." T.J. laughed wickedly on her end of the line, and knew full well that Cami was blushing.


Cami was carefully dressed in black linen slacks and an emerald green silk blouse she had bought before she left St. Louis, just for this occasion. T.J. had been very close-lipped about the special party at the pub, and Cami had been buzzing with anticipation since she had received the telegram invitation. The photographer’s plane into San Diego had arrived just over an hour earlier, giving her just enough time to race home, shower and change.

She pulled her little rental car into the pub’s driveway, and was rather surprised to see how empty the parking lot was. It is a Sunday night, but…hmm…She climbed out of the econo-compact she had rented and muttered to herself that now she was home she would have to go car shopping. And take T.J. of course. T.J. — Cami’s brain raced and her pulse began to pound at the thought of seeing the beautiful woman again.

As she approached the door of the pub, she noticed a sign that read: Closed early — for a Private Party — Sorry for the inconvenience.

She closed down the pub for this?? Holy crap! Before she could open the door, it opened for her, as if by magic. She was face to face with an attractive woman in her mid-to-late twenties, dressed in black jeans, black shirt, and a tasteful tie. "Good evening. You must be Ms. Wells. I’m Cee, the new bartender here. Please come in."

Cami blinked at the elegant formality, but followed her into the pub just the same. "Uh…nice to meet you Cee. I’m…well…I guess you already know who I am." Cami finished sheepishly.

"Indeed. You are just as stunning as Ms. Jameson described." When Cami flushed pink at the compliment, Cee continued. "And just as adorably shy as she mentioned, too." Cee lightly chuckled to herself.

Cee locked the door behind Cami and led the blonde into the pub. The room was very dark, much dimmer than usual, and was lit by the flicker of at least a hundred little white candles placed variously about the room. It looks like fairyland, she thought in wonderment.

"Please have a seat, Ms. Wells. Ms. Jameson will be with you in just a moment. May I get you something to drink?" Cee politely inquired.

"Uh…I’ll have a…" She had started to order her usual pint of Harp, when she was suddenly struck by the elegance of the evening and changed her mind. "I’ll have a glass of Cabernet." She decided with another glance around the pub. Except for Cee, the only other person in the room was Tommy, who was currently standing behind the bar, dressed in a nice, charcoal gray suit and tie. What on earth? Where is the ‘party’? Where is T.J.?

"Any particular vintage in mind?" Cee asked politely.

"Whatever you suggest." Cami shrugged.

"Well, we currently have an excellent ’97 from Stag’s Leap." Cee offered, and at Cami’s nod of assent, she turned and headed for the bar.

"Thank you, Cee." She called after her, and saw the dark-haired woman gesture to Tommy. The lanky bartender knocked softly on the door of the office and then he and Cee disappeared discreetly into the kitchen.

After a breathless moment of anticipation for Cami, the door to T.J.’s office opened and the dark woman entered the room, looking more exotic and beautiful than Cami remembered. Get a grip, Wells. It has only been a week.

The publican walked with a very slight limp, the only real testimony to her recent injury, and was dressed in an elegantly cut black suit, and a royal blue blouse that made the color of her eyes even more startling.

She crossed the room and Cami stood to greet her. "Welcome home, darlin’. Ya look gorgeous." T.J. appraised the smaller woman with a sexy smile.

Cami walked happily into the loving embrace. "And you…you take my breath away…God I missed you, T.J." The dark head bent and gave her a soul-searing kiss.

"I missed ya too, love." She softly replied.

Cami looked around the empty pub. "So, Ms. Jameson…what’s with all of this then? Not that I don’t think it is lovely…"

T.J.’s voice was huskier than usual, testimony to her over-charged emotions. "I wanted ta give ya a welcome home party."

"Oh, sweetheart. You didn’t have to do this. Just seeing you is ‘welcome home’ enough for me." Cami grinned and kissed the barkeep again.

They broke apart when they heard footsteps from the kitchen. Cee was returning with the bottle of wine and two glasses, followed closely by Tommy, who delivered a plate of delicately arranged cheeses, crackers, and fruit.

T.J. gestured to the table. "Shall we, Ms. Wells?"

It occurred to Cami that she was desperately hungry, but the thought of food had been supplanted by her incredible eagerness to see her lover again. However, Cami obediently sat down at the table when T.J. gallantly pulled out her chair for her. "Thank you, madam." Cami teased.

Taylor sat opposite the photographer and began to ask her questions about her road trip, while Cee and Tommy unobtrusively brought each successive course of their meal. The appetizers were followed by a tasty, leafy green salad.

The women savored every bite, and especially took their time enjoying the main course: filet mignon covered in T.J.’s own special creation of a whiskey-peppercorn sauce, along with baked potatoes smothered in everything. Cami devoured her food with her fork and her lover with her eyes. Damn, how is it possible that she got even more gorgeous in a week?

Cami regaled Taylor with stories about the ceremonies for Tony, as well as the other boisterous players who never gave up trying to flirt with the small photographer. "One guy in St. Louis even went so far as to have a hot dog and coke delivered to me in the press-photographers’ well during the game with a note attached that said, ‘Drinks. 11 p.m. in the hotel bar. I’ll be the one in the baseball hat’." The two women chuckled over the antics, but T.J. narrowed her eyes a bit, suddenly struck by a twinge of jealousy.

"Hmmm…guess it is a good thing I’ll be going with ya on the next trip, huh?" She almost growled at the thought of the barely-past-adolescent boys leering at her adorable lover.

"So, you still want to go? Great! We head out to Florida the week after next, and then to Arizona…should be fun!" Cami’s face was plastered with a child-like glee at the thought and her eyes sparkled with delight. Baseball, taking pictures of Tony, and T.J. in a

bikini — damn…can life get any better than this? Her rhetorical question was about to be answered.

In her reverie, Cami had missed the subtle signal that Taylor had sent to Cee, who with a nod to her employer had inconspicuously made her way to the pub’s sound system, before quietly disappearing again.

The silence of the pub was suddenly broken by the sweet violin strain of one of the Coors’ popular songs. Cami recognized it and looked questioningly at T.J.

The barkeep pushed back from the table and stood. "May I have this dance, Ms. Wells?" She inquired with a charming smile and an outstretched hand.

"Always." Camryn confidently replied, placing her small hand into Taylor’s waiting one.

As they danced together gently, in deference to T.J.’s still aching leg, the barkeep began to softly sing the words of the song into Cami’s flushed pink ear.

…tell me you feel it too, and I would run away — I would run away with you…’cause

I have fallen in love…with you…I’m never gonna stop fallin’ in love with you.

Cami grinned up at the dazzling smile she saw above her and tears shone in her eyes as she replied. "Oh, T.J. I love you too, sweetheart. Believe me, though, you don’t want to hear me sing about it." That earned her a chuckle from the taller woman.

Close the door, lay down upon the floor, and by candlelight — make love to me

through the night…

Cami couldn’t take it anymore - it felt like her skin was over-sensitive. Between the beauty of the candles, the sweet words and melody of the song, the velvet of T.J.’s voice, and the intensity of the prolonged absence from her lover, Cami pleaded with the dark woman in a husky voice: "Take me home, T.J. Please!"

T.J. cupped her cheek in one soft, strong hand. "Oh, darlin’. I wish I could…"

Cami looked surprised at the regret in T.J.’s voice. What? What’s the matter? But then the truth dawned on Cami and she began to laugh, breaking the intensity of moment. "Oh damn, I forgot. You don’t have a home to take me to." T.J.’s condo had been virtually destroyed by the Reynoso’s firebomb.

T.J. laughed too, glad that Cami had caught on to her joke.

"Well, there is always my home." Cami offered. "By the way, did you enjoy staying with Jake?" T.J.’s cousin had felt so bad about her getting shot, that he had insisted she stay with him for a few days, until she was able to get up and around on her own.

"He is a lousy cook, let me tell ya." T.J. hugged Cami tight.

"Well, I can’t promise that I’m much better. But…if you…that is…if you want…" Cami took a deep breath and just decided to let it all out in a rush. "T.J. will you move in with me?" There. That wasn’t so hard was it? But when the barkeep took a second to answer, Cami rambled on. "I mean, your condo probably isn’t fit to live in and I have that big house and all and I …mmmph…" Cami was silenced by a deep kiss.

T.J. answered when they finally broke apart. "Darlin’, of course I’ll move in. As long as you are sure you will have me?" She stroked her fingers down Cami’s soft neck and toyed with the silk of the photographer’s blouse.

Cami joyfully smiled. "Am I sure? T.J…. do Irishmen drink whiskey?"

"Well…only the real ones." The two women laughed and then lost themselves in a slow, passionate kiss.

"Cam…I…I wanted ta thank ya." T.J. managed to whisper.

"Thank me? What for?" Cami’s brow knit in puzzlement.

"For…for seeing past my sometimes rough exterior ta what is buried inside…for that sweet little smile and sexy laugh of yours that gives me goose bumps…" T.J.’s hands smoothed over Cami’s back, as she leaned her forehead on the top of Cami’s head, and choked back the emotion. "For making it so damned easy ta trust my heart…and for…well…for holding up a mirror ta my soul — making me see that my first step towards forgiveness had ta come from within." T.J. barely finished her discourse, with a rough, deep voice.

Cami was momentarily speechless; so she just held on to T.J.’s strong, broad shoulders for a moment as they continued to sway to the music.

Finally, Cami’s brain began functioning properly again. "You…you’re welcome, sweetheart. But you don’t have to thank me for loving you…I’m not sure I could have stopped myself from falling for you — rather like trying to stop the tide from creeping onto the shore." Cami’s eyes crinkled with a genuine smile.

"And I…I think I’ve loved ya my whole life — before I knew ya even." T.J. gave Cami a squeeze, her hands continuing their exploration of the blonde’s body. "Sounds crazy, I know…but…" T.J. shook her head. "Sometimes I think love defies explanation - words aren’t nearly enough."

The sweet song that had been playing faded into the night, but the women failed to notice. Instead, they were lost in each other — the wonder and joy of being together, being in love.

"Sweetheart, let’s go home." Cami insisted when the sexual tension between them became nearly unbearable.

"Ok, darlin’. Whatever you say." The two women began to leave the pub, arm in arm. "But will you drive?" T.J. asked.

"Sure. But I’ve got this damned rental car…" Cami muttered as she reached the pub door, fishing for her car keys in the pocket of her slacks.

Taylor stopped her arm. "No. Try these." T.J. grinned and reached into her jacket, pulling out a car key wrapped with a red ribbon.

"What? T.J.? What did you…?" But by that time the barkeep had opened the front door of the pub. While they had been dining, she had Tommy drive the new car to the front door so it was now sitting directly in front of them - a bright red ribbon wrapped around the hood.

The brand new, shiny black Jeep Wrangler was gorgeous — fully loaded with a soft top, just as Cami liked it. T.J. even had the dealer install a special padded lock box in the back for Cami’s camera equipment.

"T.J.! Ohmygod! I can’t…You shouldn’t have…I…" Cami stammered.

T.J. just shrugged. "I figured it was partly my fault you were without a car, because the Reynosos trashed your last Jeep. Besides, I think it is an unfair trade."

"Trade? What do you mean?"

"You get the car, but I got a house." T.J. grinned, waggling her eyebrows.

Cami turned and pressed the taller woman against the door of the Jeep, leaning in until they were nearly nose-to-nose. "And we both got each other. Now that’s a deal."

T.J. smiled, lifting a soft palm to Cami’s cheek. "My anam cara…It’s about damned time ya showed up in my life!"

Cami smirked. "See…that must have been our trouble…why we couldn’t find each other for so long— I don’t speak Gaelic."

The two women burst into laughter before their eyes locked and T.J. bent her dark head to crush Cami in an eternal kiss.

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