Cami's house was gorgeous, a strong reflection of its petite owner. Taylor stared at the framed copies of a Renoir, Van Gogh, and Kinkade. Eclectic taste in art.
She also noted a few large, framed photographs of various exotic locales, that obviously were Camryn's own work. T.J. recognized Rio, London, and a castle that might be from Austria or Germany. But the large black and white of an older woman really caught Taylor's eye. The camera had captured the most intriguing expression on her weathered face - as if she knew something everyone else didn't, long years of living had divulged life's mysteries. Fascinating. Taylor could see how Cami had become famous for her photography. They weren't just pictures, they were a 400 page novel in one shot.
The furnishings were mostly antique, in darker woods and brass, with elegant throw rugs on a highly polished hard wood floor. Two overstuffed couches faced each other over a well-used coffee table, and a plush chair in the corner near the window practically invited you to curl up in it and read a book on a rainy day. It was warm, and cozy. And it feels like a home.
Taylor felt a stab of envy, as she wandered into the next room, lightly tinkling the ice in her glass of iced tea. In the bright sitting room she caught sight of a few framed pictures on top of the old upright piano.
A happy shot of Camryn, Vicki, and a small, red-headed woman Taylor didn't know, all in their graduation caps and gowns. Another showed a young Camryn laughing up at an older couple who held her firmly and lovingly between them. The woman in this picture was a younger version of the intriguing face from the large black and white. Too old to be her parents. Grandparents maybe? The affection between the three of them was obvious and Taylor found it curious that the adult Camryn had lost a touch of that joyful smile, and her eyes now held . . .What?
It wasn't grief, but something more shuttered, as though she had sealed her soul up tight and wasn't letting it show so brightly from those expressive moss colored eyes.
And just who hurt ya Cami, to make ya shut down like that?
Then T.J. mentally slapped herself. Aye and yer a fine one ta ask that, my dear. Talk about pots and kettles.
Camryn came into the room and leaned in the door frame as she spotted Taylor peering at her family photos on the piano. She was struck by the innate grace of T.J.'s movements, she was sleek and moved like a large jungle cat. Now there's an image. Camryn smile to herself before commenting quietly, "That's my family."
Taylor turned around and offered a shy smile, feeling like a kid with her hand in the cookie jar. "Sorry. I was just . . ." Snooping around your house?
Camryn didn't usually have clients to her house to look at proofs. She had a large studio and office downtown for that. But she had decided, much to her bemusement, that she genuinely liked the dark-haired woman. Enigma she may be - Cami figured that T.J.'s contradictions just added mystery and charm to the whole package. So it seemed natural to invite her to her home on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
"No, no problem. I'm sorry I took so long putting together the proofs." She had left the dark-haired woman in the living room while she gathered up the contact sheets, and apparently T.J. had gotten bored.
"Naw, I should 'na have been poking around. 'Tis rude, my ma would say."
Camryn smiled, enjoying the melody of Taylor's accent. "You weren't being rude. That's why I put the pictures up, for people to look at them. Besides, we're friends, right?" The photographer gestured to the couch and started to spread out the proofs in front of her on the coffee table.
Her tone was so bright and breezy that it made T.J. smile. She wasn't asking if they were friends, just stating a fact. The acceptance made a warm curl in her stomach as she joined Cami on the sofa, placing her glass on the nearby marble coaster.
The pictures were, of course, perfect. Taylor was almost a bit disappointed that they all came out so good. She was sort of hoping that Cami would have a reason to come back to the pub soon. During the week that had passed since they had dinner, T.J. was shocked to discover just how much she missed the younger woman's bright presence.
"Sure and they're great Camry -" she caught herself. "Cami. Didn't know the old place could look so bright and happy!"
A smile in response. "It's a cheerful kind of place. I meant to tell you that before. It is really a great spot to hang out and feel well . . .at home almost. Does that make sense?"
And suddenly it did make sense to Taylor. She avoided that permanence in her personal life, but in her business she poured her soul - found her home. She leaned forward and took a long pull on her iced tea to cover her personal revelation before answering.
"Thanks. I was a wee one the last time I saw my Gran's pub in Galway, but what I really remember of the place was the feeling ya got when ya went there. It was like bein' in the livin' room of yer best friend's house. Ya know, the friend ya have known for years? The place where ya felt like ya could help yerself to what was in the icebox and put yer feet on the furniture if ya'd a mind to."
The photographer digested the image and gave T.J. a sweet smile. "What a great picture you paint. Yes, that's exactly it. That's what your place feels like. Not home, but the next best thing."
A flash of white teeth. "Aye. And the sounds and the smells, well, they are all just part of the whole picture." She picked up one particularly lively shot of a table of laughing customers. "And that's what ya captured here as well. Bloody marvelous."
Blue met green and the women paused for a moment. Taking time to enjoy the mutual admiration of each other's talents, and passing another quiet smile between them.
Camryn was the first to break the reverie. "So, T.J. " she gestured to the stairs, "would you like the nickel tour?"
The tall woman readily agreed, and openly admired the grand old house. Upstairs were four bedrooms, one of which had been converted into an office space, and two large baths. The master bathroom sported a huge claw-footed tub and free-standing sink, although both modern, they were still designed to look as though they were straight from the early 1900's.
Camryn's room held an enormous dark wood four-poster bed, with a handmade quilt in hunter green and burgundy.
"Sure and a little thing like you must get swallowed up in such a monster as that!" T.J. teased, indicating the bed with a nod of her dark head.
"Oh, well, I only got lost once, and since then I just use bread crumbs."
"Bread - ?" The dark brows knit in puzzlement before she began to laugh. "Aye, like in the fairy story with the two kids and the old witch."
"Nice quilt. Windmill pattern, if I'm not mistaken."
Green eyes glanced swiftly up in shock, trying not to let her mouth gape open. "You know quilt patterns?"
"I have many skills," she replied enigmatically and offered a lazy, self-satisfied smile.
Camryn measured her silently for a moment. "You really are full of surprises, aren't you?" When Taylor just shrugged, the blonde continued. "My Gram made this one, and I have another one in that trunk over there that was made by my great-grandmother."
"My Gram quilted as well. Mine's the flying geese pattern." She idly reached a strong hand down and admired the handi-craft. "Yer Gram did nice work on this one."
Cami came and stood beside her, so close that she could smell the distinctive soap that T.J. used. "She was a talented woman." Spoken with a softness to her voice that had Taylor glancing over at the younger woman, who was lovingly stroking the pattern on the material.
"And ya miss her. She was the one in those pictures downstairs?"
"Yes." The lump in her throat was hard to swallow, and her misty green eyes filled with emotion.
"Has it been long?"
"No, um . . .she . . .um . . . about two months or so. I - she raised me, was like a mother..." Her voice trailed off and unbidden tears began to flow freely down her smooth face.
Before T.J. could think about it, a long finger gently reached up a brushed the tear from the blonde's cheek. The gesture was sweet and incredibly intimate. It was given freely, comfort from one friend to another.
Cami ducked her head, trying not to show her embarrassment at crying in front of her new friend. Nor just how much she wanted to feel those long arms wrap around her and hold her close - tell her everything was going to be fine. The simple touch of those fingers on the blonde's wet cheek had nearly undone her, and she spent a moment collecting herself, while T.J. quietly waited.
Gathering the courage to look up and meet her deep blue gaze, Cami was pleased to see compassion written on T.J.'s face instead of . . .What? What did you think, you moron? She's just being a good friend. Did you think she'd be pissed or something?
"Sorry. I sort of... um . . ."
Although Taylor ached to hold the younger woman, she resisted. Finally conceding the need for her touch by taking a small hand in her own.
"Shhh.....ya never have ta apologize fer showin' yer human. 'Tis in our nature to grieve." A strong thumb absently chafed the back of Cami's trembling hand.
In a voice husky with tears, Cami inquired, "You sound as if you know."
"All too well." The finality in her tone kept Cami from asking the next question that fluttered to her lips. She opted for a quick squeeze of the larger hand instead.
Blue and green gazes swirled with conflicting emotions - compassion and friendship, sorrow and grief. In that timeless moment, a connection was forged. Or re-forged?
Each woman privately wondered how it was possible to feel so much for someone they had just met. It was ridiculous if you really stopped and thought about it. So they tacitly agreed not to.
As she felt the incredible softness of the skin beneath her fingers, T.J. became very aware that she was holding Cami's hand and they were standing inches from a giant, comfy looking bed. The intensity of the moment stole her breath and she gulped in a lung-full of air to clear her head.
Camryn, too, was fighting the power of the bond she felt between them. How absurd - I've known her what? Two weeks?
So, ignoring the truth that lay buried in her heart, she listened to her cowardly head instead.
"Thanks. It's just still kinda raw, I guess." Taking a deep breath she gestured to the set of French doors. "Want to step out on the balcony for some fresh air? It's a nice view."
T.J. obediently followed the smaller woman, and had to admit, that the view was lovely. The harbor and the skyline were stretched out before her in all of their tourist-pleasing glory.
Chatting about San Diego's naval history gave each of the women the much needed time to step back from the force of emotions they had felt. Neither cared to examine the feelings too carefully, and as a result, neither mentioned the moment again.
Camryn pointed out the Coronado Ferry, gave T.J. a run-down on the names of the aircraft carriers, and smiled as the dark-haired woman nearly dropped her jaw at the ancient Star of India.
"You've lived here how long and you haven't seen the Star? She's one of the few remaining tall ships. There are some reproductions around, but the Star's the real thing. They sail her around the harbor every Fourth of July."
"Well, I think it would be a grand adventure ta sail on her." T.J. mused, wondering why she suddenly felt like a sail on such a ship would be a wonderful idea. And why I feel like I've been on one before?? That's odd. ****************************
The sun was setting, leaving the sky burnished with copper and pink, as T.J. walked down the driveway, turning around to walk backwards before she reached her car in order to compliment the photographer on her lovely home.
Cami wandered aimlessly through the house, feeling the tall woman's absence. A sleek black cat followed her into the bedroom, yawning and stretching from her afternoon nap on the windowsill. Cami absently scratched behind her ears. "Hi, Diva. Where have you been all afternoon?" The cat looked at her noncommittally. Diva had belonged to Camryn's grandmother, but when the older woman fell sick, she and her human moved in to this nice house with plenty of room to roam around and lay in the sunshine. Now her human was gone and Diva turned to the small blonde woman for the occasional tummy rub and, of course, food. Cami hugged Diva close as she hopped on the bed, burying her face in the soft black fur and fighting back the tears that came unbidden into her eyes.
The tears were surely of grief, what else could they be? Cami asked herself. However, as thoughts of Grams were strangely joined by thoughts of a haunting pair of blue eyes, Cami closed her eyes in resignation. God. Did she feel that too? ************************************************************* Chapter Seven
Taylor decided that she must be the only human being in the world that hates Sunday afternoons. Most people loved the day, especially living here in what the travel magazines dubbed "America's Finest City": plenty of sunshine, plenty to do, and a whole lazy day to do it in.
But not Taylor. Running a bar kept her at work late on Saturday nights, which meant she should have enjoyed the day to sleep and relax. She just wasn't the relaxing kind of person. At least on Saturday afternoons, you could anticipate the crowded, noisy evening ahead at the pub. But Sunday?
She never saw herself as being a lonely person, until those indolent afternoons with nothing to do and no one to do it with. Those were the days that her fierce streak of independence disappeared, to be replaced by that quiet, inner voice that mocked her solitude.
So she was both amused and mystified as to why she had said yes to Cami's charming offer for today. She had been woken up a short while ago by the cheerful blonde's phone call.
"Good morning, T.J., it's ....um....this is Camryn."
"Aye. 'Tis morning?" Taylor had clearly just woken up.
Camryn smiled. "That's usually what that bright, hot glowing thing in the sky means." The photographer's voice carried the slightly husky sound of having just recently woken up herself.
"Oh, aye? Here I thought that was just an elaborate device used for creating sunsets." She responded drolly.
A chuckle from the other end, "Well, that too. Listen, sorry to bother you at home. . ."
Taylor sat up in bed a little, curiosity now getting the better of her usual grumpy morning persona. "No, 'tis no bother at all, Cami."
"I meant to ask you when you were over yesterday, but...um....I have this photo shoot to do today, and well. . ." the blonde suddenly felt rather shy. After all, while it was true they were acquaintances, they were hardly close enough friends to call each other at home just to chat. Yet, anyway. But if the intense flood of emotion that surged between them at Camryn's house yesterday was any indication....... For some strange reason, Cami felt like she and T.J. would be great friends, if only she could get the prickly woman to open up a little. While she usually took Vicki or Jo to ball games with her, this morning inviting T.J. had seemed like a good idea. After all, she was relatively new to the area, and might enjoy seeing American Baseball. Besides, if the truth be told, Cami rather enjoyed the enigmatic woman's company, feeling that she always left with more questions than answers about her new friend.
Taylor was patiently waiting on the other end of the line.
"I was wondering if you liked baseball," came the blonde's tentative question.
Taylor paused before answering, a bit puzzled by what seemed like a non sequitur. "Baseball? 'Tis a sport here, aye?"
"Yup. The one where guys swing wooden bats and chase around a little white ball.... Anyway, I'm doing a job for our local pro team before their game today and I was wondering if you'd want to go." Camryn hurried on, hoping that Taylor's silence meant she was curious. "I ...um....I have to shoot the team picture, but then they always give me great V.I.P seats to stay for the game. So I figured, you might not have ever been, and I have this extra ticket . . ."
Before she could continue her adorable invitation, Taylor responded. "Aye, sure. I'd like to go. Sounds interestin'."
It does?? Taylor was rather surprised at herself. It sounded like her voice, but she didn't remember consulting her brain before she answered.
So an hour later, she was zipping down Interstate 5 towards Camryn's house. She had the top down on her convertible, and the combination of the picture perfect day and the wind whipping her hair around made her grin foolishly behind her dark Ray-Bans.
While it was true that she had never been to a baseball game, she wasn't entirely sure that her curiosity about the sport was the whole reason that she had said yes. Face it old girl, you like Camryn's company. What's wrong with that?
Indeed, Tommy was the closest thing Taylor had to a friend, and he was her employee. She knew that her lack of companions had nothing to do with her relocating - she didn't have many back in Ireland either. No, when Taylor was truthful with herself, she just wasn't an easy person to be around - she didn't make it simple for people to get close. Her sometimes abrasive, always stubborn and self-reliant attitude had served her well in her dark, violent past. A friend was a liability, someone who could betray, or worse, become a target for your enemies.
But here in California?....She no longer had the excuse of keeping people at arm's length for their own protection. Here..... she grinned again at the careful, even tenuous hand of friendship that the petite photographer was extending. No, when she was downright honest with herself, watching a baseball game was the least of the reason that she had agreed to the invitation.
White teeth flashed in a wider grin.
It was a glorious, sunny Sunday afternoon, and for the first time since arriving in San Diego, Taylor Jameson wasn't going to spend it alone. ********************************
"Wow! Nice car!!" A low whistle punctuated the photographer's statement as she ran her hand down the leather interior of the door.
Taylor smiled in acknowledgment. Her sleek, black BMW Z3 had been one of her few indulgences when she arrived in Southern California. "Aye. Ya can't live where the sun shines year round and not own a convertible." She piloted the two-seater, rag-top towards the stadium.
Enjoying the feel of the warm breeze blowing past her face and the sun streaming down on her mostly bare shoulders, Camryn studied the vehicle in question. "Isn't this the car James Bond drove in that last movie?" Her pert nose wrinkled as she squinted against the sun and began digging through her backpack to find her sunglasses.
A soft chuckle. "Not sure. Is it?" Pulling to a stoplight she glanced over at the blonde next to her. "Didn't figure you for a James Bond fan though."
"Hey - what's not to like? Fast cars, pretty people, international espionage, and plenty of explosions." Having rescued her dark glasses from the disarray of her pack, the photographer plopped them firmly on her nose.
"So who's your favorite Bond guy?"
"Oh, please! Do you need to ask?? Connery, of course! Although I think Brosnan is doing a great job too." Camryn glanced over and offered a dazzling smile to the tall woman driving the Bond-mobile.
Taylor's brain registered again just how cute her new friend was. Today she was dressed in cut off denim shorts and a white tank top that showed well-defined shoulders and arms. On her head she sported a baseball cap that was emblazoned with a tiny embroidered chubby monk swinging a baseball bat.
Giving in to an odd impulse, Taylor reached forward and wiggled the brim of the blonde's ball cap. "Who's the little chap on your hat, then?"
Green eyes swept upwards as if she could see the crown of the hat without taking it off. "Little....." Then she realized what Taylor meant. "Oh! That's the 'swinging friar.' He's the team mascot."
"Are ya a big fan then? I mean, wearing the mascot and all...."
"Sure. Although I don't get to as many games as I'd like." She readjusted the brim of her cap. "I was raised going to games with my grandparents. Grampa was a really big fan, and it was a great family outing. Every Sunday you could find us watching the game, stuffing our faces with hot dogs, while Grampa shouted out to the umpires to get glasses or an eye exam."
The last part of Camryn's description made no sense to Taylor, but she was too caught up in the enthusiasm evident in the smaller woman's demeanor to pay much attention. It was obvious to Taylor that Cami had a lovely childhood with her grandparents. And just as obvious that she missed the loving parental figures.
Taylor pulled the BMW into the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium and was directed by Camryn towards the media parking lot. The general parking lot was already beginning to fill with tail-gaters and people arriving early to watch batting practice.
Camryn tried to object when Taylor shouldered the large camera bag, but the taller woman won out claiming that since she was along for free, the least she could do was make herself useful.
They passed by the guard at the inner gate with a flash of Camryn's Press credentials and took an elevator to the depths of huge cement edifice. Taylor glanced at the various signs pointing to training rooms and offices, as well as colorful murals depicting various players in action. Camryn had been the photographer for the team for the past few years, so she found her way through the underground maze of rooms and passages quite easily. As they passed from a cool, dark tunnel into the bright summer sunlight, the two women found themselves standing on the field.
Taylor's jaw dropped as she turned a slow circle, taking in the enormity of the stadium. "Bloody gigantic." She said in quiet wonderment.
The photographer chuckled and reached for her equipment bag. "It looks bigger from down here on the field. I'm not sure why. But....," she smiled at Taylor's awe-struck expression, "if it makes you feel any better, that was my first reaction to being down here too." The stands were still empty save for vendors and security, but T.J. could imagine the roar of 60,000 people and gave a small shudder at the thought of having so many people watching you all at once. Talk about nerve wrackin'.
Quickly recovering her usual cool, collected appearance, Taylor crossed long arms and leaned casually against the wall of the dugout. "Looks smaller on the telly."
"Oh, so you've seen baseball?" Gotcha. Thought you'd never been before.
"Aye. They sometimes had the World Series on the t.v. in the pub I used ta hang out in. But I canna say that I know how the game is really played, nor have I seen it in person."
They were interrupted by an efficient looking woman wearing a polo shirt with the team logo neatly stitched on it, who took the two visitors out towards the right field wall where the photo would be shot. Several players were sprawled in the grass, stretching and tossing a ball lazily about, and quite a few of them keenly observed the striking pair of women in their midst.
Although Taylor had seen Camryn work before on several occasions, she was still struck by the change that came over the younger woman when she put a camera in her hands. Camryn twisted the bill of her cap backwards to get it out of her way and tucked her sunglasses into the neckline of her tank top. With an ease born of long habit she deftly set up her equipment, shading her eyes and squinting into the sun to choose the correct angle, film and exposure.
Once she was set, the team was rounded up and put in position by sharp, green eyes that seemed to be lit by an inner joy as she laughed and joked with the men. It was clear to anyone who paid attention that she loved her work.
Taylor, of course, was paying attention.
So were many of the playful team members. Some of the veterans of seasons past called out personal greetings to Camryn, and some of the braver souls shot appreciative looks at her tall, sexy companion.
"Hey, Camryn! Good to see you!" The famous right fielder smiled.
"Hi Tony! Looking good this year!" She crinkled her face into a grin for her favorite player.
"Be careful you don't break your camera on these ugly faces!" A round of self-deprecating laughter.
Another voice piped up. "Who's your assistant?" Accompanied by several wolf whistles.
"Yeah, take a picture of that!" Another round of laughter.
Camryn turned to see what the men were pointing at and grinned at Taylor who was now calmly perched nearby in the outfield grass. The sun gleamed off of her dark, free-flowing hair, which slightly ruffled in the afternoon breeze, and her long, partially bare legs were stretched out in front of her as she leaned back on her hands. Dressed in navy blue shorts and a sleeveless button-up, white shirt, Cami had to admit that Taylor did make quite a picture. God, she really is just drop-dead gorgeous. The most amazing thing to Camryn was that her friend didn't even seem to be aware of her appeal. That's part of the charm. Complete lack of self-consciousness. Her appearance made you look twice, and her astounding self-confidence made you look yet again. Stunning.
With an impish grin, the photographer twisted the camera quickly on its tripod and snapped a few pictures of Taylor, much to the delight of the team. Through the camera lens Camryn saw the perfectly shaped black brow raise into her hairline and knew she'd been caught. Whoops!
Taylor reached up slowly and pulled her sunglasses down on her nose until she was peering over the top of the lenses. Pinned by those impossibly blue eyes, Camryn's breath caught in her throat. Then her heart stopped as Taylor's face creased into a lazy, sexy grin and she winked at the blond. With fingers that worked separate from her now non-functioning brain, the photographer clicked one more shot of the grinning Taylor, before turning quickly back to the whooping and laughing ball players, trying to calm the unbidden flush that painted her face. Whoa. Easy there, Cam.
She efficiently went back to work, using the good humor of the moment to snap a few lively, merry shots of the team.
When she was sure she had a usable shot, she waved at the men. "All finished guys! Go out there and kick some ass today!"
She was rewarded with shouts of agreement and joy from the team. Several lanky, very young players that Cami recognized as being rookies stopped by to smile and flirt with her. She indulged them for a few minutes before she caught their gazes shift from her face to over her shoulder.
Glancing back she realized they were scoping out Taylor who was now approaching the small cluster around the photographer. "Sorry to disappoint you guys, but she's already taken."
With murmured grumbles, they turned hopeful gazes at the blond. "What about you?"
Camryn stifled her laughter and with dry humor eased them down without damaging their egos. "Oh, sorry guys. I play for the Senior League and you rookies would be too much for an old veteran like me." She saw the young faces smile at her jest. "But I tell you what," they leaned in conspiratorially. "Go out there today and win, and I'll see if I can't get my friend to come to some more games with me to cheer you on. Can't hurt to know that two good-looking older babes are in the stands rooting just for you!" They laughed and agreed, offering the usual protests of liking women with "experience."
Tony came by and shooed the youngsters away before offering a smile to Cami. "Hey, saw that photo you did of the baby panda for the zoo. It looked really great! My daughter's been bugging me to take her down to the zoo now."
Cami peered up into his jolly, grinning face. "How about I send her a framed copy? Will that hold her off long enough for you guys to win the pennant? Then you can take her to the zoo in the off season."
A merry laugh. "Yeah, that just might work. Thanks! Oh, and sorry about those rookies before.....they've just got all those excess hormones flying around." He trotted off to the locker room, leaving a slightly star-struck Cami in his wake.
"Who was that?" Came the husky voice in her ear that made Camryn jump.
"Geez! You scared me!" Turning around to squint up at the taller woman.
"Sorry, dinna mean to. Thought you knew I was there." But by the mischievous glint in her eyes, Taylor gave away the fact that she had deliberately snuck up on the blond. She had been curious as to what her business was with the young players who looked barely old enough to be away from home, and the bloke that seemed to cause her friend to blush furiously.
"That was Tony - our right fielder. The guy is practically a god in this town." She smiled in adoration after the player in question. "Best contact hitter in the history of the game, and he's sure to be in the hall of fame once he retires."
"Oh, I see." But Taylor really didn't. She had no clue what a right fielder was, or anything about the hall of fame, but it was obvious that her friend idolized the man.
"He's a great guy off the field too. Always working for charity and stuff."
"So, what did ya mean when ya told the chaps that 'I'm taken'?" Taylor inquired. Tired of watching the smaller woman squint up at her, Taylor absently reached down and plucked Cami's sunglasses from her shirt, settling them firmly on the blonde's face.
Camryn wrinkled her forehead in confusion. "Well, I didn't think your husband would think much of you bringing home a couple of boys for dinner." She smiled at the dark woman, but was clearly puzzled.
But not as perplexed as Taylor. "My....husband?"
"Yeah, your husband." She stated dryly. Uh oh. Maybe I . . .maybe they have . . .What the heck?? "Frank. I met him at your pub a few weeks ago. Listen, I'm sorry I didn't have an extra ticket today or you could have invited him."
Taylor gaped at the smaller woman and just blinked without saying a word.
Reaching up to touch her forehead, Camryn asked, "What? Do I have a big zit up there or . . .?"
The photographer nodded and quirked a half grin at her friend. Is she putting me on?
"My - husband?" The throaty voice held a dry tone of sarcasm.
After another nod of Cami's head, Taylor burst into laughter.
"Ok, listen here Madam Publican...." the dark head was doubled over now in deep, belly laughs. "Yeah, yeah....ha ha.....oh sure, tease the blonde girl. Just because I have blond hair, don't you dare underestimate....." but she stopped mid-sentence as Taylor stood upright again, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Oh, aye, I'm sorry. I dinna mean to be teasin' ya...." she gasped out, between chuckles. Camryn folded her arms across her chest in mock indignation, and spoiled the image by smirking at the laughing woman in front of her.
"Why would ya think Frank was my husband?"
Blond brows knit in consternation. "Is that a trick question? Um...well...duh... because he called himself that when I met him....and he called you 'love' and . . ." Now she trailed off, completely unsure of herself. She had just assumed. But come to think of it..... Green eyes shot swiftly to Taylor's left hand. No ring. "Wait a minute...."
The tall woman took pity on her. "Frank's my ex-husband," she offered. Gently laying a hand on Camryn's shoulder, she steered the photographer towards her equipment bag and began helping her quickly stow the camera away.
A swift blush of embarrassment. "Oh god! T.J., I am so sorry. I just figured...."
She was stopped as Taylor held up a hand in protest. "No, no harm at all. Of course you might think....I didn't even realize he said that to ya. We got an annulment a few months back." And were never truly married to begin with... She wanted to add, but stopped herself. This current bit of news was enough for her new friend to digest at the moment. No sense divulging the lurid details of her mercenary marriage of convenience to that jerk, Frank. No, not just yet, Taylor thought with a twinge of guilt. She was enjoying her new found friendship too much, and a part of her feared that if Camryn were to see even part of who she really was it would destroy the tenuous footing of their relationship.
"Oh, I see," Cami replied quietly. "I'm really sorry. That must be....well, at least I can understand why you called him a 'snake' that day." She offered a hesitant smile to Taylor and was pleased when the barkeep reached out a hand and twisted the bill of her cap back around to the front, lightly ruffling her hair in the process.
"Naw, 'twas nothin' so horrifying as that." Her tone clearly indicated that there was much more to the story. "No harm done."
Cami was once again reluctant to push too hard, so she opted for a little light-hearted humor instead, "Well, then I'm sorry that I told those players you were taken. You want me to go give them your phone number?" She took a few steps in the direction of the team dugout and swiftly ducked the playful swat that T.J. aimed her way.
"Aye, and what would I do with boys? They're probably too young to even get into my bar," cleverly she changed the subject, before her response could be scrutinized too carefully. "I think ya mentioned something about hot dogs, and men swatting at each other with wooden sticks??"
A snort. "No, no.....they swat the ball with the sticks....."
The two women strolled off to their seats, by way of the concession stand, as Cami continued to entertain her companion with the intricacies of the game. But privately Camryn couldn't figure out why she was suddenly so pleased to hear that Taylor wasn't married to Frank. Well, he didn't seem like her type anyway.... ************************************
Taylor hummed along to the sweet, Celtic strains of The Corrs, as the music wafted from the stereo into the twilight of a balmy summer evening
Camryn was curled up in the passenger seat of the car, her eyes closed as she seemed to doze off, since they had been sitting in the typical after game traffic for the past fifteen minutes. The older woman smiled at the sight, and reveled in the contentment she felt as her thoughts lazily drifted back over the day.
To her amazement she had a bloody marvelous time. The game was interesting, and Camryn had kept her entertained with a combination of rule explanation and colorful stories about the history of the sport. The blonde woman was a veritable encyclopedia of facts, figures and tales. And she was a great story teller, smoothly blending facts and embellishments, with wild gestures and an expressive face.
It had touched T.J. to see tears in Cami's expressive eyes at the playing of the National Anthem. A small, simple thing, yet it spoke volumes about her friend.
T.J. had stuffed herself with a variety of horrifying, yet delicious foods, ranging from hot dogs and cracker jacks, to fish tacos and her new personal favorite, churros: a tasty pastry covered in sugar and cinnamon.
Reaching up, she adjusted the cap she now wore on her dark head, and smiled thinking about the photographer insisting on getting the hat for her.
The late June sun had been beating down on the two women in their seats above the home team's dugout. "Uh, T.J.? You should put on some sunscreen or something. You're looking a little pink." It was true, the Irish woman's complexion was lightly golden and heading towards a tan, but due to her heritage she was susceptible to sunburns with too much exposure.
"Naw, I'll be fine," she stubbornly insisted.
With a half-smirk, Cami had gotten up without a word and returned some ten minutes later with the dark blue tweed baseball cap, embroidered with the white interlocking S and D that was the team logo. "It's your first ball game so you need to have at least one souvenir to commemorate the event," she explained. Plunking it down on her friend's head, Cami stepped back to scrutinize her. "There. Now you look all-American."
Well, at least she didn't get me one of those giant foam fingers. Taylor mused. She could just imagine what the chaps back home would have done with one of those.
A soft touch on her arm pulled her out the reverie, and she glanced over into sleepy, green eyes. "Hey. You're awake." She smiled gently. The traffic was clearing and the car was now headed down Friar's Road away from bright lights of the stadium.
"Ummmm...yeah....." Cami stretched a little. Cocking her head to the side to listen closer, she reached out and turned up the volume on the stereo. "Nice music," the photographer mused.
"Ya know The Corrs?" Taylor was a bit surprised as the band was Irish.
"Oh sure, we heathen Americans get all sorts of culture over here." Cami affected a Southern drawl that had T.J. laughing delightedly. "Yup. We uns know all sorts of good stuff like that there."
"Hmmm....culture, eh? This coming from the country that puts that annoyin' bloke, Jerry Springer, on the telly every afternoon."
A snort from the blonde. "Uh....yeah....well, someone once said that you should never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. Guess that applies to what we watch as well as what we buy." She glanced curiously at T.J. as she turned the car North on Interstate 5, the opposite direction from Cami's house.
"Are you kidnapping me?" she teased.
"Well...." the barkeep scratched her jaw thoughtfully. "Would ya bring a good ransom?" T.J.'s tone was light, yet for some strange reason it caused goosebumps to ripple down Cami's arms. It's as if she.....hmm...that's odd...
"No, 'fraid not. Nobody would rightly care I think...." then realizing how pathetic that sounded, she amended her statement. "Well, except Vicki and Jo."
"Uch, I won't be kidnapping you then.....the last thing I'd want is to have Vicki breathing down my neck. For some strange reason I get the idea she'd be worse than havin' the banshees chasin' ya." Cami smiled at the apt description of her stubborn, tenacious friend.
"Naw, I hope it's all right, but I thought we'd drop by the pub for a minute. I've got ta pick up some papers."
"Yeah, sounds great!"
"And I thought ya might want ta try that new Bailey's Chocolate Cheescake I just put on the menu."
Cami bolted upright. T.J. had her full attention now. "Oooh yum!!"
"That is if ya aren't too stuffed from all that junk ya kept feedin' us at the game," the barkeep teased, reaching over and patting Cami's stomach. "I'm ready ta explode, and you had an extra helping of nachos."
Capturing T.J.'s hand in both of her own, Cami squeezed the long fingers to make sure she had the tall woman's attention.
"T.J., be serious. There is always room for cheesecake." She looked over at the laughing driver and winked before letting go of T.J.'s hand.
Cami was pleased to see that even though the sun had set awhile ago, T.J. was still wearing the ball cap she had bought for her at the game. She had gotten it mostly to protect her friend from the sun, but she had to admit that the cap looked great on her. She grinned inwardly as she recalled the child-like pleasure on T.J.'s face when she handed her the hat. The photographer had helped the taller woman pull her hair back in a pony-tail and thread it through the back of the cap. The effect was lovely - she looked fresh and cool, and the hat had kept her from burning her face too badly.
In the twilight Cami noticed that a few stray tresses had escaped T.J.'s ponytail in the swirling breeze of the convertible. Giving in to a beguiling urge, Cami reached up to tuck the strands behind T.J.'s ear, delighting in the silky texture of her friend's hair.
That T.J. hadn't reacted was horribly astonishing to the barkeep. Any other person reaching for her head would have caused Taylor to jump, lash out, and likely the person would have ended up with a broken finger or two. But she was completely unaware of the impending gesture until she felt affectionate fingers brushing her hair back. Two years off the streets and you're losing your touch, Taylor. Or is it the company? Face it, as odd as that is, you're comfortable around the kid.
She glanced swiftly at the younger woman next to her, wondering about the innocent gesture, and was disarmed by the sweet smile on the photographer's face. "Sorry, you had some hair loose there."
"No, um...." she cleared her throat a bit, calming her suddenly quickened pulse. "Thanks."
"You've got great hair, by the way. I meant to tell you that earlier when I helped you with your pony-tail."
The dim light of the dash board hid the faint blush that crept up T.J.'s cheeks. "Umm. Thank ya." She reached over and ruffled the short, blond hair next to her. "But I think yours is probably much easier to handle - and it looks really cute on you."
That got her a rueful smile from the photographer. "Uch. No, mine's got a really fine texture, which is why I wear it so short. Well, that and the fact that I save a lot on shampoo."
T.J. chuckled. "Oh, aye. That giant shampoo bill every month can be a killer," she supplied drolly, causing Cami to laugh.
The BMW eased into the parking lot of the pub and two women got out of the low slung automobile, and strolled towards the pub, still chuckling at T.J.'s image of ten gallon drums of shampoo. Cami glanced up at the merrily lit sign over the door. "So, why is your place called C.J.'s if you are T.J?"
The good humor drained from Taylor's face and she lightly clenched her jaw.
"I ...um...well it...." She sighed. The truth is always the best, Taylor. Just spit it out. Besides, she didn't have to give Camryn all of the details. Not just yet. But looking down at the open, friendly face she knew that it was just a matter of time before the photographer began to break down all of T.J.'s walls. The blonde had already sweetly, yet persistently begun doing just that.
"C.J. stands for Colin Jameson. My younger brother."
"Oh," the two women were nearly in the pub now. "You have a brother? How cool! Has he come over here to see the place?"
The jaw worked again. "No," she began flatly. "He's dead." *************************************
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