Life's Little Edge

Roselle Graskey

Disclaimers: This is an original work of fiction. It’s really not an Uber. This is my first foray on the web, so be kind if you can. Feel free to check out my website for my book October Echoes which is published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing. I’m not that good so please no copying this without my permission.

Subtext: Are you kidding? Of course there’s subtext and yes there’s sex involved. So if you live where two women aren’t allowed that sort of thing move on and I suggest moving toward a more enlightened state. If you are not of legal age, don’t force me to go to jail…just move along and wait till you’re of age.

Violence: Yes, nothing too graphic or bloody. A fistfight or two and the normal ‘went to war’ violence. There is mention of child abuse again nothing graphic.

Feedback: Only if you feel like it. If you have something to share I would love to hear it, but if you’re going to try and flame me or just feel like bashing be warned it’ll just get tossed in the bin. You can reach me at or you can check out my website:

Thanks to Carrie Carr and the gang on Carries e-group. It’s their fault so yell at them, I am totally innocent. Thank you Packer for doing the beta on this scary thing. Have I mentioned that I hate, just hate editing.

This one is for my girl. I love you best.





She came awake slowly. Eyes blinking against the overhead light. She shifted a little and suddenly became aware that she was in a real bed, not in the seat of her HUMMV or on the hard nylon of an army issue cot. The almost forgotten comfort only served to confuse her a little more.

"Oh good, you’re awake." A woman’s voice off to her right observed.

She turned her head slowly, wincing when a sore spot touched the pillow. She rested her sight on a somewhat blurry figure in a battle dress uniform, silver bars gleamed in the light. She watched the nurse walk closer, stethoscope looped around her neck. She tried to speak but found her mouth and throat too dry to make anything more than a slight groan. Suddenly a straw was offered to her lips.

"Go slowly. Don’t shock your system all at once," the nurse ordered gently.

She nodded carefully and did as ordered. Slow, wonderfully wet sips cleared away the cotton dry feeling in her mouth and throat. When she finished, the straw was pulled away then she relaxed into her pillow.

"You might want these." The nurse offered and carefully slipped a pair of prescription glasses in place. Instantly the world came into sharper focus.

The hospital room was like every other one she’d ever been in but this time, the nurse she thought was infinitely better looking. Auburn hair framed a face delicate enough to belong on a porcelain doll and eyes whose color reminded her of the green apples she used to pick at her aunts farm

"Thank you," she managed. "Ma’am."

The nurse chuckled. She could always count on the Army. "Good thing you remembered that, I’d hate to have to have you drawn and quartered," she said as she moved the blanket and slipped the stethoscope under the hospital issue gown. "Ssshh."

The patient in the bed endured the usual round of tests, breaking out into a sweat when she sat up slightly to allow the nurse to listen to her lungs from her back. She felt the edge of pain move to a slightly higher level. Warm hands helped guide her back to the bed when it was over. She lay there mostly exhausted. She heard the scratch of pen on paper as the results were recorded.

"Now we get to play a game," the nurse deadpanned as she flipped a page on the chart. She watched curious pale blue eyes stare back. "Do you remember your name?"

"Staff Sergeant Callan G. O’Malley, Ma’am," she answered with half a smile, suddenly aware of the tightness in her face.

"You’ve answered question two, so we’ll move on to three. What day is it?"

Callan thought trying to gauge how much time had passed since the lights had gone out. She refocused on the nurse. "The day I woke up from getting my ass handed to me, Ma’am?" She watched her nurse try hard to suppress a smile.

"I’ll give you that one."

"Excuse me Ma’am. What’s your name?" Callan asked in a soft voice.

"Lieutenant Rivers. What’s the G stand for?"

Callan frowned. "Grace."

"I take it you don’t like it." Rivers chuckled.

"Do I look like a Grace, Ma’am?" Callan asked as she tried to shift in bed.

"Not at the moment, no. President of the United States?" She read down the checklist.


"Godzilla or Mothra?" Lieutenant Rivers hid her smile.

Callan blinked twice. "Would that be on a rating of fighting skill or looks?" She countered.

This time Lieutenant Rivers let herself laugh. "Sergeant O’Malley I think you are suffering no ill effects from that knock on the head." She leaned forward a bit, clutching the file to her chest. "Kevlar’s are meant to keep your head intact. Next time wear your brain bucket. That’s an order."

Callan heard the heart monitor jump as her anxiety level went off the chart. In her mind she could hear the mine exploding under her vehicle and the shouts of near panic mixing with the distinct popping sound of gunfire.

"Sergeant O’Malley?" Lieutenant Rivers moved quickly to Callan’s side.

"My guys," her eyes searched Rivers’ face desperately. "Did they make it? Barnes was hit pretty bad."

"They made it." She assured. "Barnes and the rest are here and breathing. You need to calm down." Her voice took on a practiced soothing quality. "We don’t want you messing up the surgeon’s work."


"That would be Major Thompkins. He’s sort of like all the kings horses and all the kings men, only better." She smiled.

Callan winced against the pain. "Call me dumpty," she managed and took a slow steadying breath. "Jesus, how bad did I get hit?"

"Major Thompkins will explain it to you in a short while."

"Please Ma’am. I’d really like to know." Callan said honestly. "I won’t tell on you, I promise." She attempted a ghost of a smile.

"Okay," Rivers sighed and looked to the door, making sure the coast was clear. "In English, you have shrapnel wounds to your arms, legs and face. There is a back to front gunshot wound, just under your right shoulder blade that resulted in broken ribs and a collapsed lung. The new haircut is courtesy of an eight stitch concussion." She watched carefully as her patient processed the information. "You were transported off the field via evac to the medical facility in Turkey. Once stable enough, they flew you here to Ramstein. Sergeant O’Malley, you are a mess but the important thing is that you are going to make it, and you will recover."

Callan blinked a few times in response. Her eyes locked onto Lieutenant Rivers’. "I am never going to do Packard any more favors." She decided out loud and closed her eyes.

"How’s the pain?"

"Not too bad, Ma’am." Callan lied.

"Sergeant O’Malley, you are exactly like every other MP I have ever treated. I can still order you drawn and quartered, you know."

"Ma’am?" Callan’s eyes shot open.

"You will leave the macho bullshit at the door when I am around. You can admit it hurts, Sergeant. I won’t tell your buddies. I cannot treat your pain if I don’t know how bad it is. Am I coming in clear to you?"

"Crystal clear, Ma’am." Callan sighed.

"On a scale of one to ten." The irritated tone was replaced by one of concern.

"Right now five and a quarter, Ma’am."

Lieutenant Rivers arched an eyebrow. "Tell me Sergeant, do you always buck authority?" She asked as she placed the chart in its holder.

Callan smiled a bit. "Only when I think I can get away with it, Ma’am."

"I’ll make note of that. You get some rest. I’ll check with the doctor about getting you some more pain meds on board." She turned to leave.


Rivers turned back. "Yes?"

"Godzilla, but only on fighting skill."

"Sergeant, you are going to be trouble. I can tell."


Callan G. O’Malley woke from her dream quickly, but not startling. She automatically reached for her cigarette pack. Tucking the cigarette between her lips, she swung her legs off the bed and then slowly slipped the matchbook free from the cellophane wrapper. She took her time lighting up, wondering at the same time when the dreams would stop. She inhaled the smoke and closed her eyes.

When she opened them again she let out a stream of smoke and stood. The sounds of the prisoners at the county correctional facility reached her ears as she waited for the everyday normal chaos to begin. When she could no longer put off the inevitable, she crushed out her cigarette. Slowly, she shed her prison uniform and dressed in musty smelling jeans and a grey T- Shirt.

At least my socks are clean she thought as she pulled the thick white cotton onto her feet. Her black boots were next. She looked up when she heard the call for breakfast and cell doors unlocked electronically. A few minutes later, prisoners on her tier started passing by her locked door. Some wished her luck, others said nothing and there were, of course, some threats tossed her way. Vivid descriptions of what they would do to her if they got out. She ignored them. Finally they were gone and the only sounds she could hear were the footfalls of the guard coming to escort her.

"Open two twelve." A female voice boomed, echoing down the tier. The lock disengaged and the door slid open. "Two twelve step out."

Callan stepped out of the cell and onto the metal floor of the tier. She stood still not moving an inch. She waited until the uniformed guard inspected her cell. The guard making sure the cell was free of any personal items and had nothing that could be used as a weapon by the next occupant. Finally the guard joined Callan on the tier.

"Turn to you right and walk forward. You will proceed down the steps and follow the blue line. Do not stray from the blue line. Do you understand these instructions O’Malley?" The guard sounded almost bored.

Callan resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Yes Ma’am."

"Let’s go, I don’t have all day." She huffed.

Callan nodded and turned to her right. She walked forward and then down the metal steps. Together, guard and prisoner followed the blue line on the floor until they reached the release office. Callan wondered for a moment why they called it an office since it was a counter with a warehouse space attached.

She produced her prison ID and signed several slips of official looking paper. Once they were handed back, she waited for her personal items to be handed over to her. Another bored looking guard pushed a manila envelope in front of her. She ripped it open and let the contents fall onto the counter. She picked up her wallet and slipped it into her back pocket.

"You’re not going to count it?" The officer asked sounding every bit as confused as he looked.

Pale blue eyes locked onto him. "Did you steal it?" She asked as she fitted a stainless steel bracelet on her right wrist.

"Of course not."

"Then I don’t have to count it. If you can’t trust the cops…" She let the sentence die there as she wound her watch and gave up when she noticed the battery was apparently dead. Absently she signed the statement confirming that all was in order.

"Follow the blue line." She was ordered. She turned and again trailed the blue line to freedom. When they finally reached the metal door leading outside, she turned her ID over to the guard and signed out for the last time. She stepped out into the sunlight.

Callan took a long breath after the door closed behind her. Looking around, it didn’t take her long to notice the Mexican woman standing across the street; her back pressed against a wall. Callan waved and darted across the street quickly.

Maria pushed away from the wall as Callan’s feet touched the curb and launched into a tight hug.

"That’s jaywalking O’Malley." Maria teased.

"So arrest me," Callan growled. She pulled out of the embrace. "You look good."

"You lost weight." Maria observed.

"Let’s get out of here."

"Bike’s around the corner. How ‘bout I buy you breakfast?" Maria offered.

"Steak and eggs?" Callan hoped out loud.

"For you? Of course." Maria smiled as she led the way down the sidewalk.

Chapter 1


Maria kept an eye on the petite looking woman as she worked her way to the bar. She noticed the expression on the still young face while reaching into the beer cooler. It took only a second for her to pull the cap off the beer, set it on the counter in front of the only empty seat and toss the now mangled cap over her shoulder. It didn’t take long for the young woman to fill the seat.

"Here you go Terri." Maria pushed the ice-cold beer closer to the woman.

Terri picked up the beer and took a long sip. "God, thank you Maria." Terri said gratefully as she set the bottle back down in its place. "All right… where is that rat bastard?" She asked almost too tired to be angry. Her feet hurt and besides, her feet hurt… not her favorite combination.

Maria held back a chuckle. She knew from experience that the woman in front of her might look like a piece of fluff but when she needed to, she was all spitfire. "He’s in the back, playing poker." She answered.

Terri took another sip of her beer. "How long?"

Maria turned and looked at the clock. "About five hours now."

"He been losing?" Terri’s light chocolate eyes hardened.

"I’d have to say yes." Maria answered truthfully and watched something close to panic cross Terri’s face. She placed her hand gently on Terri’s forearm. "Chica, you have to get away from him."

Terri turned half away. "Easy to say Maria, but getting away from him is harder. I tried that once and he came looking for me and brought me back."

"A lot of the guys like you, maybe they could help."

Terri shook her head. "And what are they going to want in return? With Trey at least I know what the score is. Besides, most of the guys think he’s up Spyder’s ass. Who’s going to mess with Spyder or his yes man?"

Maria didn’t have to answer. None of the club members would take on the leader or his appointed seconds. Spyder truly was, in her opinion, one mean son of a bitch and had proven it on many occasions. It was a no win situation. She watched quietly as Terri finished her beer. She could almost see the thoughts as they flew around the brunette’s head.

"Who’s he playing with?"

Maria sighed. "John, Mike, Gato, and O’Malley. You want another beer?"

"I better not. John, Mike and Gato will let me pay over time. But I’ve never heard of this O’Malley, so whatever I have on me, I hope is enough." Terri answered while thinking a second beer sounded like a small piece of heaven.

"Terri, I’ll cover your beer. It’s not like you’ve ever stiffed me on a tip or never bought me a round."

"I can’t. I appreciate the gesture…"

Maria interrupted. "Trey will think you’re holding out on him." Maria finished the sentence for her. For a long moment Terri was frozen in place, then she nodded slowly. "Okay, how ‘bout a friend of mine buys you the beer. Can he argue with that?"

"Aren’t you a little old for imaginary friends Maria?" Terri smiled tiredly as she teased. Half a second later she almost jumped out of her skin when a group of empty beer bottles were loudly placed on the counter top.

"Maria, are you pretending you don’t know me again?" A voice to Terri’s left sounded light and playful.

"What’s your name again?" Maria grinned with joy.

The presence choked back a laugh. "Well, apparently last night it was ‘oh God’. We need another round."

"I think we can do that. O’Malley, this is Terri. Terri, this is Callan O’Malley." She introduced as she turned to tackle the beer cooler again.

Terri turned and faced O’Malley. Worn and faded jeans, a green T-shirt from some pub and black motorcycle boots, Callan O’Malley was pretty much what Terri expected. What she had not expected was Callan O’Malley’s gender.

"Hi," she managed without embarrassing herself.

"Hi there," there was a smile on the woman’s face. "Just call me O’Malley." It sounded like a soft-spoken order. O’Malley didn’t take her eyes off Terri. "Hey Maria, Terri’s next beer is on my tab."

Maria caught Terri’s eye and winked. "You got it baby." She answered as she set the new round of beer on the counter.

"You know, if Gato ever heard the way you talk to me, he’d kill me."

"Hell O’Malley, he knows I love you. He’s just glad he found me first and you didn’t."

Terri watched O’Malley laugh and take the bottles of beer. O’Malley flashed a grin to Maria and turned to Terri. "I’ll see you around."

Terri nodded, struck mute by the woman standing beside her and then the woman was gone. She had seen a lot of women around the bikers, but never one who was obviously more than decoration for the back of a bike. Still stunned, she turned her focus back to the bar counter and the new bottle of beer sitting before her.

"You know this is the first time I’ve seen you speechless." Maria chuckled.

"I’m having an off day." Terri defended and fell into silence once again.

"Don’t worry about it, just drink your beer and relax." Maria said as she tossed the empty bottles into a trash can and turned back to wipe the counter down. She looked around and noticed the crowd was pretty low key for a Wednesday night. They were mostly bikers and their partners who would drink, get drunk and try to make it home. One thing she could say for them was that they, for the most part followed the rules. It was the Friday night rednecks who were more trouble than they were worth. She couldn’t keep them out and they seemed too stupid to not show up where they were most obviously not wanted. When she had left her life in the Air Force, nine years earlier, she had only wanted to own a bar, to be her own boss. When business was good, she couldn’t imagine any other life. When chaos reigned, she wondered why the hell she didn’t sell and get out.

The sound of an open palm striking flesh ripped her from her thoughts and she looked up. The sight of Terri leaning heavily against the bar, her hair hiding her face was almost enough to propel the owner over the bar. Only every bit of her restraint kept her in place. She was no match for the stocky man Terri lived with and some things in a biker’s society she had no place in.

"Where the fuck have you been?" Trey Marks demanded of Terri. "You’re late." He grabbed her arm and turned the woman to face him.

"I had to walk here," she explained quietly. "You didn’t pick me up." She didn’t bother looking up at him. She knew that his face would be almost purple with rage. His hazel eyes would be pinpoint small; they always were when he was angry.

Trey glanced at Maria. "Gimme a beer." He tightened his grip on Terri’s arm. "Well, now that you’re here, you can watch this bitch. She’s cheating and you’re going to help me catch her."

Terri squirmed in his grip. "Trey, I don’t know anything about cards." She tried to reason.

He slapped the back of her head again with his free hand. "She don’t know that. How can you be so fucking stupid?" He asked and took his beer as Maria brought it over. "She’ll settle up the tab later." He said casually and tugged Terri off her seat. "C’mon get your butt in gear."

She didn’t bother to struggle with him, she knew she’d only get hurt in the process. She allowed herself to be dragged through the bar trying to ignore the stares of pity that flashed in her direction. No one would help her and she didn’t want them to. It would only make it worse for her later. He half dragged her into the back room where everyone played cards.

It was a tight fitting room with a round card table and like the rest of the bar smelled of stale smoke and spilled alcohol. Terri sank gratefully into the chair that Trey pointed out. She had a good view of the woman who had bought her beer. With an inner groan she realized that her beer was still sitting on the bar counter. She watched the card players all look at her with a mix of confusion and welcome. John, Mike and Gato all knew her and flashed smiles at her. O’Malley’s eyes danced with something Terri could not identify.

Maria tapped Terri on the shoulder and handed her the forgotten beer and an open second bottle. Terri could see the concern on Maria’s face. She shook her head slightly letting Maria know that she shouldn’t press the issue. Maria pressed her lips together in frustration and turned around, melting back into the mix of patrons.

"Hope you all don’t mind if my lucky charm sits there." Trey said as he dropped himself back into his chair. He set his beer bottle on the table completely ignoring the cardboard coaster Maria asked everyone to use.

"Hi Terri." Gato smiled somewhere under his mustache. "Hope she brings you better luck than you’re having now." He looked at Trey.

"She will. Now deal before we’re all as old as you." Trey cut back.

Terri kept her eyes on the game like she was supposed to but she couldn’t see where O’Malley was cheating. What she did notice was that for every five drinks the guys had, the woman drank only once. Terri found herself looking more and more at O’Malley’s face. Her shortish dark hair was in deep contrast to the light colored eyes. Every once in a while she caught a glimpse of what looked like small scars on the woman’s face but in the overhead light she couldn’t tell.

She watched as the pots grew and someone would take the game. Piles of chips that seemed to wander around the table. She could feel Trey’s eyes on her from time to time but all she could do was shrug. She couldn’t see anything that O’Malley was doing that could raise suspicion. When she wasn’t disappointing Trey, she was aware of O’Malley’s eyes on her. She knew it was going to be a long night.

After two more hours, Terri’s butt was nearly numb and she had to go to the bathroom. She began to get up to go to the restroom and watched in disbelief as Trey pushed all of his remaining chips into the middle of the table. The other players looked at him for a second and then at their cards. Gato folded immediately. Terri hid a smile. Maria would let him bet only so much and if he lost more there was hell to pay in that house. Mike matched Gato and let his cards fall to the table, disgust written all over his face. She knew he hated to lose to Trey. Trey’s face took on a triumphant expression. He looked at O’Malley. Her cool eyes regarded him for a moment. She leaned forward.

"You’re bluffing." She said out loud and pushed a stack of chips into the pot. "I’ll see your bet and raise you." She shoved the remaining chips into the fray.

"Terri, gimme what you got on you." He demanded.

Terri opened her mouth to protest. What she had in her purse was supposed to go for rent.

"You got yourself into this son, you match it, not the lady." O’Malley’s voice was almost too flat not to be dangerous.

"She’s mine, she’ll do what I tell her." Trey snapped back. Terri had no choice and pulled her money from her jeans. She handed the money to Gato whom in turn handed it over to Trey. Trey tossed the money into the pile. He grinned and laid down his cards. "Two pair." Rubbing his hands together, he started to pull the chips toward him.

"Not so fast, slick." O’Malley said and set one card down. It was the jack of spades. That card was followed by a nine, then another jack, and a second nine, and finally one more jack. "Now where I come from, mine is bigger than yours." She reached out and grabbed the stack of cash. She quickly counted it. "And you’re still short. I raised you a grand, and there’s only five hundred here. What else you got?"

"I ain’t putting up my bike." Trey almost whined.

O’Malley shrugged. "I didn’t make the rules to the game. That was you. You said all bets paid at the end of the night."

"One more game to give me a chance to pull even." Trey suggested.

O’Malley shook her head. "Not with the way you play. Besides, you got nothing to bet since you won’t put up the bike." O’Malley pushed out of her chair. "You got till tomorrow to come up with the other five."

Trey shook his head. "I gotta pay rent. I can’t come up with five by tomorrow."

O’Malley looked at Terri and noticed the woman close to tears. She turned her attention back to Trey who looked almost like a little kid playing biker. "Looks like she earned rent and you lost it." O’Malley stepped away from the table.

"One punch, winner take all." Trey said loudly.

"You got nothing left to bet." O’Malley reminded him.

"I got her." Trey pointed at Terri. "Or are you just some chicken shit yellow bitch?" He taunted.

Callan knew he was trying to push her buttons. She couldn’t believe he’d bet his girlfriend. A part of her wanted to just call it even and another part of her knew that if she backed down her credibility was shot. She had spent most of the last eight hours sizing him up. Mentally she calculated how much he’d had to drink and decided that it was worth the risk. The worst that could happen is that she would lose and wake up with a hell of a headache in the morning. There was no disgrace in taking a challenge and losing when it came to biker society. It was the running with your tail between your legs that usually got someone in trouble.

John, Mike and Gato looked at Trey and O’Malley like they had both lost their minds. Terri felt like crawling into the wallpaper. She sat opened mouthed at the bet and was more than stunned. Mike slipped out of the room and with a grim look on his face, went running to Maria. Callan looked at Terri and noticed, not for the first time, the marks on her arm. They looked suspiciously like the print of a hand. Then looking back at Trey’s sneering face and made her decision.

"Get your ass outside son. One punch, winner takes all."

By the time the duo made it outside passed the parking lot edges, there was a crowd following. Word didn’t take long to travel around the bar. As Callan peeled off her leather vest, Maria stepped in front of her.

"Chica, do you really know what you’re doing?" She asked in a low tone. Callan met her eyes and nodded just once. Maria knew better than to argue with her friend when her eyes turned a darker blue. "Okay. Just so you know, if you go down in one, the guys won’t let him get in any more shots. He’s done it before."

"Has he ever lost?" Callan asked casually as she handed over the vest.

"No." Maria answered grimly.

Callan’s smile was almost frightening in its intensity. "Good. I get to be the first." Maria folded the vest over her arm and walked back to her boyfriend. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders as O’Malley and Trey stepped up to face each other. Terri stood next to her friend Mike and watched through half closed eyes.

"You ready to hurt like hell?" Trey grinned as he popped the knuckles of both hands.

Callan stood in front of him completely relaxed. "Back out or punch me but shut up." She watched his grin fade and she knew instinctively when he was going to throw the punch. He squinted. Callan took the blow to the side of her face, just under her left ear. She let her head snap to the side and let the force of the punch flow; she didn’t try to fight it. Her knees wanted to give out as her world went dizzy but she kept her feet. After a moment, she straightened up.

Trey’s face lost the gloating edge as she looked at him. For just a second she thought she saw fear in his eyes. She had no doubt that he’d never seen anyone still standing after he’d hit them. She let him stew in his fear for a few long moments before her fist moved. She did not squint, tense or otherwise give away her move. It was a lesson she had learned a long time ago from a very good instructor. She could almost hear his voice in her head reciting the dynamics of striking an enemy during hand to hand combat. The only reason she even knew that she had moved was the pain that flared in her fist. She’d connected full force on the point of Trey’s chin. Her entire body flowed into the punch. She knew Trey’s mistake was relying on the strength of his arm, while she used her entire body force.

Terri watched Trey blink once, his eyes roll back, his eyelids close and then collapse onto the dirt. His head bounced on the hard ground once and he lay still. Mike gave a low whistle. Others watched with a mixture of disbelief and outright joy. Terri’s stomach sank to her ankles. She was free of Trey but she didn’t know O’Malley from Adam.

She started toward Trey but Mike stopped her with a gentle hand on her shoulder. "He played the game Ter and he lost. There’s nothing you can do about it. Even if you wanted to go back to him, you couldn’t," he explained. "You better go with Maria for now. Everything will get sorted out in a little bit."

Terri let herself be guided toward Maria and Gato. A couple of bikers checked to make sure Trey was still breathing and struggled to pick him up. She knew someone would make sure he lived through the night. Maria took her arm and led her back into the bar.

"You okay?" Maria asked as Gato looked over her shoulder.

"What just happened?" Terri asked from her daze.

O’Malley leaned against the bar next to Terri. "I think I just broke my hand on his face." She groaned. "Hey Maria, you think I could get some ice for my hand, my face and my drink?"

"Well O’Malley, I see your hand and your face but I sure don’t see your drink," the bar owner teased.

"I knew I forgot to do something. How ‘bout an Irish whiskey and coke, tall glass and whatever Terri’s drinking. She looks like she needs one," Callan said as she sank down onto the stool.

"You got it but only one. You took one hell of a shot out there, I’d hate for you to survive that and die cause I gave you too much to drink." Maria smiled to take the sting out of her words.

"I got a thick Irish skull and I’ve been hit harder." O’Malley suddenly sounded quite somber. "But not by much," she finally admitted.

Maria disappeared behind the bar and spoke to her lead bartender. She whipped two bar towels out from their cubbyhole, filled them with ice, tied them off with thick rubber bands and handed them to O'Malley. She watched as the woman set one ice filled towel on her right hand and pressed the other against the side of her head. Maria stifled a laugh as Gato let out his own merriment.

"Hey O’Malley, don’t ever hit me okay?" He managed as Maria glared at him.

"Just don’t piss me off Gato and all will be fine." Callan answered and knew that his laughter was a stress relief. She knew from experience that these sorts of incidents could go bad fast. No one ever really knew who was going to take up for their beaten friend. Apparently, Trey had no friends. She stole a look at Terri. The woman looked lost but it wasn’t the right time to offer her words of safety and comfort.

She shifted her gaze to Maria and watched as she placed Callan’s drink in front of her. She didn’t miss the straw floating in the glass and not knowing whether to laugh or yell, she finally had to laugh. Her face hurt and both hands were occupied. She knew it had to look comical. Fortunately, the only people around their space were friends. And one stranger I just won. Jesus what the hell did I just do? Callan’s mind reminded with a groan. She closed her eyes.

"You okay O’Malley?" Terri’s voice was soft with shock.

"Yeah. Just wondering what I’ve gotten myself into, that’s all. You okay?"

"Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing actually."

Maria cut in. "Technically, Trey’s the one who got you both into this. You want a beer, Terri or something stronger?"

"Just a beer. Anything stronger might kill me," she admitted slowly. "Or give me enough courage to kill that son of a bitch."

"Nah, don’t kill him, just take a good look at him after he wakes up, I’m sure he’s gonna wish he was dead with that headache." Maria chuckled. Sometimes she liked when the big guys took a fall. "It’s gonna quiet down here quick enough, so I’ll drive you two where ever in O’Malley’s truck and Gato will follow us." She held up a hand to cut off any arguments. "Neither of you can drive safely. You have a dented skull O’Malley and Terri, you just worked how many hours and walked the five miles here? I’m betting you’re wiped out."

"Yeah." Terri had to admit.

"Besides, this is a good excuse for me to leave early and have some extra time with my wild man." Maria leered at Gato.

"C’mon Maria, too much info." O’Malley groaned.

"Too much info my ass. You stayed at my place how long after you got out? If I remember, her name was…Adrian?"

"Her name was Alice. Okay I get the message." O’Malley relented and tried to smile. The smile stopped short. "Ouch."

"You big baby."

Even Terri in her stunned state had to laugh but softly. They drank their drinks and then the group slipped out of the bar. Terri noticed the stares… they were hard to miss. She could see the questions as though they had been written on paper. Who was this O’Malley and what was Terri going to do now? Funny, I’m having those same questions. Go figure, her brain piped up dripping with sarcasm. She followed the group out to the truck silently.

"Maria, you know where Terri here lives?" O’Malley asked as she eased into the truck.

"Yeah. Why?"

"We stop there first, get her stuff and then hit my place. I do not want to have to go there after he wakes up. I don’t like getting hit in the head that much."

Maria chuckled and nodded. She waited until Gato came over with the car and told him of the change in plans. He agreed and they set off. Maria drove, with Terri in the middle and O’Malley resting against the passenger door.

"How much stuff you got, Chica?" Maria asked to have some noise during the trip.

"Not much. Just my clothes and some small things. Trey’s not real big on collecting stuff you know." Terri answered quietly. She watched the road signs as they got closer to the rental house that she had called home for the last thirteen months. It wasn’t much but it was dry and the roach population was under control. She’d seen worse.

It didn’t take long to pack her things into the back of O’Malley’s truck. She hadn’t been lying when she said she didn’t have much. They took her three baskets of clothes and two boxes of books and personal stuff. Looking around, O’Malley thought that no one should have to live like that. She’d seen homeless people who seemed to have more personal belongings. In a little under half an hour the group of four were back on the road and driving to O’Malley’s.

Terri let her eyes close. O’Malley was sulking, staring out the window dealing with the pain in her hand and face when she felt the smaller woman’s head lean against her shoulder. She looked over without moving her shoulder much. Terri was dead to the world. For a second she let herself enjoy the odd moment. She caught sight of Maria’s side-glance.

"Now that’s cute. Brings back some old memories." Maria said quietly.

"Yeah it does. Thanks for your help tonight." O’Malley changed the subject and ignored Maria’s sigh. "Just accept the thank you and let it go Maria."

"I will not just let it go," Maria hissed. "I know you haven’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here up in the middle of all of this."

"Maria, carina, what’s done is done. You know why I’m here." O’Malley sounded tired against the old argument.

"Yeah I do. I can still be mad." Maria said as she pulled to an easy stop at the sign.

"I’m mad too but I can’t afford to show it. I’m too close to finishing this."

"But will it make a difference?" The Mexican woman wanted to know as she pulled forward.

"I don’t know but the payback will more than make up for the ‘suck it up and drive on’ we’ve had to do."

"Suck it up and drive on," Maria echoed. "God, I haven’t heard that in a long time."

"I haven’t said it in a long time." O’Malley admitted. "Just pull up on the lawn. We’ll get her stuff in the house and just pile it somewhere."

Maria pulled into the driveway and rolled onto the cut grass in front of the door. "How’s that for service?"

"You are the best Maria. You get the door I’ll get sleepy here in the house."

O’Malley managed to rouse Terri enough to get her into the house and guide her into the bedroom. She pulled the woman’s shoes and socks off and then covered her with the blanket. That done, she returned to the truck and helped Gato and Maria unload Terri’s things into the living room. Gato went out to wait in the car.

"You know they’re gonna expect you to sleep with her. You own her now." Maria pointed out.

"Yeah, I know but I’ll figure it out later. Right now all I want is some aspirin and sleep. It’ll work out. Now get out of here and go play with your wild man." She teased. The two friends shared a hug at the door and O’Malley watched them until the taillights could no longer be seen. She closed the door

and turned the dead bolt quietly. "Now what genius?" She asked herself.


Callan’s eyes opened automatically when the door to her room opened. She didn’t have to look at the clock on the wall. She knew it would be her favorite nurse. She could set her watch by the woman. She turned her head and smiled when the Air Force officer closed the door and walked to the side of the bed.

"Bugs or Marvin?" Lt. Rivers asked as she reached for the blood pressure cuff.

"Oh please. Marvin of course." Callan didn’t know why this little game gave her so much pleasure but it did. She endured the vital check and braced herself for the pain of movement that she knew would be coming.

"You are such an odd duck. Marvin. I like his dog though." The Lt. smiled and slid the stethoscope from her neck. "You ready for this?"

Callan gripped her good hand around the bed rail and nodded. "Let’s hit it."

With help she sat forward, sucking in a hard breath around the pain. Once she was settled, Lt. Rivers listened to her lungs, stethoscope pressed against Callan’s back. Callan would breath when ordered. She felt the sweat popping up on her forehead and neck from the effort. When it was over, she was helped back into a laying position. Lt. Rivers resettled her pillow under her head.

"Now your front." The nurse’s voice was even and sure. She pulled the ties of the hospital gown open and freed the Velcro ends of the rib wrap. She looked first at the incisions to make sure they were showing no signs of infection then ran her eyes over the broken ribs.

"Things are looking good. The respiratory tech told me you’re giving her a hard time. You tin canned a lung, Sergeant… let her do her job to fix it. That means breathing exercises. It’s a pain in the ass I know, but if you want to meet your PT standards and stay Army then you do what she says. I know you don’t feel like it but you’re doing good." She listened to Callan’s lungs and then rewrapped her ribs. She noticed her fingers shaking as she tied the string ends back together.

"You’re looking tired Lt.." Callan said out loud.

"Been a long day O’Malley." She answered as she scribbled notes in the chart.

"More guys coming in?"

She nodded. "Yeah. War sucks you know?"

"Tell me about it." Callan let the sarcasm leak out.

Lt. Rivers looked up from her chart. "I didn’t mean it like that Callan."

"I know you didn’t, Mabel." Callan managed to keep the smile off her face.

"Mabel?" The Lt. was confused. She let the chart fall back into its tray.

"Well, I don’t know your first name." Callan pointed out.

The nurse laughed hard. When she caught her breath she looked at Callan. "It’s Ellen."

"Nice to meet you, Ellen." She couldn’t hide the warmth in her voice. "If it wasn’t for you doing this job, some of us wouldn’t be getting back home. So don’t go thinking that cause you’re not in the sand you’re not important."

"Thank you for saying so." She looked at the Sergeant. "The stitches on your face, arms and legs will be coming out soon."

"There is a God. They itch like crazy. When do I get out of here?" Callan wormed around the bed mindful of her nearly useless arm.

Ellen laughed again. "It’s going to be a while. Let’s make sure you can salute with that arm before you go."

Callan groaned. "Well, where’s the fun in that?" She asked with a teasing tone. "When do I get to move around. I don’t think I’ve been this still in years."

"You must have been a fun kid. I feel for your parents." Ellen said wryly. "You feel up to sitting in a chair tomorrow?"

"Hell, how about today?"

"Baby steps, Sergeant. Your body went through a blender. It got you back home now you have to be good to it to say thank you nice body." Ellen Rivers realized what she’d said and hoped that O’Malley didn’t notice.

"Yes Ma’am." Callan managed. She had noticed the Lt.’s words. A small glow started in her chest. "So what’s up for the rest of the day Ma’am?"

"Well, you get to lay here and heal and I get to spread cheer and joy for another five hours. I’ll check back on you later in the day. You want the TV on?"

Callan turned her head to the window at the suggestion. "No Ma’am, thank you. I don’t think I can watch anymore. It’s full of what I should be out there doing."

"Sergeant, look at me." Ellen said and watched her patient remain stubbornly in position. "Callan." Pale blue eyes turned to her. "You and your Army dogs on the ground are heroes to a lot of us. You got hit Callan, there’s no disgrace in that. I talked to Barnes yesterday. He told me you took that bullet dragging him out of the combat zone. Two and a half miles. I don’t know how you did it with all the blood you were losing or the fragments in your legs but you did it. You might think you are super human but your body knows you aren’t. It gave out because of the damage; it had nothing to do with anything else."

"You a shrink too?" Callan asked out loud. Part of her knew the Lt.’s words were true but part of her felt like an absolute failure.

Ellen shook her head. "Nope, just a good judge of character. You’re a good soldier Sergeant O’Malley. If you weren’t, you would be dead and so would your men. If you want to talk to a shrink I can arrange it."

Callan shook her head. "No Ma’am. I’ll deal with this on my own. But thanks for the offer." There was a tone in her voice that let Ellen Rivers know that the subject was closed.

"Okay, your call O’Malley. I’ll check on you later."


Callan opened her eyes and looked at the clock on the nightstand. The numbers stared back at her. 4 am. She sighed, rolled over and plumped her pillow. She knew sleep would be hard in coming, it always was when her brain decided it was time for a trip down memory lane. She sighed again in the dark. Damn, I miss you nurse.

She lay in bed for the next half-hour watching the minutes go by agonizingly slowly. Finally she got up and feeling the pain from the night’s activities, she stumbled into the kitchen, and fixed herself an ice pack and rummaged around for aspirin. She swallowed the three pills dry and sat slowly on the couch. Leaning her head back, she watched the early morning dark turn into sunrise.

Chapter 2


Terri slowly replaced the receiver of the telephone with a sigh. Looking around the strip club she felt a wave of helplessness. For the first time in a long time she was at a loss as to what to do. She was in a situation for which she was not prepared. She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes. An ironic smile crossed her lips as she recalled waking up that morning. She’d been confused to find herself in an unfamiliar bed. Her confusion changed quickly to something close to fear when the previous night had come rushing back. Fear changed to anger at Trey for betting her. She still wasn’t sure she was mad that he’d lost.

Well at least you won’t get your ass kicked tonight her brain muttered. She opened her eyes and checked the time. Her break was over and she was expected to push her personal life turmoil aside and sling drinks to over grown boys watching nearly naked women dance. She sighed again and pushed away from the wall. Terri did not miss two of Trey’s friends eyeing her from a distance. She couldn’t tell if their attention was a good thing or a bad thing. She returned to the bar and picked up her round drink tray. She made the circuit of her tables, took drink orders and served them for the next four hours.

She was grateful for the hard bench in the women’s dressing room. Her feet hurt, she was tired and her stomach growled loudly. She sighed out her relief when she pulled off her none to comfortable shoes that Hank required her to wear. They were supposed to be sexy. In her opinion they were just little torture devices. Her fantasy of slowly killing Hank by making him hike miles on end in those same shoes was interrupted when two of the strippers came into the room.

"One of these days I’m so going to rip his head off." Candace fumed and stopped short when she saw her favorite cocktail waitress recovering on the bench. "Hey Terri. Want to join in on some male bashing?" She flashed a tired smile as she tossed her bag across the room.

Terri hoped there was nothing breakable in the bag. "I’m too tired to male bash today. Pathetic huh?" She answered with a groan.

"Don’t tell me Morgan called in again today?" Rhea asked the all too common question as she let the dressing room door close. She walked over to the mirrors and pulled out a chair.

Terri nodded. "Wonder how she manages that all the time?" Her tone implied she certainly knew the answer. "I wouldn’t mind so much except her regulars don’t tip for shit if she’s not the one flashing her tits at them."

Candace couldn’t manage to keep the look of disgust off her face. "And they’re fake. It’s not even a good job. I guess you’re just having a rotten week all the way around."

"We heard what Trey did." Rhea said quietly.

"I figured as much. Hank just kept looking at me like it was my fault somehow. Hell all I did was walk to the bar."

"So how’s O’Malley?" Candace asked as she pulled her dance costume out of her bag and started rummaging for all her make up.

Terri shrugged. "I dunno. She was gone when I got up this morning. I guess I’ll find out soon enough what I’m in for."

"You okay? I mean she’s got a killer rep with women." Rhea checked her watch and settled in to relax. She had time.

"You know, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but being with a woman isn’t one of them. That said I have got to admit if O’Malley was teaching, I would be willing to learn." Candace said as she rubbed cleanser on her face with a washcloth.

"You and half the women in town though most of em wouldn’t be caught dead admitting it." Rhea chuckled as she lit a cigarette.

"Don’t smoke that in here. Jesus Hank will have a fit and then the rest of us will pay all night long for it." Candace complained. Rhea smiled and blew out three almost perfect smoke rings. "Bitch."

"I gotta get my sick kicks somewhere." She turned her attention back to Terri. "I hear O’Malley’s okay. She had a steady girlfriend a couple of years ago, before she got sent up. They used to come to the club all the time. I never saw the girlfriend with a mark on her. Well not bruises anyway." She leered. "And damn did that woman always look like she had a smile."

"C’mon you’re making her sound perfect." Candace complained as she wiped the white foam off her face. "She hangs out with Spyder’s little gang of over grown delinquents and where did she used to go disappearing to all the time. She doesn’t have a job we know about, so where does her money come from?"

"Candy girl you have got to learn to quit with the questions sometimes. You never know who might be listening." Rhea’s voice took on a slightly warning edge.

"All I’m saying is that Terri should just be careful. If you ever need anything, you know how to get a hold of either one of us." Candace looked at Terri from the mirror. She held Terri’s gaze until the waitress nodded her head.

"Believe me after all this shit with Trey, I plan on being way more careful. And if I get in a bind and I need help, I’ll get a hold of you. But this is my problem and I think I have to deal with it. I wouldn’t want to get you on the bad side of anything you know?" Terri explained and slumped lower.

"Hey what are you doing tonight?" Rhea asked suddenly.

"I was just going to go back to O’Malley’s." She admitted. "I’ll grab something to eat first and then head over."

"You want to go out after we’re done? We haven’t done that in ages. I miss having a designated driver."

Terri laughed. "You only want me to come along cause you lost your license."

"She so has your number." Candace grinned. "She’s right though Terri. You should come with us."

"I think I’m gonna have to pass this time. Gotta figure out O’Malley first before I start breaking rules I don’t know about. You know how bikers can be." The tone in her voice was far more revealing than she intended.


Callan chalked the cue and looked at the layout of balls on the table. A quick glance at Maria’s smirking expression and she knew she was done for. She didn’t have one good shot. Hell, she didn’t even have a bad shot. To top it all off her hand was sore as hell and the side of her head had moments when it reminded her of its recent abuse. She groaned and set the cue on the table. Digging into her jeans pocket she pulled out a bill and handed it to the bar owner. She took up her beer bottle as she sat down. She watched with amusement as Maria tucked the money into her bra.

"That’ll teach you to play me." Maria grinned and took a sip of her margarita.

"Yeah but every time I lose I get to watch you play with your tits." Callan laughed and took a drink of her beer. "You remember the time you forgot you weren’t wearing a bra?"

"That is so not funny O’Malley." Maria answered with a small smile. "I lost fifty bucks that night."

Callan shook her head. "Actually she found it and slipped it into your purse." There was a momentary softness to Callan’s eyes that Maria hadn’t seen in a long time.

"You should remember her more often." Maria’s voice was soft and gentle.

"Just a little longer and I’ll have all the time in the world to remember." Callan sobered and her eyes took on the usual hard edge.

"You need to find someone. I don’t mean one of your little side trips either." Her glare cut off Callan’s attempted reply. "I know all about those. You need someone you can love Callan."

"I had someone." Callan said bluntly. "I prefer alone right now."

"You call those women being alone?" Maria scoffed at the idea.

"I call it physical release. Each one of them knew it was just a fuck or two and then I was gone or they were. I’m not a total asshole. I was honest."

Maria shook her head. "God you worry me sometimes."

"Maria you’ve been a friend for a very long time and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but stay out of what I need or don’t need. I can’t have the life I had before; it’s way too late for that. And I really, really don’t want to rehash it over and over." She covered Maria’s hand with one of her own. "I know you worry about me, and I love you for it, but it’s wasted emotion and energy."

"So you’re just going to continue as you are?" There was disbelief in Maria’s tone. "Do you really think that’s the life she’d want for you? Don’t you think she would have wanted you to find someone else."

Callan sighed. "I know she would have wanted that. But this is more about what I want. I want her, only I can’t have her can I? I didn’t get a say so in that. Hell I wasn’t even home. I did what I was expected to do and it cost me everything. This time around Maria, I call the shots and what I want goes. No exceptions and no discussion." Callan stopped abruptly as her eyes caught a reflection in the mirror.

From her vantage Maria could see the ugly, livid bruise on Trey’s face. He glared hard at the back of O’Malley’s head and detoured to the bar. Maria let out a relieved breath. The last thing she wanted right now was a fight in her bar, especially considering Callan’s mood. She watched Callan drain her bottle of beer quickly.

"What do you say we blow this joint and get drunk?" Maria offered with a smile. She knew that sometimes her volatile friend needed to let off steam in a relatively safe environment.

"You’re just trying to finally get me into your bed." Callan teased. They had been friends for a very long time and the teasing was just a natural occurrence between the two.

"You’ve been in my bed O’Malley." Maria reminded her with a grin.

"Doesn’t count, we were asleep." Callan countered.

"It does count, you were naked."

"Was not, I had on my socks."

"You were so drunk how would you know." Maria reminded her with an evil grin.

Callan’s smile fell as she thought about the information. "Okay, it does count. Come on. I’ll buy the scotch."

Maria slid out of the booth and batted her eyes. "Tequila."

"I hate tequila." Callan reminded her friend as they started out of the room.

"I know, that’s why we’re drinking it. It’s the only thing I can out drink you with."

Callan chuckled as they turned the corner into the main area of the bar. Her eyes quickly scanned the area. There were only six others in the bar. She waited as Maria headed to the office door to grab her purse. She could feel Trey’s eyes boring into her back. She found herself wishing that he would get it over with and just say something. She didn’t have to wait long.

"You and Maria looked real tight back there." He finished his drink in one gulp and set the shot glass down on the bar. He did not look at O’Malley. His jaw tightened when she didn’t reply. "I want my bitch back."

"You bet her, you lost her. Live with it." O’Malley forced herself to sound more casual than she felt.

"You didn’t hear me right. I want her back. I’m not asking, I’m telling you." He turned to face the woman who had disgraced him.

"I really don’t give a shit what you want. She belongs to me now." O’Malley turned her head away dismissing him. She caught sight of Maria closing the office door and sighed mentally. She listened as he ordered another shot. Maria quickly crossed the distance and joined her friend at the bar.

"You ready to go?" She asked while sneaking a wary glance at Trey.

"Yeah." O’Malley turned to leave and found her way blocked by Trey’s leg. "Move." She warned.

"Or what? You going to cheap shot me again?" The accusation could be a dangerous one if any other biker believed it. He wasn’t prepared for O’Malley’s reaction.

She laughed out loud and for a second neither Maria or Trey could decide if she was going to laugh all night. O’Malley finally had to lean against the bar for support. Her arms held her up and she cracked up again as she looked at him.

"You are so full of shit." She managed. "You bet her in front of how many people? You lost with witnesses and you had the first shot. That’s the best laugh I’ve had in years." She didn’t blink when he stood up from his stool and leaned in close.

"Are you laughing at me?" His breath smelled of beer and stale pot.

O’Malley did not lose her smile. "You couldn’t tell?" She asked with an evil gleam. "Do yourself a favor and chalk this one up to experience. Let it go."

"Or what, you gonna pull your ‘war hero’ shit on me?" He sneered. He didn’t miss the arctic color her eyes turned even in the dim light of the bar. "This ain’t over."

"Come on O’Malley, let’s go." Maria tried tugging on her friend’s sleeve. The arm hardly moved and Maria wondered if there was room under the bar for her to hide.

"That’s right hero, let a woman save you." Trey gloated, forgetting for a moment the pain in his face and his humiliation of the night before.

O’Malley lifted her eyes to meet his gaze. "I think I’ll take that advice." She said in a bright tone, again throwing him off balance. She pushed past him with Maria in tow. Her arm snaked around Maria’s neck in a friendly embrace. They could both hear the snickers that came from the few close by drinkers. O’Malley was sure that Trey could hear them as well. Some people never learn ran through her mind.

"You certainly like to live dangerous," Maria said in a low voice as they walked towards the door.

"Yeah well I do like to be all I can be. And my day wouldn’t be complete without pissing someone off." Callan shot back.


Terri shifted restlessly on the couch as she surfed the channels on TV. She wondered at the sanity of paying for every station known to man, and yet there was nothing on that was any good. She turned off the TV and paced the living room. Her eyes stole to the clock. Midnight and still no sign of O’Malley. She didn’t know whether to be worried or relieved. The glare of headlights on the wall pulled her from her thoughts.

She looked out the window and recognized Maria’s car and Gato in the driver’s seat. She watched for a moment as Maria opened the back passenger door and tugged O’Malley from the seat. They both weaved across the lawn on unsteady feet towards the front door. Terri moved quickly and pulled the front door open as the two women tried to climb the three steps.

O’Malley looked up at Terri. "She’s drunkerd." She said as her foot slipped off the step. Only Maria’s arm around her waist kept her from falling.

"Liar." Maria answered with a slight slur in her voice.

Terri chuckled as she watched them finally manage the last step. She stepped back and opened the door wide as both women stumbled into the house. When they reached the couch they let themselves fall on to the cushions. They sat there for a while catching their breath.

"I take it you two had a good time." Terri teased as she closed the door.

"Oh yeah. I got to drink her under the table." Maria cackled with drunken glee. "She’s gonna hate me in the morning."

"I hate you now," O’Malley shot back with a grin. "My whole world is spinning."

Terri looked down at O’Malley. "Umm, try opening your eyes. It might help."

O’Malley opened both eyes slowly. "Oh, that’s better." She felt her stomach lurch. "Maria see you tomorrow." She said quickly and propelled herself off the couch and into her bedroom. A second later Maria and Terri heard the bathroom door slam.

"She’ll just never learn. I can’t lose with tequila." Maria chuckled and then took a deep breath. "See you later Terri." She tried to move off the couch twice before looking at Terri. "I can’t get off this damn thing. Help."

Terri didn’t hold back her laughter as she reached down and pulled Maria off the couch. She looped one of Maria’s arms over her shoulder and helped her to the front door. She struggled for a moment with the knob and finally opened the door. Together they made their way down the steps and to the car. Gato already had the passenger door open.

"Thanks Terri. I was gonna come get her in a minute." He couldn’t hide the amusement in his voice.

"No problem Gato. Do they do this often?" She asked as she helped Maria into the seat and buckled her up.

"Only when they rehash glory days. Sometimes I don’t know if I believe all those stories. No one is that wild." He answered. "But then again we are talking about Maria and O’Malley." He had to admit. "Keep an eye on O’Malley, she had a lot of tequila."

"Most of which she’s yacking up as we speak. I’ll make sure she lives." Terri promised.

Gato laughed as he got back in the car and started the engine. Terri waited until she was sure he wasn’t weaving down the road and made her way back into the house. She locked the front door and turned off most of the lights in the house before venturing into O’Malley’s room.

O’Malley was spread out on the bed with one boot still attached to her foot. Her shirt was tossed by the side of the bed and a pillow covered her face. She moaned from under the pillow and after a second shot off the bed. With only one boot on she stumbled awkwardly into the bathroom, slamming the door.

"This is going to be a long night." Terri said out loud.

Chapter 3


Maria lifted her head at the soft tap on the open door of her office. Her eyes rested on O’Malley who looked better than either of them had a right to. Her own headache had finally gone away only an hour ago. She let her pencil fall to the desk as she leaned back in her creaky chair and motioned for her friend to come in.

"What’s up?" Callan asked as she pushed away from the doorframe.

"O’Malley, sit down," Maria said softly. "Normally I wouldn’t say anything, but you’re a friend of mine and I like Terri so I have to say something. Trey’s been running his mouth."

Callan lifted an irritated eyebrow. "That’s nothing new, he’s always running his mouth."

"Well this time he’s making really dangerous noise."

Callan sighed. "Maria, I am way too hungover to play word games. Is there a point to this?" Callan tried to ignore her pounding temples.

"You don’t look it." Maria complained and then continued. "He was saying last night that ‘she’ was a cop."

"She who?" Callan was not following and it showed.

"Terri," she answered taking a sip of her tea. "Or you. He wasn’t real clear on the definition of ‘she’. Of course, I hear he was also skunk drunk."

"So he’s basing one of us being a cop on what?"

"You want me to translate or his version?" Maria worried about giving Callan the choice.

"You translate. He uses really small words and I like a challenge."

"Well, based on his observations of your usual conquests and the um…systematic marking of said conquests, Terri doesn’t have the look. In his book that’s enough to decide that one of you must be a cop."

Callan yawned and instantly regretted it. "What look?"

Maria rolled her eyes. "The freshly ‘oh my God I’m satisfied’ fucked look. You really are out of it."

"Your fault," Callan accused. "I’m never drinking tequila with you again." She paused for a moment and groaned. "As far as the look goes, I prefer willing partners."

"As we used to say in the Air Force… that is not the prevailing attitude."

"We used to have a saying in the Army too. Fuck them."

"Normally I would agree with you but this isn’t just about you. Now you have Terri. If anyone thinks the garbage coming out of his mouth might be true, she’s a dead woman." Maria’s expression was laced with worry.

Callan let out a slow breath. "So basically, she’s my responsibility and I’ve got to cover her and me." She was surprised her brains were actually functioning. Maria nodded. "I do not need this shit." She grumbled. "Who ever heard of betting your girlfriend?"

"No one ever claimed these guys were bright."

"Well, I can’t give her back. Him being a fuck head aside, it would make me look like I couldn’t handle her…" she trailed off in thought.

Maria leaned forward in her chair. "I do have an idea, which you probably won’t like but it’s worth thinking about." She was half-afraid of O’Malley’s reaction. She watched O’Malley arch her eyebrows, a sure sign that her patience was beginning to fade. "Talk to Terri, she might not be willing to jump into your bed but she might be willing to make it look that way. If for no other reason than to embarrass him."

"Okay, I’ll bite. Embarrass him how?"

"He treated her like hell and she never looked satisfied… if you know what I mean. If she starts walking around now like she’s having a good time, believe me, the others will notice and give him an earful."

Callan liked the idea almost immediately. "You figure she’ll go for it?"

Maria shrugged slowly. "I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to her."

"I think I can do that. You want her to know where I heard all of this?"

"Might as well. Everyone knows I hear all the gossip and rumors going around." Maria answered and watched O’Malley stand, stretch a little and groan out loud. "Hey O’Malley, watch your six, okay?"

Callan nodded once and turned to leave. "Always."


Terri pushed the exit door open and stepped into the sunlight, squinting against the light. The club owners kept the place dark except for the areas around the stage. She looked around before catching sight of O’Malley and one of the dancers talking next to O’Malley’s truck.

She walked over to the owner of the truck, curious as to why the biker would want to call her for lunch. In the light of day she was struck by the odd combination of dark hair and pale blue eyes when O’Malley looked at her. For a second she faltered and just as quickly recovered.

"Hey O’Malley." She smiled.

O’Malley just looked at Terri for a moment realizing that during the light of day, that the woman in front of her was very desirable. She had spent the last two days getting things ready for the road trip, which didn’t leave her much time to spend with Terri.

"Hey Terri." Callan grinned. "Thanks for the invite Donna but as you can see, my lunch date is here."

The dancer glanced at the cocktail waitress and quickly dismissed her as competition. "Oh yeah, I heard about that thing with Trey."

Callan opened the passenger door for Terri wanting to get away from the dancer. "Yeah well, you shouldn’t bet what you don’t want to lose. His loss, my gain." She smiled again at Terri as she got into the truck and buckled up. Closing the door, Callan didn’t look at the dancer. "See ya around Donna." O’Malley walked around to her door, opened it and climbed in.

Terri watched the dancer mull O’Malley’s comment around in her head. Donna might have the body parts for dancing but sometimes she was a little slow on the uptake. Terri caught herself feeling a little sorry for the woman. The rumble of the truck engine catching distracted her thoughts.

"So what do you want for lunch?" O’Malley asked as she pulled the truck out of the parking lot. She noticed the look of surprise on Terri’s face. "One thing you should know is that I’m not a lot like that fuck head you were with." She paused while she pulled into traffic. "Most of the time I’ll give you a choice." She said out loud hoping that Terri believed her.

"But?" Terri’s voice was tight.

"But sometimes I’m an asshole and you don’t get a choice." She admitted. "We both know what kind of life we’re living. I know it’s not your choice and not even really my choice but like it or not you now belong to me. " The truck pulled to a stop at the traffic light.

Terri thought about the ramifications of the statement. "I’d like lunch at Gus’s." She answered finally. "And I have to be at my proby by two."

Callan checked the dashboard clock. "I think I can manage that." She didn’t bother asking what Terri had done to get probation. The young woman would either tell her or she could find out on her own. Either way, it wasn’t a big deal to her. "Most of the time I can give you a ride to work or you can use the truck." Callan said as she moved with traffic. Her stomach growled.

"You’d trust me enough to loan me your truck?" Disbelief edged into her voice.

Callan chuckled. "A truck is just that. Touch my bike and I’ll hunt you down."

Terri managed a smile. "Somehow I expected that answer." Terri fell silent, her brain trying to catch up with the last two days. She had never really thought the stories about some bikers selling their women off like property were true. She had just figured the stories were something close to children’s tales about the bogeyman. It might not be real but then again, when you were a kid, you couldn’t take too many chances. Now I know better she thought to herself.

Callan pulled into Gus’ parking lot and was grateful that she didn’t have to fight to find a spot. She killed the engine and opened her door. "C’mon." She instructed as she stepped out of the truck and looked around. She let the door close softly and waited for Terri at the bed of the truck. She allowed her eyes to linger over Terri’s figure. If circumstances were different…she cut the thought off before it could finish itself. She sighed silently.

Terri looked up just in time to see O’Malley’s expression. She felt like a cross between a deer in the headlights and the lunch special. O’Malley’s face had the open look of hunger. A shiver ran down her back. She was surprised when the biker abruptly turned and headed for the front door of the hole in the wall diner. Terri followed, confused again. The little voice in her head told her to get used to the feeling.

She followed O’Malley into the diner and they found an empty booth near the back, away from most of the lunch crowd. They ordered coffee as they settled in and in moments each woman had a steaming cup of black coffee. Callan ordered breakfast without having to bother with a menu. Terri ordered after a quick round with the grimy plastic coating of pages. The waitress grunted and popped her gum as she walked away.

"So what’s the story with you and Trey?" Callan jumped in with both feet.

Terri shrugged. "I was drifting and he gave me a ride. I guess staying with him was better than being alone. Sort of safer." Terri answered after a moment. "He was okay at first but when he hooked up with Spyder, he just got mean."

"Apparently." Callan took a sip of coffee and instantly her face relaxed. "And that’s the life you want?"

"Listen O’Malley, what I want won’t happen so I don’t go lying to myself about it. Life sucks and sometimes you have to take what you can get. Yeah Trey is an asshole and he talks a lot with his fists, but I know guys who are way worse. I’ve seen them." Terri answered, her voice edging toward anger and her eyes flashing at Callan. "Besides, I don’t know you. You could be a hell of a lot worse."

Callan nodded. "Yeah, I could be. But then, I’m not the one running around saying you might be a cop." She watched Terri’s face pale at the accusation. "Keep in mind that if I were worse than the others, I would be treating you like a prize bitch and take anything I wanted." She let the sentence hang in the air.

"Who said I was a cop?" Terri asked, her voice wavering.

"Maria heard it going around. Trey was running his mouth last night."

Terri opened her mouth to ask a question and closed it quickly as the waitress returned with a pot of coffee to refill their cups. She waited until the woman walked away and looked around. Spyder could have people anywhere as she had learned in the past.

"I know he’s pissed but that kind of rumor could get me killed." She looked at O’Malley. "What the hell is he thinking?"

Callan shrugged. "He’s trying to get back at both of us. I made him look bad by beating him at cards and one punch. You didn’t bitch enough about me taking you away." Callan leaned back in the booth. "According to him, you are obviously not sharing my bed so one of us must be a cop. I just did eighteen months in county for Spyder, so they’ll think it’s you."

"Great." Terri sighed and let her head rest in her hands. "I’m fucked. Nice knowing you O’Malley. They’ll kill me."

Callan heard footsteps and turned to see the waitress returning with their order. She pushed her coffee cup aside to make room for breakfast. The waitress settled their plates on the table followed by ketchup and steak sauce. Not bothering to ask if they needed anything else she left. Callan grabbed her knife and cut into her steak.

"What if I said there’s a way to deflect all that bullshit away from you and make him look like a fool?" She asked as she brought a piece of steak to her mouth.

"I’d say I have to hear what it is before I said yes or no." Terri answered as she pushed her scrambled eggs around the plate.

"Okay, now just hear me out before you scream at me. It’s no secret that I prefer women." She watched Terri nod her head slowly. "What I’m suggesting is that we make it look like you’re between my sheets and enjoying it." She bit down on her steak and almost moaned. Gus’ might look like a dive but they made a good breakfast steak.

Terri stopped short at the suggestion. "We do that and he’s going to be way pissed, you know that don’t you? I’ve seen him like that. He’s going to do whatever he can to get back at us."

"Well, more like get back at me. You have no choice right, you’re mine now, and you have to do what I tell you. I can handle him." Callan promised with a grim expression.

"I’m going to need some time to think this over." Terri said softly.

Callan nodded in understanding. "Okay. Now eat your food." She said as she dug into her plate with enthusiasm.

Terri watched for a long moment before she started to eat. As she chewed she ran the situation through her head. She could keep going as she was and most likely find her life was worth the total sum of a bullet in the head or she put her existence in the hands of a woman she nothing about. True, this was a woman who had the brains to beat Trey at cards and she knew he cheated. O’Malley had taken one of his harder punches to the side of the head and gave better than she got. She felt like she was the high wire act and instead of a safety net, there were hungry lions at the end of a long fall. Her mother never told her that life on occasion might be harder than it looked.

Callan pushed her plate to the edge of the table, her sleeve riding up her forearm. Terri couldn’t miss the Celtic banded tattoo and the initials ER just above the banding. She could see that the band went all around O’Malley’s arm. She wondered if it hurt and who ER was. Callan pulled her sleeve back over the exposed tattoo. The look on O’Malley’s face cut the question off before she could voice it. Apparently it was an off limits subject. Terri went back to eating her meal and was surprised when she noticed that, for the first time in a long time her stomach wasn’t in knots as she ate.

"What’s that look on your face?" Callan asked after a sip of coffee.

"I just realized this is the first time my stomach’s not doing flips while I’m eating." She answered truthfully. Callan’s expression told Terri that the other woman didn’t understand. "It was one of his favorite times to fight. Nothing was ever right." She explained.

Callan nodded. "Well, food wise, I’m pretty easy. As long as it’s dead and relatively cooked I’ll eat it."

Terri finished her breakfast and checked her watch. She still had time to make it to her probation office appointment. Pushing her plate to the end of the table, she watched as O’Malley checked the bill and fished out her wallet. She dropped a twenty on the table and started to slide out of the booth.

"Aren’t you going to wait for your change?"

"Nah, I just leave it as a tip. It’s only money." Callan answered as she stood up. "You ready?"

Terri nodded. She couldn’t think of any reason to stay at the diner. "Sure." She followed O’Malley out of Gus’ and into the daylight.


Terri watched O’Malley pull away from the curb and out of the parking lot. With quick sure steps she made her way to the elevators and waited impatiently along with the others milling around. She kept her gaze leveled straight ahead, ignoring the sidelong glances from the better-dressed people. In her worn jeans and casual blouse she was definitely not an office employee or some well off client. In their eyes she could only be a proby.

She suffered the trip to the sixth floor in silence. The mixture of too strong cologne and sweat was making her stomach nervous. She was finally able to push her way to the door as it almost closed again. She waited until the door closed again before she turned and walked down the hall towards the door of the probation office. She took a deep breath and entered the office. Without a word she signed the clipboard while the secretary picked up the office phone and announced her arrival. The secretary hung up the phone and buzzed Terri into the inner hall. She noticed the echoes of her footsteps down the empty hallway.

Terri didn’t bother knocking on the familiar door. She entered, closed the door and walked over to chair across from the man sitting behind the desk. His suit was wrinkled enough for her to believe he’d slept in it. She sat while he listened to the other end of the conversation. Once in a while he made some sort of noise to assure the other end that he was listening or at least alive. Finally, he muttered an unenthusiastic ‘yes sir’ and hung up rubbing his face vigorously before looking up at her.

"Would you like to explain what in the hell is going on?" He sounded tired.

"Before or after I skewer that rat bastard little fu..."

"Terri calm down." He cut her off quickly.

Terri inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. "Have you talked to Trey?"

"Why do you think I called you in? I couldn’t understand a damn thing he said. He was on pain pills and damn drunk."

"Okay, readers digest version. Trey spent eight hours losing at cards, including the five hundred I worked my ass off for at the club," she was mad and he could see it. "Then he whines about losing and challenges some new biker woman to something archaic called ‘one punch’. Which if you ask me, is just two idiots getting to hit each other in the head." She took a deep breath and continued. "It gets better. Did I mention that he put me up for that part of the bet? He did and lost. So now I ‘belong’ to this woman, who as, a biker goes doesn’t seem to be a Neanderthal, except for that whole one punch thing. But wait, there’s more," George did not miss the sarcasm. "It seems my new owner prefers the company of women in her bed and because it’s obvious that she didn’t just toss me down and fuck me, Trey is telling anyone who’ll listen that one of us, me or the biker chick, must be a cop." Terri slumped in her seat. "Basically I’m fucked because everyone is looking at me like I’m a badge."

George waited for a moment to make sure she was finished and he could get a word in edgewise. "Terri, you are a cop." He reminded gently.

"George, we know that. Trey is supposed to be one of us, so he knows that. The bad guys we’re trying to catch, aren’t supposed to know that." She whispered loudly. "You need to pull him back in, he’s getting damn close to crossing the line."

"Who’s the biker?" He asked, ignoring her request.

Terri sighed. "A woman by the name of O’Malley. First name is pronounced Kalhan. I don’t know how to spell it." She watched George scribble on a note pad. "From what I gather, she just did an eighteen month stretch in county. I don’t know what for."

"Full sentence or parole?" He asked almost distracted.

"Full sentence I think."

"Okay, trying to smooth over you being associated with her." He mumbled as he wrote. "Guess there’s not much of a chance that she’d give you back to Trey?" He asked.

"Think snowball and hell." She muttered dryly. "And George, I wouldn’t go back if given the choice."

George sat forward and let his pen drop. The question was written on his face. "Spill it."

Terri managed to blink twice before confusion took over. "Spill it? George, didn’t you get my reports for the last four months?"

Lieutenant George Schmidt shook his head. "Trey said you were coming up dry, so I let it go." He admitted.

"Jesus," Terri managed. "George, in the last four months Trey’s beaten me up twice and his behavior has taken on a whole new swing. Each time he’s claimed that it was necessary to keep our cover intact."

"Was it?" George felt his palms begin to sweat. He did not need a cop going over the edge.

Terri thought the question over for a moment. "Not that I’m aware of." Terri answered and checked her watch. "He’s gotten closer to Spyder but I don’t believe that he’s kept me in the loop."

George nodded again as he processed mentally. "Well, so much for keeping you two together for cover." He looked at Terri with concern. "I don’t have any idea what to tell you about the situation with this O’Malley."

"She offered a temporary solution. It’s not perfect but it would work for now, at least until you get more info on her." She sounded unsure even to her own ears.

"Care to share?"

"She suggested that we both make it look like we actually have a physical relationship. The upside is that Spyder and his cronies probably won’t look at me like I’m a cop. The down side is that it will probably really piss off Trey and I can’t predict his behavior."

"Are you prepared to go that far?" His face was unreadable.

Terri shrugged. "George, my options here are pretty limited. If you’re asking can I convincingly make it look like I’m having a good time and great sex with this woman, then my answer is yes. I don’t have a choice. I’ve got over a year sunk into this investigation. I’m not walking away."

"This could blow up in your face. You said she’s done time."

"Give me some other option here, otherwise, I run with this one." She replied.

George shook his head. "I don’t have one yet. How connected is she to the club?"

"Honestly I’m not sure. It could be close to Spyder but not the club. She doesn’t wear club colors and I don’t see where she’s an associate. I’ll pick some brains when I can." She paused for a second to think an idea through. "You know being with O’Malley might not be a bad thing. Being on the outside looking in, I might get a better big picture."

George sighed. "I’ll get you what I can on O’Malley. Contact Heather for updates. She’ll be your ‘mom’ from now on."

Terri nodded. "Okay. I know we’re playing this a little loose but I’d rather Trey not be kept in my loop. As much as you’d like to ignore my request to pull him in, I’m not going to let him get me hurt. And I will keep suggesting that you pull him."

"I can’t do that right now."

Terri swallowed her smart-ass reply. She knew that pushing George beyond his limits was a bad idea. Inwardly she could appreciate her boss being between a rock and a hard place. His bosses wanted results, city officials wanted the motorcycle club’s criminal activity to end and they had little to show for the team’s efforts lately. If Trey were crossing the line, it would probably mean an end to George’s career. He was a lifelong cop; it was in his blood. He needed his badge like people needed oxygen.

"Okay. Have any new news for me?" She changed the subject.

He sighed. "No, it’s been relatively quiet." He sounded worried. "It’s an adventure sometimes."

"Yeah but you told me adventures are nasty, icky things that make one late for dinner." She reminded him with a smile. "Next week?"

George nodded his head. "Yeah. Any changes, you contact me." He ordered.

"I will." Terri promised as she signed her ‘probationary visit’ paperwork. She left his office with a reassuring smile. Once she closed the door she let the smile fall. She really was not feeling all that reassured herself.


O’Malley pulled her truck to a stop in the driveway of a modest looking single story house. She shook her head slowly as she pulled the keys from the ignition. The neighborhood, while not prestigious was certainly better than the run down streets most of the club members lived on. Business must be good, she thought quietly. She took a breath and exited her truck closing the door loud enough so that it could be heard in the house. It would be bad for her health if she surprised Spyder.

A tall blonde with a permanent mousy disposition answered her knock at the door. Greeting each other quietly the blonde pointed toward the living room area then turned to what O’Malley knew was the kitchen. She knew from past experience that the woman would wait hand and foot on Spyder and his guests. Nothing was too much for his circle. She shelved the observation and stepped into the living room, her face a neutral mask.

"O’Malley," Spyder greeted her as she walked into the room. "I hear it didn’t take you long to get back into the swing of things. Sit down, have a drink."

O’Malley nodded and found her favorite spot by the fireplace. She liked having a wall at her back. "I’m an over achiever." She muttered in a flat tone, letting her eyes rest on the gang leader. As always, she was surprised at how absolutely normal he looked. Good looking enough to attract women’s attention, though not what anyone would consider handsome. In shape yet not looking like he was a slave to the weights. He didn’t match the mental picture of a man who ran a lucrative criminal enterprise.

Spyder laughed as his girlfriend walked into the room and handed a beer to each of them. O’Malley nodded her thanks. She took a long sip of her beer as the blonde left the room. She was no doubt staying as far away from the room as possible. The rumors of Spyder’s treatment of eavesdroppers were legendary. Looking into his eyes, O’Malley was sure the rumors were true.

"Just don’t let it be a problem." He advised as he took a drink of his beer.

O’Malley shrugged. "That’s up to him. I’m cool to let some things go. Making noise that I’m some fucking cop is not something I’m cool with." She leaned back against the wall. "I’m happy to do what I do and make money. I’m not happy about having to watch my back all the time."

"Trey has a point. If she’s not fucking you, she could be a cop." His voice was even and calm.

"Jesus Spyder, think about it. She’s been with him how long? And he’s never said nothing about her not being between his sheets." She tapped her head with a finger. "I think… he doesn’t have his free ride anymore so suddenly she’s a cop."

Spyder nodded his head slowly. "That does make a certain amount of sense. But O’Malley, what if she is a cop?"

O’Malley raised her gaze to meet his. "Then I’ll put a bullet in her myself and then, I’ll put a bullet in him. He brought her here, which means the chances are he is too." O’Malley drained her beer. "I’m out of here for a few days. A friend has a line on some Barettas. You interested?" She set the beer bottle on the floor.

Spyder leaned back in his seat, thinking. "How much?"

"I won’t know until I see them. If they’re clean it’s higher, if they’re junk I won’t buy real high. Call my cell phone in a couple of days. I’ll know more by then."

He nodded. "Sounds good. Who’s gonna keep an eye on the chick?"

She looked at him for a moment before answering. "She’s going with me."

"You sure that’s smart?"

"If she’s a cop, she already knows what I do for a living. If she’s not, it doesn’t really matter. I’m supposed to be on vacation visiting, she’s just the window dressing if anyone has eyes on my friend."

Spyder smiled. O’Malley had never struck him as the reckless type. She always planned ahead and always checked out anyone who she questioned. She wasn’t a member of the club and she didn’t wear the colors. She liked her independence and free lance status but he couldn’t help but wish that he could tie her to the club officially. If only to keep himself covered.

"Okay, day after tomorrow. Any other reason you’re taking her?"

O’Malley smiled. "Yeah, it’s a long fucking drive. This time I won’t have to talk to myself. My conversations suck."


Terri was waiting at the bus stop bench when O’Malley’s truck pulled up next to the curb. She jumped into the cab of the vehicle quickly and buckled up as O’Malley moved back into traffic. Terri could not read her expression.

"How’d it go?" O’Malley asked as she lowered the radio volume.

"It went. I have to be back next week."

"Is that normal?" O’Malley asked.

"Every time he and his wife fight, his probies get extra visits." Terri groused and then fell silent. She chewed her thumbnail for a little while. "I was thinking when I was waiting for you."

"Yeah," O’Malley was distracted by having to change lanes.

"Can I ask why you didn’t…that first night? I mean I’m grateful you didn’t force…shit. I’m saying this all wrong." Terri couldn’t figure out why she was having a sudden problem with words. She blushed in embarrassment when she heard O’Malley chuckle.

"Look Ter, I like women. A lot." She grinned for a moment. "But I also have this thing for women who come into my bed willingly. I don’t know a great deal about what went on with you and Trey but I can add two and two." She risked a glance at the woman sitting next to her.

"I was thinking that I’m okay with what you suggested. I won’t live long if they think I’m a cop and I don’t think you can let me just leave. I’m never going back to Trey." Terri said in a rush. "But how do we go from me not sleeping with you to sleeping with you?"

O’Malley’s cell phone cut off the answer. Grabbing the phone, she pressed the center button.

"Yeah?" Her voice was rough. She listened for a second and a smile broke out on her face. "Barnes, you war dog. How the hell are you?" After a moment she laughed out loud and had to pull the truck back into her lane. Terri nearly had a heart attack. "No man, that’s cool. Yeah I can still make it. Sure but I’ll have company." O’Malley had to wait for the questions on the other end to cease. "No, I’m not telling. I’ll fill you in when we get there. But we have to be back here in a week."

Terri knew O’Malley was talking about the two of them and had a moment of fear which took every ounce of training to keep it from showing on her face. A trip was the last thing she had been expecting. I hate to remind you, but this whole case isn’t what you were expecting, her mind supplied with a great deal of sarcasm.

"Yeah, it’ll be good to see you too. It’s been way too long. See ya in a day or two." O’Malley shut the phone down and let it settle in the cup holder by her seat. "And to answer your question," she continued. "I was planning to visit an army buddy. You come with me and while gone, our ‘relationship’ just kinda happens."

"So we go away practically strangers and come back lovers." Terri clarified. "So where are we going?"

"Ever been to Texas?" O’Malley asked quietly.

"I went to El Paso once. It was different." Terri answered slowly. Her stomach did a flip-flop.

O’Malley did not miss the tone of Terri’s voice. Something about El Paso had obviously not been pleasant. She herself had been to the desert city and had enjoyed the surrounding mountains, climate and she had really enjoyed the food. Most importantly she had enjoyed the company.

"Army buddy huh?" She asked curiously and shifted in her seat. She was treated to O’Malley’s profile. The thin white lines of scars marred the lean lines of her face. "What did you do in the army?"

"Supply mostly." O’Malley answered smoothly. "And avoided the Military Police." She finished with a smile. "Barnes and me, we still keep in touch from time to time. He’s an okay guy. Is Hank going to give you shit about taking off from work?" O’Malley changed the subject.

Terri groaned. "Yeah, he is."

"Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to him tomorrow and then he won’t have a problem with it."

"What do you mean?" Terri was a little worried about the tone of O’Malley’s voice.

O’Malley turned her blue eyes on Terri. "I’ll take care of it." She said.

Terri felt like protesting but knew it might be a bad idea. Instead, she shifted again in her seat and stared out the windshield. At this moment, she had no doubt that O’Malley was a dangerous woman if she chose to be. There was something deep inside the pale blue orbs that scared the hell out of her. Both women spent the rest of the trip to O’Malley’s rental house in silence. Each absorbed in their own thoughts and their own fears.

They spoke little during an early dinner and when Terri announced that she had to get to work, O’Malley handed her the truck keys without a word. She watched the petite woman struggle into the driver’s seat and pull slowly out of the driveway. She closed the front door and managed to pour herself a drink. After a few moments of solitude she worked her way to a sort of calm. She knew Terri could have no idea of her level of hatred for Hank Stillman. Even the name set her on a dangerous edge. She refilled her drink and sat in her favorite chair and watched the sun bleed into setting.


Callan strained against the pain and growled out loud. Her weighted right hand shook with the effort and fatigue. Letting out a harsh breath, she managed to bring the weight up to the designated point and ease it back down. She blinked several times as drops of sweat fell to the floor.

"One more Sergeant," the physical therapist said in his no nonsense manner.

"Damn it," she muttered under her breath knowing that he heard her and not really caring. The pain of getting shot was nearly nothing compared to this. Her whole body was one big lump of hurt. She swallowed the desire to cry and concentrated on the task at hand. Slowly, she urged her damaged muscles to move upward. This time she could only bring the weight halfway up.

"Quit slacking on me," Stephens ordered in a harsh tone. A disgusted snort followed when she couldn’t get the weight to move further. "How the hell did you make it out of the desert? Come on, half way, finish it."

Callan knew she was beyond the point of being able. She let her arm ease down. "You finish it." She rasped and drew in several harsh breaths.

"So you’re just going to quit? Give up now and all you’ll have is a useless decoration for your shirts." He taunted.

"That will be quite enough."

The strong voice caused both exhausted patient and physical therapist to turn in surprise. Lt. Rivers stalked into the room and planted herself in front of Stephens. Her normally smiling face was rigid in anger. Callan took a second to wonder who had stolen her favorite nurse.

"Ma’am, the Sergeant needs to finish these exercises without giving up." Stephens began. "You can’t baby or coddle her."

"How many?" Lt. Rivers demanded.

"Ma’am?" Stephens asked in confusion.

"How many reps did you have her do?" she enunciated each word slowly.

"Fifteen Ma’am. Standard procedure for rehabbing a shoulder wound."

"Standard for a shoulder wound without the complications of broken ribs." Lt. Rivers watched the therapist drain of color. His normally ruddy complexion paled at the implication.

"I didn’t know Ma’am…" He began.

Lt. Rivers cut him off harshly. "You do read, don’t you Stephens? I mean, you wouldn’t have lied to the Air Force about being literate."

"No Ma’am. I mean, yes Ma’am I can read." He stammered.

"Then why would you have this patient doing exercises that are beyond her current medical capacity? Did you read the file?" She demanded.

"No Ma’am." He finally admitted. "Henderson passed this case to me and gave me an overview. He’s normally very thorough."

"I’m sure he is." Her words were clipped. "You are done for the day Sergeant O’Malley. Stephens you will be ready to explain yourself to the CNO by end of the day. I suggest you find Henderson and bring him with you when the CNO calls."

He brought himself to attention. "Yes Ma’am."

She stepped close to him. "While you have been warm and comfortable and safe here in Ramstein, there are others who actually stepped onto Iraqi sand. Don’t you ever let me hear of you berating them again." She ordered in a low but clear voice "Dismissed."

She waited until the therapy room door closed before she turned to face Callan. "Are you okay?"

"You mean I didn’t have to go through all that?" Callan asked. She watched Ellen Rivers shake her head sadly. Callan closed her eyes in frustration and pain. Every cell in her body rebelled and wanted to strike out. She opened her eyes and almost exploded. The tears tracking down Ellen’s face stopped her in an instant. She let out a slow, calming breath. "Ma’am, could you get me out of this thing?"

Callan waited patiently while the Lt. released the Velcro wrap holding the weight in her hand. Her relief lasted only seconds before more pain invaded. She closed and opened her fist slowly several times, halting only when the pain became almost too much. She was surprised when a soft, strong hand closed gently over hers.

"It will never happen again." Ellen promised quietly.

"I know Ma’am." Callan reassured her nurse. "Army dogs know Air Force pukes can’t read." She joked and was rewarded with a groan. "Joke Ma’am, please don’t order me drawn and quartered." This time she got the smile she was looking for and her heart swelled. Her mind took a moment to remind her to be careful.

"And Air Force pukes know Army dogs can’t follow orders. Come on, let’s get you into your wheels and get you cleaned up." She said and offered her arm to help Callan up and over to the wheelchair the Sergeant was under orders to travel in when distance was required. In the week since her ribs were pronounced healed enough, Callan had worked her way up to three laps around the ward hallways every other day.

Ellen Rivers was amazed at the stubborn Army Sergeant who had to literally be strapped down to keep her still. She had watched O’Malley begin painful therapy with very few complaints even though she knew deep down inside, the pain had to be incredible. She now knew what kind of woman had dragged one of her soldier’s two and a half miles to safety. Each day her admiration grew as did her concern and worry. Physically, O’Malley was beginning to heal but she knew about the nightmares that the woman always brushed off.

"I’ll get the CNO to assign you to a new therapist. And I’ll make sure that your file is read this time." She said as she released the brakes on the wheels.

"I guess you got my back?" Callan wondered out loud.

"I’m in the Air Force Sergeant, we call it a six."

"Clock watcher." Callan teased.


O’Malley jolted awake; her eyes tracking steadily as her mind cleared of the fog. When the phone rang again she understood there was no reason for alarm. She pushed the dream memory aside for the moment. Her brain would figure it out in time. She picked up the receiver and pressed it to her ear.

"Yeah?" She managed to sound almost awake.

"O’Malley?" Terri could barely hear over the music in the club.

"Terri? What’s wrong?" A million worst case possibilities ran through her head.

"Could you come get me? I’m at the club and you have four flat tires." Terri’s worry and fear came through loud and clear.

"Flat or slashed?" O’Malley asked and waited for an answer. "Terri, just tell me the truth, I’m gonna find out anyway."

Terri sighed. "Slashed."

"Okay. I’ll come get you on the bike. Do you see Trey anywhere around?"

"No. But that’s when I worry the most." Terri admitted tiredly.

"Just hang at work till I get there. You see him, just call the cops."

"You have got to be kidding me." Terri nearly shouted over the phone.

"Why would a cop call the cops if she were a cop?" O’Malley reasoned and after a moment heard a small chuckle at the other end. "It’s a normal thing to do if you’re scared. I’ll be there soon."

"Okay and I’m sorry."

"Don’t be. He’s the one who’s gonna find sorry." O’Malley didn’t wait for a reply. She let the phone drop gently into its cradle. She moved quickly to place a quick call on her cell phone to arrange for a tow and new tires for the truck. That done she grabbed her leather jacket and fished the bike keys from the counter. In no time her Harley Soft Tail was out of the garage and on the road. She kept the anger deep inside as she drove. The irony of having an accident now would just make the fates smile. She had no desire to please the fates.

It took O’Malley fifteen minutes to get to the strip club. She parked her bike in full view of the bouncer at the front door. As she swung her leg over the bike, she could see her truck and the four flat tires. She could only laugh at the childish act. Everyone knew that if you wanted to really piss her off, you went after her bike.

He’s trying to scare Terri you pin head, her mind clarified after a second. The internal laughter died quickly. She cut her way through the line and handed a twenty to the bouncer to watch her bike. He nodded without saying a word. She wondered how he managed to nod without a neck. His glare was enough to silence the voices that shouted in protest. O’Malley made her way to the bar and nearly had to shout to ask for Terri. One of the bartenders pointed towards the manager’s office. She ignored the music, dancers and customers as she moved quickly. Her knock was answered almost immediately. Hank Stillman pulled the door open and let her into the cramped space. Terri sat in front of his desk, tension lined on her face.

"You okay Terri?" She asked quietly. Terri nodded and clutched her purse. "Let’s go home."

"I can’t let you leave that piece of junk in the parking lot." Hank chose to pipe up.

"It’s taken care of." O’Malley answered. "And she’s taking a week or two off starting right now." She added almost as an after thought.

"No way. Her schedule’s set." He argued.

"Do yourself a huge favor Hank. Just give her the time off." O’Malley replied her gaze leveled at him.

"She don’t show tomorrow, she’s fired." He threatened.

"Then she’s fired." Callan said flatly. "You need anything from here?" She asked Terri in a tone that discouraged any argument. Terri shook her head slowly, her eyes wide. "Fine we’re outta here. C’mon."

Terri watched Hank put a restraining hand on O’Malley’s right arm only to have his thumb trapped and wrenched painfully in a direction that the digit was not designed for. O’Malley’s left hand wrapped itself around his throat. Strong fingers squeezed enough to get his attention. "She’s fired, we’re leaving and you never touch me again. Got it?"

Hank managed a squeak that Terri assumed was a yes. She rose from her seat and stepped carefully over to O’Malley. She knew better that to startle the volatile woman. Hank was beginning to turn purple from the pressure constricting his throat.

"He gets the message O’Malley. C’mon. He’s not going to try anything or sick anyone on us. Are you Hank?" The not so subtle message sank into his brain. "See, we can go." She said. "Please." She pleaded when O’Malley did not seem to hear. Finally, after a long tense moment, O’Malley released Hank to his pain.

She edged out of the room sideways as she pulled Terri along with her. She knew better than to turn her back on a viper. Terri closed the office door and felt O’Malley’s hand wrap around hers. An odd sensation of safety started despite the potentially dangerous situation. She followed as O’Malley led the way through the club and outside. She waved to the bouncer and stopped short in front of the bike. She took the helmet that was handed to her and secured it in place as O’Malley started the bike.

"You gonna be okay for the ride back or do you need the jacket?" O’Malley’s words were soft.

"I’ll be okay. I just want to be out of here." She admitted.

O’Malley held out her hand and Terri held onto it while she settled herself onto the bike. With a quick look to make sure the coast was clear, she pulled onto the asphalt and made her way to the exit of the parking lot. Two sets of hearts beat fast for different reasons. O’Malley mentally berated herself for losing control in the office, Terri trying to figure out the enigma that was O’Malley. One minute the woman was an open book, the next she was explosive. Her head hurt from trying to figure the situation and the stress of walking out to the truck on her break and finding the slashed tires. She knew that it had to be Trey or one of his own little yes men. She sighed wishing for the first time that she wasn’t a cop, wasn’t under cover and that she could have her normal life back.

Her arms tightened automatically around O’Malley’s waist when the bike took a turn a little too fast for her comfort. She felt O’Malley’s hand touch hers reassuringly. Then the hand was gone. She let her head rest against O’Malley’s back. It had been one very long, trying day and she was tired. She let her mind drift for the rest of the trip back to O’Malley’s house. Feeling when they turned into the driveway and hearing the garage door open automatically, she waited until the bike was turned off before she moved.

She unbuckled the helmet and handed it to O’Malley before getting off the bike. Without waiting for the other woman, she pushed open the garage door and made her way into the house. She pulled two beers out of the refrigerator and twisted the caps off. She looked up when she heard O’Malley’s boots on the hardwood floor and the keys hit the counter. Not missing the tired and unsure expression in O’Malley’s eyes, she held out one of the beers to the woman.

"Thanks." O’Malley took the bottle and sipped from it. "I was an asshole earlier. I want you to know I’m sorry."

"You did warn me about that," Terri admitted. "I just didn’t know where it came from and I don’t really know you, so I didn’t know how to act."

"If you can’t tell, Hank isn’t one of my favorite people. He just pushes some button in me. You got the fall out."

"Well, maybe I got the fall out, but I think he got exploded on tonight." Terri took her beer, walked over to the couch and sat down. After a moment she started to chuckle. "Did you see his face?"

"When his eyes bugged out or when he turned funny colors?" O’Malley asked wryly and sat down in her favorite over stuffed chair.

"In general. I think I owe you some money. I’ve always said that I would pay to watch someone kick his ass."

O’Malley held out her hand. "Hand it over."

Terri managed not to spill her beer as she fell over with laughter. She hadn’t expected the biker to play so easily. After a minute she was able to compose herself. "Can I pay you after I get another job?"

O’Malley set her beer on the floor. "You don’t have to get another job." She said quietly. "I can take care of us both. I had a talk with Spyder today and there’s no help there. I’m guessing Spyder had a talk with him and it set him off. I didn’t figure him to do something like this. You’ll be safer if I’m around."

Terri stared at the biker. "You’re gonna protect me?" She asked with a tinge of regret.

"It’s sorta my fault that you’re in this mess, so yeah, I’m gonna try." O’Malley answered as she picked up her beer again. "I don’t know you that well either you know." She said after a long silence.

Terri looked at her, surprise written on her face. "What do you want to know?"

"Haven’t thought about it yet. I’ll ask when I think of something."

"Okay. Does that work both ways?" She wondered out loud as she pulled off her shoes and tucked her feet under her.

O’Malley ran the question through her head and nodded when she came to her decision. Somewhere deep inside she knew what some of the questions would be, she would just have to deal with them when they came. She would answer as honestly as she could and deal with the aftermath at a later date. She watched Terri struggle with the given permission. She guessed that questions and free thought weren’t real high priorities with Trey.

They spent the rest of the evening making small talk, avoiding asking questions. O’Malley was curious about Terri’s life before she had hooked up with Trey but something held her back. She recognized it for what it was. She didn’t want to get too close. Curiosity had a way of making one care and she didn’t want to care when she was so close to seeing her plan come to an end.

Terri wanted to ask a million questions but didn’t know where to start and after such a roller coaster day, she didn’t want to ask anything that might set the biker off on another round of silent treatment or possibly worse. There were few things that truly scared her and one of them was the type of barely restrained beast that had shown itself in Hank’s office. That sort of person was too close to home.

Chapter 4


Callan let the stuffed overnight bags fall to the floor with a thud and exhaling a heavy breath. Not knowing where they were going and what the weather would be like, Terri had packed for most situations, which unfortunately meant a backbreaking carry. She heard the hotel room door close as she peeled out of her blue shirt letting it fall to the floor making Terri come up short as it dropped.

The white tank top O’Malley wore was well worn and tight over defined muscle. In that instant Terri knew why she’d been able to drop Trey with one punch. The strength of the woman was hidden behind the clothes that she chose. She also saw the tattoos peeking out on shoulder blades. Two ridges of scar tissue bisected the helicopter distorting the air assault tattoo on the right. The material of the tank top obscured most of the image of a baby dragon on the left.

"Nice tats," Terri managed. "Bet those hurt."

"Nope. I think I was too loaded to notice." Callan answered with a smile letting her body fall on to the bed.

"I’m gonna hit the shower, unless you want it first." Terri said as she let the second, lighter, bag settle on the floor by the bathroom. Nine hours of driving and talking had worn her out.

Pale blue eyes turned in her direction. "Are you saying I stink?"

Terri nodded, comfortable that the biker wouldn’t bite her head off. "But I would also have to say I do too." Bending she pulled a pair of jeans from the bag and rummaged for a shirt and bra.

Callan laughed. "Well in that case, I’ll go second. You hungry?" Reaching for the TV remote, she managed to turn on the machine.

"Starving." Terri admitted as she stepped into the bathroom. She blinked against the bright lights and set her things on the counter next to the sink.

"You want Chinese or Italian?" Callan shouted from the front room as she found the restaurant section in the phone book.

"You pick but if it’s Chinese I like mine spicy." Terri answered as she started the water. She didn’t hear Callan’s reply as she shut the door wasting no time undressing and starting the shower.

The water on her body felt like paradise even if it did nothing to quell the nervousness in her stomach. She didn’t like going to El Paso. There were still enough members from the drug gang not in jail that could recognize her from her last assignment. It’s only one night. What could go wrong? her mind asked. The events of the last few days replayed in her memory. I’m not going anywhere tonight. Terri ducked her head under the spray of the showerhead and closed her eyes.

O’Malley hung the receiver then reached into her wallet for the money to cover dinner. Placing the cash on the nightstand she let her eyes linger on the photograph that stared back at her. With a sigh, she closed her wallet tossing it onto the nightstand where it came to rest on top of the money. She took cold comfort in the fact that very soon she would be able to settle old scores. Maybe she could even move forward and letting some things go and she might even be able to regain a sense of herself reconnecting with the person she had once been.

She listened to the shower and again wondered why yet again she was rescuing some woman in distress. Callan wouldn’t dare call Terri a damsel; the woman had too much fire in her to be helpless. A small smile found its way to her face. She had to admit a thing for women with fire. There was something alluring about being drawn to the flame. The trick was to avoid being all consumed by the heat… a trick she had learned too late with Ellen.

Callan pushed the past into the little space deep inside as she rolled off the bed peeking out the window and catching a glimpse of the vehicle she’d seen many times during the day. Mentally she searched for the reason the car looked familiar. She came up blank but considering how long they’d driven during the day, she wasn’t surprised.

She also didn’t believe in coincidence. If she had to put money on the bet, she would have to guess that Trey or Spyder was having her tailed. She would also put the same money down that her tail was watching. Nothing like honor among thieves, she thought to herself smiling coldly.

She turned away from the window without closing the curtains. She tugged her tank top off letting it fall to the floor when she heard the shower turn off. Taking a deep breath, she knew that she would have to disclose the fact that they were being followed which was going to move the timing of their ‘relationship’.

She had no idea how her newfound ‘girlfriend’ was going to react to public displays of affection and intimacy. Hell, she didn’t even know if the woman could kiss well. She was still mulling over the prospects and doubts when the door opened and Terri stepped out dressed in dangerously tight jeans and tee shirt making Callan’s brain experienced a momentary short circuit. She took a moment to remind herself where she was and what she was supposed to be doing.

"That is so not nice." She muttered as she let her O’Malley persona fall into place.

"I heard that." Terri shot back with a smile. She dropped her dirty clothes in a small pile by the bed and sat down. Picking up her brush she started the process of untangling her hair.

O’Malley chuckled but sobered instantly as she prepared her words. "I really hate to tell you this but we seem to have company. Dark colored sedan in the parking lot. It’s been on our tail since we left."

Terri’s brush halted instantly. "And you’re just telling me this now?" O’Malley could see the fire rising in those eyes.

"I wasn’t sure till they pulled into the parking lot. It’s a highway Ter, lots of people use ‘em, sometimes they even use them at the same time." O’Malley answered tightly.

Terri had to agree with the logic. "I’m sorry. Did you get a look at who’s driving?"

"Yeah but I don’t know the face. I’m gonna jump in the shower since I stink. The food should be here soon. Leave the curtains open, act natural and if you can get a look at the driver, maybe you’ll recognize the face." O’Malley ordered as she grabbed her clean clothes. "Money’s on the nightstand. Leave a good tip."

Terri could only nod as O’Malley crossed the room and disappearing into the bathroom and finally let out a breath when she heard the water turn on. She resumed brushing her hair since she was supposed to be acting normal. How do you act normal when you have someone watching you and you know it but you leave the curtains open on purpose? Her training classes seemed to have left that part of the instruction out. She finished brushing her hair as quickly as possible and rolled over the bed to the nightstand. The curiosity was killing her. As quietly as she could she picked up the wallet and opened it.

She had to laugh at the mug shot on the driver’s license. So that’s how you spell Callan, her mind spoke to her. She did not miss seeing the picture of an incredibly good-looking woman in the protective plastic holder. The photo was worn around the edges as though it had been through a lot of handling. Whoever she is, she’s important enough to take center stage. Terri filed the thought away for future reference as she closed the wallet moving the money to her jean pocket just to be able to explain why the wallet had been moved.

Taking a chance, she glanced out the window toward the parking lot. Even from this distance, she recognized the face. It took everything she had not to react, keeping her expression as neutral as possible. The driver was one of Trey’s kiss ass flunkies who was obviously trying to win favor by drawing this assignment. She let herself lay back on the bed staring at the ceiling, her brain churning quickly.


Ellen Rivers opened the door to the exam room quietly. She stifled the chuckle that threatened escape. Callan O’Malley lay on the table, her face mostly covered by the standard blue ice pack. She closed the door and walked over to the soldier barely managing to restrain the hand that wanted to brush back Callan’s hair. She let out a slow breath.

"Helloooo nurse," Callan said from under the ice pack. "Does my face have freezer burn yet?"

Ellen lifted the ice pack and winced. "Nope, no freezer burn but damn, that’s going to be one hell of a shiner." She let the ice pack rest on the table. "Why is it every time I see you, you’re hurt?"

"Shh, this is just a play for sympathy." Callan teased and tried to smile. "Okay, maybe not. Damn, what did he hit me with?"

"His fist." Ellen answered. "You really should have asked him if he was afraid of needles." She couldn’t help the smile that crossed her lips.

"I wish I’d thought of it," Callan admitted painfully. "It just didn’t come up in the conversation. Actually, he just grunted at most of our questions. How’s Sean?"

"He’s feeling better I think. He’s flirting with Joan at the nurse’s station. The x-rays came back negative so nothing’s broken."

"Someone please tell my face." She groaned. "What time is it?"

Ellen checked her watch. "Jeez, it’s one in the morning. No wonder I’m tired."

"Great, I went off duty half an hour ago." Callan sat up slowly. "Care for a cup of coffee with an old friend? Unless you’re too tired."

Ellen debated the question. With a final look at Callan’s rumpled hair and bruised face, she decided to take the chance. One way or another, she would not allow herself to lose contact again.

"What about your gear?" Ellen asked, mentally figuring where they could grab coffee that was nearby yet, not on post.

"I’ll get Sean to take it in for me, we do it all the time. Just tell me you have wheels here. My car is on post and I’d rather not have to go back there and take all the shit I’m gonna take when they see my face." She explained in a rush of words.

Ellen laughed softly. "We can take my car."


Callan led the way into her rented house. It was a modest one-bedroom house with a nice big back yard and a much shorter front lawn. Ellen looked up and not for the first time, marveled at the number of stars she could see in the night sky. Slowly, she followed Callan into the living room closing the door. All around the room she could see the progression of Callan’s life. There were the family photos and framed achievements.

"Don’t pay too much attention to all of that," Callan said over her shoulder as she made for the kitchen. "My mom did that last time she visited." There was an odd twist of love and regret to the woman’s voice and Ellen did not miss it.

"Looks like she’s proud of you." Ellen observed.

Callan shook her head. "She wasn’t until after I got hit in the desert." Callan hit the start button on the coffee maker and pulled down two mugs for the coffee. "You want to jump out of that uniform? I have several sets of sweats that you can use. Course they all say Army on them."

Ellen’s face was a mask of undisguised shock. "You’re going to make me wear ‘army’ clothes? The shame of it all."

Callan smiled. "Them’s the breaks baby." She teased. "You watch the coffee, I’ll get you the sweats."

Ellen waited until Callan was out of the room and then drew in a shaky breath. They had already played superficial catch up on their lives. She had discovered Callan’s return to active duty and the Sergeant’s final hectic months at Ft. Hood. The assignment to Ft. Bliss in the desert city of El Paso had come as a surprise but she seemed to enjoy the odd change of pace. Callan had looked absolutely smug when she mentioned that field duty was a thing of the past, at least until she was posted somewhere else.

Ellen had only glossed over her own life since Ramstein Air Force Base. She wanted to tell Callan everything but the diner was not the place to have that conversation. Looking around at Callan’s life from birth to now, raised the ache in her heart. There had been days after Callan had been sent back to the States that she felt an absolute loneliness that had vanished the instant she had seen her again.

Turning at the sound of footsteps behind her, Callan handed off the sweats, plopped herself on the couch and without a word she unlaced her combat boots letting them fall to the floor with a thud.

Curling her toes, she let out a sigh of pleasure. "I have been waiting all day to do that. Make yourself comfortable. My house, such as it is, is yours." Callan’s smile was tired. "Bathroom is down the hall to the left. I’ll make sure the coffee machine doesn’t explode."

Ellen turned making her way down the hall. She heard Callan moving around in the other room, muttering something she could not make out. She closed the door to the bathroom and leaned against it heavily. Her brain would not shut itself off. Too many thoughts, too many questions and not enough courage to speak the answers out loud. Sighing, she tried not to look at herself in the mirror. She knew she was probably being silly. After all, she was a grown woman and an officer in the Air Force. However, she was in love with the female soldier in the other room. She closed her eyes against the truth of it.

Callan poured the coffee into the mugs and gingerly took a sip. It didn’t help; she still scalded her tongue on the hot liquid. The pain served only to remind her of the pain from the fist connecting with her face, which in turn reminded her of the shock of seeing Lt. Ellen Rivers again. She set her coffee cup down on the counter. A part of her was still in shock. She had resigned herself to never seeing the woman again but now her world was off kilter again. Despite it all, she smiled.

"What are you smiling at?" Ellen’s voice was filled with curiosity.

Callan turned to see the woman placing her folded clothes on the lamp table.

"Just smiling about seeing you again." Callan answered honestly. She picked up both coffee mugs carefully carrying them over to the coffee table.

"It was a surprise." Ellen admitted sitting on the couch.

Callan sat in her favorite chair. "Last postcard I got, you were in San Antonio."

"I was, then I was transferred to Utah."

"I was in the field when your post card came and it took me a while to get a letter sent off. It came back."

"Mail forwarding only lasts so long, O’Malley. Since I wasn’t living on base…" her voice trailed off.

"I know, I suck at letters." Callan admitted with a knowing smile. "So what the hell are you doing here? I mean has the Army been invaded by the Air Force?"

Ellen laughed out loud and leaned further into the couch. "You guys aren’t that dysfunctional yet. The Army and the Air Force have a sort of exchange program. We swap personnel sometimes, a sort of find out how the other guy lives. I happened to available when it came up. So here I am."

"So how do you like the Army?" Callan grinned.

"You people go to the field way too much. I’ve been here two months have been in the field three times. Why do you do that? The Army has a perfectly good and solid non movable hospital." She was being silly and she knew it.

"We only do that when we have other services around, makes you think we earn our pay or something." Callan teased. "It is nice to see you. I can honestly say I missed you." She had been dying to say those words for the last hour or so but in an Army town one had to be careful.

Ellen sipped her coffee thoughtfully. Her eyes locked on to Callan. "I missed you too."

"So why did you really take the Temporary Duty station?" Callan asked. Ellen’s eyes widened. "Can’t fool a cop Ellen."

Ellen let out a small breath. She should have remembered the soldier was observant. "I was in a relationship that I didn’t want to be in anymore. I broke it off and came here to hide," she finally admitted, "I wasn’t in love anymore."

Callan nodded. "I can understand that. What about the other person?"

Ellen braced herself for the storm she knew would be coming. "She took it better than I expected." She answered and held her breath. She could not meet Callan’s eyes.

"Her loss." Callan said quietly.

Ellen lifted her eyes seeing the silent acceptance in Callan’s face. "You’re not shocked?" She had expected to be run out on a rail.

Callan chuckled. "No. You don’t have to worry about the Air Force finding out from me. If I outed you, I would have to out myself as well."

Ellen set the coffee cup back down on the table with a dull thud. "You?" Many things suddenly clicked into place for her.

"Like you couldn’t tell." Callan tried to smile. "Damn, face still hurts."

"I couldn’t tell, honestly." Ellen managed.

"Well, it’s not like I was at my best. I was a little mangled at the time. Not my most charming".

Ellen took a chance. "Charming enough." She watched pale blue eyes struggle with trying to decide if this was flirtation or a declaration. "I think I respected the hell out of you when you woke up. Not too many women get shot up in combat. I fell in love with you the day you saw Barnes and cried because you couldn’t keep him from getting hurt." She admitted. "I kept telling myself that it was hero worship, that I was infatuated with the way you deal with things. Your irrepressive humor. Then you went back to Ft. Hood and I was lonely, even with my girlfriend there, I was lonely."

"Why? Lonely I mean." Callan was confused.

"She was and is totally dedicated to what she does. Sometimes I think she loved her research and test tubes more than she loved me. You made me feel like I was special. It was hard accepting that feeling but harder to lose it once I had it." Ellen couldn’t stop the tears that began in her eyes. "When we got to Utah, I discovered that I didn’t want to live that way."

"I don’t know what to say to that Ellen." Callan admitted. "Except that you shouldn’t live that way. You deserve someone who is going to love you for being you despite everything else going on. You deserve someone who will treat you like you are someone special, someone who won’t ignore you or forget you’re there. She was a fool."

Ellen nodded. "Yes, sometimes I think she is. What I want to know is what are you?"

"Well, I can tell you that I’m not a fool." Callan said softly, her eyes searching Ellen’s face. "You’ve had my heart since you put my glasses on my face." Callan let out a slow breath and jumped with both feet. "Where do we go from here?"

"That depends." Ellen answered with a small smile.


"On what you’re doing tomorrow night."

Callan thought about the next day’s events quickly. "I am doing whatever you want to do."

"Then we’re going skydiving." Ellen deadpanned.

Callan paled. "You’re kidding right? I mean, why would anyone jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane on purpose?"

Ellen laughed as she rose from her spot on the couch. Closing the distance between the two of them quickly, she placed a gentle kiss on Callan’s undamaged cheek.

"I’m kidding. How about you show me the city. All I’ve done for two months is work, sleep and watch movies."

Callan smiled. "Instant tour guide, just add kisses."


Callan opened her eyes and ignored the sting of water. She hadn’t planned on remembering. The memories seemed to be coming more and more lately the closer she got to finishing what she had started. She let out a harsh, frustrated breath willing herself not to shed the tears she could feel under the surface where she locked her feelings down. Even that was getting harder to do lately.

She had to shake off her fear and laugh at the irony. Ellen had worked her butt off to get her to open up and share her feelings. Now that she needed to be able to distance herself from those feelings, she almost couldn’t do it.

"Damn it nurse, you ruined me." She rasped in a harsh whisper as she looked up. She would give almost anything to have Ellen right there claiming that she had not ruined her, she had only improved her.

Callan shook her head again taking a deep breath. Her brain knew she needed to suck it up and keep going. Her heart, on the other hand, had other ideas. It seemed determined to keep her at least nominally human.

To distract herself, Callan recited the most tasteless, politically incorrect cadences she could remember as she continued her shower. Four raunchy songs later, she was clean and her mind was back to where it needed to be in order to move forward.

She shut off the water and stepped out of the tub. She avoided looking in the mirror as she dried off. Nothing good would be looking back at her. She dressed quickly and pulled the door to the bathroom open. The scent of Chinese food hit her making her mouth water. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was. She had lost most of her appetite during her time in jail. She had thought that only Army food was bad but compared to jail food, Army cooks were gourmets. If she could keep in shape she wouldn’t mind packing on a few pounds to make up the weight she’d lost.

She stepped out of the bathroom and watched as Terri set dinner on the bed. It was almost a picnic. Terri looked up, smiled and placed the plastic wear next to the containers of food then settled on the bed.

"I see dinner’s ready." O’Malley smirked as she let her clothes fall on top of Terri’s.

"Yeah. It got here a couple of minutes ago. I took a look out the window, the driver is one of Trey’s boys. I think his name is Thumper."

"Thumper?" O’Malley couldn’t keep the disbelief off her face. She started to laugh. "He calls himself Thumper?" She laughed harder almost falling off the bed. For some reason, she kept getting the movie rabbit as a visual. Terri could only stare at O’Malley as if she’d lost her mind waiting until O’Malley regained some control over her laughter.

"Yeah, he’s got one hell of a right hook. He’s broken more jaws than I care to think about."

O’Malley sobered. "Well ain’t that just grand." She muttered as she lay back on the bed.

"If it makes you feel any better, he’s not too bright. Normally he just does what Trey tells him to." Terri explained as she picked up her fork and dug into her dinner.

O’Malley decided that there was nothing she could do about the situation other than to keep an eye out for her new watcher. Reaching out and grabbing her own fork, she decided that she was going to have dinner and think about the rest later. For tonight, she was going to just hang out and relax.

They ate in a semi-comfortable silence. O’Malley had to laugh when Terri nearly bolted off the bed when dinner proved to be spicy. She watched the woman slug back two quick glasses of water.

Once dinner was over, they settled back on the bed and decided to turn on the television. Together they watched the comedy, each one aware that they were not alone. At one point they noticed that he’d finally gotten something to eat. They broke up in laughter again when Terri wondered out loud if they should send breakfast out to his car in the morning.

As the sun set, Terri finally decided to take O’Malley up on her offer to ask questions. She rolled over and pillowed her head on her hand. "How old are you?" She decided to start with something simple.

O’Malley cast a sidelong glance with an interesting expression on her face. "I’m thirty-one."

"Really? You look older."

O’Malley didn’t know if she should be offended or not. "Okay, how old do you want me to be?"

Terri blushed as she realized what she’d said. "I’m way busted, huh?"

"Nah. I’ve heard it before." O’Malley admitted. "What else do you want to know?"

"What do you want to tell me? I mean, I don’t know anything about you." Terri tested the waters as diplomatically as possible.

"Hmm, let’s see. I have a mom who isn’t all that crazy about me but she puts up with me when I decide to show up. I’m not much for staying in one place for very long if I don’t like the place. If I like it, I’ll stay for a while. I guess the Army did that to me. I moved every couple of years."

"How long were you in the Army?" Terri interrupted.

"Seven very long years." She sighed. "I went to the desert and when I got back, they sent me to one more post and I got kicked. I’ve really just been kicking around since then."

"What does ‘kicking around’ mean?" Terri tried to sound casual.

O’Malley shook her head. "Ask what you really want. I can see it in your eyes." Her words were even with nothing harsh in them.

Terri decided to take a chance. "What do you really do? For a living I mean."

"I sell guns to Spyder." O’Malley answered after a moment. She watched as Terri stiffened for a moment and then relaxed.

"That’s it? Just guns and nothing else?"

"Just the guns. Of course, they are stolen." O’Malley couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

"O’Malley, who are they stolen from?" Terri’s voice had a tremor in it.

"You know if I tell you, then you’re an accessory after the fact."

Terri nodded slowly and let her eyes lock on to O’Malley’s. "It’s not like they’d believe me if I said you never told me." She reasoned out loud.

"I have some old contacts who steal weapons from different military armories. It’s a sweet little set up. We make some money, Spyder is happy and no one’s the wiser."

"It’s dangerous, isn’t it?"

O’Malley laughed. "Hell Terri, life is dangerous. You can get killed driving your car or riding a bus." There was bitterness in her voice that Terri could not miss if she were deaf. It didn’t leak out it poured. O’Malley shifted on the bed. "The dome light in the car just went on. I want you to go to the window and start to close the drapes. When I come up to you, just go with it and what ever you do, don’t hit me in the head."

Terri couldn’t tell if O’Malley was joking with the last part of her statement but she nodded anyway. Right now her life was in the hands of the woman on the bed next to her. If she had been ordered into a tub full of Jell-O and whipped cream, she would do it and have a smile plastered on her face. To her surprise, she wasn’t trembling or showing fear as she stepped in front of the window and raised her arm to catch hold of the plastic guide rod.

Without warning she felt a pair of warm hands slide around her waist and then felt O’Malley’s body press against her back. She could feel the woman’s breath on her neck. She let her arm down slowly and her hand came to rest on O’Malley’s shoulder. O’Malley’s left hand slid to her stomach and pulling her in closer. Warm lips came into contact with her neck making her gasp as O’Malley sucked on a very sensitive section of flesh. Without meaning to, she moaned out loud.

O’Malley lifted her mouth for just a moment. "Close the drapes." She ordered softly and let her mouth fall back where it had been.

Terri needed three tries before her hand found the rod again abling her to pull the drapes closed. When they were closed, she took in a deep breath to steady herself.

"They’re closed." She whispered and felt herself tugged backward toward the bed. She felt O’Malley sit and found herself being launched onto the surface next to the biker. She let out a surprised squeal as she landed. O’Malley rolled over her and pressed her down against the bed. She had a fleeting feeling of uncertainty as the biker reached out and turned off the light.

She squealed again when strong fingers tickled her sides. She rolled around the bed trying to get away but O’Malley’s weight kept her from escaping. After a few tortured moments, O’Malley quit her assault and let herself fall against the mattress. She snuggled in close so that she could whisper in Terri’s ear.

"Sorry about that. But you are supposed to be having fun in my bed." She explained.

Terri tried not to think about how good the breath on her ear felt. "So you tickled me?"

"It was either that or…" O’Malley let her voice trail off. "Well you know." She sounded almost embarrassed.

Terri got the idea. "Oh. Good thing for you I’m ticklish." She whispered and let her eyes steal to the window. The dark curtains gave no shadows from the outside. "You think he’s out there?"

"I would have to guess so." O’Malley answered.

"How thick do you think the widows are?" Terri resumed her questions.

"I have no idea." She felt Terri nod in the dark and wondered what the woman was thinking.

"Ohhhh God, that feels soooo…" Terri moaned out loud. "Don’t…stop…right there."

O’Malley was glad the lights were out because she knew she was blushing. She’d heard the sentence before but never while she was doing nothing. She felt Terri move in close to her ear.

"That should give him something to tell Trey." She whispered and stifled a laugh. "He’s gonna pop a vein or something when Thumper tells him. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when it happens."

"You are full of surprises, aren’t you Terri." It was a statement of fact and O’Malley meant it as such. Terri was saved from answering when O’Malley’s cell phone rang. Both women froze for a moment.

"Don’t you dare answer that." Terri put as much frustration as she could into her voice even as she smiled in the dark. She would admit, if asked, that she was having fun for the first time in months. Callan flipped the light on and both women would swear they heard the scrape of footsteps retreating quickly. The cell phone rang again. The Flight of the Valkyrie was becoming annoying.

"Yeah." O’Malley sounded as though she was trying to catch her breath.

"It’s Spyder. You there yet?" The club leader asked over the voices in the background.

"No, I’m not there yet. Jesus, Spyder I said a couple of days. That would be tomorrow."

He laughed out loud. "What’s wrong O’Malley? You sound pissed."

"Yeah well, you would be pissed too…" O’Malley’s voice disappeared.

"Spyder," Terri breathed into the phone. "Call her back tomorrow. After lunch."

Spyder heard a telling moan and could have sworn the thumping sound was the phone falling on to the floor. With the noise behind him he couldn’t hear too much until the phone line went dead. He was certain the faint cry to the heavenly powers had very little to do with religion.

"Everything cool, Spyder?" A large biker to Spyder’s left asked when the grim expression settled on his boss’s face.

"Where’s Trey?"

"Bitching by the fire. What’s it with him and O’Malley? I mean she kicked his ass fair."

"He lost his meal ticket and that’s got him pissed." Spyder admitted out loud to one of his most loyal bikers. "Keep an eye on him Boomer. I got a feeling that he ain’t gonna like it when O’Malley gets back."

"Is this gonna be one of those ugly ‘woman got in the way’ things?" Boomer asked in a low tone. He groaned when his boss nodded his head. "Man I hate those." He grumbled and drifted off in the direction of the bonfire.

"So do I." Spyder said to the dark sky.

O’Malley lay back on the bed laughing silently. It took a few moments for her to regain her composure. When she looked at Terri’s face she fell into the laughter all over again. Terri just knew the woman next to her had lost her mind.

"Oh God, I wish I could have seen his face. What on earth possessed you to do that?" O’Malley asked when she could breath again.

Terri smiled shyly. "Well if you were in the middle of having sex and someone called, wouldn’t you ask them to call back? Much later."

O’Malley thought about the question for a second. "Yeah, it’s exactly what I would do. I gotta give you credit Ter, you’re playing this game very well." She complimented.

"Well, with the proper motivation, I can play any game well." Terri admitted out loud as she shifted on the bed to get comfortable.

"So, what’s your motivation this time?" O’Malley was curious and it showed as she looked down on the brunette lying next to her.

Terri looked into O’Malley’s blue eyes. "He treated me like crap. I’m just beginning to see how bad it was. My motivation is to give his male ego a monster kick in the balls."

O’Malley smiled and nodded her head. "I think that is a definite possibility." She chuckled.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Go ahead." O’Malley stretched back and let her head hit the pillow.

"What’s with the hickey thing?"

O’Malley knew what she was talking about. "Just call it marking my territory. Around these guys, you gotta mark what’s yours or they’ll try to take it and to tell you the truth I get real tired of getting hit in the head. If you hadn’t noticed, these guys are way bigger than me."

"I can see your point. Did you leave a hickey on my neck?" Terri wondered out loud. She was amused as O’Malley peered at the side of her neck and a smug grin appeared. "I’ll take that as a yes." She said dryly.

"Does that bother you?"

Terri thought about the question for a moment. "No it doesn’t."

Chapter 5


Callan juggled the drinks in her hands as she struggled to close the patio door. After a few moments of indecision she decided just to leave the door open. Padding to the hot tub in her bare feet she handed off the four beers, slid quickly into the tub and took one bottle back. She leaned against the rim of the tub and gazed at Ellen.

"You’re staring." Ellen noted out loud.

"Yep. I am. You are beautiful in my eyes. Sometimes I can’t help it." She answered taking a sip of beer.

"And you have got to be the most handsome woman I’ve ever met. Even more so since that shiner is almost gone." Ellen said shyly.

"I don’t think I’ve ever been called handsome."

"Well you’re too androgynous to be called beautiful. That really didn’t sound like a compliment did it?" Ellen asked without needing an answer. "You’ve got this really strong jaw line, those high cheekbones and I don’t know how else to explain."

Callan smiled. "It’s the O’Malley curse. I’m just too damn cute for my own good." She teased. "Hey you never did tell me how you managed to get four whole days off to match mine."

"I’ll remind you around Thanksgiving." Ellen groaned. "I did some wheeling and dealing."

Callan put her beer down on the deck floor and slid close to the woman she loved. "Thank you." She leaned in and pressed her lips gently against Ellen’s. "Thank you." She kissed her again. This time teasing those warm lips with the tip of her tongue. She was almost surprised when Ellen’s lips parted and their kisses turned into something passionate. Two weeks of precious moments stolen away from the prying eyes of the military had drawn them closer and slowed what they both admitted they wanted. She felt Ellen’s arms snake around her neck as she sucked gently on the nurse’s lower lip.

Ellen pressed her body closer to Callan’s, letting her actions speak for her since at the moment she was finding words difficult. She let the rush of desire wash over her. She didn’t want to slow down or stop this time. She sucked gently on Callan’s tongue and slowly released it. Callan moaned softly. Ellen trailed kisses along the woman’s jaw line up to her ear.

"I want you," she breathed. "I want all of you."

Callan let her hands roam down Ellen’s back stopping only when she reached the woman’s shapely butt. She pulled Ellen forward until there was no space between them. "Are you sure?" She asked gently.

Ellen pulled away slowly and managed to exit the hot tub. Her gaze locked on to Callan. She watched the confusion on the soldier’s face. Instead of answering with words, she reached behind her neck and tugged the ties of her swimsuit free letting the material fall to the ground. Her nipples grew harder in the night air. Turning, she walked into the house. Callan smiled and shook her head. Sometimes she wondered who was the bolder of the two.

She followed quickly, not bothering to dry off or caring about the water being tracked into the house. She found the object of her love and desire lying on the bed, waiting for her. She reached the edge of the bed and slowly peeled out of her own suit. She had a momentary flash of fear that Ellen would be repulsed by the many scars on her body but then remembered that the woman had already seen them.

Easing herself on the bed, she began a slow, torturous journey of kisses up Ellen’s body. Her hands glided over smooth skin and found that she was lost in the sensation of loving Ellen. She could not get enough.

Ellen laughed when Callan’s tongue dipped into her navel and back out again. She shivered in anticipation as lips and tongue traveled closer to her breasts. She moaned when the warm mouth closed over a rigid nipple and sucked gently. Without thought, her hands tangled in Callan’s short hair pulling her love closer. For the first time in a long time, she felt sexy, desirable… wanted. Her back arched of its own accord as she felt the edges of Callan’s teeth close around her nipple. She felt raw with need as the action was repeated then ebbing slowly away as Callan pulled back, only to renew the loving assault on her other breast.

"Oh God, you keep that up and you’ll make me come." She managed to gasp into Callan’s ear.

Callan left Ellen’s breast. "I think that’s the point." She smiled as she kissed the hollow between Ellen’s breasts then trailed a wet path with her tongue to Ellen’s neck.

Kissing and gently nipping at skin. "What would you like?" She asked in a ragged whisper wanting only to please the woman in her bed.

She felt Ellen’s hand close around her own as he sucked at the pulse point of her, neck pleased when she felt the goose bumps rise while at the same time Ellen guided her fingers to the slick treasure between long legs. She let Ellen guide her, letting her set the pace. She would go as fast or as slow as her lover wanted.

"I want you inside," she rasped,"and I want you to taste what you do to me." Ellen parted her legs further giving Callan free access.

Callan teased with her fingers, drawing slick moisture to Ellen’s clit circling a time or two then dipping back.

Ellen’s hips bucked upward, trying to reach Callan. "Please don’t tease."

Callan watched Ellen’s eyes close in ecstasy as she slipped one finger inside her lover then moaned when the snug walls closed around her finger. Leaning forward she kissed Ellen, trying to convey all of her emotions, trying to let her know exactly how she felt about her. Falling easily into the rhythm her lover wanted she kissed her way down Ellen’s body when hands pushed down on her shoulders. She knew in that moment that she would give her anything she wanted.

Callan took a moment to savor the scent of her lover before she let her tongue trace swollen flesh. She did not still her hand as she feasted on Ellen’s clit. Feeling the tremors begin around her finger, she waited until the last possible second to suck the swollen nub of flesh into her mouth.

"God yes…please…it’s been so long." Ellen gasped and moved her hips faster with want and need. It felt like forever since the last time her body felt this good. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she reached orgasm.

Callan wrapped her free arm around Ellen’s hips to keep her from breaking contact. She sucked and licked even as Ellen came wanting to give her as much pleasure as possible for as long as possible. She felt Ellen’s fingers tighten painfully in her hair and smiled inwardly when the spasms renewed themselves tearing a soft cry from Ellen’s throat. She thrust her finger in time with her tongue until finally Ellen had to push her away with a quiet plea to stop. Gently withdrawing her finger, she kissed her way back up Ellen’s body.

Ellen pulled her close, wrapping her arms and legs around Callan’s body needing to feel all of the woman she loved. She could feel her heart racing, trying to beat its way out of her chest. She felt weak and energized at the same time. Opening her eyes, she could see the smug look of pride on Callan’s face and the love in those pale blue eyes.

"Proud of yourself, aren’t you?" She murmured and kissed Callan’s lips.

"Oh yeah," Callan admitted with a grin. "God you’re amazing." She kissed Ellen again. "So beautiful and sexy." She felt Ellen’s hand slide between her legs but stopped her. "Right now, if you touch me I’ll come in a second. I want to hold you for a while." She admitted.

"I think I can be talked into cuddling for a little while," Ellen mumbled and shifted with Callan so that her head was pillowed on a strong shoulder. She smiled as Callan’s arms closed around her, feeling fingers trace small circles on her cooling skin. She kissed the point of Callan’s chin. "Thank you for making me feel special."

"I hate to break it to you nurse, but you are special."


"Yeah, that’s what I call you in my head. You’re my nurse."

Ellen did not miss the possessiveness in Callan’s voice and decided that she liked it. "I can live with that…Irish." She felt Callan’s laughter before she heard it. "Hey, I get a nickname, so do you. Deal with it."

"Yes Ma’am." Callan answered with all the love she could fit into her voice and tightened her embrace.


Callan woke without the usual startled reaction. Rolling to her left, she watched the red numbers on the alarm clock. 5:15. She felt the lump in her throat and silently damned her memory. The things that had, at one time, brought her joy now brought her sadness and she found she could not lock them away. She sighed in the dark.

Movement from the other side of the bed caught her by surprise and it took a second to realize that it was Terri sleeping beside her and not Ellen. She stopped herself from calling out Ellen’s name just in time. It would lead to questions she was not ready to answer yet. There would be time to answer those questions later.

Terri rolled over again in her sleep and her arm snaked around Callan’s stomach as she snuggled close. The biker could hear her mumbling in her sleep. She couldn’t make out the words but the noise was not a good sound. The mumble turned into a whimpering sound and without thinking Callan let her hand trace a soothing pattern on Terri’s arm. After a few moments the whimpering ceased and Terri’s breathing evened out.

I guess I’m not the only one fighting demons, Callan thought and wished for a cigarette. She hadn’t wanted one in a long time. She had taken them up again in jail basically because she was bored. When her sentence was finished she tossed them out. She’d given cigarettes up on the advise of the respiratory tech who’d tortured her so long ago in an Air Force hospital. She had tried every dirty trick she knew of to get back at the woman. Just her luck to have been given a tech who’s father was a retired Sergeant Major. She had neither been impressed or intimidated. The woman had merely laughed.

Terri’s mumbling resumed again and turned into a low-pitched keening sound. Callan felt the smaller woman’s body coil and tense at the same time. For the first time in quite a while, Callan felt helpless.

"I’m sorry daddy. I’ll be good. I promise." Terri sounded very much like a frightened child and it broke into the ice around Callan’s heart. "I’m sorry, I’m sorry…" Terri’s voice trailed off.

Callan rubbed Terri’s back gently in small circles feeling the tears that leaked out from her closed eyes. She wasn’t prepared when Terri sat straight up in bed, the blankets falling from her body. Moving slowly so that she didn’t startle her, O’Malley turned to face Terri.

"You okay?" She asked in a whisper. "I’m going to turn on the light, close your eyes." She said when she did not receive an answer.

Without turning her head, she managed to find the lamp switch with her hand. She blinked against the brightness. Terri looked a mess. Her hair was tossed in all directions and her cheeks were lined with tearstains.

Terri opened her eyes slowly and after a minute, her whole body sagged. O’Malley tugged her gently against her chest and wrapped her arms around Terri. The smaller woman did not fight it; she merely let her body rest against the biker. O’Malley gave her all the time she needed to compose herself without saying a word.

"I’m sorry for waking you up." Terri said vacantly with a hoarse voice.

"I wasn’t asleep. You okay?"

"O’Malley, do you ever wish you were a kid again?" Terri asked instead of answering the question.

"Yeah, when being a grown up gets to be hard." Callan admitted as she stroked Terri’s arm in comfort.

"I don’t. I try not to think about being a kid." Terri felt a new rush of tears roll down her cheeks. "I ran away the first time when I was five. I got to the end of the block. I sat on the curb for hours ‘cause I didn’t have permission to cross the street by myself." She sniffled and stared at the wall. "Pretty pathetic huh?"

"Why were you running away?" Callan asked, sincerely wanting to know what would drive a five-year-old to run away. She had some ideas but she wanted to hear it from Terri.

"My dad. He talked with his fists a lot. It lasted a long time. It got worse after my mom filed for divorce. The judge gave him custody."

"Why’d he do that?" She wondered what kind of idiot would give the man custody of Terri.

"The judge was a woman. My dad was a cop." Terri shrugged her shoulders. "I read the transcript once. He made up a whole bunch of lies about her and his buddies backed him up. The judge said she was an unfit mother and he got custody of me. I ran away for good when I was eighteen." Terri sounded broken and drained. "He was always very cool and charming in front of other people but as soon as we were behind closed doors I was his punching bag for every lousy thing that happened during his day. He didn’t even need to be drunk."

"What were you dreaming?"

Terri sighed. "I was six. I broke a glass." She turned and looked into O’Malley’s eyes. "I wanted some milk." She turned away again. "He hit me hard enough to crack my jaw." Terri fell silent again for a long time. "Sometimes I just want to hide away from it all."

Callan hugged Terri close knowing the woman needed some kind of gentle contact. "You can hide with me. Is he still around?"

"Sometimes I feel like he’s every where. But I know what you’re really asking. He’s still alive and he always seems to be able to find me. I guess he’s still got contacts around. He calls from time to time."

"Would you let me know the next time he calls you?" Callan requested.

"Would it do any good to say no?" Terri sounded defeated and drained.

Callan smiled. "Not really. I have some old contacts that I can use for good this time." There was humor in her voice.

"Why do I think I’m gonna regret watching that movie with you?" Terri smiled despite her lousy mood.

"Count on it. I’m sure I can convince him to leave you alone." Callan promised with an evil smile.

Terri sighed. "I’ll let you know the next time he calls." She settled deeper into O’Malley’s body and was suddenly aware of how close they were. She started to move when O’Malley held her fast.

"Stay where you are. You get some sleep. I’ll keep you safe." She promised quietly.

"What about you?"

"I’ve slept all I need to for now. I’ll crash after we get to Sean’s."

Terri wasn’t completely convinced but nodded her head after a jaw-popping yawn. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about the monster she had grown up with. O’Malley’s even breathing lulled her into sleep in no time.

Callan watched the brunette fall back to sleep and vowed that this time she would not fail. She would keep her safe. Without turning, she managed to turn off the light and stared into the darkness.


Terri was more than grateful when O’Malley pulled into the driveway. Her bladder was screaming at her. She exited the truck and made a run for the open door of the house. She only managed a quick glance at the blonde man who passed her on the concrete path as she flew through the door.

Callan was having a hard time getting out of the truck since she was nearly lying on her seat. Her laughter boomed out at Sean Barnes and he felt the smile on his face. It had been too long since he’d heard that sound. Yanking the truck door open wider, he grabbed hold of a belt loop on her jeans and pulled her out of the vehicle. Callan found herself in a bear hug and lifted off the ground.

"Lemme down you dumb ass." She tried to sound intimidating but couldn’t pull it off while laughing.

"Say it." He demanded in a playful tone.

"No fucking way." Callan was defiant even if she couldn’t touch the ground.

"Say it or I’ll zerb you." Barnes threatened with a growl.

"Oh man, not the zerb." She groaned. "Okay, okay. I missed you. There, I said it, now lemme down."

Sean Barnes let his friend’s feet touch the ground and pulled her into another hug, this one was a heartfelt token of his affection.

"So who’s the stranger who just ran into my house and I’m guessing my bathroom?" He asked with a grin when they both pulled out of the hug.

"That’s Terri. I’ll tell you about it over dinner. Joan did cook, right?"

"Yeah, she’s putting the finishing touches on now. You know I’m beginning to think you only come here for her and not for me."

"Yeah well, I’m a slave to my stomach and let’s face it buddy boy, you can’t cook to save anyone’s life." Callan teased with a grin as she pulled the overnight bag out of the truck.

"Sometimes I hate the truth." Sean almost whined.

Callan looked at him for a moment. "You got the stuff?" She watched him nod and brush his hand over his almost non-existent hair. "Cool."

"I’ll give you the tour later. You know Joan. Business after dinner. Does Terri know?" He asked, his voice taking on a serious tone.

"She knows I run guns for Spyder and that’s pretty much all she knows. I wanna keep it that way, got it."

"Roger that one." He answered and took the bag from Callan. He stopped in his tracks. "What the hell did you bring?"

"Talk to Ter about that. She packed. Come on I’m starving." Callan turned and walked backwards toward the house as she watched her friend struggle with the bag. She flashed an evil grin at him. "Welcome to my world buddy boy."

"Jesus." He gasped and struggled up the path.

Callan stomped through the house to get Joan’s attention knowing just how much the woman hated when she did it. She found Joan Barnes blocking the kitchen entrance and Callan knew she was in for it. She smiled anyway. It had been way too long since she’d visited her friends. They knew it and so did she.

Callan did the last thing Joan would have expected. She rushed her and pulled the woman up into a very close hug. Her eyes took in the raven colored hair, the chocolate brown eyes and proud cheekbones of her heritage. She grinned wide.

"Hi gorgeous. Gimme a kiss." Callan wiggled her eyebrows and was extremely surprised when Joan did just that. Her best friend’s wife planted a kiss full on her lips.

"Okay, someone tell me if I should be jealous of what I just saw." Terri’s voice pulled everyone out of his or her silence. Callan let go of Joan and faced Terri not quite sure she could explain what had just happened.

"Hi, I’m Joan. The silent no hair guy is Sean and you know the dumb ass trying to decide what to say." Joan bubbled over. After years of being teased by Callan O’Malley, she’d finally gotten her. "That’ll teach her to demand a kiss every time I see her." Joan turned back to Callan. Sean chose the moment to drop the back breaking over night bag.

Terri decided that she liked this woman a lot. "Hi, I’m Terri. O’Malley, you’re off the hook… for now." She flashed a grin at her newfound friend. "Got any good, embarrassing O’Malley story’s you might care to share?"

"Only about a million. Callan, how long you two staying?" Joan smiled sweetly at her friend.

"Ten minutes." Callan mumbled knowing when she was beat.

"Bullshit." Joan shot right back. "Callan, you and Sean go put your stuff away while Terri and I get to know one another."

Sean looked at his friend with something close to sympathy. "You are so screwed. Come on, we’ll put this away and I’ll show you something totally sweet."

Terri watched O’Malley disappear from the kitchen and had to smile when the biker looked almost scared and then curious at Sean’s words.

"That one can be short on explanations. So how did the two of you meet?" Joan asked as she adjusted the temperature on the oven.


Sean led the way to his work shed. "I want you to know this was a bitch for me to do. That being said, I want your first three born." He demanded as he reached into the cooler.

"Hell Sean, why not just ask for the Sportster. That would be easier to arrange." Callan answered and took the dripping beer he offered.

"Well, I’d take the bike if I thought you were serious. C’mon." He walked deeper into the work area. He halted at a tarp-covered figure. "Take it off."

Callan let her hands take up a fold of material. "Is this what I think it is?" She asked as she pulled and revealed her dream bike. "Oh man, I owe you big time for this." She walked around the rebuilt 1974 Harley just looking, taking in each detail. It was her dream machine. The one she and Ellen had drooled over and planned for. Callan felt her legs go weak and the lump in her throat suddenly made words difficult.

Sean watched his friend battle her emotions and memories. He took a chance. "She’d want you to go on my friend. Just hear me out for a little while. I know how you two felt about each other and what happened sucks big time. At least you two had each other for a little while and you know what? You were both happy. When things get hard, save that and roll around in it. Once you take care of unfinished business, you’re going to have to decide what you’re gonna do. But Callan, whatever you decide, don’t forget that she would not want you to live in some dark shadow. She saw that once and I know she wouldn’t want you there again."

"Are you done?" Callan asked gruffly. She watched Sean nod his head. "I know all that in my head but in my heart, I can’t let go." She admitted.

"I know. No one says you have to let go completely… you just have to go on. I loved her too Callan, in my own way. So did Joan. So did everyone who met her and got to know her." He said softly. He gave Callan a few moments to get herself together and then tipped his beer bottle in her direction. "So, what are you gonna name her?"

Callan tapped her beer bottle against his and thought for a moment. "Hell Sean, you know what I’m gonna call this bike. Her name is Nurse."

Sean smiled and reached into the cooler again. Taking out an unopened beer he shook it up and without warning he slammed it against the gas tank. Glass flew in all directions and beer foam shot all over the area.

"I christen thee Nurse." He looked at Callan. "Did I mention that I played with her motor a little?" There was an evil little grin on his face that almost scared Callan O’Malley.


Terri pushed away from the table and protested that she’d had more than enough. She couldn’t remember the last home cooked meal she’d eaten. Diners and microwave food did not qualify. She had worried for a while that O’Malley’s friends would look down on her when they found out how they’d met but both Sean and Joan had accepted what happened with little fanfare. Terri felt guilty about having to lie about the circumstances, but she couldn’t come out and admit who she really was. There was too much to lose. Sometimes she wondered about the toll her job took on her life, but she also knew that it was more than a job, what she did came close to being a crusade.

She picked up the dishes on the table and brushed off the protests. With a shy smile, she turned and went into the kitchen, her arms feeling the load of plates and silverware. She was more than aware of how domestic the whole thing seemed but she was supposed to belong to O’Malley. This was just one more of those things that she was expected to do and she would carry the role as far as she needed. She could hear just bits and pieces of the conversation that had started.

Terri started loading the dishwasher and sighed when she heard the voices drift off. She almost jumped out of her skin when a hand touched her shoulder. She turned quickly to find Joan standing there with an amused smile.

"That was so not nice. Did you take lessons from O’Malley?" Terri snapped as she caught her breath. She chose to ignore Joan’s chuckle.

"God no, I learned it a very long time ago and then when I met those two I got better. Those two were a terror way back when." Joan admitted and took a place next to Terri so that she could pitch in to clean up. "Of course, they’re a terror now. Look, I might be out of line here but lemme say it. I love Callan and sometimes I hate that she’s chosen to live her life like this. I have some idea of what your life in the club is like but when you’re here you are not required to wait on her hand and foot." Joan held up a dripping wet hand when Terri opened her mouth to protest. "My house, my rules. Besides, she likes a challenge." Joan smiled an evil grin. "Sometimes it’s better when you make her work for it."

"Is it too soon for me to say I like you?" Terri asked with a small laugh.

"Nah, not too soon at all." Joan answered and turned to a serious subject. "They’re outside and it might not be a good idea to interrupt right now."

Terri nodded her head and settled another plate in the dishwasher rack. "O’Malley told me how she makes her money. I know better than to go poking my nose where it really shouldn’t be."

"I just had to make sure, you know?" Joan said as she wiped down the counter. "There, all done. C’mon I’ll show you some really embarrassing photos of those two."

There was something appealing about getting to see O’Malley in her younger days and in compromising situations. Terri agreed without a moment’s hesitation. She followed her new friend into the living room and spent the next hour and a half laughing hard enough to bring out tears. The photos were one thing but it was great to hear the stories that went along with the visuals. The two women hardly noticed when their respective partners came back into the house. Callan and Sean both rolled their eyes at the same time and knew enough to become afraid, very afraid.

"Okay now this one is when we went to Alaska and someone decided it would be a good idea if we all went skinny…" Joan was interrupted when the photo album was pulled from her grasp. She protested loudly, trying to get the book back even as O’Malley held her at bay.

"Nope, I’ve been embarrassed enough for one night." Callan said firmly as she closed the book. She wasn’t really angry with Joan but she’d seen the album many times and knew what the next page held. She was not ready for the questions that Terri would ask upon seeing the photos of herself draped all over Ellen and she would most certainly not be able to explain her attire. "Besides, I’m really wiped out. If y’all don’t mind, it’s time for the shower and sleep. We have an entire four more days, I’ll make it up to you sweets." Callan promised her long time friend.

"Jeesh, she never let’s me call her sweets." Sean almost fell into a pout as he took the album from Callan.

"That’s ‘cause she loves me." Callan teased as she pulled both into a hug. "You, she only married for respectability." She couldn’t resist the dig.

Terri watched with something close to envy. These three obviously shared a bond that she could not even fathom. She knew it had a lot to do with how they had all met. The photos she’d seen that night proved to her the stories she’d heard about soldiers finding a family within the military. She knew that some families were temporary things and others, like the one she was looking at, were permanent. A part of her wished that this family were hers.


Chapter 6



Sean looked over his shoulder at the expanse of pastureland that lay beyond his backyard. One of the reasons he liked living in the country was that he and Joan could have all the privacy they wanted. He couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched and for the moment that was all right with him. This was one of the few times that being watched was important. He had listened to Callan describe the events at the motel and her suspicions and had agreed that they needed to step up the appearances while the two women were visiting. The four had discussed the problem and had come up with something that would make it look good.

He took a long time to study his friend and inadvertent savior. She was all, as they used to say, ‘bad boy with an attitude’ for the last three days since arriving. The days were spent reminiscing and getting on with their old habit of competing. When they weren’t tearing up the roads on the bikes, they were trying to out drink each other. The fight at the bar was not entirely their fault he mused, when three rednecks hit on your women, you just have to stand up for what is yours. It was fortunate for them that the county sheriff thought so as well.

Of course he, Callan and Joan had been more than surprised when Terri had taken out one of the rednecks with a pitcher of beer. She had shrugged her shoulders and muttered something about sneaking bastards. He had to smile at that one and silently admit that the small brunette fit in quite well. He knew she was a bit on the quiet side and never gave out too much information about her life but then he understood having secrets that couldn’t be shared.

He looked again at O’Malley. In her riding leathers and half cut off T-shirt, she looked like a bad ass. He knew from experience that she not only looked but also really was the part. There was something in his friend that was harder, grittier and far more dangerous than most people could ever imagine. Those were memories he could not forget or would trade. If he had to have a brother, he imagined no one better than O’Malley in that role. Chuckling at the oddity of the thought, he wished on the stars that someone would melt his ‘brothers’ heart.

"You gonna stay there all night or do you wanna see what we got Terri today?" Joan asked with mischief in her tone and bumping him with her hip. Sean opened his eyes only when his wish was complete and smiled at his wife.

"In a minute. I was just…"

"Thinking. Hoping. Wishing." Joan answered for him with a soft smile. "Trust me white boy, I’m working on it my own way." She said with that tone in her voice that usually made him afraid.

Sean had to smile. The first time she had called him that he had been shocked but then so had her parents when she brought a white man home. Stepping on to the Lakota Sioux reservation had been an eye opening experience. Almost ten years later he was an adopted member of the nation and welcome.

"I can’t wait to see O’Malley’s eye pop out of her head." Joan almost couldn’t contain her childlike tone.

"You, my love, are evil. And thank you for not making us stay at the mall all day long." He said dryly. His wife could live at the mall if he let her.

"Hey, I had fun. You are going to thank me later for all the hell I didn’t put you through today." She laughed. "Besides, after the fight, I figure we owed you two."

They had spent the day shopping and riding their bikes. It had been almost hard seeing someone else on the Harley with Callan. But she had to admit that Terri looked good sitting on the back of the bike holding on tight. She had seen moments of the old Callan and recognized the look of hunger on her friend’s face. Joan was sure that Callan was interested in Terri and unless she was blind, she thought the smaller brunette was definitely interested as well.

In her own sly way she was hell bent on helping the two of them get closer. Their last stop had been to her favorite leather store and she was sure that Callan was going to love the outfit they’d chosen for Terri. She pushed Sean towards Callan and walked passed him.

"I’m going to make sure she’s all set. Get me a beer would you?"

"One beer, ice cold coming up. Don’t take too long." He leered. He loved when his wife wore her riding leathers. She was a vision in tight lace up pants and the fringe edged halter. The tribal symbols of her Sioux heritage making her that much more alluring. When she felt like riding, her eyes took on the mysterious quality that ran in a family laced with Shaman and seers. It was almost as if she knew what was going on before anyone else… that she had some special insight that was reserved just for her.

Joan walked through the house with a familiar warm feeling spreading through her body. She just knew tonight was going to be one of those really good nights. She sighed contentedly and knocked on the guest room door.

"Just me." She announced and waited for Terri to invite her in. When the woman did, she entered and stopped dead in her tracks. In the tight tan leather hip huggers and the short leather vest, Terri looked amazing. The difference was like going from librarian to junior goddess. "Oh my God."

Terri’s face fell. She just knew she didn’t look good in the outfit. "That bad huh? Maybe I should change."

Joan reached out a hand and stopped her. "No. That was a good ‘Oh my God’. You are going to give Callan and O’Malley a heart attack."

"Huh? What is she, twins?" Terri tried to joke even if she didn’t really understand the statement.

Joan had to sit down on the bed for a minute. "Okay, lemme see if I can make some sense of that last one. Look outside at Callan and tell me what you see."

Terri thought it was an odd request but humored her new friend just the same. O’Malley was sitting on one of the pool side lounges with a beer and talking with Sean. "I see O’Malley playing with Sean."

"Yep, that’s who you see. Sometimes my friend down there can be like two people. She has two very different sides to her. The side that everyone sees most is the O’Malley side but the side of her that’s kinda quiet and gentle, now that’s Callan… and you are going to give both of them a heart attack." Joan grinned like a fool.

"Joan, can I ask you a question?"


"Which one of those two women would try and dump Sean into the pool head first?"


"Let go of my boy before you get hurt O’Malley." Joan rumbled with laughter. "Not in the water you dolt." She had to grin as O’Malley let her husband off the proverbial hook. "Now the two of you sit down and enjoy the unveiling." She ordered as she took her seat. "Okay Terri." She shouted.

O’Malley sat back down in her seat. She was curious to see what Joan and Terri cooked up but she also wasn’t going to give her friend the idea that she was curious. She took a sip of her beer and when Terri walked out of the house she almost choked. She knew Terri was good looking any way but in tight leather that hugged all the right places, she was simply amazing. Her tight hold on her hormones loosened and she knew it was going to be one very long evening.

Sean let out a whistle that earned him a slap to his stomach from his wife. "What? Baby she’s damn hot in that. You did good."

Joan chuckled out loud. "You got that right, big boy, but if you don’t want O’Malley to shake your eyeballs out of your head, I’d behave." Joan walked to Terri and hugged her while handing her a beer. She leaned in close to Terri’s ear. "Sean says someone’s out there. You two are gonna have to play it very cozy." She whispered and felt Terri nod. She let Terri out of the embrace. "I propose a toast." Joan said loudly and lifted her beer. "To bikes, shopping and leather."

"Definitely leather." O’Malley agreed and took a healthy drink of her beer. She watched Terri drink to the first and second part of the toast and swallowed hard. The last three nights of having Terri sleep next to her had been hard enough but right now was sheer torture.

Sean reached over and grabbed the remote to the stereo. With a push of a button, the music started and he pulled his wife close. Even with prying eyes he was having fun, maybe it was because of the prying eyes that it seemed that much more so. Tempting the fates was a turn on and he knew that both Callan and his wife had the same feeling. He figured that if Terri hung around long enough, she would end up addicted as well.

"Hey O’Malley. What do you say to a night ride?" He asked as he ran his hands over Joan’s arms.

Callan took her eyes off Terri for a moment and looked at her friend. She recognized his question for what it was. Joan leaning into him with an expression close to want did not help. She turned her eyes back to Terri who looked confused.

"What do you say Ter? Feel like tempting the powers that be?" She grinned.

"How would we do that?" She wasn’t sure she liked the idea.

"Well, sometimes we just like to prove what bad asses we are." O’Malley answered with a sly grin on her face walking to Terri who stood like a deer in the headlights. She halted just outside of Terri’s personal space. "Sean and me, we’ve seen inside the belly of the beast and we lived. Sometimes we like to remind the beast that we’re still here." She said. "It’s like we need to prove there’s a reason we’re still here."

Terri made her decision. "I’ll make you a deal. I go with you three and tempt your powers that be and you tell me what beast you two survived."

"You got a deal. And Terri, just so you know, I’m not drunk and I won’t risk your life or limb." O’Malley promised and Terri knew she was telling the truth. "Hey Sean, we’re on. Let’s get the bikes."

Sean moved away from his wife with a kiss to her neck. Joan let him go with a sly smile as she rose and waved Terri into the house. Together they gathered up the needed motorcycle jackets. There was a spark in Joan’s eyes that Terri couldn’t identify.

Without looking at her Joan knew Terri was having her doubts. It vibrated off her body. "Trust me, you’re gonna love this. You ever ride a roller coaster at night?" She watched Terri nod her head. "This is much better. The adrenaline rush is like nothing you’ve ever felt. Just remember to relax and go with it. It’s gonna be scary at first but they’ve been riding bikes for about as long as they’ve been breathing."

"Do they do this a lot and more importantly, why?" Terri asked as she shrugged into the jacket.

"They almost died together once and they’re both junkies to adrenaline. You might as well get used to it if you’re going to stick with O’Malley. And this sort of thing is all O’Malley."

"You sound excited by this." Terri pointed out and swallowing most of her fear.

"Oh I am. Beating the fates is a rush." Joan grinned as she led the way out the front door.


Terri lay on the pool deck, her body still humming from the bike ride. Taking the winding roads in the dark with no headlights had been an incredible experience. For the first ten minutes her heart had been in her throat but once she’d felt the adrenaline pump through her veins, she was hooked. It was like nothing she’d ever felt before. Sure, there had been times when she’d felt a thrill during an arrest but this was so much more. Every nerve ending was on fire. Now she understood what tempting the fates meant. She had put her life in O’Malley’s hands and found the biker more than capable. Right now she felt like she’d had an entire brewery but without the fuzzy feeling. She was alive and very happy about it. It was a new high for her and she wanted the feeling again sometime in the future.

O’Malley dropped down next to her with a satisfied grin. "How ya doing?"

"That was just incredible." Terri sighed out loud. "Why haven’t we done that before?" She asked before she could stop herself.

"Didn’t feel like it before. Sometimes when I hook up with Sean, I just feel like it." O’Malley admitted.

"I think Sean’s in for a long night." Terri laughed out loud. Joan had literally attacked her husband upon their return.

"I think they both are." O’Malley answered with a matching laugh. She pillowed her head with her hands and stared up at the sky full of stars. "When Sean and I went to war in the Gulf, the morning the ground action started we kind of ran over a land mine. Our vehicle was ripped open like a tin can. We had to get back on foot. Those two and a half miles to our lines seemed like forever. We spent most of those miles under small arms fire. Everybody in the group was hurt in some way or another but somehow we made it back. Sean was probably hit the worst. That’s the beast we faced." Callan explained quietly.

Turning her head, Terri gazed at the woman next to her. She reached out a hand letting her fingers trace the fine scars on O’Malley’s face. She felt the woman tense for a moment then relax.

"That’s where these came from isn’t it?" She asked as she took a closer look.

"Yeah. Mortar fire. I took some shrapnel. The scars on my back are from then, and the one’s on my legs. Those stitches itched like hell for the longest time." Callan admitted with something close to a smile. "But those doc’s and nurses did one hell of a job putting us back together."

Terri noticed the wistful, almost sad expression on the biker’s face. Instinctively she knew there was more to the story but knew that the woman wouldn’t speak about it until she was ready. She would not push. She had no idea what the ordeal must have been like but she knew that it had to be one of the most frightening things a human being could go through. She was glad that O’Malley had not gone through it alone and then wondered where the thought had come from.

Callan rolled over reaching for her beer. The bottle was empty but didn’t feel like getting up to get another one. She set the bottle down surprised when it was louder than she had expected.

"I’ll get it." Terri said getting up quickly, grateful for a distraction from her last thought. As she walked to the cooler looking around, she suddenly remembered that they were most likely being watched. Something close to an evil grin covered her face. If Trey and his cronies wanted a show, she would give them one.

Fishing two bottles out of the cooler and twisting off the caps, she walked, a bottle in each hand, back to O’Malley and made her decision. Instead of going to O’Malley’s side, Terri straddled the woman on the deck.

O’Malley looked up at the woman standing over her. Reaching her hand up she took the offered bottle, put it within reach then took Terri’s hand pulling her down. She smiled when the smaller woman sat on her stomach easily and sat up slightly.

"Finally remembered we have company huh?" She teased as reached for her bottle and took a sip.

"Yeah. Don’t know how I could have forgotten that." She answered dryly. "I figured it was time we got cozy."

"I can do cozy but can you kiss?" O’Malley finally put words to the question.

Instead of answering with words, Terri leaned in and pressed her lips to O’Malley’s. It wasn’t the usual shy type of kiss but an intimate kiss that lovers are supposed to share and it left Terri breathless. For several long moments she found herself lost in lips and tongues. Without thinking, she used her lips to trace a wet pattern over O’Malley’s chin and then roved back to her lips.

O’Malley returned the kisses with equal enthusiasm, pulling Terri closer. She could feel the heat rising from the smaller woman recognizing the adrenaline after effect and smiled around the last kiss. Finally, they pulled apart slowly when breathing became critical. She didn’t miss the dazed expression on Terri’s face.

"Well that’s one hell of a good answer." O’Malley mused out loud. She kept her hands on Terri’s hips. "I can see you like the adrenaline."

"Mmhmm." Terri purred and leaned in close to O’Malley’s ear. "Every nerve in my body feels like it’s on over drive."

"Then we’ll have to do it again sometime." Callan teased with a smile ducking her head to run her lips over the sensitive skin of Terri’s neck. She heard the unrestrained moan when she sucked on her pulse point. Terri’s hands roamed through O’Malley’s hair and down her arms and back. Callan pulled away from Terri’s neck. "I think we should take cozy inside."

Without waiting for an answer, Callan rolled Terri from her perch and managed to get them both standing. Walking backwards toward the house door was difficult with Terri’s mouth latched on to hers but had to admit to herself that she was half the problem. It felt entirely too good holding the live wire of a woman in her arms and this live wire did not stop once they got inside the house and closed the door to prying eyes.

O’Malley found her lips captured once again and tugging her lips away after a moment, she took a deep breath. "You are playing with fire." O’Malley warned with a slight growl.

"I know. Just once in my life, O’Malley, I don’t want to think." Terri admitted. At the moment she was not thinking about being a badge or that she was working. She thought only about how she felt and how much she was enjoying being alive and how vivid that was.

"You do this now and there will be no playing, no faking with others around." O’Malley laid out the terms. "You think you can deal with that, live with that on a twenty-four seven basis?" O’Malley didn’t sound cruel just blunt.

Terri was forced to think and she shut her eyes tight against the action. She was confused. Her logical side at war with her other self. She wanted everything she knew she couldn’t have. Opening her eyes, she felt the tears of confusion. She wanted and yet a part of her didn’t want. She felt O’Malley ease away. Her silence having been enough of an answer.

"We have a long day tomorrow." O’Malley’s voice was deep and husky. "Guess it’s time to turn in."

With blurred vision, Terri watched O’Malley make her way into the dark hallway. She wiped the tears away weakly trying to figure out what to do. She stood in the living room for a very long time thinking and not thinking. Finally she let her feet take her to the threshold of the bedroom door. Looking inside, she could just barely make out the form of O’Malley, a lump under the blankets. Quietly, Terri peeled her clothes off and crawled into bed naked. She lay in the dark and tried to will herself asleep. Not even the even deep breathing of O’Malley could lull her into slumber.

When was the last time she had spent this much time sleeping next to someone other than Trey and he truly did not count. Her brain supplied the name and she flinched against the memory. Barbara had been all bluster and charm and she had fallen hard. Terri rolled over in bed and wished she hadn’t started this particular trip down memory lane. Barbara had looked every bit the Nordic goddess, seeming to be everything that Terri wasn’t. It had been a whirlwind romance during specialized training courtesy of the FBI.

The days had been filled with learning all she could about deep undercover work while her nights had been filled with Barbara and a notion of romance that normally ended up in a very different type of undercover. The sex had been almost like a force of nature. She thought it was perfect until she had come back to their shared apartment and found Barbara in the arms of another person.

That it had been Barbara’s husband was a harder blow. Somehow the woman had forgotten to mention the fact that she was married to a man or that he’d been out of the country on assignment. She still didn’t know how she halted herself from pulling her sidearm and shooting the both of them. She instead closed the door quietly and sat on the couch quietly until they finished and came out of the bedroom. She would always remember the look of momentary panic on Barbara’s face when they both stepped out nearly dressed.

She couldn’t recall his name but she did remember being calmly civil as he ran around the apartment gathering his things quickly explaining about having to catch an airplane to another part of the world. When he finally left, she had looked at Barbara and surprised herself by not crying or betraying her crushed heart. Without speaking, she had gathered her things, the apartment did belong to Barbara and placed her key on the counter.

She left without looking back and never acknowledged the woman’s attempts at an apology. She had merely tossed her bags into the car and moved back into her assigned dorm room at the FBI Academy visitor’s dorm. The rest of her time was spent learning to lose herself in her undercover work. She had never counted on meeting O’Malley.

Terri once again rolled over in bed, her eyes resting on the lean lines of the biker’s face. Even in sleep the face was stoic. She had witnessed some of the nightmares O’Malley experienced, the tone of her voice, never her face, had given away the woman’s distress. Sometimes Terri wondered if the woman was even aware of it. O’Malley shifted in bed and she sighed. She could not figure this woman out. There was something she could not pin point that lurked just under the surface, something she thought she had caught a glimpse of during the night ride and that something was dangerous and alluring.

Terri sighed again and rolled out of bed quietly. She pulled one of O’Malley’s long sleeve shirts from the dresser and slipped into it, the soft material almost soothed her mind. Stepping into a pair of boxer shorts, she made her way back into the living room. Sitting on the couch and reaching for one of the photo albums on the coffee table, one that Joan had never reached for during the ‘let’s embarrass O’Malley’ photo show. She opened it to the first page and was surprised to find a photo of O’Malley standing in the formal ‘best man’ tux next to a green looking Sean. The next photo was of Joan, as the happy bride, standing next to the woman who lived in O’Malley’s wallet.

For three pages there were the typical wedding photos with the happy couple at the altar with the priest presiding over the ceremony and then there was the kiss photo. She had to admit that Sean and Joan looked absolutely adorable together. Their photos, however, paled in comparison to those of O’Malley and the woman on her arm. The look on O’Malley’s face could only be described as worship.

Terri flipped through the entire album and found, on the back cover, a listing of those in the wedding party. Ellen Rivers. Maid of Honor and best friend. Callan O’Malley. Best Man and best friend. She closed the album, finally having a name to put to the face.

Chapter 7


O’Malley let her truck door close and hefted the case in her hand, getting a better grip as she walked along the sidewalk that bordered the clubhouse. Counting the number of bikes in the parking lot, she was relieved not to see Trey’s.

She was in a lousy mood and knew, from experience that she would not be able to control herself if he started in on her. The visual that passed through her head was almost enough to make her smile. She needed some stress relief and beating the crap out of him just might do it. She shook her head, pausing for a moment to take a deep breath then pushed the front door of the clubhouse open.

She nodded in greeting to Boomer when he looked up from his bike magazine.

"Hey O’Malley. You carrying anything I need to know about?" He was all business and watched as the woman in front of him carefully opened her jacket one handed lifting it slightly then doing a complete turn and let the jacket down.

"I got some samples for Spyder in the case," she said laying the case on the counter top in front of him. She pushed the latches open and turned it toward him. He opened the case and shifted the three Barretta’s inside. He closed the case when he was satisfied.

"Those things suck you know." He muttered as she snapped the latches closed.

"Tell me about. He’s waiting for me." She answered taking the case in hand.

"In the back." Boomer confirmed and went back to his magazine.

O’Malley turned and walked through the large main room. The walls were pretty much bare except for the Harley flags and posters of mostly naked women draped over bikes. Two pool tables took up one section of the room and the bar on the opposite side was, as always, well stocked. The eight table and chair set ups were half full of bikers. She let her gaze travel to the booth set in the back of the room. Sure enough, Spyder was holding court. The beer bottles in front of him were not all his. Two of his three favorite boys were in attendance as was his girlfriend.

O’Malley grabbed a chair and dragged it over. Turning it backwards, she laid the case on the table and sat down without a word. She didn’t bother to take off her sunglasses knowing it would bug the club leader and today was all about pushing buttons.

"O’Malley." Spyder, eyes guarded leaned back in his seat. She was early and he hated being surprised.

"Samples. There’s fifteen more on the way if you like ‘em. Price is not negotiable." She answered with a hard edge.

Spyder pushed the empty bottles out of the way and opened the case. He took his time with the weapons. Each one was broken down and checked over. She did not miss the momentary satisfied smile on his face. He placed the last weapon back in the case then set the case down by his feet.

"You got a deal. These are better than the last batch. Half now and half on delivery."

"Cool. I’ll make shipping arrangements." She moved to get up.

"Stay for a minute." He ordered. "Why don’t you three go do something else." It was not a request and everyone at the table knew it. His face remained impassive as the other three occupants left the booth waiting until they were out of earshot. "I need a special order."

"What kind of special order?"

"Something with a little more firepower. The boys in Washington are having some competition problems. Seems the other side got their hands on some AK’s. I was thinking along the lines of a couple of SAW’s."

O’Malley was glad she’d left her sunglasses on. She was sure the surprise would have shown. The Squad Automatic Weapon was the military’s answer to upgrading the M-60 machine gun. Slightly lighter than the mainstay machine gun, it had the advantage of being fed by magazine or belt ammo. It was a meat grinder and worked well in any environment.

"That one might be a little rough. They’re still pretty new and they haven’t kicked too many out for recycle. I’ll see what I can do. It’s gonna take me a while. What’s your time line?" she asked without giving anything away.

"A month, if you can do it sooner that would be good." He answered taking up his beer bottle.

"If I can do it, it’s gonna cost." She warned.

"Hell, O’Malley I figured that. Two would be good, more would be better." His voice was tinged with laughter but she heard the threat behind the laugh.

"No promises Spyder but I’ll give it a try. I think I might know someone who can pull it off…" her voice trailed off.

"What’s the problem?" He leaned forward with an expression she couldn’t identify.

"Oh, he just hate’s my guts. I might have to use a go between. If I do that, it’ll jack the price. I gotta cover all the bases, if you know what I mean." She leaned back.

"I get your drift. It’ll be worth it if it keeps my competition out of my business."

O’Malley forced herself to shrug. "Like I said, no promises."

"So, how was your trip?" He changed the subject quickly.

O’Malley tried to keep up with the shift in conversation. She let a sly smile cover her lips. "What do you really want to know Spyder? I’m not good with dancing around the subject."

"Is she any good?" The tone in his voice left no doubt what he was asking.

O’Malley forced a laugh. "My mama taught me not to kiss and tell but between you and me…very good and very tasty. I’m gonna need a vacation to rest up from my vacation."

"That’s good to hear. I guess we won’t have to take care of her then."

O’Malley leaned forward just a bit. Her leather jacket creaking. "Anyone touches her and they lose a body part Spyder. You included. Get my drift?" There was nothing teasing or friendly in her voice.

"Getting soft on some chick O’Malley?" he challenged as he took a drink from his bottle.

"Just making sure what’s mine stays mine." O’Malley answered as she stood and pushed away from the chair. "The rest of the shipment will be here in a couple of weeks."

"I’ll have Boomer bring the first half over to you tomorrow. Hey O’Malley," he called as she turned away, "Trey’s probably gonna be a problem."

"He already is. Just so he stays clear, all will be cool." She said quietly as she walked away.

Spyder recognized the resignation in her voice. He’d heard it many times before and each time she delivered on her promises. He sighed out loud and slammed back the last of his beer as she walked out the door. Deep in his gut he knew there would be trouble. Trey might be a damn good yes man and an almost decent gofer but when it came to the woman he’d bet and lost, he was an idiot.


Terri sank into her usual seat across from George and listened to him grunt into the phone. This is getting to be a habit, she thought to herself biting back a smile as her boss rolled his eyes in exasperation. He finally hung up the phone after she propped her feet up on his desk. She was tired and wrung out.

"You’re feet are not on my desk… right?" George asked without expecting an answer. When his eyes locked on to hers, she moved her feet to the floor.

"Nope. Did you miss me?" She tried to lighten the mood and judging from his expression failed.

"Very funny." He pushed a thick file folder towards Terri. "Callan O’Malley. You sure know how to pick them."

Terri reached across the desk and picked up the folder. "Hey, Trey did this not me. Kick his ass for a change would you?" She opened the folder and was faced with O’Malley’s mug shot. The double bruising around her eyes was definitely not attractive. She could only describe the expression frozen on film as rabid raccoon. The woman was definitely angry. She moved past the photo and skimmed the highlights, her eyes widening at the charges.

"Three counts of assault on a police officer?" she asked out loud. "She took on three cops for…" she skimmed back over the file, "half a dime bag?"

George nodded. "Yeah. The bag was on a table at the clubhouse. She copped to the possession and according to the report, resisted arrest."

"Before or after Bates cuffed her?" Terri asked without bothering to cover her sarcasm. She knew the arresting officer for what he was.

"Officially, she resisted when they took her into custody. I asked some of the other officers not listed on the report. According to them Bates threw the first punch. Seems she took offense to his comments toward her companion, so she questioned his parentage. Richards and Henderson are so up Bates ass they just followed his lead. They ended up in the same emergency room. You might want to look a little deeper in there. She’s dangerous Terri. According to her military record, she got kicked out for theft and breaking her hand on an officer’s face. I want you away from her."

Terri closed the file. "And how am I supposed to do that George? Trey got me into this fucking mess and you want me to just walk away." Her eyes pleaded with him to give her an answer. None came forth. She sighed and slapped the file on the desk. "Pull him and I’ll walk away."

"I can’t." He sounded defeated. "I can’t do that anymore than I can pull you." He sank into his chair and stared out the window wishing that he’d taken up a whole multitude of other professions. He was trapped in this case. He let his head hang down for a moment. "Nice hickey." His voice was flat.

Terri nodded absently. "It’s not what you think. I didn’t sleep with her." She admitted in a low tone. "Trey sent one of his boys to follow us. We had to make it look like she had her way with me. If she didn’t mark me, they’d know."

George nodded his head not liking it one bit but knowing he had to trust his cop. She was good, having a natural ability for undercover work. Her last two assignments had resulted in high profile busts with a great deal of money and drugs confiscated. Several out of state departments had requested her based on her reputation alone.

"I’m sorry Terri. I’m at a loss."

"Don’t be, George. I learned some good stuff this week, so it’s not a total loss. You can add buying stolen weapons to Spyder’s list." She almost laughed at George’s expression. "It seems my ‘girlfriend’ sells him stolen military weapons."

"Holy shit." He muttered. "This is deeper than I thought. I might have to call in the Fed’s on this one or at the very least the military."

"You do that and they’ll yank us for sure. I’ve never been yanked from a case and I’m not gonna start now. Just give me some time on this one George." Her voice wasn’t quite desperate but it was close.

It took him a long time to finally come to a decision. He didn’t want her hurt but he desperately wanted the club behind bars. The police chief and the mayor were breathing down his neck and he hated the feeling. He knew they were feeling the heat from several different out of state agencies.

"I’ll give you all the time I can. Now what do you know about these weapons?"

Terri outlined what little she knew and what she’d been able to piece together from the photos. She gave him dates and places that she could recall from the conversations with Sean and Joan. There was a small part of her that felt guilty for it but the bigger part of her knew that they were profiting from illegal activities. George scribbled furiously as he took notes. He would have a great deal to research before their next meeting.

"Oh, she knows Maria Cortez from somewhere in the past." Terri couldn’t keep the curiosity from her voice.

"The owner of Traders out on I-10?" he asked to clarify. He watched her nod her head and felt the knot in his stomach twist a bit more. He used to enjoy a beer or five at the bar back before the bikers and rednecks took it over. He and his late wife had always had a good time with the Hispanic owner of the bar and his wife had loved hearing of the woman’s days in the Air Force. "Do you think she’s involved with any of this?"

Terri thought the question over for a moment. "I don’t think so. The bikers like to hang out at Traders when the club isn’t open. I’m sure they make some deals there but I’ve seen her toss ‘em out if she catches any of them dealing in her bar. I think she’s a bar owner with a lousy customer base."

The relief on his face showed and Terri smiled sympathetically. She knew he had a soft spot in his heart for the bar. At the end of her life, just about the only joy Helen experienced was her Bailey’s on the rocks listening to the oldies that played on the jukebox at Traders.

"I think we’re done here. Two weeks from now, unless something else comes up." He said in a low tone. Terri recognized the loneliness. She knew he would probably go home, pour himself a drink and stare at photo albums most of the night.

"Hey George, when this is all over, let’s you and me go to Traders and get plastered." Terri suggested.

"Plastered, yes. Traders, no. We’ll both be marked. Would you settle for a barbecue in the backyard?" He attempted a smile.

"You have a deal." Terri confirmed picking up her bag. She shouldered the strap and looked at him for a long time. "I think O’Malley is the key George. Trust me." She signed her paperwork and walked out of the room. It wasn’t until she was at the bus stop waiting for O’Malley that she realized that he had not answered her.


"You’re going where?" Ellen asked as she blinked against what she’d just been told.

"Bosnia." Callan repeated patiently. When her platoon leader explained the assignment, she knew that Ellen would pitch one hell of a fit. Callan swallowed the groan that wanted escape as she watched her girlfriend’s stance turn rigid.

"When you give me information like that, you really shouldn’t look so damned pleased." Ellen’s words were clipped and short.

"I’m not pleased, Nurse. I don’t really want to go but I don’t have a choice. I’m on the short list to go. MP’s are going to be a huge part of the peace keeping mission." She tried to explain and knew that her words weren’t going to matter.

"It’s not fair. We finally have time together and now you’re going again." Ellen hated the tears that threatened. "You even went Airborne so that we could be in the same city."

Callan smiled gently. When her posting at Ft. Bliss had come to an end, Ellen had been assigned to Pope Air Force Base. Without telling her girlfriend, Callan had asked for airborne training and assignment to Ft. Bragg. She would always remember the surprised look on Ellen’s face when she showed up at the flight clinic and just stood there until the nurse looked up.

Without thinking about it, Callan wrapped her arms around Ellen and let her chin rest on the top of her head. She closed her eyes and put everything she felt in the embrace.

"I don’t want you to go. I know it’s selfish and probably childish but I want you here with me. I want us to be together and at least pretend to be a normal couple." Ellen admitted into Callan’s shoulder as she let her arms wrap themselves around her love.

"I want that too baby. You have no idea how much I want that. But I have to go."

Ellen nodded her head. "I know. You’re a good soldier." She didn’t bother disguising the sarcasm.

Callan sighed out loud. "Yes I am, that’s how you met me. Remember?"

"How could I forget that one, Irish? You looked like hell when they brought you in. I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t think I could deal with it twice."

"It won’t happen again. Sean won’t be driving, so no land mines." She tried to lighten the mood.

"You’re going into a potential war zone O’Malley. Joking about it won’t change the fact that you could come home in a box." Ellen’s voice trembled as she pulled out of the hug.

"Ellen I could go up in a plane and pile drive into the ground on a chute failure tomorrow. Damn it baby, I’m in a dangerous profession. You know that. Hell you’re in the Air Force. You should know it better than anyone." Callan stood her ground. If Ellen was going to fight logic, she wasn’t going to chase her.

"Thanks O’Malley, that makes me feel so much better."

"What do you want me to do? Go to my CO and say ‘gee, sorry sir, can’t go. My girlfriend won’t let me.’ That would go over real well." Callan sank into her favorite recliner.

"I don’t know what I want you to do. I just know I want to wake up next to you for the rest of my life." The tears finally escaped.

"Ellen, look at me." She waited until the woman of her dreams looked at her. "This is who I am. I don’t know any other way to be. I love being a soldier and I’m damn good at being an MP. If this were a different assignment I would be worried. This is a peace-keeping mission not Iraq. I can’t promise I won’t get hurt, but baby, I will come home to you. I will always be there to keep you warm."

"And if you die there?"

"Then we’ll both be pissed." Callan sighed. There wasn’t much more she could say.

The rest of the evening was spent in a strained silence. That night when Ellen slipped under the sheets, she pulled Callan close and kissed her gently.

"I know you have to go. Come back home to me when it’s time Irish and if you’re not in one piece, just know that I’m going to kick your butt."

Callan shifted and wrapped her arm around her lover pulling her close and feeling Ellen lay her head on her shoulder. "I promise with everything I am Nurse."


O’Malley blinked when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She smiled softly when Maria handed over the bottle of ice water. Looking up at the night sky, she shook off feeling sorry for herself.

"What you thinking about?" Maria asked as she closed the door to the back patio.

"Oh, just irony." O’Malley answered taking a sip from the bottle. The cold water felt good on the back of her throat. "So what’s up?"

Maria knew that her friend wouldn’t speak about what was going on in her head. "Nice marking of your new territory." She smiled as she spoke.

O’Malley tried not to blush and failed miserably. "Yeah well, we had eyes on us… had to make it look good. Besides, you are the one who pointed out that I have a tendency to mark my women."

"That I did. Don’t you think you should be inside paying her all kinds of attention instead out being out here sulking?" Maria leaned against the wall and stared out at the dark beyond to few streetlights.

"I’m not sulking. The smoke inside was starting to get to me. I came out here for some air." She explained.

"For half an hour?"

"Damn. I lost track of time." O’Malley admitted.

"Well come on in and lose track of more time, only lose it with her, okay? Rednecks are starting to come in and we really don’t want her to get caught up in the middle of all of that." Maria ordered in her soft voice.

O’Malley smiled and nodded her head. "You sure you weren’t a drill sergeant in a past life?" she teased.

"Nope, never that. I would have to have been a Marine or something."

"Such language from a lady." O’Malley chuckled as she pushed away from the railing. Together they walked through the door and danced around the crowd to get to their spots at the bar. O’Malley tensed as they noticed a redneck bothering Terri. She started towards the brunette only to have Maria hold her back with a hand on her shoulder.

"Let her fight her battles until she needs the help. You have to learn that she’s tougher than you give her credit for." Maria said before O’Malley could argue. "Besides, he’s new and doesn’t know any better. She’s no fluff."

O’Malley watched Terri deflect the redneck at every turn until he let his hand rest on her thigh leaning in and whispering something in her ear. As soon as she noticed Terri’s shoulders bunch up slightly and the red rising on the woman’s ears, she felt sorry for the young man. She was almost proud when she noticed his face screw up in pain while Terri dug her nails into the top of his hand. O’Malley and Maria moved closer just in case.

"I already said no. I’ll spell it out for you. I’m with someone and even if I weren’t, I still wouldn’t be interested. Do I make myself clear?" Terri never raised her voice but it held an edge anyway.

"I don’t see anyone." He persisted even though it felt like she was about to draw blood.

"Then turn around." Terri ordered. She could see O’Malley in the mirror. In leather and denim, she looked like an angel to Terri. A really pissed off angel, her brain amended.

The redneck managed to turn around expecting to see some guy, instead he saw the bartender and some woman in a leather jacket he didn’t recognize. He turned back to the woman he wanted to join him for the rest of the night.

"I don’t see nobody." He said in a flat tone. "Now, why don’t you let go of my hand and we’ll get outta here and have us some fun."

Terri let out a frustrated sigh. She let go of his hand with a final painful dig and quickly slid off her barstool avoiding his hand and walked up to O’Malley. Reaching up, she let her hand rest on the back of O’Malley’s neck. With a quick smile, she tiptoed and planted a kiss on the woman’s lips. Feeling O’Malley kiss back, she couldn’t help herself as she let her tongue dart over the biker’s warm lips.

O’Malley wrapped her leather-clad arms around Terri and pulled her closer. She knew they were drawing attention to themselves and for a split second wondered if it was a good idea. After another moment of kissing Terri, she knew she didn’t care.

The redneck almost fell off his stool in shock and anger. He stood quickly and would have done something if the two women weren’t ignoring him. His stomach rolled at the display. His fists clenched as the two women finally pulled slowly away from each other.

"Hi baby, miss me?" O’Malley let her hands roam over Terri’s back possessively. None of the bikers watching mistook the action. O’Malley was making sure everyone knew Terri was hers. Most of the rednecks got the general idea even if they didn’t like it. The bikers outnumbered them by at least a two to one margin.

"Oh yeah. Where have you been?" Terri asked with a mischievous smile.

"Lost track of time outside. You ready to go or do you want to stay for a while?" O’Malley asked quietly.

"We can stay, I’m not ready to leave yet," Terri answered leaning closer into O’Malley’s body. "I don’t want that asshole to think I’m going to run every time he’s in here."

"You want me to scare him a little?" O’Malley smiled an evil smile.

Terri chuckled. "How about a lot?" she teased. "No, I think he gets the picture now." She flashed a smile and took hold of O’Malley’s hand leading the way back to the bar. A couple of bikers grinned at the two women and vacated their seats. One of the men winked at Terri and exaggerated a bow.

O’Malley ordered the two men a round of drinks as she settled in shifting her stool closer to Terri. Wrapping her arm around the woman’s shoulders, she pulled her in close. "Nice move with that guy by the way."

"Yeah well, my mom once told me that long nails could be a girl’s best friend." Terri answered with half a smile.

"Good for mom." O’Malley chuckled and turned slightly to watch the activity in the bar. From the corner of her eye she could see Terri’s would be suitor complaining to his buddies at a nearby table. She shook her head slightly as her gut instinct told her this one would be trouble… if not tonight then some other night.

Terri nudged her and smiled. "You any good at pool?"

"Maybe." O’Malley grinned as she looked down at Terri. "Are you?"

Terri licked her lips and leaned in close. "Maybe. Wanna find out?"

"Lead the way." O’Malley challenged and dug in her pocket for quarters.

Together they wound their way to the pool table and waited for a few minutes while the players finished their game. They claimed an emptying table and O’Malley slid out of her jacket. Terri took the time to spy on the crowd. Aside from the usual bar flies and associate club members, there were only rednecks. She was relieved not to see any of Trey’s shadows. She hadn’t realized how tense she had become in the last week.

She vowed to let herself relax letting out a slow steadying breath, she turned back to O’Malley finding herself being watched. O’Malley’s face was impassive and she could not tell what the woman was thinking. O’Malley dragged her eyes away and set her cue against the pool table. With sure confident movements she racked the balls into their triangle. Terri knew she was staring but she found that she didn’t care. Years of riding bikes and who knew what else had given O’Malley strong toned arms. Shoulder muscles danced against her black tee shirt.

"You gonna grab a stick or do you wanna share?" O’Malley asked as she rolled the cue ball to Terri.

"Sharing is good." She answered as she flagged down one of Maria’s waitresses. She ordered two beers and rubbed her hands on the white block of chalk. "My break or yours?"

"By all means, ladies first." O’Malley answered with a grin. For the first time in three days she felt none of her self imposed pressure. Right now all she wanted to do was have some fun, drink a little beer and pretend that Terri was hers. The thought unsettled her for a moment and she brushed the feeling off. She watched Terri’s lithe figure bend to take the break and had to shake her head. Two balls found pockets and Terri stood up with an evil grin.

"You actually play well, right?" O’Malley groaned out loud as the waitress brought their beers. She paid the tab and waited for Terri to answer. The woman in question merely smiled and surveyed the layout of the balls. She took her time, called her shot and finally smiled sweetly as she struck the cue ball. She laughed as O’Malley’s head sank at the same time the ball did. "I’m screwed." She decided out loud.

Chapter 8


Boomer coasted his Harley to a stop at the curb in front of O’Malley’s over grown lawn. He rubbed his hand over his mustache and goatee in an attempt to rub some feeling back into his face. The morning had dawned unseasonably chilly and the one thing he hated about only owning the bike was that his face stayed cold in the winter despite all efforts. Dismounting the bike he walked to the leather saddlebags flipping the closest open he pulled out the pouch that Spyder had given him. He didn’t need to look inside to know what it was. He shook his head with a wry smile. With each deal and each payment, his boss reeled O’Malley deeper into the club. He knew that Spyder preferred the quiet and dangerous woman in his back pocket. Spyder did not like loose ends.

He slipped the pouch securely into the back waistband of his jeans, under his leather jacket and walked casually up the concrete path to the front door. Instead of knocking, however, he peeked into the front window. He took in the sight of the living room and coffee table. Beer bottles littered the coffee table and clothing was strewn across the floor. He shifted his gaze to his left and was surprised to see that the curtains weren’t quite closed. He guessed that the occupants of the house were still asleep and on soft feet moved to the window avoiding the stray neighborhood cat that was staring at him intently.

Boomer knew the window belonged to O’Malley’s bedroom having been to her place enough times to have memorized the layout of the house. He peeked in and stopped short. O’Malley’s naked back faced him. Her head was deep in her pillow and her arm was wrapped tightly around a mostly covered figure. He could not mistake the familiar light brown hair and watched as the brunette turned slightly in bed snuggling closer to O’Malley and the woman tightened her embrace. The movement brought his attention to the tattoo’s on the female biker’s shoulders and the scars. He winced at the obvious damage that had been done. He just knew that it had to have hurt.

He’d heard the other bikers call her war hero as a taunt. He didn’t know the whole story behind the taunt but he figured those scars had to be a part of it. For a moment he wondered if anyone knew the whole story or if anyone really knew O’Malley. He filed the thought away for a later time. Backing away from the window he walked back up to the porch punching the doorbell and hearing the chimes sound in the house. After a minute he tried again.

O’Malley opened her eyes when the doorbell rang the first time instantly awake. Quietly she slipped out of bed and grabbed a discarded pair of jeans. Pulling them on and fastening the buttons she turned to her pillow and slipped her Sig 9mm into the back of the jeans. She didn’t bother with a bra and just pulled on a tee shirt then glanced at Terri and made sure the woman was still asleep. The doorbell rang again. On quiet feet she padded to the side door, eased it open and stepped out into the chilly morning. The grass was cold on her feet as she wrapped her hand around the weapon and pulled it free. She turned the corner of the house as she brought the weapon up and aimed it at the figure on her front porch.

"Turn nice and slow." She ordered not sounding at all like she’d been deep asleep minutes before.

Boomer recognized the order and implied threat. He slowly let his hands rise away from his body before he followed the order. He came face to face with O’Malley and her 9mm. A second of fear passed through him as he watched O’Malley.

She lowered her weapon and slid it back to its resting place. "Next time call first," she yawned out loud now that she could relax. "Come on back this way." She turned and walked back around the corner not bothering to look back. She knew he would follow, they always did. She walked quickly as she woke up a little more and realized how chilly it was. Pushing the side door open she stepped into the house. O’Malley’s mouth quirked up in a small smile as Terri stood in the doorway of the bedroom, a short robe wrapped around her body and sleepy confusion written all over her face.

"We have company." She announced needlessly. "Coffee." Terri nodded and with mostly sleepy eyes walked into the kitchen to start the coffee. O’Malley headed to the bedroom and a moment later, Terri could hear the sound of drawers being opened and closed.

Boomer stepped into the house. "Hey Terri." He stopped short almost swallowing his tongue and blinked a couple of times to kick-start his brain. He knew Terri was good looking but he hadn’t expected to see this much of her. The robe barely covered all the essential parts. He pulled himself together just as O’Malley came back from the bedroom, her cold feet now covered in thick socks. She walked into the kitchen and pulled down three coffee mugs from the cupboard.

"Baby, go put something on before Boomer has a heart attack." She said as Terri poured the water into the coffee machine. Terri finished her task, turned and snuggled into O’Malley’s arms. O’Malley became very aware of how thin the robe really was; she could feel Terri’s warmth. Her arms automatically came up around Terri’s body in an embrace.

"Can’t we just go back to bed?" she asked burrowing her head into O’Malley’s shoulder. She really was still tired.

"You go ahead. Boomer and I have some stuff to do."

"Mmmkay." She mumbled and stayed where she was for a moment. It was nice and warm. A sigh came from O’Malley and she recalled that she wanted to go back to bed. "I’m going." She pushed away from O’Malley and walked towards the bedroom managing a wave to Boomer as she passed him. O’Malley waited until she heard the bedroom door close.

Looking up she met the bikers gaze. He was almost smiling, she could see it in his eyes. She shrugged her shoulders and sent a mental ‘hurry up’ to the coffee maker. She wanted coffee and an aspirin or fifty for the headache she was becoming aware of. She wondered how much they’d had to drink and more importantly, what had happened last night. It was mostly a fog in her brain.

"Looks pretty damn domestic O’Malley." Boomer spoke up knowing that he could get away with it for now.

She quirked an eyebrow and wondered if the pain showed on her face. "Yeah it does." She finally answered. "What time is it?"

Boomer chuckled and had the decency to at least look a little sheepish. "Eight thirty."

"When I wake up I’m gonna kick your ass." O’Malley muttered. She didn’t like being up this early if she didn’t have to be.

Boomer laughed and slipped the pouch from his waistband. "I thought you might want this. Spyder doesn’t like to keep you waiting… for some reason." He sat down without an invitation. He was looking forward to a cup of coffee.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" She asked as she grabbed a coffee cup. She took her time pouring the dark liquid.

"It means just that. You’re the only one I get morning duty with. Everyone else gets to wait. You got any idea why he might do that?" Boomer knew it might be too early to start pushing buttons on the woman but he wasn’t all that happy to be up at this hour.

"It’s self service here Boomer, you want a cup, you gotta get off your butt and get it," O’Malley announced as she set the pot back in the machine which started pouring the coffee again. She sat on a stool as the words sank in to his brain. "I have an idea that he doesn’t like me being freelance but hey it’s my life. I like my freedom."

Boomer thought about the statement as he walked into the kitchen, his boots sounding loud on the floor. He grabbed the cup and poured the coffee. "I get that. I don’t think he likes it. You could be a problem later." He stated the obvious.

O’Malley laughed out loud and ignored the rising pain in her head. "Like I’m gonna what? Run to call the cops? Fuck Boomer, I do that and I’d be cutting my own throat. Can you imagine that conversation? ‘Gee officer, see I sold guns to this biker and now I wanna turn him in’. Do you have any fucking clue what the Army would do to me?" The bitterness rose in her voice and he could not miss it.

Boomer took a sip of his coffee to cover his surprise at the outburst. He knew she’d been kicked out but he hadn’t guessed that she was still pissed about it. He took a good look at O’Malley and wondered what it was that she had done and what had been done to her.

"No I don’t. Why don’t you tell me."

"In their eyes I’d be worse than a traitor. Ex soldier stealing weapons and selling ‘em to a bike club, that’d go over real well," she didn’t bother covering up the sarcasm. "Think of the worst pain you’ve ever been through." She watched him mentally do just that. "Now multiply it by a thousand. That’s what they’d do to me." She finished grimly.

"That sucks."

"Welcome to my world," O’Malley muttered rubbing her face.

"So, why do it?" Boomer’s voice was sincere in his confusion. He couldn’t put it all together.

"Because I was the perfect fucking tin soldier and I did every little thing they asked of me. When it was my turn to need and ask, they said no. Never fuck with a pissed off, very well trained, tin soldier. It always comes back to bite you in the ass." She answered bluntly. Her headache exerted itself with a vengeance.

Boomer gulped his coffee, suddenly uncomfortable at being given an insight to the woman sitting close by. It felt like a gift that would cost him in the long run. It wasn’t the sort of gift he was in the habit of accepting. He could feel the anger and betrayal oozing off her body.

"I can see that." He offered weakly. It wasn’t often he felt weak. He knew he had to get away from the woman. "You want to count the cash?" He changed the subject.

She almost cracked a smile. "You really think I can do math right now?"

Boomer laughed after a second. "Nope." He stood and drained the coffee mug. "Tell Ter she makes a killer coffee. I’ll be awake for days." He started for the front door, stopping just as he was about to open it and turned back. "Hey O’Malley, watch out for Trey. He’s sniffing and that little weasel is out for your ass."

O’Malley peered at the biker for a moment trying to figure him out. She’d been around the club long enough to know that only loyalty garnered warnings. She had no idea what would bring that sort of thing out in Boomer since his only loyalty seemed to lie with Spyder. After nearly two and a half years she still had no idea what Spyder had on the large man.

"Thanks Boomer." She answered quietly sincere and listened as the front door shut. She closed her eyes in an attempt to push out the unwanted thoughts and memories. The crushing tightness in her chest, that she tried so hard to keep at bay, rushed in with full force. She wanted to scream, put her fist through the wall, something… anything… to keep her grounded.

She didn’t want to revisit the old feelings and silently damned Boomer for bringing up the subject. She damned herself for answering honestly. It still burned inside; the betrayal from the one organization to which she had pledged life and loyalty. All those years and the one time she had needed something, she had been turned down cold. She could only imagine the look on her face when she heard the denial to her request for emergency leave. Denied because it wasn’t a member of her immediate family. She choked on a sob that threatened to escape.

O’Malley took a deep breath and knew she was in no condition to do anything but to work the anger that coursed through her body away. She walked into the laundry room peeling off her clothes and not caring that the shorts and tank top were dirty, she just pulled them on and stalked out to the garage. She eyed the heavy bag hanging from the chain. After a moment, it was not stitched tough canvas but faceless enemies who had cost her everything she had dreamed of. With even, practiced movements she tugged the fasteners of her workout gloves and tightened them. In her need to bleed off the energy she didn’t bother with the hand wraps.

She faced off against the bag and began with a spinning round house kick that would have hurt if she had been aware that she’d forgotten to wear shoes. She watched the bag react and in her mind she had just broken the jaw of the enemy then finished it off with a crushing blow to the windpipe. She circled and advanced on the next faceless form.


Terri woke to the sound of a strange yet familiar rhythmic sound. She reached across the bed for O’Malley and was surprised not to find the woman there. The last thing she recalled was asking to go back to bed. She reached for her robe and slipped it on. The rhythm was still there and now that she was almost coherent, she knew it was close. Her eyes stole to the digital read out on the alarm clock. The numbers read ten o’clock. She vaguely remembered Boomer coming over earlier and stole out of bed.

She walked across the house and wondered why the clothes she had worn to the bar last night were strewn all over the living room floor. Running her hands through her sleep tortured hair she noticed a set of O’Malley’s clothes on the floor of the laundry room and tried to figure the puzzle. Terri shook her head as nothing seemed to make sense then continued to follow the sound.

She shivered as her bare feet touched the cold concrete and looking towards the sound stopped dead in her tracks. O’Malley was drenched in sweat from head to toe. She could see, even from this distance, the bleeding scrapes on the top of the woman’s feet and the trail of blood that ran from glove covered hands down bulging forearms. Any other time she might have been aroused at seeing O’Malley in tight work out shorts and her trademark tank top, muscles playing as she moved. This time, she was worried. O’Malley seemed oblivious to the pain she was putting her body through as the bag shuddered from another blow.

Terri moved without thought her feet taking her to O’Malley’s side. The biker didn’t seem to know she was there and Terri had to suddenly duck the second her hand touched the woman’s shoulder. O’Malley pulled up short when she realized whom she had almost clocked. Her breathing was ragged as she turned and planted her gloved fist into the canvas of the bag rocking it violently.

Terri stood up and for the first time she was afraid. She had never seen this side of O’Malley. Even when she had Hank pinned to the wall she seemed almost in control. There was no control in O’Malley’s eyes this time.

"O’Malley," she whispered, desperately trying to cover her fear.

"Go away," was the muttered tight reply.

She touched the sweaty shoulder gently. "I can’t." She watched O’Malley sag for just a second. "You’re bleeding."

"I don’t give a fuck. Just go Terri. Let me work this out." O’Malley’s words were clipped and short. Much like the fuse that was still burning in her chest.

Terri moved in closer and let her hands rest on the gloves. "No." She stood her ground and pulled the fasteners open before O’Malley could object. Yanking at the gloves, they came free quickly and she let them fall to the ground. She lifted O’Malley’s hands and winced at the raw wounds she found.

"Damn it O’Malley. Look at what you’ve done to yourself." She groaned out loud knowing it had to hurt. A second later she realized that O’Malley didn’t feel a thing.

O’Malley pulled her hands away. "Go away." Her teeth were clenched as she gave the order.

"Fuck you. I will not stand by while you do this." Terri stood her ground and touched O’Malley’s face. "I’m not going away. You are stuck with me."

O’Malley tried to push the woman away. Her arms felt like lead. She let her body sag for a moment and then without a word turned and walked slowly back into the house. Terri took a deep breath before she followed. Looking around she didn’t see O’Malley so she followed the trail of blood drops on the floor. She found the woman in the bathroom sitting on the toilet, a completely lost expression etched on her face.

Terri opened the linen cupboard and pulled out a couple of hand towels. Working quickly, she ran the water until it was warm and soaked one of the towels pouring on some gel soap. Sitting on the edge of the bathtub she silently took O’Malley’s right hand and gently cleaned it. O’Malley didn’t even seem to notice. She merely sat there and let Terri work on her hands and scraped feet. Terri glanced at the scars on O’Malley’s legs. Somewhere inside she knew they came from that night in the Iraqi desert. O’Malley barely flinched when Terri dabbed alcohol on her broken skin.

"I’m going to have to cover these. Do you have anything larger than Band-Aids?" Terri finally spoke.

O’Malley shook her head. "No. Just leave ‘em. They’ll need air to heal." Her voice was flat and void of emotion.

"Come on. You need something to eat." Terri said as she put the towels in the hamper. She watched O’Malley shake her head. "Well I’m hungry and I hate to eat alone. I’ll make breakfast." Something in her tone gave O’Malley the idea that she wasn’t going to win this one and she had no energy to fight the woman. Obediently she stood on shaky legs. She couldn’t remember the last time she had worked her body over this hard.

She sat at the counter and watched as Terri moved around in the kitchen. She felt like she was apart from herself. The things that were going on, were going on without her. Shaking her head she tried to figure out what exactly had tripped her rage trigger. She was having trouble recalling the conversation with Boomer. That was not a good sign. It meant the rage was still there lurking, waiting for a chance to show itself again. It had surfaced many times in the past and she had always been able to control it. This time she couldn’t and it scared the hell out of her.

Terri kept a subtle eye on O’Malley, watching her go through a series of emotions and she could tell when the woman shifted thoughts. She was fighting hard against the urge to just hold the obviously tortured woman in her arms and comfort her. She was definitely not sure the biker would accept the comfort. Pouring the mixed eggs into the pan, she watched as the concoction cooked. It wasn’t going to be her best breakfast effort but O’Malley needed something to eat… fast. She could see the woman’s hands trembling slightly and wasn’t sure if it was from hunger or fatigue but she was determined to fix both.

When the eggs were done she filled both waiting plates and carried them to the counter. She handed O’Malley a fork and stared at her until the woman ducked her head sheepishly and began to eat slowly. Terri turned her attention to her own breakfast. They ate in silence. When O’Malley was finished, she eased her body off the stool and carried her plate to the sink. Without muttering a word, she began cleaning up the kitchen. She was about to start the dishwater when Terri’s hand touched her forearm. She hadn’t even heard the woman move.

"Leave them." Terri ordered softly and took O’Malley’s hand careful, not to cause her any more pain. She led them out of the kitchen and through the living room.

"Where are we going?" O’Malley asked as she again wondered what had happened last night.

"We are going back to bed. You need to crash and I’m feeling really lazy today." Terri answered with a gentle tug on O’Malley’s hand to get her moving again.

O’Malley let herself be led into the bedroom and tucked into bed. Letting her head lie deep in the pillow, she avoided looking at Terri as the woman shed her robe and crawled under the blankets. It wasn’t the nudity that bothered her, she liked looking at naked women but she felt like a slug for putting Terri in a position to see the uncontrolled side that she lived with. It had been a long time since she’d had feelings of shame.

Terri slid closer to O’Malley wrapping an arm over the biker’s chest. She let her head rest on her hand as she looked at O’Malley.

"Better now?" She asked quietly.

"Yeah," O’Malley answered with a rough voice. "Sometimes I just lose it. I guess today was one of those times."

"Is it always that bad?"

O’Malley shook her head. "No, most of the time it’s worse. Today all I beat up was the bag." She admitted with a frown and tried to roll over. Terri’s arm kept her in place.

"You don’t get to run from me O’Malley. I don’t understand what happened today but I’d like to." Terri took a breath to gather her courage. "You’ve been good to me and I’d like to return the favor. I do like you O’Malley and I don’t like watching you hurt yourself like that."

"Terri, sometimes the choice is me working it out on the bag or taking it out on whoever’s close. From what you told me about how you grew up, I doubt you’d like me if I took it out on you." O’Malley answered bluntly. "I did that once upon a time and the woman I was with damn near left me. If I get like this again, just let me take it out on the bag."

"Even if you rip your hands and feet up like this again?" There was a hard edge to Terri’s voice and she had no idea where it was coming from.

O’Malley chuckled. "Next time I’ll try to remember to wear shoes and wrap my hands." She fell silent. "Thank you." She said after a moment.

"You’re welcome." Terri smiled as she looked down at O’Malley and found herself fighting the urge to kiss her.

"I’m kinda used to being alone but I want you to know that I appreciate you doing all of this. It’s been a very long time since anyone took care of me."

"Why are you used to being alone? I know it’s not for a lack of offers." She held O’Malley’s gaze when the biker looked at her. "Some of the dancers told me about you when they found out about Trey putting me up for the bet. They had mostly good things to say about you and the condition your girlfriends seemed to be in." There was a teasing quality to her voice.

"I lived with someone once," O’Malley admitted. Her voice was thick with regret. "We were together three years. She had an accident and she died. God, I loved her like crazy."

"So you don’t want anyone in your life because you think they might die on you?" Terri was genuinely curious about the answer.

"No. I don’t want anyone in my life ‘cause my life in entirely fucked up. Who in their right mind would want me and besides have you seen some of the women I would have to chose from?" O’Malley asked with a wry smile.

"So it’s one night stands." Terri said without judgement.

"And the occasional casual girlfriend thing that lasts a week or two." O’Malley let the smile drop from her face. "God, I sound like a total worm."

"Did you lie to any of them? Promise them something you couldn’t deliver on?" Terri questioned.

"No. I was up front. I don’t like complications."

"Then you aren’t a complete worm. You’re human O’Malley, just like the rest of us." Terri pointed out the obvious.

"Sometimes I wish I weren’t. You ever just wanna turn the feelings off and leave ‘em off?" O’Malley asked softly and didn’t really expect an answer.

"Yeah. When I was seventeen I did that. I don’t think I felt anything until I ran away. I knew I had to change something the night he beat me up so bad I almost couldn’t walk."

"What happened?" O’Malley turned towards Terri.

"I’m really not sure what started it but he hit me and I went down. I got back up and he hit me again. I don’t know how many times I got back up. Usually he’d stop when I went down. That night I kept getting up and something inside me wouldn’t let me stay down. I remember at one point asking him if he was done yet. He hit me again and I didn’t go down. I told him to make this a good one ‘cause he wasn’t going to ever get another chance." Terri was unaware of the tears that started. She had meant to comfort O’Malley and suddenly found herself pressed against the biker’s body, strong arms wrapped around her. She cried for what seemed a long time.

"We’re a pair ain’t we?" O’Malley chuckled softly when Terri finally composed herself.

"I feel really pathetic. You’re hurting and I start bawling my head off."

"Shh. Maybe somehow we needed this." O’Malley observed out loud as she watched the ceiling. "Hey Terri?" She asked after a long while.


"Why are our clothes out in the living room and what exactly happened last night?" O’Malley finally had the courage to ask the question that had been bothering her.

"I was kinda hoping you might be able to tell me. The last thing I remember was kicking your butt at pool last night." Terri groaned and closed her eyes.

"I let you." O’Malley smiled.

"Sure you did." Terri returned and snuggled as close as she could, craving the warmth. She let herself relax. The mental image that jumped out from her brain made her gasp. "O’Malley, you don’t happen to remember licking your way up my spine do you?"

O’Malley thought about the question in her languid state. She opened her eyes in a flash. It sounded too familiar. "I’m not sure." She admitted. "God, please don’t tell me I took advantage of you." She groaned out loud.

"Well if these visuals are what happened last night, I don’t think you did. I’m pretty sure I was a willing participant."

O’Malley felt a rush of relief. "So, was I any good?" She teased.

Terri smacked O’Malley’s chest. "I’ll tell you if I remember it all. Go to sleep." She closed her eyes again so that O’Malley wouldn’t be able to see the desire in her eyes she knew was there. She felt the bed dip a couple of times as O’Malley moved around. "What are you doing?"

"I’m looking for hickeys." O’Malley explained with a grin.

Chapter 9


Terri felt something brushing against her cheek and tried to swat it away. The brushing sensation disappeared and came back a second later. Slapping at it again, her eyes flew open when her hand came into contact with something solid. She peeled her eyes open slowly. Pale blue eyes watched her with a hint of amusement. She pulled her hand quickly away from its place on O’Malley’s chest.

"Very funny." She croaked out and yawned. The sleepy fog started to lift from her brain. O’Malley was still laughing.

"Come on. I’m taking you out for dinner." O’Malley said as she pushed away from the bed.

"What time is it?" Terri asked shifting in bed. O’Malley turned her head and read the clock.

"It’s seven thirty and I’m hungry." She answered and walked out of the bedroom. "I’m gonna take a shower and then you are, and then we’re going to dinner." Her voice trailed away as she disappeared from sight.

Terri stretched and realized that despite the turmoil earlier, she felt surprisingly relaxed. She let her mind drift over the day. She had learned more in one morning about O’Malley than she had in two weeks and was beginning to understand how O’Malley’s mind worked. In some ways O’Malley was an honorable woman and in others she was a criminal. She was tough and hard yet still had her moments of weakness. The woman she was living with was a contradiction of terms and Terri was going to figure her out if it killed her. Shaking her head when she heard the shower start, she groaned out loud when the visual of the woman in work out clothes jumped into her brain. She had a fuzzy recollection of them making out on the couch in the living room.

She shook off the memory and slid out of bed. Moving quickly she picked out her clothes for the night. Since she didn’t know where they were going she decided on her nearly new black skirt and a grey sweater. It was the best outfit she had with her. She wasn’t supposed to have nice clothes and for a moment she longed for life before undercover work. She missed her nicer things, including the tight red dress she was sure O’Malley would drool over. Earth to Terri… she’s a criminal. Her inner voice chose that moment to wake up and sound off. Terri felt like killing her inner voice.

O’Malley closed her eyes as she worked the shampoo into her hair. The sudden visual of Terri leaning in and sucking gently on her neck almost forced her to open her eyes but she caught herself in the nick of time. She groaned silently and had the funny feeling that last night’s activities, went further than she might have intended. She wished she could remember it all and mentally damned herself, she wasn’t sure how she was going to control herself. Terri had every quality that was a turn on for her. She was obviously smart, good looking, stronger than she looked with just the right amount of soft to go with it… and a damn good kisser. O’Malley let her head rest against the shower wall as the water beat against her.

The last several days of sleeping next to the woman had been an exercise in self-control. She realized that she wanted the woman since the morning after they had arrived at Sean’s. Every morning since then, she’d woken up wet and wanting Terri and every morning she forced herself to walk away. They still had some things to talk about and she found herself avoiding the conversation. She ducked her head under the water to rinse away the shampoo and tried to shut off her mind but her mind was having none of that. It chattered on as she washed up and rinsed off. If it wouldn’t shut up, she reasoned she would just ignore it. She shut off the water and shivered for the moment it took her to find the towel. Drying off and dressing quickly, she hissed softly when her left foot protested the sock she tried to fit over it.

O’Malley sighed and stepped out of the bathroom with her socks in hand. She padded into the bedroom and tossed them on bed sitting down on the mattress, something close to a pout on her face. Terri noticed the expression.

"What’s wrong?" She asked trying to hide her surprise at the childish face.

"Can’t get my socks on."

"Your feet aren’t happy, I take it?"

"Not one bit." O’Malley said and with a massive sigh lay back on the bed.

"Well, no wonder. It’s okay O’Malley, we don’t have to go out. Let me take a shower and you can order dinner in. We can do movie night or something." Terri suggested.

"Yeah. I just don’t like that we haven’t seen anything from Trey. I was hoping to go by the club house and the bar… just to keep tabs on him."

"He won’t be there," Terri said as she put her clothes away and chose some sweats and a sweatshirt to wear instead. "On Wednesday’s he likes to have his own little get together with his ‘boys’. They sit around bitching about Spyder and plot some sort of take over. It’s pretty pathetic really."

"Really?" O’Malley tried to keep the interest out of her voice. "And where does Trey have his little get together?"

"Over at Miller park. Usually in the barbecue area ‘cause it’s the only place in the city they can do the open flame thing." Terri looked up at O’Malley suddenly concerned that she might have said too much. "Why?"

"Well, if he’s always there on Wednesday’s, we can have at least one night a week where I don’t have to worry about having my head handed to me." O’Malley lied easily. "What do you want for dinner?"

Terri managed to keep from answering ‘you’ but just barely. "Um, surprise me. I’m just gonna be a few minutes." She was grateful that she didn’t stutter and grabbed up her clothes retreating to the safety of the bathroom quickly.

O’Malley waited until she heard the water going in the shower then moving as quickly as she could she grabbed up her cell phone and dialed a number from memory. She grew impatient waiting for the other end to be answered. Her excitement was hard to contain. She finally had something she could work with.

"Yeah?" The voice on the other end answered curtly.

"O’Malley. Lemme talk to Cage." She ordered just as curtly. There were some people she just didn’t like and the voice on the other end belonged to one of those people. She waited, half listening to the shower for what seemed like forever.

"O’Malley, what can I do for you?" The new voice asked with half a purr.

"Be here before next Wednesday. I need your help." She answered with a half a smile.

"We gonna kick some ass?"

"This first one is strictly recon. I’m gonna need my kit bag. It’s gotta be a late night show up. I don’t want anyone knowing you’re here until at least Thursday. Kick ass might come later."

"Cool, I love it. I’ll be there. You better have steak in the freezer, recon always makes me hungry." There was a teasing quality to the woman’s voice.

"Thanks Cage. I’ll owe ya."

"Nope. I’ve been bored lately. See you in few days." The voice promised.

O’Malley cut the connection with something close to enthusiasm. A rough plan was forming in her mind. As she plotted, she rummaged through the kitchen junk drawer trying to find the delivery menus. Shifting through them, she made a quick decision and called in to the Italian restaurant not far from the house.

Terri emerged from the shower just as O’Malley hung up the phone looking up at the smaller woman, she had to squash the rush of want that hit her. In sweats she looked adorable. O’Malley looked away quickly. Terri didn’t seem to notice as she passed the biker and wandered into the bedroom finding her brush and started to work the tangles out of her hair. She was still working on it as she walked back into the living room.

O’Malley was browsing through the TV guide and shaking her head as she flipped through several pages of listing before admitting to herself that there was nothing worth watching. She didn’t feel like sappy movies and wasn’t sure she wanted to watch the plethora of war movies. Since the desert she couldn’t watch them anymore. The nightmares that usually followed weren’t worth it.

"Eight million channels and nothing on?" Terri asked with complete sarcasm.

O’Malley looked up and arched an eyebrow. "Anyone ever tell you you’re a smart ass?"

"Just about everyone who’s ever met me." Terri confirmed with a wicked smile. "If there’s nothing on, we could just play cards or something."

"I guess. Wish I hadn’t tin canned my feet. I really did want to do something nice for you." O’Malley had a moment of panic. She hadn’t meant to confess that last sentence out loud.

"Then talk to me. Tell me something about you I don’t know." Terri answered as she sat down on the couch.

O’Malley blinked in surprise. She thought about it for a moment and wondered if she wanted to walk down that path. Knowing Terri, the woman would ask more questions about everything and sometimes O’Malley found herself answering with complete honesty. That alone made her nervous. She was sure she didn’t want Terri to know everything…it was too risky for them both.

"Okay." Her mouth answered before her brain could say no. She walked to her recliner and settled in. "I’m afraid of heights."

Terri’s eyes went wide. "You’re actually afraid of something?" This time there was no sarcasm.

"Hey, you’re the one who pointed out that I’m human. I just don’t like being real far off the ground." O’Malley couldn’t keep the indignation out of her voice.

"Okay. Hey, no pouting." Terri smiled softly at the expression on the biker’s face. She was struck by the thought that her big bad biker was so much like a kid sometimes. She blinked when she realized what she had just thought. My biker? Where did that come from? She asked herself and quickly decided that she didn’t want to answer.

O’Malley pushed deeper into the recliner. "So tell me something about you now."

"Umm…" Terri stalled and tried to think of something other than the truth.

"Fair’s fair. I told you mine, now you have to tell me yours." O’Malley couldn’t help the flirting tone in her voice.

"You know that’s completely unnerving." Terri said before she could stop herself.

"What is?" O’Malley was confused at the change in Terri’s voice.

Terri blew out a breath. "You walked away from me when we were at Sean’s, but you flirt with me every chance you get. You look at me like I’m on the menu when you think I’m not watching. I’ve been getting some very interesting visuals about last night and I have the funny feeling that you stopped us. I’m not used to being this damn confused." She admitted and looked down. "I feel like I made a mistake and I don’t know how I’m supposed to act around you. I know that we’re playing a game to keep them from thinking I’m a cop but damn, you make it hard not to like you." Terri said out loud and couldn’t meet O’Malley’s gaze.

"You act like you Terri. I’m not asking you to be anyone other than yourself when it’s just us. When they have eyes on us, it’s a different story and I have to act like an asshole. If I hurt you by pulling away and stopping us the other night, I’m sorry but it’s ‘cause I really didn’t want you to wake up in the morning and regret what we did, or were about to do." O’Malley said softly.

Terri wiped the tears from her eyes. She let her mind wrap itself around O’Malley’s words and wondered if she would have woken up with regret. She could not truthfully answer the question. The realization bothered her more than she wanted to admit and sinking deeper into her seat she finally closed her eyes.

"And last night?" She had to ask.

"I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t think I’ve ever taken a woman to bed when we were both too lit to do anything. I guess it goes back to not wanting regrets."

Terri had to agree with that. She’d done the very thing O’Malley was talking about and she hated each morning after. Regret and awkwardness were not two of her favorite things. She sighed out loud and let the brush rest on the coffee table.

"I’m sorry if I said too much." Terri apologized.

O’Malley let a gentle smile to cross her face. "Don’t be. It’s kinda nice knowing what’s going on in your mind."

Terri was about to answer with something close to sarcasm when her cell phone rang. She picked it up and checking the caller id and answered with a smile.

"Okay, what do you want?" She teased and stretched out on the couch. "What do you mean open the door?"

O’Malley got up from her chair and walked to the front door wishing she had her 9mm close but figured there was no threat if the expression on Terri’s face was any indication. Looking through the peephole, she saw the distorted figures of two familiar women. As she pulled the door open the shorter of the two disconnected the cell phone. O’Malley felt Terri come up behind her.

"What are you two doing here?" Terri asked in shock, "and why do you have our dinner in your hands?"

Rhea held up the bag teasing both women with it. "The price of entry is twenty-two fifty eight. I tipped the delivery kid. I hope that was okay?" She asked O’Malley with an uncertain smile.

"O’Malley, I’d like you to meet a couple of my friends. The one holding dinner hostage is Rhea and the scaredy cat behind her is Candace."

"Come on in." O’Malley decided to play nice and let Terri’s friends off the hook. The hopeful looks on their faces let her know how much the brunette was missed and stepping back she let the women into her house. Watching Terri transform from momentarily insecure to bubbly happy, she closed the door and wondered if there was going to be enough dinner for all four of them.


Terri groaned and let her head rest against O’Malley’s chest. She was going to kill her two friends.

"Come on cutie, you have to answer or pay the consequences." Rhea teased with a leer. "You chose truth."

"O’Malley, kill her." She tried to sound serious but it came out in a squeak.

She felt O’Malley chuckle. "Nope, I want to hear this answer."

"Arrrg. Okay." She grumped and held her hands apart a certain short distance. She tried not to blush uncontrollably and quickly dropped her hands.

"You’re kidding?" O’Malley couldn’t help the laughter that rolled. She slid sideways, leaving Terri sitting up alone.

"I was fifteen. What the hell did I know?" Terri defended indignantly.

"Point well taken," Candace sided with Terri. "Okay little T, your turn."

Terri let her gaze fall squarely on Rhea. She hoped revenge was going to be sweet. "Rhea. Have you ever had sex with a woman?" She didn’t bother asking the usual question. There was no way she was going to give the dancer an easy out.

Rhea had expected payback but the question took her by surprise. "Umm…I…you…don’t I get a truth or dare with that?"

"Oh no. You opened your mouth and sounds came out before the question. You have to answer." Candace smirked with pure evil.

"Bitch." Rhea glared at Candace. "Yes. Candace truth or dare?" She asked quickly.

"Oh no, details required." Candace deflected. She grinned and took a long drink of her wine.

Rhea let her head sink. "I hate you and I’m going to shrink your thongs."

"Stalling has serious consequences." Terri reminded her friend.

"Yes, I’ve had sex with a woman. And yes it was a totally mind blowing experience." Rhea hoped that the given information was enough. The gleam in Terri’s eyes told her it wouldn’t be.

"Who was it?"

"I’m not telling." Rhea stood her shaky ground.

"Oh come on. Was she a troll or something?" Candace teased as she bumped her friend with her shoulder.

O’Malley decided to take pity on Rhea. "You two can let her off the hook. She slept with me." Three sets of eyes turned to the biker. Two were surprised and one had a slightly upset expression. O’Malley looked at Terri. "It was almost two years ago Ter." She explained without apology.

"Oh." There wasn’t much more that Terri could say. Her brain understood that O’Malley had a past with other women. She just hadn’t expected the past to reach so close.

With the information on the table, it didn’t take long for the impromptu party to break up. Rhea hung back with Terri for a moment while Candace and O’Malley walked to the door. Rhea felt awkward and uncomfortable at the same time and for some reason she wasn’t sure why.

"I’m sorry Terri, I should have said something earlier but…I didn’t know how to say it. It was a long time ago and as nice as it was I’m still mostly into guys." She explained.

"How? How did it happen?" Terri asked, not really sure if she wanted the answer.

"I was at the bar, I saw her and something inside told me that I wanted her. I mean, look at her…she’s a walking wet dream. I flirted with her and made her an offer. She basically told me it would be one night, maybe two but she wasn’t into getting serious or tied down. I was okay with that." Rhea hoped that the admission would not hurt their friendship.

Terri watched the fear in her friend’s eyes and wrapped her in a tight hug. "It’s okay, believe me I understand. It’s just a little weird to hear that you and O’Malley have a history."

"That’s what it is little T… history. You’re hers now and she’s yours, so to speak. You have nothing to worry about from me."

Terri nodded. "I know. I just wish I had heard it earlier. It’s okay Rhea honestly. Now you two go out and have fun. And Rhea?" Terri waited until her friend turned to face her. "Don’t you dare drive." She smiled.

Rhea waved at O’Malley and joined Candace at the sidewalk. They watched O’Malley close the door and stood there for a moment. Neither one knew quite what to say. Rhea mentally kicked herself for starting the stupid game. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now she wondered if she had done any damage to Terri’s life. O’Malley seemed to be reacting to giving up the information just fine but she knew that sometimes appearances could be deceiving. She tried to ignore the stare coming from Candace. Several choice words crossed Rhea’s mind but in the end, just gave up.

"You dog. Why didn’t you tell me?" Candace asked as she turned to the car.

"I didn’t know you when it happened. Besides it’s not like you tell me all of your sex life." Rhea explained.

"True," Candace agreed looking at her friend over the roof of the car, "so, was she any good?"

Rhea couldn’t keep the smile of remembrance off her face. "Oh yeah. You would not believe it." She answered and then took a vow of silence. It would drive Candace crazy.

O’Malley could feel Terri staring at her. She looked up only to have Terri look away yet again. It was driving her nuts and she just knew that anytime now Terri was going to ask. She mentally shook her head. Sometimes she hated her life. This was one of those times. She hated having to defend her actions. The thought died a silent death when she caught Terri looking at her again.

"You’re driving me crazy Ter. Just ask what you want to ask and let’s get it over with." She grumbled.

"You never said anything." Terri said trying not to sound accusing.

"I didn’t know you two were friends." O’Malley reminded her and sighed. "I can’t take it back and I don’t want to."

"It just feels a little weird."

"Knowing that I had sex with a friend of yours?" O’Malley didn’t make the connection.

"Yeah. I mean, what if she wants to compare notes or something. If I don’t say the right thing, it won’t take long for the word to get around that I’m not sleeping with you." Terri explained.

O’Malley let a soft breath free. "Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll figure it out in the morning. This had been one roller coaster of a day and I want off. I’m going to bed."

Terri shook her head at the sudden change in O’Malley. "You okay?"

"No. Don’t worry about it. I’m just a little off balance right now and I don’t think I can think anymore for today. I’m wiped out." O’Malley noticed the unbelieving expression on Terri’s face. "What? Even the great O’Malley comes up empty sometimes."

Terri watched O’Malley walk into the dark bedroom. There were times when the biker took her by surprise and this was one of them. She hadn’t expected the woman to shove her head in the sand, but as she ran the day through her mind she decided that the biker had every right to be tired. Looking at the mess from dinner, she pushed herself off the couch and started to clean up. Trying hard not to make any noise, she managed to clean up the living room then started on the kitchen. Moving the day’s paper from the kitchen table she noticed the tan pouch and after looking inside, felt light-headed. The bundled money was not what she expected to see. She quickly covered it back up and decided to forget the dishes for tonight. O’Malley had certainly been right when she had called the day a roller coaster.

She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. The evidence she needed to connect O’Malley to Spyder sat silently on the table. Her stomach twisted uncomfortably. She didn’t want to be a cop right now. She stared off into space and tried to decide what to do. She had two choices… she could go to bed and forget about what she’d found, or she could wait until O’Malley was asleep then go through the cash and write down all the serial numbers. She listened to the clock ticking.

Chapter 10


O’Malley watched Terri walk into the mall entrance as she pulled away from the curb and rode around the parking lot looking for a space. It took a couple of minutes but she found one fairly close. As she turned the truck engine off she had to admit to feeling just a little guilty about the confession two nights before and she wanted to try and get rid of the uncomfortable tension that had been following them around. She was not at all happy with the moat of silence that surrounded them. Unless someone asked a direct question they were not talking. O’Malley sighed. It was actually Terri who was not doing the talking and the biker was not about to chase the woman out of her silence. That vow had lasted all of twenty-four, extremely, long hours.

She walked across the parking lot as quickly as she could. Guilt was playing a part of going to the mall but another part of her wanted to thank Terri for taking care of her and trying to comfort her. As her feet touched the curb she was surprised to realize that she didn’t like it when Terri wasn’t talking to her. She enjoyed the sound of the younger woman’s voice. Her step faltered but she recovered quickly. She crossing the distance to the door and pulling it open, walked inside looking around for the woman in question.

O’Malley finally saw her at the bench down the hall and watched for a moment. Her stomach clenched at the lost expression on the woman’s face. I put that look on her face. She renewed her determination to make up for being an idiot. She managed to get down and across the hall without being run over by children and baby strollers then plopped down next to Terri.

"That looked fairly traumatic." Terri said out loud trying not to laugh.

O’Malley couldn’t contain her surprise. It was the longest sentence she’d heard. "You have no idea. Come on, feel like running the gauntlet with me?"

For a second Terri didn’t move but then she looked up at O’Malley’s hopeful face. "Sure. Where are we going first?"

"You tell me." O’Malley leaned in close. "Oh, that’s right, I forgot to tell you that this is your trip. Anything you want is yours."

"Excuse me?" Terri’s mouth fell open.

O’Malley reached out to Terri’s chin and gently closed the woman’s mouth. "I’ve been acting like an idiot and I want to make it up to you. Remember when I said I wanted to do something nice for you? Well, I didn’t get to take you out for a nice dinner, so this is choice number two."

"O’Malley you don’t need to buy me things." Terri felt embarrassed. She wondered if O’Malley thought she didn’t have any money. Then her brain reminded her that she wasn’t supposed to have any money.

"I know I don’t need to. Believe me when I say I want to. I’m not usually good with words Ter. All I really know is action. If I have to buy you the entire mall to put a smile back on your face, I would do it."

"O’Malley, you remember when I said you make it hard not to like you?" She watched the biker nod her head uncertainly. "This is one of those times. I think what you just said has got to be the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me." Terri’s voice was quiet with sincerity.

The biker fairly squirmed under Terri’s gaze. "Well hell, now I don’t know what to say." She muttered out loud and wondered when she was going to get her act together around the smaller woman. She almost couldn’t remember the last time she’d been such a goof around a woman. One minute she was completely in control of herself and then at times like this, she found herself saying things she was sure came from her evil twin.

"Don’t say anything O’Malley. Let’s just have a good day. Besides you aren’t the only one whose been acting like an idiot." Terri admitted. "The only way I can apologize is to say I’m sorry. I’ll figure out a way to make up for it."

"You can do that by picking a store you want to go into and buying whatever you want." O’Malley gave Terri’s upper thigh a gentle squeeze. "Please say yes, I’m losing butch points here. This is dangerously close to begging." She teased.

Terri had to laugh. If O’Malley could lighten up, she decided, then she could follow her lead. She patted the biker’s hand and nodded.

"I warn you, this could get expensive."

O’Malley shrugged. "It’s only money Ter. Life’s too short to worry about stuff like that."

For the next three hours she carried the mounting number of bundles and bags. She remembered why she didn’t like shopping and it had very little to do with the usually noisy crowd, the rug rats under foot or the long walk. She hated being the one that ended up carrying the bags. No one ever carried her bags. She sighed and felt her stomach grumble. If she was hungry her little eating machine must be starving. For the second time today her steps faltered. She wondered when she had started thinking of Terri in terms of being hers.

Terri noticed O’Malley hanging back then turned and walked to the loaded down woman. "You okay?"

"Hungry." O’Malley admitted as she looked around at the food court choices. "What do you think, you hungry?"

"I could eat. What do you want?" Terri answered.

"I was thinking the Mexican place. It’s usually pretty good." O’Malley could feel her mouth watering at the thought of food.

Terri shook her head. "I had Mexican for lunch yesterday. What else?"

O’Malley looked again and made a second choice. "Okay the chicken place."

"Urg. Chicken has unidentifiable parts. Pass on that one. Next?"

O’Malley was beginning to see a pattern develop. "No way. You chose."

"Me? Why me?"

"Each time I pick something you don’t want it. I’m starving here Ter. You pick." O’Malley stopped herself from stomping her foot.

"You are such a big baby sometimes." Terri noted out loud and looked over the offerings. "The sandwich place is always good. I’m sure we can find something there that will make us both happy." She looked at O’Malley and saw the relief on the woman’s face. Terri took a mental memo concerning a certain biker in hungry stages. She led the way to the sandwich shop and pulled a chair out for O’Malley to drop the bags on to. "What do you want?"

O’Malley dropped the bags gratefully and started for the counter. Terri’s hand on her arm stopped her. "You’ve been doing all the pack work, I can go get lunch." She offered. "Besides, it’ll look funny if you’re waiting on me." She smiled widely so O’Malley wouldn’t think she was too serious.

"If you insist." O’Malley couldn’t help the smug look she knew had to be on her face. "I’ll have the number three, no onions and a coke." She watched Terri look over the menu and frown. "What?"

"You might want the bread toasted." Terri answered.

"I don’t want toast."

"It comes with tomato." Terri said expecting it to make sense to the biker.

"I like tomato." O’Malley countered and stretched her legs out under the table.

"Okay. I tried to tell you." The brunette sighed and walked to the counter shaking her head as she waited in line. Sometimes she wondered how O’Malley survived. There were so many things she seemed to not know. When it was her turn, she ordered both lunches.

O’Malley wondered why the girl behind the counter, taking orders, looked oddly at her and then shrugged her shoulders when Terri finished ordering and handed over the money. She couldn’t make out the conversation and gave up when she shifted her foot in her boot and feeling a twinge as her sock rubbed against the scabs just forming on her skin.

Just when she was sure that she would expire from hunger Terri set the tray full of food on the table. Having the decency to wait for her companion to sit down and drape a napkin over her lap, she pulled her sandwich free from its wrapping and took a big bite. Terri knew it would happen. She had tried to warn the biker. She watched the disappointed look cross O’Malley’s face. She bit into her own sandwich and chewed.

O’Malley set her sandwich down. "It’s soggy." Her voice sounded completely bewildered.

"I tried to tell you. Tomatoes always make a sandwich obscenely soggy, especially if you don’t toast the bread." She watched O’Malley and knew that the woman was trying to decide if she was hungry enough to finish her food. She was certain she heard the biker grumbling something under her breath but couldn’t make out the words. Finally O’Malley huffed and took another bite of her sandwich. Terri suppressed the chuckled that wanted out.

"Must be a girl thing." O’Malley mumbled after a sip of her drink.

"O’Malley, you are a girl." Terri pointed out with an amused smile.

"Well, yeah but oh hell, forget it." Her lower lip started its path to a pout.

"You lose butch points if you pout in the mall, honey." Terri said as she turned her attention to her lunch.

O’Malley didn’t miss the endearment and was surprised to learn that it felt good be called something sweet. She knew how long it had been since she’d been referred to by such a word and wrapped herself in the feeling. She went back to her food, the disappointment of soggy bread forgotten in her good mood. They ate slowly and just enjoyed the renewed easiness.

After lunch, O’Malley picked up all the bags and packages and followed Terri through the last third of the mall. There was just something nice about being able to see the smile on the woman’s face and was glad that she had thought of it. Terri was like a kid in a candy store. She looked and touched just about everything. She only bought what she thought she needed, even though O’Malley kept insisting that she could have anything she wanted.

Terri stopped cold in front of the leather store and stared at the full length black coat in the window. She had a flash of O’Malley in the coat and had to keep herself from drooling. The mental image was not going away and shaking her head and looked at the biker.

"You would look great in this." Terri pointed at the coat.

O’Malley glanced at the object in question and nodded. "Yeah but this is your shopping trip."

"You said anything I wanted right?" Terri asked with a little kid smile.

"Yeah. Oh, come on Ter. I’ve got what… three leather jackets?" O’Malley hated shopping for herself.

"Four and I think you would look incredibly hot in that."

"No pouting in the mall." O’Malley reminded and took a second look at the coat. It did look good. "I tell you what, I’ll think about it and when it gets closer to being cold, I’ll let you know." It was the only compromise that crossed her mind. "You can come with me and remind me which one it was." She promised.

"You have a deal and I’m going to hold you it, O’Malley." Terri said as she turned and her attention was suddenly grabbed by another store. "Oh, I want to go in there." She walked confidently to the store as O’Malley felt her mouth go dry when she saw where Terri was headed.

"I hope she only wants lotion." O’Malley muttered out loud when she read Victoria’s Secret on the storefront. Gathering her courage, she walked into the store. It took a moment to find Terri who was engaged in a conversation with the older sales woman. She managed to keep her eyes off the more tantalizing garments as she walked over and halted next to Terri.

Terri noticed the subtle change in the sales woman when O’Malley joined her. The biker was looking down at her boots when the sales woman must have put the situation together in her head. The momentary expression of disgust was quickly covered up but not fast enough. Terri felt something inside twist and she just knew she wasn’t going to let this one go. She’d experienced enough of that in her lifetime and this time she was in a position to mess with the mind of a homophobe.

O’Malley looked up and saw the evil smile on Terri’s face. It was the same evil look the woman had when they had played pool. She figured that something had happened but was clueless as to what it might be. She tried to prepare herself but was still caught off guard when Terri turned to her and moved in close.

"Anything you want me to try on?" She purred seductively running her hand up O’Malley’s stomach.

O’Malley’s mind went blank for just a second. "Whatever you want that’ll make you happy." O’Malley managed not to stutter as she answered. She was entirely too aware of the warm hand on her stomach.

"I think I know what you’d like to see me in," she turned to the sales woman and pretended not to notice the woman turning an odd shade of red. "I’d like to try on a black teddy please." She smiled an almost innocent smile and gave the woman her size. She watched the sales woman walk to the rack full of mentioned garments and rifle through them at breakneck speed.

"Ter, what are you doing?" O’Malley asked as she leaned in close to Terri’s ear.

"I’m playing with a very closed mind. You should have seen the look on her face." Terri whispered as she leaned closer in to the biker. "Come on, O’Malley, you wanna play?" There was that purr again. O’Malley’s brain managed to short circuit and all she could do was nod. "I love playing."

Terri walked away from the biker towards the waiting sales woman. She didn’t bother looking back but there was a playful smile on her lips as she took the teddy in hand and disappeared into the dressing room. She stripped quickly and slid into the skimpy garment. Looking in the mirror she wondered if she could really pull this off without melting down. She had to admit that she looked good and the teddy actually made her feel sexy in a way she hadn’t felt in too long.

O’Malley looked away from the sales woman’s disapproving face but then her heart stopped when Terri stepped out of the dressing room.

"We’ll take it. One in every color she wants." O’Malley said in a husky whisper. The teddy, by design, covered all the strategic spots but still left very little to the imagination and O’Malley had a very active imagination. She watched Terri slink forward as she swallowed hard.

"You like it?" Terri asked needlessly.

"Yeah you could say that." O’Malley managed wondering what idiot was in charge of her mouth.

Terri leaned forward and planted a slow deep kiss on the biker’s stunned lips. "Good." She murmured when she pulled back and ignored the strangled noises coming from the sales woman. "Anything else you want to see?" The playful gleam in her eyes was back full force.

"There’s a lot I want to see but that will have to wait until we’re home." O’Malley answered knowing full well that the sales woman was listening. "I can’t wait to peel that off of you. We don’t happen to have any whipped cream in the house do we?" O’Malley teased as she eased her arms around Terri’s body.

"Oh, I love when you get like this." Terri tore her eyes off the biker and looked at the sales woman. "I’ll definitely take this one." She grinned and pulled slowly out of O’Malley’s arms. "I’ll be right back, baby."

The sales woman picked out the other available colors in Terri’s size in silence and rushed them to the cash register. She was almost done when Terri brought the black teddy to the counter. The woman rang it up in record time, ran the credit card and didn’t bother to wish them a good day. She watched the two women walk out of the store with a queasy stomach. She seriously considered retiring when she heard the brunette say something about having to come back again.

Terri and O’Malley managed to keep their laughter in check until they were out of sight of the store. Terri almost doubled over in hysterics, O’Malley was not far behind. Each time they thought the worst of the laughter was over, they would look at each other and it would start all over again.

"Oh, God, did you see her face…I thought she was going to swallow her tongue." Terri managed between fits of laughter.

"I think she did." O’Malley had to sit on the bench.

"Sometimes it’s fun to mess with the straight people." Terri squeaked.

O’Malley looked at her with a funny expression. "Terri you are one of the straight people." She pointed out.

"You don’t know everything about me, O’Malley." Terri answered cryptically as she winked and walked towards the bookstore. "Come on, I want to check out that one."

O’Malley followed as her mind tried to catch up with Terri’s statement. It was true that she didn’t know everything about Terri but she was sure she would have picked up on her companion having an interest in women. Hello, Irish, you were pretty clueless about Ellen and her interest. Her mind decided to remind her of past events.

The rest of the shopping trip was a whirlwind for O’Malley. Her brain was locked on Terri’s statement and she couldn’t get past it. She couldn’t help wondering if she was going to be able to get the story out of the woman who ambled next to her as they walked to the truck and set the bags in the cab.

"You really should have stopped me. I think I went overboard." Terri admitted as she settled in the passenger seat and buckled her seat belt.

O’Malley grinned. "Nah it was good to see you having fun. What do you feel like doing now?"

Terri thought about it for a moment. "Let’s go back to the house and then we can go see Maria. I can’t wait to show her that new outfit."

O’Malley agreed and put the truck in gear. Turning on the radio, she started to sing along ignoring the tortured expression on Terri’s face. Just because she couldn’t sing never stopped her. She was having fun with the woman sitting next to her. Terri was sure she was going to have to kill O’Malley when the trip finally ended at the driveway. The singing, however, did not. Finally all she could do was laugh as they unloaded the truck and dumped everything on the bed.

O’Malley noticed the message light blinking on the machine and checked the caller id to see that there were three messages. One message was from a solicitor, one from Maria and one from Rhea looking for Terri. Terri called her friend on her cell phone promising to call her back. She stuck her head in the living room to find O’Malley on the phone as well and waved to catch her attention.

"Rhea needs a ride after work. Would it be okay if I went to pick her up?"

"Hang on, Maria." O’Malley said taking the phone away from her ear. "Yeah, that’s cool. You take the truck. Maria needs a hand at the bar for a little bit so I’ll take the bike and you can meet me there later." She answered watching Terri head back for her cell phone as he returned to her own call. "I’m back. We were gonna go by the bar later anyway so this still works out. Just lemme take a shower, get changed and then I’m yours for a while." She promised finishing the call then into the bedroom as Terri set her cell phone on the dresser. Picking out her clothes for the night, she decided that since she was going to take the bike she would be wearing leather. She missed seeing the gleam return to Terri’s eyes.

"I’m gonna hit the shower and head out." O’Malley announced heading to the shower while Terri started sorting the bags on the bed.

Terri waited until O’Malley turned the corner at the stop sign. The evil plan forming in her head made her smile as she reached for the phone. She liked her plan and now she just needed some words of encouragement. Dialing the number, she waited for the other end to pick up.

"Barnes house." Joan’s voice announced.

"Hey Joan it’s Terri. I need to ask you something."



To be continued…

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