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.


Chapter 11

Maria caught sight of Rhea poking her head in and wondered what the woman was up to. She didn't actually step all the way into the bar; instead she glanced around looking for something or someone. She pulled back and a moment later, walked in with Terri. Maria almost dropped the beer bottle in her hand.

Mike rescued his beer just in time. "Maria you okay?" He asked but instead of getting a verbal answer, she only pointed. He turned in the direction of her finger and stopped short. "Oh my god."

The two of them could only stare open mouthed. Terri was wearing a black vest with as far as they could tell nothing underneath while the skintight hip hugging leather pants looked like they had been painted on. Maria noticed the new confidence in Terri's step and wondered if O'Malley had anything to do with that. She didn't usually notice women but this time she couldn't help it. She only wished that she could pull off sexy as easy as Terri did.

The two women walked through the bar and took possession of a couple of bar stools close to Maria. Rhea looked like a proud mama bear. She leaned over and whispered something in Terri's ear. Terri nodded and smiled at her two stunned looking friends.

"Hi Maria. You like it?" She asked setting her elbows on the bar.

"Chica I love it. You look good." Maria answered with a grin. "O'Malley is gonna have a heart attack."

"Cool. Mike, I'd like you to meet my friend Rhea." She introduced the two watching his eyes move from her to her friend. His eyes glazed over again as Rhea extended her hand. She watched Mike take the dancer's hand and nearly drool on himself. She restrained a chuckle and turned away from them her good deed for the night done. She knew that Rhea had been interested in the man for quite a while. Ordering a beer, she looked the crowd over while she waited her eyes narrowed when she caught sight of Trey.

He was sitting in a booth near the back of the room and her instincts kicked in. She knew from experience that he hated being in the dark. He loved being the center of attention. Looking in the direction his gaze was tracking, her heart nearly stopped. O'Malley was just setting a couple of cases of beer down near Maria's office as an attractive blonde was eyeing her hard. Terri wasn't sure what was up but when she noticed the blonde cast an uncertain glance at Trey, she knew it couldn't be good. Bikers cheated on their women all the time but even the perception of O'Malley cheating this early would be nothing but bad.

For a long moment she was incredibly undecided. She had no idea what she could do to cut this one off at the pass. Callan's a sucker for leather Terri, toss in a kiss like you mean it and O'Malley's along for the ride too. Joan's words from their earlier conversation rang in her mind without warning. Terri came to a fast decision. Tonight she wasn't a cop. She was a woman intent on keeping what was hers for better or worse.

She turned on her stool and tossed down a five. "Hey Maria, can I have quarters? And what have you got on the juke box that'll get O'Malley's attention?" She asked with an evil grin.

"What kind of attention you trying to get?" Maria leaned in close and returned the grin.

"I think you know what I'm talking about. What would get her moving in close with me?"

Maria shook her head as she pushed away from the bar and counted out the quarters. "Clapton's good and some good old southern slow rock. You'll find enough of that on the box." She smiled as she handed over the coins.

Terri took them with a sense of renewed self. She walked to the jukebox, avoiding several sets of well on their way to being drunken bikers and rednecks. She let the quarters fall in and punched in her selections. She stood by the jukebox, her eyes not leaving the blonde who was watching O'Malley, and could tell the woman was waiting for the right moment. When the woman finally stepped forward Terri still held her ground. She needed to see what was going to happen. She watched the woman in her tight jeans and short shirt walk up to O'Malley and begin a conversation. From her vantage point O'Malley didn't seem interested, just polite. It was killing her not to be able to hear the conversation. Her heart fell into her ankles when O'Malley walked the woman to the bar and ordered her a drink noticing the easy smile on the biker's face and the way she leaned against the bar close to the blonde.

Terri felt the determination settle in. She didn't wait for the jukebox to finish the current song. She turned and walked back to the bar. As she got closer, her eyes took in the sight of O'Malley's back and felt the familiar fluttering in her stomach. Terri could count the number of times in her life that she had felt desire this strong. It frightened and thrilled her at the same time. Her eyes narrowed when the woman next to O'Malley brushed her fingers along the biker's arm. Terri picked up her pace and took position to O'Malley's left leaning against the bar, saying nothing. She glanced to her right and smiled when she caught O'Malley looking at her.

O'Malley tried to ignore the woman talking to her. She had one of those voices that grated on her nerves and had only been trying to be polite when the woman walked up to her and started a conversation. She had listened as the woman talked about being new in town and had explained that if she wanted to know what was going on she should talk to Maria. The blonde pulled her shy act and wanted someone with her at the bar.

O'Malley shrugged her shoulders and leaned away from her apparent new friend. The blonde noticed and turned to face the biker, inching closer at the same time. She didn't bother to hide her apparent interest. The woman continued her stream of chatter oblivious to the face that O'Malley didn't seem to be listening. When the sounds of a rock ballad came from the jukebox she grabbed O'Malley's hand and tugged at her.

"I love this song. Dance with me." The blonde practically ordered.

O'Malley shook her head. "Thanks for the offer but no thanks."

"Come on, O'Malley. I won't bite, unless you ask me too." The blonde tried to tempt the biker with a brush of her breasts to the biker's body.

O'Malley wondered how the blonde knew her name. She hadn't introduced herself and Maria hadn't called her name when she took their order. Little warning bells rang in the back of her head.

Terri leaned past O'Malley and stared at the blonde. "She said no and she's already taken."

The blonde looked at Terri and blew her off as competition. "Not for long." The woman's tone was confident enough to border on cocky. She was used to getting her way and it showed. She didn't move away from the biker.

"You think you can steal me away?" O'Malley asked out loud without looking at the blonde. "How would you do that?"

"By doing or being anything you want." The blonde promised with an irresistible smile. "I can be your best fantasy. Can she do that for you?" She looked at Terri again. "It doesn't look like it to me."

O'Malley felt Terri stiffen slightly and looked at both women. She saw a certain smugness in the blonde's eyes and irritation in Terri's. If she wasn't the one in this position she might have laughed. She turned to the blonde and let her hand touch Terri at the same time.

"You should know that looks can be deceiving." O'Malley leaned closer to the blonde. "What she is to me and what she does to me is none of your business." She had a smile on her face but her words were pure warning. She felt Terri's fingers squeeze her hand lightly.

"She couldn't be that good if you don't even kiss her hello." The blonde taunted out loud making sure that Terri heard her.

O'Malley chuckled and turned to Terri, her eyes widening as she saw fully, for the first time, what the woman was wearing. She couldn't help the low whistle that found its way past her lips. If anything, Terri looked even better in the leather outfit than the first time she'd seen it. It didn't hurt that she had been waking up next to her warm body. She turned her gaze to Maria who was watching and listening from behind the bar.

"Maria, watch my back."

"Always, O'Malley." Maria promised with a grin.

"Think I'm gonna hurt you?" The blonde spoke.

"You? No. The rednecks might try." O'Malley answered without looking at the irritating woman. Right now she just wanted to look at Terri. She leaned her body in close to Terri and watched as the woman's eyes smiled at her. Dipping her head down she captured Terri's lips with her own. The rest of the world disappeared for her. All she knew was Terri returning her kiss without restraint or pretense. She let herself get lost in the sensation. She was dimly aware of her Terri's arms wrapping themselves around her neck. Their lips parted for a moment and the second kiss was better than the first. She pulled back slowly.

"Hi there." She breathed and opened her eyes. "You look verrrry nice." Her compliment sounded almost like a purr. "Did you get Rhea taken care of?"

"Hi." She returned the greeting. "Yeah. She's around here somewhere." Terri didn't move her arms from their place. "I introduced her to Mike." She pulled her gaze from O'Malley and stared at the blonde. "She doesn't need a fantasy when she has the real thing right here."

Terri's confident words washed over the blonde and she realized that she had failed. With an exaggerated flip of her long hair, the woman grabbed her drink and walked away from the bar. Terri watched her pass Trey's table shrugging her shoulders slightly. For a moment she watched his face tighten but then relax. She could almost see the gears in his head turning and knew that he was plotting something else. She nuzzled O'Malley's neck working her way up to her earlobe.

"I think Trey sent what's her name and from the look on his face, he's up to something." She whispered.

"Is he still sitting near the back?" O'Malley asked as her breath hitched. She was definitely enjoying what Terri was doing to her.

"Yeah, he is…" her words cut off when she felt O'Malley's hands sliding slowly under the back of her vest. "Jesus that feels good." She managed as her head rested on O'Malley's shoulder. O'Malley's hands were warm and the ridges of callused skin actually felt good wherever they touched. She sighed her contentment.

"All right you two, you really need to stop that." Maria's words cut into their little world. "You really ought to think about getting a room." She teased.

"We were just plotting." O'Malley defended as they both reclaimed control of themselves and leaned against the bar. They stayed close to each other without thinking about it.

"So that's what you're calling it now?" Maria asked as she fished a beer out of the cooler.

"Calling what?" Terri batted her eyes innocently.

Maria wasn't buying it. "Foreplay." She answered with a straight face. She had to laugh as Terri tried to think of an answer and couldn't come up with one. She twisted the cap off the beer and was still laughing as she walked down the bar to deliver the beer. She came back and flipped her towel over her shoulder. "You two interested in grilled steaks at our place tomorrow night?"

O'Malley reached across the bar and felt her friend's forehead. "No fever. Terri check out her eyes, see if they glow red or something."

"Me? No way I'm getting near her if she's possessed or something. You're tougher, you do it." Terri answered playfully with mock fright.

"Jeesh, invite friends over for food and get abused." Maria griped without conviction.

"Well damn Maria. In the entire time I've known you, you've taken what, maybe five days off and one was to get married. How long was your honeymoon?" O'Malley pointed out as she pulled a stool over to sit down. She turned slightly in her seat and pulled Terri in close to her. Terri didn't hesitate to lean against O'Malley's chest.

"Two days. It's not like we really needed one if you know what I mean." Maria leered.

Terri covered her face with her hands. "Don't want that visual. No offense Maria."

Maria rolled her eyes and swatted Terri lightly with her bar towel. "I'm in a good mood so I'm not going to respond to that one. So come to dinner and have a good time with us. John and Mandy, us and I invited Mike. Nothing fancy."

"So, what's the big event? You taking the night off, it must be good." O'Malley asked as she took a sip of Terri's beer.

Maria's smile was huge. "We finally paid off the loan on the bar. Seven years is a long time and we've been living on life's little edge to pay it off fast."

"Life's little edge? What's that?" Terri asked as she stole her beer back. "Please get her a beer or I'll never get any of this one." Terri pleaded.

"But I like stealing yours." O'Malley argued and nuzzled Terri's hair.

"Maria she's being mean to me." Terri pouted.

"I can see how mean she's being." Maria rolled her eyes again. "The little edge is kinda like walking a tightrope without the net. One step in the wrong direction and you crater into the ground or in our case, living with Gato's mother." Maria's face wrinkled up in horror.

"She couldn't be that bad." Terri said out loud as she pulled her beer away from O'Malley's hand.

"She cried for a week after we got married." She answered as she took pity on her small friend and opened the beer cooler.

"Well, that's cause it took you two so long to make it legal. You traumatized the woman by living in sin." O'Malley said as her left hand snaked up under Terri's vest to rest on the woman's stomach.

"You're not getting my beer, O'Malley." Terri resisted.

"Maybe I just want your body." O'Malley whispered.

"You can have my body," Terri whispered back "not my beer."

For a moment they were both rendered speechless. O'Malley was glad that Maria was occupied and Terri couldn't see her face. Terri wondered what had possessed her to let those words out of her mouth. Thinking it was one thing actually saying it was definitely another.

"A lecture on sin from you?" Maria asked with a teasing glare as she came back with the opened beer.

"Shutting up now." O'Malley smiled and took the beer with her right hand. "You want to play with Maria tomorrow?" She asked.

"Do we get to tease her?"

"Yeah. It's required. Gato is optional." O'Malley explained the teasing rules and ignored Maria's frown. "We like him better."

"Yeah, only cause he's the one who drives your sorry ass home after tequila night." Maria teased.

"I have to point out that your sorry ass is right next to mine on those nights and we aren't doing tequila tomorrow no matter how much, you whine." O'Malley hoped she had the will power to carry through.

"Don't worry, O'Malley, I'll protect you." Terri promised out loud and winked at Maria at the same time.

Maria laughed out loud and shrugged her shoulders when someone else came to the far end of the bar wanting a refill. "I really need to hire a waitress." She huffed and walked over to take care of her customer.

"So what did you mean earlier today when you said I don't know everything about you?" O'Malley asked as she played with her beer bottle.

Terri blinked at the sudden change of subject. For a moment she didn't know what to say. Finally she decided on as much truth as she could tell. She turned in O'Malley's arms and looked at her.

"Just that. You don't know everything about me. My first time was with a guy and he was sweet but not very good now that I look back on it. My second time was with Kathy Zunetti. We had been friends all through school and we both liked each other. One night we ended up kissing and that led to way more than kissing. I was so heart broken when her dad took a transfer." Terri confessed taking a sip of her beer for courage. "When I was on the road, there were several women who helped me out. Some of them were interested in me and vise versa. I don't sleep with everyone O'Malley, just the one's I want to."

"And Trey?" O'Malley asked without looking at Terri.

"Trey was a mistake. At the time it seemed the easiest way and he was okay until he hooked up with Spyder. What I guess I'm saying is that you assumed something maybe you shouldn't have." Terri clarified.

"I'm beginning to see that." O'Malley admitted. She heard the jukebox change tunes. "I like this one." She said as she recognized the opening guitar riff.

"I know. Who do you think put in the music?" She shrugged her shoulders at the biker's questioning glance. "I had to do something to get your attention. That blonde with the mega tits was trying to get in your pants."

O'Malley laughed. "The thought never crossed my mind. Did you get a good listen to her voice? She sounded like she'd been sucking week old helium. Besides, she wasn't my type."

"And what's your type?"

"The type that can make me laugh, think or come. I prefer all three." O'Malley answered bluntly. "If I was looking for someone, it wouldn't be a woman who will let me walk all over her or play games with my head. I don't need that."

Terri felt a twinge of guilt knowing full well that she was playing a dangerous game with the biker. She didn't want to even imagine the fall out if the woman discovered her true profession. She could only hope the woman would forgive her and not kill her.

O'Malley watched as Terri battled something in her head. She chose not to respond and figured that if she wanted to tell her what was going on she would or she wouldn't. Terri sighed and leaned into the biker. She took a deep breath, the scent of leather and O'Malley filling her. She decided that she would let the chips fall wherever they might. She didn't want to follow her logical side this time. Gathering her courage, she let her lips trail over the exposed skin on O'Malley's neck and up to her ear.

O'Malley hummed in pleasure feeling the goosebumps rise on her arms. She didn't know if she could control herself. Terri's little bombshell had her hoping that this time she wouldn't have to stop the woman and was definitely sure that she didn't want to stop. The woman turning her brain into mush had become a constant ache inside her. She trailed her hands up Terri's side and brought them up to cup the woman's face, easing her away from the very happy ear. She lowered her mouth to Terri's kissing her again, letting her lips convey her want and desire. She figured the message had been delivered when Terri returned the kiss with enthusiasm and ran her palms over O'Malley's breasts. O'Malley had to pull out of the kiss sucking in a deep breath. Her eyes took in the sight of Terri's closed eyes and swollen lips.

"We should probably leave soon." Her voice was thick with desire.

Before Terri could answer O'Malley felt the hand that settled on her shoulder tugging her. She tried to ignore it but she felt it again. Turning her head she saw one man she hoped she would never have to see again. Her desire for Terri was quickly silenced.

"Why are we not still kissing?" Terri asked opening her eyes. She was able to cut off the groan that rose in her throat. There, behind O'Malley, with his beefy paw on the biker's shoulder was Officer Bates. She slid her hands out from under O'Malley's shirt and almost held her breath.

"I didn't know you were out, O'Malley and causing trouble again." There was a thin threat in his tone and everyone within earshot heard it. Several sets of leather clad bikers turned to watch. Terri noticed the tension level in the bar jump several feet. Suddenly the only sounds were the jukebox and the group at the pool table still playing.

O'Malley managed to keep her body as relaxed as possible. She let her gaze rise and fall over the policeman's form. He hadn't changed much from the last time she'd seen him except his gut seemed to stretch out his uniform around the middle just a bit more. She almost held back the smirk.

"I'm just hanging out and having a beer. Officer."

He leaned in a little closer. "Not from what I hear. Seems you couldn't take no for an answer when the complainant didn't want your attention." His breath smelled of liver and onions.

"And when exactly was this supposed to be?" O'Malley wondered out loud.

"Got the call five minutes ago." He answered with a smile that lacked sincerity.

Terri did the math in her head. "Not possible. O'Malley was with me and has been for at least half an hour." She said in a firm voice. She watched Bates turn his gaze on her.

"I said I got the call five minutes ago, not that it happened then. The victim wants to swear out a complaint." He answered and then narrowed his eyes. "I know you, don't I?"

Terri experienced a moment of fear that he might remember one of the two times they had met. One had been a pure accident at the central station when she first arrived and the second had been a deliberate set up. She mentally crossed her fingers and hoped he remembered the second one. She forced the knot in her stomach to relax and let herself lean against O'Malley.

"I'm sure it'll come to you." She answered in a flat voice.

"Yeah." He turned back to O'Malley. "We can do this outside or we can do it here. Personally I'd love it if you would resist just a little." The last portion of his sentence was low enough that only O'Malley and Terri could hear him.

"And I would give you that satisfaction why?" O'Malley let her smirk widen. "This charge is bullshit and I'll be out by morning."

"Yeah but you'll be our guest all night long, won't you?"

Chapter 12

O'Malley lay flat on the cold bench and restarted her counting of the dots on the ceiling. She was tired, hungry and completely unfocused. The pattern of soft footfalls was also close to driving her nuts. She had at first tried ignoring the sound and discovered, after eight hundred dots, that ignoring it was an impossibility. She picked her head up off the bench.

"Could you quit that please?" She managed to keep a civil tone.

Terri halted in her tracks, her expression almost guilty. "I'm sorry. God, where is Maria. I'm going nuts here."

"Yeah I noticed." O'Malley chuckled and sat up slowly. "Come on, sit down here." She patted the spot next to her. "I warmed it up for you."

Terri found comfort in O'Malley's easy words and after a moment sat down wearily. She was surprised when her back pressed against the biker's warm chest instead of the cold cement wall. She closed her eyes and accepted the comfort.

"Thank you." Terri sighed, her voice almost breaking.

"You okay?"

"I hate small spaces." Terri admitted with a shiver. "Before he started hitting me he would lock me in his closet."

"How old were you?" O'Malley tightened her embrace trying to give warmth and comfort as well as she could.

"Six maybe. I remember my mom always telling me that there were no closet monsters so that's not what scared me. It was the walls. I thought they would come together and squash me. It sounds silly now." She sighed and squirmed uncomfortably.

O'Malley loosened her hold just a bit and rested her chin on Terri's head. "It's not silly. Not now and definitely not then. We all have something that scares us Ter. You're just having to face one of yours right now."

"So what are you scared of?" Terri challenged.

"Gargoyles." O'Malley answered after a second. Terri shifted in her arms and stared at her. "Really. I saw some TV movie once and it had gargoyles and they scared the hell out of me. My mom almost killed my uncle for letting me watch it before bed. I had nightmares for a week."

Terri laughed softly. "Gargoyles? I was expecting…I don't know…something more serious."

"Hey those creatures were very serious."

The expression on O'Malley's face let Terri know that the biker was indeed not kidding. "I'll protect you then." Terri said softly.

"Yeah I think I can count on that. You took on Bates, so what's a couple hundred living stone creatures." O'Malley teased.

"A couple hundred? I think that's more than I could handle. Bates was easy." Terri replied as she sank back into O'Malley's arms.

"Thanks by the way. You didn't have to do that."

"O'Malley, he was going to beat you to death on that car. I wasn't going to stand by and let it happen." Terri shivered at the memory of Bates slamming a handcuffed O'Malley against the side of the squad car repeatedly.

"Barclay." A loud female voice boomed our startling them both. They looked towards the source of the voice and finally noticed the jail matron at the cell door. "You're sprung."

"Is Maria here?" Terri couldn't contain the confusion in her voice.

"I don't know any Maria but your probation officer is here. O'Malley, you gonna give me any trouble when I open the door?" The jailer asked with an arched eyebrow. From her size she looked like she could give the biker a run for her money.

"Why does everyone think I'm gonna give 'em trouble? I'm the one who ate a squad car." O'Malley wondered out loud as she let go of Terri. "She's the one you have to watch out for." O'Malley chuckled.

"You just remember that, O'Malley." Terri teased as she stood up. "We'll get you out of here soon okay? I'll hook up with Maria and see what the hold up is."

"Come on Barclay. I don't have all morning." The woman in uniform unlocked the cell door and motioned for her to follow. Terri trailed after the woman and shivered when the door closed again with a loud clang. She looked back and was reassured by the smile that O'Malley gave her. She stayed within sight of the jailer and was relieved when she saw George at the desk. She contained her emotions until they were down the steps and out of the building.

"Terri, what the hell were you thinking?" He growled when they were alone in his beat up car.

"I was thinking that Bates was going to kill her." Terri snapped at her boss. "This was a total set up and I'll just bet my last four paychecks that Trey has something to do with it." She explained the events of the evening and the reasons for her suspicions.

George pulled out of the parking lot and on to the nearly deserted main road. "At this point, I'm going to have to agree with you." He admitted with a frustrated sigh. "I tried to find him and I can't. He missed his report drop and the house is empty. The charges against you, by the way are dropped. I talked to the Assistant DA and with all the witnesses there that backed up your statement they're more worried about a lawsuit against the department."

"I'm not surprised." She couldn't contain the sarcasm. "So what was Bates doing there without back up to make an arrest and who the hell was O'Malley supposed to have assaulted?"

"I couldn't get the ADA to give that up. The judge will see her in few hours for the arraignment. Where am I going?" He asked when he pulled up at a stoplight.

"Traders. I need to pick up the truck and then I have to find Maria. What are you going to do about Trey?"

George pulled forward when the light changed. "Other than calling his status into the office I don't know that there's anything I can do until I can get him pulled in on charges." He admitted. "I will still keep looking for him." He promised.

Terri nodded and they fell into an uncomfortable silence for the drive to the bar. To his credit, he didn't question her any further nor did he comment on the way she was dressed. When he noticed that she was shivering a little he turned on the heater full blast. His mind was a whirlwind of activity. There were far too many questions, not enough answers and all trails eventually led to Spyder. The lure of money and perceived power could corrupt almost anyone. He knew, from experience, that cops were just as human as the rest of the population.

When he dropped her off at the truck, Terri offered him a small smile and a wave. He pulled out of the deserted parking lot and began his search for his lost little lamb.


The judge looked over his black framed glasses. His eyes were boring into the ADA. "What do you mean you can't find the complaint statement?"

The ADA swallowed hard in fear. "Your honor, the arresting officer doesn't seem to have included it in the file. I have officers looking for him as we speak."

"At least I don't have to do all the work this morning." There was no humor in the judge's statement. He shifted his eyes to the woman in leather standing next to the Public Defender. "I'm going to assume you're pleading not guilty."

"Yes your honor." Claudia May answered for her client. "My client can attest to her whereabouts for yesterday and she can provide witnesses."

The judge looked down at O'Malley's record sitting in front of him. "Considering Miss O'Malley's record and her known associations, I can't say that gives me the warm fuzzies."

"Your honor, the State asks bail set at the highest possible amount. The defendant has a record... we consider her a flight risk."

He shifted his harsh glare to the ADA. "What law school did you go to son?"

"Baylor, Sir." He answered with pride.

The judge snorted. "Go back and look up what happens when you don't have a complaint statement. Suspension of charges until I have that statement. Miss O'Malley, I can't order you held but I can tell you not to take any vacations. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes sir." She answered as respectfully as she could.

"Enter that into the court record. Next case." He slammed his gavel down and pulled the next file to read quickly.

Callan followed Claudia into one of the tiny interview rooms and waited for her to speak. She didn't have to wait long.

"You got a break on this one."

"I didn't assault anyone." O'Malley defended. "I don't need to."

"My office will be in touch with you when that statement is found. It would look better for you if you surrendered yourself instead of being arrested. Right now that's the best I can do."

"Thanks. Can I go home now?" O'Malley asked suddenly very tired.

"As soon as the paper work is done." She answered as she pulled her next file out of her briefcase. "The bailiff will come get you. Don't say a word and whatever you do, don't get arrested any time soon."

O'Malley nodded her head silently and sat down as the lawyer tapped on the door and waited for it to open. She left without looking back or saying anything else. O'Malley closed her eyes and was surprised when someone shook her shoulder. Looking at the clock she realized that she'd been asleep for half an hour. She followed the bailiff and after reading over the paperwork, signing and gathering her things, she stepped out of the tiny courthouse pulling on her jacket to take off the morning chill.

"Hi good looking, got a date?" Maria's voice came from her right.

"Right now, that is so not funny." Callan muttered as she moved into Maria's arms for a hug.

"Yeah but I couldn't resist. Come on. We're parked over here." Maria said as she took O'Malley's hand and led her to the side parking lot. She was relieved to see Terri and the truck. The expression of relief on Terri's face was hard to miss. It was quickly replaced by an almost shy smile. As they got closer to the truck Terri exploded into her arms.

"How are you?" She whispered.

"I'm okay." O'Malley assured her. "They suspended the charges until they can find the right paper work." She explained out loud so that both women could hear her. "I'm not supposed to leave the city limits. How are you doing?"

"They dropped my charges before I was released." Terri answered and pulled away slowly. "You guys hungry? I have enough money to buy breakfast at Gus's. I'll explain what my PO told me last night."

"I'll get breakfast." O'Malley offered. "But you have to drive. I'm wiped out."

They piled into the truck and drove in silence to the diner. Once coffee was placed down and orders taken Terri explained why her charges had been dropped. She sipped on her coffee and watched O'Malley carefully. She could tell the biker was exhausted.

"We'll eat and then I'll get you home." She said quietly and gently squeezed O'Malley's hand.

"I gotta pick up the bike."

"Nope. I had Gato put it in the shed behind the bar." Maria explained. "It'll be good until tonight. You two are still coming to dinner." It was not a question and more along the lines of an order. Maria glared at both women until they agreed. "Now what are we going to do about Bates?"

"I'm staying as far away from him as possible." O'Malley declared. "I have a feeling this ain't over… you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, it's starting to look that way. Any chance the blonde and Trey have something to do with this?" Terri asked.

"Well, any thing is possible but it looks like it. It's just too much of a coincidence. The timing is just a little too cozy for my liking." Maria agreed. "So I guess what we do is keep you out of trouble. Terri you're in charge of that one."

"Me? Are you sure?" Terri couldn't help but tease. "I mean, did she get into this much trouble before I came along? I could be a jinx you know."

"Good point." O'Malley said out loud. "But I think I'll be keeping myself out of trouble. Today I'm just gonna crawl into bed and sleep. At least until dinner."

Maria was about to remind her friend that trouble seemed to find her when breakfast was delivered to the table. They dug in and ate quickly. It had been a long night and they were all anxious to leave it behind. Maria arranged for Gato to pick her up at the diner and they chatted over the last cup of coffee until he arrived.

O'Malley watched the way her friend's face lit up when her husband walked through the door and felt a long moment of envy. Maria had taken a long time to find the one man just crazy enough to deal with her and her wild moments. It helped that she was crazy enough to deal with his. They were a good match. She smiled as they greeted each other with a hug and a steamy kiss.

"There are children present you know." O'Malley teased with a grin.

"You don't count." Gato grumbled as he sat down. "You look like shit O'Malley."

"Thanks Gato, I love you too."

"He right." Terri announced. "Come on, O'Malley I'll drive home. Maria we'll see you guys tonight."

"Hey Terri, wear that outfit again tonight okay?" Gato asked and let out a huff of air when Maria's hand caught him in the stomach.

"You are in so much trouble." Maria growled.

"I can look." Gato defended with a grin.

"Not if you know what's good for you." O'Malley teased. She eased out of the booth and led Terri towards the exit. She let her arm fall over Terri's shoulders and they walked to the truck ignoring the stares that followed them. As soon as they pulled out of the parking lot O'Malley let out a monster yawn.

"Couldn't sleep huh?" Terri asked as she drove carefully.

"Nope. After you left they tossed in a hooker. She talked a mile a minute and never shut up. I've never been so glad to see a judge in my life. What's all this going to do to your proby status?"

"I don't know my PO didn't say. I have another appointment next week so I'm sure that I'm going to find out."

"How pissed was he?" O'Malley tried to stretch out.

"It was four in the morning, O'Malley, how pissed do you think he was?" Terri managed to answer without answering.

"So why does a PO come get his proby in jail?" She wondered out loud.

Terri sighed. She knew this would come up. "Because he knows that my original bust was bullshit and I got railroaded. I've never missed an appointment and I don't give him a rash of shit like the others do. He's just a guy trying to do his job."

"You sure he's not something else?"

"Like what, O'Malley?" A hard edge sneaked into Terri's voice.

"You tell me. I've never seen a PO get his proby out of jail."

"I'm not fucking him if that's what you mean." Terri snapped. "Bates busted me on prostitution charges when we first got here. I was waiting for Trey and like always, he was late. A car comes up and some sleaze asks me how much. I told him to fuck off and before I know it, there's Bates reading my rights. I'm a new face, my boyfriend is no where to be seen and since those upstanding officers certainly don't lie, the judge convicts me on the charges. The PD got me probation because I didn't have a record. I don't know why my PO believed me but he did. He's been an okay guy to me." Terri took the right turn a little faster than she intended. "I don't know why he came to get me out of jail. I don't even know who called him. You want to know, you go ask him yourself."

O'Malley was stunned. She had certainly not expected Terri to go off on her but she figured that she deserved the outburst. Suddenly, the whole situation struck her as funny. Maria kept telling her that the woman was no piece of fluff, now she was convinced. She chuckled out loud and leaned back.

"What the fuck is so funny?" Terri did not like being laughed at.

"Everything and nothing. This last month is like some bizarre bad dream. I think it's all just catching up to me."

"Now I'm a bad dream?" Terri's voice rose.

"Not you damn it. It's this whole situation." O'Malley didn't raise her voice, she didn't need to. "Finding you is actually one of the better parts of this last month." She admitted with some hesitation.

Terri chose not to answer in her angry state. She knew better than to let her mouth out run her brain. Instead, she reached over and turned the on the radio. The rest of the drive back to the house was an exercise in torture. When she pulled up into the driveway she killed the engine and handed the keys to O'Malley. It took all her will power not to slam the truck door when she closed it. She was angry and for the life of her, she wasn't sure how she was going to work it off.

When she finally made her way into the house she didn't see O'Malley but she did notice the clothes on O'Malley's side of the room and the running shower. She sighed out loud and went into the kitchen to grab herself a beer and check the caller id. Rhea's number was the only one listed and Terri made a mental note to call her friend later. She popped the cap off the beer and sat down on the couch.

O'Malley turned off the water and took very little time to get dry. She was too tired to think or feel anything except the dull ache in her left shoulder. Bates had done his job well. She'd hit the patrol car three times before Terri surprised him. She let out a sigh. She knew she would have to do something to make up for this one. Ellen had always cautioned her about speaking before she thought. Not that O'Malley listened. Once a dumb ass, always a dumb ass Sean's words came back to haunt her.

She stepped out of the bathroom and stopped short when she saw Terri on the couch, a beer in hand and her head laid back. Her eyes were closed and from the rise and fall of her chest she knew that the woman was asleep. O'Malley watched her for a long moment. The whole situation was a major screw up and the only one really getting the short end of the deal was the woman on the couch. She walked to the couch and gently took the beer from Terri's hand setting it on the coffee table. Sitting on the edge of the cushion, she reached out and shook Terri's shoulder calling her name softly.

It took a couple of tries but finally her eyes opened. "Come on sleepyhead, let's go bed. This couch ain't the most comfortable." O'Malley couldn't help but smile. Terri looked damned adorable half asleep. When she finally nodded, O'Malley led the woman to the bedroom turning down the covers for her. She busied herself with the hairbrush while Terri shed her clothes then slipped into bed. She heard the content soft mumble and knew she could turn around. Nudity didn't bother her and she was far from modest but a naked Terri was almost too much.

She pulled off her robe letting it drape at the foot of the bed. She got in, pulling her share of blankets close. She closed her eyes discovering that, as tired as she was, she couldn't sleep. Her brain was now trying to rev up into full gear. She opened her eyes again and almost laughed at the irony. In an effort to shut down her brain she focused her hearing to the sounds of the house. The everyday noises people never noticed were a comfort to her. Finally her eyes started to droop and she didn't fight it.


Terri slowly floated out of her dream and wondered why her pillow was a blast furnace. She peeled her eyes open and came to several realizations at the same time. It was definitely late afternoon, she was wrapped around O'Malley's body and if she moved one inch, they would both know just how wet she was. Her body was having a severe happy reaction to being this close to the biker and she had no idea how she was going to move without waking O'Malley. She sucked in a very slow breath and closed her eyes. This was torture and a part of her was enjoying it.

"Morning." O'Malley whispered and Terri nearly jumped out of her skin. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."

"I thought you were still asleep." Terri managed without moving much.

"Nope. I've been awake about half an hour. I would have gotten up but I seem to be trapped here." O'Malley smiled turning slightly. "Not that I'm complaining."

"Oh good. That you're not complaining I mean." Terri stumbled over her words.

"Something wrong?" O'Malley's question was meant to tease and it showed. She was certainly aware of Terri's state and had been since her eyes had opened.

"Um…no…I just…need to…" Terri couldn't think of any way to explain herself.

O'Malley threw doubt and caution out the window. "You just need what?" She shifted and let her thigh move between Terri's legs. "This maybe?"

Terri gasped out loud. "Yes." She let herself enjoy the sensation almost closing her eyes.

"Look at me." O'Malley requested gently. Terri's eyes found hers. "Is this what you want?"

Terri rocked her hips twice very slowly over O'Malley's strong thigh. "Does it feel like I want this?" She was having difficulty with words. She shifted placing her hands on O'Malley's shoulders in an effort to stay upright.

"Yeah it does." O'Malley answered sliding her hands up Terri's back, over her shoulders and down to her breasts. The temptation of small but full breasts was too much for her. Leaning her head forward, she captured one nipple in her mouth and teased it unmercifully with her tongue while her fingertips played with the other.

Terri felt a surge of desire; it was like a tight string that went from her nipples straight to her clit. O'Malley flicked the tip of her tongue over the nipple several times then shifted her attention to its twin sister. They were both amazed when Terri only grew more and more wet. O'Malley kept the sweet torture up for quite a while, backing off each time Terri seemed close to going over the edge. Finally, she released Terri's breasts and pulled her body down. She could only moan when Terri's breasts finally came into contact with her own. Her lips attached themselves to Terri's sensitive neck and at the same time she slid her hand down her back, over her shapely butt and finally her fingers rested against Terri's flowing center. She stroked gently as Terri continued to thrust herself over O'Malley.

Terri cried out softly, her words a jumble of what she wanted and needed. Each time she felt O'Malley's fingers graze her lips she wanted them inside. O'Malley kept denying her until she demanded them. Her growl turned into a satisfying groan when she felt two fingers slip inside. Together they set a maddening rhythm. As she moved forward, O'Malley's fingers slipped out and as she moved back, those same fingers would slide back in. Her pace picked up when O'Malley sucked hard on her neck. Her orgasm came almost as a surprise. Her breath caught in her throat as her back arched and her world was reduced to nothing but explosive pleasure.

O'Malley licked Terri's pulse point as she felt the pleasure tremors slow then gently she eased her fingers from their snug nest. She trailed her soaked fingers up Terri's spine while she kissed the top of her head. She had certainly enjoyed watching Terri move over her in such an erotic display of want and need.

"Oh God, that was good." Terri finally said after she caught her breath and some composure. "I've wanted to do that for a while now." She admitted while stretching languidly.

O'Malley groaned at the full body contact. She felt Terri move and was more than willing to accept the kiss that Terri offered her. Her fingers tightened in long hair as their tongues danced against each other. O'Malley was more than happy to let Terri explore and she let herself enjoy everything Terri was doing to her.

Terri grinned as she kissed her way down O'Malley's body, taking only a few moments to play with aroused nipples. She promised herself that she would come back to those later, right now she wanted to taste O'Malley more than anything else. She wanted to give O'Malley the same pleasurable release that she had been given. From the sounds reaching her ears she knew it would not take long. She slid between the biker's strong legs and nuzzled gently before letting her tongue glide between swollen and wet lips.

O'Malley felt Terri's tongue enter and exit only to stroke her clit and begin the pattern all over again. She knew she was not going to last very long since watching Terri as she came had pushed her close to the edge. She felt her hips moving faster and her fingers curled tightly in the sheets. Terri followed her lead and moved quicker, increasing the delicious pressure. Hearing the rough growl from O'Malley's throat as her thighs tightened around her head, Terri used her arms to hold the biker in place while she continued the pressure even as O'Malley's orgasm washed over.

She released her hold on O'Malley and crawled her way up the heavily breathing body letting herself collapse in a happy puddle on the woman's chest. O'Malley let her arms weakly wrap around Terri. She heard the contented purr from somewhere deep in O'Malley and felt the fingertips that danced lazy patterns on the back of her shoulders making her shiver and wonder how O'Malley knew that she loved that.

"Hmm, thank you." Terri smiled as she nuzzled her chin along over heated skin.

"You're welcome. What were you dreaming?" O'Malley teased.

"Don't laugh but it was something along the lines of what we just did." Terri didn't mind admitting now that they had stepped over the line. Oddly, she didn't feel the least bit guilty for having just had sex with the woman holding her.

"I like the way you dream." O'Malley chuckled as her hands slid down Terri's back cupping the woman's butt. She pulled her closer and closed her eyes when she felt Terri open herself in response.

"What time do we have to be at Maria's?" Terri asked as she nibbled on O'Malley's neck.

"Seven-thirty." O'Malley groaned as she guided Terri slowly over her flesh.

"Oh good, we have time."

Chapter 13

Terri carried a stack of plates into Maria's kitchen and handed them off to her gracious hostess. She held Maria's gaze and couldn't help the grin that had been creeping onto her face all night long. Maria took pity on her friend and said nothing. Her low chuckle spoke volumes. They fell into a comfortable pattern as they rinsed off the plates and set them in the dishwasher.

Finally Maria couldn't stand it any longer. "Finally got her into bed huh?"

Terri blushed and sighed. "Oh yeah." There was no mistaking the satisfied sound in her voice.

"Thought so. You have the look."

"The look?" Terri handed over dripping glass.

"Yep. The completely satisfied freshly fucked look. She has that effect on women."

"I can't tell if you're happy for me or if you're mad." Terri said after a moment glancing at Maria but unable to read her expression

"I'm not mad. I just don't want to see her get hurt… or you." Maria admitted. "Sometimes she forgets that she's human and when she does remember, it comes as a surprise. You have a handful in that one."

"Believe me, I honestly know that. Half the time I want to strangle her and the other half I just want to hold her. I don' want either of us to get hurt and with everything that's going on, I'm not sure that's possible." Terri said in a tight voice as she wiped down the counter. It was a difficult admission but one she was willing to make.

"Then why do it?" Maria wondered out loud closing the dishwasher.

"I want to." Terri's answer was painfully honest. "Something about her just does it to me."

Maria nodded her head. She had heard a similar answer several years earlier. It was all the proof she needed to know that her troubled friend still had something of her old self tucked away, even if it was mostly hidden from the rest of the world.

"Even if she turns into the kind of person most of us wouldn't want to know? She can and has done that." Maria held her hand up when Terri opened her mouth to answer. "Think about that for a while. At some point all of the shit with Trey is going to spill over and you will find yourself treated like a trophy. Not because that's how she wants to treat you but because that's how it is around here."

"I can't run Maria. I don't have anywhere to go." Even as she said it Terri knew it wasn't really a lie. Sure she had her apartment and some people in her life she could call friend but she didn't have anywhere to go that she wanted to call home. "And I know that she'll probably get tired of me and walk away but right now I can't think of a better place to be. For the first time in a long time I feel like someone wants me."

Maria sighed and reached for the bottle of rum. "You don't look like a tequila drinker." She said as she poured out two drinks. "She probably will just walk away. What will you do then?"

"Deal with it as best I can." Terri answered as the glass was passed to her. "I'm not going to make the mistake of thinking this is permanent. I know that this will end." She shuddered at the taste of rum.

Maria nodded and recapped the bottle. "If it does, you still have some place to go. That's a promise."

Terri's eyes suddenly watered at Maria's words. In her life she'd had friends but none who were as practical and giving as the woman standing in front of her. No one else treated her with such uncompromising compassion. She felt the familiar twinge of guilt. She nodded her head in lieu of thanks and brushed away the tears quickly.

"Making my girl cry, Maria?" O'Malley growled playfully as she walked into the kitchen. She'd heard just the last part of their exchange. She wasn't mad. She could never get mad at Maria. There was too much history between the two for that. They would butt heads and then laugh over it. It had always been as it would always be.

"Nah, just warning her that you can be a consummate asshole." Maria grinned as she took her glass and blew a kiss at O'Malley.

"Uh huh, crying material. You okay, baby?" O'Malley shifted her gaze to Terri.

"Yeah. Maria's just being nice to me. She still loves you more."

"You two keep that between us. Gato finds out and I'm hamburger." O'Malley smiled.

"Chicken." Maria challenged and laughed when both women nodded their heads in unison. She couldn't help but notice how much like night and day they both were. The few times she'd seen them together they complimented each other well. If one had a moment of weakness the other was there to offer the strength. As much as she loved her Ellen, Maria knew that Terri was just as good for the often stoic stubborn O'Malley. She made a mental note to call Joan and give her the update. She managed to keep the secret knowing smile from her lips. They had been working for what seemed like forever to get their mutual friend to move beyond the past.

She leaned her hip against the counter and just watched the two women interact. Terri's soft smile when O'Malley's eyes caught hers was all the more apparent. It didn't seem to just be the new found intimacy that they now shared, it was as if she could see Terri emerging from some shadow that had kept her hidden. She could see the physical similarities that Terri shared with Ellen. The same slight frame that hid impressive strength, the shining eyes though not the same color and the obvious intelligence. The only difference that Maria could see was that Terri had lived a harder life and perhaps had her feet planted just a little more firmly on the ground. Both women had found O'Malley at what would seem a low point in life. She just hoped that Terri wouldn't underestimate Callan O'Malley in the way Ellen Rivers had.

She mentally shook off the thought and took a deep sip of her drink. She would not think ill of the departed. Joan would certainly hurt her for such an uncharitable thought if she knew. Maria pushed away from the counter, as her friends were about to share yet another kiss.

"I say we take this out back again. I still have to burn the deed." Maria interrupted with an evil grin.

"You really gonna dust the deed?" There was a certain disbelief in O'Malley's voice.

Maria shook her head with a sly smile. "Nah. I went and got a copy of it. Just a symbolic thing but hey it will feel pretty damn good ya know?"

O'Malley and Terri agreed with twin laughs and waited while Maria dashed into the third bedroom of the house that served as a cramped office. When she came back, she found them locked together. The sight of lips crushed together was almost too much and Maria wondered if throwing her guests out early would be in bad taste. She smacked O'Malley in the back of the head as she passed her and tugged on the worn black tee shirt.

"Come on you perv. Let's go burn some paper while Gato still has the grill lit. I cannot believe I finally own that rat trap."

Maria's enthusiasm was infectious. It didn't take the invited and Mike's guest long to get caught up in the thrall. Rhea stopped the bar owner before she could touch paper to flame and the dancer ran back into the house to extinguish every light that was not needed. When she returned to the flickering glow of the grill they were able to do justice to a hard-earned victory. As Maria touched paper to flame, Gato's strong arms wrapped around his wife's shoulders.

"It was your dream carina and you made it mine. You said we could do it in under ten. I should have known better than to tell you it couldn't be done. And I'm really glad you were right. I didn't want to live with mom." He smiled tenderly beyond his dark mustache.

"Thank you Mi Amor, for living the edge so we could do this." Maria managed around the lump in her throat. "And we were not going to live with your mother." She announced.

"Hell, I'm just glad I have somewhere to drink beer." Mike grinned and resisted the urge to nudge the happy couple with his shoulder. The lithe dancer standing next to him curbed his normal mischeivious activities.

When the paper went up in a slow burn Maria turned to her husband and she kissed him with promise. "Now if I could just get some help behind the bar, I could spend more time with my wild man here." She laughed and tightened her hold.

"I could do that." Terri said before she was aware her mouth had out run her brain. All eyes turned on her and she felt uncomfortable in the scrutiny. Once the words were out she didn't have the courage to take them back and after a moment she knew that she didn't want to take them back.

"You sure? I won't be always be there to keep an eye out." O'Malley whispered quietly in her ear.

The warm breath made Terri shiver. "Yeah. Please. I'm going crazy not doing anything." She admitted.

O'Malley lifted her head away from Terri's ear and nodded twice. Maria did not miss the signal. She would trust the Irish woman at her word. If O'Malley said it was okay then it would be okay.

"You better get used to having me around more." Maria teased Gato. His only answer was a kiss followed by a leer.

The party broke up not long after a police cruiser rolled by the house. They didn't stop but they did go slow enough to be noticed. With the events of the last day fresh in mind everyone drifted into the house and said their good byes. Mike and Rhea left first. John and his girlfriend Mandy were next. He left after hiding what he thought was their fair share of cash for dinner. O'Malley and Terri were the last to leave only because they both insisted on helping clean up the mess in the back yard. The other's had their offers waived off. O'Malley would not take no for an answer. It wasn't that she was being polite, she just loved torturing her friends by staying just a little later than they expected. She figured it was good for them. Once they were finally, finished they grabbed their jackets from eager hosts and let the front door close behind them.

As O'Malley handed her the helmet Terri had a thought skitter through her mind and she watched the biker for a long moment. O'Malley looked up from her own helmet and let her eyes ask the question.

"Would you do something for me?" Terri asked quietly in the night.

"Ask and I'll tell you." O'Malley answered with a wry grin.

"That's totally irritating. You're supposed to say yes."

"You're assuming I'm normal." O'Malley countered as she quirked her eyebrow.

Terri had to agree if only mentally. "Take me on a night ride." She said. It was not a question and not a request.

"You sure you know what you're asking for?" O'Malley had to ask as she kicked her leg over the seat of her bike.

Terri settled in behind and pulled close. "Yeah. If it's too much and I say so, you'll stop, right?"

O'Malley looked back and nodded. Terri pulled on her helmet without a word and straddled the bike, sliding close to the woman in leather. She waited until O'Malley tugged on her own helmet and started the bike to wrap her arms around the woman.

The ride started like any other until they crested the steep hill a quarter mile from Maria's house. O'Malley let the bike idle for a long moment as though she was gathering either her thoughts or her courage. With deliberate movements she reached over and flicked the switch for the headlights. Terri felt the deep intake of breath before the bike moved and then they were flying. She pressed her body back away from O'Malley to give her room to drive. She resisted the normal human urge to close her eyes.

It was like flying in the dark. She knew her eyes were open when she looked up and saw the moon, full and bright in the sky. True, it looked like a blur and was something surreal but she felt alive. If she looked down on any turn, she knew that it was asphalt but it was not totally real unless she thought about it. It was like being and not being at the same time. She loved the feeling. Someone else was in control and oddly, she didn't seem to mind one bit. With each turn she just let her body touch O'Malley's, flowing into the direction of the body and the bike, they were almost like one machine. It was a rush and it was dangerous and she loved it. After each turn she would scoot back again… it was like the ultimate tease.

By the time O'Malley pulled into the garage she was raw and wet and wanting. The garage door was barely closed when she pulled her helmet from her head and O'Malley's hands were on her. She let the helmet fall to the floor and winced when it sounded loud to her ears. She didn't have much time to think about it. She leaned forward and attached her lips to the closest flesh that she could find. The adrenaline rush alone was going to send her over the edge. She closed her eyes and sucked for all she was worth.

O'Malley's hand tugged her off the bike. "Inside now."

She managed to slide off the bike and for just a second wondered when it was that O'Malley had managed to get off the bike and out of her helmet. Then it didn't matter as an insistent hand led her into the house. They didn't bother closing the door between the garage and the house.

"The fates like us today." O'Malley breathed into her ear as she leaned close.

Terri melted as she was pressed against the wall and felt her tight shirt pushed up. Warm hands roamed at will and she was more than powerless to stop them. She had asked for this, she wanted this and this time there would be no stopping.

Without warning O'Malley's mouth was on her left breast. She moaned wrapping her arms around her neck. She could feel the biker's insistent tongue through the material of her bra even as her skirt was tugged up her legs. She let go of O'Malley's neck long enough to pull her bra out of the way. She was on fire and with a hand full of her own flesh, she offered herself to the biker. She felt the raw edge of teeth close in on one nipple as two fingers entered her quickly.

"So wet…ready." O'Malley admired in awe around a hard taut nipple. It was all that she could do to breathe but she had to let Terri know just what she saw and felt.

Unconsciously Terri spread her legs farther. "Oh God, please. Don't stop." She begged and bucked against O'Malley hoping that it would not end anytime soon. It didn't. She was on the edge several times only to have her lover back off. She whimpered her frustration and finally O'Malley trailed her mouth down Terri's body never stopping in one spot for very long. She looked down as O'Malley's knees hit the floor and suddenly she was on the receiving end of an incredibly talented tongue.

O'Malley groaned when she tasted Terri's essence. Her arms tightened around Terri's hips and she pulled her impossibly close. She drove her fingers deeper and faster as her lips closed around Terri's clit. She heard Terri's head bang into the wall and felt the walls around her fingers tighten and begin to spasm.

Terri opened her mouth and felt the wall of ecstasy slam into her. She was beyond words and vaguely aware of the noises she was making as her entire body shook with the force of her orgasm. Her fingers tightened on O'Malley's shoulders digging in hard. She finally realized that breathing would be good. Her body was still on sensation overload and when O'Malley flicked her tongue side to side over her still captured clit she came again almost immediately.

O'Malley cringed inwardly as Terri's fingernails closed in on her shoulders. She didn't, however, stop what she was doing. The erotic rush she was feeling was more important. She released the tantalizing flesh on her lips and eased her fingers out only when Terri begged her to stop. She stood and pressed her leather-covered legs around Terri's thigh. She quickly tugged off her own shirt as Terri's hands cupped her breasts. Fingers teased and pinched her nipples. Her breath came in short harsh gasps. Her mouth closed over Terri's lips and she eagerly received the warm tongue that invaded her mouth.

Her arms shot out to brace on the wall when Terri pressed hard with the thigh trapped between her legs. She groaned and welcomed the slick friction as she bucked her hips. She felt the fingernails of one hand slide down her back as the fingers of the other trapped one nipple and it was all she needed to send her over the edge. She thrust herself against Terri twice more and came hard.

They collapsed against each other barely able to stand upon trembling legs while trying to catch their breath. After several moments, Terri leaned into the short distance and kissed O'Malley tenderly. Pulling away she laced her fingers between O'Malley's and without a word led her into the bedroom.

Across the street, Trey watched from his perch in the shadows. He flicked his cigarette away in anger. When he had settled himself in to spy on the two women earlier in the evening, he had thought the naked window would give him the answer one way or another. He had been so damn sure that the two women were only playing a game in public. Now, he knew better and it burned like bitter acid in his stomach.

At some point during the undercover assignment, he became aware of the possibilities of the whole situation. He was sick of the lousy hours and the lousy paycheck. The lure of easy cash and power in the circle of club members was too much. He knew he could do as well as Spyder, if not better. He had the insight of knowing how the authorities would react, how they would investigate and he loved the irony. Now it was all in jeopardy because of that O'Malley bitch. No one had bothered to warn him about her or the odd respect that the older members gave her. It was the same respect they didn't give him.

He silently vowed that he would take her down several notches and gain that respect. He didn't bother to light another cigarette and instead crept away from his spot melting into the dark.

Chapter 14

"GPS says we're here." Sean said quietly, knowing the mike would pick up the words and transmit them to the rest of the team.

"Roger that. Quinn keep that gun ready. Hanson keep the line open to base." Callan ordered calmly. Her eyes scanned the flat desert with the night vision goggles. The surreal green glow made her slightly queasy. It was a feeling she never got used to. She shivered inside her coat and was grateful that they were in the vehicle and not out in the rain and fog. Scanning left and right she tried to find some sign of the enemy that they were looking for. During the first two hours of the ground war headquarters had lost track of one of the Iraqi units. They could not afford loose ends squirming out of the closing trap.

"Why are we here instead of the scouts?" Sean grumbled again.

"None available you dope. Scout means forward observation. This dump is not part of forward." Callan answered patiently.

"I'm getting too old for this shit." Sean grinned without mirth.

"Yeah well, MP stands for multi purpose." Callan reminded him. "You want easy duty you should have become a cook or something."

"I've tasted his cooking, Sarge. You could be shot for treason for doing that to the Army." Quinn's voice sounded in their ears.

"Blow me Quinn." Sean muttered as he peered out the windshield.

"You first." Quinn chuckled.

"Boys, you can pick out furniture and rings when we get back. Right now we got other things to think about." Callan teased as she scanned. Her enhanced vision let her see what the human eye should have missed. It was a momentary flicker of some light source. It was enough for her to move forward cautiously. "I've got something ahead at two o'clock. Sean, move us forward but be ready to get us the fuck outta dodge." She ordered, her voice tightening slightly. Her fingers closed around her weapon out of trained habit.

Sean eased forward and wished he could see something. The driving conditions were garbage and he hated it with a passion. He would give almost anything to out of this hell pit once and for all. The energy sucking heat had turned into a cold he had never experienced. He hated this part of the world.

"Oh holy mother. Hanson lock the GPS, and send it back to base. Fire mission ASAP. We found 'em." Callan clipped out and heard her radioman send the order in a calm tone. She grinned slightly. Nothing ever seemed to rattle her young soldier in the back seat. "Five…no six APC's and one hell of a lot of ground pounders. I want high explosive rounds at rapid fire."

"Roger, that Sarge." Hanson drawled out in his Kentucky accent. "Bravo two five confirms. Fire mission in ten mikes. Two five wants us out of the impact area." He relayed even as he listened to the orders coming in over his head set. "Any idea of how long they've been here?"

"I can see 'em enough to count but not that well." Her words held a slightly sarcastic exasperated tone. She wasn't a miracle worker, just a soldier working in lousy weather conditions. "With some luck, they won't be here much longer. Sean, get us outta dodge. I want some distance."

"That I can do." He grinned and turned the wheel. He gave it a little gas and they lurched forward. In the middle of the turn they hit a deep and muddy rut. Sean recognized the feel of something solid under his left wheel. "Shit."

Callan's head was turning to face her driver when the explosion came.

O'Malley lurched forward in bed, her mouth opened in a silent scream. It only took a moment for her to recognize that she was not out in the desert. She forced herself to relax her arms which were tight bands holding her body up. She shook uncontrollably and had to remind herself to breathe keeping her eyes closed until the tremors passed.

"Fuck." She spat in disgust tossing the blankets aside. Her eyes stole to the digital clock by the bed as she grabbed her jeans off the floor. Her movements were jerky, almost uncoordinated. Her fingers trembled as she worked the buttons of the fly and for the first time in days she was grateful that Terri was at work with Maria. She let out a frustrated breath. She would be worthless for a while and she knew it. Pulling a clean shirt over her head she walked into the living room and then the kitchen. The restless feeling lingered as she opened the door to the fridge without really wanting anything only to slam it shut.

She almost jumped out of her skin when the cell phone rang. She took a deep breath before answering. "O'Malley."

"I'm here." Cage's voice was on the edge of a purr.

"Where?" O'Malley asked as she walked back into the kitchen.

"Thought I'd check the layout of the bar. Maria looks good, by the way." Cage answered.

"Yeah. Happy becomes her. You get me the car?" O'Malley pulled down the can of coffee.

"I'm hurt. Black Camaro." Cage repeated the license number from memory. "Keys are in the tail pipe and the kit bag is on the passenger floor. You're set for sight and sound. It's almost like the old days ya know."

"Cage, the old days sucked." O'Malley reminded her long time friend.

"Says you. You got my steak ready?"

"Thawing as we speak." O'Malley turned on the faucet and started filling the pot. "You know what we have to do?"

"Keep hurting my feelings, O'Malley and I'm gonna have to kick your ass." Cage growled into the phone.

"Humor me and you've never been able to kick my ass you light weight." O'Malley chuckled as she poured the water into the coffee maker.

"We make the switch after you take the cut through to the parking lot. I take your girl and you go play spook with this fuck head. You might want to tell me what you're wearing so I can match it."

"Black jeans, black shirt and my leather jacket."

"Oh, that's a surprise." The sarcasm was thick. "Your girl know anything about this?"

"Nope. I'll make the introductions later. You want me to bring you coffee?"

"That would be good. How long you gonna be in the bar?"

"At least an hour. I gotta make it look like I'm fucked up. You do remember how to do the stumble and bumble right?" O'Malley asked without needing the answer, she just liked to yank Cage's chain on occasion.

"I think I did it last night." Cage answered without hesitation or guilt. She loved living life on fast forward and she would never change. "It was well worth it."

O'Malley laughed and the restless feeling ebbed. "I'm sure it was. I'll leave here in an hour then we're on."

"Roger that." Cage confirmed and cut the connection.

O'Malley lowered the phone and closed her eyes. If she was going to pull tonight's recon off, she needed to be in the right frame of mind. The nightmare had thrown her off kilter. The last time she'd had that particular nightmare was during her visit to Sean and Joan's on her return from Bosnia. She'd been a mess, during that time, grief and guilt pushing her mind to places that she thought she had hidden away forever.

The gurgle of the coffee maker pulled her back from those thoughts. Shaking her head, she rummaged for the thermos needing a routine to keep her mind on track and away from the past. It was a trick one of her platoon leaders had taught her long ago. Methodically, she poured the coffee to a precise measurement and screwed the top tightly closed. For the next hour everything she did was thought out first, planned and executed by the numbers. Finally she was ready and as she lowered the blinds to the front window, she lowered her human side. Tonight she was not a gunrunner. Tonight she was a shadow.


Maria nudged Terri leaning in close when the woman looked at her. "O'Malley's cut off right now."

Terri shifted her gaze to her lover at the bar. The biker, none too steady on her feet, was currently in Mike's face about something. She poked her finger in his chest and stumbled badly when he pushed her away.

"Maria, you think it would be okay if I took her home?" Terri asked as she looked at the crowd.

"I think you better get going. I'd hate to see Mike get his ass kicked." Maria nodded taking the bar towel from her new bartender. "I'll distract her while you get your stuff."

Maria moved quickly around the end of the bar stepping between Mike and her drunken friend. She could smell the hickory sweet smell of Jack Daniels on O'Malley and knew that woman was in no condition to be here. O'Malley only drank the hard stuff when the memories got to be too much. If Terri didn't get her out of here soon, she'd be paying off the damage for years.

"Hey there, O'Malley." Maria wrapped her arms around her friend.

O'Malley's face lit up in a foolish grin. "Maria. Hey baby. How 'bout you and me go get something to drink and have some fun."

"You're already having too much fun." Maria chuckled lightly. "It's a light night, why don't you take Terri home and have some private fun."

O'Malley's eyes lit up at the suggestion. She slid to the side and bounced into the counter banging her elbow. "Oww." She sounded surprised by the pain and Maria knew Terri was going to have a long night.

Terri brushed her hand over the back of O'Malley's neck and settled in close to her lover. "Hi baby. Looks like you started early." She managed to keep her tone light despite her worry.

O'Malley grinned like a fool and rushed in for a sloppy kiss. "Yeah. Wanna go home and catch up?" She slurred.

Terri resisted the urge to roll her eyes and agreed quickly. With an easy move she ducked under O'Malley's leather covered arm and stood up. The biker followed her without complaint. Terri was definitely aware of the eyes that followed them. She didn't dare look around to try and figure out what people were thinking or who might want to take advantage of the situation. She was sure O'Malley's friends would watch their backs. She cringed when O'Malley raised her voice to join in with the jukebox. There were times that Terri hated the Doors.

As they walked, she found that O'Malley's balance was shot. She lost count of the number of times they listed to one side or the other and banged into the wall of the bar. She heard a couple of biker's laugh as they parted to let the two women pass. Terri envisioned a number of tortures for O'Malley in the morning. She was more than sure that the hangover was going to be a major bitch. When O'Malley leaned towards the corner she thought it was just another balance glitch.

Terri was surprised to find another person in the alley that led to the back parking lot. When O'Malley didn't react she felt a momentary fear which ignited her protective nature. O'Malley was in no condition to fight anyone off. Pushing forward she stood in front of her lover as O'Malley halted. The figure that stood in front of them stepped into the light and Terri was struck by how much this woman looked like O'Malley. Their eyes were different colors and she could tell some other subtle differences but it was almost eerie to see.

"Well, look at what we have here." The voice did not sound like O'Malley at all. It was much smoother.

"Whoever the hell you are, you should leave." Terri hoped that her voice wasn't shaking as much as she was inside.

Cage laughed softly and relaxed her stance. "You got a tiger on your hands there, O'Malley."

Terri felt the change in O'Malley's body and was suddenly confused.

"Yeah, I do and you know it doesn't bother me one bit." O'Malley's voice was void of slur. She gently moved past Terri and offered her hand to Cage. They embraced for a moment and pushed away from each other. "You gained some weight. Too much desk time?"

"Bite me." Cage shot back with a grin. "You gonna introduce us?"

O'Malley nodded sheepishly and turned back to her more than confused lover. From the look in Terri's eyes she was going to have some serious explaining to do later. "Terri, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine. Cage Quinn, meet my own tiger Terri Barclay." Unexpected pride laced her voice as she unzipped her leather jacket and handed it over to Cage.

"Nice to meet you." Her dark hazel eyes flicked to O'Malley. "She reminds me of your nurse. Same protective nature." She slipped into the jacket and flexed a couple of times to get comfortable.

Terri watched light blue turn arctic and her voice was oddly flat as she answered. "You talk too much. I'll be there as soon as I can. Terri, just do what Cage says, within reason of course." There was no humor in her tone.

She let Cage adjust her body around Terri's. She felt a momentary twinge of jealousy but pushed it away. She allowed a reassuring smile for her lover and squeezed her hand. Drifting into the shadows of the bar, she watched as Cage and Terri managed a more than passable imitation of a drunk being led to the truck. She let out a low easy breath when the headlights turned on and the truck finally moved.

O'Malley waited until she was sure that there was no one was following. She didn't think there would be but she wanted to not take the chance. Checking her watch, she finally moved from her spot and thanked whatever power above that Trey picked Wednesday's, a notoriously slow night at the bar, to have his little powwow.

She moved quickly, on silent feet across the parking lot. A low whistle crossed her lips as she came close to the car. It was a thing of muscle beauty in its splendor. She loved muscle cars and the engine could out run almost anything. Bending, for just a moment at the tail pipe she tucked the keys into her hand and let herself into the car. Settling into the leather bucket seat she let out a low breath. Closing her eyes, she turned the key and melted as the engine roared to life. It was a rush and she loved it.

O'Malley drove casually to the neighborhood where the park was located. Getting stopped now was not in her plans. She let her mind rove back into shadow space. She was nothing more and nothing less than the dark of the night. It was a place she rarely let herself go and for the first time in her life she enjoyed it. Usually the feeling led to someone dying however she didn't want anyone to die. She just wanted to know what she didn't know. Tonight would not be about destroying, it would be about gathering.

She killed the engine in front of a two-story house that had seen better days but was not on the verge of falling down. The car would not be out of place here there were plenty of muscle cars along the curb. Tugging on the soft nylon jacket she grinned and looked around. No one was on the street. She pulled her kit bag onto the passenger seat and unzipped it slowly. She pulled out a dented tin can of face paint and smiled as she recalled the first time she'd used it.

They had been a group of hastily thrown together MP's on a makeshift aggressor detail in the middle of the German forest. Their mission was to attack a superior and experienced Air Force contingent. In the middle of the nowhere they'd gathered around and dipped into the tin. They streaked their faces and someone muttered in a low tone that there was no way Air Force pukes were going to beat US Army cops. He would die of shame first. A young and easily influenced O'Malley turned to the young man to her left when he finished his statement.

"Sean Barnes." He introduced himself. "You wanna kick some ass?" He had asked with a flashy grin.

They had drawn the attack in the dirt at their feet looking a lot like the neighborhood football games where someone etched the play in the sand of the playground. As simple as the plan was, it worked. The Air Force was routed and the Army won bragging rights if only for the day.

Her warm fingers laced with heavy face paint, touched the skin of her face and she felt herself turn from person into shadow. The grin she spied in the rear view mirror was nothing close to human. There were few times in her life that she felt perfect.

The first time was when she was a nineteen-year-old soldier trained to fight Russians and East Germans, stalking her prey carefully in the same German forest. Each step was an epiphany, every breath measured and calculated. The second time was in beyond the Iraqi border. There had come a point in time, with Sean tossed over her shoulder and each step a torture for her torn body, that she knew they would all come out of it fine. Her hearing was attuned to the action behind her. She turned trusting her instinct and fired the last few rounds left in her weapon. The almost cut off scream of pain reinforced the gut feeling that the bad guys were close.

O'Malley let her eyes focus again and the past was gone. She checked her reflection again to make sure that she hadn't missed any skin. Her face was a mottled pattern of black and dark green. If only her mother could see her now, the woman would pee in her pants. The low chuckle that slipped past her lips surprised her and she closed the paint tin. O'Malley stuffed the needed gear into her pockets then slipped the ear piece snuggly where she wanted it reaching down she pulled the fuse box open and counting to her left she tugged the correct fuse out of it's spot. The dome light did not come on as she opened the door and eased out.

The walk in the shadows, to her spot in the park, went without incident. There were very few out and about this night. She moved easily from tree to tree, bush to bush. Trey could not have picked better ground for her. She was in her true element. Her eyes rested on the red-hot glare of dying coals and guided in that direction and settled into a comfortable spying position. She slipped into the night vision goggles and let her eyes adjust to the surreal green glare. Moving carefully, she plugged her headset into the small but powerful listening device. She would have to give Cage something really good for this one. With all the gear in place she was able to make out the players she recognized. Trey and Thumper were there and a couple of other minor club associates. The other four she did not recognize by voice.

"Spyder wants that bitch to host a get together. We'll be there." Trey's voice sounded in her ear. "Wait for my signal and then we jump her ass."

"What's the signal?" A slurred voice asked.

"Whatever the fuck I decide." Trey snapped. "She's good but I don't think even the great fucking O'Malley can take on five guys. After we kick her ass and have some fun with her bitch Spyder will have his hands too full to pay much attention to us. Just don't get caught or I'll leave you hanging. That's the deal."

"So we have to kick her ass, fuck with her bitch and not have the dime dropped on us? You're fucking rich ain't ya? So what's the payoff?" Thumper asked in a completely sober voice.

"Ten keys of pure China White free and clear. Hank's so jumping at shadows he's not going to notice that his safe is empty. We use his cash, Spyder's connection and then we can cut loose of these posing fuckers." Trey announced with a certain cockiness. "Spyder is gonna call that bitch by the end of the week, we have to be ready. I can count on you boys, right?" There was an implied threat in his tone.

A round of agreeing voices reached O'Malley through her earpiece and she would have moved if the hair on her neck hadn't stood up on end. She waited even as her body told her to scuttle off. The booted feet an arm length away kept her in her place. She didn't look up and she almost didn't breath. The difference between life and death, she recalled someone once said, was the blink of an eye. She froze in place. She knew it was all over if he looked closely to his left. After what felt like forever, he moved off and still she waited just in case.

Trey and his boys played within the waning light of the coals drinking and boasting loudly as her hands moved slowly in the dirt. She managed to gather her gear and ease it into the roomy pockets of her jacket. Without disturbing the area she moved out. For a while it was toes and elbows, at least until she was out of the danger zone. There would be hell to pay for it later but the information she had gathered was more than worth it.

Once she made it safely to the interior of the Camaro, she breathed a sigh of relief. It took four wet wipes to clean most of the war paint off her face. Somehow she knew that if the cops stopped her, they wouldn't accept a trick or treat explanation. She could take her time now. She eased the fuse back into it's spot and then turned the key.


The sensation of someone slipping into bed woke Terri from her light doze having spent the last two hours waiting for O'Malley to return. She rolled over letting out a small sigh of relief. O'Malley looked fine and appeared to have all her parts still attached…for the time being.

"You have a lot of explaining to do." She said bluntly.

"In the morning, Terri." O'Malley answered with a yawn and a stretch.

Terri shifted her eyes to the clock and read the numbers. "It is morning."

O'Malley blew out a frustrated breath. All she wanted to do was sleep. "All right, what do you want to know?"

"How about what the fuck is going on?" She hissed.

"I went spying on Trey. I needed someone to take my place with you just in case he's got a tail on us. Of all the people I know and use, Cage looks the most like me." O'Malley answered as she ran her hand through her still wet hair.

"That's an understatement. Why are you spying on Trey?"

"Because my gut tells me he had something to do with my ass getting tossed in jail. Knowledge is power and I'm gonna beat that little fuck at his own game." She answered and fluffed her pillow.

"Next time O'Malley, just tell me what's going on. I was worried." Terri said softly as she watched O'Malley.

"Sometimes the less you know the better."

"Didn't you just say knowledge is power?"

"Who said this was a democracy?" O'Malley snapped immediately regretting it. "I'm sorry. You know what I do for a living, Terri. It's dangerous and at any point, if I look weak or like I can't do the job, it's gonna be like sharks at a feeding frenzy. If you know what I know, you're a target too." She tried to explain.

"Damn it O'Malley, I'm already a target. You really think Spyder would believe me if I said I have no idea what you're doing?"

"No he won't but he'd kill you quicker. He would just get rid of you instead of having you tortured to death." O'Malley said quietly.

Terri let out a slow shocked breath. "That makes me feel much better thanks."

"Any time. Now can I please get some sleep?"

"Sure. I'll just lay here and panic." Terri tried to tease but failed miserably.

O'Malley shifted in bed, wrapped an arm around Terri and pulled her close. "If I think it's coming, I'll get you out of town first. I still have some favors owed to me."

Terri nodded trailing her fingers absently on O'Malley's skin. She listened to O'Malley breathing to try and take her mind off the words still lingering in her ears. Her mind turned the rest of the night and sleep was a long time in coming.

Chapter 15

O'Malley speared a sizzling steak off the grill and let it fall onto Cage's plate. "I hear you hooked up with Maria today."

Cage flashed a grin. "She told, huh?" While O'Malley and Terri slept during the day, she'd gotten tired of waiting for them to wake up. Always the self-entertaining sort she simply got into the Camaro and drove out to see the bar owner. They had spent a good time at the diner playing catch up. She was still amazed at the difference in Maria. She no longer looked on the verge of burn out and her easy smiles were contagious. "Yeah it was nice to see her again. She's totally stoked about the bar and worried like crazy about you."

"I keep telling her not to worry. Why doesn't anyone ever listen to me?" O'Malley asked without really needing an answer.

"'Cause it wouldn't make any difference. I love her to death but she is a total mother hen. I guess it makes her still feel like the Chief Nursing Officer you know." Cage teased. "And let's face it bud, you were a mess for a long time. She's always gonna worry about you. It's her gift to the nurse."

O'Malley thought about the statement for a while without moving. "I know that I was fucked up and that I'm lucky not only to be here but to still have friends. But Cage, I am real sick of paying that particular bill." There was no malice in her voice.

Cage took a long look at her friend. Part of her was angry at O'Malley's words and part of her would forever be grateful to the woman for her part in saving her little brother's life. She sighed out loud and shrugged her shoulders. She wasn't giving in but she wasn't about to give up either.

"Well hell O'Malley we all have bills to pay." She said as she turned away and walked into the house. She set her plate on the counter and continued into the kitchen and drew a couple of beers out of the fridge. She had just twisted the cap off the second when O'Malley came in and let her plate sit close to Cage's.

"Let me know now if this is gonna be a Cage Quinn special." O'Malley said evenly.

Cage looked at her friend and noticed that her eye color had not changed. She might be safe. "I don't want to make this a CQ special, all right. I owe you more than you'll ever know and this is my way of giving back."

"Maybe Cage I just want to finish this and get on with my life." O'Malley sighed as she grabbed the beer off the counter. She took a long drink and stared at Cage. "I am as well adjusted as I'm gonna get for now. I need to get these fuckers and then I can move on."

"What about Terri?" Cage asked as she sat down on the stool and stared at her dinner.

"What about her?"

"When all this is over, what are you going to tell her?"

O'Malley sank down on her own stool and stared out the window for a moment. "I don't know."

"How about the truth? I know it's a stretch and all but hell, it might be worth a shot." Cage grinned around her steak.

"Man, don't talk with your mouth full. It's disgusting." O'Malley cringed and laughed at the same time. She wondered if a sick sense of humor was a genetic trait. "If she's lucky she'll come to her senses and run as far from me as possible."

"Not gonna happen." Cage predicted ignoring O'Malley's request. "She's gone on you."

"Can't we talk about something else?" O'Malley sighed out.

"How about landmines?" Cage picked up her beer and flashed an evil grin.

"You are one sick bitch you know that?" She laughed again when her friend just nodded her head like a bobble toy. "Why do I put up with you?"

"Because whether you like it or not, you like me. Not that you're my type or anything."

"Next subject please." O'Malley finally cut into her steak and they settled into the routine of eating their meal. It was an easy silence and they didn't feel the need to break into it. The steaks were finished in quick order and Cage quirked an eyebrow when O'Malley walked the plates to the sink.

"That's pretty domestic." She said as she fished out two more beers and opened them.

"You can sleep under the car you know." O'Malley threatened not turning around from her chore.

"Maria would take me in." Cage taunted in return.

O'Malley shook her head and realized how much she had missed this. It was the lighthearted banter of people who had shared many of the same things that she had. Each one was different in the actual circumstance but they had all beaten the fates and that tied them together. She missed being able to be near them all the time, except for Cage who was usually gone off somewhere classified. Most of all she missed Ellen. Three years that had not always been easy, sometimes it had been damn hard. How many times had she felt like she was no good for Ellen? How many times had she made her cry? Then there were the times when everything was right, more than right. Three years did not seem like enough. She missed her touch and the sound of her voice. The thought of her laughter undid the Irish woman.

Cage saw the tightening of O'Malley's jaw and the trembling of her hand. She was beside her friend in an instant. She caught her when knee's buckled and let her ease to the kitchen floor. The inhuman sound that came up from O'Malley's chest broke her heart. She rocked O'Malley gently as she had done for her brother when they were kids and he'd had one of his nightmares. She could only wonder how long O'Malley had kept her grief and anger and frustration inside. From the sight of the seemingly always strong woman on the floor crying hot tears and sobbing deeply it had never happened.

She would forever owe the woman in her arms her brother's life and at first it was gratitude that brought her to O'Malley. Thomas Quinn was not an easy man to impress but his letters home from Ft. Hood certainly caught her attention. He described his new squad leader in glowing terms and Cage had wondered if the woman could actually walk on water. On a whim she had decided to take her leave time early and go visit her little brother. Meeting O'Malley had been a let down at first. She didn't seem like the super soldier he'd described and then she got the opportunity to see Callan O'Malley as a person rather than the object of hero worship.

Her last words to O'Malley before the unit had shipped out to the Persian were to keep her brother safe. She remembered a bandaged and weak O'Malley in the hospital bed just waiting for Cage to rip into her. The fear in her eyes had been palpable. She couldn't miss it or the Air Force nurse that hovered nearby ready to jump her if she stepped out of line. It was the fear she had seen that stayed with Cage for a long time. She knew then that Callan was one of those who feared failing their promises more than death.

Sitting on the kitchen floor she was suddenly struck by the realization that Callan had always brought them back. The people she felt responsible for had always come home alive, maybe not unhurt but breathing. She'd never had someone important in her life die. She had promised Ellen that she would come home alive. And Ellen was the one who had died. She closed her eyes and silently damned the fates for doing this to her friend.


Terri closed the truck door and pushed the button on the garage door remote. She was tired and definitely wanted a shower. The smell of smoke clung to her clothes and hair. It was the only real downside to working at Traders. Most of the regulars knew she was O'Malley's and the non-regulars found out quick enough so she didn't have to worry about someone trying to talk her into going home with them. She smiled at the thought of her belonging to O'Malley. She knew she should have been incensed with the idea that someone 'owned' her but in the lifestyle she was visiting it felt protective more than demeaning.

She had seen enough to know that while not every biker was a club member, criminal or general lowlife, the majority was for whatever reason. All she could really do was try to understand it. She sighed as she pushed open the door leading into the kitchen. She set the keys down on the counter and expected to see O'Malley and Cage. There were two mostly empty beer bottles on the counter and the bike was in the garage. Guessing that they had probably drunk themselves to sleep while rehashing the old days, she pulled off her shoes and headed for the shower. There was no way she would go into their bedroom smelling the way she did.

She stripped the foul smelling clothes off as she waited for the water to get hot enough. Catching sight of herself in the mirror she wondered what it was that O'Malley saw in her. She shook her head. O'Malley could have any woman that she wanted and apparently had done just that. Terri knew however that if circumstances were different, if she wasn't undercover she would still have been drawn to the woman. There was something about her and she was damned if she couldn't figure out what it was.

Turning away from the mirror she tested the water and stepped in. She groaned in relief when the hot water cascaded through her hair. She lingered in the shower. Lately it felt like the only place where she could be with her thoughts and not have someone ask what was going on in her head. She would have to admit that her head was a muddled place. She felt more than torn. She had not expected to make friends during this assignment and yet she had. Of course she hadn't expected to make enemies either, especially the man who was supposed to have been her partner. She snorted some water and coughed in surprise. She was getting damn tired of his shadow.

In a strange way she was also grateful that Trey had screwed up as badly as he had. She was now learning more about Spyder's operation behind Maria's bar than she had acting as his girlfriend. Even with him firmly entrenched as one of the inner circle they talked little. At the bar away from Spyder's eyes and full of alcohol, some of them let things slip while boasting and she tucked them away in her mental file to pass on to George.

Terri let her head press against the shower wall and felt the full force of the shower beat on her back. It felt good. She wondered if she could just hide here forever. A small little girl giggle fell past her lips and she knew that while a pretty good idea it was not going to happen. She picked up the soap and lathered it in her hands.

It took her a while to feel clean enough to get out from under the water and dry off. She ran a brush through her tangled hair quickly wanting only to crawl into bed and snuggle up to the warmth that O'Malley's body offered. In O'Malley's bed she felt safe. She'd had lovers in the past and she was sure there would be lovers in the future but it was hard to imagine anyone else who could keep her monsters at bay during the night.

She had become so accustomed to the lingering fright and sleep deprivation that the first few mornings of waking refreshed had completely thrown her off her usual mental balance. She was seeing things more clearly than ever before and it was becoming a problem. She didn't know how she could do her job and not completely ruin people she cared about. Maria might not be involved with Spyder's bunch but she would be found guilty by association and some of the fringe members whose only apparent crime was bad timing would be condemned for the same reason. She refused to think about what would happen to O'Malley.

She wrapped her large towel around herself and brushed her teeth trying not think. Finally she managed to push thoughts and doubts away at an arms length. She had time to drive herself crazy later. She stepped out of the bathroom and barely contained the scream of surprise as she almost ran into Cage. She was going to have to hang bells on O'Malley and her friends. They all seemed to have the same ability to sneak up on a person.

"Sorry." Cage said softly.

Terri noticed something different as she regained her senses. Cage was subdued and her face was etched with something close to worry. Terri glanced around and still did not see O'Malley. She began to panic.

Cage recognized the look. "She's okay, sort of. Why don't you put something on and we can talk."

Terri nodded with a sinking stomach. Mentally trying to prepare herself for anything mentally she walked to the bedroom door and opened it slowly. A sliver of light broke into the room and she saw their bed empty. Her preparation fell away and she managed to slip into O'Malley's thick cotton robe. She was belting it even as she stepped back into Cage's sight.

"How much do you know about Callan?" Cage asked quietly as she sat down and motioned Terri over.

"Not much." She admitted as she crossed the room and sat in O'Malley's chair. "I know what she does for a living." Cage's eyes widened a little. "I asked and she told me. I know that she used to be in the army and that she was kicked out. I've met Sean and Joan. I know that there was a lover once and she died."

"Ellen." Cage interrupted. "Yeah, she was something." Her voice held a wistful quality to it.

Terri didn't know how to interpret the remark. "What's going on, Cage? Where's Callan?" She didn't realize that she used O'Malley's first name.

"I put her in the guest room. She's had a rough day. I'll tell you what happened in just a bit but first I need to explain something to you so that maybe you might understand." Cage rubbed her tired eyes with a shaky hand. "O'Malley got hurt in the Gulf War."

"I know. I've seen the scars and she told me that her vehicle ran over a mine." Terri clarified as she wrapped her arms around her midsection.

"When they got her to the hospital in Germany, she was a mess even with the care she got in Turkey. Ellen was her nurse. She took care of her pain and protected her, from others and from herself. She helped O'Malley more than anyone else could have. Ellen was everything that she needed at the time, even if the dumb ass was too banged up to know it. Maybe because of the intensity of their contact or because they became friends first their relationship is something I still can't describe.

All I know is that for her, Ellen was everything. When Ellen died something in O'Malley snapped and for a long time she just closed off. She wasn't the person we knew and loved. Half the time we hated her and the other half…we were worried that she was going to get herself killed."

"Cage, these are things that O'Malley should be telling me." Terri said as gently as she could. The caring and concern were written all over the woman's face and she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

"I know and I wouldn't say this if I thought she would." Cage sighed and leaned back into the couch. "O'Malley doesn't usually talk about Ellen. Has she ever said Ellen's name out loud to you?" Terri's silence was enough of an answer. "I didn't think so. She can be such a stubborn shit…stubborn enough to not let the grief out. I think that maybe she's cried a little in what she would call a weak moment but not all out grieving.

It's been a long time since Ellen died and she finally snapped today. I don't know what made her cry but I for one am damn grateful that it happened. It wasn't just crying Terri it was full release. She's going to be fucked up for a few days if I know her and she might even take it out on you. She won't mean to and she'll be damn sorry if it happens.

I know that O'Malley feels something for you and I don't think it's just the situation Trey put you both in. You've gotten under her skin. I know the look and she hasn't had that in her eyes for a long time. You deserve to know so that you're not wondering what the hell is going on." Cage finally finished and looked up at Terri. "I think that's the most I've spoken at one time in years."

Terri stood and padded into the kitchen and thought about the bottle of whiskey for a moment. She decided on the beer instead. She pulled two beers out and opened them if only for something to do with her hands. Cage's little bombshell left her unsettled. She had no idea how she could compete with a ghost. Her hand shook as she handed one bottle to Cage. She did not sit back down as she took a large first drink.

"What am I supposed to do now?" She asked at a loss and totally afraid.

"I don't know. She's never done this before." Cage answered sincerely and rolled the beer bottle in her hands.

"I don't know if I'm strong enough for this. What if she doesn't want my help?" She needed to know for some reason.

"Then you let her work it out until she's ready to." Cage advised as she set her bottle on the coffee table.

"I've seen her work things out and Cage, I can't just stand by and watch her punish herself." Terri admitted as she turned. "I'm not going to let her go through this alone."

Cage smiled tenderly and her eyes softened. "You just might be the only one she'll let close enough to help." She felt her own tension ease just a bit and her first opinion of Terri was reinforced. Terri Barclay was as much a force of nature as Ellen Rivers. Her approach was just little more on the subtle side.

"I'm going to bed. I think it's my turn to keep the monsters away. Would you put my beer in the fridge?"

"Hell, I'm gonna drink it." Cage purred out her answer. It sounded a little rough even to her ears. "I'll lock up before I go to bed." She promised.

"You're a good friend to her, Cage. Thank you." Terri said after a moment.

"I owe her. I'll spend the rest of my days paying her back and even if I don't enjoy the moments, I'll never regret them at all."

Terri frowned in confusion at the words then tucked them away in her mental file for later. Some day she would ask the woman what she meant but right now, nothing was more important than being with O'Malley.

She slipped into the guestroom and closed the door softly. Standing by the bed for a few moments while her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room she listened to O'Malley's breathing. She couldn't tell if her lover was asleep or not. Slowly, the form under the blankets came into view and her heart ached more than it ever had.

Terri slid under the blankets and scooted close to O'Malley. She could feel the heat coming off her body and knew that some where in her mind O'Malley was fighting her demons. Not know what else she could do she wrapped her arms around her lover and gently pulled her close. Even in her tortured sleep O'Malley turned until she was nestled against Terri. Unconsciously she was clinging to the offered safety that had nothing to do with the past.

When dawn finally broke through the curtains Terri's eyes drooped and closed. For a while nothing else existed. There were no dreams and no memories, no doubts and no fear. The only sound was their mingled breathing.

Chapter 16

Cage followed O'Malley into Spyder's clubhouse. Even at this hour of the morning there were quite a few bikes in the parking lot. Her eyes stole to O'Malley and she smiled inwardly. Some things would not change. When her friend was on, she was cocky and confident and it showed in the way she moved. She didn't walk so much as she strutted. No one would be able to tell that for the last two days her friend had been a sulking brooding mess. Cage felt partly responsible but she wouldn't feel guilty. O'Malley needed, whether or not she would admit it, the breakdown.

She did feel bad that Terri was taking the brunt of O'Malley's confusion. She had watched O'Malley drift between sullen silence and smart-ass comments. Many times she'd opened her mouth to take her friend to task but each time, Terri would just shake her head. It was easy to see how difficult it was but Terri would act as though nothing was out of the ordinary and force O'Malley to maintain a routine. Not once did Terri snap back.

She almost stumbled on a crack in the sidewalk and forced herself to focus on the matter at hand. She was finally going to meet the infamous Spyder. Even with O'Malley's description, she had no idea what he was really like. She was dying to get into his head and figure out what made him tick. It was like a game to her and she certainly did love games.

O'Malley pushed the door open and stepped into the dim light of the front foyer flashing a hard grin at Boomer. He nodded and opened his eyes a little wider as a second woman followed. He didn't miss how closely they resembled each other.

"You didn't tell me you had a sister, O'Malley." He teased.

"I don't. Boomer this is Cage. Cage, the mountain in front of you is Boomer." O'Malley watched Cage slide her sunglasses off her eyes. Brown orbs trailed up and down Boomer. She knew Boomer was Cage's type. He was a large structure with an air of danger. Cage had always been attracted to the flame and she lived her life on the edge. She would never change. It was refreshing in a sick sort of way.

"Hi there." The purr was in full force and it worked on Boomer. She watched him flush and wondered what visual had just passed through his mind.

"O'Malley, you are finally traveling in company I can relate to." He was certainly enjoying the way Cage filled out the leather pants that clung to her like a second skin. She was not as top heavy as he normally liked but somehow he knew from the look in her eyes that she could more than make up for it.

"Get your mind out of your pants before you break something. He's expecting us." She got back to business.

"Either one of you packing?" He was back to his duty even though his eyes were lingering on Cage.

"Depends on what you mean." Cage teased as she unzipped her jacket and let Boomer have an eye full. "I'm not carrying a weapon."

"Yeah, I can see that." Boomer grinned like a high school boy looking at his first skin magazine.

O'Malley found it amusing as hell. "I'll let her come back and play with you later. Right now we have business." She reminded both of them.

"Kill joy." Cage muttered with no malice. She knew she would be seeing the man in front of her again. O'Malley was always good about sharing information and the briefing on Trey's conversation now took on a whole new meaning. According to O'Malley where Spyder went, Boomer was sure to follow. "I'll see you later." She promised with a wink and Boomer almost drooled.

O'Malley shook her head and tugged her friend's jacket. "Come on. He hates to be kept waiting." She let go of the material and walked into the main room and automatically found Spyder at his normal table. Strangely his usual puppets did not surround him and his latest girlfriend was not by his side. She kept her smile to herself. Sometimes inside information was a lot of fun. She would play her part and she was going to enjoy every sick moment. Her ancestors had once declared that revenge was best when served cold. She wondered if they were right.

She pulled out a chair and turned it. Cage was right behind her. She sat heavily with a grin and left her sunglasses in place. His expression showed his lack of amusement. Then his eyes flicked over to Cage and for just a second his surprise showed.

"Spyder, Cage. Cage, this is Spyder. He's the one we talked about."

Cage eased into a chair and tucked her sunglasses in her pocket. "Hi."

"What's going on O'Malley?" His voice was tinged with suspicion.

O'Malley grinned. "You want something heavier. Cage specializes in heavy." She explained as she folded her arms over the chair.

"Can I trust her?" Spyder wasn't sure he liked the look of the new stranger.

"Probably not." Cage supplied with a low laugh. "But O'Malley can. You want something she can't get without me. It's your choice."

Now he was sure that he didn't like her. She radiated an energy that told him she would be impossible to control. "Maybe I changed my mind." He switched tactics.

"Then I'm outta here and I don't know you and I don't expect you to know me." Cage purred not at all thrown off by the statement. She was used to mistrust and expected it.

"You changing your mind, Spyder?" O'Malley cut through the games. Her voice was dangerously low.

Spyder was grateful that he couldn't see O'Malley's eyes. The voice was enough to shake him. "No. Just testing the waters." He covered easily and shifted his attention to Cage. "You can get what I want? "I talked to a mutual friend. He's got four he can part with and not get caught. Any more than that and it goes to shit. If you need more give me six months and we'll see what I can work out."

"Cost?" He asked and slammed back the shot sitting in front of him. He didn't even react to the liquor sliding down his throat. With a wave, he caught the attention of the girl behind the bar. He held up three fingers and she went to work.

"That's O'Malley's game. It's her deal." Cage deferred and relaxed.

"Twenty each. I gotta cover shipping and middle costs. Cage ain't cheap." O'Malley said easily as she turned her head and watched the action behind the bar. "She's new."

"Yeah." Spyder grunted and waited until the woman walked over to the table and set the glasses down. "You want a taste?" His tone and eyes issued the challenge. He didn't expect the wolfish smile that crossed O'Malley's face.

Without a word O'Malley reached out and suddenly pushed up the woman's shirt. A hand shot out and held her in place as the bar tender tried to move back. She pulled the new woman close as her mouth attached itself to an exposed nipple. She sucked hard for a moment knowing that it would leave a mark around the areola and she knew it would piss Spyder off to no end. She released the nipple and slid the shirt back down.

"Very nice." She answered without acknowledging the woman who was waved away by Spyder. She could see the flushing of red at the edge of his skin around his tight tee shirt.

"What's the matter, O'Malley? Terri not enough for you anymore." He taunted.

O'Malley's grin was predatory. "Oh she's more than enough. I just hate pissing off the host since you seem to be sharing."

For a long second he was at a loss. Just when he thought he had O'Malley figured out, she would throw him off balance. He didn't like it one bit. He needed more to keep her in line and the only thing that came to mind was Hank's former cocktail waitress. He picked up the shot glass and stared at the dark liquid for a moment.

"We have a deal on one condition." He looked hard at O'Malley and hated that she still wore her dark wraparound sunglasses. "I want you to let me have a party at your place. Tonight."

O'Malley knew it was coming and yet still let her head hang low for a second. "No fucking way."

"I'm not sure you get it, O'Malley. You don't get a choice in this one. I'm starting to get the idea that you think you ain't tied to me. You do this and maybe I won't be on edge about you." The threat in his voice was in no way disguised.

"Maybe I don't give a shit about what you think, Spyder." O'Malley drawled slowly.

"I say the word and you're little business here dries up." Spyder countered. "I have enough connections to put you out of business." His eyes told enough of the truth.

O'Malley managed to contain her surprise. He'd never, in three years, admitted that his reach extended further than California and Washington State. She pursed her lips as though she was in deep thought. She was giving him the time to think that he had won a victory. A low curse passed her lips.

"I don't do parties Spyder, not even for people I like and I don't like most of your people." She tried again.

He laughed. "Hell O'Malley, even I don't like them. It's not a full blow out, just some of my best boys and their old ladies. I'll even tell 'em not to kill the furniture."

" Eight tonight. It'll take me that long to get ready. Hey Spyder, they fuck up my house and I'll take it out on the bikes." She knew it might be enough to keep them in line if only marginally.

"I take it that we have a deal then, both ways." He grinned easily.

Cage could see how he had moved up the food chain and taken over. He was charming and handsome enough. He probably had not looked like a threat and she knew, from experience, that it was just that sort of person that ended up in a lead dog spot. She guessed that he had watched and learned and when the last leader had a weak moment, he had just moved in.

"You meet the cash and it's done on my end." She said and reached out to take the shot glass in hand.

"I do the most fucked up things for money." O'Malley finally said as she took up her shot glass. "We have a deal. On both ends."

"Cheers." Spyder smiled.

"Slainte." O'Malley grunted

"Naztrovia." Cage tossed in with a lick of her lips. She just loved how the Russian toast sounded. It might be the only thing she remembered from language school but it had been worth the nine months. Together, all three kicked back the shots but only Cage and O'Malley shivered when Southern Comfort hit the back of their throats. Cage let out a low breath. O'Malley simply inhaled.

Spyder set his shot glass on the table and looked hard at the gunrunner. "Where's my nines?" He asked without humor.

"You think I'm gonna cheat you, Spyder?" Her voice was harder than he could ever remember.

"I'm wondering where my product is. I already paid half. Business is business." He reminded her.

"I've never fucked over a client, Spyder and I don't plan on starting now. You'll get your product." She stood suddenly and stepped away. "You might be able to dry me out with your kind of people but there's more to life than bikers. Just keep that in mind and we won't have a problem." O'Malley waited a moment to let her words sink in and then she turned to Cage. "You coming with me or do you wanna hang here?"

Cage slipped her sunglasses out of her pocket and let them fall over her eyes. "I'm with you. We still have some business to talk about." She turned back to Spyder. "She's a handful when she hasn't had her coffee. Bring Boomer with you tonight and maybe we can talk freelance contracting." She flashed a grin that usually brought men and most women to their knees. She turned away and followed O'Malley to the front door.

She halted in front of Boomer and took in the sight of well-worn jeans, a large but lean body and she grinned. Boomer obviously took care of himself and she liked that. She leaned in close over the counter, her eyes falling to the magazine.

"You really should go for the real thing. It seems there's a party tonight. I do expect to see you there." She teased and promised at the same time. She didn't wait for him to answer as she pushed away and walked out the door.

O'Malley eased herself onto her Harley and started the engine. She waited until Cage came out of the clubhouse before she settled the helmet on her head. For the first time in a long time she felt like there would be an end to all of this. If Cage could have some fun during the chaos, so much the better it would only make everything sweeter, besides Boomer wasn't such a bad guy. He and Cage just might be the perfect match for each other if only for a night.

"Where to?" Cage half shouted over the sweet noise of twin Harley's. She reminded herself to do something cool for Gato. She loved his bike and someday she was going to convince him to sell it to her. For now, it was enough to borrow the dream machine.

"Gotta go suck up to Terri. She's gonna kick my ass and I gotta check in with Sean, see where he's at."

Cage nodded and laughed. For the first time in two days she got the idea that everything might be okay. She tied her helmet tight and waited until O'Malley turned in the street and then she followed.


Terri turned and watched her reflection in the mirror and tried to keep the worried frown off her face. O'Malley's announcement had come as a total surprise and it took every ounce of her will power not to scream like a raging fool. The two village idiots, as she was calling O'Malley and Cage for the time being, had spent most of the day shopping and cleaning for the impromptu party. If it was going to happen, she was not going to run herself ragged. They'd gotten themselves into the mess and she wasn't going to give much in the way of sympathy. She was worried enough for all of them about Trey. If Spyder was going to show, then Trey would be around at some point and it took everything inside her to figure out what she was going to do and say.

O'Malley walked into the room and stopped cold in her tracks. Every time she thought that Terri looked hot, the woman surpassed herself. Tonight was no different. Her knees almost buckled. The vision of Terri in tight leather pants and the half vest was enough to almost make her take the woman right there. She was a vision with nothing on but it was something altogether different when she teased with a minimal amount of clothes. It was almost criminal and she had to grin when she thought about the fact that she would be the only one unwrapping Terri at the end of the night.

"Quit drooling and get over here." Terri demanded with a slight smile. She allowed O'Malley into her arms and pulled her close. "You so owe me for this one, you know that don't you?"

"Yeah. In more ways than one." O'Malley admitted.

Terri almost concealed a wicked smile leaning up to whisper into O'Malley's ear. She didn't see the almost evil grin at her request.

"I think you can count on that one. You should have asked earlier." O'Malley smiled at the unexpected request then let her mouth latch on to Terri's lower neck. She sucked for all she was worth.

After a long moment of the sweet torture Terri pushed away. "Mmm good. I was thinking you might not want to have that kind of fun."

"You should know by now that surprises are a part of my life. I want that with you and I want you," she moaned softly "like that so very badly." Callan grinned. For the moment she was nothing more than the woman Terri wanted.

"That makes two of us." She let her hands trail off O'Malley's shoulder and moved away. Right now she felt like the consummate tease. If all went well later it would not feel that way. They would both get what they wanted.

She walked out of the bedroom with a wiggle to her hips and brushed past Cage not bothering to say anything as she faded into the kitchen. Cage walked up to her friend with a knowing smile.

"Gonna have a long night, studly?"

Callan grinned. "I certainly hope so."


The party started slow as everyone expected. At first it was just Spyder with Angela absent from his arm. Terri and Callan suspected at the same time that she had outlived her usefulness to the leader of the gang. Slowly they had trickled in. Each one, at varying degrees of sobriety, had walked into the house and handed over a bottle of something. It was a tradition.

O'Malley finally left the door open and wandered around the crowd quickly losing patience with the whole thing. She filled her glass many times in front of the others. It wasn't long before she lost sight of Terri and the track of time. On one of her many rounds around the house, she spied Boomer and Cage standing extremely close and lost in each other. The smirk on her face would have been priceless if anyone else had seen it. She looked around for Terri and not finding her was somewhat disappointed.

Terri sank on the ground with Rhea, Candace and to her surprise, Donna. It seemed like forever ago that the party had started. They passed a bottle of red wine around the small circle. Terri had needed to get away from the claustrophobia she was feeling in the crowded house and stretched out on the grass of the backyard. She was looking up at the stars only half listening to the dancers.

"Hank's been such an asshole lately." Donna confirmed and Terri listened closer.

"What is up his ass this time?" Candace asked after a drink of wine.

Rhea turned her head to look at Candace. "Are you kidding? He gets like this around this time every year." Candy still looked clueless. "Like three years ago one of his girls tried to take off and he had a hell of a night trying to get her back."

"I hadn't heard that." Terri said out loud as she struggled to sit up. Rhea helped her by pushing on her back.

"Well you haven't been around that long so you wouldn't know." Rhea explained.

"I know what night you're talking about." Donna offered quietly. "God, he was a son of a bitch for a while after that." She waved off the offer of the wine bottle. Her green eyes locked on Terri. "It was like he was looking over his shoulder for something that was scaring the hell out of him. I can't remember her name but she came to the club like the others. She was some runaway who ended up in our version of hell. Hank took an instant liking to her and it wasn't long before he got her strung out and had her doing more than dancing if you know what I mean."

The others nodded their heads, knowing she was talking about the prostitution ring Hank was running out of the club. His favorite past time was the women who could make him more money than the club ever would.

"She finally woke up and took off. From what I hear, a woman on the highway picked her up. Hank had put out the word when he found out that she'd taken off and one of Spyder's boys sort of discovered the car by accident. They followed her half the night and finally ran the car off the road. You know where Moody's Gap is?"

"Yeah, nasty road. It's all snake turns and some serious drop off cliffs." Rhea said out loud.

"Well, that's where they ran the car off. I heard the woman driving was still alive when they got down there. Hank's girl was already dead."

"What happened?" Terri asked. She wanted to know and at the same time she didn't want to know. She couldn't shake the morbid curiosity.

Donna looked around to make sure they were still alone. "The story from a couple of the boys who were there is that Hank called Spyder to see what he should do. Spyder told him to wait there and make sure the woman was dead. So that's what he did. Boomer said that if they had gotten her to a hospital she might have lived. But what Spyder says gets done. She bled to death and they covered their tracks and got the hell out of there."

"So why is Hank all jumpy?" Candy asked while she took the almost forgotten bottle of wine.

"Because the woman driving had a family and from what the papers said, a lover who threatened to find out what happened. He's all weirded out that this guy is gonna find out about it and come get him." Rhea explained in a frustrated tone. "Can you imagine what you would do if someone killed your lover?"

No one said a word. Each woman lost in the visuals that popped into their heads. Terri wondered what she would do. She had to admit that she didn't know. Her lover, until just recently had been her job.

"I remember that now." Rhea said. "Her name was Ellen something. I thought they said it was a tragic accident."

"Like Spyder and his boys don't own almost everyone in this town." Donna offered.

Terri felt her world shrink around her chest. This couldn't be a coincidence. She thought back to what she had heard around O'Malley's friends. It was too close to not be real. She leaned her head back to try and clear her mind.

Candace decided to change the subject. "So spill it, Terri." She purred as she settled next to Terri.

"Spill what?" Terri was sure she had missed something. She felt a finger tickling her neck as her hair was moved away.

"Nice markings." Candace giggled as she traced the outline of the hickey.

"So has she made you scream yet?" Rhea asked as she passed the bottle to Donna.

"You have no idea. Actually, yes you do." Terri answered with a wicked grin. "Sometimes all she has to do is look at me and I'm there."

"God, you are so lucky. She looks at you like you are so on the menu." Terri wasn't sure who said it but that's how she felt.

Terri grinned. "I am appetizer, entrée and desert. Life is hell."

Rhea barked out a laugh. "You are so full of shit. You're enjoying it and I say it's about time. One of us should be getting something satisfying for a change."

"Amen to that one." Donna agreed.

"I'll agree too." O'Malley said out loud as she walked up. She almost laughed when all four women nearly jumped out of their skin. She had caught Rhea's comment and decided to play.

"Jesus, I hate when you do that." Terri snapped at O'Malley. She could hear the dancers catch their breath.

"Guess I'll have to make it up to you then." O'Malley stalked over to her lover's side, dropped to her knees and planted a serious kiss on Terri's lips. She was pleasantly surprised when Terri returned the kiss with enthusiasm. Terri wrapped her arms around O'Malley's neck and pulled herself closer. Terri finally pulled out of the kiss when Rhea cleared her throat loudly.

"Get a room." Candace teased.

"Girls, go away." Terri ordered in a playful voice. "And kill the porch light when you go in please."

The dancers took the bottle of wine and walked the distance to the back door tossing out some rather lewd comments. Terri watched them go and smiled when the porch light went out and the door closed, cutting them off from the party.

"Needed some fresh air did you?" O'Malley asked not moving from her position. She liked where she was just fine.

"Yeah. The party was getting to me. Too much of everything you know?"

"Yeah, I definitely know," she confirmed and swooped in for another kiss. Her lips painted themselves to Terri's. She heard the intake of breath and smiled around the kiss. Terri's tongue slid into her mouth and pressed her body closer. "This is much better." She managed between kisses and wrapped her arms tightly around Terri.

Terri let out a small squeak as O'Malley rolled them over so that she was on top. Looking down into O'Malley's eyes she watched as the blue turned darker. She shivered happily. The darker the woman's eyes, the more aroused she was. Terri had the funny feeling that tonight was going to be a very long night and she was more than happy go along for the ride. She leaned in and bypassed O'Malley's lips settling instead for the soft skin under her chin. She drew a wet line along her jaw line and teasing with her lips and teeth. They both looked up towards the front of the house when they heard more bikes and saw the headlights of a truck.

"Guess we have more company." Terri said as she mentally counted the number of people in the house. With very few exceptions she thought everyone had already arrived.

"In more ways than one."

The familiar voice reached her ears as she was yanked away from O'Malley. She felt herself tossed into the rough arms of someone else colliding with his chest then heard the unmistakable sound of a boot making contact with flesh and bone. She turned her head to see O'Malley rolling on the ground away from Thumper.

O'Malley managed to make it to her feet standing for a second trying to clear the spinning in her head. She lost a lung full of air when someone tackled her from behind. Her chin hit the dirt and she barely managed to keep from biting her tongue in half. She felt the blood flow from jarred teeth. From far away she heard Terri shout at their attackers.

Two pairs of hands pulled her up and she let them. She didn't bother wasting the energy she was going to need. She lifted her head and stared at Thumper. The gloating grin on his face was enough to really piss her off. He closed the distance between them quickly the grin was still on his face when he planted his fist into her stomach.

Terri tried to rip herself out of the firm grip that held her but she couldn't break away. Tears of frustration and anger rolled down her face as O'Malley doubled over in pain only to be pulled back up. Even in the dim moonlight she could see O'Malley turn red from a lack of air. She struggled harder and felt a hand yank hard on her hair the pain cutting off her shout for help.

"Not so tough now, are you war hero?" Trey's voice held an edge of triumph as he finally emerged from his spot in the shadows. He grabbed a hand full of O'Malley's hair and pressed his face close. "First that little bitch is gonna watch us kick your ass and then you're gonna watch us take turns with her. Just a little reminder of what she's missing." He looked at Thumper and stood back to watch.

O'Malley doubled over again when Thumper hit her a second time. This time she managed to gather some air when they pulled her up. She tightened her hands on the forearms of the biker's keeping her in place.

Thumper moved in again and walked into the bottom of her boot. His head snapped back and he stumbled. She brought her foot down hard on the instep of the biker to her right. She felt his hold weaken. Pulling her right arm up and across her body, she caught the biker to the left in the throat with four rigid fingers. He let go as he automatically brought his hands to his throat even as he made gurgling noises.

She spun and felt the back of her hand protest when she made contact with someone's face. Her eyes calmly tracked for more opponents. Thumper moved back into range and as she ducked his fist let her body drop low. She heard him cry out in pain when she kicked the vulnerable inside of his left knee, knowing automatically that she had most likely just crippled the joint. She stood quickly and her head snapped violently to the left.

Trey watched her fall to her knees and he shook his right hand to relieve some of the pain. He grabbed a hand full of hair and punched her again ignoring the rush of blood that flowed from her nose over his hand. He let her fall to the ground and kicked her ribs. He grinned as she rolled to the side and settled in the dirt.

"Nice try but you're still the one in the dirt." He sneered and lifted his foot. He intended to cave in her chest but instead she brought her hands up at the last second catching his boot and twisted him off balance. He landed hard on his side, his legs twisted around each other. They managed to stand at roughly the same time though he was quicker and rushed her. He lowered his shoulder and caught her square in the chest. Their momentum slammed her into the wood fence. She saw one bright star explode in front of her eyes and in desperation brought her knee hard up into his chest as her elbow crashed into his back.

Terri finally had enough. She stomped her foot down hard on her captor's and feeling his hands loosen she drew her fingernails across his upper lip. He found his grip again and sent her flying when he rushed in to help Trey. O'Malley saw him coming and moved out of the way at the last second. Treys would-be helper crashed into the fence and bounced back a couple of steps.

Terri picked herself up off the ground and ran for the back door. It seemed to take forever to get to the porch. Turning her head, she watched in horror as Trey swept O'Malley's feet out, sending her crashing again. Her hands closed on the doorknob.

O'Malley felt the arms wrap around her shoulders and neck and as she was lifted off the ground again, she knew she was now in a lot of trouble. Trey drew in huge gulps of air as he stood in front of her. He planted his fist in O'Malley's stomach and watched as she tried and failed to double over. Her eyes closed and her face was screwed up in pain. As she was pulled up yet again she sucked in some desperately needed air.

"That…all you…got?" She asked as she opened her eyes. The normal light blue had turned almost black. Treys fist caught her with an uppercut and she let her head snap back and up. The arms holding her released when the back of her head made contact with his chin. He dropped like a sack. She kept her feet barely and stared at Trey. She let the rage seep out slowly. "You are…a dead man." She promised in a low ragged whisper. Trey managed to take one step then felt something cold and hard press against the back of his head. Turning his face, he found himself staring at the black steel of a 9mm.

"You really have a death wish?" Cage asked pressing the pistol hard into his cheek. "I can make it happen."

Terri and Joan rushed to O'Malley's side as Sean and several others moved into the back yard to check on Treys boys. O'Malley winced as two sets of arms wrapped around her body. She pushed back the urge to throw up and willed her legs to stay steady. Together, the three of them walked to Cage's side slowly. She was close to agony but she turned her gaze to Terri to make sure the woman was unhurt. Only when she was sure did she untangle herself from the two women. She reached out and took the pistol from Cage without letting it fall from Treys face.

She was running on pure adrenaline. "Do you know what my favorite saying in the army was, Trey?" Her voice was deceptively calm as she pressed the end of the pistol harder into his face. He shook his head slowly with wide eyes. She could almost taste his fear. "The United States Army…affords the enemy every opportunity to die for…his country. Guess who the enemy is right now." It was an obvious statement. He didn't have to guess at all as her finger tightened on the trigger.

"I can't let you do that, O'Malley." Spyder's voice stopped her. She didn't take her eyes off of Treys face.

"It's not up to you, Spyder." Her tone was even despite the overwhelming rage. She didn't have to look around to know that his bikers were taking up position behind and to the side of him. She also knew they were most likely armed.

"He might be more of an asshole than usual tonight but he's still one of my boys. I can't let you kill him." His words held no anger just determined resignation. "You're letting this get personal."

O'Malley's tone was not pleasant. "You know, Spyder, if he had just come after me it would just be business. But when he tells me that he and his boyfriends are gonna take turns with my property, it gets damned personal."

"If you want to keep doing business with me, you will lower your weapon." He challenged. He nodded his head once when O'Malley failed to lower her weapon or answer. His bikers never had the chance to move. Sean and the group he'd brought with him cocked their weapons bringing them up quickly. Spyder looked around and noticed that they had better fire power. He couldn't miss the grim determination on their faces. As dedicated as his inner circle was, they had never looked like this. He realized that even though O'Malley's people were out numbered his own were most likely out classed.

"Spyder I want you to meet some of the best soldiers I've ever seen or trained." O'Malley felt a fresh rush of warm blood fall past her lips as she grinned. "We've seen hell together and we don't mind dying right here. Do you?" She let the question linger before she looked at Spyder. "I'll make you a deal. You keep this asshole away from me and mine and he gets to live."

"Done." Spyder couldn't think of anything else to say as he watched O'Malley. The bloody and beaten woman would win this round. He knew, however, that Trey was going to pay for this in the most painful and humiliating ways he could think up. "You can let him go now."

O'Malley lowered the pistol from Treys face and started to turn away. She waited until he let go of the breath he'd been holding then spun faster than she thought she could have. The barrel of the 9mm caught his face with a satisfying crunch. He was unconscious before he hit the ground. Without a word she handed the pistol back to Cage.

"This party is over." She said flatly. Her knees buckled and she accepted the support Terri offered her.

Spyder barked out his orders to clear out and everyone relaxed just a little. O'Malley's friends lowered their weapons only when it became clear that this night was going to end without further bloodshed. They did not, however, move from their posts.

It didn't take very long at all for the bikers to gather up their things and clear out. Spyder was one of the first to leave. The next group dragged Trey and his boys out. Those who couldn't walk were carried. Boomer was the last to leave after talking to Cage and offering his apologies to O'Malley. She was standing at the counter her battered hands braced on the surface. He could see that she wasn't going to last much longer and wondered how the hell she was still standing. Cage offered to walk him out and closed the front door behind them.

Sean opened the freezer and pulled out the bowl of ice. From the look of her rapidly swelling left eye she was going to need it. He filled a zip lock baggie and was closing it when O'Malley's legs finally gave out. Ice clattered across the sink as he dropped the bag and grabbed his friend in one motion. Joan leapt into action at once. She had been waiting for it to happen. She pushed Terri into the bedroom with orders to pull down the blankets and get a trashcan.

Thomas Quinn picked up O'Malley's legs and together they carried O'Malley into the bedroom. She was out cold. Joan ordered the men out despite the worry etched on their faces. They hesitated for a moment.

"Sean, I'm not going to deal with this and you two underfoot. I know you want to help but just let me work in peace. I'm going to need my med bag." She didn't raise her voice but her words still had the desired effect. Exchanging sheepish expressions the men left reluctantly. Terri closed the door softly.

"How bad is it?" She asked, her voice trembling.

"Help me get her clothes off and we'll see." Joan said softly.

Thomas walked into the kitchen to rescue the ice as Sean stepped out the side door to get Joan's bag. He cringed when he noticed his hands shaking. It had been forever since that happened. He didn't get much opportunity for this kind of action sitting in a computer lab. His days of combat were long gone. He closed his eyes.

Sean walked back in without letting the side door slam. Their eyes locked and he caught the ice bag that Thomas threw easily to him. He knocked softly on the bedroom door and waited a moment before opening it and stepping in.

His eyes narrowed at the sight of forming bruises on O'Malley's ribs and chest. It barely registered to him that she was lying naked on the sheet. He handed over both bags and ducked his head when Joan stopped checking her ribs and glared at him. He stepped out of the room and sank down on a stool.

"The perimeter is secure." Cage announced a few minutes later as she walked through the front door followed by four more men. She stopped short as she noticed the looks on two very worried faces. "She crashed didn't she?"

Their friends fanned out around the living room and dropped down to rest. The ride to O'Malley's had been relatively short notice and they had pushed hard to get here in time. They were beginning to realize how close they cut it.

"Yeah. Hard." Thomas Quinn answered. "Joan's working on her."

"Good." Cage answered and let herself sink into the couch. The adrenaline was wearing off and she suddenly felt extremely tired. She turned her head and smiled when Thomas sat next to her. "Nice to see you little brother."

"You too. Next time we all have a reunion, how 'bout we just do dinner or something a little less exciting." He grinned as he looked at his sister. It took a moment but the chuckles turned into barely controlled laughter. It was a tension release and they knew it. The laughter faded away slowly then Sean started the ball rolling down memory lane. It didn't take long for more stories to come out. Most of them had something to do with O'Malley.

Terri heard the laughter as they wiped dried blood from O'Malley's face. For a moment she felt anger surge through her then it slowly dawned on her that these were the battered woman's friends. She sat back when Joan's hand touched her arm. Joan leaned over and opened one of O'Malley's eyes, flicking a pen light back and forth.

"I have got to teach this one to stop leading with her face." Joan smiled and repeated the action on O'Malley's swelling eye. It took a little more work to open the eyelid.

"Shouldn't we take her to the emergency room or something?" Terri wondered out loud as she walked into the master bathroom to wring the bloody towel out under the faucet.

"It would be my first choice but there are too many questions she won't want to answer, which in turn would bring the police in." Joan looked up at Terri. "From what Maria's told me O'Malley's just a little too popular with the cops lately."

Terri nodded her head slowly and eased back onto the bed. "Yeah. So what do we do now?"

"Well, I'm going to have to get some stitches into her. I'm glad she's not awake."


"She hates needles." Joan chuckled. "The first time I had to give her those wonderful yearly inoculations, she almost took my head off. Of course, as soon as she saw the needle, she about passed out."

"But she's got how many tattoo's?" Terri tried to stop the wry smile from crossing her lips.

"She got those while good and plastered." Joan confessed as she reached into her bag and started removing the things that she would need. She checked the date on the medication bottle and tore open the suture kit. "It's not as sterile as I'd like but this is the best we can do. You ready for this?" She asked as she uncapped the syringe that she was going to use.

Terri was fine until the curved needle sank into O'Malley's flesh. She turned away before her stomach rolled over on itself. Each time Joan switched to a new section of torn flesh she helped move O'Malley. The most difficult section was the spot over the bridge of O'Malley's nose. Finally Joan let out a low breath and tossed the needle into the trash then checked the condition of the ice bag. Looking at her friend, she knew they were going to need a lot more ice and baggies.

"Her ribs are bruised to hell and back but they're not broken. It's the concussion that worries me. We have to keep waking her to make sure nothing more serious is going on and we're going to have to keep her iced until most of the swelling goes down. I'm going to give her a shot of antibiotics and then we can ice her." Joan explained as she reached into her bag again. "Do me a favor. Let Sean know that I'm going to need him to go to the store and get me a couple of big bags of ice. And some beer."

"Why beer?" Terri had never heard of using beer for swelling.

"Because I'm thirsty and all you have out there is the hard stuff." Joan laughed as she rolled O'Malley over gently. Terri looked away just as the needle touched the skin on her lover's hip. She couldn't watch. It hurt deep inside to see O'Malley so helpless against something she knew would be painful. "She's going to be fine Terri. She'll be grumpy as hell for a few days but she'll get through this. We aren't leaving until then. We're not leaving her or you alone." Joan promised.



To be continued…

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