Disclaimers: This is an original work of alternative fiction. It may be considered an uber piece. Actually. it's the continuation and expansion of a dream I had last night. Let's see how it plays. Two women have a romantic relationship here, so if you don't like that sort of thing, don't read this. The main characters do resemble some characters from a popular TV show but how they feel and what they do are my ideas. There will be violence depicted here once in a while.
I wish to thank the wonderful people in the ex-Guards and the Merpups who encouraged me to continue this story.  You were all great!  In particular, I would like to thank LJ Maas for her endless help in advising me and in the editing of this piece, without which, it would be unreadable.

I would like to thank Sheri for the beautiful cover she made for my story.

Beneath The Brambles

By Lady Savay

Comments may be directed here: LadySavay@aol.com

Chapter 1

She didn't think about going fast. She always went fast. She sped through everything and had, since she was a girl. Graduated high school by sixteen and college at Duke before she was twenty. Her first novel hit the best seller's list the year before that. Her sister, the one true friend she had, used to tell her she would burn up from simple energy overload before she could reach middle age, if she didn't learn to slow down and back off a little. She hadn't listened then.

"I'm not doing anything differently than anyone else out there who wants to live life to it's fullest." She took another large bite from her apple, shifted into fourth gear on the brand new candy apple red Jaguar she just bought and took another drag from her cigarette, all within a three second time frame. "You laid back types" she smiled at her sister Leslie and indicated with the hand still clutching the apple at her casual slouch and the knee resting against the glove compartment. You always seem to want the world to slow down for you. Well, I'm here to tell you that it won't. And I'm glad of it."

"We all know how prone to that dreaded disease 'boredom' you are Shasta. But I'm here to tell you that burning the candle at both ends is the surest way to get there. If you don't stop and de-stress soon something is going to give. And you're gonna look fairly silly trying to reach your agent and your jet set friends from the inside of a psych ward on an imaginary telephone." The pretty brunette affected a cute giggle that had always tickled her older sister, and stretched as much as the confines of the sports car would allow. The loose fit jeans and the old Yale sweatshirt allowed her plenty of room but the comfort of her attire was lost on her high fashion sister.

The blonde woman just stubbed out her sixth cigarette of the twenty minute drive and blew the ashes off her Plum polished nails.
"I'll rest when I retire. Mame Dennis had it right, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Speaking of which, are you sure I can't talk you into going to Ricky's dinner party with me tonight?"

And so it had gone, as always. But that was two months ago.

Categorized as a Type 'A' personality years ago, she had always been inordinately proud of it. What she could accomplish in one day would make her friends and enemies alike, simmer in their own feelings of inadequacy and complacency. Additionally, the one thing that set her above the crowd a notch was her productivity. She pumped out seven feature novels of her mystery series in three years, all of which reached the bestseller list within weeks of them hitting the shelves. All with the exception of that last one. And, that was the problem.

After the last one received it's, less than stellar, reception she received a visit from her publisher and editor. She was more than forthright and basically told her that Shasta lost her focus. The book wasn't nearly close to her usual standards and the plot had been, almost, predictable. Stephanie advised her in no uncertain terms that you were "only as good as your last book" and that if she wanted to continue with this house, -and she did, it was the best publishing house around-, that she better take some time off and get her "muse back on track," as Stephanie put it. Then she handed Shasta a computer printout with a map and written instructions on it, and a key.

"This will take you to a house I own up in the mountains. Go there alone. Take a couple of weeks to walk around and smell the flowers and just think, then start on the next book. I'm going to disregard all the chapters you've submitted so far. We both know you can do better than that." That stung. She knew she lost something where her heroine was concerned and she knew that the last mystery she had her P. I. solve was all but impossible to believe, but she thought that this book was doing better. Evidently, not, by the look on Stephanie's face. So she, in a quite uncustomary show of acquiescence, agreed to go.

"Just you. No good friends. No family. No fuck buddies. Just you, your computer, and your capricious muse. Call me in a month and let me know how you're doing. I don't want to hear from you before then. I don't want any chapters faxed to me and I don't want to hear about you getting into trouble. This is a very small, quiet town and I will NOT be taking my ass up there to make bail for you. Clear?"

Oh, it was clear all right. Crystal. She knew she'd been stepping a toe over the edge lately, but the parties were so much fun and her status as one of the beautiful people kind of propelled her into the spotlight. It had been coming for a while though, she realized. After the arrest for public intoxication and the cat fight she got into hit the headlines, she had more or less expected something like this.

Stephanie bailed her out all right, and provided the lawyer to defend her. She only received a warning from the judge and had felt fairly proud of her 'sweet young thing who was taken advantage of while under the influence of demon rumí in the courtroom and thought she had it all handled. That is until the reviews came out for her last book.

So, here she was on this beautiful autumn day, driving up into the equally beautiful mountains above Santa Barbara looking for a small town called Bramble and a house her publisher owned. And driving way to fast.

Her thoughts, as always, preoccupied her and it must have been a while before she finally heard the siren that, by that time, had pulled along side her. Coming back to herself with a rush, she found a spot to pull over in front of a chain link fence and a house set far back from the road, and waited for the officer to come to her window.

The officer in question stopped the old Chevrolet in front of the suspect and turned off the light and siren. Picking up the radio unit and calling in to let the Sheriff know about the infraction, the deputy gave her current location, and picked up her ticket book, exiting the car.

"Hi, there. I'd like to see your license and registration please."

Having seen the sheriff's car stop, Shasta immediately bent over to retrieve the necessary proofs of insurance and registration from the glove compartment. She was still attempting to find them, and had just located the items, when the voice reached her.

The surprise she felt when she heard those words was complicated. First, she was stunned that a backwater little town like this would have a woman on it's police force, but secondly, and more importantly, was the warm blanket like feeling that washed over her at the tone of that voice. It caused her shoulders to relax and, for a reason she couldn't explain, seemed to calm her.

"Here you go officer. What... uhm..."
 She faltered when she couldn't seem to keep from concentrating on that face. Those high cheekbones and bronze skin. The eyes were a mystery as the deputy was wearing mirrored sunglasses, but the lips were full and tinted a deep coral-bronze and the teeth that showed in the small polite smile were perfect. Perfect...that seemed to be all she could think of... how perfect. Realizing she needed to grab the thread of her thoughts back, Shasta cleared her throat and tucked her hair behind her right ear. "Uh, what was I stopped for anyway?"

Continuing with the polite smile the deputy answered, "Speeding."

Here it comes, she thought, they always say the same thing. Can't wait to hear about it this time. Pretty, rich lady, single by the lack of ring on her third finger, left hand. Probably a little more preoccupied with her own thoughts than with driving and heading up here to get away from it all. They always seem to be that way.

 Just a fifteen mile stretch up the road was the Women's' Outdoor Survival School. Every couple of months she'd nail another speeder who didn't realize she was in a residential area and that she should have paid attention to the twenty mile an hour speed limit sign back the road a ways. And every time they were shocked when she pulled them over. Some sorry, mostly though, they were angry. They usually were heading out to the school after having had another run-in with living and acceding to the wishes of a male dominant society. They seemed to attract the angry ones. The ones fed up with the inequality of pay scales for women and the choices and chances denied them. Modern Amazons. Well, more power to them there. They've got my sympathy. However, they still have to obey the law. Everyone does. THAT'S true equality!

"Speeding? On a highway?" The blonde's eyebrows arched and furrowed as her interest in the face of the deputy started to morph into irritation.

"No Ma'am. Not a highway. You left the highway a while back. This is Bender Road and the posted speed limit here is twenty miles per hour. I clocked you at well over seventy." She finished writing up the ticket and started to tear it off. "You can send the fee in by mail to the address on the back or can stop in the Sheriff's office and pay in person. The choice is yours. Please sign here."

Shasta's irritation flared into white-hot anger as she signed the ticket and took her copy. She had turned it over and was dumbstruck by the amount of the fine.

"Five Hundred dollars? Are you out of your mind? Listen lady, I'm no goddamn tourist. I've lived in California all my life and this is outrageous. Don't think for a minute I'm going to pay this little 'speed-trap' bill without a fight. What possible reason could you have for needing a twenty mile an hour speed limit on a nearly deserted road except to gouge the 'so-called' speeders coming off the highway for a huge chunk of money?"

Still maintaining her polite smile, the deputy stood from her crouch at Shasta's window and pointed about fifty feet ahead and to her right at what appeared to be just a copse of trees. Just as she did, they heard a bell ring out.
"That's the reason."

In seconds, small children filled the road in front of them carrying book bags, sweaters, and lunch boxes, heading up, down and across the street in every direction. The crossing guard tried, but the older woman just couldn't seem to get out in the road with her stop sign fast enough to keep the more energetic of the youngsters from crossing ahead of her. The writer inhaled sharply and had a quick flash of what might have been if the deputy hadn't stopped her. A chill ran down her spine.

"You see, we're a really small town here and we don't have the resources to make mistakes. You get one of these tickets and pay that fine, and chances are very good you will remember not to speed down Bender again. It only seems to be the people who don't live around here who do it, but we really can't afford for anyone to make that mistake twice."

"Yeah, I can see that now." She tore her gaze from the rapidly departing children in front of her to the standing deputy and got her first good look at her. She was very tall.
Just how tall, she couldn't tell, but well over her own 5'5" height. She wore very tight fitting and well worn jeans, medium brown cowboy boots, and the standard beige short sleeved shirt she'd seen on every CHP and LA County Sheriff since she was a kid. Only it never fit them like this fit her. Everything she wore appeared tailored to fit her without an inch of slack, hugging well pronounced curves, and displaying strong developed muscles in her thighs and biceps. But, without that 'distressed merchandise' look that so many woman have when the clothes they wear are tight and form fitting. This just looked ... right. Appropriate somehow. Like a second skin. The hair was a mystery as to length as she was wearing the standard wide brimmed CHP type of hot weather hat. She knew it was dark from what she could see at her neck, but that was all. She didn't recognize the fact that she was staring until she realized the deputy was speaking to her. Shaking herself a bit to come back to the here and now, she concentrated on what that deep, rich voice was saying.

"...should clear out in another few minutes then you can be on your way. The turn for the Survival school is the third one on your right, once you pass the Burger King. After that you just follow the road for another three miles and then just watch for the signs."

"Yes. Uhm, thank you." A sudden understanding of what the Deputy said hit her.
She took another breath and shook her head again. 'What is going on with me. I can't seem to think straight here. Steph was right; maybe I do need to rest!'
"What I mean is, I don't know anything about a survival school. I'm here to find a... my friend's house. She said it was on Old Orchard Road just outside of Bramble. Number 16 Old Orchard Road. Can you help me to find it?"

For the first time the polite smile left the officers lips. Replacing it was a small smirk and behind the mirrored glasses, an intense interest in and a mapping of the pretty blonde face before her.

"Sure. Just give me a sec to call in and as soon as the kids are clear, follow me."

Chapter 2

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