Beneath The Brambles. Chapter 30

By the time dinner ended, and Emily was sure it had lasted for several hours, she was smashed.

She’d finished eating, leaving at least a third of the fabulous food on her plate and concentrated on her wine and her guilt. She tried to remember to take a token bite now and again in order to avoid Twyla’s inquiries, but the more she drank the less she remembered to do that. She was grateful Christi Ravensdown was seated to her left as her dinner conversation centered on Emily’s writing. The former journalism major was very charming, as well as very pretty, and it was easy to lose her self in Christi's conversation, especially since they didn’t talk about Harley.

Christi had helped her to know the rest of the clan by pointing out everyone at the table she hadn’t met. By the time dinner ended, and she was helped into the game room, Emily had a pretty accurate idea of who was whom and to whom everyone belonged, either by marriage or by birth.

Emily knew it wasn’t the courteous thing to do, but she felt compelled to bring her newly refilled wine glass with her as she left the table and put a lot of effort into not spilling a drop on the way. By the time she was seated on a comfortable couch, she realized she’d lost some of her tablemates. The very youngest of the kids were being taken upstairs to bed she was informed, and the Ravensdown children and most of their wives were nowhere to be seen. She was about to ask Christi about it when Savvy sat down next to her, told Christi that she would be keeping the writer company. Savvy turned, pulling up a long leg to sit on as she faced the writer.

Christi nodded, told Emily that she enjoyed talking with her and hoped to see her again while she was here and left.

Emily must have worn her question on her face because Savvy provided the answers.

"Every Sunday the family has dinner with Twyla and Josh. Any family that is here anyway." She smiled. "Then after dinner, the little ones are put to bed, the older kids come in here and play games or watch TV while one of the adults gets babysitting duty and the rest of the group clear the table in the dining room and have a board meeting."

Now, it’s true that Emily was very drunk, but she was also really good at it. She’d spent hundreds of hours getting and being under the influence by the grace of many kinds of liquors, chemicals and intoxicants. So, even though she knew she was really plowed she was able to follow the conversation, not spill her drink, keep from slurring her words and in general, appear not to be anything more that a little tipsy.

"Board meeting?" She sipped some more and waited for Savvy’s answer.

"Yep. All of Josh and Twyla’s kids are members of the board of directors for Josh’s company and it’s various holdings. They all have voting rights and switch around holding the various offices." As a commotion at the pool table broke out, Savvy excused herself and went to smooth things over between the kids.

Emily kept sipping and concentrating on trying to come up with short relevant questions to ask Savvy. In the first place, she did want to know these things but in the second place, she didn’t want to have to carry the conversational ball. She really was pushing the limit of her sobriety and the last thing she wanted to do was appear to be as smashed as she was.

A few minutes later as Emily sipped the last of her wine, another disagreement broke out, this time between Tonya, J.D.’s thirteen-year-old daughter, and Randy, Wilson’s twelve-year-old son. Emily heard that the argument was about the ethics of using a cheat code on one of the video games. As Savvy got up to intervene, Emily took that opportunity to ease herself up from the couch and out of the room. Her goal was to get something else to drink.

Expecting to find the rest of the wine from dinner in the kitchen, she made that her destination. She was having a little trouble though. She never did get around to having that tour of the house Twyla promised her and she wasn’t quite sure where the kitchen was in relation to the game room. She oriented herself as well as she could and took off in the direction she thought she needed to go. After a couple of wrong turns in hallways she didn’t recognize, she followed some noise and a light and found herself near the parlor and that meant the kitchen was just down the hall. She was just congratulating herself for finding it as she turned into the room and stopped cold.

Suddenly every drop of wine she’d drunk hit her like a Mack truck and just as she slid into complete darkness watching the floor coming up to greet her, she whispered, "Harley?"



Harley spent her day working on the case and when that led to one dead end after another, she made her rounds and ended up spending a couple of hours sparring with Paris at The Village.

She’d just barley gotten away with not talking about her feelings for Emily. Paris wouldn’t see it, she knew, so she’d spent most of her time there trying again to keep her mind more concerned with her muscles than her emotions. They’d fought with staff’s first, then with swords and ended with hand to hand until they were full out wrestling on the mat. The guests were fascinated and word had spread until the sparring room was filled with an audience.

Most were just appreciating the beauty of a well fought match, some were kind of glad to see Paris take a real beating when no one there had been able to get the upper hand on her. A few were watching with lascivious intent at the sight of the two glistening, sculpted, bodies wearing all that spandex, smiling and taunting one another as they shared blows, but one had a suspicion this was more than just a need to exercise.

As soon as she thought it was prudent to end it without risking her partner’s ego, Dani stepped in and put a stop to the show. After the applause, a handshake between combatants and the ever-constant taunt by Paris of getting her the next time, Harley headed to the showers hoping to be dressed and gone before Dani could corner her. She saw that look in Dani’s eye when she broke up the match and it made her very uncomfortable.

The devious little woman was waiting for her as soon as she set foot out of the bathroom of the owner’s personal quarters. Thankfully, just then her phone rang and she made an excuse that she had to get to the station. Dani nodded, but her eyes told the sheriff that Dani was going to talk to her later.

Once she got back in the office Harley called Hobie, who had just returned from checking on Polly. The news wasn’t good. So far, Polly hadn’t regained consciousness since that one moment in recovery. The doctor’s hadn’t really expected her to and though it was a bit worrisome, she wasn’t any worse. Her condition was listed as critical, but stable. Hobie couldn’t give Harley any idea when she’d be able to question the woman.


When she realized what time it was, she sent Cole home to get his family over to their folks for dinner saying she’d be by after she tied up a few things. She would have been on time for dinner if she hadn’t tried one last time to reach Livie, Polly’s daughter, and finally found her in. Livie and her family had gone to Disney World for the weekend and just got back home minutes before the sheriff called.

It took her over an hour to calm Livie and assure her everything that could be done, was being done. They also made plans to meet as soon as she got back to L.A. and saw her mother. Finally, Harley calmed the worried woman enough to ask her if she knew of anything strange going on with her mother or if she had been upset or worried lately. Livie said she didn’t know of a thing and couldn’t think of anything to help. Finally, Livie agreed to think it over when she was calmer and to call the sheriff if anything occurred to her. If not, she’d speak to Harley tomorrow some time, as soon as she could get a flight in.

When she finally hung up, Harley was wrung out and very late. As she closed up the station to head to her parents house, Harley admitted to herself she was kind of grateful to have missed dinner. She still wasn’t quite ready to deal with Emily one on one and felt relieved that any awkwardness in her attitude toward Emily could wait for another time. Now, if she could just sneak in, grab a little dinner and make it to the board meeting without running into the writer, she’d assure herself of a much calmer night.

She’d just taken her dinner out of the microwave, and the smell of the hickory smoke permeating the tender flakes of salmon was too much for a stomach that forgot to eat lunch. As she put a moist, warm, chunk in her mouth with her fingers and moaned at the flavor, she heard someone enter the kitchen. Opening her eyes and licking her fingers she saw Emily, heard the small blonde call her by name and watched as the woman started to collapse to the floor.

Ooooh, shit!

Instinct took over and she made it across the floor, grabbing the blonde before she hit, face first, on the tiles. She’d just turned the limp body in her arms over, when Savvy came in.

"Should I turn down the lights and leave?" The tall woman crossed her arms and leaned on the door jam. "Although I know you’re too pragmatic to ever be a true romantic, Harley, I still would have expected a little better from you than the kitchen floor." A beat later. "Unless you want me to pass you the butter?" Her grin was huge now.

For the sheriff it was huge and irritating. "Enough! She just walked in, said my name and passed out. I caught her before she broke something else."

"Of course she passed out. Why just look at you, darlin. Who wouldn’t? Women all over the world have been overcome by the mere sight of your overwhelming beauty." She could see Harley was about to get angry and hurried along. "Besides, she’s dead drunk."

"She’s what?"

"Drunk. Inebriated. Sloshed. Blotto. Wasted."

"How did that happen?" The sheriff was talking to and looking at her cousin’s partner, but her right hand was busy stroking the soft hair of the woman her left arm was holding across her lap.

"Four glasses of Pinot Grigio, three glasses of Chardonnay and three glasses of White Zinfandel."

"Jesus! How did she stand up, let alone walk?"

"I don’t know. She’s a biological wonder. What I want to know is, how can one body so small consume all that liquid and only use the facilities once. The whole idea of the waste of time" she cleared her throat, "eliminating is, has always bothered me. I mean if we used our bodies to process what we consume more efficiently and had to waste less time with, well…waste; think of the things that could be accomplished. I’ve often wondered, while wasting my own time in that activity, just how much the female bladder can hold, at maximum volume."

"Around twenty ounces, give or take."

Two surprised sets of eyes darted to the small blonde. The voice came from the woman on Harley’s lap, but her eyes were still closed.

Harley gently rubbed the writer’s cheek. "Emily? You in there?"

Emily was in there but she was sure she was dreaming. Since she often talked in her sleep, answering Savvy’s question didn’t seem odd. She was held in warm arms and surrounded by a lovely scent and someone’s hand kept petting her head. She was just fine where she was and had no intention of ending it.

Seconds later, they heard the blonde begin to snore and Harley realized she had to do something about that.

"Well, it looks like she’s not going to join us here so why don’t you help me get her up to bed."

Savvy raised both brows and looked at her like she was nuts. "Now, I know you didn’t just ask me to do something that butch. I may be tall but you know I’ll bet she weighs more than I do. Nope, cher, she’s in your arms, you carry her to bed." She turned and headed out of the room. "I’ll go and open the door and pull down the sheets."

Grumbling under her breath about ungrateful relatives, and hungry sheriffs with cold dinners, she stood and hefted the dead weight of the writer as she followed the professor up the stairs.

Once deposited on the bed, she turned and was about to speak when Savvy volunteered.

"Now, sheriff, you go get your dinner and get to the powwow before it’s over. I’ll take care of the lush, here."

Harley could only smile, gratefully, and hurried from the room.

Rubbing her hands together, Savvy turned to the woman on the bed. "Now, sweetie, lets get you comfortable and make sure I get my behind out of here before my wife finds me undressing another woman and misunderstands my humanitarian efforts."

Emily was only mildly aware of anything beyond the velvet darkness in which she rested and suffered the lifting and pulling and manipulating of her body with good grace. Then it was gone and she felt cool sheets and warm blankets tucked up around her chin. She took in a sleepy breath, turned to her left, and brought up her knees.

That’s when her body screamed the need for relief. She kicked off the covers and stumbled blindly toward the bathroom door, glad beyond all reason that some kind soul had left the night light on.

Seconds later, she sighed in contentment as she released and total relaxation took her.

That was exactly where Twyla found her the next morning, propped up on the glass shower doors, still sitting on the toilet.


Why wasn’t the old woman answering the phone? She’d been told to expect this call. Why wasn’t she there?

After a while of trying and getting no answer, the caller hung up and headed to the diner to eat. The gossip was easy to eavesdrop on and in short order, Polly’s condition and the reason she hadn’t answered the phone became clear.

Dinner was eaten in a hurry and the minute it was possible to do so without being overheard, another call was placed, but Valerie wasn’t answering her phone either. A quick drive through the parking lot of The Village confirmed that the redhead wasn’t there and it didn’t take a genius to realize that the chances of her being anywhere else in Bramble were less than zero.

Realizing there was nothing to be done about the whole debacle Valerie perpetrated, at least until tomorrow, did nothing to quell the fury welling in Darla’s breast. She spun the wheel, stomped on the accelerator and headed to the one place she knew she could vent her rage in secret.

We’ll talk soon, Val. Soon.

Her smile was manic and her eyes, terrifying, holding the promise of a night of agony for someone. Maybe, several someones.



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