Beneath The Brambles, chapter 35
Harley turned off the ignition and turned toward Emily, trying once again to form the words to explain her solution to Emilys pet dilemma. Knowing the womans independent nature and her previous reaction to being relocated, the Sheriff knew diplomacy and perhaps even deceit might be required. She hoped it wouldnt come to that.
"Uhm, listen, the solution I was referring to earlier its, uhm, well, youre right. I think it would be rude to assume that having the animals at Stephs place would be okay. I also realize that you feel you may be imposing on Mom and Dad, although Id bet money theyd disagree with that, but thats not the point. I know it would make you feel awkward and that would ruin your stay here, so I do have a solution for you."
Harley ran her fingers through the back of her hair and glanced at the dash. Taking a breath she dived in again. "How about if you stay at my place?" She saw the womans surprise and could read the objection in her eyes so she quickly followed up with her reasoning. "Just hear me out. Ill be playing sheriff for the rest of the month so Ill hardly ever be there. The place will be empty so you wont be imposing on my personal space. Its Princes home too, and all of his things are there as well as a doggy door, so you wont be required to get out of bed at five in the morning to let him out. The back yard has a huge fence so Ill be assured he wont get out and become road kill." She took another quick breath and continued. "In addition, since we still havent found the person who broke into Stephs place and dont know the motivation behind it, we cant be sure the target of it wasnt you. My place has a state of the art alarm system and between it and Prince you couldnt be safer in federal custody."
She waited a moment as Emily took it all in, and watched carefully for her reaction. After a moment when it looked as though the writer might have thought of another objection to the arrangement, Harley hurried to play what she hoped was her trump card.
"Besides, Id consider it a personal favor. If you stayed at Stephs Id be worried day and night. I know I wouldnt get any work done on this case. Id be checking up on you 24/7. This way I know youd be safe."
Emilys initial reaction to the invitation was elation. This would get her closer to the woman, but then her trepidation kicked in. She didnt want to be isolated out there and not have any contact with the sheriff except when she came home to change clothes. That was why she wanted so much to object. Somehow she felt like she was being gotten out of the way, but when Harley had asked her to stay as a favor, she figured she really owed it to her. She wasnt going to give in though, without a concession or two.
"Alright, I can see the logic in it and even though its not what I would have preferred" at least not the reason I would have liked to have been asked to move in with you "I do see your point. However, I would like a couple of things in exchange for my cooperation."
Harley nodded for her to go on. After all, in her business, negotiations were the rule, not the exception.
"First, Id like to know if I can still help out on this case."
Harley only needed a moment to dwell on that and remembering the writers gifts and insights so far, quickly concluded it couldnt hurt.
"Sure. We can do that."
"Good. Secondly," Emily hesitated. Was this the right time to press her on this? Am I ready for a possible rejection? She didnt know if she was or not, but so far, anything less then absolute honesty with this women had gotten her into trouble. She figured she had very little to lose. Her words were spoken quietly but they dropped on Harley like golf ball sized hail. "I want to know why youve been avoiding me since I kissed you."
She tried to put on her best face as she waited for Harleys answer, curious and compassionate, but not fearful. She didnt know if she succeeded or not.
Harley was trying very hard not to look as though shed been sucker- punched. She wasnt sure what to say to her. Her first instinct was to deny it. Plausible deniability. It could work. She could claim she hadnt been avoiding her, just very busy on the case, but for some reason that disturbed her. She didnt know the small woman before her well, but she did know she didnt want to be the person to hurt her, and she thought too, Emily was astute enough to see the lie for what it was. That just left her the truth, but she wasnt sure she could say that out loud. At least not all of it.
Deciding on giving her as much truth as her sudden lack of courage allowed, she answered.
"I didnt want to avoid you. I just thought that maybe we were getting ahead of ourselves." She cleared her throat and looked down briefly before continuing. "I wont deny how attracted I am to you, but I dont make it a habit of acting on my attraction until Ive gotten to know someone very well." She took in another breath. "You and I, weve only really known each other a few days. For me, thats just not enough time to become, well, intimate."
Emily swallowed hard. Shed been hoping for this very answer and now that shed gotten it, it went a long way toward allowing her to hope for a future with the beautiful lawyer. A little voice told her this wasnt all of what was holding Harley back from acting on their obvious mutual feelings, but she felt she could work with this.
"I understand." She considered what to say and decided bare faced honesty instead of subtlety was more her. "Id like to say Im sorry for just grabbing you and planting one on you like that, but, in all honesty, I cant. I mean, I am sorry if it upset or disturbed you and if in the long run, it causes you to distance yourself from me, Ill be very sorry. But I have to say I enjoyed that kiss more than several hundred of my most favorite experiences all put together." She looked down at the cat on her lap, because she just couldnt keep looking at those eyes she found so confounding. "Next time, if there is a next time, Ill wait for you to let me know." She peeked up finally and looked at Harley. She tried not to look at her eyes and instead found herself locked onto her lips. "Is that okay with you?"
Ah, damn. Could she be more adorable? What do I say now? More than several hundred, huh? Well, I cant deny that. I felt the same way, and I am soooo attracted to her. To everything about her. Then her thoughts turned to the basis of the problem she had with the little blonde being in her life. I just wish there was some future for us. "Yeah, it is." She straightened up and removed her seat belt. "Well, lets get you packed up here and then, we can get the rest of your stuff from Stephanies so you can settle in. Okay?"
"Sure." The smiles were real on the faces on both sides of the seat, but only one held any hope in it.
It didnt take long. She said heartfelt thanks to Josh and Twyla for putting up with her and they in turn, told her she was more than welcome anytime.
Just before they left Twyla remembered to tell Emily about the party for Hobie and inform her of the theme. She said if Emily had any problems with it to let her know. It sounded like great fun. She was preoccupied planning her costume for the party as Harley drove them over to Old Orchard Road, so she didnt see the look of consternation on the Sheriffs face.
Well, now what do I do? Only you Harley Davidson Ravensdown could get yourself into these kinds of messes. Always listen to your gut, Harley. How many years has your father been telling you that? When will you learn? You knew when you asked Gabrielle to come up for the weekend it was the wrong thing to do: you felt it. Now you have two women, who have the impression that what? What impression do they have? Oh, dont fool yourself. You know with what you just admitted to Emily that she will at least expect you to spend time "getting to know her better". Isnt that just the excuse you used to put her off, the need to get to know her better? Now, how hurt will she be when she realizes youve invited a date up for the weekend? And now that you have Emily staying at your place, what are you going to do with Gabrielle? Have her sleep at your parents house? If she wasnt sure you were a puritanical neurotic before, shell be sure to think that now. It wasnt bad enough you almost leapt out of the car when she brought you home, but now youre gonna ask her to stay with your Mommy and Daddy while another woman, stays in your house? I need therapy. I need a place to hide until next week. I need to call and cancel this date with Gabrielle.
Somehow, Harley managed to get to Stephanies without an accident or making a wrong turn, although she had no conscious memory of driving there. Suddenly she realized she had turned into the driveway and the Explorer was simply idling, as she stared at the closed garage door in front of her.
Emily hadnt been paying attention to Harley and her preoccupation until they arrived at Stephanies and they just sat there. She glanced over at Harley only to see her staring, mindlessly at the closed garage door. She wished she knew the woman well enough to have an inkling of what had her so in thrall. It kind of made her mad that she didnt. Almost as though she should have known what the woman was thinking so hard about, but she had no idea, and it galled her. She was about to speak when Harley seemed to come to herself and realize what was going on.
Clearing her throat, the Sheriff said. "Were here." Well, duh! That was brilliant, stupid. Of course were here. She knows that. Shes here too. Quickly sucking in cold air as she exited the SUV, she made her way around to open Emilys door for her. She could have predicted exactly what the woman would say. Its precisely what she would have said if the situation were reversed.
"Harley, are you alright?"
Several minutes later, after a mumbled response of "just thinking" got Harley off the hook, they were just finishing up as Harley told Emily to get in the car while she finished boxing up the perishables left in Stephanies refrigerator.
Emily took a stroll down the driveway to let the chilly clear night seep in to her. The writer found the silence and the scent of the turning leaves in the air alien and cathartic.
Shed never been one to enjoy the outside much. Not that shed had a lot of experience with it. Outside where she lived usually meant public parks or beaches. Dirty, crowded, dangerous places, they were. She truly was a city girl, but she had memories of camping trips with her parents when she was very young, and though not very clear, she could remember the ambiance of them.
The night, this night, made her think of them. Just a snatch of memory of a campfire and warm flannel shirts and down jackets, hot cocoa and her Dads arms holding her in his lap. She remembered stars like the ones she looked at now. The kind you never see above an L.A. high rise.
Before she realized it, she was half a block from the house and staring in wonder at the woods to her left and right, and how dark it could be without street lights. That thought brought with it a chill and she turned to head back to Stephanies place.
She hadnt gone more than six feet when she heard the roar of an engine coming up behind her. Ahead of her, she saw Harley for a split second as she pushed out the door carrying the last box. Emily turned toward the sound coming up loud behind her and instinctively pushed off to her right toward the woods. Unfortunately, her shoes slipped on the wet pile of autumn leaves and she began to do the splits just as she saw the car make a hard U-turn and saw the tail end coming straight at her, as it too skidded on the road.
It hit her in the middle of her chest with the edge of the rear fender as she was still trying to stay upright and succeeded in throwing her back a couple of feet till she landed flat on her back. Then once again she was looking at the stars as she heard the car accelerate hard and take off.
All she could think of as she laid there was that she wondered if there was some kind of training course you could take here that allowed you to live, uninjured, in Brambles, and if theyd let you in to take it, if you didnt have permanent residence status.
Then suddenly the stars were gone and Harley was there.
"Are you alright? Just stay still. Dont move. Let me call Hobie." The sheriff leaned back and started to reach for the phone at her waist.
For some reason, Emily just couldnt get her mouth to work. In her head she thought the words she was to speak sounded just fine, it however, never came out of her mouth the way she planned it.
"Ebetsa ca. Oy, don."
Harley froze and just stared at her. "What?"
"Sokre. Ahm, soke."
"Emily, Hon, I cant understand you. Just hang on and stay still till I get Hobie out here." She once again started to grab for her cell phone.
Emily managed to at least have full use of her larger muscles and stopped Harleys arm as she reached. She opened her mouth and with a deep inhalation, tried once again to make herself understood.
"Ammokee." Again. "Im okwy." Shaking her head in self disgust as the same concerned furrow appeared over her own brow, as the one she was seeing on Harleys face above her. She tried one last time, willing her mouth to speak clearly.
"Im odkay. Oaakkay. Fine." She nodded her head to the sheriff willing her to believe her.
Harley continued to look worried and shaking her own head at the small blonde said. "Im not so sure about that. Please just let me call "
Getting her good arm under her, Emily managed to sit up with Harleys help.
She took a deep breath and realized her chest felt a little bruised but nothing was seriously damaged. As she opened her mouth to speak however, she realized she was still having trouble getting her mouth to say what her brain dictated.
"Huh?" Once again Harley went to grab for her phone, and once again Emily grabbed her arm. This time she pointed down the road in the direction the car that hit her had headed.
"Emily, sweetheart, you really are hurt here. I have to call Hobie; you just arent making any sense."
Before she could put her words into action, Emily grabbed her shoulder and shook her, while shaking her own head in the negative. The writer pulled in a huge breath of air and brought her face as close as she could to the very worried sheriffs.
"EEEE CAR! YOU KNOW, an SUV! Excursion, Envoy, Explorer, Escalade, Expedition, Eclipse, Escape! It was Black, new, shiny, no license plate, no tail lights." Finally running out of air, she sucked in another lungful and screamed. "WELL, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO GET IT. THAT SON A BITCH TRIED TO KILL ME!"
If you had put a loaded Glock to her head just then or even years later, Harley would never be able to explain why she simply grabbed the blonde in her arms, hugged her tight and burst into gales of laughter. Maybe it was relief that the small writer was really okay. Maybe she was just overwhelmed by all she had on her mind. Maybe it was a psychotic break. Whatever it was, she couldnt control it and she couldnt make her self stop doing it.
Emily, at first shocked and a little offended at her supposed saviors behavior, quickly realized the whole surreal ness of the scene and her ridiculous reaction to it. What was Harley supposed to do? Leave her sitting in the middle of the road and jump on her trusty steed to go after some long gone, anonymous black truck in the back woods in the dark?
Emily just let out a relieved breath that she really was fine and held on to the brunette while she laughed. Soon she joined in. There really wasnt much else to do!
Besides, it felt great to be here. Safe and warm in those strong arms, surrounded by the once again elusive scent that she still couldnt identify, but was conclusively Harley.
Finally, Harley calmed enough to ask once again if Emily was really all right.
After Emily assured her that she was, they made their shaky way back to the house and Harley went over to the yard, where shed thrown down the box of food shed been carrying as soon as she heard the car rev its engine and realized Emily wasnt in her SUV.
Emily just leaned against the Explorer and crossed her arms, watching the sheriff as she inspected the contents of the open box under the porch light.
"So, any casualties?" The blonde asked.
Harley sighed, "Fraid so. The eggs are toast."
As that hung in the air, it started small. Just snickers at first. Then it grew. Slowly both of them slid down to the grass. Before they knew it, they were both rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter.
Somehow, they managed to come together, sitting semi upright, side by side when they finally exhausted themselves.
"Oh, boy." Emily breathed softly. "I really needed that."
One more snicker and then Harley replied. "Yeah, me too. I cant even remember when Ive laughed as much as I have tonight." She exhaled hard. "It felt great." She turned her head and just looked at the mildly disheveled lady she was leaning against. That was probably what did it The green eyes looked a little gray in the vague light, but they were sparkling and deep, open and inviting. She couldnt stop it. No thought, just action and before she knew it, Harley moved the few inches necessary and kissed her. Again.
TBC in chapter 36
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