For disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
Thanks for the encouraging emails; I really appreciate them. In fact, if you want to send some more my way….
The blinding rays of the sun crept across the horizon as Christina slowly opened her eyes. Tired of shifting in the deck chair, she gave up trying to make herself more comfortable and stood up.
Yawning, she lazily untied the dock lines and prepared to launch.
A soft voice drifted from the cabin. "Hey."
Looking up, Christina smiled at the petite woman wandering out of the cabin. "Hey, yourself. Sleep okay?"
"Like a baby." Shading her eyes with her hands, Abigail approached Christina from behind as she hoisted the anchor. "So I take it we're taking her out?"
"Yeah." She turned to face the strawberry blonde. "If you want to, that is."
Green eyes smiled in response. "Of course!"
As they advanced toward the cabin, Abigail lightly grabbed Christina's arm, stopping her. "Hey, you're not going to make me eat fish for breakfast, are you?"
With a devilish grin, she purred. "Only if you're a good girl."
Abigail pulled the taller woman closer. "I can be a very good girl."
Christina maneuvered them inside the cabin, keeping Abigail pressed against her. "Really?" She tried to control her reactions from the warming sensation the strawberry blonde's body was creating. "Do tell."
Finding Christina's earlobe, she nibbled lightly and whispered. "I'd rather show and tell."
The warm glow that filled Christina suddenly turned to intense heat. "Uh, Abigail, I've got to steer the boat."
The strawberry blonde disengaged from the taller woman's arms. "Are you sending me a message, Christina Stavros?"
Caressing the smaller woman's sculpted arms, she replied softly. "Only that I can't afford a boating accident." Sliding her hand down Abigail's arm, she gently held the smaller hand in hers and continued. "Let me take us out, okay? I've already set us adrift in the marina."
Mollified, Abigail flashed a seductive smile. "Well, I guess I'll find us some breakfast then."
Finally remembering to breathe normally, Christina cast her a glance. "Hey, hold that thought?"
Confused, Abigail stopped. "What thought? Food?"
A sly smile enveloped her angular face. "Nah, show and tell."
Abigail turned towards the icebox. "We'll see."
Christina attempted to focus her attention on steering the boat. It was no easy task. The scent of the other woman mingled in the air; her skin was still tender from the touch of Abigail's body lingering against her. Even though the petite woman was only a few steps away, Christina felt herself longing to hold her close.
Abigail busied herself in the minute kitchen, cutting up cantaloupe and honeydew melons.
"Hey, find everything you need?"
If you'd come here! "Pretty much so. When are you going to stop driving?"
Christina laughed. It was nice to know that Abigail sounded as impatient as she felt. "Probably about ten more minutes. There's this little island around the bend I'd like to show you."
"Yeah, it's a quiet little place. Doesn't get too much traffic."
"Hmm." Sauntering towards the taller woman, she placed her hands on her hips and inclined her head slightly. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to seduce me."
With the island in sight, Christina called to the strawberry blonde. "Hey, I'm gonna beach us on that sandbar up ahead."
Abigail looked at her with a concerned smile. "What about the boat?"
Turning the steering wheel sharply, she replied. "Lessie Mae will be fine. The tide won't roll back in until one o'clock. We've got plenty of time."
Dropping the speed significantly, Christina landed the boat on the sandbar.
"I'm surprised you could find this with all the oyster bars out here."
Hearing the unasked question in the other woman's voice, she responded softly. "This is where I go to get away from it all."
"Really? I thought that's what the boat was all about."
Stepping into the shallow water, Christina offered a hand to Abigail. "Well, it is. But unlike Lessie Mae, the island's low maintenance." Changing the subject, she looked around for the breakfast Abigail prepared. "Hey, I thought we were gonna eat!"
Sheepishly, Abigail walked back to the cabin. "Oh, yeah! Be right back!"
A low moan escaped from Christina as she watched Abigail disappear into the cabin.
The compact, strawberry blonde reappeared with a small basket in her left hand. The two women splashed towards the shore, leaving the boat perched upon the sandbar.
"So..." Abigail began, cupping some saltwater in her right hand. "This is your little getaway, huh?"
Christina was oblivious to the smirk on Abigail's face as she traveled ahead. "Yup."
"Do you take all your women here?"
As Christina turned around to answer, she was greeted with a hand full of saltwater and a huge smile.
"Oh, boy! You bought the farm now, girlfriend!"
Abigail laughed as she fled, running clumsily in the water. "Hey, hey! I've got the food, remember?"
Christina snatched the small basket from the smaller woman and tossed it back on the boat.
Grabbing Abigail from behind, Christina laughed and lifted her up, carrying her into deeper water. Ignoring the warmth radiating from touching Abigail's sculpted stomach, she continued her playful banter. "Better hold your nose, girlfriend, 'cause you're goin' down!"
Squirming in the brunette's secure grip, Abigail laughed, enjoying the physical contact. "You're bigger than me...come on..."
Christina elevated her friend just enough so she could dunk her. "Ah, ah, ah! Don't start none, won't be none!"
As Abigail became submerged under the water, she struggled to be free of the bigger woman's arms. Don't start none, won't be none, huh? Well, I'm just smaller, not stupid!
Wriggling from Christina's grasp, she firmly trapped the brunette's knees from behind and swam upward. Unceremoniously, Christina fell face forward in the water as Abigail loosened her grip.
Emerging from the Gulf, the brunette smiled devilishly. "So, you wanna play dirty, huh?"
Abigail backed up, falling in the water and waving her hands. "Now, Christina, you started it."
Standing up straight, Christina pointed to herself as she advanced. "Moi? Oh, I don't think so." Reaching down, she hoisted the compact strawberry blonde to her feet. "You threw that water, remember?"
"Well," she responded shyly. "What's a woman got to do to get your attention?"
"Yeah." Abigail purred, lightly moving her hands along Christina's arms.
Moving her hand through the reddish-blonde hair, she placed her hand behind Abigail's head. "My attention? Honey, if you want my attention…" Drawing closer, she leaned her head down and gently kissed the soft, rosy lips waiting to meet hers.
Feeling Christina's wet body against her own, Abigail pulled the taller woman to her tightly. Tracing wet shoulders with her fingertips, she found herself unable to resist nibbling on the sensuous neck.
Abigail continued nibbling, feeling Christina's body tremble against hers.
Pulling Christina's ear towards her mouth, she whispered softly. "What, baby?"
Melting at the contact, the brunette fought for control. "Uh…think we can go back to the boat?"
Abigail responded, lightly licking Christina's earlobe. "What about your island?"
Hmm…let's see. Been to her apartment. That was fun, for about five minutes. What's next?
As she watched the seagulls dive for fish, Lita relaxed on the jetties. Well, there's that restaurant where she and that idiot friend of hers, Jack. Jack - what a waste of space!
The warm, summer breeze lightly touched her skin as the sun glistened across the water.
Lita hated depending on Andrew. He was proving more and more unreliable. Still, he promised new information about Abigail Thanis. And she had to have it.
Throwing a rock into the waves, she heard him approach, panting heavily. "It's about time." She didn't even attempt to hide her irritability.
"Sorry I'm late." Andrew crouched down beside Lita, careful not to intrude in her space. The last thing he wanted was to fly headfirst into the jetties.
"What did you find out?"
"Well," he began, catching his breath. "Little Miss Prissy Pants spends a lot of time with some chick from work."
"What?" Lita turned to face Andrew. He withered slightly under her baleful gaze.
"Yeah, seen 'em go to her apartment yesterday." At last, he felt safe enough to sit down. "About a full head taller 'n Abigail. Long, black hair. She ain't from here."
"Really?" Lita paused for a moment, considering the possibilities. So, she keeps her friends close, does she? Well, this should be easier than I even imagined! "What else?"
"Definitely not born and bred here. Did some checking around. Name's Christina Stavros. Real loner type, lives on a houseboat. Hell, you've probably seen her down here. Keeps her boat at the marina."
"Very good, Andrew. And when does our little friend work? Were you able to get her schedule?"
"Not without being too obvious. But I did find out she'll be in tonight."
"Is that so?" Lita placed her hand on Andrew's shoulder as she stood. "Have you ever eaten at that restaurant?"
"Yeah, once or twice."
Crouching behind Andrew, Lita whispered in his ear as she teased his neck with her tongue. "Well, I think you need to take me out tonight."
Unable to respond verbally, he nodded his head.
"Pick me up at eight. We're going to The Edge."
Christina rolled away from Abigail, wrestled from sleep by a low, rumbling noise. What the? Grabbing a shirt, she got out of bed to investigate.
As she walked past the gorgeous woman sleeping in her bed, she began to laugh. Lightly touching the soft shoulder hidden by the sheet, she tried to gently rocked Abigail awake.
"Hey." Lightly kissing the bare shoulder, she tried again. "Hey, Beautiful. Come on, wake up."
The strawberry blonde let out a low moan and smiled.
Nibbling at the proffered neckline, Christina whispered in her ear. "Abigail, time to wake up."
"Can't be," she protested, making more of her neck and shoulder available to the brunette.
"Well," Christina sighed. "Your belly says it is. It's been talking for about ten minutes now."
Laughing, she continued. "I thought it was maybe an engine problem or my water pump gone bad. Turns it out it was just your stomach again."
Abigail hit her with a pillow. "Well, look here Missy! If you wouldn't starve me, you wouldn't have to listen to my stomach, would you?"
"Me? Starve you?" She ran across the room and stood in the doorway, avoiding the flying pillow. "Why, I wouldn't dream of it!" A sly grin appeared on her olive-skinned face. "And what are you hungry for, anyway, Abigail?"
"Well," she replied, lying back on the bed. "I can give you a hint."
Christina smiled seductively as she returned beside the bed. "Really?"
Licking her lips, Abigail dropped her voice to a throaty whisper. "Yeah."
The brunette sat on the bed, waiting anxiously for the other woman to continue.
"Some fruit, a bagel…all those things I packed for us to eat."
Christina shook her head. "Okay. I can take a hint. I'll get the basket."
Brushing out her bleached-blonde hair, Lita smiled savagely in the bathroom mirror. They can dictate to me not to contact her, but I can eat wherever I choose!
Passing by the open door, Billy noticed his cousin's evil smile. "What's up, Lita?"
"Oh, Andrew's taking me out tonight."
"Really? Where to?" He hoped it was just a date and not some illegal scheme.
"Dinner, that sort of thing," she shrugged, trying to evade his probe.
"Yeah? You guys checking out that new Mexican place on the Parkway?"
"No." She continued looking in the mirror, applying her make-up.
He leaned against the doorframe, trying to act casual. "Well, where you guys headed?"
"William," she responded sharply. "I don't think that's any of your concern."
Smiling, he backed up. "Hey! I'm just asking, that's all. Can't I be interested in your life? After all, you're my family."
She turned to face him, considering his statement.
"I didn't mean anything by it. Honest." He knew he was treading on dangerous ground with her. The last thing he needed was for his cousin to lose it. Especially in his direction.
"Well," she replied, turning back to the mirror. "He's taking me to that restaurant on the beach. Then we're going to the jetties."
"Sounds pretty nice. " He avoided the obvious. Billy knew that Thanis woman worked at that restaurant. "You still interested in him?"
She applied her lipstick as she spoke. "He'll do for now." She exited the bathroom. "Have you ever eaten there?"
"Where? The Edge?"
"No, the moon." Playfully, Lita backhanded him in the stomach. "Of course, The Edge."
"Yeah." And I know why you're really going there! "The food's pretty good. Haven't been there in a while, though." Not since I realized that Thanis woman was a server, anyway.
Lita enjoyed playing with Billy. From the way his eyes fluttered, she knew he was hiding something. "How's the service?"
"Typical Pinkston service." Determined to live through the night, he shied away from the confrontation she was seeking. "What time is Andy boy coming for you?"
Thank you, God, I won't be here! "Man, too bad. I was hoping to see him. Got a study group tonight."
Looking directly in his eyes, she gripped his shoulder. "That is too bad, William. I was going to ask you along."
Abigail smiled as she rolled the silverware in the napkin. She was always happy to work with Trish Cranston; she got Abigail hired at The Edge. The older woman with loose, curly hair was a friend from her days in group therapy. Listening to her friend carry on, Abigail's eyes sparkled as she heard her story.
"It's the truth." Trish sweetened the iced tea. "You shoulda seen it, hon! There were some drunk, trying to get fresh with Amy right at close." Rolling her eyes, she continued. "And Ms. Hughes towered over him, daring him to disrespect her. You coulda heard a pin drop!"
"I bet he was shaking in his boots."
Trish laughed as she inventoried the reach in cooler. "Yeah, but his friends laughed at him. I don't think he'll give us any more trouble." She made a list of stock they would need to retrieve for the dinner rush. "Hon, are you getting the stock tonight?"
"Yeah, I'll get it."
"Well, what did you do today to put you in such a good mood?"
Rolling her eyes at the older server, Abigail laughed. "I'm always in a good mood."
"You look like…" Trish stopped and eyed the younger server seriously. Whispering, she continued. "Like you got some." She put her arm around Abigail, leading her to the back server station, away from everyone. "You can tell me, hon. Who are you seeing?"
She narrowed her emerald eyes and said warningly. "Trish…"
Trish shook her curly hair. "Don't tell me it's Jack." Stepping back, she placed her hands on her hips. "I thought you said he wasn't your type."
"Oh, puh-leeze!" Lowering her voice, she laughed. "You know I don't do men."
"Well, that's why I was shocked." Breathing a sigh of relief, Trish felt for her cigarette pack. Even if she couldn't smoke right now, it made her feel better to know that she had some. "Is it a blast from the past or someone new?" Moving closer, she placed her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Inquiring minds want to know."
Abigail smiled as she shifted uncomfortably. "Trish…"
"Hon," the older server protested. "I've known you for what, five years now? You lived with my family when your parents moved away." Feigning indignation, she removed her hand and continued. "And what, now you feel you can't tell me?"
Dropping her voice to a low whisper, she responded. "It isn't that."
Trish shook her head, fearing the worst. She'd seen Abigail through some pretty rough times already. "Then what it is it?"
Summoning her courage, Abigail answered the woman she affectionately called "Mom" when they weren't at work. "She works here."
Christina was surprised to see Samantha at the prep table when she arrived.
"Hey, girl! How was fishing?" After noticing the smile on Christina's face, she laughed. "Uh huh. What's the story?"
Blue eyes twinkling, she unsuccessfully tried to walk past her friend. "What story? Same as usual. Went out on the boat."
"And did what?" She laughed, grabbing Christina's arm. "That ain't no fishing glow!"
"What glow? I got a little sun."
Caramel eyes narrowed as she studied the angular face. "Funny, the sun never gave you that sated look before." Setting down the Prep clipboard, she continued. "Okay, so this is how you're gonna act. Be like that, then. This is a small, small town, girlfriend."
"Aw, come on, Sam," she protested.
Smiling, Samantha folded her arms across her chest and waited.
"Oh, all right." Leaning in close, she replied in hushed tones. "I was with a friend."
"A friend!" She turned slightly away from Christina and glanced back at the Prep clipboard. "Must've been a scroggin' friend! You got that scroggin' look going on."
Christina grimaced in confusion. "Scroggin'?"
"You know, shakin' your groove thang."
Still confused, Christina opened a can of pickles. "Dancing? No, I wasn't dancing. I was on the boat."
Samantha laughed. "Dancing, huh? Were you dancing in the sheets?"
Embarrassed, Christina rounded the corner towards the Cooks' Line. "Hey, I gotta get to work."
The other woman followed as a huge grin erupted across her face. "You're the one that came in with such a beatific glow."
"Let's just drop it, okay?" She took a quick survey of the stock on the line. "What are you doing here tonight, anyway?"
Temporarily acknowledging the change of subjects, Samantha responded. "I traded out with Maggie so I could have tomorrow off."
"You lucked out."
"I ain't lying! Hey, I'm glad your love life is picking up again. This casual or serious?"
"Come on, Sammie, could we talk about something else?"
"Like what? Who you were with?" Enjoying her friend's discomfort, she continued. "And I don't remember you cutting me any slack when I started seeing Tony."
"That was different."
"Different? How so?"
"Well, it was you, not me."
Samantha playfully snapped her towel at Christina, narrowly missing her. "Yeah. And now it's your turn, girlfriend!"
Laughing, Christina walked into the cooler to get stock.
Without looking, Abigail swung the round, plastic salad container, hitting Christina squarely in the stomach.
"Omigod! I am so sorry!"
Christina steadied herself against a cooler rack. "Uh, it's okay, I've had worse." Smiling, she tried to make light of the situation. "Hey, if it wasn't good for you, all you had to do was tell me. Really."
"I am so sorry, Christina." Her emerald eyes brimmed with remorse. "God, I feel so bad about it. I didn't hurt you, did I?"
She pulled Abigail into a warm embrace. "I was just jerking your chain. I'm okay."
Kissing the smaller woman's cheek, she continued. "Couldn't get me with the pillow, so you're using the salad bucket?"
Abigail laughed and kissed her neck.
"Yup, that's what I thought. You're not gonna nail me with the salad dressing next, are you?"
"Hmm, now that's a thought. Will you be the salad?"
Samantha flung the door to the cooler open, interrupting their banter. "Hey, Christina..." Her voice trailed off as she noticed the embrace.
Feeling like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she disengaged from Abigail quickly. "Hey, Sam, long time no see."
Samantha tried to hide her smirk. "Need your help out here."
"Let me grab the rest of my stuff and I'll be right there."
Chuckling to herself, Samantha dropped a basket of french fries as she walked by the fryers. Grab the rest of your stuff? Girlfriend, you best be grabbing that stuff when you ain't here!
As the dinner rush descended, a steady stream of business flowed in the front door. Christina was glad Samantha was the other cook. It was a lot easier sharing the workload with someone who instinctively understood the business pattern.
"Sam, it's slowing down. You need a break or anything?"
"Yeah, I need a quick puff." Placing the completed plate in the pass-through window, she slid the order ticket under the plate and lit the server's call light. "You got the line?"
"G'wan, beat feet outta here. I'll call you if I need you."
Christina turned her attention back to the order tickets that the printer was busily spewing.
Lita waited impatiently for Andrew. Twenty minutes late! He knows how I hate to be kept waiting!
Thumping her fingers on the arm of the couch, she stared out of the living room window. Rounding the corner was Andrew's pick-up truck. It's about time!
Sandy blonde hair flew in the breeze as he ran up the porch steps. As the door opened slowly, he stopped. Aw, shit…there's gonna be hell to pay!
"You're late." Her voice was flat as she invited him inside.
"Sorry about that. I got held up at work. Couldn't be helped." He hoped that the thought of terrorizing that woman was Lita's focal point. He knew she didn't suffer fools gladly, and right now, he was certainly a fool!
Running his hands through his hair, he pleaded his case. "Really, Lita, I'm sorry I was late. You know I wouldn't want to disappoint you." Not unless I suddenly had a strong desire to stop living!
She purred as she cupped Andrew's face in her hands. "I'll forgive you this once." As her lips met his, she nibbled on his bottom lip. "Just this once."
He lost his fear in the ecstasy of the moment. "Won't happen again."
Pushing him away, she responded briskly. "Good. Now, you're taking me out to eat."
Regaining his composure, he opened the front door for her. "Right. Ready?"
"Oh, I've been ready." For about five years, sitting in that damned prison, I've been ready. And nothing will get in my way. Absolutely nothing!
With the dinner rush finally winding down, Christina began cleaning her half of the Cooks' Line while Sandra filled the orders.
"Pretty good rush tonight," Samantha commented as she placed the steak on the plate.
"Yeah, didn't think we'd be that busy for a Saturday night."
"Chris, can I ask you a question?"
"Lay it on me."
"What's up between you and that server?"
Christina stopped cleaning the flat grill. "Come again?"
"Little Miss Clinch. What's up with that?"
"Little Miss Clinch? I don't know what you mean." Christina evaded the question, not wanting her relationship with Abigail to be part of the breakroom gossip.
Samantha laughed. "Sure you don't. Got that heavenly glow to your face, and the next thing I know, I find you in the cooler, tangled up with Little Miss Clinch, doing that "look" thing."
"We're getting to know each other." She wiped down the flat grill, trying to ignore her friend.
Tossing her pitcher of water on the grooved grill, she waited while the water did its work, loosening the food particles from the grooves. When the steam lessened, she took the grill brush and began scrubbing, hoping to avoid any more probing questions.
"Said you went out on the boat with a friend before," she snickered. "Well, y'all looked pretty friendly!"
As Christina finished cleaning the grooved grill, she could feel her frustration build. Man, if this ain't some shit! Deciding it would be better to leave the line than to show her frustrations, she offered to get tea for both of them.
Not being able to resist a parting shot, Samantha stopped her before she went to the drink station. "Hey, you could get Little Miss Clinch to bring it. Oh, wait a minute, she's on break isn't she?"
Christina glared at her friend as she rounded the corner.
Andrew opened the front door of the restaurant for Lita. He was very careful not to annoy her further. She was not a very nice woman when angered.
"It's a nice little place, Andrew. How long has it been here?"
"Eight years, I think."
"Eight years. I didn't realize it had been around so long." Never had reason to, either.
Andrew ordered their drinks and an appetizer from the server. He wasn't too concerned about displeasing Lita with ordering their food. It wasn't like she came here to eat.
Conspiratorially, she leaned close to him and whispered in his ear. "So, where is she?"
"I don't know. But tell you what, I'll go find out."
Happy to leave the table, Andrew got up and found the hostess.
Looking around, Lita noticed a tall, dark-haired woman at the drink station. That must be her friend.
As Christina turned around, memories came flooding back to Lita. Those eyes, that face…it can't be! Fighting for control, Lita forced herself to quickly scrutinize the angular face she saw before her.
Well, I'll be damned! Special K! Doesn't this just change everything!
Smiling, Lita burned the image of Kayleigh Karapapous in her mind. For the first time in her life, Lita actually felt like things were looking up.
This one will be for you, Timmy.
This one's for you.
Continued in Part V
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