See part one for disclaimers

Booyong Mountain

part 13


Lois Kay

It was the weirdest color she had ever seen. It was green, but with a bright, almost fluorescent tint to it that made it painful to her eyes. And the few small patches of sky she could see through the dense canopy were almost purple.

Rubbing her eyes, she tried to make sense of it, when all of a sudden the ground beneath her feet seemed to disappear. She opened her mouth to yell a warning at the tall figure who was walking next to her, but no sound came out. And then she felt herself falling. Faster and faster, like she was descending in a bottomless pit. Her arms splayed wildly, searching for something, anything to hold on to, but there was nothing but darkness surrounding her. She squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the painful impact that had to come.

But she landed on something soft and slowly she opened her eyes, blinking against the soft light that illuminated her surroundings that resembled a cave. But the walls were shiny and soft and they seemed to be alive.

Deep breathing sounded behind her and when she turned around she looked straight into a dark, masked face. The owner had his hands stretched out to her in an inviting gesture, wiggling his fingers.

She knew she had to run, as fast as she could, but with unbelieving eyes she looked at her feet that refused to move. It was as if she was glued to the floor. Maybe if she took off her shoes.

Bending down, she reached for the laces of her tennis shoes, but every time she could almost touch them, they disappeared again.

With a sob, she noticed the masked man coming closer and frantically she tried to pull her feet free from whatever was holding on to her.

"Robin. Robin," a voice sounded close to her ear and she used her arms to swing at the masked man wildly.

"Robin," it sounded again, but this time it was different. The voice was different. And tilting her head she listened intently. She had heard that voice before, it was familiar.


"Fiona?" she whispered, not knowing if any sound was forthcoming from her dry mouth. "Fiona!"

Something touched her face and she jerked away from it, almost panicking because her eyes were wide open, but she could not see a thing.

"Robin, please, wake up. Robin."

Letting out a shuddering breath, Robin opened her eyes, surprised to see the masked man and the strange, gooey walls had disappeared. Instead, she was staring into a pair of familiar, dark-green eyes that looked at her worriedly.

"Robin? It’s me, Fiona. You were having a bad dream."

"Where am I?" Robin asked, moistening her dry lips.

"Sam’s and Jody’s place, remember? Trishia wanted us to stay here, because that...bloke...escaped. She said she needed everybody to be close together. This is the guestroom."

"I...I remember," Robin sighed, pushing her hair away from her clammy forehead with trembling fingers. "We’ re staying in the same room."

"Yes, we are," Fiona smiled, fighting the urge to wrap her arms around Robin and cradle her like she would Timothy or Taryn whenever they needed some comfort. Instead, she settled for pushing a curly strand of hair behind Robin’s ear and letting her fingertips linger on the soft cheek for a moment.

"It’s a full house, remember?" Fiona asked, trying to pull Robin away completely from the nightmare she had just experienced.

"Yes, I remember," Robin sighed. "Alice and Yarra are staying in Alice’s room, Trishia and Lucy are staying in the other guestroom, your Mom is in the kids’ room and the kids are with their parents. And Josh and Michael are in the office. Full house indeed."

"Good, your dream didn’t fry your brain," Fiona teased, smiling when Robin sent her an exasperated look.

"Thank goodness for that," Robin moaned, turning around so she could have a better look at her companion. Only then it dawned on her that she was stretched out on a comfortable bed, clad in a pair of panties and a t-shirt. The bed would easily be big enough for two adults, but Fiona had offered to stretch out on the couch, underneath the window and Robin had been too tired even to register the considerate gesture. Until now.

"That couch is way too small for you," she frowned.

"I’ll be fine," Fiona shrugged. "Compared to that cave, it’s the Hilton."

"Except for the chocolate," Robin smiled.

"Chocolate is overrated," Fiona replied with a twinkle in her eyes. "Besides, when I opened my eyes, I found something sweeter than that."

Robin eyed Fiona with a wary glance, not sure where the conversation was heading. The dark-green eyes held a hint of amusement and a smile tugged at the corner of Fiona’s mouth.

"Alright, McDonnell," Robin sighed. "You’re either trying to make me believe you’re flirting with me,’ re just trying to confuse me," she groaned, smiling when she heard the familiar chuckle. "Either way, it’s your warped sense of humor again, isn’t it?"

"Is it that warped?" Fiona asked and Robin thought she could detect the smallest hint of insecurity in her voice.

"No, it’s not," she answered with a gentle smile. "I like it, actually. What does that say about me, huh?"

"That you’re warped?" Fiona grinned, happy with the playful banter. When she had awakened to some of the distressed sounds Robin was making in her sleep, she had jumped off the couch, wincing when the stiff muscles in her back made their presence known with a vengeance. It had taken some effort to pull Robin from Morpheus’ clutches and Fiona had been relieved when the biologist had finally opened her eyes.

"You did it again," Robin’s voice pulled her from her musings and Fiona frowned.

"Did what?"

"Used your distraction tactics on me. I was telling you the couch is way too small for you."

"And I told you I’ll be fine. Honestly, I will."

"But I feel bad about that arrangement. Maybe I should..."

"No way," Fiona interrupted with a determined expression on her face. "You were injured less than a week ago. You need a comfortable place to sleep."

"The bed is big enough for two," Robin suggested.

"Then bring a friend," Fiona quipped. "You’ re not sleeping on the couch."

"A friend?" Robin laughed. "Alright, my friend, would you want to sleep with me?"

Seeing the mixture of amusement and shyness on Fiona’s face, Robin smiled and put her hand on Fiona’s arm.

"When I say ‘sleep’, I do mean just that, sleeping," she explained. "Don’t worry, I’ll keep my hands to myself."

"I’m not worried about that," Fiona drawled.

It’s my hands I’m not sure of. I hope they’ll behave.

"You had your chance last night," she added with a wink.

Robin softly snorted and bumped Fiona with her shoulder. She had to admit she had been tempted to kiss the photographer. Several times. Especially, when she had been stretched out on top of her, after Fiona had broken her fall.

"It didn’t seem to be the best time, you know," she answered softly.

Fiona, surprised by Robin’s honest answer, looked up into a pair of warm hazel eyes and quickly felt the world around them fade away. Robin’s eyes were open and honest, permitting Fiona a glance at what was normally carefully shielded.

"No, it wasn’t," Fiona finally answered, her voice so soft it was barely audible. "But we made it and I’m sure there’ll be other chances."

"Oh, I know there will be," Robin smiled.

"But I’m glad we have it all settled now," she said with a smug smile. "You’ll sleep in this bed, with me. I promise I won’t kick."

"I hope I can say the same," Fiona hesitated. Although the thought of being so close to Robin was exhilarating, it was also very scary and she hoped that, even in sleep, she would manage to behave.

Robin cast a look at the alarmclock and noticed it was one-thirty in the afternoon. They had only slept for a couple of hours and her body was craving a lot more. The house was still bathed in silence and she suspected everybody was still asleep. The whole family had been exhausted after the events of the previous day and night.

"Do you think you can sleep a few more hours?" she asked Fiona, who still looked tired, with dark circles underneath her eyes.

"Make that a few more days," the photographer answered with a yawn.

"Great. Get under the sheets then. We can talk later," Robin replied softly.

Fiona obediently slid under the soft sheet and lay quietly on her back next to Robin, who had turned on her side, her back turned to Fiona, who had closed her eyes, willing her body to relax. True, she had shared beds with Yarra and Alice, but that had been different. This was Robin. The woman who managed constantly to confuse her and make her feel things she had never experienced before.

"Fiona, honey, relax," Robin’s sleepy voice sounded and Fiona opened her eyes in surprise. How did Robin do that? It was as if she could read her mind.

"I’m trying to," Fiona answered, not aware of how tense her voice sounded. But Robin had picked up on it and she chuckled softly.

"How do you usually sleep? I mean, what is your most comfortable position?"

" left side," Fiona answered.

"Then turn on your left side and relax," Robin advised, lying on her left side as well.

Behind her, she could feel Fiona shift and a few seconds later her ears picked up a relieved sigh.

"Better?" she smiled, reaching behind her and patting Fiona’s thigh.

"Much," Fiona sighed, grasping Robin’s hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "I didn’t know there was a scientific approach to that."

Robin softly laughed and pulled Fiona’s hand in front of her, resting it on her stomach, so the photographer’s arm was securely draped around her body. She heard the small intake of breath and felt the slight stiffening of Fiona’s body. Just when she thought that maybe she had pushed the photographer too far, she could feel Fiona’s body spoon against her own.

"Much better," she heard her mumble and, with a smile, Robin closed her eyes.


Glancing at the peacefully sleeping Lucy, Trishia leaned back in the chair and stared at the laptop in front of her. It contained all her notes on Joe Michaels, William Jenkins, and Steven Hayes who had all been part of the same criminal organization. Two of the three men were dead. William Jenkins had been killed by Steven Hayes, who, in turn, had been shot by Trishia when he was about to shoot Sam. It had been in the nick of time and even now, years later, Trishia could still feel her heartbeat pick up every time she thought back to that dramatic moment.

With a sigh, Trishia rubbed her sleepy eyes. She was tired, but sleep eluded her because she could not relax. Her brain was constantly working on the puzzle she desperately wanted to solve, if only she could prove a link between Joe Michaels and the kidnapper who had escaped them this morning.

Trishia unconsciously rubbed her throat. It had been sore after she was done yelling at Daniel Tiller. If the rookie had only listened to Peter Jones, nothing would have happened. Peter had gotten an earful as well. He should have stopped the young policeman before he had opened the backdoor of the car. Now their suspect had managed to escape. Of course, they had immediately started a thorough search of the forest, but it had been in vain. The area was so vast and dense, ‘Frank’ had a good lead the moment he jumped off the road into the bushes.

At least now they knew who they were dealing with. Sort of, anyway. Trishia had ordered Peter to try and identify their suspect through the vast police computer network. If the man had a record, he would be in there. The mutilation of his face could make it easier to locate him.

But it had been hours and she still had not heard from Peter. Trishia cast a look at her watch and noticed it was almost two o’clock in the afternoon. Peter had promised he would call her as soon as he found something and her cell phone was on the small table next to her.

Lucy mumbled something in her sleep and turned around on her side, facing Trishia. The police woman’s eyes softened when they took in the sleeping form of her partner. Again, it struck her how beautiful Lucy was; with her dark hair, green eyes and flawless skin, she could easily have become a model. But in spite of what a lot of people thought, Lucy McDonnell was not vain. Still, after all the time they had been together, a look of surprise and wonder radiated from her eyes every time Trishia told her of that beauty.

Exhaling slowly, Trishia’s eyes traveled from Lucy’s face to the soft swell of breasts under the tank top she was wearing. At home, Lucy usually slept in the buff and Trishia had no objections against that. She loved snuggling up to her partner and feeling her soft skin everywhere she touched her. It often was as comforting as it was arousing.

"Why don’t you stop ogling me and come to bed?" Lucy’s sleepy voice interrupted Trishia’s musings and, with a sheepish grin, she rubbed her eyes.

"I can’t seem to get relaxed enough to sleep," she answered softly.

Lucy pushed herself up and, leaning on one elbow, stared at her partner.

"I’m sure I can find a way to relax you," she smiled with a wink, making Trishia chuckle.

"I’ve no doubt about that," she answered, putting her laptop on the table and getting up from the chair. She crossed the small distance to the bed and sank down on the edge, next to Lucy. Immediately, her partner scooted closer and put her head into her lap, closing her eyes in contentment when strong fingers started a gentle massage of her scalp.

"You need to sleep, Luce. You do need your rest."

"So do you, invincible woman," Lucy quipped. "You can’t solve mysteries and save the world when you are sleep-deprived, you know."

"I know," Trishia smiled. "I guess I’m tense. I’m waiting to hear from Peter. Maybe he’ll find out something about the kidnapper."

"And I hope he does, honey. But isn’t your phone on?"

"Sure it is," Trishia answered with a raised eyebrow.

"Then put it on the night stand and get your cute butt back into bed. You’ll hear it ring when Peter calls. I’m sure he’s taking a nap as well. Get some rest, honey. Please."

Without answering, Trishia reached for the cell phone on the table and obediently put it on the small bedside stand. As soon as she crawled into bed, Lucy turned around and practically pinned the taller woman to the mattress, which made Trishia laugh softly wile her arms settled around Lucy’s body.

"I thought you wanted me to sleep?"

"I do," Lucy sighed, raising herself up a little so she could bring her face closer to that of her partner. "But I want a kiss first. Do you think you could manage that?"

"I’m sure I can," Trishia smiled with a twinkle in her green-blue eyes.

"Good," Lucy sighed happily. "I was afraid I’d have to get hormonal on you."

Trishia did not get the chance to reply, because a pair of soft lips descended on her own and with a long, deep, passionate kiss Lucy robbed her of both breath and reason. When they finally broke apart, there was a dazed look in her eyes and Lucy let out an amused chuckle.

"That’s my girl," she whispered, brushing Trishia’s forehead and cheeks with her fingertips. "Now, close those pretty eyes and stay relaxed. Go to sleep, my love."

Within less than a minute, Trishia Waters had drifted off to sleep and, with a contented smile, Lucy snuggled up to her taller partner, careful not to wake her. Before closing her own eyes again, she eyed the phone on the night stand to make sure it was on.

"I’d be happy if you’d take another few hours or so, Peter," she whispered. "My honey is not super woman, you know."


With a soft click, the door closed behind the small woman and, with evident self-confidence, she stepped inside the room, knowing the big man she had chosen to accompany her that afternoon, was right behind her.

Her eyes traveled through the room, with the concrete walls and table that was bolted to the floor. There were three wooden chairs around the table and only one was occupied.

"Mister Michaels," she politely greeted the handcuffed man on the chair, while she took a seat across from him.

"Inspector," he nodded, while his blue eyes traveled between the small woman and her big companion.

"Mister Michaels, this here is Mac Drummond, he’s a police officer in my department. We have some questions for you," Carol Wong wasted no time. She knew Joe Michaels was amused by their visit, but she had not come over on a Saturday afternoon to play games. She wanted answers and was determined to get them.

"I’m afraid I can’t help you," was the expected response.

"Strange, since you don’t even know what I want to talk about," Carol Wong replied, while her brown eyes returned the amused look that was sent her way coolly.

"No matter what it is, it’s not one of my concerns," Joe Michaels shrugged. "I’ve got a lot of years to do in here, Inspector. Why would I help you?"

"Because one phone call from me can make your life a lot better. Or worse," Carol Wong replied calmly, seeing the amused glance leave the inmate’s eyes immediately. "The choice is yours."

"Are you threatening me?"

"No, Mister Michaels, I am not, I assure you. I can back up my words and I’m willing to do so. I would hardly call that a threat."

"I can file a complaint against you, you know that, don’t you?"

"You can try," Carol Wong dead-panned.

"He’s a witness," Joe Michaels gestured at Mac Drummond who was silently sitting on a chair, staring at the convicted criminal with a calm look in his eyes.

"Mac has a hearing problem," Carol Wong replied. "I noticed a few more people around here suffer from the same condition," she added, referring to the police officers who were watching the scene from behind the one-way mirror.

"You can’t do that," Joe Michaels snarled, shooting the small woman with the Asian features a disgusted look.

"Sure I can," Carol Wong nodded. "Don’t forget, Mister Michaels that, although you might not have personally pulled the trigger, I do hold you responsible for the death of two of my men. Or had you forgotten about that already? I could refresh your memory. I do believe I have a picture of one of my men’s children. The boy just turned six years old. He has no real memory of his father. I think that..."

"Alright, alright," Joe Michaels almost shouted, his face red and the veins in his neck distended. Did she really have to add to the nightmares that kept him awake so often? Or contribute to the guilt that always tugged on his heart and had turned him into a somber, bitter man. "What do you want to know?"


It was hard to move, Fiona discovered, still half-asleep. There was a weight on her shoulder, pressing her down and she wondered what was holding her hostage.


Fiona’s eyes flew open while her heart suddenly slammed against her rib cage. Only when she saw the familiar room with it’s soft yellow walls, she let out a shaky breath and relaxed. She was in one of her sister’s guest rooms.

Again the eyes widened. But she was not alone.

When her gaze traveled down, to her shoulder, Fiona felt her heart skip a beat when she noticed a disarray of curls that looked very familiar. Robin. Fiona was sure they had not fallen asleep like that and she smiled when she realized that, in her sleep, Robin had apparently sought her close presence.

It was obvious Fiona had not minded either, because her left arm was wrapped around Robin, holding her firmly in place.

Just look at us! Cuddled up like a pair of love birds. Fiona McDonnell, reduced to a puddle of...something...soft.

Inwardly Fiona chuckled, amused by the way things had developed while they had been asleep.

Strange. I ‘d have thought something like this would scare me, but it doesn’t. I actually like it.

"That’s because you’ re in love, goof-ball," she whispered, feeling a pleasant warmth settle in the pit of her stomach, after uttering those words aloud.

"You’ re what?" Robin’s sleepy voice mumbled and for a split-second, Fiona was ready to jump out of bed and run away as fast and as far as she could. But then her body relaxed and she exhaled slowly.

"I’m in love," she repeated softly, feeling Robin’s body jerk slightly, before it relaxed again and molded back against her.

Fiona softly chuckled.

"Did that make you want to run like the wind as well?"

Robin nodded and Fiona took a deep breath, staring at the ceiling in an effort to collect her thoughts. She was out on a limb and had absolutely no idea how to proceed next. She had not even planned on making any confessions. It had been spontaneous and thus very unexpected.

"Who are you in love with?" Robin’s muffled voice reached her ears and Fiona looked down at the head against her shoulder. Robin’s face was turned away from her and Fiona swallowed hard, wishing she could look into those warm hazel eyes to muster up some courage for the next step. The hardest one.

"You," it was barely a whisper, but Fiona knew Robin had heard her, because the curly head turned and she could feel Robin’s warm breath caress the skin of her throat.

"Do you always pick times like these to have this type of conversation?" Robin sighed, with a touch of humor in her voice.

"Not as a rule, no," Fiona chuckled, appreciating Robin’s sense of humor. "But since we are so snugly...snuggled up, I thought I’d take a chance."

"It feels safe, doesn’t it?" Robin said, lifting her head so she could look at Fiona’s face. The dark-green eyes stared back at her with a mixture of amusement, wonder and deep affection.

"It does," she admitted with a small smile.

Robin answered the smile and reached out a hand to stroke Fiona’s face softly. Her fingers traveled from her forehead, across her cheek to her chin, where they stilled before cupping Fiona’s cheek.

"I’m in love with you as well," she confessed in a soft voice. "Deeply and utterly."

"I was hoping you were," Fiona whispered. She had never felt so vulnerable before and Robin saw it in her eyes. She knew how difficult it had been, for the independent person Fiona was, to make a confession like that.

They spent a few precious moments just staring into each other’s eyes, until Robin pushed herself up a little and brushed her lips against Fiona’s in a fleeting kiss.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"What for?" Fiona breathed, wondering if Robin could actually hear her heartbeat. The unexpected, light kiss had left her breathless and in her heart Fiona knew there was no more turning back; she was falling deeper and deeper for the biologist.

"For taking the chance and opening yourself up to me. For having the courage to be vulnerable."

"It wasn’t a conscious effort," Fiona confessed. "I just acted, without thinking."

"Which is so unlike you," Robin smiled.

"Maybe I should do it more often," Fiona replied with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Now, don’t go overboard," Robin softly laughed. "I love your brain and how it works. But sometimes it’s a good thing not to think."

"Like when?"

"Like right now," Robin whispered, leaning forward and pressing her lips against Fiona’s.

It was a very soft, very tender kiss in which they both took their time to soak up each other’s closeness. Fiona reveled in the softness of Robin’s lips that were slowly gliding against her own and for a moment she seriously wondered if it was possible to pass out due to an overload of emotions. She could not recall when or how it happened, but, all of a sudden, they were both lying on their side, wrapped in each other’s arms.

They slowly broke apart and Robin smiled when she noticed the look of awe and wonder in Fiona’s eyes.

"Are you alright?"she asked gently, brushing away a strand of dark hair, happy to be able finally to do so. As she had expected, Fiona’s hair was soft and silky when she let it slide through her fingers.

"I’m fine," Fiona nodded, still a little out of breath. "It’s a good thing I wasn’t standing up though, I might have taken a nose-dive," she added with a smile.

"I would have caught you," Robin replied. "Or joined you."

Fiona laughed and buried her face in the crook of Robin’s neck, inhaling deeply. The shower-gel the biologist had used that morning still lingered on her skin and Fiona decided she liked it. Experimentally she kissed the soft skin, aware of Robin’s sharp intake of breath. With a small smile she repeated her action, showering Robin’s neck and chin with soft kisses, until she reached her lips and remained there for a long time.

"I’ve discovered I love kissing you," Fiona whispered after they reluctantly broke apart for air.

"That’s good to know," Robin answered softly, kissing the bridge of Fiona’s nose. "I love kissing you as well. You’re a very good kisser."

"I wouldn’t know. I’ve never kissed myself," Fiona replied dryly, making Robin laugh.

"But, to be honest," Fiona continued. "I...You’re the very first person I’ve ever kissed like this."

Robin’s eyebrows arched and she cast the photographer a surprised look.

"It’s true," Fiona nodded. "I...I had some...chances, but I never felt like doing it. To me, it seemed a very unhygienic waste of time." She grinned when Robin laughed. "I suppose it’s all about whom you’ re doing it with, huh?"

"I’d like to think so, yes," Robin agreed, suddenly feeling years older than the young woman in her arms. She was so much more seasoned than Fiona and she wondered if that would be a problem for the photographer. But, as if Fiona could read her mind, she brought her face closer and gave her a soft kiss.

"You’ re worrying about something," Fiona stated softly. "Is it the fact that you’re a measly seven years older than I or is it the bad experience with this Abigail person that’s on your mind?"

"Both, really," Robin sighed.

"I’m not like Abigail."

"No, you’re not," Robin smiled, cupping Fiona’s cheek and using her thumb to softly stroke the skin. "But I’m carrying a lot of luggage from the past and I can’t help wondering if it’s fair to subject you to that."

"If I was the one with the luggage, what would you do?" Fiona asked gently.

"I’d be there for you," Robin immediately answered.

"Then let me do the same for you," Fiona replied, seeing the tears well up in Robin’s eyes.

"I didn’t mean to make you cry," she whispered.

Robin shook her head and pulled Fiona’s head down for a quick kiss.

"You didn’t make me cry. It’s just...they’ re happy tears. I never would have thought I’d ever feel like this again...and so much more. Do you know how special you are, Fiona McDonnell?"

"Sure," Fiona nodded with a wink, trying to put a smile back on Robin’s face. "That’s why I’ve a bunch of outrageous insurance policies-- because I’m so special."

Her words had the desired effect, because Robin laughed and pulled Fiona down in her arms, needing to feel the younger woman as close as possible. It still puzzled her how Fiona, who was so much younger than herself, could so easily ground her and make her feel safe. But she decided not to worry about that and just accept things the way they were: exhilarating, warm and loving.

"I’m gonna be toast," Fiona mumbled against her shoulder and Robin lifted up her chin to be able to look into her face.


"I’ll be toast," Fiona repeated, wrinkling her freckled nose. "Once Sam and Yarra find out about us, my life will be over. And I don’t even dare to think about Lucy. They’ve been waiting for years to see me fall in love."

"I noticed that," Robin smiled, remembering the banter between Fiona and Sam that morning after they had been shot at on the mountain. "But knowing you, I’m quite sure you did do something to deserve that."

"What? No sympathy from you?" Fiona asked, but there was a twinkle in her eyes.

"Depends on how badly they’ll treat you," Robin grinned. "And if they’d involve me."

"They’ll probably have mercy on you," Fiona predicted. "Until they figure out how much you can take and then you’re fair game. It happened to Trish." Fiona pulled a face and sighed. "Maybe we can keep it a secret."

"Maybe," Robin drawled. "If I can stop looking at you and if I can keep my hands off you."

Fiona chuckled and leaned forward to give Robin a long, slow kiss.

"You know, I’m so happy I don’t really care what they’ll say or do," she confessed softly after a long while.

"That’s the spirit," Robin nodded, wondering if Fiona had any idea how much she was torturing her with those kisses that made her almost forget her own name. A glance at Fiona’s flushed face gave her an immediate answer and she chuckled softly.

"We’ re heating things up here, Miss McDonnell. And I’m not sure if we’ re ready for that yet," she said gently.

"Nothing better than a direct approach," Fiona grinned. "But yes, you’re right. My body is craving things the rest of me is not entirely ready for yet. Besides," Fiona smiled and kissed the back of Robin’s hand. "This house is full of people I love dearly, but whom I wouldn’t want to be around when I make love to you."

Robin felt her heart skip a beat after those honest, almost blunt words and she chuckled when she felt a blush creep up her cheeks.

"I thought I was the seasoned one."

"You are, believe me," Fiona grinned, pushing herself upright so she could cast a glance at the alarm clock. "Almost four. No wonder I’m starving." Turning back to look at Robin her eyes softened. "Are you ready to face...whatever?"

"Totally," Robin sighed, extending her hand in a silent request for Fiona to help her sit up. "As long as I can eat something. This morning I was just too tired."

"I noticed that," Fiona nodded. "But knowing my dear sister, she’d have something ready."

"How do they do that?" Robin wondered, stretching the stiff muscles in her legs and back.

"I’ll show you their freezer," Fiona grinned. "It’s in the back of the house and, I swear, it holds enough to feed a small army."

"I don’t know how I can ever repay them," Robin sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring at a picture on the wall. It was one of the many waterfalls in the rainforest and she could almost hear the water rush through the creek and feel the cool air rise up from the damp forest floor. No doubt it was Fiona’s work.

The mattress next to her dipped and an arm was wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her into the warmth of Fiona’s body.

"They don’t expect you to repay them, Robin. Sam and Jody aren’t like all," she added with a smile. "You’ll find out for yourself that they are the most generous, loving people who walk the face of the earth."

"You’re biased," Robin gently joked, bumping Fiona with her shoulder, but the photographer’s words had been genuine and heartwarming.

"I’m sure I am," Fiona answered. "But it’s still true. Jody is the best sister I could have ever wished for. So is Sam."

"Do you have any idea how much love I can hear in your voice every time you talk about them, Fiona?"

"No, I don’t. But I do love them more than I can ever say."

Robin looked up in a pair of smiling dark-green eyes and she could feel her heart swell with the rapidly blossoming emotions Fiona had awoken in her. The feelings were so intense, they created an almost sweet pain.

"No cynicism?" she smiled.

"I don’t need it when I’m with you," Fiona replied softly, suddenly finding her arms full of a curly haired conservation biologist who showered her face with kisses.

Fiona gladly accepted the expression of affection and let herself fall back on the bed, Robin securely wrapped in her arms.


"Aren’t they up yet?" Michael’s voice sounded when the McDonnell brother came walking in the kitchen.

"Nope, still in La La Land," Sam answered dryly. "At least, that’s where I think they are," she added with a wink at Jody who choose to ignore her partner’s suggestive gesture.

"They were exhausted, Mike," Jody answered instead. "Poor Robin could hardly eat this morning."

"We just want to hear all the specifics," Lucy sighed. "Trish told me they escaped by attacking that giant," she involuntarily shivered. "Fiona hit him with a can of beans."

"Two," came a cheerful voice from the hallway and when they looked up it was straight into a pair of smiling dark-green eyes. "And then Robin kicked out his lights. After that, we ran."

Fiona stepped into the kitchen and bent down to kiss Jody’s cheek and ruffle Taryn’s hair, who was sitting on her mother’s lap, but immediately stretched out her arms when she discovered one of her favorite playmates.

"Hello, T-one," Fiona grinned, lifting the toddler into her arms. "How’s the bug-collection coming along?"

"Don’t encourage her," Jody sighed, but her eyes were smiling. "Did you have a good sleep?"

Fiona nodded and playfully nuzzled Taryn’s neck, making the little girl giggle in delight.

"Hunger drove us to the surface, though," she answered, eying the fruit salad Sam was tossing.

"Really?" the tall blonde asked with innocent eyes. "Jody and I have experienced that on numerous occasions as well. Annoying, huh?"

Jody shot her partner a warning glance, but Sam just shrugged her shoulders and whistled, amused by the confusion on Fiona’s face, especially when realization dawned and her freckled cheeks flushed.

"Yeah, annoying," she repeated softly, so un-like Fiona that everybody was surprised.

"Is Robin coming as well?" Jody asked, shooting Sam a stern look. She almost laughed when Sam sucked in her bottom lip and created an adorable pout. Jody knew her partner well enough to know the tall blonde was biting back a remark.

"I’m here," a soft voice sounded behind her and when Jody turned around she sent the biologist a warm smile.

"Hello, Robin. Come here, take a seat. Sam, honey, pour some coffee, will you?"

Robin obediently took a seat between Jody and Lucy, while her eyes took in Fiona who was tossing Taryn up in the air, tickling the little girl every time she caught her in her arms again.

"Fiona, honey, if she gives back the fruit she just gobbled down, I’ll make you clean it up," Jody warned.

"Oops," Fiona grinned, immediately stopping the toss-and-catch game her niece loved so much. "We’d better wait till later, T-one, when the goodies are halfway between your mouth other end."

"T-one?" Robin asked, sending Sam a grateful smile when a fresh cup of coffee was placed on the table in front of her.

"Tornado one," Lucy explained. "Tim is T-two, or Double T. It’s a Fiona thing."

"It’s cute," Robin smiled and again Jody sent Sam a warning look. Inwardly though, she was laughing. Her tall partner could be so predictable. No matter how hard she tried, it was almost impossible for her not to tease Fiona and Robin.

Fiona, however, had caught the look Jody had given Sam and a slow smile spread across her face. Sam had been put under restrictions. It was almost too good to be true and, with a happy sigh, Fiona let herself sink down in one of the kitchen chairs. When Sam handed her a cup of coffee she winked at the tall blonde, grinning when she noticed the frustrated sigh.

Michael, after having opened the kitchen door and shouting:’They’re up," took a seat next to his youngest sister and slapped her on the shoulder.

"We want to hear the whole story," he said. "Especially the part where the two of you escaped. You hit that bloke with a can of beans?"

"Two," both Fiona and Robin said and they smiled at each other, which made Sam almost moan in frustration.

The kitchen door was opened and Joshua, Alice and Yarra came in, followed by Joan McDonnell who was holding a sleeping Timothy.

"I love a good reunion," Fiona grinned, watching how everybody found a seat around the huge table.

"Where’s Trish?"

"In my office," Sam answered. "The Inspector called and they had to discuss a few things."

"Have they...have they caught him yet?" Robin asked softly. It suddenly dawned on her that their kidnapper was still out there. It was a very disconcerting idea.

"No, not yet," Lucy sighed. "But they have the whole mountain sealed off, which is not much of a help I guess, seeing how big the area is."

"Maybe if they find out who he is, it will be easier to capture him again," Joan McDonnell said with a hopeful voice.

"Let’s hope so," Jody sighed, smiling at Joshua who was sitting across from his sister with a happy smile on his face. Even though Robin’s kidnapper had managed to escape he was not afraid. He had faith in Trishia Waters and Sam Stevens and knew they would do anything to keep his sister safe. Besides, he would keep an eye on her as well. Nobody was going to put his sister through an ordeal like that again. Not if he could prevent it.

"So, tell us, Red, what happened?" Lucy asked when everybody was seated around the table and provided with a beverage.

Fiona’s eyes traveled across all the expectant faces and she smiled. It would be so easy to crack a joke and make their ordeal seem like so much less than it had been, but she was with her family and friends and really appreciated that fact. Now more than ever.

"Well, as you all know, Robin and I were on our way to Brisbane..." Fiona started after having taken a deep breath. In a serious tone of voice, she told the listeners what had happened the previous day. Every now and then she looked at Robin for help, giving the other woman the opportunity to tell her side of the story as well, which she did, in her naturally, slightly husky voice that occasionally trembled from the memories.


"I still would have liked to question him myself," Trishia frowned, playing with a pencil. "Although I do appreciate what you did, Inspector."

"I know, Trishia," Carol Wong’s voice sounded tired. "But I also know this case is very personal and..."

"Are you taking me off the case?"

"No ! What do you think I am, senile? You’re one of my best people, Trish. I just didn’t want Joe Michaels to play games with you. Besides, there were still a few things I needed to tell him."

"I hope you took pity on the poor man, Inspector," Trishia grinned, having heard stories about Carol Wong’s interrogation techniques.

"Of course, I was my own charming self," Carol Wong answered and Trishia could hear the sarcasm in her voice. "And I did get some answers."

"Great. Care to share?" Trishia asked, eagerly leaning forward in an unconscious listening posture.

"Mister Michaels told me something very interesting. Does the name Barry Miles ring a bell?"

"Barry Miles...Barry Miles...," Trishia slowly repeated, as if tasting the name. Somewhere, in the back of her mind something started nagging and deep down inside she knew she had heard that name before. Somewhere...

"Give me a second here, Inspector," she mumbled, while hundreds of names flew through her head.

Think, Trish, Think! Barry Miles...Barry...Miles...Wait! Six years ago, Burleigh Heads...

"April, about six years ago a man named Barry Miles was attacked by his brother, half-brother really, who, allegedly, threw battery acid in his face. The accusations could never be examined or proven, because both brothers disappeared," Trish exhaled slowly and leaned back in her chair. "Our masked man is Barry Miles," she concluded.

"I knew your memory was fabulous, Trish," Carol Wong complimented the police woman, but Trishia shrugged her shoulders and raked her fingers through her hair in a frustrated gesture.

"It’s not that great, Inspector. If it was that fabulous, I would have remembered the moment I saw this bloke take off his mask."

"I’m still impressed," Carol Wong replied and Trishia could hear the smile in the Inspector’s voice. "Now, question number two: do you know the name of the brother?"

Trishia could hear the barely veiled excitement in the other woman’s voice and she felt she only had to connect a few dots to come to an answer.

The memory came crashing back into her conscious mind and unconsciously the police woman flinched. She could still see the gun that was aimed at Sam’s head, the tightening of the finger on the trigger. And then the shot. And the blood, spilled over the dusty ground, cracked by weeks of heat and drought. The knees had given out and as soon as the tall body had slowly sunk to the ground, Trishia had known she had killed the man. She still remembered how strange it had been to hear a bird sing, when she had stood over the dead body.

"Steven Hayes," she answered in a low voice.

"Steven Hayes," Carol Wong repeated.


To be continued in chapter 14

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