Chapter 20

"Holy shit!" Peter, normally unflappable, was visibly surprised.

"Aye…’tis about what I was thinking." T.J. drolly replied.

Sitting behind her desk at the pub, T.J. idly played with the miniature sword letter opener that sat on the desk in front of her. She had related the entire story to the agent, who was obviously amazed at the antagonism of the Reynoso Brothers towards her.

"Looks like we’re going to have to move in a bit sooner than I had anticipated." His handsome face was grim.

T.J. remained silent for the moment, pensive about her options at this point.

"But I still stand by my initial assessment. You need to appear to go along with this deal that he has offered you. In the meantime, I’ll put an agent on you and on Ms. Wells."

"No." Her voice was low, but strong.

"Ms. Jameson I will not have you or your friend needlessly endangered." He was insistent, his eyes held a no-nonsense look.

"Good ta know, but unnecessary. I’ve arranged for security for both of us." Her gaze became cool, ice blue eyes boring down on the man who sat opposite her at the desk.

"Taylor. We are talking about the protection of the Bureau."

"And I am talking about protection that will not make the Reynosos suspicious. The minute one of his thugs makes a federal agent on my tail, Cami and I are as good as dead." She caught the flicker of agreement on his face, so she continued. "So. We do this my way."

It was the agent’s turn to be pensive. But finally he formulated his response. "I will give you that point. But, I will set it up so that at my signal a strike force of agents will respond to any threat on you or Ms. Wells. Agreed?"

It was obvious that this was not a negotiation, but strictly information. "Agreed." Besides, the thought of having federal agents handy in a crisis was a comforting notion.

She shifted her weight in the chair and felt the reassuring bulge of the Sig that was sitting in her shoulder holster. Jake had thoughtfully provided her with a new weapon, since she had never gotten hers back from her evening with Miguel Reynoso.

Agent Knight stood to leave the room. "Well, boss. Back to work for me." He was a step from the door when he turned. "Oh. Before I forget. Crime scene boys just finished their report on Ms. Wells’ Jeep. Seems that your hunch was right - someone tampered with the axle. It was cut cleanly, more than three-quarters of the way through. Much too neat to have happened in the crash." With a final nod, he left the office.

Christ! I knew it. Hitting that pothole must have put too much pressure on it and it cracked the rest of the way. Fucking bastards! With a lithe, but violent sweep of her arm, T.J. sent the sword letter opener flying across the room, where it stuck into the wall with a satisfying thump.


True to her word, Cami had modeled the Victoria’s Secret purchase for T.J. later that night. Of course the gorgeous green satin and lace lingerie hadn’t lasted on the blonde for very long. It was currently in a pile on the floor, next to T.J.’s black leather jacket. A rather startling contrast between the two garments, and yet somehow befitting their owners; T.J. glanced across the room at them and started to quietly hum Stevie Nicks into Cami’s soft, pink ear. Stay with me…stay. I need you to love me - I need you today. Give to me your leather… take from me my lace.

Cami smiled to herself, and turned around in the arms of the naked Irish woman behind her, so that they were face to face. "Hmm. I love that song. You a Stevie Nicks fan?"

"Oh please. Who doesn’t like Stevie Nicks?" T.J. smiled. "Sorry. I dinna know you were awake."

Cami stifled a yawn and stretched, a move that to T.J.’s eyes looked for all the world like Cami was a cat. "Yeah. Barely." Cami glanced at the clock on the bedside table - it was just after midnight. T.J. had brought them both dinners from the pub and they had shared a candlelit meal on the balcony before Cami had shown off the lingerie. After that…Cami smiled to herself in remembrance of the sensual lovemaking that had followed.

"So… I’ve been meaning to ask you…" Cami drawled.

"Hmm?" T.J. purred in reply.

"About the tattoo on your shoulder blade?" Cami crawled over the top of the taller woman and began to examine the design in question on T.J.’s back.

"Yeah? What about it?" T.J. was reveling in the feel of Cami’s naked flesh rubbing against hers.

"This design is really interesting." She ran her soft fingers over the intricate patterns of the tattoo on T.J.’s right shoulder. It was a circle about the size of a silver dollar. Around the outside edge was a beautiful Celtic-knot pattern. The inside of the circle was bisected by a sweeping curve, almost a sideways "S". The entire design was a dark blue color, with shades of green woven into the knot-work on the outer edge. It was truly stunning. "What kind of knots are these?"

T.J. had just been enjoying the fingers rubbing on her back and missed the question. "Sorry?" She shivered as Cami touched a particularly sensitive area.

"I mean, I know enough about Celtic knots to know that they each mean something…what does this design mean?"

"Oh. That. ‘Tis the Daonnan pattern. It comes from the Book of Kells — it means ‘continually’ or ‘always’."

"Cool! What about the "S" shaped-line through the circle?"

T.J. shrugged a bit. "I dunno. It’s kinda like my Celtic version of the yin-yang design — just a symbol that has kinda always been with me…I designed it myself."

Cami smiled at T.J.’s shivering and continued to softly stroke T.J.’s back. "Beautiful." She paused. "And the tattoo is pretty too…" She met T.J.’s glance and winked. T.J. grinned in response.

The two lovers quietly enjoyed the feel of each other, reveling in the tingling sensations that they felt whenever they touched. It was a moment stolen out of time — not counted in minutes or seconds, but in lifetimes and depth of love.

Cami finally broke the silence by asking softly - "You know what?"

T.J. smiled at her. "You are absolutely gorgeous."

The compliment was rewarded with Cami flushing in pleasure, which T.J. could just barely make out in the dim light coming from the small lamp on the nearby table. The petite woman grinned back. "No, silly. I was going to say that I’m having unnatural cravings for you and for more of that ice cream you brought."

It was T.J.’s turn to blush. But she covered it by leaning in and kissing Cami soundly. "Aye? Well then I guess I’ll just have ta satisfy those cravings." She gracefully swung out of bed and reached for her abandoned t-shirt. "I’ll go get the ice cream."

Cami rolled over in bed and unashamedly watched the now half-naked woman leave the room. With a self-satisfied grin, she too got out of bed and began to light several candles, finally turning off the lamp and bathing the room in the warm, flickering light of the flames.

She heard a thump behind her and thinking it was T.J. returning with the ice cream she started to turn. "Back so soon…mmph!"

A black-gloved hand slammed against her mouth and she briefly struggled against the strong arm that had locked around her neck, until she felt the cold steel of a gun barrel against her temple. "Callate! No noise!" The gruff, heavily accented voice told her.

Her pulse raced out of control and she had to will herself to breathe. The large man was holding her from behind and gesturing for her to turn and face the bedroom door. For a moment she thought to simply resist him and fight, but her brain rationalized that the man was more than twice her size. Besides, T.J. is downstairs somewhere and Jake’s guard is outside. She’ll get help. Oh god…. T.J., please help! Realizing her real salvation rested in warning T.J., Cami reluctantly allowed the man to nudge her towards the door. But she deliberately made her footsteps sound heavy, hoping that T.J. would hear them downstairs.

The arm that held her was hairy and smelled strongly of body odor. The sheer fetid smell of the man nearly caused Cami to gag. Briefly she worried about the fact that she was naked, but then realized that modesty was a secondary issue when she was dealing with life and death.

Downstairs, T.J. absently hummed to herself as she dished up the ice cream. After pouring an unhealthy amount of chocolate sauce onto Cami’s portion, she turned to leave the kitchen and the hair on the back of her neck stood straight up. Something’s wrong. She heard a soft thump from upstairs and quietly put the bowls on the counter. Someone’s in the house! She silently passed into the living room and peered out the window into the darkness, but didn’t see Jake’s man who was usually posted somewhere in the shadows outside. Fuck!

Her gun was upstairs, tucked in her leather jacket, so she was unarmed and half-naked. Fuck! Fuck! Her first instinct was to take things slowly, to take whoever it was by surprise. But she realized that Cami was in danger and time might be of the essence. The cool, clear battle-trained mind kicked into high gear.

The stairs were not a perfect choice, but short of climbing up to the balcony outside, she didn’t have many options. In her mind, she ran over the floor plan of Cami’s upstairs rooms, and a thought occurred to her. Not ideal, but it will have to do.

She silently and cautiously made her way to the top of the stairs, ever careful to avoid the steps that creaked. With a quick motion, she slipped from the top of the stairs into the first guest bedroom, which was next to Cami’s room.

Back in the room, the intruder was visibly getting nervous. After he did nothing but move her to face the door, Cami rationalized that he was obviously waiting for T.J. to make an appearance. That being said, she could not imagine what was taking the tall woman so

long. Unless she heard the noise and went for help? A rather far-fetched notion, but Cami was ever hopeful.

She felt the dark man shift anxiously behind her, easing the tension in his arm that was holding her, just enough, she thought, for her to reach a well-placed elbow into his ribcage. Cami took a deep breath in anticipation of the blow, but before she began her motion, a streak of white flashed out from her peripheral vision. Shit! T.J.!

The barkeep had climbed out the window of the guest bedroom and swung herself onto Cami’s balcony, enabling her to take the intruder from behind. T.J. executed a spectacular take down tackle, knocking the gun out of the man’s hand with one arm, and leveling him with her other arm and the full force of the strength in her legs. Cami went flying across the floor and collided rather heavily with the wall, but for the moment, she was out of harm’s way.

The man rolled with the woman who had appeared as fast as a streak of lightning, and flipped neatly back onto his feet. The white fury however also landed quickly back on her feet. Both of them ignored the gun for the present, as it had clattered across the room towards the dresser, and could not be seen in the dimness of the room.

The man feinted forward with a left cross, only to be smacked by a roundhouse kick from one very powerful leg. "Puta!" The force of T.J.’s kick stunned the man. Streams of Spanish curses now flowed freely from him.

"Come on, Pancho! What’s wrong? One woman too much for ya?" T.J. sneered.

In response, the man pulled out a knife. T.J. began to circle him, to try and move him so that she was between the intruder and Cami. Her ploy worked, as she circled around to her right, he followed suit, apparently not caring that she was positioning herself to defend her friend.

Cami, in the meantime was reeling from her run-in with the wall. The impact had knocked the wind out of her, and she had thumped her head, which was still recovering from the Jeep accident. Dazed and dizzy, she lay still, fighting the nausea that threatened to wash over her.

The intruder lashed out at T.J. with the knife. As she lithely ducked out of the way of the wild swipe, T.J. swept her leg forward and caught the dark man in the side of the knee. He cried out in pain, and staggered, but maintained his footing.

He was sweating profusely. Finally he must have decided that one woman was no match for his size and strength. With a growl, he switched the knife into an overhand position and rushed at T.J.

T.J. was balanced on the balls of her feet, and reacted instantly. Catching both of the man’s forearms in her powerful hands, she rolled backwards with his momentum onto her back and proceeded to flip him up and over her so he landed on his back behind her. With a quick flip, T.J. was straddling his neck, using the knife that was still in his grip to hold at his throat.

"Who sent ya, asshole?" Her voice was a low growl, and she hardly showed any outward signs of the exertion of the fight.

The intruder on the other hand was out of breath, his dark eyes bulging at the pressure of her knee in his chest. "I dinna like to repeat myself, ya bastard!"

The man still refused to say anything, his breath laborsome with T.J.’s weight on him. "I’ll tell ya what, let’s play 20 questions. If I like your answers, ya get ta keep all of yer body parts. If I dinna like them…well…." T.J. shrugged and grabbed his hand at the juncture of his thumb and bent it over backwards, causing him to cry out in pain.

"Let’s start with an easy one, shall we? Are ya here after me?"

The man clenched his jaw in pain, but decided to answer. "No." Came his gruff reply.

" ‘Tis what I figured. So ya came for my friend then?" Her eyes were glittering dangerously now.

"Si." He croaked out.

"Are ya supposed ta be takin’ her somewhere? Or was there another plan?" Her growl was even lower.

The man hesitated, clearly not wanting to tell too much, but also weighing whom he feared more, T.J. or the Reynosos. When he delayed, T.J. bent farther back on his hand, causing a popping sound to come from his wrist. He cried out again, and decided that the evil that was threatening him at the moment was likely much more dangerous than going back to the Reynosos empty handed. "Si. Si. Taking her to a safe place."

T.J. cocked an eyebrow. "Safe? That’s a helluva word ta use." But her brain had already pieced it together. Cami was to be leverage against T.J. agreeing to Reynoso’s deal. And just to make sure he had T.J.’s full and complete attention, he was going to kidnap Cami and take her somewhere out of T.J.’s reach. "Bloody hell!"

T.J. heard a soft foot fall and looked up briefly to see Cami approaching them, steadily holding the pistol aimed at the intruder. Cami didn’t say a word, but her pale countenance told T.J. enough. The blonde was fighting the dizziness that made the room spin. But despite having trouble standing, she knew that the gun would be useful to T.J., so her survival instincts kicked in and caused her to move.

T.J. leaned a bit closer to the intruder and lowered her voice, making sure she had his complete attention. He struggled momentarily, but T.J. simply eased the knife blade into his neck just enough to draw a bit of blood, and the pain was enough to stop the man’s movements. "Now ya listen ta me, ya worthless piece of sheep dung. Tell Miguel that I already agreed ta his bargain, so back the hell off! And the next time he sends one of his men out to interfere with my friend, I’ll send the man back in several small boxes. Comprende?"

The man understood - T.J. could see it in his eyes. She also knew her message would likely never reach Reynoso, as the man underneath her would never have the balls to return to his boss and tell him that he was beaten by a woman. Bloody arrogant, machismo men! But the threat to the intruder was enough. He would spread the word amongst Reynoso’s men, and hopefully cause some chaos in the ranks. Rumors worked well in such organizations.

"Cami, call Jake. Tell him ta get his guard in here ta take out this trash." T.J. feared looking again at Cami’s shock-filled face, so she spoke without a glance at her companion.

T.J. reached her hand up to Cami and somehow the blonde knew without asking that T.J. was asking for the gun. She placed the cold steel of the weapon into T.J.’s out-stretched hand, and silently, Cami crossed the room and made the call to Jake.

Once she had the gun, T.J. cautiously stood and motioned for the man to do the same. "On yer feet, fuck-wad. Hands where I can see ‘em, and then put ‘em on yer head." He reluctantly complied and allowed T.J. to march him out of the room and downstairs.

It seemed like an eternity, but it was really only a few minutes before Jake’s guard came bursting through the front door and relieved T.J. of her charge. T.J. would later find out that the guard had gotten into his car down the block and had fallen asleep. She didn’t even want to know what Jake would do to the guy for sleeping on the job, but she was sure that it was mild compared to what she wanted to do to him.


No more than ten minutes could have passed before T.J. was headed back up the stairs. The fact that Cami hadn’t followed her downstairs after making the phone call, spoke volumes to T.J. Now ya’ve done it. Ya scared her. Not that ya can blame her. She had a man holding a gun ta her head…and why? Because of me.

Her heart felt like a lead weight in her chest as she rounded the doorframe of Cami’s room. T.J. found Cami, wrapped in a terry cloth robe, seated on the bed with her arms wrapped tightly around herself. Her face still wore that pale, dazed appearance, and T.J.’s stomach twisted in a knot. Shit! She’s probably in shock…

The dark-haired woman lingered in the door way, unsure of how to proceed; her heart told her to comfort her friend, but her treacherous brain interfered - convincing her that Cami was just as afraid of her as she had been of the assailant.

It was Cami who broke the silence; eyes glittering with unshed tears as she looked up to her companion. "So. Who are you? G.I. Jane?" Her attempt at humor fell flat and her jaw clenched as she saw T.J. flinch in reaction.

The tall woman’s face was half shrouded in shadows, but it was apparent that T.J. wasn’t ready to respond, so Cami tried to clarify what she had said. "I mean…you…you came riding in like a knight on a white charger…and I …where did…. where did you learn to fight like that?"

Although her tone held no malice, her every word cut through T.J., bringing her back to her days in Belfast. T.J.’s voice was hard and angry when she answered, testament to years of having people reject her for what she was, what she had been. "I learned it from the I.R.A. Well, a faction of the I.R.A. anyway, but…" She shrugged and shook her head. "Ta most of ya Westerners, we are all just a rose by any other name…" Her voice trailed off, the pain now clearly evident.

Her distress startled Cami, but the blonde was processing the answer so she didn’t respond right away. Cami’s silence edged T.J.’s hurt posture into a full-blown anger. Just as I figured… she’s gonna go runnin’ in the opposite direction.

T.J.’s lip curled into a snarl and her voice took on a silky purr, but not the sexy, seductive sound that would send Cami into convulsive shivers — this was a dangerous, jungle-cat growl. "Mercenary, gun-runner, explosives expert, and Commander of the Free Eire Patriots at your service." She gave Cami a mock salute, and advanced slightly into the room. The light from the candles was no longer romantic, but instead made T.J. seem more menacing, almost sinister.

The blonde swallowed hard and searched her brain for a response. "You…" Cami trailed off, trying to wrap her brain around the information that T.J. was practically hurling at her. "Um…mercenary?" The minute she said it, she knew it sounded stupid, but Cami was clearly confused, and the blow to her head was making it difficult to think. "What are you saying…why…"

T.J. was just a few feet from her now - her mouth a hard sneer and her eyes were cold steel. Cami searched the face in front of her for the passionate, wonderful woman that she had fallen for, but the face that looked back at her almost seemed to be a stranger. Almost. But she’s got to be in there… Her thoughts trailed off. Cami wanted so desperately to say something, anything that would appease T.J., but she just couldn’t think clearly. "Please, calm down…. I just need to…" Cami eased her arm back to hold on to the poster of the bed, trying to abate the fact that the room was still spinning a bit.

T.J. was oblivious to the distress that Cami was in — she saw the room through the red haze of violent anger, a vision of her past that she just couldn’t shake. "Do ya prefer killer? Terrorist? Murderer? Take your pick. For I’ve been called all of these and worse!"

T.J. saw Cami start to fall and halted her approach to stare down at the blonde. T.J.’s brain was focused solely on her defensive posture, so she refused to believe the love she still saw shining in Cami’s eyes. Must be fear. " ‘Tis why I’m here! I was thrown out of Ireland. But that is where I learned ta fight, ta survive."

Cami took a deep breath and cautiously stood, an act that cost her in terms of strength, and she forced back the bile that was rising in the back of her throat. She faced T.J. and was silent for a long time, but finally she reached a tentative hand up and caressed T.J.’s cheek. The mercenary froze, her jaw clenching in reflex. But at her touch, Cami had seen and felt all she needed to know. T.J. is in there. I just have to get through to her. But how? Dammit, if I could just think!

When the blonde remained silent, T.J. couldn’t help herself from shouting. "What?! Are ya happy? Now ya know!"

Cami’s response was genuine, from the heart. Her hand cupped T.J.’s cheek. "Yes. Actually I am happy. You make me happy, T.J. Please…. what are you talking about? …Just…calm down…this isn’t you…"

T.J. grabbed her wrist and pulled it away from her face. "Don’t." The tone was dangerous.

"Don’t make me into something I’m not."

Cami was puzzled and her wrist was hurting from where T.J. had a death grip on it, but she refused to give into the fear that T.J. was trying to make her feel. "I…I’m not making you into anything. Just telling you that the person I see is you. The person I love…the person that…"

T.J. cut her off by dragging her to the mirror on the nearby vanity. "Then you are not looking hard enough!" She turned Cami and made her stare at the reflection of the two of them in the mirror — a blonde vision of hope and light, next to the dark avenging fury. T.J.’s face was nearly murderous. "This is who I am. Not some rose-colored vision that ya have. So just stop it! Stop with the Pollyanna, optimistic crap, ‘cause ya have no bleedin’ idea who I really am."

"T.J. this is ridiculous! Of course I know you…I just…I’m still a bit shaken. A man just pointed a gun to my head! And I’m kinda…dizzy…I…" Cami unashamedly began to cry.

The tears had an effect on T.J., but she ignored the fierce desire she had to wrap her arms around Cami and comfort her. Instead, she allowed Cami’s words to strike home like a bulls-eye. A gun to her head…of course…

T.J. began to tremble. "And who’s bloody, fuckin’ fault is that?!? Mine! I brought the bastards inta your life. It’s all my fault!" She took a few steps back from Cami, certain now that her first idea had been the correct one — to stay as far away from Cami as possible in order to keep her out of danger. "But that’s something I’ll soon remedy." She turned on her heel and began to drag on her blue jeans and gather up her belongings.

Cami followed a step after her. "What? What do you mean? T.J. please…I…"

When she got no response from the infuriated woman, she reached out to touch T.J.’s back. "It’s not your fault, T.J. It’s Reynoso… everything will be… we will…with the F.B.I. …" But as soon as Cami’s hand made contact with the tense back before her, T.J. jerked her shoulder away as though she were scalded.

"No. We will not be doing anything…" She growled.

"But… I don’t understand, T.J. please! Calm down and talk to me!" Cami was still crying, but quiet, solitary tears of fear and frustration. She couldn’t think straight and almost wanted to shake her head to clear the cobwebs. She felt as though her brains were scrambled. What is she saying? I…I wish I could…

T.J. refused to answer, but instead pulled on her leather jacket as she continued towards the door. Shoving her right hand into her jacket pocket to retrieve her keys, she encountered a small box, which caused her to stop in her tracks.

She knew she shouldn’t turn around- that the memory of a devastated Cami would be too much to bear in the coming weeks. But she had to — was compelled to face the woman who had taken her heart and soul.

So T.J. slowly turned, memorizing the way the candlelight flickered off of Cami’s skin, making her hair nearly glow with angelic presence. There’s your problem, old girl…what is a devil like you doin’ with an angel like that? Besides tearing ya both apart, that is…

"Cami…I…" She swallowed hard, not sure what to say. When the tear-filled green eyes met hers, T.J.’s knees buckled. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the small box and set it gently on the dresser next to her. "I’m sorry. I…" But words seemed horribly inadequate. So T.J. just turned and on unsteady legs, she quickly left the room — leaving behind the house and woman who had finally made her feel like she was home.

In her wake, Cami sank to the floor and cried - tears rolling in hot streams down her cheeks. But it wasn’t from the shock and fear of being held at gunpoint. No, the tears were for the other half of her soul, who had just walked out of her life.

next part

Return to Main Page