Steel Free Fall

This was written at the age of 16(many years ago now), I have gone back over it changed a few things, the location, and the last names of the leading ladies…etc. Just enough to tidy it up a little. If this reminds you of anyone living or dead, then so be it. I found my self wanting to tell more of their story, so this is part one in a set of three.
Not much a few heated words, a good boxing match, and a good slap to the cheek. The swearing is what would concern my mother tho!
Would this be a story without emotions of pain and a few hurt feelings? Of course not. Yes they get hurt, and feelings are bruised, but in the long run it works out.
IF this is illegal in your state, then you need to move!!! If you are under the tender age of 18 then go play at and come back when you are of age. Yes this story has a few MILD romps in the park. Most of you know I have done more explicit things in my writing than this.

THANK YOU'S: I have to thank a few people here; if not for their encouragement this would not have been posted. Globaby, the kind words, the help with finding websites and the unconditional support. To Amber, for the disclaimer!!! You ROC buddy!!! To my "Princess", I hope this one leaves you wanting more! And to the one who hurts the most, 'who love ya baby?' and last but NOT the least, my 'inglusch magor' (LMAO) Kristen, for the corrections of punctuation and teaching of speelin! The subtle ways you have helped me buddy is way beyond anyone has done, thank you for the time you have spent helping correct this! You will always be me favorite TUILI!!!!! All kidding aside buddy I bow humbly at ur feet... I owe you a great debt for the things you have taught me. Sniffle, sniffle.

If you like this one let me know, helps me to know what you felt while reading this. Hate mail will joyfully answer in the same manner as it was sent, cheerfully! I will reply to anyone who writes, so let me know how this one made you feel.

      I had worked for TNT Construction now for about the last ten years. Right out of high school, I was seventeen at the time. I hired on with Mr. Tom, as everyone called him, and to me he was like the father I never had. Looking around the church, I saw that it was packed with the men I worked with over the years, as well as nameless faces that came to pay their last respects to him. Some cried openly, others stared at the front of the church with a sorrowful looks on their faces.

      I was one of the top five foremen in this company. We were the pallbearers. We walked the heavy casket out of the church. I was pretty short compared to the other men; I had to hold my end up by strength alone, as it would never rest on my shoulder considering that the men who walked beside me were over six feet tall. Still I held my end proudly; the construction work had made me as strong as they were. It was all I could do to hold my feelings in check, this was not the place to fall apart; it was like burying my dad. The tears rolled down my face silently as the door of the hearse slammed shut. I must have jumped a foot back as it rang out in the stillness of such a dreary day. A sob escaped my dry lips as Mad Max wrapped his arms around me. I looked around quickly; I could feel someone staring at me. I scanned the large crowd of mourners until my green eyes came to rest on a pair of blue violet ones. They had to be the palest eyes I had ever looked into. My blood shot eyes never faltered as she stared back at me. Then just as quick she was gone, into the limo that waited to take her to the grassy field where we would lay him to his final resting place. I shook my head to clear my thoughts as Mad Max helped me into my truck. Do you believe in fate? I didn't either until I looked into those eyes. This is where our story begins; it's rough, it's rocky and most certainly did not get off to a very good start!

      It had been three months since we had buried Tom and the crew was devastated. I had come up with a little fun idea to get them back to the job at hand. I had purchased a freefall net. If you have not seen one of these, it's a rush. You free fall over 200 feet before crashing into a soft net. After a long day I had the guys hook it up to the crane. I took the first dive into the net as it hung one hundred feet above the ground. We sat around drinking cold sodas and taking turns jumping off into the net.

      It was starting to get dark so we all took one last dive. I had hooked up a repelled rope to the bottom of the net so that after each dive we could just hook it up the harnesses we used on the steel building and repel back to the ground. The sun was about gone as I looked down at the guys watching below. I stepped to the edge of the dive platform. Spreading my arms and doing a perfect swan dive, tucking and rolling twice I straightened myself upright to land on my back. I waved an all clear to Mad Max, who was one of the crane drivers. I had found out not to long ago that he was actually my older brother. We had been put up for adoption when we were quite young. It's funny how life brings you back together after so many years.

      I repelled down to the ground and looking at him yelled, "Hot damn buddy, we gotta do this again!"

      I turned to pull the net's air plugs as it came down to the ground. A "whooshing" sound was all that I heard. It thought it was too quite. I turned back and looked around.

      "Come on guys lets get this packed up and I'll buy the beer, we're way ahead of schedule. Let's party."

      Then I saw what the their problem was. I found myself staring into those blue violet eyes again; they cut right to the quick. I could see how they changed with her mood.

      "You care to tell me what the hell you think you were doing," she snapped at me.

Those eyes were spitting fire.

      "YOU care to tell ME WHO the hell you are," I snapped back.

      I might have been shorter than her but she was not going to intimidate me. Not people many did; besides I knew who she was, Tom talked of her often. I just felt like yanking on her chain a bit.

"I OWN this company. NOW answer MY question," She replied stalking closer.

"I was cheering up the boys, since Tom passed on, they have been down and needing something to get the lead out of their ass's. Is there a problem here?"

      I stepped closer; I was pissed off now. I could hear the boys giggling. About this time Mad Max came down off his crane, the guys stood behind me. They wouldn't back down if I didn't.

      "YES there is, THAT was stupid AND a foolish thing to do. Someone could have been killed. DO YOU REALIZE THAT?"

I struggled to keep my temper under control.

      "Yes, I do but do YOU realize that walking a steel beam is JUST as dangerous? JESUS!" I spun on a boot heal, "Come on boys this round is on me."

I was jerked to a stop.

      "I'm not through with this conversation," she said as she yanked me back in front of her.

I lost it; I yanked her hand off my wrist and whipped her around pinning her up against my truck.

      "Don't you ever try and manhandle me again, you got that? I WORK for you, you don't OWN ME!"

      "NO I don't, nor do you work for me anymore. YOU'RE FIRED," she snapped at me as I shoved her harder against my truck.

      "You know I was always taught to respect my elders, so DONT FUCK WITH ME, MA'AM," I said letting go of her, "Come on boys I'm still buying the first round, I can find work anywhere!"

      I climbed in my truck and waited, the boys one by one walked up to the new owner of the TNT Company and told her they quit. Looks like this job would come to a stand still. Such was life; a billion dollar-building project just ground to a halt. I needed a vacation anyway, it just looked like I was just getting it sooner then I had planned. Mad Max jumped into my truck with me, and off to the bar we went. I would collect my tools and such tomorrow.

      It had been two weeks since Tarie had fired me, and no one would go to work for her. In our line of work people talked and she couldn't get another crew to finish the job. I loved every minute of my time off. I had plans the next day to drive out to a guest ranch that an old friend of mine owned. I was excited; I had not seen her in two years. Her ranch was one of my safe havens to block the outside world.
      My phone rang as I was zipping the last zipper on my suitcase, I swore as I stubbed my toe.

      "This better be good," I snapped into the phone.

      "Hi, is this Brie," a soft voice asked.

My mind was in a panic, whom had I given my number to last night?

      "Depends, who is this," I retorted back at the sexy voice.

      "This is Tarie. I hope I'm not interrupting anything?"

      "NO, not really just packing to leave. WAIT I don't know anyone by that name. So if you're selling I'm not buying, now if you will excuse me I've got shit to do."

I was about to hang up as I heard the few words she spoke.

      "This is Tarie from TNT Construction. I…"


I was getting upset now that I knew who it was.

      "Brie, please I need to talk to you, will you calm down," the voice on the other end pleaded with me.

      "I think you said all there was to say the other night. AND DON'T CALL ME BRIE!"
      No one called me that not even my closest friends did. Well, there was one exception to the rule: Mad Max; he got away with things no one could ever dream of with me. It was my name shortened one more time to a nickname I hated. I slammed the phone down, and yanked it out of the wall when it started to ring again. I had my cell phone, and the boys knew how to reach me, besides they knew that I was leaving in the morning anyway. Mad Max would look after my place while I was gone. I set my luggage by the door, made sure the coffee was set at 4 a.m. and off to bed I went.

      I spent the first three days relaxing by the pool or out riding the foothills of Mount Hood. The ranch sat just off the summit, close to the desert region, green grass as far as the eye could see, and then just up the next hill or so it turned into a desolate barren land. The black mare I rode danced under me, it felt good to be free. I for the first time in the last two years felt no stress from my job or my daily life.
      That's when it hit me, right between the eyes like a 2x4 cracking against my thick skull. I turned the mare back towards the ranch and did the worst thing you can do with a green horse: I gave her a nudge to run back to the barn. Becky, the woman who ran one of the biggest guest ranches in the greater Northwest, would have the answers I wanted. I stabled the mare after cooling her off and headed for the main house. Becky was gone for the afternoon on a quick trip to a horse auction. I turned back to my own cottage and decided to call Mad Max.

      "Max? If you are there pick up the phone. I got a plan and need your help."

      I felt silly talking into my own answering machine, but I knew he would most likely be hanging out at my place.

      "Hi, short stuff, I was in the shower, just had me a swim in that nice pool you got here now I am going to check out the fridge."

      "Making your self at home huh? Listen I need a favor from you."

      I could hear him raiding my fridge as we talked. I had to smile to myself; I would never let anyone into my life but him. He was my safe haven in a world of stormy seas.
      "Listen, Max, I need you to call the guys, have them come out here for the weekend. I have an idea that could benefit us all. Tell them to bring who ever they want to, this weekend is on me."

      "Anyone? We can bring anyone," Mad Max asked with a tone in his voice that he got when he was up to no good; I heard it plain as day.

      "MAX! What are you cookin' up now? Remember the last time you pulled something? It backfired," I said, grinning to myself thinking about the time he had tried to set me up on a blind date. It was a nightmare for him, his date and his date's cousin.

      "Not a thing darling. I shall make the arrangements tonight. Now I got to go, I shall talk to you soon, wait… when do you want us all to get there," He said, stumbling for words.

      Yes he was up to something, but what? I had no clue.

      "Tomorrow night or at some point on Friday and bring the crane with you, we'll need it. While you're at it grab the free fall net and harnesses. Look Max I have to go, but just be here either tomorrow night or Friday noontime. Love ya brother," I said hanging up before he could go into a long speech about how costly it would be to drive the huge crane over a mountain.
      Several phone calls later I had my plan in motion, the weekend would be spent playing and relaxing in the sun. Come Monday we would take back the building we had labored over for months now and we would finish it, our way. B.S. Construction would not be talked down to by anyone. B.S. that's what my initials were, some said I was full of BS, so I felt it was fitting. But if you didn't know me it was Ms. Kingston. (Am I really full of BS? I don't know you'll have to finish reading our story to find out.)
      After I was finished planning, I spent a quiet evening with Becky; we worked out a lot of details to open my own shop. By bedtime I was fully registered and had a business license. Already bonded and insured it didn't take long to get the rest done with a few phone calls. I'd had too much whiskey and was noticing the beginnings of a slight headache as Becky warned me about the other guests that would arrive sometime on Friday. She knew my crew too well and what happens when you give a bunch of gay men time off and too much to drink. They played as hard as they worked. I swore to her that we would behave as I teetered off to bed.

      Nursing a nasty hang over, I was lounging by the pool when Mad Max found me.

      "Humm, B," his deep baritone voice asked nervously.

      He was 6'11" with a body women drooled over and gay men fought for. His blonde hair fell across his strong shoulders; his deep blue/green eyes gave him the look of a Viking God. We were brother and sister, but with my 5'6" frame I looked like a midget standing next to him. He is my best friend; I have always felt safe with him, even when he did piss me off, which he was about to do.

      "Yes max," I asked lowering my sunglasses to search his blue eyes.

      "I ah… I ran into Tarie yesterday."

      His voice shook a little as I sat up right. I could feel the heat flash across my face.

      "And what did SHE have to say," I snapped at him.

      "Now Brie, hear me out, before you explode."

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

      "Fine make it quick, I don't want HER ruining MY weekend," I growled at him.

Looking back on that moment was quite funny, this giant man cowering at my temper. The bastard knew me too well; he used my nickname, he always did when it came time to have a serious conversation with me.

      "She is looking for you; she wants to make you an offer," he said as he held up his large hands, "Listen to me a second. She came to your place, we talked for a while and I think you need to hear her out. I think she realizes her mistake. She knows she needs you, needs US, and the crew to finish this job. No one will finish it, she has tried to replace us, but to no avail. She is screwed, besides we can't do this to Tom's memory, we have to finish this job."

      He paused taking a deep breath and a long pull off the bottle of beer. I stifled a giggle at the size of the small bottle compared to his meat cleaver sized hands. I sat up swinging my legs over the side of the lounge chair. I had a nasty feeling as to where this conversation was going.

      "MAX? Tell me you didn't?"

I was standing now; he stood up backing away from me. His hands spread wide in a peaceful gesture.

      "Now Brieannah Sam Kingston, don't be getting bent out of shape here. Just hear her out, see if you think her offer is good!"

I stalked closer as he backed away from me, closer to the edge of the pool.

      "SHE'S HERE, ISNT SHE," I snapped at him, "Remind me why I don't want to fire your ass?"

      "Yes, she… shit."

      He had no time to react, he blocked my first hit by holding my forehead in his large hand, but my second swing caught him off guard. I hit him low and really hard. I heard his breath leave his massive body as I wrapped my self around him like a coiled snake. I tried to pound a few more rounds into him, but I had only a second before we were submerged in the cool water of the pool. Dammit I had forgotten about the pool, now he had the advantage over me. He could touch bottom in the deep end, I couldn't. I came up for air the same time he did. I flung my self at him; he just smiled and calmly dunked me, holding me there till I thought I would drown. He dunked me several more times; I had to give up the fight. I had no chance at this game. We had an audience by now; they were taking bets as to who would win this go around. It was pretty safe to say we were equals only because Max gave in to me.

      "Get your ugly ass outta the pool and fight fair damn you," I growled as I pulled my self up out of the pool.

      I stood waiting as he faced me in the water, grinning like an evil dog. He back stroked over to the other side of the pool and climbed out, just to piss me off even more. I stalked my way past the on-lookers towards him. He held up his hands, laughing.

      "Listen half pint, you'll never win this one. So just hear her out and we can get on with the weekend. Back down before I really embarrass you in front of the ladies!"

      He laughed even harder, waving at the guys taking bets on us. I was starting to giggle myself; the closer I got to him, he was backing himself into a corner. I got close enough to take another swing at him giggling as the punch caught him in the ribs. I swung again he caught the right hook in his hand, but he didn't see the left; it caught him dead center on the shoulder. We had boxed together for a few years now, he was used to it, but I was pissed and he knew it, despite the giggling.

      "She embarrassed me in front of my crew, talked down to me like I was a child AND she tried to manhandle me, then had the gonads to fired my ass! You want me to listen to what she has to say now?" I took a breath, "Fuck You!"

      Ducking the blows, he swung back at me, I caught a quick breath and swung a right jab, and a harder left sucker punch, it never connected, it smacked into a hand inches from his nose.

      "Stop this right now."

Blue eyes bore into mine; I felt the heat trickle through me like wild fire teasing a dry pine tree.

      "Let go of me." I hissed at her, as she lowered my hand closer to her body.

      "You have no right to interfere in this." I yanked away my hand, still clutched in hers, her grip tightened on mine.
      "I think I do, love, you are fighting about me right?"

She stepped closer to me. I looked over her shoulder at Mad Max; he has a shit-eating grin on his face. I wanted nothing more then to smack it off his silly pea brained head.

      "This is not over brother!"

I glared at him then my eyes looked down at the larger hand still holding mine. She ran her thumb across the back of my hand. It felt comforting, That, in itself startled me. I jerked my hand away from hers.

      "LOVE? Oh yeah, this is becoming a love/hate relationship. I love to hate you,"
I growled at Tarie.

      She stepped closer closing the small distance between us, I could feel the heat of her lean sexy body touching mine.

      She whispered in my ear, "Love has many facets sweetheart, you reacted to my touch and you know it. I felt it just like you did. What if I kissed you right here?"

Her hand ran softly up my arm, spreading heat under it.

      "So strong, yet weak to another's touch."

      My mind was in a whirlwind of confusion. Did she just insult me or compliment me? My temper got the better of me yet again.

      "Strength comes from within and you'll never know my weaknesses. I do; however, think you need some cooling off."

I grabbed her shoulders, spinning her around as I picked her up in my arms.

      "You wouldn't dare!"

Her blue eyes turning violet, she looked into my green eyes. I brought my lips to her ear,

"Wouldn't I," I purred into the soft ear, catching a hint of jasmine perfume as I inhaled.

I kissed her softly on the lips as I released her from my arms setting her down at the edge of the pool.

      "You should have kissed me while you had the chance, that's as close as you'll ever get to me again."

      I gave her a sweet smile and shoved her face first into the pool. She came up sputtering water glaring at me. I lost my breath as she stood up; her white shirt clung to the wet lean body. I wanted nothing more then to be in that shirt's place, to be wrapped around that body, dripping with cool water. The heat must have been written all over my face as I stared at her. I reached out and snagged the bottle of beer from Max's hand. Swiftly finishing it off, I handed it back to him, my eyes never leaving hers.

      "I doubt that Brie, I can see whets in your eyes."

      She grinned up at me from the pool's edge. Her laughter rang in my ears long after I had walked away from the pool area. I was confused at how she affected me. I mean I had dated, loved, and even thought I had gotten it in return. Nothing compared to her touch, and that made me feel out of control of my emotions, which in turn pissed me off. It would be best to just try and avoid her when at all possible. Then I could get through the weekend and I wouldn't have to deal with her, then everything would be back to normal.
      With that in my mind I got ready to go out on the town with the boys. Little did I know that my life would never be normal again. Meeting Tarie Richardson had changed it for good.

      By midnight I was well on my way to having a snoot full of whiskey when I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I reached out yanked Mad Max off his bar stool and dragged him out on the dance floor, leaving a sexy brunette I had been trying to snag on, by herself.

      "What's gotten you into a wad Brie," he asked, grinning down at me. He had seen Tarie come in as well as I did.

      "Shut up and dance, big brother."

      I smiled to take the sting out of the words I spit at him. He was a good dance partner that's for sure. Anything from two stepping to break dancing, the fool could do it all. He swung me around just as the last song ended. I spun right into Tarie.

      "Jesus, I'm sorry," I stuttered as I walked off the dance floor. The tempo of the next song down shifted to a slow steady beat.

      "Dance with me." A hot breath tickled my ear.

      "I don't think…" I never got the rest out as she pulled me back on the dance floor. Her arms wrapped around my waist.

      "That's your problem, you think too much. Now hush up and enjoy the music."

She pulled me into her, our bodies fit like gloves. Not a breath of air would have passed between us.
      "This is not a good idea." I mumbled back at her as her hands caressed my back hugging me tighter.

It was all I could do to keep my self from moaning out loud.

      "Remind me to have some duct tape handy next time," She growled in my ear and she kissed my neck.

I lost all control right then and there. I wrapped my arms around her neck.

      "Duc…t… duct tape?"

      I could hardly breathe let alone make a full sentence. Her perfume woke a fire in my senses. And they took a ride in a hand basket straight to hell. Right wrong or other wise I wanted her.

      "Keep your mouth shut little one." She pulled away from to me to smile.

      "I can think of other ways to keep my…"

      I never really saw it coming as her lips claimed mine. The world exploded. This time I think I didmoan or did she? I still can't be sure who did. The world stopped, no one existed, just her and I alone on the dance floor, assaulting each other's bodies. Her hands seemed to be everywhere all at once on my body. I bunched my hand in the raven black tresses, pulling her head back down to lock her lips to mine. I begged silently for more from her. She gave to me willingly. I slipped one hand under the silky white shirt she had on, raking my nails softly down her spine. She pulled away from me. I growled in defiance, struggling to gain composure as I realized the music had stopped.

      "Who needs cooling off now love?" She asked as she gently kissed me again.

      "Are you tryin' to piss me off again," I growled, letting my hand roll over the strong shoulder and down the front of her shirt to rest on her chest, stopping just as she leaned into the touch. She almost reacted I could see it in her eyes. She wanted this as bad as I did.

      "NO," bluntly said.

      "Good then let's take this some where private."

I let my fingers brush across a harden nipple, the white silk shirt not hiding her arousal to my touch.

      "NO" was the answer I got, I stopped the slight motion of my hand on her chest.

      "Alrighty then."
      I dropped my hands and shoving her hands off me, I turned and walked away. Tequila and lots of it was what I needed now. I sure in the hell didn't need this teasing from her. I made it as far as the hallway leading out to the patio bar, when she caught up with me and, let me tell you, she was pissed as a bee with no flowers to nuzzle.

      "Listen, you little shit."
Anger shown through in the blue eyes that had turned a deep violet.

      "I won't stand here and deny I want you, but we need to settle business first. Then we can work on us."

      She shoved me up against the wall. The tables were reversed; she had me pinned this time. Not that I was scared but I was; however, impressed with the strength she showed in pinning me! Once again my temper got the best of me; she had the power to ignite a fire in me in more ways than one.

      "'US', Lady there is no 'us'! You now have 3 seconds to remove your self from my body. Or I shall do it for you?"

      I could feel my temper quickly slipping its belt. I shoved her harder then I really had intended to, but she let go of me. Shit, this was going to be a long weekend with her staying at the ranch. Seeing the shock in her eyes as she stumbled backwards, I caught her hand and stopped her from falling.

      "Just back off and leave me the fuck alone," I pleaded with her as walking away, but not before I caught the look of hurt in her eyes.

I made my way back to the bar and ordered a double. Note to self,I thought, "Kill Max in the morning."I had to smile to myself at the thought of Max hanging buy his toes from his crane boom. I looked around for the weasel, but from the looks of things they had all ditched me at the bar. Miles from the ranch I had but two choices at this point: find a date quick or walk all the way back.

      I awoke the next morning with the sun blazing down on me. The smell of coffee filled my nostrils as my head pounded. Opening one eye, I was shocked to see where I was. I jumped up as a cup of hot coffee was shoved into my shaky hand.

      "Jesus," I groaned as I let my head rest in my one vacant hand. I sat that way until my head stopped spinning. My stomach was hell bent on a roller coaster out of control. I looked up to see who had so sweetly shoved coffee in my hand. Groaning I tried to stand up and thought better of it.

      "Shit, you just wont leave me alone will you," I pleaded with blood shot eyes." I don't really have much to say to you, so go away."
      I looked up at Tarie, her hair was still damp from a recent shower, and the shorts covered sexy, tall, tanned legs. My eyes roamed upwards. Her white shirt almost blinded me in the morning sun. Her hair was still damp from a recent shower. My eyes finally met hers. I could see the laughter in them. Forgetting where I was in a haze of being hung over I stood up, handed the coffee back to her.

      "Why do you feel it's necessary to piss me off? Will you PLEASE just go away?"
      I walked into the cabin, her laughter made my head pound even harder. I made my way back to the small bedroom I let myself fall on to the bed face first. What struck me as funny was that it was made. I nevermake my bed, when I even slept in one. I preferred the couch at my apartment. I pulled the pillows out from under the covers never once opening my eyes. I could feel her watching me from the doorway. I heard a low chuckle from her direction.

      "Please just go away and let me die in peace," I mumbled as I fell back trying to sleep. Her voice carried me back to reality.

      "I would like to, sweetheart, but there is one tiny problem."

      "Jesus, now what, you are not going to let me sleep are you?" I whined.

      "IS that what you want?" Her voice purred softly in my ear.

      "Christ, anything to get you to shut up an let me go back to sleep."

      "Ok. I will let you sleep off your hangover but when you wake up sober, you and I are going to talk. Deal," She asked me.

      "Yes, fine now lemme go to sleep," I mumbled into the pillow. It smelled of jasmine. I wondered if we had slept together last night or not. I was starting to get a little worried that I had actually slept with her and would never remember it.

"Take these and I'll let you go back to sleep."

I rolled over taking the pills from her along with a glass of water. I downed them and rolled back over as she took the glass from my hand.

      "I'm sure the porch swing was a little uncomfortable last night."

She sat down on the bed gently rubbing my back in small circles.

      "I wouldn't know, now just go away," I replied in a snotty tone, a little more on the bitchy side than I had intended. She never stopped rubbing my back; I could feel myself drifting off to sleep.

      "Do we have a deal, sweetheart?"

      "Hmmmm," was all I could muster up as an answer as I drifted out of the drunken haze into a deep sleep.

      How long I had slept, I wasn't sure, but the pillow I was hugging had a sweet jasmine smell and let me tell you, it was intoxicating. I opened one bloodshot eye noting that my headache was not any better, but at least I no longer felt like a team of wild horses had stomped their way across my body. Then I sat up and I realized I was in the wrong cabin. I jumped up and stumbled around looking for my boots. I found them next to the bedroom door. I opened it a crack to see if anyone was in the living room. With any luck I could sneak out without being caught. I tiptoed out into the living room and down the small hallway to the front door. I was almost out of there. I had my hand on the screen door latch when I heard a voice behind me.

      "FREEZE! Just where do you think you are going," Tarie called from the kitchen door way.

I felt like I had just been caught with my tiny hand in the cookie jar.

      "Well, humm, I woke up and realized I was in the wrong cabin. Figured I best be getting out before I got caught. Sorry for the intrusion, must have had one hell of a night," I mumbled turning three shades of red as she glared at me from the kitchen door way, "I am sorry I didn't mean to pass out on your front porch swing."

      "Correction, my dearest, you not only passed out on my front porch but in MY bed as well," She said grinning at me.

      "I stand corrected, 'HONEY'," I shot back, opening the door. The bright sunlight hit me in the eyes and I groaned. For the love of the Goddesses, I felt like death warmed over!

      "You made a deal with me this morning, Brie. Are you going to stick with that deal," she called after me.

      "HUH? I can't even remember how the hell I landed on your front porch let alone member a deal you talked me into while I was falling down drunk."

      "Well then THAT could be to MY advantage then couldn't it? I am told you are a woman of your word, is that true?"

      "You wouldn't dare," I snapped back. I would have killed for a cup of coffee about then. I needed to sit down and soon. My head was spinning and my stomach was back on the non-stop roller coaster from Hell.
      "I don't want to play dirty but I will, if that's what it takes to get you to have lunch with me and listen to what I have to say. I am sure MAX would LOVE to hear the details of your night on my porch or in my bed! SO the way I see it, love, you have two choices: stay and have something to eat while I tell you about the offer I have for you, or Mad Max learns about you passing out in my bed."

She grinned at me as I hung my head, beaten hands down at a bad game of dare.

      "Christ, you are such a control freak," I grumbled to my self as I followed her into the kitchen.

      "I have been told I was."

Shit, I thought, this woman has bat ears. She heard me mumbling!Another note to self:do not mumble out loud when Tarie is nearby!

      "So what is it going to be, Brieannah," she asked handing me a cup of coffee.

      "I want a shower," I pouted.

      "Fine. I'll get you a towel."

She smiled down at me. I scowled up at her,

      "Jesus H. Christ on a cracker, you got an answer for everything, don't you," I shot back at her.

      "Yes I do, now stop that cussing!"

      "Screw you," I mumbled again.

      I snagged the huge towel from her hands as I staggered my hung over body into the tiny bathroom.

      "Right after lunch you can," she quipped, smiling rakishly, giving me the once over with those passion filled blue violet eyes.

      My blood ran hot and for once I was speechless and on the loosing end of a battle of wits. I just shut the bathroom door in her face. I realized she wanted me as badly as I wanted her. A cold shower wasn't going to help alleviate this fire. If she could only keep her mouth shut, we could have some really hot, steamy sex. Hell even 80,000 dollars worth of duct tape wouldn't shut her up. I decided to go along with this; I formulated a plan of action. A dine and dash was in order here, eat, make small talk and get out with my head firmly attached to my body. No more than an hour and I could nurse my hang over next to the pool with a Bloody Mary!
      I stepped out of the shower, her shampoo still lingering a sweet jasmine scent in the air. This was going to be the longest hour of my life. I looked at the shorts and T-shirt Tarie had set on the sink for me. I would look like a midget in her clothes. I was shocked that she had so thoughtful as to get me some clean clothes. I was finding it harder and harder to dislike this sexy woman. My mind flashed back to the dance floor where I was in her arms. I groaned out loud.
      It was just my luck; this tiny bathroom did not have a window so I couldn't escape. I would have crawled out one if I had the chance! I dressed quickly. I knew I couldn't hide forever in there. I was going to have to face the pied piper sooner or later. Better to get it over with now than try and argue with her again later. I honestly didn't think there was much she could say or offer me to get me to go back to work for TNT Construction at this point. I brushed out my hair, the jasmine scent filled my head with visions of her and the memory of being helpless to her touch came flooding back at me from the reflection in the mirror. I squinted my eyes. You door knob, I thought to myself, you're falling fast here, get some kind of control of your emotions or you'll be sinking this ship in the harbor. I gave my self a pep talk; stick to your guns and then run as fast as you can.
      I headed for the kitchen and a cup of coffee. I refilled my cup and stood looking out the window. Tarie moved around the kitchen, cooking what looked like rainbow pasta, a double boiler held a white cream sauce. If it tasted as good as it smelled I was a goner. I always joked I would marry a rich girl who could cook! I had to smile at that thought, this was a woman who not only brought a deep burning fire to the pit of my stomach but could also irritate me beyond anyone I had ever met in my life.

      "A penny for your thoughts?"

She stood inches from me, had she not heard of the "three-foot" rule? I took the four aspirin that she handed to me.

      "Not really worth a penny and how did you know I needed aspirin?"

      "By the frown on your face, I figured it was one of two things: a headache that would kill an elephant or the fact I have cornered you into listening to what I have to say."

Her hand caressed my cheek.

      "Do you always do that?"

She turned back to the stove, but not before I caught the sly grin on her face.

      "Never mind, why don't you tell me why you have conned me in to lunch with you and why you feels it's so important to drive all the way out here to discuss it? Besides to make my life living hell?"

      I had to chuckle at the thought of how my weekend had begun. My knuckles were sore and bruised. I was still pissed at Mad Max. I was hung over, and had a fire burning so hot inside of my body I thought I would combust especially if she kept up the teasing. I waited as she set the wooden spoon down and turned to me. I saw an emotion run across her eyes, one that I could not read, so I held my tongue and waited for her.

      "Are you always this sarcastic?"
She looked at me with a blank stare.

      "Nope, most days I'm told it's worse."

      I refilled my cup of coffee. I took the steaming mug over to the table and pulled out a chair, seating my self, facing the door. I groaned as the weight came off my tired body. I felt like a Mack truck had hit me.

      "I'll make you a deal, you drop the snotty attitude and I'll tell you why I am here."

      She stood close to me. I couldn't even think straight. My mind kept wandering to the gutter. I looked down into my coffee cup, hoping to find a nice response to her statement. Just praying to the Goddesses above there would be an answer in the bottom just like the Magic 8 ball I use to have on my desk at TNT Construction offices.

      "Sweetheart I don't think you'll find the answers at the bottom of that coffee cup or in a bottle for that matter."

      "And you have the balls to call ME snotty?"

I had to grin, looking up to meet her blue eyes.

      "You look a little rough around the edges my dearest, you always tie one on like that?"

She gently cupped my face in her hand. I moved back in my chair to avoid the soft touch.

      "I really don't think what I do is relevant here. Look I am trying my damnedest to be nice to you. But this hangover is a nasty one and your actions last night have left me feeling a little more then bruised. And to top this all off I took it out on Max. So can I make a simple suggestion to you? Cut the cat and mouse game and lay your cards on the table or fold and let me walk away, because I am about out of patience with you."

      "Brutal," she replied as she set a plate of pasta in front of me.

      "You haven't even begun to see THAT side of me yet," I shot back.

      "Fine you win."
      She sat down across the table from me, running a hand through her long hair. I held my breath a second. I wanted to run my hand in the long silky strands.

      "Well hot damn, write that down will you?"

      I mimed a fake heart attack and shoved my fork into the noodles, filling my mouth to stop my snotty comments from flying at her. The taste of the food hit me. Jesus, this was the best Alfredo I had ever had. I must have moaned out loud as I opened my eyes I could see Tarie swallow hard. Ah, I bet I had the same affect on her as she did me. It was a theory I would have to try.

      "I take it my cooking meets your approval?"

      I laughed inwardly, running my tongue across my lips. Those blue eyes went dark violet; yes my theory was correct this would be used to my advantage!

      "Yes. It does, quiet well in fact. Now tell me why you are here," I said between bites of pasta, I never lifted my eyes to meet hers as I ate. I just waited for her to explain.

      "Well, I want you to come back to work and finish the job."

She had stopped eating and was staring at me.

      "NO," I said picking up my cup of coffee; I knew if I looked at her I would say, "yes" to about anything she would ask of me.

      "Will you just let me finish," She said as she got up and refilled my coffee cup, "This can benefit both of us here. I think we can work out a deal, so that you, your crew, and I will be happy. You are the reason they are off the job. They stick by the fearless leader. I am willing to hire you and your crew back at a profitable increase along with a bonus when the job is complete, as long as it is all done by the original time frame."

      I picked up my now empty plate rinsed it off in the sink setting it in the dishwasher I turned to face her.

      "What kind of money are you talking about," I asked as I raised an eyebrow at her.

      "I have all the paper work in a file for you to look over."

She mocked me with a slight rise of the opposite eyebrow.

      "You are really that sure of your self then?"

      "Yes. Yes I am. You have nothing to lose by signing the contract. All I am asking is for you to look it over and give me an answer by Sunday night."
      "Nope, no can do, I can see about shooting for Tuesday. My lawyers will have to look it over as well."

I could read a brief look of hurt in her blue eyes.

      "You don't trust me do you?"
The hurt cast a shadow in my heart. I had put that hurt there, now I had to try and easy it.

      "Tarie, honestly, no I don't, but can you blame me? Step into my boots for a second, will you?"

I picked up my coffee cup and sat back down, looking deep into her eyes.

      "You humiliated me in front of my crew. That alone doesn't sit well with me, and then you have the nerve to fire me over something that was unjustified. Then you have even more nerve to follow me here? All because you fired my ass and the crew walked out on you and now you can't find anyone to finish the job. Not a smart move on your part is it, letting your let your temper get the best of you?"

I leaned on the table looking at her.

      "How did you know that I couldn't find anyone to finish the job?"

Her voice was hardly a whisper.

      "I have many skills. Way I hear tell is a company by the name of B.S. Construction wants to finish the job. And they are the only ones who are willing to finish it."

I watched her eyes fill with surprise at how much I knew. I had to bite the inside of my cheek hard to keep from laughing.

      "Yes they are asking to high of a price to finish the job. And no one I know has heard of this company."

      "So you have done some leg work on this company?"

      I grinned to myself. The paperwork I had faxed to Tarie's office had worked. She truly did not have a clue that I was behind B.S. Construction. This game was all mine I had her where I wanted her, well almost; I still didn't have her in my arms. That would come next!

      "I will look at your contract, then have it looked at by my lawyers and I'll have an answer for you on Tuesday. Deal?"

      "I don't know; I am waiting for B.S. Construction to confirm an appointment for Tuesday morning."

She stood taking her dish to the sink.

      "Fine, I'll be in your office by seven a.m. with the papers and we can go from there. I'll battle it out with B.S. Construction. I will have your answer for you then."

I stood next to her at the sink, placing my empty cup next to her plate.

      "Besides I have to talk with my crew before I make a decision anyway."

      "What does your crew have to do with your decision?"

      "Everything, we stick together, we are not union, but we act like it, we protect what is ours. In case you had not noticed that fact? Now are we done here?" I was getting impatient; I had a Bloody Mary waiting with my name on it or a beer what ever I could get my hands on first.

      "With business we are, there's still one thing not finished yet."

She turned to look at me.

      "What's that?"

      I must have had a puzzled look on my face. As she trapped my body between hers and the sink, I realized right quick what she meant. I was in control now; I pulled her head down to meet my lips. The heat between us about floored me. I almost pleaded with her to take me right there at the kitchen sink. What she did to me on the dance floor flashed across my eyes so I did the one thing I could think of: I kissed her with everything I had. I could hear her moan as I took control of her with my tongue. I bit her bottom lip lightly as I let my hands brush across her shirt. I slowly rolled her nipple in my fingers, caressing her, taking her mouth on mine one more time. I let go of her and stepped back to catch my breath.

      "As much as I would love to continue this, I can't do this right now," I said stepping back away from her and walking towards the kitchen doorway, "I will have an answer for you on Tuesday."

      I picked up the folder she had given me and walked out. I picked up my clothes on my way out the front door.

      I met the crew down at the pond where Max had set up his large boom crane. They had already made a few jumps. I grabbed a beer out of the cooler and waited for Mad Max to join us. It never did take long for him to crawl down from the boom-crane.
      "Ok, guys as you all know Tarie made me an offer to finish the job. But what you don't know is I now have my own license to operate my own contracting crew. So I am going to go over the contract that Tarie came up with and see if we can't squeeze some more money out of her. If not then B.S. Construction will take over and we will get our money, either way we win, and finish this job in Mr. Tom's honor! All I am asking from each of you is two things: first, your support to go with what we decide, you know you'll get the best deal I can finagle out of her, and secondly I need a list of everyone on your crew, what they make and how much time they lost by our walking out. I want to recover that loss!" I took a long swig of my beer and continued, "I hope to have us all back on the job site by Wednesday. I hope to be able to get the lost wages for this week and a bonus at the end of the job."

      I took another beer out of the cooler, popped the top and listened to them cheer. I felt like I was on cloud nine! Someone passed me a bottle of whiskey.

      "I know it won't be easy to make up for the lost time, but I think if we work twelve to fourteen hour days splitting it between two crews we can make it up," I paused taking a big swallow off the bottle, "Anyway, get me the employee's lost wages and such by Monday and I'll see what I can do for us. One way or another we WILL finish this job together! Now if you don't have any questions let's do some swimming!"

      I popped the top on my third beer as I waited for Max to climb back up the crane and start it up. I grabbed my harness and strapped it on. Max lowered the boom so the platform would touch the ground. I stepped up into the steel caged platform, handed Alex the bottle of whiskey and signaled for Mad Max to take me up. I could feel the goose bumps on my arms as I went higher and higher over the pond. I double-checked my harness and safety clips to the end of the bungee cord. All was set, a few more feet and I would be at the full extent of the boom's double extension. I looked out over the vast land of the ranch; the sun was to the right of me, casting shadows across the pond. It made it hard to see the bottom, but I had done this too many times in the past to worry about something going wrong. I spotted Tarie walking towards the pond. By the way she walked she didn't look too happy. She looked up my way. I checked the ankle straps again and stepped to the edge of the steel platform. The guys had been using it to dive off of into the pond below me, only a handful of us actually bungee jumped. But this is what I lived for. The thrill of free falling, knowing at any second I would snap back into the air at fifty or more miles an hour! The adrenalin rush was so intense! I caught Tarie looking up at me; even at this distance I could see the anger in her eyes. I just smiled and waved to a signal to Max telling him that I was about to jump. I dropped my sunglasses down into the tiny bucket we used as a catch all, one more time I checked out my harness and clasps and riggings that would hold me from hitting the water. I leaned out over the edge and jumped. Two seconds into the fall I knew I was in trouble, as there was no recoil from the cord. I felt a slight tug as the bungee cord broke. Shit, I thought. This was going to hurt! I pulled my self into a tight ball and hoped for the best. Jesus, I was hoping the water was deep enough to help break my fall without me smashing to a pile of broken bones at the bottom of the pond. I felt the cool water hit me like a ton of bricks. That's the last thing I remember. How long I was under the water or how long I had been passed out is something I don't remember. I woke up to a foul smell, and everyone hollering and shouting to call 911!

      "Get that shit away from me," I growled trying to smack the hand holding smelling salts under my nose, "And for fucks sakes let me sit up!"

      I was irritated now. I tried to sit up, my head buzzed; I grabbed my head in my hands to stop it from spinning off its base. It felt warm and sticky. I pulled my hand away.

      "WHO FUCKING HIT ME," I yelled at anyone who was near me. I tried to look up at the guys standing around me.

      "No one did Brie, the chord broke and you hit the water hard."

Max held me down as I struggled to sit up.

      "Now will you let the EMT's do their job?"

      "I'm fine dammit, just let me sit up and Ill shake this off in no time. I just need to walk it off."

I growled, as the pain was becoming unbearable at this point.

      "You guys are going to have to either sedate her ass or let me knock her out." Max said looking down at me, his eyes crossed. I had to giggle, "Or better yet. Someone find Tarie!"

      "Good God Max, please NO, MAXIUM," I begged him, "Don't be dragging her down here," I mumbled at him as he moved away.

      "Too late Brie Baby, were you tryin' to kill your self today," A soft voice came from my left side.

      I tried to look at her, but the pain was too much for me to turn my head. But I didn't have to look I knew she was there by her touch, it sent shivers down my body.

      "You're cold Brie, stop fighting and let them take a look at you."

      I relaxed under her soothing touch; it felt warm against my cool skin. I don't remember much after that. The morphine kicked in and I was a goner. I had no clue who pulled my ass out of the water. I was pissed and I had too much to do, but when I awoke it was Monday. I had just blown off a whole weekend in the freaking hospital! I had a broken hand and bruised ribs and several stitches in my forehead. It must have been one hell of a rock for that many stitches, but I have always had a strong tolerance for pain. I sat up in the hard bed, reached for my clothes; someone had been kind enough to drop me off some thing to wear. I would have to thank Max later for that. I slowly made my way to the bath room and sat down on the toilet, I struggled to tie my shoes for about twenty minutes, gave up tucked them back inside of the shoes instead then pulled up the sweat pants. They were a couple of sizes too big for me. The sweatshirt could have fit the Jolly Green Giant. I growled to my self, the pain was getting worse the more I moved, but I was walking out of this hospital today. There wasn't much wrong with me that time wouldn't heal. I had been in worse condition and had been able to walk out sooner than this. It pissed me off knowing I had lost so much time in the stale air of a hospital. I reached for the phone and called Max.

      "Max, come get me will you," I asked a nicely as I could.

      "Brieannah, did they release you already?"

      "No, but they will be or I'll burn this place to the ground. Please, Max, just come get me, I'll talk to the doctor and I'll be ready by the time you get here. I just want to go home."

I begged and pleaded with him. I had to be nice if I wanted a ride home.

      "Just meet me out front Max."

      I hung up and headed to the nurses station. I argued with her till she called the doctor and he called in some pain pills for me and I headed down to meet Max. I was steaming by the time we got to the front doors, they had every nurse available escort me to the main lobby, guess they didn't like the fact I'd mentioned burning the fucking place down if they didn't let me go home today! I was in a cold sweat by the time I reached the bottom floor to where I was to meet Max. As a habit I reached for my sunglasses that should have been on top of my head, but I got a handful of bandages instead. I squinted at the bright sun and the pain I was feeling.

      "Where the hell do you think you are going?"

      "JESUS," I yelped, jumping at the sound of Tarie's voice next to my ear, "Don't do that again and I am going home. I've got too much shit to do. I don't have time to laze about in a hospital bed. And I sure in the hell don't have time to argue with you."

I choked back a painful groan and looked around for Max.

      "He's not coming to get you, Brie that's why I am here. Do you realize you are still two hours south of Portland?"

      "Dammit I just want to go home, home to MY place, and have sometime to think. Is that too much to ask for fuck's sakes? Remind me to fire his ass tomorrow!"

      "If you will stop with the truckers' mouth I will take you home. Please, Brie, let me take you home."

      She squeezed my hand in hers. I just nodded my head, and hoped her jeep could travel at the speed of light or the pain pills would kick in and I could sleep all the way back to Portland!

      "Ok," I said.

      I must have shocked her by agreeing to the ride home with her. The shocked expression disappeared and she just lightly squeezed my hand and helped me into her jeep.

      I don't know how the hell she got back to Portland so quickly. I don't think I want to know either, but I awoke to her touch on my cheek.

      "Brie honey, we're here, let's get you in and back to bed."

      Tarie's voice pulled me back in from the fog of the pain pills. I moved slowly out of her jeep, walking up the stairs to the front security doors of my apartment. I struggled to find my keys. I didn't know where they were I went into a panic; I was now locked out of my apartment. My mind flashed back to being in the wrong cabin.

            "DejaVu. Dammit, this sucks."
I was ready to start crying, the pills had me in such a tight bundle of nerves. I didn't have to worry about if the cleaning service had come or not, I couldn't even get in!

      "I have a key right here, love, Max gave me one yesterday when he had to head back from the ranch."

      I wasn't sure if I should be pissed off at him or not. I let it go, trying to take the key she held out to me.

      "I cant, can you unlock the doors," I said looking at her, "Please?"

      I added that part as an after thought. I hadbeen raised with some manners, but most of the time I didn't care for them. I had a lot to learn about how this woman worked. Starting with I needed to be a little nicer to her. I waited as she unlocked my apartment door. I walked in bumping the cast that was on my hand on the doorframe.

      "Son of a…"

      I stopped midway through the phrase letting the curse die on my lips, mumbled to myself, and grabbed my blanket so I cold curl up on the couch. She had come in behind me. I lost track of time and was dozing in and out as she moved around the small apartment and next I knew I could smell real cooked food, not from a box either! I stumbled in to my tiny kitchen; I stood in shock at the site of her cooking in it. Before I could get anything out she spoke up.

      "Brie, baby, please don't be angry. I just figured we both needed something to eat. It's been a long day for both of us. Please let me do this, ok?"

      "Ok. You did all of this?"
I was blown away at how thoughtful she was.

      "Yes," she whispered in my ear as she hugged me from behind. Helping me to sit down in the small chair, she set a plate of cheese sandwiches and a cup of soup in front of me, "Come on and eat a little something then we'll get you in bed so you can relax and get some real sleep."

      We ate in silence, the clicking of the wall clock was loud and it annoyed me. I set the cup of lukewarm soup down. It had been a stressful weekend for both of us. Maybe she was right. We both just needed something to eat and a good night's sleep, but I had to open my big mouth and break the silence.

      "Ok you can let me have it now. I've been sitting here waiting for the screaming and the yelling. What, no throwing things around?"

      I knew she was pissed off at me; I would rather have her yelling and screaming at me than say nothing at all. That was all it took she looked up from her plate and those eyes were dark with anger.

      "Now is not the time for that kind of childish behavior. I won't hit you while you're down, but yes, I am pissed at you. Not only for pulling a stupid stunt like that but this asinine death wish you seem to carry with you. Or maybe it's because you just don't care what others think or feel for you?"

Her voice filled with such heart wrenching sorrow for me.

      "I don't think what I do with my life or how I live is any concern of yours."

      I was starting to feel fuzzy around the brain; the pain was as dim as the lights in my head. I almost didn't hear her reply. Somewhere in the back of my mind it registered, she had whispered the words I would recall years later. Maybe if I had been sober I would have had a better relationship with her from that moment on.

      "It is more than you realize, my sweetheart."

      "What the hell did you give me?"

I recalled swallowing the four little pills she had given me. I looked at her my eyes unfocused.

      "Relax, sweetheart; they were pain pills and an antibiotic. They will help you relax and get some sleep. I think we need to get you into bed before you pass out."

She stood up helping me to unsteady feet.

      "Why are you doing this? And don't bullshit me either. I can tell when you are handing me a line of crap."

I walked into the living room as she pulled me in the direction of the bedroom.

      "No, I sleep on the couch."

      I carefully made my way over to the ten foot couch and grabbed the blanket off the back, lying down wasn't an easy thing to do with bruised ribs. I turned on the big screen TV and watched as she fiddled with the blanket covering me.

      "Shouldn't you be at work," I asked as my head began to spin.

      "Yes but I think it can wait. Can I ask why you won't sleep in your own bed?"

      She sat down on the couch next to me. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in her lap and sleep off these pills. That was the last thought in my mind as the pills took me to a fuzzy white cloud called sleep.

      My mouth felt like cotton as I slowly sat up looking at the clock on the TV. It showed it that it was well after 7 p.m. I had slept all day. I reached over and grabbed the phone and hit speed dial for Mad Max.

      "Hey Max, I know it's late but did your sister look at the contract Tarie put together," I mumbled into the phone wishing I had a beer to wash this shitty taste from my mouth. His stepsister was a wild one who'd had a crush on me for years. I was glad we were only related by the fact her mom and dad adopted Max.

      "Yes, she did and she made the changes as we had discussed. As much as I HATE paper work I turned over the hourly wage reports and such to her as well. She just called. She just finished them and I was on my way over to pick them up. Care for me to drop them by?"
He could be so sweet at times it almost made me forget he had invited Tarie to the ranch. I wondered when she had gone after I fell asleep.

      "If you wouldn't mind, Max. I would like to look them over before tomorrow."

      "How are you feeling?"

His voice took on the brotherly tone, I had to smile it was nice to know he cared.

      "Beside the fact I took a nose drive into water that was like concrete," I laughed into the phone, "Did you figure out what went wrong?"

      "The chord snapped close to the top, just a faulty cord I guess. I swear I checked it twice before you went up. I'm sorry, Brieannah."

      "Maximum there's no need to be sorry it wasn't your fault I fell. None of us had control over that chord breaking like it did. Shit happens, my dearest brother. It's a risk I take every time I jump. We both know that sooner or later Lady Luck was going to run out for me. I have been so lucky for the last three years."

      I heard the bathroom door close. I wondered how much of the conversation she had listened in on. I listened as the water turned on in the shower, and then proceeded to lambaste Max.

      "I am; however, pissed off at you for sendin' HER to pick me up this morning."

      "Well I had no choice I wasn't there to pick you up, it would have taken me hours to get there and you know it. She stayed with you the whole weekend. You need to thank her and play nice. Someday you'll thank me little sister."

      "PLAY NICE? You know God damn well I don't play well with others! Now get your ass over here, and while you're at it pick me up some beer. I am out." I waited for a few seconds, "And Max?"

      "Yeah Brie?" his voice quivered slightly.

      "I LOVE YOU BROTHER," I yelled into the phone.

      "You crazy wench, I love ya too."

      Click, the line went dead, he had hung up on me. I sat the phone down and stood up I was stiff and very sore. The pain pills had worn off hours ago. I dug around in the fridge for something to eat. I settled on a stale bagel and spotted the pain pills on the table. I took two of them and started picking at the cast on my hand. I smiled to my self; I could wait a week or so and cut that baby off no problem. I heard the bathroom door creak open and spotted Tarie wrapped in one of the bath towels that was so big on me that I could wrap them around myself twice, but on her it didn't hide much at all. The towel only covered the bare essentials, the long, tanned legs moved down the hall as graceful as a lion stalking it prey. I swallowed hard as the muscles on her back rippled as she pushed open the door to my bedroom. My mouth went dry and the palms of my hands wanted nothing more than to stroke that satiny skin. I couldn't help but stare, her words finally registered in my trashy gutter mind. Ah the things I could do with those long legs.

      "BRIE," she was almost yelling at me now, "Brie, close your mouth honey, you're drooling all over the table," she said smiling down the hall at me, "Brie go answer the door. "

      I just continued to stare as the towel slipped lower and lower on her as she walked towards the front door.

      "I guess Ill have to get it then."

      "NO… I mean I'll get it."

I stood up and made my towards her, the temperature just went through the roof as I watched as the towel slipped from her body to pool around her feet.

      "Brie baby, please go answer the door before they break it down."

She smiled at me as I closed the last few feet between us.

      "Oh right."

      I didn't give a rat's ass at who was pounding at my door. If it was Mad Max he knew where the extra key was hidden in the hallway. Anyone else could come back later. I had never wanted anything as bad as I wanted the naked woman who stood before me. I stood shaking like a leaf in front of her. She slipped her arms around my neck and slowly pulled me into her nakedness. I was gulping for air as the heat from our bodies touching sent a shiver up my back. I snaked my one good hand up behind her neck entwining the damp wet hair into my fingers. Pulling her mouth down on mine I moaned as her tongue caressed mine, demanding more. She deepened the kiss as her hand untucked my shirt from my jeans.

      "Brieannah, get your ass out here, I don't have all nigh," Max yelled from the living room. I was going to kill him for sure this time.

      "Sweet Jesus, I am SO going to fire his ass."

I rested my head on her shoulder trying to catch my breath.

      "Baby we have all the time in the world. Patience is something you need to learn my dearest," she whispered in my ear, kissing my neck.

I growled in frustration.

      "Now go see what he wants," she said, gently pushing me away from her.
      "Patience my ass, I am going to kill him this time," I snapped a little harshly.

      "No you wont, you will go in there and play nice, no fighting in the house. I will get dressed and find us something to eat," she said softly, shutting the door in my face.

      I could feel my bruised lips longing for more of her taste as I walked down the hallway into the living room. I wanted more, but Max had to be dealt with, I would make his death swift and painful as I could in a short time span. If I hurried I could be back in the bedroom before she was completely dressed. I walked into the living room; he sat like a king in my recliner flipping through the channels on the TV. I could feel the pain pills kicking in as I sat back on the couch; I pulled open the envelope he handed me, pulling out the contract.

      "Not one word MAX."

      I could tell by the evil grin spreading across his face he had seen what we had been up to at the end of the hall way. I picked up a pen, shoved my glasses on and read through the contract. Making a few changes as I read, everything was set.

      "Ok Mad Max we are set, a few minor changes and we have a deal."

I put the contract back in its envelope and handed it back to him. Popping a beer open I attempted to toast him, I got it as far as my lips and it was yanked from my hand.

      "HEY, give me that back."

I scowled up at Tarie as she stood glaring back at me.

      "Or what Brie? You have no business mixing alcohol and pain killers you little fool."

I struggled to stand up, Max jumped to his feet grabbing the rest of the beer he high tailed it to the front door.

      "Guess I will be going now. Night Brie, Tarie."

The door slammed shut as I stood up slowly.

      "YOU fucking wussy," I yelled to him.

      "Looks like he won't be taking any of the blame for this one honey!"

      She raised the beer to her lips and took a sip of it. Why was it she made me feel like I was sixteen and just caught with my first beer? I growled at her.

      "You just took the F out of fun."
      "You weren't complaining a little while ago in the bed room, sweetheart," she smiled sweetly at me, "Now come and eat something."

      "Give me back my beer."

I tried to pout; I don't think she was buying into it though. She held the beer high above my head, out of my reach.

      "No" was all she said and lifted it higher.

      "I hate you." I growled back at her as I headed for the kitchen.

      "No you don't," she smiled and kissed me lightly on the lips, "You want me as much as I want you."

      "That don't mean I can't hate you," I said stumbling into the kitchen and sat down in my chair as she handed me a plate containing a huge omelet.

      I tried to keep my eyes open as I ate, but it just wasn't working. I gave up and slid my plate forward and rested my head on the table. I sat up taking a swig on the iced tea; I knew I had better get to the couch and quick I would be passing out at the table otherwise. Did I mention I hate pills? I attempted to stand up. My legs were not helping at all. Tarie came around the table and help me stand up.

      "Those pills really suck you know that, Tarie?"

      "They help you though, sweetheart. Let's get you into bed."

She picked me up into her arms and started down the hall way towards the bedroom.

      "I want to sleep on the couch." I yawned, no fight left in me at this point.

      "I want you to sleep in the bed with me. And right now you are in no position to fight me on this."

      She set me down on the edge of the bed, helping me take off my shirt and jeans. I crawled into the big bed and passed out. I awoke some time later to a heart beating in my ear; I could feel warm, soft skin under my hand. I realized I was sleeping almost on top of Tarie. I tried to move away as lying in that position made my ribs hurt. I slowly tried to roll on to my back her arm clamped down on my arm.

      "No, please don't move away." She purred in my ear.

      "I have to my ribs hurt lying like this."

I rolled on my back and my breathing became easier. She moved closer to me rubbing my shoulder.

      "Do you need another pain pill?"

      "Naw, I think I am okay now."

I shivered at her soft touch.

      "Are you cold honey," she asked as she pulled the covers up closer to my chin.

      "Far from it, I think I should go sleep on the couch though."

      I could feel her touch creating the heat once again. It wasn't like it was meant to be sexually arousing but it made my heart beat faster and the blood pressure flowed farther south with each caress. I tried to relax and think of something else than the lingering memories of kissing her.

      The alarm went off way too soon for my liking; I crawled out of bed and headed for the coffee pot. Tarie was up and long gone. I didn't even remember when she had gone, but the note she left on the kitchen table told me that it had been close to five a.m. when she had thoughtfully made up the coffee for me. I poured a huge cup and headed for a quick shower; I was running late. Mad Max was to meet me at the TNT offices. I grabbed some black jeans, a white silk shirt, and my Stetson, tugged on my trusty steel-toed boots and headed for the door. Reaching for my keys that hung on the peg next to the door, I munched on an apple I'd snagged from the kitchen. I then noticed the picture I had painted hanging above the fireplace. I was startled to see how much it looked like Tarie; a fact that had not dawned on me until that very moment. I stood with the door open staring at it. I no longer painted, but this was one of the few I had not sold. I shook my head at the likeness the painting and Tarie shared. Was I thinking of her long before I had met her? What was the connection between us? Why did she make me so angry one minute and then almost pleading for her to make love to me the next? I shook my head; there was no time for these questions. I shoved my black Stetson onto my head and shut the door.
      I headed for Max's sister office. I was thanking the Goddesses above that she was not in yet. I just needed to pick up the file Max had dropped off to her last night, nothing else. I pulled my truck into my old parking space, my name still in the sign in facing it. I had to laugh to myself at how ironic it was to be back here battling for the right to finish this job. I walked quietly into my old office. Sitting behind the desk I dialed Mad Max's cell phone number to see where the hell he was. I swore as his answering service picked up. Then a soft knock on my door startled me.

      "Come on in its not locked."

      "How long have you been here?"

      "Well, good morning to you to, Tarie," I chided at her.

      "Sorry, it's been a stressful morning so far," she said leaning over the desk kissing me on the lips, "How did you sleep?"

      "What time did you leave this morning," I asked ignoring her question.

      I rolled out the blue prints for the building, looking at them instead of the blue violet eyes that sucked me into confession my deepest secrets. I knew if I looked up I would spill my guts to her.

      "Not long after you woke up at four a.m. I didn't mean to wake you though."

      "You didn't."

I could see her eyebrow arch up under her bangs.

"I swear you didn't, I just don't sleep very well in a bed."

      The silence was deafening as I studied the blue prints in front of me without really seeing them. One of these days she would call my bluff and I wouldn't be so sure I could answer her honestly. Admitting feelings were hard for me growing up in an orphanage had made me hard and bitter at times.

      "I think we need to talk about what's going on here, Brie."

She sat in the chair in front of me desk waiting for me to respond.

      "As in what," I asked trying to sound puzzled at her statement.

      "Between you and I, Brie, you cannot sit there and tell me you don't feel it. Why are you fighting it? Am I really that bad that you can't let go for once?"

A knock at the door saved my ass. I wanted to kiss who ever was on the other side.

      "Come on in and join the party."

      I looked up to see Mad Max the look on his face was priceless as Tarie shot a dirty look at him. She made it clear he had interrupted us. I hid my grin by looking back down at the blue prints in front of me.

      "This is not finished Brie." She stood up to leave,

      "I'm sure it's not, Tarie, but to answer your question: its not you. It's me and I don't want to deal with it right now. Maybe when all is said and done I can let go, but not right now and it's not fair of you to ask that of me, when you don't know me."

Poor Max he had walked into a conversation he would have rather not been involved with.

      "Like I said Brie, this is NOT finished."

She walked out of my office and down the hallway.

      "I'm sure it's not princess," I quipped under my breath.

      "I heard that, Brie Baby!" She called from the end of the hallway.

      "You know, Max, I hate women sometimes," I said as I grinned at him, "Thanks for saving my ass though! Are you ready to battle this out with her? She can turn on you worse than a fire breathing dragon."

I had visions of a large nose spewing fire and torching my favorite Stetson. I shuttered at that thought.

      "Hey I am just here to ride your shirt tails little sister. A little moral support so to speak, as well as to keeping the two of you from killing each other. I did bring Mr. Tom's lawyer with me though he said he would read Tom's final Will to us today as well. I guess he thinks it will make a difference in this fighting between the two of you."

      "We are not fighting, at least not this morning." I said as I looked up at him; I could tell what he was thinking, "Don't you dare ask."

I glared back at his evil smile.

      "From what I saw last night I didn't think there would be any fight left in you this morning."

He smiled so sweetly at me I could have knocked him up side the head. I changed the subject right quick,

      "What does Tom's lawyer have to say that is going to make a difference?"

      "Now Brie, you know I don't know anymore than you do. Let's just go to Tarie's office and see what he has to say."

      He opened the door and waited for me to walk out. It felt like the longest walk of my life even though her office was only four doors down the hall from mine. How would she take to my double-crossing her, so to speak, when she found out that I was B.S. Construction? I stopped in front of her door, pulled on my sunglasses, hopefully that would hide the emotions that had my stomach in a knot and were making my face pale at the fight before me. Max poked me in the back, and opened the door. We walked in and shook hands with Tom's lawyer, I didn't like him very much I had a feeling he could be sneaky, but then I had never met a lawyer that wasn't. They had never done right by me when I was younger, why trust one now? I nodded in Tarie's direction and took a seat next to Mad Max. She was on the phone so we waited as she ended the conversation. I caught the tail end of it and it left me a little pissed. She was obviously talking to someone back in New York. She cared a lot about this person; I could tell by the tone of her voice. I was jealous! My gods, that was a new one for me! I could feel the anger building. It was at this point when I wished I had a cigarette!
      I fiddled with a knick-knack on her desk. She reached out and took the little frog I was playing with away from me. I stood up and walked behind her desk to look out the window, hiding a snotty smile. I always felt a need to fidget or pace when I was nervous. The construction yard looked so empty, no equipment moved, no one was working frantically to get some part repaired on the heavy machines so the job could be finished. I was saddened by this for some reason I just wanted things back to the way they were when Tom was alive. This was my life, it was all I knew how to do and if this didn't work out I was going to be one lost woman for a while. Oh, I knew there would be jobs for us to do, but just wouldn't be the same. The Fates sure had a way of twisting your life around. I silently cursed Tom for leaving me, I felt so alone sometimes. I cursed the Fates for such a horrible ending of his life. What a mess I was in. I jumped, feeling a warm hand on my shoulder.

      "You ok, honey," Tarie whisper to me so that no one behind us could hear us talking.

      "Yes, I'm fine, let's get this over with; I don't want to fight anymore. I'm tired of this already."

      I stepped away from her and took my seat across the desk from her. I knew one more touch from her and I would fall apart and start crying. She sat back in her chair and looked at us,

      "I have had no response from B.S. Construction, so it's up to you and me to come up with a way everyone will be happy and the building will be finished. Have you looked over the contract?"

She looked my way. I was thankful for the sunglasses they hid the tears I had building up.

      "Yes we have looked at it, there are a few minor changes I have had made, but I think you will find them agreeable."

I handed her the file folder holding the contract. She scanned it quickly, looking up at me every few seconds; I could see the confusion in her eyes.

      "I don't seem to understand, Brieannah." The tone in her voice set my on edge.

      "What don't you understand? It's all there in black and white."

I sat up straighter in my chair repairing to argue with her.

      "YOU are working WITH B.S. Construction? And who in the hell would name a company BS?"
She found the humor in it where I didn't.

      "I named it that," I paused as the look on her face registered that I was B.S. construction, "The B stands for Brieannah the S stands for Sam. If you find this to be a joke I am leaving."

I stood up my chair fell over backwards Max jumped to his feet catching it.

      "Brie… SIT DOWN!"

She never even looked up from the contract in front of her as her voice took on a deadly tone.

      "Jesus, stop telling ME what to do God Dammit. WE are NOT married for fucks sakes!"

I stepped closer to her desk. She jumped out of her chair, I thought she was going to smack me a good one about this time.

      "It's a damn good thing we are NOT; I would hold you down and wash your mouth out with Clorox!"

She leaned over the edge of her desk inches from my face.

      "You are not big enough to attempt it."

      "I had you pinned last night I seem to recall," she spouted back at me.

      "THAT was low," I growled at her,

      "Take those damn sunglasses off and face me, stop hiding behind mirrors, you whimp."

      She was cruising for a good bruising now. I yanked my glasses off my face.
She pulled back seeing the tears that fell freely now. Max stepped in between us

      "Stop this bull shit both of you. This is not solving anything. The fighting doesn't make things better here. Tarie, sit your ass in that chair and Brieannah, keep your mouth shut."

He was pissed off at both of us now. He turned to Tom's lawyer,

      "I think you need to read Mr. Tom's Will maybe then these two will realize what's at stake here. It's more than your prides here."

He shoved me back into the chair, I yelped in pain, Tarie stood back up,

      "THAT was uncalled for, MAX! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

Tarie leaned over the desk at him. He stepped back. I was puzzled just as much as he was, a second ago she wanted to hold me down and make me drink bleach, now she was ready to beat on my own brother for shoving me around? Goddesses, help us all! I just sat holding my ribs. I reached into my pocket and took out two of the pain pills swallowing them as quickly as I could. Tarie glared at me. She was pissed. I was tired and wanted nothing more then to curl up and sleep. I looked up at Max.

"I will get you for that brother."

I glared at him. He leaned down and whispered in my ear:

"I don't think you will have to, your wife will pay me back ten fold I'm afraid."

      He grinned at the humor where I saw none. I let it go for now. I waited for the lawyer to finish pulling out copies of Tom's last Will. I felt a hand on my shoulder; I looked up into those dark violet eyes, my breath coming in short grasps. I prayed I wouldn't pass out in front of her. Her eyes never wavering from mine, she sat on the arm of the chair. She was too close and I couldn't think rationally when she was. I attempted to stand and move away from her. Her hand tightened down hard on my shoulder.

      "You'll leave a bruise," I hissed under my breath.

      "I'll kiss it all better later," She hissed back, "Now sit still," she said, never once removing her hand from my shoulder.

      "Ladies, as you know I have been Tom's lawyer for over twenty-five years. There were several changes he had me make to his Will before he passed away."

He turned to look at me I tensed up as his watery eyes met mine. Tarie's hand squeezed my shoulder lightly.

"Brieannah. you have been employed with TNT for over ten years, he spoke very fondly of you, like a daughter. It would make him turn over in his grave if he knew how this company stood right now. He would have called you on the carpet for your actions towards Tarie."

      I slid closer to the edge of my chair. Her hand gripped my shoulder keeping me from squeezing the poor bastard's throat till his watery eyes popped out of his head.

      "He has left you fifty percent of the company's assets. I think you will find this is more than fair to you. More than I think you deserve anyway."

      "As for you, Tarie, I think he would be just as mad at you for your actions as of late. He raised you better than this. I told him New York would make you colder. He should have never agreed to let you take over that end of the company. But as it was also your mother's he did what he felt was right."

I thought Tarie would rip his head off, I could see the veins in her neck straining to keep her mouth shut as he ripped her apart.

      "Tom also left you fifty percent of TNT shares. The advertisement company in New York is all yours, to do with whatever you chose to do with it."

      He paused to look at both of us. I wanted nothing more that to kick his ass. I am not sure Tarie would have been opposed to this either. I didn't think she would have stopped me, as she normally would have.

      "Now there is the catch to this company working as it once did. Not only do you BOTH own the company, but his mansion, ranch, cars, boats, horses and everything he had. But you both have to line in the same residence for the time of one year to become the owners."

I about knocked Tarie off her perch on the arm of my chair as I bolted up out of it.

      "What did you just say," I yelled at him.

      Max stepped in between the little man and my line of vision. I turned and walked over to Tarie's desk gripping the edge of it hard in order to keep myself from striking the little bastard. I REALLY hated lawyers.

      "You had better explain this shit REAL quick as I am not sure I understand it."

I growled at him my eyes burning holes in his face.

      "The truth is he knew the two of you would not get along so he figured the best way for you two work together was to force you to live together You both are very stubborn women and I can see that in how you have acted today. It would only befit this company if you can learn to get along. Tom knew you have the strength to do this work; he also knew Tarie has the skills to sell your work. It will be a strong partnership, when you learn to at least like each other."

I looked over at Tarie she had not said a word and was deathly pale. I walked over to kneel beside her,

      "Don't you pass out on me Tarie?"

I helped her sit down in the chair; I stood up facing the little bastard,

      "What if I don't agree with this shit," I said, putting him on the spot and we both knew it. I kept one hand on Tarie's shoulder.

      "One week from today we will meet in my office to sign the papers."

He squirmed under my evil look. Then it hit me. I spun around to face Max.

      "YOU are just as sneaky as this little bastard, YOU KNEW ABOUT THIS DIDN'T YOU!"

      I was yelling by this point. I was feeling no pain at all; the pills were hitting me. I could feel the rush of my temperature sky rocketing. I needed a drink badly.

      "Now Brie, I only found out this morning, yes I had a feeling this was what Tom would do, but I didn't think he would make the two of you live together. I know Tom wanted you to always have part of this company; he loved you as much as he did Tarie. You can make this work if you really want to!"

The tears burned in my eyes, I walked over to the window looking out across the deserted work yard.

      "We have one week to decide right," I whispered not wanting to cry, but the tears rolled down my face anyway.

      "Yes, one week from today we will all meet in my office. I have set up an appointment for ten a.m."

Max stood silently beside me.

      "Fine, I'll be back in time for that meeting."

I turned to Tarie; the tears fell down her cheeks her eyes filled with pain. We both knew I was running away from her. It seems like that what I was good at, always running.
      "I will have the crew back to the job site tomorrow morning. Max will take over until I get back. Until then all bets are off."
I gently touched her cheek; she pulled away from me. I turned and walked to the door.

      "I guess I will see you all in one week."

      I closed the door softly behind me and ran down the hall as fast as I could; I opened my office door and slammed it shut. I cried harder now. I pulled the keys to the garage out of my desk, and went out to load my bike in my truck. I traded my truck for one of the bigger ones and loaded up my dirt bike. Max met me by the gate leading out to the highway.

      "Brie, don't you go do something stupid. Don't run away from this. It won't solve anything."

He was pleading with me. I had no answer for him.

      "I wont Max I just need to think things through is all."

      "Where are you going?"

      "To the ranch, if you need me just leave a message on my cell phone. Otherwise just handle things 'til I get back. I have to lay Tom to rest and sort out a few things in my mind before I commit to a year of living with her."

I ran a hand across my face. I needed a drink badly. I left him standing at the gate as I
drove home to pack a bag.

      I packed my gear incase I decided to ride my bike, I wasn't sure if this beat up body could with stand it but you never knew unless you try. I was looking forward to a nice quite week in the country. I drove in silence as the radio seemed to play nothing but old, sappy love songs. I stopped only once to fill up the gas tank and get a cold drink. It would soon be getting dark and I was getting sleepy. I managed to fight off the pain pills earlier, but I needed sleep. With half hour to go yet before I would reach Tom's ranch I turned on the CD player shoved Alannah Miles into it and cranked it up as loud as it would go.
      I felt my cell phone buzzing on my hip I pulled it off my belt looking at the number. I did not recognize it I hit the talk button,

      "WHAT," I growled into it. The music was still blasting. I turned it down so I could hear who was calling me.

      "Are you ok?"

      "Are you, Tarie?"

I was shocked she had my cell number, note to self kill Meddling Max!

      "Can we sit down and talk this out?"

Her voice was pleading with me now.

      "Oh love, I can't, I'm no longer in town. I left town right after the meeting. So I don't think sitting down and talking is much of an option."

      "You're heading for Tom's ranch."

It was more of a statement than a question.

      "Let me meet you there? I can leave now and be there in a couple of hours."

      "I need to figure this out, Tarie."

      "I know you do, we both do, but we don't have to do this alone anymore. Please let me meet you there?"

I had to pull over. I hadto have been "PMS'ing" because all I wanted to do was cry!

      "Why Tarie?" was all I could manage between the tears.

      "We both have so much to lose; we have to make this work."

      "Make what work?"

      "Us, you, me, letting Tom go, building a company. There are so many things we need to talk about."

      "I can't think when I am near you," I confessed to her.

      "Brie Baby, that makes two of us, I want nothing more than to take you in my arms and make love to you all night long, but that wont solve the problems we have to face."

I was shocked into silence, seems like tonight was a night of confessions.

      "Ok," I said. It was the only answer I had for her.

      "Ok what?"

      "Meet me up here?"

      "Tell you what I can leave in ten minutes. That way I can beat the rush hour traffic and I won't have to drive over the mountain after dark. Deal?"
Her voice sounded lighter now.

      "Yes, that's fine, I guess the sooner we work out our differences I can go back to work."

      "Not until you are healed, please?"

      "My Gods Tarie, you can actually say THAT word?"

I grinned into the phone.

      "Did it work?" I could tell her was smiling as well.

      "Maybe, I'll talk to you tonight when you get up here. Drive careful, ok?"

      "How close are you to the ranch?"

      "I am sitting on the road to the ranch as we speak."

      "Did you fly up there?"

      "No just broke several speed limits to get here, is all."

I laughed at the thought of her frowning on my law break abilities.

Her voice had the power to make me quiver even over the phone.


      "Thank you!"

      "Honey, don't thank me yet, it could be a long ass weekend! I will talk to you soon."

      I hung up and started the truck. The sadness hung on but I felt somewhat better after talking to her. Maybe letting go and letting her see parts of me no one had wouldn't be so bad after all.

      I pulled the truck into the large garage and jumped out of it, grabbed my bag, and headed for the back door of the house. I stepped into the kitchen and was greeted by the wonderful smells of fresh baked bread. The door slammed behind me. I jumped, winching my ribs a little too hard and I groaned in pain. I set my bag down on the washing machine and started digging for my pills. I walked to the kitchen sink, stuck a glass under the faucet, filled the glass, downed the pills, and leaned against the sink looking out over the ranch. I was lost in thought as Ms.FannieMae came stomping into the kitchen.

      "Child of mine, you had better not be walking around my clean kitchen with those boots on!"

      "Scare the bajeezus out of me, Ms.Fannie"!

I made a face in pain as she pulled me into a bear hug.

      "Careful. I got some painful ribs, Ms.fannie."

      "So I hear, I was wondering when you would show up."

Ms.Fannie had worked on this ranch for as long as I could remember.

      "How are you child?"

      "I have had a better days that's for sure."

I smiled meekly at her. I hugged her again.

      "I am sure glad you're here to welcome me home."

I felt tears in my eyes again.

      "You go get your things settled in, while I make us something to eat. I made
you fresh bread and some soup."

      "I take it she called you and told you I was coming here?"

I raised an eyebrow at her.

      "Yes, she was worried about you, but I felt you were on your way long before she called. Now go put your things away in your room."

      She has a Sixth Sense about things and it scared me at times. She could see things long before anyone else could. It's down right scary when you think about it; it was like she could see the future.

      "AND take those damn boots off before you walk across my white carpet, you hear me?"

      "Yes Ma'am."

      I grinned to my self as I sat down in a chair to take off my boots, which hurt, but it was better than getting smacked in the back of the head with a wooden spoon. She always used a wooden spoon when I was a lot younger and even wilder than I am today; it got my attention though!
      I walked up the long stair case to my old room, it was as I left it, the huge king size bed looked like heaven to me, it was the only bed I ever felt comfortable in, it was the only one I had never shared with a lover or even a friend. It held nothing but good sleepy nights of looking up at the stars I had plastered on the top of the red mahogany top. The four posts were carves with wild mustangs running down them. Tom had this bed made for me when he took me in and made me become part of his family. I was only seventeen at the time; it was something I would always remember. He changed my life that day. I walked into the bathroom off the bedroom, washed my hands and face. Maybe a good cup of soup would be good for me and get me in a cheerful mood.
      I walked down the steps that were wide enough for three people to fit comfortable side by side. The chandelier hung brightly above them, sparkling brightly as the sun shone on it from the cathedral-size windows that let in the late afternoon sunlight. At the bottom of the step I stopped and laughed to my self at the black and white patterned floor; it made up a chessboard. I used to sit and imagine the knights and horses milling about on Ms.Fannie's pristine floors. When Tom built something everyone always joked that it had to be the size of Texas or TNT didn't make it! I walked into the kitchen Ms.Fannie was hustling about making a lunch for us.

      "Nothing has changed has it, Ms.Fannie?"

My voice wavered slightly we both knew that Tom's death had changed everything.

"No child, the house is still the same, just a little lonelier now. I am so glad you came home."
      She hugged me the tears in her eyes told of the lonely nights she had now that Tom wasn't here to boss her around. They loved each other in a way I never understood. To me it seemed like all they did was antagonize each other. The thought of how much they were like Tarie and me was uncanny; a thought I would have to think on later when I was alone.
      I took a seat in the small breakfast cove and sipped on the iced tea she handed me. I would have much preferred the whiskey Tom kept in the den, but Ms.Fannie didn't take to kindly to drinking. She had locked me out of the house more than once, back when I was in high school, for coming home drunker than a skunk.

      "So child, tell me what brings you home and how did you break your arm?"

      I looked down at the plate of fresh baked bread the cheese oozing out of the corners just the way I liked it. I knew I couldn't tell her why I had came back here so I skipped right over that question,

      "I was bungee jumping."

      "My God child, when are you going to learn to slow down and enjoy life?"

      "I don't know, Ms.Fannie I keep waiting for someone to walk into my life and make it seem worth while. But it's not as bad as it looks, I am sore sure but I can get that from a long day on a steel building. Anyway, the chord snapped and I just let my self relax and curled up into a ball as I hit the water. My feet and my hand hit first taking the impact. My boots kept my feet safe. My arm wasn't so lucky. It wasn't a bad ride up 'til I hit the water."

I tried to make light of the fall so she wouldn't worry so much.

      "Ok, how about the stitches in your forehead?"

      "Humm, that I'm not sure on. I think I hit the bottom with my head, I don't rightly recall. That's what Max told me anyway. I don't remember anything after I hit the water until I came to and someone was waving smelling salts under my nose. Then a few EMT's were there, it was in and out for me. I woke up a few days later in the hospital."

      "Child, you need to stop this business of trying to kill yourself."

She laid a gentle hand on my cast. I smiled at her.

      "You sound like Tarie; she seems to think I have some kind of death wish or something like that."

I tried to put humor into the words; I knew she didn't buy into it though.

"Do you, Brieannah? Maybe Tarie is right?"

      You could have heard a pin drop when she asked me that. I reached out gripping my glass taking a sip of the sweet ice tea, wishing it were the hardcore burn of whiskey I felt instead.

      "I cant explain it to you or to her, maybe it's the adrenalin rush I get or maybe it's the control I have over Fate when I pull a stunt like that over 100 feet in the air. I never really considered how I live my life and how it affects other people around me."

I looked into her eyes seeing such sadness in them.

      "I think you are a lot like Tom was when he was your age: wild and care free. Maybe you just need someone who can show you how to care."

      She let go of my arm to take a bite of her cheese sandwich. I played with the chips on my plate. Half of my sandwich was still untouched. I could feel the pain pills kicking in, my stomach was on that roller coaster and I was not enjoying the ride. I knew I needed to go lay down.

      "Ms.Fannie, I need to go lay down for awhile, can you wake me up just before the sunsets? I want to watch it."

      "Sure child, I can. Are you sure you won't eat any more?"

Her soft brown eyes searched mine. I kissed her ebony cheek and shook my head.

      "No, I don't feel so hot. These pills put my stomach on a roller coaster headed straight for hell. I'll try and eat more later. I promise. I am just going to go up and relax for a while. I've got so much on my mind that it makes it hard to keep anything down."

      I kissed her one more time to assure her I wasn't fooling her and headed up the stairs. I ran my hand along the find woodwork of the hand railing. I had always wanted to try and slide down its smooth surface. I always thought I'd be able catch some speed by the time I hit the bottom. I had to grin to myself at this childish thought, it was one of those things you always wanted to do as a youngster, that and swinging from the chandelier.
I slipped off my jeans and crawled into the huge bed, a few punches to the pillow to get it fluffed just right and I was out like a light switch.

      The room was dark when I woke up, I was sweaty and pissed I had thought I had missed the sunset. I realized someone had shut the heavy drapes. My shirt was soaked with sweat and my hair clung to my face. I reached up to brush it off my forehead when a soft touch brushed it away for me.

      "I was wondering when you were going to wake up."

      "Tarie, how long you been here?"

Her hand felt good against my hot skin. She traced lazy circles on the side of my face I closed my eyes relaxing.

      "Oh about an hour after you came up to bed. Ms.Fannie sent me up to check on you. She said you didn't eat much at lunch."

      "I'm fine," I lied snuggling closer to the warmth of her body so close to mine, "What time is it?"

      "It's after 8pm, and you don't lie very well either honey. You have a fever."

      "Naw, I'm fine really, it's the pain pills. I want to go up and watch the sunset up on make…er…look out point."
      "I take it you have been there a few times," she teased me. She actually had a sense of humor!

      "I think I shall plead the fifth here."

      I pulled away from her embrace to sit on the edge of the bed; my world went spinning hopelessly out of control. I felt lightheaded as I tried to stand up. I choked back the feeling of passing out and stood up.

      "You care to join me or not? We have less than a half hour before the sun is completely gone from sight."

      As I stood there I realized I was weaving slightly to the left. I sat back down on the bed. I could feel the chills setting in; this was NOT the time for me to get sick. I sucked it up, stood up, and walked over to my duffel bag. I grabbed my favorite flannel shirt and pulled it on. I stepped into my jeans and hunted for my socks.

      "YOU should change that t-shirt, honey. It's soaked with sweat. It will only make the chills worse."

I hung my head; she had me on this one,

      "Yes, mother."

      I grabbed a clean shirt and stalked off to the bathroom. I realized her large suitcase was piled next to my small duffle bag. Who invited her to crash in my room anyway? She just seemed to take over things everywhere she went. I had to smile to myself. It did feel good to wake up wrapped in her arms, not that I would admit that to her at this point. Hell, if she was going to stay in my room I was notthe one who would be complaining as long as I woke up in her arms every morning. Nope, I wasn't one to complain when I had it made!
      I snagged my hat and leather jacket off the hook behind the bedroom door. I tossed my wet t-shirt on the floor next to my bag, pulled open the door, and waited on Tarie.

      "Come on, mother hen, we are burning the last of the day light."

I caught her hand in mine and headed down stairs to the jeep.

      The drive to Lookout Point, or as I used to call it "Make-out Point," was quiet. I did not even have the energy to argue with her when she said she would drive us up there. I was lost in thoughts of how my life drastically changed the day Tom died. How my plans for the future were altered now that he was gone and Tarie was taking his place at work. She pulled the jeep to a stop at the top of the Point. The sun was making its last wink to us before it blacked out for the night. The reds and blues made streaks of purple across the valley below us. I felt tears roll off my face as the last of the golden reds disappeared behind the horizon and settled into the blackness of the coming night.

      "I will miss him."

I felt her hand squeeze mine tighter.

      "He loved you a lot you know. Every week he would have some story to tell about you and something you did. He would always talk of how proud of you he was when I called him. Always telling of how you did something to save him a lot of money or made something go smoother on the job site or even worse. I would just want to smack you around when he told of some stupid stunt you pulled over the weekend.

      "He did?"

I looked over at her like she had just lost her mind.

      "Yes, I called two or three times a week to talk to him. I knew he was sick, but he refused to let me come home and help him. He didn't want you to know just how sick he as. He loved you like his very own daughter you know?"

She paused to take a drink of the warm tea Ms.Fannie had packed for us.

      "He would send me pictures over the internet to show the progress of the building you were working on. Hell, at times I knew more about what you were doing, sweetheart, than I did of him. I knew he was sick I wanted to come home, but he insisted I stay in New York and run the business there. I wanted to come home, Brie."

      "I know you did, baby."

      The endearment slid so easily off my tongue, it shocked me as much as it did her. I held her hand tighter in mine. I wanted to feel the closeness between us as much as she needed it.

      "Its funny he talked a lot about you and how you took charge of things there, he never had to worry if you were there to make things right. I never realized his business was so huge."

      "That's only been in the last twenty years or so. My mother and Uncle Tom started an advertising company, it was successful, mom loved it, but she was killed my last year of college. I graduated with top honors and stepped in to take her place. That was about the same time you stumbled into his office out here wanting a job."

She smiled at me.

      "He knew you were even hardly seventeen at the time."
      "He told you about that?"
I was more than embarrassed now, more like mortified.

      "Did he tell you that I had been out drinking all night? I never even went home to change clothes just marched into his office and shoved my resume in his face and told him why he needed me. We argued over how much he would pay me. We came to an agreement and he stuck me working with Max. Only to find out he was my REAL brother. I think it was fate the day I walked into his offices. And the rest, they say, is history."

      "Not to hear him tell it."

She smiled at me filling my cup with the sweet warm tea.

      "What did he tell you?"

I hung my head in shame for what I thought would be a rotten story.

      "I am not too proud of my past as it is. The day I walked into his office an' came away with a job I made a deal with my self to make things better and I have so far. What did he tell you about that day?"

      "Well he heard this yelling out front. Seems like you were arguing with Sally his secretary at the time about how you 'DID' have an appointment to see him. He finally broke down and opened his office door to see what all that ruckus was about. The way he described you I can see it now in you at times. He told me later he had 'one short pissed off blonde in his office.' His words not mine, but I can envision it as plain as day. Your hair all messed up, shirt half untucked, jeans with holes in them and those God-awful boots. Your eyes blood shot and a temper to fit those mood swings. You marching into Uncle Tom's office demanding a job, that alone took some balls honey. Yeah, he liked you from the start."

She chuckled at the thought of how I was dressed, which she was right about.

      "I am sure I was a sight to behold, but I NEEDED that job. I had lost my other job, caught my girlfriend in bed with someone, and she kicked me out all in the same week. I think I had been drinking for a few days when I ran into Alex at some bar on the lower side of town. He told me to go see Tom, so I did, the very next morning when I was somewhat sober. I still don't know why he gave me the job after the way I bullied poor Sally! And I had quit school. What he did was mostly illegal, hiring a minor to work with out a workers' permit. He sure took one hell of a chance on me."

      "He knew a kind hearted person when he saw one."

      "Yeah but he took one hell of a rotten chance. I was drinking hard and on the road to self-destruction."
      "From what he told me I am sure you were, but that's why he pushed you as hard as he did, making you go back to school, plus working full-time after school did not leave you much time for any trouble. Can I ask why you drank so much?"

      "I thought I was in love, for the first time in my life I felt someone loved me for who I was, but I was wrong once again. The bottle can be a really good friend, a bottle doesn't shit on you."

      The moon had slowly made its way up past the tree line. How long we had sat there talking I wasn't sure. I think my last statement startled her. I was cold and needed to get into a warm bed. She must have been able to read minds as well as hear like a bat.

      "Come on lets get you home, your shivering."

      "I'm fine," I said threw clenched teeth, "I am just a little tired and sore."

She let go of my hand and started the jeep.

      "Sure, sweetheart, that's why you are sweating and shivering at the same time, right?"

      I woke the next morning my lungs were on fire, coughing only made my ribs hurt worse. I shoved the pain pills and the antibiotic in my mouth cupping the cool water from the sink into my hand, not caring if I got the damn cast wet or not. I turned on the shower as hot as it would go, stripped off my sweatshirt, and stepped into the hot water. I held my arm above my head gripping the shower curtain rod to keep it from getting any wetter then it was as I gulped in the steamy air, trying to get my lungs to stop hurting.
      I dried myself off as best as I could, dressed, and headed downstairs to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. The sweatshirt I had on must have been Tarie's; it hung on my small body like a gunnysack. I had to roll up the cuffs to be able to see my fingers. I rolled it up past the cast hoping it would dry quickly. I walked into the cheerfully bright kitchen greeted by an even more cheerful Ms. Fannie.

      "Good morning, child."

She handed me a cup of tea, I scowled at her back; I wanted coffee. I sat down and sipped on the steaming hot tea. It helped ease the burning in my throat, not that I would let her know that. She'd poke the crap at me all the time if she thought I liked it. I never did make a good patient. I was more likely to scowl and bitch at anyone who caused my head to hurt more.

      "Can you turn down the damn lights in here?"

I growled at no one in particular.
      "Don't you be using that foul mouthed, trucker talk in my kitchen, child. I can still take you over my knee and paddle the day lights out of you."

She snapped at me waving a wood spoon in my direction. I hung my head lower knowing full well I just had been scolded down right good.

      "I've been trying to tell her that for the last week, Ms. Fannie"

      "Suck up," I hissed in her ear as she leaned in to kiss me.

      "I was about to wash her mouth of with Clorox a couple of days ago."

She kissed me again.

      "You are running a fever, honey. Did you take your pills?"

      "Yes I did, mother," I growled at her, "Jesus, I don't need a babysitter."

I shoved my chair back so I could go back to bed.

      "You sit right back down in that chair, child, or I will call the doctor to make a house call. You will eat something. Do you hear me?"

Ms.Fannie never even turned around.

      "What the hell are YOU paying her?"

I glared at Tarie smiling so sweetly at me as I jabbed my thumb in Ms.Fannie's direction. I was thanking the gods above her back was turned or she would have smacked me good with that wooden spoon she had in her hand.

      "Not enough if she makes you eat some breakfast."

      Tarie filled a cup of coffee and sat next to me, looking at the newspaper. I slid my tea glass close to her coffee cup, I waited till she had the paper in front of her and switched cups with her. I gulped down the hot coffee as quick as I could, I could see Tarie reaching for her cup, and I just smiled sweetly as the God-awful tea hit her taste buds. She glared at me lowering the newspaper. I thought she was going to choke on it. I ran a thumb across my neck and looked at her. She knew Ms.Fannie would smack us both if she said one word at how rotten the herbal tea tasted. She swallowed the tea and got up dumping the tea into the plant next to her. I stifled a giggle as she glared at me and went to refill her cup with coffee.
      Ms Fannie set a plate of pancakes in front of me.

      "Ms.Fannie I cannot eat this much. This is enough to feed a Third World country."

"CHILD, you are going to get it yet. Now you just hush up and eat."

      I shoved my pancakes around eating a few bites here and there, under the watchful eye of Tarie. I knew if she squealed on me I would tell Ms. Fannie about how she dumped out the tea. I got up dumped the rest of the pancakes in the garbage, shoved my plate in the dishwasher and rinsed out my coffee cup to hide the fact it was coffee and not the tea. I stalked out of the kitchen with out one word to either of them.
      Being sick always made me pissier than I normally was. The fever seemed worse to me after choking down those pancakes. I changed my clothes and headed out to the barn. It had been months since I had ridden Jeb: the Palomino stallion Tom had given me for my birthday over two years ago. He was one of the few studs we had kept for breeding, he was my favorite and I think I was his. Not too many of the ranch's hired hands could handle him.
      The smells and sounds of the barn always seem to relax me; it was peaceful here during the day, not too many men moving about and most of the horses were out in the day paddocks. The few horses that were inside, milled about in the big box stalls. I made my way down the aisles patting the soft noses that poked out of the stalls. Jeb was pitching a fit. He snorted and blew loudly at me to hurry up. I had to laugh at his antics. We were so much alike: impatient as hell, demanding attention of the ones we loved. I unlocked the stall door and walked in. He shoved his large head into my chest; I wrapped my arms around him, kissing his forehead.

"Hi, big boy, how are you."

      I talked softly to him; he was always understanding, a really good listener. He searched my pockets for hidden carrots. I fit his halter over his large head and clipped the lead rope to it. He followed me out to the large indoor arena. He danced on his toes waiting for me go climb up on him. I pulled him over to the gate I knew I had no chance of swinging up on his back from the ground. I didn't think my ribs would take that kind of movement.
      I swung a leg over him as he dance away from the gate, I patted his neck as he reared up in the air,

      "Easy boy, I am not in the best of shape to be doing this."

      I tapped his left side and he moved out into the center of the arena. We walked around the outside letting him toss his head. I kicked him up into a trot, then into a slow canter. Making figure 8's a few flying lead changes, I could feel him pulling on the rope wanting to work harder. I moved back out to the side of the arena and gave him his head. He lowered his head as he gained speed around the arena we flew, the wind blowing in my ears. I felt that rush I always got when speed was involved. I crouched low over his shoulders, my legs holding his sides tight. The strong muscles moved under me, his hooves echoed off the walls. Sweat soon formed on his shoulders, I slowed him back down as he was not use to this kind of a work out. I slowed him back down into a walk to cool him off. My ribs were killing me by then. I would need another painkiller after this ride. I slide off his back and turned him loose. He took off to the other end, dropped, and rolled in the dirt. Then he stood up shaking the dirt off just like a dog would, spun on his heels and came barreling straight back at me. He slid to a stop in front of me, rearing up, his hooves coming close to my head. I laughed at him as he came down on his feet again nudging me for the carrot I had in my pocket.

      "Ms.Fannie would shoot us both, boy, if she knew I was feeding you her carrots."

      I led him out of the arena back to his stall. I filled his water and oat buckets and began to brush out his warm coat. Talking to him always seemed to make me feel better.

      "I don't know what to do boy. I had it all planned out, but with Tom passing away it threw a monkey wrench in my plans. It has changed my life forever."

He turned and nuzzled me, oats dripping down my sweatshirt.

      "If I agree to arrangements in his will I have to live with Tarie for a year. Hell, we can't even go one day without fighting. I can't imagine a year together. The only time we ain't fighting is at night lying in each other's arms. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, but there's more to life than sleeping together. When I am in her arms things don't seem so bad. Ya know?"

He flung his head up and down like he understood what I was saying. I smiled at how he responded to me.

      "If I could find a lover who loved me like you do boy I'd be one happy woman. Well at least I have a week to decide what I am going to do."

      I slipped the halter off his head, and sat down in the straw next to his feet. I rested up against the stall's wooden wall. I closed my eyes thinking of what the future had in store for me, I fell asleep.

      "Brie Baby, come on wake up honey."

Tarie's voice called to me. I rolled over snuggling into the hay. My head hurt and was filled with fog. I felt her warm breath on my ear,

      "Stop it, Tarie, I'm awake now," I growled swatting at the soft breath in my ear. I was nudged harder this time.

      "Alright dammit, I'm up."

I sat up resting back on the wooden wall.
      "Brie, come on out of there, this dang nag won't let me in there," Tarie said as Jeb snorted at her.

      "OH! I thought it was you waking me up, and don't be calling him a nag, he has feelings too you know."

      I opened my eyes to find his large brown eye staring at me. I leaned in and kissed his soft velvety nose, wrapped my arms around his neck.

      "Up boy."

      He pulled me up to my feet I pulled the last carrot out of my pocket and fed it to him, patted his nose one more time, and stepped out of the stall. He nickered at me. I turned to him.

      "Ill come back later, boy, and we will go play outside."

I shut the door, locking it behind me. I turned to Tarie,

      "What time is it?"

I rubbed my forehead trying to easy the sinus pressure that was building up.

      "It's just past noon. I had some paperwork to catch up on and then I went upstairs to wake you up. I thought you had gone back to bed."

I followed her out of the barn towards the house.

      "No, I had something I needed to do."

      We walked side by side our hands brushing against each other. I kept waiting for the lecture I was sure she was getting ready to give me. I peered at her out of the corner of my eye, waiting for it.

      "No, I am not going to yell at you. You know better than that to be out here."

She looked down at me one eyebrow raised high.

      "Shit, how do you do that?" I was shocked she knew what I was thinking.

      "Brie, watch that mouth of yours. And how do I do what?"

She stopped me, pulling me in to face her.

      "It's like you can read my mind or something and its starting to piss me off."
      "Girl, you have a mouth on you only a mother could love."

I stiffened at that.

      "Well, Tarie I don't remember my mother. She left me on the police station steps when I was two. Besides that you weren't bitching at what my mouth was doing the other night," I snapped back at her.

She pulled me in tighter to her, holding me.

      "I'm sorry, Brie. I didn't know that that was a touchy subject for you."

      She cupped my chin pulling my head up to make me look her in the eyes. I wished I'd had my sunglasses right then, but she met my lips with hers. I felt the fire leap to a roaring flame. I stepped out of her embrace.

      "Why do you do that to me?"

I spun around heading for the house. Leaving her standing in the middle of the driveway. Her long legs caught up to me right quick.

      "Do what, Brie? You can run, but you are not going to hide from me anymore. You can't deny the feelings you have for me. I can seem them in your eyes, feel them in your touch, your kiss and the way you make love to me with your eyes."

She caught my arm and spun me around making me face her.

      "Go ahead and tell me you don't feel it? Tell me you feel nothing when I wrap my arms around you at night, go ahead and try to tell me you feel nothing when I kiss you. Tell me you don't and I will leave you alone."

      Her eyes were darker than I had ever seen them. The violet color raged a battle to control her temper. Anger and frustration were written all over her beautiful face. I had the lie on the tip of my tongue as she pulled me to her. Her lips caught mine in a deadly assault. Then she pulled away, just as quick,

      "Don't you dare lie to me either," she growled at me.

      The lie disappeared as her tongue gently teased mine. I kissed her back. I couldn't have stopped myself if I had tried. I moaned as her hands raked down my back.

      "Tell me, Brieannah. Tell me you don't feel what I feel," she whispered between kisses, "Say it damn you."

      "I…I can't… let me go God Dammit."

I shoved her by the shoulders.

      "No, not until you tell me you can't feel what is happening between us," she hissed at me.

      "Fine, I won't deny it."

I felt her relax the death grip she had on me.

"I knew it, Brie Baby. I can see it in your eyes and you don't lie every well."

She ran her hands down my arms.

      "I won't deny it, Tarie, but I sure in the hell won't admit it either."

I never saw it coming; she slapped me hard in the cheek. My head flipped sideways. I brought my hand up to my face to ease the burning.

"BITCH," I yelled, shoving her hard.

      I walked on by her into the house, slamming the kitchen door hard. I ran upstairs and picked what clothes I could find dumped them into my bag, grabbed my keys and wallet off the nightstand, and left the house. I ran across the driveway to the barn. There was a small apartment above the stalls that was unused. I dropped my bag on the floor and fell face first on the bed, crying myself to sleep. I woke some point, later in the day, took a pain pill, and dug around in my bag for the antibiotics. I must have forgotten them in the house. I slept the rest of the afternoon.

      I heard the door to the small apartment open. I had no clue as to what time it was as Ms.Fannie set a tray of food down on the small table. She looked madder than a wet hen. I knew I was in for it,

      "Child, when are you going to stop running? Come on and get up and sit at the table, I brought you something to eat."

      "Ms.Fannie, you didn't have to do that. I'm okay, I just needed some sleep is all."

      My voice sounded lower than it normally did, my throat burned, I was getting a cold. As if I needed to get sick on top of everything else that was going wrong in my life. Yes, I was having a pity party for one. Ms.Fannie was having none of it though.

      "I know I didn't have to, I wanted to make sure you were alright. Tarie gave me your other pills; she is worried about you too."

      "Sure she is. Tell her my cheek still stings," I snapped back at her.

      "Don't you use that tone of voice with me, child. Just because the two of you are acting like two year olds it doesn't give you the right to take it out on me!"

She glared at me across the table. I took a bite of the warm sandwich she had made me.

      "I'm sorry, Ms.Fannie, you're right. She just makes me so angry. It's like I have no control over what I am thinking or feeling when I am near her."

I realized I had chocked down half of the sandwich as I talked to her.

      "Love will do that to you, child."

She smiled across the table at me.

      "I'm not…I don't… AW SHIT."

I looked down at the rest of my sandwich, if I took another bite I would throw up.

      "I can't be… I don't… no I don't want to be in love with her. It will only complicate things even more."

My voice, raspy and thick gave away what I was feeling.

      "Love is not something you can control, child. When you least except it, it will rear its head and slap you in the face."

I reached up and touched the bruise that was now showing on my cheek,

      "You're not shitting," I mumbled.

      "When are you going to complete a sentence without using that foul mouth of yours? Now take your pills and go back to bed. I will bring you some supper later on tonight."

She patted my head and left. I crawled into the small bed, turned on the TV for some kind of noise, and tried to relax. There was nothing I cared to watch even with over five hundred channels. Sleep came to me in fitful dreams of Tarie.

      Somewhere off in the distance I heard the door open. I knew it would be Ms. Fannie bringing me something to eat. I must have slept longer that I realized. I had the chills, my shirt was soaked with sweat, my lips dry, and I had a fever that made my head hurt. I rolled over trying to wake up, a cool body laid next to me. I opened one eye to stare into a set of blue ones.
      "What do you want?"

I tried to roll away from Tarie.

      "Come back for another round of boxing did you?"

I was being snotty and we both knew it.

      "NO, I came here to beg you to forgive me. I lost my temper. I had no right to touch you in anger"

Her voice filled with painful emotions of what had happened in the driveway.

      "You're fucking right. You'll NEVER do that again. Next time I fight back."

I sat up on the edge of the bed, groaning at how much I hurt.

      "Christ, I feel like a truck hit me. Oh wait, that was you! Why are you here anyway? Want to fight some more?"

      "NO, I don't. I hate fighting with you. I came here to say that I am sorry, to beg and plead with you to forgive me."

Her voice shook with unspoken tears.

      "Begging don't become you sweet heart," I grumbled as I stood up to go to the bathroom.

      I pealed off the sweaty clothes and turned on the hot water. I let the water run as hot as it could. I thought maybe if I hid out in here long enough she would just disappear. Well, part of me wanted her to go, but my heart wanted nothing more than to take her in my arms and make love to her. I knew I could never stay mad at her. It was partly my fault I had said things to her that were down right mean and I know I honestly didn't mean them.

      "I brought you some clean clothes to put on when you are done. They may be a little big but they will do until we get you some clean ones of your own," she said from the other side of the shower curtain.

      I wondered if she was about to join me in the shower, but I decided that wouldn't be a good idea. I turned off the water and stepped out. She held out a towel to me I was shaking. The heat and chills ran through me like a freight train. Her eyes traveled down my body as she quickly wrapped me up in the towel she had in her hands. I didn't care at that point how sick I was I would never turn down the kind of offer I could see in her eyes.
      "Sweetheart, I want you so bad, do you realize what you do to me," she whispered between kisses.

      I dropped the towel between us. Her breath caught in her throat as her hands roamed my naked body. I was shivering, this time it was not from the fever, but from those soft hands playing my body like finely tuned piano.

      "Then make love to me like there is no tomorrow."

      I reached up and grabbed a handful of her long black hair in my hand pulling her lips down to mine. Our tongues met, each trying to dominate the other. My other hand caught her shirt and untucked it from her jeans. I slid my hand up under her bra. Her skin was warm to my touch. I wanted to drop to my knees and take her right there on the bathroom floor.
      Catching a firm breast in my fingers I began walking her backwards towards the bed, never once letting my hands or mouth loose their hold on her body. Her knees buckled under her as she hit the edge of the mattress. I fell down right on top of her. In one quick motion she flipped me over sliding off of me she stood up. Piece by piece she removed her clothes, teasing and taunting me with things to come. She slowly made her way up my body leaving a trail of burning kisses. I reached out to guiding her hand to me. She pulled her hand away from mine.

      "Not yet my love, this is going to be slow and enjoyable."

She pulled my hands above my head to the headboard,

      "Hold this tight, don't let go, you do and I stop."

      Her voice sent chills up and down my spine. I struggled for air, she had me breathing hard just by the sweet promises she spoke in my ear. The heat was rushing full force in my body. One touch from her and I was sure I would wake up and this would all be a dream. I closed my eyes. If this is what my dreams would be like I wanted to prolong them. What her hands did to my body was nothing to what she did to my heart. Slowly, bit-by-bit, she captured it in her hands and one of those hands was sliding lower on my belly. I arched up to try and meet her. Her hand stopped. I pleaded with her.

      "Please, please don't stop."

      I would have sworn at her, but that would not help me out at all. I could not with stand much more of her teasing. Her hand continued then. Lower across my thigh, stroking the inside as light as a feather would. I ground my teeth together to keep from thrusting my hips up into her hand. Her lips burned on my neck as she kissed her way to a hardened nipple. I tried not to moan out loud. I wasn't sure how she wanted to play this game. I couldn't move, or touch her in anyway, but could I call out her name? Could I moan or beg for more? I just took all she gave me, slightly twitching as her hand caressed close to center of my pain; it ended as she drove her hand inside me. I climaxed harder than I have ever before in my life. I screamed her name as wave after shockwave ripped through my body. Her mouth came down on mine to stop my screams. I could feel myself grinding harder against her hand. I had not realized I was moving, not that I could stop now as I climaxed once again. I clung tightly to her, her body pulled as tight as I could against me. No one I had ever been with had taken me to this height of passion and most certainly no one had even had such control over my body to make me climax this many times or that long. I was sure I would pass out. I seemed to regain my senses as she withdrew her hand from me. I stopped her by closing my thighs tightly around her.

      "Don't leave me," I managed to plead with a dry throat, "It feels too good."

      "I will never leave you unless you want me to."

      She looked down at me; there was so much meaning behind her words and I understood every one of them. Her eyes were such a deep shade of violet. I could see such love in them as she held me tight in her arms. I had not really seen the beauty of her until this every moment and I was falling in love with it, with her.

      "My God, Tarie. You are beautiful."

      I reached up and framed her face with my hands. Lightly pulling her down to meet my lips, I kissed her, silently letting her know I was falling in love with her. Even if my mind was not ready to admit it, my heart was telling her I was. I used that kiss to my advantage. I flipped her over. Her hand slid out of me I moaned and the shock of it left me quivering for more.

      "It's my turn, Tarie; I want you to feel what I feel."

      I growled at her as I made my way down her body memorizing every curve, every line, every divot and mark on it to commit it to my memories for the day we weren't together. I kissed my way slowly down her belly to the soft hair where the passion flowed from her like sweet wine. I took her hard and fast with my mouth, her hips thrust up meeting me stroke for stroke. I looked up at her my mouth taking in all she had to offer. Her eyes held mine as she came. I waited for her to stop moving then took her again, this time slipping my hand in to replace my tongue. Several times she shook with a hard climax, her hands clutched my head, pulling me up to meet her lips with mine. She kissed me and then her lips clamped down on my neck as the last wave of passion left her limp in my arms.

      "Brie Baby, you're killin' me. You have to stop, let me catch my breath," She pleaded with me as I ground my leg between hers.

      Her hands clutched my back holding me tight. It bothered my ribs, but I was not willing to give up the wonderful feeling of the love we had silently shared with each other by moving. Her breath was steadying. I lifted my self up on one arm to move to her aside.
      "No, stay right there, it feels good."

      "I'm not crushing you am I?"

I wasn't sure by the way she was breathing.

      "No not at all."

She kissed my forehead, pushing back the sweaty bangs that hung in my eyes. Her next words took me by surprise,

      "I think I am falling in love with you, sweetheart."

I stiffened up a little. I tried to pull away from her, she just held on to me tighter, my ribs screamed for release.

      "Shhh, it's ok, you don't have to say anything, just relax. Please."

      That was all it took. I relaxed slightly. She gently rubbed small, light circles on my back. I could feel my body betraying me. I relaxed even more, falling asleep. I tried to fight it, but her touched had a funny way of taking control over me, and my body. Just the gentleness of her touch was all it took; I was soon sleeping.

      I woke later to an empty bed. The fever was gone and so was Tarie. One thing I hated the most was waking up alone after making love. I was used to one-night stands, but I had thought this was different, yet she was gone just the same. At least it had gotten rid of my fever. Maybe I had pegged her wrong, maybe she was the love them and leave them type after all.
      I was hungry. I quickly dressed and headed back to the main house. Ms.fannie was puttering around the kitchen as I walked in. I opened the door to the fridge, but ended up standing in front of it, looking at it blankly. Memories kept me from actually seeing the food that was in there.

      "Child, are you hungry?"

      "Yes, but I can make something for my self."

      "Over my dead body will you mess up my kitchen, now shut that door and sit down I'll heat you up something right quick. And take that hat off in the house"

      I had to smile at her, this was one of her biggest pet peeves, no one wears a hat in her house. I hung my USA Women's Hockey team hat on the back of my chair as I sat down. She smiled at me as I played with the saltshaker on the table.

      "What is that mark on your neck from child," she asked smirking as I jumped up from my chair.

      "Shit," I said as I opened the door on the small bathroom, "I am going to kill her."

I slammed the bathroom door,

      "Where is she," I hissed at Ms. Fannie.

      "She is in her office, but don't you be bothering her, child!"

      Her words fell on deaf ears I was out of that kitchen like a cat kicked in the ass. I walked down the hallway, my boots echoing in the large open passage. Past the den, past Tom's old office, the next door was shut. I kicked it just hard enough to pop it open with a bang as it hit the wall behind it. I stood there hardly breathing. I waited for her to get off the phone. She looked up at me, from her computer screen, a phone in one hand, the other trying to type.

      "Mary, I am going to have to call you back, looks like someone woke up on the crabby side of her bed. She just kicked in my office door. NO, Mary I will NOT ask her that. I don't think she will find it funny at this moment. I will leave that for you to ask her. I have got to go."

I stood in the doorway waiting for her to hang up. I pounced on her the second she did.

      "Can you to tell me why I woke up alone?"

      "Not until you tell me why you kicked in my door," she countered.

Dammit, she was good at this. She stood up walking around the desk meeting me half way, nose to nose. Okay, nose to…huh well… I looked up to meet her eyes.

      "Not till you explain this mark on my fuckin' neck," I hissed at her.

I was finding that sparring with her was getting to be entertainment. She was quick on her feet.

      "I swear I am going to wash that mouth out yet! And if you don't know HOW you got that I will be glad to show you one more time to jog your poor memory!"

      She scooped me up in her arms and promptly dumped me on my back on her couch. She was on me in seconds ripping off my shirt buttons with her teeth. We pawed at each other's clothing like lovesick kids. My mind waged a battle with my heart. This was not why I had come in here, but I wasn't going to turn it down. Her lips wrapped around a naked breast and I was lost. I tried to stop it from happening, halfheartedly though.

      "Tarie… we got to…stop… OH GOD."

      I felt my sweat pants being pushed down and her hand slide into me. I came instantly; I moved my hips harder into her hand to meet each stroke she took. I bit down on her neck as I came one more time.

      "My God, Brieannah I love you."

      She thrust harder inside me. I could not stop my self; I had no control to stop from taking everything she offered me. As my body shuddered its last spasm, I kissed her, looking deep into her eyes I knew she meant it when she said loved me. I broke down and started to cry. I could not hold it back any longer; someone loved me for real this time.

      "Baby, don't cry, its ok, I've got you."

She held me tighter.

      "No it's not ok, you don't understand," I mumbled into her chest as she held me safely in her arms.

I tried to move out from under her, her hand still inside of me. I just ground my hips up into her.

      "Then tell me, Brie Baby, help me understand. I can't read your mind."

My hips moved against her hand, starting slowly to take her deeper into me,

      "I can't stop; I can't get enough of you. I'm falling in love with you and I'm not sure I want to."

Her hand pushed in farther, my hips moved with her,

      "Tell me why you don't want to, Brieannah," she growled into my ear taking the tip of it in her mouth, "Tell me."

It was like a command I could not deny.

      "I'm scared."

      That was all I could manage as she took me once again to heaven in her arms. We lay on the couch, her holding me, me knowing there was no going back now. I couldn't face her. I buried my head into her shoulder. She pulled me up to meet her gaze.
      "I do love you, Brieannah."

She leaned in and kissed me. We lay in each other's arms until my stomach started to protest it hunger. I had to giggle at the grumbling it made.

      "Come on, Brie Baby. Let's go feed that nasty beast of yours."

She pulled me up off the couch; my shirt hung loose, no buttons to close it.

      "YOU wreaked my shirt…"

I stopped with that as I spotted the quite large mark on her neck; I never realized I had done that until I saw how red it was. I started to giggle as she went off.

      "I'll buy you a new shirt honey, and WHAT are you giggling at?"

She looked at me I laughed even harder,

      "Let's just say pay back's are such a bitch, lover!"

      "Oh please, tell me you didn't! BRIEANNAH!"

      I moved to the other side of her desk and she yanked open a drawer and pulled out one of those femmy compact mirror thingy's and saw what I saw, a huge red hickey on her neck! I was smart enough to keep the desk between us as she stalked around it tryin to catch me. Around and round we went. I had the advantage though. I was on the side closest to the door.

      "I swear I did not do that on purpose, I SWEAR IT! Now you know why I was so pissed off."

I was laughing harder now.

      "I have a meeting in less than two days in New York, how am I going to hide THAT?"

      She pointed at her neck; I had tears rolling down my face from laughing so hard. I just blew a kiss her way and bolted out the door pulling it closed behind me. I ran up the back stairs as I heard the office door swing open and what sounded to me like a picture taking a header off the wall. I was at the top of the stairs, but her long legs were gaining on me quickly. I leapt into my bedroom I left the door open and hid behind the door. Like a lion stalking its, prey I waited until she was in the room and leapt on her shoving her face first on to the bed. I straddled her legs to keep her from moving out from under me, I pinned her arms above her head.

      "Give it up, Tarie. You might be bigger than I am, but I am much stronger."

      She stopped fighting me and changed her tactics. She moved her hips up to meet mine catching me off balance. I fell forward on top of her, she moved under me, I bit my lip to fight off the hot flash she was causing me to have.

      "Stop it, Tarie. It won't work this time."

She laughed under me. She lifted herself up higher into me. I groaned out loud.

      "I know what you are trying to do here, it's not going to work. I am hungry. I'll make you a deal, take me downstairs and feed me REAL food and I will let you have your way with me after."

      I knew had to word this carefully she was good at twisting them around so they would back fire on me. I leaned down and kissed her neck, letting my tongue wander across the back of it.

      "Do we have a deal," I asked kissing her neck one more time.

      "Okay, as long as you seal that deal with a kiss or no, you don't, Brie. AND it has to be a full contact kiss."

She played this game so well; I groaned inwardly, I knew what she was going to do to me.

      "Okay, stand up and kiss me and we have a deal."

I let her up; she stepped closer to me,

      "Ok no touching me, and I kiss YOU!"

      She leaned in taking me in her arms. I tried to wrap my arms around her. She stopped me, placing my hands at my sides. She brought her lips down on mine. Her teeth caught my bottom lip; that drove me nuts. It was one of my weaknesses. I think she knew this too, somehow. She did this so often to me. Her tongue caressed mine lightly. I moaned and pulled her hips into mine, one hand around her waist and the other wrapped in her hair tightly. I kissed her back. She grabbed my arms and put them down at my sides again. She pulled in me tighter, one hand grabbed the back of my head and the other one snuck its way into my sweat pants snaking between my legs into the wetness she had made. I realized I had made a deal with the devil herself. I moaned.

      "Oh GODS, please, Tarie, don't do this to me."

      She slid out of me as quickly as she had entered. I ground my hips hard against her. The same hand that had vacated my pants traced my lips lightly. She leaned down to kiss the trail of wetness off of them.
      "My GODS, Tarie. Please, don't leave me hanging like this, its cruel and inhumane punishment!"

I stammered at her as she stepped away from me.

      "That will keep you until we eat something."

      She flipped me that cruel half smile she got when she was up to no good, and headed downstairs. I followed her dazed, irritable, and planning revenge.

       "Brie if you keep shoveling your food in like that you will get sick."

Her voice brought me back to the plate in front of me. I was planning her slow and painful death by sexual assault. I was eating like this would be my last meal.

      "Oh sorry, I do that when I get to thinking. I just go in high gear and it's hard to slow down when I have a lot of things on my mind."

I looked down at my empty plate sheepishly. Meeting her eyes I grinned back at her.

      "Care to tell me what's on your mind?"

      I watched her delicately scoop up some mashed potatoes on her fork. Her lips lightly pulled them off into her mouth. Jesus, this woman would be the death of me! How could anyone make eating mashed potatoes look sexy?



      I jumped, my mind had been a ball headed straight for the gutter, with no pins in sight for a strike.

      "Dammit, you scared the snot out of me."

      "I asked you a question twice!"

She took another bite of the potatoes; I groaned inwardly, she was doing this on purpose.

      "Ask me again, with out moving any part of your body, besides your mouth."

I glared at her. She was just evil.

      "I just asked you what are you thinking about?"

      "Oh you know, the usual, you know," I stammered.

      "Like what," she persisted.

      "Bowling," I quipped back at her.


She looked at me stunned.

      "Yeahup, bowling."

I could see the confusion in her eyes. I picked up my plate walked over to the sink to rinse it off and set it in the dishwasher.

      "I am not sure I understand."

      "You know ten little pins to get a strike, a huge ass ball that weighs more then you do, and ya throw it down a lane, a little too far to the right or a little to the left, and you have a gutter ball."

I jumped as the phone on the wall next to me rang,

      "JESUS, who in the hell is calling here this late?"

I snatched up the phone and in my best business like tone answered it,

      "TNT Ranch."

It was all I could do not to swear at whoever was calling this late. If it had been my home phone I most likely would have.

      "Hi, may I speak with Tarie please?"

      I felt my blood run cold with jealousy. The voice on the other end was screamed "porno queen." The voice sounded like one of those commercials on late night TV for those sex talk phone lines. I shoved the phone at Tarie.

      "It's for you."

She gave me a startled look, I'm sure she wasn't expecting me to be so sarcastic.

      "This is Tarie. OH, hi yes I've missed you too my dearest. No, it's nothing trust me No relax honey, let me put you on hold and take this back in my office."

She put the phone on hold and walked to the kitchen door with out looking back.
      "Brie, this could take awhile."

      She walked out with out another word to me. She just left me to finish cleaning up the kitchen. The longer I thought about how she just walked out of the kitchen the madder I got. I was running little movies in my head, but I have heard that tone in her voice when she talked to me like that. Did she have someone else back in New York as well as me here in Oregon? I must have stood in that kitchen working myself into a down right froth about Tarie. I walked out of the kitchen, leaving it a mess; I didn't care. I wanted out of the house. The walls were closing in on me. I had to run. I had grabbed my leather jacket from my truck on the way to the equipment shed and grabbed my dirt bike. I spotted one of the older ranch hands as he came out of the barn after checking on the horses for the night. I yelled to him telling him I was going into town and then I took off.
      By the time I reached the small town I was sweating. The bike ride had helped to cool off my temper somewhat. Parking the Honda 650XL in front of the bar I recognized several of the ranch hands trucks. It was time for some pool. I smiled to myself and walked into the bar. I pulled off my jacket, flipping it on to a barstool. I waited for the little bartender to make her down the bar to where I sat. She wasn't bad to look at, small, blonde blue eyed, and young.

      "Haven't seen you in here before, what can I get you?"

Her voice was soft and her smile caught me off guard.

      "I will take a whiskey straight up and a backer of tequila."

I flipped out a large bill, and waited for her to pour my drink.

      "You new to these parts?"

She eyed me from the other side of the bar.

      "No not really just don't come into town much, you from around here?"

I sipped the whiskey tossed back the tequila and set it up for her to pour another one.

      "Yes lived here all my life, another one?"

She lifted the bottle of tequila.

      "If you keep pouring them down like that you wont last the night, sweetheart."

She leaned across the bar to pour me another shot. I couldn't help myself. Her shirt showed me way too much as she leaned forward.

      "Tell you what, you see this money here?"

I pointed to the one hundred bucks on the bar.


      "When its gone let me know I have more to spend. If I can't stand by the time this is gone I'll give you what is in my pocket."

      "What if I say no? What else do you have to offer?"

      She looked me up and down. I just raised an eyebrow at her and drained the glass of whiskey. I kept thinking to myself, maybe this night wasn't going to hell after all and this little bartender would help me finish what Tarie started. A pang of guilt crossed my heart. I drowned it with tequila. I smiled at her again and walked to where the pool tables were. Several of the guys knew me. I placed my money on the table and sat back to wait for my turn. I kept the conversation light with the little bartender, but the subtle hints were there. I was way beyond drunk when it was my turn to play pool, the drinks just kept on coming and things were getting spicier by the minute with the cute bartender. It was well after two a.m. when I heard the little bartender swear.

      "Shit B, I think you are in big trouble now."

      She took off for the other end of the bar. The hair on my neck stood up, as I knew Tarie was standing behind me. I still to this day cannot explain why I know when she is near me with out turning around and physically seeing her. It's like the other half of my heart starts beating again, even though I wasn't too happy at her chasing me down. I am sure she knew the bartender and I were flirting with each other when she walked in. I picked up the shot in front of me drank it and took the last of my whiskey in my other hand as Tarie stood behind me,

      "Put it down Brie, it's late and I am tired and it's time for you to come home. And I do believe that youngster has a wife at home who would be mighty pissed at both of you."

Her voice sounded cold and not too happy with me at this very moment.

      "Well I reckon I am then. No point in staying here."

I swung off my bar stool and grabbed my jacket, my legs were not to steady from the drinks I had pounded down. The room spun around me.

      "Damn, I think I might have had one too many."

I smiled to my self. I was always a happy drunk, until someone decided to pick on me.

      "You think so, Brie?"

She grabbed my arm and out the door we went. I stopped looking around for my bike; I knew I had parked it there somewhere.

      "Let me go, Tarie. I have my bike here."

I looked around and did not see it.

      "Well fuck it's gone."

I turned slowly around in a circle looking for it.

      "I had one of the guys take it home, now get in the jeep. I have to pack and drive back to the airport tomorrow. I have to fly back to New York."

She pulled me towards her truck.

      "Back to open arms I'm sure," I slurred as I got in the truck.

      "That was not fair of you, Brie."

      "Neither is lying to me. Shit just let it go, Tarie I am not in the right frame of mind to argue with you tonight."

I closed my eyes as she started back to the ranch.

      "Look, damn you. I did NOT plan for this to happen."

She waved her hand between us.

      "Such foul language for a lady, like you. But then again I never thought you'd be the type to sleep with two women at the same time. Must make it easy when they live in different states."

I could see her knuckles tightening on the steering wheel.

      "Don't you even think of tryin' to hit me again, Tarie. I will kick your fucking ass so hard back to New York that your other girlfriend will feel it. Leave me alone, you are ruining my buzz."

I leaned against the door and looked out the window tears rolling softly down my face.

      "Fine you just hide behind that bottle, Brieannah," she replied softly. I almost didn't hear it.

      "I once told you that a bottle won't shit on people like people do. So you just go on back to New York. What I thought we had was nothing but a lie."
      We had come to a stop in front of the main house. I bailed out of her truck right quick, but her voice stopped me.

      "Brieannah, I do love you."

      "You have a funny fucking way of showing it, too bad I am not laughing. I bet I could have loved you back. I will see you at the lawyer's office."

I slammed her truck door as best as my drunken body would allow.

      She was gone by the time I had slept off my hangover. I packed up my things. I knew I couldn't stay here. I kept having flashbacks of her in my arms, making love with her, laughing with her. She had taken my heart showed me what love felt like then shattered that into a million pieces and handed it back to me. I said a quick good-bye to Ms. Fannie with a promise I would be back again after we got everything settled with the lawyers, the smiley bastards who had control over my future.
      I drove back to my tiny apartment, tossed my bag next to the pile of dirty clothes, called my doctor for an early appointment for my hand, grabbed a bottle of beer and the whiskey bottle and spent the night playing computer pinball. I was thankful for caller ID, my phone rang every hour on the hour. I finally unplugged it and went to bed, drunk.

      I climbed out of the cab of my truck hung over, but the whistles and the calls from the crew lifted my spirits somewhat. Sporting a new removable brace for my arm I grabbed my hard hat and went to work.

      "Woman, it's after ten p.m. Let's call it a night and go home." Mad Max called to me.

I couldn't hear him from under the welding helmet I wore. I lifted up the shield and looked at him,

      "What? I couldn't hear you," I shouted back at him.

He leaned down next to me shutting off the wire feed welder.

      "Darling lets go home. It's late and we can't do this in one day."

He rested his large hand on my knee,

      "You go on and head home, I want to finish this then I will head out."

      "Are you ok Brie," he asked as he knelt closer to me, looking me in the eyes, "When is the last time you slept?"
      "Oh, I got a few winks last night."

I failed the grin I tried to flip at him. Tears swelled in my eyes. I couldn't hold them back any longer.

      "She used me, Max. She fuckin' used me."

I could feel him pulling me into his strong arms.

      "Come on, Brie Baby. Let's go some where and talk about this."

      I cried harder at those words. I used to feel such joy when Tarie called me that, now it only brought pain.

      We sat in a booth at Mike's Bar. I poured my heart out to him while the bartender poured my booze. He never said a word as to how much I was drinking. Maybe he knew I needed to pour my feelings out. I was good at keeping them bottled up inside of me. I got drunk and there was nothing holding me back. I spilled my guts to him.

      "She took a part of me I have never given anyone in my life, Max. She took it, gave a little in return then she goes off to New York where she had someone else waiting for her."

I took a sip of the strong whiskey.

      "Used it and left me to try and go on with out her. I was in love with her, Max. Now I have to decide if I can live in the same house with her for a year and try and run a business together. I just don't think I am strong enough anymore to do it. It's not worth it to me anymore Max. She wouldn't even deny that she HAD someone back there waiting for her. I know I cannot handle a year with her and not lose part of myself."

      "That is something you have to decide for yourself, little one, but listen to your heart not your head. It will only break your heart more."

He reached across the table taking my hand in his.

      "She already did that Max; there is nothing left in here no more."

I tapped my chest over my heart. I picked up the drink and finished it off. Several hours later he poured me onto his couch to sleep off the booze.

      Several days had gone by, the crew was working fourteen to sixteen-hour days to catch up and make the dead line by the end of summer. I worked right along side of them working harder and longer than most of them. I had no desire to go home and be alone. When I did go home the bottle kept me company. I partied hard on the nights when I was not working the next day, most times not going home at all. Drowning my self in the bottle I figured either the drink would kill me or her memory would.
      Sunday I went into the office to clear up some paper work. It was nice quite. We had all decided to take Sunday off and relax, this was my way to relax and get caught up at the same time. Logging into my e-mail I deleted the junk mail and read the ones I felt were important, sorted out what needed a reply, forwarded them to my home email and, checked that as well. I was shocked to see Tarie's name on several of them. I just deleted them.
      I left the office and went out to the garage where my bikes and extra truck were kept. I rode my street bike down to the nearest storage place rented a locked unit that would hold all my things. I moved my things into it in two trips, stopped back in my office and cleaned it out as well. I took the stuff home with me. I called a buddy from the work crew who needed a place to stay. I offered him my apartment. I would move out and he could rent it from me. I called movers arranged for them to come in and pack everything up by the end of the week. I walked down to the store on the corner bought a newspaper, took it back to my place and began calling around for a house to rent. Come Tuesday I would need a bigger place to run a business from. I came to the decision that there would ever be a way I could work with her and not hurt with the longing of her touch or wanting to make love to her. I knew it just wouldn't work. I didn't care about the money from Tom's Will. I had fallen in love with his niece, not the money. I could not live with a woman for year after knowing fully well she had used me to get the money and the business. I found a house not to far from the river that would not only let me run a business from it but accepted pets as well. I had wanted to get a dog for a long time, now I could. I would have plenty of time on my hands.
      On Monday night I drank quite hard, I knew facing Tarie in the morning would be hard. I tried to forget about it for just one night, but night after night the bottle let me down and her memory kept haunting me.
      I showered, dressed in a pair of jeans that fight my mood, holey and torn. The shirt I picked out on purpose, the back of it had a little guy on it wearing a garbage can that read: "I hope you recycle, cuz you are about to get used." I grabbed my helmet and keys to my street dirt motor cross bike. I looked around my empty apartment, my boxes stacked in a corner. I shut the door and headed for lawyers' offices for the last time.
      I walked into the smartly decorated offices. I was hung over. I think it was the worst I had even been in my life. I told the secretary who I was waiting to see and flopped down in a soft, cushy, leather chair. It wasn't long before Max was shoving a hot cup of coffee in my hand.

      "Drink this; you look like shit, Brieannah. You have got to stop this."

      He handed me four aspirin and I swallowed them with the hot coffee, burning my tongue I swore under my breath as I chocked it down.

      "You have black circles under your eyes, you have lost too much weight and it's not healthy for you at all."

I noticed Tarie standing behind him looking at me; I pulled my sunglasses down off my head to cover my eyes and leaned in to Max,

      "Fuck off, Max, and leave me alone."

I stood up and headed back to where the secretary was waiting to show us to the conference room. It was time to get this over with.

      "Ok ladies, have we come to an agreement here?"

Neither one of us spoke up Tarie stared at her hands, I stared at her waiting for her to answer; I wanted to see her face when I told the lawyer to fuck off.

      "I can see we are still at the same place as we were last week."

Had it only been a week? Could a person fall in and out of love in one week? He turned to look at Tarie,

      "Tarie, do you agree with this contract," He asked her quietly.

      "Yes, it is the only way to make this work. I have tried to come up with a better agreement, but I can't think of any other way."

      She never looked up from her hands. He turned to me. I could see her holding her breath. I had listened to what she had to say her voice gave away the pain she felt. Maybe she was hurting as much as I was. I shook my head; this was no time to feel sorry for her ass.

      "Brie, have you come to a decision as well?"

      "I have thought long and hard on this. I loved Tom like he was my father. No matter how much Tom meant to me or how much I loved him."

My voice failed me, everyone turned to look at me. I was glad I had my sunglasses on.

      "This has not been easy for me. I have come to the decision that I am sure will please Tarie."

My voice began to shake and turn raspy. She stared at me tryin' to see behind the sunglasses.

"I loved Tom as much as I did…"

I stopped my self from saying how much I truly loved her, I pulled my keys from my pocket Tarie started to cry, she knew what I was doing by now.
      "Gentlemen I quit, I cannot let someone control my life and make me do something I would never be happy in agreeing to. So if you will have my final check drawn up with the vacation time I have coming as well as the overtime I have worked the last week. You can give it to Max here."

I let the keys fall in her lap and walked out of the office. I made it as far as my bike when she caught up to me,

      "Brie, please don't do this. It's not what you want, we both know that."

Her hand rested on my shoulder. I straddled my bike.

      "Don't touch me Ms.Richardson."

I shoved the key into the ignition and kicked the bike to life,

      "Please just hear me out. I think we can work this so we both win."

      "I don't want to. Don't you understand that? I lost everything playing with you. I have nothing else left now. I don't care about the money, like you do. I don't care about the job anymore either. I don't think you get it at all. I fucking gave you everything and you handed it back to me broken, shattered in a million pieces. I have nothing left, God damn you!"

I put the bike in gear. Her soft touch stopped me.

      "Please, one hour of your time is all I am asking."

      "Fine, one hour, Mikes Bar at noon."

      I slipped the clutch out on the bike and took off. Why had I agreed to meeting her was beyond me, I just could not seem to walk away from her. It was like she had this invisible power over me. Part of me wanted to do whatever she asked of me. I was out of control when it came to her. That's what pissed me off the most.

      I had plenty of time to kill. So I planted my self on a bar stool at the bar and waited for her to show up. Christ this had been the longest week, the longest one I think I have ever had in my life. I ordered a double whiskey on the rocks sat nursing it, reflecting back on how out of control my life was and how wrong I had been in my actions with Tarie. We had spent less than two wonderful days together. If I came away with nothing else I now knew what it felt like to truly love someone. I had no clue until she stepped into my life. Maybe that is why I had screwed it up so badly. I had no one in my life to show me love before; had no clue on how to handle it. I at least could say, "yes," I had been in love once in my life. I smiled silently to my self, sipping the strong drink.
      "A penny for your thoughts?"
Her voice was close to my ear. My heart rate flew out of control. The smell of jasmine filled my nose. My smile just went to hell in a hand basket with those five little words spoken in my ear.

      "No longer worth that, you got one hour better start talking."

I looked at the bartender shaking my glass at him. He smiled down my way and poured another fresh glass. Slid it down the bar at me. Her hand reached out to stop it. I grabbed the glass from under her.

      "You are killing time."
I couldn't meet her eyes; I knew I would give in to her if I did.

      "Fine I got us a table, lets go sit down."

She stood up from her bar stool.

"Don't be such an ass. You have to eat sometime. You might as well take advantage of me buying it."

The cold words hit me hard.

      "Pete, you see this glass?" He nodded my way, "Don't let it get empty."

      "Sure thing, Ms.B."

He smiled and lined up another glass. I followed Tarie to the small table in the corner.
The waitress took Tarie's order and looked down at me, I flashed her a bright smile,

      "Pete knows what I need, ask him."

She winked at me and walked away.

      "Don't you think you should slow down on the drinking, Brie?"

Her voice was filled with concern. A brief flash of guilt crossed my mind at the tone of her voice. I set the glass aside and pointed to my watch, adjusted my sunglasses, and waited.

      "Please take off those sun glasses."


      "I cannot see your eyes. It drives me nuts."

The cold washed over her voice once more. I just tapped my watch again.
      "Don't, Brieannah. You don't want me to get any angrier than I already am."

She was a frozen lake now. I wondered how far I could push her.

      "I have already experienced your temper tantrums and you don't scare me at all."

      "We could sit here all day and trade insults. I don't want to fight with you over this."

      "Why not? It seems like it's the only thing we can get right."

I polished off the rest of my drink as Pete set another one in front of me.

      "I did not come here to fight with you. I came here to see if we can work this out, make some kind of a deal where we both get what we want."

      "There is nothing I want. Don't you understand that?"

      "I think there is. You just won't face it. You would have to stay sober to do that."

Her eyes filled with anger.

      "Cut to the chase. I don't have time for your lectures," I snapped at her.

      "I don't think you really wanted to quit today. I think you did it to hurt me."

I squirmed in my chair; she was cutting right to the quick of things.

      "So I think we can work this so we won't really have to live together, just make it look like it."

"I will NOT be part of a lie. That is NOT how I do things."

      "Hear me out before you fly off the handle. I am going to move the offices from New York to here. Until I do so you can stay at the ranch. I will only be here on the weekends. I can stay at your apartment during the week if I am here."

      "I see one problem with that."

I picked up my glass taking a drink I looked over at her.

      "I work sixteen-hour days. I cannot drive to and from the ranch during the week. That would be too much time wasted on driving. It won't work for me to do that. It seems you benefit from this more than I do."
I looked over at Pete; he nodded and filled another glass.

      "Besides I will never spend one night in the same house with you again."

      "Brieannah, do you realize you are throwing away a multi-million dollar company?"

Her voice was shaking with anger.

      "Do you realize I don't give a fuck about the money," I hissed back at her, my temper coming on like a truck out of control.

I stood up.

      "It wasn't the money I fell in love with God damn you. I can see that is all that mattered to you. You can keep the money and go fuck yourself. Move her out here or do whatever you want to do. I am done with this crap."

      I stood looking down at her and then I got one of those evil ideas that made me a good businesswoman. I sat back down in my chair gulped down my drink. I leaned in closer to her across the table,

      "Better yet, I think we can work this so I benefit as well as you will. Buckle up, baby as I am about to USE YOU! Let's see how you like it. I will not only let you use my apartment, but I will continue to work for you, in one year's time I walk away, with CASH, you buy my half out. Every other weekend is mine at the ranch as well. That way we never have to cross paths. You won't question my judgment on how I run this job and I won't soak you for more money."

I smiled at her sweetly.

      "Take it or leave it. It's all I have left to offer you."

      "Then I counter that, I will buy you out in one year, but you have to stay at the apartment with ME!"

      "No I wont, you take the deal I made or I walk. I don't really care for fuck's sake. Can't you see that?"

      "Give me the key to your apartment and we have a deal."

She looked down at the cold food on her plate.

      "You write all that up and you'll get your key. Bring it by the job site tomorrow after three p.m."

I stood up and walked away; I paid Pete for my drinks and left her sitting there.

      I stopped at a hardware store had a key made, made a quick stop at Safe-way bought a nice thick steak, and headed home. My apartment was trashed. I had the boxes I would have the movers take to the new house in the morning, sitting in the living room. I was leaving most of the kitchen things and bedroom set behind. Empty beer bottles and junk were scattered all over. I wondered how Tarie would find the empty apartment. I made the steak and got a few slices of bread, watched some TV, polished off the last four beers, and went to bed. If I were going to get serious and get the building from hell finished I would need sleep. I set my alarm for 3 three a.m. and drifted off to some much needed sleep.
      We worked non-stop until well after two p.m. I was having withdrawals from not having any alcohol. I pushed myself even harder, working harder to break the cycle of the need for the bottle. Sweating helped to empty my body of the abuse I had put it through. Around three p.m. one of the guys radioed to me that Tarie was waiting for me in her truck. The evilness in me kept her waiting in the ninety-four degree weather for another half hour before I stopped welding and headed down off the building. I adjusted the safety harness I wore. It bothered me when I wore shorts, but it was way to hot to wear jeans, and working a welder all day never helped. The leather apron I had to wear made it even hotter. I walked off the elevator adjusting the harness again in frustration I spotted Tarie getting out of her truck. I could read the irritation in her eyes.

      "You know, that was just evil of you to keep me waiting in this heat."

      "Yes I know," I said, smiling at her, "You got those papers?"

      "Yes, I do, but let's go inside the office trailer, it's to hot to stand here and argue with you over some minor detail."

      "Naw I'm done arguing with you, let me sign them and you can be on your way."

      "Are you sure you don't want to read them?"

She looked at me amazed.

      "Well do you think I need to?"

I looked at her hard.

      "Yes I do, let's go inside, please?"

      She reached out touching my shoulder. I pulled away from her and opened the door to the trailer. I heard the sound of twisting steel. I looked up to see a large steel beam come crashing down on top of the building.
      "Son of a bitch, call nine-one-one, Tarie!"

I jumped up into the trailer grabbing an extra walkie-talkie and handed it to her.

      "Set this to channel seven. I will radio back to you from the top, you can tell nine-one-one what we need."

I jumped out of the trailer, shouting for Max on my radio.

      "Max, get that fuckin' crane over here and lift me to the top."

      "Ten-four, swingin' your way now. It doesn't look good up there, Brie," he called back at me.

      "Brie, I have nine-one-one on the phone. Let me know when you reach the top," Tarie called to me.

      "Thanks, Tarie. I'll let you know soon."

      "Looks like we have two trapped under the beam, Brie."

      Max's cable came down towards me I grabbed it hooking my harness to it I signaled for him to lift me up. I looked at the other beams left standing,

      "Max those other beams are NOT stable; we have to secure them before anyone else gets hurt."

      "What do you want me to do, Brie? I can't fix them from where I sit dammit."

      "NO SHIT! Take me closer and let me look at them."

He slowly moved me towards the two beams left standing,

      "Max, move that other crane in next to you. I think I can fix them until the ground below is cleared."

      "He is moving in place now, Brie. What are you going to do?"

      "I am going to use his line to stabilize those beams, but I need your cable line to hold them until he gets in place. Set me down on the lower beam Max," I yelled into the walkie-talkie.

He set me down on the beam; I steadied my self, thanking the gods above that it wasn't too windy as I took off the safety cable attached to my harness.

      "BRIE, GOD DAMMIT! Put that fucking cable back on your harness!"
      "SHUT UP! I can't do this with you yelling at me."

I shifted slightly and clipped the cable line to the upper bream and grabbed a handhold until the other crane driver got his boom close enough to hook his line on the beam.

      "Tarie, we are going to need two ambulances for sure, we have two men down, turn on another radio and you can talk to Alex. He is with the men trapped under the beam."

      "Brie, please up that cable back on your harness like Max asked you to."

      "Dammit, Tarie, just do as I asked," I screamed in to the walkie-talkie.

      "MAX, he is going to fast he is going to hit me."

      I looked up in time to see the cable pulley system coming at me way to fast. I leaped into the air hoping I would catch the top of the pulley cable on Max's crane, as the other crane's pulley hit me. It helped to knock me into the pulley on Max's crane. I was seeing stars, blood rushed from the cut on my head, my gloves ripped open as I slid down the wire cable to the pulley. I had dropped my walkie-talkie. Now I just hung in the air hoping Max knew what I was planning to do. I waited for my head to clear somewhat. I pointed at Max, signaling to him to have the other crane move back to me slowly. I waited until he stopped next to me I clipped my harness to the cable and he lowered me back to where the wire cable was holding the other beam steady. I pulled the pin holding Max's cable in place, unclipped myself from the other cable and traded them out. I had to stop and wipe the blood from my eyes several times to see what I was doing. I was going to kill that driver when I got off this steel. I waved at Max as I clipped my harness back on his line. He lowered me to the floor below. The two men who had been trapped were in the hands of the EMT's now.
      I tried to unclip the wire cable from my harness. I spit blood from my mouth and fought with the clip. Blood still running down my face. I was starting to black out as little Jim grabbed me. I took his walkie-talkie from him.


      "DON'T YOU EVER DO THAT AGAIN, BRIEANNAH! DAMN YOU," he yelled at me, "When you get off that building I am going to kick your fucking ass, do you hear me?"
      "Fine when I get off this building I will kick the fuck out of that driver you hired. I want that bastard in the office by them time I get down there. Do YOU hear me? ASSHOLE," I yelled back at him.

I sank to my knees, feeling really light headed,

      "Bitch" was all he said back to me. I handed Jim his walkie-talkie.

"Jimmy, get me off this fucking building will you?"

He tired to help me to my feet as my lights went out.

      Cold water on my head brought me back to reality,

      "Max, find me that driver."

I tried to sit up, my head spinning; I was in the office trailer by this time.

      "After you get you're fuckin' head examined," he snapped at me.

      "Listen you mother fu…"

I stood up to quickly; the black spots filled my eyes, as gentle hand helped me sit back down on the couch.

      "Thank you." I looked up at Tarie.

I could tell by the frightened look in her eyes she had heard the whole thing on the walkie-talkie.

      "Max I mean it. I want that driver right now."

I caught Max's pleading look at Tarie to do something. She knelt down beside me,

      "I fired him, honey. He was escorted off the site a half hour ago."

Her fingers caressed my cheek.

      "Lets just get you to the hospital and have that nasty cut on your head looked at before you bleed to death."

      "That's just lovely. Why did YOU fire him? This is MY job. You sure take all the fun don't you?"

      "Brie, we can discuss that later, lets go have your head looked at."

Max scooped me up in his arms and carried me to her truck.

      "I can walk asshole," I snapped at him.

He just smiled down at me and kept walking towards her truck.

      I must have passed out again as when I came to I had several stitches in my hand and my forehead looked like a white cotton ball. Tarie sat by the side of my bed reading a magazine. I just laid there studying her face. The fine lines from her smile, the slight shadows under her eyes, she looked like she had also lost some weight. She had long eyelashes, high cheekbones, and her dark complexion spoke of her Greek heritage. She must have felt me staring at her as she turned her head my way. She smiled that smile that could melt even my cold heart. She took my hand in hers.

      "When are you going to stop this? You can only defy death so many times, Brieannah."

      "I don't really care to discuss this with you. I want to go home."

The pain medication was wearing off and I was starting to feel the sting of the stitches. The ER was loud and noisy, making the pounding in my head worse. I sat up.

      "Hand me my jeans will you please?"

      I figured if I asked nice enough she would take me home. She handed me the jeans I looked around for my shirt, but they had cut it off when I first got to the emergency room.

      "Well that's just great. They fucked up a cool t-shirt," I grumbled to my self.

So much for the trashman shirt.

      "I didn't like that shirt anyway. I grabbed a sweatshirt from my truck. You can wear that until you get home."

She handed me the huge ass sweatshirt, I had to smile I would surely drown in it. She helped me slip it over my head. Her hand brushed my face. I shivered at her touch. I looked up at her.

      "I am still angry with you."

      "I know you are, sweetheart."

      "I don't trust you either."

      "I know you don't."
She was humoring me now.

      "And I still don't want to live with you."

      "I know you don't want to."

She patted my arm gently taking me in her arms hugging me close. We rode in silence for a few blocks and it hit me.

      "Humm Tarie?"


      "You can't take me back to my place."

      "And why not?"

She looked over at me.

      "It's…well it's trashed right now. I fired the maid several days ago."

      "I wasn't planning on it anyway."

She smiled sweetly at me.


      I looked at her and wondered what she had in mind. I snuggled down in the bucket seat and picked at the dried blood on my hand, lost in thought. The pain pills they had given me at the ER before we left were starting to kick in.

      "Where are we going," I asked quietly.

      "To the ranch."

She never even looked at me as she politely decided where I was going.

      "I can't."

      "I am driving so I don't think you have much choice where I take you."

She smiled over at me.

      "I am having my things shipped here by the end of this next week; you can't work, so we have nothing to do for a week."

I tried to fight back,

      "I don't even have any clean clothes with me."

      "I'll buy you new ones."

      "I don't even have a God damn tooth brush."

      "You can use mine," she said as she grinned over at me, "NO different than you kissing me or..."

      She let the image run across my mind. I knew what she meant by those words, my face felt flush. I looked away to face the window.

      "I have things to do tomorrow."

      "Like what," she countered back at me.

      "Arguing with you is not fun anymore."

I slumped down lower in the seat, trying to think of a good excuse to not be alone with her.

      "I don't want to go the ranch."

      "I'm sure you don't."

      "I don't even like you."

      "Yes, I know you don't."

The pain pills were really hitting me I was so sleepy, I just wouldn't give up,

      "I'm still mad at you Tarie."

      "And I, Brieannah Sam Kingston, love you even more for that."

      I slept the rest of the way to the ranch. Tarie helped me into the house and helped me wash the dried blood off without getting the stitches wet. I hit the bed and slept well into the next afternoon.

      I struggled to pull on a pair of Tarie's sweat pants and made my way downstairs. I sat down on the bottom step and everything came flooding back to me, what if I had misjudged the jump to the other cable? What if I had not been able to stabilize those beams? I sat there crying, that's where Ms.Fannie found me.

      "Child, are you ok?"

She sat down next to me.

      "You ever have your life flash before your eyes? And you know with one mistake you would have been dead? Fell to an ugly death?"

I shuddered at the thought. She just held me in her arms, letting me cry, soothing me as best as she could.

      "Hush now, honey child. It's all over with. Those men are alive and so are you. Why are earth did you take the risk of unclipping your harness," she scolded me softly.

      "I had to. It was the only way to work fast enough to secure those beams. My God he could have killed me."

      "Child, let's go sit in the kitchen and share a warm cup of sweet tea."

She pulled me to my feet. Arm and arm we went to the kitchen.

      "I would rather have whiskey."

      "There is not a drop of alcohol in this house. I poured every last drop down the drain this morning. A good cup of tea and a little chat will make you feel just as good."

She eyed me with that "look" she got when there was to be no back talk.

      "You would think this was detox hell," I mumbled sitting down in my favorite chair.

      "I heard that, Miss Smarty-pants. I know what you have been up to and none of it is good."

She turned to glare at me. She handed me a cold steak for my black and blue face.

      "I take it she told you everything?"

I was a little sarcastic.

      "That's only because she loves you and can't stand to see you throw your life away in a bottle."

She was a little on the cold side as she read me the riot act.

      "She doesn't love me. She used me Ms.Fannie."

      "Have you talked to her about it? Or did that little temper of yours get in the way again?"

Ms.Fannie set a cup of hot sweet tea in front of me and took a chair across from me.

      "I didn't have to. I heard what she said on the phone that was enough for me."

      "No it wasn't, you have no idea as to what her life is like in New York, or what she is going through. You just jumped on the highest horse and ran away like you always do when things get to tough for you. I have watched both of you grow into wonderful, strong-willed women. Both of you have made some mistakes in your lives, some bigger than others."

She looked at me. She was down right cross.

      "But you fell in love with her as she did you. You hurt her deeply, yet she keeps coming back to you. If I were her I would have walked away from you the first time. I sure in God's green earth would not have done what she has for you. She is giving up her life in New York to be here with you and all you can do is be selfish. You have to give her a chance this time and both of you need to be honest with each other from now on. She is giving you another chance here. Are you going to take it or are you goin' to put that sissy tail between your legs and run away again? If you love her you will ask her to explain things to you."

She stood up, patted my shoulder.

      "I love both of you children, but get it right this time I don't think there will be another chance. Now I am going into town and I won't be back for a few days. There is food in the freezer, just follow the directions I left on the counter."

      She bent down and kissed my cheek, grabbed her purse, and left. I sat there thinking about the lecture she had given me. I stood up added a second cup of tea to the tray on the counter, some sugar cookies I knew were Tarie's favorite, and carried the tray as carefully as I could to her office.
      She was on the phone as I entered. I set the tray down on the edge of her desk, picked up my cup, and sat back on the leather couch to wait. I could tell she was getting upset, her voice got lower and colder as she spoke into the phone.


      She slammed the phone back on its hook and ran a hand through her hair like she always did when she's upset. She looked up at me.

      "What do you want, Brie?"

Her tone was a little on the icy side. I just stood up from the couch, walked to the door.

      "Not a thing, I can see now it not a good time for you."

      I shut the door behind me. I could hear her yelling at me. I just walked out of the house heading for the barn. I was barefoot but that would not stop me from taking Jeb out for a ride. I buckled his halter on him and led him out of his stall. I walked him over to a few hay bales stacked up in the barn isle, climbed on top of them, slid a leg over his broad back, and walked him outside into the afternoon sunshine. I nudged him with my bare heel; he broke into a mile-eating canter. I just let him go where he wanted to go.
      We had finally slowed to a walk, the sun felt relaxing on my shoulders. I watched several birds chasing bugs across the meadow. I reflected back on the last two weeks of my life. I came to realize the pain I had suffered was on my own hands. I realized as well if I didn't change my habits quickly I would be lying up on the hill next to Tom six feet under the dirt. I brought myself back to what was going on a round me. Jeb had stopped at the small lake to drink. I slid off his back dropping the halter rope. I knew he would not go far with out me. I walked along the sand beach line stopping at one of the larger rocks. Sitting down with my back up against it, I tossed small stones in the water. The ripples in the water reminded me of how my life was, calm one minute and the next a shock wave. The stone forever in the place it came to rest, but forever changed.
      I must have drifted off to sleep, when I sat up it was getting dark and slightly chilly. The sun was almost gone for the day as I called for Jeb. He trotted out from the woods. Stopping next to me I pulled him over to the rock I had been leaning on and got back on top of him. I just pointed his head towards the barn. He took it from there. The tall grass tickled the bottoms of my feet as he took a short cut across the hay field. I watched as the sun set in the distance. The sky was a golden red with the last of the sun's rays peaking over the treetops.
      Tarie was waiting for me when I got back to the barn. I slipped down from Jeb's back and walked him to his stall. I dumped a few cups of oats in his feed bucket, refilled his water, and kissed him good night. As I shut his stall door I knew Tarie was standing right behind me.
      "Brie, I am so sorry."

Her voice betrayed her, she was crying when I turned around to face her.

      "I am loosing my kids, I can't lose you to."

      I pulled her into my arms. She had kids? There were a ton of questions running through my mind now, but I saved them for later. She needed me and I would be there for her this time. It hurt me to see her crying I hugged her tight to me holding and kissing her. I pulled back from her; taking her larger hand in mine I walked her back to the house. I sat her down on the leather couch in the den, started a fire in the fireplace, ordered a pizza from town and, crawled in behind her to hold her in my arms. I let her cry, just holding her whispering comforting words in her ear. She finally stopped crying enough to explain a few things that were going on in her life.

      "He is taking my kids away from me. He won't let me see them. I just don't know what I am going to do. I can not just walk away from them."

      "Do you have a lawyer?"
She laughed as I asked that.

      "If you want to call him one, sure, the bastard just takes my money and has done nothing to help me fight this custody battle."

Fresh tears began to fall.

      "Here or in New York?"

I asked question I knew I would need to help her.

      "Back there."

She cried harder.

      "Will you let me help you Tarie," I asked softly.

      "I don't think there is anything you can do, beside hold me right now. He is using my lifestyle against me saying I am an unfit mother."

      "Do you trust me, Tarie?"

      "I love you, Brieannah."

"Sweetheart that is not what I asked you. DO YOU TRUST ME," I asked a little louder.

      I shoved the twinge of anger back and took a deep breath waiting for her answer. I could not stand it when someone evaded a direct question. Gently, I ran my fingertips up and down her arm, never breaking the contact between us. I knew she could feel my body tense up as I waited.

      "Yes I do, but I just don't see what you can do. We have not lived together as husband and wife in the last four or five years. He blackmailed me into marrying him in the first place."

      "I know of someone who can help us, but I have to know you trust me completely to handle this for you."

      "I do, Brie. I honestly do, the only one who knows what is going on is Ms.Fannie and now you do."

      "Tarie, just trust me and we can work this out so you get the better end of this battle."

I leaned down and kissed her on the neck.

      "Now let's go in my office, there are a few things I need to know before I can do this."

I climbed out from behind her and gently pulled her to her feet. I had her write down this creep's name, where he worked, what he did after work anything she could tell me about him; anything and everything that would help me.
      We sat in my small office next to the pool in the back yard. I had opened the patio doors to let the evening wind blow some fresh air in. I really never used this office. I never needed one when I was out here. But I had a computer that I kept up with work if I was gone from the TNT offices too long. I heard the doorbell ring.

      "Tarie, go answer that. I bet it's our supper. I'll come join you in a little while. I need to make a few phone calls first."

I booted up the computer and started pulling up phone numbers I would need. Tarie walked to the door.

      "Brieannah, what are you going to do?"

She looked at me with worried frown on her face.

      "Sweetheart, trust me. By the time we are done with this asshole, you won't know he even existed in your life. Everyone has something to hide. It's just a matter of finding it. We are going to dig up so much shit on him he will hand over those babies of yours without a fight. Now go get that pizza I am starving."

I shooed her out of my office and called the first number on my list.

      "Hey, sexy momma, how are you? I know. I know I should call more often, yes I miss you too, how's the wife?"

      I talked to Rita about once a month if we were lucky, but she was always a good friend, she was a private investigator. I told her what I needed, explaining what was going on and how I would pay her for her time. She about hung up on me when I told her we would pay for her time and services, she told me all she wanted is to meet the woman who had tamed me. I had to laugh; I was far from tamed at this point in my life. I wasn't even sure we would work things out. If she got her kids back, where would that leave me? We talked about it for a while I finally had to tell her I had to go. She would talk my ear off if I didn't end it soon. I was sure the pizza was cold by now. I forwarded the information I had on Tarie's soon to be ex-husband and hung up the phone. My ear was smarting by the time I went back to the den.
      The fire had burned down low so I stoked it up with more wood and sat down on the couch next to her. The pizza was cold untouched and the soda pop was lukewarm. I was starving but I could wait a while longer. Tarie was more important to me. She was taking control of my heart by leaps and bounds. Maybe that was one of the reasons my temper flared so quickly around her. That was something I would have to think about later. I sat next to her bumping my shoulder into hers.

      "Make you a deal," I whispered to her, the devil smiling in my eyes.

      "From the look in your eyes I think you'll be the one who comes out on top of the deal."

      "You eat four slices of pizza and I will take you upstairs to my private hot tub and help you relax."

I wiggled my eyebrows at her.

      "And just how do you benefit from this?"

The light flickered in her eyes, as she raised an eyebrow back at me.

      "Not a thing from it, just the sexy smile on that beautiful face is enough for me, sweetheart."

I laughed as she rolled her eyes at me, mocking one of my bad habits she really didn't care too much for.

      "And where the hell is the damn beer with this pizza?"

      "We don't need a beer with this pizza, potty mouth. So if I agree with your deal, you have to agree with mine."

"Not really"

I replied as I shoved another bite of soggy cold pizza in my mouth.

      "That would only be fair and will you slow down and enjoy that pizza."

She flipped me "The Look". I grinned at her,

      "What's your deal," I mumbled around the pizza in my mouth.

      "Don't talk with your mouth full. The deal is this; you have to sleep with me in MY bed."

She bit the end off her slice and looked at me. I swallowed hard, about choking on the pizza in my mouth; the look in her eyes had my face turning beet red.


She cut me off right quick.

      "Yes or no will do it, Brie Baby. It's as simple as that. I love you. I hated going back to New York for many reasons. The one that hurt me the most was the look in your eyes when you thought I had someone back there while I was telling you I loved you. What hurt was the look in your eyes the night you broke the window out of my truck."

      "Jesus, Tarie, I am sorry, I didn't think I slammed it THAT hard."

I looked down at my feet, not wanting to see the pain in her eyes.

      "Brie Baby, you were not feeling anything that night but the booze and the pain. But it wasn't the window that mattered; it was the look in your eyes."

She paused to take another bite of pizza, the sexy white teeth neatly slid through the cold pizza gently biting down.

      "Shit, it's hot in here," I mumbled, taking a drink of the warm soda pop.

      "Potty mouth."

      She reached out taking the glass from me. Sipping it slowly, she wiped her mouth off on my napkin and set the glass down,

      "I ended the cheap affair I was having the day I flew home for Uncle Tom's funeral. She is still a very good friend, but I fell in love with you the day I saw you walking up to his casket. You kissed his hand and the tears flowed. I wanted to take you in my arms and hold you then, in front of God and everyone in that church. I wanted to help ease the pain you were suffering."

She paused, looking deep into my eyes, searching for what, I wasn't sure.

      "We got off to a rocky start. Maybe if I had done things differently and took things slower with you it wouldn't have been so bad. I can't change our past, but we can make a better future, if you will let me."

      I looked over at the woman sitting next to me, her eyes filled with passion and spoke volumes of love she had only for me. I swallowed even harder as the ship I had been bailing water out of was sinking quicker than I wanted to bail. I knew at that moment I was truly in love with her.

      "We argue too much."

Jesus, I thought I had just won the Einstein of the year award for the Most Asinine Comment. Her hand took mine; bringing it to her lips she kissed it.
      "We fight like we love honey, with raw heartfelt passion."
She kissed each finger, shivers of desire flowed from her to the ends of my fingers. I choked on the moan of wanting as she ran her tongue between my fingers.

      "All we need to do is work on the potty mouth of yours and curb that pigheaded temper of yours…"

      "PIG HEADED? You're one to talk!"

I looked over at her shocked as she fell back on the couch laughing. I knew I had just been had.

      "That was just evil of you Tarie. You will rot in hell for that one."

I was giggling right along side of her by now.

      "As long as you are there with me I don't care where I rot."

We had finally gotten off the heavy heart felt conversation. I could only take so much. I knew we had a long ways to go, but we had made a great start tonight.

      "You never answered me if you accept my half of the deal."

She leaned into me kissing the pizza sauce off my lips. I moaned leaning in for more, as she pulled away from me.

      "What was the deal again," I asked breathlessly, running my fingertips over my sauce free lips.

      Her eyebrow disappeared under the long raven colored bangs covering her forehead. Busted again; I just grinned at her. I knew what the deal was.

      "Yes, you have a deal, let me grab a beer and I will meet you upstairs."

      "NO, just take me upstairs and make sweet passionate love to me."

      Her voice startled me, I looked at her, and she was not kidding. I realized later, it was her way of helping me loose the death grip I had on the bottle. She was the better deal if you ask me "My love or the bottle?" were the silent words she spoke to me. I took her hand in mine and pulled her off the couch, kissing her as I ripped the shirt off her. Her eyes about popped out of her head. I ran my hand down her back, pulling her out the door towards the stairs. We made our way up the stairs, dropping clothes along the way, bras, my shirt and whatever we could remove with out breaking contact.
      We reached the top breathless and longing for more. I went out on the upper patio and flung the cover off the hot tub. I watched as she took off her jeans, she had nothing on under them. I was slightly shocked and was going to ask her about it, but as she stepped into the hot water and the pump kicked up the fine misty bubbles I lost all thought of what question I was going to ask her. I forgot about the stitches as I lowered my self to straddle her legs. The water rushed between us, the fire in her eyes almost ripped my body painfully in half as she slid her hand between my legs and entered me. I gripped the edge of the tub tightly as she took me hard. I looked into her eyes as I climaxed. Her eyes changed colors, from the deep blue to a passion filled violet. Our faces inches apart, I softly kissed her as she brought me to the highest point of making love as she increased the movement of her hand inside of me. She had a way of turning the tables on me when I least expected it. I was planning on me taking hernot her taking me. I came once again. I could no longer hold my self up. I slipped, leaning against her. She just held me in her arms letting my breath return to normal. We held on to each other relaxing letting the bubbles take away the night's stress.
      Tell her you love her, my mind chanted over and over. I was trying to find the words to let her know I was in love with her. I just needed to say it, I knew I was, but those little words were the hardest thing in my life to say to anyone.

      "Brie Baby?"

She spoke softly. I had to lean closer to her to hear her,

My voice was so dry it came out sounding like a squeak.

      "I love you."

      "Me too, sweetheart, me too."

I kissed her hard on the mouth.

      "I need to get out of this hot water honey. Lets take this to the bedroom. It's my turn since you turned the tables on me."

      I stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel quickly drying my self off I held out a towel for her. She stepped out and into the towel I held up. I started by drying off her face then her arms then her chest. I kissed each hardened nipple slowly, making my way down her legs. I kissed the inside of her thigh. She moaned at my soft kisses. I dropped down to one knee and kissed the soft patch of hair between her legs. I ran my tongue closer, teasing her. Her fingers wrapped in my hair pulled me tighter into her. I dropped the other knee to the floor and took all of her in my mouth. The sweetness of her filled all of my senses. The taste was heaven, the musky sweet smell made me hot with desire to hear her come for me. My tongue softly touched her making her quiver against my mouth. I closed my eyes. The vision of her climax was strong in my mind as she begged me to take her harder. I kept the touch of my tongue soft and light on her as she came in my mouth.

      "You are going to be the death of me, Brieannah."
      She stepped away from me and the attention I was still trying to give her. I grinned up at her licking my lips. I realized I was down on both knees' I started to giggle.

      "What's so funny?"

She scowled down at me. I just giggled harder.

      "I have to say THAT is the first for me."

I laughed harder. She looked at me quite puzzled.

      "I think you need to explain that, Brie Baby! A first for WHAT?"

      "Oh I have NEVER ever gotten down on one let alone both knees for anyone in my life."

I could feel the embarrassment creeping into my face as I looked up at her.

      "You are serious?"

She looked like she did not believe me.

      "As a heart attack."

I stood up and wrapped my arms around her neck.

"I avoided that like the black plague."

      Dragging her head down to meet mine I kissed her. We made it back to the bedroom, crashing to the bed arms and legs tangling together. The fighting, arguing and hurtful words set aside as we let love guide us to the moon and back. Uncontrolled passion let me give up the denial I had over my feelings for her. And as the sun poked its fiery head over the treetops I gave up the fight.

      "Tarie," I whispered as I watched the sun's light flicker off the painting on the wall.


      "I… huh… I love you."

      There I had finally said those three little words I had never said to anyone before. She pulled me in tight against her. She started to cry. I was scared I had said the wrong thing, my body tensed up.

      "Why are you crying? Did I say something wrong?"
My voice shook; I tried to pull away from her slightly to look at her.

      "MY God baby, no you did not say anything wrong, I just thought I would never hear those words from you."

Her voice wavered as she cried in my arms.

      "I love you too, Brieannah Sam."

      "Can I ask you something?"

I was amazed she knew my middle name.

      "Sure, honey. You know you can ask me anything."

      "How in the fuck did you find out what my middle name was?"

      "I saw it on the paper work from the lawyer's."

      She smiled at me. She drifted off to sleep in my arms with a smile on her face. I was awake long after she fell asleep, holding her, touching her, making my mind follow my heart. I couldn't sleep. I got up and went to my office. I rummaged around in the closet for my paints. What started out as a simple painting took on a whole new meaning as I reflected back to the night we had shared. I painted Tarie standing naked in front of me. I was on my knees in front of her, handing her a small golden ring. I finished the painting in a little over an hour. I was finally tired after cleaning up the paints. I headed back to bed. It had been years for me since I had painted something. It felt good. So many things had changed for me in the last few weeks. I was gaining back part of myself I had some how lost along the way. I snuck back into bed.

      "Where have you been," Tarie asked me, still half asleep.

      "I had something I needed to try. Go back to sleep."

      I pulled her in close to me and went to sleep. I had finally fallen off that steel for the last time, I had found true love. No longer was I free falling. I had the most wonderful thing in the world to ground me. And that was the love for this woman!

The End, for now….. Coming soon: Free Falling Fates

Copyright © 2002 by Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

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