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Episode 2 – After The Honeymoon

November 18, 2011

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Basic edit – Nov 29 2014

DISCLAIMERS:

This romantic thriller is an Original story and all characters are created by me.

All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

The registered trademarks mentioned in this story are © of their respective owners. No infringement of their rights is intended, and no profit is gained.

This story contains scenes of violence, some of which are directed at women. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

This story depicts a sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.

* * * * * *

Many, many thanks to my beta-reader. Your help is very much appreciated.

This story is the next episode in the series, After Montana, and is the sequel to After The Storm. While you don’t need to read that to enjoy this story, it might help with some character connections and references.

Comments and/or opinions can be left here or sent to stagefreakmusic@hotmail.com

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Chapter 1

Kate Marshall drifted out of a peaceful slumber, consciousness pulling her gradually from her dream. As her mind gained some clarity she felt her body respond to the most delicious sensations. Unwilling to open her eyes, she concentrated on the incredible feeling of the tongue lapping her center with hungry intent. She could feel long, slender fingers brushing lightly across her abdomen in a caress that left a trail of goose bumps in its wake.

Her breasts heaving, body aching with arousal, she focused on CJ’s skillful mouth as it teased every exquisite nerve ending to a maddening plateau. With full consciousness came satisfaction, and she climaxed hard.

“Ciara!”

CJ kept Kate on the crest of the glorious wave of pleasure and slid two powerful fingers inside her wife to begin thrusting with carefully guided pressure. Her tongue swirled gently around the swollen clit as she waited for the moment where she could drive Kate to another blissful orgasm. CJ basked in the taste and texture of the perfect flesh beneath her lips, wanting nothing more than to pleasure her beautiful partner beyond all reason.

When the moment came, CJ opened her eyes in wonder as her own climax flowed through her. She was always amazed how her body responded to simply giving pleasure to her spouse. She watched Kate as the silky inner walls pulsed repeatedly around her fingers in an almost painful grip, and Kate’s body rippled in ecstasy. She gentled the intensity of her oral stimulation to guide Kate through her climax. She finally felt the pulsations easing off and heard her wife gasping loudly. CJ slowly crawled up the petite five-foot-four body and kissed a sensual trail over firm abs and glorious breasts towards two sumptuous lips.

“Good morning, beautiful. Time to get up,” she whispered seductively.

Kate laughed shakily while trying to get some much-needed oxygen into her lungs. “Uh-huh,” was all she could manage at this point.

CJ smiled and kissed her. Kate tasted herself on her wife’s lips and immediately returned the kiss hungrily.

“I love your wake up calls. But what about you, my love?” she asked once they’d parted.

“I’m fine. And anyway, you know I tend to uh…come when I’m doing that to you.”

Kate chuckled and pulled her very own federal agent down for another kiss. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Besides, the alarm is about to go off and-”

CJ was interrupted by said alarm clock and they both laughed. Dragging herself to her feet, CJ offered a hand to Kate and pulled her towards the en suite. She decided that perhaps she hadn’t been fully satisfied after all as her wife made passionate love to her in the shower. That left them barely enough time for breakfast before they had to leave for work.

It had been five months since their tiny wedding in New York which had been attended by a few friends and family, with the glaring exception of Kate’s disapproving mother. Unfortunately, Kate’s brother had been away on business at the time but Eddie Senior was there and had given her away. Eddie’s partner, Jeffrey, did the same for CJ. After the simple ceremony they had gone to Eddie’s restaurant for dinner, drinks, and a very musical night. CJ and Kate had enjoyed every minute of it.

The next day had been the start of their short but perfect honeymoon in Montana. The entire week had been spent at their cabin in total relaxation, the basic necessities of life – sleep, food, and making love – being the only activities required. But of course it had to end and they reluctantly returned to the usual work commitments. Kate’s TV show, Deadline, had really taken off since then, and CJ was busy with a not-so-pleasant serial killer case that the Bureau had assigned her to. Being an FBI agent wasn’t the nicest job in the world but it was what CJ excelled at. She was a top class negotiator and psychological profiler, and seemed to always be in demand, but her recent permanent transfer to the Los Angeles field office had settled her nomadic lifestyle somewhat and she was glad to be able to spend every spare minute with her new wife.

Walking to the front door of their ranch house, CJ was intercepted by Kate who kissed her soundly on the lips.

CJ opened her eyes, letting out a happy sigh. “Still glad you married me?”

“Oh, yes. Every moment with you is like a honeymoon,” Kate replied, wiggling an eyebrow.

“You are insatiable, woman.”

“Only when you’re involved, Agent Carson. Be careful today.”

“Don’t I always?”

They kissed again and went outside together. CJ waved to Kate’s chauffeur before driving off, and Kate strolled over to her car where Tony Wilkinson greeted her with a smile and opened the car door.

“How are you this morning, Miss Kate?” he asked politely.

“I’m great, Tony. How was your weekend? Did you do the sky-dive?”

He grinned at her. “Yes, ma’am. I didn’t back out.”

“Well done. How much did you raise?” Kate asked as Tony began the drive to the studios.

“Almost two thousand dollars,” he replied, smiling at her in the rear-view mirror.

“Wow, that’s great! I’m proud of you, Tony. All that money for charity. Amazing!”

“Thank you for your generous contribution, Miss Kate.” Tony flashed her a winning toothy smile, and they continued their easy conversation for the rest of the journey.

* * * * * *

CJ strolled through the familiar corridors of the LA field office, feeling as if things just couldn’t be better. Kate had changed her life in so many ways. CJ had always been a strong, confident woman, but now she felt a deep happiness. It was something she had never deemed truly necessary for her continued existence before. Now she couldn’t live without the strength it gave her inside. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to her office and saw the few agents who made up her immediate group of colleagues busy at their desks – except for Agent Ethan Matthews who was at the coffee machine with a pen stuck behind his ear and a bundle of files clasped under his elbow.

CJ went to him and grabbed the slipping bundle. “Morning, Ethan. Here, let me help you.”

“Thanks, CJ. You want one?” he said, gesturing to the machine.

“Please. What’s all this?” She wiggled the files in front of him.

“They caught the guy last night. You know, the Pomona serial killer?”

“Great. Another one filed under solved, I guess. Is he alive?”

Ethan grimaced. “Barely. It was quite a stand-off, but they think he’ll live. They’re pinning nine murders on him. Seems if he does survive he’ll be in jail for the rest of his life.”

“Sounds like a dramatic night,” CJ muttered.

“Your profile went a long way to catching him, CJ. I’m learning a lot from you,” Ethan said as he returned to his desk.

CJ liked Ethan. He was the rookie in the group but he was sharp as a razor when it came to the details. She had known him since his first few weeks in the job and helped settle him into the unit. She looked over at Agent Patrick. She knew he was leaving tomorrow, being promoted and moving to Florida, so he was clearing up some last minute paperwork of his own. Apparently an Agent Green was transferring in to take his spot, and CJ wondered briefly what he or she would be like: hopefully, as friendly and efficient as Patrick had turned out to be. They were a small group in this office and since it was Powell’s day off, that just left CJ and Ethan to work on various mountains of paperwork and some new case files that had been thrown at them by their Assistant Director, Mark Mulroney.

* * * * * *

After getting up from her seat and stretching rather loudly, CJ headed to the coffee machine for the fourth time. Passing Ethan’s desk on her way back, she spotted a photograph peeking out from under one of his files. She pressed her fingertips onto the picture and slipped it out further. Her eyes widened in surprise at the familiar name in the photo. “Why do you have a picture of The Double Take, Ethan?”

“Hmm? Oh, it’s somehow linked to the abduction of some hot shot diamond merchant. Wanna see the file?” he asked, flipping the folder open.

CJ nodded and took the papers over to her desk. Browsing through the abundant information, she discovered that the owner of the upscale bar – previously the manager – had been linked to the abduction via his license plate which was captured on camera outside the diamond broker’s workplace. The bar owner was now being investigated. CJ was very curious about the man who had been Kate’s old boss and who she now found had previous convictions for drug possession. Makes sense, I guess, she thought, taking her mind back to last year and Kate’s kidnapping.

CJ had met her wife in the most unusual of circumstances when the very tough actress had been abducted by, and later escaped from, what turned out to be her vicious, drug-induced ex-boyfriend who had beaten her to within an inch of her life. When CJ found Kate on the mountain in Montana it was the beginning of something very unique and powerful. They had an overwhelming connection to one another and it seemed to be instantaneous and mutual. They had a strong spiritual bond of some kind, and CJ was learning not to question it nor deny it.

The ex-boyfriend who had beaten Kate, had also shot CJ years earlier during a hostage crisis situation. The two women’s lives had crossed paths in the strangest of ways even before their meeting, and it still bewildered CJ at times.

Focusing back on the file, she scanned through the other photographs, finding one showing the bar owner, Mick Fisher, standing next to that very same vicious ex-boyfriend, Jason Lee Burns. Her stomach heaved slightly and she wondered if she would ever be free of the haunting image of that face. Even though she knew he was now dead, the sight of Jason still made her feel ill. “Ethan, can you make me a copy of this case file? I want to go through it tonight after work,” she said in her calmest voice.

“Sure, CJ. You want in on it?”

“Yeah. I’ll talk to Mulroney before I leave the office.”

“Great. The AD gave it to me to do some initial legwork. I’d appreciate any help you could give me,” Ethan said enthusiastically.

CJ gave him a nod and smirked inwardly at his exuberance. “I’ll be glad to help. I’m interested to see where it takes us.”

Ethan jumped up from his chair and headed immediately to copy the file for CJ. When he’d finished, he put the new papers on her desk and gave her duplicates of the photographs to add to it. HE hadn’t worked with her for very long, but he knew he she was an incredible agent and was looking forward to learning more from her. It seemed he had landed his dream job with the Bureau with a small team of great colleagues.

* * * * * *

CJ wandered along the corridor while flicking through the file relating to the diamond broker. She raised an eyebrow occasionally at various pieces of information and didn’t realize she had passed the Assistant Director’s office until she heard him call out. She backtracked and glanced to the side through the open door. “Are you looking for me, Sir?”

“No, but you were heading for a brick wall,” Mark said with a smirk.

“Ah,” she said, shaking her head in self-deprecation.

“Come in, CJ. Take a load off.”

“I’d like in on the…” She flicked through the bundle to the correct page, “MacPherson case, Sir,” she requested, taking a seat and placing the file on his desk.

“No problem. I sent it to Ethan to do some initial investigating, but I bet he’ll appreciate your help,” Mark responded with a nod.

“Did you read through it?”

If this were any other agent, Mark would look for hidden meaning there, like he wasn’t doing his job or throwing cases around without knowing what was involved. But CJ wasn’t like that. She was pretty straightforward and he’d always found that honesty refreshing. “Not in great detail but he’s a very successful broker and I think we’ll hear ransom demands soon.”

“I don’t know if it’ll be that simple. I have a bad feeling in my belly. You know it’s linked to Kate’s old boss? This Mick Fisher who needs investigating…he owns The Double Take,” she said, showing him the photo of the bar.

“I hadn’t realized that. Your background knowledge will be quite useful here then.”

“I’ll get started on it in the morning,” CJ said as she got up to leave.

“Keep me updated.”

“Yes, Sir.”

She finished up her day – very late – and walked down to the underground parking garage, taking the long way around to get some fresh air. The direct elevator was out of service anyway. Strolling down the street ramp into the dimly illuminated space, she walked along behind the row of parked Bureau vehicles to head for her car. She faltered when she saw a dark sedan stopped out in the middle of the driving lane.

Time seemed to grind into slow motion as she picked out the form she identified as Deputy Director Stanley Francis standing at the open passenger door of the car with a gun in his hand. Hidden partially in shadow, she watched as the passenger got out of the seat and stood before Francis shaking his head frantically, his hands spread in front of him in a gesture of surrender. CJ’s jaw dropped as she witnessed the Deputy Director shoot the man at point blank range, then turn towards the trunk of the sedan.

That’s when he saw her, not taking any time to identify her. To his panicked state of mind she was just a witness that he couldn’t afford. She didn’t have time to draw her weapon and tried to jump out of the line of fire, but it happened too quickly and the bullet seemed to float through the air, the stinging impact sending CJ hurtling backward onto the hard ground. The crushing impact was quickly forgotten when she felt the blood rushing to her chest and the intense heat firing up her throat. Then blackness descended, and CJ knew no more.

* * * * * *

Ethan cursed when he saw the file lying on CJ’s desk. Being the considerate guy he was, he grabbed it and went after her, hoping to catch her before she got to her car. Slamming his hand on the broken elevator doors, he clambered down the fire exit stairwell. He reached the parking garage just as a screeching vehicle left in a hurry. Thinking it was CJ, he turned to leave, but froze in his tracks when he saw the body lying on the concrete. His rookie heart pounding, he checked CJ for a pulse while simultaneously calling 911 on his cell phone. When the call was over, he looked around the garage for someone to help him, but they were alone. He leaned down over CJ’s face and tried to wake her. His words and actions had no effect.

* * * * * *

Pacing the corridor of the emergency room, Ethan tried to decipher what the hell had just happened. There was no trace of anyone else in the garage, no clue as to why someone would shoot CJ. The only thing he could come up with was that the occupant of the screeching car must have been responsible. If only he had gotten a good look at the license plate. Cameras, he thought, I need to seize the camera footage.

AD Mark Mulroney arrived a short time later. “Matthews. How is she?” he asked immediately.

“She’s in surgery, Sir. Good strong pulse when I found her but she has a gunshot wound to the lower chest. She lost a lot of blood.”

“What happened?”

“Just like I told you on the phone, Sir. I went down to the garage to give Agent Carson the file she’d left behind, and found her on the ground. Nobody else there, just a car leaving in a hurry,” Ethan said apprehensively.

“Relax, Agent. Did you call her wife yet?”

“Wife, Sir?”

“Yes. They got married, remember?”

“Oh yes. Sorry, Sir. I called the studios right after I called you. They said they would get her driver to bring Miss Marshall here,” Ethan relayed quickly, slightly embarrassed at his lapse in concentration.

“Good. I need you to go back to the office. File a report.”

“Yes, Sir. Should I go over the camera footage right away?”

“Absolutely, Matthews. Oh, and Ethan,” Mark said over his shoulder, “good work.”

Ethan barely heard it, but he nodded before rushing out of the hospital.

* * * * * *

CJ tried to swallow but her throat was as dry as the desert. She had a dull pain in her chest and nausea swept through her in waves. Morphine, she guessed. She slowly pried one eye open, her pupil dilating in shock at the harsh hospital lights. After adjusting to the brightness she forced the other eye to follow and slowly turned her head toward the muffled voices nearby. She could see Mark talking to a doctor and tried to speak. “Mar…” she managed to croak.

Mark had heard her and when he finished up his conversation, the doctor followed him in to check his patient’s vitals. Mark leaned down toward his agent’s face to talk quietly to her. “It’s good to see you, CJ.”

“How long?”

“You were in surgery for two hours and you’ve been here in the ICU for sixteen. They’re moving you to another room soon,” Mark replied in his gentlest tone.

“Katie…” she whispered, knowing her wife would have been sick with worry.

Mark nodded his head in the direction of a nearby chair. CJ turned her head slowly and saw the petite form of her wife curled up under a blanket. She noted Kate’s exhausted features and the dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes. Her heart melted and she really needed to reassure Kate that she was OK. Kate Seemed to be asleep, and CJ didn’t want to disturb her, but she really, really needed to make physical contact with her spouse.

Mark seemed to sense her need and went to Kate’s side, nudging her gently. “She’s awake now, Kate.”

Kate’s eyes immediately focused on the figure in the bed. She got up and leaned over CJ, kissing her delicately on the forehead, avoiding the tubes and wires. “Hey you,” she said, trying to hold back the emotion in her voice.

But her tears were a dead give-away and CJ lifted her hand weakly to brush them away. “I’m OK, honey. I love you,” she murmured quietly, glad to see that Mark had moved the chair over to the bed. “Sit down and don’t let go of my hand.”

“I love you too. I was so worried,” Kate whispered as she sat down.

Mark gracefully made his exit, and the doctor finished up his exam.

“I’ll be back later, Miss Carson,” he said, patting her on the shoulder. “Press the buzzer if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Doc.” As soon as they were alone, CJ motioned for Kate to lean closer. “I’m gonna need your help. You’re the only one I trust.” CJ kept eye contact as Kate drew back slightly with a quizzical look on her face. CJ answered the unspoken question immediately. “Bureau Director shot me,” she croaked before a cough interrupted her. The cough produced a wave of dizziness so she closed her eyes to block out the spinning room.

“Sleep now,” Kate said as calmly as she could. “I’ll be right here when you wake. I’ll help you, CJ.”

Blue eyes drowsily slipped shut and Kate put her hand to her chest to try to calm her racing heart as she wondered what the hell was going on.

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Chapter 2

The room was dark when CJ awoke. A few small lights from monitors and a slither of brightness from the corridor allowed her to get her bearings and scan the room. She had been moved from the ICU and couldn’t believe they had rolled her in here without waking her. I must have been so out of it. Ugh.

She could feel a warm weight on her thigh and glanced down to see Kate’s head keeping a much-needed contact with her as she slept. She sighed and reached down, gently caressing the soft skin on Kate’s cheek. Kate’s eyes fluttered open and she rose up to kiss her wife. “Hi. Are you OK?” she asked as she clicked on a night-light.

CJ tried to clear her groggy throat. “Yeah. Am I allowed some water?”

“I’ll go and check with the nurse. You wait right here,” Kate replied, with a wan smile and a wink.

CJ grinned at her wife’s amazing ability to make her smile, even when she felt like complete shit. Kate returned with a small plastic cup and a large, clear jug of iced water. CJ eyed it hungrily, licking her lips then coughing out a strangled giggle.

Kate raised an eyebrow and looked at her partner in surprise. “What?”

“I was just admiring your jug.”

“They just dug a bullet out of you and you’re thinking about breasts?”

“Just yours, Katie, always yours,” CJ replied, wiggling a dark eyebrow.

Kate shook her head and poured a cup of water. She leaned over and pushed the button to elevate her wife’s bed slightly. She perched on the edge to help CJ take a drink. “Better?”

“Yes. Thanks, honey. What time is it?”

“A little after three thirty AM.”

“Has Mark been by?” CJ asked quietly.

“No. But Agent Matthews was here about five hours ago. He wanted to speak with you…seemed quite troubled. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

CJ sighed. “Yes. Would you close the door and join me in here?”

Kate frowned at the wires and tubes. “I don’t think so.”

“There are no wires on this side and I really need to hold you,” CJ pleaded, sticking her lip out persuasively.

Kate went to close the door, the pane of glass still letting a little light into the room, and returned to the bed. “I’ll lie on this side, but I’ll hold you,” she said, switching off the night-light and moving tentatively beside her wife.

Once Kate had settled and was leaning back against the pillows, CJ laid her head on her shoulder and felt an arm drape carefully around her. Kate pressed her lips against CJ’s dark hair and waited.

“I…I don’t know who to trust at work right now,” CJ began. “I witnessed a cold-blooded killing in the parking garage. I couldn’t see the man clearly. It’s not very well lit down there, but I’m pretty sure I recognized the shooter.”

“You said it was someone from the Bureau?” Kate whispered at her ear.

“Yes. Deputy Director Francis. He’s not my boss but I know him.”

“Does he know you?”

“I think he knows of me but I have a feeling he didn’t know who he was shooting. He just panicked,” CJ said thoughtfully. She broke into another coughing fit and held her stomach, her face twisting in pain before she began to relax.

Kate gave her more water and kissed her tenderly while she processed what she had just heard. “Why do you think Francis killed the guy?”

“I don’t have a clue, Katie, but I’m gonna find out,” CJ said, handing back the cup.

“I wonder if Agent Matthews has some info. He seemed eager to talk to you.”

“I’m sure he’ll be back.” CJ paused to cough again. The following moment of silence was broken by another thought. “Hey, didn’t you go to work today…I mean, yesterday?”

Kate laughed humorlessly. “Listen to you. Like I’m gonna head off to work while you’re in here with a hole in your chest.” She convulsed at the words and held a hand over her heart. “Sorry. I’ve just been so damn scared.”

“I know. But I also know you can’t afford to take any time off right now. Promise me you’ll go in today. I’ll be right here when you get back.”

“I…I don’t…” Kate saw the dark-blue eyes look up at her, and when CJ raised her trademark eyebrow, she knew she was beaten. “Oh, all right. But I’ll be real quick. No re-takes.”

“I’m not going anywhere for a few days. No need to hurry on my account.”

“I’ll be hurrying on my account. I can’t stand to be away from you right now,” Kate said against CJ’s ear. She kissed the lobe before pulling back to look into those beautiful eyes once more. She noticed CJ was getting drowsy again and clasped her head gently against her shoulder. Listening to her wife’s breathing even out, Kate decided to close her eyes for a few more hours and just enjoy the fact that she had some time to be with CJ before morning came.

* * * * * *

CJ sat in her bed and eyed the hospital food warily. She was in a crappy mood today. She was missing Kate, even though it was her who told the actress to go to work. The piles of so-called nourishment in front of her didn’t look very appetizing and she prodded grumpily at them with her fork. She looked up as the door opened to see Ethan Matthews pausing outside, pretending to knock. CJ forced a grin despite her bad mood and waved him into the room.

“You look a hell of a lot better, CJ,” he said, sitting in the chair next to her bed.

“Better than what?”

“Uh…better than the last time I saw you.”

“Right. Kate told me you were the one who found me. Thanks, man.”

“If you hadn’t forgotten that file, I might not have…not in time anyway.”

CJ winced at that and changed the subject slightly. “Kate said you came by yesterday.”

“Yeah. I need to talk to you. I…but not here.” Ethan seemed twitchy, and CJ thought she knew why.

“Could you help me with my pillows?” she asked as she invited him closer with a flick of her head.

“Sure.”

When he reached over CJ to fix the bedding, she held his shoulder and spoke into his ear. “Spill it.”

He immediately whispered. “Someone deleted the camera footage of when you were shot…almost immediately.”

CJ inhaled deeply as she absorbed that information. “Go on…”

“I’m worried, CJ. It had to be a federal agent to get access to that area, and to know how to get into the system.”

“Did you tell anyone? AD Mulroney?”

“No. I wanted to ask you first. I didn’t know who to trust…who to talk to. What the hell happened in that garage, CJ?”

She pushed him back gently and held eye contact with him as he took his seat. She believed she had accurately evaluated his sincerity, and she decided she could trust him…a little. “Ethan, I will tell you what happened, but not here. I intend on being released soon. Let them do whatever investigating they want, but I’ll need your help to find out more about this. I’m not telling them everything about the shooter until I have a lot more information.”

Ethan nodded thoughtfully, although he didn’t quite understand the last cryptic sentence. “OK. I’ll do anything I can to help you.”

CJ smiled at him, then turned to the door where a vision in blue denim and a white blouse stood leaning on the frame.

“May I come in?” Kate said as she offered both agents a polite smile.

“Of course. You’ve met Ethan, haven’t you, honey?”

“Yes.” Kate crossed the room and kissed CJ, before turning to Ethan and holding out her hand. “Hello again, Agent Matthews.”

“Please, call me Ethan. Well, I should get going.”

“We’ll talk as soon as I’m out of here, Ethan. Doc says day after tomorrow,” CJ said, not hiding her delight at the prospect of getting out of hospital.

Kate stole a glance at CJ as she motioned toward Ethan with her head. “Dinner…at our place?”

“Sounds like a great idea. Come to the house and have some dinner. We can sit and figure some stuff out,” CJ proposed with a half-smile.

“You’re on. I’ll update you again tomorrow, CJ. Nice to see you again, Miss Marshall.”

After he left, Kate snuggled up at CJ’s side, curling her arm gently over her wife’s tender stomach. “Is this OK?”

“It’s better than OK. I think the damn catheter is more painful than the bullet hole, but it’s coming out tonight, thankfully,” CJ said with a long-suffering sigh. “I missed you so much today.”

“I missed you too. So much so, that I haven’t eaten dinner. I just came straight here,” Kate said, nuzzling into CJ’s cheek with her nose.

CJ turned her head and kissed those irresistible, full lips, trying to suppress her passion for Kate. Of course, it didn’t work so she broke the kiss and shook her head, trying to get rid of her lustful train of thought. “I uh…I’d better not kiss you again. Not like that and not until we get home.”

Kate gazed into the wide, blue eyes, her nostrils flaring from her own instant arousal. “Why, I do believe you are blushing, Agent Carson.”

“Please don’t tease me. I may just have had surgery but I still really, really want you. This is so damn frustrating.”

“Let’s change the subject then. Why haven’t you eaten your meal? It looks um…delicious?” Kate said, scrunching her nose at the unappetizing plateful.

“That’s not the word I’d choose. You should go get some food, honey. Oh…who’s taking care of Kamali?”

Kate let out a little chuckle. “Seriously, CJ, you’ve been in here for days. Did you think I just left him to starve?” She shook her head. “Tony is more than just my driver. He’s become a good friend and he loves our dog. He’s been walking him and feeding him when I was away.”

“Wow, that’s good. I need to spend some time with Tony. He seems really nice. Maybe we should invite him over sometime? We need to socialize more.”

“Hmm. Maybe we could have people over a little more, but I like that our home is our personal haven, CJ. Our lives are busy enough, so let’s not have too many parties,” Kate teased gently.

“So glad you said that. I think of it that way too.”

* * * * * *

After CJ had dozed off again, Kate headed to a nearby café to grab some food. Her mind was still on the whole shooting incident thing. She was afraid for CJ, afraid that someone in the FBI knew she was the witness that night. She tried not to show it to her spouse – not yet – not until CJ felt better. No major trauma, but the bullet missed her heart by one point five centimeters, Miss Marshall. The surgeon’s words still echoed in her head. She took a deep cleansing breath, ignoring the lurch in her stomach, and walked back to the hospital.

* * * * * *

Two days later, Kate’s car pulled up outside the house. She and Tony had gone to pick CJ up and their injured patient was now trying to get out of the vehicle by herself.

“Whoa. This is never going to work if you don’t let me help you, honey. Doctor’s orders,” Kate said as she slid her supportive arm around CJ’s waist.

“It’s not too bad, Katie. Just a constant, dull pain, but you’re right. I do need your help.”

Once indoors, Tony greeted Kamali and took him for a walk while the couple set up a comfy spot on the large couch with quilts and soft pillows. Once Tony had finally left for the day, Kate and CJ had dinner accompanied by some quiet talk in between bites. Kate watched with amusement as her wife tried not to guzzle the delicious, homemade food. A short while later they were snuggled up together, CJ leaning back on Kate’s chest as they lounged on the couch. Kate’s legs were wrapped around her wife’s thighs to cradle her body and enable plenty of contact even with CJ’s injuries. Kamali lay boneless on the floor beside them and was completely exhausted after Tony’s energetic jog around the farmland.

“When’s Ethan coming over?” Kate asked quietly.

“He said yesterday that he had a couple of cases to wrap up and reports to write. He’s gonna stop by tomorrow night. Will you be here?”

“I will if you want me to be. I managed to break from filming for a week to take care of my baby.”

CJ turned her head and looked at her in surprise. “You did that? For me?”

“Of course. It’s not as if it’s airing next week or anything. We’re filming next season right now and there’s a storyline running that I’m not in much. I asked them for a special favor…they said yes. So I’m all yours for the next seven days,” Kate said happily as she kissed the nose in front of her.

“Do you know how much I love you?” CJ asked, her eyes wide with devotion.

“I do. Do you remember that soul thing we talked about at the cabin? It’s definitely true for us. I love you with all my heart, CJ. You’re more important than anything else.”

“I hope you realize that the same goes for you too.”

Kate gulped back the emotion at the thought that she’d almost lost her wife. CJ saw her struggle and lifted her arm over her head to wrap it around Kate’s neck. She pressed her face up against Kate’s skin as she truly relaxed for the first time since the shooting, and her emotions released in the form of tears. They both sat in silence, crying out all the anxiety from the recent events. It definitely felt good to release some of the tension and they slept well that night, carefully wrapped around one another in a loving embrace.

* * * * * *

As CJ descended the stairs slowly her nostrils filled with the wonderful smells wafting through the kitchen door. She followed the scent and found Kate checking under the lid of a pot on the stove. She approached silently and slipped her arms around Kate’s slim waist, making her wife jump out of her skin.

CJ held her tight and kissed her neck to make up for the scare. “Hey, sexy. What smells so good?”

“I assume you’re talking about the food? Not me?” Kate retorted playfully.

“Ooh, don’t make me think about your scent. I’ll get all horny. What we havin’?”

“Sesame chicken with lightly-spiced rice. I figured Ethan and his wife would like it.”

“His wife?” CJ’s eyebrow curled.

“Yes, my love. You know you really should get to know your colleagues better.” At CJ’s questioning expression, Kate explained further. “He called earlier today when you were asleep. He wanted to know if he should bring all the files from some case you two were working on. I told him to bring everything, and if need be, I would leave you alone to work. He said something about his wife and I suggested he bring her tonight.” Kate stopped and turned in the circle of CJ’s arms. She noticed the stunned look on the taller woman’s face and she smiled before kissing her thoroughly. “Do you think you could manage to help me set the table?”

“Sure.” The kiss lingered on CJ’s lips and she still had her eyes to savor the moment, but they soon popped open again when her injuries made themselves known.

Kate saw her flinch. “You OK?” she asked with concern.

“Hmm…sometimes it just catches me out. Guess I still can’t flex my muscles too well,” CJ said, trying to grin to alleviate her wife’s worrisome look.

Kate lifted CJ’s shirt and checked under the dressing. CJ watched her, feeling so loved by this woman that she nearly started bawling. Blowing out a breath, Kate lowered the clothes back down. “The wound looks all right. Maybe it’s just healing, huh?”

“Yeah. I have to say I feel much better than I thought I would. I was lucky.”

“You were.” Kate kissed her lightly and turned away to plates for their food.

“Katie…”

“Yeah?”

CJ waited until Kate looked at her. “I really am OK.”

“I know.”

When the doorbell rang, CJ shuffled across the hallway and opened the front door to find Ethan standing there on his own with a bottle of wine in one hand and a thick folder of papers in the other. “Hey Ethan. Come on in. I thought you were bringing your wife?”

“I was going to but the twins got real cranky and I think she wanted to stay home with them. Melissa’s coming down with something.”

“Twins?” CJ was stunned at the amount of new information she was finding out about this young, handsome man.

“Yeah.” Ethan’s face became all soft and dreamy. “We have twin girls. Melissa and Sarah…they’re almost eleven months now.”

“Wow. I never knew that. Let’s go in. Kate’s prepared a great meal,” CJ said, ushering him into the spacious kitchen diner.

After the greetings and a pleasant dinner, they retired to the living room and Ethan spread all the files he had brought over the large coffee table. CJ carried the bottle of wine – although she was on fruit juice – and they settled on the couch.

“Let’s go over this now, Ethan. And it’s OK that Kate’s here. She’ll know everything I know, but please don’t let that get around,” CJ said seriously.

There was no way this young man was involved in any of this. CJ was pretty sure of that and felt comfortable with her decision to trust him.

“Nothing we discuss about this will be shared until we both agree to let the boss know. You know, I really think we can trust him. Mulroney’s been really worried about you. When we left the hospital the other day, he was so angry about you getting shot.”

“Let me think about it a little more, and let’s see what we come up with tonight, OK?”

“Sure.”

Kate watched all this with interest. She believed that CJ had sized Ethan up nicely. He was a great guy with a young family. He had so much to lose and she didn’t think he’d be tied up in this whole fiasco. And it seemed like CJ was his mentor so Kate doubted he had anything but sincere professional intentions toward her wife.

“So when we were in the hospital, you said something about the shooter?”

CJ nodded. “I can’t be a hundred percent sure, but it definitely looked like Deputy Director Francis. He shot the guy point blank, then saw me and shot me.”

Ethan’s mouth hung open, his eyes bulging. “Oh, God. I can see why you don’t want to tell anyone about this right now. Shit!”

“I’m not sure what he’s mixed up in…and I don’t know who else might be involved. I need you to keep your eyes and ears open in the office until I get back.”

“Absolutely, CJ. I guess that explains the camera footage being deleted. Do you want me to go back and look into this now or stay with you and go through the abduction case?”

“There’s nothing you can do at the office tonight. Let’s take a look at this file. I’m interested in its connection with Kate.”

At the mention of her name, Kate looked up from her pensive glare at the floor. “Me?”

“Yes.” CJ showed her the copy of the file and waited for her wife to recognize the names.

“What do Mick and Jason have to do with an abduction case?” Kate asked, flicking rapidly through the photos.

“It’s more about Mick Fisher. His car was spotted outside the diamond broker’s place of business near the relevant time. The broker is the guy who was abducted. Apparently he’s a big shot merchant with an annual turnover in the millions.” CJ suddenly stilled Kate’s hands as she looked at a photo that had been taken inside The Double Take. Not having recognized the man in the shot before, CJ took the picture and couldn’t really believe her eyes. She pointed to the figure standing next to Mick Fisher and showed the photo to Ethan who eventually mirrored her surprised expression. CJ turned back to her wife. “Katie, do you know this guy here?”

Kate tilted her head to see where CJ was pointing. The man in the crowd sported a bright-red jacket and a trimmed, brown mustache. “Yeah. I met him a few times. He was a friend of Mick’s, a business associate apparently. I figured he ran a club somewhere.”

CJ’s gaze was fixed on her, intent on her next question. “Do you remember his name?”

Kate trapped her tongue between her teeth as she tried to recall the man. CJ could see the concentration in her eyes and couldn’t believe how adorable she looked.

“I think Mick called him Stan. Ugh yeah, he always said there’s Stan the Man. I used to cringe when he said it. His name was Stan Francis.” Kate’s face began to change as she linked the last names. “Oh! Francis?”

“You have an incredible mind, do you know that? You should join the Bureau,” CJ said in admiration.

“You mean to tell me that Stan is your Deputy Director?”

“Not ours,” Ethan broke in, “but yes, he’s the same guy. This picture is kinda old. I didn’t recognize him at all at first.”

Kate’s frown deepened. “What would he be doing as a business associate of Mick’s?”

“That’s what I’m wondering now. He’s been with the Bureau for much longer than this,” CJ said, flapping the picture back and forth.

“You know,” Kate pondered as she took a swig of her wine, “I often wondered how Mick could afford his swanky cars back then. He would have a new one practically every year.”

“On a manager’s salary?” CJ asked.

“Yeah. Expensive sports cars too. That’s why it made me wonder. I bet if you looked into it you’d find that he bought them cash. Maybe even the bar too. I’d say he was probably up to no good.”

CJ was dumbfounded at her wife’s investigative mind. “God, I love you. You’re amazing.” She suddenly blushed and leaned over toward Kate. “Did I say that out loud?”

“I’m afraid so, honey.”

The supposedly-cool special agent turned with a frown to see Ethan smirking at her.

“You’re just a big softie, aren’t you?” he said, pushing at his boundaries with his tough colleague.

“Don’t tell a living soul.”

“On my honor,” Ethan replied, crossing his heart.

CJ grinned at him before focusing back on the files. “So let’s see what we have so far. We think that Mick was somehow mixed up in what? Drug dealing?”

“That would make sense considering Jason’s downward slide with drugs,” Kate said with a nod.

“Good point. And Mick had priors for possession. So if that’s true, perhaps they were both involved and if Francis was a business associate of Mick’s then it’s possible that he was involved with that too. I wonder…” CJ’s voice trailed off and Kate placed her hand on her knee.

“You wonder?”

“I wonder if they got into big time dealing. Greed can be a powerful lure for these guys. Diamonds might have been their next logical step. Even bigger bucks.”

Ethan nodded in agreement. “It certainly seems possible. I can look into Mick’s vehicle and property purchases. Check out his bank accounts too,” he said, emptying his one and only glass of wine.

“I’d appreciate it, Ethan. This could all be linked somehow. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.”

Kate grasped CJ’s wrist. “So…do you think the guy that Francis shot could be the diamond broker?”

CJ’s jaw dropped. “God, it could’ve been. Do you have a photo of him, Ethan? I didn’t see him clearly but we could try and match a description.”

Ethan flipped through the other photos. “Damn. No there isn’t one yet. I’ll get one though.”

“Fine, and remember, don’t talk to anyone. We still don’t know who deleted the camera footage,” CJ warned.

“Right. Well I’ll head off and let you get some rest. You look kinda tired, CJ.”

“I am, yeah. Will you come by tomorrow or call me if you have anything else?”

“Of course I will. Take care, and thanks for a great dinner, Kate.”

“You’re welcome, Ethan,” Kate said as she walked him to the door.

“Ethan?” CJ shouted from the living room. “Be careful.”

“I will. See you later.”

Once Kate returned to the couch, CJ was quick to take her into her arms. She kissed her beautiful wife and moaned when she felt Kate’s warm tongue sliding into her mouth. They were breathless when they parted and held themselves only millimeters apart.

“Do you have any idea how incredible you were tonight?” CJ asked as she rubbed noses with Kate.

“Me?”

“Yes. You were so quick to connect the dots and figure out that maybe, just maybe, they were all linked somehow. You’re amazing, Agent Marshall,” she purred with a grin.

“I’m not sure I’m good enough to be a Federal agent.”

“You’re better than most I’ve met. You’re tough, intelligent, have a bucket load of common sense, and you have a wonderful investigative mind.”

“Wow, that’s quite a compliment, my darling.” Kate smiled shyly. “Thank you.”

“It’s simply the truth,” CJ replied, initiating another quick kiss. “Take me to bed.”

“I’ll let Kamali out, and then I’ll be right up. You take your time and give me a shout if you need any help.” Kate got up and took the glasses to the kitchen. “Good to see Ethan only had one glass,” she shouted.

“Yeah, he’s a sensible guy. I never realized he had a family. He’s got his hands full, that’s for sure.”

CJ tidied the files and put out the lights. Hearing Kate return with the dog already, she turned to wait for her at the living room door. Kamali went to his bed after receiving his head scratch from CJ, and the two women went upstairs hand in hand. Curled up in bed, CJ held her wife close and listened to the relaxing sounds of Kate’s slumber. Her mind was still spinning and she tried to concentrate on the warm breath that passed over her neck. It didn’t take long for her eyes to drifted shut, and she slipped into a fitful sleep.

* * * * * *

Ethan fidgeted as he stood outside the Assistant Director’s door. Trying to slow his erratic breathing, he smoothed out his shirt before he knocked with more confidence than he felt. He had been summoned to provide an update on the shooting and he wasn’t sure what to tell his boss. He really wished CJ was here to back him up.

“Come in. Ah, Agent Matthews, take a seat.”

“Sir. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes. What do you have so far? Did you get the camera footage?”

“Um…”

“Agent?”

“Sir, someone deleted it,” Ethan said, clenching his jaws together.

“Deleted it? Who?”

“Honestly, Sir, I have no idea. I went to seize it less than two hours after the shooting and someone had gotten to it first.” When Ethan shut his mouth, Mark leaned forward on the desk and placed his chin on his clasped hands. The silence became slightly uncomfortable for Ethan and he felt he should have more information to offer. “I’m sorry, Sir. I wish I knew more. But even the forensics team you sent down to the garage turned up nothing. If we could just ID the car, I bet they would find something inside it.”

“I’m sure they would, Agent. This camera system, is it digital?”

“Yes, Sir, I think it’s pretty much state of the art.”

“I wonder…”

“Sir?”

“You may not know this, Matthews, but I’m quite the technical whiz. I’m wondering if it would be similar to retrieving deleted files from a computer. I’ll look into it. Leave that with me. Is there anything else?”

“Not so far, Sir. Agent Carson is doing well. She’s at home with her wife. Miss Marshall took some time off,” Ethan winced slightly, wondering if he was giving too much info to the boss.

“That’s good. Keep me updated, Agent.”

“Yes, Sir.” Ethan quickly vacated the office with his pulse racing. He was anxious to find out if the AD could indeed recover the camera information. Was that even possible? He didn’t know. But if it was, that would mean Mulroney was on their side, wouldn’t it?

.

Chapter 3

“Hello?”

“Oh! Hi, CJ. I was calling to see how you were doing. Feeling better?”

CJ immediately recognized the voice. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I’m much better. Katie’s taking good care of me.”

“Oh that’s wonderful. It’s such a dangerous job you have. I don’t know how you do it,” Eddie said, blowing an audible gust of breath through the connection.

“Well, I seem to be pretty good at it…except when I’m catching bullets.”

“Oh, you and your cop humor…but seriously, take care honey. Katie loves you so much. We all do. Is my lovely daughter there? We have news.”

“She’s out getting groceries with Tony. What’s the news?” CJ asked curiously.

“I kinda wanted to tell you both together but I know Katie will understand. I’m just bursting to tell everyone.”

“Dad, tell me already.”

“Well, Jeffrey and I were talking about how beautiful your little wedding was and we’ve decided to tie the knot!” Eddie was practically shouting in his excitement.

“Wow, congratulations! That’s great news. When’s the big day?”

“Oh! I don’t know. Hold on, honey. Oh!” Eddie paused to gather his wandering emotions. “Sorry, CJ. I get so emotional.”

“That’s all right. Why don’t you go and pull yourself together, and call us back in about an hour? Katie will be back by then,” CJ suggested gently.

“OK, sweetheart. I’ll call back. Bye for now. Oh!”

“Bye, Dad.” CJ shook her head and smiled at Eddie’s antics. She adored him and completely loved the fact that she could call him Dad. She hadn’t been able to call anyone that since she was little, and even then it never felt as loving as this. She smiled again and headed for the door when she heard a car pull up outside.

Kate looked at the statuesque figure standing in the doorway. CJ had on her light-gray sweat pants, Kate’s oversized UCLA sweater, and her dark hair tumbled over broad shoulders. The sparkle in her blue eyes was mesmerizing to Kate.

“Hey, Miss Carson,” Tony said, totally oblivious to Kate’s appraisal as he carried a few bags into the kitchen.

CJ was aware of her wife’s gaze but she answered Tony casually. “Hi, Tony. I told you to call me CJ. And you really need a raise for all this extra work you’re doing.”

Tony walked back through the hallway just as Kate came in the door with two more food packages. “I get a great salary. I’m happy to do what I can,” he replied, flashing a smile at them both.

“Yeah, honey, don’t go giving him ideas.” Kate laughed at the raised eyebrow she got in response.

“I’ll go pick up your messages at the studio, Miss Kate. Want me to take Kamali?” Tony offered hopefully.

“It looks like he beat you to it, Tony.”

He turned to see the dog standing by the car wagging his tail furiously. Tony nodded and left with the dog in the front passenger seat. CJ turned to find a very cute, blond actress standing toe to toe with her.

“You looked completely gorgeous standing there when I arrived,” Kate purred.

“I did, huh? Could you resist me if I did this?” CJ leaned down and kissed her, immediately inserting her hot tongue into Kate’s welcoming mouth. Her hand slid down to cup Kate’s mound and she gently added pressure with her middle finger where she knew her partner would feel it most.

“Ooh…” Kate moaned against CJ’s lips. She led her to the stairs with a very sensual look on her face.

CJ followed, feeling a twitch in her groin and the blood rush to all kinds of places in anticipation. Kate tenderly undressed her wife as they both stood next to their bed. She took her time to kiss each piece of CJ’s skin as it was uncovered, lingering on hardened nipples eager for her touch. CJ watched her and licked her lips, trying to keep her breathing steady as her excitement grew.

Kate stood mere inches from her face now, her delicate nostrils flaring and her eyes as green as emeralds. “Lie down. I want to make love to you but we need to be careful.”

CJ didn’t answer. She sat down and backed herself into the center of the bed, lying back on the pillows. Kate undressed slowly and her lover’s eyes seemed to touch her skin as she removed each item of clothing. She couldn’t breathe. Between the unbelievable physical need to be with CJ and the emotion of almost losing her, she thought she might faint before she got on the bed.

Once she’d crawled over to CJ, Kate kissed her lightly on the stomach just under the small bandage that covered the gunshot wound. She looked up to make sure CJ wasn’t in pain. She found a face flushed with readiness and eyes darkened with desire, staring back at her. CJ reached with her right hand and guided Kate’s hips over to straddle her face, and Kate suddenly found herself staring down at a dark thatch of soft, curly hair.

“Oh, yeah…” Kate gasped. As CJ’s legs fell open, she licked her lips and lowered herself down slowly.

“Touch me, Katie. Please.”

Kate used one hand to spread CJ’s swollen outer lips wider and covered her clit with her mouth, trailing her tongue slowly back and forth, tasting CJ’s arousal. She felt a low moan vibrate through her as CJ feasted on her aching sex. CJ’s tongue slid over her sensitive bundle of nerves with familiar ease, driving her toward that heavenly release. They both knew one another so well, skillfully applying the pressure needed to gradually build their desire, spending time fueling the burning need within. Kate intensified her caresses, nuzzling CJ’s flesh with her mouth which made her nose to tease CJ’s opening as it grazed against it.

“Oh, Katie…”

CJ brought her hand up and trailed her two fingers through Kate’s wetness. Kate gasped and sucked on CJ harder while flicking the tip of her tongue over her clit in a way she knew would push CJ over the edge. Almost simultaneously, CJ entered her with two fingers, plunging them deep within her core. CJ’s tongue returned to her over-sensitive clit to ensure a mutual climax. She felt Kate’s silky inner walls clamp down as she thrust her fingers in and out, coating them with the abundant wetness. She concentrated on her rhythm but it was hard as she climbed to her peak with Kate’s mouth on her. Their orgasms were mere seconds apart, both of them trying not to writhe around and lose the most delicious of connections. As the powerful waves gradually subsided, Kate could no longer hold her own body weight and threw herself off to the side in order to avoid her injured spouse.

CJ gasped for breath and slapped Kate’s buttock. “You are… so good at that,” she gasped. After hearing an incoherent mumble into the mattress, she added, “What was that?”

Kate lifted her head. “I said you’re not so bad yourself.”

“I love you, Katie.”

Kate could hear the smile in CJ’s voice and wriggled around to lie beside her. “I love you more, my gorgeous wife.”

“Hmm…not possible,” CJ replied in a well-known and loved exchange.

Kate played along. “Oh, I beg to differ.”

“Shall we agree to disagree?”

“I believe we shall,” Kate said as she nibbled her partner’s sweaty collarbone. “You taste great.”

“Let me check.” CJ kissed her deeply and tasted herself on Kate’s lips. Their combined flavors mingled in a heart-pounding kiss, leaving Kate breathlessly humming her acceptance. CJ took a deep breath and drew her fingers through Kate’s blond hair. She stared at her beloved wife and wondered how the hell she had gotten so lucky. Just as they were beginning to relax into the warm afterglow, the phone rang on the nightstand making Kate jump, then someone pressed the doorbell, and their peace was shattered.

“Damn…uh, you get the phone. It’ll be your Dad. I forgot to tell you he called. I’ll get the door,” CJ said, trying to get up and struggling slightly.

“Here. Let me help, honey. Take it easy.”

Once CJ was up and adequately dressed, she straightened out her hair and carefully descended the stairs. Tony handed her the messages and tried to hide his grin at the sheepish look on her face before making a quick exit. Kamali headed straight for his water bowl and then plopped himself down in his oval-shaped doggy bed.

Heading into the kitchen for painkillers and a drink, CJ noticed that all the groceries were still sitting on the table. Clearly, making love was much more important than putting them away. Oh yeah, she thought with a contented sigh.

A short while later Kate came through the door and saw CJ leaning against the counter reading the messages Tony had delivered. “Hey, you. Anything interesting for me?”

“Not really, but apparently you have a big pile of fan mail back at the studio,” CJ said, grinning.

“Well, I am a super-hot TV star, you know,” the actress said, slipping her arms around CJ’s waist. “How do you feel? We didn’t overdo it, did we?”

“No. I feel fine. Thank God for keyhole surgery, huh?”

“Yeah,” Kate said quietly, resting her head on CJ’s upper chest.

“I’m fine, Katie.”

“I know.”

“Great news about Dad and Jeffrey, huh?” CJ offered, trying to lighten the mood.

“It’s fabulous news. Oh, no. I’m starting to sound like my father.” Kate let out a small giggle.

“Well I’ll still love you. Just don’t start flailing your arms around and we’ll be fine.”

Kate smiled and leaned into her wife again, hearing the soothing beat of her heart. They stood in silence for a while before realizing that they hadn’t eaten dinner. Kate decided to make a simple meal, and they talked easily while CJ sat at the dining table admiring Kate’s petite, shapely body standing by the stove.

* * * * * *

As the sun was setting, CJ and Kate sat on the porch swing at the back of the house. Kamali lay on the grass nearby and chewed on a rather large bone, his tail occasionally batting on the ground when one of his humans looked his way. CJ pushed her foot off the deck again to restart the motion of the seat, and Kate sighed at her shoulder.

“What are you thinking?” Kate asked sleepily.

“Hmm, just running around some work stuff in my head. Sorry. I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

“Don’t apologize. I’ve been wondering about it too. I really want to help you any way I can, CJ.”

“You are. You always do. Whether it’s your brilliant deductive reasoning…or one of your amazing distractions,” CJ said, cupping Kate’s breast to demonstrate one of those distractions. “I welcome it all.”

Kate grinned. “Well I do love to distract you, but I’m serious, honey. I’m worried about you…and this,” she said, covering CJ’s injury.

“I know. But I’m fine and we’re in this together. I won’t keep anything from you. I promise.”

Kamali suddenly jumped to his feet with his ears pricked forward. He started to bark loudly and ran around to the front of the house. Kate got up and quickly followed him. CJ cursed and tried to keep up.

The dark car coming up the driveway was moving pretty fast and CJ got a bad feeling in her gut. Never before had she felt so uncertain about seeing a Bureau sedan heading toward her. As she lingered directly behind Kate holding onto her arm, Kamali stood guard in front of them but he had stopped barking.

The Assistant Director got out the vehicle, and CJ’s stomach flipped. She vaguely wondered why she was so unsure about Mark before realizing that she had been shot by a deputy director. She was conflicted in her feelings toward her friend now, not knowing if he was involved in the whole thing or not. It really pissed her off.

CJ took one look in his worried, dark eyes and knew somehow that he was not here to harm her. Ethan getting out of the passenger seat seemed to confirm that.

“What’s going on?” she asked warily. “Ethan?”

“It’s OK, CJ. The Assistant Director managed to recover the camera footage. He’s here to help.”

CJ looked at Mark and was slightly surprised to see him smile at her.

“Can we go inside?” he asked.

CJ was stunned into silence. She wasn’t sure why exactly, but the end result was the same – she couldn’t speak, so Kate came to the rescue.

“Yes, of course. This way, Mark.”

Mark was warmed by her easy manner, and walked into the house belatedly followed by CJ and Ethan. Kate eased the tension by offering coffees to everyone, and they all sat around the dining table in the kitchen.

“I wish you had come to me, CJ, but I understand why you felt you couldn’t,” Mark said plainly.

“What do you mean?” CJ asked, still not wanting to give in to him just yet.

“I retrieved some footage from the camera system. Whoever tried to delete it obviously wasn’t too aware of any data recovery techniques. Anyway, it wasn’t all that difficult to get. It seems our system created a hidden backup. I have it here,” Mark said, placing a disk on the table. “The deputy director is clearly visible, but he’s the only thing that is.”

“So it was him,” CJ muttered, her eyes dropping in defeat.

“Yes. You weren’t sure?”

“Not a hundred percent, Sir. I kept on doubting myself.”

“That’s not like you, Agent. Anyway, you were right and we really need to keep this between us for now,” Mark said, watching CJ carefully. She looked up at him uncomfortably since she was very aware that there was a non-FBI agent at the table. Mark grinned half-heartedly, knowing exactly why she was fidgeting. “Ethan filled me in, CJ. I wouldn’t expect anything less.” He turned to Kate. “I heard from my rookie that you’d make a good agent. Want to join my team?”

Kate held back her laugh. “Not officially, but I’m grateful that you’re allowing me to be here now.”

“I doubt I could stop you…or her,” he replied, nodding toward CJ. “I think between the four of us, we’ll figure this out. I assume I can trust you?”

Kate was aware of how much CJ was struggling with that concept right now, but she nodded in answer to his question.

Ethan cleared his throat. “Can we watch the footage, Sir?”

“Yes. Are you OK with that, Miss Marshall?”

Kate looked to her wife who nodded slightly. “Yes.”

“Am I clearly visible, Sir?” CJ asked uncertainly.

“It only catches you from behind, and only while you’re standing. You know, before you were…”

“OK.” She cut him off before he said it. “I’ll get my laptop.”

CJ was overwhelmed as she watched the deputy director shoot her, although she would never let it show. Once Francis had dumped the man into the trunk of his car, he started walking towards her prone and bloody body. A quick glance in the direction of the fire exit stairwell and Francis immediately darted back to his car and high-tailed it out of the garage. Ethan arrived a few seconds later, and she realized he really had saved her. Ethan looked at her now and swallowed hard, also realizing how much luck and timing had played a part in CJ’s close brush with death.

After they had viewed the footage for the second time, CJ gave the disk back to Mark and slumped in her chair. They had gathered behind her to watch it, and Kate remained with her hands on her wife’s shoulders as the two men sat down. Mark rubbed his head fretfully, and Ethan leaned stiffly on the table. They had all agreed that it was the deputy director who held the gun.

Mark explained to CJ that Ethan had told him about the MacPherson case and how it might be linked. He had agreed that their suspicions were definitely possible, and they began to discuss the abduction of MacPherson.

“Have we managed to get Mick Fisher in for questioning?” CJ asked during a gap in the conversation.

Mark gave her a nod. “I sent Powell and that female agent who transferred in. What’s her name again, Matthews?”

“Uh, Jamie Green?”

“Yes. I sent Powell and Green out again this morning. Seems Fisher is AWOL. The manager at The Double Take says he hasn’t been in for a while which apparently is not unusual, but I have a feeling he’s disappeared. When Ethan first told me about your suspicions, I checked up on Francis briefly. He knew MacPherson, so it’s more possible than you might think that all this is linked. And before you ask, Francis is on leave…for another week. I haven’t tracked him down yet.”

CJ sat quietly for a moment to absorb that. “Do you know anything about Francis that might be useful, Sir? Anything about his character?”

“I’ll need to get a hold of his records but the only negative thing I know about him is that he was uh…caught with a prostitute once a few years back. It was covered up quite efficiently by his peers.”

“Nice,” CJ said sarcastically. “Are we any further on getting a photo of the diamond broker, Ethan? That footage is not so clear.”

“I contacted his wife. She’s looking through some photos. I said I’d pick them up in the morning. She’s so worried about him that she wasn’t much use at first, but she’s very co-operative now.”

“Good. What else?” CJ said, getting a little edgy. Kate lightly massaged her shoulders and she instantly relaxed her posture.

Mark flipped through the file. “We still have a federal agent to identify. It’s someone who knows how to get to the cameras and somehow avoid the staff down there. It’s got to be one of ours…someone from our office,” he said, stifling his irritation. “I’ll start on that trail tomorrow. They won’t be suspicious of an Assistant Director asking questions.”

“Should I be worried about my safety?”

“I don’t think so, CJ. Francis must have been pretty damn sure he’d killed you, or that you would have succumbed, otherwise he would have followed up on it. And he didn’t send anyone to the hospital to ID you, did he?” At those words, Kate’s face became a little paler, and CJ had tensed again at the directness of Mark’s words. He held up his hands in apology. “Sorry, Kate. That was a bit much.”

“No. It’s OK. It’s just the truth, I suppose. I never saw anyone interested in CJ’s room other than the doctors and nurses,” she said, wrapping her fingers around CJ’s hand that had settled over hers to ease the tension in them both.

“OK, good.” Mark exhaled slowly. “I think that’s enough for now. We’ll let you get to bed and I’ll call you in the morning, CJ.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I think, considering this situation, Mark will suffice. You too, Ethan…but only between us. If I hear that name in the office, I’ll wipe the floor with you. Understand?”

CJ was amused by his interaction with Ethan and pursed her lips to cover her smile. Ethan’s eyes were wide with something close to fear, but then he saw the AD wink at him.

“Yes, Sir. I mean, Mark,” he replied, nodding profusely.

After they left the two women were exhausted and went to bed pretty quickly. Kate lay awake, drinking in the sight of her wife’s profile in the moonlight. CJ’s eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted and her right arm draped above her head over the pillow. Kate thought she looked like a Greek goddess and leaned her arm between CJ’s breasts to clasp a hand around her neck.

“Can’t you sleep, honey?” CJ asked drowsily.

“I will soon. I’m just admiring the view.”

A half-grin curled CJ’s moist lips. “Are you worried about what was said tonight?”

“Of course I am, but I feel they’re both in your corner, CJ. I’m not worried about that.”

“You felt that too, huh? That’s good. Makes me a little surer of my trust in them.”

“I think you can trust them, honey. I just worry about you getting well. How are you feeling? You looked uncomfortable at the table earlier.”

“I feel fine actually. It’s more likely I was just squirming down there because of the case.”

“Yeah. It would be different if there weren’t Feds on the other side of this.”

“Exactly,” CJ said as she looked at her wife. “How about you turn around and we try to get some sleep?”

Kate kissed her and turned, pressing her body as far back into CJ as she could without putting too much pressure on her wound. “I love you, CJ.”

“Love you too, Katie.”

* * * * * *

The young agent sat in the driver’s seat of the dark sedan and was aware of the tension in the air, most of it emanating from the older man in the back seat. The car was parked outside Pearson’s warehouse, an abandoned storage facility on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

“Why isn’t he here yet?” Francis spat from the back seat.

“I don’t know, Sir. He said eleven o’clock. Do you think he’s backing out?”

“I doubt it. He’s cut in for twenty-five percent.”

“I’m sure he’ll be here…but we did say we’d meet him inside,” the younger man reminded.

Francis grunted. “Do you have your gun?”

“Yeah. Ready?”

“Let’s do it,” the deputy director growled.

The two men walked into the darkened warehouse, scanning around the vast space for their contact, the man who could break into the diamond broker’s store and crack the safe if the codes were false. Francis had coerced the combination out of Miles MacPherson before he killed him but he didn’t take it for granted that it was the correct one. This would be a relatively quick four million dollars to make. He already had a buyer lined up for the diamonds. Easy pickings.

They headed deeper into the building, finally coming across the man they were looking for. He wasn’t what Francis had imagined when he spoke to the guy on the phone. Still, Fisher had recommended the thief saying he was the “best damn safe breaker in the business.”

“You the boss man?” the thief muttered.

“Yes. Do you still want in on the deal?” Francis asked warily.

“Sure I do. I might not have to work again after this job. One thing though…”

“What?”

“Me and my pal here…we want half each,” the man said, pointing between himself and the young agent.

“That leaves me and my buddy with jack shit. No deal. It’s twenty-five percent or nothing…” the deputy director stated forcefully.

“That’s too bad.”

Francis turned to his colleague and found himself staring down the barrel of the agent’s gun. The end of Stan Francis’s life came quickly as the bullet hit directly between his eyebrows.

The thief frowned. “I’m guessin’ you got the damn combination and buyer info before you did that?”

“You think I’m an idiot? Of course I got them. So, half each it is then,” the agent said, re-holstering the weapon. “Fisher’s already taken care of. We’re home free.”

“Just don’t be thinkin’ of doing me next. I’m always armed. Will they be able to trace that?” the thief said, kicking Francis on the forehead.

“Nah. I took the gun out of evidence so it’s not registered. So fucking simple, huh?”

“I guess. Let’s get goin’. MacPherson’s place isn’t far from here. You got a key?”

“Yep. They had one at the office. Like I said, so fucking simple.”

The two criminals walked out of the building leaving the body for the cops – or whoever – to find. They didn’t really give a damn.

.

Chapter 4

The next morning Kate fiddled with her visitor badge. It just wouldn’t sit right on her lapel. As CJ led her down the corridor of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, she fussed over the clip and finally got it to attach in an acceptable manner. CJ opened her office door to find Agents Matthews and Green looking over a case file and muttering wildly at one another.

“Morning, Ethan,” CJ said while eyeing the other tall female in the room. “Morning. You must be Jamie.”

“That, I am. Are you Agent Carson?” Jamie purred, looking CJ up and down languidly – and somewhat dangerously – with her dark-brown eyes.

CJ knew that look but she didn’t welcome it at all right now. Quit eye-fucking me and act like a professional, she cursed internally. “Please call me CJ. This is Kate Marshall, my wife,” she said, maintaining her aloof exterior but leaning heavily on the last word in a warning of sorts.

Ethan watched with wide eyes as the two beauties marked out their territory. He could just imagine them in a duel. It would have been slightly amusing if he didn’t know CJ so well. She could get quite aggressive if she was provoked, although he suspected Jamie would give as good as she got.

Kate stepped forward and shook Jamie’s hand. “Nice to meet you, Agent Green.”

“Well it seems we’re all on a first name basis here, so please call me Jamie.”

“OK, Jamie. Where did you transfer in from?” Kate said, making polite conversation to give CJ a chance to calm down.

Jamie frowned when she noticed the visitor badge and she wondered how this little cutie knew her work history. “They brought me in from violent crimes in Washington. I always wanted a transfer to the West Coast, so here I am,” Jamie said in a somewhat sultry tone and placing her hands briefly on her own chest. She smiled sensually at Kate and batted her eyelashes.

CJ ground her teeth together and stood behind her wife, placing both hands on Kate’ shoulders. “We just came in to pick up a couple of things and see the boss. Is he around, Ethan?”

“Uh, yeah. He’s in his office.”

“Did you get the photos of the broker?” CJ said, reeling at the fact that Jamie was still leering and practically drooling at Kate.

“Yep, right here. Miles MacPherson circa ten months ago,” Ethan said as he passed her a file. “And apparently he was the only one with the safe codes so the staff closed his place up temporarily. The cash and books are in the safe so they couldn’t trade.”

“Right. Thanks.” CJ took it and turned to Kate, taking her hand possessively. “Good to meet you, Jamie,” she said, trying to hide the sarcasm dripping from her voice.

“And you, CJ,” Jamie said without taking her eyes off Kate.

Once they were in the corridor, Kate walked in silence with a definite smirk on her face, and CJ eyed her suspiciously for a few more steps before her curiosity got the better of her. “Wanna tell me what you find so funny?”

“Not funny. I just liked how you were in full protection mode in there. I suppose she did look kinda dangerous,” Kate said, hiding a grin.

“She seems like a bit of an animal. And remember I’m gonna have to work with her every day,” CJ responded, watching for some sort of dramatic reaction.

“Yes, but I trust you.”

CJ’s heart melted. She stopped walking and cupped Kate’s face in her hands. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m acting like a jerk. I guess she just rubbed me the wrong way.”

“She’d better not rub you any way or I’ll kick her ass.”

CJ saw the twinkle in her wife’s eyes and sighed deeply. “I love you, Katie Marshall.”

“Ditto, Agent Carson.”

* * * * * *

After checking in with Mark they both headed back to the car. Tony took them home and gleefully offered to walk Kamali. He strolled out the door with a tennis ball in his hand and a bouncing dog trailing after him. Kate smiled and returned to CJ who was sitting on the couch looking over the photos.

“You stay right there, honey, and I’ll go make coffee.”

“Thanks,” CJ said absently. “You’re the best, Katie.”

“I know.”

That got CJ’s attention and she laughed out loud. With a smile on her face and a shake of her head she focused back on the pictures of MacPherson. She took her mind back to the parking garage and tried to remember every detail about the man who had been shot. She dropped the photos down on the table in frustration and leaned back on the couch, covering her eyes with her crossed arms.

Kate came over carrying two mugs and sat next to her spouse. “Want to talk about it?”

CJ moved her arms away from her face and gratefully took the offered mug. “With you? Of course I do. I just can’t really remember the guy who was shot and the video footage was no help because of the shadows. It’s just frustrating, that’s all.”

“I know. It would give you guys something to go on if there were ransom demands or something. At least then you would know the motive for the kidnapping, but so far there hasn’t been anything like that, has there?”

“No, honey, there hasn’t. You know you really are good at this kinda thing,” CJ said, taking a gulp of the hot, sweet beverage.

“I’m surprised to find that I’m enjoying the whole puzzle-solving part of investigation. Your job’s intriguing, dead people notwithstanding, of course.”

“Of course,” CJ said with a snort. She turned to kiss Kate and tasted the sweet coffee flavor combined with Kate’s delicious mouth. She sighed pleasantly when they parted. “When I used to feel this way…all wound up, I mean…I used to go thump something in the gym or run for miles. Now you just take it all away with a kiss. Saves me a lot of exercise.”

Kate laughed. “Well we still need to work out, so maybe I shouldn’t kiss you so much.”

“Oh, no. Don’t take that away from me. I don’t think I’d survive,” CJ teased, thinking that perhaps it was closer to the truth that she’d like to admit.

“I won’t. It’s too good. Do you need some distraction right now?” Kate offered.

CJ swallowed the last of her coffee and set the mug on the table. Taking Kate’s hand, she got up to go to the bedroom before realizing that Tony hadn’t come back yet. “Damn. We can’t right now. I’m not being disturbed again, and I want to be able to curl up with you afterwards,” she said, kissing the tip of Kate’s nose.

While they waited for Tony to return, Kate looked at the photos that were strewn across the table. Her eyes scanned each picture, and as she looked closely at MacPherson, she noticed something worth mentioning to CJ.

A few minutes later, CJ came back from the bathroom and sat next to Kate. She looked at Kate’s serious face and reached over to run her fingers through her blond hair. “What you looking at, honey?”

“This MacPherson guy,” Kate said as she closed her eyes briefly at the feel of CJ’s caress. “He has a mustache and glasses…so did the guy in the video.”

“No he didn’t,” CJ said, looking strangely at her wife. “And anyway, how could you tell? His face was obscured.”

“He definitely had a dark area around his mouth, CJ. And I didn’t see the glasses on his face.”

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you see them fall to the floor when he was shot?”

“Jesus, Katie. No, I didn’t.” CJ was dumbfounded, first by the fact that she had possibly missed that – and it would appear that Ethan and Mark had too – and second, that her incredible wife had been watching the footage so intently. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Didn’t you see Francis pick them up?”

“I thought he just bent down to check the guy was dead. Oh my God…”

Kate got up and retrieved CJ’s cell phone. “Here. Mark might still be at the office. Maybe he could look at it again and check?”

“Thanks, but it will still be there in the morning. I intend to spend the rest of this evening paying very close attention to you.” CJ shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t know why I’m so surprised by all this. You’re the most intelligent person I’ve ever met!”

Kate’s melted at the compliment and straddled her wife’s lap to kiss her gently on the lips. “I could say the exact same thing to you.” Leaning her hands on the back of the couch, she purred quietly into CJ’s ear. “You know, compliments like that will get you everywhere.”

CJ was finding it a little hard to breathe. “Everywhere, huh? How about here?” she said, grasping Kate’s firm backside with her hands.

“Oh yes…there.”

“How about here?” CJ whispered as she buried her face between two incredible breasts and kissed the warm skin.

“Yeah…there too.”

“I’ll keep that in mind for later then,” the hungry agent panted into her lover’s mouth.

“God, you drive me crazy. Do you know that?”

“Uh-huh. You inspire me,” CJ replied in a whisper. She grinned deviously when the doorbell rang, and after settling Kamali for the night, she led Kate upstairs. “So…where were we?” she asked, crawling behind Kate onto the bed.

Kate moaned blissfully as the weight of CJ’s body covered her, thinking that crazy was definitely all right in this instance. Sobering suddenly, she efficiently switched their places, still worried about her wife’s condition. It didn’t dull the flame inside and she trailed her hand over CJ’s warm breasts. “Right here…”

* * * * * *

Outside MacPherson’s Gems, two figures in black clothing and balaclavas sat in a battered, unmarked van. “Jesus. Why the fuck is it boarded up?” the dirty agent barked.

“How the hell should I know? Seems you didn’t get all the damn information from the boss man after all. And you’re the fucking Fed.”

“Shut up. It wasn’t like that last week. Damn it!”

“We need to go for tools. I don’t have anything to get through that kinda crap in here,” the thief said angrily.

“No shit, Sherlock. OK, let’s move.”

The agent was not amused by the delay. He wanted his four million. Once he had used the idiot next to him – then disposed of him – he’d be rich. Of course, this guy was only a fail-safe. They had the combination but he wasn’t taking any chances. He didn’t underestimate the broker, and he didn’t want to overestimate the brainpower of his superior. Damn FBI bosses. But who needs the FBI when you’ve got four million? his greedy mind thought fervently. He leaned back into his chair and saw the dollar signs flashing before his eyes.

* * * * * *

The next day, CJ, Kate and Tony were stuck in LA rush-hour traffic on their way to the hospital for CJ’s follow-up appointment. She couldn’t believe how good she felt and silently praised her surgeon as she scratched around her wound area.

“You OK, hon?”

“Yeah. It’s just healing, I think. Itches like hell.”

“I’m amazed at how mobile you are,” Tony said from the front seat.

“I’ll be honest, Tony, I am too. They’ve definitely perfected that keyhole technique,” CJ replied, grinning at the driver.

He nodded thoughtfully while he concentrated on the traffic. Kate slipped her fingers through CJ’s longer ones and sighed. They finally made their destination, and the two women went inside while Tony found a parking spot to wait for them.

After a short examination, the curtain went back and Kate saw CJ throw her a smile. She was always caught off guard by her wife’s beauty and this moment was no different. The fact that CJ was wearing a deep-blue sweater that seemed to intensify the color in those incredible eyes did nothing to lessen the impact on Kate. Once the doctor had passed a package of pills to CJ and left, Kate raised her eyebrows in question.

“I’m fine,” CJ said, slipping her arm around her wife. “Doc says everything looks great. No strenuous exercise for three more weeks though.”

“I guess I’ll have to keep it gentle then,” Kate said with a wink.

CJ’s eyes glazed over and her face morphed into a dreamy smile. “Gentle…oh, yeah.”

Kate bit her bottom lip and tried not to think about intimate moments being gentle with her beloved. Shaking her head and blinking away the amorous thoughts, she brought her focus back to the pills. “What meds did he give you?”

“Just painkillers…anti-inflammatory. Not as strong as the last ones but they’ll still pack a punch,” CJ said, reading the box. “It’s good we have Tony. I’m not supposed to drive with these.”

“I can drive you anywhere you need to go, but yeah, I love that Tony’s here to help.”

“You know, maybe he does deserve a little more pay. He’s more like a personal assistant than a driver.”

When they walked outside the doors, Kate laughed as Tony came into view. The Mercedes was squeezed into an impossibly tiny parking spot, and Kate tilted her head to try to figure out how on earth he got it in there. “Maybe you’re right, honey.”

* * * * * *

Next stop on the agenda was the field office since CJ wanted to check on the progress of the case while they were in the city. Kate wouldn’t let her go in alone, and CJ figured it was probably a combination of her concern for her injured wife and an unwarranted concern about Agent Jamie Green. CJ figured she should ask her feisty spouse about that later, and allay any of her fears.

Transforming into her cool work demeanor, she walked confidently into the office but tensed a little when she saw that only Jamie was present.

“Hi, CJ,” Jamie greeted with a smile. He blond hair was free-flowing today, and her brown eyes sparkled. When no verbal response came from CJ, those eyes zeroed in on Kate. “Oh, hi, Kate. How are you both?”

“Hello, Jamie. We’re fine, thanks,” Kate responded amicably.

“Where’s Matthews?” CJ barked, trying not to shoot daggers from her eyes.

Jamie held up her hands, immediately sensing the animosity. “Listen, we didn’t start off on the right foot. I’m sorry. Can we try again?”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Kate said as she stood between them in the line of fire.

CJ paused to watch this tall agent whom she had to admit was very beautiful. And was she the same height as CJ? Nah, I got a couple of inches on her, she decided in an effort to bolster her confidence. “OK, Green.”

“Truce?” Jamie offered, holding out her slender hand. Her eyes were wide and seemed to be filled with sincerity.

“Truce,” CJ agreed, shaking the hand firmly.

“OK, good. Now that we’ve cleared that up, Ethan has gone out on a call…a body found by some homeless guy on the outskirts of town. I have some stuff here that he left for you.” Jamie searched around in her desk drawer. “Here it is.”

“What’s this?” CJ asked, flipping open the file.

“Mick Fisher was found floating in the river this morning,” Jamie said plainly. “Uh…”

“What?” CJ quirked an eyebrow as Jamie glanced back and forth between her and Kate. “No, it’s OK. Kate knows all about this. Mulroney cleared it.”

“Oh. Yeah. It seems Fisher was shot assassin-style before he was dumped.”

CJ looked at Kate. “He had priors. He was drug dealing, although the stuff he was caught for in the beginning was pretty small-time. You were right about the bar too. He bought it cash.”

“Maybe he was mixed up with Francis then. Suddenly having that kind of money seems unusual, doesn’t it?” Kate rubbed her chin, totally immersed her wife’s train of thought.

Jamie watched with intrigue and wondered how a civilian could be so involved in all this FBI talk. “If you guys need help with this, I’m available anytime,” she offered, not realizing who Francis was.

Both women looked up suddenly from the file to assess Jamie’s expression. They saw only a genuine offer of help and a lop-sided smile.

“Thanks,” CJ said, returning the smile politely. She still felt a little wary of the new agent, but she was willing to give her a chance…as long as she kept her hands off Kate. Stop it. Katie trusts me and I trust Katie. Quit being such an idiot.

At that moment, Ethan came through the door with his shoulders slumped and a grim look on his face. He sighed and dumped his butt in a chair. “Francis is dead.”

* * * * * *

Jamie came back into the office after offering to buy some decent drinks at a nearby bistro. “Latte?”

“That’s me,” said Kate, taking the cup that was offered.

Jamie handed out the rest and sat down to try to catch up with the conversation.

“So how exactly was he killed?” CJ asked.

Ethan sighed. “Shot. One entry wound on the forehead. Could have been point blank, too.”

“Same as Fisher,” Kate murmured.

“Are we still thinking that the guy the Deputy Director shot is MacPherson?” CJ threw the idea out there once again.

“What? Wait…can someone catch me up a little? Sorry, I feel like I’m no help here. The Deputy Director?” Jamie repeated.

“Yeah. OK. It’s kind of all over the place right now, but some of it’s coming together. Ready?” At Jamie’s nod, CJ continued. “Short version is I walked in on a shooting. DD Francis killed a guy then shot me because I witnessed it. At the same time we had a file for the kidnapping of a diamond broker, and AD Mulroney has now told us that Francis knew him too. This Fisher guy was a small-time drug dealer and a long-time friend of Francis. We have an, as yet unknown, agent who was helping Francis in this…deleted camera footage…and I’ll be damned if I can figure out who that is yet, so I want all eyes and ears open. I’m assuming it’s not you because you just got here…” CJ shrugged when Jamie shot her a look. “I’ve gotta look at every angle,” she said as gently as she could.

“I get that. And no, it’s not me. OK, so how come Kate’s here?”

Kate raised an eyebrow. She hadn’t figured that one out either. She understood her connection to Fisher but still wondered how she came to be sitting in an FBI office with three agents discussing a case that was classified.

“I know it’s unorthodox, but this case isn’t exactly filed under normal,” CJ said somewhat defensively. “And the AD has cleared her involvement and somehow managed to fudge over her presence here. To be honest, you’d have to know our history to see how Kate is connected to all this and quite frankly, she’s progressed the case immeasurably in the last few days.” CJ turned to give a brief smile to her wife and found green eyes watching her with complete devotion.

Jamie seemed to notice it too and conceded the point. “I agree that this is an unusual case. Maybe it calls for an unusual approach with as much trusted help as we can find,” she offered.

“Just don’t pass it around that she’s here…please,” CJ said quietly.

Jamie gave her a nod, and they focused their attention back on the files. CJ explained that she had spoken briefly with Mark and he had looked into Francis’s past, including his accounts. Francis had used MacPherson’s Gems on a few occasions and, according to a MacPherson employee, he had become quite friendly with the owner. All in all, it looked more and more like he was the one shot in the garage, and Fisher, Francis and an unknown federal agent were involved in the whole thing. CJ suspected that this unknown agent was responsible for the two recent killings but didn’t voice her thoughts yet. She just hoped it didn’t go further into the Bureau.

When the discussion started to go around in circles, she decided to wrap it up for the day. “We’d better get going. If you find anything else just call me or drop by the house.”

“No problem, CJ. I’ll drop by with everything I find, tomorrow,” Ethan said.

“Will you be wanting food again, Ethan?” Kate asked with a smile.

He grinned. “Not this time, Kate, but I’ll take a rain check on that. You’re a great cook.”

Kate smiled, and after a goodbye to Jamie the couple left. The office fell silent as Ethan went to grab a cup of water and returned to his chair. He began to tidy his papers and noticed that Jamie sitting deep in thought, staring at her desktop. “What’s with you?”

“Hmm? Oh, nothing. They seem really nice. I just wish I hadn’t blown it when I first met them,” Jamie said sullenly.

“Well Kate seems to like you, and CJ will come around, but they’re really protective of one another…probably why you came to blows with CJ when you were ogling her wife,” Ethan said with a restrained grin.

“I wasn’t ogling her. OK, I was. But my God, they’re a stunning couple, don’t you think?”

“They are. And they’re very happy…I mean, very happy together. If you remember that, you’ll get on just fine with CJ.”

“Thanks for the advice, man,” Jamie said sarcastically.

Ethan laughed and activated his computer before the atmosphere became all business again and they got back to work.

* * * * * *

Tony perked up when he saw CJ and Kate approach. He had thought they would only be in the office for a minute or two. He didn’t mind waiting but thought he could have been doing something more useful while they were gone.

“Sorry, Tony,” CJ said once she got comfy in the back. “Things got complicated.”

“I’d imagine things always get complicated in the FBI,” he grinned. “That’s why I like my simple job.”

“Simple?” Kate asked, eyeing him in the rearview mirror. “I’ll have to think of more things for you to do.”

Tony smiled. “Actually, I just got a call about a job offer. Big rock star, too.”

Kate’s face fell as she panicked a little inside. She trusted Tony and didn’t want to lose him. “Are you going to take it?”

“Well it’s a little more money, but no, I’m not gonna take it. I love working for you and I’m happy right now. No need for a change. And no need for a raise either, Miss Kate,” he said, correctly assessing her thoughts.

“That’s good to know, Tony. I like having you as my driver and dog walker,” she replied with a grin and a wink.

He laughed and shook his head as he eased the car out of the parking spot. CJ smiled at Kate and slipped her arm around her shoulder. Kate leaned into her wife and relaxed in the surrounding warmth until they arrived home. The usual arrangements were made about when Tony would come back, and after he left, Kate decided to take Kamali out for a walk.

“Want to come with us?”

CJ turned to see her partner standing at the backdoor with Kamali waiting patiently by her side. “Yeah. It’s been a while since we all went out together. Hold on, I need painkillers first.”

“Is it worse today, honey?” Kate said with concern.

“No, Katie. We’ve just been out for hours. I’m supposed to take them four times a day.”

“Shit, yeah. We did take forever at the office, huh?”

“Yep,” CJ said before gulping down some water. “Let’s go.”

As they walked around the farmland CJ took in the setting sun, the smell of warm bark on the nearby trees, the dust swirling from the track as the dog ran around, and the sound of birds swarming above them. The house and barn came into view as they turned for home, and she spotted the horses having a mad five minutes of galloping and bucking in their field. She smiled and turned to her stunning wife who was throwing a stick for Kamali for the millionth time. He would always bounce happily after it and run back to drop it at her feet for a repeat performance. CJ was happy and she realized she had a goofy grin on her face when Kate raised a curious eyebrow at her.

“I just love you so much,” CJ said in explanation.

Kate approached her and planted a soft yet passionate kiss on her lips. “Let’s head back and I’ll feed you. But after that, I’ll show you how much I love you too,” she purred. Her husky voice made CJ’s knees weak and Kate smiled with satisfaction. It seemed she had the same effect on CJ, as CJ had on her.

* * * * * *

CJ basked in the wealth of emotion and sensation that Kate invoked in her. She had never felt so much in her life, never allowed herself to feel. But Kate took her heart with such ease that her power over CJ never ceased to amaze the formidable agent. She could feel that power now as Kate brought her unceasingly to another intense orgasm. Kate knew CJ’s body so well, knew how to hold her at the crest of that wave making the resulting climax almost too much to bear…almost. After two of those blessed crescendos, CJ tried to reciprocate but her wife was relentless, not letting her off the bed and hovering over her as she teased her, gradually arousing her to a state of pure bliss once again.

Kate couldn’t believe her hunger. All she wanted to do tonight was make love to CJ, consume her. It was overwhelming. She covered every single millimeter of CJ’s skin with her mouth and with her fingers, wanting the woman to feel how much she wanted her, needed her. She settled between CJ’s thighs and moaned at the heady scent and taste that was uniquely CJ. Kate had brought her to orgasm twice already, the first one simply achieved by running her hands over CJ’s torso and breasts.

Kate was always astounded at the effect she had on her lover, seemingly able to arouse her from a simple look or fleeting touch. She couldn’t get enough of CJ, and sometimes showing that need was more important than anything else. She heard the familiar sound of her wife gasping out breaths of sheer delight, and she knew CJ was getting close. Kate wrapped both her arms over the supple thighs that surrounded her to hold CJ in place. As CJ’s long fingers settled in her blond locks and held her firmer against her fully-aroused sex, Kate knew it was time and breathed heavily into the warm, throbbing skin, manipulating the swollen clit with familiar skill. As CJ climaxed, she drank greedily and kept her caresses steady to guide her wife through the aftermath. A few moments later, she tenderly kissed the burning skin before carefully moving back up CJ’s boneless and sated body.

“I…you…” CJ gave up trying to speak and waved her hand in front of her face, shaking her head.

Kate delicately kissed the tears on her wife’s cheeks and smiled lovingly at her. “That last one getcha?”

“All…got me. God…”

“I love watching you come. You’re so beautiful,” Kate said, her eyes intent on her defeated prey.

CJ’s groin twitched again, although how that was possible she didn’t know. “And I love watching you too…but you didn’t give me that chance tonight,” she responded, pouting her best poor-soul face.

“And if I don’t, you’ll continue with that?” Kate asked, pointing to the luscious lips.

“Uh-huh. I’m hungry.”

Kate had to admit she desperately needed release. Pleasuring CJ had set her on fire. So much so she thought she might spontaneously combust soon. She thought how to go about this without hurting CJ and after a few seconds, she straddled her wife’s stomach keeping her weight supported on her knees. CJ’s eyes widened and she licked her lips.

“Well?” Kate’s eyebrows rose into her bangs in question.

CJ knew exactly what her answer would be. She placed her hands on Kate’s shoulders, sliding her fingers down slowly to cover Kate’s breasts. She paid close attention to her full mounds and pert nipples before continuing south. Kate panted as she felt the wonderful fingers grasp her buttocks, kneading the soft flesh there. Then her green eyes opened to meet CJ’s gaze as she guided Kate forward toward her mouth.

Kate gripped the headboard and looked down at CJ whose eyes were dark and sparkling with desire. CJ held the contact and licked her lips with exaggerated intent, feeling the body she was holding shiver with anticipation. Kate knew she had never experienced anything so intense in her life. Being with CJ was the best thing she had ever known, and when her wife’s tongue reached its destination, all thought melted into an incoherent haze of pleasure.

* * * * * *

Kneeling in front of the safe in a darkened, back office, the soon-to-be ex-special agent examined the sparkling pile of stones on the floor. They were large and crystal clear, and there had to be about a hundred of them. The money and power was practically drooling from his mouth as he started pushing them back into the velvet sack.

“These are uncut!” the thief said in disbelief.

“Yeah, but the buyer knows that. Apparently they’re pure white and he knows his stuff…cuts them himself. That’s why he’s payin’ so much. Pure as the driven snow.”

They quickly stashed all the diamonds inside a rucksack and got to their feet. A sudden crash when the street door slammed open startled them both. The voice that followed set the agent’s teeth on edge.

“This is the LAPD. Drop any weapons and come out with your hands where we can see them. No sudden moves!”

“Fuck! I thought you disabled the alarm?” the pissed-off agent grunted.

The thief shrugged. “Must have tripped a silent backup…”

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” The agent headed for the fire exit, using his full body weight to barge through the door. He was quickly followed by his accomplice. Flashing lights were coming around the building as they ran for cover through a nearby alleyway. A few minutes later, they had broken into a blue Chrysler, hot-wired it, and disappeared into the night.

.

Chapter 5

Special Agent Jamie Green sat at her desk looking slightly disheveled. She had felt a little humiliated being so clueless about things yesterday. She wanted to help CJ with the case and had stayed very late last night to read up on everything. She hoped it might go some way to smoothing things out between them. She regretted being her usual, lustful and brash self, but CJ and Kate had really caught her off guard. They were both beautiful women, and the fact that they were a couple didn’t really register with her at first. She wanted a new start here and that meant changing her ways. No more conquer them and leave them, no more breaking hearts for the fun of it. It was time to grow up.

She looked at her watch as Ethan shuffled through the door, closing it tightly behind him. It was ten thirty in the morning but she knew he had been up most of the night with the assistant director going over the information from Francis’s priority autopsy and forensic examination. She was also aware that a burnt-out car had been found with partial human remains in the trunk. They suspected it was MacPherson but had to wait for the forensic analysis before they could say for sure. With at least one dirty federal agent still to be identified, they were working hard to solve the puzzle but it made for a tense atmosphere at times, especially when other agents came in showing an interest in certain aspects of the investigation or delivering reports. Trying to answer their questions without answering their questions was an art in itself.

LA sure is different, Jamie thought, pinching the bridge of her nose. She’d only just got here and was already mixed up in one hell of a case.

“Morning, Jamie,” Ethan greeted as he walked in.

“Hey, Ethan. What’s new?”

“Not much. Francis’s cause of death was the gunshot wound to the head. No surprise there. They haven’t found anything else and the car is still being examined. What have you been up to?”

“Just some paperwork, and catching myself up on all this stuff.” Jamie wiggled the case file in front of her. “I felt so out of my depth yesterday but I’m all caught up now. And I read the file on Kate’s abduction too. That must have been pretty damn scary for her.”

“Yeah. She’s a tough woman to take a beating like that for a week and still manage to escape.”

Jamie nodded and ran her tongue over her teeth. “She is indeed.”

“Where’s Powell?” Ethan said, noticing for the first time that they were still alone.

Jamie blinked. “Who?”

“Our colleague…Agent Powell. He had a couple of days off but he should’ve been back this morning.”

“Oh, the guy I went to The Double Take with? Maybe he’s out sick?” Jamie offered.

“I’ll check with the AD. Maybe he called off.”

“How long have you known him?”

“The AD?”

“No, Powell.”

“He arrived about a year ago. I don’t know him that well. He’s pretty by the book, keeps to himself. Why?”

Jamie shook her head. “I just wondered. He seemed…I dunno…I can’t put my finger on it. I was only with him an hour or so, but he was real sharp with me when we were looking for Fisher.”

“How so?” Ethan said, tilting his head to watch her.

“Like I said, I’m not sure. I was questioning an employee, and he seemed to cut me off like I was some stupid rookie who didn’t have a clue.” Jamie met Ethan’s eyes. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t consider you a rookie, Ethan.”

He bit his lip. “Thanks. I’ll go check with Mulroney…see if he knows anything.”

Once he’d left, Jamie mentally kicked herself for putting her pretty large foot into her even bigger mouth. She was good at her job. That was for sure, but relationships…friendships? She sucked at those. She cradled her head in her hands and sighed deeply in frustration.

* * * * * *

“He called off sick, Matthews. Didn’t sound too good either.”

“Yes, Sir. I just wanted to check since he isn’t in the office an’ all.” Ethan relaxed his shoulders. “Do you have anything new, Sir?”

Mark looked up from his desk, seeming a little confused. “Oh, with the case? Yes. They identified MacPherson from his dental records. This whole thing is turning out to be pretty horrific and motivated by greed, it seems.”

“I found something too, Sir.”

“Sit down, Matthews. Tell me what you’ve got,” Mark said, gesturing to the chair.

Ethan sat and leaned his elbows on the desk. “I found one of Francis’s ex-girlfriends. She told me he had a gambling problem. Apparently he took her to Vegas a couple of times, and had bought her some rocks from MacPherson. She also said he went on Bureau business to New York once but didn’t return before a blow-out visit to Atlantic City. Seems it was quite a serious addiction, Sir…”

Mark raised both eyebrows and nodded slowly. “It certainly makes a lot of sense. It could be possible then, that Francis got involved in this for the money to pay off loan sharks or something like that.”

“My thoughts exactly, Sir. This Courtney woman thought he was in some trouble but she couldn’t say exactly what.”

“Good work, Ethan. This certainly helps. Looks like Francis just got in way over his head. Damn shame. Keep on it.”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll update CJ when I call her later.”

“Excellent.”

* * * * * *

CJ fidgeted on the front porch. Kate was still asleep, and she didn’t want the doorbell to wake her and chance ruining any surprises. She had been waiting out front for half an hour when she saw the Mercedes gliding up the long driveway. Standing up and brushing off her denim-clad butt cheeks, she strolled over to Tony while avoiding a bouncing Kamali on her way. “Did you get it?”

“Sure did. It’s a cracker, CJ. I bought you a hatbox too…wasn’t sure if you had any wrap,” Tony said, offering her the flat-packed box.

“You’re amazing, Tony. I was wondering how I was gonna wrap the damn thing.”

“How’s the pain today?” he asked as he followed her into the house.

“I don’t have any but I’m not gonna go wrestling just yet,” CJ said with a grin.

“So what you got planned for the birthday dinner?” Tony asked cheerfully as he leaned on the kitchen counter.

CJ hid the gift with the other one that was stashed inside the window seat. “Well, considering the kind of week we’ve had it’ll be a pretty simple affair. I’ll need your help getting the boat out of the barn before you go.” When he nodded a confirmation, she continued. “I’m gonna take her out for a picnic lunch on the lake, then she has to go to the studios around three, then home for a nice romantic dinner.”

“Sounds great. I’ll head off just now since I have a few things to do before my big date tonight, but I’ll be back in plenty time for your visit to the studios,” Tony said, snagging a banana from the fruit bowl and raising an eyebrow in question.

CJ smirked and nodded. “You gonna tell me about this new girl?”

“She works at the studios. Not my usual type but there’s something very special about her.”

“Good. I hope it goes well.”

“Thanks, CJ. OK, I’ll get going…and let you get wrapping,” he said, smiling. “I’ll pull the boat out and tie it to the mooring for you before I leave.”

“Thank you so much. See ya, Tony.”

After he had gone, she grabbed the gifts from the window seat and slipped into the study. She knew Kate had wanted a Stetson, and quite frankly CJ couldn’t wait to see her in it. Her heart rate increased a little at the thought. Once she had boxed the hat and wrapped the ribbon to her satisfaction, she took the other small gift and opened the casing to look at the necklace. This was a special gift that she wanted her wife to have. She hoped Kate would love it as much as she did. And of course, there was also the little rowing boat. She recalled the night they sat on the front porch and sleepily gazed out over the lake. Kate had spoken about using it for something and joked about water-skiing. CJ figured they’d start small and go for a more relaxing row instead.

When CJ returned to the kitchen, she looked at the clock. “It’s gonna be lunch time before she even gets up.” She chuckled and walked to the fridge. “OK, just some toast and tea to keep her going.” She prepared the little brunch and headed upstairs balancing the tray in her hands.

Seeing Kate sprawled across the bed completely unconscious with her hair in disarray and her mouth hanging open, CJ had to swallow back her giggle. She remembered the conversation they had back in Montana when they had first met. Kate had described her usual state in the morning, and even though CJ had witnessed it many times now, she still thought it was absolutely adorable. She mentally shrugged and decided that Kate in any state was adorable to her. She placed the tray at the side of the bed and bent down to kiss the bare skin on her wife’s belly. With a small moan of protest, Kate reached down to scratch the tingling area. CJ couldn’t hold back her chuckle this time and Kate opened her eyes.

“I don’t have a bomb, but would tea and toast suffice?” CJ asked, quirking her signature dark eyebrow.

Kate blinked. “You made me breakfast in bed?”

“Well…I made you birthday brunch in bed.”

The sleepy woman stopped mid-thigh-scratch and stared at CJ. “Oh my God, I forgot. We’ve been so pre-occupied…” Her eyes softened and she smiled lovingly at her thoughtful wife. “Oh, honey…”

CJ lowered herself down further for a kiss. “Happy birthday, beautiful,” she purred.

“Thank you. Do you know how much I love you?”

“Yep. I’m a lucky, lucky lady.”

“No, I’m the lucky one. Thank you for this,” Kate gushed as she reached for the card on the tray. She read the message inside and looked at CJ with glistening eyes. “You’re just a big softie, hon.”

“Yep. Here…your first present,” CJ said while handing a little gift to her wife.

Kate looked positively bashful as she unwrapped the paper. She opened the delicate casing and gasped when she saw the necklace. “Oh, CJ, it’s beautiful. I love it!” She flung her arms around CJ’s neck and then looked at the necklace again.

“It was my Mom’s,” CJ said quietly. “I want you to have it now.”

Kate realized how important this was and tried to hold back her tears as she looked at it again. It was a white-gold chain with a circular pendant, created in the image of a dream-catcher. The outer ring was also white gold and the incredibly intricate web was some kind of red gold. In the center was a tiny emerald nesting in its invisible cradle. Kate thought it was exquisite.

“May I?” CJ asked, clasping the casing in her hand.

Kate let it go, and CJ took the necklace out to undo the fastening. She wriggled over to Kate who was temporarily speechless and who simply lifted her hair so that CJ could put the necklace on her.

“This is so…” Kate couldn’t find a word powerful enough to explain what the gift meant to her, so she shook her head and gave up trying.

CJ settled the pendant on her wife’s upper chest and stared into her eyes. “I love you.”

Kate’s tears burst from her eyes and she hugged CJ tightly. “I love you too…so much.”

Once they’d eventually parted, CJ lifted a piece of toast and put it in Kate’s mouth, letting go when the teeth came together to grab it. “Just a tiny brunch. I have lunch all planned.”

“You do? I’m intrigued,” Kate mumbled around her food.

“Yep, and Tony will be here at two thirty to take us to the studio. Then when we come back I’m making dinner,” CJ said, taking a slurp of her tea.

“Should I be worried?” Kate teased.

“Smart-ass. I’m not that bad in the kitchen.”

A vision of CJ making love to her on the dining table flashed across Kate’s mind and she blushed hotly. “Hmm, I guess not.”

“Oh you are incorrigible!” CJ growled as she recognized the look on Kate’s bright-red face.

Kate laughed, and they finished their snack with some much-needed, lighthearted conversation. After clearing up the tray, CJ ran a luxurious bath and added the oils and bubbles she knew Kate liked. Once Kate was settled in the soothing water, CJ dropped a cushion on the floor and sat beside the tub. She was sticking with showers right now to let her stitches heal properly.

“This reminds me of the first time you did this for me,” Kate said, looking over at her fondly.

“Seems forever ago, huh?”

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking about the strange ways that our lives were connected even before Montana. I wonder, if I hadn’t met you that way, would we still have gotten together somehow?”

“I can’t imagine life without you, Katie, so yeah, I believe we would’ve met someday. Must be fate…”

Kate nodded. “I know I keep saying it, but I love you so much, CJ.”

“You can say it as many times as you want, honey. I love hearing it from you. You hold my heart.”

Another tear trailed down Kate’s cheek. It was a tear of happiness, and when CJ reached up to kiss her, she returned it with gusto.

A couple of hours later they were sitting in the boat – the sight of which had Kate in floods of happy tears again – floating in the middle of the lake. CJ had brought a tartan blanket and a full picnic basket. Kate was on the little bench seat sitting cross-legged and sipping on some refreshing grape juice with a blissful smile on her face. She loved how thoughtful her wife had been with her gifts, and how thoughtful she was being right now. CJ would occasionally split a cherry and take the stone out before popping it into Kate’s mouth. They seemed to lose track of time and both turned in surprise when Tony arrived in his car. Kate looked at CJ and shrugged. CJ looked at her watch and shrugged back. At least someone had been watching the clock. Tony waved from the front of the house, and Kate grabbed the oars to paddle her new rowboat back to shore.

While Kate got changed into something more suitable for the studios, CJ called Ethan back after finding a message from him on her cell. He updated her on everything they had discovered in her absence, and she told him she’d come in tomorrow to check in with him again. She passed on his birthday wishes to Kate as they walked together to the car. CJ tossed the keys to Tony, and within minutes they were well on their way to the studios.

During her meeting, Kate was given an extra day off since the scenes that didn’t involve her were not completed on schedule. Back outside in the afternoon sun, she was standing with CJ on the studio lot when a frustrated Samantha Morris came trudging over to them. Sam had been Kate’s executive producer on her last show and would always remain a good friend.

“Hi. Kate. Hey, CJ,” she said, hugging Kate briefly.

Kate looked sympathetically at her friend. “Hey, Sam. You look a little flustered.”

“No kidding. The Phoenix has had re-takes on its re-takes this week. Will you hurry up and come back please? I’ve been looking for you in my off moments. You are the only thing that keeps me sane!”

Kate laughed. “I’ll be back in two days. They gave me an extra one off because of filming delays. How’s it going with my replacement?”

Sam shrugged. “It’s not the same for me, but she’s filling the role OK, I guess.” She got distracted when she noticed Kate’s necklace. “Wow, that’s unusual. It’s beautiful.”

“CJ gave it to me for my birthday.”

“Aw, that is so sweet. You have good taste, CJ. It’s nice, very nice.”

“Thanks, Sam. I have to agree that I have good taste,” CJ said, deliberately eyeing her wife.

Sam laughed and after a quick chat and a birthday peck on the cheek, she left to go back to work. Kate made a quick diversion to pick up another bundle of messages before they headed for home.

* * * * * *

As usual, Tony was keen to walk the dog when they arrived at the ranch house. After a fifteen minute sprint, he was just as tired as Kamali and he waved lazily to CJ as he left in his car. Kamali flopped onto the floor once he’d quenched his thirst, and CJ went to in search her beloved. Kate stood behind the kitchen counter, her eyes barely visible over the large, bright box wrapped in colorful ribbon.

CJ could tell from the partial view that her wife was smiling menacingly. “You’re not opening that one yet. After dinner,” she ordered.

“Aw pleeeeease…” Kate put on her best, cute pout.

“Nuh-uh, after dinner.”

“God, you’re strict.”

CJ enveloped her in strong arms and kissed her senseless, leaving Kate staggering slightly and groping for the edge of the counter. CJ then snagged the utensils she needed for cooking, and Kate sighed, taking her seat on the stool next to the counter.

“What we having?”

“Grilled sea bass. I know you love that, and I can’t ruin it…too much,” CJ said with a wink.

Kate snorted and leaned her chin on her hands to gaze at her alluring spouse dreamily. “Ooh, Dad called to wish me a happy birthday. He was asking for you…again.”

“Sweet. What did you tell him?”

“I told him you were tough as nails and that he should stop worrying because I’m doing enough of that for everyone.” Kate grinned sheepishly.

CJ grinned back and threw her a nod. “I really feel good, honey, but I won’t tell you to stop worrying. I know that would be pointless.”

“Uh-huh. Anyway Dad sent a gift, but it won’t get here ‘til tomorrow. I dread to think what he got you.”

“Something highly embarrassing perhaps…?

Kate laughed. “Yeah. More than likely,” she said, sipping on her wine.

CJ set the table while they talked, lighting a few candles and putting the warm bread from the oven into a serving basket. She kissed Kate’s forehead before returning to the stove to finish her meal preparation.

CJ did not disappoint. The meal was delicious, and Kate cleaned her plate after having an irresistible second helping.

Once they’d cleared the dishes, Kate eyed the gift box again, and CJ told her she could begin to open it. Kate frowned when her wife disappeared as she tugged on the ribbon, but she soon gasped when she saw the Stetson. She had always wanted one, and CJ had chosen a beauty. Then she looked up and her mouth fell open when she saw CJ had returned wearing an identical hat, her thumbs jammed in the pockets of her jeans while she pretended to chew on a piece of tobacco. She lifted one hand and tipped the brim of her hat.

“Howdy, ma’am. New in town?”

Kate’s pulse quickened and her nostrils flared at the sight of her incredibly hot wife and she drew a few breaths before replying in the same imitation Western cowboy accent. “Why, yes I am. And who might you be?”

“Well, I’ma thinkin’ you’ll soon find out, a fine lady like yourself,” CJ drawled, sliding her tongue round her teeth.

Kate’s heart was about to pound right out of her chest. CJ looked sexy as hell, and she couldn’t stop herself from licking her lips. “Good Sir, I’m not that kinda girl. You presume too much.”

“Not sure I like the sound o’that, little lady. I usually gets what I wants. I’m the stud in these here parts.”

Kate was desperate to grab a hold of her wife, but she also couldn’t hold back her snort any longer and burst into a fit of giggles. She got up from the stool and walked with a definite swagger across the kitchen to CJ who was propping up the doorframe with her shoulder, her legs crossed at the ankles. “You make an incredibly, handsome cowboy, honey. Thank you for the gift. It’s so great. We’ll have to go riding wearing our Stetsons, huh?”

CJ grinned widely. “Oh, yeah. But we better make it a quick one because I can’t guarantee you’ll keep it on for long,” she purred, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

“Hmm. I’d have to say the same thing to you. I could just consume you right now. So uh…what else am I getting for my birthday?” Kate whispered, tilting her head to lick CJ’s ear.

“Uh…oh. Uh…anything you want, honey, anything.”

“That’ll be you then. Let’s go…stud.”

.

Chapter 6

The next day, a nervous federal agent wore his best suit and carried a black briefcase that concealed the sparkling treasures within. Walking into the swanky office of his buyer, he fiddled with his tie to try to stop his hands from shaking. After talking with the receptionist, he sat down and focused on his rather erratic breathing. His stomach twisted almost painfully when the man came out to greet him.

The buyer was a tall man and equally as wide. He clearly never wanted for anything in his life, including food. The agent swallowed convulsively as he stood to shake his hand in what he hoped was a confident greeting.

“Come in and sit down,” the buyer said as he closed the office door behind them. “Have there been problems?”

“No. No problems.”

“Then where is Francis?” the large man inquired.

“He sent me to complete the transaction, Sir,” the agent replied, trying to keep his voice calm and commanding.

“Now why would he do that? He knew I would only deal with him.”

Feeling his heart jump into his throat, the agent suddenly realized that he didn’t have every base covered after all. He thought furiously for a few seconds while faking a cough to give him time to think. The buyer poured him a glass of water and handed it over the desk with a suspicious look on his face.

The agent gathered his thoughts and finally spoke up. “He had a few family issues to deal with and he asked me to fill in for him. I suppose you could call him to confirm this arrangement,” he said, praying that the man wouldn’t take him up on the suggestion.

“I’m sure I can wait until after the family problems. You tell him to get back to me then. No deal unless I speak with him personally. He knows that.”

“But…”

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do,” the buyer said, pointing to the door.

“Hold on a minute…”

“No! You hold on a minute, sonny. You’re wasting my time. Leave now. This office is crawling with security guards who can escort you out that door, if you know what I mean. Would you like me to call them?”

The defeated man got up stiffly and left before the buyer had a chance to figure out that he actually had the diamonds in his case, and just killed him and took them for free. He didn’t think that was this guy’s style, though. He didn’t look as if he got blood on his own hands. The disgruntled agent stormed down the corridor towards the thief who was sitting waiting for him. “Outside…now. We’ll talk in the car,” he barked.

Once they were in the car and on the move, the thief looked over from the driver’s seat. He had been told what had happened and had gotten pretty mad. He finally swerved the car off the street and into an alleyway, bringing it to a stop and clenching his fists repeatedly. “Are you seriously telling me we went through all that fucking crap and he won’t even deal with us? You are a fucking idiot!”

“Calm the hell down, man. I’ll think of something.”

“You’d better think real fast.”

The agent’s mind was reeling as the thief pulled the car back out into the traffic. Could I go back to work…just for a few days until I think of something else? I need to put the gun back in evidence before they realize it’s gone and start snooping around. Then what? Sell the rocks on fucking eBay? He had to think of something because this was not going at all well. “Hey man, go back to the warehouse. There’s a lock-up at the side where we can store these babies safely until I figure out our next move.”

“Oh yeah? And who gets the key for that?”

The agent sighed. “Listen, I’ll get the money. I guarantee it. But the deal is for the whole lot together. How about we split the haul and put them in two places? Would that make you feel better? Or do you wanna just carry the damn things around and stick together with our guns at the fucking ready?”

“All right, all right. Jesus, man, split ‘em…half each. And gimme one of the keys,” the thief said, taking a left turn to head for the Pearson’s warehouse.

* * * * * *

Mark Mulroney sat at his desk pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. He couldn’t relax knowing that someone in the field office was mixed up on the wrong side of this case. He had gone through the Deputy Director’s rolodex and found different telephone number for MacPherson scored through three separate times, leading Mark to believe that Francis had known the man for years. It was all making more sense but he was still feeling edgy, and he jumped when the phone rang right next to him. “Mulroney.”

“Assistant Director Mulroney. It’s Smith from downstairs. Sir, I needed to get a hold of one of your agents but there’s nobody picking up in their office.”

“What do you need, Smith?”

“Well, Sir, I have a court date coming up that was brought forward, and one of your agents has signed out some evidence that I need to produce for the prosecution. It’s left me puzzled, I’ve got to say.”

That got Mark’s attention and he sat up stiffly in his chair. “Go on…”

“I wouldn’t have troubled you, Sir, but it was an unregistered weapon and the main piece of evidence in my case. I can’t decipher the signature on the book, but I believe it was Powell because Bessie saw him a few days ago leaving the basement with the gun in his hand. You know how she notices everything that goes on in her department, but she never thought anything of it at the time. Could you look into it for me?”

“Oh, I will do that immediately, Smith. Sorry about this,” Mark said, careful not to give anything away at this point.

He hung up and began pacing the floor. An unregistered gun? It was all coming together now, but he had to make sure Powell came into the office otherwise they’d never find him. He had called off sick, so that could mean he didn’t think they were onto him. Of course, Powell could have a very good explanation for taking the gun but Mark certainly couldn’t come up with one. Smith wasn’t involved with their department, and Powell hadn’t been involved with any of Smith’s cases. Mark’s mind raced around furiously. He needed to speak with his agents and tell them what he suspected, but they couldn’t act on it without more proof.

* * * * * *

CJ came back into the house and wandered through the hallway, dropping her keys on the coffee table in the living room. She entered the kitchen looking for Kate and found a man with dark hair standing at the open fridge. Her initial reaction was to launch herself at him and pin him to the floor, but he seemed too relaxed to be an intruder and there was no sign of any disturbance.

She stealthily walked up behind him and spoke harshly in his ear. “May I help you?”

Eddie Marshall Junior threw the carton of juice he was holding up in the air in fright. It came crashing down at their feet, splattering over their shoes and pant legs. “Jesus! Why the hell did you do that?” he blurted.

“Who the hell are…?” CJ slapped her hand to her forehead. “Damn it. You’re Eddie, aren’t you?”

“Uh yeah, nice to meet you, sis,” he said, smirking at her.

She blew out a breath and smiled. “Nice to meet you too. You don’t look anything like your pictures.”

“Well, you do…and they did not do you justice.”

They were hugging briefly when Kate strolled through the door and interrupted. On hearing Eddie’s last comment, she approached in full big-sister mode. “Eddie, please don’t embarrass me or…” Kate stopped in her tracks. “Uh, what happened?”

CJ bit her lips while Eddie pointed at her with his thumb. They both looked awfully guilty and it almost made Kate laugh out loud.

“Figures,” Kate said, rolling her eyes and resuming her walk. She kissed CJ on the cheek and then looked toward Eddie. “So what did she do? Clout you on the back of the head?”

“Something like that,” CJ butted in sheepishly.

“Well since I’m not having juice now, shall I make the coffee?” Eddie muttered. CJ shot him a glare, and he quickly moved away to grab some paper towels.

Kate intercepted him and took them from his hands. “You get the coffee. I’ll clear up, and Legs there can grab the remainder of the cake from the cupboard,” she said before sticking her tongue out at her wife.

Kamali spotted the plate of cake and came to escort them to the living room. He lay down on the floor within crumb grabbing distance to keep his eye on each bite as it left the table. The three humans flopped down on the couch and sipped on hot coffee. The cake remained on the plate for the time being.

“Sorry I couldn’t make it to your wedding, CJ. My company chose that week to send me overseas. Timing really sucked,” Eddie said, taking the first piece of cake. Kamali casually followed his hand as it went to his mouth.

“Yeah, Katie said you were in Ireland. You’re in IT, right?”

“Yep…for my sins.” Eddie said around the treat before he swallowed it. “My company sent me here today too. I have a job to do tomorrow, and then it’s back to North Carolina. Still, I wanted to be at your wedding. Kate rants about you on the phone so I was desperate to meet the woman who makes my sister gush.”

That earned him a sharp nudge from Kate’s powerful elbow, and he winced. “Ow!”

CJ snickered, and Kate sat smugly sipping her drink. They talked with Eddie for a while longer, discussing what had happened at their wedding and speculating about the upcoming nuptials of Dad and Jeffrey. Eddie had also brought Kate a birthday gift, a painting he had done of the Rocky Mountains. CJ loved his thoughtfulness and decided she truly liked her brother-in-law. He had an easy manner, similar to Kate, but he clearly had his mother’s coloring, with those almost-black eyes and dark-brown hair. And he was taller than Kate too, by quite a bit. The two siblings looked like night and day, and yet there was a familiarity in his manner, no doubt stemming from their mutual father.

Dad’s birthday gift for Kate had arrived that morning. She was overwhelmed to find it was a beautiful framed photo of CJ which had obviously been taken when she was singing to Kate on stage at Prescilla’s the previous year. Kate had very quickly found a prominent spot for it in the living room where she could look at it every time she walked past. Eddie had also sent her two first edition books that she had wanted for a while, one of them signed by the author who happened to be related to Jeffrey. She had called both parents in tears to thank them for the gifts.

Sensing a distinct lack of cake coming his way, Kamali headed out the open back door and went to dig up his bone in the yard. Sometime later when the humans had finished gorging themselves on food and coffee, two women and one dog took Eddie for a walk to show him around their beloved home. Eddie was impressed and surprised at how un-Hollywood the place was, but he didn’t say anything to that effect. He could see how happy his sister was and it warmed his heart tremendously. He couldn’t remember ever seeing that unique sparkle in her eyes which seemed to become even brighter every time she looked at CJ.

I’ll find something like that one day, he thought as they walked back.

With pizza ordered for dinner to save on cooking and dishes, they spent a few more hours in pleasant conversation until it was time for Eddie to leave. He hugged them both tightly and promised to visit again soon before driving off in his rental car.

Kate and CJ were closing up the house for the night when Kate spotted headlights moving up the driveway toward the house. She watched from the window and saw Mark and Jamie get out of the car before she shouted to let CJ know they had more company. CJ met them at the front door with a mild frown on her face.

“Sorry to disturb you so late, CJ,” Mark said in apology.

“It’s all right. Come on in, Sir. Hi, Jamie.”

“Hey, CJ. I hope you don’t mind me coming here?”

“Not at all…”

Everyone entered the living room, and Kate settled on the arm of the couch next to her wife. CJ slipped her arm comfortingly around her waist and looked at Mark expectantly.

“I’m assuming you have more info?” she asked.

“Yes. Our unknown agent seems to be Powell.” The information shocked CJ, but Mark sighed and continued. “It appears Powell signed out a piece of evidence without good reason. A gun, from a case Agent Smith was working on. He called looking for it today.”

“My God. Powell works right there with us, Sir.”

“Oh, I know. Right under our noses, although he hasn’t been in much since the whole thing kicked off. I guess he planned that. Anyway I checked up on Smith’s case. It had ballistics information in it. I had them run a comparison and it matches up with the bullet found in Francis.”

CJ rubbed her forehead. “Where is Powell now?”

“He called off sick today. I think we need to let him come in to work. It’s our best chance of ending this somewhat peacefully. If we act like we don’t know yet, he’ll hopefully come to us.”

“You expect him back tomorrow?” CJ asked doubtfully.

“I won’t know that until he calls tomorrow, but he said he would be in. He obviously thinks we don’t have a clue,” Mark replied while trying to hide his anger.

“Wow.”

“Yeah,” Jamie said. “I never knew him, CJ, but he was very sharp with me that day we went to talk to Fisher’s staff.”

CJ nodded. “Guess that could’ve been kinda uncomfortable for him. He wouldn’t want the Bureau poking around in his criminal activities.”

Mark sighed again. “How do you feel, CJ? Will you be able to come in early and go through a few things with Ethan and Jamie? It shouldn’t take long.”

“Sure. What time?”

Kate thought quickly about her plans tomorrow. She had to go into work for a while but she could have Tony drive CJ to the office too. “I could come with you and get Tony to wait. Then you guys can drop me at the studios afterwards. How does six thirty sound?”

“Sounds fine,” CJ said, giving Kate’s hip a gentle squeeze.

Mark was in agreement. “OK, good. I’ll see you tomorrow then. We’ll head off now. Sorry to disturb you both,” he said as he got up.

Jamie followed her boss out the door, and it wasn’t long after they had gone when Kate was curled up under CJ’s chin, their bodies tangled together in a loving embrace between the sheets. CJ could smell the fresh fragrance of her wife’s hair and breathed deeply, turning to kiss her on the forehead.

“You OK, CJ?”

“Yep.”

“You will talk to me if you need me, right?”

“Always. I’m just thinking about stuff but I’m OK. Honest, honey.” She squeezed Kate tighter and felt a kiss on her neck. She turned to seek out those soft lips and Kate greeted her eagerly. The desire rose steadily and they soon found themselves caressing familiar paths over smooth skin. CJ’s mind was still distracted by the shooting and everything that revolved around it, and her conflicted feelings suddenly halted her motion.

“What?”

“Sorry, Katie. I want you…you know I do, but my head keeps flying back to all this crap from work. God…” CJ groaned and slapped her hand to her forehead.

“Hey, it’s OK. I understand, honey. Here…turn on your side and I’ll rub your back,” Kate offered.

CJ groaned again but did as she was told. She immediately felt Kate’s warm hands soothing her body as well as her mind. She began to breathe deeply and her muscles seemed to sink down toward the mattress. Once CJ was struggling to stay awake, Kate spooned herself around her back and kissed between the smooth skin between her shoulder blades. CJ moaned sleepily before they both drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * *

It was around four AM. Powell sat on the floor next to the lock-up at Pearson’s warehouse. He had decided to come back here, even though he knew they had found Francis’s body. They’d never think a killer would be stupid enough to come back. Double bluff, he thought.

He was splitting the diamond haul in two, trying to act as casually as possible while the thief paced the floor. This guy was completely useless. I’ll be damned if I’m giving him any of this shit. Can’t trace the gun…what have I got to lose? I just go back to work for a little while, let things settle, find another buyer, he said to himself as he discreetly watched the other man.

He’d have to do it now because he wanted to go back into work later that day. He had just been out sick so far so surely he could lay low at work without arousing any suspicion. He could get a look at the case file too, to see if MacPherson had any other big time contacts. God, I’m smart. That’s my best bet right now.

A disillusioned Powell finished separating the diamonds before turning to the thief. The twitchy man had stopped pacing and was looking out a nearby door, most likely watching for trouble. Powell took his gun from inside his jacket, flipped the safety off and pulled the trigger just as the thief turned back to check on him. Powell’s aim was a little off from this distance but the bullet still got the guy on the face and left a ragged hole in his cheek.

“Damn,” Powell grunted as he headed for the squirming man lying on the floor. The coldness in Powell’s eyes, born of greed and frustration, was the last thing the thief saw before he succumbed to a second gunshot wound. Powell dragged the body over to the small lock-up and dumped it inside. His face took on a grimacing smirk as he looked at the blood pulsing out from two holes in his latest victim’s gaunt face. “Such a mess.”

He took the car keys from the dead man’s pocket and grabbed the two bags of diamonds, stuffing them into his rucksack and leaving the warehouse. Once Powell got home, he stashed the bag in the toilet tank before showering and changing into his work suit. It wouldn’t be long now. He just had to keep his cool.

.

Chapter 7

It was pretty early in the morning when CJ and Jamie were standing over the desk trying to fit together the final pieces of the puzzle. Kate was waiting in the car with Tony since they were headed to the studios next.

CJ knew this might take longer than anticipated and flipped open her cell phone. “Hey, honey. Listen, this might take a little longer. You could just head off without me if you want.”

“Nah, we’ll wait. I have plenty of time. Don’t you want to give me a proper kiss goodbye before I have to go to this stupid meeting?” Kate purred.

CJ shivered. “Uh, yeah. I’ll be as quick as I can. Bye.”

She went back to concentrating on the file, ignoring the smirk from Jamie who was standing next to her with her arms crossed over her chest. CJ put her cell back in her pocket; her hand still wrapped around it as they went back to the conversation about the case.

When Powell walked in, CJ glanced up, not expecting her stomach to lurch quite so hard. She tried to act cool and prayed that Jamie would too. She was about to say hello to him casually when he stopped just inside the doorway and stared at them. One of them must have given something away – although CJ couldn’t work out what – because once he had sized them up, a sweat broke out on his forehead. He obviously didn’t expect anyone to be in yet. His suit was creased, his hair unkempt, and his eyes seemed strained and exhausted. All three were locked in an intense glare, and then Powell steadily moved his hand behind his back and pulled his weapon out, pointing it directly at them. CJ could practically feel the tension coming off Jamie, and tried to think of a way to negotiate with this man who had a penchant for shooting people between the eyes and the training to do it successfully. She knew they needed help…and fast. She moved her thumb carefully over the keypad in her pocket, knowing her last number dialed was Kate’s. She hoped if Kate at least heard the following conversation, she could send that help.

“You don’t have to do this, Powell. There’s a way out.”

“How the hell am I going to get out of this, Carson?”

“You must have some pocket change. If you give us that you can walk outta here right now. We never saw you.” CJ knew she had to get inside his head and wanted to give him another option. She was rather fond of her forehead and didn’t really want a hole in it…or Jamie’s for that matter.

“Or I could just shoot you and still keep all my pocket change. What do you think, Blondie? What should I do?”

“You know you’ll never get out of here if you do that.”

Powell scoffed. “There’s nobody else here. Looks like the early birds get the bullet, huh,” he said coldly.

* * * * * *

Kate was chuckling at Tony’s lame attempt at a joke when her cell phone rang. Seeing CJ’s name on the display, she put on her most provocative tone. “Hello there, sexy. I…” Kate froze when she didn’t hear the chirpy voice she was expecting.

“…don’t have to do this, Powell. There’s a way out.”

Kate could hear the tension in CJ’s clipped words and she held her breath, swallowing convulsively.

How the hell am I going to get out of this, Agent Carson?”

“You must have pocket change. If you give us that you can walk outta here right now. We never saw you”.

“Or I could just shoot you and still keep all my pocket change…”

“Oh my God! Tony, I’ll be right back” Kate jumped out of the car before her driver could answer, and she ran into the building with her mind spinning. The guard at the front desk knew her, and after utilizing her acting skills to calmly tell him that she was just popping in quickly to see Special Agent Carson, he gave her a visitor badge as per Mulroney’s orders. Kate headed for CJ’s office, padding her way silently along the empty corridor when she heard an angry male voice. She glanced part way around the door frame and saw Powell’s back, his arm stretched in front of him aiming a gun at her wife.

CJ’s heart stopped when she saw Kate come into view. Oh God, no. Please go away and get help, Katie. Please, she prayed silently.

When she saw Kate immediately approach Powell’s back in silence, she reflexively ducked and pulled Jamie with her. In the same second, she watched as Kate bounced on the balls of her feet and kicked out, slamming her foot into the back of Powell’s legs and sending him crashing to his knees. The gun went off and the bullet buried itself harmlessly in the ceiling.

Before Powell had time to turn to his attacker, a very determined Kate had bounced round to jump on the gun-wielding hand that had landed on the floor to support him. A loud yelp and the faint sound of crushing bones followed, and Powell used his other hand to grab Kate’s leg. She swiftly brought her knee up to crack against the side of his face, knocking him off balance and loosening his grip on her. Then she bounced back on the balls of her feet again, and perfectly balancing on her right, she brought her left up in a precision aim. The sole of her foot impacted powerfully on the side of Powell’s head, sending him careening across the floor to collide with the photocopier.

This all happened in the space of a few seconds and CJ was astounded. She leapt forward and pinned Powell to the floor, closely followed by Jamie who put her full weight down on the legs that were trying to kick CJ off. With adrenaline rushing through her veins, Kate grabbed a pair of handcuffs from a nearby desk and threw them at her wife who – with an expression of complete bafflement on her face – caught them and clicked them onto Powell’s wrists behind his back. CJ’s mouth was opening and closing silently and her eyes were still open wide, wondering who this little warrior was and what the hell she had done with Kate.

Three more agents came running through the door having heard the gunshot, and helped the women get Powell to his feet. CJ read him his rights while the other agents took hold of him. Jamie snapped on some latex gloves and retrieved the gun before she began barking instructions at the other agents. They dragged Powell from the room, leaving Kate and CJ alone and staring at one another.

CJ took a step toward her wife but stopped again, still completely in shock at what she had just witnessed. Those were martial arts moves…and good ones. She vaguely wondered why Kate had kept this from her, but she had to admit she had been mightily impressed – and, now that the danger was over, pretty aroused – by her powerful, ass-kicking spouse. Seeing the uncertainty in Kate’s eyes, CJ closed the distance between them and took Kate into her arms, surrounding her in an intense hug.

Kate returned it and tried to slow her racing pulse. “I was so afraid.”

CJ pushed her back a little and held her at arms-length with a gentle grip on her shoulders. “You sure didn’t look it. You left me speechless…and so very proud of you,” she said hoarsely.

“I don’t mean afraid for me. I mean afraid for you. I can’t lose you, CJ. That’s why I had to do something.”

“And what you did…how the hell…”

“I’m a black belt,” Kate said as she began to study the floor intently.

“In what?” CJ asked with her mind spinning.

“Taekwondo.”

CJ lifted Kate’s chin with her fingers and looked into dark-green eyes that were filled with something she couldn’t quite identify. Was it embarrassment? “Why are you so sad? And why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Kate held back tears and her bottom lip trembled. “I…I…guess I was ashamed. You know, about Jason?”

It took a few seconds for CJ to work out what she meant. “Oh God, Katie. Are you serious? You didn’t tell me because…because you feel you should have stopped him?” When CJ shook her head in disbelief at that thought, Kate nodded mutely and confirmed her suspicions. “Oh, honey, don’t do this to yourself. He took you in your sleep. How could you have stopped that?”

“I know it doesn’t make sense, CJ, but that’s why I felt so violated and frustrated by the whole thing. Well it’s one of the reasons. If he had just come straight at me, I could’ve defended myself. I just…” Kate sniffed.

“Oh, Jesus. I love you so much, Katie. Please don’t beat yourself up over this anymore.”

“I’ll try. I just felt so helpless and weak. I’m not used to that,” Kate said into CJ’s blouse.

“You are anything but helpless or weak. And thank you for saving my life…and Jamie’s,” CJ said, laying a kiss on her wife’s blond hair.

“You’re welcome. I guess we’re even, huh,” Kate whispered.

“I guess so.” CJ’s mouth curled into a small smile when she felt Kate relaxing against her.

Mark came through the door a few moments later, his expression showing relief and a little pride. CJ let Kate go, and they both turned to him as he looked seriously at Kate. “You sure you don’t want to join the FBI?”

Kate wiped her eyes and grinned at him. “I think one federal agent in our family is enough for us, Mark.”

“I’m not so sure. You know I won’t give up trying?”

“I’ll bet,” CJ said, nudging her spouse.

“Do you need a statement from me?” Kate asked.

“Not right now. Maybe I’ll pop over to the studios and get it,” Mark offered with a small grin.

“That would be fine.”

To Kate’s surprise, the assistant director hugged her warmly. Then he shocked the hell out of CJ when he hugged her too. He stepped back and coughed through the awkward moment. “I know that technically, you’re not supposed to be on duty, CJ, but I’d appreciate it if when you finish up here, you’d come and see me. When Powell is interviewed I’d like for you to observe with me. I’ll get James Wilson to do the um…interrogation though. He’s one of the best.”

“That’s fine. I’d like to know Powell’s story…that is, if he decides to talk.”

“Great. Good work…agents,” he said, winking at Kate as he left.

Kate made a strange face and shook her head. “He’s certainly determined, isn’t he?”

“He knows as well as I do that you’d be an incredible agent. Maybe when you get sick of acting, you’ll finally give in,” CJ suggested.

Kate just laughed which served to lessen some of the tension in her beautiful face. CJ cupped her cheek and kissed her. When their lips parted, Kate gently pushed back. “OK, I have that silly meeting, and then Tony and I will come back and see if you’re done. It’ll be this afternoon sometime. Call me if you need me.”

“Well that could be kinda inconvenient since I’d be calling every few minutes,” CJ said lightly. Kate slapped her butt just as Jamie came back into the office and approached them.

“Kate, may I?” she said, reaching her arms out.

“You may,” Kate replied, returning the hug warmly.

When they parted, Jamie lifted her hands in surrender to CJ who smirked and rolled her eyes. “Thank you, Kate, for…well, all of that,” Jamie said, spreading her hands out around them.

“You’re welcome. But thank my wife too. She called me.”

Jamie looked to CJ. “Good thinking. It all happened so fast. We never had a chance to get to our guns. He would’ve just…” she grimaced and placed her hand on her stomach.

“He would’ve,” CJ agreed. “Just as well I have a black belt with impeccable timing for a wife.”

“Black belt? Well remind me never to get on the wrong side of you,” Jamie joked.

Kate slid her arm around CJ’s waist. “Uh-huh”

Jamie saw the gesture for what it was and pinched the bridge of her nose. “OK, OK. I’m never gonna live it down, am I? First impressions and all that. Give a girl a break, will ya?”

“I’m sure we’ll forgive you…eventually,” CJ said.

Jamie laughed. “I’ll get the report started. Thanks again, Kate. I owe you one.”

Ten minutes later Kate had left, and CJ went to start on the mountain of paperwork that faced her now. She sighed and tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but attempting to erase the images of her strong, beautiful wife kicking the crap out of a homicidal FBI agent was difficult. It wouldn’t be easy to put something like that to the back of her mind. She’d remember it for the rest of her life.

* * * * * *

Kate sat at the large table waiting for her very late director. The floor manager, Tina Piper, was next to her tapping a pencil rapidly on the surface. The incessant tapping soon stopped when Kate slammed her hand down on top of it.

“Sorry, Kate.” Tina brought her voice down to a whisper. “It just pisses me off when he calls a very important meeting and then doesn’t turn up on time.”

“I know. And I can’t think what could be so damn important, unless he’s killing someone off and wants to make a big deal about it.” Kate looked at Tina in question. “Is he killing someone off?”

The manager shook her head. “I don’t think so, but it must be something pretty big.”

At that very moment, Phil Romaine walked in the door. He took a seat at the head of the table where his main cast and crew waited not so patiently. “OK,” he boomed, “I’ll get right to it. We potentially have a movie giant joining the show. He hasn’t signed up yet but we’re working on him. It’ll do great things for our ratings and even though we’re in the top five right now, this could put us up there on the number one primetime slot.”

“Who is it, Phil?” Tina asked, receiving nods from the rest of the team.

“Jack Bannerman,” he announced like it was some big exciting revelation.

A few murmurs were heard around the room, but Kate just winced internally. Jack Bannerman was a muscle-bound movie actor whose unrelenting vanity and arrogance was very well known. He commanded a ridiculous salary and most people metaphorically fell at his feet. Kate didn’t think this was particularly good news and donned a fake smile. It seemed that half the room did the exact same thing.

Phil droned on for another half-hour, raving about what would happen next and throwing a few more supposedly-important pieces of information at them. Apparently Bannerman would be a love interest for one of the leading ladies. Kate prayed that it wouldn’t be her because then she’d have to pucker up and kiss his sorry, self-loving ass. Ugh. The FBI doesn’t look so bad now, she thought, making herself giggle silently. Phil got up and left with a few of the crew following him out, and the cast members all seemed to exhale in unison.

“Wanna let me in on the joke?” Tina said, seeing Kate’s smirk.

“Me? Oh, I was just so incredibly happy about our possible new addition,” she replied sarcastically.

“Yeah, right. I bet you’re hoping Nicole gets him as her love interest.” When Kate just stared at her, she smiled and crossed her arms over her chest. “Hah! I’m right on the money. Well, one can only hope.”

“I hope he turns the deal down. Do you know how condescending that man is? I met him once and wanted to slap him in the face within two minutes,” Kate grumbled.

“Two minutes? Wow, you lasted well.”

Kate glared at her before they both broke into fits of laughter along with a few other cast members who were listening in.

Later, she went out into the lot and stood near the set that was created to perfectly imitate a quiet suburban street, where they were filming an outdoor scene. Kate stood in the sun, watching cops prepare to chase down the ubiquitous bad guy. She checked her watch and wondered if CJ would be done soon. She didn’t want to call in case the busy agent was in the middle of something.

A quick text message told her that CJ was going to be a while longer so Kate decided to go grab a coffee before she headed home. She was sure there would be a lot of talking being done when CJ finally arrived at the ranch house.

* * * * * *

CJ left for home after finding out that James Wilson was out of town and would do the interview tomorrow. Mark seemed adamant that he wanted Wilson, reiterating that he was one of the best, and that he wanted to get the most out of Powell that he could.

Driving towards the house, CJ could see Kate coming back from a walk with Kamali, and she smiled as she pulled up in front of the porch. A large, black German Shepherd head appeared at her driver’s window and she sighed, getting that so-glad-to-be-home feeling that she got every time she arrived here.

Kate pulled her into a hug as soon as she was standing upright, and she returned it happily.

“Hi,” Kate said, moving back to look her wife in the eye.” I missed you.”

“I missed you too. Sorry it took so long. I wanted to spend your last day off with you.”

“I know, but it didn’t turn out to be a regular day off, did it?”

“When do they ever with us?” CJ asked as she brushed a few strands of hair from Kate’s brow.

“Good point,” Kate conceded. “Let’s go spend the rest of the day relaxing.”

They went indoors arm-in-arm, and settled down to a light dinner. The dog was snoring after his own meal, and CJ and Kate headed up the stairs to have a long soak in the bathtub since CJ was healed enough to submerge her body again.

After convincing Kate that she wasn’t in any pain, CJ pulled her wife back to lean against her chest in the warm water. “So can I ask you some questions now?” she said, cocking an eyebrow.

Kate turned her head to kiss CJ’s cheek and sighed as she turned back to sip her wine. “Of course…”

“Tell me about the Taekwondo thing?”

“I started it at UCLA…did pretty well back then. I seemed to have a knack for it and I got quite far in the ranks.”

“I’ll say,” CJ murmured.

“When we started filming Rise of the Phoenix, I progressed with it even more. I really enjoyed it and I felt it was needed to make the role look real. I became a first dan black belt. I guess I’m at a kind of junior instructor level now, but I haven’t really done it in a while.”

“I’m impressed. You just continue to surprise me, honey,” CJ praised. “I am so proud to be your wife. You were unbelievable today.” She felt Kate tremble slightly and she held her tighter as the anxiety caught up with them both.

Kate tried to contain her emotions but she failed, and they both cried a few tears after another stressful day. When was their life together going to calm into something resembling normality? It was a part of being a federal agent that CJ didn’t like. After the tears subsided, they sat in silence just breathing together and feeling the warmth of one another and the bubbly water around them.

“I love you,” Kate whispered.

“I love you too…more than anything.”

Kate turned to her. “More than anything.”

“So will you teach me some moves sometime?” CJ asked to lighten the mood.

“Yes, although it may get a little intense.”

“Intense?”

“Yeah, well…I’ve never sparred with anyone as hot as you before,” Kate responded lightly.

“I might not learn much then because what you did this morning keeps running around in my head and it…uh…”

“You liked it, huh?” Kate teased.

“Well, not the reason you had to do it but yeah, you were incredible,” CJ murmured shyly.

Kate giggled and lifted her glass. “To me and you,” she said, clunking it against CJ’s.

“To me and you.”

CJ put her glass down on the nearby stool and slipped her hand over her wife’s abdomen. Kate’s muscles rippled under her palm as she continued the caress. Kate hung her hand over the side of the tub, her wineglass hanging limply from it as she immersed herself in the sensations. CJ leaned her chin on Kate’s shoulder and watched her own hand as it wandered a sensual trail over creamy smooth flesh. She could see Kate’s breasts rise and fall a little faster with each move of her fingers and she decided to escalate this encounter, enjoying the fact that it was all for Kate. Well, mostly. CJ’s heart was pounding, no doubt due to her usual empathetic response to her wife’s pleasure. Her hand traveled lower and she lightly scratched the blond curls. Kate gasped but remained silent.

CJ slid her slender index finger down into Kate’s hot folds and found a viscous moisture that was absolutely nothing to do with the bath water. Kate turned her head and bit CJ’s neck, inflaming CJ’s desire tenfold. Her finger began a slow rhythm, moving up and down the length of Kate’s hard, swelling clit. Kate seemed to be very aroused very quickly, and CJ entered her with two fingers, sensing that her wife wanted to be taken tonight.

Kate moaned, dropped her glass on the floor, and sucked harder on CJ’s neck. CJ quickened her pace and felt the soft walls clamp down erratically around her fingers. She curled her hand to cup Kate’s sex, still thrusting in and out of her and putting pressure on the most sensitive of areas with the heel of her hand. Kate screamed breathlessly in her ear as she came, grasping CJ’s neck with both hands raised above her. That pose combined with Kate’s release, the view of her supple, writhing body, and the fact that Kate was rubbing her back against CJ’s aching nipples, brought her to orgasm right after Kate.

As Kate gradually came down from her heavenly plateau, she licked CJ’s neck languidly. Once she had caught her breath, she stopped kissing the warm flesh next to her mouth to speak. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. I came right there with you,” CJ purred.

“Don’t you always?” Kate teased. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, honey. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought it would hurt.”

“Oh really?”

“Well…”

Kate laughed and kissed her wife. “I guess I’ll have to clear up the floor.”

“Yeah. Let’s get out and we can make more mess in the bedroom,” CJ said enthusiastically.

After drying one another off with large, fluffy towels, Kate mopped up the spill and picked up the glass, happy to find it in one piece. They crawled into bed a short time later.

CJ kneeled in front of Kate and grinned menacingly. “Now that I feel much better, I can do this right.” She eyed Kate’s naked body and nudged her legs open to lower herself on top of her one and only lover. “I get to be on top tonight,” she whispered.

“I have no problem with that,” Kate hummed in response as she felt CJ nibble her collarbone.

It was a time to re-affirm their bond with one another; to make sure they both knew how much they desired one another, and how much they never took any moment together for granted. It turned out to be a very long night.

* * * * * *

The next working day started with a yawn. Kate sat in make-up with tired eyes and a silly smile on her face…even after receiving the news that Jack Bannerman had signed up and would indeed be joining the show. She was in too good a mood for something like that to dampen her spirits.

Cynthia Hart, her make-up artist, came in and frowned at her. “What’s all this?” she said, pointing to the glaring hickey on the actress’s neck.

“Uh…CJ’s feeling better,” Kate offered.

“Tell that wife of yours to keep it below the collar,” Cynthia joked.

“I’ll be sure to remind her while we’re in the throes of-”

“Too much information!” Cynthia said, holding her hands up in defeat. “Let’s get you all covered up.”

“Did you hear about Jack Bannerman?”

“Oh yes, joy, joy, joy. Nothing like a hulk-sized prima donna to make my life complete,” Cynthia replied dramatically. “But he is handsome.”

Kate laughed and examined the woman in the mirror. She had made quite a few friends on this show, mostly crew. She still missed Samantha, though. Her executive producer friend was still working on Rise of the Phoenix but they got together for a quick coffee when they could. It wasn’t too hard as they were both still at the Olympian Studios.

She looked again to the person who was now puffing powder of some description onto her face. Cynthia was twenty-four years old. She was a slim, wiry woman with dyed, jet-black, short hair, a ring pierced through her eyebrow, and Goth-style clothing covered a compact, young body. She was nothing like you might expect of someone named Cynthia, although she had insisted that Kate call her Cyn, though, and that seemed to fit a little better. Kate just had to remember to use the name so that she wouldn’t get funny looks from Cyn when the full version creeped her out. Nobody called her Cynthis anymore. Kate sighed and continued to endure the fake layers of her on-screen persona being applied liberally before she headed out to studio nine in full actress mode.

* * * * * *

CJ sat at her desk catching up on the latest news. James Wilson was on his way and would arrive within the hour. A team of agents had gone out to Powell’s house and searched the place. They found the diamonds stashed in the toilet tank and apparently had bagged some clothing with blood stains on it. The garments were now down in forensics being analyzed. CJ briefly wondered if the blood was Powell’s, Francis’s, Fisher’s, or some other poor bastard they didn’t know about yet. She broke out of her reverie when Jamie walked in closely followed by Ethan. After the good-mornings, they all sat with a coffee and brought each other up to speed.

“I heard what Kate did. Unbelievable, CJ,” Ethan gushed.

“She is that. I told her she needs to join the Bureau but she’s not having any of it,” CJ said, grinning.

“I hear she’s a black belt?”

“Well, yeah. She’s pretty much an expert in Taekwondo. She could probably teach us all a few things.”

“I’m in,” Jamie quipped.

“Me too,” Ethan said eagerly.

“Uh, I wasn’t offering up her services, but I’m sure you could ask her,” CJ replied, yawning again.

Jamie grinned at her. “Long night?”

“Uh, yeah, you could say that.”

Jamie nodded knowingly and didn’t notice the narrowing of CJ’s eyes. CJ still hadn’t decided if she really liked this agent or not. She felt the need to help her settle in and yet at the same time, she was very wary of her manner and intentions. She is a puzzle, CJ pondered.

When Mark came to get her, they both headed down to watch the interview. Special Agent White was sitting in with Wilson. CJ and Mark went inside the darkened observation room to view the interrogation through the two-way mirror. Powell, being an agent himself, would know there were people watching but he wouldn’t be able to identify anyone. Not long after the interview started, CJ was standing leaning on a filing cabinet with her head in her hand. Powell wasn’t giving anything away and it seemed like a waste of time. She could hear Wilson starting a line of questioning she didn’t like and stood up straight to listen.

“So the gun…we know you shot Deputy Director Stanley Francis. You killed Mick Fisher…Miles MacPherson too,” Wilson said, staring intently at Powell who glared back at him.

CJ was livid. They all knew Francis killed MacPherson. This Wilson guy was trying to rattle Powell into spilling his story. She turned abruptly to Mark. “You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s trying to bluff?”

“Seems that’s his strategy right now,” Mark responded with a shrug.

“It’s a federal interrogation, not a fucking poker game,” she growled as she stared through the window.

“I agree with you, CJ, but this guy is supposed to be the best at sizing up the situation and using what he knows.”

“I don’t think it’ll work. Powell’s not an idiot.” She watched again as Powell leaned forward on the table.

“I have a feeling you know who shot MacPherson, and it sure as hell wasn’t me. Ask Agent Carson. She knows it,” Powell spat.

CJ winced.

“Who else is involved in this?” Wilson asked.

“No comment.”

“We searched your house.”

Powell’s face looked slightly strained. CJ could see the tiny lines around his eyes and his lips tightening.

“So?”

“We found the stash in the toilet tank, but we also found bloodstained clothing. Want to tell me about that?”

“Not mine.”

“Really? You have a housemate who just happened to have blood spatter on their clothes?”

“No comment.”

Wilson was determined to push him, too far it seemed. “What about these diamonds? What were you going to do with them?”

“No comment. And to the rest of your questions, no fucking comment. I changed my mind. I want my attorney.”

CJ groaned. “He’s not gonna give anything up.”

“Considering his prints on the gun that killed Francis and Fisher, and the incident with you and Jamie, he’s going down for a lifetime anyway. Not to mention that clothing and possession of stolen diamonds worth an estimated four point two million dollars,” Mark said in consolation.

CJ whistled at the amount then rubbed her chin in thought. “He had the diamonds in his house. Francis shot the diamond broker. He shot Francis…Fisher too, judging by the MO and firearm. He seems to like popping a bullet between the eyes.” CJ pinned her lips between her teeth as she though, and Mark watched her running the facts around in her head. “Seems they had quite the little crime ring going at first, but Powell got greedy.”

Mark nodded. “Seems like it. Damn shame because he seemed to be a pretty good agent.”

Wilson had wrapped up the interview, and once they took Powell away, he came into the observation room. He gave them a rundown of the interview, such as it was, but CJ wanted to know how Powell came to be involved in the first place. It was irritating her that an agent with a spotless career record would change so quickly into a major criminal.

“We missed the beginning of the interview. Did he tell you why he got mixed up in this?”

“Yes. He started out quite talkative, but then as I got further into it he clammed up. He said that he walked in on Francis talking on the phone with Fisher, apparently. Having heard too much, Francis threatened him right there in his office, and Powell said he’d help him if he cut him in.”

“Opportunist. Victim of circumstance and a very greedy mind,” CJ said with a slight hint of sarcasm in her voice. She finished talking with Wilson soon after and went back to her office to update Jamie and Ethan with the details. Much later that day, the results came back for the blood staining analysis. It proved there was a fourth party involved after all.

* * * * * *

CJ drove home that night wanting nothing more than to crawl into Kate’s arms and never leave them again, but when she walked through the door, her wife was pacing the floorboards in exasperation. Throwing her suit jacket over a nearby chair, CJ went straight over to Kate. “Hey. What’s got you so wound up?” she said, taking the smaller woman into her arms.

“Hi, honey. Just work stuff. How did your day go?”

“I’ll tell you about it after some dinner. But I want to know why you’re tied up in knots. Speak to me, Katie.”

“Kiss me first. Maybe that’ll calm me down a little,” Kate requested.

CJ covered Kate’s full lips with her own and sank into her wife’s delicious, sweet flavor. Kate grabbed the back of CJ’s head and kissed her back, feeling her anger dissipate and bringing her back to herself.

“Better?” CJ murmured against her mouth.

“Much. Go change and we’ll chat while we’re making dinner.”

CJ grabbed her jacket and headed upstairs to change. Picking out a similar outfit to her spouse, she trotted back to the kitchen with her sweats and a T-shirt on. She found Kate slicing some chicken pieces for a stir-fry and nodded in agreement of the choice. “Good idea. Comfort food drenched in soy sauce. Can we have melted cheese on top?” CJ asked hopefully.

You can,” Kate said, scrunching her nose at the idea.

“So…talk to me honey. What happened at work?”

Kate sighed heavily. “We have this big shot movie actor joining the show. He signed up today and then stopped by later to mark his territory,” Kate said, raising an eyebrow as CJ stifled a chuckle. “Hey, it’s not funny. They’re planning on making this asshole Mischa’s love interest!”

CJ knew that Mischa was Kate’s character and abruptly stopped smiling. “How bad is he?”

“It’s Jack Bannerman. You know, that muscle-bound ego-driven, tall, dark and slimy-kinda-handsome idiot?”

“I take it you don’t find him attractive then?”

“Well, duh.”

“Sorry, honey,” CJ groveled. “I’m just not seeing the problem. I mean, I know how talented an actress you are, so can’t you pretend to like him?”

“It’s not so much the character thing. It’s how he acts the rest of the time. I mean, take today for instance. He saunters in there like he owns the place already. He hits on every woman he sees and puffs his chest out at every guy. I thought he might start pissing in the corners,” Kate said, shoving the chicken off the chopping board a little too forcefully.

CJ desperately tried to hold back her laugh, and Kate saw her dilemma. “Don’t…” she warned.

But it was too late. CJ burst into fits of hysterics. Kate gave her a long, evil glare but she couldn’t hold it for long before she shook her head and started to laugh too. It took them a few minutes to regain some control and CJ lifted the bottle of wine and poured two glasses.

Kate pretended to be offended by the laughter and pouted. “OK, you cheered me up. Congratulations. Thank you for laughing at me.”

“Oh, honey. I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing at the idea of you uh, dealing with this guy the way you dealt with Powell. I’m sorry. It just flashed across my mind when you were talking.”

“Hmm…that’s an idea. I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, darling,” Kate said, giving CJ a kiss on the nose.

“Or you could just threaten to set your federal agent wife on him?” CJ offered helpfully, a glint of humor in her eyes.

“I’ll use that as a last resort. If you were to kill him I’d get fired, and that would never do.”

That set CJ off again, and Kate knew they were just responding to stressful days at work. They tended to do this for one another when they came home all tense and on edge. My other half in so many ways, she thought. She chuckled to herself as she added the vegetables to the wok.

While they ate, CJ brought Kate up to date on everything that happened with Powell, including his interrogation.

“Seems like such a waste of a good agent. Was he just a victim of circumstance then?” Kate asked around a mouthful of food.

CJ took a sip of wine. “Well that, and the fact that his greed got the better of him. I doubt that I would’ve reacted the same way had it been me. It must have been in his nature already.”

“True. It takes a certain type of person to go around shooting people between the eyes.”

“You’re right there.”

As they finished off their meal, CJ considered that Kate was special in many ways. The fact that she could just sit here and talk about work in such a frank way was a testament to Kate’s strong disposition as well as the many other wonderful facets of her character. CJ had truly found her match and it made it easier to deal with the horrors of her career.

As the sun began to set, they took a leisurely stroll with the dog before curling up on the couch together. CJ clung onto Kate, not really wanting to ever let go. Kate sensed her wife’s need and turned herself around to lie facing her. Wrapping her arms around CJ, she buried her face under her dark hair where she dozed off listening to CJ’s breath as it passed her ear. The tiredness was contagious it seemed, and a few hours later, a sleepy, grumbling CJ was pulled upstairs and into bed where the two lovers replicated their earlier pose and fell together into a deep sleep.

.

Chapter 8

Kate finished shooting her scenes for the day and boy had it been a long day. Her co-star, Nicole, had been overly cheerful, no doubt at the news that Kate would be stuck with Bannerman as her love interest. They’d also had so many re-takes she had lost count long ago.

She sat down in her trailer and massaged her temples, incredibly disappointed to hear someone immediately rapping on the door. She stretched out her shoulders and got up, opening the door to find Jack Bannerman grinning at her.

Someone gimme a gun, she fleetingly thought. “Jack, can I help you?” she said while wondering how she was managing all this politeness.

“Well hello, Kate. Actually I was wondering if I could help you. May I come in?” he said as he sidled past her anyway.

“I think you already are. I’m really tired and would like to go home. What is it you want?”

“Aren’t you going to offer me a seat?”

“No. Like I said, I’m kind of in a hurry.”

“I’m sensing some hostility here. Did I do something to you in a previous life?” Jack said, grinning that sickly grin of his.

“I certainly hope not. Seriously Jack, why are you here?”

“I just wondered if you’d like to go to dinner, maybe a drink afterward? Practice our future love scenes?”

She couldn’t believe her ears. Didn’t she just say about fifty times that she was in a hurry to go home? She tried to keep the acid-laced-deflection from her voice. “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass, but thanks for asking.”

“Really? Wow. So this is what it feels like to be turned down. Interesting,” he said, scratching his fingers through his black goatee in thought.

Such a conceited bastard. “Well I don’t want to tarnish your spotless reputation so I’ll tell you that I’m married.” At his “so what?” expression and the following shrug, she rolled her eyes and added, “Happily married.”

“Lucky guy.”

She didn’t correct his gender assumption because quite frankly, she couldn’t be bothered dealing with his irritating attitude any longer. “Thanks for stopping by,” she muttered, budging him out the door with both hands.

“Strong little thing, aren’t you?”

“Thanks, Jack. Bye now.” Kate slammed the trailer door shut, balling her fists and growling in frustration. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but by God he made her blood boil. She sat down at the dressing table to remove her mask of thick make-up before heading home.

* * * * * *

CJ slammed the handset down on the phone. “Well that’s that then,” she said to Ethan.

“What?” he asked, setting a coffee cup down next to her.

“The blood belonged to a Tom Corbin. Apparently Tom worked with Mick Fisher…and Kate…at The Double Take. He has a list of priors as long as my arm, mostly for theft. Powell was questioned about him after being told the results but he never said a word. No surprise there. So we’re going to search every relevant place again to see if we can turn up anything else. Want to come with me? We’ve been tagged with Pearson’s warehouse and Corbin’s apartment.”

“I wanted to finish this up,” he said, showing her his paperwork. “I have two days off coming up.”

“I’ll go,” Jamie offered from across the room.

“Great,” CJ said, getting to her feet. “Hey, Ethan. Why don’t you and the family come for lunch tomorrow then? I have a half day…hospital appointment.”

“Will do. I’ll speak with Alice. Shall we aim for one thirty?”

“Sounds good. You’re welcome to join us, Jamie.”

“I’ll be in here slogging my guts out, but you guys enjoy yourselves,” Jamie replied with a pout and a grin.

“Poor soul. OK, let’s go.”

As they headed toward the warehouse in the Bureau sedan, CJ occasionally eyed her tall, blond driver. She still wanted to know more about Jamie but didn’t want to seem too keen. Always one for the direct approach, she decided to give it a go. “Can I ask you something?”

“Fire away,” Jamie replied.

“I noticed the way you are around Mulroney and, uh, the way you were when we first met. Are you bi?”

Jamie let out a bark of laughter. “You don’t mess around, do you, CJ?”

“Not really. Sorry if I offended you.”

“You didn’t. It’s quite refreshing actually. Yes, I guess you could say I’m bi. I like who I like. It’s not so much about gender for me. It’s just who I am, I guess.” Jamie paused to glance over at her before returning her eyes to the road. “I’m not after the AD if that’s what you’re thinking. He is a nice guy though.”

“He is. And I wasn’t thinking anything in particular. I was just curious.”

“Well, I want to take this opportunity to apologize again for how I acted when I met you and Kate. I guess it’s hard for a leopard to change her spots.”

CJ grinned at her. “I knew you were an animal.”

“Hah. Yeah well, I plan on putting that behind me. I want a fresh start here. If I end up with something half as good as what you have with your wife, I’ll thank my lucky stars.”

CJ nodded thoughtfully. She knew how lucky she was, how unique her relationship was with Kate.

Both agents were quiet until they arrived at the warehouse. After walking around the perimeter, they went inside. There was nothing obvious at first but then they simultaneously spotted a dark pool on the floor.

“Blood?” CJ asked as Jamie crouched down to get a better look.

“Looks like it. Have you got a…”

“What?”

“…sample kit, but never mind. Look. There’s a trail heading over there,” Jamie said, pointing to the nearby lock-up.

They followed the smeared blotches of blood toward two metal doors fastened only by a rusty padlock. Jamie looked around for a bar or brick to break the lock. At the other side of the vast space, she found a large piece of metal and took it back to her colleague. CJ started to take it from her but she hugged it to her body.

“Let me. I don’t want you to bust anything,” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m fine, Jamie.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to give Kate a reason to kick my ass. I wouldn’t survive.” Despite the situation, they laughed briefly.

“Be my guest,” CJ said, gesturing to the padlock and drawing her gun.

Jamie stood to the right of the doors, and CJ stood back slightly on the left aiming at the lock-up. After a single blow to the old lock, it gave way. Jamie signaled to CJ that she would open the doors in 3, 2, 1…

CJ dropped her arms slightly when she saw the crumpled body slouched in the corner, his face completely covered with dark dried blood. Well, what was left of his face.

“I’ll take a guess and say this is Tom Corbin,” Jamie said, showing her disgust at the state of the body.

“More than likely but I can’t even see his face to ID him with his file picture.”

“I’ll call it in.”

CJ and Jamie re-traced their footsteps to the door, avoiding the pools of blood. CJ went to get cordoning tape from the car to preserve the scene, and they both waited until all the various departments arrived, updating them as they entered the warehouse. It was a few hours before they returned to the office and updated Mark.

A little later, Jamie walked CJ down to the parking garage. “Well good night, CJ. Say hi to Kate for me, will you?”

“I will. And Jamie?”

“Yeah.”

“We make a good team. I’m glad you’re on board,” CJ said, trying to help with Jamie’s fresh start.

“Thanks, CJ.”

“I mean it. Here’s hoping we get a decent replacement for Powell.”

“Yeah. Well goodnight. See you in the morning.”

“Goodnight.”  CJ drove home listening to some corny radio channel but it seemed to relax her and by the time she stopped in front of the house, she felt much better. Throwing off her jacket and putting her harness and weapon on the table, she headed into the kitchen following the smell of pizza. “You got take out?” she said, seeing her wife at the dining table reading the paper.

“I did, and you’re right on time. I was gonna throw it in the oven to keep warm for you,” Kate replied, getting up for a hug.

Once released, CJ sat down next to her and grabbed a slice. “I’m starving.”

“Busy day, honey?”

“You could say that. We found the last part of the puzzle. Well, at least I hope it’s the last part.”

CJ filled her in with the day’s events, watching as Kate’s expression changed several times as she spoke. “So it appears that this could all have started way back with Jason and Tom, dealing drugs for Fisher. And Francis was his buddy even back then. Amazing, huh?”

“That disturbs me a little,” Kate said quietly.

“How so?”

“I knew them pretty well back then, even dated one of them. I never had a clue about what they were involved in.”

“Of course you didn’t. People in that kind of business are good actors. Most of the time they lead double lives,” CJ said, pushing a few stray bangs from Kate’s forehead.

“I just can’t reconcile the fact that four people I once knew in some way are now dead. Am I some kind of bad omen?” Kate asked sadly.

“Hey!” CJ took her chin firmly in her hand. “That’s ridiculous. This could have been any four people, any bar in LA, and any woman who just happened to know them. I can’t explain why our lives were connected before we even met, Katie, but these deaths have nothing to do with you. The way I see it you were one of many people at that bar who knew them. But for me…in this whole situation…you are the light that overpowers all the darkness. That’s the way I choose to see it, and that’s the way it is for me. You came into my life in the strangest set of circumstances, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I love you.”

Kate looked at her wife in wonder. “That was kinda poetic. I know it’s silly to think this way, wondering about all the what-ifs, but I knew them all in some way. Maybe it’s all about choices. The choices they made were bad ones. Perhaps the best choice I ever made was leaving Jason when I did. He might have taken me down with him.”

“That would never have happened,” CJ said adamantly. “You’re too smart for that.” When Kate tried to respond, CJ pressed her fingers against her soft lips. “Ah-ah! No more. The drug dealing, the diamonds, even Jason’s infatuation and vengeful actions…they were nothing to do with anything you did. Nothing.”

The fingers remained on Kate’s mouth until she nodded in agreement and flung her arms fully around CJ’s neck. “I love you, CJ.”

“Ditto, honey. You know, I think you over-powered the darkness in me too.”

“What do you mean?” Kate asked as she let CJ go.

“I always used to worry about the way my mind worked, about the dark places I would go to when I had to get inside the mind of a killer or a hostage-taker. I had to think like them and I would worry that it would have a permanent effect.”

“I’m sure it has some effect on your mood, CJ, but you would never have succumbed to it. You’re way too intelligent and I know you…you possess more light than you think,” Kate said, taking a bite of the cooling pizza.

“Maybe. But before I met you I would let those things get to me. For instance, there was this serial killer a few years back. The murders were so gruesome and he would leave the pieces of each victim in a different town…um, you know what? This isn’t dinner talk.”

“Not so much,” Kate agreed. “Are you saying that you would get inside the killer’s head and try to imagine his motives and thoughts while he killed, to predict his next move or his next victim?”

“Exactly, and it would stay with me for way too long after it was solved. I guess I kinda tortured myself with it. But since I met you it’s easy to get back to the light because it’s right here in front of me,” CJ said, leaning forward for a kiss.

Kate immediately reciprocated. “You underestimate yourself, but thank you for saying that. Maybe once we finish our pizza, I’ll surround you with my uh…light a little more.”

“That sounds absolutely perfect.”

* * * * * *

The next day, CJ got home around noon just after her appointment, and found Kate out playing with the dog in the back yard. They decided a long walk was in order and headed out before the Matthews family made an appearance for lunch.

“Anything new at work this morning?” Kate inquired as they strolled along.

“Nope. I thought we might get the results back on Corbin’s body, but there’s nothing yet. The office seemed pretty quiet when I left.”

“Calm before the storm?”

“God, I hope not. It would be nice to just have some regular boring FBI work for a couple of weeks,” CJ said, throwing her arm around Kate’s shoulder.

“I think that’s a contradiction in terms, honey.”

“Yeah. I guess the unpredictable aspect of the job is a constant.”

“And you love it.”

“I guess.” CJ squeezed Kate’s shoulders. “Now let’s go back to the house and I’ll help with lunch. Ethan and family will be here in an hour. Are you ready for this?”

“I’m ready. Are you good with kids?”

“Uh, I’m not sure. Not had the opportunity to be around them much,” CJ replied uncertainly.

“Well we’ll just have to work it out as we go along.” Kate took her wife’s hand and realized that her words applied to their whole life, but it didn’t matter as long as they were together.

.

Epilogue

The late afternoon sun cast a golden glow over the porch. Kate relaxed on the bench, talking with Ethan and Alice, but her eyes were fixed on her wife who sat cross-legged on the picnic blanket that was spread out over the wooden boards. CJ was completely engrossed in the two tiny people who gurgled and played beside her. She would pile the building blocks up high and one of the twins would knock it down, and then six hands went up in the air in some unspoken expression of joy. Kate’s heart was bursting. She loved that CJ could show her playful side here at home, and it seemed she was comfortable enough around Ethan to do it.

Alice got up to go to the bathroom to change Melissa’s diaper, and Ethan took over the play for a few minutes. Kate had just come back to the porch after clearing some dishes, and CJ met her at the door.

“So…you ever wanna make one of those?” CJ said, nodding her head toward little Sarah.

“That would be some trick, Mrs. Carson.”

CJ blew out an exasperated sigh. “I meant do you ever want to have kids?”

“I always thought I would someday. Do you?”

“With you, yeah. Maybe when our lives calm down a bit, huh?”

“Sounds sensible to me. Could take a while though.” Kate paused and assessed CJ’s face. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Yep. I’ll never stop planning my life with you, Katie. Get used to it,” CJ said as she leaned her forehead against Kate’s.

“Wow. I’d better start thinking of names.”

“Uh…” CJ’s face contorted slightly and Kate laughed. CJ belatedly realized she was being teased mercilessly. “You’ll pay for that,” she promised.

“I’ll pay after they’ve left.”

CJ’s nostrils flared and she decided to delicately get rid of their guests. It turned out that the twins were getting cranky, and Ethan and Alice said their farewells soon after.

Once CJ had tidied the porch, she went indoors to find the house silent except for quiet music wafting down from upstairs. She ascended gracefully and entered the bedroom to find the unbearably cute sight of Kate sitting cross-legged on the bed…gloriously naked. CJ had no words and simply walked towards her, shedding items of clothing as she went.

Taking Kate into her arms, she gazed into the green eyes of the woman she loved so much. Kate was entranced by the love she felt from her wife and suddenly saw their entire future play out in her mind. There was no question that they would be together. She just wondered what obstacles they would encounter on the way and how big their family would get. Someday.

.

The End…

©2016 StageFreak Productions

4 comments

  1. absolutely loved the first one. Guess I know what I’ll be doing all weekend. Thanks for these, great writings and of course I love your characters


    • Thank you, Robbie!


  2. Love your characters. They feel real to me


    • I’m happy you are enjoying them 🙂



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