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Episode 13 – In The Past

July 13, 2014

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DISCLAIMERS:

This romantic drama 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 some description of violence. Anyone who is sensitive to scenes of this nature, please consider yourselves warned.

This story depicts a loving, 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.

* * * * * *

So many thanks go to my beta-reader. Your help is very much appreciated and continues to be most welcome. And thank you to all my readers. Your feedback has been most helpful and encouraging. Keep it coming!

This is the next installment my series, After Montana, which can be found at http://marshallcarson.wordpress.com

As usual, to understand and enjoy the characters and situations fully, you should probably read them in sequence. Comments and/or opinions can be sent to stagefreakmusic@hotmail.com or left at http://marshallcarson.wordpress.com

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Chapter 1

“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?” the honorable Judge Pelzer boomed.

“We have, Your Honor.”

“Will the defendant please rise.” The judge looked from the accused to the first juror. “To the charge of criminal solicitation in reference to the destruction of aircraft, what say you?”

The juror looked up from the piece of paper in his hands. “We find the defendant not guilty.”

“To the charge of criminal solicitation of felony arson?”

“Not guilty.”

“To criminal solicitation of attempted murder in the first degree?”

“We find the defendant guilty.”

“Members of the jury, thank you for your service. You are excused.” Judge Pelzer turned to the defendant. “Elizabeth Emerson, you have been found guilty on one count. I can’t even begin to comprehend your actions in this case, and I feel justice has been served here today. You will be remanded in custody until sentencing is imposed on April tenth. This court is adjourned.”

The gavel battered down for the last time, and Elizabeth turned angrily to her lawyer who averted his gaze, instead preferring to look at the exhibits he had tried to win the case with. The plea of insanity had been thrown out almost immediately, as it was proven through various means that Elizabeth had been planning to have CJ murdered for months, if not years. The fact that Vernon Betts had already been found guilty of arson, destruction of aircraft, attempted murder, and capital murder – and would be imprisoned for life – didn’t help Elizabeth’s case at all. Neither did Darrell Gates’s willingness to give up everything he knew about the vile woman who had already paid him a fifty thousand-dollar partial fee for his services, just to get a deal if he pled guilty. His sentence would be reduced because he testified against her, but he still wouldn’t be out until he was old and gray.

Elizabeth had gotten away with the arson and destruction of aircraft charges because she had never actually specified what the men should do. She’d told them to kill CJ and drive Kate insane. How they did it was up to them. The court deemed her not responsible for Doug Jensen’s death, so she was not brought up on charges for that. But the attempted murder of CJ Carson was undeniably on her head. Gates had recorded a voice message Elizabeth had left him – without her consent or knowledge – and he had handed the recording over to his lawyer as part of his plea deal. On the recording, Elizabeth had suggested that CJ’s death should look like an accident, and her instruction to them on that count could not be misconstrued. She was paying for CJ Carson’s life to be ended in some foul and vulgar way.

As an unusually-silent Elizabeth was led out of the courtroom, her lawyer watched her go with a sense of dread. “I’ll file an appeal.”

She threw a few daggers from her enraged, green eyes as she disappeared out the doors. Mr. Williams knew an appeal was useless now, but she was the most difficult client he’d ever had to deal with, so he would follow her orders and do it since she was paying him very well. He slammed his briefcase shut, and on his way out the door he shook the hand of the assistant district attorney. Even after a battle like that, they were still in the same game at the end of the day. He spotted two of the victims in the back row and gave a single nod. Blowing out a breath, he decided a stiff drink was required, and he had to admit, only to himself, that Elizabeth Emerson deserved everything she got.

* * * * * *

Watching defense counsel walk away, CJ stood up on weak legs. She had thought the jury was being swayed by Elizabeth’s lawyer earlier on, but then the prosecution brought out their lethal weapon in the form of Darrell Gates and slaughtered any chance of a not-guilty verdict.

“You OK?” Kate asked from her side.

CJ blinked rapidly. “Oh. Yes, sorry. I should be asking you that.”

“I’m fine.”

“Katie, you have tears-”

“I said I’m fine. It was just…not very nice to hear.”

“I know.” CJ put her arms around Kate and held her until the courtroom was all but cleared. “You got her to confess, which helped immensely, and you did great in your testimony. And the way you handled the cross examination…just wow.”

Kate sniffed and looked up. “I did OK, didn’t I?”

CJ nodded and smiled sadly. “Like the judge said, justice was served. I’m so proud of you. I know it must have been hard.”

“It was…and it wasn’t. I know what she deserves, CJ, no matter who she is.”

With an arm around one another, they headed for the courtroom exit, but before they got there Kate caught a glimpse of a white-haired man still sitting defeated on one of the hard, wooden benches. Kate knew who he was and felt compelled to speak with him. When she made a move toward him, CJ held her firm, but a look from Kate’s pleading eyes made her let go.

Kate gingerly approached, not knowing if he would welcome her or not. “Mr. Emerson?”

Arthur looked up, and a flood of tears immediately burst from his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he choked out. He knew who Kate was, but had no idea until this whole nasty business had come to light, that his wife was her mother. All this new and horrid information had sent him into shock. Their huge house in Connecticut had been searched by police and federal agents just after Elizabeth had gone to Los Angeles, and more evidence of her crimes had been found hidden in her private study. Arthur was bewildered by the entire thing, and all he could do right now was gape at the woman standing a couple of feet away from him.

Kate sat on the bench beside him and bit her lip. She could feel CJ loitering behind her, and it gave her the confidence to go on. “I’m sorry too.”

“I…I never really knew her at all. She was always quite…quite distant, and, oh, I’m just sorry. I had no idea what she was doing, and-”

“It’s OK, Mr. Emerson. No one really knew her. I’m just sorry there are so many victims in this case. I would include you as one of them.”

Arthur shook his head. “I’m not a victim. I’m just a silly, old fool who couldn’t see her for what she really was. I don’t know what to think anymore.”

Kate wanted to disagree, but she didn’t know Arthur well enough to offer an informed opinion. She knew he was not a silly, old fool, though. “I just wanted to offer my apologies for…well, for everything.”

“Don’t you dare say sorry to me, child. Just go home and live your life. I’ve seen you interviewed on television a few times. You’re a breath of fresh air. Go live your life and don’t look back.”

Kate nodded somberly. “I will. And I hope you can do the same.”

“I’m sure I will…eventually.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Emerson.”

“Please, call me Arthur.”

“OK. Goodbye, Arthur.” Kate stood, and as she turned to leave with CJ, she heard a broken “goodbye, Kate” behind her, which caused a few tears to trickle down her cheeks. She knew she probably wouldn’t see Arthur again, but at least she had spoken to the man who was essentially her step-father.

* * * * * *

CJ and Kate had managed to avoid the press outside the courthouse with the help of Special Agent Jamie Green who was parked at a rear exit, and Jamie’s two LAPD friends who coordinated the escape route with a court officer.

Now it was five o’clock, and the Carsons were safely at home with their children. Kate smiled as Shannon danced a jig on the spot. The girl was incredibly excited over getting a gold, smiley-face sticker at school for her drawing of Nevada and Calli. She had done her best to depict the horse perfectly even though Calli wasn’t arriving until tomorrow. The fact that the wait for their new pet was almost over could have contributed to the hyperactive state of Shannon who waited impatiently while her mother examined the brightly-colored drawing. Shannon had explained that since she was now eight years old, her drawing skills were getting much better.

“What do you think, Mama?”

Kate held her chin lightly and tapped her fingertip to her mouth, pretending to think really hard about it. “I think…it needs to go right up on the art wall in the kitchen because it’s fantastic, Shan.”

“Oh!” Shannon exclaimed. It seemed like she genuinely didn’t know what to expect. “I tried really hard to make Calli look pretty with her mane all brushed.”

“And she does look pretty. Both of them look beautiful, sweetie.”

After Shannon hugged Kate tightly around her waist, she took her masterpiece and went to the art wall. She chose a little, round, yellow magnet and stuck her drawing to the big board, making sure the magnet covered the sun on her picture. “Look! The magnet’s the sun,” she shouted to Kate, but didn’t wait for a reply before she went skipping off through the rear hallway to go out into the backyard.

Kate exhaled a chuckle before she heard distant singing coming from another direction. She turned to face the living room and watched as CJ came through the door from the hallway with Lucy on her back. CJ had her left wrist clamped to her belly and her right hand supporting Lucy’s weight as they rehearsed together on their journey.

“Stay close to me,” CJ sang out before patting Lucy on her backside to cue her part of the song.

“Hold on! Hold on!”

“Stay close to me. Watch the world come alive tonight.” CJ continued with the performance until they were both standing in front of Kate. She lowered Lucy who was still singing her lines, to sit on the island counter. CJ finished up the tune and took Lucy’s hand before performing a bow to their audience of one. Lucy followed her mommy’s lead and did the same.

Kate began to applaud. “Bravo. That was great, you guys.”

Lucy’s husky laugh was her initial reply. “Hi, Mama. Where’s Shan?”

“She went out back a minute ago, Luce.”

“Oh. Mommy, can you let me down please?”

CJ’s eyebrow crawled up in surprise. “Since you asked so very nicely, of course I can. Remember how I need to lift you?”

“Yes.” Lucy clamped her small body onto the right side of CJ’s waist and grabbed a tight hold of her sweater. “Ready.”

CJ smiled – as did Kate – and as soon as Lucy’s feet touched down, she was off like a shot out the back door.

Kate checked out the window to make sure the children were safely playing with the dog before turning back to CJ. “You are the cutest wife I could ever imagine.”

When Kate’s arms slid around CJ’s waist, she closed her eyes and breathed deep. “And you are the sweetest-smelling wife I could ever imagine.” Once she had inhaled Kate’s scent a few more times, she pushed back a little and looked into Kate’s eyes as they opened slowly under the scrutiny. CJ’s expression changed as her body was suddenly awash with the love she felt for her partner. Kate noticed the change and remained motionless as CJ’s hand moved up to caress her face. It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still. Kate would never tire of those moments.

CJ’s gaze followed her fingertip as it traced Kate’s warm skin. After covering every beautiful feature, she gulped and repeatedly pushed back Kate’s short bangs. The hair wouldn’t stay up, and CJ smiled with affection as she pinned the unruly strands back so she could lean forward to kiss Kate’s forehead.

When the gentle contact left her, Kate spoke. “What happened there?”

“I’m just so thankful for you.”

Kate’s eyes opened wide, and she just couldn’t stop the emotion from bubbling to the surface. With a sniff and a tear, she took hold of CJ once more. “And I’m thankful for you. I love you, CJ.”

“I know. Incredible, huh?”

“Mama, Mommy. Come see this!” a voice squealed from outside the back door.

“Guess we better go see this…?” CJ said with a smirk. “Oh, and I love you too, like you didn’t know that already.”

As she shuffled off, Kate swiped her backside before running past her to see the whatever-it-was first. When they reached the yard, they were greeted by the backs of two excited children who had climbed up on the lowest rail of the sturdy fence.

CJ and Kate walked up behind them to see what they were watching. A huge smile came over Kate’s face when she saw Billy taking four handmade, wooden rocking chairs out of his truck, and when he saw the family watching him, he waved.

Billy really was a master craftsman. Their stunning, new barn was almost complete, and it had incredible views out onto the lake. It stood further back than the previous structure to make more room between the house and the barn, and to give better access to the horse fields. A large door in the front could be used for vehicles like before, but the four horse stalls with direct access to outside corrals faced out to the grazing at the back. The large door at the front was flanked on both sides by a long, covered patio area where Billy was now placing the chairs. CJ looked to Kate before leaving the backyard, and the whole family trooped in single file behind her…including the dog.

“Hey, Billy. What’s all this?”

“Evenin’. I wanted to bring y’all a gift.”

“Oh, you really didn’t have to do that.”

Billy scratched his head. “Well, I feel I did. You gave me a job to do when things were gettin’ a little tight in my wallet. I’ve enjoyed workin’ this project, so I wanted to thank you and your family by bringin’ you these chairs I make as a side business. I hope you like ‘em.”

Kate stepped up next to CJ. “Billy, they’re beautiful. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Carson.”

CJ grinned. She still thought that sounded funny, but she loved it too. It was even funnier when he called her Mrs. Carson. “You’re quite the craftsman, Billy. The barn is so much better than I ever expected, and much better than the old one we had,” she praised with a nod before sitting briefly in one of the chairs and rocking gently to test it out.

“Glad you think so. Let me give you the guided tour.”

“It’s totally finished?” CJ asked in a high-pitched voice.

“Totally, yes. Stables, corrals, tack room, hay loft, and other storage. There’s a real big, empty room that’s space enough for a whole weddin’ too.”

“Wow. Lemme see then.”

They all followed Billy inside and were soon in awe of his work. Their new barn was perfect and luxurious, and the craftsmanship was second-to-none. They couldn’t wait to start using it.

As Kamali wandered around sniffing at the new stalls, Lucy was hot on his tail. She was fascinated with the sound her thumping feet made on the concrete floor as it echoed throughout the large space.

Shannon suddenly squealed with excitement and ran back to the house. She returned a mere moment later with her arms full of halters and colorful lead ropes. CJ and Kate stifled their laughter when she began to hang the items neatly on a row of chunky wall hooks just inside the barn door.

When a clunk sounded behind them, they turned to see Lucy who was inside one of the stalls with her hands on her hips, examining the space with a serious look on her face. With a nod of approval, she began stomping back out the door, laughing at Kamali as he pranced backwards in front of her. It seemed like everyone was very happy with Billy’s work.

* * * * * *

Later that night, the house fell silent as CJ and Kate soaked together in the tub. It had been a strange day of mixed emotions, but it seemed they couldn’t fail to be happy, as was evident by the lazy smiles now playing on their tired, peaceful faces. Only when they were washed and dried did either of them speak.

“Back to work tomorrow, huh?” Kate said as she adjusted CJ’s wrist support after their bath.

“Yeah, desk duty. What fun.”

“I can tell by the sarcasm that you’re very excited by the prospect.”

CJ grinned. “I hate being tied to my desk, but I guess it could be worse.”

“Oh, it could always be worse. I’m quite happy you’ll be safe in the office for a while.” Kate made some final adjustments before leaning down and kissing CJ’s knuckles. “How does that feel?”

“Good, thanks. But you do know I can do that by myself now, right?”

“Yeah, I know. I just like to do it.”

“And I like to let you.”

“Well, that’s a welcome change,” Kate said quietly. “Is it still painful?”

“No pain. Just discomfort today.”

“Good. Bedtime?” Kate asked, and got two twinkling, blue eyes in response. “I’m guessing I won’t be sleeping anytime soon?”

“Mmm,” CJ murmured as she slipped her bare arms around Kate’s waist. “I think we should take your robe back off, since I’m still naked an’ all.” Pulling away from gently biting Kate’s neck, she backed into the bedroom curling her finger in invitation.

Kate didn’t need to be convinced. The stunning specimen of womanhood facing her was too alluring to resist. She dropped the robe, licked her lips, and approached CJ as she stood by the large bed. “Mine,” she whispered as her mouth delicately kissed along a familiar and delicious collarbone.

CJ’s eyes closed at the soft touch. They had made love a few times over the past two months, but it was nowhere near as often as usual. And this week had been busier for Kate as her Infinity One meetings were becoming more frequent. That, added to the stress of the court case, looking after two growing children, and CJ’s healing injuries, left little time or energy for sex. They were tired tonight too, but right at this moment CJ’s breaths were becoming shorter and faster as Kate caressed her, and it seemed Kate needed it as much as she did.

An audible whimper left CJ’s throat when Kate sucked her nipple into her mouth. “Oh…”

Kate teased CJ’s nipple with her tongue, flicking it back and forth as she guided her to sit on the bed. CJ leaned back on her right elbow as Kate covered her body in her quest to get the entire breast into her mouth.

“Wow,” CJ gasped when she felt teeth grasp around the erect tip.

Kate reluctantly let go for a second. “Lie back.” Once CJ had done as she was told, Kate slid her body down while twisting the other nipple with her fingers. Her mouth paused over CJ’s dark thatch of soft hair causing her hips to surge upward.

“Please…” CJ begged helplessly.

Kate couldn’t help but smile, and she gave CJ a small nod which made her nose nuzzle into the hair and touch the skin beneath. CJ opened her legs in an eager invitation, and Kate gladly accepted. She tasted and stroked her to a state of delirious pleasure before she stopped and hovered over her, licking her lips with satisfaction.

“Close your eyes for me,” Kate purred.

CJ didn’t have the presence of mind to ask why, and did as she was commanded. She felt Kate stand up and leave the bed. She frowned when a few quiet noises met her ears, but still, she obeyed Kate’s order. “What are you doing?” she whispered.

“Keep your eyes closed and you’ll soon find out.”

Kate’s voice registered a few octaves lower than usual, so CJ was absolutely sure that whatever she was going to do, she was gonna like it. The mattress moved slowly, and she felt Kate settle between her knees once more. Delicate fingers tickled up the insides of her legs until her inner thighs trembled with anticipation. Kate teased her sex with her tongue and hands again, and when CJ was gasping out each and every breath, she entered her with three fingers.

“Mmm, Ciara. You’re so wet, so perfect.”

“Your fault,” CJ hissed from between clenched teeth. “God…Katie, please.”

Kate withdrew and supported her weight as she hovered above CJ. She let her soaked fingers drift past her nostrils, the scent of CJ’s arousal making her heart skip a beat. She then reached down with the same hand to guide the warm, well-lubricated dildo between CJ’s legs. She had wanted to surprise her, and figured doing it this way would reduce the chance of them laughing too much and ruining their first attempt. Neither of them felt like laughing right now. Kate was just as wet as CJ, and she could feel the harness that surrounded her sex becoming drenched in her excitement. She hadn’t thought it would be such a turn-on wearing the device.

This is CJ. Anything we do together is gonna turn me on, she thought to herself as she looked down and saw the rounded tip of the toy mere millimeters from CJ’s clit. “Just relax…and feel me.”

CJ’s breasts were heaving now, and she reached up blindly to find Kate’s hair. “Touch me.”

Kate lowered her hips, and as she pressed into CJ’s burning flesh she kissed her hotly, sliding her tongue deep into her mouth. CJ welcomed it eagerly, but opened her eyes when she felt the head of the dildo rubbing against her sensitive core.

Kate broke the kiss and licked her lips seductively. “Wanna try it?” she husked as she gently wiggled the phallus in her hand.

CJ couldn’t speak. A nod would have to suffice while she tried to continue breathing. Kate had her on the edge, and when Kate’s hand ventured in between her legs, she closed her eyes again at the feel of her strong, knowing fingers building her to the point of no return. She was brought to the brink one more time until those fingers left momentarily as Kate brought the head of the dildo to hover just outside CJ’s body. The dildo was warm and slippery, and the thought of what Kate was about to do was intoxicating.

“Oh, fuck.”

“You OK?”

“Please, Katie. Do it.”

Kate moved her hips down a little more, and CJ moaned long and low. Kate held the shaft in place as she pushed further. CJ was staring into her eyes until a gentle thrust of Kate’s hips sent her blue orbs rolling back.

Kate was loving this very different experience. It was a new sensation for her to move her body this way, and it was causing the most amazing noises to erupt from CJ’s throat. She could feel her clit throbbing under the harness. Every move she made created friction and pressure where she needed it most, and she continued to slowly thrust in and out of her partner.

“Faster, Katie,” CJ whispered breathlessly.

Kate knew CJ had been almost ready to come a few minutes ago, and she wondered if she could bring her to climax now with the toy alone. CJ gripped Kate’s buttock with her right hand and dug her nails in so hard it made Kate gasp and quicken her pace.

“Yes!”

CJ continued to pull her in, and Kate moved faster still, feeling the sweat start to run down her back from the exertion as she braced herself on her arms. She felt like she might have an orgasm right now if CJ screamed, and when CJ’s hips came up to meet her every penetration, she cried out at the intensity of it. She lowered herself down and kissed CJ with a fiery passion before biting her bottom lip and letting go to concentrate on her rhythm. A few seconds later, a scream did rip from CJ’s throat, and they both thrust against each other as the feelings and sensations swallowed them whole.

Kate’s climax wasn’t as intense as CJ’s, and she opened her eyes to watch CJ recover from the high. With a devious smile, she leaned down to lick her lover’s irresistible lips, and the movement made the dildo shift inside CJ.

“Ooh…”

“Want me to pull out?” Kate gave her a sexy wink.

“Yeah. Slowly.”

Kate withdrew carefully – eliciting a few twitches from CJ’s body – and pretended to sulk. “I didn’t even get a chance to switch on the vibrate function.”

CJ gawked at her. “It has a vibrate function?”

The response was Kate’s sultry nod.

“Not sure I’d survive that.” She watched intently as Kate disengaged from the contraption that, when wielded by her love, was highly arousing. It surprised CJ, and she wondered just what it would be like to use it on Kate. Her face flushed at the image the thought created, and Kate saw the burning cheeks and guilty look.

“What were you just thinking?” Kate asked as she slid back onto the bed and kissed CJ’s stomach.

“Just, uh, thinking about reversing the roles.”

“Oh, really? Well, you can’t do it in that position. Your wrist can’t support your weight yet.”

“True. But I was thinking more of…standing behind you?”

Kate hummed. “Mmm, we can definitely try that next time.”

“Why not now?”

“Now?” Kate snuggled up beside CJ and nuzzled under her chin like always. “Honey, I came when you did.”

“Oh.” CJ realized she had been so far gone, she didn’t have the presence of mind to notice what Kate had experienced. “Wow. Not sure if I like the idea that I didn’t know that.”

“Well, remember, it was our first time, so maybe it overloaded our senses?”

“Hmm, I agree. I couldn’t believe I was gonna come like that, but I know it was because you were doing it to me. It was so hot.”

Kate raised her head to look at CJ. “Hot, huh? You got me so hot when you screamed out, I climaxed right after you.” She bit her lip as her nostrils flared. “Perhaps we should try that other position now?”

CJ grinned. “Heatin’ up again, are ya?” she whispered as she trailed her finger up between Kate’s breasts.

“Yes. And don’t wash it yet. I want you inside me,” Kate murmured as she stood up.

“Holy shit. You’re killin’ me.” CJ leapt from the mattress and picked up the strap-on with her good hand. “Help me do this,” she said frantically.

With a mischievous smile, Kate assisted eagerly, adjusting the straps to fit CJ’s larger frame. She didn’t even laugh when she saw the five-inch dildo proudly protruding from her wife’s groin. And she certainly wasn’t laughing when CJ knelt down on the plush carpet and started kissing and nipping her abdomen. Kate wanted to melt into a pile of arousal on the floor, but she knew she had to stay standing for what CJ wanted to do next. The mere thought made her inner muscles spasm.

“Ciara…lick me.”

CJ moaned, and as soon as Kate’s legs were spread, she poked out her tongue and pressed it forcefully between Kate’s outer labia. Another low moan signified her pleasure at the taste of Kate on her lips. Cupping Kate’s soft rear with her hand, she pushed her face deeper, eliciting a few whimpers from above.

CJ was surrounded by Kate. It was her favorite place to be, but she knew she had to give it up to get into position. She was looking forward to trying this. She just wished she had two fully working hands. Her lips blazed a trail of kisses over Kate’s belly before her mouth covered her breast. Once Kate’s nipple had been teased to a hard point, she did the same to the other one. She got to her feet and slipped around her, turning her to face the floor-to-ceiling mirror they had on the bedroom wall.

Kate saw the look in those azure eyes and the sultry smirk on CJ’s face. She could tell CJ was enjoying this experiment immensely. She felt the phallus resting between her buttocks as CJ bit down on her neck. She cried out when the bite crossed into pleasure-pain, but CJ let go at just the right moment to kiss the marked skin, leaving Kate panting for more.

“Ciara, I need…”

“I know,” CJ whispered. “Put your palms on the bed.” As Kate trembled with excitement and bent down, CJ swallowed the saliva that pooled in her mouth and reached quickly to the nightstand to pick up the small remote. She trapped it inside the wrist support on her left hand for easy control later. Licking her lips, she wrapped her right hand around the shaft and moved toward her waiting spouse. Being taller than Kate, she decided to bend her knees, but Kate must have felt the toy touch her skin and rose up on her tip-toes to meet it. Her back arched when CJ carefully slipped the tip inside her.

“Oh, Katie,” CJ croaked as she watched the dildo disappear. She looked at their reflection in the mirror and felt her sex throb.

“More…”

CJ thrust tentatively. She knew neither of them was used to this much penetration, but she remembered how it felt to her, and since they were both highly aroused, she figured Kate’s grunts meant she wanted even more. Still, she would check. “You sure?”

“Yes. Fuck me.”

A wave of heat spread through CJ as she swayed her body forward, slowly withdrawing at first, but her pace soon picked up after Kate’s response. Every time her skin slapped against Kate’s rear, she whimpered and pushed back against her.

Kate was too preoccupied to look in the mirror, but CJ glanced over a few times and closed her eyes to imprint the image in her mind. She realized she was getting closer to orgasm again, and with her right hand she gripped Kate’s hip. With a little effort, a finger on her left hand pressed the button on the remote, and the quiet hum of the vibration reached her ears. The device began to buzz, and both women gasped in unison.

“I’m…so close,” Kate breathed out.

CJ couldn’t resist giving her even more stimulation. She slid her hand around to Kate’s front and flicked the tip of her finger across her clit. After a few repetitions of the caress, Kate gripped the dildo tightly with her muscles and climaxed with a long, drawn out moan. CJ thrust a couple more times, and that was all it took. She recovered quickly from a mild orgasm, and as she massaged Kate’s sex, she pulled her hips back slowly.

Kate fell forward onto the mattress. “Oh, yeah.”

“You liked that, huh?”

“Definitely, but…”

CJ hit the switch, unclipped the harness easily with one hand, and wiggled the remote out of her wrist support. “But what, Katie?” she said as she discarded them on the couch and slumped down on the bed.

Kate turned onto her side and kissed CJ’s shoulder. With her arm draped loosely over CJ’s abdomen, she thought about what it had felt like. “It was good, great actually. The thought of you doing that to me is a huge turn on, but I…hmm, I don’t feel completely satisfied.” Kate reached down between her own legs and felt the tension in her clit. “It feels like I’m not finished,” she said with a little grin.

CJ smiled and tried to draw her eyes away from Kate’s inquisitive hand. “I know what you mean. It was like an overload of sensation, but nothing beats you touching me. The orgasm felt different somehow.”

Kate propped her head on her hand and swirled her fingers over CJ’s breast. “I love how we talk about this. Can you explain what felt different about it?” she posed with her eyebrow raised hopefully.

CJ chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong. It was an awesome orgasm. I just…it feels more gradual and intense when you stimulate me. The anticipation is mind-blowing, the feel of your touch is unique, and I can’t get enough of you…just you. The way you touch me, especially with your mouth, satisfies me much more than this did.”

“We feel the same way then. I like the new toy, but I don’t think I want to use it very often. I much prefer when it’s just you and me.”

CJ nodded. “I like the size you bought, though.”

Kate barked out a laugh. “You do, huh? It looked like a simple one to use, and yeah, the size didn’t look too scary,” she said, sitting up to look over at the strap-on. Flopping back down, she nuzzled in under CJ’s arm. “Seems I chose the right one.”

“I’d say you did. Thank you for surprising me.”

“I’m just glad you didn’t freak out,” Kate said with a giggle.

“Are you kidding? You had me so wound up, I was about to explode.”

“I like it when you explode.”

CJ laughed. “I’m not even gonna respond to that one,” she said, sticking her tongue out. “So, we’ll use it whenever we’re in the mood, huh?”

“As long as we both want it, yes.” Kate shot her a smoldering look. “So, you’re not satisfied yet?”

“Well…no, and I’m getting hungry too. I might need to fill my mouth with something really delicious,” CJ purred as she pulled Kate’s head towards her own. They met in a heated kiss, and it wasn’t long before CJ had Kate just where she wanted her. It would be a while before sleep claimed their tired bodies tonight.

.

Chapter 2

At eight thirty the next morning, CJ strolled along the corridor to her office. The smile on her face was of contentment from her wonderful evening with Kate, and of excitement at being back at work, even if it was only desk duty. Hearing Special Agent Jamie Green’s voice coming from the open door, she grinned, realizing how much she had missed working with her. The grin fell slightly when she heard what was being said.

“Two males. Approximate ages?”

CJ walked in the door and slipped behind her desk to listen to the remainder of the conversation.

“Where? Uh-huh. Yep, no problem, Sir. I’ll get on it right now.” Jamie ended the call and stood from her seat. “Hey, DM. Sorry to love you and leave you on your first day back, but we’ve got two bodies at the UCLA campus.”

“How old are the victims?” CJ asked with a frown.

“Nineteen and twenty one…shot. They’re the second couple to be killed since last weekend.”

“Why do we have it if there have only been two incidents?”

“The MO. It seems the killer is targeting young couples, shooting them in the back. Looks like a job for us, so Mark sent us the previous casefile,” Jamie said, leaning down to kiss her friend on the cheek. “I’ll call you from the location.”

“Roger that, Penfold.”

CJ looked around the office after Jamie had left and tried to keep the frustration from taking over. She really wanted to go with Jamie, but there was no way she could swing it with the bosses. She decided now would be a good time to catch up with past cases – if there were any – and all the daily briefings she had missed. It would keep her busy until Jamie called in. With a few clicks on her computer, she brought up the first shooting and sifted through the initial report pages to get to the MO, victimology, and crime scene info. She had barely started reading when Mikey arrived.

“Welcome back, CJ. We kinda missed you around here.”

“Hah, I bet. Hey, we just got two more bodies. Jamie went out to deal with it, but…”

“Yeah, she called me to see where I was. She’s waiting for me downstairs. See you later.”

And with that, CJ was alone again. She sighed and leaned forward on her desk. Looking down, she saw the reason she had to stay indoors. Her neoprene wrist-guard poked out from below her black jacket sleeve, and she had to admit the injury still ached. What if she damaged it again while trying to deal with some criminal? It might never heal, and she didn’t want to revisit that amount of pain anytime soon.

“Hmm. I guess I can do a lot from here. Let’s see…”

Reading through the report, she noted the first two victims had the last name Craven. Both husband and wife had been shot in the back. When CJ looked closer at the ME’s report – after a quick grimace at Chris Wilder’s name at the bottom of it – she noticed the exact same injury from each gunshot. “Both bullets, .22 caliber, same gun, weapon fired approximately three meters from targets…rupturing the right coronary artery? Shot through the heart? Seems personal. I wonder if today’s victims have any link to these ones. Hmm.”

She perused further and found the crime scene photos along with identifying pictures of both victims when they were still alive. She extracted the images she wanted from the file and printed them before turning to her pin-board. If Jamie called and described two more bodies with the same injuries, they most likely had a serial killer on their hands.

* * * * * *

Kate looked out the car window as Tony pulled into the small Olympian lot. She had a costume fitting today, and she was looking forward to seeing what she’d be wearing in her new role as Top Gun fighter pilot, Le’Ana Bezwick in Infinity One. “It’s much nicer here than at studio twenty six, huh?”

“Yeah,” Tony replied as he pressed the button to kill the engine. “It’s smaller…seems more personal somehow.”

Kate nodded. “I think I’m gonna like it. See you in about an hour?”

“Yeah. I’ll go along and find Cyn, have some coffee if she’s free. Just buzz me if you need me.”

“OK.” Kate headed into the offices at the side of the three hangar-type studio buildings that made up the Chaplin stages. She’d never actually been inside before, and as she walked through the doors her brows rose in surprise. The corridor, which was lined on one side by a row of continuous windows, was painted in warm earthy tones, and had various television and film memorabilia pieces hanging in chunky frames. The items were from all sections of Olympian studios, and Kate paused in front of an old cast photograph from her first day on Rise of the Phoenix.

“Hah. I don’t even have that picture. Wow, I’ll have to let CJ see that. Look at my hair.” She chuckled as she left behind the memory of her voluminous, swirling, wavy locks, and the somewhat startled expression on her younger, inexperienced face.

Finding a room containing a couple of people chatting to each other, she poked her head in the doorway and smiled. “Excuse me. Could you point me in the direction of the wardrobe department?”

“Kate Marshall?”

“Yes.”

The man, who could quite easily pass for Robert DeNiro, bustled toward her. “It’s great to meet you,” he chirped, extending his hand in welcome.

“Good to meet you too.” Kate grinned as the DeNiro thing evaporated with the high-pitched voice of the man in front of her.

“I’m Jacob Goleman, stage manager here at Chaplin. I’ll be part of your crew on Infinity One. We’re so glad you wanted to be on the show!”

“Thank you, Jacob. I’m looking forward to getting started. Can you show me to the wardrobe department?”

Jacob laughed. “The wardrobe department over here consists of two rooms, but yes, it’s this way.” Once he gave a wave to his colleague, he and Kate began the walk along another corridor. Passing a few more photos and posters, Jacob gestured to the frames. “We’re very proud of some of the shows that have come from Olympian in the past. And we’re very proud to have you too, Kate. Did you know the Chaplin stages were the first ones built here?”

Kate almost blushed. She wasn’t used to this sort of compliment from anyone at work. “Yes, I did know that. And thank you, Jacob. I have to say, it feels so different here even though it’s only a short distance from studio twenty six.”

“Good different?”

“Of course,” Kate replied with a nod.

Jacob smiled as he opened a tall, black, wooden door and held it for Kate to pass through before him.

God, he’s a gentleman, and the people I’ve met already who are involved with this show have been wonderful too. She broke from her thoughts and belatedly looked back to her new friend. “Thanks.”

“No worries, Kate. This way.” Jacob led her into a large room with a conference table in the center surrounded by chairs, but the chairs were not your standard, boring, office chairs. They were all different from each other. Some were patterned, some were cushioned, and some didn’t even have backs on them.

Jacob saw Kate’s appraisal and smirked. “Everyone has their preference, Kate. We try to cater to all needs here. You’ve still to choose your chair.”

“People have chosen these ones?”

“Yes. This is the meeting room for Infinity One, and those spaces over there,” he said, pointing to the empty end of the table. “Are for you and a few more cast who’ve yet to come in.”

Kate scrunched up her face. “This feels more like home than work.”

“That’s the idea.”

“I like it.”

“Good. Now let’s get you suited up.” Jacob opened another door, and they went through another short corridor. “Here we are,” he announced, opening yet another door.

Kate’s senses were assaulted by the abundance of color and soft light as soon as she stepped inside. A calming smell of sandalwood and vanilla incense invaded her nostrils too. The room was huge. Various rails of uniforms and costumes were dotted throughout the space, and in between those were changing cubicles and dressing tables with mirrors surrounded by rows of bright but diffused light bulbs.

“Nice.”

“Glad you approve.” Jacob grinned with satisfaction. “Come on. You can meet some of the others on the team.”

* * * * * *

CJ was going cross-eyed. She had been reading through everything that she had missed, and evidently, that was quite a lot. As she looked through a murder case that Jamie and Ethan had been working on while she was away, she was impressed with the trail of evidence gathered and the capture of the killer. She realized it was pretty much how she would have solved it. It seemed like Jamie really was starting to think like CJ where work was concerned.

Guess I’m not bad at teaching by example, she said to herself. She rolled her eyes at her thoughts before she sat up straight to stretch out her back. She continued the stretch as she stood up to head over to the coffee machine. It was then that she noticed she wasn’t alone anymore.

Chris Wilder stood in the half-opened doorway. “So glad you’re back at work, CJ,” she said with a greedy look in her deep-brown eyes.

CJ had frozen mid-stretch, and she realized her breasts were sticking way out so she immediately relaxed her pose, but not before Chris’s gaze had lowered to take in her beautiful body. “How can I help you, Doctor Wilder?” CJ almost kicked herself for saying something that could easily garner a lurid response.

Chris’s snicker slipped out as she strolled over to the desk. “In so many ways, but I came…to give you this.”

After a case file dropped onto her desk, CJ leaned over to pick it up, trying to not look alluring as she did so. She casually flicked through the pages. “I already have the autopsy report.”

“I added a little something to that one, though. Both victims were diabetic,” Chris purred while leaning both hands on the desktop to reveal her cleavage to CJ.

CJ quickly looked back at the report before she spoke again. “You think it’s relevant to the case? I can’t imagine a killer checking to see if his targets have diabetes before he shoots them in the back,” she said a little too sharply.

It didn’t deter Chris. It just made her hotter. “I like to be…thorough. But you already know that.”

“Well, thanks for the info. I’ll let Jamie know. It’s her case, after all.” CJ kept her disdain under control and walked over to the coffee machine. She could swear Chris was staring at her ass, but she figured if she ignored the predatory woman, she’d leave. She figured wrong. She felt Chris’s body heat behind her, and before she could turn around, a soft voice sounded in her ear.

“You can deny me all you want, CJ. I know you’ll submit eventually. Remember how I could always make you submit? Hmm?”

CJ was getting angry, and she was about to turn around – without touching the body that invaded her personal space – when the presence suddenly left her. In a flash, Chris was across the room, and CJ whipped around to see why. Literally two seconds later, a tall figure filled the doorway. Relief and surprise flooded through CJ’s body when she blinked and recognized the person looking back at her.

“Tim? Come on in!” she exclaimed, striding over to the welcome distraction and grabbing him in a bear hug. “So very, very good to see you…”

As Chris grumpily made her exit, she mumbled, “I’ll let you know if I find anything else.”

CJ ignored her and focused on her friend. She gradually started to feel like an idiot since she was still holding onto Special Agent Dalton as if he was her favorite teddy bear. “Sorry, Tim, but you came in at just the right moment. I don’t really like our new medical examiner.”

“Ah. Well, it’s good to see you too, CJ. Very good actually,” Tim responded, letting CJ go as she backed away. “I arrived the second day of the trial to testify, but since then I’ve been pretty busy so I couldn’t make it in to see you.” He stood back and looked her up and down. “Man, you really are tough. You look great! I’m so relieved you’re feeling better.”

CJ frowned at the feelings she was having for this particular agent. He felt like a brother to her, and it was strange for her to feel trust towards, and care for, someone she knew so little about. “I am feeling better. Just gotta get this wrist to work, and I’ll be fine. So, what’re you doing here?”

At that very moment, Mark walked in, and all he wanted to do was surround CJ in a hug to welcome her back, but he knew he shouldn’t. Instead, he glanced at Tim then looked back to CJ. He hadn’t had a chance to speak with her about the transfer. “And Dalton makes six,” he said with a big grin.

When her momentary puzzlement vanished, CJ’s heart melted a little because Mark thought of himself as a member of their team, as well as the boss. “He’s here to stay?” She turned to Tim. “You’re here to stay?”

Tim smiled widely. “If you’ll have me, yes. I hope you’re ready to show me the ropes?”

“Hell, yes!” CJ was ridiculously happy. At least something good had happened in Minnesota. She had met this fine, young man, and she’d truly felt like he was completely behind her while they dealt with Frank Hess…and Bob Crane. There was no question in her mind that Tim would have her back in anything they’d deal with in the future. Weird, she thought fleetingly.

Mark patted Tim on the shoulder. “Well, Dalton, just take your time to get acquainted today. I’m sure CJ will be happy to have the company since she’s stuck in the office right now.”

CJ punched Mark softly on the shoulder and gave him a grin in immediate apology. “I’m glad you understand my frustration, Sir.”

“I do, but you cracked the Hieroglyph case without leaving your living room, so I know you’ll do plenty of good here.”

“Nah, I didn’t crack that case…”

“Actually, you did. Now, show Tim around and catch him up on our current killer. I’ll see you guys later for an update once Jamie and Mikey get back.”

“Yes, Sir.” Once Mark had left, CJ smiled stupidly at her new colleague. “So, you took me up on that offer to come here and work hard, huh?”

Tim gazed at her for a second and then regained his faculties. He felt like he’d found someone special to him. It was the strangest feeling ever. “Yeah, I did. Once my grandmother passed-”

“Shit. I’m sorry, Tim.”

“Thanks, CJ, but she died peacefully at home, so I’m doing OK. Anyway, there was nothing holding me in Minneapolis anymore, and I had to think about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do. I’d been talking to Mulroney on the phone…hinted at a transfer. So, here I am.”

“So awesome,” CJ whispered. She shook her head and spun around with a deep breath. “So, yeah…things are pretty relaxed here in the office. We really do work as a team. Here, take Ethan’s desk for today. He’s got the week off. We’ll drag that spare desk out of the store room once we figure out where to fit you in.”

Tim dumped his bag in the offered chair and took a look around his new place of work. “It’s not huge, but it feels good to be here.”

CJ shrugged. “We manage fine, but Mark’s been saying for months he wants to do something more with that store room, so maybe he’ll get it knocked through.”

“Might be an idea…”

“Oh, but don’t call him Mark when we’re working. He’s a great boss, but that’s what he is…the boss,” CJ added, tapping her fingertip to the side of her nose.

“Gotcha.”

CJ pointed to a faraway wall. “You can put your gun in one of those little lockers over there, or just keep it on you which is what we tend to do most of the time.”

“Cool, thanks. Hey, how ‘bout catching me up on this killer?”

“Gettin’ right to it, huh?”

“Work hard is what you said, right?” Tim said with a nod.

“Right.”

As they started to go over the crime scene photos and various reports, CJ’s mind tried to eradicate what had happened just before Tim arrived. Chris Wilder was determined, and CJ knew she’d have to be very cautious because when Chris wanted something, she usually got it.

Not this time, she thought to herself. As beautiful as she is on the outside, I know who she is on the inside. Never again. I have everything I could ever want in Katie. Ah, Katie…now there’s a nicer thought.

* * * * * *

Kate stood on a small, raised platform as the costume designer looked on, and the seamstress pinned the made-to-measure flight suit around her body. Kate was pretty excited by the image she saw in the large mirror in front of her. Even though the costume was still in the adjustment phase, Kate could see what it was going to look like. CJ is gonna go nuts for this.

The chiseled shoulders of the military uniform gave it a proud, authoritative feeling. A deep-red trim on the navy-blue material told of her character’s lead pilot position. Captain Le’Ana Bezwick was going to be a challenge, but Kate loved this kind of challenge. She stretched her back and raised her chin. The uniform made her want to stand tall, and she liked how the tapered, smart design made her feel powerful yet still made it clear she was a female pilot.

“Did you design this yourself, Charlotte?” she inquired, looking down to the diminutive designer who had a fiery head of dyed, red hair.

“I did. Do you like it?”

“I love it. It looks so…so…”

“Sexy?” Charlotte suggested with a grin, clutching at her clipboard.

“Well, that wasn’t the word I was thinking of, but that works too. I was going to say gallant?”

Charlotte laughed. “Gallant is good. Gotta have the best for our hot-shot fighter jock.”

Kate smiled just as the large door to the room opened, and they were joined by Jacob and another blond female. Jacob bustled over to the group and smiled at Kate.

“I’d like you to meet one of your co-stars, Kate. This is Erica Cavanaugh.”

Kate remained still on her pedestal and nodded slightly to the stunning woman. “Hi, Erica. Sorry, but I can’t move right now.”

Erica flashed a brilliant smile, her face beaming red. “Oh, it’s really all right, Kate. I know the drill when you’re being sewn into your suit. It’s great to meet you at last. When I found out you were onboard, I just melted. I’ve admired your work for a while now, and I feel honored to be on the same show as you.”

Kate studied Erica whose beauty was obvious and quite astounding. Deep, blue-gray eyes hid just beneath her blond bangs, and her elegant features fit her face perfectly. Her hair was…well, it was almost exactly the same style as Kate’s, and the lipstick and eye make-up were done to airbrush standards. Belatedly, Kate blinked to shake herself out of her reverie.

“Well, thank you, but we’re all in the same game, aren’t we? I’m just glad to be on a show where I feel more at home than at work.”

Jacob gave a cheesy smile. “That’s what we want. A happy cast! OK, I have to dash, but Erica, you’re up next, so why don’t you get yourself settled, and…” He looked around him. “Here, this dressing table is all set up for you.”

“Thanks, Jacob.” When he left, Erica put her bag in her cubicle and came back to stand in front of Kate. “I hope you don’t mind me watching this before I have my turn. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a costume painted on before.”

Kate laughed heartily, her movement causing a pin to prick her skin. “Ow!”

“Sorry, Miss Marshall.”

“My fault, Gina,” Kate said apologetically to the seamstress. “I know what you mean, Erica. They are rather, uh…a tight fit?”

Erica nodded profusely. “That’s an understatement. Although I have to say, it looks very good on you.”

Before Kate could respond, Gina stood up to her full height. “You do know it won’t be this tight once I actually stitch it?”

Both Erica and Kate began to laugh again. Erica gave her co-star a conspiratorial wink and turned to their crew member.

“We were just messing with you, Gina. I believe that’s what families do. Right, Kate?”

“Right.” Kate gave a lop-sided grin as she studied the other actress. Erica was certainly friendly, perhaps overly so, but who was she to judge? She showed no signs of co-star envy or bitchiness, so this seemed like a job that was going to be enjoyable all round.

So far, so good.

.

Chapter 3

When Jamie walked into her office after dealing with a messy, double homicide, her hazel eyes landed on two dark heads behind CJ’s desk leaning close together in deep conversation. She frowned as she let her brain catch up to the fact that it was CJ and…that agent from Minnesota. They seemed to be oblivious to her arrival and were discussing the current SSHU case.

“Uh, hi?”

CJ looked up, and a bright smile covered her beautiful face. “Penfold.” She got up to greet Jamie properly since she didn’t get the chance earlier, and Tim watched the tight bear-hug the two women shared with interest.

“What did you call her, CJ?”

“Oh,” CJ let Jamie go and messed up her hair, causing Jamie to blush and grumble on her way to her seat. “She’s my Penfold. Nobody else’s,” she said with a wink. “It’s just a nickname.”

Jamie dumped her stuff and walked toward Tim, feeling a little relief when she finally remembered his name. “Good to see you again, Dalton,” she said, offering her hand rigidly.

Tim stood and gripped the appendage firmly. “Likewise, Agent Green.”

CJ rolled her eyes, not really understanding their formality with one another. “Oh, come on, you guys. I think Tim and Jamie will suffice, don’t you? We’re working together, after all.”

Jamie turned to her best friend. “We are?”

“Yeah, Tim’s here to stay. Isn’t that great?”

Jamie saw CJ’s brilliant smile, but somehow she could not force herself to mirror it. She willed her cheek muscles to pull the ends of her mouth upward, but she couldn’t shake off an unwanted feeling she didn’t quite understand. “Yeah, that’s great.” She swept her eyes back to Tim and tried to sound enthusiastic. “Welcome to the unit.”

“Thanks, Jamie. Glad to be here.” Tim finally let go of Jamie’s hand and bit his lip. Something was bugging Jamie, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe it’s the case, and maybe I could help. He sat down next to CJ again and laid his hands on the papers on the desktop. He was about to try to make conversation when CJ spoke up.

“You were gonna call me from the scene, Jamie.”

There was no particular tone to the statement, but Jamie’s face showed a fleeting pang of hurt before her professional mask fell back in its place. “Yeah, I know. It was getting pretty windy out there, and the doc wanted the bodies brought back quickly.”

“Huh,” CJ huffed. “I’m surprised she even got out there to look at them.”

Again, there was no malice, but something was making Jamie very uncomfortable. “She was late, actually. I’m not sure what could have been more important than two murder victims. She doesn’t have any others down there right now, does she?”

CJ looked up, hearing some stress and a little sarcasm in Jamie’s voice. “I don’t think so.” She analyzed Jamie for a second, noting her tight lips, her frown lines, and the dullness in those usually-expressive eyes. She knew immediately that she had to speak with Jamie privately. “Tim, please excuse us for a minute?” She stood up and grabbed Jamie’s arm, dragging her to the women’s restroom.

When they got there, Jamie broke out of her stunned stupor and turned around angrily with a stomp of her foot. “What the hell are you doing?”

CJ took a deep breath to counteract the sudden rage in her colleague. “Nipping this in the bud…whatever this is. What’s going on with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were barely civil to Tim, and…and I can just tell something’s wrong. Are you mad at me?” When Jamie flinched, CJ knew she had got it right. “What did I do? Please tell me?”

Jamie remained quiet. She was still trying to figure out why she was mad at CJ, since she had no clue herself.

“Jamie, I won’t know how to fix it if you don’t tell me. I’m not a mind reader, contrary to popular belief.”

At that, Jamie’s sandy eyebrow went up slightly, but still she remained silent.

CJ narrowed her eyes. “I only just got back, and I’m so happy to see you, but this is not the welcome I was anticipating. Is the case getting to you? Are you pissed that I asked why you didn’t call me?”

Jamie let out a huge breath. “Nah, and it’s not the case either. I…I’m not sure what it is. I walked in and saw you all chummy with Dalton, and you were so excited he was here. It felt like I was punched in the chest. I don’t know why.”

CJ frowned. In the chest? She quirked her mouth to the side in thought. Her heart. A sigh escaped from her deep-red lips. “I can’t explain what I feel about Tim. He kinda feels like a brother, and I’m not used to that at all. You know I’m not very close with the other guys, but…“ She shrugged. “I just seemed to click with him when I first met him. Why does that bother you?”

“Like I said, I don’t know.” Jamie slumped down onto the wooden bench near the lockers.

CJ checked around the rest of the room, when she found nobody else present, she crouched down in front of Jamie. “I’ve never known you like this, but I could swear you’re jealous.”

“I am not!”

CJ almost smirked at the stroppy face. “Special Agent Jamie Green, no one can ever take your place in my heart.”

“What? What are you talking about?” Jamie was indignant.

CJ chuckled. “I’m going to be good friends with Tim. I don’t know how I know that, but it’s true. He’s awesome, and you’ll just have to accept it. But that will never, ever take away the special thing we got goin’ on,” she said, grasping Jamie’s hands in her own. “I love you, honey. Remember that.”

As CJ got up and walked out of the room, Jamie’s eyebrows drew together. Her heart had just melted at the warm voice of her best buddy declaring her love. “Damn it. Was I really worried about that?” she muttered as she got to her feet. She went to the mirrors and looked at her reflection. “I think you just had a special agent tantrum. Shocking.” She slapped herself on the cheek, and on her way out of the restroom, she started to feel better and almost chuckled to herself. Shit. She was right. And she called me honey again. And I’m such a baby. Ugh.

Two dark heads once again looked up when she entered the office, and Jamie actually had the good grace to look sheepishly at CJ before going to her desk. She sat and stared at the computer monitor for a few seconds before glancing up.

“If you guys give me a couple of minutes, I’ll collate the information on the new victims. Mikey had to rush off to an apartment emergency…something about a burst pipe and flooding…but we can go over the details without him. Is that OK?”

CJ smiled. “Sounds good to me, Penfold.”

Tim – oblivious to what had just transpired in the restroom but knowing something was amiss – nodded in agreement. “I’ll be happy with any guidance you can give me. I looked at your dossier, Jamie. You dealt with some pretty violent crimes back East. Maybe we could chat about your experiences sometime over a drink,” he said with a genuine smile.

Jamie sighed and looked back and forth between the two hopeful monkeys perched behind CJ’s desk. “Yeah, yeah. OK, DM, you were right,” she conceded. “He’s pretty awesome.”

Tim was puzzled. “DM?”

Both women burst into a brief bout of laughter, and as Jamie dropped her arms and head onto the desk, CJ patted Tim on the shoulder until she had stopped laughing.

“I’m Dangermouse. Don’t worry, Tim. We’ll get you up to speed on the coolest cartoon ever…and you’ll get used to us eventually.”

* * * * * *

Back at the Carson ranch house, Alice, Shannon, and Lucy sat in the living room watching Alice’s twins running around the coffee table chasing one another. Kamali hid in the hallway, keeping a safe distance but still able to supervise the small humans. Shannon chuckled when Melissa started to get tired and decided crawling would be better. When Sarah came around the table on a super-fast lap, she fell over her sister’s back which prompted Alice to get up and put an end to the madness.

Outside the house, Tony brought the car to a stop and watched as Kate stepped out and pretty much skipped up the porch steps. Inside, Kamali was already on his feet, wagging his tail before Kate burst into her home with a smile on her face.

“Hey, you guys. I’m home!”

Many shouts of “Mama!” and “Yay!” greeted her ears.

Once the ruckus quieted, Alice greeted her in a more sedentary fashion. “Hi, Kate. How did it go?”

“It went great, Alice. I’m going to enjoy this job,” Kate enthused while trying to get Limpet Lucy off her leg. “Come here, you,” she said, hoisting her growing daughter up into her arms. “How was school, huh?”

“Good. I scored two goals today.”

“Wow. More soccer? Awesome.”

Alice smiled at the interaction before looking to the little piece of paper with her notes on it. “Your dad called.”

“Oh,” Kate said, trying to avoid another sloppy kiss from her daughter. “What did he say?”

“He said the cabin is amazing, and he can see why CJ bought it. They were down in Alberton for supplies and popped in to see Charlie who let them use the phone.”

“I’m so glad they love it, and I knew they would get on well with Charlie. That’s great.”

Kate had suggested that when Eddie and Jeffrey arrived in Los Angeles, they dump their things at the house and go for a little vacation. She and CJ had given them the keys to their hideaway in Montana. Since Eddie and Jeffrey had also been affected by the whole Elizabeth Emerson nightmare, some time to breathe was just what they had needed.

Kate recalled the day they had left, giggling like a couple of school kids. “They should stay longer. Are they still intent on coming back tomorrow?”

“Yes. He said they’ll call you from the airport. The flight is due in around three thirty, but they’re going to rent a car until they can buy one. And your dad said that was final,” Alice explained with a grin. She gathered up one energetic child in each hand to stop them running manically around Kate. “We’ll head home if that’s OK, Kate. These two have been a handful today.”

“No worries, Alice. Are you still managing this job? I know it must be exhausting…”

“Yes. I-I can manage. I really love this job and-“

Kate raised her hand to ease Alice’s panicked look. “I didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t doing the job well, because you definitely are. I was just checking in.”

“Phew. OK, I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

Kate nodded. “Sure. How does a half-day sound? I’ll see the girls off to school, and you can come over at say, two o’clock? I have a meeting at three.” She knew she would be happy to do some of the housework in the morning and give Alice a small breather.

“Sounds great. See you then.”

Once everyone had organized themselves and the front door shut behind the Matthews family, Kate took a deep breath and gave herself a moment to let it out in the quiet of the hallway. In the next second, she felt like a dark cloud had suddenly floated over her head. Her eyes became heavy, and she almost cried. “What the hell is this?” She stood there for a few moments, feeling uneasy and listening to her heart beating in her ears. “Am I coming down with something?” She felt her forehead, but she honestly felt fine physically. She shook off the idea of going to hide in a dark room, and listened to the faraway sounds of the children upstairs. “Girls?”

After the two munchkins came trotting along into the upper hallway, Shannon did a spin on the spot to finish the entrance. “Yes, Mama?”

“It’s time to get changed and go out to the barn. We need to get ready for Calli arriving.”

“Yes!” Shannon punched a fist in the air and turned to Lucy. “Calli’s coming today.”

Lucy wanted specifics. “When?”

When Shannon looked to Kate for the answer, she forced a smile. “In one hour, so let’s get moving.”

Lucy began to literally buzz on the spot – possibly being a bee on her way down the stairs – which made Kate laugh out loud. She was very much in love with her family, and she swooped down to grab Lucy, swinging her up into the air and making the five-year-old scream with excitement. With Shannon hopping at her heels, they changed into their muddy gear and made their way out into the afternoon sunshine, but Kate hadn’t failed to notice that her mood had shifted again. With a smile on her face, she put it down to the stress of the past few months and made a firm decision to be very aware of her emotional state over the coming days. But right now, it was time to add to the brood at the Carson ranch so there was no time to dwell on her scattered thoughts.

* * * * * *

By the end of their day, the agents had made a dent in the killer’s profile, but had gotten no further forward with his victim selection. Apart from the victims being two couples, they had nothing else in common: no links to any places in the community, no familial or friendship connections, not even their race, religion, or sexuality matched up. The first couple was a married man and woman, and the students were two gay men. The apparently random selection of targets was puzzling everyone.

The killer’s MO was becoming clear, though. After shooting them in the back, the bodies were moved so that their hands covered each other’s heart. It was quite obvious to the agents that the perp was in some sort of severe emotional pain, but even if he was, killing was never the answer for a sane person, so he had to have some kind of psychotic tendencies too.

CJ had mentioned that the killer may have a serious grudge against happy couples due to his – or her – parents having a terrible relationship in the past. She hadn’t ruled out a female subject because the use of a gun made sure victims were easily incapacitated without the need for a physical fight.

Jamie had to agree but questioned the reasoning behind CJ’s statement. “But CJ, let’s look at you, or Kate, or even me. We’re pretty strong, and we know self-defense. We all know victims can be overpowered by a smaller person if they have the right technique.”

“That’s true,” CJ said, “But what I mean is, they are killed during the hours of darkness, like that extra cover is needed somehow, and it could be a female because she positions them after she kills them. It would be a helluva lot easier to force them to move into the poses first and then kill them. But this way, the murderer doesn’t chance a conflict.”

Tim leaned back in his chair and grunted quietly, indicating that he was about to speak. “OK. So if it’s a woman, she still has to be able to move the bodies, post-mortem. With this last couple, one of them was pretty tall. It says on the ME report that he was over two hundred pounds. I’m thinking this Un-Sub has gotta be pretty strong either way.”

“Good point.” CJ stood up. “Let me know how far you get. We need to pick this up in the morning because I have to go see Mitchell before I leave. I think he just wants to welcome me back or something.”

Jamie began typing a few more notes on her computer while she answered. “I’ll email this to Mark, then we’ll keep working on it. See you later, DM.”

“Later, guys.” While Jamie and Tim continued with their work, CJ went to the ladies restroom since she knew her bladder wouldn’t make it all the way through her meeting. Once she’d flushed and exited the stall, she headed over to the sink to wash her hands and caught sight of the door opening in the mirror. Her stomach plummeted when in walked her worst nightmare. What? I can’t even piss in peace?

Chris Wilder flicked her long, dark hair over her shoulder and strolled past CJ, but instead of going in to use the toilet, she stopped at the mirror about two feet to CJ’s left. “Fancy meeting you here…”

CJ clenched her jaw and tried for a polite smile, but it didn’t quite come off. “I’m sure it’s no coincidence, Doctor.”

“Oh, you give yourself far too much credit.”

“You have a private bathroom in your office…three floors down.”

Chris’s eyes honed in on CJ’s cheek muscles. “Relax, CJ. You seem a little tense. Honestly, I’m not so desperate that I need to stalk you,” she finished with a fake, little laugh.

“Of course not.”

Chris heard the malice, sarcasm, and disbelief dripping off the words, and she turned ninety degrees to face the tall, alluring object of her desire. “OK. So let’s say, hypothetically, I had come here looking for you,” she purred, moving closer to CJ’s rigid body. “And let’s say I was only coming to give you some information on the case-”

CJ quickly put her hand in the air to halt the words. “Then you would’ve gone to my office and dealt with Agent Green. I told you this is her case.”

“Oh, but CJ, I’d much rather make sure you are fully debriefed in person…by me…on everything I find in every victim. I think that’s what a good medical examiner would do, don’t you?”

CJ was losing her patience. “You think this is some kind of game? You think this is a joke, a little funny to brighten up your day? The people on your table have been murdered, and you seem to be using it as a way to sexually harass me!” She tried to get her anger under control by taking a couple of deep breaths. Her body was wound tighter than a drum.

“Aw, lighten up, CJ. Jeez, this job’s made you such a defensive kitten. Maybe I could loosen you off,” Chris offered with a flutter of her full, dark eyelashes.

“You’ve got to be fucking joking!” CJ’s nostrils flared as she tried to stop her body from shaking.

Chris conveniently mistook the anger for arousal, and was now standing so close that CJ could smell the breath mint she was sucking on. She lifted one hand to trail over her own body before it moved toward CJ’s shoulder. Chris’s heart rate doubled with anticipation.

CJ forced her hands into balled-up fists and willed herself not to hit their medical examiner. “Do not touch me. I’ve had enough, Chris.” Her voice was dangerously low, but Chris just found it more appealing, and as CJ was turning to walk away, she pushed forward and pressed her breasts up against CJ’s back. CJ froze when Chris gasped at the contact.

“I’m so sorry. That was a total accident. I must have tripped.”

The problem was that after her trip, she hadn’t moved away and was still body-to-body with CJ. She also had CJ’s upper arms firmly in her hands.

By this point, CJ was livid, and she could feel the rage building inside her. She was going to physically lash out any second now. “Back. Away. Now.”

Chris heard the tone that was even more dangerous than before and thought perhaps she had taken this a little too far. She straightened up and brushed down the front of her clothes, making sure her nipples were standing to attention and showing through her thin, cotton sweater. “Thank you for catching me.”

Much to Chris’s disappointment, CJ stormed out of the restroom door without looking back.

“Damn it, she’s a tough cookie to break…but I did it before, and I’ll do it again.”

Brazen, she was, but something had consumed Chris when she’d first seen CJ in her office that day. An overwhelming memory of the chase, the capture, and the surrender of CJ Carson when she had made her scream out beneath her years ago, had done something strange to Dr. Wilder, and she wasn’t completely sure why she couldn’t let it go.

Maybe the fact that the strong agent was easily resisting her advances this time made it a cause worth pursuing, or perhaps the fact that someone who had been so pliable in those early days could be the complete opposite now was fueling Chris’s desire beyond what she usually experienced. CJ’s stunning good looks, incredible body, and tough-woman attitude could also have been factors. Whatever it was, Chris Wilder was taking risks. How many more could she get away with?

* * * * * *

Once Julius Mitchell had added to her crappy mood by bringing up everything that happened in Minnesota, CJ stomped through the parking garage under the Bureau building. Julius had wanted to tell her what a great job she had done capturing Frank Hess, and how sorry he was that she had been in the plane crash. She managed to nod along and remain polite, but on the inside she wanted to scream at the world…well, mostly at Frank Hess, Elizabeth Emerson, and now, Chris Wilder.

By the time CJ started driving home she was grinding her teeth and drowning in thoughts. Her body was still tingling, but it felt more like an irritating itch caused by her skin crawling under the lecherous eyes of her former lover than a pleasant glow. She was angry, upset, and she felt a little violated too. Reporting Chris to the bosses was something circling the back of her mind, but she thought she ought to be able to handle it by herself. And no witnesses to any of it, she grumbled internally. It’s my word against hers.

If Chris touched her intimately again – the hands groping her arms was definitely not an innocent touch – she would have to confide in Jamie and ask for her advice. That would be the first step. She had to tell someone she could trust.

By the time she turned into her driveway and drove through the sturdy posts for the new electric gates that would be installed next week, she wondered how the hell she had gotten there. Realizing that she had driven home automatically, she shook her head and pounded her fist – her right fist – on the steering wheel. She could see her home in the distance, and it went some way to erasing her bad mood. Kate suddenly filled her mind, and when she realized her children would also be home, a tiny smile quirked the sides of her frowning mouth.

CJ brought the truck to a stop in front of the porch and saw the nose of an unfamiliar vehicle poking out from the space in front of the barn. Her frown returned as she walked toward the other truck which was an older, dirtier version of her own. But when she saw it had a horse trailer attached, she let out a relieved sigh. Calli was here.

CJ entered the barn and found her entire family standing in front of one of the stables. Then she noticed the woman from the sanctuary – Cam – coming out the door with a halter hanging over her shoulder. When all eyes turned to CJ, she smiled.

“Hey, guys. I guess we have a new horse, huh?”

“Yes, Mommy. Look. She’s eating her hay!” Lucy squealed with glee.

“She sure is.”

While CJ was surrounded and hugged by two welcoming children, Kate looked affectionately at her. She could see something lurking under CJ’s smile. Nothing got past Kate, but she knew it would be a while before they would talk about it.

“She’s settling nicely, honey. Walked straight in like she had always lived here…”

CJ could tell Kate was surprised and rather delighted to see her home so early. She could also see Kate analyzing her, and for some reason it irked her this time. Once she was released by the children, she decided she would slip her arm around Kate before she answered. “That’s great.” She turned to smile politely at Cam. “Thanks for bringing her over for us.”

“No problem. I’m just happy she found a good home. Your place is just wonderful.”

“Yeah, we love it.” CJ looked through the window space at the back of Calli’s stable and saw Nevada curiously peering over the fence. “And I think she should meet her new friend soon.”

Cam craned her neck to see their beautiful palomino. “Wow, great horse. It’s a mare right?”

Kate nodded. “Yes. Her name’s Nevada.”

“Very nice. Well, I’ll be on my way and let you guys get settled. Any problems, just give me a call.”

“Thanks, Cam.”

Once CJ shook her hand, Cam dipped her Stetson. “Thank you all for giving Calli a home.”

When Cam and her truck and trailer had disappeared, CJ sighed and wrapped herself tightly around Kate. “Hi.”

Kate leaned into CJ’s shirt. “Hey. I missed you.”

“Same here.”

“How was your day?” Kate asked hesitantly before she leaned back to watch CJ’s eyes.

“Not bad in the grand scheme of things. As usual, we’re trying to figure out a killer, but this one’s Jamie’s case, so I need to try to not stick my nose in unless she asks me to.”

Kate saw the obvious avoidance. She would let it slide for now. For some reason, she didn’t think this was about a killer. “I’m sure you’ll manage.”

“Yeah, and Mitchell pulled me in for a pat on the back.”

“Did he talk to you about Minnesota?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

It was making a little more sense to Kate now. CJ’s underlying mood could be due to rehashing some crappy memories.

“Well it was your first day back at the office, and you did an amazing job of tracking down Hess, so I’d imagine he’d want to say well done,” Kate said as if it was plainly obvious.

CJ smiled a little at Kate’s unfaltering devotion. “Uh-huh, thanks for saying that. Oh. Guess who’s come to work with us.”

“Who?”

“I said guess.”

Kate was thrown a little off balance by the tone, but when CJ gave her another small smile, she thought she should guess. “Um, Barack Obama?”

“Sheesh.” CJ shook her head, but resisted rolling her eyes. “Tim Dalton.”

It took Kate a few seconds to recall the name. She ran her fingers up and down the front of CJ’s shirt, and her eyebrows finally lifted when the light bulb went on in her head. “Oh, the agent you met in Minnesota?”

“Yes. He’s a really cool guy. I’m glad he came to LA.”

“That’s good, honey. So you have five in the team now, huh?”

“Well, Mark counts six. He includes himself.”

Kate smiled. “Right…because he’s a great guy too.”

“True.”

Since CJ was so distracted by something, Kate figured some equine therapy was I order. “How about we get Nevada in and settle both our horses before we go have dinner together?”

“Sounds like a plan,” CJ conceded. She didn’t know what she wanted right now, which was a very strange feeling. Deciding she didn’t want to dig deeper into that hole, she followed Kate as she went outside with halter in-hand.

A couple of hours later, the horses had sniffed one another, snorted a fair bit, and quieted down in their stables. CJ dropped some hay into Nevada’s net and tied it up on the wall close to Calli. The two seemed to be instant friends after a few stomps on the ground, and as they ate, they occasionally nosed each other in a silent discussion of sorts.

It actually made CJ chuckle as she left the barn. “I think they’re happy enough.”

Kate nodded. “They look like they’re in love.”

Noticing that Shannon and Lucy had run on ahead and were already safely in the backyard, CJ pulled Kate to a halt and kissed her. “I think I might be in love too.”

“With me, I hope,” Kate replied teasingly.

For some reason, the chirpy response made CJ tense. “Yes…of course, with you.”

Kate frowned. “Hey. I know that. What’s with you?”

“Nothing. Just kiss me.” CJ pulled her close and kissed her possessively.

Kate’s mild concern vanished, and she melted into the kiss as her knees turned to jelly. When the kiss ended, she shuffled into the house beside CJ feeling slightly dazed. That was a kiss. Wow.

* * * * * *

Hyperactive Shannon and bouncing-off-the-walls Lucy had finally gone to bed after an exhausting evening. CJ had visions earlier of Lucy swinging from the light fittings and Shannon being plugged into an electrical outlet. The children were ridiculously wound up about Nevada’s new friend, and when they had all gone outside after dinner to put the horses in the field, the whole family had watched as Calli galloped across the expanse and checked out the entire perimeter of her new space. Nevada had followed, and they had playfully bucked and squealed their way back to the center of the paddock before promptly putting their heads down to munch on the grass. Shannon and Lucy had thought all of this was hilarious, and once it was over they didn’t calm down for hours.

There had been no time for CJ and Kate to idly chat as their parenting responsibilities took over, but thankfully the house was now quiet since the children had tired themselves out and were sleeping peacefully in their beds.

In the master suite, CJ lay curled around Kate’s torso and thought about how she had been busier after she came home than she had been at work. “You know, I could’ve sworn those two were plugged into the mains tonight.”

Kate snorted a laugh. “Yeah, I’ve never seen them like that. I think maybe they sensed my energy too. I was a little buzzed when I came home from the studios, and it kinda climbed to a crescendo from there on in.”

“Oh, how did that go? I didn’t get a word in earlier so I couldn’t ask you,” CJ said quietly.

“It went great. I got my fighter pilot uniform fitted. You’re gonna love that. And I met some of the crew, and a co-star, Erica Cavanaugh.”

“Is she nice?”

“Seems to be, yeah.” Kate reached to the nightstand and grabbed her cell phone. “She took a picture of me in my outfit. Wanna see?”

CJ popped upright and wiggled her fingers. “Gimme, gimme.” She looked at the screen and practically melted. “Ooh, you look so…so…bossy.”

Kate laughed. “Bossy?”

“Yeah. Domineering, bossy, in charge…sexy.” CJ’s voice was getting huskier with every word, and Kate’s eyes began to glaze over.

“Sounds like you approve.”

CJ dropped the phone somewhere in the covers and slid her body onto Kate’s. “Very much so. I love it when you’re the boss.”

Kate trailed her fingertip over CJ’s luscious lips and licked her own while blue eyes hungrily watched. “How can I be the boss if you’re on top?” she purred.

CJ felt a surge of molten heat between her thighs. “All you have to do is speak, and this big, tough, federal agent will do anything you say.”

“Mmm, OK. Put your finger on your clit,” Kate whispered.

CJ almost growled. She braced her right arm to hold herself up while her left hand slid down over her own abdomen. When it made contact with her sex, her body trembled, and she began to sweat with the exertion of her impressive position.

Kate trailed her eyes up and down CJ’s arm muscles that were bulging and straining under the tension. Little beads of perspiration appeared on the warm skin as CJ began to pant. Kate was slightly concerned about her being in pain, but she knew if CJ was, she wouldn’t have tried this position. With her gaze fixed, Kate’s voice croaked on her next command. “Now slide the finger down and make it nice and wet.”

CJ could barely stand it. Kate’s tongue was glistening as it repeatedly poked out to moisten her full lips. It was arousing her to bursting point, but for some reason she would rather it was Kate who was succumbing to pleasure, not her.

Kate took the increased panting as a sign that CJ was now touching herself with earnest. “Put that delicious finger in my mouth…now.” Her vivid, green eyes shot up to demand everything from CJ who hurriedly moved the finger to insert it where Kate wanted it.

Feeling the need to take back at least some control, CJ breathed out, “Taste it.”

And Kate did. While CJ shook, she felt the languid strokes of Kate’s tongue on her finger and moaned at the gentle suction that would occasionally pull the finger to the back of Kate’s throat. It was becoming too much for CJ to cope with.

“Katie, I need more of you.” She gave up her difficult pose and dropped down to rest her quivering body on top of Kate’s once more. She was ravenous, she needed to possess, and she voraciously licked her way across Kate’s collarbone and down between her two glorious breasts. While she was lavishing attention on Kate’s hard nipple, she heard a husky voice commanding her from above.

“Bite it. Gently.” Kate moaned long and low when CJ did what she was told. The feelings were exquisite, and the heavy breathing coming from CJ was helping to push Kate closer and closer to the edge. “Now put your head between my legs and let me feel your tongue.”

CJ almost squeaked as she wriggled her body down the bed. “With pleasure,” she gasped when she saw Kate sprawl her legs across the mattress. “Mine.”

CJ gripped Kate’s thighs tight and plunged her tongue deep within her sex. Kate cried out at the feeling, but CJ barely heard her as the blood thundered through her ears while her passion soared. She flattened her tongue and began bobbing her head up and down to a fast beat only heard by her. Barely five seconds later, Kate grabbed fistfuls of CJ’s raven hair and pushed her face further into the heavenly feast.

“Yes!”

Kate’s orgasm sent a flood of release into CJ’s mouth, and she lapped up every drop with gusto. CJ was beyond turned on, and once Kate had experienced every last shudder of pleasure, she rose up to press her aching sex against Kate’s thigh. CJ began a hard and fast grinding motion that seemed so frantic to her, but she didn’t care right now. Even though she had only wanted to pleasure Kate, she had to finish. It would be painful not to. As she brought herself closer to climax, Kate watched her in amazement. She had no idea how they had gotten so hot so fast, but this lovemaking session was incredible – much like all their other sexual encounters. But during this one, CJ had become hyper-aroused through words alone. Yes, she had made love to Kate, but right now she seemed to be in a world of her own.

Kate watched the most gorgeous woman she had ever seen rocking back and forth over her body. CJ’s mouth was open as she gasped out each breath, and her eyes were closed in what appeared to be rapture. Her breasts swayed with each thrust, and Kate fixated on them for a moment before needing to see CJ’s eyes open at the moment she came all over her leg.

“Open your eyes.”

CJ did so, and they were revealed as two deep-azure pools of intoxicated sensuality.

Kate was floored by the gaze and felt her pulse quicken as CJ continued to pierce directly into her soul. Kate reached up to take CJ’s nipples between her fingers, and as she twisted them in tandem, she growled, “Come…now.”

“Fuck, yes.”

CJ’s orgasm swallowed her whole. Her body convulsed repeatedly over Kate’s smooth skin, painting it heavily with her juices. She gripped with her thighs and squeezed every last spasm out of her sex, not quite believing that she had let Kate totally control her once more. There seemed to be a struggle for dominance inside CJ that she just couldn’t win, but what she hadn’t pondered was where it was coming from.

“Katie…” CJ collapsed around Kate’s body and hissed through her teeth as her wrist support hit the mattress.

“Hey. Be careful, baby.” Kate maneuvered until CJ was comfortably wrapped around her torso. “You OK?”

“Holy shit, yes. What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know, but it had you really wound up.”

“Wow, yeah. You’re so incredible,” CJ said while clinging to Kate’s warm body.

“We’re incredible.” Kate tilted her head on the pillow to watch CJ’s face. “You really do like it when I’m all domineering, don’t you?”

CJ almost paused due to the conflicting desires she had experienced. “Yeah. Maybe it’s because I would never let anyone else do that to me. You’re the only one I give control to.”

Kate frowned as she retrieved whatever she was lying on. She smirked as she put her forgotten cell phone on the nightstand. “Well, I’m glad of that. You’re my bitch, no one else’s.”

CJ blurted out a nervous laugh…again, unsure of where her reactions were coming from. “So true.” She curled herself even further around Kate. “Do you need anything else?”

“I only need you. I love you, CJ.”

“I love you more.”

“Not possible,” Kate murmured against CJ’s head before bestowing a kiss on her sweat-dampened hair.

“I beg to differ,” CJ whispered sleepily.

“Agree to disagree?”

“Mm-hmm.”

.

Chapter 4

At ten o’clock on a bright, sunny Los Angeles morning, Kate walked through the corridor at the Chaplin studios. She could feel the chill flying around her from the air conditioning unit and was thankful for the reprieve from the stifling heat outside. April had only just arrived, and the city was shrouded in unusually high temperatures.

As she walked, her mind drifted back to her morning. Getting the girls ready for school had been a monumental task since all they had wanted to do was go out and tend to Calli, and by the time Tony had left in the car with them, Kate barely had the time to make sure CJ took her painkillers before she left the house. CJ had hurt herself during their lovemaking last night after all, but of course, she had said she was fine and explained it had been totally worth it. Kate had grinned at that before she proceeded to boss her wife right out of the house. With a laugh, CJ went willingly, blowing kisses from her truck as she drove off.

Hmm, I’m exhausted already, and my day hasn’t even begun, Kate mused as she continued on through the next corridor. She was here today for her second costume fitting, and she was hoping this would be a shorter visit than yesterday since they were just getting her sizes for the more casual clothing, like the fatigues and tank tops worn in the officer’s mess and cabins. She smiled at the thought of her new show and all the new things she would be experiencing while working on it.

“Good morning, Kate!”

Kate jumped a little, but recovered neatly and turned to see Erica striding out toward her. “Hi, Erica.”

Once Erica had caught up to her, she flashed her dazzling smile. “You look great today. May I walk in with you?”

Kate wasn’t very sure how to respond to that. This woman kept praising her, and as much as Erica looked great too, Kate didn’t want to enthuse about it all the time. “Thanks, I’d like that.”

“I’m so looking forward to doing this show. It’s a terrific opportunity for me. How about you?”

Kate nodded. “I’m looking forward to it too. You play one of the ground troops, don’t you? Le’Ana’s secret contact?”

“Yes. Tzera Kellen at your service, ma’am,” Erica said with a little salute.

“I must admit, I like the sound of the general storyline. Humans conspiring against humans…”

“I know, but why would they set up a huge space station to reach out the hand of peace to the aliens, and then decide to kill their own kind?”

Kate glanced at her as they pushed through some double doors. “I guess we’ll to wait to find out. I think it’s something to do with us space-dwellers changing our opinion about the aliens. The admirals set up the station to defend our planet under the guise of a peace-keeping mission. Orders came down for us to obliterate them after gaining their trust, and it seems we didn’t want to do that,” Kate related, remembering her reading of the concept of the show.

“Oh, so you guys became rebels of sorts, siding with the aliens, and I’m a mole on the planet surface for you. Nice.”

Kate smirked. “Sounds plausible to me.”

Erica laughed as they walked into the huge wardrobe room. “I’m in full agreement.”

* * * * * *

“Here you go, CJ,” Tim Dalton said, handing her a paper cup.

“Thanks.” CJ took a swig and frowned before she swallowed. “Hey, Tim?”

“Yeah?”

“How the hell did you make the office coffee taste somewhere close to good?”

Tim twisted his mouth at the question. “Uh, you mean it doesn’t usually taste like that?”

“Um, no. It normally tastes like something died in it.”

Jamie laughed from her position behind her computer monitor. “That’s true.”

Tim shrugged. “I just added a little sugar and cream.”

When he held up his own creamer, CJ squinted to read the label. “OK, that’s why it tastes better. We don’t have that kinda stuff here.”

“Well, I tend to bring my own to work. Makes it bearable, at least,” Tim said with a wink.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you,” CJ mumbled before her head lowered to her work again.

Jamie was getting used to the comfortable chatter between her two colleagues now – at least that’s what she was telling herself. It did seem that Tim had not even been aware of CJ’s instant karma with him, and that made Jamie feel a little more secure in her friendship with CJ since she knew Tim wasn’t trying to butt in. She still felt uneasy on occasion, but she had to keep reminding herself of the conversation she and CJ had in the restroom. In turn, she was now warming to Tim, little by little.

“You haven’t met Mikey yet, have you, Tim?” Jamie asked.

“Nope. Looking forward to meeting him and Ethan.”

Jamie nodded. “Well, Ethan’s on leave, but they were both at court this morning, so Mikey should be here soon.”

“Cool. Could he come out with me this afternoon to talk to the friends of the college victims?”

“Sounds like a plan,” CJ piped up. “And Jamie and I will go over the profile again. Gotta find something to give us a lead on the killer’s next move.”

Jamie knew CJ was a tad frustrated. “DM, we’ll get it done. And remember, we still have lab results to come through. Maybe there’ll be a print or something.”

“Maybe…and if there is, I hope he or she is in the system,” CJ grumped and flicked through the autopsy reports on her desk. “You and Sam still coming over tonight, Penfold?”

“Yeah. She should be done with work by seven.”

“She?” Tim asked with his eyebrows lifted high.

Jamie almost laughed at his expression. “Yeah. We met through CJ and Kate. Why?”

Tim shook his head and smiled. “No reason. I’m just glad to be in such…tolerant and wonderful company, that’s all.”

CJ spun her chair a little to face him. “Something you want to tell us, Timothy Dalton?”

“Agh. Don’t call me that.” He could see by the mischievous glint in her eye that it was totally safe to tell them about his sexuality – and that CJ somehow knew already that he was not straight – but before he could say anything else, Mikey came traipsing in the door looking slightly disheveled.

“Hey, Mikey. How was court?” CJ asked with a dark chuckle.

“It was shit. Defense counsel was a shark with very sharp teeth, and he bit into my ass like-” Mikey stopped abruptly when he realized there was someone new in the room, and his face brightened perceptibly as he introduced himself. “Uh, hi. Mikey Ryan,” he said, immediately extending his hand towards Tim.

“Hi, Mikey. I’m Tim Dalton…transferred in from Minnesota. Good to meet you.”

“Likewise. I knew we were getting another agent for our team, but I never thought it would be that fast.”

“Well I just happened to be looking for a move, and I had worked with CJ when she came to Minneapolis last year. I met Jamie and the AD there too, so it just kinda went on from that.”

“Great. How long you been on the job?”

“Just over six years now.”

“Have you worked in violent crimes before?”

“Not so much, but I know I can learn a lot here.”

“Definitely from these two,” Mikey said while vaguely gesturing to CJ and Jamie. “I was new to it too. There’s so much to learn, but I’ve found it really interesting so far, so it’s not too overwhelming. And it’s fine as long as you have the stomach for it. You’re not squeamish, are you?”

“Not so far, but who knows what I’ll see here…” Tim trailed off when he heard faint laughter beside him. Both he and Mikey turned to the women and saw them biting their lips to stop their smiles. “What?” he said, narrowing his eyes at CJ.

“When you two have quite finished your chit-chat, maybe we can get back to work?”

Mikey knew CJ was totally teasing. “Yeah, yeah. Let me get coffee, and we’ll get on with it.”

CJ grinned at Tim as he went back to his seat. “Hey, Mikey. Let Tim make it. He has his own magical recipe…makes the crap stuff taste almost palatable.”

Mikey looked skeptically at Tim who was fake-glaring at CJ. “Palatable, Agent Dalton?”

For some insane reason, Tim shivered a little at the tone. “Sure. Take a seat. Café Dalton is now open,” he drawled as he went to the machine.

CJ leaned back in her chair and watched the two. Hmm…definite bond there. That’s good, ‘cause Mikey always stayed a little detached from us all. Maybe this’ll help him feel like a true member of the unit.

* * * * * *

The constant changing of outfits and measuring of body parts was almost over, and Erica Cavanaugh was glad of that. The costume changes were a rather boring part of the job, but sitting on the sidelines while Kate got changed out of her final costume was not. Erica became slightly lost in her thoughts as she admired her new co-star. From her previous knowledge of Kate Marshall, Erica knew what type of person she was: intelligent, kind, courageous, strong, loving, beautiful, and talented…the list went on and on. But what she hadn’t really known before was just how sensual Kate was without even meaning to be. Observing her in the flesh was quite a revelation to Erica. She continued to gawk at the fine specimen of womanhood now. Kate wasn’t much shorter than she was, but she seemed incredibly petite due to her slight frame.

However, Erica noted how Kate’s shoulders bulged in a strangely feminine way when she lifted her arms, and how the brief piece of skin that was revealed above her belt, rippled as she moved around. Kate worked out regularly, and Erica couldn’t tear her eyes away from her athletic body.

She hadn’t seen many pictures of Kate with her arms uncovered, but this live performance was so much better than a picture anyway. Watching Kate’s well-defined muscles moving as she pulled another hanger off the rail was kind of hypnotic. Then, in her jeans and bra, Kate wandered off to her cubicle not knowing that piercing, blue eyes were following her every move. Erica suddenly felt like a pervert and quickly averted her gaze, biting her lip and fussing with her hands. When she looked up again, Kate was fully dressed and walking towards her.

“Ready to go?”

“I’ll be ready in one minute,” Erica replied with a flush to her cheeks. “Did you pick out your chair yet?” she asked as she checked her bag to make sure she had everything she needed.

Kate chuckled. “Yeah, I chose a purple one with lots of cushioning in case the meetings here are like the ones on Deadline. Boy, those producers loved the sound of their own voices.”

“One of our producers is your friend, right?”

“She sure is. She should be here today, actually. Sam Morris. I’ll introduce you.”

Erica smiled sweetly. “Great. We’ve got five minutes to spare. A leisurely stroll along the corridor, ma’am?” she said, gesturing to the large door.

“After you, Erica.”

As they walked through the quirky warren that was the Chaplin studios, Erica chatted casually about anything and everything…as long as it somehow involved Kate Marshall. “And my last project ended over a year ago, so I had plenty of time to catch up with Deadline.”

Kate was a little flattered that she had a fan who was also an actress. She thought it was unusual, but Erica seemed to be a refreshing change to the normal, bitchy co-stars. “I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was a great show to make, but I really felt I wanted a change, so here I am.”

“I’m happy you wanted a change,” Erica said animatedly. “It gave me a chance to work alongside you. That’s quite an honor for me.”

“Well…I. Thank you. But really, we’re all just here to do a job, enjoyable as it is.” Kate was aware that the refreshing change occasionally seemed to turn a corner into something too refreshing, but she still felt that Erica would be a good friend, and she was sure she would get used to the compliments eventually. “And it’s always an honor for me to work with creative people like yourself,” she reciprocated politely.

“Aw, thanks. I hope to learn some new tricks here, and working with green screens will be different. The CGI is something brand new for me.”

Kate nodded along. “Me too.”

Erica pushed the final door open, and they entered the conference room together. People were filing in from other directions – the room had three entrances – and in the middle of it all was an auburn head of hair that Kate recognized immediately, so she snuck up behind her dear friend.

“Hey, you.”

“Oii!” Sam said, slapping her hand against her chest. “You scared the bejeesus outta me, Kate.” Sam flung her arms around Kate and pecked her on the cheek, which did not go unnoticed by Erica. After a few seconds of friendly banter flying between the two, Erica butted in.

“Hi, I’m Erica Cavanaugh. Nice to meet you, Sam.”

Sam belatedly turned to the voice. “Oh, hi. Great to meet you too.”

“Erica’s been keeping me company today,” Kate told Sam. “We had another costume fitting.”

“Ah. How did that go?”

“Pretty good. I like the outfits they’ve chosen for me.” Kate winked at Sam who laughed out loud because she had discussed the costumes at length with Kate and knew that CJ was going to adore them…especially the flight suit.

“Yeah, she looks great in them,” Erica said, jumping into the discussion with vigor. “And mine are awesome too. I can’t wait to start shooting.”

Sam watched this new actress as she spoke and couldn’t quite pin down what was bugging her about the woman. Could it be the fact that she was utterly gorgeous but utterly annoying at the same time? “Well, today we’ll go over some draft scripts, and get everyone to grips with the overall scenario. We’re just waiting for some crew to arrive, and then we’ll be good to go.”

Sam and Erica smiled sweetly at one another before Sam turned to Kate. “Nice choice of chair, by the way,” she said as she walked off with a smile.

“Thanks, Sam. See you in a bit,” Kate said with a grin as she gently punched the back of Sam’s arm.

Erica filed the interaction away for analysis later. Kate and Sam seemed to be really close friends. She truly hoped that she would be a close friend of Kate’s soon too. With a sigh, she shuffled round the table to her own chair. As she took her seat directly across from Kate, she realized – with glee – that she had an astounding view. Huh. Maybe I won’t mind if this is a long meeting after all.

* * * * * *

Tim Dalton propped himself on the edge of CJ’s desk. He felt incredibly comfortable in this new place, as if he’d been here for years. Mikey, CJ, and Jamie were all sitting around him, discussing the latest couple to be murdered. He watched CJ as she delivered her evaluation to the group. He could see she used her hands a lot when she spoke to accentuate her point and to give the others more of a visualization of what she was talking about…which, right now, was the positioning of the bodies.

While CJ mimicked the way one of the victims had been placed, Tim watched Mikey as he responded to something she was saying. Mikey was a young agent. That much was clear, but there was something very mature about him: wisdom, perhaps. CJ had told Tim that Mikey was a technical genius, the geek of the team who was able to do everything and anything when it came to surveillance, bugging phone lines, tracing cell phones, anything with computers…all of it. That sort of intelligence peaked Tim’s interest a great deal.

When Jamie said something a little louder than the others, Tim jumped a little, but it brought his attention directly to her. He sat back as she described the entry point of the bullet on the recent, smaller, male victim, and he soon drifted back into his thoughts.

Jamie was stunning…as was CJ, but for some reason he saw her more like a sister. Jamie was different. He had no such limitation when it came to her, and she looked like a supermodel.

Actually, they could both stroll down a catwalk with ease, he mused. He thought he could definitely be attracted to Jamie, but he had already found out that she was in a loving relationship. He wasn’t interested in breaking anyone up. He simply wanted to find someone to love too. No, these people would hopefully be his closest friends. He was noble to a fault, and that wouldn’t change here in Los Angeles, especially with his new team.

A few seconds later, he blinked and realized he had missed most of the conversation. He chastised himself for being a terrible agent and team member before he sat upright to pay full attention.

“So all four victims were shot in the back…” Mikey was saying.

“Yes, but on the last two victims the injuries weren’t so accurate,” CJ answered.

Mikey pursed his lips. “That could be attributed to the distance of the shooter.”

Tim felt he could slip back into the debate now. “That’s true, Mikey. This time the Un-Sub was at least eighty meters away.”

CJ smirked briefly at his use of Un-Sub, but sighed at the reality of the case before she spoke. “I’m thinking he didn’t have a decent place to hide on campus and made do with whatever scenario he could find. But why is he so desperate to kill couples?”

Jamie leaned forward on her desk, propping her chin up on her hands. “Like you said earlier, DM, this killer could have a serious problem with seemingly happy couples, and is taking them out as some kind of perverted revenge.”

“I don’t know,” CJ muttered with a tinge of frustration. “If that was the case, surely he would have a more targeted victim type. I mean, look at this last couple. One was a Latino man, the other guy, Caucasian. The first couple…they were both young, yes, but they were husband and wife, and also both Caucasian. If he had two specific people in his mind when he kills, wouldn’t the victims look like them?”

Tim nodded. “Maybe, but it could also be that his parents were so happy with one another that they ignored him completely. Constant neglect could drive him to sporadic envy killings. Maybe he’s picking out happy couples who seem very attentive to one another to the point where they exclude others around them.”

CJ was impressed at his efforts, but his theory didn’t quite fit. “That would take some planning and stalking, perhaps weeks of watching them before he shoots, but it’s always a possibility.” She stood up to stretch out her stiff bones. “Are you guys going out to do those interviews?”

“Yep,” Tim responded enthusiastically.

“Have a think about all this while you’re out, and we’ll get back to it later.”

Mikey was on his feet in an instant and throwing his jacket around his shoulders. “No worries, CJ. Ready to go, Tim?”

“More than ready. You drive, and I’ll read over our list of acquaintances on the way.”

“Sounds good to me.”

And with that, Tim and Mikey vanished out the door.

CJ turned to Jamie with a puzzled look on her face. “Am I imagining it or…?”

Jamie snorted. “I’m just glad Mikey finally has this much enthusiasm. Don’t question it, DM.”

“Uh-huh. At least I’m not the only one who sees it.”

As they both got back to work, a comfortable silence descended around them. Jamie was feeling more and more secure in her bond with CJ, and when she glimpsed up at her, CJ grinned without even looking at her. Jamie grinned herself and finally let it sink in that there was no change to their friendship. In fact, it seemed to be even deeper, even better than before.

The next hour flew by, and they only noticed the time when Mark popped his head through the office door.

“Hey. Got time to give me an update?”

“Sure, Sir. Come on in,” CJ said, getting up from her chair.

“Where are the guys?”

“They went to the campus to interview some friends of the victims.”

Mark stood in front of CJ’s desk. “Good. So how’s the profile looking?”

Jamie also stood, and the three of them went over what they had so far. As CJ gave Mark a rundown of their killer’s MO and description, Mark saw her uncertainty. No connection between the victims and no obvious pattern to the locations of the shootings was adding to CJ’s existing frustration at being cooped up indoors, but he couldn’t allow her out in the field unless the Bureau doctor signed off on it.

As his top agent was finishing her update, the office door swung open, and in walked the medical examiner. Chris Wilder faltered slightly when she saw how many people were in the room, and she quickly revised the plan she had hatched in her head. She had some information on the case to give them, but was hoping to take a close-up eyeful of CJ while she handed it over.

“Hello, everyone,” she said politely, throwing a lingering, dangerous glance in CJ’s direction. “I took the liberty of picking up the lab reports for you. Seems you have some useful ballistics information to look at…”

“Ah, Dr. Wilder,” Mark said with a smile. “How are you?”

“Fine, Assistant Director. Just fine.” Chris stood among them and thrived on being the center of attention for a moment. There was only one problem. CJ was trying very hard to ignore her completely. Not at all happy with that, Chris waved the file in the air.

“Apparently, the bullets used in each of your recent killings are a match to a string of murders. They’re cold cases, but I’m sure the LAPD would happily pass them over to you.”

Mark’s eyebrows rose in surprise. Surely the medical examiner didn’t normally go trawling through cold cases and bring them to the agents in person? He shrugged it off, thankful that it might progress the case, and he was about to take the file when Julius Mitchell popped his head around the doorframe.

“Assistant Director, do you have a minute?” Julius said, smiling at the other occupants of the office.

“Sure.” Mark remained in the room near the door, but he was now distracted and had his back to the others.

With Jamie turning to look at her beeping phone on the desk, Chris smirked to herself and looked at CJ. “Here you go, Agent Carson,” she said while lifting her hand once more to hand over the file. Her knuckles brushed quickly and roughly past CJ’s breast, and when CJ glared at her, she acted out her remorse very well. “Oh, so sorry. I guess I misjudged.”

CJ had gasped at the touch, which angered her immensely. Something resembling a growl left her throat, and Jamie who had been watching Mark nodding his head repeatedly at their deputy director, glanced back to see CJ’s nostrils flaring and her jaw clenched. It was obvious CJ was completely enraged, but at what, Jamie didn’t know.

CJ somehow managed to remain professional even though she had now been further angered by her body’s involuntary response to stimulation. Her nipple had hardened tightly against her bra, and she stared at the floor until she felt ready to speak.

“Again, I’m so sorry. My mistake,” Chris said sweetly as she waved the file in front of CJ’s face once more.

CJ lifted her gaze. It had turned to ice.

Jamie wasn’t sure what had happened, but she hurriedly distracted Chris before some sort of war began right in the middle of their office. “Dr. Wilder, could you tell me more about the report right over here?” she said, guiding a grinning Chris away from her seething friend.

Chris walked with her reluctantly, but instead of telling Jamie what the report contained, she simply handed it to her casually. “Here you go. I’ll let you inform Agent Carson. Not sure what’s wrong with her today.”

When CJ snarled behind them, Jamie ushered Chris quickly out the door as politely as she could. “Thanks for bringing the file. I’ll take it from here.”

Right on cue, Mark finished up his conversation with Julius and watched as Chris strolled along the corridor to catch up to the boss. He stuck his head back into the office. “I have to go do a thing. Be back later for a proper update.” And without waiting for a response, he was gone.

“Could you shut the door?” CJ growled under her breath.

Jamie was already in the process of doing so, and five seconds later, she was by CJ’s side. “What the hell was that?”

“I’m going to kill her.”

“No, you’re not. Tell me what she did?”

“She accidentally…” CJ sneered, making big air quotes with her hands, “rubbed her knuckles over my damn breast!”

Shit! Jamie thought that maybe she’d have to have a quiet word with the medical examiner before there was another murder to investigate. “What a bitch. I can’t believe I missed that.”

CJ glared at her. “Oh, sorry. Maybe I should’ve asked her to repeat the performance just for you.”

“Aw, no fair. You know that’s not what I meant. If I had seen it, I’d have backed you up on the spot…or punched her lights out, or-”

“I get it, Penfold. No need to do anything drastic yet, but I’m not sure how to handle this. I’ve never been sexually harassed before.”

“Best way to handle it is to let Kate deal with her.”

“Now that, I’d pay to see.” CJ’s eyes narrowed at the thought. “But no, best not to give the FBI’s sluttiest medical examiner a bloody nose just yet. Or a bloody mouth…a bloody everything.” A bolt of lightning shot through CJ at the thought of Kate kicking ass.

“Well, it seems like she deserves it already.”

“I’ll bide my time, take a leaf out of my wife’s book, and keep my cool for now. I have to think about it more. I’m hoping Chris will back off.” CJ barked out a humorless laugh. “Huh. Not likely. Let’s get back to work. I want to get home as soon as I can tonight.”

Jamie silently praised the many facets of Kate Carson. It seemed she could reach out to CJ from afar and bring her back to center. But CJ wouldn’t be able to resist retaliation for much longer. Jamie just hoped Chris wouldn’t push her that far. She silently cursed Chris for upsetting the calm that CJ really needed to have right now. Would there be no end to her stress?

Jamie tapped on her mouth while she thought of something that would neatly divert CJ’s attention. “Oh, hey, are Eddie and Jeffrey coming back today?”

CJ glanced at her watch before quirking her face into a small smile. “Actually, they should be home real soon.”

“Did you ask them about the building-a-house idea yet?” Jamie inquired as she went back to her desk.

“Not yet. We’ll hopefully do that before you come over later.”

“Are they dining with us? I love those two.”

CJ ran her hand through her raven hair. “I’m not sure. They might be too tired. It would be nice if they would. I mean, look at me? I smile just thinking about them. I tell ya, Dad and Dad-Two are the best damn parents I could have ever hoped for.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet. I love seeing you all goofy and mushy like that,” Jamie teased.

CJ narrowed her eyes to slits and sent a playful warning to her. “I’ll never admit to any of that in court.”

Jamie burst out laughing. “Like I said, goofy.”

With a mock stern expression, CJ started typing on her keyboard. “Get back to work, Agent Green.”

“Yes, ma’am, Agent Carson.”

.

Chapter 5

Erica Cavanaugh stood soaking up the sun’s rays as she leaned against someone’s car in the parking lot. She was lost in her thoughts while her eyes fixated on Kate’s BMW. She had been admiring its shiny surface and rich color when her mind wandered off on another track. She imagined running her fingertips along the grooves and curvy lines, feeling the heat from the sun’s reflection and wondering if the smooth, creamy skin of its owner would feel just as irresistible. In her mind, her fingertips ran along the vertical lines of the front grill, and as she dipped her nails into the spaces between, she imagined inserting her fingers elsewhere.

Suddenly jolted out of her daydream by the erotic images, Erica realized she had pushed away from the car she had been leaning on and was indeed caressing the BMW like some kind of weird fetishist. She shook off her lurid thoughts and chastised herself to the point where she spoke out loud.

“That is so disgusting. What the hell is wrong with me?” She licked her lips, noticing her mouth had gone completely dry. With a cough, she straightened herself up and strolled casually away from the BMW. She hadn’t gotten very far when she noticed a handsome, young man striding toward her. She cleared her head of those ridiculous thoughts and reached out her hand to greet him.

“Hello. Are you Kate’s driver?”

Tony came to a halt and smiled. “Yes, indeed. My name’s Tony. And you are?”

“I’m Erica,” she replied smoothly. She figured Tony could be a new source of information she had never had access to before. She liked new sources of information. “I’ll be working with Kate on Infinity One.”

“Great. She seems to be really excited about the show.”

“I think we all are. I’m very excited to be working with Kate, no matter what the project. She’s an amazing actress, you know.”

Tony furrowed his brow. “Uh, yes, I know. I’ve worked for her for quite some time.”

Erica felt an insane pang of jealousy. She truly hoped to work with Kate for quite some time too. “So you know her well?”

“Yes, but sorry…if you’ll excuse me, I need to get going.”

“Oh, of course. Far be it for me to keep you from your important duties. It was nice to meet you, Tony.”

Tony couldn’t quite tell if she was being sarcastic or not. Deciding that she must be genuine since there was no reason not to be, he replied courteously. “Nice to meet you too, Erica.” With a smile, he got into the car and made the phone call to Eddie Senior that he had come out to make in the first place.

Erica tilted her head to the side and stared at Tony for a moment before blinking and walking off in the direction of the studio’s dressing rooms. She knew Kate would be leaving soon and wanted to offer her a proper goodbye.

When her initial search for a seemingly elusive Kate Marshall came up empty, Erica frantically scurried along the corridors to check the small cafeteria. Kate was nowhere in sight. Seeing another familiar face leaving the room, Erica walked as quickly as she could without seeming like a crazy person.

“Hey, Kelley!”

Infinity One set designer, Kelley Ballantyne, pivoted on the spot. His wide smile revealed a row of pearly-white teeth when he suddenly came face-to-face with a very attractive woman. “Hey, Erica. What’s up?”

“I was looking for Kate Marshall. Have you seen her?”

“Oh, I think she was leaving for the day. Not sure where she is now.”

Erica felt panic rising inside her but swallowed hard and kept her cool. “OK, thanks.” She shot out the door and along the corridor again. After briefly interrogating a few more unsuspecting staff, she found out that Kate was in the restrooms.

As Erica stood outside the restroom door, she considered that her behavior would seem rather odd to others. But what could she do? She simply had to say goodbye to Kate. Before she could make her final decision to enter the restroom or not, the door in front of her opened, and Kate suddenly appeared.

Coming abruptly to a halt when she looked up and saw her co-star just standing there with a slightly dazed look on her face, Kate curled her eyebrow and pursed her lips. “Um…are you OK, Erica?”

It took Erica a few seconds to gather her thoughts. “Oh! Yes, Kate. Funny I had just stopped to have a think, and here you are. Ha. Ha-ha.”

“Well, all right. I’d better get going. Tony is waiting to take me home,” Kate said, trying to hide her frown at Erica’s strange response.

Feeling her heart begin to slow to a somewhat normal rate, Erica gave a controlled nod. “I met Tony. He’s a nice guy. May I walk you out?”

The question made Kate feel a little cornered. She didn’t want to risk offending the over-friendly woman, especially when they had only just met and were going to be working closely together. “Sure, Erica, but didn’t you need to use the restroom?”

“Oh, no. I honestly just stopped here by accident. I’m sorry if I startled you. When I’m deep in thought like that, I tend to wander in life as well as in my head.”

When Erica gave another little forced laugh, Kate narrowed her eyes in confusion. “Shall we walk then? I really need to go.”

“Lets…” Erica began to stroll away, and after a tiny pause, Kate caught up to her.

Not much was said on the way to the parking lot. Kate once again found it a little odd, and she came to the conclusion that Erica must be a very nervous individual, flaky perhaps. She seemed to be nervous about Kate, nervous about the new job, and nervous about…well, lots of other things.

Erica matched Kate stride for stride until the sunlight hit them. When she saw Tony leaning against the BMW, she plastered on a happy face and smiled sweetly at him. Her smile disappeared when Kate walked over to him and gave him a quick hug.

“How was your day, Tony?” Kate asked as she let him go.

“Yeah, good. I spoke to your dad. They got their rental car, and they’re now home and crashed out on the couch. Are you good to go already?”

“Yep.” Kate gestured toward Erica. “I think you met one of my co-stars earlier.”

“I sure did,” Tony said politely. “Good to see you again, Erica.”

Erica’s smile didn’t quite reach her vivid, blue eyes. “Yes, always a pleasure to meet new people. It’s so good to see an employee and an employer who get on so well.”

Kate smiled at Tony as she answered. “I like to have a good relationship with my employees.”

When Tony laughed, Erica assumed that there was some private joke going on between the two, and it irritated her no end. When Kate finally turned toward her, she forced a smile which gradually became less false as Kate held her gaze. “That’s just great,” Erica said dreamily.

Kate felt a shiver run through her and blinked until she was free of the connection. “Um, yes. I really have to go, Erica. I’ll see you later. Enjoy your three free days. It’s going to get busier from here on in.”

Erica thought that was just fine with her. Being at work meant being with Kate – for the most part – and she was looking forward to it. It cheered her up immensely. “I know, right? Well you have a great few days too, Kate. Bye for now.” Completely ignoring Tony, Erica strolled back inside the building with a wide smile covering her face.

Kate turned to Tony who was holding her car door open. “Such a gentleman.” She was grinning as she sat in her seat, but by the time Tony had gotten in and gunned the engine, she had a pensive look on her face.

“She’s a little strange, huh?” Tony said, mirroring Kate’s thoughts.

“Hmm, yeah. I think she’s just really nervous. I remember CJ talking to me about how outsiders see me. You know, as this famous, untouchable actress? Maybe she’ll calm down soon.”

“Maybe she’s a little like Sasha.”

Kate laughed. “Maybe. At least Sasha has stopped being so nervous around me now.”

“Does Erica’s nervousness make you uncomfortable?”

“Only a little. It’s unusual for another actress to be that way, but I think it’ll wear off.” Kate sighed as the car moved out of the parking lot. “She hasn’t been an actress that long, though.”

Tony nodded. “I must admit, I haven’t seen her in anything. How long has she been in showbiz?”

“From what she’s told me so far, she’s only done one indie movie that was eventually released on DVD, and her other projects never made it to the screen. Shame, really. She’s very beautiful.”

“I’d have to agree.” Tony tapped on the steering wheel as they came to a stop behind some traffic. “Do you need to go anywhere before we head home?”

“Nope. Take me back to the ranch, partner.”

“Sure thing, ma’am,” Tony replied in the same western accent as he tipped his imaginary Stetson.

* * * * * *

When Eddie and Jeffrey had arrived back at the Carson house, they had been met by two exuberant children who wanted to know all about the cabin they had yet to visit. There simply hadn’t been time for the whole family to visit Montana, and there were other reasons that Eddie would be only too happy to explain to his captive audience…once he found a gap in the conversation.

“And did you see any animals, Grandpa? What about snow? Maybe there’ll be snow when we go to the cabin, huh, Luce?” Shannon had so many things to ask that she forgot to let anyone answer. “Ooh, and there are trails. We could walk in the forest with Kamali. Did you see any nice flowers, Grandpa? Maybe one the same color as my sweater?” she asked, pulling said sweater. “Or maybe-”

“Oh!” Eddie exclaimed to get her attention. “Can I try to answer all of those questions now?”

Shannon became a little shy and snuggled into Eddie’s chest. “Sorry, Grandpa.”

“Oh, no, don’t be sorry, sweetie-pie. Just listen for a minute.”

“Yeah, Shan. Listen,” Lucy said, sticking out her tongue at her sister, making Shannon do the same.

Eddie snickered before he began his story. “Well, there was no snow while we were up there, but the cabin is still very beautiful, and it was quite cold outside. But not to worry! There’s a big fireplace where you throw in the logs and burn them. The flames are wonderful. Makes it feel all cozy. Grandpa Jeffrey and I sat there and watched the fire all the time.”

“We have a fire like that here,” Lucy said, pointing to the grand fireplace across the coffee table from where they were sitting.

“That’s right.” Eddie squeezed her little shoulders. He had one girl on each side, and when Jeffrey came into the living room with drinks and cake for everyone, he continued his tale after a loving smile to his husband. “We did see some animals, but only two squirrels and a deer. Your mommy had told us there were deer up in the mountains, but seeing that gorgeous creature looking at us before sprinting off through the trees was quite magical!”

“What were the squirrels doing? Did they look at you too?” Shannon asked.

“Not really. They were too busy up on the tree branches to bother with us.”

“Maybe we’ll go soon. I want to see the squirrels.”

Shannon sounded a little downtrodden, so Eddie kissed her dark hair and gave her a hug. “I think Mommy will want to go soon. The thing is, Shan, the cabin isn’t ready for you two young ladies yet.”

“Why not?”

Eddie sighed. “Well, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but there’s a lovely man called Charlie. He’s a friend of your mommies. He has another friend who is building a little bedroom onto the cabin for you and Lucy to sleep in…and he’s making a fence outside because the yard is too dangerous right now.”

Shannon sat up straighter, and Lucy copied her, just because she copied a lot of things her cool, big sister did. With her blue eyes shining bright, Shannon pursed her lips in thought.

“So does that mean we’ll have our own beds there too?”

“Yes. Bunk beds, no less,” Eddie answered conspiratorially in a whisper.

Lucy was quick to show her surprise. Putting down her half-eaten cupcake, she placed her hands dramatically on her cheeks and said, “Bunk beds are high!”

“Yes, but I don’t know who’ll get the top one. Maybe you’ll take turns.”

Shannon nodded. “That’s a good idea. But Grandpa, why is the yard dangerous?”

“Ah! You know how the cabin is in the mountains, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, mountains are very big. The cabin is high up, and on one side of the yard the mountain just drops all the way down as far as you can see, so it needs a good, safe fence just in case you girls were to trip and fall over the side. We wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we?”

“We certainly would not,” Kate said sternly as she walked into the living room with Tony in tow.

Eddie gulped in an exaggerated fashion at being caught gossiping with his granddaughters. “Uh, hi, Katie.”

Jeffrey giggled on the sidelines, although he was a little worried about giving the girls cake before dinner. Grandparent’s prerogative, he reminded himself. He glanced at Eddie’s guilty face. “You’re in trouble now, my love.” He got up to hug Kate, and turned his raised eyebrow on the three occupants of the couch. “He was giving up top secret information.”

“Tattletale,” Eddie grumbled.

Kate held back her smile as her father became all flustered.

“I-I was not. I mean, well, they asked questions, and I just answered it and-“

He was cut off by Kate’s laughter. Hearing the sound, Lucy jumped off the couch and attached herself to Kate’s thigh in her usual, welcome-home hug.

Shannon forewent the hello since her curious mind wanted answers from her parent. “When can we go to the cabin, Mama?”

“Hmm. I would say next school break would be a good time. Things should be ready by then,” Kate said, narrowing her eyes at her dad and the sugary treats lying on the coffee table.

“Oh, goody! That’s not too long.”

“No, not too long, and it’s before I start filming so that will be a perfect time to go, actually.” Kate plopped down into Lucy’s vacated seat and kissed Eddie on the cheek. “I’m kidding, Dad. Breath…”

“Oh! I was worried there for a minute,” Eddie muttered, holding his hand to his chest.

“You were not, silly man.”

“It was Jeffreydoodle who gave them cake,” he said, pointing an accusatory finger at his husband.

Jeffrey put his hands up in surrender. “OK, I admit that, but look how delicious!” He took one and bit into it making yummy, moaning sounds as he chewed.

“Yeah, yeah. OK. I’ll forgive you this once.” Kate snagged the remainder of Lucy’s cupcake and popped it in her mouth, earning a gasp from her father. “What? She’s gone upstairs. She’ll have forgotten by the time she comes back.”

“Oh, you are awful!” Eddie jested.

Kate stuck her tongue out, much like Lucy had done earlier. “How did your break go, anyway? Good?”

“Oh, fabulous!” Eddie enthused. “It’s a beautiful place. I can see why CJ loves it. I feel so rejuvenated.”

“Yes, Babycakes. We could have stayed a lot longer, but we knew we had to come back and face the music at some point. It’s going to be a busy few weeks.” Jeffrey parked himself on the corner of the coffee table with his mug of tea in-hand. “Would you like some tea to wash down your contraband?”

Kate smiled. “I think Tony beat you to it. I can hear the coffee machine already.”

“Oh, that Tony. He is wonderful!” Jeffrey said loudly enough for Tony to hear.

“Thank you!” shouted Tony’s laughing voice from the kitchen.

Eddie patted Kate’s thigh and slowly got up from the couch. “Jeffrey’s right. We have a busy few weeks ahead. We have to find an apartment. Our furniture is taking up space in your brand new barn.”

“Dad?”

When Eddie turned back to his daughter he saw something mischievous in her twinkling eyes. “What?”

“Can you not look for an apartment right now? CJ and I need to talk with you both about something.”

Jeffrey looked between Kate and her father. “What something?”

Eddie shrugged and came to stand in front of them again. His bladder could wait a little longer. “What are you up to, Katie?”

“My wife and I just have a really great idea, but I promised her we would talk to you about it together. Can you wait?”

Eddie tilted his head to the side and admired his offspring for a few seconds. “Wait until tomorrow? Oh! That was one of your movies. Ha-ha!” He chuckled at his own little funny. “You have dinner guests tonight, so we can talk tomorrow. Is that OK?”

“Yes, tomorrow. I think you’ll like the idea.” Kate pinned her lips together in case she had the urge to tell all right now.

Eddie chuckled and spun around. “I do hope so,” he said on his way to the bathroom.

Jeffrey leaned over to whisper in Kate’s ear. “Just tell me now. He’s out of earshot.”

“I heard that, Mr. Watson-Marshall.”

“Oh, blast it. Now he chooses to have super-sharp senses,” Jeffrey said with an exaggerated eye-roll.

* * * * * *

“Come on, Penfold. I wanna go home,” CJ said dejectedly. She was tired and in a little bit of pain. Her wrist was itching like hell, and she wanted to go home and scratch the living daylights out of it.

They had been analyzing the LAPD cold cases for hours, and it was looking more and more like their latest killings were drug-related, or more specifically, drug-dealer-related. The ballistics information from the old casefiles had been useful. The bullets were a match to the ones found in the recent victims. Now the agents had something to go on…young couples being killed for possibly dealing drugs. Had they pissed off their boss, and he was having them executed? Had someone overdosed, and their friend or loved one was out for revenge? Was it even related to the previous killings or had someone just obtained the weapon on the streets? CJ didn’t know yet, but a visit to her friend in the Drugs Enforcement Agency was her next port of call…tomorrow.

“Just two more minutes,” Jamie said from her desk.

“What are you doing anyway?” CJ said, blowing out a breath and flopping back down into her seat.

“Searching the DEA files for anything that might give us half a clue,” Jamie replied, twisting her lip in her fingers as she perused the screen.

“Find anything?”

“Nope. There’s nothing so far, but I don’t suppose they put everything on here.”

“Which is why I’ve arranged to go see Anders at the DEA tomorrow…”

Jamie looked up and grinned at the smug look on CJ’s face. “Yeah, yeah, you’re the best. Blah-blah-blah.”

CJ got to her feet again and gestured to the door. “Now that we’ve confirmed that, can we go have dinner?”

“You’re such a smart-ass sometimes.” Jamie stood and looked around for her bag. Once she’d found it stuffed part-way under her chair, she hooked it over her shoulder and shuffled towards CJ.

“Who am I to argue with you? If you say I’m the best, then I’m the best.” CJ held the door open to allow Jamie to go through first.

“Such a gentleman.”

“Hey! Less of that. I’m a woman, through and through.”

“Yes, you are, aren’t you,” said a sultry voice from the corridor.

Jamie had spotted Chris Wilder a split-second before she’d said anything, and she knew she had to get CJ past Chris as fast as possible and without incident. “We’re just on our way out, Dr. Wilder.”

“Oh, don’t mind me. I was just checking to see if you found the information I brought useful?”

“Yes, yes, very useful. Thanks again. Now we must be going. Urgent things to take care of,” Jamie said, pushing CJ along the corridor and smiling at Chris. “Bye now.”

“But don’t you want to hear my thoughts on-”

“Maybe later. Bye!” Jamie shouted from the doors of the elevator. Once the doors closed, she bit her lip and turned to CJ who had been silent the entire time.

CJ’s face was expressionless, but she felt Jamie’s eyes on her and spun on her heels to face her. “Very diplomatic, Agent Green.”

“Thank you.” Jamie eyed CJ for a moment. “Very restrained, Agent Carson.”

“Thank you.” CJ let a grin grow on her face, but it wasn’t a happy grin…more like feral, and not in a good way. “I’m just hungry. Somebody kept me at the office much longer than necessary, so my stomach has overridden my brain. No point in using up energy throttling her when I need to use all my remaining strength to drive home,” she grumbled, curling her dark eyebrow while she waited for the response.

Jamie rolled her eyes, which was to be expected, and belatedly pushed the button for the basement parking garage. “Fine. Let’s get you fed before you fade away to nothing.”

“I like your thinking there, Penfold.”

* * * * * *

A mere hour later, they arrived at the house to find four busy females in the kitchen preparing their meal. Sam had already arrived, and since it was seven thirty in the evening, the children had already eaten but still wanted to help with the table-setting before bed.

“Mommy! You’re home,” Shannon shouted a little too loudly.

Kate grimaced. “Quietly, Shan. Your tired grandpa’s are sleeping already.”

“Oh, I forgot.” Shannon hugged CJ around her middle. “Hi, Mommy.”

“Hello, Squirt. Something smells real good in here.”

Shannon quickly agreed and then bounced off to say hello to Jamie. While the others were in the various stages of greeting one another, Kate pulled CJ into a hug.

“Hey, you. Are you feeling OK today?”

“Yeah. Can’t wait to get this thing off my wrist, though. It really itches,” CJ grumbled before she deposited a quick kiss on Kate’s neck.

“Mmm. How’s the case coming along? Anything new?”

The continual chatter around them was distracting CJ, so she smiled and took a moment to push a few strands of hair off Kate’s forehead. “Yes, but I’ll tell you about it later when we have some quiet time.” She turned her head when she felt someone tugging on her pants.

Lucy waited until CJ looked at her, then she giggled and said, “Grandpas gave us a cupcake,” before running off into the living room.

CJ had to laugh, and with a defiant, rebellious little face watching her from the doorway, she returned her focus back to Kate. “Is she challenging me to tell off the grandpas?”

“She’s just amazed that she was allowed a cake before her dinner.”

“Ah. Sugar rush over yet?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Let’s try to get them down for the night, and then we can have a nice, civilized dinner with our lovely friends.”

CJ quietly let her go, but Kate didn’t move away. Instead she began to carefully undo the wrist support, and once it was removed completely she trailed her nails gently up and down the surgery scar on CJ’s recovering arm.

Of course, CJ’s eyes began to glaze over before they drifted closed in her bliss. “Oh…Katie…”

It was completely unintentional, but the words were gasped out in an erotic way making Jamie and Sam both look at CJ with wide eyes. Kate stood smiling at the face CJ was making while she continued to scratch, and CJ stood swaying on the spot getting lost in her heavenly relief.

It was clear Sam wasn’t going to do anything about it, as was evident from her hand over her mouth, covering her laugh, but Jamie had started to fidget, and she shifted from foot to foot as CJ continued to breathe raggedly.

“Uh, DM? Please don’t do that.”

CJ’s eyes snapped open. “Huh? What?”

Kate giggled and reached up to cup her cheek. “You were making sounds…nice sounds.”

Jamie waved her finger in the air. “Nice, to you, Kate, but we don’t need to hear her pleasure noises.”

CJ’s face darkened with a blush that she just couldn’t stop. “Sorry. It just feels-”

“So good. We get it,” Jamie said before pinning her lips together to stifle her smile. “I’m going to read my favorite girls a bedtime story. Hopefully, by the time I get back, you’ll be, uh, satisfied.”

“I’ll go with her,” Sam said quickly as she followed Jamie out of the room.

“Was I really making those sounds?”

Kate didn’t answer. Instead, she started scratching CJ’s wrist again, invoking the same response as before.

CJ laughed between her hums. “OK, I was making sex sounds.”

“Uh-huh…and I have to say, my body’s reacting.”

CJ suddenly grabbed Kate’s hand and led her through the back hallway into the gym. She closed the door and pushed Kate up against the wall. “Let me check.” She slid her right hand inside Kate’s black sweats and pressed against the heat at her core. “Reacting in my favor…”

“CJ, we can’t. Not right now.”

“Everyone is otherwise engaged. It’ll only take a minute. You’re so wet.”

“But, oh…” Kate felt CJ’s long fingers pushing through her warmth and circling her clit possessively. “Yes. Only a minute.”

Since she was restricted by Kate’s clothing, CJ used the side of her index finger to flick across the tip of Kate’s sex. When Kate’s hands came up to grip her neck tightly, she made her demand breathlessly. “Kiss me.”

Kate did so, sucking powerfully on her tongue as the rapid finger sent waves of arousal shooting through her body. She gripped CJ’s lip with her teeth, and her moan vibrated against CJ’s mouth. “Gonna come…”

“Do it. I want to feel you.” CJ replaced the stimulating finger with her thumb and slipped inside Kate. Her thumb pressed harder against Kate’s clit, manipulating it until Kate couldn’t hold back any longer.

CJ watched as Kate came, pinned up against the wall in the middle of the day, with the house full of their family and friends. She wasn’t sure what had possessed her to take Kate immediately, but she did know she now felt a little guilty. She had wanted to hear Kate gasping at her command, wanted to watch her as she restrained her cries when she climaxed. What had just happened to her? Why had she done something she wouldn’t usually entertain? She shook off the confusing thoughts and focused on Kate’s face. “You OK?”

Kate breathed heavily while straightening out her clothing. “Yeah. I’ll get you back for that later, though.”

CJ was relieved that Kate wasn’t pissed at her for the impromptu attack. “I don’t know what came over me there. I just had to have you.”

“I think I came over you there,” Kate whispered before she kissed CJ passionately. “And you’ll come over me later.” Seemingly unaware of CJ’s predicament, she wandered off toward the door, very thankful that it had remained closed the entire time. “Come on. Let’s be civilized now.”

“Uh, yeah…” CJ dazedly followed, confused but ultimately satisfied with her performance.

* * * * * *

The next couple of hours had gone pretty smoothly. Lucy had fallen asleep in Jamie’s arms while Sam had told the bedtime story, and Shannon, forever the grown-up, had informed Jamie that she was happy to go to bed on her own, although she still needed a kiss goodnight from both of them before her light was turned out.

Now, dinner was underway for the real grown-ups, and when the discussion turned to the case at work, CJ remembered that there was some information she had yet to relay to Jamie.

“Oh, I meant to tell you.” She prodded Jamie’s arm with the prongs of her fork.

“Hey, don’t do that!”

“Sorry-”

“You don’t know where that shirt has been,” Jamie said plainly.

CJ stared at her for a second before she started laughing. Her laughter was infectious, and it was only after the chuckles died down that she looked disapprovingly around the table. “It wasn’t that funny,” she deadpanned, which sparked another round of snickers.

Kate reached over to nudge CJ’s shoulder. “I’ve told you before, you and Jamie should do stand-up.”

After Kate’s repetitive joke-wink that resembled a facial tick, CJ grinned at her. “Thank you for your sarcasm.”

“You’re welcome,” Kate said as she went back to her meal, but before she consumed her next mouthful, she added, “You meant to tell Jamie something?”

“I did?” CJ had gotten lost while looking at Kate. She did that a lot, especially when Kate was being amazing, beautiful, and funny, which was most of the time, really.

“You did. Something about work…”

“Yeah.” CJ blinked out of her stupor and turned away from her very welcome distraction. “I got an email from Anders. He wanted to send me some info to digest before our meeting tomorrow. I had told him what was found by our medical examiner.” She stopped talking when a sudden bitterness appeared in her mouth that she struggled to gulp away.

Jamie saw it, and she knew what had caused it and the fleeting grimace on CJ’s face, so she prompted her to continue in case the mere mention of Chris Wilder’s name would spoil their meal. “And what did Anders say?”

“He was giving me a heads-up on a new drug on the streets called Ascendia.”

Kate frowned. “I dread to think why it’s called that.”

CJ nodded at her before she went on. “It was supposed to be because the users would ascend to a new and ultimate high, but according to Anders, it turns out that the only place they are ascending to is heaven.”

“It’s killing them?” Kate asked while placing her fork on her empty plate.

“Yeah.”

Jamie’s mind went back to their possible revenge motive for the killer. “What percentage so far, CJ?”

“Well, with the deaths they know about, and the DEA’s information on distribution, they estimate about sixty-two percent of users are dead so far.”

“Shit, that’s high.”

CJ sighed. “No kidding. It seems the only dealer in the city right now is someone only known as Raven. The drug is produced in liquid form, and he or she is recruiting teens or slightly older adults to sell it for them. It seems this dealer wants the young and trendy image to promote the product.”

“What’s in the drug that makes it so dangerous?” Sam asked. She had been quietly listening up until now because sometimes she just couldn’t fathom how Jamie could do her job or how she dealt with horrid situations on a case-by-case basis.

CJ turned to her after sipping some of her lemon water. “From what I read in the email, it contains succinylcholine and traces of cyanide, mixed with various other substances to bulk it out. It’s distributed in capsule form, with a tiny picture of a raven stamped on the casing.”

Kate scrunched up her mouth. “Seems this Raven is quite proud of his drug, and I happen to know what succinylcholine is. He must be using it in dangerous amounts…of course, cyanide is also deadly. Do you think he’s deliberately trying to kill off the youth of today?”

CJ shook her head, not to reply, but as a reaction to Kate’s train of thought. “Don’t misunderstand me,” she said to the room. “This drug dealer is not our serial killer. I’m pretty sure of that, but it is all linked in my mind. I’m thinking the killer is somehow connected to someone who has been a victim of this drug. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the killer is targeting the dealer’s distributors.”

Jamie nodded since CJ was thinking the same thing she was. “That will be something to investigate tomorrow, DM.”

CJ nodded back as she gulped down another mouthful of water, but Kate was still following her own line of investigation. She was remembering her work on Deadline, and how much she had learned from her character’s job in forensics. She realized that she had taken some good memories away from that role, as well as the not-so-pleasant ones.

“So…” she said as she leaned her chin on her hand and tapped her finger on her cheek. “I know succinylcholine is a muscle relaxant. I mean, they use it on trach patients in hospitals everywhere to relax their muscles before they insert the breathing tube, but if it’s at dangerous levels in these capsules, what other muscles is it relaxing?”

CJ almost snorted. She really felt Kate would be of value to the FBI. No joke. “That’s what our ME said.”

CJ faltered again. She really was feeling sick at the thought of Chris Wilder, and she simply wished the woman didn’t exist in her life at all. She decided that in her home, Chris didn’t exist, and she shook off the thought of her immediately. But this time, Kate had noticed her discomfort, although she had no idea where it stemmed from. She didn’t give it much more thought since CJ had started talking again.

“It seems the concentration of the drug in these particular capsules is enough to slow the heart to fatal levels. These young, mainly healthy drug-takers are basically dying of sudden heart attacks.”

“That’s what I wondered,” Kate said in response. “But I guess your medical examiner has already-”

“Listen,” CJ said gently to interrupt. “Enough FBI-talk. I think we should have dessert, and you can tell me about much more pleasant things, like your new outfits on Infinity One. I’d love to hear about those.”

Kate knew she had been cut off, but the way CJ was looking at her now – as if she was wearing one of those outfits, or nothing at all – made her forget about being interrupted. As she stared lazily into CJ’s eyes, she found she could do nothing but agree, and before long, they were tucking into hot, syrup-covered, sponge pudding with ice-cream on the side, and Kate was describing her flight suit in great detail.

As Jamie listened, she was still concerned about CJ’s abrupt end to the previous discussion. If CJ swept this Chris Wilder thing under the rug, as she was prone to do with her personal demons, it might never go away…and potentially, it would just get even worse.

As the evening progressed, Jamie realized some intervention might be required. I’ll chat with Kate. She’ll know what to do, she thought to herself. They should just call me Jamie ‘The Meddler’ Green.

* * * * * *

About fifty minutes after the FBI discussion, CJ had disappeared upstairs but hadn’t come back down. When Kate heard her name being called, she excused herself from the table and went in search of her elusive spouse.

At the top of the stairs, she called CJ’s name in the loudest whisper possible. She didn’t want to wake anyone, so when she didn’t get an answer she took an educated guess and went to the master bedroom. She eventually walked into the bathroom and was accosted by a rather horny CJ.

“What the…?” Kate was swooped into the room and pinned up against the vanity unit.

“I want you, Katie. I want to hear you gasp my name.”

“We’re in the middle of a dinner party,” Kate only just managed to say since CJ’s hands were already massaging her breasts. The dinner party objection was soon forgotten when the massaging turned into nails scratching roughly over her nipples through the thin T-shirt and bra she was wearing. “Oh, my…mmm.” She closed her eyes as the sensations flowed through her body, and she barely noticed when one of CJ’s hands left her body until she smelled a familiar aroma and opened her eyes to find their dildo right in front of her face.

“Suck it,” CJ commanded huskily.

Kate did so while CJ watched her closely, but when she was deprived of the delicious flavor, she licked her lips repeatedly in an attempt to prolong the pleasure. “It tastes of you.”

“I know. I just used it. Now it’s your turn.”

“Holy shit, CJ…what are you trying to do to me?”

“Make you come.”

“Oh…”

CJ suddenly undid Kate’s jeans and nudged them down her legs before she lifted her onto the vanity counter and insinuated herself between Kate’s knees. She kissed her hotly, and when the dildo’s vibrate function was switched on, CJ ran the toy up and down Kate’s inner thigh. With her other hand, she pulled Kate’s panties aside and let the tip of the dildo touch her clit.

Kate jumped at the contact, but in the next second she was pushing her sex against the sensation. It was quickly making her hard, and she nipped CJ’s lip with her teeth to ensure the stimulation would continue.

The nip had the desired effect, and CJ pushed the phallus inside Kate before bringing it back out to trail up her clit to tease its sensitive head. Kate was grabbing handfuls of CJ’s hair now as she tried to insert her tongue deeper into her mouth. CJ rubbed the dildo roughly back and forth over Kate’s clit making her come with an almighty scream that was completely muffled by the fact that Kate had taken a mouthful of CJ’s shoulder at just the right moment.

CJ stood there looking at herself in the mirror while Kate recovered. She noticed she was frowning at herself, and it made her so confused. She loved what she had done to Kate, only because she knew Kate had loved it too, but something wasn’t right in her head, and before she had the chance to analyze it further, Kate broke her train of thought.

“That was incredible. What a rush.”

“Glad you thought so,” CJ said with a grin that wasn’t quite genuine.

“I guess I like being a bad girl now and again. I can’t believe we did that in the middle of dinner.”

“Heh…yeah. Sorry about that.”

Kate looked at CJ like she was crazy. “You’re sorry? Hell, I’m not. That was wonderful, honey. Now, um, let’s get me decent before I pretend to be all innocent in front of our friends.”

CJ helped Kate pull up her jeans before she kissed her and watched her leave the bathroom.

“Get your butt downstairs,” Kate said as she walked out the bedroom door.

CJ heard her but didn’t respond as she washed the dildo and put it away in the drawer. She stopped to look at her reflection in the mirror again and shook her head at what she saw. What the fuck is going on with me?

* * * * * *

It was after eleven that night when CJ and Sam offered to make the coffee. They knew it was late, but Sam had still to drive home, so she needed a boost to keep her awake after all that lovely food and relaxing chat with good friends. While they were in the kitchen, Kate and Jamie were still on the couch feeling jolly and chilled-out, but their upbeat mood soon changed, rather like Kate’s recent emotional ups and downs.

“I think we drank more than they did,” Kate said while she narrowed her eyes to examine the bottle of wine with great interest.

“Kate, they didn’t drink at all. Our women are sober as judges.”

“Don’t say judges,” Kate mumbled as she lay back against the cushions. “I don’t want to think about courts.”

Jamie looked at her sympathetically. “Have you heard anything from…you-know-who?”

“No, and I don’t care to either. I just know her sentencing is coming up soon, and I don’t know whether to go or not.” Kate’s eyes were suddenly filled with melancholy as she rubbed the side of her wine glass with her fingertip.

Since Jamie was slightly inebriated, her usual reservations were almost non-existent, and she leaned over to give Kate a floppy, sideways hug. “I don’t think you should go. You’ve been through so much,” she said while trying to sit upright again. “I can let you know what happens if you’d like? I mean, I’m the one you guys can lean on…anytime, anywhere. Like with CJ and this stupid Chris Wilder thing. What a mess.”

“What do you mean?” Kate asked, trying not to slur.

“Ugh. Chris is a bitch. She’s such a lush. I’m telling you, I don’t know how CJ hasn’t punched her lights out yet. Well, actually I do know. CJ’s a pro. She wouldn’t do something like that, but if it was me, and that bitch had leered at me, propositioned me over and over, and felt up my boob, I’d have sent her packin’,” Jamie finished while throwing her thumb over her shoulder.

Kate was suddenly feeling a little more sober. “Chris felt up CJ’s breast? Who the hell is this Chris?”

Jamie almost puked at the realization that Kate had no clue what she was rambling on about. “Oh, fuck.”

“Jamie Green, tell me right now who she is.”

Since Kate’s voice was quietly threatening and ultimately terrifying, Jamie spoke up immediately. “She’s our new medical examiner…and CJ’s old flame.” At the look on Kate’s face, she quickly added. “She was horrible to CJ back then, and she’s still really, really horrible now. I mean, CJ hates her.”

But Kate hadn’t really heard that last part. Her mind had clammed up at the mention of CJ’s old flame, and her stomach – and the alcohol therein – reacted quite violently. She felt sick, but before she got up to leave the room, she sent a low warning to Jamie. “Don’t mention this conversation to her. I’ll do it myself.”

And with that she was gone, leaving Jamie torn. Did she do what she was told and save herself being killed by Kate, or did she tell her best buddy in order to give her a heads-up? CJ was in trouble either way, and Jamie really wished she hadn’t drunk any wine now. Her head was swimming, and her judgement was impaired. When CJ and Sam came back with coffee mugs in-hand, she smiled at them sweetly.

“Where did Katie go?” CJ asked as soon as she sat down.

Jamie went with the option that didn’t involve any bruising. “She wasn’t feeling so good. Too much wine, maybe?”

“Aw. I’ll go check on her.”

“Listen, DM, we’ll be quick with our coffee, then we’ll go so you don’t have to come back down to see us off. Stay here for now?”

Sam was sitting nodding alongside Jamie, and CJ chuckled as she leaned back on the couch.

“Since you asked so nicely…”

Jamie smiled and sipped on her coffee, all the while knowing that this was going to end horribly. She knew CJ and Kate would eventually be fine – they’d been through much worse – but she also knew it would be anything but smooth-sailing until then.

* * * * * *

Upstairs in the master suite, Kate was hovering somewhere amidst anger, frustration, depression, and overwhelming tiredness. After she had run upstairs, she had paced the bedroom floor wondering why CJ hadn’t told her about this Chris Wilder.

It was bugging her more than it should, and she knew the wine was also affecting her when she started to rub her temples repeatedly. The beginnings of a major headache forced her to drop down on the bed, but she was intent on getting back up in a moment to grab a glass of water. Before she could do that, she curled up into the fetal position on top of the covers and fell fast asleep.

CJ eventually crawled up the stairs well after midnight, having seen their guests off and clearing up some of the mess they had left behind. Once she had checked on Shannon and Lucy, she went to the master suite and closed the door behind her. Only the light from the bathroom illuminated her way, and as she crossed the floor she noticed Kate lying on top of the bed, fully clothed.

CJ knelt down beside the bed and reached over to brush a few strands of Kate’s hair off her face. It was then that she noticed the dried trail of a tear on Kate’s cheek. “Wow, you really aren’t feeling good,” she whispered. “But it’s more than that. I think we need to talk about Elizabeth. I’ve seen you when you thought I didn’t notice. You’re hiding your sadness, Katie. We are so alike sometimes, it scares me. I don’t want you to be sad. I don’t want you to go through it alone.” CJ sighed and leaned her chin on the mattress edge. “And recently, we’ve had a lot to be sad about, but we’re gonna get through it. We always do. I promise we’ll talk soon.”

CJ felt a little lost and useless. Here she was telling Kate she would make her feel better, and she couldn’t even make herself feel better.

Sitting there in the dark, she thought about why she was so anxious and irritable. It’s her. It’s that damned woman. I need to do something about that tomorrow. I want it over and done with for good. She glanced up at Kate again while frowning at her thoughts. I don’t even know what I saw in Chris back then. Kate is my perfect woman, and they are worlds apart. Chris can’t ever hope to measure up to this amazing human being.

Of course, the mere mention of Chris’s name, even in thought alone, was enough to make CJ grumpy again. She had enjoyed their evening with Jamie and Sam, but now Kate was sound asleep so there was nothing to distract her from her bad mood.

She slowly rose to get changed into her tank top and shorts before carefully removing Kate’s clothing and slipping the blankets out from under her. Kate muttered something in her sleep, and when CJ got into bed beside her, she rubbed her hand soothingly over Kate’s hair. With a huge sigh, Kate settled, and CJ lay on her back, trying to shut out every thought in her head in an effort to join her partner in the land of nod. It didn’t work.

.

Chapter 5

Still tired and slightly defeated, CJ shuffled downstairs the next morning. The shower hadn’t done anything to refresh her mood so she trudged toward the kitchen hoping to see her family all happily having breakfast around the island counter, but when she got there, all she found was Eddie Senior washing up plates at the sink.

CJ checked her watch to ensure she was, in fact, on schedule for work. It read seven thirty, and with her face scrunched into something resembling a frown, she looked up at her father-in-law. “Morning, Eddie. Where is everyone?”

Eddie bounced on the spot before turning to respond. “Oh, you and your stealth mode.” He fanned himself, just to make sure his over-dramatic acting skills were kept fresh. “Morning, sweet thing. Everyone has deserted me.”

When Kamali gave a snort to make his presence known, CJ snorted back at him. “Not everyone.”

“Oh, of course. This handsome boy is forever loyal. But anyway, to answer your question seriously…can I do that? Yes. Yes, I can. Katie went to the studios…said she had some things to do there, so she left with Tony and the children, and my better, more fabulous half is out tending to the horses. He absolutely loves it here!” he finished with a fancy twirl of the dishcloth he was holding.

CJ sat facing Eddie on the stool at the counter and drummed her fingernails as she spoke. “I’m just surprised Katie didn’t wake me. I’m also surprised she was up and ready so early. She drank a fair amount last night.”

“Well, she looked fresh as a daisy…and maybe a little pensive, before she left.”

“That might just have been her hangover face, Dad.”

“Ah. That’s better,” Eddie said before blowing her a kiss.

“What?”

“You called me Eddie when you came in. It didn’t sound quite right to me.”

CJ’s face crinkled into a deep frown. “I did?”

“Yes, you did,” Eddie replied gently. “Something’s distracting you. Hopefully, you’ll figure out what it is. And stop that incessant drumming…and stop that frowning. You look much more beautiful when you smile.”

CJ blushed as she slapped her other hand over the drumming fingers. “Um, thanks. So what are your plans for the day?”

“I’m not sure yet. I have more searching the Internet to do, but I was kind of hoping to hear about this plan that you and Katie have thought up. I’ve found a couple of apartments for Jeffreydoodle and I to go see, but you’ve told us to wait. So what gives?”

While Eddie stood there expectantly with his hands on his hips, CJ chewed on her upper lip. She had wanted to have this discussion with all of them present, but Kate had disappeared so early this morning, they never had a chance to talk about anything at all. With a sigh, CJ decided to give Eddie a little something to think about. “Well…I’ll plant a seed, but I’d rather wait until Katie’s here to have the proper discussion.” When Eddie gave a non-committal-type nod, she continued. “You and Jeffrey seem to love it here…at the ranch, I mean. Katie and I had been thinking about the land outside our new fence. There is so much scope to build there, and we don’t use it for anything but walking or riding. We were thinking, log home.” CJ watched Eddie as his mind ticked over.

His eyes gradually opened wider when he realized what she meant. “Oh, my! That sounds utterly charming. Shall I guess that you’re talking about us in a log home?”

“You may guess.” CJ stood up to leave, not even thinking about having her usual wake-up coffee.

“Give your old man a hug before you leave, please,” he said, holding out his arms, dishcloth and all.

CJ walked over to him feeling a little like a chastised child and hugged him warmly before turning around. She was stopped in her tracks when she heard a deliberate cough behind her. She turned again to see Eddie holding out a couple of fat, delicious-looking sandwiches in a small, plastic lunchbox. As he snapped the lid closed, CJ reached out with a smile on her face.

“See? So much better!” Eddie exclaimed while pointing at her.

CJ could barely resist rolling her eyes. “Thanks again, Dad. Love you.” She left the kitchen hearing the sentiment returned with Eddie’s usual flair and gusto.

* * * * * *

Kate walked the corridor at the Chaplin studios. She wasn’t supposed to be here today, but she needed the distraction. She had decided to come and look for her dressing room. There would be no need for her trailer during this job, which was good because the lot at these studios was too small for her large, recreational vehicle. Her mind wandered to her family possibly using the trailer for a vacation now.

Ooh, we could take a road trip. Her face darkened a little as that idea threw up a possible problem. Would I feel safe enough on a road trip? Going to the grocery store was scary last time…so going even further? Kate shook her head as she passed a door with a piece of paper pinned to it. She didn’t notice Erica’s name on it and continued onward.

“I wouldn’t be alone. CJ would be with me so I’d never feel afraid,” she mumbled. The thought of CJ reminded her of what she had learned last night, and she trudged the rest of the way along the corridor without realizing her mood had altered again.

When Kate got to the last door, she knew it was hers because someone had put a brand-new nameplate on it. There was a glitzy star next to her name, and she felt a little shiver of excitement run through her at the thought of her new job. As she turned the handle, a brilliant display of color met her eyes. She blinked a few times at the warm but vibrant tones on the walls, the silvery rails for her costumes, a sumptuous couch for her to relax on during her downtime, and a dressing table with opaque light bulbs all around its mirror. But what caught her eye the most was the huge bunch of luxurious flowers that sat in a stunning vase upon the table in the corner. Lilies, yellow roses, and another red flower that Kate didn’t recognize, nestled comfortably between lush, dark-green foliage.

Kate headed straight over to the table to check for a card among the bunch. Did the studios do this for her? Maybe it was a co-star? She really hoped CJ had sent them, and her mood fluctuated again between anger at CJ not telling her about this Chris woman, and her anticipation at the possibility of the flowers being from her beloved. As she fidgeted with the small envelope, her fingers decided they were not going to do as they were told, and she dropped the card on the floor making her agitated at her apparent clumsiness. She bent down to retrieve the card and finally opened it to reveal a strange, anonymous message.

Congratulations on your new job.

I know you are going to make the show completely amazing.

You are always an incredible inspiration to me.

I admire you more than you’ll ever know.

Your talent knows no bounds, and a fresh and exciting actress like you doesn’t need any good luck wishes.

But I will say it anyway. Good luck, Kate.

You’re the best.

Knock ‘em dead!

x.

Kate read the message a few times. She knew it definitely wasn’t from CJ. She could feel it, and with a heave of her shoulders, she put the card in her bag and leaned over to smell the flowers. They were very beautiful, and she appreciated the sentiment. She decided to find out who had sent them later and thank them. It was definitely a nice gesture.

Since she didn’t have anywhere else to be today, she figured the next couple of hours would be well spent investigating her dressing room and the studios. That might keep her busy, but it would not stop her mind from conjuring up images of what Chris Wilder might look like.

Kate was dragged away from those thoughts by her cell phone ringing. She grappled with her bag and eventually found it to see that it was Lorena Xu calling.

“Hi, Lorena.”

“Hello, Kate.  Is it OK to talk?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I was just checking in to see how you were settling in with the new job, and I also wanted to confirm the details for Ellen next week.”

Kate had almost forgotten about her appearance on the popular chat show, and slapped her hand to her forehead in disbelief. “Goodness, is it next week?”

“Yes…are you still OK to do it?” Lorena asked worriedly.

“Oh, absolutely. Time just seems to be getting away from me recently.”

“Tell me about it. So how’s Infinity One shaping up so far?”

Kate smiled. She was getting used to Lorena now. It was an interesting concept to have an agent who didn’t constantly sound like she was really pissed. Lorena was always upbeat, kind and considerate, and tended to make sure that Kate wasn’t only getting the job done, but that she was enjoying it to boot.

“It’s going very well. The crew is amazing, so friendly. I’ve only really met one co-star so far, and she’s great too. We had a meeting the other day with a few other actors, but they seemed a little overwhelmed so I didn’t get a chance to chat to them. I’m looking forward to the first proper day of work when I can get a better feel for my new colleagues.”

“Great. Uh, so did Shannon tell you about her inviting Sian over for a sleepover?”

“No, not yet. When did she ask her to come over?” Kate almost chuckled.

“Saturday night. I had a feeling it wasn’t official. I do hope it’s OK with you? Sian doesn’t get invited anywhere very often. She’s quite a quiet child.”

“Aw, it’s definitely OK. We’d love to have her come over. How about you come for a bite to eat, then you can leave her if she feels comfortable with it?”

“That sounds wonderful, Kate.”

“Please feel free to bring your husband too.”

Lorena smiled again. “Dean’s out of town on business, but I’ll tell him you offered.”

“OK. See you around seven on Saturday then?”

“Great. Bye, Kate.”

“Bye.”

* * * * * *

CJ was in a piss-poor mood when she got to work, so much so that a few agents who saw her in the hallway quickly cleared a path as she stormed along to her office. Not seeing Kate in the morning made her feel like she hadn’t started her day properly. Kate hadn’t left her a message either, so CJ racked her brains to figure out if there was something she had done wrong. She couldn’t come up with a damn thing. It was pissing her off, and it totally sucked.

She slammed her bag down on the floor when she arrived at her desk, not even realizing that Tim was in the corner near the coffee machine. Less than a minute after she had arrived, he was silently holding out a cup of coffee for her.

Tim smiled when she looked up at him. “Morning, CJ. I’ll leave out the good part.”

“That obvious, huh?” CJ took the cup from him and sighed. “Thanks, Tim. This might make it a little better. How long you been here?” she asked as she looked at her watch.

“About an hour. When I came in, Mark caught me in the lobby and told me there was another killing, so I’ve been going over the police report while I wait for the ME to finish her autopsies.”

CJ grimaced briefly. “Shit. Who’d the shooter get this time? Lemme guess…young, gorgeous couple just walking along the street?”

“Close,” Tim said as he lifted a sheet of paper from his desk. “Young and gorgeous, but not a couple. They were friends, and they were found with small bags of capsules in their possession.”

“Ascendia?” CJ asked as she watched Tim getting up to hand her the paper.

“That would be my guess, but they’re still being analyzed. I hate to say it, but we might have to investigate the families of our victims after all.”

“I hate to agree, but I agree.”

Tim was happy to hear that. As he perched on the corner of CJ’s desk, he leaned in to point at a particular spot on the report. “This guy here…he’s related to a known drug dealer.”

“It’s looking more and more like revenge, huh?”

“Yep.”

“You got a name?”

Tim knew she meant for the drug dealer. “Danny Vinter.”

CJ curled her lip. “Sounds like a made-up character in a book. Hmm.” She scanned the entire sheet of information before she spoke again. “I’m heading over to the DEA today. Anders will probably know this Vinter guy. I wonder if Raven is his boss or something.”

At that moment, Jamie walked into the office. “Morning, Tim. Morning, DM,” she said, trying to gauge CJ’s mood with a single glance.

She didn’t know yet if Kate had talked to CJ about last night, but CJ’s face gave nothing away. She offered Jamie a tiny smile and a normal response, but she was distracted by the information she had in front of her, and Jamie mistook that as a bad sign. She decided to keep quiet, just in case she put her big foot in her even bigger mouth, as usual.

“Anything new on the case?” Jamie chanced, deeming that a safe avenue to pursue.

Tim got up off CJ’s desk and headed to his seat. “Yes. Another shooting last night. Two young friends just walking along the street with drugs in their pockets.”

“Shit,” Jamie said as she dropped into her own chair. “Where are we on the drugs?”

“Being analyzed in the lab,” Tim replied.

CJ sighed and leaned on her desk. “Time to start trawling through the families of each victim. I want background checks done on all of ‘em.”

Nothing else was said as the three agents began picking out the relevant names from the police reports. When Mikey arrived, the searching continued in earnest, and before long, they had a full list of every victim’s immediate family members.

One hour later, CJ cracked the bones in her back when she stood up to stretch. “Jesus, I feel like an old woman.”

Jamie fleetingly thought about a joke response, but decided against it at the last minute. “You going to see Anders?”

“Yep.”

“Want some company?”

CJ only nodded which served to make Jamie even more uncertain of what had transpired last night after she had left. She decided she may as well face the heat – if there was going to be any – on the way along the corridor.

They had gone up three floors and were most of the way to the other end of the building before CJ spoke. “I’m so sick of feeling edgy…looking over my shoulder for that damn woman every time I leave the office. It’s pissing me off.”

Jamie said nothing. She just nodded because she knew CJ could see her from the side of her eye, but when they were almost at their destination, she sighed. “It’s funny. I don’t want to see her either. I hate the way she leers at you, only because I know how it makes you feel. But CJ, we have to work with her, so how do we stop her from…you know?”

CJ halted abruptly and turned to Jamie. She looked thoughtful for a moment while she stared at her. Just as Jamie was getting a tad uncomfortable, CJ spoke. “I don’t know yet. I’m workin’ on it.”

Jamie nodded again. “OK. Let’s go solve this case, huh?”

“Let’s…”

* * * * * *

Kate had taken herself on a little tour of the conference room, the small cafeteria, the ladies restrooms, and the technical department. There had been a few people working on expensive-looking computers in there, and as was the same with everyone else on this show, they were incredibly friendly and informative. The visual effects supervisor for Infinity One was Karl Channing. He had shown Kate in a matter of seconds how his staff created the outer space backdrop for a lot of the scenes set up for the first episode. Kate had been amazed by the complexity of the work, and couldn’t understand how Karl could produce something so fast until he admitted he kept his little outer space show for anyone who came asking about his job. She had laughed at that, and she chuckled again now as she entered the corridor that led to her dressing room. When she was halfway along the corridor, she heard a door open ahead of her, and Erica appeared wearing full make-up and looking like she was about to go on camera.

“Hey, Erica. What are you doing here today?”

“Oh, hi, Kate. Just came in to get a feel for the place. You?”

Kate nodded. “Me too.”

“I think the cafeteria’s open. Would you like to join me for a quick coffee before I head home?”

“Uh, sure. I was about to leave myself, but I have time for a drink.”

Erica’s face broke out in a huge smile. “Awesome. My treat.”

“Thanks,” Kate replied as they began to walk side by side. “So is that your dressing room you came out of?”

“Yeah. It’s really nice too. Maybe not as big as yours, but still, very comfortable.”

“You’ve seen mine?”

“Oh…no, I just guessed you’d have one of the bigger ones because you’re more famous, and I know it’s at the end of the hallway, so I just assumed…”

“Ah. Right.” Kate wondered why she kept misinterpreting Erica’s comments. It seemed like she was just being completely friendly, and yet Kate was being freaked out by it. I just have too much on my mind. I need to chill. She’s really sweet, and I’m overreacting to things that mean nothing. Maybe I’m just not used to people being so nice to you at work. Yeah, that’s it. With her little pep talk complete, she entered the cafeteria following Erica through the double doors. Once they had found a table, Erica took Kate’s order and happily strolled up to the counter. While Erica waited at the cash register for her change, she turned and smiled sweetly at Kate who returned it while repeating her pep talk over and over in her head.

Five minutes later, they were chatting about the studios, their new job, and what was potentially to come. Kate mentioned that she had talked to the special effects supervisor today, and Erica reacted as Kate had come to expect.

“Oh, you’re so lucky. I’m totally jealous. The CGI is one of the things I can’t wait to experience…I mean, I know we won’t experience it on-set, but when production is finished, I will actually want to watch the episodes. I don’t usually want to see myself on-screen, but this time, I can’t wait to see the overall finished product.”

That actually made Kate smile since she felt exactly the same way. “That’s one thing I am looking forward to as well. My wife loves sci-fi shows, so I hope the finished product lives up to her expectations,” Kate said, chuckling internally at the fact that CJ will love the show no matter what.

“I’m glad we are both excited about the same thing then. Apart from that, though,” Erica continued without acknowledging the rest of what Kate had said. “The storyline just looks fantastic, and I like the way my character is revealed. She’s playing both sides for a while, then wham! She devotes herself to the cause and becomes Le’Ana’s secret liaison.”

Kate couldn’t fault Erica’s enthusiasm. Usually, she had actresses grumbling to her about other actresses, or complaining about their role on the show, or just generally being a diva about everything. Erica was indeed a refreshing change.

“Yes, the writers seem to have thought things through quite well. And to top it all off, the coffee is great,” Kate finished while holding up her cup.

Erica flashed a brilliant smile and clicked their cups together. “To our new journey.”

Kate nodded. “The new journey…”

* * * * * *

CJ’s meeting with Anders furnished her with a lot more information. The problem was it didn’t advance their case at all. While it was great to know the background of Ascendia and what was happening on the streets, it gave them no indication of who their killer might be. As it turned out, it was their own background checks that threw up a clue, and when CJ and Jamie returned to the office, Tim jumped to his feet while Mikey was talking on the phone with what seemed to be a school headmaster.

“Hey, guys. How did it go at the DEA?” Tim asked as he fetched some papers from the fax machine.

While CJ slumped into her chair, Jamie circled her shoulders in an effort to relax a little before she answered. “It was fine, but it didn’t help much.”

“We found something here,” Tim said with a nod.

CJ un-slumped herself and leaned on her desk, giving Tim her full attention. “What did you find?”

“One of the recent victims of Ascendia…Tina Krantz. She was fourteen years old, had good grades up until about two months ago when they started to slip suddenly. Her father’s a single parent. It was just the two of them, and he worked hard to support them, never missing a day at his job in years. He started having problems concentrating after her death, and his boss offered him counseling. He flipped out after that and hasn’t been to work since. None of his co-workers have heard from him, and neither has his boss. Apparently, he was beyond devastated when his daughter died.”

“Did he know she had gotten herself in trouble and was taking drugs?”

Tim nodded. “Mikey’s on the phone to one of her teachers right now. She said that Mr. Krantz had been in the school yelling at the headmaster that he wanted to know what was going on. He knew something was wrong since Tina’s behavior was so out of character.”

“But how could he know what drug she had taken, and who to target?”

“Maybe after the autopsy? I assume he would be told her cause of death, but I’m not sure yet,” Tim said thoughtfully. “If he was distraught, he could have done anything, really. Maybe he questioned her friends and found out who she got the capsules from?”

CJ was skeptical. “Hmm, maybe. It sounds like a lot of investigation for someone who is grieving the loss of his daughter.”

“Yes, but if he has lost the only thing that was keeping him going, he may resort to anything to avenge her death. It’s possible he’s having a complete breakdown, gone off the deep end. He’ll be looking for someone to blame, and if the DEA can’t find Raven, I doubt Mr. Krantz could either, so he’ll go for the next best thing.”

CJ was impressed, but she still wanted to push Tim further. “OK, so how would he find the distributors?”

“Well, putting myself in his shoes, I’d surveil the school grounds…see who was acting suspiciously. I might even try to buy some drugs myself.”

“Hmm,” CJ said again. “It is possible. When I first saw the positioning of the bodies, I thought it was personal, in that someone was heartbroken in some way, but now it seems that he’s doing it because Ascendia kills by heart attack…and that he’s heartbroken.”

“Exactly,” Tim agreed just as Mikey finished up his call. “What did you find, Mikey?”

“Oh, boy. OK,” Mikey began. “We’re gonna have to stakeout Del Krantz’s house. I think it’s him, for sure. I was talking to Tina’s teacher who said that Del was so angry the day he stormed into the school that he was almost arrested. He did calm down soon after and was allowed to go home due to the fact he had just lost his daughter. The officers on scene escorted him home, though, and of course they checked him out. He’s a registered gun owner. Now, the bullets used in these killings were twenty-two caliber. That matches the type of gun he owns…a Smith and Wesson revolver. I know it’s not a certainty until we compare the rounds, but it’s something.”

CJ could see Mikey had more to say, but she wanted him to take a breath so she spoke up. “Sounds like you’ve been on the phone all day, Mikey.”

“No kidding. I also spoke with Del’s neighbor who told me that Del left his house almost a week ago without any bags, and he hasn’t been home since. The neighbor only noticed the bag thing because Del usually takes a carryall, even when he goes to work.”

“So he’s potentially driving around the city, maybe living in his car, going after the people responsible for his daughter’s death?”

“It’s the best we’ve got so far.”

Jamie began to dial a number on her office phone. “I’ll get a warrant for Krantz’s house.”

CJ nodded. “Is there a BOLO out for the car?”

“About an hour ago,” Tim confirmed.

“Good. I’ll update Mark. Who’s up first for stakeout duties?”

“We’ll do it,” Mikey said, volunteering himself and Tim.

When CJ looked at Tim with her eyebrow raised, he grinned. “I’m OK with that,” he said as he sent a fake glare to Mikey.

Twenty minutes later, they had a verbal go-ahead for the warrant, and CJ left the office with Jamie to collect it before they headed to Del Krantz’s house. They would search the property then lock it up to leave it as it was. Other officers were drafted in for the stakeouts which had to cover the house, Del’s place of work, and his daughter’s school. CJ was so busy organizing everything that she didn’t think to text or call Kate…but what was more worrying, was that Kate never thought of it either.

* * * * * *

CJ eventually arrived home a little after midnight. She barely had the energy to wonder if Kate was still up. She hoped she was, because when she came home after a day like today, she really needed to see her, to soak up her calming, loving energy and bring herself back to normal. Unfortunately, Kate wasn’t in a state of mind where calming and loving were prominent. Her tension had grown throughout the day, and her emotional rollercoaster had her very much on edge. She had gone from laughing with Erica in the cafeteria, to coming home and hiding in a dark corner of the study until the girls finished school. After that she had made dinner, pretended to have fun while Shannon and Lucy groomed the horses, thanked Jeffrey for offering to read to the children before bed, and then lied to her father, telling him that she had a few work emails to write before she could sleep. No emails were written, and she had hidden in the study again until a few moments ago when she heard CJ arriving.

Kate was also very aware that Elizabeth’s sentencing was coming up soon, and it was beginning to truly sink in that her own mother had done such an atrocious thing. She had realized earlier today that she needed to confront Elizabeth, but even the thought of that made her want to cry.

When she heard CJ locking up her gun cabinet, she was ready to scream at her for not calling or sending her a message all day, and she got up slowly to head out into the hallway.

CJ saw her as soon as she turned around. “Hi.” As she began to approach her, she saw the darkness in Kate’s eyes. “Katie?”

“Where have you been?”

CJ was thrown by the words. Not even a hello, she thought as she tried to pin down the look Kate was giving her. “At work. Where else would I be?”

“You usually call or text me when you’re going to be late,” Kate said as she scanned CJ’s clothes for signs of Chris Wilder and not quite believing she was doing it.

“I’m sorry. Can I have a hello hug?” CJ asked, her arms outstretched, but Kate turned around and disappeared into the living room. “What the hell is going on?” CJ muttered to herself before she followed. “Katie?”

“What?” Kate answered a little too loudly.

“Why are you angry with me? I said I’m sorry I didn’t call, but you didn’t call either, and you left this morning without so much as a goodbye. What gives?”

“Nothing.” Kate sat down on the couch as her mood changed from the anger to dejected sadness. “I guess you were just too busy with things to think about me. I was worried.”

CJ felt a sting in her heart. “That’s not fair. I always think about you-”

“Then why didn’t you call? What were you doing that was so interesting and time-consuming?”

“What do you think I was doing?” CJ was getting pretty worried herself now. This was so out of character for Kate, and it scared her.

“You tell me, CJ.”

“Katie, I was trying to catch a killer, like always. Why are you acting like this?”

Kate snorted, but there was no humor in it. “I’m not acting.”

“Jeez, don’t twist my words. Tell me what I’ve done?”

“I want you to tell me,” Kate demanded as she got up rigidly to pace around the coffee table. “Tell me why you were late. Tell me who you were with.”

CJ’s frown deepened as she also stood up. “This isn’t like you, Katie. What’s going on?”

“I know about Chris Wilder!”

CJ’s eyes widened, but then she showed her confusion once more. “What about her?”

“Why didn’t you tell me one of your old flames was working right there with you in your office?” Kate stood still but backed away a step when CJ tried to approach.

“Uh, I never even thought it was important. I can honestly say I hate the fact she’s there.”

“Really? And how did it make you feel when she touched you the other day?”

“Katie, how do…” CJ closed her eyes briefly, realizing Jamie must have talked about it at dinner. “What did Jamie say?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, it matters. Is this why you went straight to bed when I was making coffee that night?”

“Screw the coffee. I want to know how you felt when Chris was feeling you up! You didn’t even stop her, did you?”

“Now hold on a goddamned minute! She didn’t feel me up. She brushed her hand past my breast in what was supposed to look like an accident. Mark and Jamie were standing right there, and I wasn’t going to call her out in front of them. I’m a professional, even if she isn’t! She’s a predator, and she knows damned well I’m not interested!”

Kate could see CJ’s rage bubbling under the surface. She had never been on the receiving end of it before, and she didn’t want to start now. “You don’t need to shout!”

CJ took a quick breath. “Don’t I? You’re shouting! I can’t believe you’re saying these things, even thinking them. I don’t want anyone else, ever! You know that but…fuck! Don’t you trust me?”

Kate’s head dropped. She knew she was being stupid about this, but it had been a bit of a shock to find out CJ’s ex was working in such close proximity to her, and CJ hadn’t made mention of it. She also knew she wasn’t coping with the events of the past month as well as she pretended to be. “I just don’t know why you didn’t tell me.”

CJ tried her approach again, thankful that this time, Kate stood still. “Katie, she arrived the day I left for Minnesota. I’ve had some things to deal with since then. She means absolutely nothing to me, and I’ll continue to deflect her idiotic advances. I’m sorry I didn’t think to tell you, but you have to trust me. I don’t even like the woman.”

Kate was still stuck on the first sentence. “Minnesota?” Tears sprung to her eyes, and she lowered her head in shame. “Oh, CJ, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Hey. Look at me,” CJ said softly, lifting Kate’s face and meeting her regretful eyes with utter sincerity. “You’ve been dealing with a ton of stuff too. We both have. It can get to us even when we think it’s dealt with. I know you’re strong, Katie, but what Elizabeth did to you…it would be too much for any daughter to comprehend. Maybe you need to lash out at someone, and I don’t mind being that someone.”

“I mind! I shouldn’t have doubted you for a single second. I’m so, so sorry.”

“Apology accepted, but it’s already in the past. Let’s live by your motto and think about the now, OK?”

“But the things that have happened to us recently have been so stressful for both of us, and here I am calling you out for something I know isn’t-”

“Shh. Hear me, Katie. You’re the only one I’ll ever want, now and for always. I know you know that.” CJ pushed Kate’s hair out of her eyes. “We need to sit for at least a day and talk…just you and me. I’ve been feeling really strange lately, and I think it has to do with Chris.” When Kate glared at her through shimmering tears, she put her finger across Kate’s lips. “I mean she has pissed me off so much, and brought up so many things from the past that I didn’t like about myself, and it’s making me edgy. I want us to talk about all of that too.”

“Can you tell me what you mean?” Kate said in a much softer tone as she pulled CJ down to sit on the couch.

“Well, first off, let me apologize for the way I’ve been…um…taking you.”

Kate blinked when she realized what CJ meant. “Why on earth would you apologize for that?”

“Because of what was behind it.”

“I…I don’t think I want to know,” Kate said, considering CJ had mentioned it had to do with Chris Wilder.

CJ picked up on her fears immediately. “It’s not what you think. She doesn’t turn me on, Katie. Never. Ugh, no.” She paused to think of how to voice her feelings. “It’s like I was remembering how vulnerable I felt back then, how used I was…weak. She was an abuser, only I didn’t see it like that at the time. She dominated, and I let her. I felt a complete loss of control, and she magnified that feeling in me when she dumped me cold. I was stupid and naïve back then…a total sucker.”

“OK.” Kate tried not to imagine the dominating or the abusing. “How does that translate to you impulsively taking me, and not letting me reciprocate?”

CJ’s stomach churned unpleasantly, but when she saw the confusion mixed with understanding in Kate’s eyes, she took in a deep breath and let it out in a quick puff of air. “It sounds really stupid, but I think I was trying to assert myself. She made me so frustrated when I was in the office, Katie. I was almost to the point of attacking her violently. My skin was crawling when she got as close to me as she could get without touching. Then when she touched, I couldn’t punch her in the face because my boss was in the same room. She even tried to accost me in the restroom. It was…I felt that horrible, weak feeling inside, that old feeling I had after she walked away when I thought there was something solid between us. I felt like I was nothing…and when I came home, I just wanted to feel real again. Strong. I shouldn’t have-”

“I get it, CJ. You don’t need to go on, but can I suggest something?” When CJ nodded, Kate pursed her lips in thought for a moment before she made her suggestion. “The next time you feel that way, you come talk to me immediately? Don’t let it fester. Come to me before you get to the point of wanting to inflict bodily harm on anyone. And if I know what you need physically, and I understand it completely, then you’ll enjoy it more because you’ve figured it out too.”

“I will come to you. I’m making that a promise right now. Are we ever gonna learn this lesson?”

“What lesson?”

“The one where we stop trying to be tough and cope with everything on our own. We’re a team, you and me. It has to be that way, doesn’t it?” CJ was holding back her tears now. The tension was about to be released, one way or another.

“Yes. It is that way, honey.” Kate took CJ’s hand in her own. “I really am sorry for letting paranoia get a hold of me. I knew in my heart you would never cheat. I just couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me.”

CJ sniffed as a tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. “I honestly didn’t think about it. As soon as I left the office, I wanted Chris to disappear. I thought that was the best way to handle it. I didn’t want her to interfere with my time at home in any way. Turns out, I fucked that one up completely.”

“I fucked up too, CJ. I was trying to pretend that my mother didn’t really try to kill you, didn’t really try to drive me insane and steal our children. It sounds like a damned soap opera. Maybe that’s why I didn’t want to believe it. The past couple of months have been a nightmare…something that doesn’t seem real, but we’ve made it through. We’re here, fucked up or not.”

“You called her your mother,” CJ said as she curled her arm around Kate and pulled her against her body.

“Slip of the tongue,” Kate replied. “Won’t happen again.”

Silence ensued for a few minutes until CJ whispered, “Are we OK?” It was then that she realized Kate was crying. “Oh, Katie, it’s gonna be fine. We’re gonna get through it. Are you worried about the sentencing hearing?”

“No. I haven’t even decided if I’m going yet. Jamie offered to go for me…to find out what happens.”

“We can talk about it tomorrow. I should be able to get home at a normal time. In fact, I’ll make sure I am.”

Kate sat up a little to look at her. “CJ, I’ve been an ass about all this. Take however long you need at work.”

“Nah. We’re on the killer’s trail now, and Jamie can handle it. I want to come home.”

Kate shook her head at her own shortcomings. “Here I was making up all kinds of ridiculous scenarios about what you were doing in the office late at night, and here you are, trying to catch a murderer and working your butt off, as always. I feel so incredibly stup-”

CJ cut of her words abruptly. “Nuh-uh. Don’t say it. You are the most intelligent, beautiful, wonderful human being I know. You can also have doubts, just like everyone else, but you are definitely not stupid.”

“Yes, I can have doubts, but not about you, not about the trust we have. The thing that annoys me most is that I don’t have doubts about our commitment to each other, so why did it even enter my head?”

“Katie, we are exhausted. We are trying to work through this stuff with Elizabeth, and we’ve barely taken a moment to confront our fears about it all. There is so much underlying stress, and I know for certain that I haven’t relaxed much since…since I held you on the couch that night I got back. How about you?”

Kate got a little lost in the memory of that moment when CJ came home. She was suddenly overwhelmed with the love, gratitude, and relief she had felt back then. “Oh, god…I don’t ever want to be that scared again. I think you’re right. I haven’t truly relaxed since then either, and I think I was only relaxed then because I had no energy left to be anything else.”

CJ’s tears had returned, and this time Kate joined her. They had made a start on the talking. Now all they had to do was remember to keep doing it. But for now, tiredness overcame them both, and at one thirty in the morning, they crawled into bed to sleep in each other’s arms.

.

Chapter 6

The next morning, Eddie Senior approached the kitchen with caution. He had heard the argument last night, and he had also heard CJ and Kate getting up early this morning. With his robe fastened tight around his midriff, he shuffled through the door to check both women for injuries, but he found them talking quietly across the island counter with mugs of coffee in-hand. Without a word, he propped himself on a stool adjacent to them and clasped his hands in front of him.

CJ looked at Kate and then at Eddie. She glanced back to Kate and gave a little shrug. “Morning, Dad.”

Eddie released his hands and placed one on Kate’s forearm, and one on CJ’s. He gave them a sad, fatherly smile. “I want you wonderful ladies to listen to me for a minute.”

“OK,” Kate said quietly.

“Our little family has been through quite an ordeal of late, and I know that the two of you have been at the center of that ordeal. I love you both so much,” he said before he pinned his lips together momentarily to prevent the possibility of one of his famous emotional outbursts. “And I heard you fighting last night.” He shook his head when CJ was about to apologize. “No. Let me talk. Katie, you are the light of my life, and you are also a very independent woman. I remember when you were little you had to do everything by yourself. If I tried to show you how to do something, you would tell me off and try to learn it from scratch. I also remember when you took off for sunny California when you were a teenager. So young to be on your own, but I understood what drove you. It broke my heart at the time, but look at what you’ve accomplished. You did it all by yourself, independent to a fault. Nobody was going to stop you, and nobody was going to help you if you had anything to say about it. That independence is a wonderful thing, but last night, I know it was a problem. The two of you are so alike.”

Eddie turned to CJ and gave her forearm a pat. “You, CJ, are all I could have hoped for in a daughter-in-law. Nothing but the best for my Katie, and here you are, a perfect match. But we all have flaws, and you, my fabulous federal agent, have them too. Just like Katie, you are too independent, too tough sometimes. I mean, look at when you were but a wee child? You were so hurt by that horrible man who fathered you, you had to fend for yourself when your amazing mother was out working hard, and then at age nine, you lost your shining light.”

CJ was frozen in place and had silent tears running down her cheeks, as did Kate, but Eddie went on because he had to make his point.

“When you were sent to live with grandma, you decided that you were a survivor, but not only that, you were going to be a protector for all. You studied hard and made it to the FBI, and now look at you. You save lives practically every day. You take care of those around you, but you sometimes forget to take care of yourself. The two of you are tough, independent, intelligent women, but when all is said and done you will try to take care of each other before you take care of what’s going on in there,” Eddie said, pointing to CJ’s chest before squeezing both their arms gently. “The problem with that is…to do that, you just give, give, give to each other. Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to take…take comfort in one another, take a moment to let it all out to one another. You both know you want to hear every thought, every feeling…but instead, you just shut down and get on with it, all in the name of strength and indestructibility. I love you both, and I know you can do it. As soon as you realize you’ve derailed, swallow your pride and get back on the tracks…together.”

All Eddie wanted to do at this point was hug them both to death, but he had said what he wanted to say, and they both looked at little stunned by it, so he patted their arms once more and got up. As he headed toward the stairs, silence trailed behind him, and nothing broke the quiet in the entire house until five minutes later when CJ took a slurp from her coffee mug.

Kate snapped out of her stare at the countertop and looked up at her wife’s tear-stained face. “We really need to get him somewhere new to live.”

CJ attempted a laugh, but it came out as a pained smile. “No kidding.”

“He’s right, though, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. He is.” CJ put down her mug and reached over to take Kate’s hand. “We know he’s right because we pretty much figured it out last night. We need to speak to one another before it becomes too much and we argue. How many times have we said that before?”

“Many…but CJ, we’re both strong women, just like he said. We keep trying to be there for each other through bad times as well as the good. It’s just that during the bad times, we try to cope on our own, and things go to hell.”

“And we’ve had some extremely bad times recently,” CJ added.

“You can say that again.”

“And we’ve had some extremely bad times recently.”

Kate snickered, and when it ended with a snort, CJ laughed out loud. After that, they sat for long moments, just breathing and thinking about it all until CJ let go of Kate’s hand and got up. She walked around the counter to silently invite Kate into the living room. Once they were on the couch, she pulled her close. “I think what we need is a truce between my independent ego and yours.”

When CJ put out her hand to shake on it, Kate smiled. “Truce. I do love you, CJ. Just don’t hide anything like that again. It hurts me when you do, especially when I find out from drunk Jamie instead of you.”

“I know, and I’m so sorry. I really hope you know now that I didn’t do it on purpose. I-”

“I do know.”

CJ sighed. “I just…I don’t want to bring work home, in any form. And I don’t want to talk about Chris, but she got me really angry, and when I’m here with you and our children, I don’t want to be angry.”

“I understand. It’s over now.”

“Everything’s not over, though, is it? We have to go to court together, Katie. I think it’s necessary for you and for me.”

Kate thought about it for a moment before nodding her answer. “I’m not looking forward to it, but I’ll go as long as you’re with me.”

“Come here,” CJ said, opening her arms and catching Kate when she immediately fell into them.

It felt good to reconnect without the added stresses and guilty desires. CJ had felt completely aroused while making love to Kate, but underneath her desire was an uncomfortable anxiety that she hadn’t identified at the time. Her body had been tense, her mind had been in turmoil, and she hadn’t wanted Kate to touch her.

“I can’t wait for some quiet time with you…to make love to one another, talk, or even just sleep,” CJ whispered.

“Sounds heavenly,” Kate said, although it was slightly muffled against CJ’s hoodie. It was at that moment she remembered something. “Oh, um, I forgot to tell you something.”

CJ craned her neck to see Kate’s face. “What?”

“I know you just said some quiet time would be great, but I invited Lorena to dinner Saturday night, and Sian is staying over. It happened because Shannon decided to invite Sian without telling me, and when Lorena told me on the phone, I asked her over. I hope that’s OK. If not, I’ll cancel.”

CJ watched Kate’s worried face while she wondered if she had been so incredibly irritable and distracted recently that Kate had been scared to talk to her. “Katie, are you actually worried about telling me this?”

“In what way?”

CJ sat upright and looked into Kate’s eyes. “Don’t you ever be afraid to tell me things.”

Kate frowned. “I’m not. I just forgot to tell you, and I know how pissed I got when you, uh, forgot to tell me something.”

“Aw, come on. That was totally different. You had reason to be angry. This is totally fine. I’d like to meet Lorena, actually.”

Kate released the breath she was holding. “I’m glad you want to meet her. Maybe I should meet Chris,” she chanced.

“No. Actually, yes. Maybe you should. I’d like to see her squirm under the quiet wrath of Kate Carson.”

Kate didn’t disagree. She kind of wanted to throttle Chris for daring to touch her woman. The thought of it made her smile, and CJ knew what that smile meant. She started to laugh, which made Kate laugh too.

“Nice to hear that,” Kate said as she snuggled back up against CJ once more.

“It sure is. I think you should definitely meet Chris. I’m pretty sure I’d be laughing at the memory of that for a long time…only because I know you’ll knock her dead, so to speak.”

“I might just do that,” Kate said in her villain voice, which just made CJ laugh even more.

* * * * * *

A few hours later, CJ walked into her office to find she was the last one to arrive. She also found Mark in her chair, and she smiled at him when he jumped out of it. “Feel free to use my chair, Sir.”

“No need, CJ. I was just leaving. Keep up the good work, everyone,” Mark said as he waved and left the room.

“What’s been happening, guys?”

“Hey, CJ,” Tim said. “Del Krantz’s visa card was flagged up this morning. He bought a slap-up breakfast at Keels Gourmet Burgers over on Westwood.”

“When was this exactly?”

“He paid about ninety minutes ago. We’ve already been over to check it out. He was gone.”

“OK, but only a couple of blocks away is a little worrying,” CJ said while scratching just under the edge of her wrist support.

“How so?” Mikey asked.

CJ leaned back in her chair, very aware that she hadn’t acknowledged Jamie yet. She was making her suffer for a few minutes for telling Kate about Chris Wilder. “It’s been on the news that the FBI is investigating this case, so why is he risking being so close to the federal building? I’m just trying to figure out his state of mind.”

“Do you think he’s taunting us?” Tim offered.

“No. I don’t think he knows we’re even on to him.”

“According to the stakeout crews, Krantz hasn’t been back to his house, so there’s a good chance that you’re right and he has no clue we’ve even named him as a suspect,” Jamie said, trying to ease her way into the conversation. She could tell as soon as CJ walked in that something had changed, and the silent treatment just backed up her theory.

“Still, it would help to know where he was headed next.” CJ had barely taken a breath when an office phone rang loudly.

“Special Agent Green,” Jamie answered before her face contorted into something CJ couldn’t quite decipher. “On our way, Sir.” She slammed the phone down and jumped to her feet. “He’s in the lobby.”

“What? Who?”

“Krantz.”

CJ was out the door in a second, on the heels of Jamie who wasn’t hanging around to give them a rundown of her call. Del Krantz seemed to be here to give himself up, but CJ knew better than that. It was never that simple. This man was in an unknown mental state. He had a gun. She just hoped that he didn’t do anything with it before they got there.

As the elevator descended, both Jamie and CJ drew their weapons, ready for just about anything to happen once the doors opened in front of them. As they cautiously entered the lobby area, they saw a few people slithering against the walls and disappearing into adjacent corridors or rooms. Andy, one of the security guards on duty today, was standing facing Del who held his gun loosely in his hand. Andy seemed to be trying to calm him down, but Del’s other hand was flailing around in an agitated manner, and CJ didn’t like the look of it.

As she revealed herself to Del, Jamie backed her up on the spot. “Del Krantz, you need to drop the gun, and we can talk about this.”

Del turned his attention away from Andy, and when he saw the two women with guns aimed at his chest, he knew his time was up. “Talk about what? There’s nothing to talk about anymore. My Tina is gone. All those young lives are gone. Those people had to pay for what they’ve done.”

“You could’ve gone to the police, Del. You could’ve told them what you knew,” CJ said, trying to keep him talking until they could find a way to reason with him, if that was possible.

Del shook his head. “No, I couldn’t. The police just want the drug dealers caught for their statistics and their merit badges. I want them off the streets for the kids they kill.”

“That’s not true-” Jamie was cut off by Del waving the gun around in the air.

“Don’t even…” he said, resigned to his fate. “I have nothing left. I killed them all. My Tina is gone, and now I want to be with her.”

Before anyone could stop him, Del Krantz put his gun to his head and took his own life. After the gunshot stopped echoing in CJ’s ears, she holstered her own gun and ran over to Del to check for a pulse. He had been killed instantly. Jamie removed his weapon from his hand and told Andy to clear the few people who had been cornered in the lobby.

CJ stood up after closing Del’s eyelids. “A man with nothing left to lose.”

Jamie pulled a piece of paper that stuck out of his pocket and read from the few lines of writing. “It’s the names and stomping grounds of eight drug distributors.”

CJ frowned. “Eight?”

“Yeah. We might find another two bodies before nightfall.”

“Shit.”

“At least it’s over, CJ.”

CJ looked down at Del’s body and sighed. There was a small amount of blood now pooling at his right ear, and she shook her head at the tragedy of it all. “I guess. I’ll go call the ME. She can pronounce him here, and we’ll get him moved.”

Jamie watched her walk away. Something had changed. CJ hadn’t gagged when she mentioned Chris this time. Jamie figured it could only mean one thing – CJ and Kate had talked it over.

* * * * * *

Since Kate didn’t have to go back into the studios until Saturday morning, she had spent the day reading over the notes she had so far for Infinity One, scanning the Internet for news on some of her better-known co-stars, and re-watched the original pilot episode of the show. She felt it had refreshed her mind and given her the boost she needed to be truly confident about her new job.

“I kinda just want to get started now,” she said to herself as she strolled through the empty house to get a cup of herbal tea.

Eddie and Jeffrey had gone into West Hollywood to view some commercial premises that might be suitable for their new eatery, so it left Kate free to attempt some relaxation while the house was quiet. She had just picked up her newly-filled mug when her cell phone rang in the study.

“Oh, shoot,” she mumbled as she hurried through the living room and into the hallway. “Coming, coming.” When she got to the desk and picked up the phone, she saw private number displayed on the screen. “Hello?”

“Hi, Kate?”

“Yes. Who’s calling?”

“Oh, it’s Erica. I hope it’s an OK time to call you…”

Kate’s immediate reaction was to wonder how the hell Erica had gotten her cell phone number, but she didn’t want to sound accusatory so she held her tongue.

“Kate, are you there?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m here. What’s up, Erica?”

“Well, I just wanted to let you know about Saturday.”

Kate frowned. “You mean the production meeting?”

Erica stalled a little before she answered. “Um, yes. It’s at ten AM. You know about it already?”

“Of course. My agent called me yesterday about it.”

“Oh, right. Your agent. I’m so sorry to bother you then.”

“No trouble at all,” Kate replied amicably. “Thanks for thinking of me.”

That made Erica’s day. “No worries. Wouldn’t want you to be out of the loop. Thanks for not being mad at me for calling. I got your number from the contact sheet they gave us last week, and I hoped you wouldn’t think me too much of a pain if I just checked to see that you knew about the meeting.”

The contact sheet. I forgot about that, Kate mouthed to herself. “No. Thanks for the call, but I have to go. Busy day here,” she lied.

“OK, Kate. See you Saturday then.”

“Sure thing. Bye, Erica.”

“Bye-bye.”

Kate sat on the leather office chair for a while and thought about the call while she sipped on her tea. She still couldn’t figure Erica out, but she knew it had only been a few days since she’d met her. “Give yourself some time to get to know her, you fool. She’s just super-friendly.” She was just about to get up when a text message beeped for her attention, and when she saw it was CJ, she smiled from ear to ear.

After sending a message back, she waited for the inevitable call. She watched the phone for all of thirty seconds before she picked it up. “Hey, you.”

“Ah, that voice. I just needed to hear that voice,” CJ blurted, the relief evident in her tone.

“Is that all you need from me? My voice?”

“You know it’s not. How’s your day going?”

Kate leaned back in the comfy chair. “Good. I’m not doing anything at all for once. How about you?”

“I’ll tell you later. Our shooter came to quite a tragic end today.”

“Sorry, honey. I’m all yours when you get home. I want to hear all about your day, OK?”

CJ smiled. “I know. I’ll talk about it. Don’t worry.”

“Good. When do you think I’ll be seeing you?”

“About an hour, after I tell Jamie off for blabbing about Chris.”

“Aw, don’t be too hard on her. She was a little bit drunk,” Kate said, trying to recall how many glasses of wine they had actually imbibed that night.

“She’ll survive. I have to go, Katie, but I’ll see you soon. Love you.”

“I love you too.”

CJ had cut the line immediately after Kate’s words because she had called her while she was heading back up to the SSHU, but she had just spotted Chris Wilder leaving her office so she had to duck inside a nearby closet to avoid any contact with the person she knew could ruin her day. She had already dealt with Chris in the lobby, but at least they had all been far too busy for any ridiculous flirting to take place.

You’d think she’d have her damn hands full down there. Poor Del Krantz is on her table right now, she grumbled to herself. She peeked out carefully, and after she saw that the coast was clear, she scurried along the rest of the corridor to relative safety. Shutting the office door firmly behind her, she rushed over to her desk and began updating the report while she waited for Jamie to come back with the death certificate. Since Mikey and Tim were still out finishing up other lines of inquiry, she was left alone to work until Jamie arrived and quietly went to her seat.

CJ waited to see if Jamie would say anything, and after what felt like forever, she looked up to see her poor friend looking very upset. “Hey,” she said to get her attention. When Jamie looked up, she rolled her eyes at her. “I’m not mad at you. Katie and I talked.”

“You seem mad,” Jamie said, almost pouting.

“I’m really not. I was just quietly punishing you for being an idiot.”

Jamie’s shoulders slouched and her eyebrows lowered in her grumpiness. “I’m not an idiot. I’m a meddler, but I honestly didn’t think before I opened my big trap that night. Sorry.”

“Remember we talked about that?”

“I know we did. I’m blaming the wine this time, though.”

“Whatever. All that matters to me is that Katie and I are all right.”

“Good. Is she gonna kick ass?”

CJ laughed. “Maybe.”

“Ooh, I hope I get to witness her in action,” Jamie said while rubbing her hands together.

“Maybe if you’re a good girl up until then, I’ll let you.”

Jamie harrumphed as she sat up to get on with concluding the case. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

* * * * * *

That evening, CJ arrived home around six o’clock and found the children just about to tuck into their dinner. Kate was serving up her own plate, and Eddie was approaching CJ with a large tray full of food for him and Jeffrey.

“Welcome home, CJ. You just get settled in and have some delicious dinner, and then Jeffreydoodle and I are going to be model grandparents for the duration of the evening! You and Katie have some much needed relaxing to do.”

CJ didn’t even argue with him. “That sounds perfect, Dad. Thank you.” After he winked at her and started climbing the stairs, she looked back through the living room and into the kitchen. Her family awaited, a scene of harmony and bliss after the day she’d had.

“Hello, beautiful ladies,” she said as she strolled into the kitchen.

Kate had been watching her since the hallway, her eyes filled with love. “Hey. You hungry?”

“Mommy, there’s ham!” Lucy tried to exclaim around her mouthful.

“So I see, Luce.” Right after CJ leaned down to kiss both children on the head, she moved around the table to make sure Kate didn’t feel left out. “Hi, Katie,” she murmured with her lips grazing Kate’s ear. She kissed her softly before belatedly answering her question. “Yes, I’m pretty hungry.”

Kate swayed a little from the kiss. “Good. Be seated, and I shall serve you up a delightful meal…cooked by Dad and Jeffrey.”

“Aww, they cooked us dinner and they’re giving us the night to ourselves?”

“I know, right?” Kate said as she sat down. “I think they’re just trying to do their bit. Oh, and Dad told me that you leaked the secret info.” When CJ paled a little, Kate was quick off the mark. “It’s fine. I talked with them about it while we cooked. They’re looking for a cabin design they like, and they’ll get back to us once they find it,” she said, wafting cold air over to CJ who looked a little woozy. “Honey, relax.”

“Yeah, sorry. I told Dad yesterday…I think it was yesterday…but I only planted the seed since he was pumping me for info.”

Kate laughed. “And you caved, just like that?”

“Well, yeah.”

“You’re just a big kitten,” Kate said before Shannon butted in.

“She’s not a kitten, but if she wore my tiger mask she might be closer to a kitten.”

CJ was the one to laugh now. “Very good, Shannon. Maybe this weekend I’ll be a tiger. How about that?”

“Yes!” Shannon punched her fist in the air and continued with her meal.

The light conversation accompanied the entire meal, and when Jeffrey sent CJ and Kate upstairs for the night with some sparkling grape juice and a ton of snacks, the two women closed the door to their haven and flopped down onto the bed.

CJ curled herself around Kate’s back and breathed in the scent of her hair. “Court tomorrow, Katie. You ready for it?”

Kate groaned a little before she answered coherently. “I suppose. Let’s not think about it until the morning, OK?”

“Sure. What shall we think about right now?”

Kate squirmed around on her spot to see CJ’s face. “I’m thinking about making love to my wife.”

“Oh? What are you thinking of doing to her?”

“Not sure yet, but I do know it’s my turn to pleasure her since she’s been feeling a little strange lately and wouldn’t let me touch her properly.”

CJ’s body temperature was increasing rapidly. “I think she’ll let you do whatever you want to her now. She’s really sorry for the way she’s been acting this past week.”

Kate propped herself up on her elbow. “Quit that now.” She watched CJ’s eyes for long moments, noting the slight strain on the surrounding skin and the tired frown that she was trying so hard to hide. “Relax, CJ. No more thinking tonight.” She let her hand drift up and down CJ’s stomach, over the top of her shirt at first, but then lightly trailing her nails up the bare skin underneath.

CJ’s eyes had closed as soon as Kate had touched her skin. She felt the magic of Kate’s hands and voice as she experienced the sensation of shiver and heat within her body. Her skin was covered in goosebumps, but her core was burning up. Yes, she had masturbated recently, but nothing would ever compare to the way Kate could arouse her.

“I love the way you touch me,” she gasped out under her breath.

“With my hands…or my mouth?” Kate inquired in a whisper, but CJ didn’t manage to answer as she felt Kate’s tongue now sliding up from her navel to her bra. The tickling feeling of Kate’s fingers undoing her pants was making her breaths come quicker, and she gasped aloud when her nipple was rasped though the material. She looked down to see Kate biting her breast gently.

“Clothes…off,” CJ croaked. “Need them off now.”

In less than a minute, Kate had her stripped naked and splayed out on the bed at her mercy. CJ slowly opened her legs wider when Kate crawled up between her feet. As her sex was revealed, Kate leaned down and blew out a warm breath over the dark hair that protected it.

“You need this, don’t you?” she said as she lowered her body to lie on the mattress.

CJ nodded, but then realized Kate couldn’t see her face since she was concentrating on something else. “Yes…please, Katie.”

Kate’s tongue glided over CJ until she moaned out her acceptance. Once the path from her clit to her breast was complete, Kate bared her teeth once more and bit down on the nipple gently, holding it in place while she flicked it with her tongue.

“Ooh…” CJ’s hips were starting to undulate beneath Kate, and she didn’t really think this could be a long, drawn-out encounter. She needed to release the tension right now. “Need to come.”

The barely audible demand was met by Kate who moved back down CJ’s body and thrust her tongue inside, much to CJ’s relief. The stimulation was fast and rhythmic, and it was just what CJ wanted.

Kate sucked her clit into her mouth before flicking her tongue up and down in a silent beat only heard by the hearts of the two lovers dancing to it. CJ pushed against Kate as she came, and as tears formed in her blue eyes, she let out a quiet cry of gratitude.

Kate recognized the sound and quickly pulled herself up to hold CJ while she wept. “It’s OK, honey.”

CJ’s arms were holding Kate in a death grip. Only after she had gathered herself, could she speak. “I love you so much. You have no idea what that felt like to me. It was like the first time…it all felt new.”

Kate tried to figure out what she meant. “In what way?”

“I don’t even know, Katie. It was the perfect sensation. I have never wanted you more, and it felt like you…oh, never mind.”

“Stop thinking so much. Just feel me lying on top of you, feel me loving you, and feel me wiping away your tears. I’m here for you, always.”

“I know.”

Kate kissed her so softly on the lips. “I want us to sleep now. We can talk while you hold me…but before you ask, I don’t need anything but your arms around me tonight. Deal?”

CJ pulled Kate back when she tried to get up. “Deal, but you must be naked. Your bare skin is a requirement for my contentment.”

“Big words for this time of night…”

CJ let out a chuckle as Kate threw off her clothes and headed for the bathroom. “Don’t be too long.”

“I won’t.”

“Wow, that was really fast,” CJ said one minute later.

“I can pee quick, you know.”

“I’m impressed.”

Kate laughed. “If peeing impresses you, we’re in big trouble.”

“Heh.” When Kate climbed into bed and snuggled up beside her, CJ put her nose against her blond hair and took a long sniff.

“Do I smell OK?”

“Mmm, yes. Yummy, as always.” CJ lay there basking in the feeling of Kate in her arms until she remembered what tomorrow would bring. “Hey. Are you feeling all right about going to court tomorrow?”

“I’m fine, CJ. I just want this all to be over now. I’ve had enough drama.”

There was an actress joke in there somewhere, but CJ knew this wasn’t the time. “I’ll be right by your side the whole time. Mark gave me the entire day off.”

“That’s good. We could maybe go out on the lake in the afternoon…talk a little?”

“Sounds perfect. It’s a date.”

* * * * * *

CJ and Kate sat in the back row of courtroom number six. Everyone was present except for Elizabeth who walked through the door from lock-up accompanied by a court officer. Kate’s heart lurched a little when she saw her. Elizabeth looked a mere shadow of her former self, but on closer inspection, Kate saw that it was simply the lack of expensive clothing and fancy make-up that made the difference. Elizabeth’s face was hard as ever, her stare, ice cold. Thankfully, she never got the chance to see CJ and Kate before she was ordered to sit down next to her lawyer. Now all Kate could see was the back of her orange jumpsuit.

It took the judge all of ten minutes to impose his sentence. Elizabeth got twelve years without parole for her part in the atrocious crime that almost ended CJ’s life. She didn’t even have the fight left in her to scream at her lawyer this time, and after she was led away, Mr. Williams made a swift exit from the courtroom, probably very glad he didn’t have to see Elizabeth again for a very long time.

“What are you thinking, Katie?” CJ asked while the next case was being called.

“I’m not sure. It was all over so quickly.”

“True. I’m betting the judge has a lot of these to get through today. Come on…let’s go outside for some fresh air.”

Once they were standing outside the courthouse in the late morning sun, Kate turned to CJ and said, “I need to talk to her.”

“What good would that do?”

“I don’t know. I need to at least try to understand why…”

CJ sighed and put her arm around Kate’s shoulder. “I think today, we should just go home and chill out on the lake. Give yourself some time, Katie, and in a few months, if you still want to see her, I promise I’ll find out which prison she’s in, and I’ll come with you to visit her.”

Kate nodded. As much as she wanted answers, she didn’t think Elizabeth would give them to her anyway. Kate was still angry about what had happened, and perhaps some time to heal was indeed a good idea. “All right. Take me home.”

CJ took Kate’s hand as they walked to the parking lot. “What did you think of the sentence?”

“Twelve years is a long time. Justice was served…and I can breathe a little easier knowing she’s not coming after you.”

“Right.” CJ hoped things would start to settle down now that they were over the major hurdles that stood in their way, and rounding the corner of the building, she pressed the remote for her truck and helped Kate into her seat before kissing her on the forehead.

“What was that for?” Kate asked as she shaded her eyes from the sun with her hand.

“For being the most incredible wife I could ever hope for,” CJ replied promptly.

Kate blew her a kiss, and when they got home, they did drag the row boat out of the barn and spend the afternoon on the lake. It was the first day for months where nothing went wrong.

.

Epilogue

On Saturday, Kate and Tony headed out to the studios for Kate’s meeting while CJ stayed home with Shannon and Lucy. They’d had a thoroughly enjoyable morning outside with the horses before coming inside to paint, make cookies, and show the grandpas how to braid hair. Well, Shannon had showed them how to braid CJ’s hair because she had learned it from a friend at school.

Eddie and Jeffrey had retired to their room a half hour ago, and CJ was now playing around in the house with the children when the front door opened.

Kate was immediately greeted by Lucy in the usual fashion, and Shannon shouted a hello from the upper landing which prompted Lucy to let go of Kate’s leg and shoot upstairs like a tornado, leaving Kate to stand there staring at CJ with a funny look on her face.

“Really, CJ?”

“Um…” CJ looked like a kid caught stealing from the cookie jar. “I was just showing Luce how to ride it?” she offered, making the cutest damn face Kate had ever seen.

“Uh-huh. And how did your beautiful, womanly butt ever fit in there?” Kate asked while pointing to the tiny space between the small tricycle’s seat and handlebars.

“Well, I…” CJ stood up on her long legs. “It didn’t.” Her pursed lips, the goofy expression, and the fact that the trike had clung to her butt and now hung between her legs, sent Kate into hysterics.

“Yeah, I figured that’s how you’d respond.” While CJ got herself free of the contraption, Lucy returned to the top step and joined in the laughter even though she had no clue what it was about. Kate was laughing, so she simply had to add to the noise.

CJ fought with the tricycle, eventually freed herself from it, and came to stand in front of Kate with her puppy-dog eyes firmly in place. “I was just playing.”

Kate chuckled. “So I see. I’d say you’re allowed to play. You deserve it.”

“Aww, ain’t you sweet. Gimme a kiss.”

Kate puckered up on command and gave CJ the softest, most sensual kiss she could muster. “Let’s get me a coffee, huh?”

“Yes. I’d like one too. All that driving has tired me out.”

“Gawd. You’d think I’d be the tired one after my long meeting,” Kate said dramatically.

“Oh, how did it go?”

“It was good. I’m totally enjoying this job so far. And I have Ellen coming up this week…pretty exciting stuff.”

CJ nodded as she snagged a couple of mugs from the hooks on the wall. “It really is. Can’t wait to watch it.” She leaned over the island counter to bring her face closer to Kate’s. “Are we OK? I mean, after everything?” she asked uncertainly.

“You keep asking me that. We are always OK, CJ. Always. Things just piled up lately, and well…I know I need to let it out, but this time I didn’t see it building. I thought I was coping with it all.”

“I didn’t see it either. We’ll be all right as long as we trust one another to talk about how we feel. We usually do that, but…”

“I know. Lesson learned…again.”

CJ leaned forward to kiss her, but it wasn’t quite enough for Kate so she went back for more. When Kate eventually backed away, she tilted her head to the side and looked at CJ for a moment.

“I think I’ve figured out what to do about Chris.”

“And…?” CJ said with a mock-worried expression.

“Oh, stop that. It doesn’t involve violence…or you getting fired.”

“Great. Please continue.”

“I think we should play her at her own game.”

“Ew. I don’t want to do that,” CJ said, scrunching her nose.

“Let me finish. We should play her at her own game, but you should play it with me…right in front of her.”

CJ’s expression changed to one of deviousness. “Hmm, that’s hot and evil at the same time. I think I like it.”

Kate grinned. “Good. It means I can stake my claim on you. It’ll make a nice change.”

“Aw, come on,” CJ whined. “I told you I was sorry about claiming you.”

“And I told you not to be sorry because I enjoyed every single body-tingling minute of it.” Kate reached up to kiss her again, giving CJ’s delicious lips a little lick before she finished.

CJ gradually opened her eyes as she felt her libido respond to the teasing. “So, um, do you feel like staking your claim anytime soon?”

“Yes. Very, very soon…”

.

The End…

**

©2016 StageFreak Productions

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28 comments

  1. Hi Wendy

    I Simply love this series. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing your amazing stories and talent with us. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

    Adilp


    • Thanks for your feedback, Adilp!
      The next episode is slowly moving along 😉


  2. On pins and needles waiting!


    • Working on it. Life is busy!! 😉


  3. Hi
    I’m from Switzerland and really, really love your stories! Can’t wait for the next Chapter
    Doris


    • Thank you, Doris! 😀


  4. WOW, I can’t believe I read this series and stilll want more. Waiting for more update, plzzz 🙂 Great writing as always


    • Many thanks, Palu 😀


  5. I absolutely love this series. Great writing technique and excitement through and through. Looking forward to the next installment!


    • Thank you, RGK!
      So happy you are enjoying it 🙂


  6. great series can,t wait for more


    • Glad you’re enjoying them, Terry 🙂


  7. I read your book to die for today it was one of the best books I’ve ever read;)


    • Thank you, Alexus!!
      So glad you liked it. Feel free to write a little review on Amazon. I need all the help I can get, it being a first book and all 😉
      Thanks again!!!!


  8. Hi, I’ve read your Stories a few years back and and as I revisited them recently I was overjoyed to learn that you are still writing the series and added quite a few episodes! Please keep writing! Your stories are awesome reads!!! Have you got a Mailing-List to get notified if you add your new Episodes? And Please don’t forget to let them open and have some fun with THE package 😉 not many authors have the gift to add “special scenes” that are written as tastefull and yet highly erotic without sounding repeative and/or like flat porn like yours!!!

    I think I will order your new book as paperback rather than waiting for the kindle edition… Will help me to pass the time untill your new CJ and Kate episode will be released… Please hurry 😉

    Greatings from a german Fan
    Jessica


    • Hey Jessica, thank you for your message! So glad you found the series again. I will continue to write After Montana for as long as I can. I see no end in sight anytime soon. “In The Past” has been in the works for a while because of the novel, but don’t worry, the package has been opened, and I’ll finish the episode as soon as I can 😉
      Another book is in the works too, so please be patient. You can keep up to date by adding the Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/after.montana – that’s where I announce news etc. I will also update the main page here on the site, but I’m not sure it contacts the people who add the WordPress RSS feed (at the top of the homepage) with edited posts. Hope that helps.
      Thanks again!! 🙂


      • Thank you very much for your reply! It helped very much! Added you as friend in Facebook – an Abo would have eben enough, wouldn’t it.? *hand meets forehead* well, just refuse the friendship if you normaly only add People you know in real life. Won’t be offened 😉 have a great week!! I will wait patiently for your next Episode!


      • You are added 🙂


  9. I realize u said u have a lot going on but since last ep comments dated April I was just wondering if u r still going to finish or let it go. I do hope u plan on finishing because u have an excellent storyline and characters. They r like family now.


    • I will continue to write After Montana when I have time. I’ll only write when my muse is cooperating, and there are lots more free stories out there to keep you busy 🙂 Also, my real life commitments come first! Thank you for your comments, Judy.


  10. Dear Wendy,
    I read part of the series some time ago and yesterday I finished re-reading it and adding a few more episodes, so now I’m up to date. Thank you! It is an awesome series, and I’m a sucker for those (hate the “I love you – the end” type of stories).
    Hope Real Life lets you give us some new eps in the near future, in the meanwhile I bet I will re-read the series at least once more. If you can listen to the same song time and time again, why can’t you read the same story time and time again, too? Anyway, that’s just my philosophy. 😉
    Again, thank you for the series, hope RL lets you give us more soon 😀


    • Thank you, Raven 🙂


  11. Will you be Continuing this story?


    • Yes, Alexus…when my busy life allows me to have time to write! 🙂


  12. Wonderful as always! I know you’ve been majorly busy, but thank you for the time to give us a fabulous episode.


    • Thank you, RGK.


  13. Somehow I missed this episode what a gift finding it. I really enjoy your writing.


    • Glad to hear it 🙂



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