Disclaimers: Chapter One.



Fear is met and destroyed with courage.

********James Bell********

Comments: mailto:xenakat98@yahoo.com

Chapter 34: (Teach only love for that is what you are).

After making a few phone calls, and a quick trip to the club, it had been decided that Kate and Jessie would go to the bar that night as themselves. The bar owner was delighted that Laura had thought of her place when entertaining her friends, and assured her that all care would be taken to insure a good, fun, safe evening for all.

Further down the coast, Gregory and Star were packing their stolen van, preparing for the drive to Laura’s mobile home. Gregory’s dark persona was in full force, as the events that he had been planning so long for was soon to arrive.

"Get the lead out Star. I’ve been plannin’ this shit for weeks, and I ain’t going to be late because of your sorry ass." Gregory shouted back through the warehouse door.

Star did one last inventory of the area, and then headed out the door. The only noticeable evidence that she was struggling with her addictions was the trembling in her hands and the bead of sweat that dripped from her temple and ran along her jaw line. She had voluntarily stopped the heroin and speed, on the hopes that eventually she would be able to facilitate her own escape. Daily her fear of Gregory and his intentions had grown, until she no longer believed that she would be set free. Star knew with a grim certainty that she would be on the menu of death that her captor was planning.

Rushing out the door, she slipped behind the wheel of the idling vehicle. Gregory sneered at her, raising his hand in a threatening gesture as though he planned to backhand her for her tardiness. Instead he turned his gaze to the side window, almost visualizing his secret torture chamber through the thick brick walls. Star breathed a mental sigh of relief, grateful for whatever respite she might get from his evil intentions. Putting the van in reverse, she carefully guided them out towards the highway.

Kate adjusted her collar again, not satisfied with how it settled against the front of her shirt. She had chosen this outfit for comfort, but also for ease of movement. She had every intention of dancing, and didn’t want to be uncomfortable in her clothes. The chosen outfit was a soft blue denim sleeveless shirt with a matching pair of soft blue jeans, and dark brown cowboy boots. Kate had no idea what Jessie was wearing, and was anxious to find out. It would determine just how many women she would have to beat back from trying to steal her girlfriend from her.

Waiting patiently in the living room, Jessie idly scratched Violet’s head and ears, only inwardly nervous about her first trip to a women’s bar. She only hoped that the various women who might recognize her wouldn’t pester them the entire evening. While she ruminated over the coming events, she was joined by Laura and April noisily discussing locking up the house, and turning down the heat. Jessie wondered, not for the first time, if she and Kate would ever achieve the same level of companionship and normalcy the their friends seemed to share.

Out of the corner of her eye Laura spied Jessie talking to one of the cats, and did a mental once over. Immediately she could feel a hot blush creep up her neck.

"Holy Cow Jess!" Laura blustered out loud, "I should be carrying a stun gun to keep the women at bay!"

"Geez babe, don’t drool. And, don’t scare her so much. We may never get her into the bar if you keep talking about her that way." April admonished her lover, a small bit of jealousy showing at Laura’s obvious attraction to Jessie.

Laura smiled, and gave her girlfriend a pinch on the rear end. She could almost feel as well as see the flash of jealousy cross April’s features. She would never in a million years ever be unfaithful to her longtime love, but in a weird way it made her feel good that April felt that someone might actually steal Laura away. Turning her attention to the back of the house, she began to wonder what in the blazes was keeping Kate so long.

"Katie McKenna! You’d best get your cute little behind out here right now, or we’re going to take off without you!" Laura winked at the other two.

Kate heard the call, and grabbing her leather jacket, and her stun gun, joined the others in the living room. Gazing at Jessie, she had nearly the same reaction that Laura did, but more body parts were involved.

"Whooeee! Jessie my love, stand up and let me look at you." Katie wolf whistled at her blushing lover.

Jessie set the cat down, and brushing any stray fur off stood to her full height, casually swinging her long dark hair back over her shoulders. She was dressed in very tight form fitting black leather pants, with an even more form fitting black vest. Since this was the first time out to this kind of occasion, she had decided to be daring, and had passed on wearing a shirt, and buttoned the vest up to its rather low place at her cleavage. Katie blushed again, and almost told Laura and April to head on without them.

"So…what do you think? Will I fit in?" Jessie’s blue gaze intensified, fearing she had made a mistake.

"Oh, uh, yeah, right in there…you bet." Kate stammered. "I’m beginning to believe that this stun gun is a good idea after all."

"Whoa, I was only kidding when I said that." Laura exclaimed, surprised.

"Oh, well, I never travel without it anymore. There is always the possibility of someone threatening Jessie, and I’m not about to let anything happen to her." Kate slipped the weapon into her fanny pack.

"Honey, can you do me one favor?" Jessie’s quiet voice rumbled close to Kate’s ear.

"What’s that babe?" Kate blushed again.

"Make sure it’s on stun, and not death ray or whatever. I wouldn’t want anyone to perish on my account." Jessie smiled a lopsided grin.

"Oh, yeah, sure…not a problem." Kate said as she changed the setting on the stunner.

Moments later they were driving through the gates of the mobile home park, heading for their newest adventure. Unnoticed by all of them, was a beat up, dirty blue van parked among the various other cars that could only find street space. Once Jessie’s caddie made the turn at the stoplight, the headlights of the van went on, and the engine roared into life. Without drawing any attention, the van slipped through the gate, and very daringly parked right in Laura’s driveway.

Opening the door, Gregory gathered the few things he felt he needed his gun, a flashlight and a cheap Polaroid camera they had picked up on their way to Silicon Valley. Gesturing to Star to grab the cat carrier, he headed for the back of the house where his spy told him was the easiest entrance to the home.

Peering into the gloomy light, cast by the reflection of a street lamp in front of the house, Gregory reached into his pocket and pulled out a very small folding knife. Looking around to see if any of the neighbors had noticed them, he slipped the knife between the aluminum door, and the frame using the blade for leverage. In a very few seconds, the door popped open. Placing a finger to his lips, he waved to Star to follow him. Once inside the room, he made his way to the sliding glass door, left open a few inches to allow the cats to get to their food and water. Opening it quietly, he stepped in careful to look for anything that might indicate an alarm, or other security system. Certain that they were safe, he turned the flashlight on, and began a sweep of the house looking for the animals.

Not readily locating them, Gregory entered the first room that his light had crossed. Recognizing the faint scent of perfume as Jessie’s, he pushed the door in further, and flipped up the light switch. Star was surprised by the sudden glare, and shocked that Gregory would be so bold as to turn a light on. She was about to follow him into the room, when he suddenly thrust the flashlight at her, pushing her back through the doorway.

"Go out there, and find the god damn cat. You don’t belong anywhere near Jessie’s things. You’ll spoil them." Gregory growled at her.

Not willing to make him any angrier, Star did as she was told. She was interested though in the slight show of vulnerability she saw in his otherwise evil demeanor. She turned away to the other bedroom, and was pleased to see that both cats were lounging on the bed, their eyes glowing bright yellow in the reflection of the light. Sitting on the bed carefully, Star extended her hand, allowing the closer of the two cats to learn her scent. The rather fat, furry cat sniffed the air first, and deciding that this must be a likely victim to press into head petting, she bowed her head and pressed against Star’s palm. Star obliged, scratching the animal’s ears, and letting her long fingers travel under the cat’s chin.

Across the bed from her Violet observed the whole scene. Not liking the smell of these intruders, she knew that they didn’t belong here in her mother’s home. She hissed at Corky in disgust, trying to make her see the danger that Violet was feeling. Corky just purred louder, rolling over onto her back like a shameless hussy. Violet growled at her in disgust, and slipped quietly under the bed, not wanting to be involved with whatever bad thing was happening. She only wished that she had hands so that she could call mommy’s cell phone. And of course she also would need to know how to speak human…

Star was immediately taken by Corky’s flirtatious actions. Carefully reaching down she picked the cat up and held her close, allowing the fuzzy head to rub under her chin. While Gregory was still busy in the guestroom, she took the time to wander out to the kitchen to see if she could find some cat food to take with them. Locating a few cans, she put those in the carrier, and then slipped the cat in with them. Immediately Corky began to protest loudly, missing the warm trembling arms that had been holding her close.

Gregory stalked around the room, taking in the luggage, and the unmistakable sign that Jessie was not staying there alone. Sneering once or twice, he opened the first bag he saw, and rifled around to see if he could identify whose it was. He grabbed a frilly black nightie, and due to the small size correctly identified it as Kate’s. Removing the knife from his pocket, he opened it, and began to randomly slash the nightgown into shreds. Stuffing it back into the bag, he dug through the contents, and came across a small photo of Kate and Jessie together. Using the sharp tip of the knife, he cut a small X through Kate’s image. Placing the photo next to the bed pillows, Gregory moved to Jessie’s bag. Moving through her things, he found a similar nightgown tucked under a pair of jeans. It smelled heavily of Jessie’s perfume. Sitting on the bed for a moment, he held the nightgown to his face, deeply breathing in the heady scent of his obsession. Lost for a moment in his thoughts, he could barely contain the raging excitement he felt. His heart pounded, and he began to feel a reaction elsewhere in his body.

Star stepped to the door of the guestroom, and was preparing to knock when she caught Gregory’s reflection in the mirror. She stared in fascination as she watched him rub a black nightgown over his face, while his other hand squeezed his crotch. Not certain whether it was sexy or sick, she decided she had better interrupt or they might get caught. Clearing her throat, she tapped lightly on the door.

Gregory quickly shoved the nightgown into his jacket pocket; his face and neck a deep red in color.

"DAMMIT STAR! Don’t go scarin’ me like that. Next time I might just blow your fool head off. What in the hell do you want?" Gregory was livid.

"I…I just wanted to let you know that I got one of the cats, and that we should probably go. Someone might notice the van, and call the cops." Star gulped, fearful that he still might hurt her.

"Yeah, yeah…take the animal out there, and back the van into the street. I’ll close this place up so they don’t catch on right away." Gregory’s attitude change was so drastic, it was almost comical.

Surprisingly enough, even though Laura and April had been visiting their local women’s bar, for the better part of 20 years, Laura still had the pre-visit jitters. Of course, taking her best friend Kate, and her famous lover and lesbian icon, Jessica Ryan was not exactly an everyday occurrence. Laura glanced at her two friends snuggling in the back seat, and wondered if they were all ready for the reception that they were about to receive.

Part of Laura’s quick visit that afternoon involved picking up the key to the back door of the bar’s office. After conferring with Barb the owner, they both decided it would probably be more comfortable for everyone if Laura’s group just sort of appeared at their table, rather than trying to work their way through the crowd. If they came in through the front, it might take them all night just to sit down. At 8:00 in the evening, it was early enough to blend in, without making a major Hollywood entrance.

April pulled her SUV in behind the club, and parked. A light rain had begun to fall, a possible precursor to a much bigger storm just off the coast. The weather service had even promised a little thunder and lightning to cap off the promised rain and wind. Choosing to brave the sprinkle, and leave their jackets in the car, the four women ran for the door. Laura unlocked it, and as she pushed it open, she stopped. The other three ran into her before they realized she wasn’t moving forward.

"Laura! What are you doing? Get in there, we’re getting wet." April gave her a little shove.

"BARB! What is going on?" Laura exclaimed.

Pushing her way into the small office space, Laura cleared enough room for her friends to see past her into the bright interior. The entire staff of the bar was crowded into the room, waiting to meet their special guest. Along with the staff, were their girlfriends, sisters, brothers and other regulars at the bar. After promises to give each and every one of them a few moments of Jessie’s time, the group finally backed out into the main bar, and allowed the women to regroup. Barb the owner was just turning to slip out the door, when Laura grabbed the back of her shirt.

"Whoa there dolly! And where do you think you’re going?" Laura raised her eyebrow in question.

"Oh, uh….well, I need to check the beer taps…yeah, the beer taps have been acting up, and I need to check them out." Barb stammered.

"Oh, beer taps huh? Well, they can wait a few minutes. So, tell me…who else did you tell about our visit?" Laura asked.

"Well, let me see….um, not too many more people. Betty’s bringing more strippers in, cause they figure they’ll make more money, and well, the Royal Imperial Wildcat Court may be stopping by. You know their doing a major fund raising campaign for the Children’s Aids Summer Camp. And, I think that might be it. Give or take a few…" Barb trailed off.

"Geez Barb. I ask for discretion, and what do I get, a Gods-be-damned circus." Laura turned back to her group. "What do you guys think? Should be back out?"

Jessie stepped forward first. "Listen Laura, it’s okay. I’m used to the attention, and as long as we get through it rather quickly, I can almost guarantee that they’ll leave us alone after while. The novelty will wear off."

"Yeah Laura. Don’t worry about it. Jessie’s pretty good with the fans, and I’ll protect her if anyone gets out of hand." Kate added.

"Okay, and so I guess it’s my job to protect you all." Laura finally let a smile slip across her dour expression.

Once the surprise had settled down, the women worked their way out the door and found a table all set up for them between the dance floor and the bar, but far enough out of the mainstream, that the crowd gathered around them wouldn’t block the room too badly. The interior of the bar actually had three main rooms. The front door was placed between the two main rooms. To the left of the front door, was the main room with the dance floor, DJ booth, and bar. The restrooms and hallway to the office provided a divider to the second room that contained two pool tables, a couple of dart machines and some tabletop video games. The third room was a smaller more intimate space with sofas, a small dance floor, and a second bar. Most of the time this room was only open for special parties, or when a larger than normal crowd was expected. Tonight was no exception.

After everyone was seated, Laura took their drink orders and headed to the bar. Halfway there Barb stopped her. The bar owner had hired a waitress for the evening to take some of the pressure off the busy bartenders. Returning to her seat, she was dismayed to see one of her least favorite persons sitting in her chair, an arm draped across an uncomfortable April’s shoulders. The look on April’s face was enough to tell Laura that if she didn’t get back there, her lover was going to explode.

Seeing Laura approaching, a dangerous look on her face April shrugged her assailant’s arm off her shoulder. "You better disappear Angie, Laura’s coming, and if she doesn’t break your arms, I might."

Angie took the hint, and bowing to Kate and Jessie, slipped out of the chair and shouldered her way past Laura. Losing her balance, Laura almost fell, but regained her balance and turned, determined to grab Angie by the neck and thrash her a good one. Kate reached back and grabbed Laura by the shirttail, and dragged her back to the table.

"Don’t do it Laura. Barb will have to eighty-six you if you do. Besides, we came to have fun, and not fight. Don’t let Angie push your buttons." Kate smiled; hoping her friend would catch the hint.

"Sorry. She just has this way of insinuating herself into our space, and it pisses me off." Laura sat down, grateful that she hadn’t done anything stupid.

After their drinks had been delivered, Jessie’s fans started filing by, individually and in groups. It only took about an hour before everyone was satisfied that it really was Jessica Ryan and her girlfriend, and that they were all fortunate enough that she had chosen their neighborhood bar to spend an evening out. By the time everyone had settled into their routine, it was time for the Hoochie girls to come on the dance floor/stage.

The first woman to step up was a tall willowy blond with legs to her chin, and a pair of…assets that thoroughly defied the law of gravity. As soon as the music started, she began a slow bump and grind, which elicited a loud cheering roar from the capacity crowd of women who were pressing in to get a better view. Halfway through her first number, she moved closer to the crowd, and one by one the women started slipping dollar bills under the straps of her bra top, and through the front and sides of her thong. By the time she had finished her set she was covered in money.

The next few girls came up, and that’s when Laura bought her group the first round of tequila shots. Laura wasn’t able to participate, due to her diabetes, but the others met the challenge with rousing applause. Kate counted to three, and she, Jessie and April slammed down their drinks. Limes and salt were passed around, to soothe the burn of the alcohol as it hit bottom.

Jessie grimaced, she had never done tequila shots before, and this was a new experience for her. Looking around at the crowd surrounding them, Jessie reached for Kate’s hand, a moment of anxiety clouding her features for a brief flash.

"What’s wrong honey?" Kate looked surprised.

"I…I just felt a little strange for a minute there. Sort of exposed. Things are going so well right now, I keep expecting something bad to happen. You know…kind of like my life has been." Jessie sighed.

"Wait a minute babe, that stuff is in the past. We’re going to move forward, and take each day a step at a time. No more bad things, only good." Kate kissed the back of Jessie’s hand.

Realizing they could very well kiss in the bar, they did just that. It felt good to both of them. Always being in the public eye, and constantly under scrutiny made these few publicly private moments very sweet. Kate moved her chair closer, so that Jessie could lay her arm across her shoulders.

The strippers left the makeshift stage, and the Royal Wildcats took their place. The Royal Court system had been around for a very long time. The men worked very hard making costumes and running campaigns to win the title of Emperor and Empress. Each person who won staged drag shows and other innovative fundraisers for various charities in the Lesbian and Gay communities. Their shows were always elegant, funny and exciting. This one was no different.

Jessie had never seen anything like it. It was a combination of camp, and a Las Vegas show, all rolled into one. She laughed so hard she had tears running down her cheeks. Kate watched her, and was happy to see that her mood had shifted. The waitress breezed by and Katie ordered another round of shots for April and Jessie, and a beer for herself. Before the drinks arrived, Jessie excused herself for a moment, and rose to leave the table. Kate knew that talking was futile with the music playing as loud as it was, but she managed to catch Jessie’s eye.

Leaning in close Jessie murmured in her ear. "I’ll be right back, I want to talk to whoever’s in charge of this group."

"Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?" Kate frowned slightly. "I’m not so sure one of these women might not try to snatch you away."

"I’m fine. If anything bad happens, I’ll scream like a girl. Then you can ride in on your white horse and save me…" Jessie chuckled, thinking she had just made a joke.

Kate pursed her lips for a moment. Stealing another glance at Jessie’s face, she realized that Jessie was just kidding, and that more than likely the hard alcohol was talking for her. Nodding her head, she watched closely as Jessie wound her way through the crowd, causing near fatal heart attacks from everyone she brushed with a hand or elbow. More than one woman blushed, and pretended not to be looking at the strong tan arms and beautiful blue eyes as she gazed in their direction. Kate scowled a moment, and then relaxed, when Jessie sidled up to a rather tall "woman" with hair the color of flames. She recognized Tracy LaLa, a stockbroker by day, drag queen by night that she had met on one of her prior visits with Laura. Tracy had worked very hard for a number of years to raise money and awareness for his community, and absolutely had no qualms about wearing high heels to get his point across.

While Kate watched everyone else watch Jessie, Laura’s attention strayed to her own lover’s retreating form. From her vantage point, she could see April head for the door to go out and smoke, and from the opposite direction, she noticed the hulking visage of her nemesis Angie. Laura debated about 2 seconds, and when Angie turned and followed April out the door, Laura was out of her chair and hot on her trail. This left Kate by herself and now she started to understand what Jessie meant by feeling exposed.

Kate let her gaze wander through the crowd, noticing the wide diversity of men and women gathered there for the first time. There were professional women, in sedate outfits; women in leather, spandex, or denim. Women of every shape, size, and color. And more importantly, was the fact that the men mixed right in. There weren’t any outward displays of animosity, just one big huge rocking party.

Just when she was beginning to feel lonely, even in the crowded room, she spotted Jessie heading back her way. A few women made an attempt to stop her and make conversation, but she politely informed them that she needed to return to her table. Slipping into her chair, she replaced her arm to it former position, wrapped around Kate’s shoulders.

"Hi there, miss me?" Jessie spoke directly into Kate’s ear.

"Yeah, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to sit here alone all night." Kate playfully whined back.

"Where did Laura and April go?" Jessie inquired.

"I think there was a problem with that girl Angie. April went out to have a smoke, and Angie followed her out. Laura followed Angie, and that’s about all I know." Kate looked towards the door for any signs of trouble.

"Do you think we should go and check to see if they’re ok? I don’t know what the story is with this Angie girl, but I don’t think I like her messing with our friends." Jessie’s eyebrow arched with indignation.

‘Yeah, I’m a little worried myself. Laura can be seriously deadly if she’s pushed too hard. She used to blame it on the alcohol, but I think it’s the Irish in her." Kate started to rise.

Jessie took Kate’s arm, and ushered her through the crowd. No sooner had they stood up, when a few adventurous women rushed to the table in their wake, and pocketed Jessie’s two shot glasses, and anything else that looked of any value. Fortunately none of the tables occupants had left anything important or too personal behind.

When they reached the door, Jessie stepped through first. Kate giggled nervously, realizing that Jessie was protecting her from whatever might be happening in the parking lot. It made her feel good and kind of silly at the same time, considering that she was a black belt, and trained bodyguard.

As Jessie stepped through the doorway, she noticed Laura standing back in the shadows out of sight of Angie, but still able to see what was going on. Jessie grabbed Kate’s arm and pulled her towards Laura’s hiding place. The three friends watched as April took on the much larger and more annoying Angie.

"What’s up April? How ya doin’ these days?" Angie drawled.

"I’m good Angie, and I’d be a hell of a lot better if you would buzz off and leave me and Laura alone." April lit her second cigarette.

"Aw, come on April, you don’t have to be so mean to me. I mean Laura’s in with her celebrity friends, and she ain’t gonna see you talkin’ to me. Besides, admit it. You kinda like me and you know it." Angie winked in her direction.

Knowing that Laura was within earshot, April smiled a sneaky little grin. "Oh, sure Angie, and if you believe that, you’re stupider than I thought."

"Hey now. You don’t have to be getting’ all mean you know. I mean I never did nothin’ wrong to you guys…well, except for the midnight phone calls, and that time I got you drunk and all…but anyway, Laura don’t deserve you anyway. Why you would want to be spending your time in bed with that fat bitch is beyond me." Angie knew this would get a response.

From her spot in the shadows, Laura drew in a breath, and set her shoulders. Jessie’s taller vantage point gave her an almost frightening view of what Kate meant when she said that Laura could be dangerous. A certain power settled in her arms and back, and she seemed to gain about 3 inches in height. She was about to step out of the shadows, when Kate laid her hand on her shoulder. Shaking her head from side to side, she let Laura know that it wouldn’t be smart to engage Angie in anything physical. Laura nodded her agreement, and stepped back, only slightly content to let April deal with Angie on her own.

April flicked her cigarette towards Angie’s chest. "Step down off those high class shoes bitch! You have no idea what you’re talking about. Laura is one of the kindest, sweetest, most attentive lovers in the world. You’re just jealous because she'd just as soon break your jaw as sleep with you. Get over yourself Angie. If I were you, I’d get in my car and leave, cause you’ve got about ten seconds before Laura’s on you like a bad cold."

Angie visibly ducked. She hadn’t counted on Laura being in hearing distance, and she certainly didn’t want to be on the receiving end of anything Laura might dish out, either physically or verbally. Angie had heard Laura speak on many occasions, and she could almost count on Laura belittling her in front of most of the patrons of the bar, and one of the most popular actresses around. Turning in the direction that April was now looking at, Angie cringed when she caught sight of Laura’s eyes. The trick of the parking lot lights made it look like her eyes were glowing. The fact that Laura wore glasses didn’t help either. It gave her an even stronger air of mystery that quite frankly scared the crap out of Angie. She had heard a number of stories about Laura’s reputation, and was not too excited about testing her out. Blatantly giving April the once over, in a last ditch effort to save her pride, she turned and stalked across the parking lot. Jumping into her truck, she backed out and screeched the tires, putting on a show like she was the toughest person around. Most people at the bar felt she was nothing but a loser.

After the truck turned the corner, all the women and men gathered in the parking lot breathed a sigh of relief. Most of them knew Laura and liked her, and knew that if she were pushed hard enough Angie would be but a bit of history. Laura walked over to where April was lighting another cigarette.

"I’m sorry if I interrupted your impromptu meeting there darlin’," Laura pulled April into a quick hug, "But you know I can’t stand her."

"I know babe, she’s a pain in the butt." April kissed Laura’s cheek.

"So, Jess, what do you think about your first trip to a gay bar?" Laura turned her attention to her guests.

"I’m telling you Laura, I haven’t had so much fun in…well forever. This is like Emmy night, Grammy night, and Oscar’s night all rolled into one. Say Laura, think you might have cleaned her clock?" Jessie was positively beaming.

"Jess, Laura doesn’t fight…do you hon?" Kate pinched her friend.

"Hey now, watch that. I just might have to discipline you." Laura laughed back.

"Listen Laur, they’re getting ready to start the dance music, let’s go back in." Kate spun excitedly.

"Okay, okay. What about you tall, dark and deadly? Ready to do some dancing?" Laura addressed Jessie.

""Well, I…I’ll try." Jessie swallowed.

"What do you mean try?" Laura stopped in her tracks.

"I don’t really dance well. I’m…kind of clumsy." Jessie frowned.

Kate grabbed her lover’s arm. "Don’t worry honey, we’ll show you how…it’s easy."

Moving back into the bar, Laura was pleased to see that their table was at least still unoccupied. She had no idea that their glasses and napkins had been picked up as momentos, but that was neither here nor there. Sliding into her seat, Laura flagged down the waitress for another round of shots for her girls. The last member of the Court was leaving the stage, and Laura could see her favorite DJ entering the booth for the night’s dance music.

The first song came blasting out of the speakers. Laura jumped up and grabbed April’s hand, dragging her out to the dance floor. Laura had always enjoyed dancing. Back in her single days, she spent a lot of time in her favorite bars, dancing with an endless stream of women. Most people thought she must have money, or drugs. Something to attract the women to her. What Laura really had was very simple…charm. She could make the most unhappy person in the world have a moment of fun, as though they were the most special woman around. That’s what attracted April to her, and that very charm is what brought Laura the respect she enjoyed even now.

Kate and Jessie sat at their table holding hands. When the waitress came back with their drinks, Jessie threw hers back without thinking twice about it. Kate’s eyes nearly bugged right out of her head. Shooting her a quick glance, Jessie’s eyebrows went into her hairline.

"What?" Jessie tilted her head slightly.

"I don’t know. I’m just surprised at you. Can I offer some advice?" Kate smiled coyly.

"Sure." Jessie smiled back.

"Be careful of those desert snakes Jess. They have one heck of a nasty bite." Kate sipped her beer.

"Hmm, very cryptic my dear. So, are you going to teach me to dance or what?" Jessie missed the message, but Kate was sure she would catch on the next morning.

"Ooh, little ole me? Dance with you? I don’t know, am I worthy?" Kate adopted a smug look.

"Oh, maybe not worthy, but certainly the most sexy…" Jessie leered back.

"Hmm, well, since you put it that way, come with me." Kate rose and took Jessie’s hand.

Leading her lover through the crowd, Kate couldn’t help but feel a few envious sets of eyes pass over them as they stepped on to the dance floor. Jessie started to get a little nervous, but Kate just pulled her close, and let her hips and her hands guide Jess through a few quick moves. Jessie quickly caught on, and matched Kate’s moves with her own. The end result was an incredibly sensuous dance to the otherwise solid pounding of the house dance mix pouring out of the speakers. Kate was surprised, and decided that Jessie must have stretched the truth about her clumsiness.

"Sweetie," Kate murmured, Jessie’s hips pressed tightly against hers, "I thought you said you couldn’t dance."

"I’m not…I’m just movin’ with the groove." Jessie whispered into her ear.

"Mmm, well, if we keep this up much longer, we’re going to have to go to the motel next door." Kate mumbled into Jessie’s shirt, her eyes closed.

"Oh, I guess maybe…besides, the music has stopped, and everyone’s looking at us." Jessie chuckled.

Kate stopped suddenly. Slowly she lifted her head, and noticed all of the guests at the bar staring at them. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Laura coming towards them, a huge smile on her face. Bowing her head and laying her forehead against Jessie’s chest, Kate started to laugh. Laura put her arms around both of them, and whispered in Katie’s ear. Kate pulled back a look of utter shock on her face as she unconsciously backhanded Laura in the gut.

"LAURA! " Kate exclaimed.

"Sorry babe, I couldn’t help it." Laura chuckled, and gave her friend a peck on the cheek.

"Hey, what did you say to her, shorty?" Jessie loomed over Laura.

"Hey, lighten up, I told her that if I had known you guys wanted to do a floor show, I would have had them charge a bigger cover." Laura tickled Jessie’s ribs.

"Funny girl…say Let’s go back and get something to drink." Jessie started to return to the table, when the room erupted in applause.

Jessie bowed, and headed back to sit down, pulling Kate along with her. By the time they reached their seats a fresh round of drinks had been placed, and the music had started again. The friends sat down, and talked amongst themselves for a while. When the song changed, Laura grabbed Kate’s hand and together they went back to the dance floor. Both women grinned at each other, when suddenly Laura pulled Kate into a spin.

"Watch this Jess. These two are incredible together." April elbowed the taller woman.

Jessie turned her chair, and watched the pair. She had seen people dance like this on TV, and in some of the shows she had done earlier in her career, but she had never been able to master it. Laura and Kate moved across the dance floor like a perfectly tuned machine. It was apparent that the two really enjoyed dancing together as well. They danced like pros.

"Where did they learn to do that?" Jessie asked April.

"Great huh? Laura’s a natural, so is Kate. She taught Kate during her stay with us when she was recovering from her bad attack, when she and Laura first met. Laura used it to bring Kate out of her shell, and convinced her to get involved in the real world again." April watched her lover with pride.

Soon the song ended, and the women regrouped at the table. Jessie and April talked and giggled, the tequila doing its work on both of them. April was giving Jessie a brief history about Angie and a lengthier history of her relationship with Laura. Kate gave Laura a nod, and glancing at her watch, Laura nodded back.

"Okay you two. I’m getting tired. What say we head for home?" Laura grinned rakishly at April.

"Oh, sure honey. Anything you want…or I want." April leered back.

The four of them stood, and after many claps on the back, and a thank you or two, they made their way into the office, and out through the back door. Laura was the designated driver, so she started the car, and drove them all back to the mobile home. As they pulled into the driveway, Laura realized that both Jessie and April had fallen asleep.

"So my little pumpkin…did you enjoy yourself?" Laura said in her version of a French accent.

"Yeah, I think both of us did. Jessie was smiling and glowing all night long. And the crowd wasn’t so bad either. I was a little concerned about the Angie thing, but April handled it well. Do you think Angie will ever give up?" Kate frowned.

"Probably not. She’s got a whole bunch of problems, not the very least of which I think she might be bipolar. She goes through these mood swings, where one week she won’t bathe or get out of bed, and the next week she’s out gambling or doing other things to excess. Her family thinks she’s got problems because she’s gay, they refuse to recognize that it goes much deeper than that. Angie’s more afraid of me than anything else. All I have to do is look at her, and she turns to oatmeal." Laura sighed deeply.

"That’s a shame. Well, we can only hope that somehow, some way she gets help, before something really bad happens." Kate sighed with her friend.

"Unfortunately, it already has." Laura opened the door and stepped out of the truck.

While Kate quietly woke Jessie and helped her into the house, Laura did the same for April. Both women settled their respective lovers into bed, and then met in the kitchen for a glass of ice water, and some idle chitchat. Laura took a moment to call to the cats, preparing their dry food for bedtime. It was only one A.M., but she was beginning to feel a little weary.

After several minutes of calling, and the appearance of only one cat, Laura started to get worried. She idly searched from room to room, Kate following in her wake, not yet aware that Laura was upset. Laura started to panic, and pacing quickly back to the cat’s room; she let her eyes wander one more time across the tops of the tables, and storage shelf. She saw it this time. Not only was the cat missing, but some of the food was gone too. That was when Laura realized that someone had taken her pet.

Continued in Chapter 35…


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