Fire and Ice
Part 2 of 4
Detective Sands rushed into Bowins office and tossed a file on his desk He looked up to find her grinning ear to ear.
"We got a break on the Palanos robbery." His eyes brightened with interest.
"We really got lucky on this one. The guys in vice picked up some rich boy on drug charges. Turns out his father is a jeweler. In an effort to save his sorry-ass son, he offered information on a recent robbery. He agreed to give the name of a fence who sold him the items, if the charges were dropped against he and his son."
"Whos the fence"
"Our old friend Sal."
"Call Judge Brennen, lets get a search warrant."
Marisa winked and handed Bowin the warrant. "I thought you were going to say that."
He smiled outright. "What would I do without you?"
"Lets go get him."
Alex rummaged through her clothing looking for something that would fit Danielle. The best she could do was a T-shirt and pair of sweats. She also grabbed a pair of underwear. Danielle was sitting on the couch, staring into the fire. She looked up when Alex came into the room.
"I think Ive managed to find some clothes for you. They are no a fashion statement but they should do for the trip home."
Danielle was quiet. The idea of going home to her empty apartment right next door to her attacker frightened her. Alex noticed the change in the young woman and sat beside her. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I... Its just the thought of going home... Hes my neighbor."
Alex cursed herself for being insensitive to the young womans fear. The pained expression on Danielles face made her want to take the young woman into her arms and comfort her but she held back. "Im sorry, I should have thought... I... youre welcome to stay with me as long as you need to."
"I dont want to be a bother... Ive been too much trouble already. I just..."
"You havent been any trouble..." Alex tried to think of something to say that would make Danielle feel better. "I have enjoyed your company. Its been nice having someone around to talk to."
Danielle glanced at her hopefully. "Really?"
"Yes, Id like it if you stayed." Alex realized with some surprise that she truly meant it.
"Thanks... if I could just stay the weekend?"
"As long as you want." Alex watched the young woman visibly relax. "I have one condition though. I want you to get these underclothes on so that I can take a look at your bruises. I want to make sure youre healing properly." Danielle heart swelled at Alexs concern.
She beamed. "Ill get changed."
While Danielle was in the bathroom dressing, Alex went to the bedroom to retrieve a jar of homemade salve from her medical bag.
"Okay doc... Im ready."
Alex smiled. "Hop on the bed and lie down."
Danielle did as she asked, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious. Alex sat beside her and examined the bruises on her face. The swelling had gone down from this morning, but she still looked as if she was the loser in a boxing match.
"Im going to put a little salve on the cuts and bruises. The pressure may hurt a little, but the salve itself is painless." Alex dipped her finger in the jar and began to apply the ointment with gentle strokes.
Danielle closed her eyes and braced herself for the pain. She was sore, there was no getting around it. But, the physical discomfort was forgotten as she became acutely aware of the softness of Alexs fingers and the tenderness in her touch.
She opened her eyes. Alex was leaning over her, blue eyes focused on the task. Her fingers were so attentive that it brought to mind the intimacy of a lovers caress. Danielle felt the surface of her skin heat.
Her glance dropped to Alexs mouth. Her full lips were parted slightly. She wondered if they could possibly feel as soft as they looked. Danielle wanted to know. She felt an urge to press her lips to Alexs and fought to suppress it, but she couldnt help thinking about what lay beyond her lips. What would this amazing woman taste like? Her body was melting under Alexs touch. It tingled all over. She stiffened, afraid she would not be able to control the sensations building inside her.
Alex pulled back. "Im sorry... did I hurt you?"
"Just a little," Danielle lied. "But its okay."
"Im done with your face, Im going to take a look at your ribs and stomach. Ready?" Danielle nodded.
Alexs hand hesitated momentarily at the tie of Danielles robe. She flashed back to the robbery and forced her mind to clear. Her finger trembled slightly when she causally attempted to open the front. As she looked down at Danielles slender form, her eyes lingered on the firm, well proportioned body. Alex gently ran her fingers over the ribs. Although Danielle was terribly bruised, the skin was not broken. She slowly began to cover each bruise with the medicine.
Danielle clenched her teeth to stifle a moan. Her body was alive with sensation. She could feel her nipples harden against her bra, so sensitized that the material felt coarse against them. The muscles of her lower abdomen tightened and she felt a warm moisture building between her legs. She could not believe what was she was experiencing. Was this what other people felt? It was incredible. She glanced quickly at Alex, praying she hadnt noticed. Alex was focused on her task.
Danielle had never in her life felt anything so wonderful. Her skin burned everywhere Alex touched. With each stroke her arousal increased. She felt a spasm between her legs and held her breath, terrified her body would betray her feelings.
Alex felt Danielle flinch and assumed she was in pain. She tried to hurry along. At last, she finished. When she removed her hand, Danielles body trembled. Alex quickly closed her robe.
"Youre going to be fine. Nothings broken. Youre healing well. I want you to apply this salve twice a day until the bruises begin to fade." She handed her the jar.
Alex noticed the oddest look on the young womans face. She let it pass without comment. Danielle had been through a lot in the past few days. It had taken its toll. Danielle needed rest and time to allow her body to heal. Alex stood up reluctantly.
"You should try to get some sleep. Im afraid I dont have much in the house to eat. Im going out to get groceries. I thought Id pick up Chinese food for dinner if you like it."
"Okay then, Ill be back in a little while." Alex closed the door quietly behind her.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Danielle released an audible sigh. Her body hummed with a new found energy. The physical excitement pulsing through her was intoxicating. She pulled the comforter over herself and let her hand slide under the elastic of her underpants. Her inquisitive fingers slid lightly across her sex. She withdrew them from the slippery wetness and curled up on her side. A single tear hit the pillow. Alex had just awoken her.
When Alex returned she noted the subtle aroma of incense. Danielle had also set the table and started a fire. Suddenly the cabin felt like a home to her. Not since she was a child had she come home to find someone waiting for her. It reminded her how alone she had been and it hurt to realize that soon she would be alone again. Danielle would return to her life, as she would. She squared her shoulders and went to the kitchen. She found Danielle there, brewing a pot of coffee.
"I thought you were going to get some rest?" Alex questioned.
"I did sleep for a little while... I had a nightmare and..."
Alex put down the groceries and turned to face the young woman. "You dont have to worry about him hurting you. I know his kind. Hes a coward. Youll never see him again. In fact I doubt hell return to his apartment."
Danielle hugged herself rubbing her hands along her arms in an attempt to rid herself of the chill that enveloped her. "I hope youre right. Just thinking about going home makes me nervous."
"I would never take you back there, if I thought it werent safe." Alex spoke with more emotion than she had intended. She felt the heat rise to her face and shifted uncomfortably.
"Anyway, I hope your hungry. Theres a lot of food here."
Danielle smiled, relieved to have something else to focus on. "Im always hungry."
After they put the groceries away, they sat down to eat. Alex handed the young woman a pair of chopsticks.
Danielle had never used them before and watched Alex for a few bites before giving it a try. After a few attempts, she was successful at grabbing a pea pod and lifted it carefully. It was almost to her mouth when the sticks separated, sending it flying toward Alex who gracefully snagged it in mid air with her own chopsticks. Danielle looked at her in amazement.
"Wow, youre really good with those!"
Alex winked. "Just one of those unusual skills Ive picked up." Danielle looked regretfully at her empty sticks. Alex smiled and held the morsel out for her to eat. Danielle opened her mouth in grateful acceptance. As Alex slid the chopsticks from Danielles lips, their eyes met. Danielle felt the spark between them and glanced down.
"Maybe I should get you a fork." Alex said clearing her throat.
"No, I want to give this a chance. Let me try again."
Alex walked up behind her and leaned down. She placed her hand over Danielles molding her fingers into the proper position. "Its just a matter of applying the correct amount of pressure."
Her hair draped down, tickling the young womans neck. Danielle felt Alexs breath against her skin and realized if she turned her head, their lips would nearly touch. She felt a rush of heat and fought to stay concentrated on her task. With Alex steadying her fingers, she made it all the way to her mouth.
"See? Nothing to it." Alex released her hand and sat back down. "Now, try it on your own."
Danielle looked reluctantly at her friend. "Something tells me this is going to be the longest meal in history." Alex smiled.
Danielle poked at her food and tried to sound casual. "So you said you were leaving soon. Where are you moving?"
Alex hesitated momentarily. "Im trying to decide between a couple of places." She quickly changed the focus of the conversation. "It depends on what I decide to do career wise. What about you? What do you do?"
Danielle had finally gotten the hang of eating with the strange instruments and hurried to finish a mouthful. "I work at the Sentinel."
"A reporter, huh?"
"Well, not yet. Ive been stuck writing obituaries for the past six months, but I just got the go ahead to do my first article." Danielle paused thoughtfully.
"I really dont think of myself as a writer. Im more of a storyteller. Peoples lives and adventures fascinate me. My whole life Ive been intrigued by exciting and dangerous tales." Alex watched Danielle with interest. She enjoyed the animated way she spoke, using her hands and body with great flourish.
"Its good theyre finally giving you a chance."
"Yeah, this is a big break for me."
"So, whats the story about?"
"Battered women who have survived and turned their lives around. I hope that victims of abuse who read it find comfort in hearing how others have escaped and gone on to happier lives. Maybe theyll be encouraged to do the same."
"You like helping people." Alex stated.
"Well, yes. These women are so brave. They have triumphed over such adversity. Their stories really touched me."
Alex got up to pour coffee. "So do I get a preview of the article?"
Danielles face lit up. "Sure."
They sat by the fire while Danielle spoke about the womens lives. Alex was moved. But it wasnt just their stories that captivated her but the skill with which Danielle related them. She had a wonderful ability to bring their experiences to life. Alex felt like she was watching their stories unfold. She found herself touched by the tragedy and inspired by their courage. Alex could visualize the women, feel their pain and appreciate their achievements.
Much later that evening, Danielle finished, nearly breathless. Her face was flushed with excitement. "Im sorry, I really ran on."
"Dont apologize. You were wonderful. You really have a gift."
Danielle blushed, flattered. "A gift of gab maybe." She smiled.
"I think these women are fortunate to have you telling their stories. Its great that youve found your niche."
Danielle had a talent for drawing people out, getting them to talk about themselves. But, so far shed been unsuccessful with Alex. Whenever she tried, Alex became uncomfortable and changed the flow of the conversation.
"Have you found yours?" Danielle questioned.
Alex smiled cynically. "Ive found what Im good at. Im just not happy doing it anymore." She stood anxiously. Danielle could almost feel the walls go up.
"Ive kept you up long enough. You need your rest. Ill grab a blanket and sleep on the couch."
"I dont want to kick you out of your bed again tonight. I can sleep on the couch."
"No, I insist. I end up falling asleep on the couch most nights anyway."
"Okay, goodnight Alex." She turned, a little reluctant to face her dreams."
"Danielle if you have a nightmare and need to talk... Im a light sleeper."
Alex awoke in the middle of the night. An unfamiliar noise alerted her senses. Someone was in the room. Slowly her eyes adjusted and she looked about warily.
Danielle lay on the floor beside her, curled up in a blanket.
Alex whispered, not wanting to startle her. "Are you all right?"
Danielle rolled over to face her. "Im sorry. Did I wake you?"
"Is everything okay?" Alex asked.
"I had another nightmare. I didnt mean to wake you... I just wanted to be close to... someone. Im such a coward."
"You are anything but a coward." Alex reached down to give her a hand up. "Come on, I think we would both sleep better in bed."
Danielle felt relief wash over her and she looked up gratefully. The unexpected tenderness of Alexs expression touched her heart. Their eyes met, and Danielle felt that pleasant flutter again. She glanced away nervously.
Alex noticed her anxiety "You dont snore, do you?" Alex teased.
"Err, no. At least I dont think so..." She relaxed a little and decided to play along. "I hope you arent one of those people who steal all the covers."
Alex started toward the bedroom. "Ive never had any complaints."
Danielle didnt doubt that for a minute. She smiled to herself and followed.
They settled in quietly. The memories of her attackers were the furthest thing from Danielles mind as she lay beside the older woman. She felt safe.
Alex was on her side facing the door, an ingrained safety precaution. She turned to Danielle, and gently tucked a stray lock of hair behind the young womans ear. "Get some sleep. Everythings going to be all right."
Danielle knew it was true; she never felt better. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. In no time she was fast asleep.
It was a beautiful sunny day. They rowed across the lake to a favorite spot of Alexs to have a picnic lunch that Danielle had spent the morning preparing. After pulling the boat ashore, they hiked into the woods for several miles. It had been well worth the walk. The view when they broke through the woods into the clearing took Danielles breath away. The sun streamed down giving the area a magical feel.
It was a pleasant afternoon. Danielle spent most of the time chatting non-stop while Alex listened.
She had tried to draw her friend out on a couple of occasions but Alex seemed content to let Danielle monopolize the conversation. She found the stories about Danielles childhood experiences fascinating. Danielles youth had been so different from her own.
Alex began packing up the remnants of their picnic lunch while Danielle sat back enjoying the feel of the refreshing breeze against her skin. She had never been more content and didnt want to come down from this natural high. The time she had spent with Alex the last two days had been wonderful.
She stood and stretched in the warm sunlight, taking in her surroundings with a child-like awe. Catching a glimpse of color to her right, she walked toward it.
Alex watched with amusement, as Danielle ran her fingers over the brightly colored petals and took in their sweet scent. She was amazed how the smallest things gave Danielle pleasure. The young woman saw only the good in things, approaching life with a naive wonder. It was a fragile quality and Alex found herself wanting to shield her from anything that would corrupt it.
Danielle sat on a log, reveling in the beauty around her. She was so distracted that she didnt notice four fox pups emerge from a burrow near the end of the fallen tree. They ran playfully toward her. She gasped in surprise.
Alex got to her feet and scanned the tree line cautiously, sure the mother was nearby. "Danielle, get up and back away slowly."
Danielle looked up and smiled. One pup playfully nipped at her shoelace, pulling her attention from Alex. Danielle laughed and gently ran her fingers through its coat. "Hes so soft."
Alex started to repeat her warning, but it was too late. The vixen broke through the woods and headed toward Danielle. There was not enough time to position herself between Danielle and the mother. Alex looked around quickly for something she could use as a weapon. She eyed a good sized rock and bent to pick it up.
Danielle noticed the mothers approach and looked toward Alex. When her eyes settled on the crude weapon in Alexs hand, her stomach lurched. She understood what her friend meant to do.
Alex gauged the distance, taking the weight of the rock into consideration. She watched the vixen anxiously, her muscles taut, ready to react. If the fox made a move to attack Danielle, she felt fairly confident she could hit it.
Danielle slowly stood up. She took a small step backward. But, the pups followed her playfully biting at her sneakers. The mother was only about twenty feet from Danielle now, weaving back and forth, watching her intently.
Danielle sat down, eyeing the worried mother. She slid her sneakers off and began playing with the pups. The vixen got within ten feet and stopped. Her attention fully focused on the young woman.
Danielle could not contain a laugh as one aggressive pup pulled the shoe from her grasp and proudly pranced off to present the prize to its mother. The vixen sniffed the shoe and laid down, cautiously watching the scene.
Alex looked on in disbelief. Three of the pups were frolicking around Danielle and the fourth was snuggled up against her leg. "Alex." Danielle waved her arm, encouraging her friend to come closer.
Alex approached slowly, never taking her eyes off the mother. As she neared, the vixen sat up warily. The tall womans body was tense, ready to react. Danielle smiled up at her and reached out, lightly brushing the fingers that clutched the jagged weapon. The young womans touch melted her tension away. Danielle eased the rock from her grasp and laid it down, replacing it with the warmth of her hand. She gently pulled Alexs arm, urging her to sit.
As soon as Alex was at their level, the pups were all over her, sniffing and prodding. Danielle held her hand, squeezing comfortingly, then she placed it on the pup at her side. "Feel how soft. Arent they beautiful?" The orange pups had black ears and feet. Their bellies were white and their tails were long and bushy. Their eyes were alert, cat like.
Alex ran her fingers through the plush fur, acutely aware of the hand that lay over hers. As Danielles fingers stroked the soft fur, her palm caressed the back of Alexs hand. Alex sunk her fingers into the thick fur and quietly relished the innocent contact.
Danielle didnt seem to notice. Her attention was focused on the playful pups. Alex allowed herself the luxury of extending her gaze at her young friend. She was entranced by the way Danielles nose crinkled when she smiled and her eyes sparkled when she laughed. Alex thought for one moment about lifting the soft fingers to her lips and quickly closed her eyes.
Suddenly the energetic pups bounded onto her lap, pushing her backward. Danielle was startled by the soft sounds coming from her friend. It struck her that it was the first time she had heard Alex laugh. It was magical.
Danielle looked down at the happy woman, normally so stoic and controlled, and her heart swelled. The pups were having a field day. One had a hold of the laces of Alexs top, another was licking at her neck, while yet another was engaged with her in a tug of war for Danielles sneaker.
The sun reflected off her dazzling blue eyes and suddenly Danielle was lost in them. Without thought, she moved her hand to Alexs face, her fingers lifting the stray strands of dark hair from her moist lips. Their eyes met and Danielle began to lean down.
There was a sharp bark. Danielle pulled back and Alex sat up quickly. The father was at the edge of the woods calling. The family quickly ran to him, disappearing into the woods. Danielles heart was pounding furiously. She meant to kiss Alex and had nearly done it.
Alex smiled and looked at her. "That was amazing."
Danielle heart stopped for one instant, then realized they were thinking different things. Alex hadnt even noticed her clumsy advance.
Danielle shrugged and tried to recover. "Animals like me." She winked. "You arent the only one with unusual skills." She effectively masked her disappointment with humor.
"Apparently not." Alex grinned.
Danielle glanced at Alexs dark top sprinkled with red fur. She innocently wiped the hair off, accidentally brushing Alexs breast. Suddenly aware of the intimacy of her action she pulled back. "I... err... they got hair all over you."
Alexs nipple hardened from the brief contact. She stood up awkwardly and brushed off her clothes. A torrent of unfamiliar emotions flooded through her. "Yeah... ah... its getting late. We should finish packing up and go back."
"Sure, if you want." Danielle said sadly.
They picked up their things in awkward silence. Danielle was angry with herself for ruining the moment. Had Alex thought she was making a pass? She hadnt meant anything by the casual touch, but even as the thought crossed her mind, she knew her lack of courage had been the only thing to keep her from doing more. Her fingers tingled, remembering the brief contact. She felt miserable and risked a glance at Alex who seemed to be avoiding eye contact. Danielle got up to search for her sneakers.
Alex watched Danielle walk away and grimaced. She didnt think Danielle had noticed her react to her touch but she wasnt sure. Alex was confused by the excitement coursing through her body. Her friends action had been innocent, she had no doubt about that, but for a split second she had considered pushing the young woman back on the grass and ...
What was happening to her? She knew she had to get a grip on her emotions. She cared about Danielle far to much to lead her on when nothing could come of it. The thought saddened her. She looked up to see Danielle return shoeless and tried to act casual.
"No luck, huh?"
"Nope." Danielle shrugged. "They were kind of old anyway." She looked hesitantly in the direction of the lake. The idea of tromping through the woods in her stocking feet didnt appeal to her.
Alex hesitated only a moment. "Ill give you a lift."
Danielle looked at her curiously. Alex smiled. "Come on, Ill carry you."
"You... you mean like a piggy back ride?"
"Yeah, didnt you ever do that when you were a kid?"
"Sure, its just... well Im quite a bit heavier now. I dont want to hurt you."
Alexs face broke into a playful smile. "I think I can handle the strain."
Danielle couldnt help but laugh. "All right, you asked for it."
Alex positioned herself in front of a large rock. "Youll have to carry the basket. Ill hold your legs." Danielle stepped up and wrapped her free arm around Alexs neck. Her legs slid easily around the taller womans waist. Firm arms locked around her thighs, securing her in place. They were a perfect fit.
True to her word Alex carried her effortlessly and much sooner than Danielle would have liked, they were back at the boat. The trip across the lake back to the cabin was a quiet one. Both women had a lot on their minds. The weekend was over. It was time for Danielle to return home.
Danielle shifted nervously in her seat as they pulled up in front of her apartment. A cold dread seeped into her bones as she reach to open the car door. Alex sensed her fear and place a hand reassuringly on her shoulder.
"You wait here. Ill to go up and check things out." Danielle glanced at her gratefully, ashamed at her own fear. Still she remained frozen in place as she watched Alex climb the stairs to her apartment.
When Alex reached the top she pulled a pick from the inside compartment of her jacket and deftly unlocked the neighbors door. The apartment was empty. Not a stick of furniture remained. She checked out every room before returning to Danielle.
"Its just like I thought. Hes moved."
Danielle relaxed. "Really. Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I opened the door and looked in."
Relief washed over her and she hurried up the stairs and peaked in the apartment. She blinked not trusting her eyes. "Everythings cleared out," she said in amazement.
"Yeah, doesnt look like hes coming back."
"Wow, what did you say to him?"
Alex shrugged. "He must have decided that it was in his best interests to keep away from you."
"Well, Im glad hes gone." Danielle pulled the door closed. "Do you think we should lock it?"
Alex shrugged. "Even an amateur thief wouldnt have a problem with these locks." Danielle looked a little anxious at the prospect. Immediately she was sorry she had voiced her thoughts.
"Would you like to come in for a drink?"
Once inside Alex scanned the room. The apartment was decorated in earthtones. It had a warm, homey feel that she felt at ease in. She spotted a picture on top of the bookcase and picked it up to examine.
Danielle handed her a scotch. "My family."
"You look a lot like your mother."
"Yeah, Im fair, like her. My sister is dark like my father. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Alex took a sip of her drink. "I have older brother." She glanced away awkwardly and set the picture down. "This is a nice apartment."
"Thanks, its kind of small, but cozy."
"It suits you." Alex took another sip of her drink and set it down. "You have to be up early. I really should be leaving." Danielle tried to hide her disappointment.
She stepped forward and gave Alex a fleeting embrace. "Thank you... for everything." Alex felt her face grow warm.
She shrugged and made her way to the door as Danielle followed.
Alexs hand tightened on the knob. This was it. She could step through, pull the door closed and ease out of the young womans life forever. Alex hesitated, reaching into her pants pocket she pulled out a slip of paper with her cell phone number. She handed it to Danielle. "If you need anything, call me."
Danielle clutched the number gratefully in her hand. As Alex turned to leave, Danielle worked up the courage to speak.
"I was wondering if... maybe we could get together for dinner this week."
Alex paused awkwardly, knowing she should decline. Danielles eyes were filled with such hope, such expectation that she couldnt bear the idea of disappointing her. "How about Tuesday?"
Danielle beamed, then she remembered her appointment with Elaine Tuesday evening.
Alex noticed her hesitation. "Maybe some other time."
"No, I can make it... Its just that I was supposed to meet a friend at the shelter, but I can cancel. No problem."
"I dont want you to change your plans."
"No really... I dont mind. I..." A thought came to her. "You could come with me. Maybe you could show the women some self defense moves."
"Well, I... I dont..."
"You could meet some my friends and we could have a late dinner afterward."
Danielle was looking at her again with those bright imploring eyes, and Alex knew she couldnt say no even though she disliked social situations.
"What do you say?" Danielle asked as she flashed a beautiful smile.
"Okay, I pick you up at six on Tuesday."
It had been a hectic morning but Danielle had managed to get the first segment of the story to Liz for approval. She was just contemplating skipping lunch to get caught up when Jan from the front desk approached her and handed her a package.
"Someone left this for you."
Danielle gave her a puzzled look and tore the brown wrapping. Her mouth dropped open.
Jan noted Danielles curious reaction. "Everything okay?"
Danielle could not speak. She pulled her journal from the wrapping and held it in her hands. Quickly, she flipped open, looking for a note or explanation. She was startled to see the medallion carefully wrapped in tissue paper inside.
"Who gave this to you?" Danielle questioned
"Some kid, couldnt have been more than twelve years old. Why?"
"How long ago?" Danielle stood up, scanning the room.
"Probably twenty minutes ago anyway. I got busy and couldnt get away from the desk. Is something wrong?"
Danielle sat back down. "No... Its just... Jan, can you sign me out? Im going out for lunch."
She hurried past the puzzled woman, anxious to speak with Elaine.
The rest of her day went painfully slow. She thought it would never end. Elaine had shown distress over the journal appearing out of thin air and advised her to contact the police. This was the last thing she wanted to do even though she was now certain that the thief had taken her diary. The medallion had been in the safe. Including it with the journal left no doubt that the thief had taken them both. Why did he return them? Had he read her journal?
She briefly considered discussing it with Alex. But the last thing she wanted was to scare her new friend off. How would Alex react to her being the stalked by yet another crazy man? But the thief wasnt crazy or violent. She closed her eyes and found her thoughts drifting to him. He had been so gentle, his voice so tender. She visualized his warm brown eyes. There had been nothing threatening in them. Something about him called to her. This strange fascination worried her.
Alex was right on time. Danielle had never been happier to see anyone. She had missed Alex and felt so at ease with her that she began filling her in on the events of the last two days, including the robbery and diary incident in spite of her previous reservations. She was confident Alex would know what to do. Danielle trusted and valued her opinion.
Alex was extremely uncomfortable with the conversation. She felt guilty for deceiving the young woman and hated lying to her.
"Do you think he read it?"
"I dont know Danielle. Its likely he did."
"Why do you think he returned them to me?"
"Its hard to say."
"Elaine thinks I should call the police. What do you think?"
Alex paused only a moment. "I think your friends right. This person could be dangerous. I dont think you should take chances."
Alex pulled up outside the center. Danielle turned to her. "Alex, I know in my heart that this thief would never hurt me. It sounds crazy but I think he returned them because he knew they meant something to me."
Danielle looked down at her hands shyly. "Im not going to call the police because I dont want to see him caught. In fact the night of the robbery when the detective questioned me I... I lied about his description."
Alex was stunned and couldnt hide her surprise. "Why?"
"I cant explain it, but my instincts tell me to protect him. Give him a chance." She looked up at Alex expecting to see disapproval in her eyes instead there was something else...
Alex turned away.
"You think Im nuts."
Alex cleared her throat. "No I think youre very special. But be careful who you forgive, not everyone deserves a second chance." She exited the car ending the conversation.
Danielle smiled as Alex patiently instructed the large group of women.
She watched Alex move with fluid grace. The powerful woman excited her and she felt her body automatically respond. The scene was somehow familiar and tugged at something inside, unitl the attraction she felt for Alex was so strong that she felt a need to distance herself in order to collect her thoughts. Elaine and Spike followed her when she left.
Elaine looked Danielle over carefully. Though faded, the bruises still had an angry look to them. "You really took a beating. Are you feeling okay?"
"Yeah, physically Im fine its just ... well emotionally I..."
She dropped into a comfortable chair, not knowing how to explain what she was feeling.
Elaine spoke softly. "These things can leave scars. It might help to talk."
"It was tough at first. I had nightmares and ... I felt so vulnerable. But Im better now. Alex has helped me so much I..." She blushed.
"Yes, unusual friend you have there," Elaine said carefully.
Spike threw an eyebrow up. "Unusual was not the word I had in mind. Jesus, shes like frickin Amazon."
Danielles expression broke into an undisguised smile. "Shes incredible, isnt she?"
"Hmm" Elaine responded guardedly. "Handles herself very well." She watched Danielles reaction closely.
Spike laughed. "Elaine, as always, youre the master of understatement." The dark-haired woman turned to Danielle. "Do you have something going with her?"
"Nnnn...no, of course not." Danielle blushed, looking away.
"Danielle, what do you know about this woman?" Elaine asked cautiously.
"What do you mean?"
"Im not sure how to put this, but I cant help being a little suspicious of her."
Danielle ruffled a little. "Elaine, she saved my life. I dont know how I would have gotten through this without her. Shes been a good friend to me."
Spike rolled her eyes, sensing there was more to this than Danielle was saying.
"Relax, I know this isnt any of my business but youre my friend."
Danielles eyes softened, realizing Elaine had only her best interests at heart.
Elaine continued. "Its just... well... she seems a little worldly for you."
Spike piped up. "Hey, different is good. You kinda balance each other."
Danielle looked hopeful. "I really care about her." She stopped, waiting for their reaction. They both remained silent so she went on. "Ive never felt this way before. From the moment I wake up all I can do is think about her. Im just putting in time at the paper. If I didnt have this series to concentrate on, I wouldnt be able to write at all. When we are apart, I just want to find a way to be with her again." She took a deep breath, relieved to have finally voiced her feelings.
"Sounds like youve got it bad." Spike prompted. Elaine rolled her eyes at Spikes comment.
"When Im with her my heart races... I feel truly alive for the first time in my life. And believe it or not sometimes I get so nervous that I cant even speak."
"Does she know how you feel?" Elaine asked seriously.
"Well god woman, you should tell her." Spike interrupted.
"Yeah right," Danielle shook her head doubtfully. "Tell her that I dream of her at night, and fantasize about her all day... that I cant imagine my life without her?"
"Well... those arent the lines I would lead in with." Spike offered. They broke into soft laughter.
Danielle shook her head. "Its all so sudden, I know it sounds crazy but I think Im in love with her."
"Hey, loves a crazy thing." Spike smiled.
Danielle looked to Elaine. Her friend was silent, her expression troubled.
"Maybe she feels the same," Spike added hopefully.
"Sometimes, the oddest feeling comes over me and Im certain she does. Then later, I convince myself its just wishful thinking." Danielle took a deep breath and voiced her concern. "She may not even like women... that way."
Spike stood up. "Just leave it to me. Ill find out for you." She turned, winked at Danielle and left the room.
Danielle stood to protest but Spike was already out the door. She looked at Elaine anxiously. "Shes not going to do anything embarrassing is she?"
"When it comes to Spike, I cant make any guarantees." Elaine smiled softly.
Danielles expression was serious, her eyes sad. "Alex told me shes planning to leave town ."
"Danielle, I dont want to see you get hurt. Maybe its best if you get out of this now."
"I cant. Not if there is a chance that she feels something for me too."
"And if she doesnt?"
Danielle released a heavy sigh. "I need her in my life."
Alexs training was finished by the time Spike caught up to her. Some twenty excited women were huddled around the tall woman questioning her. Spike broke through the crowd, coming to her rescue.
"Lets step outside for a minute. Its cooler." Alex took a deep breath, relieved for an excuse to be away from the commotion.
Spike lit up a cigarette and offered it to Alex, who declined.
"Yeah its a filthy habit. Id quit if I didnt enjoy it so much." She let her eyes run the length of Alex, unabashed. "So, are you involved with anyone?"
Alex was taken of guard and smiled. "Why Spike, if I didnt know better, Id think you were hitting on me."
"Subtle, Im not. So?"
"Im not with anyone... its just... " She hesitated.
"Not into women, huh?"
The conversation was much more personal than Alex was comfortable with and she considered ending the discussion with a simple no, but she liked the woman and decided to be honest. "Actually I am into women. Its a bad time for me, thats all."
"Just my luck." Spike winked.
Alex laughed. "Do you think Danielles done speaking with Elaine?"
Spike smiled and opened the door for Alex. "Im sure shes got all the info she needs... now."
Alex watched as Spike made her way through the crowd. Her eyes glanced nervously around the room until she caught sight of Danielle. The tension in her body eased. A large group of women had surrounded her young friend, engaging her in conversation. Danielle looked happy and relaxed. It was obvious that she shared a special bond with these women.
Alex stood in the shadows and watched her friend converse with a confident grace. She was spellbound. Every gesture, every expression drew her deeper. The other women faded from view, the sounds of their voices dimmed into silence. For Alex, there was only Danielle.
Spike maneuvered through the crowd to Danielle. She leaned in whispering in her ear. "I think your warrior is getting restless."
Danielles heart skipped a beat. "Whatd you say?"
"You know, your friend, the Amazon." Spike joked.
"Oh... I..." Danielle looked confused for a moment. Her face flushed.
"Hey, are you feeling all right?"
"Yeah. Its just... what you said... I got the oddest feeling. She is like a warrior isnt she?"
"Well it doesnt take a rocket scientist to see that she knows how to handle herself."
"No, I guess not." Danielle glanced across the room at Alex. Spikes comment had hit home.
"Dont you even want to know if she is or isnt?"
"Is what?" Danielle questioned, lost in her thoughts.
Spike ran her hand in front of Danielles face. "Interested in women." Spike snapped her fingers to get her friends full attention. "You wanted to know her preference, remember?"
Danielle broke out of her haze. Her attention now fully focused on the brazen young woman. "Did you find out?"
"Of course." Spike commented proudly, pausing for effect while her anxious friend looked on. Youll be happy to hear that she is."
"Just like that, she told you?" Danielle asked in surprise.
"Well, no. I made a pass at her first." Spike grinned mischievously.
"Take it easy, nothing happened. She said it was a bad time for her."
"You have more nerve... " Danielle was suddenly envious of her friends boldness.
"So Ive been told." Spike winked. "Arent you even going to thank me?"
"What would I do without you?"
"Youre life would probably be even more dull than it is now."
"Sometimes I swear..." Danielle feigned irritation, then laughed cheerfully.
Spike smiled. "The balls in your court now. Good luck."
For the first time, Danielle allowed herself to think that maybe she had a chance with Alex after all.
Alex was uncharacteristically caught off guard by a voice behind her. "It was nice of you to come tonight and show the women a few moves. I appreciate it." Elaine smiled warmly but Alex could feel her distrust. She had developed a sixth sense about these things over the years.
"I was happy to do it." Alex responded.
"Danielle believes you saved her life." Elaine commented.
Alex noted the edge of doubt in the womans words. "Im glad I was able to help."
"Lucky for Danielle you happened to be there."
Alex sensed the accusation beneath her words, but didnt comment.
"Youre new to this area arent you?" Elaine continued.
"Yes. I move around quite a bit." Alex took the opportunity to change the direction of the conversation. "This is an impressive organization youve built here."
"Yes its amazing what women can accomplish together. Were a family. We look out for each other."
"I can see that," Alex said sincerely. "Danielle seems very much at home here."
"She is part of our family." Elaine looked at Alex pointedly. "I hope Ill have the opportunity to get to know you better, now that youre seeing so much of Danielle." Alex caught the hidden warning. She respected Elaines efforts to protect Danielle. Elaine had good instincts not to trust her.
"I would like that, but Im afraid Ill be moving soon." Alex conceded. Their eyes met in a silent understanding. Elaine only nodded.
They turned and walked toward their common interest.
Danielle felt a presence beside her and looked up to see Alex. She couldnt help prolonging her glance, Her mind processing the information Spike had given her.
"You getting hungry yet?" Alex asked, a little anxiously.
"Yeah, you know me and food." Danielle turned to Elaine and Spike. "We really should be going."
Spike stepped forward to embrace Danielle and whispered into her ear. "Go for it."
A warm sensation flood over her body as she considered the possibility. Danielle turned quickly to Elaine in an attempt to ignore the pleasant sensation..
Elaine noticed Danielles giddy tension. Something about this new friend wasnt right. She sensed danger in the tall woman and wanted to talk to her friend privately. She hugged Danielle, releasing her slowly. "Call me when you get home." As they walked away Elaines eyes lingered on the mysterious woman at Danielles side.
On the drive back to Danielles apartment, Alex seemed distant and it worried Danielle. She couldnt shake the feeling that Alex was planning to leave town soon and she desperately needed more time with her.
"Would you like to go to a movie tomorrow night?"
Alex hesitated. The longer she let this go on, the harder it would be to leave town. "I cant tomorrow. I "
"Oh.... well what about Thursday?" Danielle saw Alex hesitate and added desperately, "I need youre advice on a new lock for my apartment. Maybe you could take a look at it and suggest something"
Alexs resolve faltered. She was grateful for a legitimate excuse to see Danielle again. It was important that Danielle was safe before she left town. She ignored the warning voice in the back of her mind. "Sure, Thursdays fine."
Danielle beamed. "Same time?"
She nodded. "Ill bring a new lock for your door. It shouldnt take me long to install it."
"Great! Ill see you then."
Alex couldnt help smiling as she pulled out of the lot. She knew she had to leave town soon and their friendship would have to end, but for now, she allowed herself the small pleasure of looking forward to their next meeting.
When Danielle awoke Thursday morning, she was twenty-three. Unfortunately her day was so hectic she did not have much time to think about the milestone. She worked nonstop to complete the series and gave it to Liz for approval. Fearful that her time with Alex was coming to an end, She requested vacation. Alex was her priority, she wanted to spend every possible moment with her.
Danielle was running late. Several things came up at work, delaying her. As soon as she was in the door she began shedding her clothes. She jumped into the shower, letting the warm water ease her nervous tension. When she shut the water off, she heard her doorbell. Quickly pulling a robe over her wet body, she ran for the door. No one was there. She stepped into the hall and hurried down the stairs. As she stepped outside, she saw Alex opening the car door.
"Wait! Dont go!"
Alex turned to face her. Danielle stood in the driveway, her hair in wet tangles around her face, her sheer robe clinging to every curve of her body. She was beautiful.
"I just came down to get my tools." Alex smiled.
"Oh... I... I was in the shower."
"Mmm, I can see that." Alex said playfully. "Maybe we should go inside."
Danielle was too relieved to be embarrassed. She laughed. "Right."
Back upstairs Alex set down her heavy tool box.
"Im sorry Im running late. Its been one of those days." Danielle apologized.
Alex shrugged and tried to concentrate on something other than the perfect body before her. "I read your story in the Sentinel. Its very good."
Danielle blushed. "Thanks, I didnt think you got the paper."
"I wouldnt have miss it." Alex said sincerely. "Why dont you finish getting ready and Ill take care of the lock?" As Danielle turned to go Alex couldnt help casting one last admiring glance.
She installed the lock in no time and put the tools back in her car. Before closing the car door she grabbed a bag from the back seat.
Danielle was sitting on the couch when she returned. Alex pulled a bottle of champagne from the bag and sat across from her. "I brought this to toast your first story." She handed the bottle to Danielle.
Danielles eyes sparkled as she clutched the bottle. "Thanks, I love champagne."
She twisted the cork furiously to extract it. Suddenly it let loose in a violent explosion. Alex snagged it in midair just as a burst of champagne soaked the front of her shear blouse.
Danielle looked aghast. "God, Im so sorry! Damn, Im so clumsy." Danielle ran to the kitchen to grab a towel. Dropping to her knees, she began dabbing at Alexs top nervously.
"Its okay. The cleaners will get it out," Alex assured her.
She took Danielles hands in her own, stilling their frantic movement. Their eyes met and Alex knew without a doubt Danielle wanted her. The young womans hunger was undisguised. Danielle closed her eyes and willed Alex to kiss her. As if caught in a spell, Alex cupped her face in her hands and leaned forward. Danielle released a faint sigh. Her lips parted in expectation. She was the essence of innocence.
The tender surrender stopped Alex cold. Her blood rushed hot through her veins, but she held back. She was in too deep, her control was slipping. She resisted a nearly insuppressible urge to flee. When nothing happened Danielle opened her eyes. Alex could not look into them. Instead, she bent in, kissing her lightly on the forehead.
Danielles pulse was racing. The sensation of Alexs lips on her skin set her on fire. She prayed she wouldnt stop. "Alex I..."
Alex interrupted. "I better get out of this wet top. Do you have a T-shirt I can change into?" Danielle got up on unsteady legs and retrieved a shirt from the bedroom. She watched sadly as Alex entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Her head was reeling. She felt Alexs desire, she was sure of it. What had she done wrong?
Alex stood in the bathroom gripping the sink. She looked at her image in the mirror and turned from it in disgust. Danielle deserved better. From the beginning she had deceived her. This had to end before it went any farther. She quickly changed and tried to collect herself.
Danielle filled two champagne glasses and sat waiting on the couch for Alex. The powerful feelings were so new to her that she didnt know how to proceed.
When Alex returned she sat in the chair beside the couch purposely leaving some distance between them. She lifted her glass in toast.
"To the first of many stories." Their glasses clicked and both took a long sip.
Alex took another drink. "Its a pretty remarkable accomplishment. You should always remember today."
"Im sure I will." Danielle smiled. "Its my birthday. "
"Happy Birthday." Alex smiled. "Thats even more cause to celebrate." She raised her glass to Danielles and tapped the lip. "I hope your birthday wish comes true."
Danielle eyes were riveted to the woman before her. She couldnt stop thinking about her soft lips and the way they had felt against her skin. She spoke without thinking. "You could make my wish come true."
Alex froze and Danielle knew once again she had gone too far. She tried to cover her slip by revealing a different fantasy. "I... I saw the motorcycle at your cabin. Ive always wanted to... I wonder if you would give me a ride."
Alex visibly relaxed. "Just say when."
"What about tomorrow?"
Alex looked surprised. Danielles interest piqued her curiosity. "Okay, youre on." She watched as the young womans eyes shone with excitement.
"Thats terrific." Danielle exclaimed.
"So youve never ridden before?"
"No but it has always been a fantasy of mine." Her face colored slightly, embarrassed by revealing this facet of her personality.
Alex couldnt contain her curiosity. "Why?"
Danielle looked at Alex shyly. "They seem so powerful Theres something about harnessing all that power that excites me. Its kind of silly I "
"Its not. Tell me."
"Well I think its the element of danger that attracts me. The idea of being in control even for a short time Its its alluring." Danielle blushed fully with her admission. "I havent had much adventure in my life." Danielle smiled. "At least not until lately and Id be lying if I said I havent enjoyed it, just a little."
"Its ironic." Alex said, giving voice to her thoughts.
"My life is full of... adventure. But, sometimes I think it would be such a relief to let " Alex contemplated her discovery. For someone who had always set her own course, made her own decisions, lived life on the edge, the idea of relinquishing control, even for just a brief time was alluring. Oddly this felt more dangerous than the multitude of risky things she did on a regular basis.
Danielle watched her friend carefully. At last, Alex had taken the first step and revealed part of herself. It made her long to know more.
Alex broke out of her thoughts and smiled. "Anyway, I understand. The danger thats part of the attraction for me too." Danielle loved Alexs sudden openness.
She gave Alex a sly wink. "So what should I wear for this little adventure, something in black studded leather maybe?"
"Somehow that image of you doesnt work for me." Alex grinned.
"No?" Danielle feigned disappointment, then laughed softly. "I guess youre right. I dont fit the stereotype do I? The only thing pierced on me is my ears." She smiled and looked inquisitively at Alex. "What about you?"
"Nope, but if I did, it wouldnt be my ears." She smiled wickedly and Danielle had to laugh. "Just wear something warm. Ill have the leather requirement covered."
The evening passed quickly, all awkwardness faded. The champagne helped take the edge off. But it was more than that. Alex had never felt so comfortable with anyone before. When she was around Danielle she was totally at ease. She loved her enthusiasm and energy. Danielle had a passion for living that matched her own.
She was sorry to see the night end.
Danielle watched out the window for Alex. When she saw her pull up, she hurried down the stairs to meet her. As her eyes settled on this beautiful woman seated on the massive machine it brought to mind some great beast that Alex had tamed. It seemed to roar defiantly before Alex shut it off and dismounted to greet her.
"Ive been looking forward to this." Danielle said excitedly.
"Where would you like to go?"
"Why dont you surprise me." She winked. It seemed natural to follow wherever this woman chose to lead her.
Alex handed her a helmet and signaled for her to settle in behind her. Danielle straddled the bike in a fluid motion.
"Hold on tight." Alex cautioned and kicked the starter. The engine growled and Danielle felt the bike vibrate deliciously between her legs. Her hands slid around Alexs waist. She could feel Alexs abs flex beneath her fingers. There was a raw power that emanated from both Alex and the bike. It was a heady mix. Danielle loved it.
They spent the entire day together. It was incredible. The best day of Danielles life. They had driven around the better part of the afternoon, finally stopping for dinner. As they walked back to the bike to return home, Danielle smiled outwardly. The sun was beginning to go down, cooling the air considerably. The thought of pressing against Alexs warm body for the ride home thrilled her, causing a chill of excitement to run up her spine. Alex noticed and immediately offered her jacket.
"No really, Im fine."
"The temperatures dropped. It will be cooler on the ride back." She slid the jacket off and placed it over Danielles shoulders. Her heat still warmed the lining. Danielle fantasized for a moment that she was in the older womans embrace.
"Now that you have the outfit, do you want to give it a try?"
Danielle gave her a puzzled glance. "Me?"
"Yeah, Ill help you."
Danielles pulse quickened and an eager smile spread across her face.
"Climb on in front." Danielle straddled the bike and Alex climbed on behind her. The feel of Alex pressed against her back coupled with the anticipation of what she was about to do was exhilarating.
Alex flopped the pedal out and placed the bike in neutral. "Okay, put your left hand on the on the grips and pull the clutch. Squeeze it in."
"Perfect, turn the key. Now youre going to crack the throttle. Put your hand on the right handle and twist. Thats right." Alex placed her hands gently over top Danielles.
Next, youll kick the starter with your right foot. It takes a bit of strength so you want to stand on the pegs and jump up, bringing the force of your weight down on the pedal. Ready?"
Danielle took a deep breath and raised up on the pegs. She jumped and thrust. The engine roared. Her heart pounded furiously in her chest. "I did it!
"Ill guide you now. Here we go." Alex shifted into gear and they were off. Danielle could not get over the incredible sensations that flooded her senses. Her view was completely unobstructed. It was like flying. She could have ridden forever.
When Alex pulled up in front of her apartment, she asked her up for a drink, trying to extend their time together. "Itll warm you up." Danielle suggested. Alex smiled and followed her inside. Like Danielle, she didnt want the day to end.
Danielle dropped the jacket on the chair and went to the kitchen. She returned with two glasses of brandy. She handed Alex the snifter, their fingers touching briefly in the exchange. The contact was electric. Alex shivered.
"Youre cold." Danielle frowned. "Maybe you should put your jacket on until you warm up a little."
She turned away from Alex and walked over to the chair to get the jacket. When she reached to pick it up, she noticed something bright protruding from the pocket and pulled it out. Her mouth dropped open. It was her scarf, the one the thief had use to gag her.
"Im fine." Alex insisted. She took a long sip of the brandy enjoying the warmth that spread through her. Danielle was standing motionless, her back to Alex. Something was wrong.
"Danielle, what is it?"
The younger woman turned, holding the scarf. Her hands were trembling.
Alexs breath caught. The moment to lie or pass it off as a coincidence had passed. The expression on her face confirmed her guilt.
"It... it was you?" Danielle looked confused.
Alex couldnt speak. Her shame was too great. The fantasy was over. Danielle knew the truth and would hate her for it. She merely nodded.
"But... your eyes. I dont..." Danielles voice was unsteady.
"Contacts..." Her voice cracked. She was not able to continue.
Danielles knees started to give and she sat down in the chair. Her mind worked furiously to catch up. "And my journal... YOU took my journal you read my private thoughts."
Alex couldnt respond. Her world was collapsing around her.
"All this time you lied to me..." Betrayal and hurt seeped into the young womans voice. Her mind frantically replayed the past weeks and their new significance.
"I..." Alex tried to speak. There were no words. No way to justify her actions.
"And the medallion... "
Alex ran her fingers nervously through her hair, she wanted to run.
Danielles expression flipped between anger, hurt and disbelief. The enormity of the invasion threatened to overwhelm her. It was too much to take in. She shook her head in disbelief.
"Why...? I... I trusted you... I thought you were my friend." Her mind was reeling. She stood waiting for a response.
Alex stood mute. How could she explain what she herself didnt understand? How could she tell this woman what she was truly feeling? There was no defense for her actions. They were reprehensible.
Danielle looked at her angrily. "Well?"
"Danielle, I... Im sorry."
"Sorry?! Thats it!? You rob my uncles home, tie me up, take my diary, and..." Her next thought was almost too painful to voice. "and ... pretend to be my friend."
"I wasnt pretending, I..."
"What is it you want? What is it youre after that you didnt get already?" Tears born of betrayal ran down her cheeks.
"You... you only had to ask... I would have given..." She stopped herself, too wounded to share her true feelings... that everything she had, could have been Alexs, including her heart. She squeezed her eyes shut as more realizations flooded over her. Alex must know that, she probably knew everything. She had read Danielles thoughts, her fantasies.
"How much did you read?" There was an edge of panic to her voice.
Alex didnt answer. She couldnt. Danielles words sliced through her heart like a dagger. The only true happiness she had experienced her entire life had been the time she spent with Danielle. She understood the words Danielle had written, her pain, her desire. She felt the same and wanted the young woman in her life more than anything in the world. But it could never be. She was endangering Danielle simply by being around her. She had selfishly indulged her need to be close to this woman and now it was over.
Danielle interpreted Alexs silence as an unwillingness to talk. She grew eerily quiet. Her eyes fell to her journal that she had just made a new entry in that morning. She picked it up and tossed it at Alex. "Here, take it. Ive added to it since your last reading."
Alex held the leather book in her trembling hands. She reached out to return it to Danielle. "I..."
"In light of things, you should get quite a laugh out of it. Take it! I wont be needing it any more." A pain gripped her heart and she thought she might cry out it was so intense. She took a deep breath.
"I think you better leave." There was no longer any anger in her voice, only pain. "I need to be alone. I... I need time to think."
Alex left quietly, clutching the journal to her chest.
The click of the door catching as it closed signaled the end of the happiness Danielle had found. Her dreams shattered.
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