DISCLAIMER: This is an Uber story which means that the two main characters bear a striking resemblance to a certain Warrior Princess and her Bard <g>. Xena and Gabrielle are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

LOVE/SEX WARNING DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it.

Please send comments and/or constructive criticism to trishak820@aol.com.





Friday, 0530 Hours… The Day After Thanksgiving

Morning came quickly for the young woman. Sunlight was barely creeping into the small cramped bedroom, waking the pride of cats sprawled out on the bed covers. Mewing and stretching served as the alarm clock for the other occupant of the bed. "OK guys, I get the hint" mumbled the strawberry blonde as she started to get out of the bed. With her eyes still shut, she crawled out, quickly grabbing her tattered but favorite flannel robe to guard against the chill of the early morning air.

"Guess I forgot to close the windows again last night." she advised the cats who were now running back and forth in anticipation of their morning meal. "One of these nights, I'll remember to close that darn window before I wake up in the morning!" she admonished herself out loud. I just like leaving it open so the kids can get some fresh air while I'm out, she thought. Her companions are cooped up for such long periods without any company while she's at work, thus her open window theory of "cat entertainment."

Katie worked three jobs to keep herself, and her felines, afloat in the current economic condition of the county. Living in a "tourist" paradise was not all fun and games, at least not for the non-tourist. The locals, who had to eke out their livings in a variety of ways, had to pay the same inflated prices for groceries, gas, fast food, pharmacy items, etc. that the tourists did, only they didn't have the bottomless wallets that the tourists seemed to own. Since most of the area employers would not hire "full time" so they wouldn't have to pay benefits, Katie worked three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Juggling the schedule for three jobs really took some master planning on her part, but she felt it was definitely worth the effort to keep herself employed in the town of her choosing.

"Let's see. Do you guys want Captains Choice or Gourmet Grub? she asked her attentive felines. "Greouw" answered the chubby tortoise shell cat named Butter, followed by two more meows. "Oh, grub eh? Well, that works for me." She reached over to the top of the counter and grabbed the can opener, a spoon, and three saucers to divvy up the cans contents. Butter, Sugar, and Spice all chowed down and then finished with their morning ablutions. Katie watched them until she decided it was time to attend to her own ablutions. She gathered herself up and went to the bathroom to grab a quick shower before putting on her waitress outfit for the early morning shift at Burp & Freddies Diner, a local favorite with the tourist crowd. Emerging from the shower, Katie wiped down the mirror and took a good look at herself. Not bad. Not bad at all kiddo. Guess my little homemade exercise regimen is doing the trick. After all, I can't be spending time at the gym on my work schedule! Katie always took pride in the way she looked, but wanted to be extra cautious that her hidden strength remained just that... hidden. No one should suspect that this 5'6" blonde was anything but a struggling young woman.

* * * * * *

On her way to Burp & Freddies, Katie reflected on the current influx of tourists. It was the end of November and the height of hunting season for deer. The "tourists" at this time of year were not like their summer counter parts, who were a lot more refined and at least knew what proper behavior meant. This lot however, was from a different cut of cloth, or perhaps, it was the season that brought out different mannerisms. They were also not necessarily the best tippers but just wait hunting season was just starting… it'll get worse! Sighing, Katie pulled her pristine, turquoise blue, 1957 Chevy into the back of the parking lot that was used by the hired help. "Another day, another dollar" she quipped to herself.

Katie had been trying all sorts of ways to avoid the verbal onslaughts that were typical of this year's batch of hunters. Unfortunately for Katie, she was the most attractive waitress at the diner and had to put up with the brunt of crude remarks therefore making her job harder than for most of her fellow workers. She tried her best not to offend the customers since her tips were greatly affected by her actions, but at times, the crudeness just got to her and sometimes she'd just have to do what she deemed necessary to maintain her dignity but not lose her job. She just felt in her bones that today was going to be one of those days that tested her to the limit.

"Hey blondie!" shouted the crass young man from across the diner. "Bring me another cup of Joe and put your lips to my cup so's I won't have to use any sugar." He sneered and winked at her. Katie assessed the lot at table six and by the looks of their rough beards and grubby attire, hunter number one and his table mates were obviously up for hunting season, but deer, at least the four footed kind, were not their target. No, they looked like they were after the two footed 'dear' instead. In addition to that assessment, Katie believed they smelled like they had spent the entire week so far in every bar room from here to Cairo and back.

Katie pulled herself back from her assessment and thought, yeah right, like she hadn't heard that line before. Some men can't even come up with an original line, she mused. It's not that she didn't like men exactly, she just didn't like rude, dirty, grungy men, who thought they were God's gift to anything in a skirt! "Well, she thought, I know a few guys that occasionally like to wear skirts that would just love it if you'd talk dirty to them!" Smiling at this thought, she walked over to the table and began to pour the requested coffee into the cup.

"Hey, sweet thing, now how about putting them pretty lips on my cup?" the man asked.

"Opps, guess I should have wiped that smile off first before grabbing the coffee pot" she thought. "Now, why would I want to do that? the green eyed beauty replied. "If I did that for you then I'd have to do it for every customer, and it's just too busy today, and I do have a job to do."

"Well, sweet thing, if you want to make some extra cash, I know a few guys that would love to have you serve them some coffee back at camp." he winked at her while his buddies chuckled in agreement.

Cringing at that thought Katie answered, "No thanks, that's not the way I like to earn my money." She turned to leave the table thinking this guy was starting to get on her nerves, and he didn't fail to meet that expectation.

Not wanting to be ignored, the overbearing hunter thought he could convince her otherwise, so he reached out and grabbed her arm as she turned to leave. "Now, I know I can make it worth your while" he drawled. "A pretty thing like you could make some good money working extra for some fine fellas like us" he commented as he searched his buddies faces for confirmation. "Yeah, Brad. We could use some domestic help back at camp." replied one of his table buddies, while the rest of the group nodded in the affirmative.

Katie was thoroughly ticked off now. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?" she cried out. "You can let go of my arm now!" she said as she began to jerk away from the man. In the process of jerking away, her other arm sloshed hot coffee over the rest of the hunting party, with the majority of it landing on hunter number one: Brad. Matters quickly turned ugly as Brad jumped up and yelled at her. "Bitch!" he screamed as he began wiping at the area where the coffee made contact. Katie, mentally sighed anticipating his next move and readied herself to fend off the expected reaction but as he reached out to slap Katie, his hand was stopped in its forward motion by another strong hand clasped around his.

"Now, now, that wouldn't be a wise thing to do would it?" said a low rumbling voice next to his ear. Brad turned to confront the mysterious voice only to stop short and look into the piercing sapphire blue eyes of a six foot plus beauty who just curled her lip, raised an eye brow in question, and gave him her best feral smile. Recovering a little, Brad stuttered out, "And just who's gonna stop me? You?"

"Yep" came the very confident reply. "With one hand tied behind my back if you think that'll help." She made a show of moving one had behind her back while at the same time exerting pressure against the palm of Brad's hand bending it back towards his wrist, thus causing him to bend his knees to stave off some of the pain he was beginning to feel.

Wanting to save face with his buddies and noticing that the entire diner was now watching, Brad glared back at the newcomer, and spat out "Come on boys, the bitch isn't worth it. Let's get out of here." As his hand was released, he stared at Katie and under his breath said, "Until next time, bitch!" Then they all hurriedly left the diner, of course without paying for their breakfast or leaving a tip.

Katie just stood there staring, at the tall, dark, and very beautiful woman who intercepted her intended response to another batch of jerks that deer season in the Catskills seems to produce on a regular basis. Then she realized that she had been staring for what seemed like an eternity, until the mystery woman stepped up and asked her in a low, gentle voice if she was okay and broke the spell. Regaining her composure, Katie nodded and simply said "Thank you."

As Katie moved to clean up the now vacant table, her thoughts went to the tall dark hair woman. Wow! That was pretty amazing! Here I thought I'm gonna have to come out of my shell to fend off that jerk, and I'm saved by a stranger. And what a stranger! I've never seen such gorgeous eyes in my entire life. I probably would have melted myself if her gaze fell on me! Shaking her head, she went back to the task at hand, then noticed they hadn't left any money for their bill. "Damn! " Katie mumbled.

"Pardon me?" the tall woman asked.

"Oh, sorry. I wasn't... it's just that those creeps took off without paying their bill... or leaving me a tip for that matter! My boss is going be really mad for that little show and I'll have to take the money for their bill out of my tips." she explained.

"Yeah, they were creeps alright. But it's not your fault they skipped out on their bill or for the rukus they caused." the tall beauty offered. "Why would you be held responsible?"

"It's just the rules here. If your table doesn't pay up, you have to cover the bill. It's the waitress’ responsibility to make sure the bill is paid. And, Carl is a real stickler about being nice to the tourists so they'll come back often. He wants us to just smile and put up with all their macho crap. Carl says they don't mean anything by it... they're just here for a good time, so be a 'good girl and go along.' Katie told the woman. She looked up into those mesmerizing eyes and took a deep breath letting it out slowly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be going on like this to you. I don't even know you, but I do want to thank you for stepping in. I can usually handle them with words and put up with the pawing, but it's never gotten this close to being physical before."

"It's okay," the dark hair woman replied. "Name's Deanna, Dean for short. Glad I could help you Katie."

"How did you... oh, my name badge" she mumbled as she began to turn a very lovely shade of pink. Come on kiddo, get your head back into the game. Don't let a pretty face take you off your mark. Yeah, she replied to her thoughts, but what a drop dead gorgeous face!

At this time, Carl came up and interrupted the silence between the two women forcing Katie to go back to the table and continue cleaning it up. He looked at Katie and the coffee mess, then began a loud tirade directed at Katie. "Just what were you thinking… spilling coffee all over them like that? You know they could come back here and slap me with a law suit over your stupidity!" he shouted, then continued with "Lord knows, there's enough lawyers in this town that would be more than happy to represent them! And I suppose they took off without leaving the money for their bill?" he inquired.

Katie turned and began to answer when Dean offered Carl two twenties. "They musta dropped these on their way out the door." she said smiling at Katie, all the while trying to control her temper long enough to keep from taking care of Carl too. Stay cool Dean, she told herself. You've brought enough attention to yourself for one day. Yeah, but it was worth the look you got from the blonde wasn't it? she answered herself chuckling internally.

Katie picked up the bill that was still lying on the table and handed it over to Carl. "Looks like they left enough to cover the bill and your tip. Too bad that tip will have to pay for all the coffee you wasted!" Carl said to Katie as he took the money and the bill and walked to the register.

Katie just sighed, then looked toward Dean. Sapphires and emeralds met as Carl walked away and held just a moment longer before Katie broke the spell and asked Dean if she needed a table or wanted to sit at the counter.

"Counter's fine." Dean replied. "Just as long as you're the one waiting on me." Now where in the world did that come from? thought Dean. I thought my pick up days were long over!

Katie smiled and a soft chuckle escaped as she led Dean over to her section of the counter. "Thanks for covering the bill." She said in all sincerity as she handed Dean a menu.

"Who me?" Dean said, arching a brow and pointing a finger to her chest.

"Well, who else would have slipped two twenties from her jeans when she thought I wasn't looking?" her green eyes twinkled in response.

"Caught me eh? Must be getting old." the tall beauty said. "Well, I'll start with a cup of tea, herbal if you've got it"

"Coming right up" Katie said as she went to the beverage area to select the box of herbal tea bags, cup, saucer, and hot water. On her return, she swung by the pastry display and grabbed a couple of fresh honey buns. "Here's the tea selection we have, I hope you'll find something you like in there. And here's a little something to say 'thanks' for what you did." she smiled sweetly at Dean.

Dean took a look at the honey buns and quickly wondered if there was more to it than just 'thanks.' Raising an eyebrow, she looked at Katie and gave her a nod of appreciation. "You must be more experienced as a waitress than I thought" she drawled. "Either that, or you can read minds." And if that's the case, she pondered, I better be really careful here!

"No, on both counts" answered Katie. "You just look like the 'honey bun' type."

Dean frowned, then let a small smile start in the corners of her mouth and said, "I hope you're not saying I look fat?"

Katie gasped and quickly answered, "Oh, no, no, no.. you're absolutely gorg... I mean... you look fantas... umm... no, not at all... it's just....ah!" Katie threw her hands up and began to blush, then gave up trying to explain as Dean broke out into a hearty chuckle.

"So, can I get you anything else?" Katie inquired while looking around the diner and catching Carl's stern eyes watching her.

"No, not right now" Dean replied, "but maybe more hot water in a little bit. Thanks."

Katie left to take care of her other customers all the while sneaking glances at Dean every chance she could. The mysterious woman was at least six feet tall, dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, and a black and gold Army sweatshirt. I think this Dean woman is very interesting. I may need to do a little more digging to see what I can find. Katie mused to herself. You just never know what kind of information you can gather from the most unlikely sources.

Dean settled down to her honey buns and tea while opening the local paper to scan the news and finish with the real estate section. Not much in this rag, she thought. But I guess an area like this can't support a really good daily anyway. Guess I'll have to do my digging the old fashioned way. Maybe I'll start with that cute waitress. She seems to be the talkative type and you just never know what kind of information you can gather from the most unlikely sources.

Dean kept a very watchful eye on the diner and it's occupants assessing each as to age, career, local or tourist, socio-economic indicators, etc. She had a very keen mind and was able to categorize each occupant into his own little box for future reference. Some might be possibilities, others definitely not, but she never discarded anyone. She was very thorough. At the same time, she kept an eye on Katie and was very impressed with the young woman's ability to remember orders without writing them down and her ability to put customers at ease and draw them into conversations. A very useful talent that! Definitely worth putting some extra time into that one, she mulled that thought over and decided it might even turn out to be fun.

On Katie's next round past Dean, she asked if she was ready for that water. Dean nodded and when Katie returned, they both began to speak at the same time.

"So, how long..." (Dean) "Do you live..." (Katie) "You first..." (Both) After the chuckling stopped, Dean waved the waitress on.

"So... do you live around here or are you a tourist?" Katie asked.

"Just moving up to this area. I've just been assigned to the local community college." Dean responded between sips of her second cup of mint medley tea.

"Assigned?" Katie looked at her curiously and noted the Army sweatshirt.

"Yeah, I'm the new Commander for the ROTC Unit at the college." Dean responded.

"So you're in the army?" Katie asked pointing to Dean's sweatshirt.

"Yep. Guess I'm being rewarded for doing such a good job on my last assignment." Dean said sarcastically. "My last CO didn't expect me to out-shine his good old boys. So I guess this is his way of keeping face with them!" Now why on earth am I telling her this? Dean thought. You'd think we were long lost buddies or something! Just stick to the program.

"Wow! I never met a commander before. What are you? A general or something?" Katie asked with wide eyes.

At this, Dean almost choked on her tea as she tried to keep it from covering a majority of the diners' counter. "Not exactly!" Dean coughed out. "I'm just a lowly Lt. Colonel. Just got the promotion as a matter of fact. Part of the 'reason' I got this cushy posting." Dean sighed, obviously expressing displeasure with her new assignment.

"So how long have you been in town?" Katie inquired.

Dean looked at her watch and said with a twinkle in her eye. "About forty-five minutes now. The current commander will be finishing out this semester and I’ll be taking over after the winter break."

Oh great! Not in town for even an hour and she finds me, and trouble. Great impression here! Katie thought to herself. "So do you have a place to stay yet?"

"Just the local Days Inn until I can get situated." Dean offered.

Ah, an opportunity to redeem myself. "Well, it just so happens, that my next job... after I get off this shift that is... is a real estate agent for Catskills Properties." Katie bubbled with this information. "And, I happen to know of several very nice apartments and houses for rent. Unless of course you're looking to buy?" Bright green eyes questioned the deep blues opposite her.

"Mmmm, no on the buying, but yes on the renting." Dean drawled. "I'm not looking to settle down here, just get this assignment done."

Carl was walking over toward the two women now. Clearly upset with the length of time Katie was taking to serve Dean. "Oh, oh. Better get going to my other tables." Katie whispered. "I get off at 1:00 from here and will be at the agency by 1:30 if you want to meet me there." She quickly pulled out her agency business card and slid it over to Dean as she walked away.

Carl met her halfway down the counter and stopped her. "I thought I told you not to try and do real estate business on my time!" He growled out. "It's bad enough you've been ignoring your customers for the last five minutes. Now either get to work, or get out!" He huffed at her.

At this, Dean slowly got up and approached Carl who was now standing alone. "Excuse me, but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your employees here." She smiled sweetly at him. "I'm new in town and it's not often that a new person in town is greeted with such warmth and sincerity. It's a credit to you as an employer that you encourage this attitude in your staff." She said, batting her blues at him.

Completely taken aback, Carl puffed his chest out a bit then stuttered out a "why… thank you" as Dean turned and went to the register to pay her bill. Guess that'll put his knickers in a knot for a while, she thought, chuckling to herself as she pocketed the business card and smiled thinking about 1:30 and the beautiful blonde.





Same day, 0930 Hours…

Dean left the diner and got into her brand new black Dodge Durango 4x4 SUV. Just as she was exiting the parking lot, Dean's cell phone chirped. Sliding the phone out of her belt holder, Dean answered. "Yeah?" The voice at the other end talked on for a few minutes before Dean replied, "Sunday, 0230, affirmative" and returned the cell to its holder. Well, let's see how much time a tour of this town will take, she thought as she pulled up to one of the few traffic signals in town.

Main Street looked like many other main streets across the country. There were lots of empty storefronts and several people, mostly young men, standing around in the doorways smoking cigarettes. This main street like many others was being swallowed whole into the depths of oblivion thanks to the mega mall concept sweeping the country. Makes it tough for little towns like this to survive. With few businesses to tax, it leaves the homeowner carrying the brunt of the load. Dean just shook her head as she drove through what once would have been a thriving business section. She wondered what these folks do for a living. She remembered Carl’s words about an abundant supply of lawyers in town and noticed that he was absolutely correct. Practically every building in town housed a law office. Hmm, wonder what keeps them all going. Dean wondered as she continued her drive out into the country.

It was a glorious November day, with crystalline blue skies above. Considering she was in the Catskills, it was also a very mild November day with a temperature in the low sixties. All in all, Dean was starting to perk up. The countryside was lifting the subdued mood Dean had slipped into during her drive through town. She reached down and turned on the radio looking for something to sing along with. She hit upon an oldies station playing a marathon of Elvis songs that brought a smile to her face. Soon she was cruising through the country singing along to Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, and Love Me Tender. That last one brought her mind back to the diner and the green eyed beauty she was going to meet in another couple of hours.

Now, now, Dean. You've got dirty work to do here and you don't need to get involved with a civilian and have her get caught in the middle, said her conscience. "Yeah, but I need to get some basic info on this town and a peek into its citizens too." she said out loud. "And what better source than a talkative waitress who must know everyone in town and a real estate agent to boot!" she concluded. OK, but try to keep to the K.I.S.S. principle. You wouldn't want to see those pretty green eyes in pain now would you? Her conscience finished. "Oh, yeah! Exactly what I had in mind... the 'KISS' principle!" She chuckled at her own joke as she started to wind her way back to town.

* * * * *


Katie worked extra hard the next few hours. Concentrating on her customers, and trying to sooth Carl's ruffled feathers too. But her mind kept wandering back to the enigmatic Dean. I wonder what it would have been like if I had decided to go that route in college instead of the route I chose? Who knows, maybe I could have been a colonel too? She chuckled inwardly at that thought. Who ever heard of a twenty-eight year old colonel! Still, she always had a soft spot for a military uniform. Mmmm… bet she looks great in her dress uniform! OK Katie, snap out of it! You've chosen your path in life and it's not been that bad of a view either, she admonished herself. If it hadn't been for the last three months of last year, things would be really peachy! Ok, it wasn't my fault, but we lost a lot of groundwork and now I've got to start all over. I can do this without Gerry. She thought as her eyes started to tear. Don't go there kiddo. It wasn't your fault. There's nothing you could have done. Then her thoughts returned to the tall army colonel. Hmmm, too bad I don't know Dean better. She could turn out to be an asset if played right. Katie continue with her inner conversation all the while she was taking orders and cleaning up the tables.

Table number five was just getting up to leave. As she watched them pull out the money for the check, she caught a glimpse of a gun under the leather jacket one the Asian men. Intrigued, she nonchalantly moved closer to see if she could catch a piece of their conversation. ".... meeting with ..... 2:30 .... Hollow Road." were all the pieces she could snatch before they stopped their conversation and motioned her over to pay for their lunch.

"Can I get you anything else? Katie asked with a sweet smile.

"No thank you." came the answer in a decidedly English accent.

Katie hesitated and said, "I guess you're not from around here by the sounds of your accent." "Are you passing through, or need directions anywhere? She offered.

"No, we know the area quite well. Thank you." The man politely answered.

"OK then!" "Thanks for coming in and maybe we'll see you again! I'll be back with your change in just a minute." she offered as she accepted their money and the check.

"Keep the change" the oldest man said as he and his two partners turned to leave the diner.

Katie nodded her thanks and began to clean up their table all the while charging their looks to her memory. Three Asian males, two approximately 5' 8", 150 lbs., dark brush cut hair, very neatly attired, business suits, late twenties to early thirties. Third male, the one with the gun under his black leather jacket, 5' 10', 300 lbs., shaved head, scar over left eye, mid twenties. She looked up to see what kind of car they drove and saw them get into a black four door Lexus with a New York plate. She couldn't read the plate number from this distance, but noticed the Lexus was trimmed in gold rather than silver. Hhmm. Now that was interesting. She thought to herself. Could be some businessmen up from the city. But with a body guard? Definitely have to keep my eyes open for these guys.

Katie finished up table five, then went to the back room to time out since it was now 1:10PM. Better get changed kiddo so you can meet your mystery woman! Her thoughts now focused on Dean and found herself smiling at the thought of being able to spend some time with her, even if it was business. For some reason, she mused, she just felt very comfortable and safe around her. That recognition brought her to an abrupt stop. No time for fun and games kiddo, you've got work to do! Must be just that 'stepping in to help thing' she did this morning. You're just not used to that. Yeah, that's it!

* * * * *


It was now 12:00 noon and Dean had some time yet to burn. She decided to stop at the local Wendy's for a quick bite of fast food instead of going back to the diner and watch Katie some more. This was her conscience winning out and losing at the same time. After all, thought Dean, my conscience should reward me for being good... so a nice cheeseburger, fries, and a Frosty should be just the thing! Dean placed her order and was walking over to a table in the corner when she heard a voice shout, "D! Is that really you?" She turned to see an old army friend sitting at a booth in the middle of the room. Smiling, Dean gave a big nod, then headed over to the table to join her. "Well, T! What in the name of Athena are you doing here?" Dean asked.

"I work here." Tracy replied. Noting the questioning eyebrow on Dean's face she quickly added, "No, not here! I'm the Park & Rec Director in this town. Got out of the army a few years back. Couldn't stomach the hassles anymore. Finished up as a Major though, just before I left!" Tracy offered. "How about you. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"

"I've been assigned as the Commander of the ROTC program at the college," Dean supplied. "Guess I finally out rank you! I've just been made a Lt. Colonel." She winked and chuckled.

"Well, I'll be damned! How on earth did you do that? You're awful young to be a Lt. Colonel." Tracy commented. "Counting on my fingers, you should be a Captain at most."

"Just in the right place at the right time. Got put on the fast track for promotion. If you remember, I was just a wet behind the ears First Lieutenant last I saw you. Been quite a ride since." Dean stated.

"So, you gave up Intelligence to run rough shod on kids, eh?" Tracey shook her head. "Doesn't sound like you, old friend."

"Well, you know what it's like to follow orders, Major." Dean looked into Tracy's eyes and the knowledge passed unspoken between the two ex-comrades.

"Well, guess I'll have to take you out to my pride and joy sometime." Tracy offered breaking the short silence that arose. "Got a park on the top of one of the mountains here. You can see forever in all directions. Really quite something!" Dean nodded, storing that information for later retrieval.

As the two friends finished their meals, they caught up on the lost time as well as reminisced on some fun old times. Curious about the large number of lawyers in town Dean decided to ask Tracy what the scoop was. "Well," Tracy replied, "it seems that our summer visitors don’t know how to drive too well and we have a rash of auto crashes that result in lots of litigation that keep these guys employed." Tracy said chuckling. "You really do need to be very observant on the road in the summer time. We get an awful lot of folks up from the city who are used to driving wildly or not driving at all. Add to that all the immigrants that work the resorts and you have quite an eclectic society here in our quaint little town. In fact, I was told that there are approximately fifty-seven different dialects spoken in this county!"

Too soon, it was time for Dean to leave for her 1:30 appointment. Almost as an after thought, Dean asked Tracy, "Do you know a waitress by the name of Katie that works at Burp & Freddies Diner?"

"Sure." Tracy said with a little twinkle in her eyes. "Nice gal, came here just about eight months ago. Lives over in the trailer court off the main highway going east. Has a great work ethic. Think she's working two or three different jobs." Tracy continued. "A really nice looking gal too. Has eyes that can look right through you... kinda like yours Dean." Tracy added.

"How'd you get to know so much about her?" Dean inquired returning the twinkle.

Tracy smiled back, "She came in looking for a job when she first got to town. Didn't have anything to offer her at the time. She occasionally takes a class from us, or comes to the women's open gym when she's not working. Pretty good athlete too. Not what you'd expect after seeing her in the waitress get up." Tracy commented. "There's something about her though that just doesn't add up. Haven't been able to put my finger on it yet, but I will." She said. "Why the interest?"

"I'm going to meet her now. I ran into her at the diner this morning and she offered to show me some places to rent. I got the same feeling about things not adding up, but that could just be habit. Well, thanks for the insight and the reunion! It's good to know there's a friendly face in town." Dean said, giving Tracy a pat on the back. After getting directions to Catskill Properties, Dean and Tracy parted, agreeing to meet again in the near future.

* * * * *


An agent named Tim was at the reception desk in the office when Dean came in. "Hi" Tim said with a brilliant smile. "How can I help you?"

"I'm here to meet one of your agents," Dean said with a serious look on her face.

"Who's the agent?" he inquired.

Dean pulled out Katie's card, realizing that she never bothered to read it and only knew Katie's first name. "Umm, Katie Miller" Dean answered.

"She's not here right now, but I'd be glad to help you." Tim offered eagerly just as Katie came rushing in the front door. "Oh, here she is." Tim said with obvious disappointment in his voice.

"Hi." Katie said as she slowed and approached Dean. "Sorry I'm late."

"No problem." Dean answered, "I just got here myself."

"Come this way over to my desk and we can get started," the beautiful blonde said as she led the way back to a corner desk. Dean followed, taking in the small cramped quarters loaded with notebooks and bulletin boards filled with a wide range of houses, businesses, and property descriptions and pictures. Maps of various parts of the town and county filled the rest of the walls. Stacks of flyers telling prospective homeowners all sorts of information on shopping, churches, insurance agencies, and even the local parks and recreation flyer, topped the desks scattered about the room. Katie eyed the tall woman taking in the organized mess real estate offices tended to be. "Sorry about the clutter," she offered, "but that's the name of the game in this business. Have a seat, and we'll get some basic information before we make a list of possibilities to view. But first, I need you to fill in some personal information on this sheet." Katie asked politely.

Dean took the sheet and began filling out the necessary information in her neat print handwriting. While Dean was occupied with this task, Katie pulled out the rental notebook and began familiarizing herself with the current offerings while covertly watching Dean work on the sheet. Mmm, nice woman, she thought, mentally taking in Dean's assets and filing them for later review. Probably 6'1'', about 165 -170 lbs., nice athletic build, no distinguish marks or tattoos, about 32 to 34 years old, strong hands, expressive eyebrows, long silky black hair, fantastic blue eyes, inviting lips.... whoa! Stick to the basics kiddo! Feeling a little heat starting to creep up her neck, Katie decided to keep her eyes in the rental book until Dean was finished.

Dean straightened and handed Katie her sheet wondering where the slight blush came from on Katie's face. Putting that thought out of her mind, Dean asked when they would be able to check out some possibilities.

"Just as soon as I see what you listed for price range and location. Ah, here we go, Miss Peterson, or should I say Colonel Peterson?" Katie asked with a question in her voice.

"Just Dean will do. I prefer to leave the Colonel part for the job."

"Looks like you prefer a house over a condo or apartment and something in the $800 - $1,200 range. Being close to the college is not as important as your privacy I see. Same goes for me," Katie commented. "I've got a small trailer out on the eastside of town. It's in a really nice park, especially this time of year. Not a lot of neighbors since most of them are senior citizens that fly south for the winter. Not a lot of kids either, but that's okay too I guess, but I do miss hearing the pure laughter of children at play," she said cocking her head to one side.

"I think I know just the place for you. It's located on one of the back roads that leads to the college. There's a nice stream that runs behind it that I'm told has a good reputation as a trout fisherman's paradise... if you like to fish that is." She inquired with a smile on her pretty face.

"Yeah, I do as a matter of fact. I have a rather unorthodox method though, but it puts the fish on the table." Dean answered fondly remembering her last fishing trip with her brother Thad.

"Well, that's not all, it's set on twenty acres of land, has two bedrooms, one bath, a fieldstone fireplace, eat in kitchen that has recently been remodeled, a small den/living room combination, loft, and a fully screened porch. There are also two outbuildings. A two car garage that's semi attached to the house by a covered car port type of set up, and a small work shed. It's all stone exterior, so there's little maintenance." Katie continued. "It's has a private road that's only a half mile off the main road. If I remember correctly, it shouldn't be a bad road in the winter either. I can set you up with a plow guy who'll come in after a snowfall and clean it out for you if you like. It even has an auxiliary power system in case of ice storms. Best thing yet, it's available immediately." Katie finished with a flourish.

"Sounds good," the tall beauty responded. "Can we take a look at it now? I'd like to get out of the Days Inn as soon as possible."

"Sure thing. I'll get the key and be right back," the blonde said as she got up and went into the back room to retrieve a set of keys.

Hmm, sounds perfect, right down to the auxiliary power supply. Dean thought as she watched the green eyed woman return with keys in hand and a smile on her face. "My car is right out front," Katie supplied as she reached for her backpack. The two women exited the office and walked over to Katie's car.

"Wow!" Dean whistled. "Nice car you've got here Ms. Miller. Where’s you find a ’57 Chevy in such a cherry condition? Did you buy it this way?"

"No, actually, I inherited it from my great aunt. I did give it a new paint job almost a year ago, but the inside is as clean as the day it left the showroom. The mileage is accurate too. Only 28,535 miles! Carl keeps trying to get me to sell it to him but, no way, it's my baby!" Katie purred. "With a solid V8, this baby can really haul as... tires!" She corrected quickly.

"Ass is more like it!" Dean drawled. "It's definitely a beauty. How is it in snow?

"Haven't really had a chance to check it out that way yet. We had a fairly mild spring this year, and I just got it right before I moved up from Virginia." Katie said, mentally kicking herself for giving away more information about herself than anyone else in town knew or found out in eight months. How does she do that? The blonde asked herself. I'm babbling on like a nervous beau on a first date.

"So what did you do in Virginia?" Dean nonchalantly posed the questioned.

"Uuhh, nothing really. I had just been living there with my great aunt before she passed away." Katie said as she unlocked the door and slid behind the driver's seat. Dean got in on the passenger side and enjoyed the room she had for her long legs. "Let's go shall we?" Katie suggested to Dean and put the car in gear.

The ride out to the house was fairly short since the agency was on the eastside of town already. It took only twelve minutes before they were pulling into the overhead covered space between the house and the garage. Katie jumped out of the car and pulled the house keys from her pants pocket. Unlocking the door and turning on the lights so Dean would have a good visual of the inside. The place was really a bargain at $1,150 a month plus utilities. Sure wish I could live out here, she thought wistfully. The cats would love the big windows and I'm sure there would be plenty of wildlife to entertain them while I'm gone. But, that would raise too many eyebrows and blow a few holes in my story to boot! No way I'm supposed to be able to afford a place like this.

As Dean entered, she looked around checking out the place fully as she roamed from room to room. Security on the windows was pretty tight, entrance and back exit of solid construction, and views of the approaching road were very good. The place even had a security system and some basic furniture, not that she required much. And the fireplace was awesome. I'm looking forward to a nice fire already. Not bad, she thought, not bad at all. She went outside and walked the perimeter of the house, approving the inability of a rear approach due to the sheer cliff that rose up on the other side of the stream. The outbuildings checked out too. The shed would come in handy for some of the stuff that would be coming in next week and it was as secure as the house and garage. Even had a small wood stove for heat. The sheltered area the house was in might play havoc with her cell phone, but once she got the satellite in place, her communications system would operate fine.

"Well, I don't think we have to look further. I'll take it." She smiled warmly at Katie. "Does the furniture stay?" Dean asked hopefully.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Yes, it does, unless you don't need it, then, we would put it in storage for our client. The kitchen is stocked with plates, cooking utensils, and all the necessary gizmos that you need in a kitchen." She answered brightly.

"Great, I really don't have much." Who are you trying to kid? All you've got is what's packed in your SUV she chided herself. "Let's go sign the papers or whatever we need to do. You said it's available immediately. Does that mean today?"

"Yep. All I need is the lease signed, six months at a time, and first and last months rent. The security deposit is $1000.00. Hope that's not too much at once." She asked carefully. "The utilities are all on, and we can change them over to you on Monday."

"Great." Dean said. "Uncle Sam is pretty good about moving us around. I can cover the security and two months rent without a problem."

They locked up and got back into the Chevy to head back to town. Katie was feeling a little disappointed that her time with Dean was coming to an end so quickly. Damn! I should have hauled her around to a few other places before coming here. Bad Katie! Her mental conversation was interrupted when Dean asked her rather loudly if she was okay. "Huh? Oh, sorry. Guess I was just getting all the paperwork together in my head before we get to the office," she stammered. "What were you saying?"

"I was asking you if you could recommend a good Chinese take-out." Dean said trying to interpret the solemn face that had taken over the blonde's normally happy disposition. For some reason, Dean was very drawn to this young woman and didn't want to see her time with her end. This brought on a solemn attitude within her and she began to wonder if the young blonde was having the same reaction.

"Well, there's actually quite a few really good one's in town. But my favorite is next to the grocery store across from the office." she stated, then had a brainstorm. "If you'd like, after we get the paperwork taken care of, you could go back to the Days Inn and check out. Then pick up any odds and ends you might need to stock the fridge, linen cabinet, etc. After I get off work I'll stop by my place to feed my cats, then bring some Chinese food over to celebrate your new home." Getting a little forward aren't you kiddo? Oh, what the heck, all she can do is say no.

"That sounds good to me." Dean answered with a bright smile that almost made Katie shiver visibly. "But, under one condition, I buy! It's the least I can do to show my appreciation for helping me find a place so quickly. I was really dreading house hunting, but you made it quick and painless. Thanks." She smiled again, and they locked eyes for a brief moment that made the world slow down around them. A horn blaring, brought them both back to the world and, back to their own side of the road.

"Opps, sorry about that!" the blonde said nervously, aware that something had just passed between them and it gave her a feeling of anticipation that all would be right with the world. The rest of the ride and subsequent paperwork took place with no further incident. They parted, each with her own separate tasks before they would meet again later that night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *






Same day, 1930 Hours…

Katie's concentration was not what it should have been the rest of the afternoon. At five

o'clock, she left the real estate office and headed home to change and feed the cats. As she opened the door to her trailer she was met by three felines that took turns wrapping themselves around her legs. "Okay gals, this is what's going to happen. I'm going to feed you, change, then leave again, and I don't want to find any hairballs in my bed as your way of showing your disgust with me. Okay?" Her response came in three mews of different octaves and qualities. Butters came as a normal mew, Sugar's was a quiet chirp, but Spices' was a demanding MEOW! "Okay, okay. I get the picture. Feed you first, talk later!" After feeding her crew, Katie went to her bedroom to change into something more comfortable. She was looking for something that would be comfy but also alluring, and fantasized that the evening would become more than just dinner. Yeah, like that's a possibility! Still, there's something about her. Something about the way we fall into each other's eyes. It's gotta be more that just a passing feeling. It's like we've been there before or something. A connection of some kind… Come on Katie, snap to!

Katie settled on her favorite pair of black jeans and added a deep green silk blouse and her favorite loafers. Not one to wear much jewelry, she added a pair of black pearl studs, fluffed her short hair, and added just touch of Bill Blass. Satisfied with her reflection in the mirror, Katie went out to the kitchen to rummage for the vanilla candle she just bought last week. Hhmm, I'll just take this along as a housewarming gift. Who knows, it may come in handy during an ice storm or something… hopefully 'or something!' Especially since there's that back-up power supply!

After final instructions to her cats and turning on the living room light, Katie left the trailer to pick up the Chinese dinners. Hoping beyond hope that this evening would become a night to remember.

* * * * *


Dean managed to get checked out of the Days Inn in record time. Her bags were still packed since she had just checked in that morning. Stopping to pick up some bare essentials like bed sheets and towels didn’t take long. Going through the grocery store however did. She hated grocery shopping. Especially in a new store where she didn't even know the set up of the aisles. It took her several trips around the store before she finally had the items she wanted. On her way out to the SUV she noticed the liquor store and thought that she'd add a few more things to her list. Once that was completed, she headed out to her new place happy that she would not have to spend tonight in a lonely hotel room. Nor would she have to spend the evening alone.

Its' been a long time since you entertained any thoughts of companionship, Dean smiled to herself. Not that you haven't had any offers. Come on Dean, be honest, there just hasn't been anyone you cared about enough to want companionship. She found herself hoping that the young blonde would turn out to be good company and if truth be told, she even hoped for more. She couldn't understand it, but there was a definite attraction there. Hmm, never been drawn to someone so quickly before… and it's almost feels like déjà vu or something. "She's so young though. What could she see in an old war horse like me?" Dean asked herself out loud. "Guess we'll find out!"

It didn't take long for Dean to get settled in her new place. The few items she purchased found their way to linen shelves, bath, and kitchen with ease. She had just enough time to take a quick shower, change, and set up her compact Bose stereo before her company would arrive. With some vintage Stan Getz playing in the background, Dean assessed her appearance and gave a nod of approval. She had picked out a pair of black chinos, a sapphire blue blouse, black vest, socks and favorite cowboy boots. The result was stunning! Her long silky black hair and sapphire eyes complimented the outfit to the max.

She left her bedroom to check on the wine she had opened and set aside to 'breathe'. On her way back to the living room, she caught a glimpse of headlights coming down the road. By the time she walked to the entrance door and released the deadbolts, Katie was getting out of her car with a couple of bags. "Need any help?" She called.

"No thanks, I think I've got it all." Katie replied as she shut her car door and headed up the slate walkway. As she entered and set the bags down, she pulled out the candle she brought for a housewarming. "Here's a small housewarming present for you. I thought it might come in handy sometime. It's nice to be prepared." Katie said as Dean accepted the small gift.

"Thanks for the nice thought," Dean said. "Of course with that back up power system, I probably won't need it for light. So how about we light it now and add a little ambiance to the dinner table?" The dark beauty offered with a smile. "Mmm, this stuff smells good. Are you as hungry as I am?" Dean asked the young woman as she led her to the kitchen.

"I could eat a horse!" Katie replied. "You don't know how much willpower it took for me to keep from ripping into those bags on the way here."

"Guess we better get you fed then," the tall beauty suggested as they opened up the bags and spread out the feast. Dean asked if Katie would like some wine with dinner to which the green eyed blonde eagerly agreed.

"I’ve got merlot, zinfandel, cabernet, and chardonney" Dean stated. "Name your poison" she stated to the blonde.

"Wow! What’d ya do? Buy out the whole liquor store?" Katie said in awe.

"Not really, I just didn’t know what your tastes would be. I also have some beer just in case you didn’t want wine, and soda too in case you prefer something non-alcoholic." Dean said with a twinkle and a smile.

They settled on the cabernet since it had already been allowed to breathe, and then attacked the food. Dinner passed quietly as they both concentrated on the food as well as sneaking glances at each other in the candlelight. Both women secretly appraised each other during the meal and if they were to compare results, they would have been identical as to their attraction to each other. It didn't take them long though to devour everything in sight and mentally each conclude that they wouldn't mind pursuing this fledgling friendship a bit more.

"Phew!" Dean said as she pushed away from the table. "I didn’t realize how hungry I was. That moo shoo veggie dish was great, and the kung pao too!"

"Yeah, I enjoyed those too, but the hot and sour soup was a real tummy warmer and this wine is great!" Katie commented as she took a sip of her third glass. She started to clean up the empty little paper boxes and put them back into the larger bag. "Guess we can have the fortune cookies later huh?" She said as she plucked them out of the paper sack.

"Sounds good to me" Dean agreed. "I don’t have a TV, just my compact stereo system and books right now. Would you mind putting in a few more CD’s while I take the trash out?" She asked Katie who nodded in response.

Katie walked into the living room and over to the bookshelf that held the stereo. Looking through the CD’s she saw quite an eclectic variety. Dean seemed to enjoy all sorts of music. She had CD’s from artists like Enya and Ronstadt to Natalie Cole and Yanni. There was even some Nana Mouskuri and Stan Getz. Just about every type of music was available, from musicals, to classical, to country and rock & roll. So, I guess it’s up to me to set the mood, eh? Pretty sneaky Dean, she thought to herself. As Dean came back inside Katie remarked on her collection and asked what kind of music she didn’t like.

"I’m not real fond of rap and hard rock, but music that moves my soul is what I like best." Dean answered.

Katie thought to herself that her selections of Cole’s Unforgettable and Stardust, and Ronstadts ‘round Midnight, followed by Chip Davis’ Romance should be met with approval. She knew she was right when she saw Dean smile when The Very Thought

Of You started to play.

Nice selection, Dean mused, and very appropriate too. "Say Katie, I brought some maps in with me. Mind helping me get acquainted with the area?" Dean asked innocently as she brought in the maps and refilled glasses of wine.

"Sure," Katie replied. "Let’s spread them out on the floor in front of the fireplace." She suggested. She took her wine glass and the maps from Dean and knelt down on the floor spreading them out in front of her. Dean joined her on the floor and they both began to look them over as Katie pointed out places of interest, historical sites, and the like.

"This area right here is a recreation area on top of this mountain. There’s a heck of a view of almost the entire county from here." She said enthusiastically.

"Really?" Dean asked enjoying the fire, the wine, and the closeness of the beautiful blonde next to her. She really is beautiful, thought Dean. The way the firelight reflects off her golden hair and makes her emerald eyes sparkle like jewels in a treasure chest. I do think I could get lost in those eyes forever and never want to be found! "Have you ever been up there?" she asked as she brought herself back to reality.

"Yeah, lots of times. I go hiking up there whenever I can. The park is officially closed now, but you can park outside and hike up. Except at night. They frown on people up there at night, but I hear they do make exceptions… if it’s a good reason." She offered.

"Hhmm, I’ll have to remember that. It may be a good site for some night maneuvers for the ROTC class." Dean stated matter-of-factly.

"Ooo, that would be cool!" The blonde agreed. "This plateau here," she said pointing to a spot on the map, "gives you about a 300 degree view, and if you walk over to here," again pointing to another spot, "you can catch a 180 degree view that includes the part you missed. I was up there a few weekends ago, and the fall colors were awsome!" Katie continued enthusiastically. "You should check it out sometime."

"So… would you be interested in giving me a guided tour?" Dean asked raising an eyebrow and curling her mouth into a smile.

"You bet!" the blonde eagerly responded. "I’m off tomorrow. Would that be too soon?"

"Nope, just right." Dean said while mentally calculating the view from the mountain towards her objective at 0230 Sunday morning.

Katie went back to the maps and continued her tour of the county for Dean as well as finishing her fourth glass of wine for the evening. "Well, that’s about it," Katie finished, wondering why a Lt. Colonel in the army would need anyone to read a map to her. Not that I’m complaining, she thought. In fact, I’m really enjoying this. It’s been so long since I’ve felt this comfortable with anyone… maybe it’s the wine talking. You have had a bit more than you’re used to, kiddo. Katie rolled over on her back and found herself staring into beautiful sapphire blue eyes and found them much more intoxicating than the wine. Their eyes held for a very long time. Each lost in the depths of the other, both wanting more, both hesitating.

Trying to pull herself out of the emerald sea Dean managed to say, "Well, I guess it’s time to see what the fortune cookies have in store for us." She stood up to retrieve them, then offered Katie her pick first. Katie blushed upon reading hers which brought a raised eyebrow and smile to Dean’s face. "So… what’s it say?" Dean asked with a disarming smile.

"Uhh… nothing… just the usual" responded a very nervous, blushing, Katie. "What’d your’s say," she quickly asked to divert the attention away from her.

"Not so fast young lady," Dean countered. "I’ll tell you mine after you tell me yours."

Katie blushed again then said, "I’m going on a long trip." then attempted to toss the paper into the fire but didn’t count on the quick reflexes of the tall woman.

"Hhmm… let’s see." Dean said as she began to unwrap the small fortune all the while fending off a slightly inebriated blonde. "You are going to fall in love with a tall dark stranger." Dean read, then stopped, realizing the two women were now in a rather intimate position due to the mock fight over the piece of paper. She coughed and then began to flush a bit herself from the implication of the fortune and the intimate position.

In an attempt to recover, Katie protested, "No fair!" then reached out to grab Deans fortune. She opened it up and read: "You will soon come to a crossroad in life. Take care to follow the right path." "Yikes," the blonde exclaimed, "I think I like mine better!"

"Well," whispered Dean, "I’ve never had much faith in fortune telling."

"Yeah, me either" said a now quiet Katie. She glanced at her watch and was surprised to see it was already past midnight. "Umm, guess it’s time for me to be going home" she said as she stood to rise, only to quickly come back to the floor as a wave of dizziness hit her. "Whew! Guess I had more wine than I’m used to." The young woman said as she put her hand out in an attempt to make the room stop spinning.

"Don’t think you’ll be driving anywhere." A very concerned Dean said as she moved over to support the young blonde. "Why don’t you just stay in the guest room for tonight?"

"I really can’t, protested the blonde as she slowly stood. "Sugar has seizures and I gotta give her her medicine."

‘’Well, you’re definitely not driving home. I’ve only had two glasses tonight, so I’ll take you home." Dean said as she went to steady the young woman.

"No need Dean, I can drive home. It’s only eight minutes down the road and I'm not that drunk!" Katie protested felling a bit embarrassed about her lightheadedness.

"You’re right," Dean answered. "It is only eight minutes down the road so it’s no problem for me to take you home… and that’s an order young lady."

"Yes ma’am!" Katie said with a mock salute, that almost put her back on the floor, save for the quick reflexes of Dean. Dean’s arms caught Katie in a quick smooth action that brought them together in a very close embrace. An embrace that found them unwilling to let go of each other. That found both of them longing to hold on forever, never letting the moment end. Dean wasn’t ready for the sensual shock wave that rolled through her body as she felt the lithe body just below the soft silkiness of Katie’s blouse. As emeralds and sapphires met this time, Katie gave in to her desire and tilted her head up softly placing a tender kiss on Dean’s lips.

Dean was taken by surprise by this action even though all night long, she had want to do just what the blonde had accomplished. The feeling that went through her body with that simple kiss ignited a fire that she knew would rage out of control if she allowed herself to submit. Softly, gently, Dean released the emerald eyed blonde and whispered, "As much as I enjoyed that, I don’t think it would be a wise choice for us to continue… especially in your current condition. It wouldn’t be right for either of us." She stated gently brushing the blondes’ cheek with her thumb. "You understand that don’t you?"

"Yes… no… yes, I suppose, " came the confused answer from Katie. "I hope I didn’t… I mean… I don’t know why I did that." She continued to stammer. "I just couldn’t stop myself. I’m sorry." Katie said as tears began to fill her eyes.

"Shhhh," said Dean, still stroking Katies’ cheek while pulling her into a tender embrace. "It’s okay, really. But I think it’s best we get you home for now." The sooner, the better, or I’m not going to be able to let you go, she told herself mentally. Hell, I must be nuts for sending you home, but there’s just something about you Katie. Something I'm feeling that I’ve never felt before. And I don’t want to ruin any chance of keeping your friendship because I took advantage of you. No, no, my beautiful new friend. If we do become lovers I want it to be on a mutual and sober basis.

"Okay." Katie replied. "You’re sure you don’t mind taking me home?" Noooo, she mentally protested. I really don't want to go, or leave the comfort of your arms, ever!

Dean just shook her head and smiled, then led Katie to her car to begin the short trip to her home.

* * * * *



Saturday, 0130 Hours…

Six minutes later, Dean was pulling up to the last trailer on the cul-de-sac that was Katie’s modest residence. When she put the car in park, Katie suddenly reached over and put her hand on Dean’s arm.

"What’s wrong?" Dean asked quietly.

"I know I left a light on in the living room, and I just saw the curtains close as we came down the road." Katie said in a very low tone. "I think there’s someone in my trailer."

"Could it have been one of the cats?" Dean inquired while carefully looking around the exterior of the trailer and at her neighbor’s trailers. She noted a beat up pick up truck at the trailer to the left, but no vehicle at the trailer on the right, and no lights on in either. "Can you go to the neighbor’s while I check it out?" She asked the now very alert blonde.

"No, it wasn’t the cats, and I’m the only one here this time of year. At least in this part of the park. Everyone else has already left for Florida." She commented while noting the pick up next door. "I don’t recognize that truck. There shouldn’t be a vehicle there at all." She said in a whisper as she pointed to the truck.

"Okay, give me your keys. You stay here while I check it out." Dead instructed.

"No, way!" the young woman protested. "I’m going with you!"

"No, stay here!" Commanded the tall beauty. "You’re in no shape to be of help, besides, I’m the one with the military training." Then Dean exited her SUV and stealthy made her way towards the trailer.

All of Dean’s instincts and training were now at full alert. She carefully surveyed the trailer, making a quick circuit around it and checking the back door. Then she returned to the front and walked up on the small porch. She placed the key in the door, noticing the scratches on the frame that indicated a very sloppy forced entry. As the door opened, she heard a sound to her right that could not have been made by one of the cats. She quickly slammed the door into the head of the man behind it, knocking him to the floor. Then she turned to her left to block a blow coming from a second intruder, did a quick turning kick connecting with his head and sent him to the floor to join his buddy. Then a third man caught her from behind in a chokehold, while a fourth began to land a series of blows to her abdomen. Dean tightened her abdominals to absorb the blows while she grabbed for the arms holding her from behind. Using this hold as leverage, she lifted her torso and caught the front attacker in a vise grip between her strong legs. A split second later, her rear attacker released his grip, falling to the floor behind her and providing a cushion for Dean as she fell backward flipping the man in front over her head and onto the floor. She quickly stood, waiting for the next attack. As she heard the sound behind her, she turned to release another blow, but pulled it at the last moment upon recognizing the blonde standing behind her.

"Whoa! It’s me!" Called the blonde.

"I thought I told you to stay in the SUV!" Dean said a bit too harshly.

"Yeah, well, when I heard all the crashing, I thought you needed some help," she explained, "so, I came in and saw that jerk choking you from behind while the other was pummeling you so I smacked the guy over the head with my frying pan."

"No wonder he dropped his grip." Dean said as she raised an eyebrow. "But next time, do what I say. I’m trained to do hand-to-hand and you’re not. Besides, I was in total control of the situation." She softened her voice as she took in the mess she created in the cramped quarters.

"Okay, but you didn't look like you were in control what with the guy in back and the other guy in front." The blonde agreed verbally but mentally smiled at the thought of Dean finding out she was a black belt in several martial arts and finished first in her class at Quantico in hand-to-hand combat.

"I just needed two more seconds and I would have had them right where I wanted them." Dean protested.

Katie reached over to pick up her table lamp and clicked it back on to survey the faces of the downed perps. "Well, what'd ya know." She said, pointing to the first fallen victim. "Isn’t that the creep you stopped from hitting me at the diner this morning?"

"Yep." Dean replied making a tsk tsk sound. "These boys need to learn to play nice."

"Do you want to call the police while I truss them up?" She asked the green eyed blonde with a smile.

"Uhh, I think I’d rather just dump them into their truck if it’s okay with you. I really don’t want to get the police involved." Katie asked tentatively. That’s all I need, she thought. The police might ask a few too many questions and find out more than they need to know.

"It’s okay with me, but are you sure?" Dean lifted an eyebrow in question. "They may come back", she cautioned.

"Oh, I don’t think they’ll come back here after the whooping they just got." The blonde chuckled.

"Yeah, you’re probably right." Dean agreed joining in the laughter.

Together, they physically drug the men outside and dumped them into the truck bed. It was beginning to rain and the men started to come to as the last of them was unceremoniously tossed in.

Dean looked at Brad, grabbed his shirt collar, gave him her most feral smile, and spoke in her most menacing voice possible. "I don’t want to see your sorry butts around here again. If I do, you’ll get twice the beating you took tonight. Ya got that!"

At that, Brad tumbled out of the truck bed and got behind the wheel. He quickly backed out of the driveway then burned rubber out of the trailer park. Dean and Katie watched and laughed at the sight of the other three bodies hanging on for their lives as Brad swerved back and forth up the road.

"Well, lets get inside before we get soaked." Katie said as she reached for the tall woman’s hand and tentatively intertwined her fingers with Deans. Mmmm, that was quite some show you put on colonel, Katie thought as she noted the sheer smile of pleasure on Dean’s face. And what a lousy way to sober up quickly! She added.

"Now, that was fun!" Dean said still chuckling and enjoying the warmth that was travelling up her arm from Katie’s touch. "Guess I haven’t lost my touch."

As they entered the trailer, Katie sighed as she looked at what was left of her living room. "Ugh! What a mess!" Katie exclaimed. Then she went in search of her small charges. "Butter… Sugar… Spice," she called. "You can come out now, it’s safe." First, Butter appeared mewing softly, then out came Spice meowing verry loudly, and finally Sugar with her trade mark chirp. "Come here guys." Katie said as she sat on the floor and reached out, stroking them gently. They all immediately tried to fit into her petite lap but finally were satisfied just being near their owner. "Tough night huh?" she asked them. "Did those mean old boys try to hurt you?" MEOW! cried Spice, followed by a chirp and a mew. "Well, you all look okay. How about a treat?" No sooner did she finish the word treat, and they all jumped up and ran to the kitchen.

"I’ll start putting your place back in order." Dean said as she watched them leave.

"Thanks." The blonde answered over her shoulder.

By the time Katie returned all the furniture was back to where Dean thought it was supposed to go. "Sorry about the vase", Dean said. "When I flipped that last guy over my head, I couldn’t exactly pick out his landing spot. I hope it wasn’t a valuable piece."

"No, just a sentimental vase I’ve had for a while," she said sadly. "It was one of my great aunts. She got it in Ireland. It was her favorite" Katie said as tears began to well up in her emerald eyes as she touched the pieces of vase on the coffee table.

"I’m sorry Katie... I’ll try to get it fixed for you." Dean said as she slowly stroked Katie’s

shoulders from behind, very aware of the trembling she felt beneath the shear silk blouse. She turned the young woman around and pulled Katie into a hug and held her stroking her short blonde hair as the young woman quietly cried. "Shhh", she said for the second time tonight. "I’ve got you."

"I don't have many things from my aunt, just the car, a few knick knacks, and this vase." the blonde said between sobs. "I guess it could have been worse. At least the cats are okay."

"Yeah, and you are too." Dean interjected still holding the young woman and not wanting to let go. "I'm glad I was with you." She whispered into the blondes ear. "Do you have any idea how those guys found out where you live? The tall woman asked while still stroking the young woman's hair.

"I don't know. Maybe Carl told them." She said thoughtfully.

"Well, I can tell you one thing," the dark beauty added, "this trailer is about as secure as a tin can." She gently released the blonde and walked over to the front door inspecting the lock. "Looks like the frame and lock system are sprung for good. The whole door will have to be replaced before you'll be able to lock it again." Dean added as she opened and closed the door.

"Couldn't be because you used it as a battering ram could it?" The blonde replied with a twinkle and a smirk as she started to come up from her blues.

"Naw," replied Dean. "If anything, the head butting put it somewhat back in shape." She chuckled back. "Actually, it was that way when I put the key in… it just opened right up without any pressure. That's what alerted me to the creep behind the door. I heard him shuffle to get out of the way as it popped open."

"I guess I can put something in front of the door to hold it closed for the night." Katie said as she surveyed the room looking for something appropriate.

"Think again." Came the response from Dean. "You'll not be staying here until the door is fixed. You can just pack up some stuff and come back to my place." Dean insisted.

"But… what about the cats? I can't leave them here." Katie began to protest but was silenced by two fingers on her lips.

"They can just come too. I really don't mind… I kinda like the little fur balls anyway." Dean said as she looked down at her feet where a very frisky Spice was winding herself between her legs leaving a streak of cat hair on her black slacks.

"Oh, I'm sure you like cat hair on your ankles." Katie said as she bent down to pick up Spice. "I've got a lint remover here somewhere," she said as she walked through the living room looking for it. "Ah, here it is," she exclaimed as she handed it over to Dean.

"Guess you'd better pack that too then." Dean commented as she retrieved it from Katie's hand and began cleaning off her slacks.

It took Katie nearly fifteen minutes to pack up some things for the night and morning as well as some cat food and medicine for Sugar, litter box, and three cats in two carriers. While she was busy with that, Dean worked on trying to semi-secure the front door, at least for appearance sake. In the process, she noticed a small hidden door in the wall behind the front entrance that must have come ajar during the short fight. As she reached down to inspect it, Katie caught sight of her and quickly ran up and closed the door before Dean could reach it.

"Oh, that's just the service door for the water shut off." She said rather quickly as Dean looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Can't have you poking around in there now, can I? Katie quipped to herself. I wouldn't want to explain night vision scopes, a 9mm Glock, ammo, and my night camouflage gear. "I'm all set now. Can you grab the cats for me?" Katie asked with a smile quickly trying to change the subject and take Dean's mind off the little curious door.

Dean did as she was asked, taking the cat carriers out to the SUV with Katie following right behind her making it the fastest exit she's ever witnessed. Hmm, I do believe you're right Tracy… she's definitely more than what appears to the eye. We'll see… Dean was thinking as she was quickly led from the trailer.

"I really do appreciate this." Katie said with a sincere smile. "I wouldn't have gotten much sleep if I had to stand guard at my front door all night."

"Not a problem." Dean responded considering the strange change in Katie in the last two minutes. "Is there someone in town or at the trailer park that can fix the damaged door?" she asked attempting to act nonchalant over the quick exit.

"Yeah, I can call Paul, the trailer park manager in the morning. I'm sure either he can fix it or knows someone who can." Katie answered as they pulled into the private road that led to Dean's place.

As they unloaded the cats and Katie's things the rain began to let up. "I hope that's it for the rain. I'd hate to put off the trip to the park tomorrow." Katie said as she waited for Dean to open the door.

"Yeah, me too." Dean answered.

It didn't take long for the cats to prowl the new home and check out the litter box situation. Katie began to yawn in earnest now so she was glad when Dean suggested they all try to get some rest for the night. She led Katie to the guest bedroom and said good night, then went to her room to plan her reconnaissance mission for tomorrow night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Saturday, 0800 Hours…

Saturday morning was another beautiful fall day. Bright sunshine was burning off the left over fog from the night before and drying out the grass from the brief rainfall. Dean awoke earlier and had gone out for her daily run leaving the blonde to sleep in. By the time she returned it was nearly 0800 and the blonde was still sound asleep.

Well, Dean thought, she had a pretty rough day and a traumatic night. She's probably exhausted. So Dean left her to her dreams while she took her shower.

As soon as Katie heard Dean return, she rolled over away from the door so Dean wouldn't see her awake. At the sound of the shower turning on, Katie got out of bed and went to her duffel bag pulling out her cell phone. She dialed and waited for a response at the other end. Once contact was made, she explained her escapade from the night before and informed her contact where she was and her plans for the day. She also fed her contact the bits of conversation she picked up from the Asians in the diner. After setting a time to call later that evening, she hung up and replaced her cell in the interior zipper compartment of the duffel. Then she went out to the kitchen just as Dean immerged from the bathroom.

"Hi" Katie said ruffling her hair a bit as she caught sight of Dean coming out of the bathroom dressed in just her short bathrobe. Mmmm, that sure is a tempting sight kiddo. Certainly hope you didn't complicate things last night with that kiss. Katie reflected.

"Hey" Dean replied then inquired if the young woman slept well.

"Oh yeah, I was really beat." Katie replied. "Can I put on some water for tea?" She asked politely.

"Mmm, good idea." Dean said then asked "Are you hungry? I picked up some cereal yesterday and some muffins. They're in the cupboard to the right of the sink," she instructed as she walked toward her bedroom.

"Great!" The blonde answered. "I'll set the table while you finish getting dressed."

By the time Dean came out, Katie had the table set, hot water boiling, and a fire started in the fireplace to take the chill out of the air. Nice, Dean thought admiring the beautiful young woman. Then shook off the thought of what it would be like to have the young blonde there every morning for tea and breakfast.

"So, what time would you like to go up to the park?" Dean asked as she put a little honey on her muffin. She had dressed for the trip already. Black watch flannel lined jeans, a cranberry chamois cloth shirt, and hiking boots.

"Looks like you're ready to go right now, but I guess it depends on how the door repair is going. If it looks good, maybe we can go around noon." Katie responded. "I really should try calling Paul now. May I use your phone?" she asked Dean as she finished her cup of tea.

"Sure thing." Dean said as she got up to retrieve the phone from her bedroom and handed it over to Katie.

After the call was made, Katie took a quick shower, gave Sugar her medicine, scooped the litter box, and then joined Dean in the living room.

"Umm, about last night," Katie began. "I… I'm a little embarrassed about the way I acted or should I say reacted."

"About what?" Dean asked. "You really know how to show a girl a good time." She said with a chuckle. "I haven't had that much fun in a long time. It's nice to know my skills aren't rusty." She continued.

"No, not that." Katie stammered. "I… I meant the kiss."

"Oh, so you didn't mean it then?" Dean lifted an eyebrow as she looked at the young woman, a little disappointment showing in her blue eyes.

Katie registered the disappointment in Dean's eyes and decided to come clean. "No." She stated quietly and moved over to the couch by Dean. "I meant that kiss. I'm just not the kind of person to act on my emotions so quickly. I'm usually arguing with myself so long that any chance of a relationship with someone disappears. Or to put it more accurately, they disappear." Katie finished and lowered her eyes to her lap. Raising her eyes again to meet Deans blue ones, Katie sighed and continued. "I just knew I didn't want that to happen with you, so I took the chance. I just… I…" she wrung her hands as she struggled with her words.

Dean shifted closer to Katie, coming so close they could almost feel each other's hearts beat. Dean brought her hands up to each side of Katie's face and peered intently into the emerald eyes, then softly whispered, "You're much more courageous than I, Katie Miller. You accomplished what I just thought about last night. You followed through on your desire, and I just fantasized about mine. I meant what I said last night. I did enjoy the kiss. Very much so." Dean added, as she came forward the last few inches and softly placed her lips on Katie's. The wave of emotion that went through her with that simple kiss was enough to nearly drown her. Their lips lingered together softly then became more passionate as each pair began to explore further, then they parted as tongues continued the exploration deeper. Their bodies also succumbed to each other as their kisses intensified. Hands gently explored backs, arms, and thighs. It was several minutes before the two women parted, each panting from the release of their emotions that had been held in check. Placing their foreheads together, they both released a sigh in concert.

"Mmmm, definitely better than my fantasy." Dean commented as she lifted her head and looked into Katie's eyes once more.

"Ohh, yesss!" Katie agreed. "I'm glad we've got that 'I'm really attracted to you' conversation out of the way." She added with a chuckle.

"Yeah, that's always the toughest part." Dean agreed, chuckling with Katie in earnest.

The two women looked at each other totally enjoying the tenderness of the moment. Katie leaned in towards Dean and placed another soft kiss on her lips relishing the sensation of her smooth lips on Deans. Soon that kiss led to another and Dean gently guided Katie down on the couch allowing them full contact with their bodies. Then Dean's lips moved to Katie's neck, stopping to nibble on an ear lobe along the way. "Ungh" Katie moaned as the heat from Dean's lips started to ignite her very soul. Then another moan escaped as Dean's right hand brushed her breast as she began a more earnest exploration of the young woman. "Umm," Katie mumbled, "if we keep this up, we're never going to make it to the mountain."

"Well, that sorta wasn’t on my mind, but I guess you're right." Dean whispered into Katie's ear, once again soliciting a moan of pleasure from the young woman. "Okay, what's say, we take it slow. I guess we really should get to know each other before we... umm, ah…" She was silenced by Katie's lips on hers one more time.

"Sounds like a good plan to me colonel," Katie answered. "I really should check on my trailer first, then we can take that hike I promised you."

They both agreed on their course of action for the rest of the morning. Stopping by the trailer and checking on the repair progress, then over to the deli to get sandwiches and water to take on the hike. Dean also packed along a compass, a pair of field glasses to 'bird watch' with, a digital camera to take 'scenic pictures', and her telescoping hiking poles. She placed all these and an extra sweatshirt into a compact backpack. They took Dean’s SUV rather than the classic antique and headed out to Walnut Mountain Park.

* * * * *

"Well here's the gate." Katie exclaimed as they came to the end of the park road. "We can park over there," she pointed to a small parking area next to the walk-through in the fence, "then walk up to the face for the 'big view'." She added as they pulled up next to a mini-van that was loading up a bunch of kids and a dog that had obviously been there for a while already. The kids were really dragging, and the dog's tongue was hanging out from the effort of its exercise activities.

"Great day for a hike." commented the man.

"The view from the top is awesome today!" exclaimed a young girl around twelve years old. "You can see forever!" she added gleefully.

"Yeah, we're looking forward to it." Replied the blonde as the family finished loading up.

"C'mon!" Katie called to Dean as she passed through the walk-through gate.

Katie took off towards the hiking trail at a brisk pace while Dean locked the SUV and grabbed the backpack. It didn’t take the tall woman long to catch up to the blonde, then they settled into an easy hiking pace.

They passed the new soccer fields and watched a family of deer grazing on the grass then continued up the path towards the west meadow. The climb was not difficult at this level but soon it moved into the woods and began a more upward trek. The fire road had been recently worked on which made the climb easier than expected. Just before they came out into the meadow, the path steepend then turned to the right and allowed the women into a breathtaking view. A few more paces and they were fully into the meadow with a generous three hundred degree view of the surrounding countryside. The clear day made the view all the more spectacular.

"So... what do you think?" The blonde asked eagerly.

"It’s everything Tracy said it was." Dean answered truthfully.

"Tracy?" Katie inquired. "You mean park and rec Tracy?"

"The one in the same." Dean replied. "We’ve been friends for a very long time. Served together in the army. I was surprised to run into her at Wendy’s yesterday. She told me about her ‘pride and joy’ then." Dean said with a smile on her face.

"Well it certainly is beautiful up here," the blonde commented. "Let’s go up to the face and the mountain overlook. It’s just up this path." Katie said leading the way up.

They were back in the woods now following the 'Low Road' to the overlook and the path became a bit narrower and much steeper. As they emerged from the woods, Katie turned left and hurried over to the edge. "Wow! What a sight!" She exclaimed. "You really can see forever today."

Dean caught up with her and the two women just stood and gazed out over the view, completely intoxicated by the sight. Dean reached out and held the younger woman around her shoulder and Katie responded with her arm around Dean’s waist. "It really is nice up here." Dean said. "I’m glad you were able to share this with me." She continued as she pulled Katie into a hug and a promising kiss.

"No problem." Katie replied emphatically. "I’ll bring you up here every day if you’ll pay me in kisses like that."

"Mmm, like this?" Dean demonstrated only lingering longer in the contact.

"Umm... zactly." The blonde mumbled between their lips.

"Mmm, guess we better be heading along the trail now." Dean suggested, not really wanting to part from her embrace with the younger woman.

Katie nodded and they turned around and retraced their steps to where the path came to a "Y" intersection. "The way to the left goes around the other side of the mountain and eventually comes back down through the north meadow and the area the civil war re-enacters use for the Union camp." Katie explained. "The way we’re going takes you past an old foundation from a turn of the century resort and has an exit on the upper meadow above the water tower. That’s the other view I told you about." Katie continued as she led Dean into the woods on the chosen path.

Just before the path started to incline again, Katie stopped and pointed to a rock formation through the trees. "See that formation? It’s called ‘witches rock’ because it looks like a witch’s profile." Dean followed her direction and smiled as she recognized a crooked nose and pointed chin with a rock slab overhead that made up the hat.

"Pretty neat," Dean commented "but if you have any American Indian heritage, you could call it ‘Indian Rock’." With a little imagination and some descriptive pointers Dean detailed the 'Indian.'

"Yeah, you’re right." Katie considered the profile. "Wonder if anyone calls it that?"

Dean just shrugged and then they continued their hike. It took another 20 minutes of lazy strolling before they came to the exit for the upper meadow. They would have missed it if Katie had not been here before since it was between two heavily limbed trees. As they passed through and walked out onto the meadow, they were greeted by another awesome picture created by Mother Nature’s palate.

Katie pointed out to the distance saying, "That’s Double Top Mountain over there. It’s over in the next county and is about seventy-five miles away."

Dean reached into her backpack and pulled out her binoculars and made quite a show of viewing the scenery before she locked in on her intended target. "Nice" she commented. Then charged the coordinates to her memory before handing the binoculars over to Katie. She then took out her digital camera and went through the same charade before taking several shots of her target.

"How about lunch?" She inquired of the blonde woman. "I’ve worked up an appetite with all this crisp air and walking."

"Great." Responded Katie. "There’s some rocks over there that we can use to put our stuff on." She led the way over to the rocks and the two women spent a leisurely lunch enjoying the view and the sandwiches and each other's company. Dean noted the lay of the land, taking in the terrain with a skilled eye, picked out her observation spot and committed it to memory for her trek later tonight.

"Guess we better start down." Dean suggested as she packed up the small amount of paper and wrappers that were left from their lunch.

"We can take this track down." Katie pointed to a thin trail behind her.. "It’s a single track bike trail, but it’s used for hiking too. It comes out right by the water tower near the entrance."

Dean nodded and they soon found themselves at the entrance where they loaded up the SUV and headed back out to the main road.

Once they got back down and into the truck, Katie turned to Dean and said "I have to work tonight." She paused, then continued, "I help a caterer friend out sometimes when she needs it. Tonight is one of those nights. But I really wanted to thank you again for last night and allowing me to show you the mountain."

"Oh." Dean replied knowing that she had to 'work' tonight too. "That actually works out well. I need to meet someone tonight anyway regarding work." Well, technically that’s not a lie, Dean mused, but it is a good thing Katie’s busy tonight. At least now, I won’t have to come up with an excuse why I can’t see her. Although I’d much rather be snuggling with her than that stand of trees up there. She completed that thought with a smile on her face. "And you're welcome for last night and thanks for sharing the mountain with me."

The ride back to Dean's was progressing in silence with Dean lost in thought and a smile on her face until the young woman spoke. "Penny for your thoughts."

"Hhmm?" Dean turned to catch the emerald eyes studying her.

"Well, something put that smile on your face." The green eyes twinkled in question.

"I was just recalling how nice today has turned out." Dean covered. "How about some hot chocolate at my place before you head back?"

"You must be reading my mind," the young woman chuckled.

It took them another five minutes before they turned down the private road leading to Dean’s. As Dean opened the door, they were greeted by three, very loud, meowing cats. "Guess I better feed them first or I’ll never get them into the carriers." Katie said as she headed toward the kitchen.

Dean took her backpack into the bedroom then went to the kitchen where she stopped at the doorway and just watched the beautiful young woman with her charges. You certainly are a beautiful surprise in my life, she commented to herself as she continued to watch Katie. Then she walked up behind Katie and placed her arms around her whispering in her ear, "You are really beautiful."

Katie shivered as she felt Dean's breath warm her ear. Turning in Dean's arms, she faced the tall woman locking ice blues and emerald greens in intimate communication. Dean lowered her head and pulled Katie into a long sensual kiss that ignited their souls and fanned the flames of passion once more. As they parted from the kiss, Dean reached for Katie's hand and quietly led her to her bedroom.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Continued - Part 2


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