Beyond the Breakwater

Sheriff Reese Conlon and Doctor Tory King face the challenges of personal change as they define their lives and future together. Tory’s pregnancy forces her to examine her personal needs and goals while Reese struggles with her escalating anxieties over conditions she cannot control. Twenty-year-old Brianna Parker makes a sacrifice for love that threatens not just her happiness, but her life, when she returns home as the newest member of the Sheriff’s department. A life-threatening accident, a suspicious fire, and the appearance of more than one woman vying for Bri’s attentions makes one Provincetown summer a time of transformation as each woman learns the true meaning of love, friendship, and family.


September, Provincetown, Ma

Doctor Victoria King tilted her face to the sun and let the swift ocean current carry her to shore. She rested her paddle across the front of the seventeen-foot long, twenty-one inch wide red kayak and squinted in the early morning haze toward the beach at Herring Cove. Men and women perched on the undulating curve of sand marking the border between earth and water, casting baited lines to tempt the sea bass to their last meal. In the black ribbon of parking lot sandwiched between the dunes and the shore, vacationers were just beginning to stir, opening the windows and doors of their mechanical homes, airing out their sea dampened linens and clothes. Tory was so used to seeing the idyllic tableau, she barely took note as her craft glided the last few feet and touched bottom in the frothing water at the ocean’s edge.

As she unzipped her life vest and tossed the PFD into her boat, the sound of a car door thudding closed penetrated the roar of the waves, and she stopped what she was doing to watch Reese Conlon walk down across the shell-littered sand, a blazing grin on her handsome face.

“Good morning, Sheriff,” Tory said softly, her eyes roaming the trim body in the immaculately pressed and polished uniform, moving slowly from the broad shoulders over the faint swell of breasts to the narrow hips and long, muscular thighs. God, you’re gorgeous.

“Good morning, Doctor,” Reese replied easily, stopping a few feet away, shoulders squared in that unconscious military posture that was second nature to her. She knew Tory was watching her, looking at her, and she liked it. Her skin tingled under the stiff cotton of her khakis everywhere Tory’s glance fell, the visual caress as tangible as a touch. The two feet of air between them shimmered like the currents above blacktop on a hot summer’s day. “Nice out there today?”

“Mmm. Yeah, it was.”

Reese smiled. Tory’s clear, lightly tanned skin was flushed from the wind off the water and the exertion of her recent paddle. The T-shirt she had worn under her PFD was damp with sweat and spray, the thin material subtly outlining her firm, high breasts. Her mid-thigh length shorts hugged slender, toned thighs. Even the scarred and damaged calf held a trace of valiant beauty.

“Give you a hand?” Reese finally said, her voice husky. You are so very lovely.

“Anytime,” the doctor replied, her own throat suddenly dry.

Tory caught up to Reese by the side of her Jeep and opened the back. Tossing the items she carried inside, she turned and reached for the rear of the kayak. “Ready?”

“Any time you say, love.”

Together they lifted it to the roof rack and secured it. As they stood facing one another by the side of the vehicle, their eyes met and they moved close enough so that their hands touched.

“Busy day today?” Reese asked, brushing the auburn collar-length hair back from Tory’s face with her fingertips, letting her hand linger against her lover’s cheek.

“Uh huh,” Tory murmured, resting one palm on the taller woman’s chest. “You?”

“Routine,” the sheriff replied, watching the green eyes deepen to the color of the ocean in August. “I won’t be late. Can we have dinner?”

“Mmm, okay.” Tory ran a finger down the buttons on Reese’s shirt, thinking about the hard muscles and soft smooth skin underneath. Thinking about waking with her that morning and how much she had wanted her right then and knowing that there wasn’t time. Knowing that she would want her all day. Knowing that that evening there would be time. “I love you.”

Reese lowered her head and brushed her lips over Tory’s, her hand beneath Tory’s hair caressing the back of her neck. “Me, too,” she whispered against her lover’s ear.

“Go to work,” Tory ordered as she stepped away. Reese had a dangerous glint in her deep blue eyes, the kind of spark that promised flames. She was afraid if they touched again they’d kiss for real, and then she wouldn’t be able to concentrate all day.

“When?” Reese persisted, but she didn’t move. She didn’t dare. You always do this to me, make me so hot I can’t think.

“Later. Now go.” Tory slid into the Jeep, pulled the door closed, and started the ignition with shaking hands. She had expected the passion to lessen, the fires to cool, but they hadn’t. She glanced into the rearview mirror as she drove away. Watching Reese stride to her patrol car, she knew that they never would.

Later turned out to be eleven o’clock that night. Tory’s patient schedule had been disrupted while she sutured a series of nasty lacerations on the forehead of a cyclist who had blown a tire coming down Route six from Truro and had catapulted into the guard rail. By the time she got home her leg ached, and she was exhausted.

“Did you ever get dinner?” Reese asked as she met her lover on the rear deck of the house they shared overlooking Provincetown Harbor.

“No,” Tory sighed as she flopped into a deck chair, absently petting the huge brindle mastiff who lumbered to her side. “Hey, Jed,” she whispered faintly.

Reese leaned to kiss her, then said, “I’ll be right back.”

Tory closed her eyes and when she jerked awake a few moments later, there was a tray table beside her with a glass of wine and a sandwich. Suddenly she was ravenous. “Thanks.”

“Better?” Reese asked when Tory set her glass down with a satisfied groan.


Reese raised an eyebrow. “Something else?”

“Uh huh.”Tory held out a hand, and Reese moved to take it. Tory tugged her down onto the lounge chair beside her, turning so that they rested face to face. Threading her arms around Reese’s waist, she pressed close, pushing one thigh between Reese’s. “This.”

It began with a kiss…a kiss to say welcome home, a kiss to say I missed you, a kiss to say I love you. It became something more urgent as flesh met flesh and passion stirred. Tory worked her hand between them and pulled the T-shirt from Reese’s jeans, resting her palm on the curve of rib as it arched above Reese’s taut stomach. Reese kissed her way from Tory’s mouth along the line of her jaw to the smooth skin of her neck, biting lightly until she drew soft cries from her lover’s throat. Their hearts pounded, beating a rhythm that echoed in each other’s blood as they explored one another with mouths and lips and demanding hands.

“Tory,” Reese gasped as she felt her lover’s finger slip down the front of her jeans. She didn’t remember opening her fly, but one of them must have. “Careful.”

“Why?” Tory murmured thickly, pushing lower as she leaned up on the other arm so she could see Reese’s face. Her fingers found the hardness she was seeking, and as she pressed the length of her, Reese moaned. “You’re always good for more than one.”

Reese grew still under her hands…body arched slightly, head tilted back, pupils wide and dark. Tory knew how to touch her to keep her on the edge…knew the telltale flutter of her lids, the stutter of breath in her chest, the faint cry barely uttered…she knew and she held her there, moving her fingers slowly, carefully, one gentle stroke after another.

“Tory…love,” Reese whispered as the pleasure escaped the confines of the places Tory touched and cascaded outward to burn through her blood and roll down her legs, muscles clenching with the force of nerves and vessels turning to fire. She pressed her forehead to Tory’s shoulder and shuddered, lost and forever found.

As many times as she had watched Reese come, Tory was never prepared for the beauty of it. Awestruck, humbled beyond words, she bit her lip to keep from falling with her, wanting to remember each precious second of the moment. But she couldn’t keep from thrusting against Reese’s thigh, her body having long since moved beyond her control. Trying desperately to ignore the pressure building between her legs, she clung to her lover, gasping.

Dimly Reese heard Tory’s ragged breathing against her ear, and even as she continued to shiver with the last ripples of release, she reached for her. “I want to be inside you.”

Tory lifted her hips, helping Reese push her slacks down. “Yes. Yes.”

It was quick, because she was so close. One second, Reese was there…gliding over her, opening her…and then she was inside her, owning her. Tory cried out once, sharply, and then she was coming. Over and over and over she closed around Reese’s fingers, each spasm knifing through her with a terrible wonder. When she could make sound, she could find no words. She simply turned her sweat-damp face to Reese’s chest and hung on.

They must have slept because it was the chill that woke her. The sky was very dark above them, and the wind from the water was sharp and crisp. In the distance, the foghorn echoed plaintively. Tory stirred, running her fingers over Reese’s chest. “Hey, Sheriff.”



“Okay,” Reese said, but when she moved to get up, Tory suddenly held her tighter. She stilled, surprised by the force of her lover’s grip. “What’s wrong, Tor?”

Tory shook her head. “Nothing.” She fiddled with the button on Reese’s jeans, uncharacteristically uncertain. “I’ll be thirty-nine in September.”

Reese waited.

Tory took a deep breath. “I was thinking it’s time for us to have a baby.”


February, Provincetown, Ma

Reese reached for another folder and shook some of the tension out of her shoulders. She’d been hunched over her desk for over an hour filling out requisition forms for equipment that needed to be replaced as well as completing paperwork on an early morning domestic disturbance complaint. In the middle of the winter, Provincetown was deathly quiet.

When the door opened admitting a gust of cold air, she looked up gratefully as Sheriff Nelson Parker walked in.

“Hey, Chief.”

“Hey, Reese,” Nelson said as he brushed a light dusting of snow from the shoulders of his red and black checked hunting jacket and pulled it off. He hooked the jacket over a coat tree and put his Stetson on an adjoining hook. “Anything happening?”

“Not much,” Reese said with resignation.“A couple of minor calls, but nothing serious.”

“Well,” he said as he settled behind his desk, “that’s about right for this time of year. Remember when you first started I warned you about how dull this place can be in the winter.”

“I remember.”

“Have you heard from Bri lately?”

Surprised, Reese shook her head. “Not since Christmas when she was here. Why?”

“No reason,” he said nonchalantly. He was mildly embarrassed to admit that his daughter had not called him in over a month and had failed to return his calls when he had tried her number in Manhattan. Brianna and Reese were close in a way that he and his daughter were not.

He supposed their closeness made sense, since Bri and Reese were practically cut from the same mold. Stubborn and strong and brave. Hell, they even looked alike…both of them dark-haired with wild blue eyes, almost too handsome to be women. But there was something in Bri’s eyes that he’d never seen in Reese’s—a simmering anger that had begun when she a teenager and that had been fueled by the events of two summers before. Thinking about that summer, something he tried not to do, he winced.

“Nelson? You sure everything’s okay?”

He cleared his throat. “Yeah, I’m sure. You know how twenty-year-olds are. They don’t think much about calling home.”

Reese nodded, knowing there was more but also hesitating to inquire. “If I hear from her, I’ll tell her to report in.”

“No. Forget it,” he said with a wave of his hand. With the other he searched in his desk drawer for a roll of Tums and, after finding a loose one, popped it into his mouth. “She’ll just figure I’m checking up on her.”

At that moment the door opened yet again, and a middle-aged woman entered carrying a shopping bag in one arm. Of average height, she carried an extra twenty-five pounds with aplomb. Her wavy gray hair was tied up in a scarf, and her knit suit was covered with a long down coat. “God, I can’t wait till this winter is over.”

“You’ve got quite a wait there, Gladys,” Nelson said as he smiled at the sheriff department’s office manager.

“Yes, well, I can always hope.” She smiled at both of the officers as she wended her way between the desks toward the large workstation in one corner with the room’s only computer. “You doing anything special tonight, Reese?”

“What?” Reese asked, her mind still on Bri.

“It’s Valentine’s Day, remember? Are you and Tory doing anything?”

“Oh,” Reese said, blushing. Even after two years, she couldn’t quite get used to the easy familiarity of the small town’s local inhabitants. Everyone seemed to know everyone else’s business, and didn’t mind asking for information if they didn’t. “Tory is working in Boston today.”

“Is she still flying over there three days a week?”

Reese nodded. “She doesn’t need to keep the clinic open here full-time during the winter, and she likes doing the emergency room shifts. She says it keeps her current with the newest techniques.”

The phone rang, and Reese picked it up on the second ring.“Sheriff’s department, Conlon.”


“Tor?” Reese’s heart started pounding double-time. It was rare for Tory to call her at work, particularly when she was working a shift at the Boston City Hospital emergency room. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” Tory said hastily. “I just need you to come to Boston.”

“Uh…my shift isn’t up until seven.” Reese hesitated, glancing at the other occupants in the room as she lowered her voice. “Is it, you know, time?”

“That’s what my thermometer says. I’ve talked to Wendy, and she can see us at six.”

By now, both Nelson and Gladys were watching Reese and pretending not to be. She curled over the phone as if that would make some difference. “I’ll get someone to fill in for me.”

“Is everyone listening?”

“Uh huh.”

“It’s okay to tell them, you know. It’s not like we’ll be able to keep it a secret.”

“Isn’t it…you know, bad luck or something to talk about it?”

Tory laughed again, and the heat in her voice was almost palpable over the phone line. “Do you know how much I love you?”

“Cut it out,” Reese said in a husky murmur. “I’m supposed to be working here.”

“Yeah, well…your services are required elsewhere. Get your butt on a plane, Sheriff.”

“I’ll be there soon.” Reese stood and walked to the coat tree beside the door. She shrugged into her green nylon flight jacket and pulled her brimmed uniform cap down over her eyes in a familiar gesture.

“Is everything okay?” Gladys asked, because she knew that Nelson wouldn’t pry even though he was clearly dying to know what was going on.

“Yes. Perfect.” Reese opened the door, stepped through, and then stuck her head back inside. “I just need to get to Boston so Tory and I can make a baby.”

Grinning, she closed the door on the explosion of surprised questions.


February Boston, Mass

“Are you two all set?” Wendy Deutsch asked.

Tory, suddenly and inexplicably frightened, glanced at Reese, searching the handsome face as she reached for her hand. Reese…darling? Of course we’re ready, right?

“I love you,” Reese murmured, her entire being focused on Tory. “I will always love you.”

And that was the ultimate truth, and the ultimate answer.

“Yes,” Tory said firmly, entwining her fingers with her lover’s as she smiled into Reese’s eyes. “We’re ready.”

“Come on back then,” Wendy said, opening the door to a dimly lit room.

There was a carpet on the floor, which struck Tory as odd. She was so used to the harsh lights and institutional tiles of examining rooms. And the air was warm, with a hint of vanilla teasing at the edges of her awareness. Nothing cold, nothing sterile, nothing clinical about it.

“Why don’t the two of you get settled, and I’ll be right back,” the doctor said as she closed the door, leaving them alone.

Slowly, Tory undressed. Reese took each garment and folded it carefully, placing the clothes on a small table against one wall. She handed Tory a white terrycloth robe that had been left for them.

“Cold?” Reese asked gently.

“I’m fine, honey.”

Tory eased up onto the table, glad that the surface was covered with a soft, cotton sheet. Reese covered her with another, then pulled a chair close to the head of the table and sat down. She threaded the fingers of one hand into Tory’s hair and took her lover’s hand with the other. Tory turned her head so that their faces were only inches apart.

“Are you sure this won’t hurt?” Reese asked, unable to hide her concern. You mean everything to me.

“No. I won’t feel anything.”

There was a knock on the door. “Ready?”

The two women smiled, and Tory called, “Yes.”

Tory continued to look into Reese’s eyes, listening with only part of her mind to the doctor quietly arranging a tray. When Wendy softly instructed her to slide down and lift her legs, she complied without breaking eye contact with her lover. Reese’s hand was strong and warm, enclosing hers.

After a moment, Wendy murmured, “Here we go.”

Reese touched her forehead to Tory’s, and together they whispered, “I love you.

March, East Village, Manhattan, NYC

The rail-thin, young man with short, spiked hair wore a shapeless black T-shirt and equally formless black denim pants that hung precariously from his nonexistent rear end. In the tiny kitchen of a fourth floor walk up, he approached a petite blond, also in black jeans that actually fit her trim form and a midriff-baring, white crop-top that exposed a softly curved belly adorned with a silver navel ring. “Great party, Carre. Any more beer?”

“In the fridge.” The three studs in the rim of Caroline Clark’s left ear glinted as she turned to refill a bowl of pretzels from a bag on the counter. “It’s nice to get the midterm projects over, huh?”

“For sure. Did you hear about Paris yet?”

“Just that they got all my application materials,” she replied, her smile fading slightly as she thought of spending her junior year abroad. She wanted to go, because the chance to study and paint in France was like a dream come true. But when she actually pictured herself there, so far away from everything she knew, everyone she loved…

“What about Bri? She going, too?”

Caroline hesitated. “I…we haven’t really talked about it.”

“Where is she tonight, anyhow? She’s missing all the fun.”

“At the dojo.” Caroline glanced at the clock uneasily. It was after 11:00 p.m., and Bri’s class ended at 9:30. Bri knew that Caroline was having friends over from school, and Caroline tried to ignore the stab of hurt at her lover’s absence. Now that she thought about it, Bri had been even quieter than usual the last few weeks. She seemed to be training even more, if that were humanly possible, and coming home later and later. For the first time in the four years they’d been together, Caroline felt uncertain of what was happening between them.

“What?” Caroline asked when she realized that her friend James was still speaking.

“The black belt thing…that’s happening soon for her, right?”

“Oh. Yes. Sometime this year.”

“Man, that’s amazing.” James leaned against the counter and fished a handful of potato chips from an open bag beside him. The two of them moved closer together as another woman squeezed in beside them, muttering that she was looking for ice. “She, like, practices every day, doesn’t she?”

“Almost.” Sometimes Caroline thought that Bri’s training was the most important thing in her life. She knew for a fact that the martial arts were much more important to her lover than college. Not for the first time, she thought that Bri had only come to Manhattan to be with her. That if they had stayed in Provincetown, Bri would have been just as happy. Maybe more. It wasn’t that Brianna wasn’t intelligent, because she was. She just chafed at schedules and deadlines and inactivity.

When they’d talked about going away to college, Bri had simply said that she would go anywhere that Caroline wanted to go. When Caroline received the scholarship to the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, it had seemed like an ideal solution. It wasn’t that far from Cape Cod, so they could still get home easily. There were plenty of schools where Bri could enroll, and Reese Conlon knew of a dojo where Bri could train. Bri had settled on the city university, because it was affordable and offered a solid curriculum in criminology. She wanted to go into law enforcement, like her father and Reese.

When they found the tiny apartment in alphabet city, the student/artist enclave in Greenwich Village, life had seemed perfect. For Caroline, it still was.

“I’d better get back out there,” Caroline said, grabbing a bottle of beer for herself.

“Later,” he called as he reached for more chips.

The front door was just closing behind Bri as Caroline walked into the crowded living room, which also happened to be their bedroom when the sofa bed was pulled out. Caroline stepped over extended legs and threaded her way around the bowls and bottles on the floor until she reached her lover. Standing on tiptoe, she slipped one arm around Bri’s shoulder and gave her a quick kiss on the mouth. “Hi.

Bri, taller than Caroline by a head, was in her usual outfit—tight, threadbare blue jeans, multi-zippered leather jacket, and heavy black motorcycle boots. She put both arms around her girlfriend and pulled her close, squeezing gently. Caroline always smelled like the shampoo she used, some combination of fruit and spices. Just the scent of her could make Bri wet. “Hey, babe. How’s it going?”

“Okay. Missed you.”

“Sorry.” Bri let her go and shrugged out of her jacket. The black T-shirt was stretched tight across her muscled chest and shoulders, her breasts smooth shadows beneath the thin cotton. Narrow-hipped and broad-shouldered, hard-bodied from years of jujitsu, she exuded danger and a seething sexuality.

“Come on,” Caroline said, taking her hand. “You want something? A beer?”

“Sure,” Bri replied, allowing her girlfriend to pull her though the crowd. She was happy that Carre hadn’t asked her why she was late, but she’d seen the hurt in her lover’s deep green eyes just the same. Fuck. I have to tell her soon.


By 2:00 a.m., everyone had gone. Discarded bottles and half-empty bowls of snacks lay scattered around the room, but the apartment had survived the crush of partiers in fairly good shape. Caroline and Bri were nestled on the couch where they had collapsed after bidding goodnight to the last of their friends. The room lights were off, and a few candles provided the only illumination. Bri, cradling Caroline in her arms, leaned against the corner of the sofa with the smaller woman lying between her out-stretched legs.

“I guess we should open the bed,” Bri murmured, nuzzling her lips in Caroline’s fragrant hair. She rubbed her palm slowly up and down Caroline’s stomach, brushing the navel ring back and forth. Every now and then, she tugged it between her fingers. “Carre? Babe? You awake?”

“Mmm hmm.” Caroline turned on her side and pressed her hips between Bri’s thighs. “It’s awfully nice right here.”

“Oh yeah?”


Bri tilted Caroline’s chin up and found her lips, exploring with the tip of her tongue along the sensitive inner surfaces. They’d kissed thousands of times, but every time she was struck anew by how incredibly soft those lips were. Within seconds, Bri felt herself swell and grow hard.

“I love to kiss you,” Bri murmured.

“Mmm. Me, too.” Caroline rested her hand on Bri’s chest, rhythmically brushing her thumb across the peak of her lover’s tight nipple. She knew that would make Bri crazy.

After a minute, Bri said urgently, “Come on. Let’s open the bed and get our clothes off.”

“Not yet,” Caroline said with gentle firmness. “I’m too comfortable. Just kiss me again.”

Bri knew what Carre was doing, and as much as it frustrated her, it excited her tremendously, too. Surrendering to the sweet torture, Bri groaned and kissed Caroline hard, her tongue inside the warm mouth now. Minutes—hours—passed, she couldn’t tell how long. Her head was light, her legs heavy, and her breath hissed from her chest in uneven spurts. Somewhere in the midst of their kisses, Caroline had turned on her stomach and lay face down between Bri’s open thighs, thrusting her hips in time with their questing tongues.

Bri clasped Caroline’s butt in her hands, pulling her lover hard against her crotch, trying unsuccessfully to satisfy the pressure building precariously inside.

“You feel so good,” Bri whispered.

Caroline’s only response was a soft whimper.

The sound of her lover’s pleasure snapped the tenuous threads of Bri’s control, and she wrapped one firm arm around Caroline’s waist and twisted until the smaller woman was beneath her. She grasped the lower edge of the diminutive crop top and pushed it up, lowering her mouth to the soft, full breast.

Caroline arched and cried out as Bri sucked the nipple into her mouth. She fisted her hands in Bri’s hair, pulling frantically as the pleasure streaked from her breast through her belly. “Bri…ooh, you make me so hot.”

Never moving her lips from Caroline’s breast, Bri eased away enough to get her hand between them. Deftly, she opened Caroline’s jeans and began to push them down over her hips.

“Oh, yes.” Caroline lifted her hips, grasped her jeans with one hand, and helped her lover bare her body. With her lips pressed to Bri ear, she begged, “I’m so excited. Make me come, Bri.”

Bri groaned. Nothing had ever made her feel at once so powerful and so hopelessly inadequate. That Caroline would want her, would trust her so completely, nearly broke her heart. She pressed her forehead to Caroline’s breast, murmuring fervently, “I love you so damn much.”

“I know… I know… oh, love me now.” Eyes closed, head twisting helplessly against the arm of the sofa, Caroline pushed Bri down.

Moving fast, Bri knelt on the floor, her hands beneath Caroline’s hips, pulling her forward to the edge of the couch and lifting her easily on her powerful forearms. “Oh, baby, I love you.”

Then Bri lowered her head and stroked the slick folds with her tongue, holding tight as Caroline jerked at the first light touch. When she took the distended clitoris between her lips, Caroline’s cries echoed the thundering of her own fierce passion. With her mouth, with her hands, with her lips, she paid homage to the love that had saved her sanity and shaped her life.

When Caroline climaxed, trembling and whimpering, Bri squeezed her eyes closed and groaned with the answering surge between her own thighs. She rocked her pelvis against the sofa, the seam of her jeans riding over her clitoris. The faint pressure was more than enough to trigger her oversensitive nerve endings, and she came instantly, shuddering with the force of it. Her hoarse cries mingled with her lover’s last soft moans.

“Bri? Honey?” Caroline questioned weakly, trailing her fingers over her lover’s face. Bri’s cheek was pressed to her stomach, and Caroline’s hand came away wet. “Are you crying?”

“No,” Bri lied.

Caroline sat up and leaned forward, her arms resting on her lover’s broad shoulders. “You are.”

Kneeling, encircled in Caroline’s embrace, Bri looked away. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t think you’ve done that since the first time. Remember?”

Caroline’s voice was gentle, and Bri thought of the warm summer nights in the dunes—innocently making love beneath the stars with the sounds of the surf in the background. “Yes,” she said quietly. “I remember.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Bri insisted.

“You have to tell me.” Caroline gave Bri a small shake. “Something hasn’t been right for a long time. Ever since Christmas.”

“I don’t how to explain.”

Caroline’s heart lurched. Suddenly, for the first time in her memory, she was frightened of something that Bri might say. “Is there…someone else?”

“No! Jesus.” Bri put her palms on either side of her lover’s face and kissed her swiftly. “Never.”

“Then what?”

“I want to quit school.”

Caroline jerked back. “Why?”

“Because I don’t want to be here next year while you’re in France.” She hadn’t wanted to say that. But it was the truth.

“Oh.” The sound was small, surprised.

Neither of them said anything for long moments, until finally Bri got to her feet and moved as far away as the small room would allow. She leaned against the doorway that joined the kitchen and the living room and pushed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans.

“I won’t go then,” Caroline said quietly as she hastily rearranged her clothing. Brushing a hand through her disheveled hair, she smiled tremulously. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“Because I want you to go,” Bri said forcefully. “You want to go. Fuck…you should go.”

Bri turned and walked into the kitchen, jerking open the small refrigerator door and pulling out a bottle of beer. Viciously, she twisted off the top and threw it into the trash. She turned to find Caroline framed in the doorway, staring at her with wounded eyes. “I can’t go with you, Carre. You know that.”

“What would you do?”

Bri looked away.


“I applied to the Sheriff’s department in Barnstable.”

“You’re going to move back to the Cape?”


Caroline felt like she had plummeted into another world. “When did you apply?”


“You didn’t tell me.” It was a statement, not an accusation.

“I didn’t want you to change your mind about Paris.”

“Oh, Bri.” Caroline hadn’t meant to cry, but the tears came before she could stop them. She felt so sad, and so helpless to change events that already seemed to be moving too fast.

Stunned, Bri put the bottle on the counter and rapidly strode across the small space. She pulled Caroline into her arms and buried her face in her hair. “I’m sorry. Please don’t cry.”

“Can we talk about this tomorrow?” Caroline pressed hard against Bri’s body, needing the solid reassurance of her presence.

“Sure. Anything you want.” Bri kissed Caroline’s forehead. “It will be okay, babe.”

But somehow, they both knew that wasn’t true.


Three weeks later Bri and Caroline stood together in the chill March wind on the sidewalk in front of their apartment building. Bri strapped her loaded saddlebags onto the back of her Harley with methodical care. She wasn’t taking much…extra jeans, a few books, her gis. And she was leaving everything behind. “You should go inside. It’s freezing out here.”

“I’m okay.” Shivering, Caroline crossed her arms over her chest, but it wasn’t the frigid air that chilled her. “I don’t care about Paris.”

“Look, I’ll see you for Memorial Day, right? That’s only two months.” Bri yanked on her heavy riding gloves. The tears in Carre’s eyes were killing her.

“But if I stay here next year,” Caroline continued hurriedly as if Bri hadn’t spoken, “I’ll be able to see you every other weekend or so. At least once a month.”

“We’ll have this summer together. By the time you have to leave in the fall, we’ll be used to the idea.” Bri straddled the bike and tried to think of something that would take the hurt out of Caroline’s eyes. It’s not just Paris. It’s not just next year. Don’t you know that? You’re really good, babe. Everyone knows it. This is your chance. You have to do whatever it takes, and it sure isn’t going to be spending your life in Provincetown. If I stay here, I’m only going to hold you back.

Caroline crossed the sidewalk in a rush and threw her arms around Bri’s leather-jacketed shoulders. She buried her face in Bri’s neck, her words muffled against her lover’s cold skin. “I love you. I don’t want us to be apart.”

“Oh, babe.” Bri wrapped the smaller woman in a bone crushing embrace, pressing her face to the top of Caroline’s head. Much more of this and she was going to crack. It felt like her chest was going to explode it hurt so much. “We just have to do this. Promise me if you get the scholarship, you’ll go.”

“Bri,” Caroline pleaded, her fists clutching the stiff leather.


Caroline nodded wordlessly.

For one terrifying moment, Bri didn’t think she could let her go. She had a horrible feeling that she would never hold her again. Oh Jesus, what am I going to do without you. “I don’t want you to watch me drive away.”

Shivering, Caroline stepped away, her jade green eyes locked on Bri’s midnight blue ones. She was crying, but she didn’t feel the tears freezing on her cheeks. “I’m not going to let you leave me.”

“I’m not,” Bri whispered, but she feared she might be lying to them both.

March, Provincetown, MA

Reese leaned on the railing on the postage stamp-sized deck behind the Galleria, a relatively new two-story enclave of boutiques in the middle of town. She’d left her jacket in her patrol car and stood in shirtsleeves under a clear sky, watching the fishing boats leave Provincetown Harbor for their morning run.

A gruff voice behind her interrupted her reverie. “What are you doing working already?”

Reese turned, rested her hips against the rail, and nodded to her boss. “You’re up awfully early, Chief.”

“Don’t call me Chief,” he groused, handing her a steaming cup of coffee. “I saw the cruiser out front. It’s another hour before the day shift starts.”

“I took Tory to the airport for her 5:30 flight to Boston.” She sipped the coffee and regarded him silently. He didn’t look like he’d been sleeping very well.

“Have you heard from my kid?”

“She called me two days ago. Gave me an update on her training.”

He grumbled something unintelligible. Bri hadn’t called him, but then that was pretty much his fault.

He pulled the cruiser into his driveway and stared at the big Harley parked in front of his garage. What the hell?

She was in the kitchen, perched on a stool with a glass of orange juice and half a hoagie in front of her. Same jeans, same boots, same slicked-back black hair. Same hoodlum jacket, too. Christ, he was glad to see her.


“Hey, Dad.”

He tossed an arm around her shoulder and squeezed, brushing his cheek quickly across the top of her head. She seemed thinner, harder, and there was a look in her eyes that he hadn’t seen in a long, long time. A lost look. His heart turned over, and his stomach started burning. “It’s Wednesday. What are you doing here?”

She shrugged.

He shed his parka to the back of a chair and walked to the refrigerator. He rummaged around, found a beer, and popped the top. Then he leaned on the counter and stared at his only child. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” It came out a bit strangled, and she cleared her throat. “Yeah. Fine.”

“Caroline with you?”

Bri shook her head.

Sipping the beer he couldn’t even taste, his mind raced. If she’d needed money, she probably would have called. Of course, she never asked him for money. Hardly ever asked for anything. Couldn’t be trouble with Caroline’s old man. That asshole was long out of the picture—the guy hadn’t had anything to do with the kids since he’d slapped Caroline around for being involved with Bri and then tossed her out of the house. Trouble with the law? Nah—not his kid. So, if it wasn’t money or—the burning in his gut climbed into his chest.

“Are you sick?”

Bri stared at him. “What? No.”

“Then what the hell are you doing here in the middle of the week in the middle of school?” He might have asked a little loudly, but she’d scared the crap out of him.

“I quit.”

Nelson’s mouth dropped open. “Are you nuts? Where’s Caroline?”

“In Manhattan.”

“Did she quit, too?”

“No.” Bri’s voice was tight again. “I moved out.”

Okay, relax. Try to get the facts. Don’t yell at her. He crushed the beer can without even realizing it. “Jesus H. Christ, Brianna! What in hell are you thinking?”

She got up fast and headed toward the back door.

“Bri, wait! Jesus—just—wait, okay?”

She had her hand on the doorknob, but she didn’t open the door. With her back to him, she said, “I’m starting at the Sheriff’s department training academy on Monday.”

“Just like that?” he asked as quietly as he could, which wasn’t very. “You just walk away from school? Did you walk away from Car—”

But he was talking to himself by then, and all he could hear by the time he made it to the door was the thudding of his heart and the roar of her motorcycle fading into the night.


Nelson cleared his throat. “She, uh…say where she was staying?”

“Chief,” Reese said quietly, “I’m kind of in a bind here. Bri didn’t say much.”

“And if she did, you wouldn’t tell me?” he snapped.

Unconsciously, she squared her shoulders. “No, sir. Probably not.”

His eyes blazed for an instant, and he stiffened. “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Conlon. Lose the ‘sir’ bullshit.”

Taking a deep breath, Reese relaxed her shoulders. “She told me she was sharing a place with a couple of other cadets in Barnstable. It sounds like she’s okay.”

“It doesn’t make sense. To leave school? Jesus, to leave Caroline?” He met Reese’s eyes, and his were filled with uncertainty. “You haven’t seen her. She’s got that look in her eyes like she had before Caroline settled her down. Like there was something broken inside of her.”

“You need to call her, then. Talk to her.”

“Yeah, I did great with that last time.” He stuffed his hands into his pants pockets. “Jesus, why is it so hard to talk to your own kid?”

“Probably because she means so much to you.”

“I think about her being hurt, you know. And it makes me want to break things.” He looked away, embarrassed by the admission.

Reese thought about Tory being harmed. The pain was so intense it actually made her ill. “Yeah, I know.”

“You’ll probably know a lot better when you have a kid of your own,” he said gruffly.

“Probably.” Reese grinned.

He joined her at the rail, close to her side but still not quite touching. Together they faced the sea, and at length he asked, “How is that…situation…going?”

“It’s a little too soon to tell,” she replied carefully. She wasn’t totally comfortable talking about the baby thing…not because of embarrassment, but due to a lingering superstition. She just didn’t want anything to go wrong. They hadn’t talked about it, but she knew that Tory wasn’t exactly the ideal age to be getting pregnant. But Tory said it was safe. Promised Reese it was safe. “Sometimes, Tory says, you have to try more that once.”

“Huh. Doesn’t sound a whole lot different,” Nelson acknowledged, studiedly not looking at Reese. “Everybody thinks it’s easy the, you know, the…regular way. But it isn’t…not all the time.”

She waited.

“Brianna… it was a long time before her. We’d kind of given up.” His voice had gotten rougher, and he cleared his throat. “She was like a present, when she came along.”

“I can imagine that she was,” Reese said softly. “It’s kind of terrifying, isn’t it?”

“Damn right it is.” Nelson laughed. “And you haven’t even gotten started yet.”

“Look,” Reese offered. “I’ll give Bri a call.”

“Okay. Yeah. Thanks. You don’t need to say I was asking.”

“Nope, I won’t.” She clapped him on the shoulder and then tapped the brim of her cap. “I’m gonna take a ride through town before I hit the office.”

“Sure.” He watched her walk away and silently counted himself lucky that she was part of his daughter’s life.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and at seven p.m., Reese was standing outside the tiny airport watching the sky. Five minutes later, the twin engine, twelve-seater taxied to a stop a hundred feet away. Six people disembarked, one of them Victoria King. Reese walked out to meet her.

“How you doing?” Reese murmured as she took Tory’s hand and leaned over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’m fine,” Tory said with a smile. “How was your day?”

“Not bad. Let me take your briefcase.”

Tory laughed. “I’ve got it. How about taking me out to dinner, though?”

Reese held opened the door to the one room terminal. “Sure. Any place special?”

“You pick,” Tory replied as she threaded her arm through her lover’s.

“Laverne’s is open. Feel like Mexican?” Reese opened the passenger door of her Blazer and waited while Tory climbed in.


Fifteen minutes later, they were settled in a booth in one of the few restaurants that was open year-round, perusing menus that they knew practically by heart. After they had ordered, Reese reached across the table and took Tory’s hand.

“You had a long day. Was it busy?”

“The usual,” Tory replied.

“How much longer are you planning on working three days a week over there?” Reese asked as she leaned back to allow the waitress to set appetizers in front of them. “The clinic’s starting to get busy, isn’t it?”

“It’s picked up.” Having heard the concern in the deep voice, Tory studied her lover across the candlelit table. “I was planning on another week or so. Why?”

Reese shrugged. “It’s a pretty hectic schedule.”

“Well, actually, I was going to tell them I wanted to cut back to half shifts in the ER.”

“Really?” Although the news was welcome, Reese was surprised. “How come?”

Reaching for a nacho, Tory said, “There’s a lot of work to be done at the clinic before the season starts. I need to inventory the supplies, set up schedules for the employees, and I still have another physician to interview for the interim position.”

“Makes sense,” Reese said with a wave of relief. She tried hard not to interfere with Tory’s work, but she couldn’t help but worry about her demanding schedule.

“Besides,” Tory added casually, “I’m pregnant.”

Reese dropped her fork. “Holy God.”

“Wendy confirmed it this afternoon.” Tory grinned. “We did it, honey.”

In the next instant, Reese was on her feet and moving around the side of the table. She took Tory’s face in both hands and kissed her thoroughly. Then, unmindful of the few patrons who watched and the waitress standing a few feet away with loaded plates balanced on one arm, she knelt on the floor by Tory’s side and took both her lover’s hands in hers.

“You know my heart is yours,” she said softly, running her finger over the scrolled gold band on Tory’s left hand. “But I want everyone else to know how very much I love you. Will you marry me?”

“In town…at the meeting house?” Tory murmured, forgetting that they had an audience.

“Yes, there or anywhere you want.”

Tory’s eyes welled with tears as she stared into the deep blue ones that gazed upon her with open devotion. “Oh my love, I would be so happy to.”

As Tory leaned over to kiss her kneeling partner, she heard the muted sound of clapping, and thought, not for the first time, how blessed she had been the day Reese walked into her life.


Reese couldn’t remember a thing about the rest of the meal or the drive home. It was just after ten when they started a fire in the bedroom fireplace and settled under the covers. She turned on her side, her head on the pillow a few inches from Tory’s.

“It’s going to take me a while to believe it,” she whispered.

“Are you okay with it?” Tory hoped her trepidation didn’t show in her voice. Despite the weeks they had spent talking and planning, she knew that oftentimes the reality threw couples into turmoil.

“Oh, yeah.” Reese caressed Tory’s cheek with her fingertips, her throat so tight she could hardly swallow. “I’m so high, I feel like I’m flying.”

Tory ran her fingers through Reese’s hair and moved closer, until their bodies touched all along their length. “You never let me down, you know?”

“I’ll try not to, ever,” Reese murmured. She stroked her palm over Tory’s shoulder and down her arm to her hand, squeezing her fingers briefly. Then, she rested her hand on the arch of her lover’s hip, making slow, gentle circles with her fingertips. “I love you, Tor.”

“Mmm.” Tory leaned nearer still and brushed her lips over Reese’s. “Me, too.”

Tory kissed her again, enjoying the gentleness of her lover’s mouth as her fingers played over the hard muscles of Reese’s chest and shoulders. Reese was such a wonderful contradiction of strength and secret softness, and touching her never failed to stir Tory’s desire. Tonight, she wanted, needed, to be as close to her as possible. When she felt Reese’s tongue slide smoothly across her own, she moaned. She edged her thigh between Reese’s legs, her stomach clenching briefly as the smooth, warm skin pressed to her own heated center. She knew she was wet, and she rocked her hips gently to increase the contact. “God, I could come doing this.”

“Go ahead,” Reese urged gently, her voice a register lower then normal. She slid a hand between their bodies and cupped Tory’s breast, finding her nipple and squeezing gently to the cadence of her lover’s surging hips. “I love it when you do that.”

“Maybe later,” Tory managed, struggling not to lose control. “I want you to make me come the first time.”

Reese groaned and pressed her forehead to Tory’s. The throaty sound of Tory’s need sent of pulse of excitement streaking through her depths. Her clitoris twitched madly in response. “Jesus.”

Tory’s only response was a faint whimper as she caught the fingers sweetly torturing her breast and drew Reese’s hand down along her stomach toward the space between her legs. When Reese gently brushed the damp curls at the base of her belly, she arched her back and pressed against her lover’s palm. When fingers gently fondled the stiff bundle of nerves, she moaned, “Oh, honey…that’s so nice.”

“You’re so beautiful,” Reese murmured, moving her lips along the edge of Tory’s jaw. Her neck was arched, exposing her throat, a pulse beating wildly at the base of her throat. Reese pressed her lips to that point, marveling at the thrill of life and passion beneath the skin. Her own heart beat furiously, her stomach tight with wonder, as she slowly massaged Tory’s clitoris.

When she couldn’t stand the pleasure any longer, Tory grasped Reese’s wrist and pressed her lover’s hand further between her legs. “I’m…going to come. I want you…inside.”

“Tory,” Reese gasped. “Is it…okay?”

Whimpering, beginning to crest, Tory didn’t answer, but guided her lover where she needed her. Before Reese was fully inside of her, her muscles clenched forcefully and she climaxed. She clutched Reese’s shoulders, growing rigid with the first forceful contraction and then shuddering with each wave of aftershock.

Reese closed her eyes, forgetting to breathe as Tory trembled in her arms. They must have drifted together in the twilight of passion, because the fire had nearly burned down when she opened her eyes again. Tory’s cheek was pressed to her breast, and her fingers were still between Tory’s thighs. Carefully, she withdrew.

“That was wonderful,” Tory mumbled.

“Yeah, it was.” Reese kissed the top of her head. “Are you warm enough?”

“Mm hmm.”

“I should set the alarm.”

Tory tilted her head and kissed the tip of Reese’s chin. “In a minute. How you doing?”


“Just great?” Tory ran a finger down the center of Reese’s belly and didn’t stop until she found the answer to her question. Reese stiffened as if she had been electrified.

“Jesus, Tor.” She gasped as Tory flicked her finger teasingly against the base of her clitoris. “Do that a few more times and I’ll… oh…”

“I know exactly what you’ll do,” Tory said with a satisfied smile, never letting up on the steady rhythm. “And… I… know… when.”

Reese’s hips jerked once, hard, and she shouted as the orgasm crashed through her. Distantly, she heard Tory’s joyful laughter.

“Are you sure,” Reese asked breathlessly as the last surge of pleasure rolled through her, “that this is okay?”

“Okay?” Tory asked, vaguely remembering that Reese had asked something similar sometime earlier. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“You know,” Reese said weakly, trying to gather her wits when her brain had just been turned to mush. “The baby.”

“The baby?” Tory leaned on one elbow and stared at her lover. “What about…oh! Sex and the baby.”


“Sweetheart, I don’t think it would be very good for the baby if I lost my mind while pregnant.” She kissed her slightly befuddled lover soundly on the mouth. “Which is exactly what would happen if we stopped making love. Don’t worry, this is just with the doctor ordered.”

“Oh, good,” Reese murmured as she wrapped her arms around her lover and closed her eyes.


Reese was awakened what seemed like five minutes later by an insistent pounding on their front door. Jed, fast asleep at the foot of their bed, snored peacefully. She rolled over and peered at the bedside clock. 5:43 a.m.

“Holy hell,” she muttered under her breath, trying to ease out of bed without awakening Tory.

“Reese?” Tory mumbled as she stretched out her hand and found the vacant space where Reese had just been. Instantly alert, she sat up on, holding the sheet against her body with one arm. “Honey, what is it?”

“Don’t know.” Reese hastily pulled on a pair of jeans and searched a nearby chair for a T-shirt. As she pulled one over her head, she added, “I’ll go check. You don’t need to get up, love.”

Turning on lights as she passed through the living room, Reese reached the front door and looked through the beveled glass window to the front deck. There was just enough light to make out the features of the two people peering back at her. She pulled the door open hastily. “Mom? Jean?”

Kate Mahoney and her lover, Jean Purdy, swept past Reese and into the living room. Kate made a bee-line for Tory, who was just coming down the stairs from the second floor wearing one of Reese’s uniform shirts and a baggy pair of sweatpants.

“Is everything okay?” Tory asked worriedly. She stopped on the bottom step and reached for the banister, trying to ignore a faint wave of nausea. Oh, no. Not yet.

“Is it true?” Kate demanded excitedly.

“Uh…” Reese muttered as she followed the procession toward her startled lover. “It’s not even six o’clock in the morning, Mom.”

Never taking her eyes off Tory, Kate replied dismissively, “I wanted to catch you before you went to work. You’re always up this early.”

“It’s Sunday,” Reese pointed out, although no one seemed to be listening.

“Honey,” Jean, a compact, middle-aged woman with kindly eyes, said soothingly as she stepped up behind the tall, blue-eyed woman who bore a striking resemblance to Reese. “They just woke up. Maybe we should come back later.”

“Well? Are we going to be grandmothers?” Kate demanded of Tory.

Reese made a choking sound as Tory’s face broke into a wide smile.

“News certainly does travel quickly.” Tory, feeling steadier now, walked toward Kate. “And the answer is, yes, you most definitely are.”

Amidst a rush of happy exclamations, Kate threw her arms around Tory, and Jean hugged Reese.

“How did you find out so soon?” Reese asked, grinning now as she extricated her lover from her mother’s embrace. “I didn’t even know until last night.”

“Darling, when someone gets on their knees in the middle of a restaurant in Provincetown, people notice. Especially when it’s a couple like you two, and especially when we’ve all been waiting for the happy news.”

“I should have known,” Reese grumbled, wondering if it had been the waitress or one of the diners who had spread the word. “Once Gladys finds out, she’ll probably put out a state wide bulletin.”

Tory slipped her arm around Reese’s waist and snuggled close to her. “I told you there would be no keeping it a secret, honey.”

Reese kissed the top of Tory’s head while her mother and Jean beamed. “Do you two want breakfast?”

“I’ve got an even better idea,” Kate said as she took Jean’s hand. “You two go back to bed, and we’ll bring you breakfast.”

Reese paled. Everyone is insane. Is this normal?

Tory laughed. “That’s not necessary. But thank…”

“Of course it’s not necessary,” Jean said quietly. “But you’ve made us so very happy, and now that we’re here, it would make us even happier to do something for you.”

“And then you can tell us just how you managed it!” Kate said with a glint in her eye.

“Mom,” Reese said warningly.

Kate kissed her daughter swiftly on the cheek. “Never mind, Reese. I don’t really want to know all the details.”

“Don’t tease her before coffee, Kate, please,” Tory said with a laugh. She tugged Reese toward the stairs. “Come on, honey. They just made us an offer we can’t refuse. Let’s go back to bed.”

Recognizing when she’d been outmaneuvered, Reese shrugged and followed Tory back up stairs. “Sorry about that,” she whispered when they were back in bed. She propped her back against the pillows and drew Tory down against her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

“I don’t mind,” Tory murmured, resting her cheek against Reese’s chest as she thread one arm around her waist. “It was pretty endearing.”

“I never realized my mother was so anxious for grandchildren.” Reese rubbed her cheek against the top of Tory’s head, breathing in the sweet, distinctive scent that always made her feel at home. “God, you feel good.”

“Mmm, so do you.” Tory felt the first stirring of desire, and then swiftly reminded herself that her in-laws were downstairs. “I hate to say this, but it will be nice to have babysitters in the immediate area.”

Reese laughed, running her hand gently up and down Tory’s back. “Now there’s an advantage I hadn’t considered. I guess I can forgive them for dragging us out of bed.”

“Honey,” Tory said contemplatively. “What are you going to tell your father?” As she expected, her lover stiffened. Tory ran her palm softly back and forth over Reese’s chest. “I’m not rushing you, sweetheart. It’s completely up to you.”

“The General has managed to deal with the fact that I’m a lesbian by ignoring it,” Reese said quietly. “I’ve let him, because my relationship with him has always been more military than familial. I guess I’ve probably let him, too, because I haven’t wanted to be coerced into resigning my commission.”

“I know how much the Corps means to you.” Tory took a deep breath. “Is the baby going to be a problem?”

“No, never,” Reese said quickly, tightening her arms around Tory. “I only meant that if I force him to acknowledge our relationship, he might invoke regulations.”

“The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing?”


“Oh, honey,” Tory said worriedly. “I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Reese put two fingers beneath Tory’s chin and gently tilted her face until their eyes met. “You’ve made me happier than I ever imagined I could be. Now, with the baby coming, life is even more wonderful. You and this child are the only things that matter to me.”

“But the Mari…“

“I gave most of my life to the Marines. Now I’m just yours.”

Tory shifted until she was lying in Reese’s arms, facing her. She brought her mouth close to Reese’s, holding her gaze. “I love you.”

As often happened when the depth of their love, at once comforting and wild, rose up to confront them, the rest of the world receded. Reese was about to kiss her when a knock sounded on the door. One of them groaned.

“I was just getting started,” Reese whispered.

“Mmm. So was I.” Tory kissed her quickly, then rolled away. “Look out when you get home tonight, Sheriff.”

Laughing, Reese took her hand. “Come on in, Grandmoms.”


April, Barnstable, Massachusetts

It was after 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, and the parking lot that separated the administrative buildings from the training facility at the Sheriff’s department main headquarters was almost empty. Reese parked her Blazer around the side of the gymnasium, then exited the vehicle and walked to the building’s side entrance. She walked down the deserted hallway to the last door on the right.

There was only one other person in a room the size of a basketball court.

“Hi, Bri.”

Brianna turned away from the hanging bag that she had been lightly punching to loosen up her arms. None of her relief at seeing Reese showed in her face. “Hey.”

“How are things going?” Reese asked as she began to change into her gi.

Bri looked away. Even though she’d seen Reese without clothes in the gym before, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the faint stir of arousal the sight of the well-built body produced. It was probably normal, but she didn’t really have any way of knowing. There’d only ever been Carre in her life. Carre. Jesus, I miss you.

“I miss you, Bri.”

Carre’s voice was small and sad. Bri’s heart ached from hearing the hurt and knowing she had put it there.

“I know, babe. Me, too.” Her own voice was thick in her throat. She slid down the wall beneath the pay phone in an out of the way corner of the building that housed the classrooms, her stomach in knots. She’d had to call, even though she only had five minutes between classes. She was just so lonely. “How’s school?”

“Okay. The same…you know.”

“Your painting going okay?” Bri asked, wondering when it had gotten so hard to talk to the woman who had been her lover and best friend for four years.

“Uh huh.”

“Have you heard anything about the scholarship?”

“Not yet.” Caroline voice trailed off, then came back strong. “So, are you working hard?”

“Yeah. I’m taking some classes with the night school group. That way I can meet my minimal hours requirement faster.”

“Can you come home this weekend?” The hopeful note in Caroline’s voice was obvious.


Bri said softly, “I can’t, babe. I signed up for weapons training on Saturday mornings.”


“I’m sorr…“

“No,” Caroline said hastily. “That’s okay. I knew you’d be busy.”

“You’ll be here Memorial Day, right?”

“That just seems so far away.”

Oh, fuck, don’t cry.

Bri swallowed the lump in her throat. “Do you need money…for the bus? I sent the rent check already.”

“No… I… Bri…” She was crying. “I have to go.”

“I love you, babe,” Bri whispered, one hand fisted in her hair, her head down almost on her knees. “Please, don’t cr…”

“Hey! Parker! You coming to class or not?” a rough male voice demanded.

“Yes, sir.” Bri jumped to her feet. “I gotta go, babe. Carre?”

But the line was already dead.


“Sorry. What?” Bri blushed.

“The academy. Everything okay?” Reese tied her pants, shrugged into her gi jacket, and wrapped the gold embroidered black belt around her waist with practiced efficiency.

“Yeah, sure. Fine.”


Reese stepped onto the mat and knelt, as did Bri, and they bowed to one another. Then, as they had done five or six days a week for the year and a half before Bri had left for college, they trained. Then, Reese called a halt, and they once again knelt and bowed.

“Thank you, sensei,” Bri said quietly.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Reese said, “but I talked to Moriyama sensei about you resuming your training with me.”


“I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep you on schedule. You can either test for shodan in New York with Moriyama’s class sometime this summer, or you can test here with me.”

“How would that work?”

Reese shrugged. “We don’t need to decide that now. You’ve got enough things to worry about. First priority is getting through the academy with good scores so you can have a shot at picking your field training placement.”

“I know. I’m busting my as…butt in class.”

“Good. See that you keep it up.”

“Yes, ma’am.” When Bri realized that Reese would probably head back to Provincetown any minute, she said almost desperately, “Listen, we could shower here and then maybe go out for a drink. If you have time?”

Reese regarded the young woman intently. Bri’s dark blue eyes were shadowed, and despite her formidable physique, she looked gaunt. “If you don’t mind a little healthy sweat, I don’t. I’m pretty hungry. Let’s skip a shower. Any place near here we can grab a bite?”

“Yeah,” Bri replied eagerly. “There’s a tavern out on 6A about 10 minutes from here.”

“Let’s go then,” Reese said briskly. “And Bri?”


“Soda for you in the bar.”

Bri flushed. “Yes, ma’am. Absolutely.”

Nine minutes later they were seated in a booth at the back of a beer joint that was packed with locals and academy trainees. If Reese wasn’t mistaken, at least one young women had eyed Bri with an appreciative glance that was definitely more than friendly.

“Hamburger, fries, and a root beer,” Bri said when a woman approached with a pad and pencil at the ready.

“Make that two,” Reese added. “Along with whatever beer you have on tap.”

“I’m really glad you came up,” Bri said shyly. It was still difficult for her to relate as simply a friend to the woman who had been her teacher first.

“That’s okay. I wanted to see you,” Reese said as she took the mug of beer that the waitress offered. “Find out how you were doing.”

Bri sipped her soda. “The academy’s not that bad. There’s a lot of material to be covered in a short time, but most of it’s just common sense.”

“Good. You can handle yourself. Don’t be afraid to show it.”

Bri nodded, feeling almost happy for the first time since she’d left Carre. “No problem.”

“It’ll be good to have you back in the dojo,” Reese remarked. “Once you’re through the academy, we’ll need to talk about you teaching one of the junior classes.”

“Yeah, I’d like that. Isn’t Tory teaching a class in self-defense now?”

“Yes. But I don’t know how much longer she’ll be teaching.”

“Why?” Bri asked, her expression suddenly serious. “Is there something wrong?”

“Nope.” Reese couldn’t keep from smiling. “She’s pregnant.”

Bri’s hand stopped halfway to her mouth, the hamburger forgotten. Her blue eyes grew so round they looked almost black. “No fucking way,” she said in a reverent whisper.

“It’s true.”


“Yes,” Reese confided. “That’s exactly how I feel, too.”

“Does my dad know?”

“Yes, I told him right away. We’ve known for a couple of weeks.”

“What did he say?” she asked curiously.

“I think he said something along the lines of what you just did,” Reese replied with a laugh. “He seems fine with it.”

They counted out cash to cover the check and the tip and then wended their way back through the crowd toward the door. Once outside, they walked briskly in companionable silence until they reached Reese’s SUV.

“Call me,” Reese said, clapping Bri on the shoulder. “Come down whenever you can, and we’ll work out. Okay?”

“Thanks, I will.”

Reese studied Bri’s face, trying to get a glimpse of what was happening inside her. All she could see were hints of her pain. The memory of the shadows in the younger woman’s eyes haunted her all the way home.


With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, Bri watched the taillights of Reese’s Blazer disappear into the night. Suddenly at loose ends, she shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket and looked around the deserted parking lot. The options were few. She could go back inside the gym and work out until she felt tired enough to sleep, or she could head back down the road to the tavern and at least be in the company of other people. That might take her mind off the empty feeling that stole through her body. Not wanting to think about that, she strode quickly to her cycle, swung one long leg over the low-slung tank, and fit her key to the ignition. Ignoring the helmet strapped to the rear, she kick started the engine, slammed into gear, and tore off into the dark.

A few minutes later, she settled on a stool at one end of the still-crowded bar and ordered another club soda. She wasn’t thinking about much of anything at all, just aimlessly turning the glass on the bar, wondering what Carre was doing, when a soft female voice spoke very close to her ear.

“You’re back awfully soon.”

Bri swiveled on the seat and met the eyes of one of her academy classmates, a softly beautiful dark-haired young woman about her own age. They’d nodded to one another in class, but never had a conversation.

“There’s not much to do around here on the weekend,” Bri said noncommittally.

“You’ve got that right. Do you mind if I keep you company for a while?”

“No,” Bri replied, oddly uncomfortable, and uncertain why. Maybe it was just that she wasn’t used to casual conversations with strangers.

“I’m Allie Weber,” the faintly Southern-accented voice informed her as a well-formed hand reached out.

“Bri Parker.” The handshake was firm, the skin smooth and warm.

“Uh-huh. I know,” Allie replied. “Where are you from?”

“I’m a local. Provincetown. You?”

“South Carolina. Bet you can’t tell, though.”

“Uh,” Bri said, grinning. “A little.

“My mom got a job at Woods Hole Marine Biological laboratory near Falmouth when I was a junior in high school. So I’m sorta local, too.”

They both laughed. After a moment, Bri said, “Can I get you a drink or something?”

“I’m okay with this one,” the brunette replied as she lifted her bottle of beer. “So what do you think of the academy so far?”

“It’s about like I expected.” In truth, Bri didn’t pay much attention to her classmates. Her entire focus was on the material and what she needed to do to meet the hours requirements for graduation. Because many of the cadets had come from previous jobs and diverse educational backgrounds, the training program was very flexible and allowed the trainees a great deal of independence in arranging their schedules. Bri had mapped out a course of study that would get her through in the shortest possible time.

“The guys don’t seem to give you much trouble,” her companion observed wryly.

“Are they bothering you?” Bri regarded her companion seriously and was surprised to notice how dark her eyes were, almost liquid. Then she realized she was staring and quickly studied her glass of soda.

“Not really.” But the young woman’s tone was not convincing.

“But someone said something to you?”

“Not exactly. Just the usual offhand remarks about women not being strong enough to handle a physical confrontation. That kind of crap.”

“Hand to hand combat isn’t about how big you are,” Bri said intently. “Or how strong. It’s about how you use the resources that you have.”

“I heard that you’re some kind of martial arts master.”

“Hardly.” Bri laughed to hide her embarrassment. Luckily it was too dark for Allie to see her blush. “I’ve had some training, but I have a lot more to learn.”

The young woman casually put her hand on Bri’s wrist below the cuff of her jacket, then leaned closer to talk. “I saw you in the physical training section the other day. You knocked that big blond guy, Jacobs, on his ass like he was a feather.”

“That’s because the idiot rushed me. With that kind of move, they have so much forward momentum that if you simply sidestep and redirect, they’ll go right over. It’s totally a matter of using your own center of gravity against theirs.”

“So, do you think you could work out with me sometime? Like a training partner, maybe?”

Bri glanced down at the fingers lightly curled around her forearm and was suddenly uncertain. She didn’t have many friends; she never had. Just Carre and a few of the kids who hung out at Reese’s dojo. Most of the friends they’d made in Manhattan were Carre’s classmates from art school. She’d never wanted anyone else’s company. Carre was enough. The pang of loneliness that shot through her made her breath catch, and she looked away.

“I’d pay you back. I’m a pretty good cook.”

“Sure…I guess so.” Bri looked back and tried to smile. The fingers on her arm were warm. “I mean, I don’t know that I can teach you anything that you won’t get from the instructors. But, I guess that would be okay.”

“Great.” Allie gave her a winning smile. She didn’t move her hand.


It was well after midnight when Reese pulled into the driveway beside her home. The house was dark, but Tory’s Jeep was gone.

Damn it. Where is she?

Reese pulled over, extracted her cell phone from the glove compartment, and punched in the number to the Sheriff’s department. One of her officers answered. “Lyons, it’s Conlon.”

“Yo, Reese. What’s up?”

“Is there any kind of medical emergency in town that you’re aware of?” Her heart was thudding erratically, but nothing showed in her voice. Maybe she’s sick. Maybe something happened, and she couldn’t reach me. Jesus, maybe …

“There’s a big two-car crash on Route 6 coming west from Pilgrim Heights. They called for the EMTs about forty minutes ago.”

“Thanks, Jeff.“Reese put the truck into gear and sped toward the main highway that ran the length of Cape Cod. Five minutes later, she parked on the narrow shoulder behind a Sheriff’s cruiser, a fire truck, two EMS vans, and Tory’s Jeep Cherokee.

Hurriedly, Reese grabbed her Maglite from the emergency kit in the rear of the Blazer and clipped her badge to her belt. Then she made her way around the road cones, stepped over the flares which crisscrossed the highway, and walked between the haphazardly parked cars and trucks toward the center of activity. There she got a clear view of a minivan resting against the guardrail, its front end a crumpled mass of metal and shattered glass.

“Is Dr. King here?” Reese asked of the first EMT she identified.

Without looking up, the technician said sharply, “She’s down with the second car, I think.”

Reese looked around and didn’t see another vehicle. Down? Down where?

Following the skid marks on the highway, Reese reconstructed the accident in her mind. One vehicle traveling east…doing sixty from the looks of it…crosses the median and slams the minivan head on. Poor bastards in that never had a chance. Guard rail stops the minivan, and the other vehicle veers off…fuck. Into the salt marsh.

Stomach churning, she found the section of guardrail that had been breached and shone her light down to the steep embankment. A trail of crushed reeds, pond grass, and scrub outlined the errant car’s path. The vehicle itself lay upside down in the salt pond that ran alongside the highway. The front end was underwater up to the windshield and steam billowed from the cracked engine. Emergency lights had been erected, and a clot of people milled around, maneuvering stretchers and assorted emergency equipment. One of the firemen appeared to be a attaching a towline to the back of the vehicle. No sign of Tory. Maybe the EMT was wrong, and she wasn’t down there after all.

Sliding, nearly falling, she made her way down the damp, muddy bank. How in the hell did Tory get down here? I can’t even stand up.

“Smith!” Reese called when she finally saw someone she recognized. She approached her officer as quickly as the treacherous footing would allow. “Where’s Tory?”

“Hey, Reese! You don’t need to be here, boss. We’ve got it pretty much under control.”

Reese clamped down on her anger, because she knew he had no idea the terror she was feeling. Very succinctly, she repeated, “Where is Dr. King?”

“Oh,” he said hurriedly. “She’s in the car.”

“How long?” she snapped, her nerves raw.

“Huh? Oh…I dunno. Twenty minutes maybe?”

“Son of a bitch,” she shot out to no one in particular as she pushed her way past him and through the firemen and EMTs crowding around the capsized vehicle.

That water has got to be freezing. Jesus, god, she needs to get out of there.

Ignoring the biting cold as she slogged through icy water up to her mid-calves, she bent down to peer through the shattered driver’s side window. “Dr. King? Problem?”

“Reese?” Tory could barely move in the compressed space of what had once been the big luxury car’s passenger area. She didn’t know how long she’d been there, but it felt like forever. A body lay at her feet.

“What’s his condition?”

“Unconscious and critical. I’m bagging him by hand, but there’s a lot of resistance. He must have at least one lung down.” Her teeth were chattering, and it was difficult to talk. “I can’t tell what his oxygenation status is. Too damn dark in here to read a pulse oximeter, even if I had one.”

“Can one of the EMTs take your place?” Reese couldn’t see her lover’s face clearly, but she could hear the strain in her voice. Just seeing her in there made Reese’s guts churn. “Tory?”

“He’s too unstable. I can’t trust this tube not to come out, either,” Tory replied distractedly. “Tell them they can winch whenever they’re ready.”

“Not with you in there,” Reese said sharply. “That’s a twenty percent incline up to the road. This car’s going to twist all over the place when they start pulling it up.”

“No choice.”

Reese turned and shouted, “Get the fire captain down here.”

A minute later, a tall, thin man tramped through the marsh towards Reese. “Sheriff Conlon. I didn’t see you before.”

“Peterson. Just got here,” Reese said brusquely. “What about the structural integrity of the car? Dr. King says she needs to stay inside while you haul this thing out of here.”

“It’ll be one helluva bumpy ride, but they made those old Caddies to stand up to almost anything.” He shrugged. “She’ll get knocked around some. Probably get a few bruises, but the frame will hold.”

“Give me a minute. Do not move this vehicle until I give the word.”

He hesitated for a moment, but there must have been something in the tone of her voice that convinced him, because he replied, “Okay, but make it fast. We need to get this scene cleared up.”

Reese bent over to look inside again. “Tory,” she said in a voice too low for anyone else to hear. “You can’t stay in there during the extrication. It’s going to be rough. Too rough… especially for you now.”

“I’ll brace myself. I’ll be okay.” Tory took a long shuddering breath, and then admitted what she hadn’t wanted Reese to know. “There’s a lot of water in here, and I’m getting really cold. So is he. Get us out of here, Sheriff.”

“Two minutes,” Reese yelled back over her shoulder as she grabbed the top edge of the vehicle, which was actually part of the undercarriage in its now upside down position, and levered her legs through the broken-out window.


“Reese, what in God’s name are you doing?” Tory cried.

“I’m going to give you a cushion, Doctor,” Reese muttered as she twisted her larger frame back and forth until she had one leg on either side of Tory’s body.

Now that she was inside, Reese could make out the driver’s legs underneath the steering column and his head wedged under the dashboard on the passenger side. Tory was holding the tracheostomy tube in place with one hand and squeezing a portable oxygen bag with the other.

“There isn’t enough room,” Tory protested.

“That’s the point,” Reese grunted as she wedged herself into the corner formed by the floor of the car above them and the side wall. Tory was now effectively insulated from the frame by Reese’s body.

“Be careful, Reese, there are metal shards sticking out everywhere.”

A powerful engine roared somewhere behind them, and the car shuddered.

“Brace your legs on something and push back into me,” Reese instructed as she wrapped her arms tightly around Tory’s waist. The car tilted, and they were thrown precipitously forward. Reese shot her right arm out straight to stop their fall, ignoring a sharp stab of pain as something jagged tore through her jacket just below her elbow. With her left arm, she encircled Tory’s waist and held her firmly against her own chest as the car rocked violently from side to side. “Hold on to me!”

“I can’t,” Tory shouted. “I have to secure this trach tube.”

The car continued to bounce up and down as it was winched up the side of the embankment. Reese absorbed most of the shock on her shoulders and back as she curled protectively around Tory’s body. What seemed an interminable time later, but what was in reality only a minute or two, the car leveled out and the earsplitting rattles and bone jolting vibrations stopped.

“Are you all right?” Reese asked anxiously.

“Yes.” Tory’s voice was muffled due to their awkward jackknifed position.

Reese rested her cheek against the back of Tory’s head and closed her eyes for a second. “Are you sure?”

“I’m all right, honey,” Tory said. “Just help me move him.”

By that time, firemen and EMTs were working to separate enough of the frame to ease out the victim. Reese shifted again until she could reach down as far as the driver’s body.

“I can hold that, Tor. You need to get out of here and get warm. You’re shaking all over. I can feel it.”

“I’ll be fi…”

“Tory, go!”

“Be sure and advise me if there’s any change in his condition, Sheriff,” Tory said quietly as she eased her cramped, stiff body toward the broken-out window.

“Understood, Doctor,” Reese said without looking at her. Then she shouted, “Smith!”

“Right here, Reese,” he called from just outside the vehicle.

“Take Dr. King to the EMS truck and have someone look at her. Get her warmed up. Now.”

“Roger that, boss.”

Ten minutes later, Reese found Tory in the back of an EMS van, sitting on the edge of the open rear compartment. She was wrapped in a thermal heating unit and held a steaming cup of tea in her hands.

“How are you doing?” Reese asked quietly, stopping a foot from her.

“Probably better than you. You’re soaking wet, Reese. You should go ho—” Tory’s eyes narrowed as she examined the large wet patches on her lover’s clothes. The ones on her right arm and leg actually seemed to be getting larger as they talked. Her heart gave a sudden painful thud. “Oh my God, you’re bleeding!”

“Yeah, I guess so, “Reese said wearily, fighting a wave of dizziness. In the last several minutes, she’d become aware of a variety of aches and pains. Her right forearm throbbed and burned, and she was having a little trouble putting her full weight on her right leg. It felt like it was about to give out. “I think I might have gotten snagged in a couple of places on a piece of the car when they were pulling us out.”

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Tory set the cup aside and threw off the blanket, then got hastily to her feet. “I need to look at you. Climb up into the van where there’s some light.”

“Okay,” Reese muttered, struggling with a fresh wave of dizziness. “But let’s go to the clinic. I don’t want to do this out here.”

The fact that Reese allowed Tory to open the door and help her inside only made Tory worry more. Fortunately, at that time of night there was no traffic, and in less than five minutes, Tory pulled into the parking lot in front of the clinic. When Reese pushed open the door to get out, Tory simply said, “Don’t even try it. Wait for me.”

“How are you doing?” Tory asked quietly as they maneuvered through the deserted clinic toward the examining rooms in the rear.

“Fine,” Reese grunted through gritted teeth. For some reason, her arm and leg seemed to be burning worse now.

The pain in Reese’s face made Tory’s insides twist, but she kept her discomfort to herself. When they reached the largest examining room which doubled as a procedure room, Tory reached inside and turned on the wall switch. “Lean against the table until I can help you get your clothes off.”

Hurriedly, Tory watched her hands at the small sank in one corner, then turned and moved to where Reese rested with one hip up on the examining counter. Willing her hands not to shake, Tory began to unbutton Reese’s shirt. “Where’re you hurt, honey?”

“Mostly my right arm and leg. The rest of it’s just bumps and bruises, I think.” Reese was having more and more difficulty moving the injured extremities, and it was difficult to get her shirt off. As Tory eased the garment down over the injured right arm, Reese drew in her breath sharply at the swift streak of pain that shot up toward her shoulder.

“Sorry,” Tory murmured, finally getting the garment off. She bit back a cry of alarm when she saw the jagged tear in Reese’s forearm that was deep enough to expose the muscular compartment. Blood oozed steadily for the dark ragged tear, but there was no indication of bright red arterial bleeding.

“Christ, that’s sensitive.”

“It’s the salt from the marsh water,” Tory said flatly. “That’s what stinging. Let’s get these trousers off so I can see your leg.”

Again, Tory had to struggle to contain her exclamation of concern when she saw the jagged star-shaped puncture wound on the outside of her lover’s right thigh. It looked like it might have been made by the sheared off top of the gearshift. Looking at it, she realized that it probably happened when they had pitched forward during the car’s bumpy ascent up the steep roadbed.

“I’ve got to get you up on the table so I can clean these out. The one on your arm is going to need stitches.” As she spoke, Tory worked at separating herself emotionally from the fact that she was looking at her lover’s torn and bruised body so that she could accomplish what needed to be done.

“What’s wrong, Tor?” Reese asked as she watched Tory examining her.

“I hate to see you hurt,” Tory confessed quietly.

“It’s not too bad. Don’t worry, love.”

“You don’t get it, do you, Sheriff?” Tory smiled up at her with a quick shake of her head. “I worry about you because I love you. It comes with the territory.”

“I know. Try to remember that when I’m being overly protective, okay?” Reese took a deep breath. “Like tonight. I was scared out of my mind when I saw you in that car like that.”

“Okay,” Tory said softly. Then she leaned down and pressed her lips to Reese’s forehead for an instant of much needed contact. When she straightened her expression was soft with love but her eyes were firm with purpose. “Now don’t talk to me any more. Just try doing what I tell you to do. Do you think you can manage that for a few minutes?”

“That’s a tall order, Doctor.”

“Stretch yourself, Sheriff. I’m sure you can manage.”


By the time Tory was finished, they were both awash with sweat.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know that hurt.” Tory stripped off her gloves and brushed her hand over Reese’s cheek. Almost to herself, she murmured, “You’re so pale.”

“It’s okay.” Reese tried to smile, but her stomach felt like it had been tied into knots. “It had to be done. I’m glad it was you.”

“I’d rather it not be anyone at all sewing you up.” After filling a paper cup with water at the sink, Tory returned to Reese and held out several colored tablets in her hand, along with the cup. “Take these.”

“What are they?” Reese asked suspiciously.

“Antibiotics and a pain pill. Believe me, you’re going to need it when the lidocaine wears off.”

With Tory’s help, Reese climbed down from the table, and the two of them walked slowly from the clinic to Tory’s Jeep. Ten minutes later, they reversed the process and, together, made their way inside and up to their bedroom.

“Can you get undressed by yourself?” Tory asked. “I really need to take a shower.”

“I do, too.”

“I want you to keep the wound dry tonight. You can shower in the morning.”

Reese nodded and sat tiredly on the edge of the bed. “Okay. You go ahead. I can manage.”

Tory studied her intently for a few seconds. She’d seen Reese injured before, but she’d never seen her appear quite so drained. Reluctantly, she said, “I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“I’m all right, love.” Reese smiled faintly. “Don’t worry.”

As soon as she could mange, Tory returned to the bedroom, naked except for an oversized T-shirt. The room lights were still on, and Reese was lying on her back on the bed, still fully clothed. Fast asleep.

The insistent buzzing of the alarm finally penetrated Tory’s consciousness. She rolled over and peered at the clock, then sat up, startled. “Reese. Honey, it’s time to get up.”

When she got no response, she shook her lover’s shoulder gently. “Reese?”

“Tory,” Reese mumbled weakly, “I can’t.” She barely managed to get the words out before she rolled to the side of the bed and vomited onto the floor. “Sor…”

“Reese!” In a flash, Tory bolted upright and leaned over to stare at her lover. What she saw made her heart nearly stop. Reese’s eyes were unfocused, her color gray, and her skin slick with sweat. Worse, her breathing was shallow and rapid. My god, she looks septic.

“I need to check your wounds,” Tory said as calmly as she could manage while unwrapping the gauze on Reese’s forearm. Before she had even exposed the entire laceration, she could discern the redness and swelling extending from the wound itself nearly four inches up Reese’s arm. Cellulitis. To be this bad, this soon, it’s got to be a virulent organism.

Without hesitation, Tory snatched up the bedside phone and punched 911. In a second, a male voice answered, and she snapped, “This is Doctor King. I need an ambulance immediately.”

She gave them the address and slammed down the phone, then jumped from the bed and ran to get dressed. In a minute, she was back at Reese’s side with a cool towel which she used to wipe her lover’s face. “Reese. Honey, can you hear me?”

Reese’s lids flickered open, and she looked up in confusion. “Tor? What…what’s wrong?”

“You’ve got an infection, sweetheart. I need to take you to the emergency room so we can evaluate you. It’s going to be okay.” Tory glanced at the clock. Ten minutes. Where are they?

Then, in the distance, she heard the siren and breathed a sigh of relief. Loath to leave Reese, she rushed downstairs, opened the front door wide, and signaled with her arm for the EMTs to come inside. “We’re upstairs.”

Thankfully, Reese appeared slightly more coherent when the emergency technicians arrived. Enough to protest, “I don’t need…an ambulance.”

“Probably not,” Tory said gently as she held Reese’s uninjured hand. “But it will be easier on me if I don’t have to drive to the hospital.”

“Okay,” Reese replied softly. However, when she sat up, she gasped sharply, pressed her hand to her midsection, and promptly vomited again.

“Let’s get her on the stretcher,” Tory said sharply. “She needs IV hydration and a loading dose of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Come on. Let’s move it!”

With practiced proficiency, the two male EMTs shifted Reese to the gurney, strapped her on, and pushed her from the room. Tory stayed as close to the side of the moving stretcher as she could. Then she climbed into the back of the van and settled near Reese’s head as one of the techs, a burly redhead, rapidly started an intravenous line in her left arm.

“What do you want to give her, Doc?” As he spoke, he wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Reese’s bicep and took a rapid reading. “Ninety over forty. Heart rate’s one-fifty. She’s pretty dehydrated.”

“Run the saline wide open. Then we’ll need a gram of Ancef and a hundred milligrams of gentamycin. We need to cover all our bases, because I don’t know what this is.”

As Tory spoke, the tech sorted through the drug box and began administering the antibiotics.

“I need to culture this wound right now,” Tory said as the ambulance screamed east on Route six toward the nearest hospital, which was in Hyannis. “Get me a prep tray and some instruments.”

The redhead’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, but he voiced no objection. He handed her sterile gloves and prepared to assist her. Tory removed the dressings on Reese’s arm once again, carefully prepped the area with antiseptic solution, and snipped out several of the sutures she had placed the night before. When she gently squeezed the area, Reese moaned, thrashed weakly on the stretcher, and tried to pull away. Tory did not look at her face.

“I don’t see any pus in there, do you?” The EMT asked as he peered over her shoulder.

“No. It’s too soon for an abscess. This is a soft tissue infection.”

“Strep?” His concern was evident in his tone. “Jesus, do you think it’s necrotizing faciitis?”

“I don’t know,” Tory said distractedly as she pushed a sterile culture swab into the depths of the wound. Reese stiffened at the swift jolt of pain, and Tory’s stomach clenched. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“S’okay,” Reese mumbled before she faded away again.

“I don’t have my cell phone with me. Can you connect me to the hospital?” Tory questioned.

“Sure.” He tapped on the sliding glass panel between the front cab and the treatment section in the rear. “Ken, pass me the radio.”

He handed it to Tory and pointed to the button on the side. “Push to talk, let go to receive. I’ll get someone in triage for you.”

After he gave the person in the emergency room their ETA, he handed the transmitter to Tory. She did as directed and spoke firmly, with no hint in her voice of the terror she felt. “This is Doctor Victoria King. I have a septic patient coming in. I need an infectious disease consultant and a surgeon standing by.”

An eternity later, they careened into the ambulance bay of the regional hospital. Within seconds they were inside and a swarm of nurses and ER doctors descended upon them. By the time Tory was done giving a synopsis of the injury and presenting symptoms, Reese was hooked up to monitors and additional IV lines. Throughout it all, Tory never left her side.

“I’m Jill Baker,” a short, trim African-American woman in a conservative blazer and slacks said as she approached the bed. “Infectious disease. What have we got?”

“Victoria King.” Tory repeated the details of the previous night and morning.

“Foreign body punctures while in a salt marsh. Jesus. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned dog bites.” The infectious disease specialist surveyed the monitors and frowned. As she reached for Reese’s injured arm, she asked, “No hypotensive episodes? Nothing to indicate shock?”

“No.” Tory’s throat was dry, and she suddenly felt light-headed. “I’m sorry. I need to sit for a second.”

“Here,” a deep alto voice said from behind her as a firm hand took her arm. “There’s a seat right behind you.”

“Thanks,” Tory mumbled, fighting a wave of nausea as she settled onto a stool. She was struggling so hard not to pass out she barely heard the swift intake of breath from the woman beside her.


When she could look up without her vision dimming, Tory found herself looking into the face of a stranger who had once been her whole world. She was Tory’s age, still fit, and still roguishly attractive. She’d been a lady-killer when they’d been lovers. And undoubtedly she still was. “Hello, K.T.”

“Are you all right?” the dark-eyed, dark-haired woman asked, her expression one of concern and surprise.

“I’m fine,” Tory said, chancing an upright position. “What are you doing here?”

“Moonlighting. I’m the surgeon on call. What’s going on?”

“I think it’s Vibrio,” Jill Baker said as she walked over to them. “She’s got a rip-roaring cellulitis that’s climbing up her arm, GI symptoms, and mental confusion. It all fits with an acute marine bacteria infection.”

“Does she need to be debrided in the OR?” K.T. O’Bannon asked curtly.

“Probably.” Baker lowered her voice. “If it’s the vulnificus variety, it can be fatal if you don’t cut out the involved tissue right away.”

Tory’s head pounded, not with dizziness, but with mind-numbing fear. She walked away from them and went to Reese’s side. “Hiya, Sheriff,” she said when she saw that Reese’s eyes were open, and thankfully, clearer again.

“Hey,” Reese said hoarsely, holding up the hand with the IV taped to it. “How you doin’?”

“I’m okay,” Tory said, her throat tight with tears she would not shed.

“What’s going on? I don’t remember much of how we got here.”

“You’ve got a bad infection in your arm. How do you feel?”

“Head hurts.” Reese frowned. “My insides feel like I swallowed nails. Can’t say as I feel much in my arm.” She saw Tory pale. “Tor? You better tell me now, because I’m getting a little foggy again.”

“You may need surgery, honey. To remove the infected tissue.”

“Surgery?” Reese tried to sit up, but failed.

The sight of her normally strong, commanding lover so weak and ill scared Tory to death. Her eyes flooded with tears, and she looked away.

“Tory,” Reese said urgently, summoning all of her strength. “This is my weapon arm. You can’t let them cut pieces out of it.”

“You’re more important than any job.” Tory’s voice was rough, her eyes dark pools of anguish.

“Don’t cr…oh, fuck…I’m gonna throw…”

Tory grabbed a basin just in time as Reese vomited again. She slipped her arm beneath Reese’s shoulder and held her as close as the hospital bed would allow.

“Please,” Reese muttered when she could catch her breath. “Don’t let them operate.” Then she leaned back, closed her eyes, and slipped into darkness.


Bri looked at the clock beside her bed for the fourth time in less than ten minutes. It’s too early to call. Carre never gets up this early.

Naked, she rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. It was hard getting used to waking up without Carre beside her. Hell, it was hard doing everything without her. It had been weird riding the Harley with a woman pressed against her, arms around her waist, a cheek resting lightly against her shoulder, who hadn’t been Carre. She’d dropped Allie off at her apartment after they left the tavern around 1:00 a.m. Allie had said she could walk home or grab a ride with someone else, but Bri had insisted on taking her.

It was funny, but watching Allie walk away had left her with an empty feeling. And that didn’t make any sense, because she didn’t even know her. When she got home, even though it was late, she called Carre. And no one had answered.

You wanted to do this. You knew it would be hard. There’s no point in complaining now. Just suck it up, Parker.

Signing, she rolled onto her side, buried her face in her pillow, and tried to sleep. Fuck.

She got up, pulled on sweats and a T-shirt, and padded barefoot out into the living from where the only phone in the apartment was located. She slumped onto the end of the lumpy couch and reached for the phone. After seven rings, she was about to hang up when she heard Carre’s sleepy voice.


“Babe? Sorry, did I wake you?”

“Bri? Hi, yeah. That’s okay.” Caroline laughed. “I’m awake now. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Bri said quietly. “I just…wanted to talk to you. I tried calling last night…”

“Oh.” There was a moment of silence, then Caroline said softly, “I was out with some of the kids from school. I…I got the scholarship.”

Bri closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. “That’s great, babe. I’m really proud of you.”

“I tried to call you, but I guess I missed you.”

“Yeah. I was with Reese.” Bri straightened her shoulders. “So listen, we should do something to celebrate. How about I’d come down next weekend, and we’ll go out.”

“That would be great. I miss you. “

“Me, too.” Bri heard a muffled voice in the background. “Is somebody there?”

“Oh. That’s James. It was really late when the party broke up last night, and he walked me home.”

“And stayed over?”


Bri had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. You could spit from one side of that apartment to the other. Everything was turned upside down, and all she could feel was the dark ache of loss. The words were out before she even had time to think. “Where did he sleep?”

“What? Bri!”

“Well, Jesus, Carre—what am I supposed to think?”

“You’re supposed to think I love you. And in case you’ve forgotten, I like girls.” Caroline’s voice rose, tight with anger. “It’s pretty clear you’ve forgotten that the only girl I ever wanted was you. No wonder it was so easy for you to leave.”

“Easy?” Bri whispered, so quietly her voice did not carry over the line.

“I’m going to go now, Bri, because I don’t want to fight. I’ll talk to you later.”

Bri closed her eyes as a soft click broke the connection.

Stupid. Jesus, what’s wrong with you.

She got up and headed for the shower, determined to ride back to New York City as soon as her weapons class was over and apologize. As she stood under the hot spray, trying to purge the misery from her mind and heart, a pounding on the bathroom door penetrated her awareness. She stuck her head outside the shower curtain. “What?”

The door opened a crack and a male voice called, “Parker, your old man’s on the phone.”

“Tell them I’ll call him back,” Bri yelled, surprised.

“He says it’s an emergency.”

Heart pounding, Bri stepped from the shower and grabbed for a towel.

Tory glanced at the clock on the opposite side of the brightly lit emergency room. She couldn’t believe it was only ten o’clock in the morning. She felt like the day had been endless. She jumped, startled by the voice beside her.

“Tory, I need someone to sign an operative consent,” K.T. said quietly. “I don’t think she’s competent. Do you know how we can reach her next of kin?”

“I have medical power of attorney,” Tory said quietly. She leaned against the aluminum guardrail that stood between her and Reese like the bars of a jail cell, her left hand curled tightly over the top rung, her right softly stroking Reese’s forehead. She didn’t look at the surgeon standing next her.

“You do?”

“Yes. She’s my lover.”

There was a moment’s silence, then K.T. said flatly, “Fine. I’ll get the papers.”

“No. Not yet.” Tory turned and met K.T.‘s eyes. “Her vital signs are stable. She just got the loading doses of chloramphenicol an hour ago. I want to wait until Jill has had a chance to look at the gram stain.”

“Why?” the surgeon asked impatiently.

“Because this might be a limited infection, and another dose of antibiotics might bring it under control without surgery.”

“And if we wait, and it isn’t a mild form of the organism, she could lose her arm. She could die.”

“She’s a sheriff and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. She needs the use of that arm to be who she is,” Tory said as a wave of agony passed through her. “I have to be sure.”

“I’ll be as conservative with the resection as I can,” K.T. insisted.

“Can you promise me that you won’t resect the extensor muscles in her forearm?” Tory said sharply. “Because if you do, she’ll never hold a gun again.”

“You know I can’t promise that. It depends on what it looks like.”

“Yes, and you can’t always tell if the tissue is healthy or not just by looking at it. And surgical teaching says when in doubt, cut it out. I lived with you through your surgical residency, remember?”

“God damn it, you’re letting your emotions affect your judgment.” K.T. took Tory’s elbow and moved her several feet away from Reese’s bedside. “You’re not thinking like a doctor. You shouldn’t be making this decision.”

“I am a doctor,” Tory said sharply. “And I’m her lover. I’ll let you know after I’ve talked to Jill.”

“Jesus,” K.T. cursed. “You’re just as stubborn as ever.”

“And you’re—”

“Tory!” Bri called as she hurried across the room.

Tory looked over at the handsome youth in leather motorcycle pants, black jacket, and white tee shirt. An inexplicable wave of relief washed through her. Maybe it was simply the fact that Bri had always reminded her of Reese in her single-mindedness and her uncommon sense of valor. She held out her hand, which Bri took. To her surprise, Bri leaned close and kissed her on the cheek. Oh, Bri. You’ve grown up, haven’t you?

“Thanks for coming, Bri.”

“I left as soon as my dad called me. He said he’d be here soon.”

“This is Doctor O’Bannon, one of Reese’s doctor’s.”

Bri nodded briefly in the direction of the woman by Tory’s side. “How is she?”

“She’s in and out. She’s sleeping right now.” Tory squeezed her hand. “I called Jean and Kate, but they must be away because I only got their answering machine.”

“I’ll call my dad in a few minutes. He can probably track them down.” Bri glanced at the stretcher. The sight of Reese in the hospital bed sent a jolt of terror straight through her. Carefully, she kept her expression blank. “Can I…is it okay if I…”

“Go talk to her for a minute,” Tory said gently. “She won’t answer, but she’ll hear your voice. I need to hunt down one of the other doctors.”

Bri studied Tory’s drawn face, her eyes darkening with concern. “Have you had anything to eat this morning?”

“What?” Tory asked in confusion.

“You haven’t, have you?” Bri put her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket and hunched her shoulders slightly. “Look, I’ll bring you something from the cafeteria. Toast or something. Is coffee okay?”

The sight of Bri, so very much like Reese, searching desperately for a way to take care of her brought a sudden flood of tears to Tory’s eyes. With a shaking hand, she brushed away the few that escaped before she could contain them. She cleared her throat and smiled. “I guess I should skip the coffee. But some juice and toast would be great. Thanks, sweetie.”

Bri blushed and ducked her head. “I’ll be right back.”

K.T. watched Bri walk away. “She’s hot.”

“She’s a child,” Tory said acerbically.

“I don’t think so.” She gave Tory a speculative glance. “Still living in Provincetown?”

“Yes. Bri’s father is the sheriff there and Reese’s boss.”

“Why did the kid ask if coffee was okay? Is something…wrong? Are you ill?”

“No.” Tory hesitated. “I’m pregnant.”

K.T.‘s gasp of surprise was audible. “Jesus Christ, Tory. Stop fooling around then. Let me operate and make sure your partner’s around to see the baby.”

Tory’s face lost the last remnants of color, but she refused to give in to the sudden wave of dizziness. “You never could see the shades of gray, could you? I’m going to find Jill Baker and see what she thinks. I’ll give you my decision after that.”

Than she walked to the bed, leaned over, kissed Reese on the lips, and strode away without looking back at the astonished surgeon.


Tory found Jill Baker in the pathology laboratory, bent over a microscope, a frown of intense concentration wrinkling her smooth forehead.

“What have you found?”

Without looking up, the infectious disease specialist answered, “It’s a gram negative, just like we expected. At least we know the antibiotics are correct.”

“Is there any way to tell if it’s the virulent form or the self-limited variety?” Tory tried to keep her voice even and hoped that her rising panic wasn’t evident. As each second passed, and the clock ticked down on the chance of keeping Reese out of the operating room, her anxiety escalated.

“No, I’m sorry. Not from this. We need to wait for the culture and sensitivity results to come back.” Her eyes were sympathetic, but her tone held the matter-of-fact delivery of every physician who knew that only the truth would suffice.

“How long?” Tory asked, although in her heart, she knew.

“Twelve hours at best, more likely twenty-four.” Baker shrugged. “Bacteria grow at their own pace.”

“If it’s Vibrio vulnificus, she doesn’t have twelve hours, does she?” Tory put one hand on the counter, determined not to let anyone see her falter.

“If that’s what it is, she doesn’t even have six.” Baker’s gaze slid from Tory’s tormented green eyes to the scrolled gold band encircling her left ring finger, the exact match to the one on the sheriff’s hand. “What would you say if you didn’t know anything about her except the medical facts?”

Tory looked away, attempting the impossible task of keeping Reese’s face from her mind. But she was a doctor, and after a moment, she succeeded in assessing, categorizing, calculating the timetable, and reviewing the sequence of symptoms. She took a deep breath. “I’d say that everything points to the rapid onset of cellulitis which was most likely produced by an ocean-borne pathogen. In all likelihood, there was systemic spread almost immediately, which accounts for her toxic presentation and gastrointestinal symptoms. I can precisely pinpoint the time of infection, and considering that it’s been almost twelve hours, the progression is not escalating particularly rapidly.”

“Very good,” Baker said with a small grin. “And your conclusion?”

“It’s more likely to be the nonfulminant variety, because if it were anything else, by now her condition should have deteriorated to the point of shock and system failure.” For just a second, her voice shook. “There’s no evidence of disseminated intravascular coagulation on her last blood panel, and the local spread of the infection seems to have stabilized.”

“Want a job? We could use another ID attending around here.”

“No thanks,” Tory said with a weak laugh. “What if we wait on the surgery, and I’m wrong?”

“Being cautious is the sign of a good physician. Second-guessing yourself, though, is dangerous.” Jill Baker’s expression was solemn. “Let’s try a little old-fashioned medicine. Let’s look at the wound. If the cellulitis hasn’t progressed, and she still looks stable, I say we sit on it for another couple of hours.”

“O’Bannon’s going to go crazy.”

Joe lifted one elegant shoulder. “Let her. Her ego can take it.”

Tory took a deep breath. “Okay.”


K.T. was gone when Tory and Jill returned, having been called away by an emergency in the trauma unit. Bri was sitting by Reese’s bedside, perched on a tall stool, a tray bearing English muffins and cardboard cartons of juice balanced on her knee.

“Look who’s here,” Bri said happily as Tory approached, inclining her head toward the bed.

Tory leaned over the stretcher and gazed into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “Hello, sweetheart,” she murmured, her heart aching at the shadows of pain that lingered in Reese’s face.

“Hi, love. Sorry I keep…fading.” Reese turned her head slightly. “Bri says she has breakfast.”

“Yes,” Tory said with a smile. “But not for you just yet. Are you hungry?”

“Not really.” Reese grimaced. “I’m just happy not to be heaving. You should eat.”

Tory petted her hair, stroked her face, unable to bear not to be touching her. “In a minute.” She glanced to the side as Jill joined her at the bedside. “Honey, this is Jill Baker. She’s an infectious disease specialist. She needs to look at your arm.”

“Okay,” Reese said weakly. “Just looking, right, Doc?”

“No sharp instruments, Sheriff,” Jill replied with a smile.

Reese kept her eyes on Tory’s face as the other doctor unwrapped her arm. She would be able to read the answer in her lover’s eyes. When Jill gently probed with a gloved hand, Reese winced and immediately saw Tory’s eyes darken. “I’m okay, Tor. It doesn’t hurt too much.”

“I know, sweetheart.” Tory’s fingers trembled in Reese’s hair. “What do you think, Jill?”

“It’s no worse.”

Tory closed her eyes. When she opened them, Reese’s questioning gaze was fixed on hers. “That’s good, honey.”

“No surgery then?”

“Maybe I should decide that,” K.T. announced dryly as she moved in next to Jill and reached for Reese’s arm. Her dark eyes steady on Reese’s blue ones, she said, “I’m Dr. O’Bannon. I’m a surgeon.”

“Doctor,” Reese said with a hint of her old authority in her voice. “I’m hoping I won’t need your services.”

K.T. didn’t respond as she lifted and turned Reese’s arm, then probed upward towards her shoulder. “Hurt up here?”


“Make a fist.”

Reese tried, but couldn’t quite close her fingers.

“That bother you anywhere?” K.T. questioned.

“Just feels stiff.” Reese frowned. “Mostly I just feel really beat. I can’t seem to stay awake.”

“That’s the effect of the dehydration and the bacterial toxins,” K.T. murmured without taking her eyes from the wound. After a moment, she gently placed Reese’s arm back on the bed. Then she grasped the guardrail in both hands and leaned over slightly so that her face was all that Reese could see. “I don’t see very much change in the physical appearance of your arm in the last four hours. That may be a good thing, or it might not. The safest thing would be to take you to the operating room, remove the sutures, irrigate the wound, and excise any dead tissue.”

“How would that affect the function of my arm?” Reese said, trying hard to concentrate. The headache was slowly returning, and with it, an overwhelming desire to close her eyes.

“Maybe not at all.”


The surgeon blew out a slightly exasperated breath. “I can’t tell you for sure until I see what the tissue looks like.”

“Worst-case… scenario?”

“Sensory loss, primarily in the upper aspect of your hand, weakness of wrist extension, decreased grip strength.”

Reese’s eyes flicked to Tory. “Can we wait?”


“Sheriff Conlon,” K.T. interrupted. “If we go now, we minimize the risk…”

“K.T., let me talk to her alone for a minute,” Tory said quietly.

Reese stiffened slightly and shifted her gaze back to the surgeon. The tone of familiarity in Tory’s voice was too much to be coincidence. So you’re the idiot who let her go.

“I have a patient to check on in the trauma unit,” K.T. said stiffly. “I’ll be back shortly.”

“Reese,” Tory said softly, “I know how important it is for you to have the full use of your arm. But we can’t take any chances. I… I can’t risk losing you.”

“I would never willingly do something that might take me away from you.” Reese lifted her left hand and when Tory grasped it, she entwined her fingers with her lover’s. “But if there’s a possibility that we can ride this out without the surgery, I want to try.”

“Jill feels we can wait a couple more hours,” Tory said, knowing that she was making perhaps the most important decision of her life. Searching her heart and mind, she settled herself and answered, “I agree with her.”

“Okay then,” Reese said with a sigh, closing her eyes. “If you don’t mind… I think I’ll sleep for a bit.”

Tory laid Reese’s hand down on the bed and brushed her fingers over Reese’s hair, then kissed her. “I’ll be right here, sweetheart. You just rest.”

“You don’t have to stay, Bri,” Tory said with a weary sigh. Reese had been transferred upstairs from the emergency room to the intermediate intensive care unit for observation. The isolation room was equipped with the standard hospital bed, freestanding bedside table, and several chairs. In addition, a small sofa had been provided in the event that family members wanted to stay for extended periods of time. It was easier for visitors to remain in the patient’s room rather than the regular waiting room, thereby avoiding the cumbersome process of scrubbing and donning cover gowns every time they reentered the room.

“I want to wait,” Bri said as she settled on the sofa next to Tory. “If that’s okay?”

Tory leaned her head against the back of the sofa and closed her eyes. “Sure.”

It was noon. Twelve hours said she had gotten the call from the EMTs about a multi-vehicular accident with victims trapped in the wreckage. It was a call like so many late night calls she had gotten in the seven years she’d been Provincetown’s year-round doctor. She and Reese had responded to any number of the same calls over the time they’d been a couple and were used to working together. It had all seemed so routine the night before, but then that’s how so many life-altering events began…as something so ordinary. And now, she was waiting while her lover’s future, and possibly her life, hung in the balance.

“Just a few weeks ago we found out about the baby.” Tory’s voice broke on the words. “Now…”

“Tory,” Bri whispered softly as she edged closer on the sofa, alarmed by the tears leaking from beneath Tory’s closed lids. Tentatively, she placed her hand on the weeping woman’s shoulder. “She’s going to be okay.”

Tory struggled with the rush of emotions, but she was so tired and so terrified and before she could stop herself, she’d turned into the warm body next to hers. Bri’s arms came around her and Tory held on, pressing her face to the strong shoulder as she wrapped one arm around Bri’s waist. She felt a soft cheek against her hair and the whisper of breath against her ear as she let the tears come.

“She’ll be fine,” Bri murmured, pulling her close.

When Nelson Parker arrived at the hospital and asked for the whereabouts of his deputy sheriff, he was directed to a room in the intermediate care unit on the second floor. The door was closed when he arrived, and looking up and down the hall, he saw no one around. Carefully, he pushed the door open and peeked in.

The room was dim, and at first all he could make out was the single hospital bed in the center of the room holding a sheet-covered form. His gaze drifted to the small sofa tucked into one corner, and his eyes widened. His daughter sat with a woman cradled in her arms, her chin resting on the top of the tousled auburn hair. He and Bri stared at one another for an instant, and then he slowly closed the door.

Nelson leaned with his back against the wall and replayed the image in his mind. He kept being reminded every few months how little he understood of his daughter. Bri was his child; he remembered a million images of her growing up, the kind of snapshot moments he supposed most men had of their children. But he didn’t know who she had become. In fact, he didn’t have any point of reference to even imagine who she was. Victoria King was one of the strongest women he’d ever met, and his daughter was in there holding her, sheltering her, it looked like. He felt inexplicably proud.

The door opened softly, and Bri stepped out. “Hi, Dad.”

“Hi, Bri,” he said gruffly, his throat a little scratchy. “How’s Reese?”

“She’s been asleep since they brought her up here, maybe two hours ago. The doctors are supposed to look at her again soon.”

“She…uh…she pretty sick?”

Bri swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“Christ,” he growled. “How’s Tory taking it?”

“She’s worn out. She’s been asleep, too.”

“You okay?”

I’m fucking scared out of my mind. Bri looked away. “Yeah.”

Nelson squeezed her shoulder with one huge hand, then slid his arm around her and pulled her close. He hugged her for a second, amazed as always by her solid strength. “Reese is tough.”

“Yeah,” Bri said. She’d never leave Tory. But people do, don’t they? We lost Mom.

Bri stepped away. “I oughta get Tory some lunch. She forgets, and you know…with her being…you know. Reese would be pissed if we let Tory get sick.”

“You go back in,” Nelson said quickly, jumping at the chance to do something, anything, remotely useful. He did not want to walk in there and see Reese on the edge. He didn’t think he could take it. “I’ll get her a sandwich. That would be good, right?”

“Yeah. And juice. Juice seems to be okay.”

“Great. Got it,” the Sheriff said as he hurried away.

Bri glanced at the clock down the hall at the nurse’s station. Almost three p.m. She thought about calling Carre. Carre would tell her that Reese would be fine, and make her believe it. Carre’d always been able to do that…make her see the light in the dark, no matter how bad it seemed. She closed her eyes, leaned her head back against the wall. I wish you were here. I wish you knew how much I need you.

After a minute, she opened her eyes, straightened her shoulders, and slipped back into the room.

Reese opened her eyes, blinked, and focused on the faces leaning over her. The surgeon was closest to her, her dark eyes opaque, her austerely handsome features expressionless. Tory stood across from her. Focusing on those tender green eyes, Reese smiled. “Is this the only show in town?”

A flicker of joy flared in Tory’s eyes, the first sign of happiness in hours. The corner of her mouth lifted in a soft smile. “Apparently, Sheriff, you’re it.”

“It’s good to see you,” Reese whispered, lifting her free hand, which Tory immediately grasped. Then, Reese turned toward K.T. O’Bannon. “How do things look, Doctor?”

“Stable,” K.T. said, her gaze on Reese’s arm. Then she seemed to reconsider. “Actually, a bit better than that. I think the cellulitis has receded and the swelling is a little less.”

“I guess that means you and I won’t be getting together then.”

K.T.‘s dark eyes rose to meet the deep blue ones. She smiled faintly. “I guess not.” The she glanced across Reese’s body to Tory and said quietly, “Can we speak outside?”

Tory looked as if she were about to object, but Reese squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Go ahead, love.”

After a second’s hesitation, Tory nodded. “I’ll be right back.”

Once outside, Tory studied K.T., who leaned with one shoulder against the wall, waiting for her. The surgeon wore only hospital scrubs with no lab coat. Her beeper was clipped to the right hip and several pens protruded from her breast pocket. She was still lean and faintly tanned. She looked much the way Tory remembered her, with only a few added lines around her eyes to mark the passage of time. She was still heart-stoppingly beautiful, with that same dangerous glint in her eyes, as if she knew it. Looking at her, Tory’s memories of their years together were clouded by the mists of half truths and lost dreams. The emotions that had once been so achingly close to the surface whenever she thought of K.T.’s smile, her touch, were gone. Uneasily, she asked, “What is it? Did you see something that worried you when you examined her?”

“No, nothing like that,” K.T. clarified quickly. “I just wanted you to know that I’ll be here for another twelve hours. If there’s any change, call me. I’ll come take another look.”

“Thanks, K.T.” The relief almost made her dizzy. Maybe the nightmare really was over. “I appreciate you spending so much time with us. I know how busy it gets when you’re the only one on call.”

“That’s okay.” K.T. shrugged. Then, her voice pitched low, she added, “I’m glad things turned out this way. As much as I love to operate, I’m glad I didn’t have to this time.”

“So am I. I know you weren’t happy when I wanted to wait.”

“The two of you would have been hard to take on.”

Tory smiled. “Reese is not someone you want to challenge at any time, even when she’s flat on her back.”

“I haven’t seen her at her best, and I believe you.” Uncharacteristically, K.T. looked away for a heartbeat, and then brought her eyes back to Tory’s. “I still miss you.”

Tory’s lips parted in surprise. They hadn’t seen each other since separating nearly seven years before. The first few years after that had been agonizingly difficult. They’d been through medical school and residency together, and Tory had planned on a lifetime with her. When all that had changed, she’d lost faith in love and even worse, in herself. First she had regained her identity and sense of purpose by establishing her medical practice in Provincetown. She’d rebuilt her life while keeping her heart locked safely away. Then Reese had come along and made it impossible for her not to believe in love again. Reese had brought hope back into her heart, and because of Reese’s love, her life was filled with joy and promise.

“Take care of yourself, K.T.,” Tory said quietly. “I need to get back to her.”

As Tory turned away, the deep, sensuous voice she knew so well murmured, “If I called you, could I see you?”

Without looking back, Tory softly replied, “No.”

Then she walked through the door and let it swing closed behind her.

“Everything okay?” Reese asked as she watched her lover approach. She’d been fading in and out for what felt like days, but she remembered realizing who the surgeon had to be. Tory’s ex-lover. Do you still hurt, love?

Tory pulled a chair close to the bedside and lowered the rail that separated them. She placed both hands around Reese’s below the intravenous line, lifted it, and pressed her lips to the top of Reese’s hand. “Everything is wonderful.”

“O’Bannon’s your K.T., right?”

Tory stiffened slightly, then shook her head gently. “No, honey. Not anymore.”

“You’re all right?”

“I am now. You’re better.” Tory lifted Reese’s fingers and brushed them against her cheek, then turned her face and kissed each one. “How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been on maneuver for four days straight in a swamp somewhere without water. My head hurts, my insides are empty, and I don’t think I could stand up if the room was on fire.” Reese grinned weakly. “But compared to this morning, I feel like a million bucks.”

“You’re going to be fine.”

“I can think a little bit clearer now, and I seem to have most of the feeling back in my right hand. I’m just so damn weak.”

You’ll get over this. You have to, because I need you so much. Tory closed her eyes as a sudden rush of the emotions swamped her. Then she couldn’t stop the tears, even though she wanted to. “Oh, god, Reese.”

“Tory,” Reese whispered. “It’s okay, love.”

“I was so scared,” Tory murmured, her eyes still closed. “I don’t know how I would manage without you. I can’t even imagine…”

“I love you. I will not leave you.” Reese moved their joined hands until her fingers touched the tears. “Besides, we have a baby coming, and I intend to be there for every second of the fun.”

Tory leaned closer and rested her head against Reese’s shoulder. “Fun. Ha.” But her spirits lifted at the sound of Reese’s steady heartbeat beneath her cheek.

“I can’t wait.” Reese wrapped her free arm protectively around Tory’s shoulders and held her as close as she could. “You should go home, love. You need to get some rest. Especially now.”


“Tory, please. Everyone agrees I’m going to be okay, and I don’t want anything to happen to you. Please.”

“Later. I promise, I’ll go home in a little while.” She lifted her gaze, her green eyes still swimming with tears. “I just need to be with you a little longer. I need to feel safe again.”

Okay,” Reese said softly, her fingers stroking Tory’s face. “Okay, love. Whatever you want. Always.”

They both jumped as a knock sounded at the door. Then it slowly swung open and Bri peered around the corner. Her face lit up when she saw that Reese was awake. “Hey! You okay?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Come on in.”

Suddenly shy, Bri came slowly forward until she stood on the side of the bed opposite Tory, her hands in the front pockets of her low-riding jeans. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Me too, kiddo.” Reese smiled. “You know, I seem to remember you managed to find some food earlier. Any chance of repeating that trick?”

“Sure, if it’s okay.” Bri looked to Tory questioningly.

“Now that we know she’s not going to need surgery, I don’t see any reason she can’t eat. I’ll check with Jill Baker. She’s the attending.”

“How about Bri huts down some hoagies, and by the time she gets back, we’ll have our answer?” Reese suggested. You look ready to collapse, love. Hoagies will have to do until I can get you to go home.

“You mind, Bri?” Tory asked.

“Hell, no. Anything as long as I don’t have to eat what they have in the hospital cafeteria.”

They all laughed and Bri hurried out.

“She’s been here all day,” Tory said quietly. “Nelson was here earlier, too.”

“He see Bri?” Reese’s eyes fluttered closed, and she fought them open.

“Yes. They seemed okay.”

“Good. I’m glad Bri…was here for you.”

“She’s been great. It’s hard to believe that she’s not a kid anymore.”

“Yeah,” Reese agreed. “She is and she isn’t, you know? She’s not a kid, but she’s still…so damn young.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “I’m a little…worried…about her.”

“Rest for a little while, honey. I’ll wake you when Bri gets back with the sandwiches.”

“Maybe just for a few minutes,” Reese murmured as she drifted off into healing slumber.


A week later, Kate Mahoney looked up from the newspaper and regarded her daughter with amused consternation. “Reese, darling, I don’t think that’s exactly what Tory meant when she said you should rest today.”

“If I rest anymore, I’m going to be comatose,” Reese complained as she awkwardly pried open a can of primer with her left hand. The right was tucked into a sling across her chest. She wiped her hand on her faded fatigue pants and glanced at her mother in frustration. “I’ve been home from the hospital for four days, and I’m perfectly fine. If there were any real paperwork to do, I’d beg Nelson to put me on desk duty. But until the end of the month, there’s hardly enough of that to keep him busy in the office.”

“I know you’re bored,” Kate sympathized. “But somehow, painting a room does not seem like resting.”

“It’s therapy. She said I could use my hand.”

“No. What she said is that you could start gentle strengthening exercises. I doubt very much that includes wielding a paintbrush.”

“Did Tory assign you to spy on me?” Reese regarded her mother with faint suspicion.

“No,” Kate said with a laugh. “I just happen to like your company. I know once the season starts, you’re going to be too busy even to visit.”

“Shouldn’t you be working in the gallery? Don’t you have paintings to hang or something?”

“The gallery is in good shape. Jean is taking care of everything.” Kate smiled benignly. “I have absolutely nothing on my schedule.”

“I’m not going to do anything foolish.” Reese stirred the paint and sighed. “I don’t want anything to keep me from getting back to work as soon as possible.”

“Tory said it would be a month,” her mother reminded her gently.

“It needs to be a little sooner,” Reese said determinedly. “The stitches will be out in another week, and there’s no reason I can’t start getting some of the strength back in my arm now.”

“If you use it too much, too quickly, you’ll just prolong the swelling.”

Reese raised an eyebrow. “Is the house bugged? Tory said something just like that this morning.”

“No, but I lived with your father for fifteen years, and I’ve seen my share of physical injuries. Marines tend to get banged up a good deal, as you may recall.”

For a moment, silence descended between them.

“I suppose I’m as bad a patient as he was,” Reese muttered. “Do you think we’re a lot alike?”

“Only in the sense that neither of you were ever willing to admit there was something you couldn’t do.” Kate looked away, a distant expression in her eyes.

Reese leaned back on her heels and asked softly, “Do you hate him?”

“No,” Kate replied without hesitation. “I don’t like him, but I don’t believe he ever did anything to intentionally hurt you. Hurt me, yes. But not you. That I would never forgive.”

“He never tried to understand you.”

“I doubt that he could. He couldn’t change who he is anymore than I could.”

“He could learn to accept some things,” Reese said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.

“Like the fact that his ex-wife and his daughter are lesbians?”

“Maybe.” Reese’s smile was brittle. “Or maybe just that there are more ways to live than his way.”

“I won’t defend him to you, Reese. Not when he took nearly twenty years that I might have spent knowing you.”

Reese drew a long breath. “Tory thinks I should tell him about the baby.”

“Do you want to?”

“I don’t know.” Reese leaned her shoulder against the wall and rubbed her eyes. “I’m not sure what the point would be. He hasn’t accepted my relationship with Tory, so he certainly isn’t going to accept our child.”

“Perhaps it isn’t his acceptance, but your telling him that matters.”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” Reese said seriously.

“You and Tory are about to experience something wonderful, something precious,” Kate said gently. “He’s your father, one of the most significant people in your life. You need to tell him for your own sake and let him deal with his feelings the best way he can. Because if you don’t, it diminishes you and your relationship with Tory.”

“Like hiding being gay to avoid a court martial?”

“Reese, I know how much that bothers you. But, how does the saying go? You have to pick your battles?”

Reese grinned. “Uh huh.”

“Well, when you choose not to reveal your sexuality to General Conlon, it’s a professional necessity. Not telling your father about your child is personal, and in my opinion much more critical.”

“Being a soldier’s a lot simpler. The rules are clearer, and the decisions a lot easier to make.”

“Yes, indeed.” Kate smiled. “I think you’re doing wonderfully as a civilian, by the way.”

“I hope so,” Reese said fervently. “Because Tory means more to me than anything ever could. And now…” She swallowed and met her mother’s eyes. “I think I’m going to need a fair amount of advice about this parenting thing.”

“I’m sure you and Tory won’t have any trouble at all. I intend to do nothing except spoil him or her, which is a grandmother’s right.”

“Well, as long as you’re available for an emergency rescue mission if I get into trouble,” Reese remarked, hunting for the paint brush.

“You can count on that.”

Tory stopped in the middle of the dining room and cocked her head. “Why do I smell fresh paint?”

Reese swiveled on the stool at the breakfast counter and smiled. Tory had been in the clinic all day. Thirteen interminable hours. “Welcome home, love.”

“Let me repeat,” Tory said firmly as she crossed the room. “Who’s been painting?”

“Uh, I thought I’d get started on the nursery.”

“You did. ” It was a statement, not a question. Tory leaned her cane against the counter and regarded Reese expressionlessly. Normally, Reese was a recruiting poster example of good health and physical fitness. Now, a hint of illness still lingered. The shadows under her eyes had faded, but had not disappeared completely. Her color was better, but she was still pale. It hadn’t been long enough for Tory’s fear to have completely left her. “I’m going to kill you.”

“Could you kiss me first?” Reese murmured, extending her good hand.

Tory moved between Reese’s parted legs, resting her palm on Reese’s thigh for support. “I suppose.”

“Then I’ll go happy.” Reese slid her arm around Tory’s waist and pulled her near, dipping her head to claim soft lips. Closing her eyes, she lost herself in the familiar sensation of supple warmth and tender welcome. It had been too long since they had touched this way. Tory’s breasts brushed her own, and, as it always did, the pressure of Tory’s body started Reese’s blood humming. She groaned faintly and worked the back of Tory’s blouse free from her slacks. Her palm found the hollow at the base of her lover’s spine, and she spread her fingers over the swell of hips below, urging Tory closer still.

“Reese,” Tory sighed as she released the kiss. “I don’t think…”

“Shh. I’ve missed you.” Reese’s voice was deep and mellow. She took Tory’s mouth again, more insistently this time, probing deeper with her tongue, sucking on the full lower lip until Tory moaned. Reese closed her thighs, holding Tory captive against her.

“Your arm…”

“Is fine,” Reese whispered, moving her lips to the sweet spot below Tory’s jaw, kissing her way down to the faint hollow between her collar bones. She drew her fingers from Tory’s back, around her side, and up underneath the front of her blouse. When she encountered the thin silk brassiere and the hard nipple beneath, she flicked her thumb across the taut peak. Tory surged against her, a sharp cry resonating from her throat. The sound of her pleasure made Reese stiffen and throb. “Ah, god, you are so perfect.”

“They’re so sensitive now.” Tory arched her neck, her eyes closed. “I can feel it all the way inside me when you do that.”

Reese closed her eyes, too, and rested her forehead against the crook of Tory’s neck, working the full nipples between her fingers, one and then the other. Tory’s breasts lay heavy in her palm, a weighty fullness so sensuous it stole her breath. Listening to Tory’s breathing quicken, she teased her until Tory’s hands in her hair forced her head up.

“Am I hurting you?” Reese asked quickly, her eyes searching Tory’s face.

“No,” Tory managed hoarsely. “It feels so good I think you could make me come.”

“Do you want to try?” Reese whispered through a throat tight with desire. She never stopped the rhythmic squeezing, watching Tory’s green eyes darken to black with arousal.

“Mmm, no. I want to lie down so you can touch me everywhere.”

Reese groaned as another jolt of excitement tore through her. Pleasing Tory always drove her to the edge, and often when Tory climaxed, she would too, spontaneously, just from hearing her lover’s cries. “Bedroom?”

“Yes, now, before I can’t walk.”

They managed to climb the stairs to their bedroom without losing contact, their arms around each other’s waists. Once at the bedside, Tory said, “Sit down.”

Wordlessly, Reese did as she was bid while Tory turned on the bedside lamp. She was aware of the steady pounding in her depths, of the pressure building, demanding relief, but she would not move until Tory directed it. Tory’s pleasure was her greatest satisfaction.

“Watch me,” Tory murmured as she unbuttoned her blouse, her eyes on Reese’s face. She slid it off, let it fall to the floor. “I love the way you want me.”

“So much.” Reese forced the words out as her hands trembled on her thighs. She caught her breath as Tory reached behind, released the clasp on her brassiere, and freed her breasts. They were fuller, lush in a way that was primordially female. Watching Tory’s hands brush lightly over them, linger briefly on the swollen nipples, then slide down her abdomen made Reese’s stomach clench. A pulse beat frantically between her thighs.

“Touch me,” Tory breathed, stepping closer and reaching for Reese’s left hand. She drew the fingers to her breast, closing her eyes at the shock of pleasure as Reese gently squeezed. While Reese teased her, Tory unbuttoned her slacks and pushed them down along with her underclothes. Resting one hand on Reese’s shoulder, she stepped free, exposing herself to her lover’s view.

“You’re more beautiful every day,” Reese whispered, smoothing her palm down Tory’s gently swelling abdomen. When her fingers brushed the soft hair at the base of her belly, Tory’s hips jerked.

“Time for me to lie down,” Tory said huskily, her fingers fluttering over Reese’s cheek. “Be careful with your arm, sweetheart.”

“I’m fine.” Reese shifted to make room on the bed, leaning her right shoulder against the pillows as she turned on her side. “Lie close to me.”

Tory lay on her back, her eyes on Reese’s face. “Slowly.”

“I will.”

Knowing fingers traced her breasts, the slope of her ribs, the faint curve of her hip. Everywhere Tory’s skin tingled; every sensation seemed to center between her thighs. When Reese brushed her hand the length of Tory’s leg, then up the inside, Tory’s hips lifted in invitation. But Reese did not touch her where she so desperately needed to be touched, but moved instead to the other leg, stroking lightly up and down until Tory quivered with urgency.

“Please,” Tory whispered.

Smiling, her breath barely moving in her chest, Reese drew a fingertip high between her lover’s legs, parting swollen folds, gasping as a flood of moisture rose to her touch.

“Yes,” Tory sighed.

“Don’t close your eyes,” Reese demanded as she slid her fingers around Tory’s clitoris, squeezing gently. She fondled her until the rhythm of Tory’s rolling hips signaled she was on the edge. Then Reese moved lower, easing inside, drawing a guttural moan from her lover. She thrust slowly, watching Tory’s pupils grow huge.

“Oh god,” Tory cried. “You have me so close.”

“Help me,” Reese urged, deep in her now.

Tory slid her hand down her abdomen, her eyes locked on Reese’s. The first flick of her fingertips over naked nerve endings brought her hips off the bed and wrenched a cry from her throat.

Reese groaned.

Tory kept her eyes open as long she could, watching her own pleasure reflected in Reese’s face. When the pressure built too high for her to stand, she pressed harder, her hand and Reese’s moving together, driving her to orgasm.

Long moments later, Tory sighed. “Maybe you could just stay home and be my sex slave.”

“Hmm. Okay.” Reese nuzzled Tory’s ear, grinning to herself. “But sex slaves don’t cook.”

“Is that so?” Tory questioned, turning languidly on her side. She licked a bead of sweat from Reese’s neck as she reached for her fly. “Let’s check.”


March, Provincetown, MA

“Well! Now things will get back to normal around here,” Gladys announced with a huge smile as Reese closed the office door behind her. “How are you feeling, honey?”

“Just fine,” Reese replied, blushing faintly and glancing at Nelson, who just shrugged.

“Desk duty,” Nelson grumbled. “That’s what the doctor said.”

“What, have you got my report card there or something?” Reese asked as she balanced her cap on a stack of folders that rested precariously near the edge of her desk. Ignoring his snort, she sauntered across the room to a counter along one wall that held the coffeepot. Lifting the cloudy pot, she swirled the murky contents and eyed it speculatively. “How old is this?”

Gladys pointedly turned her chair away. “Don’t look at me. I don’t drink that poison.”

“I made it just…yesterday afternoon,” Nelson admitted sheepishly. The stuff had tasted a little like battery acid that morning. Just thinking about it sent him searching in his desk drawer for his antacids.

“I think making coffee is probably considered desk duty,” Reese said with a sigh. “And for your information, the doctor said I can work as long as I don’t stress my arm.”

“And I know your doctor, and I sure as hell don’t plan to get on her bad side,” Nelson commented. He still hadn’t forgotten the one time Tory had threatened him with bodily harm, and he’d known then that she’d not only meant it, she was capable of doing it. “Three weeks is awfully fast to come back to work.”

Especially after being flat on your back and scaring the bejesus out of everyone. He still didn’t like to think about it. The only good thing to come out of the whole deal was that Bri seemed to be speaking to him again. At least a little.

“Three weeks is an awfully long time to be sitting around the house going crazy, too,” Reese grumbled.

She filled the paper filter with coffee, settled it into the plastic chamber, and slid it home. After punching the on button, she turned and gave the room a contented once over. Nothing had changed, except the pile of paperwork on her desk looked like it had gone through several generations of reproduction while she’d been gone. “And if we don’t get the hiring done and all the paperwork in order before the end of this month, we’re going to be behind for the rest of the summer.”

Nelson chewed the chalky tablet absently, fingering a dog-eared piece of paper as he read it for at least the tenth time. Then, without comment, he passed it from his desk to Reese’s. “That’s the first order of business. What you decide to do about it is up to you.”

“What is it?” she asked curiously as she settled behind her desk. The chair creaked in its familiar fashion as her body settled into the seat.

“I’ve got to sit in on one of those damn town council meetings,” Nelson announced as he rose abruptly. In less than a minute he had fished his hat from the rack by the door, settled it on his head, and walked out through the door, leaving Reese to stare after him in surprise.

When she raised a questioning eyebrow at Gladys, the older woman merely shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t have any idea what’s going on with that man. But something is surely bothering him, and I can only think of a couple of things that might be.”

Reese nodded contemplatively and turned her attention to the document Nelson had given her. It was an official inquiry, addressed to her, that had undoubtedly been opened in her absence to be sure that some important business had not gone unattended. She skimmed it quickly and thought she understood at least one reason for Nelson’s disquiet.

Reese phoned ahead to the clinic as she drove. They still had plenty of time before their flight, but it never hurt to give Tory a little advance warning. When the phone was answered by an extremely harried sounding receptionist, she figured her lover had probably gotten backed up.

“East End Health Clinic, hold please.” A moment later, Randy returned. “How may I help you?”

“Hi Randy, it’s Reese. How’s Tory doing?”

“If she hurries, she’ll only be a little late.” He laughed distractedly. “So I would say it’s business as usual.”

“Did she have lunch?”

“I ordered it, Reese.” Randy’s tone vacillated between irritation and frustration. “I can’t make her eat it.”

Reese sighed, curbing her temper with effort. It wasn’t Randy’s fault if Tory worked too hard, and it certainly wasn’t his responsibility to see that she took a lunch break. “Do me a favor, will you? Have Sally pack it up, and I’ll see that she eats it on the plane.”


His voice faded away and she heard a muffled, “Excuse me…don’t let him eat that pen, please.”

“It’s important,” she said loudly enough to get his attention.

“I know, Reese,” Randy replied, affronted.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I’m just a little…”

“Never mind. We love her, too. Look, I’m up to my behind here…”

“Right. Thanks again. I’ll wait outside.”

At only a few moments past their appointed rendezvous time, Tory exited through the front door of her one story medical office building and hurried across the parking lot to Reese’s Blazer. She carried her briefcase in one hand and a paper bag in the other.

“You can’t harass my staff in the middle of office hours, Sheriff,” Tory advised threateningly as she slid into the front seat.

“Says who? I’m the law around here.”

Tory leaned over and kissed Reese on the mouth, then glanced pointedly at Reese’s right arm and frowned. “You’re not supposed to be driving.”

“Number one, Nelson is still in a meeting. Number two, I’m fine.” To prove her point, Reese keyed the ignition and headed the SUV toward the street.

“How are you feeling, really? And I don’t want a two word answer.”

Reese grinned. “Being pregnant makes you cranky.”

“You haven’t seen cranky yet, sweetheart. Now let’s have a progress report.”

“No swelling, no numbness, and… just a little stiff and sore.”

“Good.” Tory leaned back with a sigh and closed her eyes.

“You okay?” Reese asked, glancing over in concern.

Tory rested her left hand on Reese’s thigh and patted her gently. “It was hectic this morning, that’s all.”

“Do you have your lunch?”

Smiling, Tory turned her head and opened her eyes. “Yes, I do. As per your instructions. Whatever it is you do to Randy, you make him nervous. There was no way he was letting me out of the building without it. I was afraid he was going to do a full body search.”

Reese grinned. “If he tries that, I’ll really make him nervous.”

“Are you okay about this afternoon?”

“Shouldn’t I be?” Reese asked quickly. Routine. You said it would just be routine.


Forty-five minutes later, Reese was nervous. “Tell me again what this is going to show.”

They were seated on facing chairs in one corner of Wendy Deutsch’s waiting room. There were two other couples in the room, the female members of each pair conspicuously pregnant. Tory rested her hand on Reese’s knee. The thick khaki fabric of her uniform pants was as reassuringly solid as Reese herself. “It will give Wendy, and us, some information about the baby. How it’s developing. If we didn’t know exactly when the date of conception was, it would help determine fetal age, too.”

Reese cleared her throat, ignoring the faint churning in her stomach. “So it’s routine.”

“Almost eighty percent of pregnant women have an ultrasound done at some point during their pregnancy,” Tory assured her. “And for high-ri…for women over thirty-five, it’s absolutely standard.”

High risk. She doesn’t think I know? Reese covered Tory’s hand with hers and squeezed gently. “And we’ll be able to see its…parts?”

“What parts would you be referring to?” Tory asked with a laugh. “Besides, I thought you said you didn’t care.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Reese grumbled in mock indignation. “The head and the heart and the spine. Those parts.”

“Very good, Sheriff. Yes, at eleven weeks we can see the heart beat and with a good image, we can tell if the neural crest elements…the brain and spinal cord…are developing normally.”

God, what if… But that was like wondering what an upcoming battle would be like. What it might be like to be shot or killed. Pointless musings about an eventuality that might never arise. Reese straightened her shoulders, and, with the long-ingrained gesture, her nervousness disappeared. “Will you be able to tell its sex, if you see it?”

“Well, if I see it, I’ll know. But not seeing a penis doesn’t mean it’s not a boy. It just means it doesn’t show.”

“But I won’t be able to tell,” Reese pointed out in a rare show of pique. “I’ve seen those pictures in your books. It looks like bunch of blanks in a snowstorm.”

“I’ll make sure you see, if you want to.”

“If you know, I want to know.”

“Deal.” Tory extended her hand to seal the bargain.

Reese smiled and took Tory’s hand, but she didn’t shake it. She folded it between both of hers and leaned forward to murmur, “I love you.”

“I lo…”

“You two all set?” Wendy’s nurse asked as she approached with a chart in one hand.

“Yes,” they both said in unison.

Forty minutes later, Tory was dressed again, and she and Reese waited in one of the consultation rooms for Wendy to return with the printouts of the ultrasound examination.

“So, what do you think about names?” Reese asked, her blue eyes dancing. “Something nice and strong to go with King, like yours. Victoria Conlon King. Great name for a girl. Oh, but Victoria’s already taken. And we already have too many Cs and Ks in the family. My mother, Kate. Your sister, Catherine. Maybe—”

“Reese, sweetheart,” Tory said calmly. “We don’t know it’s a girl.”

“Well, yeah, but we saw everything . So if it was there, we would’ve seen—”

The door opened and Wendy came in. “Okay,” she said briskly as she walked around the cluttered desk and sat down. She extended her hand with the polaroids. “Here you go. Baby’s first pictures.”

Grinning, Reese took them, then glanced down as she shuffled through the images. Suddenly all the black and white splotches looked miraculously like arms and legs and facial expressions.

“Everything seems fine with the fetus,” Wendy commented neutrally.

Fine with the fetus… Reese looked up instantly, her eyes darkening, focused and intent. She glanced at Tory, whose expression was unreadable.

“Your blood pressure is just a tad high, Tory.”

“Yes, I know,” Tory replied evenly. “I’ve been charting it for the last few weeks. It’s been running a bit above normal, but today is about the highest it’s been. I guess I was a little nervous.”

“Understandable,” Wendy said kindly. “And nothing to get alarmed about, although it bears watching. Keep a log. Call me if it starts reading higher. For now, limit your salt intake. And no caffeine.”

Tory groaned.

“Sorry.” Wendy grinned. “Regular exercise, and plenty of rest.”

“Can I keep kayaking?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“What about the dojo?” Reese asked quietly. “Should she quit?”

“Not for a few months,” Wendy replied. “I wouldn’t let an inexperienced student throw you, Tory, but ordinary workouts should be fine.”

“Okay,” Tory agreed, watching Reese. She had gotten very still, and a muscle bunched at the base of her jaw. Ah, damn. I didn’t handle this very well.

“Good.” Wendy stood. “Then I’ll see you in two weeks. I’ve got to run. Call me any time.”

After she left, Reese asked flatly, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Tory debated several answers, but there was really only one thing she could say. “I didn’t want you to worry.”

Reese reached over and took her hand. “Don’t do that again, okay?”

“No,” Tory murmured, lifting Reese’s hand to her lips. “I won’t.

The taxi ride to the airport was quiet, and Tory napped on the short flight back to the tiny Provincetown airport.

“Do you want to go out for dinner?” Tory asked as they settled into the Blazer.

“It’s been a long day,” Reese commented quietly. “Let’s go home, and I’ll cook.”


When they reached the house, Jed’s exuberant barking welcomed them. As they walked up the path to the rear deck, Tory suggested, “How about I take him for a walk while you start dinner?”

“Great. He’ll like that.” Reese unlocked and opened the door, then leaned over to kiss Tory lightly on the cheek. “You’ve got at least forty-five minutes.”

Tory ran her fingers lightly down Reese’s arm. “See you soon.”

Reese watched her disappear down the path to the harbor and wondered what was bothering her. And when she would share it.

The beach was deserted. Tory released Jed’s lead and let him run. She walked along the water’s edge, watching the last memory of sunlight shimmer and die across the water.

“Hey, Jedi, we’re going to have a baby,” she whispered. “What do you think, huh? Pretty amazing.”

He didn’t answer, but his large form in the gathering night was a comfort. As shadows turned to darkness around her, she watched stars flicker on overhead. “Pretty scary, too.”

Her stomach was queasy from the events of the afternoon, and it wasn’t just the news about the hypertension. She’d seen that coming for a few weeks and already had some practice trying to put her worries about it aside. Most of the time, she succeeded with that. Keeping Reese from worrying might prove to be a bigger challenge.

Most unexpectedly, it was the ultrasound that had thrown her. Watching the tiny movements, listening to the rapid beat of a microscopic heart, had impressed even her scientific mind with the magnitude of what was happening inside her body. As much as she’d thought herself prepared for the changes that were coming, there were still moments when she was almost overwhelmed. There were suddenly so many things she needed to balance—her personal needs for professional fulfillment, her responsibility to Reese, the physical demands of her pregnancy. In the midst of happiness she would suddenly feel uncertain, wondering how she was going to manage everything. Just thinking about the incredible challenge and responsibility of raising a child sometimes made her feel inadequate.

People have been doing it for millennia, right? Reese and I love each other, and we want this baby. That’s what counts, right? God, what is wrong with me? I’m never like this.

As she looked over her shoulder, she saw the lights of their home flickering through the small pines that separated the rear deck from the beach. Knowing that Reese was back there filled her with a sense of assurance and comfort. Each time she found herself struggling with doubt or fear, she had only to think of Reese to realize that whatever challenge awaited her, she would not face it alone.

She’s truly the rock upon which my world stands.

A few moments later, Tory let herself in through the sliding doors from the deck. Jed bounded ahead and skidded ungracefully around the breakfast bar into the cooking area, nearly clipping Reese behind the knees.

“Hey. Get out of here, you oaf,” Reese yelled. Turning with a spatula in one hand, she smiled at Tory. “Is there a reason he smells like week old fish?”

“Dead sea treasures.”

“Lovely.” Reese slid a plate with appetizers onto the counter. “You can nibble on these while I finish dinner.”

“Thanks,” Tory said as she settled onto a stool. “I love you.”

Stopping in mid-motion, Reese raised an eyebrow. The tone of her lover’s voice had not been casual. “You okay?”

“Mostly.” Tory extended her right hand on the countertop and Reese took it. “Sometimes, you know, I get a little…” She sighed and shook her head. “It all just sort of hits me.”

“Yeah, me, too. But you know what?”


Reese released her hand, walked around the breakfast island, and put her arms around Tory. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

Tory threaded her arms around Reese’s waist, rested her head against the broad chest, and closed her eyes. With her cheek pressed to her lover’s heart and the heat of the familiar body enclosing her, she couldn’t conjure up a single worry. Quietly, she murmured, “I knew that.”

“God, it feels good to get into bed,” Reese observed with a contented sigh. She stretched out her arm and Tory snuggled close, the movement automatic after hundreds of nights together.

“Yes, so good.” Tory smoothed her hand over Reese’s chest, then down the center of her abdomen. Drifting, pleasantly tired, she trailed her fingers over the edge of hip bone and down one hard-muscled thigh. When Reese curled her right arm around Tory’s body, Tory felt the long ridge of the healing scar brush along her skin. A quick thrust of fear swept through her as she realized anew what she had nearly lost. In the next breath, she envisioned walking on the beach earlier and how just thinking about Reese had settled her world. She remembered too what life had been like before Reese had come into her life, bringing such pure and selfless love.

Everything. You’re everything.

Tory pressed her lips to Reese’s shoulder, reveling in the heat of her skin. Her heartbeat quickened, as did her passion. “Reese?”


“You tired?”

There was a beat of silence, then a soft chuckle. “Is that an invitation?”

Tory shifted until she was lying on top of her lover. Her legs fit perfectly between Reese’s; her fingers curled possessively over Reese’s shoulders. “Could be.”

“Feels like.”

Laughing softly, Tory leaned down and kissed her, slowly at first, light teasing kisses. As their skin slid softly, their bodies cleaved even closer. Soon Tory sought more, slipping her tongue inside Reese’s mouth, hungry now. Moaning softly, she raised herself until her nipples were close to Reese’s mouth. Shakily, she whispered, “Suck them, sweetheart.”

Tenderly, Reese captured Tory’s breasts in both hands, squeezing them gently together as her mouth moved first from one nipple to the other. As Reese sucked carefully, pleasantly torturing the sensitive tips, Tory shifted to straddle Reese’s hips, rocking herself rhythmically until her desire streaked wetly over Reese’s abdomen. Reese thrust her hips in time to Tory’s soft cries of pleasure, hard and full herself and desperate to be touched.

“Stop,” Tory panted. “It feels so good. I can’t stand it.”

“Come up here,” Reese ordered, her voice a husky growl. Then she slid her hands down Tory’s back to her hips and drew her higher on the bed. The scent of her lover’s arousal made Reese’s clitoris twitch almost painfully, and she shut her eyes tightly for a second against the surge of need that threatened to steal her concentration. Hoarsely, she whispered, “This okay?”

“Yes. God, yes.” Tory leaned forward, braced her palms flat against the wall, and lowered herself onto Reese’s mouth. A small cry fluttered from her throat at the first touch of Reese’s lips. She tried not to move, not to hurry, but the blood pounded insistently, making her clitoris stiffen and throb with each knowing stroke of Reese’s tongue. When she didn’t think she could get any harder without exploding, she looked over her shoulder and down the length of Reese’s body, taut and trembling against the sheets.

“You’re so beautiful,” Tory moaned. Lifting herself from Reese’s mouth, she twisted and turned, settling once again on top of her lover, this time with her face against Reese’s thigh. Desperately she begged, “Come with me?”


Then Tory parted the engorged tissues with trembling fingers, entering deeply at the same time as she enclosed Reese’s clitoris with her lips. Reese jerked and cried out sharply before she took Tory once again.

Boundaries and borders disappeared as their flesh became one, passion a raging flood overflowing the restraints of their desire. They held to one another, dangling on the precipice of surrender, until Tory pulled her face away with a sharp gasp.

“I’m…ready. Have…to come.”

“Yes, love,” Reese echoed tightly, before drawing Tory in even more deeply.

Tory pressed her lips to Reese’s quivering clitoris and trembled as they exploded in unison. Reese held her as she bucked and shook, letting her soar, all the while keeping her safe.

When she gently floated back to earth, Tory found herself once again cradled in Reese’s arms, her head tucked securely beneath Reese’s chin. She had no idea when she had moved. Reese’s chest heaved with the last vestiges of release, her heart a hammer beneath Tory’s cheek.

“You okay, sweetheart?” Tory questioned softly.

“Hell, yes.” Reese laughed shortly, a sound very nearly a sob. “I think I’m still coming.”

“Mmm,” Tory murmured throatily, her fingers drifting lower. “Go again?”

“No way.” Reese grabbed her wrist, stilling her motion. “I’ll jump right out of my skin. You’re too good. Criminally good.”

“So arrest me, Sheriff,” Tory muttered as she slipped into sleep, her hand clasped in Reese’s.

“Don’t worry,” Reese whispered, pressing her lips to the top of Tory’s head. “I’m don’t plan on letting you go.”

She had worked hard all night not to acknowledge the faint note of caution in Wendy Deutsch’s voice when she’d mentioned Tory’s blood pressure elevation that afternoon. But the echo the doctor’s words had been there all the time in the back of her mind, a subtle almost intangible warning, like shifting shadows in the mist on night patrol. A good marine learned to heed those silent warnings, because the price of ignoring them was losing the skirmish, or worse. Reese stroked Tory’s back, her own breath nearly still in her chest.

You are everything. Everything.


March, Manhattan, NYC

It was after 11:00 on Friday night when Caroline walked into the apartment. She gave a small cry of surprise when she saw the familiar figure sprawled on the couch. “Bri! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

Bri stood, shaking the fog from an unplanned nap from her head. It was warm in the apartment, and she’d just closed her eyes for a second. She’d hit the road after her last class and ridden straight through, not even stopping to eat. “I knew it would take me most of the evening to get here, and I figured if you had plans…”

She shrugged and stuffed her hands into her pockets. She’d never made it down the weekend they’d had the fight, because Reese had been sick, and she’d spent all her free time at the hospital. Then she had classes to make up. Every time she called, Carre wasn’t in. If her girlfriend had called back, she’d never gotten a message. Finally, when the distance stretched into an ache that consumed her days, she’d just decided to come.

“And you thought I’d rather be out doing something else when I could have been waiting here for you?” Caroline shook her head and deposited her portfolio and other things on a small bookcase inside the door. “Do you think I’d want to miss a minute when we could be together?”

“You were mad at me,” Bri said hoarsely, still not moving. “I’m sorry for what I said about… James.”

Caroline came around the couch and went to Bri, slipping both arms around her shoulders and pressing close. With her lips against Bri’s neck, she murmured, “You’re such an idiot sometimes. How could you think that for a second?”

“I don’t know,” Bri whispered, resting her cheek on top of Carre’s head. “The longer I’m away from you, the more confused I get. Things don’t make sense when we’re apart.”

“Then come home,” Caroline said desperately. “Please come back. I’m so lonely without you.”

“I can’t come back now,” Bri explained almost pleadingly, pulling Carre close. “I’ll be through the Academy in a few months. I have to finish. Even if I came back, you’ll be…leaving…in just a couple more months. I’d go crazy here next year without you.”

“Oh, baby, I know. I know.” Caroline smoothed her hands up and down Bri’s back, turning her face to kiss Bri’s neck, the sharp line of her jaw, the corner of her mouth.

Shaking, Bri stifled a cry and found Carre’s lips, aroused and tentative at the same time. She’d never been afraid of the wanting before, because Carre had always been there to soothe her hunger with a sure touch and certain heart. Now, away from her, the wanting was a torment that haunted her day and night. Desire had transformed into loneliness, and it left her aching as if lost.

“Bri?” Caroline questioned softly as she drew her head back to search her lover’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just missed you.”

Sensing Bri’s hesitancy, Caroline stepped away. At the look of panic that flickered briefly in Bri’s eyes, to be just as quickly extinguished, she smiled softly. “Just stand there for a second.”

Then she turned and quickly pulled open the sofa bed and smoothed back the sheets. Extending her hand, she said, “Come here.”

By the side of the bed, Caroline gently pulled Bri’s T-shirt from her jeans and lifted it over her arms and off. Then she sat on the edge of the bed and brought both hands to the buttons on Bri’s jeans. When Bri reached to help, Caroline brushed her hands away. “No.”

In another minute, Bri was naked, trembling in a way she could never recall…her skin hot and cold at the same time, her muscles so tight she felt as if she would snap, and yet so weak, she could barely stand. “Carre,” she said hoarsely. “What are you doing?”

Caroline looked up, her ocean-green eyes fathoms deep. “I’m reminding you of us.”

When Caroline tugged her down, Bri followed, helpless to resist. Uncharacteristically passive, she stretched out on her back as Caroline leaned over her. When the blond head lowered over her chest and soft lips captured her nipple, she arched upward with a startled cry. She brought trembling hands to Caroline’s hair and stroked the soft strands, urgently needing an anchor, feeling as if she might fly apart. Caroline had her palm pressed to Bri’s tense stomach, and when Bri tried to rise, needing the familiar feel of her lover beneath her, Caroline lifted her head and said swiftly, “No.”

For a heartbeat, Bri resisted, but then the hand slipped lower, cupping her possessively between her thighs, and she fell back with a strangled groan. Her head was suddenly light; her heart pounded so hard it was pulsing visibly between her ribs. Her hands lay open, palms up by her side, as her friend, her lover, her heart, lay claim to what was hers, stroking every inch of Bri’s flesh until she quivered uncontrollably.

“This is where you belong, you know,” Caroline gasped at some point. “With me.”

And Bri could only moan in response. When she didn’t think she could stand it any longer, she pushed up on her elbows and looked the length of her body. Carre’s cheek lay against her stomach; she stroked her fingers between Bri’s legs, touching her teasingly for a few seconds and then moving away, measuring out her torture to the beat of Bri’s strangled breathing and the rhythm of her twitching muscles.

“Make me yours,” Bri whispered as she rested her fingers beseechingly against Carre’s head and pressed, urging her lower. For a heart stopping instant, she thought Carey would resist, but then in one fluid motion the blond head dipped and a warm mouth enclosed her. Bri jerked and cried out, her bones dissolving. She fell back, strength failing as pleasure shot through her. She was hard to the point of bursting, and Carre’s lips were so soft as they licked and tugged at her swollen flesh. The brush of a tongue along the length of her clitoris nearly made her head explode.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

Caroline looked up, a satisfied smile on her face. Her voice was like velvet as she purred, “Remember me?”

“Jesus, don’t quit,” Bri gasped. “I’m gonna come any second.”

“Really?” Caroline’s tone was ingenuous as she slipped fingers inside her.

Bri arched off the bed, thigh muscles straining, her breath tearing from her on a hoarse cry. “Oh, please. Please…”

A wave of near painful pleasure swept through Caroline at the sound of Bri’s need, and she lowered her head to capture her clitoris with her mouth. Gently, prolonging the moment, she merely held her between her lips, not moving until she felt the sudden swelling all along the shaft. Then, she sucked gently, urging the orgasm to unfold and engulf her lover in one continuous, rolling surge of release. Bri sobbed her name. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard.

Bri didn’t return to awareness until she felt Caroline, naked now, stretched out on top of her, moving in the familiar rhythm of desire. Caroline’s face was pressed to her neck, her skin slick with urgency, her breath little more than faint broken cries. She felt the wet heat as her lover rocked frantically the length of her thigh. Bri barely had the strength to do more than wrap her arms around her, but she clasped her lover’s hips, adding to the pressure that would bring Carre off.

“Babe, babe,” Bri whispered. “I love you.”

Caroline’s only response was a choked sob.

“Come on, Carre. Come on me.”

Caroline stiffened.

“Oh, yeah. That’s it.” Impossibly, Bri felt a second orgasm rise from her depths, a distant thunder eclipsed by the storm raging in Carre’s body. “Do it, babe.”

Caroline jerked convulsively, her hands clutching Bri’s shoulders desperately, and screamed as the climax pummeled her. Bri strained into her, closing her eyes, letting her lover’s passion carry her away.


“Man, I’ve missed that,” Caroline mumbled when she emerged from the pleasant torpor that followed. “I thought I was going to melt.”

“Meltdown is more like it,” Bri muttered, running her hands up and down Carre’s back. Carre was still on top of her, their arms and legs entangled. “You practically gave me a stroke.”

“Good.” Caroline traced a finger along Bri’s neck and down her chest, stopping to cup her breast in her palm. “Feeling better?”

“I can’t feel anything at all. I’m pretty sure my legs fell off.”

Caroline laughed and snuggled even closer, drawing one leg across Bri’s thighs and wrapping an arm around her midsection. “I love you.”

“Mmm,” Bri murmured, running her fingers through the soft golden hair. “Lucky for me.”

“Uh-huh. And try not to forget it, okay?”

“I’m sorry for being an asshole,” Bri whispered.

“It’s okay,” Caroline said softly. “You’re not.”

“Yeah, well.” Bri sighed and kissed her as Caroline snuggled closer.

“How’s Reese?” Caroline asked

“Good. Better.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get down to see her.”

“I’ll tell her you said hi,” Bri said. As an afterthought, she asked, “Have you talked to Tory lately?”

“Not since Reese was in the hospital. It was so crazy—I could never catch her in.”

“So you don’t know?”

“Know what?” Caroline asked anxiously.

“Tory’s pregnant.”

“Oh my god! That’s so great.”

“Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Oh, I can’t wait to see Tory and ask her all about it,” Caroline exclaimed. I want us to have a baby some day.

“Well, there’s a big class party in Barnstable the Friday of Memorial Day weekend—kind of like an early graduation thing.” Bri nuzzled Caroline’s ear contentedly. “So if you came down for that, we could swing down and see Tory and Reese after.”

Caroline grew still. After a moment, she said, “Uh…it’s special, huh?”

“Sort of. I’d like you to meet my friends.” Bri thought for a second, trying to clear her fuzzy brain, which still didn’t have enough blood going to it. From the way she felt, it was all still centered between her legs. “So, will you come?”

Another stretch of silence ensued. Bri opened her eyes, suddenly wide-awake. “Carre? What’s going on?”

“I didn’t get a chance to tell you on the phone before, because… you know, we got into a fight.” Caroline’s voice was flat, impossible to read. “Part of the scholarship for next year has this work study thing.”

“Uh-huh.” Bri’s heart started triple-timing. Jesus, something else?

“I got a job here for the summer. There’s an orientation that weekend.”

Bri sat up swiftly and reached for the sheet, pulling part of it over herself, searching for some fragment of protection. “You’re not coming back to the Cape for the summer? You’re going to stay here? “

“It’s not like I don’t want to be with yo…”

“Christ, you didn’t tell me?”

“I didn’t know,” Caroline said miserably. “I would have told you sooner…”

“So.” Bri was amazed at how calm she felt inside. No, not calm. Cold. Cold and, mercifully, numb. “I’m going to be there, and you’re going to be here. And then you’re going to be in Europe. For a year.”

Caroline sat up now, too. She searched around on the floor and found her blouse and pulled it on. Automatically, she handed Bri her T-shirt. “Yes, we’ll be separated for a while. So what?”

“Oh, come on.” Bri couldn’t take it anymore. She got out of bed, hunted up her jeans, and tugged them on.

“What’s the matter with you?” Caroline got to her feet and grabbed Bri’s forearms. “We knew this was going to happen sooner or later.”

Bri’s hands trembled as she buttoned her jeans. She turned away so Carre wouldn’t see. And what happens when you come back? You’ll have a new life, and I’ll be part of year old life. I’ll be the past. I can’t stand around waiting and wondering when that will happen.

Bri walked to the door and grabbed her helmet and jacket.

“Where are you going?” Caroline’s voice was filled with anger and tears. “It’s two o’clock in the morning.”

Bri couldn’t think of a single thing to say. She couldn’t say goodbye, because the words would tear her heart out. She couldn’t say I love you, because the words wouldn’t change what she feared would happen. In the end, she said nothing.

She drove all night and pulled into the parking lot in front of the training center with ten minutes to spare. When she’d left for Manhattan the night before, she’d planned on skipping her Saturday weapons class. Now, it seemed like the only thing that might take her mind off the howling pain that had threatened to swallow her up all night.

She must have sleep-walked through the class, because an hour and a half later, she found herself straddling her bike again. She fiddled with her keys, contemplating the rest of the day. The thought of going back to the barren apartment almost made her ill. She could ride to Provincetown, maybe visit Reese. But she should call before she did that. Visit her dad? No, he would only ask her questions that she didn’t have the strength to answer.

“Hey,” Allie said as she walked up. “You okay?”

Bri raised her head, slightly confused, then smiled faintly in recognition. Allie was wearing tight blue jeans and an academy T-shirt with expensive cowboy boots. She looked tough and sexy at the same time. “Yeah, sure. Fine.”

“I thought you looked a little spacey in class. Rough night?”

Bri laughed bitterly. “Yeah, something like that.”

“How about I make you breakfast?” The blond moved a little closer and placed a hand on Bri’s knee.

She didn’t even have to think twice. “Okay.”

“Excellent,” Allie said with a broad smile as she placed her palm on Bri’s shoulder, threw a leg over the broad bike, and snuggled up close behind Bri. She wrapped both arms around Bri’s waist, her hands resting in the curve of Bri’s thighs. “Most excellent.”

It took only a few minutes to reach Allie’s small cottage.

“Is this all yours?” Bri asked, still feeling a little disoriented.

Allie slid off the bike, removed her helmet, and hooked it to the bracket on the back of Bri’s Harley. “Yeah, I’m renting it for now. Depending on where I get assigned for my training period, I’ll either keep it or sublease it.”

“Nice,” Bri commented as she followed Allie up the drive.

“Come on in.” Allie opened the door and motioned Bri into a warm and surprisingly welcoming living room. “Sit down. You want coffee?”

“Yeah, that would be great.” As an afterthought, as she headed for the couch, Bri added, “Do you, uh, need me to do anything?”

“No. Go ahead and relax. You look like you could use it.” Allie leaned a shoulder against the open refrigerator door, observed Bri with a small smile, and shook her head. “I can manage this.”

Bri clasped her hands between her knees and nodded. Now that she was sitting, she realized that she really was beat. A night without sleep and ten hours on the road had left her a little fuzzy.


Bri jumped. “What? Sorry.”

“Toast and eggs okay?”


“Just give me a minute.”

Bri leaned her head back against the sofa and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, it took her a few seconds to place her surroundings. She was leaning to one side into the corner of the couch, her legs up on the cushions, taking up most of the rest of the sitting area. Allie was seated at the other end, her bare feet propped up on the coffee table, a magazine open on her lap.

“Good nap?” the brunette asked with a smile.

“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Bri said as she jerked upright. Rubbing both hands over her face she searched the wall for a clock. When she saw that it was mid-afternoon, she realized that she had been asleep for several hours. Blushing, she glanced sideways into Allie’s dark eyes. “What a jerk, huh?”

Allie shifted closer until their shoulders touched, turning slightly so she could meet Bri’s eyes. “Uh-uh. I thought it was pretty cute when you just conked out. You didn’t even flinch when I put your legs up.”

“Sorry about breakfast.”

“That’s okay.”

Suddenly, Bri was acutely aware of Allie’s body pressing lightly along her side. She was also aware of her light perfume, a scent very different than Carre’s, but nice in a pretty sort of way. Bri looked down when she felt the light brush of fingers over her hand. Allie’s hand was small and delicate, each nail perfectly sculpted and glossy with a pale pink hue. It was very quiet in the room. The soft rhythm of Allie breathing was soothing and, at the same time, exciting.

A pulse tripped unexpectedly between Bri’s thighs, and she caught her breath in surprise. Reflexively, she stood up and stepped away a pace. “I should go. I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on still.”

“Are you going out later?” Allie asked as she stood. “You know, Saturday night at the Breakers?”

“I don’t know,” Bri said awkwardly. “Maybe.”

“I’ll be there,” Allie informed her as they walked toward the door. “Look for me, okay?”

“Sure, if I go.”

When Bri mounted her bike and pulled out onto the highway, she didn’t head back to her temporary apartment. She took the highway that wound along the ocean and rode until the churning want in her depths subsided. By the time she returned, it was nearly dark. She didn’t go out again that night.


Tory walked into the bedroom and stopped to watch Reese finish getting dressed.

Reese glanced over and caught the contemplative expression on Tory’s face. “What are you thinking?”

“How much I love you.”

“Still, huh?” Reese’s blue eyes danced as she crossed the bedroom and slid her arms around Tory’s waist. Her lips were soft, her kiss gentle. A moment later she asked, “You okay about today?”

“Just a little bit nervous,” Tory confessed.

“Since you always tell me that everything is just routine,” Reese reminded her gently, “I never know whether I should worry or not.”

“Well, an amniocentesis is routine, and thousands are done every day,” Tory admitted as she lightly kissed Reese’s jaw. “Let’s go to the airport.”

Two hours later, Reese and Tory arrived at Boston City Hospital. When they reached the outpatient obstetrical clinic, they were greeted by a happy cry of welcome.


“Oh my god, Cath! You didn’t have to come in just for this,” Tory exclaimed, gathering her sister into a tight hug.

“I haven’t seen you in weeks, and this was a great excuse to leave the kids with Danny for the day.” Tory’s younger sister, a fairer-haired, blue-eyed version of Tory, threw both arms around the pregnant woman and kissed her vigorously on both cheeks. “This is so exciting. I talked to Mom and Dad last night, and they can’t stop talking about how much they’re looking forward to another grandchild.”

Tory slipped her arm around Reese’s waist and leaned into her as Reese draped an arm over her shoulder. “I wish they lived closer so we could see them more often.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve already been talking to Mom about getting plane tickets so they can come down after the baby is born.”

“I’ll be right back,” Tory said. “I should go sign in and let them know I’m here.”

Cath watched her walk away and then tilted her head and studied Reese. “How’re you doing?”

“Pretty well.”


Reese nodded.

“Are you going in with her?”

“As long as it’s okay with Wendy,” Reese replied. The very thought of something being done to Tory while she waited outside in the hall was enough to make her stomach cramp. She didn’t get this nervous when she was facing down a drunk with a knife.

“You know,” Cath said, taking Reese’s hand, “my husband almost passed out when I had my last one. I think it’s a normal spousal response.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Reese confided softly. “Because I feel that way half the time.”

Cath patted Reese’s cheek. “You know, honey, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to her.”

Reese glanced across the room to where Tory stood at the counter, filling out paperwork. Even from here, Reese could clearly see the swell of her abdomen beneath the loose pullover she wore. Tory’s cheeks were brushed a delicate rose, and everything about her seemed fresh and alive…miraculous. When Reese spoke, her voice was husky. “I’m the lucky one.”

Tory rejoined them and announced, “Wendy is running on time, so it shouldn’t be more than half an hour.”

They settled in to wait, Tory and Cath catching up on family news while Reese held Tory’s hand and tried to relax.

“I just want to make sure the samples get off to the lab,” Wendy Deutsch said as she applied a small Band-Aid to the puncture wound in Tory’s abdomen just below her umbilicus. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“You okay, sweetheart?” Tory asked, turning her head to look at Reese, who sat by her side on a tall stainless steel stool. Reese’s hair was damp with sweat.


“I couldn’t really talk during the procedure,” Tory apologized.

“That’s okay, love.” Reese brushed her fingers over Tory’s cheek. “I’m pretty sure you weren’t supposed to be talking. Wendy explained everything, and I saw as much as I needed to.”

As a matter of fact, she’d barely remembered to breathe as she watched Wendy place a long needle through Tory’s abdomen and into her uterus. She’d been able to follow the path of the needle perfectly well on the ultrasound monitor. It seemed to pass within millimeters of the baby’s head, which at sixteen weeks, even she could make out without assistance. The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes, but it had felt like an eternity.

“How’re you feeling?” Reese asked, edging closer so that she could take Tory’s hand.

“Fine. Just a little cramping.”

“Is that normal?”

“Perfectly,” Tory said with a small smile. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, Wendy’s the best.”

At that moment, the obstetrician returned and pulled up another stool next to Reese’s.

“That went fine.” She had a chart in her hand which she opened and perused for a few seconds. Then she met Tory’s eyes. “Your blood pressure’s been steadily increasing.”

“I know.”

“Are you having any other symptoms?”

“No.” Tory felt Reese’s grip on her hand tighten, and she looked away from her doctor to smile reassuringly at her lover. Softly, she whispered, “It’s okay.”

“No extremity swelling, no visual problems?”


“We’re not at the point where I’d call this preeclampsia,” Wendy said seriously, “but you need to be alert for the early signs, Tory.”

“I have been.”

“What’s going on?” Reese asked sharply.

Wendy focused on Reese. “Preeclampsia is a condition which affects some women during pregnancy, particularly women who are nulliparous, meaning they have not previously been pregnant. It’s associated with hypertension and, in a small percentage, with other symptoms such as persistent headache, visual abnormalities, abdominal pain, and changes in blood chemistries.”

“Is it serious?”

“Reese…” Tory protested gently.

“No. I want to know.” Reese’s eyes were locked on Wendy’s, and her voice was a command. “Go ahead, Doctor.”

“It can be, if it progresses. There can be severe hypertension with alteration in renal and liver function and other problems. But…”

“Is it a risk to the baby?” Reese asked.

Wendy continued in a steady, calm tone. “Sometimes if the maternal-fetal blood flow is compromised, there can be intrauterine growth restriction.”

“And to Tory?” Reese’s voice was even and strong, but there was a roaring in her head that sounded like gunfire.

“Only if the condition progresses,” Wendy said. “But we’re nowhere near that point, Reese. I’m not even willing to call it preeclampsia at this point, but we need to be vigilant.”

“I’m already taking my blood pressure three times a day,” Tory said quietly. “The diastolic has only risen ten points above my baseline. I’ve checked my urine daily for protein. There hasn’t been any.”

“I’ll need to see you every two weeks,” Wendy said. “Keep monitoring your BP and urine the way you’ve been doing, and add a fingerstick hemoglobin every ten days. Call me at the slightest sign of symptoms. Even if you’re not sure.”

“What about working?” Reese questioned. “Is it safe?”

Wendy nodded. “Reasonable hours, yes, as long as we don’t see any worsening.”

“Don’t worry,” Tory said. “I’ll be careful.”

“Good. Then I’m satisfied.” Wendy stood and smiled at them both. “I’ll call you with the lab results as soon as I have them.”

Reese was silent as Tory dressed.

“There’s nothing wrong, sweetheart,” Tory said as she took Reese’s hand.

“I know,” Reese said with a smile, but her eyes were dark. She drew a long breath and straightened her shoulders. “Is it okay for you to eat now?”

“It had better be,” Tory said with a laugh. “First of all, I’m starving. And I’m sure Cath expects us all to go to lunch.”

Reese slid her arm around Tory’s waist and kissed her temple lightly, ignoring the cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Then let’s not keep her waiting.”


May, Provincetown, MA

“Things will start jumping around here at the end of the week,” Reese remarked at a little before 6:00 a.m. as she poured the French roast from the carafe into a travel mug. She was already in uniform, dressed for work. As always, the creases in her shirt and pants were knife-edge sharp, the knot below her buttoned collar perfectly squared, her leather belt a polished black. Her weapon was nestled in an equally highly-shined holster on her right hip.


Reese smiled as Tory, still in the T-shirt she usually slept in—and not much else—crossed the living room. Her normally energetic lover looked sleepy and out of sorts. “Want some juice?”

“No,” Tory snarled, settling a hip onto a stool at the breakfast counter. “I want some coffee.”

“I’ll make decaf.”

“I don’t want decaf. I want real …” Abruptly she quieted as her face grew pale.

“Bagel? I can toast—”

“Oh god…” Tory bolted off the stool.

Heart in her throat, Reese watched Tory rush for the bathroom. After a moment’s hesitation, she followed, her insides roiling. This hasn’t happened in weeks. Jesus, god…what’s wrong?

“Tor? Love…can I get you anything?” Reese circled her palm aimlessly over Tory’s back as the other woman cradled her head on her arms, her body bent over the sink. Reese’s heart lurched as she felt Tory tremble. “Honey?”

“No,” Tory gasped, not looking at her. “I’m fine. Near miss—no eruptions.”


“Yes, fine. Good.” With a shaky sigh, Tory straightened up and accepted the glass her worried lover filled and handed to her. She traced the curve of Reese’s jaw with her fingers, smiling faintly. “I’m okay.”

“You’re sure?”

“Mmm. I am.”

Reese said carefully, “Shouldn’t we check your blood pressure?”

Tory was silent a long minute, reluctant to add to her lover’s worry. I want this experience to be a joy for her, not a constant source of anxiety.

“It was just a little blip, sweetheart,” Tory said softly.

“I need to be part of this, Tor. Please.”

Tory’d never seen Reese look so helpless, and her heart twisted to see the pleading in her eyes. “Of course. Come on, I’ll show you how to take it.”

Reese was a quick study, and five minutes later they looked at one another and smiled.

“No change since my last visit with Wendy,” Tory reported. “Okay now?”

Reese nodded. “Can you eat something?”

“I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.” Tory wrapped her arm around Reese and leaned into her. “You should get to work.”

“I’m okay for a bit. You need to eat something. The doctor said—”

“I’m a doctor.” Tory heard the temper in her own voice and realized that Reese was just concerned. In fact, she still looks scared. I never thought I’d see anything that could shake up my Marine. “Try not to worry, sweetheart. It was just a bit of left over morning sickness.”

Reese came quickly around the end of the counter and put her arms around her lover. Brushing her lips across Tory’s temple, she said gently, “The most important thing for right now is that you’re okay.”

“As long as I have you, I will be.” Tory tilted her face and kissed Reese, a gentle lingering kiss of gratitude and soft desire. When she drew away, her throat was tight with a combination of wonder and need. “Go to work, Sheriff.”

“I’ll call you later,” Reese whispered, her lips to Tory’s forehead. “I love you.”

Reese was just pulling into the small lot behind the Sheriff’s department when the call came over her radio. The alarm sounded in front of the Fire Department in the middle of town at the same time.

“Fire reported, Bradford and 6A.”

It was Smith’s voice, and as Reese spun the wheel with one hand and floored the accelerator, she flicked her shoulder mike with the other. “Conlon. I’ve got it.”

“Roger, Reese.”

The whole of Provincetown was less than four miles long, and, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay, even narrower. At that time of morning, just before tourist season, there were barely any cars, and Reese was on scene in less than a minute. The Mooring restaurant, a squat, sprawling ramshackle place at the far end of town, was in flames. She pulled her cruiser diagonally across Bradford and got out, thumbing her mike again.

“I need another car out here to block traffic coming west on 6.” As she spoke, she opened the trunk of the vehicle and extracted orange plastic road cones.

“How does it look?” she called to the fire captain as he approached. Alan Peterson was technically in charge of the scene.

“It’s pretty well involved,” he yelled above the roar of the truck engine and the shouts of milling firefighters. “Fortunately, the place is isolated from the surrounding structures by the parking lot on three sides. Unless we get an awful lot of wind, I’m not worried about it spreading.”

“What about civilians?” Reese asked, leaning close to his ear to be heard. “Can your people get inside to make sure the place is empty?”

“Negative.” He spoke something unintelligible into his handy talkie and then turned his attention back to her. “Too hot.”

Reese took a step away from him in the direction of the burning building. She was stopped by a firm grip on her arm.

“Forget it, Sheriff,” he said gruffly. “If there were any way in there, we would have done it already. I don’t want you anywhere near that place. Christ, last time you helped me out, you ended up in the hospital.”

“You’re not pulling rank on me, are you, Alan?”

“Damn right I am. As soon as I get an internal assessment, you’ll be the first to know.”

At that moment, Nelson Parker jogged across the street to join them. “What have we got?”

“Structural blaze,” Reese informed him. “As far as we know, unoccupied.”

“Looks like it’s gonna be a loss,” Nelson remarked as he watched flames lick their way through the cedar-shingled roof and pulse like living beings through the shattered windows into the smoke clouded air.

“Yeah,” Peterson agreed. “A wood building like that, there’s no way to stop it. This is a containment exercise, nothing more.”

“We’ll need the fire marshal’s report,” Reese pointed out.

“It’ll take until tomorrow for the heat to die down enough to comb through the place and probably a couple of days to analyze the forensics, but I’ll send along whatever we find as soon as we get it.”

“Good enough,” Reese said. Turning to Nelson, she continued, “We’ll need to keep someone from the night shift overtime for a few hours to handle traffic around this place. I’ll give Smith a call.”

“He’s back there on Six A. Go ahead and tell him.”


“Oh, and Reese?”


“The new kid is waiting back at the station.”

She studied his face but couldn’t read a thing in it. “I’ll head back as soon as I talk to Smith, then.”



Within an hour, the fire was out, and all that remained was the cleanup. Reese headed back to the office. When she walked in, the newest member of the department was leaning against the corner of her desk. Reese pushed through the wooden gate and extended her hand to the young cadet in the pristine uniform.

“Officer Parker, welcome aboard.”

“Thank you, Sheriff.” Bri grinned fleetingly and then straightened. “I would have notified you when I got here, but you were already out on a call.”

“No problem. Come on, let’s take a ride through town, and we’ll talk about the game plan.”

When they settled into the car, Reese turned to Bri. “Have you seen your dad?”

“Just for a minute. He told me that my training officer would be along shortly.”

“You know, he needs to distance himself a little bit from your training so that there won’t be any question of prejudice in your evaluations.”

“I know that,” Bri said steadily, keeping her eyes forward. Plus he didn’t seem too keen for me to be here. I guess he still thinks I made a mistake leaving…New York.

She couldn’t think about the fact that she hadn’t talked to Carre in weeks. Once she’d finally gotten over some of her anger and embarrassment over storming out, and worked up the nerve to call her, all she ever got was the answering machine. Eventually, she’d just left a message reminding Carre of the party this coming Friday and left directions… just in case. Yeah, sure. You know she’s not coming.

Reese pulled the patrol car to the side of the road across from the smoldering ruins of the Moorings restaurant.

“Whoa,” Bri exclaimed.

“So,” Reese said as the two of them crossed the street to the rubble-littered parking lot. “Tell me what you want to know about this.”

Bri looked around for a second and then began confidently to ask questions. Reese nodded in satisfaction as Bri succinctly elicited the vital information regarding time, circumstances of the call reporting the fire, initial impressions of the fire captain, nature of reported injuries, and other basic data from her.

“Good. You can write all that up when we get back to the station.” They slowly circled the perimeter, each of them silently studying the scene. Eventually, Reese asked, “How would you approach the investigation?”

Bri took her time, and when she spoke, she sounded thoughtful but steady. “First, we’ll need the fire marshal’s report.”

“What do you think the fire marshal is going to tell us?”

“This place has been closed since last summer. As I recall, one of the big resort consortiums has been trying to buy it to build a timeshare here. The land is worth a lot, but the restaurant has seen better days.”

“Uh-huh.” Reese realized what a benefit it was for officers to have a history with the community that they policed. She was still a relative newcomer, but after three years, she knew a great deal about the inner workings of the tiny town and its inhabitants. Bri, though, had an advantage that Reese would never be able to match. She had spent all of her life in the midst of these people, and her history was their history.

“Since the restaurant hasn’t been functioning in months, it’s doubtful that any of the power was on, which lets out electrical origins. Same for the gas.” Bri stopped walking and put her hands in her pockets, a gesture that unconsciously mimicked Reese’s stance. “No storms lately, so it wasn’t lightning. I’d say this is going to be ruled incendiary in nature.”

“The fire was manmade, you think?”

“Yes.” She didn’t waver in her response.

“But it’s not necessarily arson.” At Bri’s questioning look, Reese continued, “An abandoned building like this would be a good place for vagrants to camp, and an untended fire could certainly have started this. Incendiary and accidental.”

“Right,” Bri said enthusiastically. “So we need to ask around town and find out if anybody has any info on vagrants—especially where they might be congregating. Could be kids, too.” At Reese’s raised eyebrow, she blushed. “Uh, when I was…uh…younger, you know…we’d get together in abandoned buildings to…get together.”

“Okay, good thought.” Reese clapped Bri on the shoulder approvingly while she sighed inwardly. She still had so much to learn about that period of life which she seemed to have skipped over. Then it suddenly occurred to her that in not too many years, it could be her child partying in firetraps like this. Her stomach flipped.“Christ.”


“Nothing, Reese said briskly. “We’ve got several lines of questioning to pursue while we wait for the fire marshal. Let’s get started, Officer.”

Tory followed the scent of barbecue up the driveway toward the rear of her home. She was surprised to hear the soft murmur of voices and tried to recall if they had made plans with anyone for dinner. She hoped not, because she was beat. But her spirits lifted as she mounted the stairs and saw their visitor.

“Bri!” she cried in surprise. Reese and Bri were both in jeans and Tshirts, and a more attractive pair Tory didn’t think she had ever seen. Both of them grinned at her as she joined them. She paused to kiss Reese before giving Bri a hug. “What are you doing here?”

“I forgot to tell you that Bri was starting her field training today,” Reese said with contrite a shrug.

“That’s terrific.” Tory smiled and tried to hide her weariness. “I’m going inside to change. I’ll be right back.”

“She looks great,” Bri commented as she popped open a beer.

“Yeah,” Reese said absently as she followed her lover with her eyes. And she looks worn out. This new guy can’t start too soon for me.

When Tory returned a few moments later, Reese and Bri set the outside table and piled chicken from the grill onto paper plates. Tory grabbed a club soda and sat down with a grateful sigh.

“God, this looks good.” After helping herself to salad and chicken, she turned to Bri. “So where are you staying? With Nelson?”

Bri blushed. “Uh, I’m not sure yet.”

“Where are you staying now?”

“Well, most of my stuff is still in Barnstable. I moved out of the apartment I was sharing this morning and stowed my gear at school. I was going to go up this Friday after work and move it down Saturday.” She glanced at Reese. “If I can take the morning off? I know it’s Memorial Day weekend, but classes just finished and I didn’t have ti—”

“It’s fine,” Reese said. “I’d rather you work nights Saturday and Sunday anyhow. More going on. You need help moving?”

“Nah. I don’t have all that much.”

“Give a holler if you do.”

“I guess you and Caroline will want an apartment for the summer,” Tory said as she reached for more salad. “Now is probably a good time to get one.”

“Carre’s not coming home,” Bri said quietly, staring at her plate.

“How come?” Reese interjected.

“She has a job in New York.”

Tory studied Bri’s profile, noting the tight line of her jaw. “That’s hard.”

“Yeah, well…” Bri cleared her throat. “It’s a real good deal for her.”

“You can bunk here for a while if you need to,” Reese said quietly. “Although I’m sure Nelson would like you to stay at home.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Bri shrugged. “I don’t think Dad and I are ready to be living together right now.”

“No problem.” Reese stood and stacked some of the plates. “I’m going to take these inside and make coffee. Be back in a few minutes.”

“How is Caroline doing?” Tory asked after a few seconds. Bri sat with lowered head, her hands in fists on her thighs.

“Good. She’s good,” Bri replied evenly without looking up. “She got a scholarship to study in France next year.”

“That’s wonderful. The things I’ve seen that she’s done are very good.”

Bri nodded her head, then reached for her fork and turned it aimlessly on the table. “Yeah, she’s terrific. It will be good for her…next year.”

“How long have you two been together? Three years?”

“Four.” Bri’s voice was barely a whisper.

“It’ll take some getting used to—living apart,” Tory said softly.

“I…” Bri looked away. I can’t get used to it. I don’t know how to.

Tory’d never seen Bri look so vulnerable, even in the hospital after she had been viciously beaten. She’d been so heartbreakingly strong then, mostly because she’d probably thought Caroline needed her to be. Tory smiled, remembering the fierce look on Caroline’s face when she’d stormed into the clinic, insisting that she be allowed to see Bri.

Tory forcefully interrupted Caroline’s headlong dash down the hall.

“Wait a minute,” Tory soothed, holding the struggling young woman. “It might be better if you see Bri tomorrow, Caroline. It’ll be hard to see her like this.”

Caroline fixed Tory with a contemptuous glare. “You’re just like all the rest. You think just because we’re young that our feelings don’t matter. Last night right about now, she was making love to me. Do you think that doesn’t matter either?”

“That’s not what I meant, Caroline. I know you care about her.”

“Care about her?” she said coldly. “What if it were Reese in there, Dr. King? Just how long would you wait out here in the hall?”

Tory stared at her, knowing that it could easily be Reese under other circumstances. Just the thought made her ill.

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” Tory said softly. “Nothing on earth would keep me away.”

She watched the pretty young blond, who now seemed so much older than her years, resolutely push through the doors to her lover.

Hearing the uncertainty in Bri’s voice now, Tory realized that all of them, including her, had always assumed that Bri was the stronger of the pair. Probably because she looked it, with her swaggering charm and bold good looks. Appearances. God, how we let them deceive us. You don’t know how strong Caroline really is, do you, my beautiful young one?

“You know,” Tory said gently, “it will probably be even harder for Caroline, being away from you and in a strange new country.”

Bri finally looked at her, a question in her eyes. “You think? It just seems like it would all be so…exciting, that she might…forget.”

Gently, Tory rested her fingers on Bri’s arm. “No, sweetie, I don’t think that will happen.”

That slight, tender touch and the voice, soft with caring, sliced through the tenuous threads of Bri’s resolve. She was so scared most of the time, and so lost. It had all seemed so clear just a few months before. Now Carre was gone…Oh, that can’t be. Not really!

Suddenly, Bri stood and strode rapidly to the rail. She held on to the wood, polished smooth by hundreds of hands, so tightly that her arms ached—trying to get her breath, waiting until she could speak around the tears crowding her throat. Eventually, in a voice held tightly in check, she said, “Reese showed me the baby pictures.”

“Did she?” Tory asked, her own throat suddenly tight. Oh, Bri. Baby, what is it?

“Yeah. It’s so neat. I’m…happy for you.”

Tory couldn’t help herself when she heard the tears in the wistful tone. She crossed the deck, turned Bri around with her hands on her shoulders, and enfolded the young woman in a hug. Brushing her cheek against Bri’s, she whispered. “Thank you, sweetie.”

For a fleeting second, as Bri relaxed in Tory’s arms, nothing hurt at all.


It was almost ten o’clock Friday night when Bri reached the Breakers, a shore side restaurant and bar in Barnstable where the party for the recent graduates was being held. Fleetingly, she thought of the last time she and Carre had been together, and she thought not of fighting, but of making love. They hadn’t seem each other in weeks, and during the increasingly rare phone calls, they were both tense and awkward.

Fuck, you know she’s not coming.

Nevertheless, the first thing she did when she walked through the door into the big room crowded with classmates, recent graduates, and the usual locals, was to look for Carre. After a minute or two of fruitless searching, she admitted what she had known all along. Carre was not there.

“Looking for someone, Bri?” the honey-smooth voice inquired.

Bri turned with a resigned smile to Allie. “Not anymore, it looks like.”

“Well, glad to hear it,” Allie replied, her tone clearly surprised. “Come on, follow me.”

Allie took her out onto the back deck, which was nothing more than a wooden platform in the sand that edged the beach above Cape Cod bay. The area was dimly lit and almost as crowded as inside the bar, but the noise level was less. Although there wasn’t much to see, the air was clearer outside, and the sound of the surf rumbled not far away. When Allie stopped, Bri asked, “What’s up?”

“Got something for you.” Allie bent down, dug around in an ice-filled chest, and came up with a beer. She handed it to Bri. “This is the unofficial drinking area for the recruits. Technically, we are not in the bar.”

“I believe that would be a very loose interpretation of the law, Officer.” Bri laughed and took a long swallow. It felt good after the dusty drive, and it felt even better not to be thinking about anything at all.

Allie moved a little closer as the crowd grew denser, her arm brushing Bri’s. “Where are you living this summer?”

Bri was aware of the bare skin against hers. Allie touched a lot. “Don’t know yet.” Bri shrugged. “There are usually a lot of single rooms available for summer help. Hovels mostly, but I don’t need much more than a place to sleep. I figure I’ll get something tomorrow.”

“You know, I’m moving into a two-bedroom place between Wellfleet and Truro this weekend.” Allie sipped her beer and considered Bri contemplatively. “And that’s just about halfway between your job and mine. You could always share it with me.”

“Uh,” Bri blushed, happy for the dim lighting. “That’s…nice of you, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford it.”

“I’d bet you could. How does a hundred dollars a month sound?”

Bri laughed. “It sounds like charity, or else you’ve lost your mind. Look, Allie, I really appreciate it—”

Allie put her fingers on Bri’s arm just under the edge of her shirtsleeve, high on her upper arm. “Hey, we’re supposed to be celebrating tonight. Don’t worry about it. I’ll give you my number and if you don’t find something, or you change your mind, the offer’s always open. Okay?”

“Sure,” Bri said with a smile. Allie was hard to resist. Bri leaned down, fished another beer out of the cooler, and opened it. For the first time in weeks, she felt almost good.

Forty-five minutes later, the party was in overdrive, with everyone talking too loudly, most everyone drinking too much, and more than a few forgetting whatever social inhibitions they might once have had.

“Let’s dance,” Allie shouted close to Bri’s ear, grasping her hand at the same time.


“Why not?” Allie moved her hand to Bri’s waist, hooked her thumb inside Bri’s jeans where they rested on the crest of her hip, and ran her fingers back and forth on Bri’s side under her T-shirt. Leaning so close that their thighs brushed, she said, “Do you think they might get the wrong idea?”

Bri could smell her perfume, the same scent she’d noticed that day in Allie’s apartment. Even more distractingly, she could feel the light press of Allie’s breasts against her chest. They were both wearing Tshirts, and neither had anything on underneath. Allie’s nipples were hard, and Bri’s tightened instantly in response. Totally involuntarily, her stomach clenched and a thrum of pleasure shot down her spine. When the jolt of excitement hit home, she got stiff in the space between one heartbeat and the next. “What…idea would that be?”

She didn’t recognize the low, husky timber of her own voice. Or she did, and she didn’t want to think about what it meant. Christ, I’m getting so hot.

“Well, if any of them are half the hotshot investigators they think they are,” Allie murmured, stepping even closer now, edging one thigh slightly between Bri’s legs, “they’ll figure out that I’m trying to get you to kiss me.”

“I don’t…think…”

“Good. Don’t then.” Allie nudged harder with the leg resting against Bri’s crotch, smiling when the unexpected pressure on Bri’s rampantly hard clitoris drew a soft groan from Bri. “And after you kiss me for a long, long time, I’d really like it if you’d make me come.”

“Jesus.” Bri blinked to clear her suddenly hazy vision. Then she found herself staring into the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen. Eyes so warm, so deep, that just looking into them was like the tenderest of embraces. Her voice was a mere whisper. “Carre.”

Bri had never believed it when people used the expression time stood still , but for that brief instant when her eyes met Carre’s, before Carre turned with a small cry and pushed hurriedly away through the crowd, everything simply stopped. The blood ceased to rush from her heart, the air halted its journey through her lungs, and every thought just…vanished. There was nothing left in her world. Nothing at all.

“Oh my God.”

“What?” Allie asked in confusion as Bri suddenly took her by the shoulders and pushed her aside.

By the time Bri managed to force her way through the crowd on the deck, into the bar where another roiling mass of people awaited, and, finally, to the front door, Caroline was nowhere in sight.

Fuck, where is she?

Bri turned around and sprinted, or rather tried to sprint, toward the parking lot. She was a little unsteady and realized that she’d inadvertently had more to drink than she intended. Plus, it was hard for her muscles to work when there was no blood flowing through her veins. Everything was frozen inside. She’d never been so damn terrified in her life.

Then the cough of an engine turning over caught her attention, and, turning in the direction of the sound, she saw taillights flicker. She raced toward the car as it backed out from between two trucks, and without even giving it a second thought, slammed both palms down on the trunk. “Carre! Wait!”

The car came to a jerking halt, the force of the bumper as it rocked against her legs bouncing Bri back a step. It hurt but she didn’t care. The door flew open and Caroline jumped from the car. Quicker than Bri would have thought possible, Caroline was in front of her, her hands fisted in Bri’s T-shirt, shaking her violently. “Are you crazy? Are you completely nuts? I could have killed you. God damn you, what is wrong with you?”

“Carre, listen…” Bri began desperately.

“No, you listen. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of you pushing me away, and I’m sick of you running away.”

Bri stood with her hands loose at her sides and allowed Caroline to manhandle her. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care. That’s not good enough. What were you doing in there?” Finally, Caroline stepped back, staring at Bri with wounded eyes and fury in her face. “Is she why you moved out? Didn’t you even have the guts to tell me?”

“No! God, no.”

“I know what you look like when you’re hot, Bri.” Caroline ran a trembling hand through her hair. “You want to tell me that she wasn’t making you…” her voice broke and she turned away.

Bereft, bleeding at the sound of tears in Carre’s voice, Bri took one tentative stepped forward. She raised her hand but for the first time in their lives together, she was afraid to touch her. “Babe…she’s just a friend.”

“You’re such an idiot, Bri. She was all over you, and you looked like that was just fine with you.” Taking a deep breath, Caroline turned back and studied Bri’s face as if she were a stranger. “I thought you left Manhattan because of this job. Because you needed something for yourself—something that would make you feel better about yourself. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was her…or someone like her.”

“No. Jesus, no. You’re wrong.”

“Maybe I’m not wrong, and you just haven’t figured that out yet.” Caroline shook her head unhappily. “I’m going ho…back to Manhattan. Don’t call me for a while, okay?”

“Carre, please,” Bri begged. It felt like her legs were going to go. In another second, she’d be kneeling. She didn’t even care. She’d do anything… “Please, I love you.”

“You know what the worst part is?” Caroline said as she slipped back into the car. “I believe you.”

Bri thought she might die as she watched Carre carefully back the car the rest of the way out and drive slowly away. Carre didn’t look back, not even once.


Bri opened her eyes, blinked in the bright sunlight, and immediately closed them. She lay very still, aware that she was in a strange bed and that she was not alone. The crisp cotton sheets felt oddly rough against her bare nipples. Her shirt was off. Her jeans were on. Her fly was open.


She hadn’t been too drunk to remember what had happened.

“Come in with me, Bri,” Allie whispered as the car carrying the two of them and several of their friends pulled to a stop in the lane in front of Allie’s rented bungalow. “You can stay here tonight.”

She couldn’t ride back to Reese and Tory’s. And the prospect of being alone with her pain was more than she could handle. Allie’s hand on her thigh was soft and reassuring. “Yeah, okay.”

They said nothing as they walked down the path to the front door, but Allie had her arm around Bri’s waist again. It felt strange. Good, though. Solid. Firm. Alive.

“This way,” Allie said softly after she closed the door behind them. She held onto Bri’s hand and led her through the dark living room.

Bri followed, because it seemed the thing to do. She let Allie draw her down onto the bed, saying nothing as Allie lay beside her, facing her in the dark. A hand came to her cheek and stroked her tenderly, then moved around to the back of her neck and pulled her head close for a kiss.

She wasn’t thinking of anything. The tongue running lightly over her lips was supple and warm. When it moved inside her mouth, it was the only thing she could feel. There were no thoughts of the past or the future, only that moment and the firm anchor of hot flesh filling her mouth. She sucked it, breathed in the heat, clung to the taste of passion.

Dimly, she was aware of Allie’s rapid breathing and soft moans. When fingers tugged at the bottom of her T-shirt, Bri shifted and, in the next minute, another barrier was gone. A hand drew her fingers to a full breast and again she heard a small cry in the darkness. Her fingers were closed around a tight nipple, and when she squeezed, Allie whimpered. Bri was sure her heart was beating quickly, but she still couldn’t feel it.

Fingernails rasped down the center of her belly. Her thighs tightened and didn’t relax. She was panting. They both were. She jerked, then lifted her hips when fingers worked loose the snap on her jeans. The sound of her zipper sliding open was so loud in the still room. Soft breasts pressed against her chest, a slender leg slid over her thigh. Fingers pressed inside her jeans. The intoxicating aroma of desire was everywhere.

“Touch me, Bri,” the honey-smooth voice pleaded. Nearly breathless now. “Please. Oh, make me come.”

She knew the words, but the voice was wrong. Make me come, baby. Carre’s voice. But not.

A hand cupped her inside her jeans, fingers closed around her clitoris. The first gripping spasm shot a warning down her legs.

“Oh fuck,” Bri gasped, rolling away. “Jesus. Jesus.”

“What?” Allie’s voice was a choked cry, thin and desperate. “Oh, don’t stop now.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Carre, god, I am so sorry.

Fists clenched to her center, Bri turned onto her side. She kept her back to the woman beside her and curled in on herself, closing her eyes tightly. Maybe she slept. Maybe she just disappeared for a while.

“I can’t decide whether I’m mad at you or not,” Allie said quietly.

“You should be.” Bri turned her head on the pillow and opened her eyes. Allie was sitting up against the headboard, inches away, nude. Her breasts, full and firm and rosy-tipped, were beautiful. Bri lifted her gaze to Allie’s eyes. “I never should have come here with you last night. I sure shouldn’t have gotten into bed with you.”

“You were turned on at the bar. Here, too.” Allie smiled softly, her expression dreamlike. “You were so wet when I touched you. You got hard between my fingers. You would have come in another second.”

“Yeah.” Bri’s voice was a whisper. She was wet now. But that wasn’t the point. She couldn’t help what her body did. Only what she did about it.

Allie brushed Bri’s arm with her fingertips. “You make me crazy hot, you know.”

Bri said nothing.

“When you wouldn’t touch me last night, I thought I was going to die.” Her voice was husky, her eyes slightly glazed. “I had to make myself come. I couldn’t help it.”

Bri looked away. Her heart hammered wildly.

“Did you hear me?”

“No,” Bri rasped, her stomach clenched so tight it hurt.

“It only took one touch. I imagined it was your mouth.” Allie drew a trembling breath. “I came so hard…”

Bri sat up suddenly and swung her legs outside the bed. She was shaking. Hoarsely, she said, “I gotta go. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not. Next time, though,” Allie rested a palm on the center of Bri’s bare back, “I want it to be you for real when I come.”

Reese came quietly down the stairs, mindful of the blanket-wrapped figure on the sofa. Moving carefully, she crossed to the kitchen and slowly began to assemble the coffeemaker.

“Can I help?” a soft voice asked from behind her.

Turning with a smile, Reese shook her head. “I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

“No.” Caroline’s eyes were puffy from lack of sleep and too-recent tears. “Is Tory up?”

“Not yet. She’s sleeping in.” Reese pulled coffee from the refrigerator and unwrapped the bag. “I finally talked her into working only a half-day on Saturday. She’s going in this afternoon.”

“I’m sorry that I showed up unannounced last night,” Caroline said in a small voice. She slid onto the stool and propped her elbows on the counter, resting her chin in both hands. “I didn’t think I could make it all the way back to Manhattan, and I didn’t know where else to go.”

Reese stopped what she was doing and came around to take a seat next to the young blond. “Don’t apologize. I’m glad that you came. You can always come here.”

“Bri’s staying here, too, isn’t she?”

Surprised, Reese nodded. “How did you know?”

“Her motorcycle jacket is on the coat tree.” Caroline’s voice caught on the next words. “She never gets very far away from that. I…” Quickly, she turned away as the tears she thought she had finally exhausted began again. In a whisper, she murmured, “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Reese waited, wanting to touch her but uncertain if she should, desperately trying to fathom what had happened. Bri had cut out right after their shift ended the night before—said she was headed to Barnstable for a class get-together. She’d never mentioned Caroline was coming in for it. And then Caroline showed up in the middle of the night here, clearly shaken and having been crying. When she’d said she didn’t want to talk, they’d put her on the couch and gone back to bed. What the hell is going on?

Softly Reese asked, “Where’s Bri?”

Caroline shook her head, keeping her face turned away. “I don’t know.”

“What’s going on with you two?”

“Everything has turned upside down in the last four months. I didn’t even realize Bri was unhappy. Maybe I should have,” Caroline said shakily.

“She didn’t say anything?”

“She hardly ever does. She’s always been…she keeps things inside.”

“You knew she wanted to be a police officer, though, right?”

“Yes,” Caroline replied. “I just thought it would be later. We both thought school in New York would be so great.”

“Maybe she did, too, at first. Maybe it took leaving here to realize that this is where she belonged.”

“I thought we belonged together,” Caroline said sadly. Her eyes were liquid with more tears, but she stubbornly held them back.

Reese blew out a breath and wished desperately that Tory were there instead of her. She was certain there were things she should be saying, or something that she should be doing. “She must have thought that leaving New York when she did was the right thing to do.”

“How could that be? How could it be better for us not to be together?”

Caroline’s voice was agonized, her confusion so clear that Reese’s insides twisted. She sighed and rubbed her face with both hands, searching for a way to explain something she didn’t fully understand herself. “If I were Bri,” Reese began as she struggled to put words to the emotions, “I would want to feel like I deserved you. I would want to feel like…you could be proud of me.”

“I’ve always been proud of her,” Caroline said, startled. “She’s strong and brave and…” the image of Bri with the strange woman the night before flickered into her mind. It was so painful that she lost her voice.

“Maybe,” Reese added quietly, “she can’t believe that you could be proud unless she’s proud of herself.”

They stared at one another silently until Reese grinned ruefully. “I’m not too good at this, am I?”

“I think you’re wonderful,” Caroline whispered.

“Look, maybe I can…talk to her.”

“No.” Caroline rested her fingertips on Reese’s knee. “Thank you. Really. But I need to talk to her.”

“She should be back soon. She’s got a shift coming up later this afternoon.”

“Maybe she’s busy,” Caroline said softly, wondering as she had been throughout all the sleepless hours, where Bri had spent the night. Oh, what am I going to do? Maybe I’ve already lost her.


It took Bri close to an hour to walk from Allie’s bungalow back to the Breakers and pick up her bike. It was just after ten in the morning when she reached Reese and Tory’s. As she sat straddling her bike, staring up at the house, Carre appeared at the top of the stairs leading down from the rear deck. Looking pale and wan, she wrapped her arms around her chest and stared at Bri.

After pocketing her keys, Bri quickly pulled off her helmet and dismounted. She was shaking, and she didn’t think it had anything to do with the lingering vibrations from the powerful engine and the ride down. Taking a deep breath, she walked up the path and climbed the stairs. She stopped one step below Carre, putting them at eye level, and whispered, “Hey, babe.”

“Hi, baby.”

They stared at one another, a foot of space between them, a million unsaid words and a thousand unhealed hurts keeping them apart.

“You look like hell,” Caroline murmured.

“I feel like that, too.” Bri stuffed her hands in her pockets because she wanted to touch her so much.

Caroline looked away, swallowing hard. “Let’s go someplace so we can talk.”

Ten minutes later, Bri slowed and brought the bike to a halt at the far end of the parking lot at Race Point. There were a few cars in the parking lot, but the two of them didn’t walk toward the marked trail toward the beach, but headed instead down a narrow path that lead toward the lighthouse. Ordinarily, they would have held hands, but this time they walked side by side in silence. When they reached the lighthouse, they climbed around to the far side and settled with their back against the wall, close together but not touching. The dunes spread out along the wild coast below and the ocean filled their view.

“I don’t understand what’s happening with us, Bri,” Caroline finally said. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to leave school? Why didn’t you talk to me about it first?”

Bri stared straight ahead, unblinking, until the tears that trembled on her lashes were carried away on the wind. Her voice was low as she answered. “I was afraid you’d talk me out of it.”

“I might have tried,” Caroline said with a shaky laugh. “You could have waited until the fall, when I…left for France. We could have had all this time together.”

“I had to do it now.”

“Why?” Caroline asked vehemently. “I don’t understand why.”

“Because I was afraid once you left I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Bri’s voice was harsh, wild.

“Why not?”

“Because I’m afraid when you leave I’m going to…” suddenly, Bri put her head down on her knees and laced the fingers of both hands behind her neck. Her words were nearly lost in the rush of air that blew off the ocean. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do anything without you.”

“Oh, baby,” Caroline murmured, putting her arm around Bri’s shoulders. “You can. You can do anything.”

“Not without you.”

“But I’m not leaving you.”

Bri’s head jerked up and her eyes met Caroline’s. “You don’t know that!”

Shocked, Caroline stared at her. Her first instinct was to protest, because it was unthinkable. But then she realized that Bri didn’t know that, didn’t believe that. “I love you. I have never loved anyone but you. I don’t care how long I’m gone, or how far away from me you go. I am not going to stop loving you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Bri exclaimed.

“No? Where were you last night?”

Bri blinked and her blue eyes darkened. “Jesus, Carre.”

“Did you sleep with her?” Caroline asked, her voice a strangled whisper.

“I…” She wanted to make the truth disappear. She wanted the night to do over again. She wanted not to have felt what she felt. “Almost.”

“Oh Bri,” Caroline moaned. “Oh, god.”


Caroline got unsteadily to her feet. She moved a short distance away and stopped, her back to the wall of the stark white tower, holding herself with her arms around her body, trembling in the chill sea breeze. “I can’t…I can’t even think about it right now. Take me back to Tory’s.”

Bri finally found her voice and jumped to her feet. “Carre. I didn’t. “

“I saw you, Bri,” Caroline said softly. “I know you wanted to.”

“I don’t know how that happened. I didn’t go there meaning for it to happen. I was…lonely.”

“I’ve been lonely, too. And I wasn’t the one who left.”

Heart sinking, Bri watched Caroline turn and start up the path that led back to the parking lot. For a moment, she considered not going after her. Maybe if they never left this spot, they could turn back time to that magical moment four years before, when a simple kiss had turned on a light in the darkness of her despair.

Eventually, she followed, because there was no going back, no undoing what had been done.

“Caroline?” Tory asked quietly as she sat down on the sofa next to the young woman. “Honey? You okay?”

Caroline sat leaning forward, her arms folded on her knees, rocking softly. “Not really.”

“I heard Bri’s motorcycle earlier. Is she here?”

“Gone.” Caroline bit the inside of her lip. Gone. Gone, and I don’t know if she’s ever coming back.

“Can I help?”

“I don’t think so. Everything is so…crazy.” Caroline shifted and looked into Tory’s eyes. “Bri…oh god, I can’t…Bri was with this other girl…”

“What?” Tory exclaimed before she could stop herself. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.”

“What would you do?” Caroline asked desperately. “If…if it was Reese?”

“It would hurt so terribly, I’m not sure what I would do.” She reached out and took Caroline’s hand. “It would depend, I think, on why it happened.”

“What difference would it make?”

“Sometimes, when we’re confused or a little bit lost, we make bad choices. Sometimes we don’t even chose, we just let things happen. People make mistakes.”

“I’ve got to go back to Manhattan anyhow. I keep thinking when I do that she’ll…” Carre took a deep breath. “That she’ll start seeing this other girl. I can’t stand to think about her with someone else.”

The hurt in her eyes was so raw that all Tory wanted to do was hold her close and make all her pain go away. But she knew she couldn’t. “Do you love her?”


“Then I think the two of you can get through this.”

Reese found Tory curled up on the sofa in an old fatigue shirt of hers and a pair of shorts, reading.

“Hi, love,” she said as she carried two bags of groceries through to the kitchen. “Are Bri and Caroline still here?”

“No,” Tory said with a sigh as she tossed the magazine she had been pretending to read onto the end table. “They’re having problems.”

“I gathered that from what Caroline said this morning.” Reese rubbed her cheek absently across the top of Tory’s head, then kissed the fine wisps of hair at her temple. “She’s really upset about Bri leaving school, I guess.”

“Apparently she’s a lot more upset about Bri fooling around with some other girl.”

Reese stiffened. “What?”

“I got the sense that this whole thing with Caroline going to Europe has really thrown Bri for a loop.”

“That’s no reason to fool around,” Reese growled. “If she were a recruit and she pulled a bonehead stunt like this, I’d have her mopping out every latrine in the barracks. She wouldn’t see a liberty until she was ready for retirement.”

“She’s not a Marine, honey,” Tory pointed out gently. “And she’s scared.”

Reese fell silent. Unconsciously, she stroked Tory’s back and arm, needing her quiet strength. “Of what?”

“That Caroline will leave her behind, I think.”

“So she turns around and leaves instead? If I were worried about losing you,” Reese murmured, her lips close to Tory’s ear, “the last thing I would do is leave you.”

“There aren’t many people in the world as solid as you, Reese Conlon,” Tory said tenderly. “God, I got so lucky.”

“No.” Reese shook her head, pulling her closer. “You’re my life, Tor.”

“And you’re mine,” Tory whispered, raising her head and finding Reese’s mouth. “I love you.”

Reese groaned softly, arching her hips as Tory stroked a particularly sensitive spot just below her navel. “Don’t we both have to work this afternoon?”


“Then I think, Doctor King, that you should remove your hand.”

“We have to shower, don’t we?”

Reese just grinned.

Tory leaned back into Reese’s arms, sighing as Reese reached around her and smoothed warm lather over her breasts and abdomen with both hands. “I never want to leave here.”

Reese chuckled, holding a full breast in one hand as she ran the other down the prominent slope of Tory’s belly. “The baby is growing.”

“It’s really starting to show,” Tory murmured, her eyes still closed. “Do you mind?”

“You have to ask?” Reese’s voice was husky as she brushed her fingers softly through the downy hair at the base of Tory’s abdomen. “It’s wonderful. And incredibly sexy.”

Tory laughed softly, covering the exploring hand with her own. “I wouldn’t have believed it, but I actually feel sexy—in a different way than before, but good.”

“How?” Reese asked.

“I feel like I’m bursting with something so powerful—life, love—I guess. I look at you and I want you to touch it, touch me, some place deep inside.”

“I love you,” Reese groaned. Tory’s soft skin against her breasts and abdomen was like flame to tinder. She was burning, pulsing with excitement. “Take my hand…take me to those places.”

“Hold me.”


Tory drew Reese’s fingers between her legs, parting the delicate folds that enclosed her most sensitive places. She led her to the warm pools of her desire, drawing Reese’s fingertips gently inside and then upward, until they rested against the undersurface of her clitoris. Her legs were trembling, her breath shallow and fast. “Feel how heavy? How full?”

“Yes,” Reese gasped, her head pounding with the effort it took to let Tory guide her. “Beautiful.”

Tory pushed against Reese’s hand, moaning softly. Then, slowly, she drew her lover inside, resting her weight in the bend of Reese’s body as she was filled. “Ah, so good. You feel so good there.”

Reese closed her eyes tightly, holding very still as she pressed her mouth to Tory’s neck, letting the warm water that cascaded from Tory’s skin run between her lips. Nothing ever made her feel quite so humble or so privileged as when she was inside Tory’s body. Hoarsely, she whispered, “I want to stay here forever.”

“You can.” Fine ripples cascaded through the muscles enclosing Reese’s fingers. Tory tightened involuntarily and the pressure immediately pulsed into her clitoris. She jerked, and Reese’s palm brushed over the swollen shaft. She gave a small cry and arched in Reese’s arms.

“What is it?”

“I want to come.”

Reese gently bit the tender skin below Tory’s jaw. “Can you stand?”


When Tory reached behind and braced both palms against Reese’s thighs, Reese let the hand that had been encircling Tory’s middle drift lower until she could stroke her. Tory was already too close to tease, and Reese started the circular motion that she knew would make her come.

“I love you, Tor,” Reese breathed when Tory trembled in her arms.

“Can you feel it?” Tory asked urgently as she began to come.

“Yes,” Reese gasped, trying so carefully to go slow, trying to draw out the pleasure as Tory climaxed in her hands.

“Ah,” Tory sighed as she slowly relaxed into Reese’s embrace. “God, you spoil me.”

Reese laughed a bit shakily. She tended to stop breathing every time Tory orgasmed, and her legs had gotten so weak, she’d been worried for a moment that she was going to take them both down. “Believe me, it’s my pleasure.”


That afternoon, Bri and Reese were silent as Reese drove the cruiser west on Bradford. She slowed as they approached the site of the fire two days before. A deep red Durango SUV was parked on the shoulder across the street from the police barricades that had been erected around the property.

“There’s someone walking around back there,” Bri observed.

“Yep, I see them.” Reese pulled up behind Durango.

The two of them crossed the street shoulder to shoulder and circled around to the rear of the burned out shell.

“Sheriff’s department,” Reese announced as she and Bri walked around one of the yellow and blue saw-horses and approached the stranger who was standing in the doorway of the burned out building. “This is a restricted area.”

“I’m an insurance investigator, officers,” a mellifluous tenor voice responded.

Reese raised an eyebrow, surveying the emerald green eyes, flawless lightly-tanned complexion, and the hint of red hair obscured by a baseball cap. “You have ID?”

“Sure.” Moving closer, the stranger reached into a back pocket with one hand and swept off the hat with the other. Thick luxurious, crimson hair cascaded to shoulder level, and the strikingly beautiful woman smiled. Extending a hand with a leather bi-fold ID case in it, she said, “Ashley Walker.”

Reese studied the photo ID on the private investigator’s license. Satisfied, she handed it back. Neutrally, she observed, “Ordinarily, Ms. Walker, it’s wise for a private investigator to check in with the local authorities.”

Ashley swept her eyes from Reese to Bri and back again. The two law-enforcement agents were disarmingly similar with their dark good looks and nearly-matching brilliant blue eyes. The older one was slightly taller and a little more muscular, but in the dark, there wouldn’t be much difference between the two. She smiled slowly. “My apologies. I meant to let you know I was in town, but when I drove by and saw the state of this building, I thought I’d better get a few photographs before it fell down or your town engineers pulled it down.”

“Step outside the barricade, please,” Reese recommended in a tone which implied it was more than a request.

“Fine,” Ashley replied. “I didn’t get your name?”

“Deputy Sheriff Reese Conlon. This is Officer Parker.”


“What’s your investigation about, Ms. Walker?” Bri questioned evenly. “Who are you working for?”

“Just a routine insurance claim.” Unperturbed by the mildly suspicious expression on the young officer’s face, Ashley produced her wallet, opened it, and slid a business card from an inside pocket. Handing it to Bri, she said, “That’s my office address, cell phone number, and pager. Anytime you want to reach me, Officer Parker, for any reason, please feel free.”

“Finished up here, then?” Reese asked as the three of them turned and began to walk back toward their vehicles.

“I thought I’d stay in town for a while until the fire marshal’s report was complete.”

“If you need access to the site, once it’s been cleared, let us know,” Reese advised.

Ashley rested her hand on the handle of her SUV, hitched one hip against the door, and observed them both with a small grin. “Oh, I’ll be sure to do that.”

Then she stepped into her Durango, started the engine, and drove away with a small wave in their direction.

Bri watched the red truck turn right and disappear around the bend toward Herring Cove. Part of her was irritated at the cocky self-confidence of the private investigator, but she found that the woman’s flippant grin stayed with her. “Is that normal?”

“An insurance investigation? Pretty much all the time when there’s loss of property.” Reese opened the driver’s-side door of the cruiser and slid in while Bri walked around the other side and got in as well. “It isn’t usual to have a PI run the investigation though. Usually it’s one of the insurance company’s claim representatives.”

“So what do you think?”

“I think we ought to take a very careful look at the fire marshal’s report, and I think you’re going to have some interviews to do.”

Reese met Bri several hours later, and they drove into the center of town together for dinner. As they walked toward a small sandwich shop on the pier at Commercial and Standish, Reese asked, “Get anything from the interviews?”

“Maybe,” Bri replied cautiously. “The manager of the condominium next door says he thought he saw lights flickering in the restaurant a couple of times late at night in the past few weeks.”

“And he didn’t bother to call us?” Reese remarked in disgust.

Bri shrugged. “Said he thought it was probably just kids and didn’t pay much attention.”

“I suppose we’re lucky he mentioned it to you at all.” Reese was next in line at the order window and put in her request for fish and chips and soda. “I don’t suppose he saw a vehicle?”

“Nope. But it fits with our theory that someone’s been using the place. If so, they’re going to be looking for new digs. I thought maybe we could start keeping an eye on some of the other abandoned places around town.”

“Good idea.”

After they had both ordered, they moved away to await their dinner.

“There was something else,” Bri confided.

Reese raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I talked to maybe a dozen people this evening, up and down the cul-de-sacs off Bradford and along Route 6 toward the Provincetown Inn. At least half told me that I was the second police officer to interview them since the fire.”

“Interesting. Hold on for a second,” Reese added as their number was called. She and Bri collected their food and drinks and walked out of earshot of the tourists and other diners to a small picnic table on Macmillan Wharf. “I don’t suppose you got a description of the new member of our force, did you?”

“Yep.” Bri grinned. “Red hair, green eyes, late twenties. Female.”

“Thorough, isn’t she?”

“Would you say that’s SOP for an insurance claim?” Bri asked.

“No, I wouldn’t.” Reese regarded her dinner absently. Something was off, and the fact that it involved something as dangerous as the possibility of arson bothered her a good deal. “It looks like we need to pay a visit to Ms. Walker.”

“Fortunately,” Bri said, patting her chest pocket, “I have all her numbers.”

“When you give report to the night shift, make sure you give them the addresses of these places and remind them to do a pass-by several times during the shift.”

“Got it.” Bri felt a sudden let-down as she realized that her time with Reese was coming to an end. It was five minutes to midnight, and they were on their way back to the Sheriff’s department to sign out. In another few minutes, Reese would go home and she would be alone. It was Saturday night, she had just finished an exciting shift at work, and she had no one to share it with.

She could go home with Reese, but the small spare bedroom with its single bed seemed too lonely to contemplate. Carre would be out somewhere with friends, probably having a glass of wine and talking about school, or a film she had just seen, or some project she was involved in. Bri’s heart ached as she wondered if Carre would be thinking about her. I should call her. But she said not to—that she would call me when she was ready. She said she wanted a little time to think. Think about what? Think about whether she still loves me? Think about whether she still wants to be with me? Think—


Bri jumped. They were sitting in front of the Sheriff’s department. The engine was off and the night was very quiet. She had no idea how long she had been staring unseeing through the windshield.

“Yeah?” she said hoarsely.

“You okay?”

Bri nodded and swallowed hard. “Yeah. Fine.”

“I saw Caroline this morning.”

Bri closed her eyes.

“Have you straightened things out with her?” Reese asked gently.

“Not yet.” Bri didn’t want to talk about it. Just thinking about it made her hurt so much inside she was afraid she would cry. She especially didn’t want to discuss what had happened with Reese. She had a sudden sick feeling in her stomach. Christ, does she know about Allie?

Thankfully it was too dark in the car for Reese to see her shamed blush. The thought of Reese knowing about the way she had fucked up was almost as bad as Carre’s tears. She felt like dying.

“You need to do that, Bri,” Reese said evenly as she opened the door of the cruiser.

“Yeah, I know,” Bri replied softly, all the while wondering how to even begin.


When Reese and Bri walked into the office, Lewis, one of the summer recruits who had been hired to work the swing shift, looked up from the dispatch counter and nodded perfunctorily. “There are messages for both of you on the spindle.”

Bri looked surprised, and Reese frowned as she asked, “From whom?”

The ruddy-complected, sandy-haired officer shrugged his heavy set shoulders. “The names are on the slips there. Yours just says call home.”

“God damn it,” Reese swore swiftly in a tone that made both Bri and Lewis jump. “If you ever get a call from my partner or anything remotely connected to her again, you call me ASAP.”

He stared at her open-mouthed as she grabbed the nearest phone and punched in her home number. Her body vibrated with tension.

“Tor?” She worked to sound calm. “Are you all right?”

As she listened, her body relaxed, and she settled her hip onto the corner of the nearest desk. A smile slowly eclipsed the worry that had suffused her face. “You’re kidding, right?…I thought that was an old wive’s tale…well, I don’t know that many…no! I’ll do it…I’ll be home soon.”

Still grinning, she hung up the receiver. When she glanced up, Bri was watching her intently. “She’s fine.”

Bri relaxed her tight stance too. “Good.”

“I don’t suppose you know Spiritus’ number off hand, do you?” Reese asked.

“You’re kidding, right? Pizza?”

“That’s what I said, too.” Reese shook her head. “She’s hungry, and pretty cranky about it, too.”

While Reese got the number and called in the pizza order, Bri pulled the pink message slips from the spindle on the counter. There were two for her. Both messages were exactly the same, with one minor difference. Each said call me followed by a phone number. They were signed Ashley and Allie, respectively.

“Everything okay, Bri?” Reese asked as she noted the confused expression on Bri’s face.

Blushing, Bri rapidly stuffed the notes into her pants pocket. “Sure. Perfect.”

“Oh, thank God,” Tory said vehemently as Reese walked in the house. “Hurry.”

Reese grinned at her lover, who was curled up on the sofa in a shapeless, button-up pajama top and what appeared to be striped boxers. “You know, I can remember a time when you only said that in bed.”

“Shut up, Conlon, and give me my pizza.”

Laughing outright, Reese put the box down on the coffee table in front of Tory and walked through to the kitchen for plates and napkins. As she worked, she called, “Is Bri here?”

“No,” Tory said around a mouthful of pizza. After a second, she added, “She came in, changed her clothes, and went right back out again.”

“At this hour?” Reese frowned as she carried a bottle of beer for herself tucked against her side, a glass of seltzer for Tory in one hand, and plates, silverware, and napkins in the other. She carefully set them all down, settled on the sofa, and slid a slice of pizza onto a plate. “What is she doing out?”

“It’s Saturday night, Reese.”

“So?” Reese regarded her with a raised eyebrow.

“Try to remember Saturday night when you were twenty.”

“I remember perfectly well, and I was either studying, or more likely asleep.”

“I forgot.” Tory ran her hand affectionately up the inside of Reese’s thigh. “You were a most unusual twenty-year-old, sweetheart.”

Reese slipped her arm around her lover’s shoulder. “You think Bri and Caroline are going to be okay?”

“I think they can be,” Tory said quietly, “if they come back together soon, and don’t do anything more to add to the pain.”

“Do you think I should go look for Bri before she gets herself into more trouble?”

“Let’s give her a chance to find her own way.” Tory felt Reese stiffen. “She needs to come to her own realization of what she wants and needs.”

“I just don’t want either of them to suffer any more,” Reese said with a sigh. “You didn’t see Bri today. She’s…lost.”

Tory tilted her chin and pressed her lips to Reese’s neck, then reached a hand back to curl her fingers into the thick, black hair. Tugging gently, she pulled Reese down for a proper kiss. When she lifted her mouth away, Tory whispered huskily, “You’re going to make the most wonderful parent.”

By the time Bri rode back to the center of town and parked her bike, most of the stores were closed and the bars were beginning to empty. As was often the case, Commercial Street between the Pied, one of the popular lesbian bars, and Spiritus pizza was crowded with men and women who were not yet ready to end their Saturday night revelry.

As she approached the gathering throng, she remembered Reese coming upon her and Carre in the narrow alley between the ramshackle restaurant and the adjoining storefront one night when they’d been seventeen. They’d been making out in the shadows when Reese had walked up on them, her flashlight beam illuminating them in the midst of passion. Bri’s chest ached just remembering how sweet those first few months had been, and how desperate the last. I miss you so much, babe.

“Unless I’m wrong,” a deep melodious voice announced very close to Bri’s ear, “I believe you’re looking for me.”

Jesus Christ. I’m walking around not paying attention to a damn thing I’m doing. Some cop.

Hoping that her involuntary flinch hadn’t been noticeable, Bri turned to the woman by her side as they continued navigating slowly through the wall-to-wall people. “You did say to meet you here.”

Ashley Walker was wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt tucked into figure-hugging black leather pants and black ankle-high riding boots. Her crimson hair was down and glinted like fire as she casually brushed it back with one hand. “I didn’t think you’d call me.”

“I’m working the same case you are,” Bri reminded her. “You said you might have some information for me.”

Ashley slowed and nodded toward the Pied. “We can probably still make last call.”

“No thanks,” Bri replied.

“All right, then.” Ashley sighed and pretended to look disappointed, but her slightly lopsided grin gave her away. “So I’m guilty of mixing business with pleasure. We can do both.”

Bri blushed. Work. Keep the conversation on business. “Have you been conducting interviews with the neighbors around the Moorings?”

“Yes, I’ve been asking around a bit.” Ashley acknowledged what Bri already knew. “I thought maybe we could pool our resources.”

“Share information, you mean?” Bri followed as Ashley turned down one of the sandy access paths to the beach, and, once there, the two of them settled onto a pile of sun-bleached, wind-weathered pilings that had once been part of a fishing pier. Ashley drew one knee up, wrapped both arms around it, and leaned a bare shoulder lightly against the outside of Bri’s arm. Bri moved an inch away. The touch of skin on her own was unexpectedly warm. “Did you find out anything?”

“Not so fast, hotshot,” Ashley advised, laughing softly. The young officer looked even better out of uniform than she did in one, and that was pretty damn good. The white T-shirt hugged her torso, doing little to hide the swell of her breasts and hint of hard nipples, and the low-riding jeans seemed designed to invite a hand inside. “I’ll show you mine if you agree to show me yours.”

Bri turned until she could search Ashley’s face. Up close, moonlight danced in her eyes. “I don’t think it works that way. See, I’m the law and you’re private. So I don’t have to share what I know with you. But you’re not supposed to keep secrets.”

“Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you, Officer?” Ashley stood and dusted off the rear of her leather pants, then slid both hands into her back pockets and looked down at Bri. She tilted one hip and stretched, the thin shirt outlining her high breasts and taut nipples. “Want to take a walk on the beach?”

Bri regarded her steadily, then stood. “Sure.”

Reese turned over in bed, awakened by the low rumble of the motorcycle in the driveway. The bedside clock read 3:45 a.m. For a moment, she contemplated getting up.

“Go back to sleep, sweetheart,” Tory whispered as she rolled toward Reese and slipped an arm around her waist. Curling against her lover’s back, she nuzzled into the soft warmth of Reese’s neck and kissed her softly. “She’s okay.”

Reese sighed and laced her fingers through Tory’s, where they lay against her breast. “I hope so.”


At five minutes to seven, Reese knelt to one side of the forty by fifty-foot room with her eyes closed, her hands resting palm up on her thighs. Tory and four students ranging in age from fourteen to twenty-five lined up on the tatami mats in a single line, barely an inch separating them.

After their last visit with Wendy, Reese had gently tried suggesting that Tory suspend her workouts until after the baby was born, but Tory had merely smiled and said that the physical exercise was good for her. Reese was always careful not to choose techniques that involved shoulder lifts or throws, but still, every defense in ju jitsu finished with a take down to the floor. And every time a student took her lover to the mat, no matter how carefully, Reese’s heart lurched. The first time Tory bowed to Bri in invitation to practice, Reese quickly crossed the mat to intercept them.

Reese bowed, dismissing Bri, and indicated to Tory to perform the technique with her instead. When Tory threw a punch, Reese blocked, pivoted, and smoothly guided her lover to the floor. As Reese cradled Tory’s elbow between her knees and applied force on her wrist, effectively pinning her, she leaned forward slightly over Tory’s supine form and murmured, “Everything okay?”

“Yes, sensei.”

“Be careful with Bri. She’s very strong.”

“I will be.” For the briefest instant, Tory smiled directly into Reese’s eyes and murmured faintly, “I’m fine, sweetheart.”

Reese nodded briefly, her gaze a caress, and moved away.

At the end of class, Reese approached Bri, who was carefully folding her gi jacket and brown obi. “It’s good to have you back.”

“It’s great to be here.” Bri glanced almost shyly at Reese and said, “Can I talk to you later?”

“Sure.” Reese glanced at the clock. “It’s about breakfast time. I was going to take Tory to Cafe Heaven. Want to come along?”

“That’s okay. I don’t want to…get in the way.”

Reese laughed. “It’s just breakfast, Bri.”


“Come on, Bri,” Tory said as she joined them. “I heard that. You’re coming, and that’s all there is to it. You can leave your motorcycle here, and we’ll bring you back after breakfast to pick it up.”

The tiny restaurant was situated just up the street from where Bri had met Ashley the night before. It had only a dozen or so tables and was always crowded, but luckily it took only a few moments for them to be seated. Even more fortunately, the waitress recognized them as regulars, so it took only another minute to place their orders.

“So how is the new guy working out?” Bri asked Tory as she finished a large glass of orange juice in three big gulps. “What’s his name?”

“Dan Riley,” Tory said neutrally. “He’s only been here one day.”

“Is he just here for the summer?” Bri inquired innocently as she reached for the basket of bread. She didn’t notice that both Reese and Tory looked uncomfortable.

“That was the plan,” Tory replied.

“So,” Reese interjected casually as she peppered her omelet, “how was your night?”

“Uh…it was…fine.”

“Much activity in town?”

“It was crowded right around closing time, but after that it emptied out pretty quickly.”

“Uh-huh. Not much going on after 1:30 or so.” Reese raised an eyebrow and regarded Bri steadily.

“Well,” Bri said after a second. She’d been wanting to discuss the encounter with Reese, because it still bothered her, and she couldn’t quite work out why. Well, she wanted to tell Reese about most of it, anyhow. “I met Ashley Walker, and we talked about the case for a while.”

Reese stiffened almost imperceptibly. “You talked about the case?”

“Not about the case, exactly. Well, I mean, she wanted to talk about the case. “

“I’ll bet she did,” Reese muttered.

“Who, by the way, is Ashley Walker?” Tory looked from one to the other and tried to figure out what, precisely, was going on.

Aware that they were in a public place, Bri lowered her voice and leaned across the small table close to Tory. “She’s a private detective who’s working for an insurance company.”

“I see. This is about the fire, I take it?”


“What did the two of you discuss?” Reese’s eyes were steady on Bri’s face, her voice flat.

“We didn’t discuss anything,” Bri said with a faint hint of disgust. “She was fishing for information about our investigation. I was hoping she’d tell me something. So we both came away with no satisfaction.”

“Does that tell you anything?” Reese speared a strawberry with her fork and waited. You’re good at this, kiddo. Let’s see what your instincts are like.

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Bri replied pensively, her eggs and linguica forgotten. “If she was trying to find out what we knew, then there must be something to know. More than just a fire. It’s only been a couple of days, and no one would expect us to have much on it yet. She was trying to see if we had information on something else.”

“Uh-huh.” Reese moved on to the bananas. “Like what?”

“Like…” Bri hitched her shoulders, worried about looking dumb. “Like another fire?”

“Mmm. Could be.”

Tory leaned back in her chair, enjoying the Socratic exchange. She’d seen Reese work dozens of time. But she’d never seen her quite like this. Usually, when Reese was in the field, she was in command mode. She issued orders, then expected them to be followed without question. She rarely explained, because she saw no need to do so. She had been bred and raised in a military family, where the power was clearly delineated and the authority unquestioningly accepted. Watching her lead Bri through this algorithm of deductive reasoning showed her a fascinating side of her partner that she had never before observed. Suddenly, she had an image of Reese with their child, patiently teaching him or her how to think about the world. To her absolute chagrin, she felt her eyes fill with tears. Oh my God, this pregnancy is doing the strangest things to me.

Reese glanced sharply at Tory, feeling her lover grow tight against her side. “Tor?” she murmured. “What’s wrong?”

Tory shook her head and smiled wanly. “Nothing, sweetheart.”

By the time Tory composed herself, she caught only the tail end of the conversation. “It’s a holiday weekend,” Tory pointed out, suddenly feeling much more herself. “I imagine you’ll have a hard time tracking people down, if it’s anything like it is around here. You hardly have anyone in the office, and the ones who are there don’t seem to know a lot about what’s going on.”

Grinning, Reese ran her fingers lightly down Tory’s forearm and squeezed her hand. “Well, our guy Lewis knows a lot more about it now than he did last night. The next time you call, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be getting priority treatment.”

“Good.” Tory bumped her shoulder softly into Reese’s. “And rightly so, too.”

The three of them laughed and finished breakfast, speaking no more of medicine or law enforcement.

On Wednesday morning as Reese and Tory were both preparing for work, Tory asked casually, “So, did Bri find anything out from her computer searches about the fire in town?”

Reese was halfway through tying a precision knot in her tie and waited to finish before answering. “Not yet. I think today will probably be more productive. You’re right. We had a hard time connecting with anyone the last couple of days, especially with all the traffic leaving the Cape after the holiday. Everyone was in the field.”

“What’s this investigator like?”

“I can’t say for sure. She seemed confident, and the fact that she picked Bri to question also suggests that she’s clever.”

“Because Bri is a beginner, and she thought Bri was a likely source of information?”

Reese nodded. “I’m sure she knew she wouldn’t get anything from me.”

“It could be she was just using it as an excuse to see Bri socially, you know. Did she look like the type who might be interested?”

“I didn’t really notice.”

Tory smiled fondly. “How lucky for me. Describe her for me.”

“I thought that didn’t work,” Reese protested. “Besides, wouldn’t you have to see her to get…you know, some kind of vibe or something?”

“Talk about old wives’ tales.” Tory laughed out loud. “Just tell me about the way she looked and what she said when the three of you first met.”

Reese complied as Tory listened intently. When she finished, Tory shook her head knowingly. “Just what Bri needs is another woman interested in her. She sounds cute, too.”

“I don’t know.” Reese shrugged and clipped her badge to her left breast pocket. “I guess so.”

“Do you think there’s an arsonist at work?”

Surprised by the sudden change in topic, Reese turned from the mirror and regarded her lover. “I don’t have any evidence to suggest that.”

Tory sat on the edge of the bed and patted the place next to her. “Sit down for a minute.”

Immediately, Reese moved to her side and took her hand. “What is it?”

“We haven’t talked about this very much,” Tory began carefully, holding Reese’s left hand in hers. Absently, she turned the wedding band on her lover’s ring finger. “You know I wouldn’t change anything about you, don’t you?”

“Tor,” Reese breathed. She turned her head and kissed the tip of Tory’s shoulder, which at the moment was exposed where the night shirt she still wore had fallen down her arm. “What is it, love?”

“I’m not sure what it is exactly. I don’t know if it’s my pregnancy making me a little sensitive or the fact that…” She swallowed and waited a beat to make sure her voice was steady. “Or the fact that you almost died less than three months ago.”

“Ah, love, it’s over now.” Reese turned fully and drew Tory into her arms, cradling her as she rested her chin against the top of her head. “I don’t want you to worry.”

“That’s just it. I do worry. I’ve always worried a little about you getting hurt—I don’t think anyone whose lover does what you do for a living doesn’t. If you’ll recall, sweetheart, it was a gunshot wound that finally brought us together.”


“My point is, Reese, that you do have a dangerous job. It would scare me under any circumstances, but now…” again, she drew a shaky breath. “I keep thinking how important you are. You’re everything to me. I wouldn’t want to live without you. But now, it’s even more important that you’re safe, because there’s going to be another life depending upon you.”

Reese’s chest tightened, and she drew Tory near. “I’ll be careful. I promise. You don’t have to worry about that, Tor. My family means more to me than anything in the world. I won’t do anything to risk it.”

Swiftly, Tory wrapped both arms around Reese’s waist and pressed against her, needing to feel her. Needing to know the solid reassurance of her unwavering presence. “I love you so much.”

“And you can count on it,” Reese whispered.

“Good, because I do.”

“Don’t we have a doctor’s visit coming up this week?” Reese asked gently.

“You don’t need to come with me every time.”

“What about your blood pressure?” Reese tried not to ask her about it very often, but it was on her mind every day.

Tory sighed. “There’s still a persistent elevation, but nothing approaching critical.”

“I’m going with you.” Reese tried hard to sound unconcerned, but her insides turned to ice.


“I’m going with you. Friday, right?”

Tory threaded her arms around Reese’s neck and kissed her. Amazingly, as her breasts and stomach brushed against Reese’s hard body, she felt a swell of arousal. She kissed her longer than she had meant to, because Reese’s lips were soft and full and her mouth was so warm. The strong hands moving the length of her back and gently rubbing the muscles below the swell of her hips urged her blood to run faster and her muscles to tense. When she reached the point that she knew she needed to stop or go forward until she had satisfied her rapidly escalating desire, Tory pulled her mouth away. Gasping shallowly, she murmured, “Can you be late?”

Breathing rapidly herself, Reese shook her head regretfully. “I shouldn’t. Bri will be expecting me.”

Tory tightened her hold and rested her face against Reese’s shoulder. “I suppose this is good practice.”

Aware that her thighs were trembling faintly, Reese laughed hollowly. “Practice for what?”

“Coitus interruptus.” Tory leaned back, her eyes dancing. “I have a feeling that we’re going to be experiencing that a little more often once we have a third person in the house.”

Reese quirked a brow. “You know, maybe there are a few things about this baby thing we should have discussed in a little more detail.”

“Regrets, Sheriff?” Tory kissed Reese’s chin.

Smiling softly, Reese ran one finger along the edge of Tory’s jaw, ending with a light caress along her lower lip. “Not a one, Dr. King.”


When Bri walked into the station house thirty minutes before her split shift was due to begin, her father and Gladys were the only two people present.

“Hi, sweet cakes,” Gladys called. She’d called Bri that all Bri’s life and apparently wasn’t about to stop now.

Bri grinned and sketched a small wave in the air. “Yo, Gladys.”

“What say we take a ride,” Nelson suggested mildly before Bri had a chance to sit down.

“Yes, sir,” she responded, trying to hide her surprise as she followed him out to the cruiser.

“Caroline called me this morning,” Nelson announced without preamble. He spun the wheel and turned into the lane that led to the ranger’s kiosk at the entrance to the parking lot at Herring Cove.

“Is she okay? Has something happened?” Bri exclaimed, unable to keep the alarm from her voice.

“She’s okay, as near as I can tell.” He fixed his attention straight ahead, his hands curled around the steering wheel. “She sounded pretty upset.”


“I didn’t get you out here to lecture, Bri,” Nelson said gruffly. “God knows, I’m no expert at this kind of thing. She asked me if she could live with me this summer.”

“What?” Bri shot up straight in the seat, staring at him in amazement. “She has a job in Manhattan this summer! She’s not coming home. That’s how this whole thing got started.”

“What whole thing?”

Bri blushed. “This whole…mess…between Carre and me. I thought she was coming home for the summer before she went to Europe, and then she told me that she was going to stay in Manhattan. When I heard that, I…I got a little crazy.”

“A little crazy?”

“I…we had a fight. It was my fault. It was stupid.”

“Well,” Nelson said, finally turning to watch her, “she wants to come home now. She said she got a job with one of the artists in town…something about a special deal she arranged with the chairman down there.”

“She’s coming home,” Bri whispered, her heart sinking as she tried to understand what that meant. And she didn’t call me.

“You know, Bri, I think a lot of her. Hell, I love her.” He cleared his throat again and searched his shirt pocket for his Tums. When he found one, he pulled it out, tore off the wrapper, and chewed it vigorously. “I know she doesn’t have anywhere else to stay here, not with the way her old man always treated her. But…you’re my daughter. If it’s going to be a problem—“

“No!” Bri shook her head. “No, it’s no problem. It’s fine.”

“I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you, Bri. But if you…if you love her, you should try to make it right.”

Bri was momentarily speechless. It was the most he’d ever said about her and Caroline’s relationship. He’d given them a home and given them his protection when they’d needed it, but he’d never really said very much about their being together. Him saying it now brought unexpected tears to her eyes, and she had to look out the window and blink.

“I love her,” she whispered, watching a gull bank steeply toward the ocean’s surface and disappear under the crest of a wave.

“That’s good then,” he said as he started the engine and backed out of the parking place. “Good she’s coming home.”

When Bri and Nelson returned to the office, Reese was there at her desk leafing through a stack of papers. She motioned to Bri to join her and said, “We’re getting some feedback from the feelers you sent out.”

“Oh yeah?” Bri pulled over a chair and raised a questioning eyebrow. “What’s up?”

“There have been three suspicious fires on the Cape in as many months.” Reese pulled out several sheets of paper and passed them to Bri. “In addition, there were four in lower Massachusetts, all in clusters around Providence in the last six.”

“So,” Bri muttered as she rapidly scanned the pages, “do you think we have a serial arsonist?”

“I don’t know. But I think we should pay a visit to Ashley Walker. Would you happen to know where she’s staying in town?”

Bri blushed. “Yes.”

Reese stood and settled her cap down over her brow. “Then let’s go, Officer Parker.”

Ten minutes later, Reese knocked at the address Bri had given her. Ashley, barefoot in a sleeveless red T-shirt and grey gym shorts, opened the door after the second knock. She had obviously just gotten up. Her hair had been hastily finger-combed, and her eyes were still hazy with sleep. Looking from Reese to Bri, she grinned lazily and said, “Come on in.”

Reese removed her cap and tucked it under one arm. Bri did the same.

“Sorry I can’t offer you coffee,” the redhead remarked, “but this place doesn’t have a kitchen.”

“No problem,” Reese replied. “Sorry to disturb you so early, but there were a couple of things I wanted to check with you.”

Ashley carried her coffee to a worn overstuffed chair and regarded her visitors, who were both still standing. “Somehow I don’t think you came here to fill me in on the investigation.”

“Actually, Ms. Walker,” Reese said seriously, “we were hoping that you could provide us with some assistance.”

“Now, how could I do that when I don’t know anything about this occurrence?”

Reese smiled. “Were you a lawyer in a previous life, Ms. Walker?”

“No,” Ashley replied carefully, “as a matter of fact, Sheriff, I was a cop.”

“Then you appreciate our situation,” Reese said without missing a beat. “It would help us if you’d share whatever pertinent information you might have.”

Ashley blew out a breath. “I don’t know that I have any. I called the fire captain first thing this morning, and he promised me a look at the fire marshal’s report tomorrow. If I learn anything that has any bearing on your case, I’ll let you know.”

Reese raised an eyebrow. “That easy?”

Ashley’s gaze flickered to Bri and slowly traveled the length of her body. “Let’s just say it’s a favor.”

As they walked down the street toward the patrol car, Reese asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me about you and Ashley Walker?”

“No, ma’am,” Bri replied stiffly.

“This isn’t personal, Bri,” Reese said softly. “This is business.”

Meeting her eyes, Bri said steadily. “There’s nothing going on of a personal nature. I told you everything that happened the other night.”

Except what you were doing out until quarter to four in the morning. Reese drew a long breath and let it out slowly. “Good enough.”

Once they were settled in the car, Bri said quietly, “Caroline is coming back for the summer after all.”

Reese looked to her quickly in surprise. “When did this happen?”

“She called my dad this morning. She’s going to stay with him.”

“How do you feel about that arrangement?”

“I’m okay with it.”

“And how do you feel about her coming back here for the summer?”

Bri turned her cap aimlessly in her hands. “I wanted her to come before, but she said she couldn’t. Now she’s coming, and we’re not even speaking.”

“There’s a fairly simple way to change that.”

Bri cast Reese a questioning glance.

Reese shook her head with a small smile. “Call her on the phone, Bri.”

Bri hooked a boot heel over the bottom rail of the split log fence that ran between the Meeting House and the building next door. Leaning a shoulder against the side of the payphone kiosk, she listened to the repetitive ringing in her ear. Her heart pounded and her palms were damp. She could’ve called from Reese and Tory’s, but she wanted to be alone. In the middle of Commercial Street at 8:00 at night, she was hardly alone, but somehow the anonymous faces passing by made her feel invisible.


For a second, Bri couldn’t speak.


“Carre?” Her throat was so dry it came out barely a whisper.

“Bri?” Uncertain, hopeful.

“Hey, babe.”

“Hi, baby.”

There was silence again, and Bri thought she could hear Carre breathing. Finally, she forced herself to speak. “My dad told me that you’re going to stay with him this summer.”


“I thought…I thought you had a job in the city?” Bri cradled the phone between her head and shoulder and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her leather motorcycle pants.

“I did. I mean, I was going to have one.”

“So, what happened?”

Caroline laughed shakily. “You happened, Bri.”


“You happened to me—about four years ago. I took one look at you, and I thought you were the hottest girl I’d ever seen in my life.”

“Jesus, Carre,” Bri murmured, barely breathing. From two hundred miles away, the sound of Caroline’s voice made her skin flush.

“And then these last few months, you’ve been different. Gone, sort of. And I didn’t even realize that I’d let you go.”

“No, you didn’t…I…”

“But you’re there, and I’m here. Isn’t that what you said would happen when I went to France?” Caroline’s voice was stronger now. “That I’d be there and you’d be here, and everything would change? Well, it already has changed, Bri.”

“I don’t know how it happened,” Bri said desperately.

“Neither do I. But it’s not going to get any better unless we do something to change it.”

“But what about school? Your job?”

“I talked to my adviser and the chairman. I told them that I had a family emergency and that I needed to be home for the summer. They found me someone to work with…a preceptor kind of thing.”

Bri blinked, her eyes suddenly burning. Unconsciously, she brushed moisture from her cheeks with the back of one hand, reaching for the phone with the other and gripping it tightly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to have to do that.”

“What did you mean, Bri? For me just to go away and that would be the end of it?”

“I thought…” She ran a shaking hand through her hair and tried to ignore the queasy roiling of her stomach. “I thought you would go away and when you came back, if you still wanted me, then it would be like it was before.”

“If I still wanted you.” Caroline’s voice was cold. “You didn’t think I would?”

“I was afraid you wouldn’t.”

“It hurts to know you didn’t believe in me, Bri. That you didn’t have any faith in what we have together.”

“That’s not it,” Bri protested sharply.

“Isn’t it? Think about it, Bri.”

Bri was silent. Eventually, she said in a low, broken voice, “Can I see you when you come home?”

“Not if you’re seeing anyone else.”

The pain and tears in Carre’s voice that couldn’t be disguised made Bri bleed inside. “I’m not. I swear.”

“I’ll be moving to Nelson’s the second Saturday in June. Call me sometime.”

“I love you, babe,” Bri said softly.

“Take good care of yourself, baby.”

The soft click signaling that Carre had hung up was like a lifeline being severed. Adrift, Bri stood for a long time listening to the dial tone, thinking about faith.


Bri leaned back in the large overstuffed chair, her hands resting on the threadbare arms, her legs spread to make room for the woman kneeling in front of her. She wore only an unbuttoned shirt, parted down the center. A pale arm stretched upward over the length of her abdomen to enclose her right breast. Fingers rhythmically squeezed her stone-hard nipple as a soft tongue encircled the swollen prominence of her clitoris, working her slowly and carefully, keeping her on the edge but not allowing the release she ached for.

Her irregular breathing was the only sound.

The room was nearly dark, and it was difficult to see more than shadows shifting in the hazy half-light. The chair where she sat, however, was speared by a shaft of moonlight, and when she looked down, she caught glimpses of the woman’s eyes gazing upward, avidly watching as the effect of what she was doing with her mouth rippled across Bri’s face in the flickering illumination.

As the pressure coalesced into a fist deep inside, Bri’s thighs quivered and her fingers clenched. With each long sweep of the warm tongue, the muscles in her abdomen contracted. She arched her neck and groaned softly as the escalating strokes beat against a particularly sensitive spot. Staring into the mesmerizing eyes, Bri watched the golden head rock between her thighs.

“Carre,” she whispered.

There was no answer.

Relentlessly, the perfect rhythm drove her ever closer to explosion. When her hips lifted and white heat spiraled along her spine, she muttered hoarsely, “I’m gonna come in your mouth.”

The insistent lips sucked at her, pushing her beyond volition. Her body tensed, grew rigid, then crumpled as she shouted sharply in surrender. Gasping, she twitched helplessly as the orgasm ripped through her.


Thunderous pounding on her door pulled Bri awake, the last remnants of her nocturnal climax still humming through her veins.

“What?” she croaked. She glanced around the room in confusion. The night through her window was pitch-black. She cleared her throat and sat up quickly. “Yeah?”

“Un-ass that bed, Officer,” Reese said sharply. “We need to roll.”

Still a bit shaky, Bri grabbed the nearest thing she could find, which turned out to be a pair of faded blue jeans, and slid them on. Getting her feet under her finally, she grabbed a corduroy shirt from over the back of a chair and shrugged into it. Buttoning it with one hand, she jerked the door open with the other and stared up at Reese. The sheriff wore jeans as well, with a khaki uniform shirt. Her badge was clipped to the shirt pocket, her automatic holstered on her right hip.

“What’s going on?”

“Grab your equipment,” Reese ordered. “There’s a fire in Truro, and they’re asking for help.”

Well before they screeched to a halt behind a long row of official vehicles, it was easy to see the flames shooting into the sky from a totally fire-engulfed building. Fire trucks fronted the burning structure, a confusion of hoses spewing water in crisscrossing arcs onto the disintegrating roof. Firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officials hurried back and forth in the parking lot in front of what had once been a three story structure.

The Truro police chief spied Reese and waved her over. “Conlon! Good Christ, this place has gone up like a matchbox in less than five minutes. We haven’t had time to evacuate the neighboring motels. I’ve got people working on both sides of the street, but the main priority is that motel right next door. They’ve got forty-five units, most of them full, and we’re not sure everyone’s out yet. I don’t have enough people for a room-to-room.”

“Roger. We’re on it.”

Bri followed Reese as they ran toward the adjacent motel. People streamed past them carrying suitcases and belongings in a mad exodus. A cluster of cars inched along bumper-to-bumper trying to get out of the narrow parking lot, creating a logjam at the exit to Route 6.

“Bri!” a familiar voice called.

Bri looked to her right and saw three other officers rushing toward her, one of whom she knew well. “Allie!”

“What’s the plan?” Allie asked breathlessly, falling into step along side Bri. “We’re with you, my chief said.”

Just at that moment, Reese stopped suddenly and started issuing orders. “You two,” she pointed to the two officers in Wellfleet uniforms, “start on the far end of the ground floor and check every unit. Every unit. Break the doors down if you have to. Tell anyone still in there not to bother with their cars, but to proceed on foot to the highway.” She looked at Bri and Allie. “You two take the upper floors,” she indicated with a nod of her head toward the outdoor hallway running the length of the second floor of the motel. “Make it fast. The wind’s picking up, and there are already sparks on the roof.”

Within minutes, men, women, and children in various stages of undress began pouring from the last of the occupied motel units as officers pounded on doors and shouted instructions. In the distance, approaching sirens signaled that more fire trucks and emergency personnel were enroute.

“Bri, look at the roof,” Allie cried as they jogged down the corridor from the unit they’d just checked toward the next.

Glancing up, Bri was shocked to see almost the entire cedar-shingled surface dancing with flames. “Jesus, it’s moving so fast. Hurry up!”

Smoke poured from the units where doors stood open, but there were at least a dozen rooms which were still closed and presumably occupied.

“Why aren’t they coming out?” Bri shouted as her eyes began to burn with the thickening clouds of smoke that roiled around them.

Coughing, Allie replied, “Maybe some of them partied too much tonight and didn’t hear the sirens. Or maybe there’s more smoke in those rooms than we think. Maybe they can’t get out.”

“There’s just a couple more,” Bri gasped. “Let’s get them open.”

From the ground, coordinating the evacuation efforts, Reese watched Bri and Allie race toward the last four units on the end of the building which was most heavily involved by fire. She turned to the motel owner who had been pacing anxiously by her side. “Are those units occupied?”

“Just the one on the far end,” he said, his voice high-pitched with tension. “I can’t remember who’s in there.”

Even as they spoke, part of the roof fell in.

Reese grabbed a megaphone from a nearby fire captain and raced toward the stairs that led up to the second floor exterior hallway about fifty feet from where she had last seen Bri and Allie.

“Parker,” she yelled into the megaphone. “Parker, clear the area ASAP. Parker, do you copy?”

By the time she reached the second floor, her lungs were burning and her eyes were streaming with tears. The smoke was so thick she couldn’t see through it, so she ran in the direction she had last seen the trainees.

From the ground, the fire captain couldn’t see anyone at all on the second floor when the rest of the roof collapsed in a plume of sparks and flying ash.

Tory was on her way to her Jeep when the cruiser pulled into her driveway. Reese had only been gone ten or fifteen minutes when Tory had decided that if the fire were serious enough for them to call out reinforcements, they might need her as well.

“Nelson,” Tory called as he stepped from the car and walked toward her. “I was just getting ready to go.”

The security lights had come on under the eaves of the house when he had pulled into the driveway, and she could see his face clearly in the falsely bright illumination. His expression caused a cold hand to close around her heart.

“What is it?” Tory cried, trying and failing to keep her voice level. She braced her hand against the side of her vehicle, her legs shaking nearly uncontrollably. This can’t be happening. Not again. I can’t do this again.

“There are four buildings involved already.” Nelson’s voice was flat, his eyes eerily empty. “A lot of minor injuries. The motel next to where it started is almost gone.”

“Nelson,” Tory said harshly, recognizing that he was very nearly in shock. She wanted to scream, feared that she might. “What’s happened?”


“Oh no,” Tory gasped, sagging slightly against the Jeep. We can’t lose Bri.

“Bri and another girl…another cadet…they were trying to evacuate the upper floors…when it collapsed.”

Forcing herself to act, to think despite the panic eclipsing her reason, Tory went to him and put her hand on his forearm. “Nelson, is she hurt?”

“Missing,” he rasped. His hands were trembling as he rubbed them over his face. “She…didn’t come out.”

“Let’s go,” she said urgently, but before she could move, the rest of it hit her. Nelson had come for her. She drew a sharp breath as pain lanced through her. If Bri is missing, then where is…but you know, don’t you? Reese would go after her. She would never leave her injured in the field. Especially not Bri. Reese would never leave Bri.

“Oh god, Nelson…not both of them!”

He could only nod, his terror boundless.


As Nelson rocketed the cruiser east on Route 6, covering the few miles between Tory’s home and the scene of the conflagration, Tory stared straight ahead through the windshield, one hand on the door handle, the other beneath her sweatshirt, resting against her abdomen. Beneath her fingers, hope swelled even as an agony of despair hammered at the edges of her consciousness. She could see the fire now and the dozens of rescue vehicles and great clouds of dark smoke billowing into the night sky.

Don’t leave me, sweetheart. I can’t do this without you. Please, darling, please.

Nelson slammed to a halt, and Tory was out of the vehicle almost before it had stopped. Then, she faltered, realizing she had nowhere to go. The scene was one of barely-controlled pandemonium. Frantically, she searched for someone recognizable and finally saw Jeff Lyons, one of the officers from the Provincetown force.

“Jeff!” She rushed toward him as quickly as her unfamiliarly heavy body and her cumbersome leg brace would allow. “Have you seen Reese or Bri?”

He shook his head, his expression dazed. “Not since they went off to evacuate the Gull Crest Motel. What does the chief say?”

“He doesn’t know anything either.” Impatiently, she turned away. Panic threatened to choke her. “God, isn’t anyone in charge around here?”

As if by instinct, she made her way through the masses of milling people and ended up near the EMT transport vehicles. Where are you, Reese? Where in God’s name are you?

After five fruitless minutes of searching, her hair was drenched with sweat, her face was covered with soot from the ash-filled air, and her control was in tatters. A horrific surge of desolation swept through her and tears overflowed her stinging lids without her even being aware of them. I can’t do this. I can’t, I can’t.

From close by, a man shouted, “Somebody get a gurney. We’ve got walking-wounded coming.”

Tory jerked around at the sound of his voice and frantically searched the edges of the beach forest that bordered one side of the access road where most of the rescue vehicles had parked. It was difficult to see through the haze created by the combination of emergency lights and swirling smoke, but eventually she could discern a lone figure emerging from the artificial mists, carrying some kind of bundle. She blinked the tears and smoke from her eyes and was able to make out that the bundle was a person, and the grime-covered apparition carrying the victim was Reese.

The relief was so acute that Tory couldn’t breathe. Even seeing her lover more clearly with each step wasn’t enough to banish the terrible ache that had seized her heart. She started to run.

The EMTs reached Reese well before Tory did and relieved her of her burden. Still, she had barely relinquished the frail, elderly man to the care of the rescue team before Tory flung herself into her arms.

“I thought you were dead,” Tory gasped. Her hands were all over Reese, stroking her chest and her back and up and down her arms, searching for injury. “Are you hurt? Are you hurt?”

“Tory, I’m all right.” Reese grabbed Tory’s hands, stilling her frenzied motion, and then gathered her close. Tory’s heart was beating wildly against her chest, and with her lips close to her lover’s ear, Reese said gently, “Tory, listen to me. Stop, love. Stop. I’m all right.”

The sound of Reese’s voice, low and steady and calm, brought instant surcease to Tory’s terror. Suddenly, she regained control and, after taking a long slow breath, was able to separate herself enough from Reese to look into her face. “Where’s Bri?”

“Back in the forest. She’s with an injured officer. Bri wouldn’t leave her, and I had to get this fellow to the EMTs.” Reese framed Tory’s face with both hands and kissed her swiftly. “Tory, I need to go back for Bri.”

With every second, Tory was feeling stronger, more in control. Reese was safe. And there was still much work to be done. Her work. “I’m going back to the ambulances to see if I can help out.”

“You shouldn’t even be here. You sure shouldn’t be working.” Reese grabbed for her hand. “Go home, Tor. Please. It’s crazy out here.”

Finally, Tory smiled. “You’re a fine one to talk, Sheriff. Go do what you have to do and come back as soon as you can.” She rested her palm for an instant against Reese’s cheek. “Please don’t be gone long. I can’t stand it right now.”

Forty-five minutes later, Allie sat with her back against the tire of an EMT van while Bri crouched beside her, holding a cup of coffee.

“Are you sure you’re not cold?” Bri asked worriedly.

Allie shook her head and smiled wanly. “Not really. You don’t have to stay with me, you know.”

“That’s okay.”

“Boy, I’m never going to live this down,” Allie said in disgust. “My first big assignment and I end up falling on my ass.”

“I don’t think anyone is going to put you down for twisting your ankle while jumping from a burning building.” Bri swiped sweat from her face and grimaced as she brushed against the burned spot on her neck. “Besides, it could happen to anybody.”

“Sure.” A second passed, then Allie said, “You haven’t called me. I kind of thought it might be because of that girlfriend you mentioned.”


“Because, you know, I thought things were pretty hot between us.”

Flushing, Bri thought about waking up with Allie naked beside her. She remembered it almost as a dream, and the memory was exciting. Her eyes moved slowly over Allie’s face, appreciating how attractive she was. Even scratched and sweat-streaked, she was sexy. “Yeah, it was hot. You’re hot. Totally.”


“But I’m in love with someone.”

“It wouldn’t have to be anything real serious, you know.” Allie brushed Bri’s hand with her fingertips. “Just a little fun. I think about you…a lot.”

“I can’t,” Bri said. And it didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.

“Tory,” a male voice said from behind her.

Tory turned, frowning, and then exclaimed, “Dan! What are you doing here?”

The solidly built, dark-haired man shrugged, grinning a bit shyly. “Reese called me and said that you might need relief about now.”

“Oh, she did, did she?” Tory raised an eyebrow, uncertain whether she was actually angry or not. She was tired, and she had a headache. It must be after five in the morning, and she was working on very little sleep.

Dan Riley frowned as he took in his new employer. She was clearly exhausted and the fingers that brushed absently at the strands of damp hair clinging to her cheeks trembled faintly. “Well,” he said briskly, “let me finish triaging the remaining patients. You should go home.”

Before Tory could respond, another voice interjected, “A very good suggestion, Dr. Riley.”

Reese stepped closer to Tory and kissed her cheek. “Hello, love.”

Smiling despite herself, Tory touched her fingertips to Reese’s chin, brushing at a trickle of dried blood. “You’ve cut yourself, Sheriff.”

“Nothing major.” Reese turned to Dan Riley and murmured something before adding, “As soon as I collect Bri, check in with the chief, and make sure that the rest of my people know what they’re supposed to be doing, we can get out of here.”

As Tory watched Reese hurry off yet again, Dan said, “Let me take your pressure, Tory.”

“What?” Tory asked in surprise.

“Let me check your BP.” His eyes were kind as they met hers. “You’ve been on your feet all night.”

“Did she ask you to do that?”

“I know how she feels,” he said, avoiding the answer. He pulled a blood pressure cuff from inside the truck and wrapped it around Tory’s left upper arm. “When my wife was pregnant the first time, I had morning sickness every day for five months. I felt completely helpless and equal parts ecstatic and terrified. You can’t blame her for worrying.”

A minute later, he took the cuff off and regarded her steadily. “One-forty over ninety-two. Is that unusual?”

Tory drew a shaky breath, and then shook her head. “It hasn’t been consistent, but for the last few days it’s been in that range. Listen, don’t say anything to Reese, all right, Dan?”

“Of course. Like I said, it’s not my business.”

At that moment, Reese and Bri returned.

“Everything okay?” Reese asked, looking from Tory to Dan.

Tory took Reese’s hand. “Everything is fine. Let’s take Allie back to the clinic, and after that, maybe we can all get some breakfast.”

The four of them trudged through the water-soaked, litter-strewn fire site toward the highway where Reese had left her Blazer, Allie supported between Reese and Bri. Halfway there, Reese noticed someone on the outskirts of the crowd and said quickly, “I’ll be right back.”

Tory watched Reese approach a woman and speak to her briefly. “Who is that?”

“That’s Ashley Walker,” Bri said.

“The private investigator?”


After a minute, Reese and the redhead turned and walked back to where the others were waiting.

“Officer Parker,” Ashley said with a slow smile when she recognized Bri.

“Ms. Walker,” Bri said with a small tilt of her chin.

“Hello,” Allie said, extending her hand to the newcomer. “Allie Tremont.”

“Ashley Walker,” the redhead replied languorously, her throaty tenor slightly raspy from the smoke, her green eyes flickering downward once before returning to Allie’s face. “Are you all right?”

“I will be,” Allie replied, never taking her eyes from Ashley’s.

Tory watched the exchange which, although completely innocent, held a note of intimacy that almost made her feel like a voyeur. “If we’re all done with the introductions,” she interjected dryly, “perhaps we can get back to the clinic so I can decide how Officer Tremont is doing.”

“I’ll follow you in my car,” Ashley said.

“Don’t get lost,” Reese advised.

“I wouldn’t think of it.”


“You can use my office,” Tory said to Reese as the small group proceeded down the central hallway of her clinic toward the X-ray room at the rear. “Just help me get Allie up onto the table so I can get these films.”

Reese, Bri, and Ashley Walker left the small radiology room and crossed the hall diagonally to Tory’s office.

“Sit down, please, Ms. Walker,” Reese instructed while pointing to one of the two chairs in front of Tory’s large wood desk. She leaned her hips against it, but remained standing. Bri stood a few feet away also, off to Ashley’s right. “I want to know exactly what you’re investigating.”

After a moment’s deliberation, Ashley Walker nodded slightly. “I’m looking for a man named Stanley Morris. He was a claims investigator for the company which hired me.”

“The insurance company?”

“Yes,” she said. “Six months ago he was forced into leaving, ostensibly due to downsizing. Shortly thereafter, the first of what would turn out to be a series of fires occurred in buildings that are insured by the company.”

“Some kind of retribution?” Bri asked.

“That’s what we think. Morris’s area of specialty was fire investigation, and the timing seemed right. But the company didn’t have any proof.”

“So they hired you,” Reese surmised.

“I worked Missing Persons when I was a cop in Providence,” Ashley informed them. “But, I haven’t been able to find him, although it seems like I’m always close.”

“Can you place him anywhere around here?” Reese asked.

Ashley shook her head. “No. The last place I can put him is in Falls River six weeks ago. But that doesn’t mean he’s not here on the Cape, paying with cash and lying low.”

“All right. We’ll get an APB out to the other divisions on the Cape today,” Reese said. “Is there anything else we should know about this guy?”

“When he lost his job, his wife left him. He’s angry, and I’m not sure he’s entirely stable. I would consider him violent and recommend caution if he is to be apprehended.” She hesitated. “I’m not sure it’s relevant, but he was an explosives expert in the Army.”

“So noted.” Reese pushed off from the desk and glanced at her watch. “I’ll get this out on the wire as soon as we square Officer Tremont away. Are you going to be staying around for awhile?”

“I’m planning on it.” Ashley stood as well. “Maybe he’s coming undone. I might as well stay here until I can pick up some trace of him.”

The three of them walked back to the radiology suite, where they found Tory placing a soft cast on Allie Tremont’s left lower leg. Tory looked up when the others walked in.

“There’s a very small chip fracture of the distal fibula. It shouldn’t be a problem long term, but it needs to be immobilized for three or four weeks.”

“Great.” Allie looked frustrated as well as worn out. “I don’t even have any way to get home.”

“I can take you,” Bri said quietly.

“Why don’t I do it,” Ashley Walker volunteered. “I’m sure that you have work to finish up here, Officer Parker.”

Bri looked at Ashley in surprise, but she didn’t argue. “Okay. Fine.”

“And I should take you home, Dr. King,” Reese said quietly.

For a brief instant, Tory thought about protesting, but she didn’t argue because she couldn’t deny that she was exhausted. At the very least, she needed a shower and something to eat. Nodding her head tiredly, she said, “All right, Sheriff.”

“Tory, love. We’re home.” Reese gently shook her lover’s shoulder. “Time for you to get some sleep.”

“Time for me to take a shower. God, I’m grimy.”

Reese got out and walked around the front of her SUV and opened Tory’s door. She extended a hand and said, “I’ve got an even better idea.”

“Oh?” Tory asked, raising an eyebrow. “I love you beyond imagination, Sheriff. But I couldn’t make love right now if my life depended upon it.”

“Really?” Reese said as she slipped her arm around Tory’s waist. “Actually, I had something else in mind.”

Five minutes later, Tory, clad only in an old T-shirt of Reese’s, since hers no longer fit comfortably, was tiredly brushing her teeth in front of the bathroom mirror. Reese came in behind her, lifted the hair at the back of her neck with one hand, and kissed her on the ultrasensitive spot just below her hairline.

“Mmm,” Tory murmured, closing her eyes. “God, that feels good.”

“Just wait.” Reese whispered. She nuzzled Tory’s ear before moving away.

The next moment, Tory heard the bath water running and turned as Reese began to strip. She rested her hips against the counter and watched as Reese unsnapped her jeans and pushed them off. Reese was halfway through the buttons on her shirt when Tory murmured huskily, “You are so gorgeous.”

“No sex, remember?” Naked now, Reese reached down to test the water temperature and then opened a small bottle that rested on a ledge on one side of the tub. She poured the vanilla scented essential oils into the water, capped the bottle, and replaced it. Turning with a smile, she held out her hand. “Your bath awaits, my lady.”

With an appreciative groan, Tory steadied herself on Reese’s shoulder and stepped into the tub. As she lowered herself into the soothing heat, Reese pulled the shades and quickly lit several candles that stood on the bathroom counter. Then, she sat on the edge of the tub and reached for the shampoo. “Wet your hair.”

Lids half closed, Tory tilted her head back until her hair was below the surface of the water. When she pushed herself up, Reese leaned forward and massaged the shampoo into her hair.

“You have the best hands,” Tory murmured, closing her eyes completely.

Reese took her time, smoothing the lather down the back of Tory’s neck and over her shoulders, massaging the tense muscles. Eventually, she directed softly, “Go ahead and rinse.”

Once again, when Tory lifted herself from the water, Reese was waiting, this time with a body sponge which she used to spread a fragrant bath gel over Tory’s back. When she’d finished massaging her from shoulders to hips, Reese stepped into the tub behind Tory and settled down with a leg extended on either side of her lover’s body .

“Lean back,” Reese whispered in Tory’s ear.

The tub was deep, and the water came to just above Tory’s breasts as she reclined in Reese’s embrace. Allowing her head to fall back against Reese’s shoulder, she closed her eyes.

Tenderly, Reese reached around and spread the soothing lotion over Tory’s upper chest and down the swell of her breasts. Tory groaned faintly and lifted her breasts into Reese’s palms.

“Remember,” Reese murmured, “no sex.”

“God, you’re evil,” Tory muttered, even as she realized that she wouldn’t be able to follow through with the distant pulse of desire in her depths. The sensation of want was pleasant, nevertheless.

When Tory opened her eyes again, she realized that she had been asleep, cushioned within the curve of Reese’s body. Astonishingly the water was still warm.

“How long have I been asleep?”

“About twenty minutes,” Reese said quietly. She was resting with her back against the wall and her chin on the top of Tory’s head. “I’ve been turning the water on now and then to keep it warm. You didn’t even realize when I recycled it.”

“I can’t remember the last time I was this out of it,” Tory said with a sigh.

“Let’s go to bed now, love. I thought I’d lie down with you for a while,” Reese said, hoping that would entice Tory to stay home from the clinic.

“You know that’s an offer I can’t refuse, don’t you?”

Smiling to herself, Reese kissed the top of Tory’s head. “That’s what I was hoping.”

An hour later, Reese slipped from the bed, quietly dressed, and walked downstairs. Bri was sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking orange juice and eating a bowl of cereal.

Halfway around the counter toward the kitchen, Reese stopped, turned, and walked back to Bri’s side. “You’ve got a pretty big burn on the side of your neck.”

“I just realized it,” Bri replied. “I guess that happened when that drape caught on fire as we were going out the window.”

“You did a fine job back there.”

Tears stung Bri’s eyes as she murmured huskily, “Thanks. And thanks for coming after us. I’m not sure I could’ve gotten him out of there.”

“You could have,” Reese said with certainty. “As soon as you’re done eating, report to the clinic and have that looked at.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Reese watched Bri jump from the stool, grab her motorcycle jacket, and hurry out. Smiling, she shook her head and tried not to think about how close she had come to losing not one, but two, cadets earlier that day.

When Bri returned to the house an hour and a half later, she grabbed the portable phone from its cradle on the breakfast counter and took it with her into her small room. Holding her breath, she punched a number and waited. A minute later, the familiar voice answered. “Carre?”

“Bri?” Almost as if she could hear something in Bri’s voice, Caroline added anxiously, “What’s wrong?”

“I know you asked me not to call, but I…”

“Are you hurt?”

“No, not really. Just a little bit of a burn.”

Caroline took a deep breath. “There was a fire?”

“In Truro. A big one.” Bri hesitated, then said very softly, “I love you, babe. I miss you so much.”

“Something happened, didn’t it,” Caroline said, the concern still sharp in her tone. “Tell me what happened.”

“Nothing,” Bri said quickly. “It was crazy for a little while, and we almost got trapped in this burning room, but we went out the window…”

“And you got burned,” Caroline said in an unnaturally calm tone of voice. “Where?”

“Just the side of my neck and a little bit on my shoulder.”

“Has Tory looked at it?”

“She’s upstairs asleep. Her associate checked it. I’m okay.”

There were a few seconds of silence as they listened to one another breathe.

“If something happens to you, Bri, I’m not going to be able to stand it,” Caroline said softly. I still haven’t forgotten the first time you were hurt.

“Nothing is going to happen,” Bri said just as quietly. “It’s just…I thought about you when, for a minute there…” Bri took a long breath. “I just wanted you to know that you’re the only girl I’ve ever loved. And the only one I want.”

“Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“I promise.” Bri closed her eyes. I promise never to hurt you again. I promise to love you forever. Please let me.

“I’ll see you soon, baby,” Caroline whispered.


When the dial tone signaled that Carre was gone, Bri pushed the off button and curled onto her side with the phone still in her hand, falling asleep with the image of Carre in her mind.


June, Provincetown, MA

“I can’t believe how much she’s moving,” Reese whispered to Tory. She was sitting at the head of the exam table, her cheek resting against the top of Tory’s head, and they were both watching the ultrasound image as Wendy Deutsch moved the probe over Tory’s abdomen. “Can you feel all that?”

“Mmm.” Reese’s arm rested around Tory’s body, just below her breasts, and Tory had laced the fingers of her left hand with those of Reese’s right. “Most of the time.”

“Fetal size and movement look excellent,” Wendy commented. “You’re both doing beautifully.”

Reese kissed the top of Tory’s head, her eyes still watching the image on the screen.

Wendy removed the probe and set it aside. “Come on back to my office when you’re ready.”

A few minutes later, Reese and Tory were once again seated in front of Wendy’s desk.

“Everything seems fine with the baby at this point,” Wendy reiterated. She held Tory’s gaze and said quietly, “We need to talk about your blood pressure.”

“I know.”

“The elevation is persistent and substantial, although still in a range that I would consider mild hypertension. We have to consider this preeclampsia.”

“Yes.” Tory’s voice was very calm.

Reese’s heart plummeted but she managed to sit absolutely still.

“Most experts agree that at your stage, the only management is expectant.” Wendy shrugged. “Salt restriction and plenty of rest can’t hurt. I don’t ordinarily treat my patients with anti-hypertensives because they haven’t been shown to be of any value in terms of the outcome.”

“I’ve read the same thing,” Tory said. In fact, she’d been searching the literature for the last few weeks, ever since she had first noticed the slow progression of her gestational hypertension. She probably knew as much as Wendy about preeclampsia at this point.

“As long as there’s no progression of the symptoms,” Wendy said, her eyes still solemn and riveted on Tory, “we’ll induce labor at thirty-seven weeks if conditions are optimal.”

“So let me get this straight,” Reese said, hoping her voice didn’t shake. “As long as nothing changes, we just wait until the baby is big enough to be delivered, right?”

Tory smiled and reached for Reese’s hand. “Right.”

“And if the other things develop,” Reese persisted. “The…protein in the urine, or headaches, or visual disturbances or abnormal blood tests…then Tory is admitted to the hospital until the baby can be delivered?”

“That’s possible, yes,” Wendy said. She looked at Tory again. “Weekly visits. No excuses. Take your blood pressure every four hours and twice weekly blood screening.”


“Good,” Wendy said briskly. “I’ll see you next week.”

On the plane ride back, Reese sat in the window seat with Tory leaning quietly against her shoulder. They held hands, but they didn’t speak. When they landed at the small air strip at Race Point, it was still early afternoon.

“How about I drive over to the beach, and we take a look at the ocean?” Reese asked as they walked through the tiny terminal.

“I’d like that.”

A few moments later, Reese parked in front of the ranger’s station and helped Tory climb from the Blazer. “Do you want to walk down to the beach, or to the lighthouse?”

“The lighthouse, I think.”

They held hands and took their time walking down the winding sand path between low scrubs to the lighthouse that stood at the curve of the tip of Cape Cod as it stretched out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Reese smoothed the sand free of pebbles and needles at the base of the stone structure and asked, “Is this okay?”

Tory eased down with a sigh. “Perfect.”

Reese settled beside her and slid her arm behind Tory’s shoulder. For a few moments, they were silent, basking in the June sun and watching the sailboats and larger crafts track across the ocean in front of them.

“Tell me how worried I should be about what’s happening,” Reese said at length.

“For now, not too,” Tory replied quietly, resting her cheek against Reese’s shoulder. She turned slightly so she could thread her arm around Reese’s waist, drawing her knee gently over Reese’s thigh until she was reclining in her arms. “Everything has been stable except for the blood pressure, and that hasn’t really changed very much.”

“How long until the baby has a good chance?”

“God, you always go right for the heart of things, don’t you, Sheriff?”

Reese tightened her hold on her lover. “I don’t know the things you know. But I need to understand, because I want to be prepared.”

“Like Wendy said, thirty-seven weeks is usually the point when labor is induced in situations like this. But many times a few weeks earlier and the baby will do fine.”

“So we need at least another eight or nine, right?”

“That would be good.”

“I don’t want you to train anymore,” Reese said quietly.

Tory was still for a moment, and then she tilted her chin and kissed the underside of Reese’s jaw. “Okay.”

“And you’ll do half shifts at the clinic?”


“Do know how much I love you?” Reese asked, looking into Tory’s eyes.

“I do.” Tory kissed her, slow and deep and thoroughly. When she drew her head back, she smiled, knowing from the way Reese’s eyes had darkened that the kiss had had its intended effect. “Do you know how much I love you? “

“I can make a pretty good guess,” Reese murmured softly, running her free hand up and down Tory’s arm.

“Make sure you get home on time from work tonight, and you won’t have to guess.”

“Anything new on the firebug?” Nelson asked.

“No,” Reese said, frowning. “We’ve got his description out to all the departments on the Cape.”

“Any reason to think he’s still around here?”

“Not that I can figure out,” Reese said. “If there’s something keeping him around here, I don’t know what it is.”

“You know, it’s often some trivial detail that you never find out until you catch the guy,” Nelson observed. “It could be something as simple as he used to vacation here every summer. Who the hell knows? The guy is nuts.”


“Bri graduates, formally, in a couple of weeks,” Nelson said, squaring the papers on his desk into neat piles.

Reese looked up from her own paperwork and studied him. “I know.”

He met her eyes and grinned sheepishly. “I put in for her to be assigned here permanently.”

Reese grinned back. “Good. I was going to suggest it, if you didn’t. She’s a good officer, Nelson, and this is her home. She’s good with the people, and she’s happy here.”

“Caroline’s going to be here the end of this week,” Nelson remarked.

“Then I’d say that might be the only thing Bri needs to be really okay.”

“Jesus,” he said softly. “I hope so.”

When the door to Bri’s room opened a little after seven on Friday night, Tory looked up from the couch where she sat reading a magazine.

“Nervous?” Tory asked kindly.

“Jesus, yes,” Bri said in a tight, clipped voice. “Dumb, huh?”

“No.” Tory shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty sweet.”

Bri blushed furiously. Then, softly, she asked, “Do I…uh…look okay?”

Giving the question due respect, Tory took in the new black jeans, the polished black boots, and the crisp white shirt. Bri looked like Bri always looked, lean and sleek and slightly dangerous. “You look great. I’m sure the only thing that’s going to matter to Caroline is that you’re there to see her.”

“It feels pretty weird visiting her at my dad’s,” Bri said. “At my own house, where we used to sleep in my bedroom together.”

“Things have changed now, Bri. You were kids then, and you’re not any longer.”

Bri settled a hip on the arm of the sofa and regarded Tory solemnly. “If you were Caroline, what would you want from me now?”

“Trust is a terribly fragile thing,” Tory said gently. “You know that, right?”

Bri nodded. She had become very still and every ounce of her attention was riveted on Tory’s face.

“The first step is to tell her what you feel, everything that you feel, as honestly as you can. If you’re scared, or not sure of how you feel, or even if you’re not sure if you love her…”

“No,” Bri said vehemently. “I am sure.”

“Then tell her all those things.” Tory waited a beat, and then continued softly, “I have faith in you. Both of you.”


Bri parked her motorcycle in the narrow driveway and walked up the steps to the front porch. The door opened and she was face to face with her father.

“Hi,” she said quickly.

“Hey, Bri.” Nelson made a motion with his head toward the interior of the house. “You want to come in?”

“Yeah, sure,” Bri said, following him into the living room. She rocked uneasily from foot to foot. It had been almost two months since she’d seen Carre.

“Hi, Bri,” a soft voice said from somewhere quite close by.

Bri jumped, startled, and looked toward the stairs from the second floor. Carre stood halfway down, dressed in a scoop-neck black Lycra top and hip-hugger bluejeans. A thin silver belt of interlocking links was looped around her waist. The end trailed down one thigh.

Bri’s mouth was suddenly dry. “Hi, ba…Carre.”

Nelson cleared his throat. “So, you two doing anything interesting?”

“Uh,” Bri said, her eyes devouring Carre even as she stood rooted to the spot, “I was wondering if you’d like to go to the movies? They’re showing Bound again at the Cinema Arts, and I know you’ve seen it, but—”

“I’d love to go,” Caroline said quickly, coming down the stairs and crossing the small room to Bri’s side.

“Uh-huh.” Bri lifted a hand, automatically reaching for Carre’s, and then stopped. Softly, she said, “We should go.”

“Okay,” Carre replied, her eyes holding Bri’s.

Nelson coughed, then said heartily, “Well, you two have fun. And be careful.”

Once outside, they walked to the motorcycle and climbed on. When Carre wrapped her arms around Bri’s waist from behind, automatically sliding warm palms over Bri’s stomach, Bri shivered and dropped the keys. When Carre tightened her hold and rested her cheek against the back of Bri’s leather-jacketed shoulder, Bri spoke without turning around. “You look beautiful.”

“You look great, too.”

Bri’s entire body twitched as she felt Carre’s hot breath against the back of her neck. Then she put one leg down and leaned over, groping on the ground for her keys. When she found them and managed to get them into the ignition with shaking hands, she said, “Hold on.”

She couldn’t hear Carre’s reply as she started the engine.

“Oh, don’t worry, I will.”

After the movie, Carre asked, “Do you want to walk on the beach?”


A few minutes later they reached the water’s edge, not far from the tumbled-down pier where Bri had sat that night with Ashley. It was Carre who broke the silence. “How’s work?”

“Good,” Bri said quickly. The nights were cold by the water, even in summer, and Bri removed her jacket and draped it around Carre’s shoulders. “I like it.”

Carre turned, snuggling into the jacket, luxuriating in the heat left behind by her lover’s body. “So you’re glad about the decision that you made?” Carre’s voice trembled slightly with the question.

“I’m glad that I went to the academy when I did.” Cautiously, Bri placed her fingertips very lightly on either side of Carre’s waist beneath the bottom of the jacket. “I’m not happy about leaving you, though. I’m sorry for screwing up.”

“Have you been seeing anyone since you’ve been here?” Carre spoke quietly, so quietly that her words were nearly carried away on the night wind.

“No. Not once,” Bri replied vehemently. “I love you, Carre. I won’t ever hurt you again. I promise.”

“I’ve missed you so much, Bri,” Carre said softly.

“I love you, babe. Do you believe me?”

“I’ve always believed you.”

“Is it enough?” Bri was holding her breath.

Carre turned her face and pressed her lips to the spot where she could feel Bri’s heart pounding beneath her cheek. “I always thought it would be…before. I’m not sure now. But we’ll find out.”

Tory had just awakened from a nap on the couch when Reese walked in. Smiling, Reese leaned down and kissed her softly on the mouth. “Hi, love. How are you doing?”

“Other than feeling like a narcotized whale, I’m doing just fine.”

“You don’t look like a whale,” Reese commented as she lifted Tory’s feet, sat down, and settled her lover’s legs into her lap. She began to massage Tory’s feet.

“Are you trying to seduce me?”

“Do I have to try?”

“No.” Tory nudged her heel between Reese’s thighs, eliciting a groan from her. “To tell you the truth,” Tory said somewhat irritably, “I feel like sex, but I’m not sure my body is up to it.”

“Whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re the boss.” Reese leaned sideways until she was reclining next to Tory, taking care to support herself on one arm so that she didn’t put her weight on her lover’s body. “This is enough for me.” As she spoke, Reese ran her fingers over the swell of Tory’s belly, and then brushed lightly over the curve of one full breast. “You get more beautiful every day. And when I feel the baby move, it’s just about the most thrilling thing I’ve ever experienced.”

“This is heaven,” Tory murmured. “But once in a while, Sheriff, I miss the wild sex.”

Reese laughed out loud. “I need to shower. Then what do you say we get in bed and see what happens?”

“See? I knew you were trying to seduce me.”

When Reese emerged from the shower, she crossed to the bed and reached for the bedside light.

“Just turn it down low, but leave it on,” Tory murmured. “I want to see your face.”

“Okay,” Reese said softly and slid beneath the sheets.

“You know what I love about sex with you?” Tory said pensively.

“What?” Reese asked, her eyes fixed on her lover’s. Tory’s expression was both whimsical and tender.

“You don’t hold anything back.”

“I love you with everything I am,” Reese whispered, gently resting her palm on the arch of Tory’s hip. “You own me.”

“Mmm. I love that about you, too.” Tory nestled her cheek in the bend of her arm and ran her other hand over Reese’s abdomen. “I want to watch you come,” Tory said steadily, running her fingertip between Reese’s breasts, then fleetingly over her nipples. She gave a murmur of satisfaction as they hardened to her touch.

“Aren’t you tired?” Reese was having trouble keeping her breathing steady or her legs still as Tory caressed her.

“I said I wanted to watch.” Slowly, deliberately, Tory drew Reese’s fingers down the center of Reese’s body and between Reese’s thighs. “Okay?”

Reese’s lips parted with a soft groan as Tory urged her to touch herself. Throat tight, Reese murmured, “I said anything you wanted.”

“I want.”

Tory kept her fingers lightly in contact with Reese’s so that she could feel Reese move. Her own heart beat faster, watching the tension grow in Reese’s face. Beneath her palm, Reese’s hand circled gently. “Are you hard?”

“Christ, yes.” Reese found it almost impossible to talk. It wasn’t as much the pleasure spiraling from beneath her fingers, but the look of hunger in Tory’s eyes that fueled her excitement.

“Slow down,” Tory said softly.

“I don’t…think I…can,” Reese said through gritted teeth. The muscles in her stomach danced in anticipation. “Oh God, Tor. It feels so good.”

“Make it last,” Tory urged. She enjoyed watching the pleasure ripple through Reese’s body too much to end it too quickly. “You’re so beautiful right now.”

“I want…to come,” Reese gasped desperately, her vision dimming. “Can I…come?”

“Hold on as long as you can.” Tory shifted her fingers lower, gliding over Reese’s fingertips as Reese fondled herself. “Tell me when you’re coming.”

“Soon…oh, soon.”

“Wait…wait, baby.”

“Tory,” Reese cried sharply. Her eyes opened wide, then the pupils flickered rapidly as her limbs grew rigid. “I’m gonna come.”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Tory murmured as she slid into her in one single motion. “You are.”

Reese choked out a cry as she flung her head back, forcing the orgasm on with each frantic stroke of her hand. When it seemed the convulsive contractions were almost over, Tory withdrew nearly completely and then entered again, setting off another round of spasms.

Dimly, Reese heard Tory’s voice close to her ear. “Again?”

“I can’t, I can’t.” Sweat streaked Reese’s face as she pressed her cheek to Tory’s breast. She still cupped herself with her palm, but Tory had withdrawn. “God, I’m wasted.”

“I adore you.” Tory pressed her lips to Reese’s forehead, then drew her lover’s head back to her breast. “Now go to sleep, sweetheart.”

With a sigh, Reese slid her arm over Tory’s hips and closed her eyes, doing as her lover bid.

A little after midnight, Bri walked Carre to the door of what she now thought of as her father’s house, not hers.

“Can I see you tomorrow night?” Bri asked, grasping Caroline’s hand as she leaned back against the porch post.

Carre stepped closer until she was nearly between Bri’s legs. “I’d like that.”

“Carre,” Bri whispered just before she kissed her. The kiss was nearly as tentative and tender as the first time she had dared to put her mouth on Carre’s skin. Their thighs brushed lightly, and they joined fingers, clasping hands as their lips met.

Slowly, Carre pressed closer until the front of her body pressed against Bri’s, her hips sheltered between Bri’s thighs, her pelvis rocking softly in time with her slowly thrusting tongue. She whimpered quietly and Bri moaned.

Abruptly, Bri broke off the kiss and pulled her head back. “Babe,” she whispered urgently. “I have to stop.”

“We’re just kissing,” Carre teased gently.

Bri shook her head. “You feel too good. I’m too excited. I want to save it.”

“For what?” Carre tilted her head and studied Bri’s handsome face, dark now with tension and desire.

“I want the first time we’re together again to be special,” Bri whispered, resting her forehead gently on Carre’s.

With a small cry, Carre wrapped her arms around Bri’s waist and pressed her cheek to Bri’s shoulder. “I love you.”

“I love you,” Bri whispered. “So fucking much.”

Carre ran her fingers lightly along the edge of Bri’s jaw. “I should go in. Be good, okay?”

“You mean I can’t go home and take care of myself?”

“I’d rather you waited for me,” Carre replied, her voice soft and low.

“Does it count against me if I come in my sleep?”

Carre seemed to give this some thought, her smile widening. “Depends on who you’re dreaming about.”

“Babe,” Bri answered seriously, “I only dream of you.”


When Reese stopped by the clinic to pick Tory up after her half day shift was over, Randy was nowhere in sight, so she walked through the door that led to the examining rooms and Tory’s office. As she passed an open room on her right, she automatically glanced in and saw Dan Riley bending over a woman lying on the examining table. Reese stopped abruptly, her pulse suddenly racing. The woman was Tory.

“Tor? Are you all right?” Reese walked around the far side of the table and grasped Tory’s right hand. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Tory said quickly. “I had a bit of a headache, and Dan insisted that I lie down.”

“Headache.” Reese said the word very calmly as she studied Tory’s face. Inside, the roaring in her head was making it hard for her to think. Headache, visual disturbances, protein in… “Did you call Wendy?”

“It’s not necessary.” Tory shook her head and sat up on the side of the table. “My pressure hasn’t changed. It’s just an ordinary headache. It happens.” She spoke very slowly and kept her eyes fixed on Reese’s. “Sweetheart, everything is fine.”

Finally, Reese shifted her gaze back to Dan, and he nodded slightly before speaking.

“Her pressure’s high, but no higher than what she tells me it’s been for the last few weeks.” He smiled, the kind of smile doctors give patients to reassure them. “But…her shift is over, so I recommend an afternoon of taking it easy. I think that will probably solve the problem.”

“Well, that’s what we’ll do then,” Reese said, forcing a smile of her own. “Let’s go home, love.”

Tory kissed her, then said, “Let’s call Kate and Jean and invite ourselves to dinner tonight.”

“That sounds like a great idea.”

“Go to work, Reese,” Kate said. “It’s almost time for your shift. We’ll drive Tory home.”

“Okay,” Reese said, “if you’re sure. Tory?”

“Its fine, sweetheart. I’ll see you later at home.”

Reese frowned faintly. “Don’t wait up. It’ll be after midnight before I get back.”

“Then wake me up,” Tory murmured as she put her hand behind Reese’s neck and pulled her head down for a kiss. “Now get out of here, Sheriff.”

Kate waited until Reese had left, then tilted her head and asked kindly, “Is something wrong?”

“Do you and Jean have any plans to be away in the next few weeks?”

“We were going to go to Jean’s brother’s for fourth of July weekend. He and his family live near D.C.” Kate rested her hand on Tory’s knee. “Is there some reason we should cancel?”

“I hate to ask you,” Tory began hesitantly.

“What is it?”

“Hopefully, nothing,” Tory said with a small sigh. “I’m having just a bit of a problem with the pregnancy, and I might go…early.” Tory explained while Kate listened calmly.

“Could this be dangerous?” Kate asked when Tory had finished.

“There’s probably nothing to worry about but…Kate, in case anything were to…happen to me, Reese…” Tory’s voice trailed off, and she had to wait a few seconds before she could continue. “Reese would need help for a while.”

“Tory,” Kate said tenderly, taking both Tory’s hands in hers. “We’re not going to let anything happen to you. You or the baby. But no matter what, I promise that Reese will be fine. This time, I’ll be there for her.”

“Thank you, Kate. For everything.”

Bri raised her head and whispered, “Did you just hear a car?”

Carre, who reclined between Bri’s legs on the sofa, murmured breathlessly, “No. Don’t stop.”

“I think Reese is home,” Bri insisted, sitting up a little. “Besides, if we keep making out like this, I’m going to have some kind of serious nerve damage. I’m walking around permanently hard.”

“I could fix that, but you keep saying no.” Carre slid her hand under Bri’s T-shirt and let her fingers drift just below the waistband of Bri’s jeans. She smiled at Bri’s swift intake of breath and the rapid tensing of the abdominal muscles. “So it’s your own fault if you’re suffering.”

At that moment, Reese walked in. “Hi, you two. Tory asleep?”

“It was all quiet when we got here about ten,” Bri announced as she and Carre bolted upright.

“Good.” Reese headed for the stairs, ignoring their frantic rearranging of clothing. “I’ll see you in the morn…”

The phone rang and, turning back quickly, Reese grabbed for it. “Conlon.”

She was silent for a few moments, and then said, “You are actually closer to me than the Sheriff’s office. Why don’t you come here.”

Reese recited the directions and hung up the phone. She turned to Bri and said, “That was Ashley Walker. She says she knows where our firebug is.”

“Holy shit.”

“What’s going on?” Tory asked from the top of the stairs.

“Nothing,” Reese said quickly. “Just a call from work.”

“Do you have to go back out?” Tory, in a loose top and baggy sweats, descended to the living room and made her way into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator, drew out a carton of orange juice, then pulled a glass from the dish drainer by the sink. “Hi, Caroline. How are you?”

“Just great.” Carre smiled brilliantly, resting her hand on Bri’s thigh.

Tory watched Reese check her watch for the second time, and repeated, “What’s going on, sweetheart?”

“We might have some information on the arsonist. Ashley Walker is on her way over.”

“Really.” Tory did some quick calculating. “Can I talk to you out on the deck?”

“Of course,” Reese said immediately.

Once outside, Tory turned to Reese and said, “Will you tell me what’s happening after you talk to Ashley?”

“Will you promise to go back to bed and try to get some sleep if I do?”

“God, you’re difficult.” Tory’s voice was a mixture of frustration and tenderness. “Yes, I promise. As long as you promise to come home unscathed.”

Reese pressed her lips to Tory’s forehead, and then her mouth. When she drew back, she whispered huskily, “I promise.”

“Then we have a deal,” Tory said as she rested her cheek against Reese’s shoulder. A moment later, she said softly, “I think that was the doorbell.”

A moment later, Caroline walked out onto the deck carrying Tory’s sweatshirt. She was wearing Bri’s leather jacket. “Do mind company while they’re talking?”

“No,” Tory replied with a smile as she reached for the sweatshirt. “Thanks, sweetie. Now…what’s on your mind?”

“Bri hasn’t said anything about me living with her when I finish school,” Caroline said in a small voice.

“Do you want to?”

“Of course. I love her. I’ve always wanted to live with her.”

“Have you told her that?” Tory asked gently.


“Why not?”

Caroline was silent for a long moment. “I guess because…I’m still mad at her for making plans without me. For leaving me alone for the last four months.”

“Then you two have some more talking to do.” Tory brushed her fingers over Caroline’s cheek. “Don’t wait too long, sweetie. Time is precious.”

The sound of the sliding doors from the kitchen opening caught their attention as Reese came out and said, “Bri and I are going in to work in a bit.”

Caroline got up suddenly and started toward the house, Tory’s words echoing in her mind.


“What is it?” Tory asked as she sat up on the lounge chair, making room for Reese next to her.

“Ashley Walker has been running deep background checks on everyone in Morris’s family, as well as his wife’s. She turned up something on an Internet search tonight.”


“Morris’s wife’s great grandfather was one of the early 20th-century Provincetown art colonists.”

Tory stared at Reese. “He lived here?”

“He did.” Reese’s eyes glinted in the moonlight. “In a dune shack.”

The dunes shacks where just that, ramshackle buildings built in the shelter of the dunes on the Atlantic side of the tip of Cape Cod, opposite the village. Writers, painters, and photographers had built rustic shelters in this isolated location and often returned to them summer after summer for decades. Most were only accessible on foot. Many of the buildings had been lost to weather and neglect, but some still remained. They were only rarely occupied in modern times.

“Oh my god, do you think that’s where Morris is?” Tory said. When Reese nodded, Tory’s stomach lurched. “What are you going to do?”

“Nelson is waking up the museum curator right now so we can study the dune shack maps. Once we’re certain we know which one we’re dealing with, we’re going to take a ride out to check.”

“Tonight?” Tory asked, her heart pounding.

“At dawn.” Reese shifted and slid her arm around Tory’s waist. “He won’t expect us. Besides, the guy is an arsonist. He’s not likely to put up a fight.”

“Of course,” Tory said evenly, knowing Reese would go, regardless of her fears. This was what Reese did. “Who else is going?”

“Bri, Ashley, and Nelson.”

“Ashley?” Tory said with surprise.

“She’s been chasing this guy a long time, and she’s an ex-cop. She’s probably better trained for this than Lyons or Smith. I cleared it with Nelson already, and she’s earned it.”

“When are you going?”

“We’re supposed to meet at 2:00 a.m.”

“Soon then.” Tory took a slow steadying breath. “Will you call me as soon as it’s over?”

“I don’t suppose there’s any chance that you’ll be able to sleep, is there?” Reese lifted Tory’s chin with her fingertips and kissed her softly. “Maybe just a little?”

“I’ll lie down when you go,” Tory murmured, her mouth against Reese’s. She wanted to fist her hands in Reese’s shirt and keep her next to her forever. “But I might not sleep until you get back into bed.”

“Then I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Reese breathed before she kissed her again.

When Caroline stepped inside, she immediately saw Bri and Ashley leaning against the breakfast counter on the far side of the room, facing one another as they talked. She also noted in one quick glance that Ashley had placed her left hand on Bri’s forearm where it rested on the back of a chair. Without hesitation, she walked to them and put her arm around Bri’s waist. “Hi, baby.”

“Hey, babe,” Bri said softly, resting her hand lightly on the back of Carre’s neck.“Uh, Carre, this is Ashley Walker.”

Caroline extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Carre, Bri’s girlfriend.”

Ashley nodded, her eyes searching the pretty young blond’s. If she hadn’t been too busy with her own love life to pursue the sexy Sheriff’s officer, the look in Bri’s girlfriend’s eyes would have been enough to dissuade her. “Got it.”

“Well,” Bri said, looking from one to the other a bit uncertainly. “I should get ready.”

“I’ll come with you,” Caroline said, smiling at Ashley.

Inside Bri’s bedroom, Carre sat on the side of Bri’s bed and watched her lover change. “We should go apartment hunting.”

Bri stopped abruptly and regarded Carre in the dim light of the bedside lamp. “We should?”

“Uh-huh. You can’t stay here forever, plus I don’t think we can make love in here without waking Reese and Tory up. It doesn’t make sense for both of us to move back to Nelson’s. We need our own place.”

“We do?” Bri’s throat was dry and her heart was beating two hundred times a minute. “Our place?”

“Yes,” Carre said as she rose and walked to Bri. She brushed the jet-black strands of hair off Bri’s forehead, then threaded her arms around Bri’s waist.

“Here?” Bri felt incapable of full sentences.

Carre smiled. “This is where you’ll be, right?”

Bri nodded. She had to go to work. Reese had said ten minutes. But the world had stopped and all she knew was the thudding of her pulse and the warmth deep in her belly. This was what mattered. This moment. “You’ll live here…with me?”

“Of course,” Carre replied, her lips soft against Bri’s cheek. “I love you. I can’t live anywhere else.”


“Shh,” Carre murmured gently just before she kissed her.

Just before dawn, Reese, Nelson, Bri and Ashley turned onto a narrow trail in the sand that ran parallel to the Atlantic ocean and beach. After a mile, Nelson cut the lights and glanced at Reese in the front seat opposite him. “Think we should proceed from here on foot?”

She nodded. “He’s probably asleep, but nevertheless, vehicles out here are unusual. He’s likely to be suspicious about anything he hears.”

Turning in the seat to look at Bri and Ashley in the rear, she advised, “I’ll take point, and when we get there, Nelson will circle around to cover the rear. You two watch my back. I’ll be going through the door first. Questions?”

No one had any.

It took them fifteen minutes climbing up and over sand dunes, skirting low cranberry bushes and scrub, before they reached the shack which they had been identified on the archival museum maps as once belonging to Albert Reims, Stanley Morris’s wife’s ancestor. There were no lights, no vehicle, nothing to indicate that the single-story building was occupied.

As they approached, Reese directed the small group with hand signals. She counted off five, holding up one finger at a time, indicating to Nelson that they would give him five minutes to get into position on the far side of the building before moving in. Once he disappeared from sight, she hunkered down, checked her watch, and drew her weapon.

When she checked her watch again, exactly five minutes had passed. She held up her left hand, the fingers closed. Behind her, she heard the faintest shifting as Bri and Ashley drew their weapons. Slowly, Reese extended three fingers, one at a time. On three, she was up and running.

Reese hit the door with her right foot, her weapon in two hands at shoulder height as she pushed through shouting “Police”. There must have been a sensor on the door, because a blinding light struck her full in the face the second the door flew open. She didn’t even have time to search for a target through the glare. The blow to her chest was so powerful her body was blown back through the doorway.

The next thing she knew, she was lying on her back, staring into the sky, completely unable to breathe. Her chest was on fire; it felt like her lungs were exploding. She couldn’t move her arms or legs, and when she tried to speak, she couldn’t make a sound. The sky tilted and she finally realized someone was dragging her over the sand. Distantly, she heard thunder. Incongruously, she wondered if it was going to rain.

Bri’s face came into view, white and terrified. Bri’s lips were moving, but Reese couldn’t hear her. Her vision was blurry and every sensation was eclipsed by searing pain. She was aware of her stomach and chest muscles straining, contracting violently, as she desperately fought for one breath. Suddenly, air blasted into her chest as if a vacuum seal had been released, and she groaned with a combination of relief and agony.

“Reese!” Bri shouted. “Jesus Christ, Reese!”

Reese had one thought. Only one. Struggling for air, she whispered, “Don’t…call…Tory.”


Tory was awakened by the sound of the front door closing.

“Reese?” she said groggily as she sat up. Caroline stirred beside her and sat up as well. “Honey? I thought you’re going to call?”

“Thought…you might…be asleep,” Reese said deliberately as she walked carefully to the breakfast counter and deposited her keys. Bri was behind her, carrying a duffel bag.

“What time is it?” Tory said as she rose, running her hands through her hair.

“A little after 8:00,” Bri replied hoarsely.

Tory stared at the two of them, abruptly wary. Bri was white as a sheet. For some reason, Reese wouldn’t look at her. S he suddenly realized that Reese was wearing only the dark green T-shirt that she often wore beneath her uniform shirt. “What’s going on? Reese, where’s your shirt?”

“Tory,” Reese said gently. “We’ve all been up all night. What do you say we go to bed, and I’ll give you all the details later.”

“Fine,” Tory said sharply, her eyes riveted on Reese’s. There was something very wrong.

“Bri is gonna take me home now, right baby?” Caroline added quickly.

Bri glanced at her in surprise, but said nothing.

“Fine,” Tory said again, not looking at them as they headed for the door. She walked to Reese and rested a hand lightly on her lover’s back. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?”

“Just bruises,” Reese said firmly. It hurt to talk, and she was sweating with the effort to keep her voice level.

“How badly?”

“I’ll be fine after I lie down for a few hours.”

“C’mon then. Let’s get you upstairs.”

Once in the bedroom, Reese methodically unbuckled her belt, unzipped her trousers, and let them fall to the floor. She didn’t bother removing her briefs. The T-shirt was going to be a challenge. When she tried to raise her arms, she grunted involuntarily at another swift surge of pain.

“Let me do that,” Tory said stiffly, her stomach in knots. “Just tell me what happened.”

“He was prepared for us. I took a round, but I was wearing a vest. I’m okay.”

Tory’s heart clenched. I took a round.

“Just hold still until I get this off.” Tory’s voice rang hollowly as she finally managed to lift the shirt over Reese’s head. “Oh my God.”


“Oh my God, Reese!” Tory placed both hands on Reese’s shoulders, suddenly dizzy. There was a fist-sized bruise in the center of her lover’s chest, the skin, swollen and raw, already darkening to purple. “Why didn’t someone call me?”

“I’m okay,” Reese insisted, putting her arms around her lover. “C’mon, let’s sit down on the bed.”

Tory’s eyes were blazing. “Don’t you dare patronize me, Reese Conlon. Why didn’t someone call me?”

“Because I didn’t want you to be scared,” Reese said steadily. Wendy said you should take it easy. “The vest stopped it. It’s just a bruise.”

“Have you seen Dan?”

“No. I wanted to get home.”

“We need to go to the clinic right now.” Tory’s tone was frigid. “You need an EKG and a chest X-ray. For all we know, you could have a cracked sternum or cardiac contusion.”

“Tory, please,” Reese pleaded. “I just need a little sleep, and so do you. I promise I’ll go later if you still think I should.”

“For God’s sake, Reese, what were you thinking? Look at you!” For a moment, Tory was too angry and too frightened to think. She knew that it was only good fortune that Reese hadn’t been shot with something that would have penetrated her vest. From the location of the bruise, it would’ve been fatal. “I can’t stand this.”

Tory turned away, trembling.

Tenderly, Reese placed her hands on Tory’s shoulders and rested her cheek against the top of Tory’s head. “It’s okay, love. I’m fine. Let’s just go to bed. I need to lie down, and I need you beside me.”

“Yes, all right.” She couldn’t keep arguing with her when she was hurt. They were both too exhausted.

Together, they walked to the bed and slipped beneath the sheets. Tory settled into a comfortable position and Reese fit her body to her lover’s.

“I love you, Tory,” Reese murmured, her eyes already closing.

Tory found Reese’s hand and enclosed it in her own, drawing it between her breasts. Closing her eyes, she held the heat of Reese’s skin against her heart. Softly, she whispered, “I love you, too. You’re my life.”

At Nelson’s, Bri kicked the stand down on her bike and settled her right foot on the ground.

Caroline regarded her steadily, her hands still loosely clasping Bri’s waist. Bri’s blue eyes were almost black, wounded looking. “You don’t have to go right back, do you?”

Bri shook her head. “Not till this afternoon.”

“Come inside.”

Mutely, Bri followed Carre into the house and up the stairs to what was once her own bedroom. “Uh, I should probably take a shower…or something.”

“I’ll take one with you.”

“Okay.” Bri had this strange numb feeling, like her insides were frozen. “Sure.”

They hadn’t been naked together since the last time they’d made love, weeks before, and they were both quiet as they undressed. When Carre stepped close to her and wrapped her arms around Bri’s neck, Bri moaned faintly. “You feel so good.”

“Mmm,” Caroline sighed, resting her cheek on Bri’s shoulder. “Are you gonna tell me what happened?”

“Later,” Bri muttered. The sweet rush of arousal chased the horror from her consciousness. “I can’t think right now.”

“Are you sure you want a shower?” Carre’s voice was husky, and her hips had begun a subtle undulation that was totally involuntary. Her nipples tightened as she brushed her breasts lightly against Bri’s.

“Oh man,” Bri groaned, twitching with urgency. “Let’s jump in fast, because I can’t wait very long.”

Trying to stay connected, they scrambled into the shower and soaped each other quickly in a tangle of arms and legs. They stopped frequently to kiss, their hands hungry…touching, teasing, tormenting. Then, they hurriedly stepped out and grabbed blindly for towels, still exploring one another with their mouths. In another minute, they were in bed.

“I don’t want to hurry,” Bri gasped, grasping Carre’s hand as it slid down her belly, stopping her.

“I can’t do slow right now,” Carre muttered, opening her legs as Bri fit her thigh between them. “I’m already too excited.”

“So am I,” Bri groaned, her lips moving over Carre’s neck, bracing herself on one arm as she squeezed a stone-hard nipple with her other hand. “I’m so ready it hurts.”

Carre arched her hips, pressing hard against Bri’s thigh. “I wanna come.”

“Me too,” Bri gasped, but she rolled off her lover, breaking the exquisite contact.

Carre cried out in protest and turned on her side to face Bri. Her pupils were huge, unfocused, hazy with need. “Please, baby.”

Bri stroked a finger down Carre’s cheek. “Let’s hold on…as long as we can.”

“I can’t,” Carre pleaded, her lids flickering as her breasts heaved with each erratic breath.

“Kiss me for a while,” Bri urged as she brought her mouth to Carre’s. The heat sent a jolt of pleasure down Bri’s spine and her hips jerked in response. Carre was whimpering steadily, writhing against Bri frantically as they drank one another’s passion.

Abruptly, Carre pulled her head away and grasped Bri’s hand, forcing it between her legs. “I have to. Oh, I have to.”

“I love you, babe,” Bri cried as Carre thrust against her palm, hot and hard and wet.

“Oh, I’m coming,” Carre cried.

“Yes, yes,” Bri whispered urgently, pressing hard with the heel of her hand as she slid her fingers into Carre’s depths.

Carre cried out again, and her head snapped back, her body jerking. Bri stroked her through her climax, then stayed inside her, thrusting gently as the internal spasms gradually abated. Eventually, Carre quieted in Bri’s embrace, her head tucked into the crook of Bri’s neck.

“Oh my god,” Carre murmured. “You’re so good.”

“I love you so much,” Bri gasped, her voice choked and rough.

“Good.” Carre was barely moving, almost stuporous in the aftermath of her orgasm. “Did you come?”


Carre tilted her head back, her eyes cloudy and her lips smiling softly. “Playing hard to get?”

“I wanted to watch you.”

“Wanna now?”

“Oh man, yes,” Bri moaned, shivering as Carre licked her neck.

Laughing softly, Carre slid her fingers between Bri’s thighs, gliding under and around and over the blood engorged tissues. “You’re so hard.”

Bri couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even breathe. When Carre touched her in just the right place, with just the right pressure, as only she could do, Bri gave one hoarse shout and came. The near crippling waves of pleasure seemed endless, and by the time she could think again, her body was slick with sweat and her face wet with tears.

“Oh baby,” Carre crooned, pressing Bri’s face to her breasts. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“I was so scared,” Bri gasped. “I was so scared.”

Carre wasn’t sure what Bri was talking about, but she could feel Bri tremble, and that was enough to scare her. She had no idea what to do, so she stroked Bri’s hair and face, kissed her forehead, wrapped her arms and legs around her so that every inch of their bodies touched. “I love you, I love you,” she said over and over and over.

Eventually, Bri quieted and managed a long shaky breath. “It happened so fast. So fast.” Bri shuddered. “One second I was running, and the next thing I knew, there was a shot…Christ, it sounded like a cannon…and Reese came flying back through the doorway. I thought she was dead. She wasn’t moving, and there was a hole right in the middle of her shirt.”

“I’m so sorry, baby,” Carre murmured, running her fingers through Bri’s hair, petting her.

“I couldn’t think. I forgot all about the guy in the building. All I could think about was Reese. Ashley shot Morris as he was coming through the door with a fucking automatic in his hands. If she hadn’t been there, he would’ve killed me and Reese.”

“Oh my god.” Carre’s heart almost stopped beating then, and everything inside of her turned to ice. “Is he…dead?”


“And Ashley and your dad are all right?”

Bri nodded, sighed, and closed her eyes. “I’m so tired, Carre.”

Carre shifted a little and cradled Bri’s head against her breast. Most of the time Bri held her while they slept, and it felt so special to hold her protectively now. “I love you, baby. Go to sleep now.”

When Reese awoke, it was night. Tory lay close to her, her hand resting on Reese’s hip. Slowly, Reese drew a deep breath. It hurt, but she could manage it.

“How do you feel?” Tory asked from out of the dark.

“Sore, but nothing feels broken.”

“I’ve been lying here listening to you breathe. You sound okay.”

“I can’t believe I slept more than twelve hours.”

“You needed it.” Tory softly stroked the length of Reese’s thigh. The silence stretched between them, and finally she said gently, “I know you were trying to protect me.”

“Yes.” Reese found Tory’s hand and linked their fingers. “Are you still angry?”

“Mostly still scared.”

With effort, Reese rolled onto her side, ignoring the shaft of pain that started in her breast bone and penetrated through to her back. In the pale moonlight, she could just make out Tory’s face, luminous in the silvery shadows. “I told you I wouldn’t take any chances, and I didn’t. I wore the vest.”

“I know,” Tory whispered. “And we both know if it been a few inches higher, it could’ve been your throat.”


“It’s just that I love you so much,” Tory murmured. She kissed her with the gentle, tentative touch of a first kiss, amazed at how precious their love still felt. “Can you tell me about it now?”

“Tor,” Reese said tenderly. “You might not want…”

“I want, Reese. Knowing is always better than wondering.”

After another kiss, Reese proceeded to outline the morning’s events. She spoke concisely, as if she was giving report, until she reached the point where she went through the door. Then her tone grew guarded.

“When I was first hit, I wasn’t entirely certain what had happened.” Reese’s voice trailed off, and for the first time, she considered her words before speaking.

“Go ahead, sweetheart,” Tory said gently. “I’m okay.”

“I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t get a breath, and I wasn’t sure how badly I was hit.”

Tory struggled to keep her voice even. “Were you frightened?”

“Not for me, so much,” Reese said quietly. “I was worried about Bri, because I couldn’t see her. I was worried about you, because…”


“I didn’t want to leave you alone.” Reese sensed Tory tremble and moved closer to her. “You know I never would, right?”

“I know that,” Tory whispered, blinking back tears that she didn’t want Reese to see.

“When I finally realized I was pretty much okay, the only thing I could think of was that I didn’t want an officer showing up at our door, because I knew what you would think.”

“If you’re hurt,” Tory said firmly, “I want to know about it.”

“I don’t want anything to upset you. Not now,” Reese admitted fervently. “I just want us to get through the next few months, and for you and the baby to be all right.”

“We will be.” Tory kissed Reese again. “I promise, sweetheart.”

As Reese sighed and closed her eyes, Tory desperately hoped that she could keep her promise.

July, Provincetown, MA

“I don’t think spending the evening in town is exactly what Wendy meant by bedrest,” Reese said pointedly. She was in uniform, having stopped home in the middle of a Saturday to see how Tory was doing with her new routine.

“She didn’t say strict bedrest,” Tory pointed out irritably. She got up from the couch and started to pace. “She didn’t even say bedrest. What she said was ‘rest at home’.”

“I know what she said,” Reese said, leaning against the counter and trying not to raise her voice. “She said your blood pressure had edged up another five points, and it was time for you to cut back on everything.”

“I’ve agreed not to work for the rest of my term. I can’t be any more sedentary without risking a psychotic break.”

Reese felt like she was living with a ticking bomb. The visit to the obstetrician two days before had scared the hell out of her. The preeclampsia was worsening, and Wendy said that they couldn’t wait the full term. As soon as there were clear signs of fetal maturity, Tory would need a Caesarian section.

“I know you won’t take chances.” Reese rubbed her cheek against Tory’s hair, then kissed her temple. “But it’s going to be a mad house with the fireworks at the monument tonight.”

“I feel fine, sweetheart. Since I haven’t been going to work this past week, my pressure has really settled down. I don’t have any new symptoms. Let’s just go out tonight, okay? I promise just for a little while.”

“Sure.” Reese wrapped her arms around her lover from behind.

“I promise I’ll let you do all the shopping and the barbequing for the Fourth of July, okay?”

Reese laughed. “Now there’s a deal.”

Laughing, Reese stepped away, collected her keys, and headed for the door. One she had gone, Tory stretched out on the couch with a sigh and put her feet up. She hated to admit how tired she was, even to herself. Within minutes, she was asleep.

Reese slid in behind the wheel, started the engine, and pulled out of the department parking lot. Glancing at Bri, she asked, “Are you and Caroline pretty much settled in the new place?”

Bri grinned.“ Other than the fact that we don’t have any furniture, we’re doing fine.”

“So you’re all right with Paris?”

Bri shrugged. “It still…scares me some. But I love her, and I know she loves me.”

“You must be really proud of her.”

“Yeah, I am,” Bri said, meaning it.

Reese watched the road, scanning passing cars, checking out the yards that they passed, looking over the pedestrians crowding the sidewalks. “Have you heard from Ashley or Allie?”

“I talked to Ashley the day the final report on the shooting was filed. She said she was headed back to Rhode Island.” Bri grinned.“She also said she expected to be around a fair amount this summer, because Allie is going to be stationed permanently in Wellfleet.”

“Huh. Guess that worked out too, then.”

The radio crackled to life, and Gladys’ voice filled the car. “Reese?”

“Go ahead.”

“There’s an emergency call for you. It’s Tory.”

“Patch her through to my cell phone,” Reese said sharply, pulling the mobile from her belt. It rang an instant later, and she snapped it open. “Tor?”

“I just called the paramedics,” Tory reported, her voice tight. “I’m having some bleeding.”

“I’ll be right there.” Reese tossed the phone onto the seat, flicked on the lights and siren, and slammed her foot down on the gas pedal.


When Reese careened into her driveway, the EMT van was already there. The door to the living room was open, and as she pushed through, the paramedics were just strapping Tory onto a stretcher. Just seeing Tory like that made Reese’s stomach twist, and for one terrible second, she thought she might be ill. Then, Tory turned her head, their eyes met, and everything inside of Reese settled.

“Hey, love,” Reese said gently as she reached for the hand that Tory extended. “How are you feeling?”

“You need to call Wendy,” Tory said urgently. “She’s going to need to talk to whoever is on call at the local hospital, because I can’t make it to Boston.”

“Tell me what’s going on so I can tell her.”

Tory bit her lip and squeezed Reese’s hand so hard that the band on Reese’s ring finger pressed painfully into the bone.

“Tor?” Reese asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep the panic from her voice. “Baby? What is it?”

“I’m having…some pain.”

Tory’s face was white and her skin clammy.

Reese looked at the two men. “I think we need to hurry here.”

“Don’t worry,” one of them grunted as he pulled open the back of the ambulance. “We’ll be flying in just a minute.”

Once the EMTs had Tory secured inside the van, Reese knelt by Tory’s side on the corrugated floor, one hand cradling Tory’s head and the other gripping her hand. Within seconds, they were rocketing east on Route 6.

“Put the fetal heart monitor on now,” Tory instructed the EMT.

“Let me get you lined up first,” he said calmly.

“Check the baby’s heart rate first.” Tory gasped as another wave of pain began. “Hurry.”

“Sure, Doc. Just try to relax, okay?”

“Then call ahead and tell them…you have…an abruption coming in.”

The EMT hesitated, his expression darkening. “You sure?”

Tory gritted her teeth and sweat broke out on her forehead. Finally, when the cramp passed, she gasped, “Yes.”

“Tory,” Reese said urgently. “What’s happening?”

“I—” Tory clenched her jaws as another wave of pain coursed through her abdomen. “I think the placenta is separating from the uterine wall. That’s what’s causing the bleeding.”

Neither of them spoke for a moment as the EMT situated the external fetal heart monitor. The seconds it took for him to get a reading seemed endless. “Heart rate’s normal.”

“Watch it carefully for decelerations,” Tory instructed as she drew a shaky breath. She looked into Reese’s eyes and said, “They’re probably going to have to section me quickly, especially if the baby’s heart rate drops.”

“Can we wait for Wendy?” Reese asked hoarsely.

Tory shook her head. “We could try to wait, but there’s a danger for the baby if the hemorrhage worsens.”

“What about you?” Reese whispered, her insides so tight she could barely breathe. It’s you, Tory. Only you. You’re my heart. My soul.

“I’ll be okay.”

Reese had never been so scared in her life. She had to rely on what Tory was telling her, because she didn’t understand what was happening.

“They’ve called the OB guy to come in,” the EMT reported as he pulled a syringe and medication vial from the red tackle box that contained his emergency drugs.

“What is that?” Tory asked.

“Mag sulfate.”

“What’s it for?” Reese questioned.

The EMT hung the drip. “Helps prevent seizures from the hypertension and premature labor.”

Seizures. Jesus Christ. Reese thought her head might explode. “What about her blood pressure?”

“As soon as I get this drip going,” he said calmly, “I’ll give her a dose of nifedipine. That should take the edge off.”

“No,” Tory said forcefully. “Not until we’re in the emergency room. If my pressure drops and the baby becomes hypoxia, we need someone who can section me stat.”

“You’re still bleeding at a pretty good rate.” He regarded her solemnly. “That might settle down some if your blood pressure were a little lower.”

“We’ll be there soon, won’t we?” Tory asked, her face tightening as yet another wave of pain began to crest.

“ETA 6 minutes.”

“Then we wait.”

Tory closed her eyes, trying to gather her strength. Reese lifted her lover’s hand to her lips and held a kiss against the pale skin. The only comfort she could find in the nightmare world of the rocking van was the steady, rapid beat of the fetal heart monitor.

The instant the EMTs shoved the stretcher through the double doors into the emergency room, both men started shouting.

“…placental abruption…hemorrhage…hypertension…thirty-three weeks…OB stat”

A tall, thin balding man in a white coat approached on the run. “I’m Dr. Saunders, the emergency room physician. I called the OB attending. He should be here in forty-five minutes.”

“That might be too long,” Tory gasped. “Is there an OB resident in the house?”

“A second year,” the ER physician advised. “Not senior enough for what you need. I consulted the in-house general surgeon, just in case.”

“I’m expecting her obstetrician to call any second,” Reese stated as several nurses assisted the EMTs in moving Tory to a gurney. “When I tried to reach her earlier, I got her service.”

“Fine. We’ll alert the operating room to prepare for an emergency Caesarean section. I’ve called in the pediatric intensivist from home.”

“What have we got?” a deep voice questioned from behind Reese.

Reese turned as K.T. O’Bannon’s dark eyes fell on Tory. “She’s bleeding,” Reese murmured quietly, almost choking on the words.

K.T. nodded to Reese, then leaned over the bed and briefly ran her fingers over Tory’s cheek. Gently, she said, “Hi, Vic. I thought it had to be you when I heard that a pregnant doctor was coming in. I always seem to be on call when you roll in.”

“Just your luck,” Tory whispered.

“What’s the situation?”

“I think I’m getting ready to deliver this baby,” Tory gasped, her green eyes almost all pupil, her brow running with sweat. “I’m bleeding pretty rapidly.”

“Pressure’s up there too,” K.T. murmured as she quickly scanned the monitors surrounding the bed. She glanced at the OB resident, a freckle-faced, blond-haired boy who looked to be about fifteen, as he hurried up to the bedside. “Can you give me a status check on the baby?”

With a surprising degree of aplomb, the young man dragged over a portable ultrasound, checked the monitors, and did a quick evaluation. “Can’t tell the extent of the abruption. Fetal heart rate’s good with no dips, though. And there’s movement.”

Reese rapidly searched the faces clustered around Tory, frantically trying to decipher the medical shorthand. Sharply, she asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means the baby’s alive,” the resident said flatly.

Reese felt as if she’d been shot. It took her a second to get her breath. “You mean there’s a chance it might not be?”

“With a moderate to severe placental abruption, the fetal mortality rate is very high,” the resident dutifully reported.

“Christ, will you shut up,” K.T. snapped. “All I want you to do is stand here and monitor the baby. If you see a problem, tell me. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear anything from you.”

Purposefully, she turned partly away from him and looked steadily into Reese’s eyes. “The baby’s fine. The baby’s going to be fine as long as we keep a careful watch on things.”

“What about Tory?” Reese clutched the bed rail so hard her fingers ached. In a strangled voice, she repeated desperately, “K.T., what about Tory?”

“I’m not going to let anything happen to Tory.” K.T. angled back to Tory. “We may not be able to wait for a phone consultation with Wendy. You ready for that?”

“Yes,” Tory said, struggling with pain and fatigue and fear. “K.T…can you do this?”

“Of course I can,” K.T. said with absolute certainty. She tilted her chin toward the OB resident. “I’ll bring Junior here along for back up.”

“Then go ahead.” Tory closed her eyes.

“I won’t let you down, Vic,” K.T. murmured. Then she gestured to Reese and said in a low voice, “I need to speak with you over here.”

Reluctantly, Reese released Tory’s hand, stepped away from the stretcher, and followed.

“I’ll have to take Tory to the operating room very soon,” K.T. reported. “She could start bleeding more heavily at any minute, and that’s not only a risk to her life, but to the baby’s.”

“Okay,” Reese said hoarsely. “Whatever you need to do.”

K.T. nodded. “Good. I’ll need you to sign the consents.”

Reese complied, then walked on wooden legs back to Tory’s side. “I love you, Tory.”

Tory’s lids fluttered open. She smiled softly. “You’ve given me everything I’ve ever wanted, sweetheart. If…if I—”

“Don’t.” Reese stopped her with a kiss. When she drew back, her blue eyes were calm. “We’re not saying goodbye. Not now. Not ever.”

“I lov—”

“We’ve got a dip in the fetal heart rate,” the OB resident called out.

“That’s it,” K.T. said firmly, grasping the bottom of the stretcher and propelling it out of the small cubicle as the resident grabbed hold of the other end. “Let’s move, everybody.”

Reese ran beside the gurney, trying to hold Tory’s gaze. Her lover’s eyes were clouded with pain and worry. The elevator doors slid open, most of the people piled on along with the stretcher, and Reese was forced to step back.

When the doors closed with a quiet swush, she was left alone in the suddenly still hallway. She had never felt so empty in her life.


Kate stood in the doorway of a small waiting room down the hall from two windowless, gray metal doors marked with a red sign that proclaimed No Admittance - Labor and Delivery. Her daughter sat alone, head bowed, face hidden in her hands

“Reese?” Kate said softly as she approached. “Honey?”

Reese looked up, her eyes hollow pits of pain. “Mom?”

Kate slid onto the vinyl sofa beside her daughter and put an arm around her waist. “They told me downstairs that Tory was in delivery. Any news?”

Reese shook her head. When she spoke her voice was rusty, as if she hadn’t used it in a long time. “What are you doing here?”

“Bri brought me. She and Caroline are outside in the hall.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Reese whispered. “They’ve been in there half an hour. Shouldn’t they…shouldn’t something have happened by now?”

“I’m sure they’re all busy, honey.” Her voice was gentle now as she slowly rubbed her hand up and down Reese’s back. “It doesn’t mean a thing.”

Reese met her mother’s gaze. “I don’t want Tory to die. I don’t care about anything else—god, not even…” her voice broke, her eyes flooding with tears. “She’d hate me if she knew.”

“No, honey,” Kate murmured. “She wouldn’t. Tory would understand. I know she loves you that much, too.”

“But she’s all I can think about—”

“It’s natural for you to fear for your lover’s life. There’s nothing to feel badly about.”

Reese cleared her throat, making an effort to focus. “Did you say Bri was here?”

“Just outside with her girlfriend.” Kate stood. “Shall I get them?”

“Yes. Thanks.”

A minute later, Bri and Caroline entered.

“Hey,” Bri said quietly, stopping a few feet from Reese, her hands in her pockets.

Caroline leaned down, kissed Reese on the cheek, then settled close to her on the couch. She rested one small hand lightly on Reese’s forearm. Gently, she asked, “Any word on Tory and the baby?”

“Not yet.”

When Caroline linked her fingers through Reese’s, Reese held on gratefully, then met Bri’s eyes. The young officer looked worried but steady, and Reese found her familiar presence a comfort. “Thanks for bringing Kate.”

“No problem.” Bri didn’t know what the hell to say. It made her insides turn to water to see Reese looking so scared and trying to pretend she wasn’t.

Caroline must have seen the edge of panic in Bri’s expression, because she held out her other hand. “Sit down, baby.”

Bri reached for Carre and did as she was told. The three of them were sitting pressed together in silence when K.T. appeared in the doorway. Reese jumped to her feet and rushed across the room. The surgeon murmured something and Reese sagged, then steadied herself with a hand against the doorjamb. After a second’s hesitation, K.T. put a hand on the back of Reese’s neck, leaned close, and spoke into her ear. Reese nodded, squared her shoulders, and disappeared around the corner.

“Oh fuck.” Bri stared at Carre. Her voice was high and tight. “What do you think is going on?”

“It will be okay, baby,” Caroline said gently, putting an arm around Bri’s waist. She kissed her temple. “Nothing will happen to Tory.”

Bri closed her eyes and leaned into Carre’s certain strength. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered.

“Me, too,” Caroline murmured. And I always will be.

Tory was the only patient in the small recovery room. Reese stepped inside, a yellow cotton cover gown over her uniform, and swallowed hard when she saw how pale and still her lover appeared.

“Tor?” she whispered softly.

Tory moaned faintly and opened her eyes with effort. Her pupils were dilated and unfocused. “Reese?”

With her free hand, Reese smoothed Tory’s damp hair back from her forehead. “We have a baby daughter,” Reese informed her gently. “K.T. says everything went fine.”

Tory and the baby are stable. Tory bled heavily but the hemorrhage has stopped for now. If we can keep her pressure down, she might make it without a transfusion. The baby was a little slow to breathe but she seems okay now. The neonatologist is evaluating her.


“I don’t know, love. The pediatrician has her right now.”

“Have you…seen her yet?” Tory blinked, and her eyes seemed clearer.

“I’m going to go see her in a few minutes. The doctors have to check her out first.” Reese leaned over and kissed Tory’s forehead. “You did great, Tor.”

“Might have been better…if I’d waited a bit longer,” Tory said with a weak smile. “You okay, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, fine,” Reese said huskily. “I love you.”

A nurse approached with a practiced smile.“I’m sorry. Dr. King needs some rest. You can come back in a little while.”

“All right,” Reese replied, although she made no move to leave. She was uncertain if she would be able to force herself away from Tory’s side. She wasn’t yet convinced that something wasn’t going to happen to take her away. “You’ll be okay?”

Tory smiled again and squeezed Reese’s hand harder. “I’ll be fine. Go see our daughter…come back…and tell me.”

“I love you,” Reese whispered again.

“Love you too,” Tory murmured as she closed her eyes.

In yet another sterile ante room, Reese scrubbed her hands and donned a green gown.

“Can I help you with something?” a dark haired, middle-aged nurse in pale blue scrubs asked just a bit suspiciously.

“I’m looking for…uh…baby…uh…baby girl King.”

“And you are?”

From behind them, a deep alto voice answered, “The other mother.”

“Oh,” the nurse exclaimed brightly, her smile genuine.“She’s in the isolation room with Dr. Newman.”

“The isolation room?” Reese repeated. Now the knots in her stomach tied themselves into yet another layer.

“Relax, Reese.” K.T. put her hand on Reese’s shoulder. “It’s standard, especially with a baby this small. Come on. I’ll take you back.” She hesitated a second. “Unless you don’t want me to.”

Reese met K.T.‘s eyes. “I owe you. And I think Tory would like you to see the baby.”

K.T. blushed, an almost reportable event where she was concerned. When she spoke, her voice was low and thick. “I’d like that. I was too busy earlier to do more than hand her off.”

A minute later the two of them stared wordlessly into the heated, plastic-enclosed bassinette at the tiny red face, nearly obscured by the small knit cap on her egg-sized head and the cotton receiving blanket dwarfing her miniature body. An IV ran into her impossibly small foot, which was taped to a wooden tongue blade no bigger than a Popsicle stick for support.

Reese blinked and then unself consciously wiped at the tears that suddenly appeared on her cheeks. “She’s beautiful.”

“Yes. She is.” K.T. cleared her throat. “I’ll check with the pediatrician and give you an update in a minute or two. Congratulations, Reese.”

“Thanks,” Reese said, her eyes still fixed on the baby. When she looked up, K.T. was gone.

When Tory awoke, the first thing she was aware of was the sharp pain in her abdomen. She drew a surprised breath. Then she remembered. C-section. Incisional pain. Okay. Not too bad.

She opened her eyes. Reese was in a chair by her bedside, her head back, eyes closed. There were circles under her eyes. She wore jeans and a scrub shirt. She was gorgeous. “Sweetheart?”

Reese jumped, her lids flew open, and she blinked. Then she grinned, a blazing smile that set every worry in Tory’s mind at ease.

“Is she all right?”

“She’s great,” Reese exclaimed, sitting forward and taking Tory’s hand. “She weighs almost four pounds. The doctor says her lungs are mature, and she’s absolutely perfect.”

Tory bit her lip but she couldn’t stop the tears. Reese eased onto the edge of the bed and put her arm behind her lover’s shoulders. She kissed Tory’s forehead, her eyes, her lips. “You want to go see her?”

“God, yes.”

Reese rang the bedside bell and when a nurse appeared, she asked for a wheelchair. Very carefully, the two of them helped Tory from the bed and into the chair.

“Ready?” Reese asked as she leaned down and smiled at Tory.

“Let’s go lights and siren for this trip, Sheriff.”

Reese laughed. “Anything you say, Dr. King.”

Reese squatted on her heels, scarcely breathing. There were some things in life so beautiful they hurt to look at. Tory’s face as she gazed at the baby in her arms was one of them.

When Tory finally raised her head, her eyes were filled with wonder. She reached out her free hand and stroked Reese’s cheek. “Can you believe it?”

“No,” Reese whispered. She edged closer, resting one hand on the baby’s back as Tory cradled her. “I can’t. If I look at her too long, I’m afraid something is going to explode inside of me, the feelings get so big.”

Tory brushed her fingers through Reese’s hair. “I love you so much.”

At that moment, the infant’s eyes, unfocused but a brilliant blue, opened wide.

Tory stroked the baby’s cheek. “Hello, Regina.”

Reese grinned. “Hey, Reggie.


August, Provincetown, MA

Nelson looked up as the door opened, then frowned in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Chief?” Reese appeared equally confused.

“I thought you were going to get the baby.”

“Oh!” Reese grinned. “We are. But they aren’t signing her out until after morning rounds, so I’ve got a few hours. Bri around?”

He hesitated. “Took Caroline to the airport.”

“Right,” Reese said quietly. “She leaves…what? For Boston now, then tonight for France?”

“Uh-huh.” He cleared his throat. “I already said my goodbyes early this morning. Hate to watch the plane take off.”

Reese checked her watch. “You think I have time to catch them? Things have been so busy since Reggie was born, I completely forgot Caroline was leaving so soon. What with Tory needing to be at the hospital so much of the time, and then the pediatrician telling us that the baby was going to be able to come home two weeks sooner than we thought, I don’t know which end is up.”

“You should make it if you use the siren.”

She stood and grabbed her hat. “I’ll call in later.”

A few minutes later, Reese pulled her cruiser into the tiny airport parking lot beside Tory’s Jeep and sprinted toward the small terminal. Once through the doors, she easily picked out the group she was looking for. Tory and Kate stood with Bri and Caroline on the far side of the room. Bri and Caroline appeared to be glued together.

“Hey,” Reese called as she hurried over.

“You just realized, too, huh?” Tory remarked as she kissed Reese on the cheek.

“Yeah.” Reese turned to Caroline. “You all set?”

“Yes.” Caroline’s eyes were red-rimmed and her voice feathery. One arm was wrapped tightly around Bri’s waist, her thumb hooked over Bri’s belt at the hip.

The PA system crackled to life and the flight to Boston was announced.

“That’s you, babe,” Bri said unnecessarily, since it was the only departing flight scheduled. She had her hand on Caroline’s neck, stroking her softly.

“Well,” Tory said with a smile, stepping forward and sliding an arm around Caroline. “Have a wonderful time, sweetie. Send us pictures.”

To Reese’s surprise, Caroline released Bri and threw her arms around Reese’s neck. In a voice too low for anyone else to hear, Caroline murmured, “Take care of Bri, okay?”

Reese hugged her, then kissed her cheek. “You bet I will. Don’t worry.”

Then Bri and Caroline were in each other’s arms, and Tory, Kate, and Reese all studied the tarmac while the two young lovers kissed. Finally, Bri stepped away and reached for one of Caroline’s bags. “I’ll walk you out.”

“Don’t forget how much I love you, baby,” Caroline whispered as they approached the small plane.

“I won’t. You neither, okay?”

“I’ll miss you so much.”

Bri bit her lip, then forced a grin. “The time will go fast. You’ll be so busy. Work hard…and have fun. Okay?”

At the base of the steps leading up to the cabin, they faced one another.

“Ill be home for Christmas,” Caroline stated.

Bri held her gaze, then traced a finger down her cheek. “I’ll be right here waiting.”

“Are you sure she’s okay back there?” Reese asked anxiously as Tory slid into the passenger seat of the Jeep.

They both turned and surveyed the tiny bundle in the car seat belted into the rear. The pale yellow blanket moved faintly as their daughter kicked and stretched her miniature limbs.

“She’s fine.”

“Maybe you should sit with her,” Reese muttered. “In case she needs…anything.”

“I just fed her.” Tory rested her palm on her lover’s thigh. “She’s fine, sweetheart. It’s safer back there, and she’s going to go to sleep as soon as you start driving.”

“Okay.” Reese pulled out onto 6 and wished for the hundredth time that she’d brought the patrol car so she could put the lights on and make the traffic ahead pull over. She didn’t like having moving vehicles anywhere near them, not with Reggie in the car. What if some idiot ran into them? “This is awful.”

Tory laughed. “Honey, she’s not made of glass. She’s one strong little girl. Look how quickly she made her minimum safe weight. Almost three weeks early.”

“You think she’s gonna do everything early?” Reese dared a quick glance at Tory. “Cause I’m still playing catch up. Am I ever gonna be prepared?”

“Probably not. That’s part of the fun.” Tory linked her fingers through Reese’s.

“Yeah, right.” But Reese was smiling.

“I was thinking that Women’s Week might be a nice time,” Tory mused. “Regina will be settled in by then.”

“For what?”

Tory brought their joined hands to her lips and kissed Reese’s fingers. “For the wedding you promised me.”

“Oh.” Reese slowed for a light, then met Tory’s eyes. Her voice was husky when she added, “That.”

“Mmm hmm.” Tory’s face was soft with love and contentment. From behind them came a small hiccough, and then what sounded very much like a tiny laugh.

“And they say honeymoons don’t last forever,” Reese whispered.