Blue Oblivion by JP

Blue Oblivion
by JP

Summary: A singer and a gangster’s sister start an unlikely romance admist dark pasts, unpromised futures, family vendettas and the crimes of youth.

Chapter I

Tonight, she was without her shadows, it was just her and the girls. They were three girls in the middle of Baltimore city after 11:00p.m. in search of a jazz club, that Sara laughingly referred to as ‘a hole in the wall’. They found their ‘hole in the wall’ on Eager Street. After Sara managed to wheel her 400 Series Mercedes into a parallel parking spot they walked three abreast on the sidewalk towards the club. Connor walked in between her two friends with her hands shoved loosely into the pockets of her dark slacks. She wore a deep blue button down oxford, with the cuffs rolled up her forearm, and the collar open just enough to form a cradle for a smooth silver cross that teetered on the promise of cleavage beneath it’s point. As they stood before the door to the club, Sara swung the door open and swept her free arm across her body as she did a semi-curtsey and beckoned her two friends forward. Conner flashed her a blazing smile, while Terry giggled and followed behind.

The club actually turned out to be a lot larger than a hole in the wall. Connor observed the quaint surroundings as she dug out her wallet and handed her id over to the thick necked gentleman on the stool to her right. He handed it back to her and hit her with a smile that said, ‘just doing my job’. She kept herself from laughing by winking at him and walking off behind Sara and Terry. They found their way to a table about midway into the crowd. The room was filled with the chattering of businessman and college students. The clinking of glasses and the swirling of ice cubes were partnered with laughter and the snapping of lighters open and closed.

Connor had volunteered to buy the first round of drinks as she waded through the small cluster of people between the tables and the bar only to find herself searching for a small opening in the crowd at the bar. She let out a small sigh as she thought to herself, ‘I can’t be that freakin’ short’. She gave her thoughts a smirk as she realized most people were on stools and that her 5’4″ frame still made her average. She ran a bejeweled hand through her short strawberry blonde hair and absently tried to smooth a loose strand behind her ear. She laughed on the inside as she acknowledged the fact that she was still getting used to her new short hair do. She let her hand drift to her pocket as she squeezed into an opening at the corner of the bar. She found the railing on the floor and stood on top of it, just to make sure she got the bartender’s attention. Sure enough, he spied her reddish-blonde spikes of hair and nodded in her direction.

“What ya’ need?”. He popped the top off a Miller Lite and glanced at her as he set the bottle down in front of him.

“Yeah, let me get a glass of Merlot, a Vodka cranberry, and uh, Blue Moon.”

“The Martini?”

“Indeed.” She flashed the dark man a big smile as she waited on her order.

She was digging through her pocket for her credit card when she heard it. Moments before she had only been peripherally aware of the bass tuning and the saxophone running the scales. But as Connor placed her credit card on the counter of the bar she became aware of a low and mournful humming. The sound grew stronger and the melody became a little bit clearer as Conner passed off her credit card to the bartender without looking at him. Unfortunately, her height was getting the best of her as she edged her way through what seemed like a standing room only crowd with three drinks balanced in her hands. Connor plopped down in her seat and the entire world opened up in that instant.

The spotlight might as well have been emanating from the whites of Conner’s eyes since they were both transfixed on the figure on the stage. Conner’s eyes seemed to dance with the music as they traversed the body of the singer. One bare foot rested on the floor of the stage while the other tangled itself in the bar of the stool. Conner followed the feet up a pair of legs that were draped in black linen trousers. Even though the singer was seated, Connor could tell that the legs went on forever. She followed those legs up to a torso covered in a white silk shirt. The shirt tapered in at the waist which in turn caused the material to fit snugly against the swell of a pair of breasts. The open collar gave way to a hollow of a neck that rose up languidly to support a chiseled jaw, high cheekbones, an aquiline nose, a pair of tapered eyebrows, and a mane of blue-black hair that cradled her face. The eyes were hidden behind closed lids. Connor could only imagine what rested behind those lids as she focused on the full red lips that sang out for the man she loved.

‘No wait’, Conner thought, ‘she didn’t say ‘man’ did she. She barely managed to raise her glass to her lips as she listened intently.

“I’ll understand and in a little while, she’ll take my hand and though it seems absurd – I know we both won’t say a word.” Connor held the Vodka in her mouth as she let the words and the drink set in. She closed her own eyes and sang the lyrics in her head. “Maybe I shall meet her someday, maybe Monday- maybe not. Still I’m sure to meet her one day, maybe Tuesday will be my good news day.” As the last note was sung the saxophone took over and Conner opened her eyes.

She held onto the mic for dear life, like always, and she closed her eyes like always. Behind her lids she sought out forgiveness. She sought out hope and mostly she sought out love. She always found it in the same pair of eyes. There was never a face, just the eyes. They were a pair of misty green eyes that gave way to golden-brown flecks when the sun hit them just right. The eyes were honest and compassionate and not the hollow eyes that haunted her nightmares. The eyes were bright and full of hope. Most importantly the eyes were filled with love and forgiveness. She sought them out behind closed lids and held onto the mic for dear life, like always. She almost wanted to collapse in grief with the last note, but Samuel slowly crept in on the tail note and took over as she faded out, and then she opened her eyes.

Where had her breath gone? Furthermore where was the oxygen? Hell, where was everybody else? If Connor believed that you could see someone across a crowded room and know they were the one, she would have leapt from her seat and tackled the woman on stage, but Connor didn’t want to believe.

The singer let her hands fall haphazardly across her lap and she waited a beat for Rod Serling to step from the shadows and tell her she was in the Twilight Zone. She needed a drink, but she couldn’t remember where she put it. ‘Oh, yes the piano’,she remembered. But that meant movement, and if her legs weren’t Jell-O than they were nailed to the floor. Maybe she was crazy, those eyes weren’t misty green, it was dark out there and smoke was in the air, and she probably had too much to drink. She nodded internally but couldn’t tear her eyes away from the strawberry blonde that seemed to fill the room.

‘My God,’ Conner thought, ‘I’ve never seen eyes that blue before.’ They were like the sky on a clear summer day. No clouds, no smog, nothing. Just a light breeze, sun, and a blue sky that promised of heaven. Connor thought her heart had stopped and apparently so had her friends.

“Connor? Connor?” A waving of hands in front of her face.

“Hello, earth to Connor, this is your captain speaking?” A snapping of fingers. Finally the spell was broken with a swift slapping of Connor’s shoulder.

“Jesus! What the hell?” Connor’s eyes snapped shut and then back open and focused on the spots of red that speckled the table.

“Good grief Con, we thought we lost you.” Terry spoke into her drink as she took a swig of her Vodka Cranberry.

Connor let out a nervous laugh and then took a large swig of her Martini. The chilled alcohol made no dent in the heat that had consumed her insides. “What’s up Conner ?” Sara let her hand graze Conner’s arm as she spoke.

“Nada. I-I just got lost there for a second.”

“Lost. Ha. Lost my ass.” Terry took a quick drag from her cigarette. “Girlie, you looked like you were about to rush the stage”

“Shut up, Terry.” Conner shot her a quick glare and palmed her glass.

“No, seriously, have a tissue,” Terry held out her out her napkin in a teasing gesture, “you look like you got a little drool on your lip.” She reached out as if to dab the napkin at Conner’s mouth. Conner swatted the hand away gently, but hard enough to show her discomfort. She formed perfectly pink lips into a pout, just to add fuel to the fire.

“She’s right Con, do we need to strap you down?” Sara creased her brows in mock concern. Conner opened her mouth in the want to say something back, but instead she opted to take another drink, almost draining her glass.

“Screw you guys, I’m going home.” She pouted playfully this time as she got up and walked to the bar. Sara and Terry only laughed.

True she needed another drink, but really she needed air- and honestly she wanted another look at the woman on stage. Conner managed to find an empty stool on the corner of the bar facing the stage. She sat down and waited patiently for the bartender to notice her hand that casually palmed an empty glass. She kept one eye on the bartender and kept the other focused on the stage.
The woman on stage was still sitting as she swayed in time with the drummer. The audience erupted into applause as the saxophone solo ended and the woman on stage finished the line. “Someday she’ll come along, the girl I love.” Conner didn’t even touch her new drink as she listened to the song end. She jerked from her stupor as applause cascaded throughout the crowd. She barely held onto her drink, as her being shivered involuntarily at the light husk that was breathed into the words, “thank you”. Conner found her seat again and sat down with her eyes focused on the table. Sara and Terry smiled at each other, sharing a private joke.

“So, should we take bets on how long it’s going to take you to get those digits?” Sara let a heavy New York accent accompany the last word. Then both Sara and Terry burst into giggles as Conner rolled her eyes and flipped them both the finger.

“Fuck you both.”, was Conner’s reply.

“I’m sure you would enjoy her more.” Terry waggled a finger in the direction of the stage. Conner just shook her head and took a drink.

The set continued for at least another half and hour, and all the while, Conner fought between staring at the stage and fending off her friends non sequitors and one-liners. Whether it was the good drinks and good music, or Conner’s obvious attraction, she found herself hooting and hollering as well as whistling loudly as the set ended. Sara and Terry leaned into one another as they laughed themselves silly at Conner’s antics.

——–

She exited the stage as quickly as her legs would allow her, with minor lulls in her forward motion as she flashed toothy grins at patrons congratulating her. She made her way down the florescent-lit hallway to the back office/ dressing room. She found the nearest couch and collapsed into its cushions. She rested her hands on her knees and cradled her head-letting her hair surround her face and forearms. She sat like that until Sam’s deep laugh interrupted her silent musings.

“Blue!”, he boomed. “Chickie, that was a slammin’ set. Whoo! Fire, baby, fire.” Blue looked up from her hands and laughed sincerely. “Hey Sam.”, she breathed. She sat back on the couch and ran a hand through her dark locks as she sighed.

“What’s up baby doll? You have one too many, huh?” He let out a light chuckle as he sat down next to Blue and begin to twist the mouthpiece out of his horn.

“I think maybe I did. I don’t know Sam.” She shook her head and sat forward letting her hands rest on her knees. She let out a puff of air and stood up stretching her hands above her head until she heard the light crackling of her spine adjusting. She tousled her hair and walked to an empty table on the left and retrieved her watered down Scotch and water. Sam just watched the tall woman as he polished his horn and went to place it in its carrying case.

“You know I’m not gonna pry chica, but if you need to talk-well you know.” Blue whirled around towards Sam and flashed him a bright smile.

“Yeah, ya nosy bastard.” A light Boston accent caressed the curse word as she took a swig from her drink. “It’s nothing that horrifying I promise, just a feeling I got, ‘as all.” She shrugged and stared off towards the door as she sipped her drink and thought to herself. ‘I wonder if she’s still out there. Hell, there probably isn’t anybody out there, I was hallucinating, those weren’t the eyes. Too much smoke, too much smoke to be sure.’

“Whatever, chica. You headin’ out with us or what?” Blue snapped from her stupor and rested her cool blue eyes on the lanky black man with a saxophone slung over his right shoulder. “Yeah, baby, I’m right behind you.” She drained her drink, sat the cup on the table and grabbed her jacket off of the hook by the door as she followed Sam out.

Conner had waited as long as Sara and Terry would let her. It had been at least a half-and hour since the set had ended and the bartender had flashed the lights to indicate last call. “Look goofball, either go and wait for her or bring your skinny ass on!” Terry shot Conner a fierce look as she got up from the table. Conner waved off her glance as she downed the rest of her fourth Martini.

“Jesus, girl how the hell can you drink those like that, eych!” Sara reacted to an imaginary shiver and stood up. “Terry’s right, baby, come on.” Sara’s comments were accompanied with a soft smile and caring eyes. Conner gave into the silent entreaty and stood as well.

“Well, since you asked so nicely,” She dragged out her last word as she glared at Terry. “, I will oblige.”

Terry rolled her deep brown eyes. “Whatever,” she glanced back at Conner who was poking out her tongue, “ya midget.” Terry didn’t bother to wait for Conner’s reaction to her taunt as she quickly scurried out the front door. Sara wanted to break into laughter as she watched Conner’s ears redden. She walked ahead of her and backwards so to face her.

“Now Conner, it was just a joke, she’s playin.” Conner really wasn’t on the verge of some violent outburst but she hated the taunt none the less. Conner had always been the small fry and she had spent 24 years of her life proving that size didn’t matter and that good and useful things came in small packages. She was sure to show Terry a few things about midgets if she could just get past Sara. Sara was continuing to walk backwards towards the door as she pleaded with Conner to calm herself. Just as she was about to flash Sara one of her more disarming smiles, Sara’s path was interrupted by a tall figure wearing a black silk swing coat. Conner reached out to catch Sara as she ran smack into the wall of a human and stumbled backwards.

Sara felt herself falling, and she thought of how bad her rear end was going to hurt when she met the ground, but it never happened. Instead she felt a strong arm at her back and one arm gripping her upper arm in a forceful yet gentle manner.

“Holy shit!” Sara spat out when she realized she wasn’t’ on the floor. Warm blue eyes locked on her own blue eyes and smiled.
“Well, if that’s a thank you, than you’re very welcome.” The voice had a smooth husk to it and an accent she couldn’t place.

“Oh good grief I’m sorry.” Sara quickly relayed as she was brought up to her full height of 5’7″. “I am such an ass, I’m sorry and thank you.” She smoothed her auburn hair down with a shaky hand and let out a giggle. “Come on Conner, let’s go before psycho leaves.” Sara smiled again at the woman and walked out of the door.

Conner found herself stifling a giggle as she watched her friend scramble for her feet and then she lost the urge to laugh as she focused on the waves of black cornsilk that adorned the head of Sara’s savior. The hair was a deep black and it rippled out in waves of dark oblivion down the sturdy back blending in with the jacket. Conner snapped her eyes shut hard and willed herself not to think stupid thoughts. She regained her smile as she watched Sara turn around and walk out the door. Conner walked towards the door and stopped to place her hand on the arm of Sara’s helper. When she did, the faceless figure turned to face her.

It was brief, but it was long enough to scare the mess out of Conner. The eyes were now a deep blue and uncovered by smoke and unfettered by stage lighting. They were piercing and full of fire and it was a fire that was directed at Conner. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, at least a thank you, instead all she could come up with was, “Holy shit.”

“Is that a new language they’re teaching in college?” She watched the lithe girl step back and then she watched as a sweet smile crawled across her face. The laugh she let out, allowed Blue to gather her own senses and break their gaze.

“No…no, no it’s not.” ‘Jesus I can’t think of anything else to say besides holy shit and you are the most beautiful entity that I have ever laid eyes on, in my whole entire life.’ “Uh..it’s, not, just you look familiar.”

Blue watched the mental struggle that the young girl was having and only drew her full lips into a smile instead of laughing. “Yeah, I was up there singing.”

“Ha. Exactly, that’s what I meant. I figured you guys walked out the back or something.” Conner flashed her a confident smile and looked anywhere but the woman’s face.

“That’s probably the safest route, huh?”

“Safe you say?”

“Yeah, you’re friend, backwards, stumble.” Blue fought hard to hold back a laugh as the statement finally registered with the young woman.

“Holy shit!” Conner’s eyes grew wide as she realized Sara and Terry were waiting one her.

“There it is again, I gotta get a dictionary.”

Conner laughed and gave the tall woman a smirk as she glanced up at her. “I gotta go, uh, maybe I’ll buy you that dictionary.” Conner’s green eyes sparkled with want as she scurried out of the door.

Blue started to say, “only if you read it to me”, but Conner had all ready disappeared out of the door way and ran down the side walk. Sam, who had watched the encounter unfold, placed a hand on Blue’s shoulder to get here attention.

“What’s up chica?” The two stood toe to toe at six feet even and locked eyes for a moment. Sam waited out the glazed over look in his friends eyes before he took his hand off of her shoulder. Blue searched for an answer for Sam, but could only come up with one. She focused on Sam’s face and smiled. “So,” he prodded.

She merely stated the words: “Holy shit.”
CH II
It had been two nights since Blue’s encounter with the girl with the green eyes. She had all but convinced herself that she was just a figment of her imagination and that she never even met her. It was a Thursday night and the club on Eager was filling with business men and women, college professors, and students with early weekends. It was still a little early, so Blue found herself on stage still in her jeans, t-shirt, and range hat tuning the piano. She turned the hat around so that the brim obscured her ponytail and quietly ran the scales. She allowed her eyes to drift over the crowd briefly as exercised her fingers. She let her hands still as she silently cursed herself. ‘Blue get over it, she’s not here, so move your ass’. She smirked at her own chastising and moved away from the piano. She was tossing her hat up in the air as she walked towards the back, so she never saw the compact strawberry blonde walk in the club unattended.

As much as Conner was ready to return to the club, she was kicking herself that it had to be tonight, but he had insisted and she had put him off for two days. Why in the hell she suggested they meet here, was still beyond her own comprehension, but she knew she couldn’t wait any longer to come back to this place. She had racked her brain, while Sara and Terry offered no help as to how she could make a better impression than a few choice expletives for a greeting. Conner found a stool at the corner of the bar that was back near the door. She could see the door off to her right and she had a straight line of sight to the stage. She signaled the bartender with a nod as she absently stroked a phantom lock behind her ear.

“What can I get you, miss?”

Conner passed him her credit card as she asked for a blue moon. He took her card with a smile and went to run it through the machine. He raised an eyebrow and came back to stand in front of Conner.

“What’s up?”, she asked with mild curiosity.

He held the card out to her. “There’s no need for a tab, it’s taken care of.” His mouth crinkled in the corners as he smiled.

Conner let out a light laugh and took the card back. “Look, uh..what’s your name?” “Greg.” “Look Greg, do me a favor, charge me anyway,” He opened his mouth to protest, but Conner held up a manicured hand. “Charge me anyway and at the end of the night you can consider it a big ass tip, how ’bout that.” Soft green eyes focused on light brown ones and smiled. Greg smiled back nervously and ran a hand through short sandy brown hair. “Please. Greg.” She reigned in her smile as a faint blush begin to creep into his cheeks.

“Ok, but only if you let me make you a one of a kind shot.” He gave her a gleaming smile, which she returned.

“Deal.”

He nodded triumphantly as he begin mixing her Martini and starting his own concoction. As he settled her Martini in front of her, Conner’s attention was drawn to the stage by the sound of the bass tuning and the saxophone softly running the scales. She felt her stomach muscles grow tight with anticipation as the lights dimmed. She took a healthy sip of her Martini and let her eyes grow wide as she watched a flame hover before her.

Greg was walking towards her with a glass that had been set aflame. He blew out the flame and gulped down the liquid. He placed another glass in front of Conner who still held her mouth agape.

Greg smiled at her wickedly. “You ready?” Conner could only smile. “After I light it, just blow the flame out and knock it back.”

She couldn’t help but find his enthusiasm contagious. “All right barkeep, but if this is bad, I’m suing.”

They shared a smile as he lit a match and touched it to the rim of the glass. In a flash Conner saw herself staring into a blue that was familiar. The heat of the flame was the same that burned behind the eyes of the singer who had just taken the stage. Conner blew out the flame as if making a birthday wish and let the contents pour down her throat in the same instance in an attempt to burn away her past and blaze a path to her future. As she pounded the glass to the counter top she closed her eyes in a silent prayer. Greg watched her closely for a reaction.

“You okay?”

Conner shook down the alcohol and smiled. “Remind me to tell your boss to never let you go.” Greg blushed at her compliment.

“It’s the least I could do, Miss?”

“Name’s Conner and thanks.”

Greg smiled as if to say ‘I know’ and walked to the other side of the bar. Before Conner had the chance to berate herself she felt her stomach muscles clinch at the sound of a husky, “good evening”. Conner turned her head towards the stage and followed the soft lights of overhead lamps to focus on a pair of smoldering blue eyes.

Blue gripped the mic hard so as not to lose her balance. She found her. She controlled her body’s want to break into a gleaming smile, and instead she arched her eyebrow to an impossible angle and ran her tongue smoothly across red painted lips. She could see her barely sipping at her drink as she begun to hum the opening bars of “Prelude to a kiss”. Blue didn’t have to turn to see Sam, who was smiling from ear to ear as he wrapped his lips around his mouthpiece and began to play. ‘Yeah, Sam, I’m showing off, and the reasons in the back corner.’

Conner had no intention of breaking the gaze with the singer, but she could feel the blush creeping up into her cheeks with speed. She finally managed to break away when the singer closed her eyes and begun to sing.

Conner sipped at her drink gingerly as she kept her eyes affixed to the dark haired beauty on the stage. She unconsciously hooked her foot into the leg of the barstool in an attempt to keep herself from swaying off the seat. She smiled on the outside and inside as she listened the woman’s rich alto seep honey into the lyrics.

As Blue finished the second verse, she decided it was time to up the ante. As Carl began his solo on the bass, she walked over to the piano and straddled the seat while taking a sip from her drink. Sam did his best not to laugh into his mouthpiece as he watched her saunter to the piano. Blue waited a full two measures before she began to stroke the keys.

This time Conner found herself gripping the counter itself to keep from falling off the chair. Oh, she was mesmerized-she was gone. This lady was singing her a siren song and Conner was a willing sailor far from being weary, but dying of need and want all the same. Her lips formed a silent wow, as she listened and watched the woman tease the keys with easy strokes. Conner felt her ears redden as she wondered about the fingers upclose.

Conner blindly reached out for her drink which had been refilled by a dutiful Greg, who knew Conner was far from paying attention to him. Conner let her eyes burn holes into the woman’s frame as she played and then she began to sing again. Blue closed her eyes once again as she brushed the keys as she sang. She smiled a feral smile that was reflected only in the black lacquer of the piano and then turned her gaze directly at Conner.

Blue’s fingers barely brushed the keys as she let Sam fill in the melody. Her full attention was being given to the blonde in the corner, whose green eyes were doing their best to bore into her soul. Blue wanted to give her the same as well, so she did it the only way she knew how, in her voice. The alto that was normally only laced with honey, poured out the sweet confection that was wrapped up in the blue blaze of her eyes.

She sang slow and deep as she let her lips caress the words as if they were lapping up the smooth ivory of Conner’s neck.

“Oh how my love song gently cries for the tenderness within your eyes,
my love is a prelude that never dies-a prelude to a kiss.”

Blue held onto the last note as if it was the last drop of oxygen in the room and she was breathing it into Conner’s mouth. Blue couldn’t tell if it was the smoke or the lights, but it almost looked as if the young girl was on the verge of tears. She breathed out a ‘thank you’ and stood from the piano. The applause that echoed through the room allowed her to pull herself together as she shot a toothy grin at Sam, who only shook his head. Blue snapped her fingers indicating a quick tempo and the band erupted into a jaunty version of “Nice work if you can get it”.

Conner didn’t know if she was reeling from the alcohol or the music, but two things were clear: she needed some air and she had to relieve her bladder. She managed to tell Greg to hold her spot as she got up and scurried to the bathroom on the other side of the room. Conner lost herself in the rumble of the toilet flushing as she gathered her pants and replaced the belt and zipped them up. She walked out of the stall and stared into the mirror. Her eyes were rimmed with tears. ‘Ha, she thought to herself, that’s new.’

Conner got a handful of water and rubbed it through her all ready disheveled hair. A few more spikes of reddish-blonde hair poked out when she was done. She smoothed stray hairs behind both her ears and reached for a paper towel. She glanced at her watch without thinking and her heart stopped. It was nearly 11:00p.m., which meant he was on his way, if he wasn’t all ready here.

“Damn it, Ewan.” She spoke out loud to her reflection. ‘This isn’t all Ewan’s fault, Con. You’re waist deep in shit you created.’ “Yeah, yeah. Fuck you.” She spoke aloud again and tossed the used papertowel into the trashcan at the entrance. Conner grabbed a hold of the handle on the door and took a deep breath. She fixed a quaint smirk on her face and thought, ‘maybe she won’t mind if you tell right out that you’re a murderer.’ She mocked herself with laughter as she exited the bathroom and back out into the smoky dark of the club.
CH III
Technically, Conner was not a murderer. The last thing Conner had actually killed was a deer when she was 12, and it was at the behest of her Great Uncle Charles who liked to take her and her brothers on trips to Allegheny, Maryland for camping trips. Emotionally, Conner equated herself with Jim Jones. Emotionally, Conner felt responsible for thousands of people and not just the eight that hung on her every word.

Technically, Conner just kept the books clean and the money accounted for. Technically, she was a small voice of reason amongst mercenaries. In reality, Conner was a member of the clan. By birth and by right she was a princess in a dark dynasty that had reeked of blood for at least four centuries. In reality Conner was at the top of the food chain relishing in the spoils of victory and conquest. In truth, Conner wanted out.

———–

His suit cost him $3,000., not including the black dress shirt or black silk tie. He wore black leather motorcycle boots that were tipped with silver. Except for the glints of silver on his wrists, ears, fingers, and the canines in his mouth-he was a shadow. His curly dark brown locks hung loosely just above his shoulders. He wasn’t a hulking mass of muscles, but his level of fitness was clearly apparent as it was balanced through his 6’2″ frame. He had a smooth and young looking face. Besides the fact that his goatee implied that he had gone through puberty, his ruddy cheeks and round face gave him a school boy charm. However, his eyes betrayed him. They were misty green that harbored green and gold flecks when he was in the right mood. Mostly, they whispered his age and they bellowed out his life story. To say that one saw death behind his eyes was too easy, too know of that death was the last thing that most people saw if they got that close.

Ewan McGreely walked into the club on Eager like a superstar. He walked in with only two bodyguards and left the other three out front. He flashed even white teeth at those around him as he made his way into the club. He did a quick search for Conner, but he didn’t see her. An olive-skinned man who wore leather gloves, pulled out a chair for Ewan and then stood behind him as he took a seat. The other man sat across from Ewan with his hands folded across his chest. Before Ewan could even tap out a cigarette on his case a thin black girl sat a bourbon neat in front of him and walked away. Ewan put on his game face as made no obvious attempt to even act aware of the eyes that fell upon him in recognition. Instead he lit his cigarette and started chatting with the man across from him as he waited for Conner.

It was the middle of the set and Benny was working his way threw spastic bass solo which he would hand off to Max on the drums and then back to Blue to end the song. She was hamming it up with Sam as she took a swig of drink and rested on her stool. She had found the woman again as she leaned against the back wall next to the archway that led to the bathrooms.

Blue made no qualms about the fact that she was sizing up the young girl and Conner did her best to stand up straight and give her an unhindered view. Conner slid her hands into the pockets of her black slacks and let a small smile grace her pink lips. Conner wore a tan long-sleeve v-neck tonight that clung to her body, giving a small hint to the muscles that lay underneath. A small silver chain with a Celtic cross hung below the dip in her shirt.

She reminded Blue of an imp, with the mischievous smirk that graced her round face and the reddish-blonde spikes of hair that pointed to imaginary vectors. Blue found herself smiling at her genuinely. ‘Well if she isn’t the one, she certainly is a cutie.’ Blue laughed inaudibly at her thought as she continued to keep time with the drums. Blue let her eyes wash over the crowd as she waited out the next four measures to come in.

A full measure before she was ready to come in, she saw him. He was sitting where Conner had sat only two days before and she could almost swear he had the same eyes. But no, it wasn’t the tender green of young girl she had been flirting with, it was the malicious green of a murderer. It was a green that gave way to oblivion and pointed to her own hell as it had more than a decade ago.

Blue felt herself drifting off into images of blood and screams that sounded like saxophones. She snapped her head in Sam’s direction as she realized she had missed her beat. She let Sam play for another bar as she came in and finish the song at least a minute earlier than normal. Sam raised a concerned eyebrow at the woman seated on the stool and she only shrugged in reply.
She leaned away from the mic, and mouthed ‘instrumental’ to Sam, who shook his head in understanding. Blue figured if she sat at the piano she wouldn’t have to look at Ewan’s face and then she could rush to the back and clear her head. She didn’t want to rush the song, but apparently the other band members sensed her need to rest and sped the song along. The spotlight dimmed as the song was finished and the applause started.

Blue didn’t even look up to the corner, she just jumped off the stage and hurried down the back hallway. Blue ignored the sound of her name behind her, and walked past the office and right out the back entrance. She was well aware that she shouldn’t be smoking, but right now she needed something to chase away the past.

Conner still continued to hold up the wall, as she watched the tall woman flee from the stage. She had watched blue eyes widen in response to something. Had that been fear, no anger. Conner wasn’t sure, but a wave of nausea rushed over her all the same as she tracked the singers gaze to Ewan’s table, and made the assumption that it had something to do with Ewan.

When Conner had exited the bathroom she saw the back of a person who was unmistakably Richard. She was familiar with the black suit and the wide build, as well as the thick brown hair that adorned his head. She heaved a heavy sigh as she pushed off of the wall and made her way to Ewan.

Conner pressed her body through several seated patrons and showed up at Ewan’s side, at the same time that Rick made eye contact with her. Rick was seated across from Ewan, and his thin lips curved into a tight smile as his eyes rested on Conner’s small frame. Ewan saw the smile form on the mans’ lips and knew that it was only Conner that could elicit such a response. Ewan turned his head to his right and looked up. Two seats of misty green eyes locked in on one another and smiled.

“Rabbit.” He beamed. A thick Scottish accent rolled around the aficionado. Conner smiled and leaned down to plant a quick kiss on Ewan’s cheek. Richard moved behind Conner and pulled out a chair for her, which she accepted and sat down.

“Hey Ewe, what’s up?”

“Just enjoying the sounds, rabbit. You need a drink?”

“Please.”

“Hey Rick-” The seated man stood up before Ewan finished his sentence.

“I got it.”, he replied to the unspoken request.

“Hey, tell the bartender, who it’s for, and he’ll know what I want.” Conner gave Rick a toothy grin.

“Sure thing Conner, I’m on it.” He returned her smile and waded into the crowd of people

Conner turned her attention to Ewan as she folded her hands on top of the table. “So, what’s the word daddy-O?”

“What’s the word? I haven’t talked to you in days, kid.”

She sucked her teeth. “Ewan, I talked to you last night.” Her tone held slight irritation, but Ewan ignored it.

“Yeah, for a split second and besides, I haven’t seen that face in at least a week.”

“Well good thing I didn’t get that plastic surgery done, or you would have never found me.” She shot him a light smirk to ease her own tension and he responded in kind.

“Whatever smartass, but look enough chit-chat. what’s up with bills?”

“Ah, your true motive.” Before Ewan could come up with a comeback, Rick found his way back to the table, laid out a napkin, and placed a blue tinted Martine glass down in front of Conner. “Thank you sir.” She bowed her head in a regal manner, and Rick blushed slightly. Ewan just shook his head.

“Rick, you marshmallow.” Rick stood up straight and lost his grin.

“Uh, I’ll be at the door.” He scurried off, as Ewan just nodded.

“Anyway, where were we?”

“You were just explaining your real motives for missing me.” Conner took a gingerly sip from her drink and waited.

“Ha. I confess your pretty face and witty banter is no longer enough.”

Conner closed her eyes in a mock moment of pain and said “ouch”. They shared a quick giggle and then both reached for their respective glasses.

“So seriously, the bills.”

“Yes. The bills. Do you need something special?”

“Well besides the usual, Manny told me there were some discrepancies.” Conner ran a hand through spikey hair and silently willed Ewan to continue. “Just minor ones, but they were occurring often enough to warrant an inquiry.”

“Well, I’ll get on it. I haven’t seen anything of late, though. Is it off shore accounts or mainland?”

“Little bit of both.”

Conner scrunched her brow in thought. “Well, yeah, I’ll get on it.” She released a breath and took a sip from her drink. “Other than that, what else is new?”

Ewan opened his mouth to speak again, but he was silenced as Conner turned her head towards the dimming lights and light thumping of the bass drum on stage. He watched Conner with a thoughtful expression as her eyes focused on the tall woman that stepped onto the stage to the sound of light applause. Ewan did find himself transfixed as the dark woman took a seat on the stage, and a brief wave of déjà vu passed over him. Unlike Conner, Ewan’s gaze was not filled with admiration and awe, but with anger and anxiety. He tried to shrug it off, but his uneasiness clung to his words.

“I doubt if she’s your type.”

“Huh?” Conner turned her head back in Ewan’s direction.

“That beast of a woman on stage,” He crooked a finger in the direction of the stage. “,I say I doubt if she’s your type.”

Conner let out a deep laugh. “Beast of a woman, huh? Perhaps she’s not your type Ewan, but I’m quite sure she’s mine.” Conner smiled a little harder than she wanted too, but quickly curbed her expression by taking a large gulp of her drink.

“What is she-6 feet, maybe 6’2″. You’d look like a dwarf.”

Conner slitted her eyes at Ewan’s rib and ran her tongue across her teeth in thought. “On the contrary Ewan, I’ve got a feeling I would fit rather nicely into all the right places.” She let a wicked grin spread across pink lips and then she quickly downed her Martini.

* * *

Blue took a seat on her stool and listened to the tune up. She closed her eyes and ran over lyrics, the song list, piano solos, how many drinks she had, and the score from the basketball game. Anything. Anything, to not have to look out into the crowd and see was she thought she saw.

There she was again. The little strawberry blonde, with the sweet pink lips, and the misty green eyes. Her misty green eyes. She was seated next to Ewan and they were in an animated conversation. Blue watched as the girl smiled lasciviously at Ewan and gulped her drink. She saw Ewan smile at the girl and lean into her, whispering into her ear. She watched as the girl threw back her head in laughter exposing what she imagined to be smooth alabaster skin. The girl leaned in and squeezed Ewan’s arm and held on as she said something to him that he found equally funny.

Blue watched the two interact and felt her stomach clench. She couldn’t decide if she was jealous or disgusted that the young woman was with Ewan. Blue raised an eyebrow unconsciously as she asked herself a silent question: “Are they together?” What does it matter, they’re breathing the same air. She chose to be disgusted. Blue shook the thoughts from her mind as Sam started the intro to “Lush Life”. She watched the young girl lean over and embrace Ewan. She could see that it was an embrace filled with emotion, maybe they were together. Blue felt her heart break as she closed her eyes and let a soft moan bleed into lyrics.

* * *

Conner pulled away from her embrace with Ewan with a shudder. Conner sat there staring up at the seated woman hanging on her voice and trying to comprehend the swell of emotion that she was feeling. And just as she was about to pass it off as paranoia, something broke inside of her as well, as the words pierced something on her insides.

“Life is lonely again and only last year, everything seemed so sure.
Now life is awful again, a trough full of hearts would only be a bore…..
I’ll forget you I will, while yet you are still burning inside my brain,
romance is mush, stifling those who strive, I’ll live a lush life in some small dive…..”

Blue was pushing her out of her thoughts with as much force as she could muster just short of screaming. She watched the pair embrace and she was no longer concerned with being worthy, she was just angry.

Ewan watched as Conner’s face lost its bright smile and became stone. The look in her eyes gave way to something he couldn’t quite register as pain, but she certainly looked as if something was gnawing at her.

“Rabbit? Rabbit.” He touched her arm gently as he spoke. “Rab-” She jerked her head back in his direction and they locked eyes. One pair of green eyes were old and ravaged by unspeakable acts, while the other pair seemed to be paling as if someone was slowly dimming the lights.

Conner realized Ewan hadn’t said anything. She breathed out, “what?”, and even managed to smile.

“You okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve got good music and good drink.” She held up an empty glass. “That may be the problem.” She stood up and Ewan stood with her.

He straightened out his jacket with a few quick brushstrokes, and wished he could do the same with the tension. “Well, I’m gonna get out of here. I gotta’ go to the club.” He smiled a wicked grin as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Shut up you perv. Walk me to the bar.” Conner walked back to her original corner and was pleasantly surprised to see her barstool unoccupied.

“Hey cutie. Saved your seat.” Conner looked over at Greg, the bartender, who was giving her tooth-filled grin. Then she found herself almost bursting into laughter as the color drained from his face. Ewan was sending out mental daggers in the direction of Greg’s face.

“Oh God.” Greg looked down at the counter avoiding Ewan’s green-eyed glare. “Mr…Mr. McGreely. I-I uh, apologize, um..”

Conner placed her hand on top of the young boy, who was fiddling with his dishtowel. “It’s alright Greg, Mr. McGreely is just about to leave.” She smiled up at Ewan, who was beginning to let the muscles in his jaw relax. “But not before paying his tab of course.” Conner used a smile to cut through the green glare that Ewan gave her, as his eyes widened in surprise. Greg bit his lip and wiped absently at the countertop. Ewan rolled his eyes at Conner as he dug into his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of money clipped with a silver circle that outlined a Celtic symbol. Ewan flipped off a couple of twenties without thought and handed them to Greg.

“Thereya’ go Greg, keep the change. And uh, keep your eye on my cutie.” He raised an eyebrow at Greg and pouted his lips playfully at Conner. He received a kiss on the cheek for his efforts. Conner held her smile as she watched Ewan exit the club with his two brick walls right behind him. Conner slumped onto the stool and leaned into the wall on her side. Thankfully, the saxophonist was ripping up his solo, so Conner didn’t have to be assaulted by the lull of a smooth alto that sounded like honey laced with arsenic, as it hit her ears.

“Greg, hit me with a couple of those flame thingys, and a nice tall black Russian.” Greg’s brown eyes grew wide.

“I can only handle two myself, are you..” Conner cut him off with a wave of her hand. “You set ‘im up Greg, and I’ll knock ’em down.”
Ch IV
Conner was hurt and she didn’t want to believe that it could be because of her, but there was no other explanation. She didn’t even know the woman’s name. Conner had an inkling about what most likely happened, and Conner felt guilty; all the way down to her toes. No matter how hard she tried the woman on stage refused to make eye contact with her. Maybe she had imagined her attraction, maybe it was all some romanticized vision, or maybe she did have it right all along, and this was karma biting her in the ass.

Conner gently passed her hand over the back of her exposed neck as she watched Greg set down two shot glasses in front of her. Her fingertips gently grazed the quarter-sized tattoo that adorned her neck. It was a useless attempt at hoping it had disappeared and it only served to remind her that it would always remain.

Conner blew out the flame on the shot glass just as a second fire begin to blaze on stage. The second flame burned with eyes made of blue ice. The second flame charred her body with a tale about cocktails at noon and life in a dive. It was a non existent and lonely life and she was singing straight to Conner. Conner didn’t even bother to look up at the stage again as she sipped her Black Russian. She could feel eyes on her, and she felt dirty and exposed.

* * *

Greg watched the petite strawberry blonde suck down two more flamers, a Black Russian, and here she was, working on what was probably her third Martini; and her eyes were barely even glassy. The band was crawling off the stage and Greg was making the sign for last call. he called out to Conner, who stared blankly at the stage.

“Hey Conner? Conner?” he waved a hand in her face and she smiled loosely after a split second.

“Greg-what up?”

“Time’s up, that’s what.”

“Time, time-so fleeting-so something.”

“You want some coffee, a cab.”

“No cab, no coffee, just gonna sit here.” Conner leaned into the bar on her elbows and let her head loll to the side.

“You want to help me clean up then?”

“No, not really, but I’ll watch.” She shot Greg another loose grin and repositioned her elbows on the countertop. They wobbled this time, but Conner straightened out her back and steadied herself.

However, the wobble did not go unnoticed by Greg. “Hey Conner, how ’bout some water.” It was a statement not a request. He smiled at the green eyed girl to lessen his condescension.

“No water.” Conner spun herself on the stool and lost her balance. She fell back hard on the wall but managed to stay on the stool. Greg practically leapt the bar to help her sit up straight.

“Jeez. Conner, look go sit in one of the seats, I’ll call a cab.”

“I don’t need a freakin’ cab, Greg. I’m perfectly fine. See.” Conner sat up straight on the stool without aid of the wall. “I’m perfect. I can even touch my nose.”

She actually did touch her nose, twice, before equilibrium got the best of her and Conner careened backwards. She fell onto cushions that felt like silk, and yet so supportive to one’s head. The fall was comfy and warm and it smelled of Pantene shampoo and Fahrenheit cologne.

It was at this point that Conner’s eyes snapped open. She was staring up at smooth tanned skin and whomever this person was, she was convinced they had no face. Conner’s panic subsided as the faceless person turned down to her and the mass of flesh became nothing more than a chin. But it was a chin that was attached to those lips, that hovered below that nose, that was surrounded by those cheeks, that led to two sharp black eyebrows, that protected two perfectly round and seaswept beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.

She felt herself being pushed upright and the warm arms were replaced by a small hand at her back. She could see that it was Greg out of the corner of her eye. Conner gripped the counter and exhaled.

“Holy Shit!” Conner turned to look over her shoulder and watched as the tall woman backed away and leaned down to pick up a bookbag. “Hey, uh, thank you.” Conner tried to make eye contact, but the woman looked past her towards Greg. and said “you’re welcome”.

“Greg, call her a cab.” Greg nodded at the tall woman’s order and headed for the phone.

Conner felt herself fill with anger as she hopped off the stool and stood. “I have a ride.” She glared at the tall woman who stared back at her with cold blue eyes.

“Oh yeah, that’s right-Greg call her boyfriend and get this little girl some water.”

Blue had noticed the wall of anger the girl put up earlier, but she didn’t notice as it dissolved into watery green eyes at her words. She didn’t see how Conner staggered back into the counter as if she’d taken a blow to the midsection. Greg watched her slump into a chair and cradle her head in her hands. He knelt beside her with a glass of water.

“Hey,” he spoke almost at a whisper. “She’s not all that bad. She doesn’t mean to be that way-she can’t help it. I’m sure she’s just tired, ya’ know.”

Conner spoke softy and unintelligibly, through her hands. “Huh?” Conner removed her hands and left her head hanging down. “What’s her name?”

“Name? Uh, it’s Blue.”

Conner sat up straight in the chair and almost smiled. “Blue, huh? Ha!”

“Yup. Could be for the eyes. All though, I heard that it was due to the fact that she once held a note so long her face turned blue.” Greg looked at her seriously and then broke into a smile as he listened to Conner’s soft giggles.

“Yeah right.”, she mumbled.

“It’s true, it’s true. Or the fact that she always seems so sad, I don’t know.” He spoke quickly and softly.

Conner stood slowly. She was satisfied that she wasn’t too impaired and let out a big breath. She ran both her hands through her hair and ruffled her spikes. She smoothed out her clothes and smiled at Greg.

“What do I owe you, Greg?”

“Just get home and go to sleep, and when I see you again, I’ll give you a nice hangover remedy.”

“Just as long as it’s not accompanied by a flame, it’ll be great.” They shared a laugh as they walked towards the door.

“Where are you parked?”

“Right there.” She pointed a finger at the red and white 1964 Corvette that sat under a lamppost across the street. She didn’t even have to look at Greg to see the huge smile that was plastered across his face.

“Oh wow, Conner. She’s gorgeous.”

“Yep.” He walked in step with Conner to the car. “Well aren’t you gonna get my door?”

“Wow, can I?”

She smiled. “As long as your arms work.” Greg blushed to his toes as he gently grasped the chrome handle on the door and opened it for Conner.

“This is awesome Conner, really.” He closed the door as Conner nestled into the leather bucket seats. “Thanks a lot and hey thank you for tonight.” She flashed a slight smile that was tinged with embarrassment and relief. “Now get out of here, go do ya’ job- and I’ll see you around.”

She watched Greg walk backwards across the street and finally into the bar. She was still smiling as she started the car and turned the radio on low. She checked her side mirrors and adjusted her rearview mirror. “There you are.” she said quietly to herself.
Conner had noticed her shadow when she and Greg had walked out of the bar. It was off to the right and blending in nicely with gated alleyway. Conner merely smiled and pulled off. She made a quick left two blocks up and came around the block slow. She stopped at the corner of Read street and watched her shadow walk across the street, with its raven hair shrouding what she knew to be two intense blue eyes. “So, she wants to play.”

Conner smiled wildly as her canines bared themselves. She pressed the play button on the stereo console as she backed up on the street, made a u-turn and echoed Robert Plant’s “American Woman” as she sped down the city streets.
CH V:
Blue cursed at herself the whole walk home. She cursed as she turned on to 23rd street and cursed as she ascended the stoop to her apartment. The expletives were working their way through another language as her key hit the lock and opened the door. She had all ready been through English, and Spanish and she was willing to continue through all the Greek she knew and any other stray language she knew. Blue dumped her bag on the hardwood floor at the entrance way and walked through her apartment. She turned on lights-cursing, the stereo-cursing, taking off her clothes-cursing, and finally turned on the shower-cursing.

She leaned her head hard against the white tile of the shower and let the hot water douse muscled bronze skin that reeked of cigarettes and Bourbon. She yelled out one final “fuck” as she pounded the white tile with a wet fist. After another ten minutes of steam torture, she walked naked into her living/ dining room and hit the shuffle button on the stereo. Billy Holiday’s aching voice swam through the mid-sized apartment as she walked back to her room and slid on a pair of boxers and a faded Boston Sox’s
t-shirt. Blue fell back onto the bed and lay prostrate on her queen sized bed, staring up at the ceiling. She wanted to drown in Billy’s voice as she damned Ewan McGreely to hell and back and for once she let somebody else do the moaning.

Blue didn’t know why she had followed the girl. She found herself saying ‘Conner’ out loud. She cringed on the inside as she listened to the name roll off of her lips. The sound of it got stuck in the back of her throat and she couldn’t swallow it or spit it out to save her life. She rolled over onto her stomach and then up on her knees. She rolled her neck around until she heard the vertebrae shift, and then inadvertently cracked her back as she moved to get off the bed.

“Why the hell did I wait?”, she asked into the air. A six inch long Oscar gulped at the water and swam by her question. The Dempsy was only eager for food and not her words as he stayed in his corner of the tank. “Hey boys, time for dinner.” She took a pinch of fish food and crushed it into the tank as the fish sprang to life. Only the algae eater remained where he was, having something better to eat on the wall. “You’d think I was going to talk to her or something. I can’t believe Sam actually suggested that I apologize to her.” She stared at the tank for a moment as the fish swam by oblivious to her musings. “Ahh, you guys suck.” The Dempsy butted the glass as if to give Blue the finger, she smiled and walked to the kitchen.

She pulled out the milk, Capn’ Crunch with Crunchberries cereal, a bowl, and a spoon and sat them on the island in the middle of the kitchen. She stood at the island and ate her cereal as she hummed along with Ella Fitzgerald in the background. Just as she turned up the bowl to drink out the strawberry milk, the phone rang. She wiped at a small line of pink liquid as she picked up the phone and walked to the couch in the living room.

“Sam.”, she growled.

“Hey puddin’ pop.”

“Sam it’s like-uh- 3:00 a.m. in the morning, what?”

“Like your sleep, punk.”

“Yeah, ya mama. What!?”

“Didja’?”

“Did I what?”

“Scale the Eiffel tower you amazon! You know what.”

“No.” She spoke softly.

“What? I’m going deaf.”

“I said no, smart ass.”

“Blue,” he whined.

“I have nothing to apologize for.”

“You didn’t see her face, I did. It looked like you kicked her in the head.”

“Sam, I’m going to kick you in the head, if you don’t get off it.”

“What happened to getting’ a feeling and all that?”

“I lost it.” She spoke flatly as she ran a hand through still damp hair and tried to stifle a yawn.

“Well…you..” he began to hum.

“Don’t sing Sam.” He ignored her and continued to plow through the Righteous Brothers lyrics. He got all the way to “lovin” before she hung up. Blue drew her knees up to her chest as she sat back on the couch. She put both hands in her hair and let her neck relax. She sighed and wasn’t sure if it was Billy’s voice or singing that had her on the verge of tears. More than likely, it was the on the revelation that she couldn’t have what she wanted; even if she deserved it, or even if she apologized. Ewan McGreely had all ready taken her youth and most of her life, in turn she sucked out his soul. It was only appropriate that he was capable of taking her future before she could even build one.
CH VI:
15 years ago.
The three of them exited the Alewife bound ‘T’ at UMASS and transferred to the green heading back to the south side of Boston. They presented a surreal vision of siblings as they walked three abreast on the sidewalk: the oldest boy on the left, the girl in the middle, and the youngest boy on the right.

The oldest was a lanky reed, standing 6’2″ with his sister close behind him at 5’9″, and the youngest was slowly working his way up from 4’9″. Three sets of deep blue eyes looked out into the street as three heads crowned with blue-black hair turned from left to right checking for cars.

The projects weren’t that bad, it was just a way of life. It was a community with its own rules and laws and its own judges and juries. In a city full of Irishman, the Scots ruled this borough of Boston. The McGreely’s were descended from Scottish royalty that traced its roots back to the Highlanders. They were stout young men and women usually with ruddy round faces, dark hair and dark eyes.

The McGreely’s that roamed these parts were not the usual. Their leader was tall and svelte, with pale eyes and blonde hair. He tried to approach the street not with brow beating and garishness, but rather, an enigmatic smile and humor that border on the sadistic. He was known as ‘Chuckles’ to his family and his followers. It was his hearty chuckled that alerted two siblings sneaking a cigarette in the stairwell of his presence. Two sets of blue eyes darted up towards the window and stared as they heard the laugh accompanied by voices carrying Scottish accents.

“Should I look?'”, the boy asked.

“What for, you know who it is?” She threw the cigarette at the wall and watched the sparks fly as it connected and then fell without sound to the concrete floor. The boy was standing now and peering out of the frosted window. It wasn’t really frosted, it just hadn’t been washed in about 6 years, but Gi-Gi insisted that they were frosted.

She looked up at her older brother who was still trying to peer out of the window. She tugged at his pants leg. “Armie, what the hell are you doing? Sit ‘da fuck down.”

He cut surprised blue eyes down her. “Hey, a young lady doesn’t use that language.”

“Yeah, I’m such a fucking lady.”

“Hey!”

“Whatever, sir. Can you please sit your narrow rear end down on this rather cool concrete and stop ogling the visitors.” She put on her best English accent and even crossed her legs at the knee for emphasis. He rolled his eyes at his sister, but gave her a smile anyway. He walked down the steps until he stood in front of the girl.

“Look, uh, I need to go out there.”

She shot up like a reed and towered over her brother, as she stood on the step and he stood on the landing. He looked up into the pupils of two hard blue eyes that had grown small in fear. “Jasmine, c’mon, no worries.” He reached out to grab her hand. She whipped her hand behind her back and scowled.

“Don’t you Jasmine me. Why do you have to go out there? Send Clyde, send Milos, whoever.” She flailed her hands wildly as she spoke.

“Look, Jaz, this will take just a few minutes, no big deal. I promise.”

She folded her arms across her chest and let out a puff of air. “Armie, if you go out there your promise is worth shit!”

They stared at each for a while, neither one ready to give in, but the nearing voices made him flinch. She made fists of her hands and dropped them at her sides. “Screw you Armie.” She turned on her heels and bounded up the stairs before he could open his mouth.

“I’ll be up in a few.” He called after her. He heard the echo of a door slamming in reply. He sighed and ran a slightly shaky hand through black hair. “Easy boy, just be cool.”

The sky was a somber red-gold as the sun sank into the horizon, and Armie exited the stairwell. There were five of them and they were walking towards the tall dark boy. Chuckles stood out amongst the group not only because of his height but the blonde hair that crowned his round hair glistened even as the sun set.

“Armie, Armie.” Chuckles spoke in a sing-song voice. His pale gray eyes were listless and held none of the humor that he was known for. “What’s up buddy-boy?” He flashed a pearly smile at Armie. Armie didn’t return the smile as both stopped walking. They stood at least two arm lengths apart and Armie held his arms at his sides.

“Armie, I want you to meet my cousin and my brother.” He gestured for the two shortest, and most likely the youngest, boys to come stand next to him. “This is Ewan.” he put his hand on the shoulder of a green- eyed boy who was only a little taller than his brother Gi-Gi. “And, this is William.” He placed his other hand on the shoulder of a pudgy body with brown eyes. Armie made no move. “Now, as you can see Armie, I’m not here to intimidate you. These boys are harmless and I want to show you that I believe you. So, that’s why I’m going to be sending them back here tonight to get my money.” His thick Scottish accent held onto every word he said, but luckily he was speaking slow enough for Armie to understand. Not that it mattered, because he knew what was going to be said, he just wanted to know how much time he had.

“So, look Armie, I’m gonna send ’em back in a coupla’ hours, so make me happy, Armie.” He flashed Armie another tooth-filled smile and turned around. Armie hadn’t moved in the whole of three minutes, nor had he breathed. He watched the five of them walk across the parking lot to their cars, and he did his best to bore holes into the tattoos on their necks with his eyes. Another set of blue eyes watched the group walk across the parking lot and pile into two mustangs as well.

* * *

An hour and a half had gone by and Carmen was on edge. She refused to leave her home. She refused to have her and her children run out by some, “skirt wearing brigands”. She let out a quick paced stream of Greek expletives and stood next to her husband.

It was from Robert that her children got their height, as he stood at 6’6″, but it was Carmen who gave them the raven hair and blue eyes that shone with determination. Little Gi-Gi had unknowingly ratted out his brother. It had only been an attempt to prove to Armie that he could be quiet and spy when he needed to, but their mother overhead and went ballistic.

The knock came on time and it shook the cheap wooden door. “Jasmine. take Gi-Gi to the back and stay there.” Her father ordered calmly. She growled at her dad, but took Gi-Gi’s hand anyway. They stalked towards the bedroom they shared and waited in the dark.

Gi-Gi had promised her he wasn’t scared, but he made her sing to him none the less. She had reached the second verse of Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World”, when the door exploded. She clutched tightly to Gi-Gi who was frozen stiff with fear. She could feel a warm spot grow in her crotch and she didn’t know if it was her or the package on her lap. She whispered “it’s okay” into little ears as they waited.

The Scotsman were yelling and her mother was yelling, no bawling and then she could hear Armie trying to be calm, but as her own temper rose, so did Armie’s. In her own concentration she had loosened her grip on Gi-Gi, who slowly slipped out of her arms and walked to the door. They were yelling outside. Something about money and then something about 5 people and no deal and no trust. She was focusing so hard that she barely even realized that the level of the voices had risen until a shaft of light cut across the floor and she realized the door was open.

She was so busy lunging out of the door looking for Gi-Gi that she didn’t see the young green-eyed boy off to her right, or hear the swoosh of the bat unit it connected with her back. She went down hard and felt pain shoot through her legs. She could hear the boy say, “I got the little one and found her”.

He was standing with the bat in both his hands with his head directed towards the archway. He didn’t see her moving, but as the shadow beside him grew longer, he realized she was hovering over him. She unfolded to her full height of 5’9″ and dwarfed his
5- foot frame. He would have pissed his pants if he had the chance, but the blue eyed demon slammed her knee into his groin and head-butted him at the same time. He slumped into the darkness on the floor. She picked up the bat and walked to the archway, peered out into the living room, and stopped breathing.

Her father, (or what she assumed was her dad, given the form was missing most of its skull); lay in a pool of maroon that was serving as a pond for chunks of wood that had blown away from the door. Her mothers’ body was draped over his in an eternal pose of grief with a bloodied head resting over his chest. Gi-Gi had barely made it through the archway.

Besides the fact that his neck was at an awkward angle, Gi-Gi looked like he was sleeping. Blood was covering almost everything. There was one body that she didn’t recognize, who lay dead on the floor to the right of Gi-Gi. His remnants sprayed the back wall as she observed the bullet holes that littered his chest.

His killer stood in the middle of the room with the smoking gun still in his hands. The bullets had been spent-the chamber was open and empty. Armie stood toe to toe with Chuckles. The blonde had a gun raised to her brother’s head and his ears were blood red with rage. He was saying something through gnashed teeth, but she couldn’t hear a thing. The vision moved frame by frame as she watched the blonde man’s finger constrict around the trigger. She could make no sound as she watched the shards of skull and brain matter explode out of Armie’s head.

It started as a low moan and became a feral wailing that not only brought the young green-eyed boy at her feet out of his dark hole, but grabbed the attention of the three men left standing. Chuckles whipped his head in the direction of the sound, but he only saw a streak of black hair.

She stepped out of a perfect batters’ stance and swung the polished wood at one of the boys head. She heard a satisfying crack as he landed on the floor in heap. She raised the bat again and felt a something plow into her. It was a little curly headed boy that had been standing in the corner near her parents. He moved her, but found that she wasn’t as easy to take down as he had surmised.

She staggered forward, but remained on her feet. She made a stutter step, causing the boy to trip up and then with her free hand she grabbed his wrist and swung him around into the wall. She could feel the bones break in his wrist as she whipped him around. The scream that he emitted in response was quelled when he hit the wall. He drew his other hand to the bloody pulp that was his nose and stepped backwards away from the wall on wobbly legs. She started to laugh as a bullet whizzed by her head. She quickly grabbed the dazed boy by the shirt and threw him in front of her as three bullets ripped through his torso. She heard the click of the empty chamber and dropped the body.

She stood up from her semi-crouch, regripped the bat and charged the remaining guy: Chuckles. She never saw him pull out the revolver or even feel the bullet as it ripped through her side. Her long stride easily ate up the few feet that separated them, as she drove the bat into his gut. It sent him reeling back into the wall. He grabbed at a vase on the shelf and threw it at her. It shattered against her shoulder, but she kept walking towards him. He was starting to reach for something else as she slammed the bat down on his arm. He clutched his arm to his body as the bat crushed his kneecap, sending him to the floor. She swung the bat until her arms got tired and then she kicked at his limp body until her legs ached. Finally, she fell to her knees, oblivious of the pool of blood that was gathering around his body. She wanted to punch at his lifeless form some more, but his face was all ready indistinguishable and her body ached from the blood she was losing. She just sat there in a daze, swimming in blood , until she heard a whimper.

She turned ice blue eyes towards the remains of the front door, where the small green-eyed boy stood, with tears streaming down his face mixing with the blood from a gash on his forehead. He was caught in her line of sight. If nothing else stayed with him from this night, her eyes would. From this night hell was no longer burning with flames of orange and red. Now they burned blue. Her eyes seared him to his insides. He was so entrance that he barely heard her speak. The voice was so low, it was almost inhuman.

“Name.” His eyes just grew wide at the command. She bared her teeth and he stepped back. She breathed it again and his voice cracked at her request. He tried to straighten his back and stand tall. “Ewan.”, he cracked. She nodded and stood slowly. He soiled himself without hesitation and felt the acid creep into his throat. She was a bronze statue bathed in blood. Her smooth face was obscured by blood and matted black hair. Her shoulder peeked out from a shredded shirt as she pressed a hand to the wound on her side. She never took her gaze off the boy. “Ewan.” Her voice lingered somewhere between a purr and a growl. She bared her teeth like an animal at the boy. ” Get out. Of my house.” She turned her back on the boy and he watched her as she knealt beside the lifeless body of her little brother.

He stood there while she cradled the little body and rocked back and forth. He heard her breathe heavy and he thought she was going to break into tears, but what he heard was not exactly crying nor was it praying. It was a wailing much like what had awakened him earlier. It was a wailing that echoed the emptying of his soul, as he stared at the body of his own brother-who lay in an unrecognizable heap of flesh and clothing. It was a wailing that clung to the insides of his ears even as the scream of sirens filled the parking lot.

The wailing had become the soundtrack to his nightmares. It lulled him to sleep and awakened him in the night. He had cut out her face 15 years later and even tried to remove her eyes or at least dim the fire he saw within them, but the song never left him. It was the emptying of both their souls-and tonight he had heard it again.

Ewan McGreely found himself lying naked on his own bedroom floor, dripping with sweat. His covers had been ripped from the bed and he had sprung from it in order to avoid the deluge of blood that was threatening to drown him as he slept. He opened his eyes and stared out into the black of his room He shot out his hand as if to reach for his gun, but he knew no one was there. It was just him-reduced to a frightened 15 year old again, watching his brother die. But it wasn’t’ the image of his death that had awakened him with such a start, it was her. The woman who sang tonight. Her voice seemed so familiar to him. And while he had only taken a cursory look at her, her eyes did strike him. He shuddered in remembrance. But the eyes from tonight did not make his soul ache, they just made him think. The eyes he saw tonight seem filled, not void and lifeless, like he remembered. He ran a sweaty hand through damp hair and got up to shower. He decided not to talk to Conner about this, he had to be wrong, but he knew he would check anyway. There was no question in that, the only question rested in what he would do if it was her.
CH 7:
Friday began with a dull rumbling in Conner’s tummy. She groaned into the pillow as she forced her eyes open. She wasn’t awakened by the wall of bright sunlight that was emblazoned on her right wall, but from the rough tongue of the cat on her thigh.

“Remusss! Get off my thigh.” A gold and tan tabby cat ignored her groggy voice and kept on licking her thigh. She sat upright, jarring Remus a little bit, and then she scooped him up into her lap. “Hey boy, where’s your brother?” She scratched behind Remus’s ears as he purred into her chest. She searched her bed with her eyes, and then she spotted a fluffy tail floating around the perimeter of the bed. A moment later a fluffier version of Remus hopped on top of the bed and began prowling around Conner’s feet. “Hey Romulaus.” She smiled brightly at her cats and then sat Remus back down on the bed as she kicked out of the covers and touched her feet to the hardwood floor of her bedroom.

The cats were hot on her heels as she left the bedroom and walked to the kitchen downstairs. Conner owned a renovated three-story row house in Bolton Hill. It had taken her all of three years to find a home that had no connection to her family. She just wanted a home free and clear with all the taxes and no favors. So, after a three year search and $265,000 of her own money, Conner got her home. She padded barefoot across the cool clay tile of the kitchen floor to the pantry and retrieved a can of cat food for the two mongrels skulking around her legs. She sat out two bowls in the middle floor and went to the fridge to make her own lunch-after all it was 12:30 in the afternoon. Conner grabbed the milk carton, a glass, a the container of liquid strawberry Quick. As she squeezed the strawberry syrup into the milk, she laughed at the memory of the powdered Quick and the mess she her brothers would make in the kitchen , when they attempted to make their own breakfast.

Conner stared into the swirling twister of pink and white and lost herself in memories, until the phone brought her back to the present. She released the spoon with a clank and picked up the cordless phone.

“Hello, you’ve reached Dr. Hugh Jass, this is Dr. HughJass speaking how kin I help you.” She spoke with a light southern accent into the phone.

“Yes, um, Dr. maybe you can help me,” – pause- “I’ve got this growth on my, well, it’s own my ass-can you help me please.” The voice was high pitched and whiny. Conner immediately recognized Terry’s whimper and giggled into the phone.”

“What’s up sugarpop?”

“You are blondie.”

“Me?” Conner scrunched her brow and then caught the meaning. “Oh. HaHa.”

“Yeah, heard ya made quite a spectacle of yourself last night. Ya’ lush.”

“Shut up.”

“So, did tall, dark, and nice breasts see your show?”

“Nice breasts? Uh, well, sort of. She was most of the reason for the spectacle.”

“Jesus! Conner!” Conner could hear Terry slap her hand to her forehead. “What the hell are you doing? Have you no dating skills?”

“Well dear, after that little fiasco with you junior year, I decided not to press my luck.”

Terry let out a little laugh. “Hey, how was I supposed to know she was clinically insane and was two days away from being committed.” Conner wanted something smart to say, but she could only burst into laughter along with Terry, as scenes from the ill-fated date played in her mind. “We probably shouldn’t have taken her on the merry-go-round.” Terry added.

“Yeah, who knew she would relive her life as “Seattle Slew”. Conner held the phone away from her ear as both girls erupted into laughter.

“Oh man that was classic. Ha. But really, what are you up to girlie?”

Conner wiped tears from the corner of her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. ” I don’t know chica, actually I take that back. I’ve got an idea and I may need your services.”

“You just said you didn’t want my help.”

“Exactly, I don’t want help, but your services yes.”

“A little after hours fun, heh.”

Conner could imagine Terry’s wicked grin. “Down girl, no I need a check on my finances.”

“Am I mistaken in the thought that you are an accountant. I’m just the para leagal.”

“Yes, jackass, I know how much money I have, but I need to know what I need to do if I wanted to buy a business.”

“A what!?”

“A business goof. You know where business takes place.”

“Oh good Lord. Where?”

“On Eager.” She spoke quickly to avoid hesitating.

“On Eager, huh?” Terry smiled into the phone.

Conner hesitated before answering. “Yup.” She could hear Terry tapping away at a keyboard, while she drained the last of her strawberry milk.

“Why don’t you just ask Ewan, he can take care of it.”

Conner made the empty glass jump as she slapped her palm down on the counter. “Terry, I don’t want to got through Ewan, damn it. Haven’t we had this discussion.”

“Hold on ya’ wee fairy.” Terry used her best Scottish accent to alleviate the tension. “I know you don’t, but he owns the damn block.

“What?”

“Yeah, shouldn’t you know that? Anyway, he owns the zoning rights and plots all in the 2400 area.” Conner was silent. “Con?”

“How do you know where I’m buying?”

She could hear Terry let out a breath of air and could almost see her rolling her eyes. “Because you midget, I’ve known you since pre-school, lived around the corner from you all my life, been there for every misadventure, and besides that you are transparent as hell.” Terry breathed and smiled smugly into the phone.

Conner was too busy being embarrassed to take notice of Terry’s short joke. “I know, I know. I’m an asshole and I don’t deserve you as a bestfriend.” Conner spoke quietly like a chastised child. Terry gave her a snort of approval and laughed.

“So, look ask bighead if he’ll give over the tags and title and all that jazz, and I’ll fix it up.”

“I want it legally, Terry.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, you wascally wabbit.”

Conner laughed at the endearment. “Thanks, Elmer. See ya tonight?”

“Yes, yes, since I’ll be going back with you to check out the joint and the merchandise.”

Conner laughed. “Well, not quite, but yes, I’ll give you up close and personal.”

“Oh, Dah-ling, I’m sooo waiting.” They shared a quick laugh. “I’ll call you later babe.”

“See ya.”

Conner pushed the off button and looked down for the cats. The bowls were empty and only Remus remained in the kitchen, next to her chair. She could hear Romulaus running through the living room chasing a ball or something. She hopped down off the chair and scooped up Remus as she walked into the living room. She stroked Remus’s hair softly as she smooshed into the cushion of a chinse couch and stared absently at black and white photos arranged on the wall. “Boys, mama’s got a plan and nothing to wear.” She dropped Remus gently on the floor and watched the two siblings chase a ball of foil, until her thoughts turned to the evening ahead.
CH VIII:
8:00p.m. rolled around slowly for Conner, who spent 2 hours in Towson shopping, another two doing Ewan’s bills, an hour for her own work, and the last 2 hours convincing Ewan to give her the deed, legally.

“You wanna buy it? I all ready own it.” Ewan sat in the high wing-backed chair and watched as Conner paced the floor of his office. “I mean I all ready own it, so you can run it if you want. I’m sure Tony would be a good sport about it.” He shrugged his shoulders and sat back. “You can take care of it for a couple of weeks, I’ll jack the price, check insurance, and take it down.”

Conner almost spit out her soda as she watched Ewan fish in his pocket for a cigarette. She shook her head forcefully, shaking loose a few chunks of strawberry-blonde hair that weren’t trapped by styling gel. “Nononono. I want it. To have and to hold, for real not a scam.” Conner’s hopefully green eyes met with two wide green eyes, dilated in surprise.

“What? What for? Are you broke or something?”

“Ewan!”

“What?”

Conner gave a half smile. “No, I just want it.”

“Yeah, like you wanted the house, like you wanted the car, like you got a job.” He ran pale hands over his face making him look forty years old rather than thirty, as he slumped back into the chair and sighed. She remained quiet as she waited for him to ask what she knew he would ask her. “Are you leaving Conner?” He was quiet and child-like.

For the first time in three years Conner hesitated when answering the question. She had a solid answer when she bought the house three years ago, but now her answer was shaky at best. She started to shrug her shoulders, but thought better of it. “Ewan, I-I uh. I don’t know, I guess I just want a chance.” She walked to the window of his office, her back to Ewan, and stared out of the baywindow that overlooked a man-made pond in the middle of lush green grass and trees. She could see the orange and black Koi darting through the water of the pond. Ewan sat forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together as he watched her.

“Ewan, you know this has never been my life. Maybe you were right all along-I was adopted.” She could feel a smile spread across Ewan’s face as she stared into the backyard.

“Rabbit, we couldn’t have sold you even if we tried.” He looked at the floor. “And even the time we did try, we realized we had to keep you.”

Her shoulders shook with laughter as she turned around and sat on the large window sill. “Ewan, you are my family, my blood-I will never leave you. I may not talk to you for weeks or I might set your Kiss album collection on fire if you piss me off.” They shared a smile as he shifted uncomfortably at the memory. She plastered a small smile on her face and said, “After all, you did kill my rabbit.” She held up her hand silencing him. “I know-accident, but I got pissed and I eventually forgave you. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you or haven’t done for you, but I want this for myself. Not for family, not even for my safety, just something that’s all mine no strings attached, no side deals no nothing-free and clear.” Conner held onto the last words the longest and stared into Ewan’s eyes.

Ewan knew there was nothing he could say. Sure she had gotten the house and the car on her own, but with free oil changes, discounted maintenance, and co-payments Conner wasn’t on her own anymore than a baby on an umbilical cord. She was just out of arms reach. He stood up and met Conner in the middle of the office. “How can I deny an entreaty such as that.” He smiled and they embraced tightly. “Allright, Conner, take it, and do with it what you must. But if you change your mind-” He stopped talking as he snapped open the top of his Zippo and lit the flame at the same time. He bared a set of even white teeth in a playful grin.
Conner punched him on the arm as she half-walked and half-skipped out of Ewan’s office. Ewan waited a few moments and walked out of his office as he lit a cigarette and walked into the den. He stood in front of the open French doors and walked out to the balcony. He looked over and watched as Conner hopped into her car without opening the door and sped off as the engine swallowed up Jimmy Page. Ewan laughed as he took a deep drag from his cigarette and spoke to outloud to no one in particular, “the little imp stole my tape”.

* * *

It was fifteen minutes past 8:00p.m and Terry was late as always, especially for somebody who lived on the nextblock. Conner had changed clothes three times and finally decided on the new low waisted black DKNY slacks and a pale pink button down shirt with pearl buttons and a wide collar. Her hair was the perfection of a mess; as if she just woke up and touseled her bed-matted hair. Conner, smoother a fingertip full of sparkiling lip gloss across pink lips and blotted. Her jewlery jingled as she shook off excess water from her hands. She ran downstaris to wait in the livingroom for Terry. Ten minutes later, Terry stood on the steps and waved frantically into the window. Conner smiled and walked out the front door.

“Hey hot mama.” They exchanged kisses.

“Are we going to the prom or what.” Connor laughed as she looked down at her own outfit and then to Terry’s. She was dressed in a short black print dress that was barely held up by the two slivers of material for straps. She held onto a sliver clutch bag that highlighted the shadows in the dress. Connor smiled and held out her arm for Terry and said, “Well Dad, did leave me the car.” She wiggled her eyebrows as both girls giggled and walked to the car. They secured the top on the car, since lately the Baltimore weather had been unpredictable this close to summer, not to mention, Terry didn’t want her hair to fly out of place before they got the place. Terry took over the radio and popped in an Erykah Badu cd.

“So, where we headin’ stud muffin?”

“To D.C.”

Terry’s eyes grew wide in anticipation. “Ooh, fun, fun silly willy.” Conner laughed as they pulled off. “Where the hell is Sara?”

“Off playing domestic goddess with Willhem.”

“Oh good God, hasn’t anyone explained to them the dangers of breeding.” Conner slapped Terry’s stocking-sheathed leg playfully and shook her head as she got on the exit ramp to 95 south. Terry just smiled and bobbed her head to the voice pouring out of the speakers.
CH 9:
After 25 minutes of driving and five more minutes of finding parking on Connecticut Avenue, Conner and Terry stepped into the doorway of Café Aroma. This place was two times smaller than Tony’s club on Eager, but it was definitely not a hole in the wall; at least not on this side of Connecticut Avenue. It was definitely a Martini Bar, which was highlighted by the bar that was outlined with Martini glasses. It made its home among the restored Uptown movie theatre, and shops and bistros that catered to those who didn’t mind dropping $7 for a beer or $3 for a cup of coffee. The ‘Aroma Company’ sang out to the aging college student who considered themselves slightly cultured, along with cigar aficionados, people who regularly paid $4 for cigarettes, and those who didn’t know that Vodka came in plastic bottles.

As they walked in the door, they were greeted by a thin girl on a stool who was taking $3 for the cover. Conner handed over the $6 and smiled as she looked to her right and noticed the band was on break. She did a quick scan of the aisle in front of her, and thanked God this place was small. Conner saw no one with blue-black tresses and she relaxed her shoulders which she didn’t know she had tensed. Terry noticed Conner’s search and leaned in to Conner as they walked up to the bar and sat down.

“She here?”

“Somewhere, whatever.” Conner shrugged as she took another look towards the blue glow of the lounge and then faced Terry. “Uh, do you wanna go back in the lounge or stay here?” The lounge happened to be providing the sounds of acid-jazz as the band took it’s break. Terry peered down the length of the bar and looked into the lounge as far as her eyes and low lighting would all her to see.

“Looks groovy, but we can chill here.” She turned back towards the bar and did a quick drum roll with her palms on the counter. “Time to buy me a Martini, and ooh, a pack of Dunhills.” Terry clapped her hands together as her eyes fell on the red package of cigarettes behind the bar facing them. “I love this place, Con.”

A mocha colored black girl laid down napkins in front of them from behind the bar and asked them what they wanted to drink. Terry just shrugged. Conner caught her attention with a smile and spoke. “Hi, um let me get a Cosmopolitan and this young lady-a Chocolate Martini.” Terry’s eyes grew wide in amusement and apprehension as Conner placed the order. She grabbed Conner’s arm when the girl walked away.

“Chocolate Martini?

“Ha, you’re gonna love it.” Conner smiled wildly.

“What’s in it?”

“Just wait.”

“Conner, you little shit, what’s in it?”

“Stop whining, it’s good,”

Terry continued whining and Conner continued to refuse her as Blue walked out of the back room towards the front. Conner was facing the door so she had no clue. Terry did her best not to let her eyes grow wide when she saw the 6foot bronze-hued woman saunter down the aisle, wearing a long black skirt with slits up both sides and a cashmere short-sleeved v-neck that clung to her body. Long blue-black hair danced across her shoulders as she glided to the front. Blue actually made it past Conner, before Terry gave in.

“By Hera’s tits! I do declare that is one tall drink of water.”

Conner’s eyes danced with excitement as she sat up straight as a rod on the stool. She was afraid to turn around, so she held onto Terry’s knees. “Did she see me?”

“I don’t know, but she saw me.”

“Huh?” Conner looked up to see Terry swivel her body so she could get a better view of the front without breaking her neck.

“Yeah, she just waved to me.”

“Bull shit.” But sure enough, Terry was waggling her fingers in a sign of hello towards the front. Conner bit her lip and scrunched her brown, as Terry turned her body back towards Conner-she was beaming. “Are you blushing?”

Terry met Conner’s eyes with a glare. “Shut up fool. I am trying to enjoy the show.” She rolled her eyes and turned around fully towards the front. Conner sat up straight from the unconscious slouch that she was in and realized that she had been so paranoid she didn’t even hear the smooth plucks of the guitar. Just as Conner focused her attention on the front Blue closed her eyes and began to sing. Had Conner been a second quicker, she may have noticed the glint of surprise and mischief that passed over Blues’ eyes.

* * *

It had been her plan to be polite. It was just supposed to be a ‘thanks-for-listening-I-don’t-want-to-get-to know-you-who-ever-you-are-leave-me-and-my-hormones-be’, but polite none the less. Instead, a casual thank you turned into a cold shoulder, that melted into a small game of cat and mouse.

Terry did all she could do besides scream her head off to keep from choking on the wall of sexual tension that swam about her as she stood between Conner and Blue. Terry and Conner had chatted together as they watched the band breakdown, and according to Conner, Terry was smiling too much and bound to attract attention. Sure enough, five minutes later, Blue walked up and stood next to Terry. Blue looked directly at Terry as she spoke.

“You look awfully familiar.”

“I-uh, we, came to see you sing at Tony’s place on Eager a few days ago.”

Blue nodded her head slowly and deliberately ignored Terry’s bait about “we”. “Oh yes, the “holy shit” girl.” She smiled without showing her teeth and reached for one of Terry’s cigarettes. “May I?”

“Of course,” Terry replied as she flipped up the top on the carton.

Before Blue could even put the cigarette to her lips a flame hovered in front of Terry’s face. Its owner leaned across Terry’s body and held out a Zippo lighter that had a classic playboy pinup on the front. Blue touched the small hand with two fingers to steady the flame, as she leaned into light her cigarette. Blue and Conner both willed themselves to stare only into the flame and each others eyes. Blue was surprised that the cigarette didn’t explode in her mouth as she felt a sure-fire jolt of electricity run through her body in response to the brief touch. Conner snapped the top down on the Zippo with a flourish and used the sharp sound of metal on metal to clear her head. She wasn’t sure how long she was going to be able to stay in one spot and avoid this woman’s eyes before she went absolutely insane.

At some point Blue’s plan of politeness went astray. Perhaps, it was where she was standing, perhaps it was the touch, but somewhere in between the time Blue stood next to Terry to the moment she opened her mouth and asked, “so, where’s your boyfriend?”; everything went to hell. Terry sat up straight on the stool that she had reclaimed and practically choked on the smoke she was inhaling. She whipped her head around to face Conner, who was doing her best to keep her jaw from hitting the floor.

Terry watched Conner nibble at her lip and she knew the girl was boiling on the inside. Terry knew that Conner didn’t like to be talked down to, and here was this Blue eyed amazon doing her best to step on Conner. Terry was waiting for the inevitable outburst. She was accustomed to Conner’s reactions, since she had been there for all of Conner’s blow ups. Terry was there when Conner’s rabbit had mysteriously fallen five stories out of the window. She was there when the kiss albums were incinerated. She was present when Conner caught her ex-girlfriend cheating on her, and there when every piece of Sylvia’s clothing found its way into the lawn and was then met by a lawnmower. She was playing lookout when Conner slashed the tires on Sara’s ex’s car. She had been there for all the plans and revenge schemes. She knew the looks, the fury, and when to run screaming into the hills. Terry watched green eyes grow bright and ears redden around the edges. Terry kissed her lips to her cigarette and awaited the onslaught.

She almost burnt herself with the cigarette when her friend of 20 years plus, formed the sweetest sparkling lip gloss enhanced smile, and clearly stated with slow sultry precision: “Well, wouldn’t you like to know.”

If someone had dropped a 10 megaton bomb on the White House, the blast would have shattered every window in a 20 mile radius, opened up the earth and swallowed D.C. whole-and Terry wouldn’t have noticed. The silence lasted a good thirty seconds. A long thirty seconds. It was a thirty seconds where only the bass pumping from the music in the lounge reminded them all to breathe. Blue was amused and surprised. Conner felt vindicated. And Terry was just confused. She couldn’t tell if Conner was aroused or scared and she absolutely refused to look at the tall woman with the smoldering eyes. Finally, when the ash on Terry’s cigarette became unbearably long, she let out a peep, and drop the cigarette into the ashtray.

Thank god for Terry’s peep or Conner never would have blinked. She and Blue were engaged in a stare down of sorts, where the winner was the one who managed to keep their feelings in check. It was a dead tie. After Conner broke eye contact, Sam bellowed to Blue from the back. She turned to wave at him and as she turned around, she only got a glimpse of a strategically disarrayed strawberry blonde head walking out of the door.

‘I’m not going to say it,’ she thought as she gestured to the bartender for a drink. Blue felt Sam’s hand on her shoulder as she picked up her Bourbon neat and drained half the glass. Sam’s brown face was all aglow with wonder and his deep brown eyes sparkled with playfulness. She didn’t even look at him as she spoke. “Shut up Sam.” He knew better than to rib her now, so he just sat down beside her ordered a Heineken and smiled as if the 64 million door jackpot was an hour away and he had all the winning tickets.
CH 10:
A red and white streak flew down I-695 heading north to Baltimore. The top was down and Erykah Badu and been overthrown for Ani Difranco. Terry decided it was best to just sing along with the lyrics as Conner was, because this is what Conner did. This was Terry’s Conner. Fuming on the inside, waiting to explode at some delayed point of bursting. This was Conner; not the chick who was sitting at the bar searching for a tantalizing quip. Her Conner did not tease when she felt threatened. Hell, Conner didn’t tease. She just did it. It took her all of college to learn how to ask permission and realize that people actually do like being courted and pursued-and not juggernautted by a green-eyed imp, who would tell a girl she once held a note on a bag pipe for 25 minutes, and then proceed to demonstrate in one form or another.

The Conner that sat at the bar was shy and nervous and desperately trying to impress woman who either didn’t know who she was or knew all to well. They pulled up in front of Conner’s house 22 minutes later, it was only 2:30 in the morning. Conner cut the engine and Ani’s freestyle. She rested her hands limply on the steering wheel and pushed back into the seat.

“So drinks or Ewan’s?”

Terry was busy re-adjusting her bun as she turned towards Conner. “Well, I want to talk to you about tonight, and I don’t think I can do that with your little groupies asking you to explain your damn tattoo, asking you if you have more, and telling you that they’ve got one’s in secret places. No, no, no.” Terry let out a breath.

Conner dropped her hands from the steering wheel and laughed. “Come on ya’ lush, let’s go get drunk and cook up a plan.” Conner clapped her hands together as she opened the door and stepped out.

Terry squealed with delight as she ran barefoot up the steps and met Conner at the door. “Ooh, goody we haven’t had a plan in months” Conner shot the caramel colored woman a sideways glance as she unlocked the door and stepped into the house.

They walked through the foyer, past the kitchen, and up the stairs to Conner’s room. It took up most of the floor space not including the bathroom. The only other room on the third floor was the parlor, which served as entertainment central; with the 50-inch screen t.v., stereo surround system, playstation, pinball machine, and a fully stocked bar. Terry dropped her shoes on Conner’s floor and sat down on the bed to take off her stockings. Conner walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around wet hair.

“What do you mean we haven’t had a plan for months, what about Penis brigade?” Conner’s face carried no smile. Terry just looked at her and laughed. “What?” she asked as she slipped off her shoes and socks and let the towel drape around her neck.

“You’re always so serious when you say that. Besides, penis brigade doesn’t count. It’s an old plan that just gets reused with new victims. Hey throw me some shorts.”

Conner took of her own shirt and tossed it on the bed as she rummaged for a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. “So what if it’s reused, that still takes massive planning, especially when we decide where to put the penises. It took three whole days of observation to get that chick Julie.”

Terry giggled as she stepped into the shorts and pushed up her dress over her hips. “Ahh, good old Julie, she still hasn’t found the one on the calendar. Terry laughed again and stood up as she put on a t-shirt. “I can’t wait for that one. Nice bra by the way.” She snapped the strap as she walked past Conner out of the room and into the parlor. Conner let out a ‘yipe’.

“See, Terry, it’s just a plan that keeps on giving. Not too mention the money we spend on research.”

“Research-Ha!”

Conner could hear Terry dropping ice cubes into glasses. “Hey man, you just can’t pick up any porno mag and expect to find the right penis to cut out. It must be perfectly shaped, awkward angles are nice, lots of different colors. You know, like a potpourri of pee-pees.”

Terry stood at the bar and laughed as she watched Conner stand in the archway and pantomime holding a bouquet of penises. “Well aren’t you just the Martha Stewart of penises.”

“Hey chick, you’d be surprised what you can do with a blow torch, some glitter, and a months supply of Playgirls.”

The girls burst into laughter as Terry handed out two perfect Long Island Ice Teas. Terry smooshed into one of the bean bags on the floor, and squished the bag around until it allowed her to recline back and still drink safely. She faced Conner who was sitting crossed legged on one corner of the couch. Terry looked up at Conner after she took a sip and said, “so, tell me this plan.” Conner smiled at Terry’s enthusiasm as she turned on the cd player and settled herself before speaking.

* * *

Terry hated the plan. She thought it was too much of an investment, not to mention extremely uncharacteristic for Conner. All though, she did applaud Conner on her want to sweep the singer off her feet. Of course, it was at that point that Terry took the opportunity to highlight that it was indeed a lot of feet for Conner to sweep and well, she might get stepped on. This comment led to a small pillow fight which eventually led to a drunken session of playing “Area 51”. They abandon it after 10 minutes once it was decided that it was extremely hard to shoot straight at an alien, when you’re not sure which end of the gun to use.

Regardless of the fact that Terry wasn’t too partial to Conner’s ‘sit and wait, bait and hook’ game, she spent Monday morning working like a madwoman to get Conner the papers legally and quickly. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when Conner picked up the phone in her office.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Jakov’s office, he’ll be coming your way any moment, Thank you.” Conner’s voice was nasal and high pitched.

Terry laughed into the receiver. “Hey, butt-munch, got some news.”

“All right, what’s the word.” Conner wiggled her pen between her fingers quickly as she waited.

“Well there are some papers you need to sign and it will probably take to the end of the week, but for all intense purposes you are the proud owner of lot #725, at 2352 Eager Street; formerly known as Tony’s. Speaking of, hightail your ass down there, because he wants to talk to you.”

“Fan-fucking-tastic! Thank you, sweetie.” Conner beamed. “Look, I’m gonna go now, uh, I’ll call you tonight.”

“Good, I’ll be at Sara’s for a while.”

* * *

By the time 5:30 rolled around, Conner was heading back to her home with a million dollar smile on her face. She had met Big Tony and Little Tony, two cocktail servers, and two bartenders including Greg. There were no major staff changes being made and the only structural changes were some small office renovations. Big Tony did hold a look of surprise when Conner said she would be changing the liquor distributors and the sound techs. They walked outside together alone and headed to Conner’s car. Tony felt some apprehension since he realized that changing distributors and techs meant cutting out Ewan, all though he did recognize Conner’s authority.

“I just want it to be legit Tony, that’s all.” Conner leaned against her car and crossed her arms across her chest. and cracked a small smile at Tony.

Tony was a stocky man, with a large belly, salt and pepper hair, and gray eyes. He reciprocated her smile. “Well Ms. Mc-”

“Call me Conner, please.”

“Well, Conner, if that’s what you want, then I won’t argue, but just so you know, Mr. McGreely doesn’t cause any problems.”

Conner grinned at his concern. “Oh, I know, I know. I mean hey-it doesn’t hurt to have a few legitament profits.” She smiled almost uneasily.

Tony chewed the inside of his cheek before he spoke. “There’s not a problem is there?” I mean, it’s none of my business, I-”

She cut him off with a vigorous shake of her head and gave him a smile. She touched the large man’s shoulder as she opened the car door. “No, there’s no problems, it’s my venture.”

Tony gave her a toothy grin as he closed Conner’s car door after she was inside. “Okay Conner. She’s all yours and maybe now I can get some freakin’ vacation time.” He chuckled in an off-hand manner as they shook hands.

“Thanks a lot Tony, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” He gave her a salute as he turned and walked back inside.

* * *

Conner returned to the club around 9:00p.m. just as Blue’s first set was beginning. She found her stool at the end of the bar on the corner and got a wide smile from Greg.

“Evenin’ Conner, what can I get you?”

“Let me try that Merlot.” Greg tried to hide his surprise, but his wide eyes gave him away. “It’s early ‘as all, not time for rings of fire.” They shared a laughed as he poured Conner a glass of wine and sat it down in front of her.

The happy hour bunch had all ready left, so the crowd had gone down to about 25 people, and was mostly composed of college kids and professors. Conner signaled to Greg, after looking over the crowd, and he moved back to her side of the bar.

“What’s up?”

“Hey, what does she drink.” She nodded to Blue who was straddling the piano seat and banging away at the keys.

Greg looked up to the ceiling in thought and then focused again on Conner. “She drinks Bourbon, mostly neat. Anything else and she’ll ask for it.”

Conner smiled. “Well get her whatever she usually drinks and have Tiffany take it up there when they do solos or whatever she normally does.” He nodded and reached for a glass.

“Do I tell her who it’s from?”

Conner was impressed with Greg’s concern for her discretion. “By all means, Greg.” She flashed him a bright smile and he winked at her as he fixed a Bourbon neat and put it on a cork tray on the other side of the bar.

The second thing Conner had done after finding out who the liquor distributor and tech guys were, she found out Blue’s schedule. The band played there Monday through Thursday, and one Friday a month. It appeared that her weekends were free, which gave Connor the chance to fantasize about Blue having more time for her. She kicked herself mentally for her stray thoughts, and shook her head as if to rid her brain of lewd images. Conner just took a sip of her drink and tapped her foot to the music.

It took about five minutes for Tiffany to drop off the drink, and when she did Blue looked at it quizzically, as she raised an eyebrow and then allowed a half-smile to spread across her face. She made an obvious show of looking around for her benefactor as Benny worked a bass solo, but she was quite aware of where the drink had come from. She and Sam had spotted the petite blonde as soon as they walked out onto the stage. Sam smiled hard at Blue and she growled at him. He did his best to look dumbfounded when the drink arrived, but Blue knew he was itching to smile. Surprisingly, more so to herself than Sam, she raised her glass in Conner’s direction and then jumped back into the song. Conner mentally gave herself a point as the set continued.

The week continued in stride. Conner would show up right before nine, sit in her corner seat, and proceed to buy Blue drinks all night. Blue would raise her glass and nod in her direction and that was it. She cut her eyes at Conner once on Wednesday night during “Angel Eyes”, but that had been their only contact. At the end of the night Blue always darted out of the back with Sam and Conner knew better to wait any longer than she had to. By Friday papers had been transferred, distributors changed, sound and lighting fixed, and the office and dressing rooms were to be taken care of over the weekend. This Friday was the one day they stayed here and Conner had a surprise in store for the dark singer.

On Thursday, she had dragged Terry and Sara to every music store in a 100mile radius, looking for the perfect piano. Four hours into the search, they ended up back at the 2nd place they had been and decided on one. Conner showed up at the club around 12 in the afternoon, half-dazed from actually being out of bed at a time that she considered early. She wore a baseball cap that practically covered her eyes, since the bill had been pulled down low. Her jeans were ripped at the knees and the back pockets and her t-shirt was an old hand-me down stating that ‘Scotsman do it better’. She helped Greg and Remy stock the bar as she waited on the piano people. They showed up at 1o’clock to remove the brown Steinway that sat atop the stage. A half n’ hour later, a beautiful black lacquered BØ sendorfer baby grand sat on the stage glistening. Conner knew Blue would show up around 8:00, so Conner made plans to be there as well- hidden of course.

When Conner stood at the right angle in the hallway that led to the office and dressing room, she could see the edge of the stage where the piano sat and remain hidden in the shadows. She almost didn’t recognize Blue when she walked through the front doors. She wore her hair in a ponytail with light bangs brushing at her forehead. Thick-soled biker boots adorned her feet, which accented her blue jeans, and a simple white v-neck t-shirt that fit snugly on her biceps. Conner had to hold her breath to keep from saying wow. Sure, Blue looked like a smoldering Diva when she was up on stage in silk shirts, tailored slacks, and long skirts. But damn, if she didn’t look like every mother’s worst nightmare and every Catholic school girl’s dream rolled into one. Conner felt a shiver run through her body as she watched Blue straddle the seat and run her hands over polished ebony and ivory. The shiver ran up her back passed through her chest and settled somewhere in her groin. If Conner’s underwear wasn’t ruined, then it was certainly being put to the test as Blue leaned into the keys and quietly sang, “You don’t know what love is”.

Conner listened until she was about to sink to the floor in grief. ‘No wonder her name is Blue.’ Conner was moved, aroused, nervous, and intrigued all in the same breath. She crept quietly down the back hallway and walked straight out of the exit door. The Baltimore sky glowed red as the sun gave off its last rays and began to dissolve into the night. Conner felt herself appreciating the feel of a cool breeze that blew through the alleyway, and well as the lessening humidity. She closed her eyes as she leaned on the back door and let out a hug breath that she had been holding. “Ugh, I need a drink.” She spoke outloud as she began to walk around to the front of the building.

Blue brought her voice down to a whisper and then she stopped playing and singing all together when she heard the quiet click of the back door closing. There were only two people at the bar and a few people interspersed amongst the tables. The set didn’t start until 10 o’clock, so the bar wouldn’t fill in for at least another hour, so she knew she had plenty of time to calm herself. She brushed her hands over the keys as she looked directly at the entrance to the hallway. Had Conner have still been there she would have seen her, but Blue knew she had all ready gone. She started to say, ‘what the hell am I doing’, but Sam’s deep laugh brought her out of her trance.

“Big Blue!” She turned in his direction and smiled.

“She’s a woman, not an Ox, Sam.” Max piped up as he carried his symbols slung over his shoulder.

“No wait, I thought I was an Ox.” Blue countered as she stood up from the piano. The three shared a laugh at their inside joke and began setting up. Benny came in a few minutes later along with Elias, who was playing the guitar with them tonight.

“Eli!” Blue chirped. They shared a hug and a quick kiss.

“Hey girl, what’s going on? Wow, nice piano.” She smiled

“Nice, that thing is brand spanking new.” Sam walked up to the piano and ran his hand across the smooth surface of the baby grand. “Nice, very nice. I wonder what the occasion is?” His voice raised an octave as it oozed with innuendo. Blue slapped the man hard on the shoulder as she went to the retrieve the mic stand. “What!?” Sam chuckled to himself, as he pulled out his own stand and plugged in to mic.

* * *

The night moved along routinely as they worked there way through the first set. Blue accepted the first drink with a nod, and even went so far as to smile when she received her second, which was accompanied by an Alabama Slamma’. Blue waved Tiffany over during Elias solo and told her to get Greg to fix Conner a flamer. Tiffany just smiled and relayed the message to Greg. Blue smiled smugly to herself-she was feeling frisky-perhaps the alcohol was working. When the drink arrived to Conner with a halo of fire around it, she almost jumped out of her seat. But when Greg said it was at Blue’s behest, she smiled a tooth-filled grin. She raised the flaming glass towards Blue, blew out the flame, and chugged the drink. Conner knew the night was about to get really interesting.

As the first song of the second set sprang to life, it abruptly stopped as Blue gripped the mic and raised an eyebrow at the crowd. She held a finger to red lips and said, “shh.” The audience obliged, enjoying the game. She pointed to her new glass atop the stool and spoke.

“You see this,” The crowd nodded. “, well I’ve had a drink fairy all night and I feel really bad that I don’t get to share it with all of you.” She purred into the mic. “So,” She hung onto the word as the she ran her tongue across her top lip slowly, eliciting a few cat calls from the audience. “I think my drink fairy should share.”

The crowd, which had grown considerably over the last hour, erupted into applause. Conner put her Martini down and managed to keep a straight face as she focused on the woman on stage.

“Hey Greg, tell her to stand up or something.”

Greg looked at Conner, who sat calmly in her seat with both hands cradling the glass. She cut her eyes at him and he smiled nervously.

“Turn on a light or something.” Blue prodded, with a voice filled with challenge.

Conner mentally accepted and nodded towards Greg. He flipped on one of the overhead lights over the bar. Conner’s little corner was bathed in a pale yellow light, that reflected nicely off of the shell colored oxford she wore.

Blue smirked. “There she is. Let’s give her a hand for keeping me sati-ated.” She purred out the words.

The crowd burst into snickers and applause. Conner could feel her ears growing red as she raised her Martini to the crowd. Blue kept a straight face as she spoke.

“So how ’bout it fairy, wanna buy some drinks for my friends?” She waved her hand over the crowd as Max accompanied her with a rim shot.

Conner waited till the mumbling died down before answering. “How about I do you one better?”

“You could try.” Her voice dropped an octave and Conner took a sip of her drink to ward off a tremor.

“Drinks on the house, and I’ll pay everyone’s tab-including yours.” The crowd burst into hoots and hollers, and she even got a thumbs up from Sam.

Blue arched a smooth eyebrow impossibly high, as she placed both hands on her hips. She wore a violet colored silk v-neck, that looked like it was painted onto her body, that swooped down to meet a long black skirt with a revealing slit up the left side. She brushed a lock of hair off of her shoulder and made a half-smile. She asked for quiet again, since Conner looked like she wanted to say something else. “And,”, she prodded.

“On one condition,” the audience became still, “, you sing a request.” Blue opened her mouth to say ‘sure’, but Conner spoke over her. “My request.” The two women locked eyes as the crowd oohed and ahhed. Conner watched as Sam whispered something in Blue’s ear that made the woman pout slightly. “Fine.” She breathed. The crowd applauded. “What would you like?”

‘Good God, that’s a loaded question.’ Conner downed her drink in one gulp and smiled. “How about, I’m a little teapot.” Blue’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Just joking.” The crowd giggled. “Really, I want to hear ‘I put a spell on you.”

Blue cocked her head a bit. ‘Sounds easy enough.’ she thought. “The CCR version or Screamin’ Jay?”

Conner sat upright and sucked her teeth. “Well, I was going to make it easy on you and say Nina Simone, but since you question my musical knowledge-Screamin’ Jay, all the way. Piano and everything.” Conner licked her lips and settled a small grin on her face. She was eating the game up.

Blue wanted to kick herself in the head, but she merely threw up her hands in defeat. She stepped away from the mic, slipped out of high heels, which dropped her back down to 6 feet, drained her drink and sat on the piano bench.
CH 11:
To say Conner was impressed was understatement. Blue took to the piano and after 10 minutes, she left the band and everybody in the room exhausted. The ovation lasted a full minute, and once the crowd had quieted again, she stood from the piano and said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I think I earned my drink.” The audience broke into whistles, catcalls, and more applause as Blue stepped off the stage. Sam waited until she had stepped off the stage to start the count. The remaining members ripped into Miles Davis’s “So What.” and Blue knew she had a good 8 minutes of rest coming her way.

She sauntered barefoot down the length of the bar, making the most of her travel by stopping to talk to patrons and sharing quick smiles and laughs. There was a space next to Conner that was large enough to stand in, but once the guy next to Conner saw her walking towards the side, he gave up his stool with a smile. She gave him a breathless “thank you” as she slid onto the stool next to Conner and closed the gap between them. She caught Greg’s eye and gestured for a drink. He smiled at her and yelled from the other side of the bar, “water?” She nodded her head and yelled back, “And Bourbon-not together.” He laughed and set about his task. She waited a full heartbeat before speaking. She could see Conner out of the corner of her eye. Conner was resting her back against the wall as her right hand held onto a Martini glass and the other hand rested on her knee. Blue kept her eyes forward as she waited on her drink and spoke.

“So, was it worth the tab?” She spoke low, but loud enough that Conner could hear her. Conner tried not to focus on her lips as she spoke, but they twinkled with little drops of perspiration that Conner found irresistible. “Am I to equate silence with disapproval or just being unsatisfied?” She spoke as if it were a throw away line.

Conner pushed off from the wall and turned to face the bar. “Disapproval-never.” She sipped from her glass. “Satisfied-rarely.”

Blue took a deep drink of her water as the blonde’s voice tingled in her ears. “Slave driver, I take it.”

“On the contrary, I aim to please.”

“Ooh, so you like working in the trenches?”

“Sometimes the best work is done when you get both your hands and knees dirty.”

Blue sucked an ice cube out of her water and then took a swig of her Bourbon. The sensation of the cold infused with the hot made her hairs stand on end. She thought to herself, ‘what the fuck am I doing. This is too bizarre for words.’ Conner tapped her glass lightly. She was down to the cherry, with only enough liquid to cover the bulb of the fruit and not the stem. This conversation had gotten way out of hand for Conner. Any other time, Conner would have whipped out her bagpipe comment by now and been heading out the door looking for the nearest bed. But this was to be different. ‘This is supposed to last’, she heard a voice say in her head. Conner blinked hard and realized she was being spoken to.

“Wha?” she sputtered.

“Greg wants to know if you want another.”

“Yes, I do.” She looked strangely at her drink. “Hey, where’s my-” She turned to face Blue at the exact second a red bulb slipped past full red lips and disappeared behind white teeth. Conner grinned. “You could have asked.”

“Mmm. I could have.” She twisted off the stem and twisted it between her thumb and forefinger. “But you want to keep me happy don’t you?”

“That’s assuming of course that I do make you happy.” Conner spoke rather softly and her comment was swallowed up by applause for the band. Blue put the stem between her teeth and looked up at the band, clapping as if she didn’t hear Conner’s comment. ‘I’m out of my mind, I know it, but I can’t help it, I like her.’ She stepped down from the stool and faced Conner. Conner leaned back against the wall, creating a gap between them. “So, are you going to impress me by turning the stem into a bow with your tongue?”

Blue smiled as she sucked the stem into her mouth and let it rest on her tongue. She caught Conner’s bemused eyes and grabbed her own drink. She closed the gap between her and Conner until she was just barely touching her knee. They were eye to eye. She spread a wide grin across her face and purred out, “wouldn’t you like to know.” Her blue-black hair danced around her face and shoulders as she turned quickly and headed back to the stage. Conner didn’t breathe for a full five seconds. And when she finally took a breath she swallowed it just as quickly when she thought that she had soiled herself, but in reality it was nothing that a few moments alone in the backroom couldn’t cure. She ran a shaky hand through her hair as she sat upright and leaned forward onto the bar.

“Greg, my boy, I need a Kamikaze and a Pete’s Wicked Ale, post haste.”

“Yes ma’am.” He smiled brightly as he chuckled to himself as he fixed her drinks. He sat them in front of her along with a glass of water. Conner looked down at the water and accepted it, with a slight grin.

“What’s this for?’

“Uh, I figured you might need it.” he held in a laugh and focused on some spot on the counter.

Conner formed a small playful pout as she pulled the water towards her. “Don’t want me to overheat, I take it.” They locked eyes and laughed. “Go away.” She shoved him lightly and felt her ears redden with embarrassment as he walked away.

* * *

It was 3:00a.m. in the morning when the last person straggled out of the door. Tiffany and Karen were clearing tables, while Conner was helping Greg cash out the registers and count bottles. The band had broken down while Blue changed and then started loading stuff in the van. Greg and Conner were the only people left on the floor as Sam carted away the last of Max’s drums. Sam flashed Conner a smile as he walked down the back hallway.

Blue stood outside and waited while Sam loaded Max’s truck. Blue ran a hand through unruly hair and sighed. He walked over to her and grinned. “What’s up chica?”

“This is so stupid, Sam.”

“What is?” He stood beside her, as she leaned on the brick wall.

“I don’t know.” She shoved her hands in her jeans and huffed.

“What’s the problem, she’s a cutie.”

Blue stared at Sam. “Sam, she’s 12.”

He threw up his hands. “And she own this place, and she bought somebody a new piano.” He poked her lightly in the shoulder as he stood in front of her.

“No she didn’t, shut up.” She pushed off of the wall and kicked at a pebble.

“Nobody else plays that thing, so you shut up.” She glared at Sam and he just smiled. “Look, don’t go tryin’ to feed me that ‘she’s to young and I’m unworthy’ bullshit or whatever else you got up your sleeve. Remember, I saw you tonight. You had a ball and you know you like her, so suck it up and enjoy the hunt.”

She just stared. She wanted to grunt or say something smart, but he was right. Sam saw her shoulders sag in defeat and he smiled. “Now march your sweet little ass back in there and say goodnight.” He guided her shoulders like a father with a small child and guided her throguh the back door. She stopped halfway and turned back to face Sam. “What?”, he asked in irritation.

“Is my ass really sweet.” He just shook his head and shoved her forward.

Blue walked to the end of the hallway and stood in the archway. She watched as Conner and Greg talked and cleaned. ‘Damn, she was so nice’ ‘Just because she may be chummy, and dear god let it only be chummy, with Ewan doesn’t mean she’s the spawn of hell’ ‘What, you expected her to be an evil cretin?’ ‘. Blue wanted to answer hell yes, to the dialogue in her head, but she couldn’t. She had no clue what to say or do. Gone was the vixen that commanded an audience with pouty lips and arched eyebrows. Here she was now, in jeans and a t-shirt contemplating embarking on something that was totally unexpected, probably would never happen, but felt completely right. She mustered her persona and decided she’d save the soul searching conversation for another night.

She leaned out of the door, hanging onto the frame with her fingertips, until she caught Greg’s eye. “Just saying g’night.”

“Night Blue.” Greg chirped. Conner added her own goodnight without looking up. Blue pulled herself upright and started to walk away, when she glimpsed Sam’s profile. She turned round and stuck her head back out of the archway and spoke slowly, “And-thank you. Conner.” She caught Conner’s eye briefly and then turned back around and walked down the dark of the hallway.

Conner focused on the bottle caps in her hands. She had lost count when Blue first said goodnight. She didn’t have to look up from her hand to see Greg’s face adorning a smile. “Shut up Greg.” He giggled as he continued stacking glasses. Conner gave up her count and finally just estimated as she tossed the caps in a bag. She hopped off the stool and tossed Greg the keys. “I’ll see you Monday, Greg.”

“Night Conner.” He watched her walk out of the bar and across the street. He wiped at the counter on last time as he cut the lights and headed out of the back. He tossed the keys as he walked to his car and thought, ‘I wonder how long it’ll take them to get together? I should start a pool.’ He laughed to himself as he hopped into his Jeep and sped off.
CH 12:
The weekend passed in a blur for Conner. She spent most of Saturday in bed watching cartoons and ignoring phone calls from Manny. Sunday was spent waiting on Terry and Sara to come barging in the house asking questions. Terry let herself into Conner’s, walked up to the kitchen and held in a laugh as she watched Conner dancing in silk Tigger boxer shorts and a green half top, drowning out Donna Summer singing ‘Hot Stuff’ into a spoon in front of the stove. Terry finally let out a guffaw as Conner slid from the stove to the sink in her socks.

Conner dropped the spoon she was holding and whipped around to a fighting stance, fists drawn. “Jesus fucking H. Christ!, Terry! She picked up the dishtowel and hurled it at Terry’s face. Terry blocked it with an arm as she fell on top of the Island in laughter. Conner’s cheeks and ears turned beet red and she pursed pink lips into a pout.

“I’m sorry, haha, I-I’m sorry. It was too funny, I couldn’t mar the moment.”

“I’m gonna mar your face.” Conner turned back around, picked her spoon up off the floor and rinsed it off before turning her attention back to the pot on the stove. “Where’s Sara?”

“Well, Conner, it’s Sunday, and I have to watch Wilhelm play soccer.” She spoke in a squeaky voice.

“Oh whatever.”

“So, what the hell happened on Friday, Rabbit?” Terry walked over to Conner and practically jumped up and downed.

“Go get the veggies out of the fridge and start chopping.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Terry managed to stuff her face with salad in between laughs as Conner retold of Fridays events. By the end of Conner’s explanation she was wiping away tears from the corner of her eyes. “Well Mac Daddy, it’s good to see you still have a few skills.”

“It was close there for a minute.”

“Yeah, how close?” Terry wiggled her eyebrows and laughed. Conner rolled green eyes and sat back in her chair. “Well, I can’t wait for Monday night. What the hell does she do on the weekends?” Conner shrugged her shoulders. “She probably goes and feeds the orphans or visits her husband and kids.”

“Shut up. She does not, good grief.” Conner stopped talking and looked at Terry. “Oh God, she doesn’t have some hidden family does she?”

Terry burst into laughter and finally Conner joined in with her own nervous laughter. “Yeah right, knucklehead. Anyway, what are you doing tonight?”

“I need to go down to the bar and see Remy.”

“Who plays on the weekends?”

“Um, usually college groups. Acid-jazz, house-jazz, and all those derivatives.”

“Sounds nifty. Oh shit! I forgot.” She struck her palm to her forehead.

“What?”

“Please call Manny. I got a call from Ewan this morning, bitchin’ at me about you. He almost lost a limb.”

Conner chuckled. “I bet. I know, Manny’s left me messages for like three days. I just don’t feel like talking to him. Besides it’s not emergencies and I have other stuff to do. I got two portfolios due to Neil on Tuesday and three audits due by Thursday. I guess that’s what I get for keeping a real job.” Conner rubbed her hand across the back of her neck. Terry watched as frustration flushed Conner’s features.

“Why don’t you just get that thing lasered off?” They shared a glance and Conner looked down at her empty plate.

“Honestly Terry, I don’t want to. I know who I am.”

Terry sat back and crossed her arms across her chest, raising an eyebrow in challenge. “Then why all of this-and don’t say it’s a challenge?”

Conner sighed. “What’s wrong with a normal life?”

“Ha. You’re Conner Rose McGreely, heiress to the Highlanders legacy and all that. You’re practically royalty, a princess and a queen if you wanted to be. What do you want with a normal life?” Terry wasn’t trying to bait Conner into an argument, but they always seemed to have this conversation at least every few months. Conner wrinkled her nose and bit her lip in thought.

“Terry you can be anything you want to be right?”

“And I usually am.”

“Exactly. Nobody asked me. I was born and automatically assigned a function. I knew how to use a fucking broad sword before I could say the Lord’s prayer. Nobody even attempted to wonder if we could have lives of our own. Maybe I wanted to be a doctor or a fucking housewife.”

“You still can be.”

“Oh come off it. Yeah, I’ll get married and breed more little boys and girls who grow up to be warriors. No wait, not even warriors. Warriors have honor. I’d be breeding warlords and tax evaders.” Conner cradled her head in her hands. “Don’t you get it Terry? You know why you’re my best friend?” She didn’t wait for Terry to answer as she looked up from her hands. “Because I liked you. Nobody made you come to my house or point you out. You were sitting on a stoop playing jacks or something and it looked like fun and we were both bored. I haven’t got rid of you yet. I would think you want this for me. I would think you would get it. It’s almost not even about her, it’s about the possibility of her and having it be real, for once.” Conner stopped talking and cradled her head once again.

Terry got up and embraced Conner from behind. “I do get it Rabbit, I just wanna make sure you do.” She spoke quietly with her lips close to Conner’s ear. Terry leaned into Conner so that their cheeks were touching. “And Conner, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not about her. Possibility my ass, it’s all about the here and now and the tangible.” Terry squeezed Conner tightly and let go. She rested her hands on her shoulders and squeezed. “Now, get your scrawny ass up, we got outfits to pick out, and we need to work on your romantic dialogue.”

Conner allowed herself to be pulled out of the chair and led her up the steps to her bedroom. “What do you mean I have to work on my romantic dialogue?”

Terry let her hand go as they entered the bedroom. “Honey, references to the strength of your tongue muscles and other oral capabilities is not romantic.”

Conner blushed as she plopped on the bed and watched as Terry swung open the doors to her walk-in closet. “Hey, that stuff is important.”

“Conner you want a relationship, not an appointment at the clinic.” Conner fell back on the bed with laughter, disturbing Remus’s nap. She sat up on her elbows and watched as Terry shook her head.

“What?”

Terry whipped around with her hands on her hips. “I’m afraid you’re not going to the club tonight. We need to go shopping.”

“I just did.”

“Exactly.”
CH 13:
Blue entered the dressing room; which used to be an office and was now a full-fledged dressing room, at 8:00p.m. She put her bag down in the closet and plopped down on the new sofa. She lay down and stretched out onto the soft leather, resting her arm over her eyes, ankles crossed and resting on the arm of the chair. She just sat there in silence. An entire weekend had passed and here it was time to face the inevitable-she couldn’t have what she wanted. She shut her eyes tightly in the hope of blocking out the green eyes that had looked at her not only with want, but- with innocence.

Conner had no idea who Blue was and on top of that she seemed determined not to tell Blue who she was. Sure, it was something in the eyes, but more than that, it served Blue right that the fates should hand her a desirable woman that was wrapped up in the McGreely clan. Blue let out a laugh as she spoke aloud, “a rose by any other name..” She trailed off when she heard Sam’s tell-tale laughter in the hallway. She didn’t bother to get up when he came in; she just rested her hands on her stomach and opened her eyes.

“Hey girlie.” Sam looked down at her long body as he sat his saxophone on the new coffee table. “Looks really nice in here.” He shifted his feet. “New carpet and everything.” Blue smiled as she watched Sam push his shoes into the carpet, and then softly pad to the love seat and sit down. “Ooh-leather. That little girl sure knows how to spring for the goods.”

“Her name’s Conner.” It was out of her mouth before she could stop the words. Sam just threw one leg over the arm of the seat and laughed. “What?”

“You’re awfully defensive.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Oh, Sam, shut the hell up.” Blue ran her hands through her hair roughly as she got up off the couch and walked to the closet.

He snickered, but decided to change the subject-for now. “So we got a set list?”

She shrugged naked shoulders as she exchanged her t-shirt for a sheer button down shirt. “Not yet, I haven’t decided. What do you think?”

He stared at the wide expanse of muscle that made up her back. “I’m thinking..” He paused and cocked his head to the side as she dressed. “Do you buy the bra first or the shirt?”

Blue whipped her head around with her hair close behind and smiled at Sam, as she buttoned her top. “What?”

“I mean, do you buy a sheer top knowing you’ll need a complimentary bra or a nice bra knowing you’ll want a nice top to show it off?”

Blue held in a laugh and just shook her head as she smoothed out her black trousers with her hand. “What do you think Sam?”

“I don’t know, that’s why I asked smart ass.”

“Whatever. Now what about the set?”

“You feeling spunky or sad and low?” He shrugged his shoulders as he stood up and grabbed his saxophone.

Blue changed into her pants before she spoke again, She moved slower than normal, knowing Sam was watching her and waiting as she zipped up her pants. “Never gonna happen Sam.” She smiled slyly at the large black man, who made like he was changing his reed.

“I know sugar, but I need some inspiration for my dreams.” He rolled his eyes and smiled.

“You’re ridiculous. Ask Max and Benny what they feel like doing?”

“How about some nice love songs?” He walked to the table and fished a rag out of his case so she couldn’t see the smile on his face.

“Sure, how ’bout ‘Ghost of a chance’ or ‘Solitude’. Maybe, ‘You don’t know me’ or ‘the way you look tonight’ or –

He cut her off with a grumble. “I said love songs, not love me to death and depression.”

Blue gave a smile through full red lips. “What do you suggest?” She watched as a smile brightened Sam’s face. She held up her hand as she spoke. “On second thought, nevermind.” She knew she had made a mistake and that it was also too late, as Sam began to rattle off song titles, causing her to scurry from the back room barefoot down the hallway. She ran out so fast, she didn’t see Conner enter the building through the back door with Terry.

Apparently, not only had Terry dragged Conner out for hours of shopping-she got her to go the salon as well. Conner still managed to retain her hairs’ unkempt look, but it was minus the errant spikes and chunks. While Conner did get to choose the deep brown color of the suit. The style, cut, inseam, lapels, shirt and all its accessories, were chosen for her; right down to the soft suede of her two-tone HushPuppies. Conner did manage to sneak a pair of Chihuahua embroidered socks past Terry’s defensives, and was only allowed to keep them if they could go spend some quality time in Victoria’s Secret. In the end, after three bras, two thongs, and ten minutes of playing with the clicks on the miracle bra, Conner got her socks, and a severe wedgie from her new thong. She was commenting on the inconvenience as they walked into the club through the back door.

Terry swatted at Conner’s hand that was moving slowly towards her butt. “Leave it alone. Hey wasn’t that you’re dream girl that just walked by?” Terry pointed at the flash of black hair that disappeared around the archway. Before, Conner could answer Terry she almost collided with saxophonist, as he stepped out of the door yelling something about “The very thought of you’.

“Oh wow, I’m sorry.” Warm brown eyes looked down into bright green. “You must be Conner, I’m Sam.” He thrusted a slim hand forward.

Conner looked up and smiled as she grasped Sam’s hand. “That’s right. You play the sax right?”

“Sure do.” He held up the instrument in question.

A small cough came from behind Conner and drew Sam’s attention to the caramel colored woman. “Oh sorry.” Conner passed a glance at Terry, who now stood beside her. “Sam, this is Terry. Terry this is Sam.” The two exchanged a handshake and a smile.

“Well, can I escort you two gorgeous ladies to the front.?”

“By all means, lead the way.” Terry glanced at the tall man as he stepped fully into the hallway and she walked in front of him. Conner bit her lip to keep form smiling, as they walked out onto the floor.

Conner looked to the front of the club and made some excuse about checking on Milton, the bouncer, while Sam escorted Terry all the way to a table in the middle of the room and towards the front. Conner laughed as she walked towards the front door to greet the man who looked like anything but a Milton. He was helping one of the girls check id’s. Milton was a 6’3″, 235 pound Latino man with platinum blonde hair and black eyes. He fit snugly into his black mock turtleneck that showed off his biceps and forearms and pecs and just about everything else.

“Hey Milton, hey Tiffany.” They both looked up from their tasks and greeted Conner with simultaneous hellos. Conner left them and decided to walk to the bar, since Sam seemed to be explaining finger placement on the saxophone to Terry. Conner just smiled as she watched Terry put on her massive flirting routine. Right now she was probably telling Sam about the flute fiasco, where she got her finger stuck in the hole during her big recital in junior high. Conner watched as Sam threw his head back in laughter. Conner let out a light laugh of her own as she watched his reaction.

A pair of blue eyes was focusing on the conversation as well. Blue was straddling the piano seat and tapping a bare foot to some imaginary song, as she watched Sam talk to Terry. Blue was watching Sam laugh when her own gaze met with the bright green of Conner’s eyes as they both drew their eyes away from the couple. Conner smiled as if on reflex, and then dropped her eyes and turned towards the bar, as she felt the heat arise in her cheeks.

Blue turned back to the piano and stared into the black sheen of the lacquered piano. She counted backwards from 10 as she willed her heart to slow back to a normal pace. It had all but stopped when her eyes met Conner’s and then it beat wildly at her smile. ‘What the hell am I thinking?’ ‘Like she’ll actually have a problem with a killer.’ ‘But I’m not just any killer, am I?’ Blue stopped her mental degradation by dragging her index finger across the keys, creating a quick run of the scale in every octave.

Conner walked to the bar and stood between two empty barstools. “Hey, sexy man.”

“Hey cutie.” Greg flashed Conner a big smile as he swiped a Martini glass off the counter and placed it right side up in front of Conner. He fixed her a Blue Moon without prompting and poured it as he talked. “You’re friend need anything?”

She turned her head back towards Terry and Sam who had seemingly gotten the drummer into the mix as well. “I think she’ll live without me for a while.”

“Then-a Bourbon?”

“I don’t-oh. Ha.” She cracked a crooked smile at Greg. “Yeah, do that. And, Greg, give her a couple of cherries. She winked at him and smiled as Greg returned the gesture.

It was almost 9:00 when Conner finally sat down at the table. “This is awful close don’t ya think?” Conner looked up from her glass as she spoke.

“Well, this way, we get a good view.” Terry gave Conner a devilish grin as she took out a silver-plated cigarette case and placed it on the table. “Whadja’ get me to drink?”

“Why don’t you ask your new boyfriend?” Conner gave Terry a half-smile as she drank from her glass.

“Ooh, jealous much.” They exchanged playful glares and then grins.

“I got you a big Vodka Cranberry and a shooter. I figured you might be thirsty.”

“Oh, honey you think of everything.” Sarcasm spilled from Terry’s lips as she took out a cigarette and lit it. “You want one?”

Conner shook her head no. “Nah, at least wait until I’m drunk.”

Terry sucked her teeth. “Conner the idea is to be taken out of her, not carried.”

“Would that really be so bad?” She let her eyes linger over Blue’s tall frame. Her back was to the audience as she spoke to the drummer and Conner admired her curves.

“Now, that what I like to hear. We should toast.” As if on cue, Tiffany showed up with Terry’s drink and two whipped cream topped blow jobs. Terry looked down at the blow jobs. “Oh you little skank. You know we have an audience.”

Conner raised her eyebrows. “For some odd reason, I think this might be more of a turn on for Sam that for her.”

“Hey, ya never know.”

Conner shook her head and stuck out her tongue. “That’s not a nice picture.”

“Hey, you’re the one who took it there.”

“Are we gonna talk or drink woman?” Conner mocked growled as she grabbed ahold of her shooter.

“Raise ’em high.” Terry lifted up her glass. “Uh, what are we toasting?”

Conner smirked as she raised her own glass. “How about the art of instrument fingering?”

Terry practically choked on cigarette smoke as Conner beamed. “Okay, I’ll accept that and add: to a normal life.

“Terry?” Conner whined.

“And…lots of unnatural and impossibly good sex with tall women”

“Yea, I’ll except that.” Both girls grinned from ear to ear as they touched glasses and then sucked down the shooters.

A flubbed note and a small squeak alerted the girls to the fact that their audience was indeed impressed. The two glasses rattled the ashtray as they were dropped back to the table one after the other. Conner snaked out her tongue and licked a stray drop of whip cream off of her lip. “You think he saw you?” Conner asked as she pushed the glass out of her way.

Terry laughed. “See my dear, that’s while I’ll never understand you. Men are so much easier to control than women.

Conner snorted and arched a pale eyebrow. “Why is it always about control with you?”

“Oh come on Conner. Look at that.” She leaned in close to Conner and watched as Connor focused her eyes on the bronze beauty who hummed in harmony with the saxophone, the opening bars to ‘Someone to watch over me’.

“Yeah, I’m looking.”

“Now, are you saying you wouldn’t want to break that?”

Conner turned shocked green eyes to Terry. “She’s a woman not a horse Terry.” Terry opened her mouth to speak, but the look of mischievousness on her face was enough for Conner. “For the last time Terry, crops are not for domestic use.” Terry just laughed and sipped at her drink as she gave Conner a ‘don’t knock it till you’ve tried it look’. Conner sat quietly for a moment as she let the lyrics wash over her.

Terry watched Conner and she beamed. She leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “tell the truth wabbit, top or bottom?”

Conner kept her eyes affixed on Blue as she hid a smile in rim of her glass. Terry moved away from her ear, but remained only a breath away from her face. Conner took a sip of her Martini and purred back, “A little from column A and a little from column B.” Terry let out a little squeal as she grabbed Conner’s cheek and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek, leaving remnants of lipstick.
CH 14:
Conner and Terry managed to sit in moderate silence through the rest of the first set. Not that they had exhausted their conversation, but Conner seemed so lost in Blue. Terry found herself lost, as she watched both Conner and Blue trying not to make eye contact, then make it, then blush at a certain lyric, raise drinks to one another and share smiles. Terry was bursting with anticipation and impatience. As the second to last song ended, Terry gave up the silence.

“Conner, you do realize I’m going to kill you right?” She spoke with an incredulous tone, but serious all the same.

“Huh? What, kill me?” Conner turned innocent green eyes in Terry’s direction.

“You two are ridiculous. You should just rush the stage now or slit your wrists and give up.”

“Those seem like choices that will only yield pain and embarrassment.”

“True enough, but it would be better than this, ‘I’m not really looking at you, but you know I am’ game. What the hell. It’s almost halftime-go and talk to her or something.” Terry waved a hand through the air. Conner opened her mouth to reply, but Terry held up a finger, effectively silencing Conner. “Don’t even try to say you don’t know what to say, or I will kick your ass right here and now.” She bared her teeth at Conner and growled.

Conner shrank back in her seat and mustered up a shaky smile. “Good grief, you animal. I wasn’t going to say that- I think.” Conner rolled her eyes and smiled. “Whatever, I’ll go talk to her, but I don’t think she wants to talk to me.”

Terry shot a slim brown eyebrow up. “What the hell is giving you that idea?”

Conner shrugged and sipped some water. “I don’t know, she seems distant…I know that sounds crazy, but I’m listening to her and she just doesn’t seem all there.” Conner shrugged again. “I don’t know.”

Terry waved off Conner’s confusion. “Well, after this song, go talk to her and find out. This is making me want to puke.” Terry scrunched her brow in thought and then took a sip from her glass. “Hey, how ’bout some Tequila to loosen you up.”

“What happened to me walking out of here?”

“That carrying idea seemed good.”

“Are you trying to get carried out of here?”

“Perhaps.” Terry smiled and winked in Sam’s direction.

The saxophonist winked back and sat on his stool as Benny began plucking the bass to initiate the last song of the set. Blue had taken a seat at the piano this time. She tilted her head towards the mic with her eyes closed and then opened them again as she begin to sing and play.

“I love you oh so madly, I need you love so badly-
but I don’t stand a ghost of a chance with you.

I thought at last I had found you, but other arms surround you-
and I don’t stand a ghost of a chance with you

If you’d surrender-just for a tender kiss, or two-you might discover
that I’m the lover meant for you and I’d be true.

So what’s the good of all my scheming-I know I must be dreaming-
For I don’t stand a ghost of a chance with you.”

The words fell off Blue’s lips like morning fog meeting dewy grass. It was slow, it was sweet, and it was patient. The piano added raindrop-like accents, that swelled and poured and then slowed to a light drizzle when needed. Blue thought her heart would burst on the spot, as the muscle grew large in her throat. She fought off the thought of tears as what seemed like two solid beams of green flowed through her. Those were indeed the eyes she had been looking for all this time. They did not rest in the lost innocence of a 15 year old boy or his forgiveness. Instead, it rested in the forgiveness of love.

If it was possible for Blue to ever forgive herself for her transgressions, she saw it reaching out to her from misty green eyes. She closed her eyes as she stopped singing and poured her raging thoughts in to the piano for a solo. As she played the last measure, she repeated the last verse and let her voice die out as the music faded into silence. She didn’t hear the applause or the whistles. She didn’t see them standing. She just saw Conner, who looked as confused and sincere as Blue felt. Blue knew anything was possible at that moment, and Conner was a huge possibility, if not a certainty. If it hadn’t been for the last ditch effort of her insecurities welling up, she might have jumped off the stage and done her best to lose herself in soft pink lips. Blue barely got out a ‘thank you’ as she stepped off the stage and exited briskly through the dark hallway and out of the back door.

* * *

Conner wanted to get up and run down hallway, but a slim brown hand with a French manicure, placed itself on her forearm. She met Terry’s soft brow gaze and sighed. Sure, Conner thought she would have liked to hear Sara’s sweet sympathetic voice cooing over her, but she needed Terry’s crisp and blunt off-hand remarks.

“Ha. I bet you she can’t even hold a conversation without aid of a songbook.” Conner raised two blonde eyebrows in confusion. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or lash out in defense of the tall woman. As always, Terry’s wry remark left her wanting to agree and merely incensing her to anger on the other hand. So, Conner did what she did best: scrunched up her brow till the lines creased in her forehead and nose and nibbled her lip. Terry hid a smile as she wrapped her lips around a ciggerette and inhaled. “Yeah, she’s just like that guy in the Vonnegut story; he couldn’t interact with people without aid of a script. He falls in love with this girl and they play different characters everyday to keep the relationship.”

Conner let go of her lip and looked at Terry. “That might not be such a bad way to live.”

Terry rolled her eyes. “That’s true Conner, but um, sweetie you can’t sing.” Terry let a slow grin spread over her face and watched as Conner mirrored it. “Now, go get me a drink wench.” Terry snapped her fingers for emphasis. Conner bowed her head as she stood up. She leaned in and kissed Terry softly on the cheek. Terry just waved her off and put out her cigarette. She watched Conner walk to the bar with a smirk and then turned it into a full-fledge smile as Sam walked up to her.

“Hey there, may I sit?”

“Please. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Taken care of.” He held up a glass. “So where’s your little friend?”

“Isn’t that my question?”

He looked confused for a split second and then nodded his head. “Oh, you mean moody Blues.” He shrugged broad shoulders. “I’m used to it, that lady’s got enough baggage to fill a 747 cargo bay.”

“And Conner’s got enough skeletons to fill it up with.” They shared a brief moment of silence and then spoke together, “perfect match.” They shred a good laugh that quieted as Conner came back to the table, dirnks in hand.

“Hello. Is she telling you the joke about the three nuns that get reincarnated?”

“Something like that.” Terry offered up an answer before Sam could react. Conner sat in her seat and slide Terry’s drink to her. “Gracias, senorita.”

Conner nodded and then looked towards Sam. “Great set by the way.”

Sam smiled meekly. “We’re just the accompaniment.”

“So..is she okay?”

“You mean Blue? Yeah, she just acts like that to keep her image intact. He gave her a half-smile.

“Ahh.” Conner nodded and sipped at her drink.

“She’s probably in the back taking a nap. You could always go wake her?”

Conner didn’t have to look at Terry to see the sly grin spreading across her face. Conner let out a light laugh and then stood. “Don’t worry I was just asking. Look, I’m gonna let you two chat, while I go give Greg a hard time.”

“Hey, tell him to stop waterin’ down my drinks, while you’re at it.” Conner smiled at Sam and then walked away.

Terry waited a moment before she looked to Sam and spoke. “So, you want to make a little bet?”

Sam smiled knowingly. “You’re late.”

“Am I?”

“All ready got a pool going.”

Terry laughed. “Well, somebody needs to count me in.” They shared more laughter and conversation up until Sam had to go back to play.

The second set had good music, but no emotional outburst this time. The patrons began to dwindle as 12:30 rolled around and by 1:45, the place was cleared. Terry and Conner sat at the bar while the bar broke down and the girls cleared the tables. Conner turned to Terry as she rolled a bottle cap in fingers. “Do I need to take you home? I need to hang here and take care of some paperwork, but I can drop you off or whatever.”

“Paperwork, eh?” Terry nudged Conner with her elbow. “No worries, my ride is covered.” Conner rolled her eyes.

“Behave yourself young lady.”

“Don’t I?”

“Am I under oath?”

“Hey now, it’s almost 2:30, people need coffee.”

“I thought people needed sleep at this hour.”

“What kind of girl do you think I am, missy?”

“That kind of girl, missy.” They shared sly grins and a giggle As Terry stood up from the stool Sam was soon at her side. “Hey Sam, you take good care of my girl, and don’t let her sucker you into anything.”

He smiled and said, “too late.” Conner and Terry exchanged kisses and Conner watched as her best friend strolled out of the bar with the saxophonist.

It was a quarter to three when Conner locked the door behind Greg and went to sit at the bar. She heard a small noise from the back and looked up to see Blue standing in the archway wearing blue jeans, a cardigan, and range cap turned backwards.

Conner’s heart stopped and her face threatened to break into a huge smile. Instead she managed to curb it to a smile as she spoke. “Hi, I thought you left?”

“No.” Blue spoke softly as she shifted her weight from foot to foot and then walked towards the bar. “Uh..I had to help Max load the car.”

“You know, if he wants, I can just buy a drum set and leave it here.”

“Oh, no. The piano’s enough.” Blue was still inching towards the bar, hands shoved in her pockets.

“So, does it play to your satisfaction?” Conner thought it was a dumb question, but she needed something to keep the conversation going.

Blue wanted to jump up and down and say ‘God yes, it plays like a dream!’ Instead, she just dropped her eyes to some interesting spot on a stool and said ‘yes’. She stopped two barstools away form Conner and sat her bag down on the stool.

Conner was watching the tall woman’s slow progression and she sighed inwardly. ‘Oh God, maybe she can’t carry on a conversation with a songbook?’

“You okay there?” Blue’s voice startled her. “Hard math problem?”

Conner glanced down at the neglected paperwork and shook her head. “HaHa, no. Just an errant thought.” She paused and closed the portfolio. “Um, do you need a ride or something?”

“No, I was just saying goodnight.” Blue didn’t want to say goodnight, but she couldn’t find another excuse to stay.

“Um, coffee, maybe. Do you want?” Conner was kicking herself.”

“Maybe, coffee. I want, sure.” Blue answered back.

Conner felt the blush rise to her ears and cheeks as she smiled on reflex. “Nothing like American education.” They shared a laugh. “Give me a second and we can go.” Blue just nodded in response.

As Conner slid off the stool they heard a dull thud come from the back. They both looked towards the back hallway with wide eyes. “What the fuck!” Conner mumbled. A window pane shattered in the back, making Conner jump slightly. “Turn the lights out.” Blue’s deep voice rumbled out the command. Conner didn’t hesitate at the tone as she hit the house lights and they stood within the low glow of track lights.

“Go wait out front, I’m going to go out back.” Blue gave a quick glance at Conner as she rolled up the sleeves on her shirt and prepared to move.

“What the hell?” Conner glared at Blue with fierce green eyes and hands at her hips. “No way, you’re not going out there by yourself.”

Blue found it odd and amusing that such force could be packed into such a small frame. The glare Conner gave her, almost made Blue want to apologize for the suggestion. “Well, um, then we’ll both go out that way, and we’ll meet in the back.” She gestured towards the front door

Green eyes softened. “Better.”

Blue dropped her hat on her bag and they walked out the front door together. Blue held up her hand and pointed to the left as she turned to go right. Conner nodded and they walked away from each other. Apparently, longer legs make for quicker arrivals. Conner reached the back alley just in time to see Blue slam a guy into the wall by his throat. As he slid down the wall, Conner watched as another man grabbed Blue from behind. She let out a useless yelp, as Blue caught the man’s descending fist in the air and bent his wrist back dropping him to his knees. That was when the guy from the wall decided to take off down the alley almost knocking Conner down in the process.

Conner regained her footing, turned on her heels, and took after the black-clad man that had bumped into her. Blue looked up from the man struggling under her boot to see Conner sprint after the man in the ski mask. Blue looked down at the man, who’s wrist was twisted at an odd angle and growled into his face. “Get da fuck outta here.” He snatched back his wrist as she let go of it and crawled away from her sneer and then took off out of the alley.

Blue charged around the building to find Conner and the man on the other side of the building standing in a pile of trashcans. The man lay on his stomach with his arm being held back and twisted up by Conner, who had wedged her foot between his shoulder blade. With a good tug, she could rip his arm out of the socket. Blue was impressed and unnerved. She was deathly quiet as she watched Conner reach down with her free hand and yank the man’s mask off and then immediately release his arm with a jerk.

Conner’s eyes froze at the familiar face. She dropped his arm and removed her foot allowing the man to roll over. He was trying to stand, but the trash bags were casing him to slip. Conner placed her foot at his crotch and silently threatened to stomp, so he stopped squirming. “I know you, you little shit. What the fuck are you doing?” She leaned down into the young man’s flushed face.

“J-Jesus, Conner. I-I didn’t know. We were just doing a job-that’s all, I swear I didn’t know.” He darted his eyes back and forth trying hard not to focus on the hard emerald orbs that bored into his skin.

She removed her foot and stepped back. “What’s your name?’

“Uh, M-Mike”

“Well, Mike you tell Ewan- no never mind, I’ll tell him myself. Get the fuck out of my sight.” She watched him tumbled out of the trash bags and scurry around the corner. She kicked at a trash bag and cursed the air. “Damn it!” She ran a shaky hand threw disheveled red-blonde hair and her eyes suddenly grew wide. “Oh God, Blue!”

She turned quickly on the premise of starting a mad dash around to the other side of the building , when she was stopped by two hard points of blue ice. Raven hair was loose and wild about her shoulders. She stood with her fists clenched at her sides, and Conner could see the veins in her arms bulging. If it hadn’t been for the two cold eyes, Conner could have been overcome with arousal . Instead, she was filled shame. She parted pink lips in order to start an apology, when something unexpected happened. Blue stuck out her hand drew full lips into a lopsided grin.

“Hi. Name’s Blue and I sing. Who are you and what do you do?” A strong hand hovered in the air as she watched Conner slump her shoulders dejectedly.

Conner removed her gaze from her shoes and looked up at Blue, careful to avoid her eyes. “The name’s Conner. Conner Rose McGreely, and I uh, I…” She trailed off and hung her head as she shoved her hands in her pants pocket, ignoring the sharp pain she felt in her right hand.

Blue withdrew her hand and crossed her arms across her chest. ‘Now or never’ she thought. “And you give a mean interrogation.” Conner raised her brows in surprise at the humor and looked up into blue eyes that were no longer chips of ice nor filled with heat. “So, what are you? They still make you take the family name or are you blood?”

Conner lowered her brows so as not to express the shock and surprise that Blue was familiar with her family’s ways. “Yeah, descendant of the Highlanders and rulers of the boroughs, yada, yada, yada.” She stated the worn credo flatly. She looked back up at eyes that were focused on her and thought, ‘Shoot me or kiss me, but don’t stare.’ “Um, Ewan’s my brother.” She spoke quietly and focused her gaze on the ground.

The dark woman wanted to do nothing more than to collapse to the ground in laughter. She tightened her arms about her chest as she fought hard to keep her face void of emotion. ‘I can’t believe I’m still standing here. Fuck, I can’t believe I’m still standing. Unfair does not begin to even chip away at this mountain. Blue forced her thoughts down as she nodded slowly and said, “figures” under her breath.

“What?” Conner looked up at Blue.

“Nothing.” Now Blue focused on the ground. They just stood there in the alley in silence. Conner was wishing she could be swallowed up by the Earth and Blue just wished she could rewind the tape of her life. She watched as Conner scrunched her brow in deep thought and nibbled on her lip. Blue held back a smile as she observed the rabbit-like gesture that Conner was making. Finally, the quiet got to her. “C’mon ya rabbit, I need a lift.” Blue turned to walk to the front, but noticed that Conner stood in place wide-eyed. “What?”

“Wha-what did you call me?”

“Um, rabbit.”

“Why. Why?” Blue shrugged and started walking. Conner caught her and grabbed her by the arm only to release it quickly as if it burned to the touch. “Why did you call me that?” Conner’s voice carried less urgency now.

“Because, you look like a rabbit when ever you’re in deep thought.” Blue stuffed her hands in her pocket and started to walk away only to stop again. She turned to face Conner, who had a look of bewilderment crossing her features. “By the way rabbit- I think you’re bleeding.” She spoke matter of factly.

Conner’s eyes widened in confusion as she looked at the red stains on Blue’s sweater and then remember the pain in her hand. She gingerly took her right hand out of her pants pocket and winced as she looked at the red gash slicing through the lines in her palm. “Aw Jesus!” Conner cursed the air as she remembered blocking a punch from Mike during their scuffle with her hand, no doubt causing the wound.

Blue watched the woman’s shoulders tense with pain as she tried to examine the wound on her own. “Here, walk into the light and let me see it.” Blue managed to keep her voice free of irritation as she gestured for Conner to walk towards her. Conner held her hand to her body as she stepped towards Blue and stood under the lamppost. Blue put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes at the woman’s apprehension. “Conner,” She spoke firmly. “, give me your hand.” Conner slowly held out her palm as if she were reaching into the mouth of a Tiger. She waited through squinted eyelids as Blue gently grabbed the slender wrist with her left hand and touched a smooth forefinger to the skin around the wound. Conner grimaced at the anticipation of the pain, more so than the actual pain. In reality, the touch was gentle and warm.

Conner focused her eyes on the mound of black hair that was on display as Blue bent her head to look at her hand. “It doesn’t need stitches right?” Her voice held more anxietty than she intended.

Blue fought a smile and decided to put a test to the girls level of paranoia. “Afraid of needles, or hospitals?” Blue didn’t look up from the hand she was holding, for no good reason other than the fact that it felt extremely good to hold. Conner was shooting out green lasers at the top of Blues dark head.

Conner counted down from five mentally to curb the flash of anger and fear that rose in her, once she decided Blue was testing her limits. She mentally relaxed and replied. “So what the word Bones, stitches or what?”

Blue finally looked up from the hand and released it with a soft push of her fingers. Conner cradled her hand in the other hand and looked down at the drying blood. “Well, if it starts bleeding again I’ll take you to get it stitched.”

“Where?” Conner surprised herself with her calmness, but she had a feeling that this woman wouldn’t intentionally do her harm. Blue curled her lip and raised an eyebrow as she made a half-smile for a reply. Conner caught the meaning of the smug look and held back a smile. “So, you do stitches?” Conner reflexively raised a blonde eyebrow, acknowledging that she was no longer worried.

“I used to be a girlscout in a former life.” Blue ignored Conner’s questioning gaze as they began to walk towards the front door. “But like I said, you don’t need ’em, the wounds not that deep.” She held the door for Conner. “I would however, suggest a nice piece of gauze and some antiseptic.” Blue spoke rather gruffly as she pushed her sleeves back up, put her cap back on, and slung her bag over her shoulders.

Conner was slightly taken aback by the tone of Blue’s voice as she retorted, ” well I guess they don’t give girlscouts bedside manner lessons, do they?” Blue almost sneered at the lithe strawberry-blonde who was busy padding her hand with a small stack of cocktail napkins. Instead she merely adjusted her shoulder strap and started to walk past Conner towards the front door. As she walked by, she mumbled loud enough for Conner to hear, “I’ve never had complaints.” She continued on to the front door and stopped. “Are you coming or not?”, she asked without turning around. Conner smirked as she snapped out of her stupor and walked quickly to the door.

They walked to the car in silence. Conner stopped as she held onto the door handle. With her back to Blue, who was directly behind her she spoke quietly. “I’m sorry… about back there.”

Blue stood in place as she watched the young woman struggle with her words. “So, are you apologizing for our visitors-or for this?” She reached out a free hand almost unconsciously and brushed a fingertip over the raised and dyed skin that formed a Celtic knot on Conner’s neck. She saw Conner visibly shake as the hairs on the back of her neck rose, and she gripped the door handle tighter. Blue quickly withdrew her hand and rammed it into the pocket of her jeans. Mentally, she was standing before the firing squad. Physically, she stepped back from Conner, moving further into the street. ‘What am I thinking? What am I doing? This cannot happen.’ “Um, I’m sorry. I gotta go-uh, you need to talk to -um- bye, Conner.” Blue gripped the straps harder as the disjointed words fell from her lips and then she turned and crossed the street, disappearing down the back alley, all before Conner could turn around.

If Blue would have stayed, she would have see green eyes rimmed with tears. Conner’s knuckles were turning white from her grip on the door handle and her legs felt boneless. She opened the door just wide enough to allow her to slide inside. Once seated, she let her head fall back onto the headrest and without thought, she pounded her right hand into the steering wheel. This time, the tears came. Conner sat and whimpered until she broke into giggles. Her hand was throbbing, her head was aching, and her neck still burned from where Blue had touched her. It was like a block of hot ice had been laid on Conner’s body. She had asked her what she was apologizing for and then without warning she touched her. It took everything Conner had to remain on her feet. She figured Blue had been repulsed by what the tattoo really meant and bolted. Conner got mad again and punched the steering wheel with her left hand. Suddenly, she remembered where she needed to go and why. Conner started the car and did a 180 in reverse before the cd player even had a chance to cue up. She was heading to Columbia at 110mph, with one thought on her mind-Ewan.
CH 15:
It was nearing 3:30a.m., so Conner didn’t bother to go to the house. Instead, she took a corner and turned on Governor’s Parkway heading for the club. It was Ewans’ only slightly legitimate enterprise. It didn’t open till 11:00p.m., didn’t get exciting until 2:00a.m., and by 6:30 most patrons were ready to pass out. Conner parked next to Ewan’s Mercedes and gave the engine a much needed rest, and hopped out of the car. Her appearance came as no surprise to the parking lot attendant or the bouncers at the door. Richard wasn’t surprised when she shot through the front door and bounded up the spiral staircase to get to the balcony. George, Serio, and Paul weren’t surprised as she made the turn and headed straight for Ewan’s office. Rick wasn’t surprised that she needed to see her brother or the point that she didn’t give a rat’s ass what whore was in there. He was however, left speechless when Conner shoved him aside and kicked in the door. He watched the scene slack-jawed as the pint-sized strawberry-blonde walked right up to the couch Ewan was sitting on and grabbed a hand full of hair that was attached to a head buried deep between Ewan’s legs.

Conner tugged at the loose bleached-blonde curls until the girl sprang up to her feet. Conner still held onto her hair as she pushed her towards the door and shoved her through the door, causing her to collide with a still gasping Rick. She gave him a slight smirk and then slammed the door shut. When Conner turned around Ewan was sitting on the edge of the couch leaning forward, resting elbows on his knees. His right hand drummed fingers into his kneecap while his left hand cradle his chin. He had decided that he wouldn’t yell-he was just going to sit and listen. Besides, he had found it all quite amusing. Conner could do so much more he thought, but he knew better, she saved her rage only for him. ‘How special’ he thought as he focused on the two flaming green eyes that bored into his skin.

Conner stood in front of Ewan and leaned back onto the desk, with her legs crossed at the ankles and her arms folded across her chest. She was trying really hard to calm down as she took heavy breaths and watched Ewan. After a few moments of silence, Conner decided she might be able to speak without anger. It was lost cause.

“Have you lost you’re fucking mind!?” She was furious. Ewan almost jumped at her voice when he realized she was talking. He sat back in the couch and rested his ankle on his knee. “So, have you?”

“Uh, not lately.” He was trying not to sound facetious, but his wide eyes weren’t helping.

Conner flailed her arms wildly and pointed at him. “Fuck you, Ewan, you know damn well what I’m talking about. How could you do that to me!”

Ewan had tuned out at the ‘fuck you’ when he noticed the napkins that were adhered to Conner’s hand with blood. He stood up and walked towards her. “What’s that?” He reached for her hand, but she snatched it away and crossed her arms across her chest. “Conner what is that?” She glared at him as she walked around the desk and sat in his chair with arms still crossed, lips pouting, and eyes hard. Ewan leaned forward on his desk, resting on his hands and stared at her with the same two hard points of green. “Conner?”

“Why don’t you ask tweedle moron and tweedle fuck-up.”

Ewan slapped a palm on the table and mumbled something unintelligible. He leaned forward and snatched the phone off the hook. “Hey, find Mike and Hugh-now.” He slammed the phone back down on the base and stood up straight. He was trying to hold onto the anger from the phone call, but it couldn’t compare to pyres that seemed to burn around Conner. Her hair was windblown to a mad man’s perfection. Her ears and cheeks were red, and her eyes were distant and cold. He briefly remembered when she burned his KISS albums. She had had that distant cold look in her eyes, but now there was something else in them that he couldn’t quite describe, but it chilled him. Ewan relaxed his shoulders and leaned forward onto the desk again. He could barely look her in the eye. “Conner. I’m-sorry.”

“Why?” Her voice trembled as if she was on the verge of tears.

“I’d like to have some sadistic brotherly-love reason, but it was just a fuck up.” He sighed, put his hands in his pockets, and walked to the couch and sat on the arm rest.

“I’m listening.” She had unfolded her arms and rested them in her lap.

Ewan looked straight ahead, still avoiding the full assault of her eyes. “When I found out you wanted the club I had all ready set things in motion for a torch. Then you came to me and said no. I told the boys to backoff, but apparently the message didn’t make it all the way down the totem pole.” Ewan sat there hoping that his evasion of her eyes registered as fear and shame and not the fact that he was lying. It wasn’t a complete lie. The club had been on the list to torch, but he could have stopped it even after the match had been lit. Ewan had grown quite skeptical of the tall dark singer that his sister seemed to like and he didn’t want to take any chances, so instead he had intended to send her a message.

Conner stood up and walked around the desk at the other end. “You told them to back off, eh?” Ewan raised his eyes up at his sister and started to say yeah, but he was cut off by a glare. “Ewan,” She spoke with quiet conviction as she walked towards him, stopping an arms length away. “It’s mine. It is not your toy. I’m sick of your reneging. You don’t own me and you’re not my keeper. Just leave my personal business alone- this has nothing to do with family.” She started to walk towards the door as he stood up.

“Conner, I’ll pay for the damage.”

She almost gave herself whiplash as she snapped her head around and tried to set fire to the room with her eyes. “I don’t want your money! None of it! So, stop calling the matainence guy, and quit paying for my car checkups.” She gripped the doorknob without looking. “And, if you want something,” She turned towards the open door, ” you fucking call Manny.” With that, she slammed the door and walked back out in the same fury that she entered with.

* * *

When Mike and Hugh entered Ewan’s office it was deathly still and so was he. They stood in the middle of the room with Paul and Rick at the door, and Ewan still sitting on the arm of sofa- right foot touching the ground, left foot dangling in the air, hands resting on his knee. After a brief moment of uneasy silence Ewan dropped his right hand to the couch and began drumming the fingers of his left hand on his knee.

“Which one of you did it?”

Both Hugh and Mike sent harried looks at one another as the low grumble of Ewan’s voice breached the stale and quiet air. Hugh looked away from Mike and spoke up. “Did what sir?”

“Hurt Conner.” Hugh’s eyebrows raised in surprise. He didn’t even know Conner had been there. Ewan read the sincere expression on Hugh’s face and dropped his eyes to the floor. “Mike, hold out your hand.” Ewan didn’t need to look up from the floor to know that Mike’s face had grown pale or watch as beads of persperation threatened to seep into his eyes. Ewan made no move to make his statement again.

It took Mike a long minute to raise a shaky right arm, bent at the elbow, palm facing Ewan. Ewan reached down in the seat cushion and whipped the gun out and pulled the trigger all in the same second. The bullet passed clean through Mike’s palm, leaving a wound no wider than a number two pencil. Rick had made the move to his right and caught Mike before he fell to his knees in a silent scream. Rick then dragged him from the room, with Hugh hot on his heels. He stopped as Ewan cleared his throat and turned to face him. Ewan looked at Hugh blankly as sat the gun back down on the seat cushion and clasped his hands together.

“What about the other woman?” Ewan’s voice was quiet but crisp.

“Sh-she was there.” Hugh rubbed sweaty palms on his track pants to stop them from shaking as he looked anywhere but Ewan’s eyes.

“Did you get a good look at her?”

Hugh absently rubbed a hand across his throat as he answered. “Yes. Yes, sir.” He stood up a little straighter.

“Could you remember it?” Hugh nodded vigorously as a small glint of hope reached pale blue eyes.
Hugh, do you wanna go to Boston.” It wasn’t a question and Hugh wouldn’t have answered no anyway. Hugh relaxed as he watched Ewan pad the seat cushion next to him, gesturing for him to sit down. Hugh took the proffered seat and then visibly relaxed as he listened to Ewan lay out the plans for his ‘business trip.”
Ch 16:
It was 7:30p.m. Tuesday night, when Blue entered the club. She waved hello to Remy, who was behind the bar, milled through the happy hour patrons, and then stopped in her tracks as she walked towards the stage. She had wondered what the new day would bring as far as the small woman was concerned, and as she let her eyes roam over the small woman on the piano bench, she knew there would be no running.

Conner was sitting on the piano stool and tapping out something that wanted to be a treble clef scale very badly, but wasn’t quite there. She wore a pair of baggy khaki colored cargo pants with frayed ends that hung over the bottom of a pair of black and white Adidas sandals. A white jersey with red and black stripes touted that her number was 16 and name was Milbrett. Her strawberry-blonde hair was actually combed neatly for once. There were no spikes, no chunks, just loose strands that appeared to have only been recently blown dry.

Blue couldn’t help but curve full lips into a smile as she looked at the imp of a woman who reminded her of a 12 year old. Blue laughed inwardly as she imagined herself being hauled away to jail for statutory rape. She knew she had no right to feel anything for the woman, it would only end badly, but here she was unable to deny the attraction. And unable to deny that for the first time in 15 years she was breathing because it was what she wanted. She sat her bag down on the floor and stepped on the stage quietly, not wanting to disturb the intense virtuoso.

“So is that your new composition?” She breathed her comment over Conner’s right shoulder. Conner practically put her hands through the keyboard as her hands came crashing down on the keys. “Easy there, this is a fine piece of machinery.”

“No shit. You scared the crap out of me.” Conner swiveled and sucked in a breath as she stared up at two pair of crisp blue eyes that were warm and friendly. “Hey.” She spoke breathlessly. She followed the tall woman with her eyes as she came around and sat down beside her on the bench. Conner moved over to the edge of the stool, creating a small gap between them. Blue looked at the keys as she traced the keys and took a second to notice the small gap.

“Don’t worry,” she leaned in close to Conner, who didn’t flinch “, I won’t make you play chopsticks.”

Conner cracked a half-smile as she placed her fingers on the keys. “Good, because I don’t know how.”

“Wow, I managed to get a smile.”

“Huh?”

“Last time I saw you, I think you were um, fuming.” Blue resisted the urge to brush an errant blonde lock away from Conner’s face and instead ran the scale. Conner did it herself and lost her smile. Blue watched as her shoulders tensed. ‘Nice going jack ass.’ She thought.

They were quiet as both rested fingers on the piano keys. Blue looked down at the light and dark of the keys and the light and dark of their hands. It was a swirl of contrast that seemed to trigger faded memories.

“So, uh, do you play an instrument?” It was the only small talk Blue knew how to initiate.

“Me?” Conner bit her lip to keep from smiling. “Yeah, the bagpipe.” She mumbled.

“What?”

“The bagpipe.”

Blue fought a grin. “Oh.”

Conner thought, ‘perfect segue to a perfect line. What the hell.’ “Yeah, I can hold a note for almost 15 minutes.”

Blue could see a smile forming at the corners of Conner’s mouth as she focused on the keys. “Oh really.” She drawled. They shared a quick glance at one another.

“Yup. It takes lots of focus.”

“I know.”

Blue’s voice had dropped an octave and it made the hair on the back of Conner’s neck stand. With that she stood up, suddenly uncomfortable with their close proximity. “Um, I gotta go.” Conner looked nervously at the floor.

‘Oh, if only the cover would slam onto my fingers now.’ Blue thought. “Uh, are you coming back tonight?”

Conner narrowly avoided soft blue eyes as she looked up from the floor. “Uh huh. I, need to go change though. Conner tugged lightly at her jersey.

“What’s wrong with number 16?” Blue looked up Conner, who met her gaze briefly.

“Nothing at all, but I do have an image to keep up.” They shared a smile.

“As do I.” Blue glanced down at her own outfit of jeans and a t-shirt.

“You could sing in jeans.”

Blue grinned. “You think ‘I’m in the mood for love’ works well in jeans and t-shirt.?”

Conner thought, ‘you could sing the national anthem knee deep in shit and it would still sound good and I would still swoon.’ She replied, “It’d be a stretch, but it could work.” She gave a light smile and shrugged her shoulders.

Blue raised a smooth eyebrow. “Perhaps, I ‘ll keep that in mind.

Conner glanced at her watch. “Well, gotta go. See ya’ later.”

“See ya.” Blue watched as Conner walked off the stage and disappeared down the back hallway.

* * *

Conner returned 10 minutes before nine, wearing chinos and a white banded-collar button down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up her forearms showing off creamy alabaster skin, a watch and matching silver bracelet. Her hair was tousled to perfection and she wore yellow tinted glasses. She was the picture of summer Sunday casual, as she made her way to her corner stool and took a seat.

“Hey Remy.” She smiled at the muscled bartender as he walked towards her.

“Conner, how’s it going?”

“Not bad.”

“Love the shades.”

“Thanks babe.”

The two traded bright smiles. “So, am I to assume that this Martini list is for you?” He held a yellow sticky in the air, that read, “For Conner”.

She smiled. “I guess Greg wants you to be prepared.”

“Yeah. I thought I was going to see you Sunday.”

“I know, I had an emergency situation.” Which turned out to be a full day of shopping. “Nothing big though, but here I am.”

“Well, it’s good to have you. I’ll have that drink in a second.”

She smiled at the mocha colored man. “Take your time.” She watched him walk away and then leaned forward onto the counter as she watched the regular crowd of college kids, pipe smokers, and professors make their way to tables and seats at the bar. Remy handed her her drink as Tiffany walked up to her.

“Hey Conner.”

Conner smiled at the thin white girl. “Hey Tiffany, you need something?”

“Uh, yes. Blue said she wanted something fruity.”

“And she’s asking me?” Conner smirked as she looked towards the stage. Blue had her back to the audience as she talked to Sam.

Tiffany shrugged and rolled her eyes. “That’s what she said.”

“Um, okay. What do you think about a fuzzy navel?”

“That could work.”

“Or maybe a flying squirrel.” Green eyes grew bright with mischief.

Tiffany raised slim brown eyebrows. “I have no idea what that is.”

“Neither do I.” Conner admitted and they laughed. “Well, let’s see what Remy says.” She turned back towards the bar and waved Remy over. “Hey, can you make something fruity for Blue.?”

A look of disbelief washed over smooth features. “Fruity, for Blue?”

“I know, I know.”

He smiled and clapped his hands together. “I think I can concoct something.” Conner, Tiffany, and Remy shared sly smiles before he dropped back behind the counter.

“Just hand it over to Tiffany when you’re down there.”

Conner didn’t know what Remy was fixing Blue, but it kept changing colors, and Blue had sucked down four by the time the first set was over. Conner watched as Blue meandered through the crowd wearing a long baby blue skirt that flowed from a matching silk sleeveless scoopnecked camisole. They caught each others eyes when Blue was two seats away from Conner, and held it as she came to stand next to Conner.

“Well hello Conner.” She purred.

Conner felt a tingle in her stomach as her name fell off of blue’s lips. “Hello, to you too. Great set by the way.”

“Yeah, Sam seems inspired.” She raised an eyebrow and smiled salaciously.

They shared a conspiratorial laugh. Conner was feeling a lot looser now and thanks to the alcohol, she was willing to push aside her earlier insecurities. “Hey,” Conner laid a hand softly on Blue’s tanned forearm. Blue looked up from the hand to Conner. “, um I’m really sorry about last night.”

Blue touched the hand tentatively at first and then more firmly as she spoke. ” What do you have to apologize for?”

Conner removed her hand and cradled her glass with it as she drank. “I guess for lying. And, for those two guys. For bringing Ewan into your world.” Conner stared into the blue of her glass as she gripped the stem. She almost snapped the stem as she felt the press of warm lips on her cheek. The gates opened everywhere, including her groin, as she reflexively squeezed her thighs together.

“Don’t ever apologize for who you are Conner, and don’t let anyone forget.” Green eyes met with blue in a moment of acceptance. Blue smiled as she watched a red tint creep into Conner’s cheeks and ears. “Drink your drink girlie, I gotta go back. And tell Remy to keep those drinks coming, I like the green ones best.” She gave Conner a toothy grin and then meshed into the crowd.

Everything had changed in a matter of moments. Suddenly Conner felt like she could run a marathon or die happy trying. It was that simple: acceptance and real possibility. ‘Screw possibility!’ Conner thought, this is happening. A wide grin spread across a round face and reached all the way to the wisps of hair that stood on end in her hair. She waved a frantic hand at Remy, who hustled over. “Hey Remy, I don’t know what the hell you’re giving Blue, but hook me up with one and keep ’em coming.” Remy hit the lithe red-blonde with a million dollar smile that showed off his caps and then went to work.

As the evening wore down, Conner found herself swapping Terry jokes with Sam as she helped Remy close the bar.

“So she told you about the nuns?”

“Yeah, and the duck, the guy with the screwdriver, and something about a Rabbi and two priests.”

Conner shook her head and giggled as she thought of the punchlines. “Ha. We used to get free candy in our neighborhood when we were younger. She would tell jokes and I was her manager. She gave me one or two dirty limericks to say, but it was just the warm up. Terry, was the mistress of ceremonies, definitely.” Conner smiled unabashedly at remembrances.

Sam mirrored her smile. “Yeah, I bet.”

“So, did she behave?”

“I’m alive aren’t I ?”

“I know.” She squeezed his shoulders as if trying to test to see if he was real. “Of course that makes me wonder whom I should be more worried about.” She put on an impish grin and they both laughed.

“Sam knows better. He needs those lips for his saxophone.” They both turned their heads towards the owner of the husky Boston accent.

“Shut it Ox.” Blue playfully stuck out her tongue at the big man. He rolled his eyes and turned back to Conner. “G’night Conner.” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “See, you tomorrow punk.” He plucked Blue in the shoulder as he turned and walked out of the front door.

Conner watched him go with a smile and then turned to Blue. “Ox?”

Blue removed a hand from the pocket of her jeans and ran it through her thick black hair as she grinned. “It’s a long drunken story.”

“So, it involves drinking or you need to be drunk to tell it?” Sparkling green eyes met smoldering blue eyes.

Blue rested her elbows on the counter. “That’s a good question, I may have to test it out.”

“You looking for a guinea pig?” Conner kept a straight face.

“Something more along the lines of a lab partner.”

“Well,” Conner allowed a small grin to grace her face. “, I do look good in a lab coat.”

“I’m sure you do.” Blue ran her tongue across her teeth before finishing her thought. “Conner Rose.” Blue let her eyes roam the small body next to her appreciatively, until she stopped on her scrunched brow. “What?”

“Don’t call me that.” Conner made a sour face and then gave a half-smile to remove the sting of her words.

“Then·rabbit?”

She shook her head hard. “Oh please no.”

“Lil Bit.” A shake of red blonde hair, deeper scowl. “Squirt?” Another shake, arms folded across her chest. “Mid-”

“Don’t even.” She was in full pout mode.

Blue fought off a giggle. “How about Red?” Conner’s face relaxed.

“Are my highlights growing in?” She put a hand through her hair.

“No, but your ears look like two hot coals.” Blue gave a wicked grin as she pushed away from the counter and put on her bag. She ignored Conner’s scowl. “C’mon Conner, take me home.” Conner grumbled and hopped off the chair, after tossing the keys to Remy.

They walked to the car in silence. “So, you’re never speaking to me again I take it?” Blue watched the young woman brush by her and stop at her car.

“Get in the car, Ox.” Conner tried to sound gruff as she opened the drivers side door and got in.

Blue held in a laugh as she walked around the car and got in on the passenger side. “That’s not an insult you know.”

“Of course it’s not, why would it be.” Her tone was curt.

Blue stared at Conner with concern as they pulled off. She reached out to touch the hand that was on the stick, but withdrew. “Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t think-uh, I’m sorry.” Blue turned a dejected looking face towards the window. Conner looked over at her and smiled. She pulled onto Blue’s street and spoke.

“You are a big dumb Ox, aren’t you?”

Blue turned towards the sound of Conner’s soft voice and saw her sitting there with a wide grin and knew she’d been had. She just laughed as Conner pulled to a stop in front of her apartment. “That I am.”

“Would you answer a question for me?” Conner asked as Blue opened the car door and got out.

“Sure.”

“What’s your real name?”

Blue lowered her eyelids and grinned. “It’s Blue.”

Conner watched the tall woman walk around the car to the sidewalk. She gripped the steering wheel and looked up. “No, really?”

“No. Really.” She raised both eyebrows.

“C’mon you’re parents really didn’t name you Blue did they?”

Blue just smiled and readjusted her shoulder strap. She then leaned down over Conner’s car, till her nose was less than an inch away from Conner’s. She looked straight into two green orbs and whispered out, “Azure.” Blue’s breath filled Conner’s mouth with the taste of Amaretto and peppermint. Conner wanted to stop breathing but she all ready had. Blue stood back up to her full height and smiled. “Breathe, Conner.” The second she turned to walk up the steps, Conner did breathe. She watched until Blue was all the way inside before she thought, ‘You’re parents really did name you blue.’ With that, she shifted gears, and howled along with Janis Joplin as she sped down the city streets, rushing home for a well needed shower.
CH 17:
Wednesday and Thursday nights continued in stride. Blue would come and talk to Conner in between sets and then Conner would wait for her to change at the end of the night, they would talk some more, close the bar, maybe get a bite to eat, and then Conner would drive her home. They were forming an interesting freindship which niether woman really wanted to analyze. In the last few nights they bitched about politics, movies, food, the impending signs of the apocalypse (namely, The Pokemon movie), and added to the list of people of who should be taken out and shot (namely, the people who created Pokeman). They swiftly avoided the talk of family, Blue only admitting that she wasn’t fond of Ewan and only bringing up Boston, when compairing The Market to the Inner Harbor.

When Friday rolled around, they met at the bar, not because Blue was scheduled to sing, but because she wanted to see Elias and his trio play. Elias suckered Blue into singing a few songs in the last set as it turned into one big jam session. Conner and Blue found themselves at the bar once again as Greg and Remy closed down.

Conner looked over at Blue, who was guzzling a glass of water. “Hey, you wanna go out?”

Blue put the now empty glass down and turned to Conner. “Aren’t we out now?”

“I mean dancing, you schmo.” Conner swatted Blue playfully on a bare shoulder. She wore a black lycra tanktop on top of tailored leather slacks, that clung to long muscled legs. Blue’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

“Conner, it’s like 3:00 a.m.”

“There are places open, ya know.”

There was really only one place to go and the thought of seeing Ewan up close didn’t sit too well with Blue. She didn’t mean to frown, but she could tell from the discouraged look on Conner’s face that she had. “Um, it’s okay. I mean.. I’ll go if you want to go.” ‘What the fuck am I saying?’ She thought.

Conner didn’t look up. “I’m sorry, it was a stupid of me to ask.” On Wednesday night they had sat outside on Blue’s stoop as Blue managed to say that she didn’t like Ewan because of personal issues. Conner knew Ewan lived and Boston and she knew the dark woman had as well. At the mention of Boston the tall woman transformed into an icecube and Ewan’s name only seemed to fill warm blue eyes with a look that Conner was all to familiar with- hate.

“Conner,’ Blue reached out and grabbed a small hand by the fingers. “If you want to go out dancing, then let’s go. It’s just that, I don’t know how your brother would feel if walk in with-well with me.”

As much as she wanted to know what their history was, she knew this was niether the time nor the place. Happy green eyes met soft blue. “Don’t worry, Ewan sees six foot leather clad women everyday.”

Blue flashed a smile. “Oh, and they’re dancing with his baby sister?”
Conner smiled impishly as she squeezed Blues’ hand and hopped off the seat.

“Who said I was going to be dancing with you.” Conner reached out and tapped a finger on Blue’s nose as she made her way to the door.

Blue passed the keys towards a beaming Greg and walked to the front door as she grumbled, “Cause if anyone else dances with you, I’ll rip their arms off.”

Greg and Remy slapped each other five as they watched the two women leave the bar. “Check the pool, Remy, I think tonight’s the night.”

* * *

A slightly weary Blue had questioned about Conner’s brother again, and Conner informed her, that not only was Ewan out of the state, but she didn’t five a flying fuck what her brother thought. And besides they weren’t speaking right now. Blue decided to drop the subject after that comment.

It was amazing how out in bourgeoisie and nouveau-riche’ of Columbia, Maryland, and after-hours club existed. In a programmed town, where signs couldn’t be any higher than three feet off the ground and transformers and electricity ran underground- a little dungeon of delight ran wild. Actually, it was far from being a dungeon, with its futuristic steel and glass design. The inside boasted of a roomy dance-floor, four bars, and plenty of places to lounge-and that was just the ground floor. It was littered with the shine of chrome and the lush feel of velvet and leathers. The club sang out class and exclusiveness, and it was always packed with beautiful women and gorgeous men. Six scantily clad go-go dancers gyrated on their pedestals for all to view over top of the dance floor. Three for the girls, three for the boys, and any combination someone desired for eye candy.

Even Blue had to admit the establishment was nice, regardless of to whom it belonged. She sure as hell didn’t feel out of place, especially since Conner led her around by the hand, giving her an abbrieviated tour, and stopping to greet practically everybody in the place. Blue sat down on a stool as Conner walked up to the bar and exchanged laughter and kisses with a bartender and then walked away with two drinks. “Ooh, Bourbon.” Blue closed her eyes and took a whiff. “Ah, Knob Creek. Not bad, Red.”

Conner blushed and gripped her Martini. “Hey, hurry up so we can go dance.” Conner restrained her jaw from dropping as she watched Blue drain the tumbler of Bourbon in one gulp. She gasped and then met the challenge by downing her Martini in two consecutive gulps, cherry and all. Blue watched as Conner’s face contorted lightly. ‘Oh God, please don’t puke’, she thought. Instead, 30 seconds later, Conner stuck out her tongue out and removed a cherry stem in the shape of a bow. Conner wiggled blonde eyebrows as she grabbed the bow and tossed it in the air as she walked to the dance floor.

Blue reached out and caught the stem, using the excuse of putting it into her pocket to steady her wobbly legs, as she got up to follow Conner out onto the dance floor, thinking, Gi-Gi, I’m gonna die in hail of bullets, I can feel it. She watched the sway of Conner’s hips as she followed the girl, who not unlike a rabbit, darted her way through dancing bodies. She licked her lips as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Gi-Gi, I’m going die happily in a hail of bullets.

The bass pumped furiously in Blues ears, but it was no match for her heart. The dance floor was plastered with gyrating bodies, glistening muscles, and the sparkling lights of the disco ball when it hit the right shaft of light. Fans blew from overhead vents, but did nothing to cool the sticky sweet air. The dance floor pulsed with rhythm as bodies moved across it, some in trance-like states, as if paying homage to the god that lived in the Alpine speakers. Somewhere, amongst the crowd, couples and groups, and solo dancers; Blue and Conner found themselves wrapped in each other.

Conner was glad that she removed her shirt to reveal her own tank top, as she reveled in the feel of the swell of breasts on her back as she and Blue molded together. Their hands entwined and rested on Conner’s hips. She leaned back into Blue’s neck as they dipped and swayed with the pulsing beat. It was skin on skin, lycra on silk, and leather on cotton. Blue could smell the sweet sunflowers of Conner’s shampoo as Conner leaned back into her. It was perfect and intense.

The second they had stepped onto the dancefloor Blue couldn’t wait to touch Conner. They danced in circles, as Conner would move in and grind up against Blue every so often and then dart away before Blue could grab her. Finally, Blue had enough and she reached out and grabbed a toned bicep, pulling Conner in close. That was a half-an-hour ago. She so wanted to turn Conner around and wrap small legs around her waist and then find a wall to hold up on, but for now the salsa beat that kicked in would have to do. Blue broke the contact briefly as she turned Conner around to face her and then, just as quickly without skipping a beat, hips met one another in a circular grind- as fierce percussion and blazing horns led them on.

‘Oh God, is this real?’ Conner thought as she looked up into blue eyes rimmed with want. She could feel her nipples grow sensitive as she danced in time with the music, brushing against Blue’s chest. Conner was dizzy with want and the fact that Blue would lead her out for a spin and then whip her in close just to spin her again. On one such spin, Conner bumped some girl standing behind her, but she could feel a strong arm around her waist as Blue leaned them over for a dip, keeping in time with the music. She smiled a 100 watt smile that made blue eyes shimmer like the Caribbean waters. Blue slowly pulled them both up to a standing position, never once taking her eyes off the vibrant pools green, that were colored with desire.

When they came back up, Conner was so aroused all she could do was laugh. It gave her time to close her eyes and break the stare. She had never seen anyone look into her like that, hell she never wanted to be looked into. But here she was on a dance floor sweating and grinding with an intelligent, talented, and smolderingly sexy woman, that she only wanted to worship. She had to laugh for fear she would bust into tears. Blue sensed her nervous laughter and pulled away bit.

“You okay?”

Conner shifted her weight from one foot to another and then giggled as she held onto Blue’s waist. “You trying kill me woman, whoo!” Blue smiled as Conner put her hand to her chest, pantomiming the onslaught of heat and then she decided to lean in. Conner glanced back up just as two full lips were making a slow descent to her own lips. She closed her eyes and lifted her head. Lips that were moist with perspiration met with lips that were damp from humidity. The feeling was like ice on a hot summers day. That cool feel of ice succumbed to another swell of heat as tentative lips parted and allowed for another pleasant rush of ice, as tongues met in the dark space and explored one another. Conner found herself standing on her tip toes slightly as she tangled slim fingers into layers of black hair. Blue kept one hand resting on the small of Conner’s back as the other drew lazy lines on her jawbone and neck, with smooth fingertips. Conner sucked possessively on Blue’s lower lip, as they finally broke apart with a gasp.

“Now, you are trying to kill me.” Conner said through a deep breath.

“Actually, I was trying for CPR.” Blue smiled wickedly.

“Then you need practice.”

Conner smiled dreamily as she stood on her toes and pulled Blue roughly by the neck down to meet her lips. Blue was slightly surprised at Conner’s aggresiveness , but she met the challenge and plunged into a ferocious kiss, that threatened to leave Conner topless as Blue tugged at the two cotton straps holding her tank top up. Blue stepped back as she tasted the sweet metallic tang of blood on her lip. She leaned her forehead in to touch Conner’s and breathed heavily. “You bit my lip.” Conner snaked out a tongue and lapped up the small dot of blood the colored Blue’s bottom lip.

“You can bite me back.” Conner smiled ardently. Blue eyes locked with green and held an entirely different conversation. Blue turned on her heels, grabbing Conner by the hand and plowed through the undulating bodies, down the aisle in front of the bar, past the bodyguards that were waving good bye, past the bouncer at the metal door, and straight to the parking lot where she stopped at Conner’s car. Conner just held onto the door as she took deep breaths and rested her legs for the first time in about 2 hours. Blue had walked around the car and got in, as she watched Conner catch her breath.

“Do we need another CPR lesson?”

Conner looked over at the dark woman sitting in her car with her arm draped over the driver’s seat. ‘Damn.’ she thought, ‘that sure is a nice arm, and a nice shoulder, and a great neck, and oh..’

“Conner?”

She heard her name being purred. “Yeah. Oh God·C.P.R·no, no. I mean, yes, uh.”

“Conner!” Conner stopped fumbling with the keys and stared wide-eyed at the owner of the deep growl sitting in her car. “Number 1, shut up. Number 2, get in the car. Number 3, open this baby up and show me what she can do.”

Conner would have jumped over the door had it not been open, but instead she just slipped in, turned the ignition, and barely closed the door as she spun out in reverse and flew out of the parking lot.

Conner’s mind was racing as she looked down at the tanned hand on her thigh. ‘Where the fuck am I going? What am I doing? I thought this was supposed to be slow.’ Conner made a conscious decision as she hopped on 29 south heading for Fredrick. Blue noticed that they didn’t take the normal exit for the city, and she just smiled and laid her head back on the head rest and let the wind whip through her hair, as it tossed her thoughts. ‘ I know I’ve lost my mind, but this feels too good and too right. I’m all ready going to hell in a hand basket- so I might as well be wearing gasoline shorts.’ Blue smiled at her thoughts as she moved her hand from Conner’s thigh to the back of her neck. She drew zigzags in slightly damp hair at the nape of Conner’s neck. Conner looked over and smiled as she shifted into fifth gear and hit 110 mph. Blue let out a howl as she raised her hands in the air as if she was on a rollercoaster-and in a sense she was.

* * *

Apparently Conner knew where she was going, because Blue didn’t have the faintest idea. They had pulled off the highway more than 10 minutes ago and were weaving their way around dark tree lined roads. Conner was going much slower for fear of dear jumping out and the fact that she couldn’t see shit.

“Uh, should I be frightened?” Blue asked quietly.

“Don’t worry, the sun will be up soon, so all the ghouls are heading to bed.” Conner flashed her a smile.

“Blue glanced down at her watch and sure enough it was going on 5:20 a.m. “So, what are we doing, Vampire hunting?”

“Nothing that scary. We’ll save that for next time.” Conner pulled over into a clearing and stopped the car. She looked over at Blue who had a small grin plastered to her face. She held out her hand. “You coming?”

Blue nodded as they both exited the car and she walked around to meet Conner. “So, there’s going to be a next time?”

Conner turned and looked up to meet Blue’s eyes. “If you want there to be?” It wasn’t said as a statement, but as a question. Blue let her grin spread to a smile as she took hold of Conner’s hand and started walking.

“All right, where are we going and shouldn’t we have a flashlight?”

Conner smiled at the touch and walked stride with Blue as they held hands. “You’re a pure bred city girl arent’ you?” Conner led the two through a small cover of trees, with the faintest hint of light to guide them along with her memory.

“Oh, I’m busted.” As they stepped out of the canopy of trees, it was clear why they didn’t need a flashlight. “Oh wow.” Blue gasped as she was taken aback by the bright midnight blue sky. Dawn was just about to seep its pinks and oranges into the dark blue sky, but for just a few minutes more-the stars gave off all the light they needed. Conner watched with pride as Blue craned her neck up to take in the constellations and the ridges from the quarrys. “My God Conner, what is this place?” Blue felt the need to whisper.

“It’s my uncles’ land. He used to have a cabin over there.” She pointed a finger off towards the right where the rubble of a log cabin lay in wind-whipped rotten pieces.

“What happened?”

“A fire.”

“So, this is all his.” Blue let go of Conner’s hand as she spun around to take in the Quarry, an orchard, and farmland. “Is the soil still good?”

Conner raised two golden eyebrows at the bread back that faced her. “I-I think so.”

Blue turned around with a smug look in her eye. “Didn’t think a city girl like me would have any agricultural experience, huh?

Conner shook her head. “On the contrary, I’m sure your tour of duty in the girlscouts left you with many skills.” She raised blonde eyebrows suggestively as they wondered aimlessly towards the bluff.

“Ha. How come it’s a tour of duty. Its fun not war.”

“I know. It’s a habit. My childhood camp experiences were like boot camp. We had to come out here and shoot deer, wrangle horses, and herd cattle.”

“So, I’m sure it turned you into a staunch vegetarian.”

Conner stopped in her tracks. “Oh hell no. I can track a deer, then skin it, gut, and cut it up in an hour. Not to mention break a horse and tie down the cattle.

Blue laughed out loud. “You’re just a regular little cowgirl survivalist, eh?”

“Maybe.” She shrugged her shoulders and then sat down in the grass. “Sit”

“Yes ma’am.” Blue tipped an imaginary hat as she sat down next to Conner.

“You cold?”

“Like I can fit your shirt.”

Conner held up the shirt in question and smiled. “Guess not, huh?”

“That’s okay. I’ll enjoy the cool while I can. I’m sure tomorrow it will be hot as balls, so this is just fine.”

“Nothing like a Baltimore heatwave.”

“Indeed.” Blue drew her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “So what are we looking at?”

“Patience Iago, patience.”

Blue raised an eyebrow in question. “That’s not Shakespeare is it?”

“Aladin actually.”

“Ah yes- Jafar.” She rolled the r’s and trailed off into light laughter. “Which way should I look?’

“Just over the edge of the Quarry there.” Conner pointed to the left.

Blue dropped her arms and leaned back on them. “C’mere.”

Conner turned to Blue, as she padded the empty space between her legs. “You look cold.”, she added. Conner nodded slowly as she got up and reseated herself between Blue’s legs. They entwined light and dark arms and hands, as Blue wrapped herself around Conner’s body and rested her chin next to her head.

“So-” Conner began. Blue sshed her.

“No talk now. Just watch.” Conner just smiled and leaned back into the warmth of Blue’s body.

They sat quietly like that for a half-n-hour, as the summer sun broke the indigo horizon with a faint hiss. They watched as a whimsy pink crept through deep blue, that dissipated into a pale blue, that was highlighted by the soft yellow of the early morning sun. Neither knew what to say or really found it necessary to say anything. The steady rhythm of their breathing was only broken by the random bird calls and the rustling of life within the trees. As the morning sun made its presence known, Blue moved her head away from Conner as she cracked her neck, startling Conner; who had begun to drift off.

“Oh, sorry.” A smooth contralto rumbled in Conner’s ears.

“Not..a problem. I guess I got comfy.”

“And I like that you got comfy.” Blue whispered into Conner’s ear, making it immediately turn red. Blue nipped at a ruddy earlobe, causing Conner to shiver. She continued light nips down Conner’s jawline and under her chin, and on her pulse point, and then she stopped as her lips hovered over the base of her neck. Blue eyes focused on a Celtic knot etched in black ink to Conner’s skin. She could feel Conner tense up and start to pull away. Blue closed half-lidded eyes and held her tighter as she touched warm soft lips to the circle. She held it there until she heard a slight whimper come from Conner. Blue pulled away abruptly dropping their hands and placing her own on Conner’s shoulders.

“Did I hurt you?”

“No.” She breathed out and sniffled.

“Conner?” Blue tried to turn her around at the shoulders, but Conner wouldn’t budge. “Conner, look at me.” It was forcefull, but gentle. She turned Conner’s shoulder once more and this time she turned around in Blue’s arms and faced her.

Fresh tears drew a path down pink cheeks, ending at her chin and falling to her shirt. Conner tried to bring her hands up to hide her face, but Blue caught both her small wrists in one large hand and held them to her body. She darted her eyes across Conner’s face as she thought of what to say. She could think of nothing to say, so she thought of only one thing to do. She leaned in and pressed her lips to Conner’s cheek and tasted the salt. She placed a kiss on each eyelid, on her nose, and finally a slow and almost pressureless kiss on Conner’s lips. Conner responded by adding pressure and wrapping her arms around Blue’s neck. They broke the kiss mutually and Conner rested her head on Blue’s bare shoulder. Blue just held onto Conner for dear life.

“Uh-” Blue broke the silence with a shaky voice.

“You don’t have to say anything, you all ready said enough.”

“I did.”

That got a laugh out of Conner, who let go of Blue’s neck and sat back, moving out of the circle of their arms. “Yeah, you big dumb Ox, you did.”

They shared a laugh as Conner used her sleeve to wipe her face. “Well, Red, this big dumb Ox is hungry.”

As if on cue, Conner’s stomach rumbled. “Good Lord woman, I hope that’s not serious.” Blue stood up and wiped grass off of her pants.

“It will be if I don’t eat soon.” Conner reached up for Blue’s outstretched hand and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. They stared at one another in an awkward silence until Blue broke it by grabbing Conner about the shoulders and playfully shoving her forward.

“C’mon cowpoke, let’s rustle up some grub.”
CH 18:
They made their way back to Baltimore city in serene silence as Cassandra Wilson’s smooth alto flowed from the speakers. As they entered the city, Conner cast a glance at the sleep heavy eyelids of Blue and smiled. “You all tuckered out over there?”

“Nah.” Blue stretched her arms out in front of her, touching the dashboard and cracked her knuckles. “Just rejuvenating. So what’s for breakfast?”

Conner let a wild grin spread over her face, that had nothing to do with the woman sitting next to her, as she thought of food. “How about French toast, home fries, scrambled eggs, and pit ham.”

Blue let out a laugh and ran a hand through wind tousled hair. “Good grief, how many people are you feeding?”

Conner laughed as they rounded the corner to her street and pulled up in front of her house. Blue looked around quizzically at her surroundings and spoke. “I didn’t know they had a IHOP in Bolton Hill.”

Conner grinned as she cut the engine. “True, but they do have a Conner’s.” She gave a half-smile to Blue. “Is this okay. Just breakfast I promise.”

Blue let out a throaty laugh as she unbuckled her seatbelt and raised her arms above her head for a stretch. “Conner, I’ll be honest,” she put on a straight face as she gazed at Conner who noticeably shifted at the change of tone. “, I was all ready to drag you out of that club and toss you in the backseat of your car and do battle with the stickshift, steering wheel, and whatever else stood between me and you.” She paused again and watched as blush threatened to seep into Conner’s cheeks. “But then I thought better of it, and well if it’s okay with you, I’d like to have a big breakfast and maybe a nap.” Blue didn’t budge until she saw a huge grin grace Conner’s face. “So, its all right?”

“Es all right.” Conner replied in her best attempt a deep voice.

Conner sprang from the car and bounded up the steps to hold the front door open for Blue. Blue bowed her head at the gesture as she followed Conner into the foyer.

“Jesus is all this yours?”

“Yup. Hey take your shoes off will ya’?”

“A little anal are we?” Blue flashed a grin to remove the sting, as she bent down to unlace her boots.

“No- I just want my guests to enjoy the feel of the carpet.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Be quiet and take ’em off.”

“Anything else you want me to take off while I’m at it?” Blue stood up as she slipped out of her boots and walked towards a red-eared Conner.

“Hey, I thought this was about breakfast.” Conner found herself being backed into the banister of the of the stairs, with blazing blues eyes staring at her lips.

“Well, I thought the chef might have some daily specials to tempt me with.” Conner trembled as Blue’s lips moved within inches of her own. Conner ducked out from under arms that were reaching out to pin her, and ran up the steps.

Conner smiled and shook her head as she stood above Blue. “Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast- and if you’re good-,”, she rolled green eyes, “, you can have lunch.” She walked up another step as Blue walked to the first step and flashed Conner a feral smile. Conner used the banister for support as she felt her knees grow weak. “And if you’re really good- perhaps dinner.” Conner held back a smile and opted to lick her lips as she watched Blue advance two more steps, and she did the same backwards- only two steps from the top. “And if you’re exceptional then-”

Blue took two more steps, until she was an arms length away from Conner. “Then maybe you’ll keep me.”

Conner let out a husky laugh as she advanced backwards to the top step and leaned on the archway. “I all ready have two cats, whatever will I do with an Ox?”

Blue rolled a pair of sapphire eyes and raised an eyebrow. “You’d be surprised.” With that Blue took the remaining steps in one stride, scooping up Conner by the waist as she stepped on the landing and walked down the short hallway. Conner held onto well defined biceps and giggled.

Conner looked over her shoulder. “Turn in here.” Blue did as she was told and entered the doorway to Conner’s bedroom. She released her grip and let Conner slide down her body as she took in the room.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” She ran a hand through dark locks. “Conner, this is my apartment.” Conner smile uneasily as she stepped away from Blue. “Is this the only thing up here?”

“Nope.”

“Well..what else?” Conner bit back a laugh at Blue’s adolescent impatience.

“Go through there.” Conner pointed to two mahogany doors with Chinese silk screens in the middle. Blue rubbed her hands together as she crossed the room and walked to the doors. “Go on.”

Blue swung open the doors and smiled. “Holy shit! This is sweet.”

Conner leaned on one of the open doors as she watched Blue make a b-line for the pin-ball machine. She watched as Blue reached under the machine and turned it on. The room danced with the sounds of bells ringing and ball popping. “Hey, is this your highscore?” A “yep” came from the doorway. “If I beat it, do I get a prize?”

Conner felt a tremble run up her spine as Blue turned her head and flashed her a sexy grin. “I don’t think that would be very nice to your hostess.”

“True, but you get to select the prize.”

“Indeed I do.” They locked eyes for a moment as Blue pushed the reset button and the machine blasted to life. Conner pushed off of the door and laughed. “Um, I’m gonna take a shower. Feel free to wonder, don’t get lost, and watch out for the cats.”

Blue looked up from the game and tugged at her tank top. “Hmm, a shower.” Blue held in a laugh as Conner’s eyebrow raised high on her brow. “No, I meant for me. One shouldn’t wear leather for too long.”

“What, you don’t like to sweat?”

“Only for the right reasons.” Conner once again felt flush with desire and realized she was completely no match for the tall vixen that was pounding away on her pinball machine.

“I can probably find you something if you want?”

“That’s okay, I’ll just walk around in a towel.”

“Then, I will definitely find you something to wear.” Conner heard Blue’s deep laugh rumble as she retreated from the parlor and headed to the bathroom.

By 8:00a.m. Conner and Blue were stretched out on the floor of Conner’s parlor desperately trying to stay awake. They lay together smooshed into beanbags, watching Cartoon network. Conner had managed to find Blue a big enough soccer jersey, that she swore belonged to some superstar named ‘Roy’ on the Scotland Celtic’s. This of course meant that Blue had to pay homage to the soccer gods before she could wear it.. Conner also managed to rustle up a pair of Terry’s shorts that she randomly left, that had Blue thanking God for drawstrings. Conner had made a pillow out of Blue’s smooth stomach as she tried to keep one green eye tuned into the Smurfs, but it was no good. By the time the opening sequence was over Conner was out with Blue right behind her.

Some time later, Blue was having some random dream about being naked in a field when one of the trees started shouting something about “Thunder, thunder, thunder cats, Ho!” Blue found it hard to shift her body as she woke up, due to the 122 pounds of Conner sprawled across her. Conner’s arm lay across Blue’s shoulder with her hand resting by Blue’s head. Her legs were possessively entwined with long bronze legs, as her head found made a pillow out of the space just below Blue’s breasts. Blue also noticed that Conner was extremely hairy and she purred. She opened one eye slowly followed by the next, to find a tan cat curled in a ball, resting right above Conner’s head and under Blue’s chin. She managed to ease an arm out from under Conner and scoop off the extra weight onto the floor. Blue then looked down at the top of Conner’s head and lightly ran her fingers through her hair. Conner let out a squeak of a yawn as she stretched her body and suddenly noticed her position.

“Oh good grief, I’m sorry.” She started to untangle her legs and lift herself off of Blue, but Blue caught her arms and pulled her back down.

“You can’t go anywhere yet.”

“Why not?” Conner looked slightly worried.

“Because, I didn’t thank you for breakfast.”

Conner’s “Oh” was swallowed up by warm lips and a cool tongue timidly invading her mouth. Conner relaxed into the kiss and let her arms drape onto Blue’s body, as the kiss deepened. They broke the kiss after a brief moment, not for lack of air, but for the heavy swat of a fluffy tail to both their heads. “Romulaus, you little shit!” Conner glared at her fat cat, as he took his time walking out of the parlor. They touched foreheads together and laughed. “Must be hungry, little suckers.”

“Oh man, I can’t even think about food. What time is it anyway?”

Conner pushed herself up on her arms as she craned her neck to see the clock on the wall. “Um, almost one o’clock.” Conner found herself abruptly dislodged as Blue’s eyes grew wide and she jumped up from the floor sending Conner backwards.

“Oh Jesus, I’m sorry.” Blue reached a hand down and pulled Conned hastily to her feet. Blue put both hands in her head as searched the floor frantically for her clothes. Conner could clearly see that this was not merely a question of being late. She reached a tentative hand out to touch a frantic Blue, who was still searching the room . Conner finally laid a soft hand on a tense forearm and flinched as two wild blue eyes turned on her, and then just as quickly seemed to calm.

“Hey, take it easy.” As Blue visibly started to calm down, Conner’s touch became firm. “Your stuff’s in the bedroom, on top of the dresser.” Blue gave a shaky smile as she squeezed the hand on her forearm and then raced into the bedroom. She was attempting to hop into her boots when Conner gently ordered her to sit down and put on her shoes and socks. Blue obeyed as shaky hands tried to tie black laces. She didn’t look up as Conner knelt in front of her and began to tie the laces on the other shoe. When they both finished, Blue reached down and held Conner’s face in her hands and simply stared into infinite green. Conner touched a hand to Blue’s and smiled.

“I know you’re sorry, you big dumb Ox. We can finish this later, get to where you’re going.” Blue smiled and stood up. “Wait, do you need a ride?” Blue shook her head as she helped Conner up and then headed for the door. Conner followed as Blue raced down the steps with her clothes under her arm. She stopped when she came to the front door and turned around to face Conner, who stood on the bottom step. They were eye to eye. Blue looked down at her shoes and then back up at Conner.

“Sorry about the carpet.”

“I’ll live, now get out.”

Blue smiled as she turned and opened the door. “Um, I’ll call or come by, or whatever and I’ll wash this.” She tugged at the jersey.

“Oh, please don’t.” Conner could only smile as she watched Blue fumble with the latch on the screen door and then just as she was about to step out of the door, she turned around and met Conner at the step. Without hesitation or a slow set up, Blue leaned forward and pressed her lips to Conner’s. The kiss was fast and furious, as tongues clashed and lips were sucked. It wasn’t until Conner had raised herself from the step she had collapsed to after Blue walked out of the door, that she realized her lip was bleeding. She smiled lazily as she lapped up the blood with tongue and got up to close the front door, saying aloud, “she bit me back.”
CH 19
Blue held onto the screen door with her right hand as she made two quick raps on the white hardwood door. She ran a nervous hand through wind-whipped darks locks as she heard the key turn in the lock and watch the door slowly pull back. As the door eased opened, Blue was greeted with a hearty laugh from the cream colored heavy-set woman, who stood in the open doorway.

“My, my, somebody’s been slummin.” Hazel eyes ran up and down the tall woman, who wore black combat boots, snug cotton shorts, and a dark green and bight yellow soccer jersey. Blue blushed slightly at the teasing comment and shifted her weight from one foot to another. “Well, git in here girl and give me a kiss.”

Blue flashed a full smile at the small woman as she ducked her head and planted a kiss on a warm cheek. “Hey, Cookie.”

The older woman linked arms with Blue as she led her past the living room into the kitchen. She let go of Blue’s arm as she pushed Blue towards a chair and then went to retrieve two Coke bottles from the fridge. The woman reached into the pocket of an ever present apron, pulled out a bottle opener and popped the tops on the bottle. She set them both down on the table and then moved to the kitchen counter and grabbed a napkin covered plate, that she sat down on the table between the two of them. Blue watched the woman with warm eyes as she moved about the kitchen with a warm smile plastered to her face. Blue took a deep gulp from the ice-cold soda and relaxed back inot the chair.

“So what you been up to legs? We almost thought you weren’t coming.”

The woman sat down and whipped the napkin off of the plate to reveal warm slices of cheese bread. Blue’s eyes glazed over in want as she reached a hand out to pick one up. It was sharply swatted away with a fleshy hand before she could even get close. “Wash.”, was the command. Blue lowered her eyebrows and put on her best puppy-dog look. “Wash ’em.” The tall woman was reduced to a small child as she got up and rinsed her hands in the sink. When she sat back down at the table a warm piece of bread was waiting for her on a plate. The older woman smiled as she watched Blue sink white teeth into warm bread. “Good?” She got “mmm” and healthy shake of the head for a response. “So, what kept you? I can clearly see time wasn’t lost on choosing an outfit.” The old woman smirked and then bit into her own piece of bread.

“Hey, this outfit was chosen with the utmost care.” Blue looked down at the shorts and smiled as she remembered her dress-up session with Conner. “No, really, I just got a late start, I was up kind of late.”

“Yeah, I bet.” The old woman cut hazel eys at her in a suspicious manner and then smiled.

Blue crumpled the napkin as she wiped her mouth and took another drink from her soda. “Where is she?”

“Upstairs messing with that quilt of hers.” The two woman shared a warm smile as they both thought aobut the woman upstairs and her latest foray inot quiliting.

“Is she mad?”

“No honey. I told her you were coming and here you are in all your-uh glory.” They laughed. “Now, take those pretty legs upstairs. Here, take her some bread and then you come talk to me later.” She wagged a finger at blue and then patted her hand. “G’wan now.”

Blue grabbed two pieces of warm bread and bounded up the stairs and to the left. She hovered in the doorway as she watched the dark haired woman run time weathered slender fingers over a ball of yarn. She grabbed the end of the yarn and began to thread it through the needle. On the second try she got the thread to stay. She placed the needle between her lips as she used both hands to search out the material in her lap. She knocked it out of her lap in a rush of motion and then sighed as she bent over the arm of the chair and begin to pad the ground in front of her feet. Blue walked softly across the carpet and reached down to pick up the material that had fallen out of the woman’s reach. The older woman picked up her head instinctively and blankly gazed at Blue.

“Azure?” The voice was quiet and slightly shaky.

Blue dropped down to her knees in front of the woman, so that they were at eye level. “Hi mom.”

The dark haired woman broke into a brillant smile as she held out her arms wide and reached for her daughter. Blue met her halfway as they shared a tight embrace. Blue pulled back as Carmen ran a slender hand over Blue’s face, stopping only when a fingertip ran across a minute cut on Blue’s lip. She drew her hands away and ran them through Blue’s hair, before she could feel the blood rush to Blue’s cheeks.

“I see you still have that bike. You should carry a comb with you.”

“If I did that, I couldn’t get you to do it for me.”

“So spoiled.” Carmen smiled and placed warm lips on her daughters’ forehead and then sat back in her chair. “Is that Cookie’s bread I smell?”

“Yep.”

“W-well give it up.” Blue handed over the bread to her mother as she sat back on her knees and watched her bite into the warm morsel. She smiled as best she could while staring at her mother’s face.

Time had been kind to Carmen, even if life hadn’t. Her curly dark hair had been cut to her chin as it cradled bronzed-colored face that crinkled a bit around the eyes and mouth. Blue could see the edge of a raised welt that led to the dime sized keloid that covered the area over her temple. The exit wound was concealed by a fall of dark hair behind her ear. The deep blue eyes that once shown bright with life were no longer shining or blue. The right had succumbed to the gray veil of cataracts, while the other just seemed to diminish in color as if it there were nothing left to take in, since she could no longer see out. Blue pushed away images and sounds of her past away, as she bit into her own bread.

Blue situated herself between her mother’s legs and handed her the comb. She had decided to tell Carmen about Conner, but not who she really was. She hadn’t even planned on telling her mother that she was Scottish, but Carmen sensed something and popped her daughter in the skull with the comb until she came clean. Blue burst into loud laughter that made Cookie come upstairs, after her mother swatted her once more on the head, and told her that “it served her right” to have met Conner.

She stayed with her mother and Cookie late into the evening. When she finally returned home, she took a well-needed shower and collapsed onto the bed as she gave a passing thought to calling Conner, but decided to just wait until tomorrow.
CH 20:
It was going on 2:30 in the afternoon when Blue walked up the steps to Conner’s front door. The door was wide open and no one was in sight. She called Conner’s name as she leaned into the open door. There was no response. Blue tensed her shoulders reflexively as she stepped through the door into the foyer, not liking what she was feeling. Blue had balled her hands into fists as she stepped gingerly towards the steps.

“Shit,” she thought as she saw a glint of sliver out of the corner of her eye. It was too late to react, so she just stood still as the cold barrel of a 9mm pressed into her temple.

“Who the fuck are you?” The deep growl reverberated in a thick Scottish accent. Blue made no move to answer. Instead, she just moved her eyes as far left as she could, to take in the brown haired thick necked man who was holding the gun. Before, he could ask again, Conner’s voice sang out from the basement. “Wilhelm, did you call me?”

He turned his head in the direction of the stairs to answer, but his sound was swallowed up as a sharp elbow smashed into his mouth and nose, sending him backwards. Blue brought her elbow down on his arm, not only causing him to drop the gun, but to make it go off as well. The shot rang through her ears as she tackled the man to the floor. Their bodies slammed through the wooden coffee table, as each fought for control. As he pummeled her in the kidney, she drew her knee up into his gut, causing him to wince. She took advantage as she rolled off of him and grabbed his arm with a twist, causing him to roll over fully on his stomach. She bent his arm up in a chicken wing position and placed her knee on his wrist, pinning him as she held onto the other arm with her left hand and forced his face into the carpet with her right hand. Light perspiration dotted her brow as she growled out, “who the fuck are you?”

His groan of an answer was overshadowed by three simultaneous sounds . A sharp squeal was emitted from Sara. A “holy shit” was bellowed by Terry and a “what the fuck” was render through Conner, as both girls stood on the top step leading down into the basement. Blue didn’t release her grip on Wilhelm or her scowl as she watched Conner walk towards her and Wilhelm. Conner walked in four swift strides, only stopping to scoop up Wilhelm’s gun as she came to rest in front of the pair. Green eyes flashed with rage at Wilhelm’s body and then shifted to what surprised Blue as being arousal, as green eyes rested on blue.

She lost her scowl. This notion of want was further emphasized as Conner drew a smile to her lips and leaned down to place a fierce little wet kiss on Blue’s full lips. Wilhelm flexed under the weight of Blue’s body as he heard the tell-tale sound of kissing above his head. Conner pulled back from the kiss with a sly grin plastered to her face as she brushed sweaty stray strands of black hair away from Blue’s face. She stepped back as she released the clip from Wilhelm’s gun and cast her gaze down at him.

“Wilhelm, I hope you’re not bleeding on my rug.” She bent down, placing the gun and clip next to his face, and then turned to walk down the stairs. “Cuz, if you are..I’m gonna let her snap your neck.”

As Conner walked back down the steps, Blue released her grip on Wilhelm and stood up, backing away. She moved all the way into the foyer keeping a stone face, as she heard Sara take in a gasp of air and then rush by her to aid Wilhelm. As he sat admist shards of broken wood, shaking out a throbbing wrist.

Blue watched the scene until her attention was grabbed by the guttural laugh that came from behind her. She turned to see Terry holding a hand to her smiling mouth as she walked towards the living room. As Terry walked past Blue she patted Blue and the shoulder, and with a laugh said, “oh yeah, I like you.” Blue only cocked an eyebrow as she watched Terry walk over to the couch, where Wilhelm was sitting holding a tissue to his nose. She heard Sara ask Terry “is that the woman from the club?” As Terry answered yes to the question, Blue turned on her heels and headed down the steps that lead to the basement.

On her first visit, Blue hadn’t really got a chance to view anything but the first two floors of the house, so she took in the decor of the basement with wonder. To her right was a sunken living room which was furnished with blue and purple lounge chairs and divans, that circled a retro-styled teal coffe table. Blue ran a hand along the polished wood of a pool table as she turned to her left. She called out Conner’s name as a smile spread across her face as she rested her eyes on two original arcade games: Galaga and Mrs. Pacman. She let her gaze continue towards the bar, that made her eyes widen as she took in it’s immense size and the fact that it was stocked. Her awe was broken by Conner’s voice as she said, “Back here.” Blue followed the voice and took a right turn at the end of the bar and discovered, “back here.” In the right corner sat a mahogany desk that was littered with papers and a computer. A catarmaran sat in the opposite corner beneath a plant. The rest of the basement to her left was encased by wall to floor mirrors and gym equipment. She focused her attention on Conner who kneeling on one knee in the middle of the floor and shoving papers and folders into a cardboard box.

Conner watched as Blue entered her office space, and held back a smile of pride as she watched cerulean blue eyes take in the gym area. When blue eyes finally rested on her small frame she spoke. “So, you like?’ Blue nodded and then gave her a half smile as she approached.

They locked eyes, one giving acceptance and the other asking for forgiveness. Conner stood up and they greeted one another with a silent hug that melted in a kiss that was at first hesitant and then finally firm and frantic as hands roamed freely. The broke apart staring breathlessly into one another’s eyes, and then Conner’s attempt to speak was interrupted by Wilhelm’s bellow of her name.

Conner leaned back and scrunched her brow in frustration. “Damn, forgot Wilhelm.” She reluctantly broke away from the tall beauty and ran a hand threw unruly red-blond locks. A sexy sneer crossed her lips as she pointed slender finger at Blue. “Stay.” She backed up, her sultry gaze never leaving lustful blue eyes, as she backed away and picked up the box from the floor and then proceeded to walk up the stairs.

Wilhelm stood next to the door holding a bag of ice to his face with Sara at his side. He looked so pathetic to Conner and Sara just looked lost. Conner wanted to smile, but thought that it was not the time. She kept her face straight as she thrusted the box into Wilhelm’s arms. He dropped the bag onto the box and looked at Conner with concern and confusion.

“What’s dis shit?”

“What Ewan wants.”

” I thought you were going to take it to ‘im”

“No, you are.”

“But-”

“But shit Wilhelm. This is why I don’t let you in my house.” She waved a hand towards the remains of the coffee table. “My $2000 table is kindling.”

“That was that fucking bitch that-” He was cut off by Conner tweaking his nose. “Fucking Ow Conner! That hurt!”

“Keep talking, and I’ll tell her to come up here and beat the crap out of you.” She let go and stepped back. “I should let her do it anyway, cuz I know there’s blood on my fucking carpet.” She stuck a finger in Wilhelm’s heaving chest. “And if there is..you’re going to fly to Indian and track down the tiny little village where the woman that wove it lives and pay her double to make a new one.” She emphasized her anger with a short growl. Wilhelm knew she meant it, but he held back an involuntary shiver as he reminded himself that she was nothing like Ewan. “Now, take that damn box, leave your girlfriend and get out.” She shoved him towards the door.

“I’m not leaving Sara her with that-” Conner raised two fingers towards his nose and Wilhelm moved closer to the door. “W-well Ewan’s not going to be happy.”

“Well then he’ll know how it feels.” She mumbled more to herself than Wilhelm. “Get out of my house.”

“Wilhelm cast brown eyes down at Sara, who looked to the floor. “Sara?”

She barely met his eyes as she spoke quietly. “I promised Terry and Conner- I can’t.” He hung his head as Sara ceremoniously leaned up to kiss him on his cheek. Conner thought he was actually kind of cute when he wasn’t being a moron. “Bye Will.” Wilhelm backed away from Sara and gave Conner an icy glare, as she flipped him the bird in return, and then backed out of the door and walked down the stairs. Conner put an arm around Sara’s shoulders as they watched him walk off, and then they walked towards the living room. There they found Terry already working on clearing up the debris of the coffee table. As both Sara and Conner bent down silently to help clear the mess, a remorseful alto filled the air.

“I’m really sorry about that.” Three heads turned to face Blue as she stood at the edge of the carpet with hands stuck in the pockets of her jeans, like a child scolded. Unexpectedly to Blue, Sara stood up and spoke. “It’s okay, but I don’t think Wilhelm likes you very much.” Conner and Terry rolled eyes at Sara’s comment. Blue raised both eyebrows for the humor of the situation. “Uh- well, that’s what happens when people shove guns in other people’s faces.”

Sara covered her mouth in a gasp. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Before Blue could reply, not that she had one Terry stood up with a huff.

“Sara, don’t apologize for that jackass. Now get your ass over her and help us with this freakin’ table.” Both Terry and Conner let out groans that Blue couldn’t help but smile at. She watched as Terry and Conner moved towards a large hunk of the table that had remained intact. Blue brushed past Sara and moved towards Conner and Terry and then reached down and grabbed the leg and side of the table, picking it up. “I got it.” Terry and Conner dropped their hands from the piece as Blue effortlessly lifted the chunk of wood. “Where do you want it?”

“Sara, show her the back.” Conner pointed towards the kitchen. Blue follwed Sara as they walked past the kitchen and to the backdoor that led to a back yard of sorts. When Conner and Sara dissapeared into the kitchen Terry turned a wicked smile towards Conner. “What?”

In her best impression of Drago from Rocky iv, Terry replied, “I must break you.” Conner shoved her lightly and then stood. “I like her Conner, she’s a keeper.”

“No shit Sherlock.”

Terry stood. “Hey, are we still going to the game?”

Conner was thankful for the change in subject. “Shit yeah!”

“Where’s she gonna sit?”

“How bout your lap, Terry?” Terry focused brown eyes on the ceiling as if she was in thought. Green eyes grew wide. “Terry!”

Terry shrugged and smiled. “I’m just saying I wouldn’t complain.”

“But I might crush your legs.” Terry and Conner turned their heads to Blue who stood in the foyer. If Terry had been light enough, the blush on her face would have been fire engine red.Terry laughed uneasily as she walked by Blue, chuckling, “yeah, I like you.” She continued and walked up the stairs, calling for Sara, who scurried after her up the steps.

Conner waited until Sara and Terry disappeared up the stairs before she spoke. “I guess she likes you.” She took a step towards Blue.

“It’s good to be liked.” Blue stepped forward and closed the gap between them.

“I thought I told you to stay.” Conner tangled her fingers in dark locks. Blue dropped her hands to the swell of Conner’s hips and moved in close brushing her lips as she retorted, “you didn’t say please.”

It came in a breathless whisper. It was a request, a command, and a silent prayer. “Please.”, was all that Conner uttered. Lips that throbbed with neglect got welcome relief as the two women got a taste of one another. Blue palmed the soft flesh that was covered by Conner’s khaki shorts and pressed Conner’s body into hers. The soft pull on her body garnered a moan from Conner, who withdrew lips that now throbbed from pressure, and plunged them into the bronze of Blue’s neck.

Blue’s knees buckled at the contact as she backed into the wall and pulled Conner’s legs up around her waist. The change in position gave Blue access to a soft pink neck that she bit into and began to suck at the pulse point. Conner ground her hips into Blue’s waist as she found the top of an ear to play with. Blue found herself tugging at the collar of a button down polo shirt. Undoing one, two, and then three buttons as she kissed her way to the swell of cleavage, that was covered by soft pink satin and lace. Slender fingers tangled in black tendrils and tugged, causing Blue to remove her lips from their warm spot only to be claimed fiercely by Conner’s lips.

The sharp tug and consequent rough kiss caused Blue to moan a lot louder than either of them had expected. Conner pulled away and green eyes went wide in surprise as they met equally startled blue ones. “I should probably get down.” Conner’s comment elicited a laugh from Blue as she helped Conner slide down her body to the floor.

Blue reached out to help Conner with the buttons on her shirt when they heard heavy footfalls coming down the stairs. Blue dropped her hand quickly, and with intense speed akin to a cockroach when the lights are turned on; both woman fell to their knees on the floor and began picking at the splinters of wood that remained on the floor. Their backs were to Terry as she walked into the living room and found the women picking at the last shards of wood.

“Conner leave that. We need the damn vacuum.

Conner kept her back to Terry as she tried to discreetly button her shirt with one hand. “Yep, Terry, you’re right.”

“Hey, where’s the phone book”

“Um, in the kitchen I think.”

“Not that one, yours.”

“Oh. Um, I’ll get it.” Conner hopped up off the floor and did her best to quickly get passed Terry, with her noticing her flushed face. When Conner had reached the second step from the top of the stairs, Terry leaned over the banister and called out. “Honey, if you can’t button your shirt , you might wanna start wearing pullovers.” She let out a laugh as she heard Conner moan and then pound down the hallway. Terry turned her gaze towards Blue, who had actually managed to gather enough remnants of wood that warranted being moved outside.

“Why don’t I get the door for you.”

Blue cocked an eyebrow at Terry. “Um, I’d appreciate it.”

“And then maybe, a glass of water.” Her voice was tinged with sarcasm.

“Oh, you’re too kind, Terry.”

Terry let out a laugh as she held open the back door for Blue. “Fuck it, let’s just make it a drink.”

Blue arched her eyebrow as she walked back through the door. She gave Terry a grin. “Yeah, I like you too. Lead on.” Conner watched form the top step as the laughing women descended the steps into the basement.

* * *

Forearms covered in eggplant colored silk rested on a deep mahogany desk in the center of the room. Pale hands cradle a drawn and wearied face. A rather frail gentleman stood before the desk, a hand clasping a wrist in front of him as she spoke. He was saying something about fiscal years, end quotes, bottom lines, deficits, and some such stuff. The bespeckled young man who sat on the couch looked every bit the part of an internet Star Trek porn addict. Every now and then he would speak up and echoing what the slender man was saying, punctuating his responses with ‘fucks’ and ‘dudes’.

Ewan didn’t even bother to focus on the men talking before him. He stared into the chocolate swirls of his desk and went deaf. Truth was, he hadn’t heard anything they had said in the whole of 10 minutes. Right before that, he had been leaning back casually in chair showing a modicum of concern, when Wilhelm burst into his office. He had a lone piece of tissue dangling precariously form his right nostril, while he held a bag of ice to his lip and balanced a cardboard box on his knee before plopping it down on Ewan’s desk. Ewan raised thin eyebrows at the stocky man , who looked like he was all thumbs at the moment. “What’s that? And what the hell happened to your face?

“Dis is frum Connah.” He took the top of the box and winced in pain as he held the bag of ice to his throbbing wrist. Ewan tried hard not to crack smile at the thick-necked man. “What do you mean it’s from Conner? She was supposed to come back, where is she?”

“She went wit da girls and dat big blue-eyed bwoad.”

Ewan sat up straight. “She was in her house!” His mind raced. He had seen the two of them on the dance floor Friday night and was praying to God that too many Scotch neats were making him delusional, or at least accepting of the possibility that this was just another conquest for Conner.

The big man nodded. “Yeah, she wuz dere. She pwatically bwoke my fucking wist. And yeah, I dink I owe Connah a new wug.”

“What the fuck!?”

“Dat amazon fucking attacked me.”

“Why?”

“Well, she wuz cweeping awound da house, so I asked her who she wuz and she fucking ‘bowed me in the face and tackled me.”

Ewan just shook his head as he leaned forward on the desk. “Damn it. Call the boys in Boston and tell them to speed it up and then take some guys downtown and find out exactly who this bitch is.” Ewan shoved a few cursory papers off his desk and grumbled.

Wilhelm waited a brief moment before speaking, as he watched anger flush Ewan’s stoic features. “What about Connah?”

“I’ll deal with Conner. Go get cleaned up and go.” Wilhelm nodded and turned around, leaving the office. Ewan just sat at his desk in a daze, as he looked blankly at the two men in the room, who took his blank stare as permission to continue speaking.

Ewan broke his recent gaze with his desk as he realized no one was talking. He looked up. “I’m sorry-um, I can’t do this right now. Look- Manny..” He pointed a slender finger at the young man with the glasses. “See if you can catch up to Conner. Go see her or something, cause I know she’s not going to see me.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “And uh, I guess take a look at these papers in the box.” He slumped back in his chair and traced his jawline absently with a thumb. “That’ll be all.” Ewan paid no attention to the soft click of the door shutting behind the two men. Instead, he just stared blankly at the back wall and breathed deeply.

At 30 years old, he was beginning to question his job performance. In his mind he had done well by those that preceded him. Although, as Conner liked to point out, he had done well by Duncan’s standards. To Conner, Ewan was not only losing sight of a family rich in history and respect, but he was envisioning one that choked on the spoils of trivial wars and gained respect not through honor, but fear. Ewan gave up arguing with Conner when he faced the fact that Conner had no place in this life, Just like Duncan had been the golden-haired omen of change, Conner had risen up in his place. Blonde hair and green eyes that glowed from the inside out and not the other way around. Ewan respected that this was not her way of life and he even found himself willing to let her go-but not to that woman. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure. The blue-eyed banshee lived and breathed. Moreover, Conner hadn’t a clue who or what she was and Ewan was more than certain that she had returned to kill them all.
CH 21:
Conner was in a whirlwind. Her feet hadn’t touched the ground again since Sunday. Conner had given up her skybox seats to a family who was 2 rows off the floor. The mother jumped at the chance to lounge in the plush seats while taking in the mayhem at the MCI center. The crowd was huge and loud. The game was quick and crazy. Conner spent her time between drooling at the 6feet of bronze woman that sat next to her, ignoring Terry’s giggles, and yelling like an idiot at Chamique Holdsclaw’s performance. Their ears were still ringing as they left the arena and flowed with the other spectators down G street to a local bar. The night had ended with lingering kisses and touches. Monday night found Conner playing groupie to the dark songstress and then a late dinner/breakfast at the Double T diner. Tuesday night was spent watching old horror flicks, fumbling with bras, and trying to find out if it’s possible to play Galaga while someone’s sucking on your neck like a leech.

Conner’s head was like a cloud by Wednesday and she was dying of want. It was 2:15a.m. when she kicked Greg out of the back door and locked her office, as she walked to the front. The only light in the bar emanated from the soft yellow gels of the stage lighting. Conner sucked in her breath as she exited the hallway and padded quietly to the stage, not wanting to disturb the dark haired woman who was swaying over the keyboard as she played something slow and unfamiliar to Conner. Blue looked up as she watched Conner step onto the stage, wearing a thigh length skirt and a short sleeved cardigan. The skirt had been a bet. Connor lost the third game of pool and opted to wear a skirt rather than give up her soccer jersey, that Blue had taken a shine to. Blue spread a wide grin across her lips , as she pounded out chords that announced Conner’s arrival. She was rewarded with a swat to the shoulder.

“So, you liking the skirt, little miss?”

“Shut up, smart ass.” She smiled and added, “when can we leave?” Conner stepped bare feet onto the stool and hopped onto the piano.

Blue raised an eyebrow. “Who said you could put your butt on this piano?”

“I think it likes it.” Conner smirked and wiggled on the smooth surface as she scooted back, so that her knees were flush against the backboard. Pink painted toenails dangled over ivory keys. “Besides, I bought it, thank you very much.”

“All the more that you should take care of it.” Blue flashed her canines as she spoke causing a shiver to run up Conner’s spine.

“I let you play it don’t I ?” Conner leaned down until their foreheads almost touched and then sat up quickly as Blue chomped her teeth together in a biting gesture. “So, what are we doing Ox?” Connor inwardly figured that a change in subject would calm her hormones. The dark woman shrugged broad shoulders as she tapped out a melody on the piano. Conner stared into the mane of raven hair. “Dancing?” Blue shook her head no as she lazily ran her fingers up and down the keyboard, locking smoldering blue eyes with vibrant green, every so often. “Drinks?” A shake of a head as Blue moved around a pair of toned calves to reach the upper register. Conner felt herself shiver as Blue’s warm fingertips brushed her skin. “Uh-movies?” A whisper of smile spread across red full lips as Blue shook her head no. “Then, dinner.” Blue stopped playing. With her hands on either side of Conner’s ankles, she looked up thoughtfully and said, “maybe”, then focused again on the keyboard.

“Are you hungry?” Conner looked down into the lush canopy of blue-black hair and smiled.

“Yep.” She didn’t look up.

Conner bit her lip to keep from smiling. “A preference?”

“Something ethnic, I think.” Blue fingered the keys around Conner’s ankles, purposefully touching her at every chance. She kept her head down and smiled as she felt Conner tense up with each touch. “Hmm. How about some Haggis.”

Conner’s eyes grew large as she failed at stifling a chuckle. Teasing blue eyes met Conner’s and made her smile as she tried to ignore the strong fingers that were drawing lazy circles on her ankles and feet. “Have you ever had Haggis?”

“Nope.”

“Good- you don’t want it.” Conner let herself relax back onto her arms. She closed her eyes in reaction to the warm fingers that had stopped drawing circles on her feet and were now massaging her ankles.

“I’m not allowed to try something new/” Blue kept her eyes on her hands as she made firm circles around Conner’s slim ankles and preceded up her achilles to her calves.

Conner set glazed over green eyes on the top of Blue’s head. “I’ll- uh, make you something new.”

Green and blue eyes locked as Blue moved her hands up Conner’s calf to the smooth flesh behind her knee. “Really, I was beginning to think all you could cook was breakfast.” Blue fought a grin as she watched a small pout form on soft pink lips.

“Perhaps, I wanted to keep you in suspense.” Conner let a wicked grin cross her face as she reflexively reached forward and brushed a lock of hair away from Blue’s face. Whatever resolve Blue had, it was melting away like soft serve ice cream on a hot June day.

“So,” Blue lightly traced a short path from the back of Conner’s knee to the inside of her thigh, stopping where the skirt stopped. She could feel Conner tremble at the touch and ran her tongue across her teeth to keep from smiling and then met Conner’s eyes. “Is the wait over?”

Conner was trying real hard to remember what the hell the conversation was supposed to be about; but somewhere in between requests for Haggis and the short bursts of tingles that assaulted her body every time Blue touched her- she knew exactly where this was heading. Conner didn’t give a rat’s ass that she was sitting on top of a $10,000 piano in a skirt. She was just wondering if she should voluntarily rip her clothes off or enjoy the soft touch that was making her burn on the inside. She bit back a moan as she felt smooth fingertips trace a path inside her thigh and back down her calf. At this point she decided to enjoy the slow torture and made a mental note to return the favor.

Blue watched Conner with her own glazed over eyes as Conner bit into her lip. Blue could see and feel the arousal spreading through Conner. She knew it was now or never. She hesitated for a moment in her ministrations looking for some sign that she should get up and walk away. She caught Conner’s eyes when she opened them again and knew with certainty that she was right where she belonged. This was about to get really complicated and really strange, she just hoped that Conner could deal. She saw her own want mirrored in Conner’s eyes and decided to work out the details later. Right now, past misgivings and indiscretions could do nothing to curb the swell in her heart or the want in her eyes.

Conner waited until the last possible moment to touch Blue, as she felt her skirt being pushed up to her hips. Blue stood up as she pushed the soft cotton of the skirt up and made no effort to push apart slightly trembling thighs, that parted on their own accord. Blue rested her hands on Conner’s hips as their lips made their way to one another. Conner tangled her fingers in long dark hair. Both women breathed out one solid moan as bodies pressed together and tongues explored one another. Conner left one hand in Blue’s hair as she trailed the other hand down a warm throat to the lapel of an oxford shirt. Conner began to tug at the buttons as Blue’s lips and teeth plowed into her throat without apology. Conner reflexively wrapped her legs around Blue’s waist, causing more contact as she felt herself being slowly reclined. Conner had managed to undo three of Blue’s buttons before she had to release her grip to allow her own shirt to be removed. It was a quiet moment only accented by the random cacophony of the keys as Blue’s thighs brushed against them.

Blue allowed Conner to sit up a bit as she tossed the camisole over her shoulder and onto the floor. She used an index finger to trace the lace strap and top of a demi-cup. Her touch elicited a sharp intake of air, as skin briefly touched skin. Conner leaned forward and grabbed a hold of Blue’s shirt as if to unbutton another button. Blue pursed full lips, arched an eyebrow, and purred out “not yet” as she gently pushed Conner’s hand away and entwined their fingers.

Conner grinned. “You keeping me in suspense?” Conner’s only answer came in the light squeezing of her fingers as she felt herself moving backwards. She lost all rational thought as moist lips laid claim to her neck, her collar bone, and the pink flesh that was unobscured by the lace and satin of a bra. Conner ground her hips into the taut flesh of Blue’s stomach, as she wrapped her legs around Blue’s waist once more. Conner’s slender fingers found themselves entangled in blue-black tresses more for something to hold onto than for guiding. Any type of control on Conner’s part, went out the window the second she felt her bra fall away thanks to a set of teeth. Conner felt a brief moment of disappointment at the loss of warmth, as Blue removed her head from her breast and made a slow path southward. Conner’s body tingled with a new kind of warmth as Blue’s loose hair dragged along her abdomen. Conner’s skirt quickly found its way to the floor of the stage along with her panties. Her heartbeat flooded her ears and her heart threatened to burst from her chest, as Blue moved northward to kiss Conner.

Conner attempted to pull Blue through her body, as she wrapped her arms around the smooth expanse of Blue’s back that was still covered in a shirt. Conner smiled into the ravenous kiss as she managed to release the remainder of the buttons in one sure tug. Blue let out a chuckle as she broke the kiss and stared down into green eyes awash in want and a small something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She leaned in again and placed a sweet kiss on pink lips. Conner just smiled at the sudden change in intensity and returned the kiss in kind. She traced her finger across Blue’s eyebrow, down her cheek, and paused over her lips. She whispered out, “hi”. Blue breathed back a “hi” of her own and ducked her head to plant kisses on Conner’s jawline and neck. Just as Conner was about to close her eyes and arch back, Blue abruptly stopped and hovered over Conner’s face.

Startled green eyes met mischievous blue. “What?” Blue fought off a laugh, but not a sweet smile. “You, know I don’t think I like suspense movies that much.” She smiled thoughtfully, as she felt Conner squirm in frustration beneath her. Before she could let out a giggle, Blue almost lost her balance as small fingers wrapped themselves deep in her hair and tugged. It came as a pleasant surprise as she was forced to stand up and Conner sat up and tugged gently but forcefully on her hair, exposing her neck. Conner was clearly stronger than she looked and for a split second Blue wondered if she had made a bad decision, but her qualms were wiped away as lustful green eyes looked down into her eyes. Conner softly growled “now” as she increased pressure in Blue’s hair and then attacked her neck and finally her lips. Blue found it rough and sweet at the same time. Blue was quickly realizing how much of a concession it was for Conner to give up control in this situation, as she lay beneath her open and unprotected. Blue was all ready to change her approach when Conner threw her for a loop. She broke the kiss with a gentle sucking of Blue’s lip as she released her hold on her hair and caressed a flushed cheek. It was silent only for a second as Conner softly whispered, “please.”

The simple word sent shockwaves through Blue’s body, who only remained standing because she held onto Conner’s waist. The word was an order and a surrender. It offered up complete trust and hinted at forever. Blue stood up to her full height and gently pushed Conner back onto the slick surface of the piano. She leaned over and rained light kisses on Conner’s face and neck, only stopping to say, “so much for not putting your ass on the piano”. A soft giggle quickly turned into a sweet moan, as lips closed over an erect nipple and suckled. The last coherent thought Conner had was swallowed up in the feel of a cool tongue slipping inside her.

Blue held on tight to the thighs that braced her head and thought not about the need to breathe, as the first waves of climax rippled through Conner’s lithe frame. Only when she felt the body go limp beneath her, did Blue remove herself from Conner’s warmth. She tasted Conner’s sweat as she blazed a path of licks and kisses up Conner’s torso, past her neck to her lips. Conner shuddered again as she tasted herself on Blue’s lips and then buried her head in a strong shoulder savoring the sweet smell of sex and sweat. Blue nibbled on a pink ear and asked, “so have you decided what we’re having for breakfast?” Conner let out a laugh as she pulled away from Blue’s shoulder. She looked deep into eyes that coursed with indigo as she used a hand to wipe away the sweat from Blue’s brow. She continued the motion and caressed a flushed cheek. Blue kissed her palm as it passed her lips, awaiting an answer. Conner drew a pink tongue across moist lips and spoke. “Who said anything about breakfast·I’m looking forward to lunch, possibly dinner.” An impish smile spread across Conner’s face as two black brows arched in challenge and surprise. “Then what are we doing Red?” Conner lifted her head and planted a kiss on Blue’s nose as she wrapped her legs around her waist and her arms around her neck. “We’re waiting for a big dumb Ox to stop talking.” Blue smiled as she returned the kiss and pulled away from the piano with Conner attached to her.

Later, the dark woman would think about how well there bodies fit together, and how exceptional she felt when she was with her, and how much she wanted this to all work out. Until then, the two women were a blur of movement as Blue walked, kissed, kicked off her shoes, and tugged at her pants as they made their way to Conner’s office. Blue’s jeans lay in a pile at the doorway as she used a free open to turn the knob on the door. Conner stopped her feverish attack on Blue’s neck as she heard the door click. “Oh shit! The keys. My shirt. The floor.” Conner passed a hand through unruly hair. Blue felt Conner try to unlock her legs and she reached behind her and held fast to Conner’s ankles. Before Conner could even get out the “what” she saw the gleam of determination in Blue’s eyes. “Yeah, I can afford it.” Blue smiled ferally, sending a shiver up the smaller woman’s spine, and then kicked the door in.

The room still smelled of new carpet, fresh paint, and the smell of jasmine incense. Blue didn’t have the time to really notice the free standing punching bag in the corner, the bookcase filled with wine and rare liquor, or the oak desk on the right side. Instead she stumbled blindly trying to reach a leather couch on the left side, all while Conner attempted to suck the filling out of her teeth and explore her tonsils. For a split second Blue thought that she would never be able to satisfy the fireball, but as Conner suddenly disengaged from her mouth, slid down her body, and proceeded to attempt trip Blue onto the floor- she decided she could die trying. Blue caught herself and staggered backwards stopping as she met with the desk. She smiled wickedly as she watched the nude beauty saunter towards her. “What, no couch?” She tried to sound as innocent as possible.

Conner gave a smirk and shook her head no as she eased the shirt off of Blue’s shoulders, leaving her hands trapped as Conner took in the sight before her. Sparse bangs clung with perspiration to Blue’s brow as her hair fell about her shoulders; considerably tousled. Conner closed the small gap between their bodies as she ran soft hands down her neck across the black sheer bra, that did nothing to veil a pair of sumptuous breast and erect nipples. Conner ran her thumbs across the material, giving a light squeeze to the nipples, causing Blue to let out a small groan. Conner continued her perusal of the bronze- colored woman travelling down her torso, her stomach, and then stopping as her fingertips discovered a familiar patter of scar tissue adorning Blue’s right side an inch above her hip bone. Something Conner had found amusing in her youth, only reminded her of the horrible reality of her life, as she recognized the spray pattern left by a .357 magnum. Conner looked up at Blue, hoping that her own self-disgust at the moment wasn’t mistaken for a rejection on Blue’s part. For a moment Conner thought that that was the case as she saw a hint of fear cross wide blue eyes.

Blue wanted to flinch. She could feel her chest tighten and she didn’t know if she should just puke or run screaming from the room, and then puke. Her brain flooded with possible escape solutions and a trillion explanations, but as Conner’s touch became firm to her side, Blue found herself intrigued that she saw sadness and not repulsion in Conner’s eyes. Conner looked away from her and continued to trace the fleshy pattern that ran horizontally across Blue’s side. There were three fleshy circles that were no more than a half a centimeter in diameter all nestled in an awkward triangle of sorts. Conner finally looked up, leaving her hand in place and let a small smile grace pink lips. “Is it just me, or was your girl scout troupe closer to a combat unit?” The sarcasm elicited a small smile from Blue and she gave a nervous chuckle. “It was a rough neighborhood.”

Conner could see Blue was clearly uncomfortable. She let go of the scar and removed the shirt from Blue’s hands making note of the two inch wide white scar on her left shoulder. “Very rough indeed.” She mumbled quietly. Blue begin to dart her eyes about the room and thinking that maybe puking right now wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Conner could see the worry in Blue’s eyes as well as the tensing of her jaw muscles. She ran the back of her hand across Blue’s cheek as she stood on her toes to place a kiss on lips that trembled slightly. “Does it still hurt?” Conner knew she was pushing, but she wanted and needed to get inside this woman; and not just physically. Perhaps it was a selfish notion. Conner was willing to tell Blue whatever she wanted to know, she just wanted the same in return.

The words echoed in Blue’s head. She closed her eyes and fought imaginary tears. “Conner, I-I can’t..” Conner gently gripped Blue’s chin, causing her to open her eyes and meet Conner’s fierce gaze. “Does it still hurt?” Blue looked down into green eyes that burned with forgiveness and acceptance and she knew she could deny this woman nothing- not even the truth. “Yes,” she breathed “, sometimes.” Conner let her hand drop from her face as she dropped to her knees. Blue bowed her head and fought to keep her eyes focused on Conner as she traced the scars with her index finger and then placed a solid kiss on the scars.

It was surreal. It was ironic. It was insane. And, it was perfectly right. Blue stood there weak-kneed as she ran long fingers through the wild disarray of Conner’s strawberry blonde hair. For all Blue cared that golden-red head could have had a halo around or even horns. She couldn’t decide if this was the greatest gift on the planet or karma coming to kick her in the ass. She closed her eyes as she felt soft lips kiss their way across her pelvis and down her thigh as her panties made their way to the floor. She followed her underwear, as she sank into the thick grey Berber carpet on her back. As Conner kissed her way down her body the tall woman realized that if she died right now, she’d do everything all over just for the feel of Conner’s mouth on her center and the rhythm of her fingers. As she rode out last waves of climax with Conner wrapped in her arms Blue made the decision that she wasn’t going to let this go. Even if that meant she had to eat her own heart.
CH 22:
It was nearing 8:30a.m. when the women mutually succumbed to fatigue and soreness, not to mention rug burns. Conner had found her way into Blue’s shirt that was two sizes too big for her. She let the cuffs droop past her hands and let the tails swing loosely below her bottom, not bothering to try to button what remained of the buttons. She draped herself across Blue’s naked torso. Blue lay on her back with her head resting on a fluffy white towel looking at Conner through half closed eyes and fought to keep her eyes open, as Conner placed feather light kisses on the scars at her shoulder.

“Good God woman- do you ever tire?” Blue’s voice was a low hum. Conner giggled into her ear as she nuzzled Blue’s neck.
“I guess that’s why they call you rabbit, huh?” Conner’s head shot up from its resting place and locked glazed green eyes with half-lidded baby blues. She decided to make light of the comment as she raised an eyebrow and smiled impishly. “Why you little skank.” Blue poked Conner lightly in the side, make the young woman giggle. “So, little miss Conner Rose gets around.” Full lips formed a smirk.

Conner pouted slightly and then leaned in and nipped at Blue’s nose, eliciting an “ow” from the still smirking woman. “That’s what you get. I’ll have you know, missy, that I have been very responsible and very picky.”

“Ooh, I bet.” Blue emphasized her tease by poking at Conner’s sides and rolling her over onto her back.

“Whoa! I thought you were tired?”

“Oh, but I am.” Blue feigned sleep as she collapsed playfully on Conner’s chest, causing her to laugh. “So really.” She sat up and rolled on her side, propping her head up on her elbow. “What’s the rabbit thing?”

Conner groaned. “Oh Lord.” She rubbed at her face as if rubbing away the sleep and then crossed her legs at the ankles and clasped her hands behind her head. She looked over at Blue who was toying with the tail of the shirt as it draped open, exposing a smooth stomach and the smooth round flesh of Conner’s breasts. Conner smirked as once tired blue eyes, begin to burn anew with desire. “Behave- or no story.” Blue avoided the smiling green eyes as she put her hand at her side. “Sorry.” Conner only shook her head. “It’s really a sad story, but here it goes.” Conner absently scratched an itch with her foot and then looked up at the ceiling. “I used to have a rabbit named Gompers, when we were kids. Duncan gave it to me.”

“Who?” She almost wanted to take it back as soon as it came out.

“My oldest brother.” She glanced at Blue who was trying to keep a straight face as she mentally flogged herself. “He’s dead.” She deadpanned. An “oh” was the only reply. Conner let out a small sigh that made Blue’s insides ache. “Anyway, that’s another story. So, Duncan buys me this rabbit and it’s great. All white and fluffy, so cute.” Blue couldn’t help but smile as she watched Conner scrunch up her nose and wriggle it like a little bunny. “Apparently, Mr. Gompers was getting way too much attention and Ewan being the bad-ass neglected middle child wanted to play a joke. My room was on the third floor and his cage was by the window, so he could catch a breeze in the summer.” Conner looked over at Blue, who had taken on a look of apprehension. “Of course we always kept the cage locked and the screen would have been locked had I had one. I think me and Terry kicked it out one night sneaking out or something.” She shrugged in remembrance. “Anyway, It was supposed to be a joke. Ewan, was going to take Gompers out and leave the cage open so it would look like he jumped out.” She turned to Blue when she heard a groan. “Let me finish. So he unlocks the cage and turns around to go get the box to put him in..”

“Oh boy.” Blue closed her eyes as the inevitable end of the story came.

“Yeah, oh boy. It took like all of 4 seconds and Gompers hopped out of the cage and straight out of the window.” She used her hand to simulate his fatal drop.

“Oh baby, I’m sorry.” Blue passed a hand through Conner’s hair and down across a cheek.

Conner smiled at the soft touch and the enderament and then rolled onto her side so that she faced Blue. “Yeah, well I sure as hell wasn’t sorry. I think I cried for the rabbit for about two weeks. All I ate was carrots and I would just stare at his little cage-all day.” Blue ran her hand through soft blonde hair as she nestled closer to Conner. “I didn’t speak to anybody except for Terry the whole time. Ewan would try to apologize everyday, swearing it was an accident and such, but I just ignored him. Finally, one day I just snapped. I guess Ewan wasn’t doing enough groveling for me, so I ranscacked his room, gathered all his KISS albums, put them in a pile outback-and set ’em on fire.” Blue watched as a smug smile spread across Conner’s face and she couldn’t help but laugh. Conner turned innocent green eyes towards Blue.

“You little cretin.” Blue poked Conner playfully in the ribs causing the small women to giggle. She opened her mouth as if to add something, but only a yawn came out. “Oh my.” Blue rolled onto her back and stretched.

“I think someone’s sleepy.” Conner batted her eyelashes as she leaned in and nuzzled Blues’ neck. Blue laughed as she reached out for Conner, sprawling her across her body. “Whoa! I thought you were sleepy.” Conner looked into half-lidded Blue eyes.

“I am, but you were keeping me warm. Don’t you have any larger towels.?”

Conner let out a laugh as she realized that the woman beneath was only wearing a pair of panties. “I should have a few towels, somewhere.” Conner moved as if to get up, but frim arms held her in place. “Or..we could go to my apartment?” Conner focused her eyes on some spot on the carpet, as Blue slowly opened her eyes.

“Sure, sure. But-now- power nap.” Blue closed her eyes again and resettled her arms around Conner as she lay her head in the crook between her neck and shoulder. “20 minutes tops and we can go. And, yeah, I want a big lunch.”

“Oh you do.” Conner giggled as she tangled their legs and breathed in the sweet scent of Fahrenheit cologne and sweat. Conner plastered a large smile on her face as she listened to the steady rhythm of Blues’ heartbeat. Her own heartbeat was began to match that of Blue’s as she drifted off to join Blue in sleep.

Their eyes hadn’t been closed for more than 5 minutes when their nap was disturbed by a loud banging on the front door. A groggy voiced Blue mumbled out a “what the hell?” as she absently ran a hand through Conner’s hair. The young woman stirred slightly and then bolted up as the pounding became louder and emanated from the back door.

“Oh Jesus! What time is it?” Conner rolled off of Blue onto her butt. Blue didn’t even have time to get out an ‘I don’t know’ for a response as she watched the small woman shoot up from the floor and run to her desk. “Oh shit!” Conner leaned forward onto the desk and groaned.

Blue sat up and crossed her legs as she leaned back on her arms and watched Conner hang her head and mumble incoherent words. She supported herself on one arm as she ran a hand through thick black hair and spoke, “What’s up Red?”

Conner looked up from the desk and focused bleary green eyes on Blue. She felt her body grow warm as she gazed at the half-naked woman sitting on her floor. Her eyelids drooped low and she had the cutest haze of sleep crossing her face. Conner snapped herself out her lust-filled moment just as she felt the tingling grow heavy in her groin, and the fact that Blue was calling her name. “Oh, uh, sorry.” A torrent of red rushed to Conner’s ears as she tried to avoid the licentious smile that Blue was giving her.

“So what’s up?”

“Yeah, uh. That’s the freaking liquor guy. I need to let him in.”

“So do it.”

“Uh, hello, has anyone else here noticed my fashion statement.” She tugged on her open shirt.

Blue laughed as she got up and settled herself on the couch, placing her forearm across her eyes and laying the other arm across her chest. “I’m sure he won’t mind.” She only smiled as she heard Conner groan and then she looked up just in time to swat away the paper missile making a bee-line for her head.

“Blue, I can’t go out there.” She walked to the couch and knelt down by Blue’s head. “Blue,” she cooed.

“What?” It came out in grumble.

“Will you go?”

It wasn’t quite whining, but it was this soft child-like voice that was eating away at Blue’s defenses none the less. “Why me?”

Conner held in her smile, even though Blue’s forearm still covered her eyes. “Because- your jeans are outside the door and my clothes are·” Blue opened her eyes and laughed as Conner flopped her head down on her chest. She rolled her head from side to side and moaned. “My fucking clothes are on the stage. Shit!” Blue giggled as gently lifted Conner’s head.

“Give me the shirt.” Conner smiled from ear to ear as she planted a wet kiss on Blue’s slightly chapped lips. Blue sat up and returned the kiss with force as she rolled off the couch and ontop of Conner.

Another knock on the door and Blue groaned. She got up off of a flustered Conner and slipped the shirt from her shoulders. She put the shirt back on as she walked towards the door, managing to find a few remaining buttons that worked. As long as she made no sudden moves her breasts probably wouldn’t pop out- oh well. Blue gripped the door knob and turned back towards Conner as she opened the door. “Hey, you stay there and be naked when I come back.” She smiled lasciviously at the now naked woman on the leather couch, who returned a smile of the same kind. Conner stretched her small frame out on the couch and watched as Blue bent over and picked up her jeans off the floor. If Conner had any strength left she would have gotten up off the couch and ravaged Blue as she stood in the doorway stepping into her jeans. Blue just shook her head as she winked at Conner and closed the door behind her.

When Conner heard Victor’s booming voice she closed her eyes, only to open them a second later as she hopped up and retrieved a t-shirt from her desk. She slipped the shirt on and then laid back down on the couch and dozed. Blue returned 15 minutes later to find Conner curled in a ball on one end of the couch, lightly snoring. She placed Conner’s clothes on the arm of the couch as she sat down beside her and softly stroked her back. Conner stirred a bit at the light touch, but kept right on sleeping. Blue continued to run strong fingers through hair that was no longer spiky and disheveled but soft and straight. She brushed over the bangs and followed the hair as it covered small ears and then trailed her fingertips down the nape of her neck, stopping short of the tattoo. She looked down at Conner in disbelief. “Is this real?” she whispered. She leaned down and breathed in the sweet aroma of honeysuckle in Conner’s hair. She planted a small kiss on Conner’s jaw line as she sat back up, still softly stroking her hair. “How do I tell you? Do I tell you?” Blue almost fell off the couch, when Conner answered back through a yawn, “tell me what?’

Blue stammered as she stopped stroking and looked down at Conner, who was rolling over. Blue looked down at her feet as Conner fully turned over, resting her head on the arm of the couch. “Tell-you..ah..that·uh..I’m ready to go to that nice warm bed.” Blue flashed a grin, hoping that would be good enough. Conner let out a little squeak as she stretched and fully opened her eyes. For a split second she was going to call Blue on her horrible skills at lying, but things were going too well, and she could save that for pillow talk later. Instead she just smiled and held out her hand to Blue. “Well woman, hand over the clothes, and let’s go.”
CH. 23:
Conner drove back to her house sans shoes, and quickly stripped herself of the skirt as she made her way into the house and up the stairs-Blue in tow. As both women meandered to the bedroom, it was silently decided that any more sexual exploration could probably wait until after a good nap. While Conner found them both sleep clothes, Blue ended up wrestling away the yellow soccer jersey, which started a small tickle fight, that ended with both women in a tangle of exhaustion and eventual sleep.

The early morning gave way to afternoon, as Blue awoke to a paw on her chest. She cracked open an eyelid to watch as Romulus, in all his furry glory, strutted across her body, with no care to her discomfort. Blue smirked as she gently shooed the cat and then focused her eyes on the canopy of strawberry-blonde hair that rested below her chin. She smiled fully as she placed a small kiss on Conner’s head causing the small woman to nuzzle her neck and grip her tight about the waist. Blue let out a satisfying sigh and was all ready to close her eyes and drift back into sleep, when she heard the front door open. “Hey, Con-Conner?” She gently tousled soft hair, which evoked no movement from Conner. Blue was beginning to get antsy as she could hear shuffling in the kitchen. “Wake up, Red.” Blue nudged Conner a little harder this time, but still found it hard to awaken the topless woman sprawled on top of her. Blue’s body tensed as she heard heavy footfalls begin to make their way up the steps. “Oh shit.” Blue rolled Conner off of her and to her surprise Conner barely stirred. More than slight panic pulsed through the tall woman as she imagined Ewan stalking his way towards Conner’s door. Blue propped herself up on her elbows and darted her eyes about the room as she looked for an exit. At the moment she decided she was going to hide under the bed, a groggy voice caught her attention. “Lie back down, it’s just Terry.” She threw a steely blue gaze down at Conner who merely rolled over and draped her arm across Blue’s stomach. Blue squinted her eyes in the confusion of the moment and then sure enough Terry came barreling through Conner’s door, before she could react.

“Good Morning Vietnam!!” Terry was all smiles as she burst through the door bellowing out the words. Her smile grew even larger as she locked eyes with Blue, whose face was growing redder by the second. “Or should I say the Love Boat. Hey chickies.”

Blue watched with wide eyes as Terry plopped down on the bed next to Conner and swatted her lightly in the skull. It was completely strange and extremely hilarious, if she could have found the will to laugh at that moment. There she was lying in a soccer jersey that barely fit her and her underwear, while Conner wore only her shorts, back exposed, and an arm draped across Blue’s stomach. Terry however, could find humor in the moment and in the look on the older woman’s face, but she held in her laugh as she decided that the dark singer had had enough embarrassment for the moment. She just shook her head and then turned her gaze towards the still dozing Conner. “Conner! Get the fuck up!” Terry turned her eyes towards Blue as she was draping the sheet over legs. “This freak can sleep through a damn nuclear holocaust.”

“What do you want Terry?” Conner tried to bury her face into the pillow.

“What do you mean, what do I want? It’s Wednesday fool. It’s happy hour·somewhere.” She flashed a toothy smile at a still visibly nervous Blue. “Besides, I haven’t seen you in two days, and well little girl- you are in trouble.” Conner fully rolled over onto her back and sat up.

“What are you talking about- and move.”

Conner shoved Terry aside as she got off the bed and walked to the bathroom. Terry took the moment to make herself comfy, as she kicked off her pumps, propped up Conner’s pillows and sat back. She looked over at Blue who looked like she was desperately seeking escape. She smiled at the dark woman and Blue gave her a lopsided grin in return. “You don’t have to leave, you know, so settle down. Besides, you actually have a little something to do with this.”

“I do?” Blue hoped she sounded surprised as she followed Terry’s example and propped herself up on some pillows. She let the covers fall haphazardly and the two women shared a smile.

Conner entered the bedroom wearing a sports bra , as she ran a towel vigorously through her hair. When she was done, damp strawberry-blonde locks were the epitome of an explosion. She let the towel drape her shoulders. “Now, what’s this about trouble?” Conner bent down and scooped up a roaming Remus as she sat on the end of the big bed.

“Well, apparently there is an A.P.B. out on you.”

“What!” Blonde eyebrows reached for the sky.

Terry waved a hand through the air. “Chill- not a government one. I meant from your brother.”

“Oh.” Eyebrows lowered to their normal position. “So what?” She let go of a squirming Remus, who sauntered over to join his brother on Blue’s legs.

“Ooh, somebody’s got a fan club.” Terry looked over at the two furballs who were making a home on Blue’s body. “Don’t fight it, but watch the fat one-he’ll claw your eyes out.”

“Hey! Rom isn’t fat·he’s just big-boned.”

“Yea, and I’m Princess Leia.”

“Hey, those afro puffs looked good.” The bantering women turned in the direction of Blue who had voiced the comment. “I-uh, saw in the photo album.” She looked down at the cats on her thighs.

“They did look good didn’t they?” Terry mimed primping in the mirror as the three shared a laugh.

“So what’s up your highness?” Conner stretched her legs out.

“Well daddy-o, word is Ewan is in serious fe-duci-ary trouble.” Blue let out a giggle at Terry’s New York accented pronunciation of the word. Terry smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “I like the word. Any way, it seems to be serious and moreover it’s inside.” Conner slumped her shoulders as she leaned back onto her arms. Terry held up her hand. “Oh wait, it gets worse. Manny has been knocking over old ladies trying to find you.”

Conner huffed. “Manny’s always flippin’ looking for me.” Her irritation was aided by the rolling of her eyes.

“True, but supposedly he is really looking for you.”

Blue dislodged the cats as she sat up straight. “Exactly what does that mean?” Terry almost jumped out of her skin at the sound of the smooth conta-alto. Gone was the nervous and shy woman, this was a dark amazon about to jump out of the bed and start kicking ass. Conner felt the heat of a faint blush attempting to rise in her cheeks as she avoided the hard points of blue ice that swept over her frame. Instead she focused her attention on Remus rolling on his back and swatting imaginary gnats. “No worries.” she managed to say without her voice cracking as she leaned forward and rubbed Remus’s white belly. Blues’ jaw remained clenched at Conner’s words, and Terry could see the muscles tightening in Blue’s arm. Reflexively, she wanted to reach out and touch the dark woman’s shoulder, but she just dropped her hands and turned to Blue.

“Hey, don’t worry. Conner’s not.” She waived a hand towards Conner, who was rough housing with Romulaus. She was waiving her hands erratically in front of the feline, as he attempted to claw her fingers. Conner looked up as Terry finished speaking. “She’s right, I’m not- ow! Shit, Rom!” Conner pulled a finger to her lips and sucked at the small tear in her skin.

The action actually seemed to burst through some of the tension that Blue was holding. To her own surprise, she found herself leaning down and scooping up the fluffy cat. “Give me this cat.” She slung him gently over her shoulder and begin to stroke his back. Both Terry and Conner widened their eyes in surprise to the cat’s uncharacteristic action.

“Well, Con, I think you lost a cat.” Terry let out a small laugh at the sight of the fluffy cat lounging on Blue’s broad shoulder.

“She can keep the stinkin’ rat.” Conner pouted playfully and then smiled as she listened to Romulaus purr. “So, anyway, what the hell is the big deal about Manny? Granted Ewan’s in troubled, but what’s the hubbub?”

“You.” Terry spoke flatly and looked Blue right in the eye.

A black eyebrow arched skyward, as she removed the cat from her shoulder and placed him in her lap. “Me?”

“Her? What?”

“Oh yes. It appears that your lovely songbird is all the rage.” Terry rolled her brown eyes. “They want full name, social security numbers, phone numbers, address, next of kin, blood type, stool sample, DNA, RNA, pet’s names·underwear size·”

Conner interrupted the listing, “I can give you that.” She found herself toppling over, as a throw pillow hit her square in the face. Blue and Terry added to Conner’s laughter as both cats pounced on the pillow and Conner.

Terry settled her laughter as Conner sat up. “Seriously, chica, your uh-a..” Terry waved a hand through the air, “is this official or just sex?” This time the throw pillow found its way into Terry’s abdomen. “What!” She looked form Conner’s scowl to Blue’s slight smile and laughed.

Conner took the break in the moment to hop off the bed as she glared at Terry. “Why don’t you ask the half-naked woman in my bed- wearing my soccer jersey.” She slipped into her flip flops. “I’m hungry.” With that she stalked out of the bedroom, leaving a confused and amused Blue and Terry.

“I guess that means we should go downstairs?” Blue was amazed that she was actually remaining calm with disaster only a step away.

“Whatever.” Terry threw up her hands as she got off the bed. “You need some shorts?”

“Uh, nah. I got my jeans.” Blue swung her legs off of the bed and leaned over to pick up jeans. Terry was on her way out of the door when Blue looked up from her task and spoke. “Terry, question.”

Terry leaned on the door frame. “Answer.”

“Why am I so popular?”

Terry shrugged her shoulders. ” My guess is that somebody thinks you’re a superspy or something.” Terry smirked. “Come on, I’m sure you’re starving.” She wiggled dark eyebrows at Blue and left the room.

The teasing smile that she gave Terry, dropped into a thin line as Terry walked from the room. “Superspy, my ass.” She grumbled aloud as she walked around the bed. Blue didn’t even bother to look in the mirror as she combed through her hair with her fingers and thought, ‘you’re in over your head legs.. way over.’
CH 24:
Blue and Terry entered the kitchen as Conner was standing on her tip-toes to retrieve a copper pot from an overhead rack.

“So, what’s for lunch?” Terry asked as she hopped up on a stool next to the preparation island in the middle of the kitchen. Blue took a seat on the other side.

Conner spoke as she walked towards the chrome gas range. “Well, children today we have mom’s speacial meatloaf, salmon, and as always..Chef’s special chocolate balls.” She chuckled heartily as she joined the two women at the island. Terry joined in on her laugh, while Blue sat with her hands in her lap and an eyebrow arched in question.

Terry caught Blue’s quizzical expression and smiled. “I take it you don’t watch South Park.”

“Ahh,” Blue shook her head, ” ‘fraid I missed that one.”

“Es cool, ese. I won’t hold it against you.” Terry smiled and then proceeded to rub the spot on her arm where Conner whacked her as she spoke.

Conner rolled green eyes. “Terry, be quiet and cut me some onions.”

“Oh, yes massa’.” Conner just sucked her teeth and smirked at Terry’s reply.

While Terry removed the onions from the refrigerator, Blue sat at the counter with her elbow resting on the top, and her hand cupping her chin. She watched as the two friends moved in and around the kitchen seemingly not noticing her presence. Finally, Terry moved away from the sink and turned towards Blue. She leaned towards Conner, “So how come tall, dark, and quiet doesn’t have to do anything?”

Conner laughed as she moved past Terry to rinse off her knife in the sink. Without looking up she spoke. “Hey Ox, you want to go find us some cooking music?”

Blue eagerly hopped off the stool as a relief filled smile spread across red lips. “Sure thing, Red.” She winked at Terry, who stood by the sink playfully pouting, and then walked off into the living room.

Terry turned conspiratorial brown eyes on Conner. “She can’t cook can she?” Terry spoke with disbelief. Conner just laughed and shook her head before replying, “nope.” Terry clapped her hands together. “Hot damn! I knew there was something wrong with her.” She wagged a finger in the air.

“Terry, shut it. There’s nothing wrong with her. Now, stop standing and do your job.” Conner let a smile grace her face to lessen the sting of her words.

“Yea, yea.” Terry walked to the counter and then called out, “You broke my heart Blue!”

The woman in question stood in the entrance to the kitchen as Miles Davis and John Coltrane wafted in behind her. “What did I do? I thought we had something real.” The tall woman playfully whined as she leaned on the archway, crossing her legs at the ankle, arms across her chest.

Terry swayed her knees dramatically as she held her hand to her chest and pouted. “It was real, until I found out·” she paused for effect, “that you can’t cook.”

Blue hung her head in shame and then raised it with a snap. “But, I can order food in Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek.” She shot blue laser beams at Conner and curved full lips into a wicked smile. Conner blushed to her toes.

“Yep, she sure can.” Conner returned the smile and then focused her eyes on the salmon in front of her.

Terry ignored the little exchange and continued. “Oh really, well I don’t know if that counts.”

Blue held in a chuckle. “Well, there’s a·Osso Buco.” Blue’s voice dropped an octave as she pushed off the wall and steepled her fingers in front of her as she took a step into the kitchen. Terry nodded as she watched the denim clad woman lose her shy act. “There’s a rouget de roche or cassoulet d’Agneau.” Blue licked her lips as she inched forward and watched Conner’s ears turn red. Terry arched a sculpted eyebrow as Blue encroached on her. “There’s a saltimbocca alla romana and not to mention stifado.” Long legs placed Blue excruciatingly close to Terry, with only the stool in between them. Blue leaned down on the stool with her arms so that she was eye level with Terry, who still held a sweet smile on her face. Conner on the other hand, was about to slip off of the seat from all the moisture that was gathering in her shorts. Blue’s voice had lowered to a deep rich purr, with all the speed of molasses pouring out of a tree on a summer’s day. “And then you wash it all down with a flute of Chateau’ d’nuef de pop.” She made a popping noise with her lips as she ended her list. Terry still managed not to change her look. Just as she was about to rattle off a comeback, Conner dropped the salt on the floor.

“Oh shit!” The sound of the plastic hitting the floor snapped everyone back into reality, causing both Terry and Blue to break into giggles. Conner’s spiky head popped up from off the floor as she sat the salt back on the counter. “Whoo!, sorry.” Both Blue and Terry burst into full blown laughter as they took in the flushed features of Conner’s face. She looked like she had just run a marathon, there was even the faintest hint of persperation on her brow. She raised blonde brows at the two women in her kitchen. “What?”

Terry turned to face Blue as she fanned herself with her hand. “Good Lord woman- I stand corrected, you’re perfect!” The three women shared a laugh that was brought to an abrupt halt when Terry continued, “ya got any brothers?”

Both Terry and Conner watched as the color drained from Blue’s face and she stood up straight. Even though she wasn’t exactly sure of what was going on, Conner had half a mind to reach across the table and punch Terry in the face, but she could tell Terry was all ready mentally kicking herself. Conner turned concerned green eyes on Blue as the woman shoved her hands in her pockets and looked at the floor. Conner was clueless as to what to do or what exactly was wrong, but obviously the subject of family was touchy. She breathed out Blue’s name.

The dark woman lifted her head and darted her eyes from Terry to Conner. She caught Conner’s gaze and felt herself relax enough that she actually mustered the strength to speak, instead of turning around and sprinting out of the house. She drew in a deep breath as she opened her mouth. “Um, it’s okay.” Blue held up a hand as she looked at Terry who could barely make eye contact with her. “Uh..yes, I have- I had..brothers. They’re dead.”

The cd player took that exact moment to change songs and the room filled with a pulsing silence. Blue broke the silence with an intake of air. She looked over at Conner, who looked as if she was on the verge of tears. “Uh, I’m gonna go upstairs and uh, clean up.” With that Blue turned on her heels and exited the kitchen. Terry covered her face upon the tall woman’s exit, partly in shame and partly in avoiding a fuming Conner. The sharp plunk of a piece of cauliflower hitting her in the skull made her look up.

“Shit, honey, I am sooo sorry. I didn’t know.” Terry shook her head as she looked at Conner.

Conner relaxed her scowl as she got off the stool. “I know. I didn’t know either.”

“Man, I feel like an idiot.”

They both spoke together, ” So what else is new.” They shared a weak smile. Conner gave Terry’s shoulders a light squeeze. “It’s cool. Now get to choppin’.” Terry saluted her as Conner left the kitchen and hurried up the stairs.

* * *

When Conner entered the bedroom she found Blue sitting on her bed leaning over her boots. Conner’s shoulders slumped in disappointment at the idea of Blue leaving, but she stood up straight and walked towards her.

“Hey.” She spoke softly and looked down at Blue who was toying with one of her socks. “Ar-are you leaving?” Conner barely got the words out. The muscles around her heart grew tight as she waited for Blue to reply.

Warm blue eyes looked up into hopeful green and she smiled. “I was just contemplating that.”

“And?”

“I figured if I told you I used your toothbrush, you’d kick me out anyway.”

Conner formed a crooked smiled as she sat down beside Blue. “I’ll buy you one for everyday of the week, if you stay.”

Blue looked over at the young woman next to her and wanted nothing more than to wrap her in a warm embrace, nuzzle red-gold hair, and stay there forever–forgiven. Her mind berated her for even trying to pursue this relationship. Nothing good will come of it, she reasoned. Her heart pleaded with her to take a chance and to hold on. Blue reached out a tapered hand and caressed Conner’s cheek with the back of her hand. She drew her fingertips across Conner’s lips, which elicited a wisp of a kiss to her fingertips. They stared at each other through the quiet gestures, each willing the other into the notion of safety. Blue couldn’t help but smile as she drew her hand away, only to find it entwined with Conner’s fingers. “You know, I love when we have these conversations.” Blue’s voice was smooth and steady.

Conner let out a breath as she lightly giggled. She leaned her head forward, so that it rested on Blue’s shoulder. Blue wrapped her arm around Conner, and they hugged. “I’m sorry about your brothers.” It came out in a whisper.

A reflexive shiver ran through Blue as she bent her head and kissed Conner’s forehead. “It was a long time ago and don’t you apologize.” She spoke softly, trying not to put too much emphasis on the ‘you’.

Conner reluctantly released Blue as she looked up. “Why can’t I apologize?”

Blue looked down at the small hand she was holding and traced the palm with a finger. “Because, you had nothing to do with it.” She wasn’t really sure why she said that, but the glint of confusing that crossed Conner’s face was proof enough that it was a confusing statement. None the less, she felt the need to say it. It was a validation that she wasn’t betraying her family or fooling herself. Blue found herself staring into deep vistas of green, as a small hand brushed away errant wisps of hair from her forehead, and then trailed a path down her jawline; resting on her cheek.

“You are so·”

“Complex?” Blue gave a half smile.

“No silly,” Conner passed her thumb over Blue’s lips, effectively silencing any smart remark. “so beautiful.” Blue closed her eyes to the warm touch and sighed. “And so strange, so sexy, and..”

Blue opened her eyes as Conner searched for the right word. Conner could see the answer behind deep blue eyes that were full of life, yet rimmed with mortality. Blue finished the sentence before Conner could get the word out. “Blue.” she breathed.

They shared a faint smile as their foreheads touched. “At least I know why now.” Blue made no attempt to reply. Conner sat up and wiped away moisture that threatened to be tears. She stood up and reached her hand out to Blue. “C’mon you sad sack, Terry’s probably dying of embarassemnt and ruining my Salmon.”

Blue let out a chuckly as she grabbed a hold of Conner’s hand. When Conner pulled out, Blue pulled in and Conner stumbled forward into the still seated woman. Her descent was met by soft lips that parted as her tongue pushed its way into Conner’s mouth. Conner moaned into the kiss as she stood between powerful thighs. Her hands mindlessly wound their way into Blue’s mane of hair. When Conner felt hands sliding their way up her legs and underneath her shorts, she broke the kiss with a gasp.

“Whoo!” Conner smiled bright as her voice rose an octave and she spoke with lilting Scottish accent. “Aye, no lass, if ay dunnae eat, I’m gonna collapse.”

Blue grinned wildly. Surprisingly, the thick accent tickled her ears with delight instead of making her uneasy. “I’ll nurse you back to health.”

Conner stepped back from Blue’s legs. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.” Blue threw her head back in laughter as she watched Conner scurry from the room.
CH 25:
A Thursday night, that found the dark woman in rare form; sauntering across the stage and dripping sex appeal like she just walked out of the ocean, was not so delightful a night for Ewan McGreely. He checked his sunglasses one more time and smoothed his hair down for the third time. He traded his three piece suit for a pair of khakis and a polo. After he asked Rick for the fifth time, he was a little more convinced that he looked like a golfer and not a Scotsman returning to the Boston borough that he was exiled from 15 years ago. Exile, of course was putting it lightly. Ewan peered cathartically out of the tinted window of the Mercedes and swallowed the lump of bile that sat in his throat as he passed the domicile he used to call home. Ewan shook his head hard, physically trying to shake away the images and sounds that the drab buildings brought back.

He lit a cigar and leaned back into the leather of the seat. They pulled up to a local pizza shop and Ewan watched as Rick stepped from the car. Ewan actually had no intention of getting out of the car, at least not here. He was all ready unwelcome enough, but it would be just his luck to run into another Thanos or Mikolos or any other olive-skinned Grecian who recognized the green-eyed demon, and wanted to finish what she had started. Ewan puffed harder as he tried to sift through the rampant rumors in his head. Two days after the ‘incident’ there were small skirmishes taking place in the inner city neighborhoods, but Ewan was in Baltimore grieving over a brother. When he returned, it was for the trial. What ever fear he had of the young dark girl who took the stand was multiplied ten fold as she spoke. She never mentioned his name, she said nothing of his presence, but she never took her eyes off of him either. Her eyes were a soulless blue-beyond ice- it was just a vapid stare. When she got sentenced to 6 years in a juvenile detention center, the city erupted. Ewan McGreely and what remained of the Scotsman in Boston fled the city and never looked back.

It was clearly no wonder that his heart just didn’t explode the moment he stepped off the plane. But he had survived the plane, survived the ride, and it would only be at least another hour before he could hop back on a plane and head south. Ewan practically dropped the cigar from his mouth when Rick opened the car door and got back in.

“You get it?” Ewan stared straight ahead.

“Sure thing.” Rick dropped a manila envelope in Ewan’s lap and closed the door. He watched Ewan sigh with relief. “Let’s go Carlo.” The driver nodded and they pulled away from the curb heading to the airport.

Her full name sang out in bold black capital letters in the middle of the envelope. He slid out the contents and held onto the folder for a moment in silent prayer before he opened it. He avoided the first 20 pages. He knew that story very well. He flipped through criminal records and youthful mugshots, stopping only at an army record and two psyche exams. He bookmarked those pages with his hand as he flipped to the back. It didn’t even matter that it said her last known whereabouts were in Maryland. What did matter was the picture taken two years earlier. She was dressed in full army regalia standing within another group of officers at Arlington National Cemetery. It was an unplanned shot obviously, that caught her and four other officers as they walked from the gravesite. The eyes were the same and so was the hair. ‘Put her in a dress and some lipstick and I’ve got a diva sleeping with my sister.’ Ewan’s thoughts caused the settled bile to rise again. He tossed the cigar out of the window in disgust and gulped down a bit of fresh air.

Ewan decided he wanted to talk to Conner, to tell her the truth, to let her know, but she kept avoiding him. Too much was going on, and he needed her, and that woman was the last thing he expected. He would do whatever he had to do, and if that meant convincing Conner that this woman was some psycho beast hell bent on finishing the job, then he would do that. It was only with the briefest moment of hesitation that Ewan removed the psychological exams from the back half of the portfolio. He knew Conner would seek out the silver lining, so he just removed the lining. He placed the exams to his left and replaced the folder back in the envelope and sat that to his right, patting it absently. As they walked from the car to the plane he promised himself that he would tell Conner the whole truth, but he had to solve this problem first.

* * *

A week would go by and the time would just never be right. Conner finally met with Manny for a quick hour and when he tried to get her to come back to Ewan’s she laughed at him and ran off to her car, leaving him with three boxes of printouts. She refused dinners, didn’t return phone calls and when she did the conversations were marred with giggling in the background. He watched his sister with the tall woman and followed the pair all day Wednesday. He convinced himself that he was waiting for the tall woman to snap and show her true self. Honestly, he just couldn’t admit that his sister was walking away from him because she wanted to, maybe even because she had to. He watched them as they sat on the amphitheater steps at the Harbor and hooted and hollered for the local talent putting on a juggling show. He followed them through the Imaginarium as they chased each other with foam disc shooters and occupied the rambunctious kids in the store with a shoot out. He shadowed them through Little Italy and even tailed them down Eastern into Highland town. He watched as the dark woman pointed out the signs in Greek and explained them. He watched his sister dance with complete strangers at an impromptu festival.

He stood a distance away and listened to the dark woman sing as his sister danced and filled her mouth with stuffed delicacies and was fed olives by the woman. He could not deny that she was beautiful. He could not even deny that his sister was happy. He clinched his jaw in grief as he watched the pair share a soulful kiss. He bared his teeth in anger, knowing that he could neither deny his brother revenge or deny himself the one thing he thought would bring him peace: her death.
CH 26:
When Conner walked, half-skipped to her car late Friday night, her head was in the same swirl of cloud that it had been in for weeks. The soft lights and sounds that flowed through the hallway and greeted Conner as she stepped into the foyer, emanated from her bedroom. She kicked out of her shoes and draped her jacket over the banister as she took the stairs two at a time, humming along with the sultry stylings of Cesaria Evora. Bright green eyes grew wide as saucers and then glowed deep with lust as she visually devoured the woman on her bed. It takes a lot of skin to cover 6 feet, and Conner let her eyes roam over every centimeter. From the smooth instep of slender feet, up, up, fluidly sculpted legs, across the valley of an abdomen, lingering on the rounded flesh of breasts, up the hollow of a neck, sweeping up a chin, over full lips, and finally resting on fiery blue eyes- turned indigo with desire.

Connor had to lean on the dresser to keep from falling to the floor. Blue bit back a chuckle as she watched Conner’s knees buckle.

“I’m getting cold Conner.” As the passionate resonance of the woman’s voice carried to Conner’s ears, she made no attempt to steady herself. She released the dresser and stumbled backwards, landing against the closet door. She released a huff of air on contact and broke into a beaming smile. Blue couldn’t hold the laugh this time. She lifted her head from the hand she had it propped up on, and threw back her head in laughter. Blue-black tresses skimmed the pillow. “Do I need to come over there and get you?”

Conner shook her head vigorously as she steady her legs. “Oh, no. You stay there and be naked. If you move I’m liable to pass out and drown.”

“Drown in what my dear?” Blue licked full lips in a taunting gesture and watched as Conner rolled her eyes.

Conner started to attack the buttons of her shirt. “Oh, I don’t know·your eyes, my clothes, perhaps the impossible amount of fluid gathering in my pants.” Conner dropped her shirt to the floor and touched fingers to the buckle of her belt. She halted as she watched Blue shake her head no. “No?”

“Uh unh. Let me.”

“That requires movement doesn’t it.”

“You think you can make it, cutie?” She crooked a tapered finger at Conner and gestured for her to come.

“I might die trying, but I think it’s worth it.”

“Then prove it Red.”

The five feet of floor from the closet to the bed went agonizingly slow. The loss of Conner’s clothing was painfully slow. When their skin finally made contact, as Blue pulled the smaller woman on top of her, the exquisite pain of needing release consumed both women. Conner lit into the woman beneath her with anything but patience. Where she wasn’t using lips, teeth, and tongue to taste, lick, kiss, nip, or bite, her hands caressed, scratched, palmed, or tickled. Blue was frantically aroused with sensation. Conner seemed to be everywhere at once, leaving goosebumps in her path. It was almost too much, as Conner did her best to cover every inch of the tall woman’s body, purposefully ignoring certain spots that were aching from neglect.

Blue looked down at a crown of blonde hair as Conner dipped her tongue into her navel and then made a slow, wet trail all the way up her torso, stopping to suck on her collarbone. Conner brushed over neglected nipples and Blue growled, as she put her hands on either side of Conner’s head preparing to guide her. Conner bit down into the flesh of Blue’s shoulder eliciting a sweet hissing sound from the woman. Conner was all smiles as she lifted her head and removed Blue’s hands. Blue let out a soft whimper at the loss of contact, causing Conner to smile harder. Blue then found her arms being raised and pushed above her head towards the headboard. “You trust me?” Conner’s voice was heavy with want. Blue could only nod yes as she found a sleek thigh pressed hard into her center. Her hips tried to follow after brief contact, but Conner was leaning over the side of the bed.

An eyebrow rose high as Blue took in the long leather belt in Conner’s hand. “I haven’t had a spanking in a long time, Conner,
I don’t know if I can handle it.”

Conner smirked as she stretched the belt out. “Oh don’t worry when it’s time for that you’ll be ready.” Before Blue could get out a laugh Conner bruised full lips with a forceful kiss. Blue licked her lips in memory as the kiss broke, forgetting what she wanted to say. Conner’s face held a wicked grin as she leaned over Blue and tied her wrists together with the belt. She purposefully hovered above Blue longer than necessary, swaying her breasts just out of reach of a warm mouth. Blue stretched her neck in frustration in an attempt to taste the nipples the hung above her. Finally, she let out a rough growl as Conner made the slow descent down. So warm. So sweet. So wet. Conner clung tight to the vice-like grip of the thighs encasing her head and drank of Blue like a weary desert traveler at a long awaited oasis. The dark woman knew she could have gotten out of her bonds, but the rhythmic pace of a cool tongue and the welcome invasion of a small hand, quelled her desires to lose her trappings.

As she lay there spent with a small body sprawled across her sticky body, Blue listened to their hearts pound. She filtered out the heavy breathing and pants as they both caught their breath, and wrapped her arms around Conner and held tight. Conner breathed heavily into the crook of her neck and Blue breathed with her. Finally, after all the shudders died away, Conner pulled back and looked into blue eyes that seemed to be as vast as an ocean. She held her gaze for a moment and then planted butterfly kisses on Blue’s flush features only to once again pull back and stare. She opened her mouth to speak. “Hi,” she said in whisper and then she smiled and began, “I..” Her voice was cut off as Blue placed her palm over Conner’s mouth.

Conner raised an eyebrow at the action and only got a shaking of Blue’s head in response. Conner creased her brow in an effort to convey her question. Blue eyes penetrated green. “Don’t.” Conner just looked down at Blue in question. “Don’t·don’t say it.” Green eyes softened in understanding. Slowly, Blue began to remove her hand from Conner’s mouth, letting her fingertips linger over pink lips as she thoughtlessly ran her fingers through reddish-blonde hair. Conner grabbed a hold of Blue’s hand and stilled it between their bodies. “Why? Why can’t I say it?” Blue could articulate no answer. Conner creased her brows as she looked deep into the woman beneath her. Why is she struggling? Why am I not struggling?’ “I mean it, so why can’t I say it.” It took everything Blue had not to flinch. Luckily bursting into tears was out of the question, and she didn’t quite have the breath to laugh, but somehow she managed to keep a straight face. Beyond that, she managed to form a sentence. “I know you mean it·.I mean it too.”

Conner’s body raised up. She sat straddling the bronze body beneath her, eyes wide, heart pounding. “Wha- what?”

Blue was surprised by her response. She propped herself up on her elbows and kept her gaze with Conner. “I said, I mean it too.”

Conner reached down to touch Blue, but drew her fingertips back and just let them hover above her chest. It was as if she was testing the woman underneath her to see if she was real. “Say it.” Her voice was quiet, but firm. Blue tried not to raise her eyebrows in surprise, but Conner caught the action. “Say it,” she fought the crack in her voice “please.”

Blue’s face relaxed in the wake of unknown tension. I can deny her nothing.’ She sat up so that she and Conner were no more than a few scant inches apart. She placed her hands on either side of Conner’s face and met her eyes. Her eyes spoke the words before the message even got to her lips, but it was still the same message and it was still true. “I love you.” Conner closed her eyes as Blue’s voice reverberated through her body. She could feel the tears even before they came and then they flowed as the woman before her repeated it over and over, until Conner could do nothing but give into the sobs that bubbled in her throat. She fell forward into Blue’s arms causing them to collapse onto the bed.

Conner felt the sobs subside as she nuzzled Blue’s neck taking in the sweat of sex and the salt of her own tears. Why does it feel so good to hear her say that?’ She wanted to convince herself that they were just words, but she couldn’t deny the warmth she felt in this woman’s arms. She couldn’t deny the ache when she was away. She couldn’t deny the fact that she knew she belonged right here. And she couldn’t deny the feeling, that those words chipped away at her guilt and insecurities. It was bliss and perfection and frenzy and promise all wrapped up in hooded blue eyes and sincere words.

Blue held to Conner tight as she felt her voice well up inside her, waiting to tell the truth, wanting to get rid of the burden. Not here, not now’ her mind screamed. Blue silenced the tickle in her throat as she captured Conner’s lips and tried to pour the truth out that way. Whatever truth was there, Conner had no time to decipher, as she was unceremoniously flipped over onto her back and then feverishly devoured by the dark woman above her.

As climax ripped through Conner’s body she touted that she loved Blue with each shudder and shake. They locked eyes and green eyes filled with tears for the both of them as they wrapped themselves around one another and rested. Conner’s voice broke through the silence. “Why don’t you cry?”

Blue almost didn’t hear the words. She breathed in the Conner’s hair as she lay spooned around the smaller woman’s body.
“I can’t.”

Conner turned her head so that she could see Blue out of the corner of her eye. “What do you mean you can’t?” She felt the woman behind her shrug.

“I think it’s psychological, but I just can’t.”

“Has it always been that way?”

Blue hesitated, then spoke softly, “No.”

Conner ran her thumb across the hands that held her, not sure of what to say. Y-you don’t have to say.”

Blue smirked as she planted a kiss behind Conner’s ear. ” I grew up South Boston, across from the river, in the projects.” Conner turned around fully in Blue’s arms and regarded her with wide and questioning eyes. “Do you know where that is?” A red-gold head nodded. I wonder if she knew Duncan?’ Blue fixed on Conner’s hard stare. “Yeah·I knew Duncan.” Green eyes open wide and Conner pushed back a bit, taking in Blue fully. Blue couldn’t help but smile at the look of utter sadness and confusion on Conner’s face. “It’s all right, I swear.”

Green eyes full of tears looked up at Blue. “Is it really all right? I’m sure they were ass holes and you had more than one run in with Ewan.”

You’ve no idea.’ Blue smiled. “Boys will be boys.”

Suddenly Conner pulled the tall woman into a fierce embrace. “God, you must think McGreely’s are scum. I’m so sorry.” She was sincere in her statement, but the low hum in her voice hinted at her want to change the subject. Blue obliged.

Blue couldn’t help but laugh, causing Conner to pull away. Blue drew her fingertips across Conner’s cheek bone. “Red, even if I did think McGreely’s were scum, I think you’ve done a good job of convincing me otherwise.” Blue was pleased to see a lascivious smirk cross pink lips.

Conner nuzzled Blue’s neck. “I’m wondering if I did a good enough job.” Conner pushed Blue until she was on her back. “I mean I’ve got stuff to atone for.” Conner left a sticky trail of saliva between Blue’s breasts. She mirrored Blue’s raised eyebrow and smiled. “Will you let me make it up to you?” Conner batted dark eyelashes and then descended onto Blue’s lips without waiting for an answer.

Blue listened to the words as they bounced off her insides, “let me make it up to you.” As Conner claimed her lips, Blue acknowledged that she might just have to go to confession this weekend, because she couldn’t possibly feel this way without some ramifications. As a warm mouth captured a dark nipple she said a few Hail Mary’s which were accompanied by a couple of coherent Our Father’s, while all the while Conner gave her own lip service and brought new meaning to the action of praying.

After a lust-filled hour or so both women wound themselves around each other and the sheets allowing exhaustion to pull them towards sleep. As spent as the tall woman was there was still an itching in the back of her head that pleaded with her to tell Conner the truth. And what was the truth. Was it as simple as I knew your brother and your family. Didn’t she say as much in admitting where she grew up. It was clear as understanding washed over green eyes that Conner knew very well what the Boston projects represented. Wasn’t that enough·at least for now. As Blue cradled Conner’s lithe form to her body in reverence she knew she couldn’t make her lips form the words.

Conner could feel the movement of Blue’s body as her body tensed and she hitched her breath. Conner turned in the arms that surrounded her and buried her face in the valley of Blue’s breast taking in essence of her sex. “What’s wrong?”, she mumbled into her flesh. Blue untangled their legs only to tangle them again as she placed a wisp of a kiss in Conner’s hair.

“I watched my brothers die.” The low voice rumbled through Conner’s body with an eerie calmness attached to it. Conner shifted her head so she could look up at Blue. Blue willed herself not to look into jade eyes the she could feel burning into her skin in sadness. “I haven’t cried again since that night.” Conner emitted a barely audible “oh” and then she again buried her head in Blue’s breast. Conner could only hold fast to Blue, not knowing what to say, but doing her best to silence her thoughts. Unbidden they came, like the onslaught of rushing rivers, and it was almost too much to bear as she clung to Blue. The dark woman responded in kind wrestling with her own thoughts. Where Blue had no clue how to tell Conner about her family’s involvement, Conner pleaded with every higher power that she could think of in the hopes that her family had nothing to do with their death.

Finally, Conner pulled away and leaned up, capturing full lips to produce a mind-boggling kiss that stung of empathy and was searing in its proclamation of possession and love. When her lungs requirement for air caused her to pull away, deep green eyes locked on to electric blue. “I love you.” Blue’s heart wanted to burst and she could only pull Conner to her in an attempt to get inside her body. Gi-Gi, I don’t deserve her do I?’ Conner watched as Blue shuddered involuntarily. For any other person tears would have been surely streaming down their face, but her. She only stared out blankly at the walls waiting for the ceiling to collapse on her or something. Conner let go of a tear as she watched Blue fight. Her brow was creased and her jaw was set tight as her lower lip trembled. Both women knew that it was just too much. Conner pulled until she lay underneath Blue and they just stared at one another for a while, tracing each others features just because they could. “When you are ready, I’ll be here.” Conner drew a fingertip across Blue’s lips as she spoke. Blue nodded. “I want to believe you.” Green eyes locked onto blue with sternness. “Then believe it.”

Blue could only marvel at the woman beneath her. So much strength and belief and love, and she had no clue. But Blue wanted to believe and she wanted to hope and at least for a little while she did. She ducked her head and slowly covered Conner’s face in chaste kisses that seeped into lingering kisses of adoration that blazed into passion and possession. Only when the early morning sun filtered through blinds and drapes, did the two women succumb to sleep and envelope one another in sweat painted bodies creating a chiaroscuro against pale sheets.
CH. 27:
It had been so simple. He had brought Rick along with him so things would be easy and gentle. They were perched on the curb at the end of the street, as they watched the tall raven-haired woman walk out onto the steps with Conner hanging on her shirttails. They watched as the two women exchange a passionate kiss that ended with smiles and nips on earlobes. It made Ewan’s heart lift as he thought of what was to become of the tall woman. They watched as long strides took her to the corner where she disappeared around it. Ewan and Rick waited almost an hour for Conner to emerge from the house, dressed in baggy khakis, sandals, and a t-shirt. Ewan figured she was probably on her way to the story.

Conner was so lost in her thoughts of the early morning that she reacted to the rough hand clasping her mouth, a moment too late. The sharp elbow to Rick’s skull would leave a bruise, but her face was all ready being covered by a black sack. Conner writhed and fought the whole time she was being scooped up and placed in the trunk of the car. The only thing that quelled her fear was the fact that Blue knew she loved her and that somebody was going to get their ass kicked- if she survived.

All inklings of fear evaporated into rage as the familiar scent of Ewan’s cologne wafted to her nostrils through the sack. She was standing in the middle of his living room, when she ripped the sack from her head. Flaming green eyes met with calm green eyes. Ewan was standing all the way on the other side of the room near the credenza. He leaned onto the furniture with an arm as he watched Conner consider her options. He found it amazing that her 5’4″ frame seemed to grow to ten feet tall, as she stalked towards him. Fists clenched, teeth gritted, and veins pulsing. When she was an arms length away, he held out the manila envelope. She swatted it to the floor and with the same hand backhanded Ewan across the cheek in one swift motion. Ewan stood upright at the sting and matching green eyes locked on one another. He swore he could see hate in her eyes. He reached out slowly as if to place a hand on her cheek, but again his hand was batted away. Conner raised her hand again as if to hit him, but lowered it as she noticed Ewan made no attempt to block the blow. With that, she stepped back. Ewan leaned back into the wall and watched as Conner open and closed her eyes as she did her best to steady her breathing. “Why?” she finally rasped. Her voice was flat and devoid of all familial love.

“This” he replied, as he bent down and picked up the thick envelope. He held it out to her and she could read the name printed in black across the front. Azure Jasmine Melancolvios. He half-expected her to rage or slump her shoulders in some sign of defeat and understanding. Instead, she threw back her head in laughter. Ewan couldn’t help but widen his eyes in surprise.

She smiled as she spoke, but there was no humor in her eyes. “What are you going to tell me Ewan. That she grew up in Boston and that she knew Duncan and the rest of you dime-a-dozen hoodlums.” She paced around him as she spoke with melodic sarcasm. “Let me guess, she got you guys arrested one night or maybe she gave you a hard time. Or better yet, she turned Duncan down for a date.” She laughed and Ewan grew red with anger. Conner continued her attack. “What Ewan, she wouldn’t give Chuckles or you rat bastards a kiss.” She made smooching noises. “Left you with blue-balls, huh?” It was at that moment that he struck her. It was a reflex. He was being taunted and teased by his own flesh and blood. The back of his hand made contact with Conner’s cheek, across the bone. It caught her in mid stride and she stumbled back from the impact, holding a hand to her face, green eyes wide in shock. Ewan was fuming as he ripped open the envelope and spilled its contents onto the floor.

“You’re so fucking smart, huh !” His voice boomed in her ears as he grabbed her by the arm and yanked her towards the floor. “What did she tell you?! Did she tell you what happened Conner, did she?” Conner clawed at Ewan’s hand as he gripped her neck and pushed her towards a pile of photos. “Look at them Conner! Look at what she did!”

Conner was still clawing at Ewan’s hand and trying to get up off the floor, when her eyes focused on several 4×6 b/w photos and color Polaroid’s. The only thing she could distinguish was blood. Ewan felt her flinch and began to ease his grip. “That’s what your fucking beloved beast did!” He picked up a Polaroid on top and shoved it in her face as he released her neck with a push. Conner threw the photo down as she pushed away from the pile and away from Ewan. She was ready to bolt and he knew it. “That’s Duncan, Conner.” His voice was gruff and hoarse from yelling, but it was steady. Conner looked down at the photo on the top. The body in the photo was covered in blood. Its arms and legs were splayed at impossible angles and the face was just blood. She managed to peruse two other photos before Ewan’s words echoed in her head. “That’s what your fucking beloved beast did” , “That’s Duncan Conner.”

Conner felt the bile burn a trail up her esophagus and she made no attempt to move-she couldn’t. She merely turned her head to the side and puked. Her body racked itself with shivers, but she held back her tears- she refused to cry in front of Ewan. She sat back on her heels and wiped her mouth with her shirt. She sat like that for an eternity of 5 minutes. Hands on her thighs, eyes staring at nothing. Finally, she spoke. “Take me home.” Conner left Ewans’ house in silence and found the manila envelope on the seat of the car as Rick drove her home. When he deposited her on the doorstep, she couldn’t go inside. She knew that the kitchen still smelled like the mornings’ breakfast. She knew that the bedroom still smelled of Blue. The bed was still unmade and empty glasses were strewn about the parlor. She could not face that, so she walked. Her mind was riddled in confusion. ÎDoes she really love me?” “How can I love her?” “She killed him. She murdered all of them·except Ewan.” “Is she finishing this?” She sat down on a curb two blocks away when she opened the envelope. She skimmed through the Coroner’s report, recognizing names. “Robert Melancolvios; gun shot wound to the face. Algeron Melancolvios; snapped spine·Charles Mc Duff; Simon Leary. She paused as she read over her brother’s name. Duncan McGreely, age 23, multiple contusions of the face and torso. Broken arm, broken kneecap. Severe head trauma. Bludgeoned with baseball bat. Subject most likely died on the third strike·”

She could read no more. She felt the bile rise in her throat again, but it was only dry heaves. Her heart seemed to burst. How could this happen. Hands that she had kissed, fingers that she had sucked and begged to have inside her, fingers that breathed life and soul into an instrument. Arms that cradled her at night. A woman she loved with everything she had or ever would have. The other half of her being- she had murdered her brother in rage and hate. “She can’t love me, she was just using me, she·” Conner clipped her words as she pulled herself together and sprinted back to the house.
CH 28:
Blue had cut her visit with her mother short, promising to bring Conner the next day. Half way to her mother’s house, Blue felt like something kicked her in the gut. The entire time she talked with her mom something was gnawing at her insides. She was only a little worried when she returned to Conner’s to find the house empty, but a little note spoke of groceries. The little worry grew larger as two hours passed and the afternoon sun hung low in the sky. The tall woman was propped up on the pillows of the bed reading a book, when Conner appeared in the doorway. She hadn’t even heard the front door open. The smile that Blue was automatically ready to give, dissolved into a straight line across her lips as she looked at Conner’s face. This was not the woman who had been brought to tears by an ÎI love you’. This wasn’t the imp who would wake up at odd hours just to get another taste. This was a woman filled with anger, with rage, and perhaps with hate. Conner knew and she knew it. Blue wanted to say something, but instead Conner spoke.

The tone was light enough that for a brief moment Blue thought she was paranoid, but that dissipated all to quickly. “You know,
I walk out of my house this afternoon and suddenly I’m in a trunk speeding towards Ewan’s.” She chuckled and pantomimed driving a speeding car. “I’m thinking, I’m dead, but oh no. I’m standing there face to face with Ewan and I think he’s about to rip into me about Manny and people embezzling money and setting us up- but no.” She paced the room nervously, not noticing that Blue had swung her legs onto the floor and was pulling on her boots. “So, I get there and what do I find out·” She stopped and stood in front of Blue. She ran clammy hands down Blue’s cheek and gripped a strong chin gently. There was no spark in the touch. “I find out·Ha!·that the woman I’m madly in love with- beat my brother to death with a baseball bat.” Conner let go of Blue’s chin as lifeless green eyes looked into cold blue ones, and she laughed. It was a shaky laugh, that bordered on becoming sobs.

There was nothing Blue could say or do, except watch Conner suffer. “You made love to me. You listened to me talk about my family·you listened to me!” The crescendo of Conner’s voice was reverberated in the shattering of a perfume bottle on the wall next to Blue’s head. It was at that, that the dark woman stood. She seemed to shrink from the weight of Conner’s anger. Broad shoulders slumped and vibrant blue eyes lost their luster. Conner watched as the woman began to take a step forward and on impulse she made a half-ass attempt to lunge at Blue. It only ended up being a haphazardly thrown fist, that found itself encased in the warmth of Blue’s palm as she stopped the punch. Blue let go of the small fist as Conner backed away and fell to her knees, facing the bed. Blue walked around her and picked up her saddlebag that lay next to the doorway. She draped it across her shoulders without ceremony, as she looked down into red-gold hair and thought of burying her face there. She wanted to hold Conner and beg forgiveness- do penance. Rake herself over coals, self-flagellation, anything to dull the ache in her heart. If Blue could have cried she would have right then, as she heard a small sob escape Conner’s lips. “Why?”, Conner whispered more to herself than anyone, but Blue heard her.

Blue opened her mouth to speak Conner’s name, but it got caught in her throat. “I-I need you to know something.” Conner turned around on her knees and leaned back into the bed as she looked up at the woman in her doorway. ÎStill so beautiful’ she thought. “Don’t I know enough all ready.” Conner closed her eyes tight as she tried to remove the images of the morning from her mind. Blue shrugged her shoulders and looked at the floor, she couldn’t bear to look into those eyes that burned with disgust. This was what she had been waiting for, better now than 20 years, a house, and a dog and two cats. She gripped the strap on her side, tensing the muscles in her hand as she spoke. Gi-Gi, give me strength.’

“In all these years I have been seeking everyone’s forgiveness. I spent the first five not wanting to be forgiven and the last ten looking for it. Then I realized, that no matter how many times I berated myself for not being fast enough, not holding on tighter, not asking the right questions, I was never going to heal unless I forgave myself.” Blue raised her head and looked at the ceiling, anything to avoid the green eyes that glowed with contempt as they crossed her frame. She managed a smile as she began speaking again. “Then about a month and half ago, I meet this little imp, and the most unworthy woman in the world fell in love.” Blue let out a huff of air and then ran her eyes over Conner, who sat with her head bowed, focused on the floor. “I pushed past the thoughts of who you were and who I was, because I wanted it and I needed it. Maybe it was selfish, I don’t know. I knew it would be impossible, but for a while I forgave myself .. I forgave them all.” She paused. “It just never dawned on me in all this time that perhaps it wasn’t just me who needed your forgiveness, but you needed your own.” Watery green eyes met with bloodshot blue. Blue bowed her head as she turned to step through the door and then she stopped, her back to Conner. “Tell your brother, that- I’m not some spy nor am I seeking vengeance. And the only thing I stole was a soccer jersey, but I’ll be sure to send it to you.” Blue turned around and looked down at the crown of blonde hair and her heart broke all over again. She turned and as she stepped out of the door way Conner spoke. “I never accused you of stealing anything.”

Blue eyes met with green for the last time as Blue looked over her shoulder and spoke, “I noticed.” Blue walked down the hall fast enough to miss the sobs that racked Conner’s petite form. Fast enough to not see the floodgates open as Conner collapsed on the floor, where she would sit and cry until her body ached. However, she was not fast enough to avoid hearing Conner whisper that she had stolen her heart. As Blue closed the front door softly behind her and began walking down the street, knowing that the night was going to be long.
CH 29:
Conner spent the rest of Saturday afternoon on the floor. By Saturday night she had actually made it into her bed. On Sunday she managed to get up and take off her clothes, that reeked of stale puke and salt, she also found the bar. When Terry kicked in the door at 8:45a.m. on Monday morning she found Conner sprawled on the parlor floor-passed out. Apparently, from all the empty bottles that Conner drank, in an attempt to drain her bar. Bottles that weren’t empty, were broken or spilling into the sink. Glasses were strewn everywhere, along with ice trays, jiggers, and shakers. Terry sighed at the mess around her, but was glad that Conner was still breathing, even though a few hours earlier she wasn’t sure she was alive.

When Terry awoke well before dawn on Monday morning it was not only to an empty bed, but to the ringing of her phone. It was Sara on the other end babbling about Conner being kidnapped and Blue being some psycho killer. She took the information in stride considering her bewildered state, and then she spied the note from Sam on her nightstand:

“Hey Sugar, be back as soon as I can, gotta bail the Big One out of county, something about detox. See ya.” Terry abruptly ended her phone call and proceeded to call Conner every hour on the hour. She stopped calling 2 hours later when Sam knocked on her door.

“What the hell is going on?” Terry was fully dressed, armed with her keys and ready to head out of the door.

“Slow down Terry, we need to talk for a second. Then you need to go find Conner.” Terry allowed herself to be led into the living room as she sat down on the couch with Sam.

“What’s going on?”

“I just heard the strangest story. Maybe not strange, but just some fucked up karma or whatever.

“Sam! What’s up?” Terry stood now.

“Whoa, slow down. Look, I didn’t get the whole story, but I think, I don’t know·I think Blue killed her brother.”

“What! Whose brother? Hers? Wha-?”

“No, Conner’s.”

“Holy shit! Ewan’s dead. Oh my God.”

“No, no, no. Some dude named Chuckles or something.”

Terry raised an eyebrow. “Chuck·Oh, Duncan.” She was silent for a moment as she realized what she said. “Oh sweet Jesus. Sam, I gotta go. Um·stay, leave, whatever, I gotta go.” Terry left Sam sitting on the couch as she bolted out of her house and broke into a run that she recognized as a bad decision a block away. She ignored the searing pain in her chest, promised herself for the thousandth time she would quit smoking and ascended the steps into Conner’s house.

* * *

Terry checked Conner’s pulse once again and scooped up Conner and put her in the bed. After Terry had cleaned up the mess in the parlor room and loaded the dishwasher for the second time, she sat down at the kitchen table with the folder she had picked up off the floor. It was not an easy read. It was only 35 pages thick, with pages of photos and diagrams, but it still took her almost 2 hours to read. She immediately recognize the forms standard to juvenile court as she began reading through the description of the Boston projects. She scrunched her brow in thought as she mulled quickly over the fact that Ewan lived. She decided to worry about it later as she continued her reading. There were arrests for drug pushing, assaults, weapons charges, soliciting for sex. There were rehab centers, counseling centers, and suicide attempts. It was a year by year journal of the singers life. There were two years of nothing on the woman, and then two years after her 22nd birthday the listing began again. She had attempted to join the F.B.I., but was denied on the psyche exam, which she couldn’t find. Two months later she enlisted in the Army Reserves. No psyche evaluation there either. Terry closed the book in thought, and then picked up the phone.

“Somerset, Lane, and Willis, how can I help you?”

“Hey Bobby. This is Terry, can you connect me with Lane.”

“Sure thing, Terry.” Terry took the file and walked into the basement. She grinned at the huge mess of papers that littered the floor and stepped over them as she turned on the fax machine.

“Lane here.”

“Hey, Laney, it’s Terry, I need a favor.”

“Aw, Terry.” He whined

“Chill, it’s legal. I just need a file from Boston. Army recruitment.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Cool. The number is 007654302, A as in apple and M as in Mary.”

“O..K..What do you need?”

“The psyche evaluation.”

“Is this for Gregory?”

“Nah, personal client.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Zip it buddy. Fax it to this number, 410 521 7615.”

“All right, give me 10 minutes.”

“Thanky you Laney, I owe you.”

“Sure do- my wife likes the Mystics you know?”

“Yeah, uh huh, bye Laney.” She smiled as she hung up the phone and waited.

Ten minutes later, the machine spit out 15 sheets of paper. This reading went slightly faster and Terry was relieved that Blue was not a nut case; in fact she was unbelievably sane. Aside, from post-traumatic distress syndrome, nightmares, and an extreme case of guilt hanging on her shoulders, the woman was fine. She had only left the reserves 2 years ago, honorable discharge. It wasn’t until half way through the stack of papers that Terry had her musings answered. What a 12 year old Azure didn’t say in court, she said to a shrink 10 years later- why Ewan lived. Terry shook her head in disgust. This was getting messier and messier by the moment and Conner was chucking her life out of the window because of too much pride in her family and her own self loathing. Terry cracked her neck as she left the basement and went to the kitchen. She knew Conner well enough to know that young woman had only read up to Boston and then stopped at the photos. It was going on 1:00pm when Terry finally checked on Conner again. She could tell without looking that Conner had awakened and used the bucket next to her bed. Terry let her sleep for another hour before she ran Conner a bath and woke her up. Conner’s green eyes were rimmed with tears and filled with heartache.

“Let’s go midget. Up and at’em” Terry dragged Conner unceremoniously from the bed and sat her on the toilet. Conner groaned in protest as her shirt was roughly tugged over her head, followed by her shorts. “All right. In.” Conner let her head loll to the side as she rested her forearms on her thighs. “Oh no you don’t. Are you gonna puke?” Terry pushed Conner up as she talked. Conner shook her head no. “Good, then let’s go.” Conner moaned again as she stood on wobbly legs and was practically thrown into the tub. The water was probably a little hotter than she would have made it, but at this point she didn’t care. She could have been smack dab in the middle of a volcano and been too numb to know her flesh was being burned off.

As Terry shampooed Conner’s hair for the second time, she spoke. Sullen eyes locked on warm brown eyes. “She killed him.” Terry’s heart sank at Conner’s face and words. She looked so lost, just like the nine year old girl that found out her brother died, in a so-called shooting.

“I know baby.” Terry dropped her hands from Conner’s hair. “Rinse.” She watched as Conner sunk under cloudy water and the re-emerged with a small splash. “You ready to get out? You’re gonna turn into a little white raisin.” Terry tweaked Conner’s nose and then stood up. She left the bathroom as Conner dried off and got dressed, while she changed the sheets on the bed and aired out the room with incense. When Conner exited the bathroom, the scent of cleanliness mingled with jasmine incense. As Conner plopped down on the bed she was overcome with a sob as Fahrenheit cologne seemed to engulf her. Terry just sighed as she watched Conner roll over and bury her head in the pillow. Terry rubbed circles on Conner’s back with the palm of her hand, until her sobs subsided. “What’ up Conner?”

Conner sniffled as she lifted her head off the pillow. “Wh-what kind of soap did you p-put in the tub?”

Terry scrunched her brow. “Uh, the brown bottle I think.” She heard Conner laugh as she shoved her head back into the pillow. “What’s up?”

“It’s hers.” she mumbled through the pillow.

“Damn! I’m so sorry honey.” Terry leaned down and hugged Conner. “Look, why don’t you nap, I’ll fix some soup, and then we’ll do a little reading.” Conner shook her head. “What, no soup, no nap?”

“No. No reading.” Conner rolled on her side, her back to Terry and drew her knees into her chest.

“Conner, have you even read it?””

“Enough.”

“Oh, so you’ve read the part about the Nobel peace prize, medal of valor, and a Grammy for her reading of Cat in the Hat.”

Conner released a breath. “Shut up Terry.”

“I see a smile little rabbit.” Terry poked Conner’s sides gently, causing her to squirm.

“Stop Terry. I’m sulking not giggling.”

“Oh, yes, yes. I’m sorry, we’re sulking.” Terry sat back on the bed. “You wanna sulk and talk?”

“What’s to talk about?”

“Conner.”

“What? It’s just my fucking luck. I fall in love and she turns out to be a killing machine, who murdered my brother.”

Terry wanted so badly to yank Conner up by the hair and shove the truth in her face. Of course, what Blue did wasn’t something to be forgotten, but couldn’t it be forgiven? It was the past. It was defense, hell, it was inevitable. If she hadn’t killed Duncan, then there were about 50 other people waiting for the chance. Terry bit back her thoughts and chose her words carefully. “He would have killed her.” The room was still except for the rustling of covers as Conner turned over, draping her arm across Terry’s stomach and resting her head in her lap. “I know” was all she said as she closed her eyes and drifted into sleep.

* * *

It was going on 6:00pm when Conner awoke to Terry putting away dishes in the kitchen and the soft R & B emanating from the stereo. She wandered into the living room and sat down on one end of the loveseat. Terry walked into the living room and placed the folder on the coffee table. Green eyes drifted from the folder to Terry and back.

“Terry, I don’t think I can.”

“Then fine, you’ll listen.”

Conner reclined back into the couch and sighed. “Listening isn’t going to help. It won’t change facts.”

Terry fought the urge to roll her eyes. “Do you even know the facts?”

Conner sighed and laid down on the couch. “I don’t know if I can handle anymore, besides what difference will it make.”

“It may change the perspective.”

Conner sat up and faced Terry. With a voice full of incredulity, she asked, “will it really?”

Terry was wanting to hear some hope in Conner’s voice, but it never reached Conner’s eyes. “Do you love her?’

“What?” The question caught her off guard.

“Do you love her?”

Conner searched her hands for an answer. “How can I?”

“How can you not?”

A blonde eyebrow arched. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means understand what happened in Boston and understand what you both lost. And then think about how hard all this was with her knowing who you were, and to still open her heart knowing that this would be the outcome eventually.”

Conner could only slump her shoulders as she cradled her head in her hands. “But, Terry she·”

“She what Conner? She saw her whole family murdered by a bunch of punks,” she held up her hand at Conner’s arched brow, “by punks and she saved herself. Conner, no offense, but you knew Duncan for what, a hot minute. It was right that you should have worshipped him, but let us not mistake for one second that Duncan ‘Chuckles’ McGreely wouldn’t have done the same to Blue, and for less.”

Conner wanted to seethe and yell, but the fuck you, Terry’ came out as a whisper rather than a bellow. Conner spoke through hands that covered her face. “What am I supposed to do?”

Terry smiled on the inside. “You’re supposed to get up and get dressed and go with me to Tony’s.”

Conner’s head sprang up. “Hell No!”

“C’mon Conner, you two need to talk or at least make the attempt. This won’t get better without that.”

“Nononono. I can’t see her. I-I can’t even say her name without seeing Duncan’s face. How am I supposed to look at her?”

“What are you afraid of, huh? You’ll look at her and still want her. You’ll look at her and still be in love. Or maybe you’ll find some forgiveness.”

“What the hell? Why does everyone keep fucking assuming that I need forgiveness?”

“Conner, how many cats have you run over?’

Conner wrinkled her brow. “What?”

“How many random road kills have you made?” Terry’s face was straight as she stared at a wide-eyed Connor.

“Wh-what?”

“C’mon, how many old ladies have you pushed out into traffic?”

“Old ladies, Terry what?”

“How many families have you evicted? How many acts of arson have you committed, not including albums? How priests have you robbed?”

Conner finally stood up as the barrage of questions seem to physically pelt her. “Terry, what the hell are talking about?”

“How many people have you killed in cold blood?”

Conner bit into her lip as she stopped herself from making some comment about being indirectly responsible. The stern look on Terry’s face deterred her action. “None.”

Terry stood as well. “But, you’re a McGreely aren’t you? Aren’t you a thieving and marauding bastard with no fathers and harlots for mothers?” Conner was clinching her fists at her comments, she was getting pissed, but it was working.

Conner’s chest heaved with breath. “I make my own way, Terry. My life is not determined by my surname. I was raised to believe in honor and warriors, not in thieves and mottoes.”

Terry fought the smile that was tickling the corners of her mouth. “Then, get your highlander ass dressed and lets go and tell the woman you love that you all can at least try to fix this. You can’t change it, but if you want it bad enough, you can make it better.

Terry made so much sense to Conner. Of course, she wanted this. Of course they could fix it·with lots of therapy, but maybe. Terry believed Conner wanted it and Conner was brimming with determination to believe it herself. Almost. She chickened out when they were halfway out of the front door. Connor hung onto the door frame as if it was her anchor in a twister.

“Uh, Terry, I changed my mind. I can’t do this, I’m not ready. What if she’s not ready. I can’t. This, this..no way..I just can’t.”

At first Terry smiled, ready to pry slender fingers away from the door jamb, but she looked into Conner’s eyes and saw extreme fear. Terry let out a small sigh as her shoulders sagged in defeat. “Ok.”

“Ok?” Green eyes opened wide. “No pushing, no pulling?”

“Nope. And no reverse psychology either.”

“Wow.”

“All though, I do suggest you come and pick up your paperwork. You don’t have to see her. Just take care of your business.” Terry poked Conner in the arm.

“Ok.”

“All right, lil bit, I gotta go.” Terry pulled Conner into an embrace and then kissed her lightly on the cheek before she descended the steps and walked down the sidewalk.
CH. 30:
To say the song list was depressing was an understatement of massive proportions. To say that Blue gave only a good show would be an injustice. The band, with Elias along for the ride, were three quarters of the way through the first set and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The smoke was so thick, the waitresses look like they needed flashlights to maneuver the floor. The sorrow hung over the crowd like Baltimore humidity. It seemed to even permeate into the street, where the cars weren’t moving as fast, and the people seemed to moving at funeral procession pace in the dead air. Blue’s voice was a little hoarse from all the drinking the night before, but it only added a sandpaper quality to her smooth contra-alto. It would grind over some notes, reducing them to guttural moan or it would sweep over others producing a rasp of a whisper. It was like Sarah Vaughn, Jimmy Scott, and Billy Holiday were having a jam session in Blue’s subconscious. The music itself was like good bourbon to a first time drinker. They hesitate to try it, but as the warmth crosses the lips the slow burn tingles in their glands and the slow crawl of the amber fluid down into their belly is sure to bring a shock to their system as they take their first breath of air. It all made for a one of a kind experience, that resulted in the drinker coming back for more, just to see if the burn would wear off. It never did.

Connor could see Terry from her hiding spot as well as the stage. The thick cover of smoke, let her lean out even farther than normal, as she laid eyes on Blue’s tall frame. She reminded Conner of a panther, wearing a long black backless dress that tumbled to the floor. She could see the play of muscles in her arms as she would grip the mic and lean into the pole. Conner shivered involuntarily as Blue caressed the open air as if caressing a body. Of course, she loved this woman, how could she not, but Conner was more concerned with how Blue could love her. As Blue began to sing again, Conner wished for God to reach down and smite her. It was indeed painful to see, but listening to the dark woman was just as traumatic. The words rang in Conner ears: “Drink up all you happy people..order anything you please·.the drinks and the jokes on me·.excuse me- while I disappear.” As the spotlight snapped out, blue eyes found green like they had been waiting to move in that direction all night. It wasn’t even the fact that Blue knew where to look, but the lone tear that streamed down the high plane of her cheek ending nowhere. Conner bolted.

Terry chuckled to herself as she left her seat and headed to the front door. Somebody needed to tell Conner, that if she was going to hide in corners, she might want to find a hairstyle that is more reminiscent of an armadillo and not a porcupine. Terry intercepted Conner’s small frame as she made her way around to the back alley. Conner’s face was red and the tears were threatening.

“Hey, hey!” Terry grabbed Conner about the shoulders. Conner tried to wrench away, but Terry held fast. “Slow your roll,
daddy-O.”

“Let it go Terry. Let me go.”

“Oh, you say that like you’re about to jump off a cliff.” A small smile played on Terry’s lips as she attempted to ease Conner’s tension.

“Maybe I should.”

With that Terry let Conner go and folded her arms across her own chest. “Conner, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Maybe, I should go in there and ask her to finish off my family, how bout that.”

Terry watched with concern as the little blonde paced back and forth. “Conner you’re full of shit. You love that woman and she loves you. You’re so busy being wrapped up in your own unworthiness you’re missing the big picture.” Terry reached out and grabbed Conner, pushing her back against the wall. “Conner, this isn’t some everyday occurrence, you said it yourself. This is not you talking. You’re not thinking, you’re not planning. You’re just letting shit overtake you and for what? Fuck prophecies and wives tales. I can look at you and tell you’re destined for better things. Your father didn’t take you to camp crazy Scotsman to warp your brain and make you a killer. He wanted at least one of you to remember who you were. That’s your fate Conner Rose, not who’s who in the Mafia.”

Conner pushed away from the wall, avoiding brown eyes and tried to speak, only to be held back by Terry. “Shut it Conner, I’m on a roll here. I’ve known you for 20 years and I’ve never seen you happier. I’ve never seen you appreciate the day, the dirt, nothing. But, now- you breathe like your breathing for the first time.” She watched as Conner slumped back into the wall and hung her head in admission. “Conner, people spend entire lives hoping for just a smidge of what you’ve got. Don’t, just don’t do this. Not like this. I mean, hey, what happened to putting your behind in your past.” Terry searched Conner’s face for a hint of smile and could not find it. “Honey, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it and you know it. Please don’t let yourself and what you guys have slip away because of misconstrued loyalties.”

Conner’s eyes met Terry’s as she looked up. “Misconstrued? This is my family.” Conner’s voice trembled.

Terry squared her shoulders, knowing that this conversation was on the verge of getting out of control. “And what do you really know about your brothers. Duncan was never there, what you knew of Duncan was the sugar coated fantasies we all attach to our older siblings. And yeah, even Ewan. I used to adore Ewan..and then Ewan changed.”

“She changed him.”

“That so. Did you read that or did he tell you that?” It came out along with a snort of laughter that immediately put Conner on the defensive.

Conner stood up straight , desperately trying to match Terry’s 5’7″ frame. “Terry.” She moved in close to Terry so that only a breath separated them. “She- beat- Duncan -to – death – with -a -baseball- bat.” It came out as a low staccato growl that was on the verge of being a loud roar.

Terry met Conner’s hard stare and leaned as close as she could without letting her nose touch the smaller woman’s forehead, and in her own intense growl, stated; ” And, Ewan, killed an eight-year old boy.”

Only the whiz of cars on Charles street interrupted the silence that shrouded the two women. Conner was beet red and Terry was close to grinding away her molars. The creaking close of the backdoor caused the women to break their stare, each one backing to imaginary corners. Terry shook her head as she turned and walked to the door. She looked over her shoulder at Conner, who had turned to walk out of the alley and called out, “you need to remember what you’re defending.” The door closed as Conner turned around, face drenched in tears. Again, she ran.

It was the horrible reality of everything that hurt Conner the most, as she ran. Her body ached as she pounded the pavement. Her mind raced from erotic fumblings of her and Blue, to the bloody pictures, and the images of blue-eyed boy and golden haired boy who seemed 12 feet tall to a nine year old girl. He would have been my age’ and Would he have made it this far?’ passed through her thoughts as she made a decision. It was really the only choice, she thought as she bounded through her front door into the living room. She picked up the folder from where it still sat and she spilled the contents onto the floor and read. She read completely, all the way through. Boston, trial, juvey, rap sheets, overdoses, army records, and psychological exams. There in justified margins, double spaced, 12 pt font was the truth. The way Conner figured it, every person in that apartment died that night, some just a bit swifter. Conner managed to hit the wood panels of the foyer floor when she puked this time.

In the time it took Conner to change clothes and clean up, she was angry. She was enraged and spiteful. She wanted to roast Ewan alive and then fall on her sword at Blue’s feet, at the same instant she just wanted to run off to Disneyland with her. Conner made a choice as she raked her nails over the tattoo on her neck. It was time to clean house, and if she was left standing she was going to beg Blue for forgiveness and find her own. As Conner begin to undo the organization of the files in her office she chanted the only prayer she knew:

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.”
CH 31:
It was nearing midnight when Ewan called an impromptu board meeting. He watched from the door of his office as the board members’ assembled in the dining room. As the last member disappeared into the room, Ewan waited until he heard the two men stand up from the couch, before closing the door. An errant shaft of moonlight streaked across the carpet illuminating only the shoes of the three men in the room.

“Gents.”

“Mr. McGreely.” Rough Scottish accents broke the darkness of the office. Ewan stood by the door, making no motion to move closer to see the men he had hired.

“You two have your instructions?” Grunts served as yesess. “Good. Do the deed and wait for her, and finish it. No need for a big mess, just a small statement.” He smiled at his own words, bearing glistening white canines that shone bright even in the dark. He watched as the two forms made to move for the door. “Eh, sorry gents, you have to use the window, apologize for the inconvenience.” He turned and exited before either man could accept or protest.

* * *

Ewan entered the dining room wearing a thin-lipped smirk that barely hinted at the satisfaction he was feeling. The room was a spacious expanse decorated with an oriental flare. Ewan took a seat at the head of a wide mahogany table, large enough to seat 25 people. Tonight, it seated 10. Three chandeliers hung low from the 10 foot ceiling, bathing the room in a quiet light. Of course Manny was present, along with Mr. Valenti, and the six other people that usually answered to Connor, but of late they answered to Manny. Rick and Rich stood off to the sides of the room. The past week had clearly taken its toll on Ewan. His face was drawn, and the dark circles under his eyes shadowed the luster of his green eyes. A full beard threatened his normally smooth face, as stubble covered his features. He was dressed well as always, but even Armani could do nothing for the sullen young man. Too many calls from the I.R.S. and too many visits from the F.B.I. and treasury agents were beginning to wear on the young man, not to mention the obvious tension brought on by his sister. His demise hung ripe in the air like the forbidden apple in a long forgotten garden. Ewan could smell his doom, but he was too stubborn to give up. He knew he would rather go down in some hail of bullets than sitting on the defendants side of the court. He was vulnerable and lost. A hole within his family and a rat in his home, Ewan McGreely was ready to clean house.

* * *

She walked into the room at a quarter to one. Black shoes, black slacks, a crisp black shirt, and black leather gloves. She held her left hand behind her back as she pushed the other into her pants pocket. It was eerily quiet. Ewan didn’t know if he should be excited or frightened. He was praying for excitement, but as she turned hooded green eyes in his direction, the last of his heart broke. He drew his eyes to her hand behind her back. He expected it to be a gun, but it was only a large manila envelope. This was not the one he had given to her earlier. His confusion grew as he watched her peruse the people seated at the table.

“2.5 million dollars. Her voice echoed through the room.

She focused her eyes on Ewan as the realization of what she said registered. Connor kept quiet as the wave of reality passed through the seated men and women. Ewan knew he was missing money and he knew it was inside, but he had not suspected that amount to be that large in such a short span of time. His mind was frantic. Conner knew who it was , but she was enjoying the speculative glances and murmurs that flowed through the room. Finally the room began to still as a gloved hand was held out with the index finger pointing. It was quite possibly the most sadistic game of ‘tag’ any of them had ever been involved in. The leather finger roved slowly over the heads and finally settled.

The faded black shirt that brandish Darth Maul’s face, the army fatigue pants, wire rims, and cheap haircut spoke volumes about what people do with 2.5 million dollars. Manny probably bought a massive computer, a big screen t.v., and a boat preparing to sail the high seas. As of now, he would be lucky if he got to spend eternity there. Manny let out a shaky little laugh as tension spilled out into the corners of the room. Ewan looked over at Manny and gave him a golf clap. “Well done, Manny. Well done.” He stopped clapping and turned to Conner with a weak smile. “And Conner, Than-” His eyes went wild as he watched the silver cross pull away from her neck in a snap. She did not wait for Ewan to hold out his hand as she dropped it onto the floor. She spoke four words. They were quiet and steady. Soft as a whisper they tumbled out with all the bass of a thunderstorm in Ewan’s ears.

Ewan saw a thousand failures befall him in four words.

In four words he lost more than 2.5 million dollars.

He felt the earth move beneath him as if all his ancestors were rolling in their graves.

Four-hundred years of honor, glory, and heritage evaporated in four words.

He stood still as a statue, as she walked out of the room just as quiet as she had entered. He stood deathly still as the room emptied, of all except Manny. Finally broken, he fell to his knees and wept as he picked up the cross. It was a Celtic cross that had been given to him by Duncan that he passed to his sister. They had all worn it at one time, announcing to the world their allegiance to one another and pride in their family. Now it was merely a piece of costume jewelry. He could do nothing but weep. He wept for Duncan, he wept for William and the others. He wept for an 8 year old boy who never saw it coming and he wept for the grown woman who would see it coming. He sobbed for 15 years of not crying as her words echoed through his hollow chest:
“We are no more.”

Green demon eyes glazed over in red locked onto the chalky pallor of Manny and they both knew it was going to be a very, very, long night.
CH 32:
Conner walked aimlessly and with purpose. She had parked her car at the far end of the block and started walking towards Blue’s building. It was going on two in the morning and Conner knew that Blue would be finished soon. She had no real want to return to the club. Too many people she thought. Conner found herself standing in front of the apartment building, hands lazily cocooned in pants pockets and waiting. Conner looked up at the partly cloudy sky, as if she was supposed to receive a sign of sorts. It never came. Conner stood still, craning her neck up at the 4th floor apartment and decided that the passing car was omen enough.

Conner walked to the back of the building and stood under the fire escape. She reached up gauging the height to the ladder. After giving her best effort to copy the skills of Michael Jordan, Conner figured she should be practical. She pushed the dumpster underneath ladder with ease, grumbling to herself. “Why’s it gotta be so hard, huh?” “Because, you’re begging for forgiveness you idiot.” She answered herself with a smirk as she pushed the dumpster into place. It gave her the leg up she needed, as she grabbed hold of a rust-tinged bar on the ladder and pulled down. Creaks and rattles announced the fire escape’s movement and granted Conner entrance.

She let out a deep breath and scaled the steps. She made a perch of Blue’s window sill as she opted not to go into the house- that is, if she didn’t take too long. Conner looked down at gloved hands resting on her knees and sighed. She cradled her head in her hands as her shoulders trembled. “Oh God, what the hell did I do?” She wanted to cry, but she couldn’t and it was pointless anyway. She had walked into that office and knowingly ended Manny’s life. Just the amount of money alone, was enough to hurt Ewan, but the fact that it was Manny was icing on the cake. Conner’s mind was crowded with feelings of shock, anger, glee, and sorrow. She had ripped the necklace off and devastated her brother. She could probably go back and pinpoint the exact moment his heart snapped. Conner remembered entering the dining room and seeing the small glint of hope that passed over Ewan’s face before she glared at him. She raised her head out of her hands at the thought. He had been hopeful’, she thought. She let out a chuckle. What did he think? I was going to run over and say what an ass I’ve been, she means nothing, let’s go off and finish
her·”

Conner’s eyes went wide as saucers. “Oh sweet Jesus.” She stood up slowly, running a gloved hand through tousled hair. She leaned over the fire escape railing and darted her eyes back and forth as she looked down into the alley and the sides of the building- looking. She didn’t know what she was looking for, but she wouldn’t doubt it when she saw it. She peered across the adjacent buildings, turning her eyes up towards the roofs, where she saw a billow of smoke. She cursed and tore up the remaining flights of steps to get to the roof. From there she could see a thick black and gray smoke spewing from a building, while red and orange flames lashed the air. “No!”, she screamed as she jumped, ran, and slid down the fire escape. She jumped from the last three steps, clearing the dumpsters and running the second her feet hit the ground. She made the quick decision to take the car. She didn’t even hit the lights as she pulled out and sped down the street.

The front that the building had yet to be engulfed by the flames as Conner bolted through the front door without thought. She saw Blue’s bag on the bar and started screaming her name, as she watched the flames eat away at the stage, just beginning to nibble on the legs of the piano. She was becoming hoarse from the yelling and the smoke that stung her eyes and infiltrated her lungs. She walked as close to the hallway as she could get, forearms protecting her face. Still yelling, she could see that the back door was wide open- smoke pouring out. Conner turned around and ran out of the front door turning the corner of building in full sprint, praying she had time.
CH 33:
Blue waved to Remy as he walked out the front door. She rummaged through her bag for her hat and then placed the bag on the bar. The only light in the bar emitted from the dim glow of the track lighting around the stage. She ran her hand along the bar and sighed. She looked down a the green and yellow jersey she was wearing and smiled. ‘God, I’m acting like a lovesick teenager.’ She clutched the hem of the jersey and smiled, as she sat back on the stool and stared out of the front window. She spoke outloud. “Gi-Gi, what the hell am I doing?” She rubbed a hand across tired eyes and zipped her bag. “I can’t stay here and I don’t want to leave her, but I don’t know how to make this right. Can I make it right? Ugh, I need a clue little bro.” She was adjusting her cap when her answer came in the sound of a swift kick to the back door.

Blue left the chair and stood flush against the wall next to the stage. She could hear two distinct voices. Two distinct Scottish accents.

“Fill the back offices, I’m gonna go find our girl.”

“You got two minutes.”

“Won’t be needing it.” He pulled out the Sig sauer pistol with the silencer all ready screwed in place. He sneered as he took the safety off and chambered a round.

Blue heard the tell-tale click of a round being chamber. ‘Guess I just got my answer Gi-Gi.’ She stood flush against the wall listening to the footsteps as the grew closer to her position. She watched as the silencer came into view, the muzzle of the gun,
a hand, a hand, a forearm, an elbow, the bulge of a bicep, a chin, and a nose.

He could see the form out of the corner of his eye just as a palm extended and shoved his nose into his brain. He made a quiet thud as his body collapsed to the tiled floor and his gun silently landed on the carpet that started at the edge of the stage, where his hand lay. The other man backed out of the office now reeking of gasoline and called out. “Charlie? What the fuck are ya’ doin’?” He brought a flame up to his Zippo and chuckled. “Stop taking drinks you fucker.”

“He likes his drink.” The man almost dropped the lighter at the low rumble of sound that emanated from the tall dark woman who appeared two feet in front of him. Dark hair fell about broad shoulders and he could see corded muscles flex in her arms as she clenched her fists. He stared into the lifeless ice cold blue eyes and thought his heart stopped. Suddenly, he felt the air exit his lungs as a shoulder met with his midsection, sending him backwards. The lighter flew forward and landed in the growing pool of gasoline in the office doorway. Oblivious to the growth of the flames on the floor, the two tumbled out of the back door into the alley.

They separated as they hit the concrete. Both hopped to their feet with ease, while the man reached for his gun. A sharp crack resounded in the alley as a booted foot met with his hand, knocking the gun towards the opposite wall. The man smiled and charged the woman. Blue would have been slightly unnerved by the gesture but 200 pounds of a Scotsman was driving its shoulder into her torso. Her back met with the bricks of the building and she shoved back on him forcefully. To the man’s surprise he found himself forcibly removed from the woman. The separation allowed them to stare down one another briefly and size each other up. In the blink of an eye simultaneous attacks were made.

A roundhouse kick met with his ribs and his reach allowed for a glancing blow to connect with Blue’s cheek. They each absorbed the blows without flinching and then traded kicks and punches for at least thirty seconds, until Blue caught his axe kick on her shoulder and brought her hands down over his knee cap. The sound alone was enough to make it clear that she had snapped his leg. The man went down in agony. Blue pulled back a booted foot and was ready to send a swift snapping kick to the side of his head, when she felt a dull pain in her kidney.

A skinny arm came around her and saw the glint of the blade as it came in towards her face. She caught the blade on her forearm and pushed forward, rotating her hips and sending the man over her shoulder. She looked down at her mystery assailant, who was disengaging himself from the man on the ground and thought to herself, ‘damn, he looks like a rat.’ He moved like one too, as he scurried off the ground and brandished his knife. She began to lunge forward to side step his attack, when a hand reached out and grabbed her ankle, causing her to stumble forward. She felt the blade slash her shoulder blade as she went down. The second she rolled over, rat-boy was on top of her. She was trying to raise her knee to catch him in the groin, but the downed man had a death grip on her ankle. She held rat-boy by his slender neck with one hand and gripped his wrist with the knife with the other hand.

* * *

As Conner rounded the corner, her heart stopped at the sight. She saw three people on the ground and quickly realized that Blue was underneath the skinny guy, with her ankle being gripped by the guy laying on his side. Conner ran straight at the man holding Blue’s ankle and did her best to send his testicles into his stomach. The instant release of blue’s ankle brought a swift knee into the groin of rat-boy. Blue attempted to turn over and dislodge the boy, but he held fast to her waist with his thighs. Blue steadied herself and pushed up to her knees with rat-boy on her back. As the knife swung down towards her neck, the singer realized that she needed to get this kid off of her back very soon.

Conner wasted no time in relieving Blue of her charge. She kicked the boy square in the back causing him to release his thighs. The release of his thighs allowed Blue some leverage as she made the move to excise the boy from her back, lowering the knife as she pushed her hands outward. The last thing she thought was, that this was going to be bad, as she felt the boy pull away from her body. The lack of resistance caused her to lose her balance and lose her grip on his wrist. As she fell forward she could only think of Conner as the blade sliced lazily through her throat. She gripped at the gaping wound as she met the ground.

Conner and the boy fell back against the dumpster, as she watched Blue fall to the ground clutching her throat. Conner used her feet to catapult the boy forward. He landed far enough away from her that she had time to move towards Blue. Just as she reached the singers’ body, she heard the speedy footsteps of the boy hurrying towards her. Conner reached down and swiped the knife off of the ground where it had fallen and was prepared to fend off the boy and then kick the shit out of him. She swung around and her hopes for a mildly bruised ending vanished as the knife was buried up to its hilt in the skinny boys sternum. Conner let go of the knife with a jolt as she watched the skinny man stumble backwards and collapse into a pile of trash. Conner’s immediate shock at her actions were pushed aside to make way for fear, as a gurgle of a moan was emitted from Blue. Conner turned back to the woman and kneeled down, carefully rolling her over. She wanted to die.

Blue’s hand was stained red where she held it to her neck. A pair of blue eyes met with green and Blue decided that she could die right now. She mustered a weak smile as she closed her eyes, only to have to open them wide as Conner let out a shrill scream.
“Oh God! Please, please don’t die. Fuck! Not like this. C’mon baby, just hang on, I’m gonna get you out of this.”

An unexpected strength surged through Blue as she listened to Conner plead. Conner had ripped the sleeve off of her shirt and slowly removed Blue’s hand from her throat as she wrapped the material around the wound. Conner wiped the tears away from her eyes and looked down at Blue.

“Can you walk, because we need to move?”

Blue tried to calm herself and focus on getting up, because she needed to and because Conner was asking her to. She could feel the heat of the fire growing and hear the first of the fire engines racing down the street. She gave an almost imperceptible nod to Conner, and then did her best to get to her feet, with the aid of the small woman. They hobbled from the alley as the first fire engine screeched to a halt across the street. Conner let the seat down all the way as she helped Blue into the car. Conner took her cell phone out as she sped off away from the fire engines. She pressed 14 and waited. On the second ring a man’s sleep-laden voice answered.

“Yup.”

“Olaf, it’s Conner.”

“Hey sugar, what’s- ”

“Not now, I need a drop point, now.”

“Holy shit.” She could hear the rustle of covers as Olaf sat up in bed. “Where are you?”

“Um, Maryland Avenue.”

“Good, get back on Charles and head to Mt. Vernon and go to the church.”

“What?”

“Do it, we’ll argue later. Go to the back parking lot and wait.”

“Done.” She tossed the phone on the backseat as she glanced over at Blue, who still held a hand to her throat. Conner reached over and grabbed Blue’s other hand and squeezed. “You’re gonna be fine, and then me and you have stuff to talk about.” Conner glanced from the road to Blue as she sped onto Charles. She felt her heart warm as Blue squeezed her fingers. Green eyes looked down into blue eyes struggling to stay open. ‘Maybe we can fix this’ , she thought.
CH 34:
When Conner made it to the parking lot, she saw Olaf’s huge conversion van. Olaf hopped out as she pulled up behind the van. He was a true Swede. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and 6’4″. That was all his father needed to know that Olaf wasn’t his son. Conner remembered her dad recounting Olaf’s birth as she laid eyes on her cousin.

“Olaf.”

“Conner.” He smiled at her as he walked to the car. “Now, let’s see here.” He gently pulled the material away from Blue’s wound. He made some soft grunts and then covered it back up. He looked into Blue’s pupils as he brushed matted her off of her forehead and gave her a smile. “Well, Conner, I guess you finally realize that leashes are for dogs and not humans.” He looked down at the dark woman and gave her wink to respond to the sly smile that crossed her lips.

“Funny, Olaf, real funny. What’s the deal?”

He looked up at Conner. “She’ll live if that’s what you want to know, the wounds not that deep,but we won’t if we don’t get off the street. You feel comfortable about leaving your car, because I need to work now.”

“Like I have a choice.” Conner looked down at the woman who was growing paler by the moment and ran a hand across her cheek. It made Conner smile that Blue was actually trying to shake her head and contort her face in a gesture of ‘no’. She leaned down and spoke softly to Blue. “Let ’em steal it, I’ll buy a new one·I only have one of you.” She brushed her lips against Blue’s. Neither woman could tell who was more surprised at the action and they had no time to figure it out as Olaf broke up the moment.

“Save the love fest for recovery, right now, help me get her in the van.” Together they laid Blue down on the table in the back. Conner hopped back out of the van and put the top on her car as she got into the driver’s seat and started the van.

“Where we going Doc?” She turned her head to Olaf as he leaned over Blue with a needle.

“How about the beach, cuz?”

“Sure thing.”

* * *

As Conner drove the three and half hour trip, she thought of all the things she was going to do for Olaf to pay him back. He was supposed to be her Uncle Charlie’s son, but apparently the milk man and her aunt had other plans. Charlie sent his son away, seemingly divorced his wife, even though it was more likely he sold her to a brothel, and remarried. He did find Olaf a good home and Charlie even paid for his education and medical school. Olaf never really understood why, but Conner suspected that Charlie felt bad about sending his mother away and not being able to be a father to Olaf.

Irony reared it’s sarcastic head 25 years later, when Charlie was wheeled through the doors of Shock Trauma with three bullets in his chest. It was a heartfelt reunion that resulted in Olaf becoming the physician of choice for the McGreely Clan, both near and far. He was present for small mishaps, births, check-ups, and random childhood malady’s. Olaf had been a great comfort to Conner after Duncan and her father died, and it was he who made sure Conner didn’t go off the deep end when her mother died when she was 16. Conner thought pleasant thoughts as she drove, occasionally glancing in the mirror to see Olaf hovering over Blue.

They were 45 minutes away from St. Michaels’ when Olaf came up front.

“How is she?” Conner gripped the wheel and stared out into the early morning fog.

“Sleeping like a baby.”

“Is she going to be okay?” She still refused to look at the big man, who was looking at her with concern.

Olaf ran a hand through blonde hair. “I’m going to say yes, but we still should wait 24 hours and then I can be sure.”

Conner refused to take her eyes off the road. She just kept her hands steady and fought down the lump in her throat. “How much damage?”

“Surprisingly, not too much. That’s why things should be fine. I’m more worried about infection more than anything.”

She let out a soft “Oh” as the pink fingers of the dawn begin to comb through the midnight blue sky.

Olaf placed a hand on Conner’s thigh and squeezed. She glanced at him and then back at the road. “Hey why don’t you pull over and I’ll drive the rest of the way. You can go sit with her.” He returned the blazing smile that Conner gave him and gave her thigh a final squeeze.

The first thing that Conner noticed was how still the tall woman was. She lay on her back with her hands at her sides and her head nestled in a small white pillow. A tourniquet was wrapped snugly around her neck, covering the gauze that protected her wound. Conner peered closely at the dark woman, who was beginning to get some of her color back. She picked up Blue’s hand and held it to her lips as she sat on the stool next to the table. Conner lightly brushed stray hairs away from Blue’s face as she ran fingertips across her face. She could feel the tears as they welled up in her chest. “Oh God, I’m so sorry.” She managed to fight off a sob as she buried her head in Blue’s shoulder, and then finally she let them come.

* * *

Olaf gently nudged Conner awake, for the fourth time, as he cut the engine. “Hey sleepyhead, as much as I’d like to carry you both in, I don’t think my back can take it, seeing as I’m an old fart and all.”

Conner smiled as she opened sleepy green eyes. “You’re only 50 Olaf, so shut up.”

“Yeah, I’m young and I do look good..but I still need your help.”

Conner rubbed sleep from her eyes as she chuckled.

The three story house rested on a bluff in St. Michaels, which had its own private road, no neighbors for at least three miles, and no hint of civilization at least for another six miles. The home had belonged to her parents and was now apart of Conner and Ewan’s possessions, but neither of them came out here very much.

Conner and Olaf managed to get Blue into the house and the room on the first floor without incident. After being convinced that Blue was resting peacefully, the two walked out to the pier with mugs of coffee. Conner let her legs dangle over the side of the pier as she took a seat next to her cousin. She stared out at the bay and gave a brief thought to calling Christian and telling him to bring the boat up. Maybe she would take Blue sailing, that is, if the woman didn’t want to drown her. Conner and Olaf stared silently into the sunrise, sipping their coffee.

“So, do I even ask?” Green eyes regarded hazel quietly, and then Conner shrugged. “Does that mean I can ask?”

“Sure.”

“So, what’s this all about, you scared the shit out of me. I’ve only seen you once and that’s because you sprained you ankle in a football game and were too embarrassed to tell Ewan.” Olaf took notice of the small shiver that ran through the small woman.

“I know.” Conner still didn’t turn towards Olaf as she spoke.

Olaf sipped at his coffee. “So·.who is she?”

Conner let out a breath. “Who is she? She- uh- she killed my brother.”

Coffee was projected into the water as Olaf stared bug-eyed at the calm and soft-spoken woman at his side. “Sh-she killed Ewan?”

“No. Duncan.” Conner turned her head at the sharp intake of air.

“Good Lord·that’s her. The McGreely’s darkest hour.” Conner made no attempt to speak again as she stoically listened to Olaf. “Duncan. William. Charles. Simon. And what we thought would be Ewan. Jesus Christ.”

After a long silence, Conner spoke again. “Her family died too.”

Olaf looked up from his hands. “I know, I know. It was insane. The Greek community went ballistic. And when she got sentenced to six years, all hell broke loose. That’s when Ewan got shipped to Scotland. It was an embarrassment. Thank God, your dad and the others were all ready here. I mean they caught hell and all, but it was nothing like Boston. I didn’t even want to go up there. Some of the boys say there are still some places McGreely’s can’t even go to or any other Scotsman for that matter. Unbelievable.” He leaned back on his hands and looked at Conner’s profile. Conner put down her mug and drew her knees up to her chest. “Why are..I mean how?”

Conner half smiled at his stumbling. “I fell in love, that’s why and by the grace of God or some evil demon is how.”

“Well kiddo, that’s the way the chips fall some time. Does Ewan know?” Conner gave a slow nod as she hugged her legs tighter. Olaf sat up. “Did he-” Another slow nod. “Oh boy.” Olaf ran pale hands over his face and sighed. “Sweetie, I’m sorry.” He scooted in closer and held out his arm. Conner accepted the gesture, leaning into Olaf and resting her head on his shoulder and began to cry softly. He drew lazy circles on Conner’s back until she sat up and wiped at her tear-stained face.

“What am I supposed to do?” Her voice was barely audible.

He ran a hand through her strawberry-blonde hair. “Do you love her?”

She responded without thought, “Something awful.” It was the truth.

He smiled. “She love you?”

“Last time I checked.”

“Then you’re doing fine. Look, we’ll go inside, I’ll find some food and we’ll take care of her.”

“What about Ewan?”

“Is he gonna help.”

Conner let out a huff of air that could have been a laugh. “Olaf, I- I told him I wanted nothing to do with him.”

“That’s not new.”

“But I gave him back the necklace. I humiliated him, and, and·oh God, I think I killed somebody.”

Olaf absently rubbed her back as she looked to be on the verge of tears again. “C’mon, let’s go inside. You get a warm bath and then you tell me the whole story.”

The hour was fast approaching nine a.m. as Conner finished off her story, heuvos rancheros and a mimosa. It was Olaf’s version of a stiff drink, at least for this early. He reached across the kitchen table and held Conner’s hand.

“Conner, there’s no way to say how all of this will end, but you have to take care of you. What’s done is done. I’ll make some phone calls and clean this up. Whatever reason or compassion Ewan once had, left him the night that little boy died, and until he gets that back things won’t change. It’s not up to you.” He smiled at her. “Why don’t you go in there with Blue and take a nap. I’m sure she’ll be waking up soon and she’ll want to see your pretty little face.” He tweaked her nose eliciting a wisp of a smile.

Conner pushed away from the table and then stopped. “So wait, what’s her prognosis?”

“Damn good. She’s strong. The cut wasn’t that deep, didn’t sever her vocal chords, but they are bruised. I wouldn’t encourage her to talk right now. Give it a week. Depending on how well she heals she should be up to full voice in about two weeks.”

“W-will she be able to sing?”

“Sure. Probably a little extra therapy and a couple of months. But it’s really up to her, now go on and get in there.”

Except for the bandage on her throat, Blue looked absolutely adorable and peaceful. Royal blue sheets were pushed down to the edge of pajama bottoms that Olaf managed to find for her. A hand rested just inside a white t-shirt and the other lay at her side. Blue-black hair was splayed across a maroon pillow giving her an almost regal look. Conner placed a chaste kiss on the woman’s forehead and then sat down next to the bed. Conner was careful not to disturb the i.v. as she picked up Blue’s hand and kissed the palm. She played with long fingers and watched the rise and fall of her chest, not sure what to say to the sleeping figure. Conner settled for placing Blue’s hand under her cheek and laying her head down on the bed.

She hadn’t dozed off for that long when she became away of the steady rhythm of fingers stroking her scalp. Conner opened her eyes and realized quickly that the hand under her cheek was now embedded in her hair. Conner sat up quickly and then flinched as she remembered the i.v. Blue had removed her hand the moment Conner stirred, so there was no damage done. Conner started to back away from the bed and then eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep met with well rested blue eyes.

“Hi.” Conner said in a whisper. Blue gave a half-smile and returned the greeting with a wiggle of fingers. When she had awakened 10 minutes earlier she put a hand to her throat reflexively and decided it was best not to speak yet.

“You feeling any better?” Conner chastised herself mentally for the less than stellar question. Blue shrugged her shoulders and then winced in pain, as she was quickly reminded of the cut on her shoulder. Conner scrunched her brow in empathy and instantly reached out and held Blue’s hand. “Six stitches.” Conner said, as Blue held a hand to her throat, flinching again. Conner raised blonde brows. “What? Does it hurt?” A dark head shook no. Blue opened her mouth to ask “how many”, but the ‘h’ came out as a huff of air. She cringed with pain, knowing she just should have kept her mouth shut. Conner hopped to her feet and picked up Blue’s hand again as she begin moving wisps of hair away from the dark woman’s face. Conner fought tears as she sucked in a breath and tried to speak calmly. “N-no, no. Don’t try to talk, you can’t right now.” Blue eyes widened in fear and want of an explanation. Conner shook her head. “It’s all right, I swear.” She smiled genuinely as she continued brushing her fingertips across Blue’s forehead, just for the feel of the skin and nothing more. “Doc says you’ll be fine. You should be talking in about two weeks, probably less. And- you’ll be singing in the shower, in a couple of months.”

Conner flashed the woman a big smile, which Blue did her best to mirror, while thinking about all the things she wanted to say to Conner, namely, asking Conner if she would be showering with her. Blue mentally pulled herself together as Conner removed the hand from her forehead and put it in her pocket. Obviously, Conner was still a little skeptical as to where they were headed. Conner broke the quiet. “Um, why don’t I go get Olaf so he can explain things.” Conner started to pull her hand away from Blue’s hand, but Blue held tight. Conner looked towards Blue’s scrunched brows and figured the woman was in pain, but really she was just making a decision. “What’s wrong?” Blue tugged on her hand. “Y-you want me- to stay?” Conner’s voice crackled with anxiety.

Blue nodded yes and then padded the other side of the bed with her free hand. Green eyes opened wide. “In bed·with you.” Blue fought a laugh, smiled and just rolled her eyes at the imp of a woman who stood before her, wishing she could yell out, ‘yes ya’ midget.’ Conner returned Blue’s smile with a crooked grin of her own and then walked around the queen-sized bed and sat down on it. She sat crossed-legged on top of the covers and folded her hands in her lap, all the while her mind was racing, her heart was racing, her lungs, everything. She left her hands in her lap for fear she would reach out and try to touch the woman that lay an arms length away. Finally she looked up from her fingertips and rested her eyes on the picture of calm and what seemed to be contentment. The natural bronze of her skin was bleeding back into her features. The grin she wore spoke of mischief and not malice. Conner could see it and she could feel it: they could fix it. Conner caught the twinkle in blue eyes and smiled. “Hey, don’t call me midget.”

Black eyebrows lifted to the ceiling as a beaming smile spread across full lips. Blue smoothed out the gap between their bodies and patted the bed once again. Blonde eyebrows rose at the silent request. Conner smirked, suddenly feeling playfully. “Oh, you want me to lie down?” Sarcasm and humor dropped from pink lips, like water from an overflowing eave. Blue rolled her eyes again, curtailed her grin, and snapped her fingers and gestured for Conner to lie down. Conner smiled and obeyed. Conner gingerly rested her head on the pillow next to Blue’s long frame, and suddenly found a strong bronze arm wrapped around her shoulders and drawing her in to Blue’s chest. Conner followed the urging and wrapped an arm around Blue’s waist completing the awkward hug.

Conner drank in the warmth of Blue’s body, the sweet spice that she always smelled of, and knew she was going to break into tears as she nestled her head into Blue’s shoulder. Blue used her right hand to lift up Conner’s chin so that they were looking at each other. Conner turned her body into Blue’s, resting fully on her side and then propped her body up on her forearm, avoiding Blue’s bruised ribs. Conner scooted in even closer as she leaned into Blue’s hand caressing her cheek. They caught each other’s gaze and began a test of wills. The air was charged with fear, doubt, and uncertainty. The room was dense with the thought of forgiveness not knowing where to rest. Green eyes were clouded over with so much grief it was almost too much to bear. Long tapered fingers traced the smooth features of Conner’s face and searched for a reason to just walk away. She couldn’t find one.

She smiled at Conner and mouthed the words, ‘I love you.’ For Conner, it was as if she doused her sunburned body into a pool of aloe vera. She knew it wasn’t completely that easy, but for the moment, as she closed her eyes and buried her tear-filled eyes into Blue’s chest, it was more than enough. Conner clung to the tall woman beneath her, as tight as possible without hurting her. Blue could only hug the small woman tighter not caring what she pulled or re-bruised. They made a cocoon of one another’s bodies as Conner cried for them both, eventually exhausting them both and falling to sleep. When Olaf returned from the store at 2:30 he found them both still wrapped up in each other fast asleep. He quietly changed the i.v., drew the covers up over them both, and backed out of the room. ‘Good girl, Conner’ he thought as he made his way into the kitchen and unpacked the groceries.
CH 35:
This time, it was Blue that awoke to light tingles in her scalp, as Conner made lazy grooves in her hair. Blue looked up at Conner who was laying on her side, with her arm supporting her head, and mouthed out a “hello.” Conner smiled and replied, “hello to you.” Conner watched in delight as Blue sniffed the air obviously taking in the smells that wafted in from the kitchen. “Olaf’s making a masterpiece. Blue patted her stomach, denoting its emptiness. Conner smiled and rubbed Blue’s stomach as well. Blue stilled Conner’s light caress and entwined their fingers and squeezed gently. Without breaking contact Conner rolled on her belly and begin a light stroking of Blue’s cheek. She looked seriously into still sleepy blue eyes and spoke quietly. “I am so sorry, about everything. I-I just..” Conner trailed off as she shrugged her shoulders and looked anywhere but at Blue. Blue touched Conner’s face, gathering her attention, and traced a finger across pink lips. ‘So, much I need to say to you and I can’t. I want to tell you how scared I am, how confused I am about all this, how sorry I am for lying, and how I’m only certain of one thing.’ She waited a heartbeat and then mouthed, “I love you.” Conner kissed the fingertips that trembled slightly and didn’t bother to remove the fingers as she spoke. “I love you too.” Blue’s face grew bright with a smile and Conner leaned in to kiss her.

The line “there are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” ran through Conner’s mind as her lips met Blue’s. The rush of energy was indescribably as tentative pressure became full and firm, filled with love and forgiveness. To say things like the earth moved was an understatement. It was the coming together of two paths drawn in the sand long ago. As tongues greeted each other in the dark warmth of each others mouths, the intensity created was massive. Their lips made promises, oaths, and vows all with a simple touch. Every misdeed, every trespass, and every wrong committed was forgiven and any that would be made no longer existed. Conner broke the kiss with a shudder. Another racked her body as she took in Blue’s face and watched a solitary tear travel down a bronzed cheek. Conner kissed gently at the tear drop, tasting the salt of woman she loved, taking in the good with the bad- and she was satiated and emotionally full.

However, even in their small moment of reconciliation, one thing couldn’t be denied: Conner’s stomach. The low grumble broke into the women’s intense moment and filled them with laughter. Conner watched as Blue’s chest heaved with silent laughter.
“I think I’m a little hungry.” Blue mouthed, “of course you are.” Conner cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “Did you just call me a horse?” Blue shook her head no and laughed again, this time wincing in pain. Conner grimaced in sympathy, instinctively raising up from Blue, so as not to hurt the woman. “Oh boy, I’ve got to get you a pad.” Blue clapped her hands together and nodded her head vigorously in agreement, causing Conner to laugh. It was then that she heard the light tap on the door.

Olaf stuck his head through the opening. “Can I come in?

“Sure thing cuz.”

“I see some sleeping beautys are awake.” He smiled at Blue as he walked over and tapped at an air bubble in her i.v. He took a quick glance at the monitor and then focused his eyes back on the dark woman in the bed. He extended his hand to Blue. “I’m Olaf by the way.” Blue accepted his hand and gave it a hearty shake. “You wanna sit up for me.” Conner disentagled herself from Blue and helped to prop up some pillows for her. Olaf pulled out a stethascope and help out the end towards Conner. “Warm me up kiddo.” Blue couldn’t help but smile at their familiarity and Olaf’s obviously warm bedside manner. ‘He’s probably great with kids’ she thought. Conner breathed on the stethoscope and then watched as Olaf lifted up Blue’s t-shirt and proceeded to listen to her heart.

“How are those ribs feeling?” Blue shrugged as she took a couple of deep breaths, hitching slightly in her breathing. Olaf raised a white-blonde eyebrow. “A little painful.” Blue gave him a little half-smile. “Well, little lady, considering your ordeal, you’re sounding good, but I think we need to feed you.” Blue smiled fully at Olaf who returned her gesture.

“Olaf make the best clam chowder in the world.” Conner drummed on her knees in anticipation.

Olaf smiled at her impatience. “That’s chowda’ youngin.” Blue smiled at the man and gave him a thumbs up. “If you feel up to it, we might be able to get those tubes out of you and wheel you around the property.” It suddenly dawned on Blue that she had no clue where she was. She scrunched her brow and mouthed, “where?”

Olaf turned his gaze to Conner. “Someone’s a bad hostess I see.” Conner stuck her tongue out at Olaf. Olaf turned his gaze back to Blue. “You’re in St. Michaels.” Blue nodded in recognition. “You’ve been here since last night.” Blue smiled in relief thinking she had been out cold for days. “You should probably hang out here for at least week. Olaf cut a brief glance at Conner and then back to Blue. “Maybe two.” He patted Blue’s knee. “I’m going to get my bag.”

As the tall man left, Blue leaned towards Conner and placed a soft kiss on her cheek. Conner smiled. “Is that a thank you kiss?” Blue nodded and then raised her eyebrows suggestively, thinking, ‘not by a long shot.’ Conner laughed. “Maybe I won’t get you that pad, you naughty girl.” Blue pouted and put on her most excruciatingly sappy puppy dog face. She watched as Conner melted and then attacked her lips and face with kisses. Conner found an earlobe and sucked on it, until she got a soft moan from Blue “We really don’t need a pad do we?” Conner purred the words into Blue’s ear, causing the tall woman to shudder. Conner pulled away from the earlobe and voraciously kissed Blue. When she finally pulled away, Blue was breathing heavily. Conner could only smile at her affect on the woman. Blue then tugged on her ear, getting Conner to listen. Conner’s eyes widened and she perked up. “Ooh, charades. What?”

Blue pointed to herself and Conner responded, “I”. Blue nodded and then extended her finger, and then began to point at random things within the room. Conner wrinkled her brow as she followed Blue’s erratic finger, trying to guess at her thoughts. “You want·uh..oh·point!” Blue smiled and then she pointed to Conner. “Me.” Blue nodded again and then made kissing noises. Conner shrugged. “Kiss·what?” She watched as Blue reiterated her actions in one motion. “I point. Me kiss.” Blue rolled her eyes and waited until her phrase clicked together. “Ahh! You point and I kiss.” Blonde eyebrows raised as Conner licked her lips slowly and smiled, deciding she liked this game. Blue mimicked Conner’s expression and then slowly tapped a finger to her lips. Conner stifled a laugh. “All right, let’s see if I can get this right.” Conner held Blue’s face in her hands and then placed a searing kiss on her lips, ending it by running a pink tongue across them. as Conner pulled back, she gazed at Blue through half-lidded eyes and watched in glee as a light blush rose to the woman’s cheeks. Conner’s attention was drawn to the flashing monitor to the right of Blue, as she watched the heart line pulse erratically.

Blue followed Conner’s line of sight and smiled lazily. “You okay?” Conner asked. Blue gave her an ok sign and let her head flop back against the pillow. “Maybe we should slow down, huh?” Blue’s response was cut off by a deeper voice.

“Please. I’d hate for her to survive a knife wound only to die of heart attack.” Both women turned their attention to Olaf, who walked through the door carrying a tray laden with soup bowls. Blue smiled and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘she wouldn’t mind.’ “I’m beginning to wonder if I should leave you two girls unsupervised.” He cast his gaze at Conner, who stared at him innocently.

“We’ll behave, I promise.” Conner smiled in a puckish manner and then let out a yelp as Blue tweaked her rear eand.

Olaf laughed. “Yeah right. Conner, get down so you can eat.”

“Yes sir.” Conner gave the big man a salute as she hopped off the bed and resumed her position in the seat next to the bed. Conner set her own bowl aside and held up Blue’s taking pleasure in the aroma. “God, Olaf this smells great.” Conner smiled dreamily and Olaf laughed. The blonde man patted himself on the back playfully and then dug into his soup. Conner with spoon in hand, smiled at Blue, who seemed content just to see Conner smile. “All right ya cripple, ya ready?” Conner cut through her tease with a beaming smile that Blue had no choice but to return.

Blue managed to get down three spoonfuls before the soreness in her throat beat out the ache in her stomach. A look of sadness crossed Conner’s eyes, but it quickly dissolved as Blue pointed at her cheek, and Conner obliged the woman with a soft kiss to her cheek. Before Conner pulled away, she nuzzled and earlobe and spoke, “You should get some rest and maybe I’ll bring you some ice cream.” Blue grinned and let her eyes drift close as Conner settled the pillows around her head.

Once they got into the kitchen, Olaf spoke. “So, kiddo, how about a real drink?”

Conner let out a huff. “Oh man, I thought you’d never ask.” Conner sat down in a chair and leaned back on the legs. “I’m stuffed.”

“You still drinking those prissy Martinis?”

“Prissy?” She glared without malice at Olaf. “Yeah, but I’ll take whatever.”

“You like Jack?” Conner nodded. “Then Jack it is.”

She watched as the tall man rummaged through the shelves for glasses and bottles. He returned to the table a few minutes later with a Whiskey sour and Jack on the rocks for himself. Conner smirked at the obvious difference in Olaf’s concotions. “I figured you wanted something prissy.” They shared a laugh and drank. “So look,” Olaf put his glass down and stretched his legs out in the other chair. “, I called Melanie and she’s taking care of your car. I need to head out to Baltimore, but I can tow it back out when I come back.”

“Sure, I guess that would be great.” Conner tousled her hair and took a sip of her drink. “Um, I guess, I mean should I call Terry?”

“Why not? If you don’t she’ll hunt you down.” Olaf gave Conner a small smile hoping to keep her from slipping into a funk.

Conner returned the grin. “I know. Besides, I need to apologize.” She looked down into her drink and tapped the glass. “We kind of got into over all of this.”

Olaf figured as much. “Oh yeah.” He briefly thought about all the little spats and tiffs that he had to mediate between Terry and Conner over the last 20 years and he let the corner of his mouth curl into a hint of a smile. “What did she tell you?”

Green eyes glanced up at hazel eyes and Conner gave a weak smile. “The same thing you did.”

Olaf chuckled. “I bet.” He caught Conner’s eyes and smiled. “Anyway, Christians bringing the boat and I think the little Pick-up still runs. I got a bunch of stuff from the store, so you should be good for a week and God only knows what’s in the deep freezer. I think I saw a whole family of deer.”

Conner shook her head in amusement. “Good grief Olaf.” Conner sat back in her chair feeling a bit more relaxed.

Olaf watched as Conner’s features seemed to smooth over and her eyes sparkled with hope and not the residue of tears. He glance down and captured Conner’s gaze. “Everything’s gonna be fine, lil’ bit.”

“Yeah·I guess it will.” She sighed lightly and drained her glass. “Hey, I’m going to go sit with her, why don’t you get some sleep or something.” Conner pushed away from the table and stood.

“Nah, I’m going to head out. Look, all the stuff is in the medicine cabinet. I left a box of gauze in the bedroom so you can change the bandages. There’s Percoret in the cabinet if the pain gets really bad. I’ll go ahead and take out her i.v. before I leave and give her a once over.” He stretched his arms and stood up as well, wrapping his arm around Conner’s shoulder. “She’s looking good, so I don’t foresee any complications, but·” He squeezed Conner’s shoulder, “chill out on the strenuous activity.” Conner blushed as she pulled Olaf into an embrace and then stood on tip-toes to place a kiss on his smooth cheek.

“Go on Doc, do your job. I’m going to clean up.”
CH 36:
Dawn was barely breaking across the Wednesday morning sky, when Conner disentangled herself from Blue’s embrace and hurried to the bathroom. She stopped in the kitchen on her way back and threw a disgusted look at the dishes in the sink as she grabbed a bottled water from the fridge. Nearly a week had passed since the fire and the attack. Conner had finally called an irate Terry on Tuesday and in between Terry’s bouts of making it quite clear how worried she was, Terry managed to fill her in on what was happening.

Of course, Manny was nowhere to be found and it seemed that Ewan had skipped the country for some R&R according to Wilhelm. As for the club, it would be about two months before things were up and running. It was at that, that Conner mentioned Blue would probably be singing by then. This tidbit sent Terry into a hissy fit, as it suddenly made sense to her about two dead bodies. The third guy with the broken leg had been arrested, but he wasn’t talking. Conner found herself in a soul searching mode, as she sat with Blue in the tub, mulling over the fact that she killed a person. Blue ran through two pads of paper as she tried to assuage Conner’s fears of rotting in hell forever.

On the whole, Tuesday was a rough night for both women. Conner finally got to vent over Duncan’s death and Blue confessed that she only felt remorse when she looked at Conner. The bright spot in all there talking was the fact that Carmen was still alive, and was quite possibly going to shit a brick when she met Conner. The comment made both women howl with laughter as they imagined the situation and all the while Conner scratched carelessly at her tattoo as if it were a rash.

Blue finally pulled Conner’s hand away from her neck and asked her if she wanted to get it removed. Conner shrugged her shoulders and said no, while absently considering getting something to cover it up. She decided that certain something should match the butterfly on Blue’s hip. Her idea of course required a thorough examination of the artwork, that led to a watery exploration of each other’s bodies, that made its way to the bathroom tile and eventually the bedroom. Conner had only been asleep for an hour when the call of nature beckoned her. She found Blue padding the bed with closed eyes when she returned. Conner just smiled as she stripped off her shorts and nestled back under the covers against Blue’s warm naked frame, falling quickly into sleep.

* * *

Another week and a half had passed as both women found themselves drifting on the bay, sailing to no where in particular. Two bodies lounged on the deck sunning themselves in the early August sun. Blue was careful to keep her neck propped up , so as not to stretch the wound, that was now covered by a single strip of gauze held up by two Winnie the Pooh bandaids at either side. Conner wore her own bandage that covered her still healing tattoo on the nape of her neck. A day earlier they traveled to Rehobeth and found a nice tattoo parlor. The tattoo artist, Rick, was thrilled beyond belief at the chance to turn Conner’s Celtic knot into a majestic blue and black Gloss swallow tail butterfly. A day later Conner lay on her stomach desperately tying to get some color and relieve the apprehension of their return to the city in a few days. Conner was eager to began putting her life together, and to her that meant ignoring Ewan and focusing solely on Blue, who was stretching out her six foot frame on the bow of the boat. Conner turned her head towards the dark beauty and watched the sunlight wash across full breasts, toned arms, a taut stomach, and sprinkle golden rays down long legs. She didn’t hold back the smile that welled up on her insides and tugged at her mouth, as she let her gaze travel over the lightly sleeping woman. She felt her stomach do flips as she thought about what lay ahead for them.

Conner was thinking about fixing up her Uncle’s Ranch and asking Blue to move in or whatever she wanted. Both women knew they still could stand to deal with some things, but Conner came up with the brilliant idea of making love instead of arguing. Suddenly, the daily crossword took a lot longer as they would dsipute the spelling of jai alai just for the hell of it. In time they’d deal with Ewan, but now, Conner just wanted to solidfy their future. She had even gone so far as to purchase a hand-crafted diamond-studded silver band that was emblazoned with the word ‘eternity’ in Greek on the band. She had attached the ring to a necklace, just to prove to Blue that she wasn’t trying to pressure her, but that she meant to be in this for the long haul.

Conner fingered the velvet box underneath the towel under head and got up. She slipped the box in the small of her back as she walked towards the padded bench near where the woman lay. Blue sat up and turned her body as if she was about to flip-over when she caught Conner’s misty green gaze. Conner practically had to sit on her hands to keep from touching the bronze woman that was making her heart melt and her insides tingle, as she got up from her perch on the bow and sauntered towards Conner wearing nothing but the black bikini bottoms to her swim suit and a smile. Blue knelt down in front of Conner so that they were eye level and rested her forearms on Conner’s knees.

“Conner , breath.” The sweet husk of her voice was still powerful even shrouded in the whisper of a voice that Blue was speaking with. If she tried to talk any louder, she did a dead-on Godfather impersonation, which delighted the women for two days straight until they ran out of lines to say. Conner finally breathed and blinked as Blue ran her knuckles down Conner’s cheek. “What’s up Red? You okay?” Conner looked like she was on the verge of tears. “Hey- ”

Conner placed slim fingers on Blue’s lips and smiled. She ran her hand through Blue’s hair and smiled. Now Blue began to look worried. Conner sensed the woman’s impending grimace before she made it and shook her head. “I’m okay, I just·I love you, that’s all.” Blue smiled as she watched Conner’s ears redden.

“I love you too, knuckle head.” Blue brushed her lips over Conner’s. She pulled back and creased her brow. “You sure you’re okay?”

Conner nodded again as she removed Blue’s hand from her face and held the hand in her lap. “Will you stay with me?”

Blue thought it an odd question, but she smiled all the same. “Am I going somewhere?” She looked around at the water playfully as she spoke. When she turned back to Conner, she met with damp red-gold hair as Conner bent her head to focus on the palm of Blue’s hand. Conner asked her question again. Blue used her free hand to tip up Conner’s head, allowing deep blue to meet with verdant green. Blue realized that it was no longer just a question. Blue grasped Conner’s hand and entwined the fingers. Here she had been worried about what was going to happen when they left here, how they were going to put things back together. It was so easy out here with no distractions and no politics, but the city would have its consequences. However, as Conner’s words echoed through her, she knew that she had only one real desire. “For how long?”, she asked.

Green eyes sparkled. “For as long as you’ll have me”

A puckish grin formed on full lips as she cocked an eyebrow. “The 12th of never.”

Conner raised a blonde eyebrow at the cryptic statement. “What?”

“The 12th of never.”

Conner nodded. “Oh, like the 6th of August.”

Blue smiled and then she held out her free hand palm up in a gesture of waiting. Conner raised an eyebrow in a gesture of innocence and tried not to smile. “What?” she asked. “What’s in the box Red?”

Conner eyes grew wide and Blue kept a straight face. “Wha- what box?”

“The one your cute little butt is sitting on. Hand it over.” When Conner didn’t flinch, Blue released her hold on Conner and held out both her hands and added a slight pout to her ploy.

Conner threw up her hands in defeat. “You suck.”

“I know, but I hear I’m quite good.” Blue leaned in and ran a pink tongue across Conner’s lips and watched as the small woman squirmed.

Conner finally gathered herself and leaned back out of reach of the questing tongue. “Hey, hey, this is serious.” Blue stopped her antics for the moment and sat back on her heels as she put both hands behind her back and then proceeded to stick out her bottom lip and cast her eyes downward in a dejected manner. Conner smiled like a madwoman as she took in the acting job that Blue was engaged in. She thought to herself, ‘I’d be insane not to want you forever.’ Conner let out a laugh as she framed Blue’s face with her smaller hands and lifted her head so that they were eye to eye. “You big baby.” She planted a soft kiss on Blue’s still pouting lips. The grown woman who was acting like a six-year old smiled as she once again rested her forearms on Conner’s knees.

“So wait, should I put on some clothes or something?”

Conner cast gleaming green eyes down at firm bronze flesh and wiggled her eyebrows. “Nah, I’ll take you as you are.”

“That’s good to know.” Blue searched Conner’s eyes and saw the hesitation. “So?”

“So, uh, I love ya.”

“You said that all ready.”

“Well, I should tell you everyday.”

“Well then I’ll just have to be here everyday won’t I?” Blue reigned in her grin as she watched Conner’s face flush. She gave Conner’s knees a light squeeze for encouragement.

“W-well do you want to be here everyday?” Her voice was barely as loud as Blue’s.

Blue leaned forward until their foreheads touched. “Are you asking me?”

“Am I asking?” Conner let out a chuckle realizing that things weren’t working out like she planned. Suddenly she lifted her head with a snap. “Am I asking?” she spoke more to herself and then she stared hard at Blue and then a wide smile spread across her face. “I’m begging! I’m pleading! I’m open!” She threw her hands wide and Blue’s face drained of color as she watched the small velvet box go floating through the air to the water below.

“Holy shit!” Blue hopped up on the bench and leaned over the railing as she watched the water over take the box . She turned around not sure what to say and sat down on the bench, one leg underneath her. She rested confused eyes on an extremely calm Conner, who sat with her arm stretched out across the railing.

Conner wore a smirk on her face. “You wanted to cry at the end of Titanic didn’t you?”

Blue shrugged and grinned. “I’ll admit it, I’m just a shallow, materialistic, debutante.” She waved her hand through the air in an elegant manner.

“Then I hope this meets your needs, your highness.” Conner lifted her right arm off the railing, revealing a sliver chain with a ring on it dangling from her finger, and moved it in Blue’s direction.

Blue shook her head and then grabbed Conner’s arm and pulled her into an embrace. “You afraid I’ll lose it?”

Conner laughed as she pulled back and began to unhook the clasp. “No, just no pressure.”

Blue placed a hand on Conner’s and arched an eyebrow. “I love your pressure Conner.”

Conner let one end of the necklace go and let the ring slide off into her palm. She held up the ring to Blue’s moist eyes. She was beaming. Blue couldn’t even lift her arm to take hold of the ring. The prospect of perpetual joy and happiness was overwhelming and it was a concept she no longer believed in. But, amazingly enough it all seemed possible as she stared at the intricate piece of metalwork and mineral. Blue noted the Greek lettering on the inside of the band and smiled even wider.

“How long did it take you to spell that?”

Conner blushed. “Olaf helped. Now are you gonna take this or at least hold out your finger?”

Blue rolled her eyes. “I’m nervous okay. Besides, I just need to make sure this is real.”

“Why don’t you pucker up and I’ll prove it?”

Blue just smiled as Conner leaned in and their lips met. Conner applied gentle pressure as her lips parted and her tongue escaped to the confines of Blue’s mouth. The pressure grew intense as fingers found their way into hair and upon bare breasts. Blue pulled away reluctantly as she noted that Conner was only working with one hand, due to the jewelry in the other.

“How about I take that off your hands?” Blue held out her hand to a smiling, yet flustered Conner and watched as trembling fingers slipped the ring on her finger. Conner brought the hand to her lips and kissed it, closing her eyes in silent prayer.

“I love you, you big dumb Ox.”

Blue smiled. “I love you too·midget.”

The women shared a giggle and a soft kiss. “So, you ever made love on the bow of a 30 foot boat, Ms. Melancolvios?”

“Can’t say that I have Ms. McGreely.”

Conner stood up and held her hand out to Blue. “Well, I think we should make that happen and just to make it interesting, let’s see if you can count those diamonds while I’m a-pplying pressure.”

Conner let out a whoop! as her feet left the ground and Blue walked the three feet to the bow with Conner in her arms. She laid Conner down on the sunwarmed fiberglass and they gazed at one another silently. Conner forgot about Boston, forgot about Ewan, forgot about Baltimore, and in her last moments of coherent thought (two seconds before their lips met) she couldn’t think of one reason why she didn’t belong with the woman hovering over her.

* * *

As the sun traveled out of the sky and into what looked like the ocean itself, a moment of rest came for two deserving souls. As they lay cradled in one another’s arms daring the elements or the seagulls to question their love. The earth made no qualms and only served to celebrate the two women as the warm air passed over them and the pounding surf lulled them to sleep. It was beyond joy. Beyond happiness and beyond perfection.

It was Right.
Epilogue:
In Conner’s dreams Ewan was going to stay in Scotland and never come back. Reality dictated that he would return, but Fall was upon the bay side city and Conner knew she wouldn’t have to deal with Ewan until at least the first of year. As of now Conner had decisions to make and the hardest one was deciding who she would be reporting those decisions to. From the moment she entered the city three months earlier, all eyes fell on the small woman, and ears were open to her words. As of now she was head of the McGreely clan.

However, at the moment, as Conner sat at a table somewhere in the middle of the newly remodeled club surrounded by Terry and Sara, the last thing she was thinking about was taking over her family’s business. Tonight was all about the statuesque goddess that stood in soft light of the spotlight awaiting her cue. A royal blue slip of a dress clung to every inch of her body as the hand woven silk framed her body and pooled onto the stage in a small train behind her. To look at her now with eyes colored lapis lazuli, fixed on dark emerald orbs, and her face all aglow one would never know what she had been through. Not that the diamond choker she wore around her neck didn’t do well to avert ones attention from the wisp of scar that ran across her trachea. Even so, whatever questions anyone had about what transpired a few months ago, every doubt was wiped away and replaced with words that poured out of her throat like warm honey being spun into milk. The words may have been meant just for Conner, but everybody in that room felt it and knew it for what is was :

“You ask how much I love you, I’ll tell you true.. until the 12th of never, I’ll still be loving you,”

THE END.

Continued in A Rose In Blue

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