Personal Assistant by Kat

Personal Assistant
by KAT

Summary: A celebrity falls for her personal assistant.
 

She walks in beauty,
Like the night,
Of cloudless climes,
And starry skies;
And all that’s best of
Dark and bright,
Meet in her aspect
And her eyes.

********Lord Byron********
————————————-

 

CHAPTER ONE: Murphy’s Law (a temptation of fate).

BEEP …”Kate this is Diane. Honey we’ve got a hot one for you this time. It seems the actress . . . hmmmm, what’s her name, oh yeah (heh, heh) umm, Jessica Ryan is looking for a personal assistant, . . . again. I hear through the grapevine that she eats PA’s for breakfast, and then (hee, hee) cleans her teeth with their bones. Honey I know you can handle this one, and face it doll, Lola is way beneath your talents. I know you care about her, but you are much better than that. After all, sweetie, your gig with Lola is just about the same as a high paid babysitter. Call me, hon, we need to get on this right away. I told her agent that I would call them right back, and schedule an appointment to meet them, and to work out the particulars. Oh, and sweetie, this one is big bucks, for both of us. Ta Ta.”

Kate slowly released a sigh. She had been a personal assistant in the entertainment business for a number of years. Since she was about 20 years old. Most of her assignments had been relatively basic. Shopping, answering fan mail, picking up dry cleaning, and helping with other errands, as well as running lines with the entertainers. She had been a babysitter, a chauffer, and a gopher. Even an errand person for visiting diplomats. A year or so ago, all that had been different. She had been brutally attacked by a client’s husband, and had been blamed for the incident. It had taken her several months to recover, both physically, and mentally. She still wasn’t sure she could return to regular duties, but she realized that all of her training, and abilities were being wasted.

She had graduated from college, with a degree in Office Administration. But, Kate was determined not to fall into the drudgery of daily work in an office building somewhere. Her father had passed away when she was 18, and he had made it adamantly clear that no woman could possibly do anything, except be a secretary for some corporation. At least until she found a suitable man, and got married. Determined to prove him wrong, she planned her future carefully. With a little bit of luck, and a lot of Irish, she would succeed.

Steve, a friend of Kate’s, had been a personal assistant in Hollywood for about 10 years. He had hoped to become an actor, but because of a need to pay rent, and the competitive nature of the entertainment industry, he ended up being a PA instead. Being gay made it seem somehow easier as well. Steve had a certain charm, and attraction that led to some pretty lucrative assignments. Most of his clients were aging Divas. Actresses that had at one time been at the top of the A-list, but were rapidly being replaced by the newest crop of fresh young talent. Handsome, and debonair, he made the perfect escort to dinner parties, and award shows, without the complication of a relationship.

Steve thought that Kate would be perfect as a Personal Assistant. She had incredible organizational skills, and a bright personality. And she knew how to cater to those sometimes unruly egos that are so prevalent in entertainers.

After her father’s death Kate stayed at her mother’s house in Silicon Valley until her college graduation. Her mom had been heavily involved in several different social groups, and had recently started dating a fine gentleman who happened to be the CEO of one of the larger companies in the area. He had offered Kate a job when she graduated, but she was serious about moving to LA, and working out of Steve’s agency. She promised him though that if it didn’t work out she would look him up.

Steve had a cute little house in Glendale, and he was looking forward to having Kate move in with him. He had recently broken up with his current boyfriend, and was feeling lonely. It would be nice to have his pal there to share stories, and work tales with. At least she would understand what it was like to be a PA. Roger his ex was always jealous of the time he spent with his clients, and the special care he gave them. He felt that Steve was just a little too close to his job.

Moving to LA had been a major change for Kate. The climate was different, and the smog was definitely an entity to reckon with. It took her almost 3 weeks before her body, and specifically her lungs had acclimated to the visible pollution in the LA basin. Kate was a very active and physical individual, and had never smoked, but one trip to the market on her bicycle, and she felt like she was drowning.

She loved the house though, and especially the little office that she and Steve shared. It was all windows, and had a green house quality about it. There was plenty of room for both of their computers, a couple of desks, and a shared bookshelf. Both of the roommates were avid readers, especially Kate. She had lots of Science Fiction/Fantasy books, and a rather extensive collection of murder and suspense novels. She was especially proud of her large selection of lesbian mystery, and Sci Fi books.

By far her best, and rapidly becoming largest collection, consisted of her favorite fan fiction from her favorite internet sites. Her most cherished, were the stories written about her idol, Jessica Ryan. Ms. Ryan was the current star of the hottest action thriller on television. She was relatively unknown, but after the introduction of “Urban Assault Team” she became the most sought after actress of the year. Her picture was on the cover of every magazine. She attended two conventions a year, and always to a sell out crowd. Everyone, from teens to senior adults purchased collectibles, memorabilia, and T-shirts. Almost every city had a billboard advertising the show, with Jessica Ryan’s image larger than life.

Kate almost blushed when she thought about the stories she read. One of the largest group of individuals that flocked after Jessica Ryan were the countries lesbians. They collectively agreed that it was about time that television caught up with the era, and started portraying women as strong, independent, and tough. Able to handle themselves, and others in a crisis. Their stories often involved relationships, sexual or otherwise, between the star, and various insundrious enemies, and friends. And sometimes with her partner. Of course none of these stories took into account that she was married, to one of the producers of the show.

Jessica’s character, “Kendra Knight” was a special government agent. Responsible for the safety of the country, and it’s inhabitants in the year 2050, she was constantly pitted against terrorists, aliens, and other numerous subversives. Her partner in her battle against crime, was a cyber-unit, built partially from electronics, and special shielded alloys, and partially from the remains of an actual human female. She had been injured in an explosion while hunting down terrorists, and the miracles of modern technology were able to restore her, at least partially. The addition of the cyber-parts was necessary, to replace her damaged flesh. She was stronger, faster, and extremely intelligent, having access to the largest database in the known universe. However, an error in programming diminished her emotions, and caused periodic glitches in her active motor base. Kendra Knight had learned to work around these problems, but they frequently happened at the most inopportune times, especially when her life was in the balance. All in all, it made for endless great story lines.

One of Kate’s best friends was a woman she had met on the internet. They both shared a common interest in Jessica Ryan. Laura was probably more nuts, than Kate. She had all the memorabilia, including the comic books, and knew just about every small detail that was available about Ms. Ryan’s life. Even calling her Ms. Ryan was Laura’s idea. Made it sound more formal, or polite. Need to be respectful she always says. Because who knows, someday you might get to meet her, and then you’ve already practiced being polite, so that you don’t sound stupid. Wait until she hears about this job offer! It was also Laura’s theory, that Jessica Ryan’s marriage was actually a convenient cover up for her true inclinations. Laura just knew that if she ever met Kate, Ms. Ryan would come out of the closet, and the rest would be history.

Kate had been out of the closet since her father’s death, but she stayed perpetually single. Frankly she didn’t leave much time in her schedule for romance. Between work, school, and her training classes, she barely left room for her addiction to the internet. Nothing, could stop her though from searching out the posts of her latest favorite fanfic writer, and printing them out for later perusal. She even got her client Lola interested in the show, even if Lola thought she was much better than this Jessica person.

Kate was kind enough not to disagree to Lola’s face. But, her blush deepened when she thought about the tall, dark haired, special agent, with the piercing blue eyes and the perpetual brown tan. She was beautiful to say the least, and strong. Kate knew from her own involvement in the fan clubs etc., that Jessica Ryan was involved in a number of martial arts programs, and had extensive training in hand to hand, as well as weapons combat. Rumor had it that she had even participated in some Special Forces training exercises, and Navy Seals classes, to make her stunts seem more realistic.

Kate herself had been so taken by the action, and the overall physical nature of the actress, that she had persuaded herself to join a gym, and to take some martial arts and weapons courses. Steve also suggested a body guard course, that involved techniques for attacks, and warding off the various papparazi that plagued most entertainers. To round out her training, Kate passed a driving program to elude terrorists, in anything from a Volkswagen to a limousine. The final course she took was certification, and training to carry a gun. She did not believe in direct physical confrontation, and did not feel she could fire a weapon at another human being, but she felt it was important to protect her clients in the event that they should be attacked. Many entertainers were stalked by obsessive fans, and some had even been killed.

After her training, Kate became very popular with the occasional visiting actors and dignitaries to Los Angeles. Most came for awards shows, or meetings with studios, and requested her by name. The jobs were relatively easy, although there had been one or two questionable clients.

Kate was certain that she had driven, or escorted members of various criminal families, including chaperoning a well known Mafia Don’s daughter to her high school prom. She was an excellent escort though, and never questioned her clients about anything too personal. Including their business affiliations. Most of the time, they never even spoke to her, or her to them. Which was a monumental task for her to perform, since most of the time, she couldn’t stop talking. For those times, she kept her journal, and vented all of her adventures out in writing. It was her hope to write a book someday, maybe even get published.

Dear Diary, I am really nervous about this new assignment the agency is sending me on. I will be the personal assistant for Jessica Ryan. She is a really big actress in an action series here in the states. (Of course you know that Diary, since a lot of what I tell you is about her already). Actually, she lives here in LA only part time, the rest of the time she lives in a house in Northern California. Somewhere near the beach they said. I would be expected to be at her beck and call at least when she is here in LA, but not at her other home, unless she felt it was necessary. They said she has had a lot of trouble in her personal life, and she tends to be very private, and withdrawn. I would be primarily responsible for her correspondence, and sort of a liason with her representative publicity group here in Southern California.

Stay to yourself, and stay out of her personal business. That’s what Diane kept saying to me. “Don’t overstep your bounds Kate, she has burned through 7 or 8 assistants already, and she can be pretty mean when she’s disturbed. And honey, watch out for that agent of hers, he’s a real S.O.B.” Diane even said they wouldn’t have taken me from my other assignment, but they consider me the best, and more than likely the last resort, before she fires the agency all together.

I’m going to miss Lola though. I was just starting to make some progress with her drinking, and I know she could have done well on her audition this week. Maybe I’ll call her, and give her some moral support. Of course, she was really only trying to get me into bed with her, but I can’t handle the dramatics. And she really needs to get her life together. Oh well, like they say, actors will be actors.

It was late Sunday night, and Kate couldn’t sleep. She was scheduled for a 7:00 a.m. meeting with Ms. Ryan’s agent at the studio, to go over her responsibilities, and to discuss what the rules were. They were specific about that, . . . rules. Steve brought her a cup of herb tea, and the two sat on the sofa staring at the T.V. but not really seeing anything.

“I guess I should try to sleep. I hope she likes me, or at least pretends to. I don’t know what to think about this. Everything I’ve heard about her makes me think that she won’t like me.” Kate sighed.

“Why not? You are the best at what we do. You’re smart, cute, and can handle a gun or a spoon, depending on what the circumstances are. What’s not to like?” Steve chuckled.

“You don’t understand. Diane was adamant about this assignment. Don’t speak until spoken to, don’t ask, don’t tell. When have you ever seen me keep my mouth shut, or not meddle eventually? Look how close I got to Lola. I almost wish I was staying with her. At least it was predictable.” She whined.

“Girlfriend, you are starting to sound whiny. You know you can handle this. And this is sooo much more suited to your talents. I mean, it’s not like you have to carry a gun to go to the liquor store . . .okay, I guess you’re right, this is LA after all. But you know what I mean.” Steve threw his hands up in mock despair, and stood to go into their shared office.

Stopping dead in the doorway, he looked slowly around him. Every square inch was covered in pictures of Jessica Ryan. Action photos of her in her role as “Kendra Knight”, and then publicity shots of her at awards shows, etc. There was even a life size cardboard standup of her in the corner, wearing Kate’s favorite ball cap. Turning slowly he couldn’t hide the humor, or the realization that crossed his features.

“Geez, a little obsessed are we? So, that’s the major malfunction . . . you are so hooked on her, you’re afraid you won’t be able to do your job? Hey, you’re the best. And there’s nothing wrong with a little crush. Who knows, it may even make you do your job better.” He flashed a brilliant smile, “Maybe you can break through that “Ice Princess” exterior. Heh, and even get some sugar for yourself.”

Unfortunately for him he failed to see the brilliant red pillow that came flying from the far side of the room. After being smacked squarely in the face, he launched into an all out tickle fight with his very best friend. When the giggles died down, they sat quietly together, and resumed their blind staring at the television screen.

Moments later, Steve stood to pop some popcorn, when Kate grabbed his arm and pulled him back down. Whispering, she asked a question, but she was so quiet, he couldn’t hear her. “What? Honey you’re too quiet, say again!”

“I was wondering if you thought she might think I was cute?” she said a little more loudly.

Blinking at her like a small owl, he swallowed once, then again, and then stared at her for a moment. “For real?” he asked quietly. She could only blush, then nod. “You betcha honey. If she doesn’t, then there is no hope for her.”

Kate, probably out of nervousness, arrived at the offices of her prospective employers’ agent much earlier than she had planned. Stopping in the first floor ladies room, she checked herself in the mirror, and decided that she wasn’t entirely pleased with the way she looked. Digging through her bag, she grabbed her brush, and a hair clip, and quickly began to comb her long reddish blonde hair back, and clip it into a ponytail at her neck. She ran her fingers through her bangs, and then thought to touch up her lipstick as well. Reaching for her purse again without looking, she accidentally knocked it onto the floor.

“Shit! I can’t believe I did that, now I’ll probably be late. I hate wearing make up anyway, . . . this stinks!” Kate blurted in exasperation.

Squatting down to recover the contents of her purse, she quickly scraped everything she could find, and then set the errant bag back onto the edge of the sink. Looking again for the missing lipstick, she started to panic as she dug into the interior of the unforgiving accessory.

“Looking for this?” a soft low voice said behind her.

Jumping out of her skin, she shot a look into the mirror, and was met with an amused pair of sparkling, crystal blue eyes. After further perusal, she discovered

she was very likely staring at her future boss. Turning too fast, she almost ended up in the arms of Jessica Ryan.

“Steady there, don’t fall.” Jessie chuckled.

“Oh my Gods! Ms. Ryan, I’m so sorry!” Kate blurted. “I’m not normally such a clod. I can’t believe this, I . . .”

“Shhh, it’s okay, I drop things all of the time. No problem. Here let me help you,” she replied, as she finished piling things back into Kate’s purse.

Smiling her thanks, Kate was too overcome to even answer the actress. Jessica turned to leave, and then turned back, placing her hand on Kate’s shoulder. “For what it’s worth, I agree with you, make up just doesn’t do your beautiful face justice.” Then with a wink at the building blush on her future employee’s face, she turned and left through the door into the hallway.

Slumping against the wall, Kate felt like crawling under a rock and dying. Well, so much for first impressions. I’ll be lucky if I get my job with Lola back at this rate. And she said I was beautiful. Oh my, how will I face them now? I should go home, I really should. “Buck up there McKenna,” she heard her mother say, “be strong. Ye’ haven’t died yet. Have ye?”

Brushing herself off, and smoothing her hair, she passed on the lipstick, and then hurried to make her appointment. Whether she even had a chance now or not,

didn’t matter. What mattered, was to pull together what was left of her damaged pride, and sell her skills. She was a trained professional, and not a child. The important thing, was not how she looked, but what she could do. If Ms. Ryan needed protection, or a letter written, then Kate was her gal. Damn, I have to stop blushing, when I think things like that!

Moments later Kate was being seated at the table of a small conference room. She was joined by Jackson Briggs, the star’s agent; Jessica Ryan, and an assortment of assistants, gophers, etc. One assistant in particular, a blonde of medium height, and rather large . . . assets fluttered around Ms. Ryan, like a moth to a flame. Kate thought to herself, that if Jessica Ryan wanted this woman to scratch her ass, she would. It was only too obvious that she wasn’t the least bit impressed by Kate’s presence. Kate got the feeling that the girl probably thought that they didn’t need to hire anyone else, that she was all that Ms. Ryan needed. And . . . she couldn’t place him, but Jackson Briggs set off alarms in her head. She knew she had seen him somewhere before, and she didn’t think it was pleasant.

After everyone was settled, Mr. Briggs opened a folder that Kate correctly perceived was her personnel file from the agency. He took the time to scan the pages, but it was obvious that he had already read the contents, and was well versed in what they said. After all, Jessica Ryan was his most important client, and he wasn’t about to trust just anyone with her safety. A few moments more, and he cleared his throat, and then addressed Kate directly.

“According to your file Ms. McKenna, you are trained in some of the highest levels of Martial Arts, Weaponry, and terrorist evasion tactics. Why do you think you need this kind of training to be a Personal Assistant to a performer?” he inquired.

Organizing her thoughts, she carefully formed her response. “I have always been interested in the entertainment industry. It is no secret that there are a large number of fans, that identify with performers. Some of them to the point of obsession. A number of these people might be considered dangerous. Most of it is just a ploy to get attention. But there are a few, who can become a real problem. I’m sure you are all familiar with the John Lennon murder, and several other stalker situations.”

Most of the room nodded their agreement. Ms. Ryan betrayed no interest in her look, but her eyes seemed to shift slightly, maybe a slight rise in her eyebrow. Mr. Briggs continued skimming her file. He paid particular attention to her last job reference, and the letter from Lola that they included. He chuckled slightly, and then readdressed the waiting group.

“So, with all of your training and skills, Ms. McKenna, why did you spend a whole year or more working for Lola Perez. I mean, you would think that being her assistant might have been an extreme waste of your abilities.” He smiled condescendingly. “Oh, and Ms. McKenna? You aren’t by any chance an obsessive fan are you?”

Controlling the anger that had started to build in the pit of her stomach, she scanned the room for a moment, recognition starting to seep in from her memories. “Mr. Briggs, I am a Personal Assistant. I write letters, shop, pick-up and deliver dry cleaning, and perform the routine duties of a secretary. I run lines, assist with blocking, and even walk the occasional dog. I am also a trained killer, although I do not believe in willingly ending another human’s life. You’ve read my file, and you know that I had an unfortunate incident just prior to my assignment with Lola. It was felt that I needed a break, to recover from that “incident”. Lola was the perfect spot for me, but I’m ready to move on now.”

“Ms. McKenna, or may I call you Kate? By the look on your face I see that’s a no.” He smirked, but did not receive a return smile. “Would you please elaborate about this “incident”? I’m sure the rest of the group would like to hear the story.”

Jessica Ryan was shocked at the outright attack on this poor girl. Interrupting Kate before she spoke, she fixed Jackson with a glare that would burn holes in titanium, and in a voice dripping just short of menace, answered for the younger woman. “Jackson, I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to ask, and I really don’t think it is anyone else in this room’s business what happened before Ms. McKenna was recommended for this job.” Addressing Kate, she smiled apologetically. “You don’t have to answer that kind of question, it doesn’t apply to this interview.”

Refusing to be daunted, and now with her Irish turned up full blast, she returned the smile, and then turned and stared directly into Jackson Briggs’ soul. He visibly flinched at the power and determination behind those emerald green lasers. “Thank you Ms. Ryan, but I can answer the question. If I remember correctly, Mr. Briggs played tennis with my former employer, prior to Lola. So, I suspect that his need to force me into this line of questioning, is to continue his misguided support for his associate.”

She paused a moment to collect her thoughts again. “For the benefit of the rest of you, I was employed by an extremely well known, and important producer/ director for one of the largest studios here in LA. I was responsible for providing secretarial support for his wife, and overseeing his staff. One afternoon when his wife was out, I had stayed behind to finish some invitations for a party she was having for his birthday. He came into the office, quite drunk, and started pawing me, and asking me to have sex with him. I told him no, but he continued to maul me. When I tried to push him away, he grabbed a table lamp, and smashed it into my temple. I fell unconscious to the floor, and he ripped my clothes off, and proceeded to brutally rape me.”

Now crying quietly, she searched in her purse for a tissue, and then sighing deeply, continued her story. “His wife came home and found me, and accused him of the attack. He denied everything, and eventually his driver was arrested, and jailed in his place. The court found the driver innocent, and the producer was arrested, but his lawyers managed to twist the story to make it look like I had purposely enticed him into attacking me, as though I enjoyed it. He paid a small fine, did a few hours of service, and they never looked back at him. I, however, continue to be subjected to the “Good Ol’ Boys” club of bullshit of which that man is the president, and you Mr. Briggs seem to be the executive VP.”

With that, she rose and fixing him with another deadly stare, regarded the rest of the room. “Now, if you all will please excuse me, I have had enough humiliation for a lifetime today. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, and I’m glad I could provide you with some sick entertainment to fill your sorry little lives.”

She turned, and quietly, but quickly left the room, and stumbled towards the elevator. Standing in front of the doors, she frantically pushed the buttons, trying to will the machine to appear. Back in the conference room, Jackson Briggs was about to see God. He cowered in his chair, trying to go unnoticed by his most powerful and extremely angry employer. Actually former employer as he was soon to find out.

“Jackson! You are the most reprehensible piece of shit I have ever laid my eyes on. I don’t know what possessed you to treat that woman like that. We are all familiar with your friend and his shenanigans, and I personally am aware of your lousy history as well. You suck, Jackson. I don’t want crap like you representing me, or any of my interests anymore. And I surely don’t want this sea of human garbage following me around either.” Jessica was shouting by now.

The blond clung to her arm, and started begging. “Jessica, honey, what about little me? You know you need me, baby. Brenda takes good care of her Jessie. I mean, who plans your parties, and hires the caterer, and makes sure your cars have gas, and are clean?”

“Stop whining!” Jessica growled. “All you do is spend my money, and try to get into my bed. You’re nothing but a groupie whore, Brenda. Go find yourself a real sugar daddy. I bet Jackson could accommodate you in that department. Oh, my mistake, Jackson couldn’t get it up if he had a crane.”

She turned abruptly, and mentally kicking herself for allowing the poor girl to go into the story as far as she did, made a dash for the elevator, in the hopes of catching her before she left the building. Just as she approached the elevator doors, she saw them closing. Quickly she dove for the buttons, slapping them as she thrust her arm through the separation. She forced the doors open, and stopped short when she noticed the shadowed outline of Kate McKenna, turned to the wall, her shoulders shaking with the tears wracking her body.

“Don’t . . .,” Kate sobbed, “Don’t come near me. First I embarrass myself in the restroom, and then I’m publically humiliated by that self-important bastard. I hope you enjoyed the show Ms. Ryan, because it’s the best you’ll ever see from me. The agency was right, you and your organization are just a little less than human!”

Stung by her words, Jessie was momentarily speechless. “I fired him if that’s any consolation, and the rest of those scum suckers. I just wanted to apologize, and tell you how sorry I am. I always knew he was a stinking pig, but I guess I was too busy to see just how nasty he really was. I understand how you feel. And again, I’m sorry.”

Kate dabbed at her tears, and blew her nose. “You couldn’t possibly understand how I feel. I have never in my life intentionally harmed another human being, but right now . . . right now I could put a gun in his ear, and pull the trigger, and not feel any remorse. Well, I would feel remorse, but not really.”

“Actually, I do know what it feels like. I grew up in a pretty harsh environment. Acting was an effective escape from the torrent of abuse I suffered at my father’s hands. As did my mother. And I know what it’s like to wish someone dead. But it’s not the way out. The repercussions are too far reaching to make it worthwhile.” Jessie replied quietly.

The elevator reached the first floor, and Kate pushed past Jessica, in an attempt to make a hasty retreat. She felt extremely bad about what Ms. Ryan had just told her, and didn’t know what to say. Her own pain overshadowed any sorrow she might feel. She decided that the sooner she put this place behind her, the better. Jessie just stood quietly aside, wondering first of all what possessed her to tell this complete stranger her dysfunctional childhood story. With her luck, it will show up on the front page of the tabloids by noon tomorrow. Secondly, she caught herself making a mental note, to have her new agent, whoever that might be, call the agency, and ask to re-interview Ms. McKenna. Because for whatever reason, Jessie decided that Kate was to be her personal assistant, no matter what anyone thought, including Kate herself.

Kate went straight home, dropped her clothes, and headed for the small gym they had set up in their garage. She put on her boxing gloves, and spent the next two hours slamming the heavy bag suspended from the beams by a chain. In her mind’s eye, she kept seeing the sneering face of Jackson Briggs, which only pushed her harder in her workout. The phone rang several times, and she guessed correctly that it was probably Diane from the agency, trying to find out whether or not she had gotten the job. She decided to deal with that later, when her nerves finally calmed down.

In her heart, she knew she couldn’t blame Jessica Ryan for what happened. It was a shame that such a beautiful and talented woman had to involve herself with such a low form of insect. Kate also knew that if she didn’t work out this anger problem, she just might take a gun to someone. It was almost worth giving up her gun and her license, but she had more faith in herself than that.

After another twenty minutes on the heavy bag, she went through her cooling down routine, and then locking up the garage, headed for a hot shower. Carefully avoiding the answering machine, she went into the bathroom, and ran the water as hot as she could possibly stand it. She felt so filthy after that meeting, that she couldn’t scrub enough to get it off her skin. The phone rang several more times, but she blocked out the noise, and concentrated on removing the layer of slime from her body.

When she was dressed in comfortable sweats, and her slippers, Kate settled down with a cup of herb tea to listen to her messages. BEEP “Kate . . . Kate? Honey this is Diane. Where are you darlin’? I want to know how the meeting went. Call me.” BEEP “Hey there girlfriend. This is Steve. Did you get the job? Should I be prepared for some celebrating tonight? Call my cell phone and let me know.” BEEP “This is mom, Katie. I just wanted to let you know that I have a surprise for you. Call me when you get in. Bye.” BEEP “Kate, honey, I just heard from Jessica Ryan’s people. They were concerned that you were all right. Baby what happened over there? Call me right away, before I get in my car and come over there!”

Oh Shit! I really don’t need her to be here right now. I should call her, before she catches me. Finish the messages first, then call her. Okay <sigh>.

BEEP “Kate, this is Diane again. I don’t know what’s going on, but an agent from a completely different company called representing Jessica Ryan. They said they were still interested in hiring you, and she would like to make an appointment to see you tomorrow. Honey, call me ASAP!” BEEP “Okay, this is about all I can take. Kathleen! I just spoke to Jessica Ryan herself. She is insistent upon hiring you as her assistant. She is hoping that we can let bygones be bygones. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!!! I’m getting in the car right now. You just better be there when I get there.”

OH SHIT, I wonder if I can get out of here before she arrives. BEEP “Ms. McKenna, this is Jessica Ryan. I wanted to apologize again for what happened. I have changed agencies, and would really appreciate it if you would consider working for me. And don’t worry, this isn’t charity. I just feel that you are by far the most qualified person for the job. Please call Margaret James at James and O’Brien. She will schedule an appointment to meet, hopefully tomorrow. Again, I apologize for what happened this morning, and I hope you can forgive me.”

Holding her head in both hands, Kate screamed until her throat hurt. Too late, she hoped her neighbors didn’t hear her. Damn, how did she know I wouldn’t accept the job if it was for charitable reasons. What am I going to do now? Well, first things first . . . .escape! She jumped out of her chair, and running around in circles, tried to find the keys to her car. She found the keys, and then running for the side door, grabbed her purse where she had left it, and then made a dash for the driveway. Too late, she realized her exit had been blocked. First in line was Diane’s white convertible, and behind that was a truck from a florist.

She turned quickly, and was going to sprint to the back when Diane’s unmistakable voice snared her from behind. She stopped short, and sent her purse flying, the entire contents scattering everywhere. Diane caught up with her, about the same time the delivery guy did.

“Honey, don’t you think you can run away from me! I want to know what’s going on, and right now.” Diane huffed up on her 3 inch stilettos. Right behind her, the delivery guy was thrusting a huge bouquet of red roses into her arms, and then holding out his clipboard, whistling impatiently while he waited for her signature. “Uh, um, thanks. Diane hang on, let me take care of this.” She signed the board, and then handing Diane the flowers, turned to bend down and pick up the contents of her purse.

As she took her first step to recover her belongings, she realized that her catsCorky and Violet had just run out the door behind her. She tripped over Corky, and then to prevent herself from stepping on Veronica, she threw her body to the side. Misjudging the distance, she smacked her head on the bumper of her car, and then slowly slipped to the concrete. Just before her eyes closed, she thought she saw a limousine pull in front of the house. Something about hallucinations was her last conscious thought.

Unable to judge how long she had been out, she slowly became aware of first her surroundings, and second, the loud voices shouting all around her. She remembered the cats had gotten out, and decided that was her first priority. Kate carefully placed her hands on the ground, and tried to push herself up. Overcome by a wave of pain and nausea, she laid back down, and squeezed her eyes shut. Carefully reaching to the back of her head, she was shocked to see blood on her hand. She closed her eyes again, and then suddenly she was being lifted into a pair of strong arms. In too much pain to open her eyes, she groaned slightly with the movement. Her subconscious mind taking note of the fresh spring smell of cologne that seemed to come from her rescuer. She knew it was somehow familiar, but she couldn’t remember from where.

Sometime later, Kate awoke from a powerful dream. Something about a woman warrior, and kicking the daylights out of some man in a palace somewhere. She saw herself using a fighting staff to fend off the man’s soldiers. She vaguely heard Diane’s voice coming from her kitchen, and tried to remember what had happened.

“Diane?” She called weakly. “Diane. Where are you? What happened? And where are the girls?” She tried to sit up, but was stopped by Diane’s fluttering arrival to her bedroom.

“Oh no, no honey. Don’t get up. We’ve got everything under control, baby. Both the girls are here on the sofa, and the doctor is on her way. You sure took a nasty fall there. But it’s okay.” Changing to a conspiratorial whisper, she came further into the room. “Honey, I don’t know what you did, but not only did she come to the house, just in time to carry you in, but she called her own personal doctor as well. Seems to me you must have gotten the job.”

In a haze of confusion, it took a moment before Diane’s words seeped past the oatmeal in her head. Oh God! Please tell me she didn’t just say that Jessica Ryan not only carried me in, but used the phone to call a doctor . . . please say it isn’t so!

“Let me guess, Diane, you let her into my office.” she asked with a groan.

Diane looked at her puzzled for a moment, and then asked, “Why, do you have pictures of naked women in there or what? That’s the only place I know, where you guys have any phones. Right?”

Kate groaned again, and then pulled the covers over her head, without answering. Moments later, Jessica came in holding Corky the bigger of the two cats, who was slung over her broad shoulder like a shameless hussy. Jessie set the cat down, and making her way over to the side of the bed, chuckled softly.

“Nice cats you have there Ms. McKenna. Um, the doctor will be here as soon as she can. She has to get through some of the traffic on the 210, and then work her way this way. I told her it wasn’t fatal. I would like to look at it again, and see if the bleeding has stopped.” she smiled, careful not to mention the shrine to her acting career she had just visited.

Slowly, a pair of emerald green eyes met her crystal blue ones from under the covers. Kate’s face was crimson, and she expected to hear Jessie burst into laughter, or accuse her of being a psycho or something. After a few moments, and no comment, or any indication that she had even seen Kate’s office, she began to wonder if she hadn’t escaped detection after all. Maybe she used her cell phone. Yeah, right, and maybe I’m the Queen of England. Still, maybe my Irish luck is with me today. Of course, how do I know she’s even carrying a cell phone. Because, stupid, all actresses have cell phones right?

Kate pulled the covers lower, and then turned carefully, wincing with the stab of pain that shot up the back of her head. Dizzy and almost naseaus, she held her hand out to steady herself for a moment, and then when it passed, she lay down with the wound facing her would be rescuer.

Concerned at the reaction, Jessica carefully checked the bandages, and was relieved to see that the bleeding had slowed down considerably. Then stepping to the other side of the bed, she reached over, and very gently turned Kate’s head up towards her so she could see her eyes. Kate blinked at her a few times, not sure what to think, and embarrassed at the reaction she was feeling at Jessie’ touch. She could feel her body start to heat up, and her nipples harden ever so slightly. Damn it! At least I’m under the covers where no one can see. Sheesh, I might have a concussion or something, and here I am getting horny.

Jessie stepped back, and then placed a finger over her lips in thought. “You know, it’s just possible you might have a concussion. Your eyes are reacting normally for the most part, but it would be better for you to stay awake for a while. At least until the doctor arrives. Both my brother and my mother had concussions, so I learned the signs pretty quickly.” she said as an explanation for her knowledge.

Jesus Jessie, what is with you today? You find yourself drawn to this kid the first time you meet her, and then the next thing you know not only are you chasing her like a school girl with a crush, but you are rescuing her from her own driveway. And why is it that this one is any different from the other PA’s you’ve worked with? What is so attractive about Kate McKenna? And why should it matter? A little voice in the back of her head answered for her. Because she is smart, cute, and just about the nicest person you have run across in a long time. Not like all the others. Not just after your money or status. Not like Gregory or Jackson or those other pigs. It’s almost like magic. Or something. But, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I can’t be attracted to her, I’m married, and I’m a star. It’s not allowed. Maybe it’s because I feel like I can trust her. Although, that shrine needs to be looked into, but not today. For some reason, I don’t see her as an obsessive fan, or a threat. Maybe hiring a fan that’s familiar with the show, is not such a bad idea after all. Wait until Gregory finds out, he’ll positively lay eggs.

Diane bustled back into the room, with a tray full of steaming hot mugs of tea. She casually observed, that both women were trying to carefully not look in each other’s direction. Kate was busying herself straightening the covers, and worrying if all of her underwear was in the laundry, and Jessie was busying herself looking out the window into the yard.

“So, how is the patient?” Diane asked to start things off again.

“Just fine, except for the headache, and dizziness.” Kate answered.

“She might have a concussion, so I think it best that she stay awake until Dr. McIntyre shows up. I was going to wait, if that’s all right. I need to speak to the doctor myself.” She returned her gaze back to the window.

“Uh, sure, no problem. I only wish I wasn’t sitting here like this.” Kate replied. “I feel like a complete and total idiot. I want to thank you for helping me. I feel kinda lame, if you know what I mean.”

Jessica turned to nod, and when their eyes met she almost stumbled. So powerful was the attraction, that she wasn’t even sure what had just hit her. She was speechless, and was sure that if she had to speak, she would say something stupid herself. She was formulating her thoughts, when her cell phone rang.

“Jessica Ryan.” She spoke into the instrument.

Diane left to find something to occupy herself, and Kate tried to find something else to concentrate on, so it wouldn’t seem as though she were listening in. Even though she was sort of, in a way.

“Gregory, I’m a big girl, and I can take care of myself.” She sounded tense. “I don’t give a damn. Jackson was out of line, and I don’t want that pig representing me.” Her face clouded over. “Gregory. GREGORY! Stop shouting at me. If I want to hire another PA, I’ll just damn well do it.” She sighed in exasperation. “God damn it!” she hissed, “I know I have an appointment in an hour, I’ll be there when I get there!” She slapped the cell phone closed, and jammed it in her pocket.

Kate waited a moment before speaking. “I guess you’ll be going now.” She said, mixed emotions coloring her fair face.

“Um, not just yet. Gregory can keep those idiots entertained until I show up. After all, I’m a star, and stars are supposed to be late. Aren’t they? She grinned broadly, but not quite enough to cover the strain in her eyes.

“I guess Gregory is your husband? Isn’t he the Producer of the show or something like that? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m being a little nosy. You don’t need to answer that if you don’t want to.” Kate blushed with embarrassment.

Jessie smiled back at her new friends first boldness, and then embarrassment. “No need to worry. I’m private to an extent, but not that private. Tell you what, if you feel up to it, let’s cut the garbage, and have that interview now. From what I read in your file, and what Diane says, oh, and of course from now I think I have all the information I need. What about it? Why don’t you ask me questions about the job, and I’ll answer them. That is of course if you still want the job, or not.”

Kate breathed deeply, looking at her hands, for lack of anything better to do. “I do want the job. I think I could be really good as your PA. I just, well after today, I’m not sure if you are making the right decision asking me to work for you. I mean, I . . . well, I don’t know what I mean, but anyway.”

Jessie nodded her understanding. “Well, how about if I start. Gregory is my husband, at least in name. He belongs to the “Good Ole Boys Jerk of the Month Club”. He and Jackson, and I am sure the rest of the local idiots are “friends”, if there is such a thing here in Hollyweird. I am growing increasingly tired of all the BS that goes on around me, but I guess it’s part of the job.” She had started to pace, in a distracted, sort of agitated way.

Kate took the opportunity to formulate her own questions. “I was told before all the trouble occurred, that there are strict rules of conduct, that I need to be aware of.” Jessie looked at her in surprise.

“Rules? Of conduct? Sounds like Jackson and his crap. I only expect the usual loyalty and discreetness that would be required of any PA position. I have a lot of reporters, fans, and tabloids trying to find out all kinds of things about me. A lot of what gets published is pure garbage. One of the requirements, never ever grant an interview with any member of the media, without clearing it with me. Most of the regulars I know pretty well, and I can usually keep control of the interview. Any time you have any doubt as to what’s acceptable, just ask. Don’t make too many executive decisions without checking with me first. Gregory likes to throw his weight around, and I don’t appreciate it. Oh, and never ever give an interview of your own. The media loves to pump PA’s for information. They automatically twist anything that comes out of your mouth. It can’t be too sensational for them.” She stopped pacing, and looked directly at Kate, to see if she was comprehending the information.

Kate knew only too well what Jessica was referring to. A PA she knew from the Personal Assistant’s club she belonged to for a while, lost her job, and will probably never work at that business again. A tabloid offered her a huge sum of money to give up information about her employer. The girl greedily told them everything they wanted to know, and then made up some to fill out the story. The actor and his family were publicly shamed, and when the tabloid found out that she had lied about a lot of the things she told them, they refused to pay. It totally ruined her in Hollywood.

“You know I would never do that. I am probably careful to a fault about the privacy of others. I already feel as though I know more about you than I should, and most of that information I got from the internet via a friend of mine.” Too late, Kate revealed at least a passing interest in both the show, and Jessica Ryan. She blushed so deeply this time, that she almost fainted from the rush of dizziness that hit her.

Jessica Ryan smiled inwardly, and congratulated herself on guessing that there was more to this girl than she was willing to show the actress. She was concerned about the almost immediate change from bright crimson, to pale white that had crossed the beautiful red-blonde’s face. She strode quickly to the side of the bed, and reached for Kate as she fell back on the pillows. She was dismayed to see a small crimson circle begin to form on the pillowcase, indicating that the wound on her head was bleeding again.

“Diane, can you call my driver in here please.” Jessica commanded.

“Sure thing honey, I’m on it!” Diane called back, a little too close to the door for comfort.

Moments later the driver appeared in the doorway. “What’s up Jessie? What can I do?”

“Michael, call Dr. McIntyre again, and see how far away she is. This is turning serious.” She murmured quietly.

“Sure, Jessie, I’m on it.” He shouted as he dashed out the door.

Kate turned a fearful eye on her would-be rescuer. “What’s wrong. I feel so dizzy, and uncomfortable. The pain is incredible.”

Jessie leaned further down, to speak quietly to her. Not wanting to scare her any further, and make the bleeding worse. “I just asked my driver to call the doctor again, and see how far away she is. I think we may have already put too much strain on your injury, and it’s starting to take its toll.”

Fumbling around with the various supplies that Diane was bringing in from the bathroom, she found some good sized gauze pads, and used them to replace the covering that was already on the wound. Making the decision before actually thinking about it, she sat down on the edge of the bed, and helping Kate slide over so her head was on Jessie’ thigh, putting the injury in closer so she could put pressure on the pads. Kate was in too much pain now to even realized the position she had ended up in. Jessie was so caught up in her caregiver role, that she didn’t notice that she was casually stroking Kate’s hair back from her face.

The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by either Diane, or Michael the driver. They both looked at each other for a moment, and then back to the two on the bed. Michael grinned a silly half grin, and Diane smiled a mischievous smile, intent on soaking in the whole turn of events, for a major gossip session with Steve, Kate’s roommate later. Stifling nervous giggles, Michael elbowed Diane, and gave her a mock warning not to say anything.

He cleared his throat to announce his presence. “Um, Dr. Mac is around the corner about six blocks away. She said keep pressure on the wound, and don’t move her too much. I guess you knew that though.”

“Thanks Mike. Listen, I know this is gonna be loads of fun,” she started sarcastically, “but could you call Gregory, and tell him that something has come up, and he will have to meet with the Japanese delegation on his own. Tell him I’ll be at the studio in time for tonight’s shoot. Oh, and Michael, do your best not to irritate him too much. You know how he likes to fight with you.”

Michael smiled his winning smile again, and turned to Diane to give her a salute. At that moment, all time seemed to stop for Diane. She realized that she was looking into a slightly older, male version of Jessica Ryan. Oh my goodness! He’s her brother! Excited about this new development, she decided that she couldn’t wait until Steve came home, she had to call him right now.

Jessie was staring idly at a picture on the wall, when a small voice drifted up to her. “You have very gentle hands Ms. Ryan.” Kate sighed. Jessie blushed and quickly pulled her hand away. “Oh, don’t stop on my account. It actually helps hold the pain back.” Kate sighed again.

Carefully Jessie resumed her stroking of Kate’s hair. “You have soft hair Ms. McKenna. Kind of like bunny fur.” Kate smiled, but didn’t move,and didn’t reply.

Moments later, Michael came bustling back into the room. “Whoooeeee! Is he ever pissed off. Called me all kinds of names, and threatened me, and you, and everyone here. What a putz! Best fun I’ve had all day.”

Catching a glimpse of Diane outside the door, casually listening with a cell phone glued to her head, she formulated her answer. “That’s good Michael. I hope he didn’t say too many bad things about you. He really is getting tiresome.” Careful not to elaborate, she cut herself short, not wanting to give Diane too much more to talk about on the phone.

“Oh, he just called me a flaming faggot. I told him, it takes one to know one.” Michael laughed.

Jessie smiled at her brother’s admission, and then made note of the surprise, and then excitement that crossed Diane’s face. She disappeared down the hall, talking rapidly in the phone. For a moment, Jessica was concerned that the personnel agent might be talking to a tabloid source, but for some reason she doubted it. Kate sighed deeply again, and Jessie took a moment to tend to the wound. She placed the pad back on the still bleeding cut, and was wondering what else she could do, when Dr. Helen McIntyre walked in the door.

“Okay Jessie, what have you done to yourself this time?” she asked playfully.

“Not me this time, Helen, it’s my soon to be PA. At least I hope she will be.” Jessie chuckled.

“Well, if you are going to start out by smacking them in the head, and dragging them to your office, I dare say you probably won’t succeed. That went out with the cave man days.” Dr. Helen grinned back.

Without having Jessie move, the doctor checked the wound, and determined that Kate probably needed stitches. With Jessie’ help, she lifted Kate’s hair out of the way, and injected some novocaine directly into the incision. Kate winced, and drew in a rapid lungfull of air. Without realizing it, she grabbed Jessica’s hand, and was squeezing it tightly. Jessie squeezed back, feeling sorry for the younger woman. She really wished that this day had never happened.

Dr. Mac carefully shaved a small patch around the cut, and then cleaning everything with alcohol, she quickly and neatly put seven tiny stitches in to hold the wound closed. Tying it off, she added a square of gauze with a small amount of antibiotic goop on it. Then she had Kate turn so that she could look into her eyes with a small pocket light from her bag.

“Hmmm, reactions are good, so I don’t think you have a concussion. It’s a good idea to stay awake for a while anyway to be sure. Let me give you something for the pain. Is there anything you’re allergic to?” Dr. Mac inquired.

Kate shook her head no. She was feeling miserable, and wished everyone would just go away and let her sleep. Except for the comfortably warm pillow her head was resting on. She blushed slightly, and mentally slapped herself for her thoughts. She just wanted to rest right now, wrapped around that long luscious leg.

“Well, do you think that injury might have affected her hearing, Jessie?” Helen laughed. Jessie just continued watching Kate resting, oblivious to the doctor’s inquiry.

Helen smiled a small knowing little grin. She had been extremely worried about her friend and most famous patient. The stresses put on her from her jerk of a husband, and the job, really worried the doctor. She had often suspected that there was more to Jessica Ryan’s story than even she knew about. Being married to Gregory was probably the worst thing she could possibly be doing. Helen even suspected that there might be some physical abuse there. Jessica would never complain, and usually covered up the cause of some of her injuries with stories that it had happened on the set, or during training when the show wasn’t in production. No, there was definitely something boiling beneath the surface, and if something in Jessie’ life didn’t change soon, she might just explode.

Helen made a mental note to bring Jessie in to the office to see her, and then gathering her bag, placed her hand on the actresses’ shoulder. “Make sure she takes two of these in about an hour Jessie, and why don’t you stay a little longer and keep an eye on her.” Touche’ Dr. Mac!

Jessie jumped a little when her friend shook her from her thoughts. Blushing, she took the medication, and nodded her head. “Yeah Helen, I’d hate to think anything else bad might happen to her just because I left too soon. Listen, thanks for coming all the way out here. I really appreciate it.”

Helen grinned again. In her own heart of hearts, if Jessica Ryan said fly backwards for me, she knew she would do it. She had been in a relationship with the same lovely woman for nearly five years, and knew that she and Barb would be together forever. But they both agreed that dreams and fantasies were okay. Heck they even girl watched together sometimes. Their motto was “I may be married, but I am certainly not dead.” Jessie was a regular focus of some of there lustier thoughts, especially since both were die-hard fans of her show. Of course, Jessie sort of knew about the fan obsession of her two best friends, but she just shined it on.

Dr. McIntyre stopped in the living room, to talk to Diane, who was still busy on her phone. Michael took the opportunity to walk Helen out to her car. He opened the door for her, and then winked.

“What do you think, Doc? Do you think she’ll be okay?” Michael winked again.

Helen winked back and then tilting her head sideways, smiled a wistful, yet slightly sad smile at Michael. “Which one Mike? I don’t know about you, but the fates are definitely stirring up the big pot today don’t you think?”

“Great, I thought it was just me. Jessie needs this Helen. If she doesn’t find a way to get away from Gregory, she’s going to end up sick, or worse. I hate that man!” Michael grimaced at the thought of “Gregory the snake”.

“Michael, I don’t know what caused her to marry him in the first place. You and I both know, that a “loving husband” just doesn’t suit her. I don’t know the whole story, but I suspect that Gregory is holding something over her. Do you know what it is?” Helen’s attitude had just turned serious.

Michael shifted nervously from foot to foot. “I can’t really say anything, but he is more or less blackmailing her. It has to do with mom, and some other things like her preferences in a mate. It would ruin her if anyone found out, and the thing with mom would kill her. I hope she can figure out a way to get away from all of this crap. She is so unhappy, Doc, it really shows in her face these days.”

“I know Mike, I know. I hope for her sake, this little PA decides to work for her. I just have this feeling that there is some seriously mysterious chemistry, or magic at work here, and I think they are both in need of each other. So, not to change the subject, but how’s your love life?” Dr. Mac grinned devilishly at the handsome young man.

Mike blushed, and then a certain sadness crossed his features. “I’m single again, Doc. Jeff decided that monogamous bliss was not his cup of tea. All he really wanted was to get introduced around the studio. He had great hopes of being discovered, and becoming the next big star. He just didn’t realize that the “Prima Donna” act wouldn’t get him very far. It was an ugly breakup, but I’m past it. Actually, Diane is fixing me up with Kate’s roommate Steve. Of course, I don’t know if he knows what he’s getting into, but God knows I’m willing to give it a go, if he is. I get so tired of the bar scene. Nothing much to offer, that isn’t married, or scamming for sex. I gave up that nonsense a long time ago. I want to live!”

Helen smiled at her younger friend’s insight. He really turned out to be a smart kid after all. It will be great when he finishes his law degree, and gets a real job. She knew he liked working for his sister, because he could keep an eye on her, but he needed to get his own life. He might even have better luck at love, when these guys stopped chasing him because of his connection to the studio. His story about Jeff was not the first time that scenario had taken place. Mike was a major magnet for that kind of pond scum. Oh well, one project at a time. Right now it was Jessica Ryan’s soul that need rescuing.

——————————————————-

Winter’s deepest sleep hides an Inner Life,

It’s glow is the dream of spring.

********Starbuck’s Coffee Ad********
CHAPTER TWO: Planetary Convergence (where do we go from here)
An hour or so after Dr. McIntyre drove away, Kate was finally sleeping soundly. Diane and Michael had managed to rustle up some lunch for everyone, and then Diane offered a clean pillowcase to Jessica for Kate’s pillow. She carefully slid Kate over onto her second pillow, and then changed the soiled one. Jessie thoughtfully put the pillowcase into the sink in the bathroom, soaking in cold water.

Much to Michael’s delight, Kate’s roomie Steve came home early from work, anxious to check on his friend, and make sure she was doing okay. After he assured himself that she was in good (make that great) hands, he busied himself chit chatting with Diane and Michael. He was absolutely stunned, and charmed by Michael, although he was trying to be very careful not to show it. The two men, and the personnel agent quietly speculated on what kind of vibes were passing between the Actress and the PA. They were trying to whisper so Jessie wouldn’t hear them.

“Do you think that your sister saw Kate’s shrine?” Steve giggled almost out of control.

Michael showed definite surprise on his handsome features. “Shrine? What shrine?”

Steve giggled even harder, especially when he felt Diane’s stare burning holes in him. “Oh, God, she will kill me if she finds out I told you.” He pretended to look around for spies. “Come with me.” Then for Diane’s benefit, “Hey, don’t look at me like that. It’s my office too, and if I want to show my friend something in my office, then that’s my business.” Diane just shrugged her shoulders in mock disgust. She knew she should be getting back to the office, but this was just so much more fun. Even better than soap operas!

Diane decided to check on the other two, and see how they were doing. Stepping through the doorway, she stopped short at the scene in front of her. Kate was sleeping quietly, the pills effectively doing their job. Subconsciously or not, Kate’s hand lightly held Jessica Ryan’s hand. Jessie held her head in her other hand, looking as though she had a monumental headache coming on.

“Are you all right Ms. Ryan? Is there anything I can do for you, honey?” Diane whispered.

Jessie looked up at her, blinking slowly, as if trying to clear the fog from her eyes. “I’m fine Diane, thanks. I’m just a little tired, and I have this recurring headache thing going on. Dr. McIntyre says it’s from stress. It will go away in a while.”

“Well, honey, it sure looks like you don’t feel too well. And you have to shoot tonight, don’t you? Wow, it’s a shame you can’t call in sick.” She pursed her lips with concern.

“Gregory would probably hunt me down and shoot me if I didn’t show up for work tonight. As it is, he is probably having small spotted lizards right about now over the Japanese delegates. But you know what Diane? I don’t give a damn. Anyway, listen do you think Kate will come to work for me. I really am tired of the people that Gregory has surrounded me with. Bunch of low-life deadbeats.” Jessie fairly spit the words out.

“Well, judging by the fact that she’s holding your hand, and hasn’t imploded yet, I’d say probably she will. What happened this morning anyway? She dodged me like a cat with it’s tail on fire. Speaking of cats, are they bothering you? I can put them somewhere else.” She referred to the two furry bodies that had managed to incorporate themselves into the scene.

“Oh, no, they’re fine. I love cats. I haven’t had any in a long time, because Gregory is allergic. Michael brought one to me as a gift once, and Gregory had one of his flunkies take it away. I still think he had it killed, but he refuses to admit it. Michael has a cat, so I visit with his every once in a while.” She frowned again at the pain in her head. “Listen, I’m going to have to leave soon, but if you could give Steve my private cell phone number, I would greatly appreciate it. I know I can trust you all not to post it on the internet or anything. I would like to know how Kate is doing. We probably shouldn’t meet again about the job, until she’s feeling better. By the way, was that Steve you were giving the blow by blow to earlier?”

Diane really blushed this time, so much so, she had to look away. “Oh, sorry, I just knew he would want to know about Katie, so I called him. If I hadn’t he would have killed me for sure.”

Jessie chuckled at the Personnel Agent’s confession. “I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have to fend off any tabloid reporters. You know that Sharon McAfee, she’s like a dog in heat when she gets around me. And that skinny ass, pimply faced photographer of hers is gonna get the surprise of his life if he doesn’t back off of me. I’m actually surprised they didn’t track me here. I often suspect Gregory of calling them and telling them where I am.” Diane caught a slightly feral glint in those crystal blue eyes.

“Oh honey, I would never, ever cough up anything to a tabloid. They’ve chased me at some of my “not your better events”, because I have such a close relationship with so many of my clients. Do you know to date I’ve been offered over $7 million dollars to tell stories about my customers. Hell, I don’t need the money, they just don’t know that. Between my personnel business, and my husband Brad’s stunt company, we are quite comfortable.” Diane smiled, rather proud of herself.

“Well, I appreciate the discretion. As you’ve heard, things are not all rosy in the palace. And the princess is getting pretty sick and tired of it. All the tabloids would need is another excuse, and then things really would blow up. I just need some time, and then it won’t matter anymore.” Jessie turned into her thoughts.

“Whoa, honey, don’t do anything silly. I mean, you still have a couple of years left on your contract right? It’s next to impossible to break a contract like that. You would probably never work in this town again.” Diane replied, a little panic in her voice.

“Oh, don’t worry. I wouldn’t be that stupid. Besides for the most part I like what I do. I just don’t like what the people around me think is right for me. They are so filthy, and self centered. They suck the life out of me. It makes it not fun anymore.” A small tear trickled down her beautifully sculpted cheekbone.

“I like what you do.” Kate mumbled from her drug induced sleep.

“Ha, do you think she might remember any of this?” Diane burst into a fit of giggles.

Seriously Jessie caught her eye again. “I can only hope so.”

Stunned, Diane sat down on the edge of the vanity chair. “Wow, you really like this kid don’t you. I mean besides just another gopher to the group?”

“Shhh, don’t wake her. Yeah, I guess I do. I don’t understand it, and maybe I’m wrong, but I feel so comfortable with her. She is so . . .so . . .I don’t know how to describe it. And to think, I met her for the first time just this morning, but I feel as though I’ve known her forever.” Jessie mused at this thought. “Well, much as I hate the thought, I have to get ready to shoot tonight, and it’s getting late.”

Diane stood, and placed her hand on Jessie’ ample shoulder. “Listen for what it’s worth, if there is anything me or Brad can do, we would be happy to help out. We both have connections in this town, some shady, and some not. I think you need a break Ms. Ryan. I’ve been in this business for a long time, and I am quite familiar with the shenanigans that go on with jerks like your husband, and his idiot friends. Especially after what happened to Katie here.” She stopped herself short. “Oops, I bet she’ll kill me if she knows I just slipped.”

Jessica looked fondly at her sleeping charge. “I already know what happened. That’s how all of this ended up this way in the first place. Are you familiar with Jackson Briggs?” Getting an affirmative nod, she continued. “He made her tell the whole story in front of me and that herd of sheep he insists on surrounding me with. I tried to tell her she didn’t have to, but she was insistent. Apparently Jackson is friends with the man that . . . raped her. I fired him right after she left. I’ve signed with Margaret James. I met her at an awards show last fall. She seems to know her stuff, and I felt she could use the account.”

Impressed at the tall, dark haired woman’s sensitivity, Diane mock saluted her. “You know she could use an account like yours. Ever since she represented those two lesbian actresses, and that lesbian singer, she lost several of her accounts. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass, but I know it hurt her. Representing you would be a, should we say, feather in her cap.”

Reluctantly, Jessie carefully removed her hand from Kate’s grasp. Kate whimpered in her sleep, and then drifted back out again. Diane grabbed one of the cats from the end of the bed, and made it curl up next to its human mommy. The cat was only too happy to oblige.

“Sometimes I think she loves those things more than people.” Diane chuckled.

“Somehow, I don’t think I blame her.” Jessie mused.

Diane walked her to the door, and at the same time they both realized that something was missing, or rather someone. It seemed that Steve and Michael shared more than a passing interest in some of the same subjects. Buried in a huge pile of pillows in the family room, they were watching the tape of the latest production of CATS. They both looked up grinning, when the two women stepped into the room.

“Aww, I guess we have to leave now.” Whined Michael.

“Awww, can’t he stay? I promise to feed him, and take care of him.” Steve mock whined himself.

“Alright you two, enough of that. I have to get to the studio, and I’m already in enough trouble as it is. I think if I drove the limo in myself, they really would give birth to small animals or something.” Jessie joked.

“I could drive you in.” Kate slurred from somewhere behind her.

Turning, she put her arm out just in time to catch her friend before she slipped to the floor. Kate started to giggle out of control, and shamelessly wrapped her arms around Jessica’s neck.

“Don ju wan me to driving yo der?” she slurred. “Id cud be fan!”

“Oh no, I don’t think so. That’s Michael’s job, and I don’t think we want to take his job, now do we?” Jessie spoke low in her ear.

“Oh, buttttt, they luke so cutie togedder. Ju nose, jude are sooooooo bootimus. Kin I working for ju? I cud ju nose.” She slurred proudly.

“Sure, I want you to work for me. When you are better. Now, let’s get you back in bed. You need to sleep some more.” Jessie was blushing at the poor girl’s candid conversation. She knew that Kate would probably rather die, than be acting like this in front of everyone, especially Jessica Ryan.

Easily picking Kate up in her arms, Jessie carried her back to her room, and carefully laid her back in her bed. Pulling the covers up, she was stopped by a hand on her arm.

“You are sooo strong.” Kate said quite clearly. “Staying with me now? Oh, quazy me. Ju are having to werk.” She laid down again, and pulling her fat cat into her arms, mumbled to Jessie, “Thank you, for evwytinks.”

Jessie smiled, and shook her head. Sheesh, she just might kill all of us, when she finds out what she just said. I don’t suppose I could talk the rest of them into not telling her. Nahhh, I’d have to sit on Diane, and Steven for a week to get them to keep their mouths shut. She brushed Kate’s hair out of her eyes one more time, and then sighing deeply, went back out to face the world again.

The three musketeers, Diane, Steve, and Michael quickly retreated when they realized they were about to get caught for eaves dropping. They all pretended to be looking at something else, when Jessie returned to the living room.

“Do me a favor, guys?” She cast the group a serious look. “Please don’t pick on her too much. She’s already had a really nasty day, and I don’t think it would be fair to make fun of her on top of it all. And Steve? Thank her for being so kind, and Diane, tell her the job is hers if she wants it.”

With that said, she turned and strode out to the shining black limousine sitting in the street in front of the house. The neighborhood kids had been clustered around it for hours trying to figure out whose it was. A few parents had started to linger as well. When Jessie left the house to enter the car, a collective gasp was heard throughout the entire cul-de-sac they lived on. Both Kate and Steve were friendly with just about everyone in the neighborhood, especially the kids. When they discovered that the Jessica Ryan had been a guest, they couldn’t wait to start pumping them for information. Jessie shook her head in amusement, as she and Michael drove away. If she wasn’t so tired, she would have stopped and said something, just to get a reaction. Maybe next time, she thought, if there is a next time.

——————————————————————————–

Unremembered and
afar
I watched you as I
watched a star,
Through darkness
struggling into view,
And loved you better
than you knew.

********Elizabeth Akers Allen********
CHAPTER THREE: Trouble, right here in River City
Michael chattered good naturedly all the way to the studio. Jessica, sitting uncomfortably in the back, wished for the millionth time that she could just sit up front with him, instead of all of this “Celebrity” mumbo jumbo. She was not your stereotypical actress. Much more comfortable in a casual atmosphere, she felt somehow out of place at all of the public affairs she was required to attend. The “dog and pony” show was overwhelming sometimes.

As they drove up to the main gate, Jessica noticed a golf cart rapidly heading their way. Much to her chagrin, and with not just a little stab of fear, she noted the driver was Gregory, her jerk of a husband.

Gregory pulled up alongside the limo, and got out of the cart. He reached for the door handle, but Michael, seeing him much before his sister, had managed to lock the doors before Gregory had reached them. More angry than ever before, he started banging on the tinted glass, near where he knew she must be sitting.

“Come out of there damn it! Jessica you, you . . . .Aughhhhh!” he screamed, pounding on the glass. He even tried to kick the doors and the window with his foot. It never occurred to him that he had just kicked solid steel, and he had ordered the car himself, from the best company in the world for vehicular security. Falling to the ground in pain, he writhed like a snake that’s been run over by a semi. Michael took the opportunity to continue on through the gate, and head directly to the studio. The security guards just shook their heads. They were all too familiar with the stupidities of the Executive Producer lying at their feet.

“Hey sis, that was fun don’t you think?” Michael called back cheerfully.

“Yeah, well, it’s not going to be fun when he catches up with me Michael. He just might try to hurt me this time.” Jessica breathed out quietly. “Whatever you do, don’t let anyone know where we were all day. If he finds out I stayed at Kate’s and actually did something nice for someone, he’ll implode.”

Michael nodded his agreement. He knew only too well the extent of Gregory’s anger when he was out of control. More than once his sister had been taken in to see Dr. McIntyre, supposedly because of injuries when doing her own stunts. No one had ever been able to prove that he was harming her, and she refused to talk about it. As long as he had this “secret” hold on her, she had to go along with just about everything he threw out at her, at least so she was concerned.

Michael had decided a long time ago, that if there was any way possible to stop Gregory, he would find a way. Even he wasn’t sure of all of the details behind Gregory’s hold on Jessica. He knew it had something to do with his mother, but Jessie kept evading his questions, preferring to take the burden of her secret, solely on her shoulders. She felt she was tough, and the only thing that Gregory could really steal from her, besides the secret she held, was her self respect, and her self esteem. Those were unimportant, as long as her secret stayed a secret. Even the specter of him outing her publically, and exposing her as gay held less of a threat, than anything else in her life. Someday, this would end. For the good, or not.

As soon as they reached the main studio, Jessica jumped out of the barely stopped limousine, and walked quickly in for a shower, and then make up, and costuming. She knew that Gregory would never start anything physical with her while they were in the studio. It was later after the taping that she would have to be careful. She was certain that others in the studio group were aware of his abusive tendencies, but they were either too scared to say anything, or they were members of his camp, and knew that if they stuck it out, then all would profit.

Jessica rounded the corner heading for the shuttle to take her to the shoot site. Tonight they were compiling some of the action stunts, and location shots at an abandoned factory near the warehouse district. The technicians had been through the facilities over the weekend, installing various sparking and explosive devices. The scene involved “Kendra Knight” and her sidekick chasing down a group of mechanically enhanced cyber terrorists. They were attempting to gain control of a chemical in a fine powder form, that when exposed to electronics in a controlled environment, say through a ventilation system, caused the equipment to act erratically, and eventually fail. The organization intended to use the substance to crash the world’s largest server network, and thereby destroy all internet commerce, causing businesses, and the exchange of money via cyberspace to halt.

The terrorists represented a spin off rogue religious group formed from the frenzied riots that occurred on New Year’s Eve, 2000. It was believed but never proven, that the hype built around the “Y2K” problems that were expected to arise at the change of the century never materialized therefore destroying any hope of what this group had prayed would occur, the demise of future life conducted on a computer. They, even in their own enhanced bodies did not recognize, or admit that they were violating their own beliefs. Of course they felt that they were the only pure race, and therefore it was acceptable that they be computer assisted in their bodily functions.

Jessica almost made it to the doorway to the waiting shuttle, when someone grabbed her from behind, knocking her off balance, and dragging her into a darkened side room. She struggled to escape, but her attacker was taller and stronger than she was. He pinned her arms to her sides, very likely leaving bruises under the black jumpsuit she was wearing, and backed into the room. Her mind raced, trying to think of possible ways to escape, or alert someone to her disappearance. The door slammed shut, and she realized that there were several others in the room, besides the lunk that was squeezing her in his smelly grip.

“So, honey, I’m home.” Gregory hissed.

“What do you want you slimy little bastard?” she hissed back.

“Oh, come on now Jess. You and I both know that you are exhibiting a little bit too much aggression here lately. I don’t appreciate your attempts at changing your staff, or missing meetings, and then helping little damsels in distress. It upsets the image I’ve created for you, darling.” His words dripped with menace.

“Drop dead Gregory. I’m tired of being surrounded by that mutant human trash you so fondly call your “Little Family”. They make you look like a demented clown, in a Stephen King movie. You made the world believe that I’m as nasty as you are, and made me something I’m not. I can’t tell you how much I hate you.” Jessica growled between clenched teeth. “If you hold me here much longer, they’ll come looking. Wouldn’t want the “Powers That Be” to get suspicious would you?”

Gregory strode over, and being careful not to mess up her hair and makeup, grabbed the shoulder of her jumpsuit. “Shut your mouth, bitch! You are not going to do anything to mess this up for me. I’ll take you down, ruin your life, your family’s life, and maybe ruin your face, just for fun. All I need is two more years, and I’ll have everything I want. If it’s any consolation to you, I’ll let you have your little PA, but trust me. I’m gonna be watching you, and if I don’t like what’s going on, I’ll get rid of her too.” He pushed her back against her captor, and stepped to the door. Gesturing to the rest of his crew, he carefully opened the door, and then walked purposefully down the hallway.

The huge bodyguard, that her husband kept with him at all times, shoved Jessica out of the way, but not before he took it upon himself to squeeze her right breast. HARD! She lashed out with her foot, grazing his groin, and then wound back for a much better aimed kick at the offensive giant. He stuck his hand out, as if to say “I could crush your skull with one hand, don’t try it”. Jessica spit at him, and then headed for the door. He grabbed her arm, and pulling her back shook a large sausage-like finger at her as he exited first, chuckling to himself all the way down the hall.

Feeling sick, and angrier than ever, Jessica straightened her costume, and then took several much needed breaths to steady herself before she continued to the waiting shuttle. It took every ounce of her inner strength to maintain a semblance of dignity in front of the rest of the crew, especially her co-star.

Deborah Springfield had been a character actress since she was a small child. Never the star, but a good strong support person, she had an easy, even attitude, and an above average athletic ability. She was an even 5’4″ tall, a lite 120 lbs, but an extremely strong set of muscles. She had already worked with her star, and now friend Jessica for at least three years, plus a few side jobs as well. They tended not to get involved in each other’s private lives, but still maintained a very good “family” like relationship on the job.

Deborah looked carefully at her friend when she stepped into the shuttle. She recognized the look of thinly veiled distress in Jessica’s eyes, and immediately became concerned. She tried not to press Jessica for too much information, because she didn’t want to make her angry, or embarrass her. Jessica had told her a small part of the problems she was having, but did not want to go into any details. Deborah was not one to meddle anyway. She had her own problems, and didn’t need some womanizing jerk messing in her life.

“Are you okay, Jess?” Deborah whispered.

“Yeah, just another day in my miserable life. Thanks for asking though.” Jessica smiled weakly.

Jessica forced herself to mentally prepare for the upcoming shoot. There was nothing she wanted more than to sneak away, and forget about all of this. Just erase herself from this life, or at the very least, maybe visit her new Personal Assistant, and hopefully new friend Kate. Her thoughts strayed to the younger woman with the soft reddish blonde hair. Jessica felt her face turn hot. Well, got to stop that kind of thought immediately. Except, well, I just wonder how she’s doing, if she’s okay or not. Yeah, sounds good Ryan, stick to that story. Sheesh, I wonder if I might be dragging her into something too dangerous. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried so hard to hire her. If that kind of attack ever occurred with her around, she just might try to protect me, and would that be so bad? Yeah, it would, especially if she got hurt. Think Jess! What are you doing here? Why did you persue her so hard? Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing either.

While his sister was somewhere on the other side of the city fighting with herself over her motives for hiring Kate McKenna, and recovering from her attack, Michael was driving back to the house where all of these troubled thoughts centered. He had taken the plunge, and asked Steve out for dinner and a movie. And Steve eagerly accepted. There was something, almost sparkly between them, even from the first time they laid eyes on each other.

Michael pulled into the driveway, just as Kate was beginning to stir. She was feeling a little groggy still, and had one heck of a powerful headache. Despite the fog surrounding her, she remembered some mighty powerful dreams. Something about being visited by Jessica Ryan, her favorite actress, and then falling asleep with her head in Ms. Ryan’s lap. She staggered into the bathroom, and nearly fainted, when she turned the light on and got a good look at herself. Wow, anybody get the number of that truck? Holy cow, I look . . . . nasty!

Kate bent down, and threw some cool, refreshing water over her face, and tried to make herself somewhat presentable. Slowly some of the events of the day were sneaking their way back into her clouded memory. She remembered only too well the encounter at her job interview with Jackson Briggs this morning. And she also remembered how her own secret hero, Jessica Ryan, came to her rescue, and persued her even to her home, to persuade her to work for her. Kate slowly touched the back of her head, and tenderly felt the small stitches that the doctor had put there to close the nasty cut she had gotten from falling in the driveway.

Embarrassed, she decided to seek out her roommate Steve, and see if he could enlighten her as to the rest of the afternoon. She vaguely remembered seeing his face floating in the fog somewhere, and figured if anyone had time to put together all of the pieces, it would be him. As she rounded the corner into the living room, the doorbell rang. She noticed Steve almost running to answer it, leaving a cloud of his favorite cologne in his wake when he passed. Coming to a halt, he carefully checked his clothes, then his hair. Kate recognized the signs of a hot date, and she could tell that her best “real” friend was clearly excited.

“Pssst. . . .Steve.” Kate whispered. “Steve, come here a minute.”

Steve turned around so fast he almost fell over his own feet. “What? I have company waiting. I’m going out tonight.”

“Well, sorry!” Kate answered a little hurt. “I was just letting you know I was still alive, and trying to see if I could figure out what’s going on. Never mind.” She turned and headed back to her bedroom, a small tear sliding down her cheek.

Steve mentally kicked himself. Damn, sometimes I can be such an incredible idiot. She doesn’t even know what’s been going on, and she’s got this injury, and all I care about is this hot man I’m about to go out with. Boy I am a piece of work.

He quickly opened the door, and then grabbing Michael by the hand, dragged him immediately back to Kate’s room. She was already back in bed, with the blankets over her head. The events of the day had finally crept back in, and she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Her thoughts wandered back to Jessica Ryan. Kate had already decided that she would work for her, because it was painfully apparent that Jessica needed a good right hand.

“Hey, look who’s here. Michael wanted to say hi, and see how you’re doing, Katie.” Steve interrupted her thoughts rather lamely.

“Steven, go out, have fun, we’ll talk later.” Kate mumbled from her spot.

Catching on to the problem, Michael shook himself loose from Steve’s grasp, and went over and sat on the edge of the bed. Poking the lump under the covers experimentally, he looked at Steven with a “Watch this” glance, and then started to tickle the lump most heartily.

“Stop! IT!” Kate squealed, expecting Steven to be the one assaulting her. Throwing back the covers, she sat up preparing to defend herself, when to her astonishment, she was face to face with an almost, but not quite, match to her idol, and soon to be boss.

“Whoa there sweetie.” Michael grinned, “Don’t hurt me.

“Hey, I remember you. You’re Michael.” Kate looked at him slightly perplexed.

“Yep, all my life. So, sweetpea, how are you feeling? Cause I know if I don’t get the entire 411 on how you are, I might end up suffering at the hand of my lovely sister Jessica.” Michael grinned wider.

Kate blushed a furious red. “I umm. . . .I, well, I guess I’m okay. I have a headache, and I seem to be only a little disoriented, but I’ll live. Of course being surrounded by the likes of you boys, I don’t know if I’ll ever recover.” She said in her best Scarlett O’Hara voice.

Both men laughed heartily with Kate. She was already best friends with Steve, and rapidly growing fond of Michael. And not because of who his sister happened to be. Michael was charming, sweet, and cute. If she dated men, and he dated women, she would probably be attracted to him. But . . .well, I’m not, and neither is he, and well, he has absolutely the yummiest sister . . . .Kate quickly stopped herself from continuing those thoughts. She was already having doubts about her feelings for Ms. Ryan, and was certainly in no position to assume that Jessica had any special feeling for her.

“So, where are you two headed tonight?” Kate asked, changing the subject.

“We thought we would head over to Gianelli’s for dinner, and then on to the cineplex to see Virus. That new movie with Jamie Lee Curtis. We figure it will be a great excuse to hang on to each other, and scream like girls.” Steve chuckled.

“Ooh, I’m jealous.” Kate pretended to frown. “I haven’t been to Gianelli’s seems like forever, and wow, a new Jamie Lee Curtis. Well, have fun, and don’t stay out too late. I don’t want to sit here worrying about you two all night.”

“Yes, mother. By the way, we’re walking, since everything is so close. And it will be good for us to walk off some of that food. Oh, and sweetie, don’t stay up all night talking to Laura. I know you’re dying to tell all, but you need to get better so you can start your new job.” Steve winked at his friend.

“Hey, cool. I’ll get to drive you around too. This is going to be great.” Michael blurted happily. “And my sister will finally have someone to talk to besides me. I mean she likes me and all, but I know she gets tired of me sometimes. Oh yeah, and a friend too. I don’t think she’s had any real friends in I don’t know how long. Ever since that jerk Gregory got his hands on her.”

Michael cut himself short. He just realized that he was about to maybe spill a bunch of stuff he shouldn’t. Whew Jessica is going to kill me for sure. I have to be more careful.

Kate politely refrained from commenting on Michael’s sister, or her situation. She decided that when Ms. Ryan was ready, she would tell her what she wanted her to know. Until then, Kate would be as supportive as she possibly could, and then some.

The three friends, new and old, said their goodbye’s, and then when Kate was sure she was alone, she called Jessica’s personal phone number.

“Hi, you have reached 555-7863. If I didn’t give this number to you personally, then you have dialed the wrong person. Leave a message . . . .BEEP! ” Kate was momentarily speechless, just hearing Jessica’s voice. “Umm, uhhh, hi. Uhh, this is Kate McKenna. I wanted to thank you for helping me this afternoon. I . . . feel extremely stupid. Anyway, I also wanted to let you know that I would be honored to accept the job as your Personal Assistant. I just hope I don’t let you down. You can call me directly if you want, or you can call Diane. Umm, thanks again, and take care. Bye now.”

Blushing yet again, she hung up the phone, and then sat back for a minute. Her thoughts turned to the tall dark haired, blue eyed, actress. Even in Jessica’s openness to Kate, she was still shrouded in clouds of mystery. I don’t know what it is, but I am just totally drawn to this woman. I feel like she needs me. Maybe even more than both of us know. Yeah, right, someone needs you. Get a life McKenna! You sound positively addle-brained.

While she mused about her new boss, and got ready to undergo a torrent of questioning from Diane, she turned on her computer. She was eager to chat with her friend Laura. She knew she had to be careful how much information she gave out, because even though Laura was her best friend, it was totally against protocol to gossip too much about Ms. Ryan. That would be considered a security leak of the utmost intensity.

She dialed Diane’s number. “Hello, this is Diane” “Hi Diane this is Kate. I just wanted to let you know that I’m feeling better. Oh, and I know this will make your day, but I decided to take the job with Jessica Ryan. I left her a message to either call you or me.” She smiled to herself. “Are you done yet honey? Cause I want to know about the electricity between you two, and I want to know about Steven and Michael. Spill it. I’ve been beside myself waiting to find out all the juicy gossip.” Diane huffed a time or two.

Kate mentally sighed, she was not ready to evaluate, and then gossip with Diane about the day’s events. She gave her a brief synopsis of the events, carefully avoiding any discussion about her and Ms. Ryan. Diane was excited about Steve and Michael, and told her to tell Steve that she expected a full report in the morning. When the questions started to get more personal, she feigned a headache, and promised to update her more later.

Kate noticed her computer beeping at her, which signaled to her that Laura was online waiting for her. She clicked onto the Messenger icon, and typed in her greeting.

PAK: Hi Laura! How are you? I have some bizarre, and wonderful news for you.

LADY KNIGHT: Hey there yourself, girlfriend. So, what’s all of the excitement about? Did you finally get Lola to stop pestering you? Or did you meet someone, and fall instantly in lust. Tell……..

PAK: You absolutely won’t believe this . . . I don’t work for Lola anymore. The agency called yesterday, and I was offered another assignment. The interview went really badly though, and the rest of my day was pretty bad, but it all worked out in the end . . . . I guess.L

LADY KNIGHT: Okay, so, who is the new client, are you taking the job, and whose rear-end do I need to kick, for messing with you? I can tell you’re going to make me suffer for a while before you tell me the whole story.

PAK: You do know me too well. Let’s see, where to begin. Well, Diane called to offer me the job of a lifetime, but I was immediately intimated, and sure that I wouldn’t qualify for the position.

At this point Kate went on to describe the events of the day, including the dropped purse in the restroom, and the subsequent humiliating interview, and then her fall in the driveway. Laura was appropriately angered, concerned, and impressed. She was also getting peeved at her friend, because she had as yet to reveal the identity of her prospective employer.

LADY KNIGHT: Okay girlfriend, I love you to death, and I want to fly up there right now, and kick some major butts, however I can see you are being purposely vague with your information, and if you don’t fess up soon, I’m gonna go surf the Kendraverse, and ignore you the rest of the night.

PAK: Okay, I get you. Hold on to your seat my friend. You are about to die where you sit. I am going to work for . . . . .J

LADY KNIGHT: Who? Who is it?

PAK: Guess! 5 feet 11 inches tall. Long dark hair. Crystal blue eyes. Perpetual tan. . . .

LADY KNIGHT: OH MY GOD!!!!!!! You are not!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!

Kate was laughing so hard, she almost didn’t hear the phone ringing. She picked it up, gasping for breath. “Hello? This is Kate.”

“OH MY GOD!!!!!! And you are just now telling me this. I think I’m dying. I mean it girlfriend, right now. When do you start. I’m on the next plane. Oh my goodness, godness Agnes. This is incredible. I can’t stand it. You are about to live my dream. I want to know when you are getting married. I dreamed about this you know. I told you she would find you. See how you are. Holy moley, I think I’m going to blow a hose.” Laura could barely take a breath with her excitement.

“Calm down.” Kate giggled. “I just decided about an hour ago that I would even take the job. I was worried that it wouldn’t work out, because of my fan status, and because of all of the trouble this morning. But I’m a big girl, and a trained professional, and I should be able to keep my head on straight when I’m working. Speaking of which, I won’t have as much time to spend on the computer, but, I’ll make sure to check in with you at the very least.”

“Sweetheart do you realize that you have breached the final barrier. You are on the inside of the castle. Hell, you’re the new Lady Knight, or the lady in waiting or something. So, to I get to meet her, or I am I just a commoner now?” Laura chuckled slyly.

“Well, you know that I won’t be able to talk a lot about what goes on at my job and stuff. I mean, I am responsible for her security, and it wouldn’t be fair or right to endanger her in any way. But you never know, she has a house up there somewhere, and I may have to be there to work, so maybe. I don’t know yet. I don’t even know what I’ll be doing for that matter. I could just be picking up laundry, or dry cleaning, and walking the dog. As soon as I know, you’ll know.” Kate replied. She didn’t want to disappoint her friend, but she was fiercely loyal to her job.

“Yeah, I know. I think I’m probably the only person on the planet, that can understand the nuances of being in the public eye. It can be a very lonely and dangerous lifestyle. You know, that’s pretty funny. They say that about being gay just about every day.” Laura sighed deeply.

Laura had an affair with an actress when she was very young. The woman was extremely paranoid of the outside world, especially the media. Laura was much younger, but very patient for her age. That trait has only increased the older she gets. The actress was an alcoholic, and prescription drug abuser. Laura managed to sober her up for several months, but it didn’t last. A tabloid came out with a story about her, and within hours she was back on the old party wagon.

Laura drank too, but she couldn’t cope with all of the fights, and trouble surrounding the situation. She had made some good friends in the industry, people who still checked up on her, and whose homes she still visited, but the actress had become part of her distant past. She had been with the same woman for at least 18 years, and was deliriously happy. They shared a home in Northern California, and were seldom apart. April coped with Laura’s internet addiction, and shared a passing interest in her obsession with Jessica Ryan, but only in passing. That was Laura’s affliction not hers. She loved Laura, and not much else mattered.

Kate agreed with Laura’s remark about her knowledge of actresses. She was well acquainted with Laura’s life, as was Laura about hers. They originally met on the internet, when the Kendra Knight show was first shown. They became fast friends, and had since met each other at least twice face to face. Kate had visited her mom up North, and it turned out that Laura and April lived pretty close. April wasn’t sure if she should be jealous of Kate or not, but after meeting her, she decided that she was an okay kid. The two women also came to visit and stay for a few days when Kate was attacked. Laura was absolutely livid, and wanted to start taking out contracts on some of the men involved. Kate assured her that it wasn’t necessary, that justice would serve.

“Well, I should probably get some rest. This thing on my head is really killing me.” Kate said quietly.

“Yeah, me too. It’s getting late, and April and I are going fishing in the morning. Still haven’t caught anything, but we’re working on it. So, keep in touch, and if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know. And, take care of that pretty little head of yours. I don’t want to have to come down there, and take care of you kiddo.” Laura chuckled.

“I promise. It was really stupid. I have much better balance than that. I think anyway. Well, wish me luck. I’ll talk, or type at you later.” Kate chuckled back.

“Later my sweet.” Laura whispered as she hung up. She had an especially soft spot in her heart for her younger friend, and hoped that this job worked out for her. When Kate had been attacked the prior year, it was everything Laura could do not to come apart at the seams. She had a lot of shady connections, and could easily have arranged some retribution. But Kate stopped her, preferring to let the law do its job. Unfortunately, looking back, she probably should have let Laura have her way.

——————————————————————————–

I felt it shelter
to speak to you.

********Emily Dickinson*******
Chapter 4 – The morning after
Kate logged off her computer, and then stopping in the kitchen for a cup of tea, headed back to her bedroom. She had a small TV with a built in VCR, and a large selection of Kendra Knight episodes on tape. She called to the cats, Corky and Violet, and then settled into her bed for some quality viewing. She must have dozed off and was dreaming, when she heard the phone ringing somewhere in the back of her mind.

“Hello?” She answered with a sleepy voice.

“Hi.” An easily recognized sultry voice responded. “I thought I would give you a call and see how you are feeling. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

Kate sat bolt upright, giving herself a momentary brain pain. “Uh no, I was just resting and watching some television with the cats. I, um, I, well, how are you doing?”

“Well, I was quite relieved to hear that you are willing to take the job. Right now I’m waiting for my cue to shoot a fight scene. We just finished the choreograpy for the fight, and they shot the stand-in views. Next they’ll fill in the face shots with me. I do a lot of my own stunts, but last year they almost dropped me from a scaffold about 60 feet up, and decided that it wasn’t such a good idea anymore.” Jessie chuckled warmly. She surprised herself at how easy it was for her to talk to her younger PA.

“Wow, they almost dropped you? I don’t think I would do that anymore if I was you. How do you trust those guys?” Kate blurted nervously.

Jessica smiled. Even though her new friend and now employee had worked in the business for seven years, she realized that there would be a lot to teach her about producing a large scale action adventure every week. They were just getting started on the season, and had only filmed 3 of the 26 episodes. There were also several commercial spots, and a large number of public appearances to make as well. Since scheduling was to be a large part of Kate’s responsibility, she would need to know about these kinds of things. Jessica made a mental note to have Alice, the office secretary, and all around “Know everything, and everyone gal” show Kate the ropes.

“Actually, I do trust them. The accident was just that, a faulty cable, on the winch that they were using to lift me to the top of the scaffold. We were shooting a sort of Batman-esque type of stunt, where I use a cable gun to secure myself to the beams above, and then you push a button, and you are being zipped rapidly upward. I wear a harness around my waist, and it was that cable that came loose. Fortunately the zip cable held my weight, or that would have been the end of that.” Jessica was suddenly quiet.

Kate sensed a little tension on the other end of the line. “Hmm, almost sounds like the movies, where someone cuts the line, to kill the heroine. You must have been terrified.” Seconds after the words left her mouth, she wished she hadn’t said anything. Sometimes she talked too much for her own good.

“You’re right. I never thought of that, and the possibility is very much there. Of course, it is the movies, it just wasn’t in the script.” Jessica was quieter still, clearly disturbed by her friend’s revelation.

“I’m sorry Ms. Ryan. I didn’t mean to upset you. Sometimes I just speak, without necessarily thinking about what I’m saying. I’ll try to be more careful.” Kate rapidly tried to make up for what she felt was a lack of compassion.

“Call me Jessie, and don’t worry. I appreciate your honesty. Most people only tell you what they think you want to hear. In this business, they seldom tell the truth. Anyway, I was thinking you might be feeling well enough to meet with me, say, day after tomorrow. But only if you’re feeling better. I don’t want to rush you.” Jessie was quick to add.

Without thinking, Kate plunged ahead with her response. “Actually, if you would like to come for lunch tomorrow, maybe we could meet then. I mean you already know where I live, and well, I was just . . . .” her thoughts trailed off. “Umm, sorry. There I go again. I, you, well, you probably have more important things to do tomorrow, so yeah, I can come to the office on Wednesday. That would be fine.”

Jessie laughed out loud this time. “Umm, Ms. McKenna, I would be most honored to have lunch at your house. Say around noon? I’ll have Michael bring me over if that’s okay. I think he has something to do around that time anyway.”

It was Kate’s turn to laugh. “If those two have their way, you’ll have to bring the car here to pick Michael up. Goodness, they were like two puppies that have met each other for the first time. They’re so cute together. Oh, and call me Kate. Ms. McKenna is my mother.”

“Kate it is then. Hmm, do you really think those two will hit it off?” Jessie mused.

“Are you kidding? Like two peas in a pod. I really like Michael you know. He’s a really cute, and funny guy.” Kate said quietly. “And at the risk of sounding to forward, or like a star struck fan or whatever, I really like you.” Kate could feel herself blushing.

“I like you too, Kate McKenna.” Jessie almost whispered. Catching a small sob in her throat, she covered the receiver so Kate wouldn’t hear her.

“Well, I guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow then. I’ll try not to poison you. Actually I think I cook pretty well, considering I get lessons via the internet from the best cook on the planet.” Kate giggled.

“Yes, I do have to get back to the show. And I trust you not to poison me. By the way, who is it that you are taking lessons from? Wolfgang, Emeril?” Jessie asked.

“Oh, not anyone like that. From my friend Laura. She is hands down the best cook I have ever come across. She gives me lessons over the internet, and over the phone. I told her about the job, and she said if you were ever in Northern California, she’d be happy to cook dinner for you.” Kate chuckled at her small white lie. She knew Laura would absolutely expire from the vapors if she heard her say that she would gladly cook for Jessica Ryan.

Jessica grinned broadly at the familiar way in which Kate talked to her, as though they had known each other for a much longer time. Almost like an old movie. The first time I saw you I felt as though I had known you for eternity. Holy Cow! I must be losing my mind. I actually thought something poetic. Yeowza!

“Hmm, I’ll have to remember that the next time I travel up there. I have a house in the Santa Cruz Mountain area, so it’s definitely a possibility. Diane did tell you that you may need to travel up there with me didn’t she?” Jessica held her breath.

Not wanting to sound too eager, Kate casually answered. “Oh, she didn’t go into details, but I assumed I would go where ever you want me to. I don’t have any major ties, so it wouldn’t be a problem. Actually, my mom lives up there with her fiance, but I don’t see them that often. He travels all of the time, and she goes with him. I could always stay at their house though, or with Laura.”

Hiding her disappointment, Jessica recovered her mental dignity at the thoughts that rapidly traveled through long dormant parts of her mind. “Umm, sure, or if it’s not convenient, you can always stay at my home. That way you would have access to the computer, etc. It’s going to be a while before I get up there anyway, but will keep those thoughts in mind.”

Kate blushed again. If you only knew what those thoughts were Ms. Ryan, if you only knew! “Okay, fair enough.” Kate almost choked on her words. “So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“Yeah, I have to get back to work. They’re starting to get noticeably nervous at my absence. I’m hiding behind some empty drums, so they can’t find me. I’ll talk to you later.” Jessica whispered into the phone.

Kate smiled. Hiding behind drums. Whatever have I gotten myself into?

After Jessica hung up with Kate, she came out of hiding, and grabbed one of the studio gophers. “Do me a favor, and have my other driver waiting for me, just outside the gate here, engine running when the Director calls the shoot for the night. I . . . . have some things to do, and want to get going as soon as possible.”

“Uh, sure Ms. Ryan, glad to oblige.” The gopher hurried away to his task.

Jessica’s real plan was to try and leave the site, and reach her home before Gregory caught up to her again. She really was in no mood to have to deal with him this evening.

She heard the Director’s assistant calling everyone to their places, and hurried over to her position behind a large piece of machinery belching steam. Her sidekick Deborah came over and stood in front of her, providing an effective block to the laser blasts that were theoretically being fired at them. Deborah was completely encased in a neoprene, and plasticene suit, that simulated titanium steel. Only small parts of her face were visible. The actual laser blasts would be added into the footage during the editing process.

The Director called action, and the two actresses slipped into their alternate personas. The scene went relatively smooth, with no major problems or mistakes. As preplanned, one of the sidekick’s arms froze in place at a most inopportune time, and “Kendra” had to simultaneously free the arm, and continue to fire her assault gun at the approaching enemy. The scene called for an intricate maneuver by both Deborah and Jessica, to simulate freeing the jammed arm, and wiping out several of their enemies.

As the enemies approached, “Kendra” linked her arm through her sidekick GNA7’s jammed arm. GNA7 bent forward, and Kendra rolled across her back, and yanked the arm back into position, firing her weapon the entire time. As Kendra landed on her feet, she was supposed to grab GNA7’s other arm, and pull her behind a support pillar, just as an explosion ripped through the factory. The actual explosion effects would be added at a later time, via a computer generated graphics team. However, the mini explosions for the benefit of the cast were big enough.

Jessica completed her roll, and as she stood to catch her sidekick, and pull her behind the pillar, she noticed a movement in the corner of her eye. She turned quickly, to take the brunt of the blow aimed her way, when Deborah stopped her first, by knocking her to the ground, and laying on top of her, letting her well padded suit take the hit. Someone had cut loose a rather large hook intended for moving large machinery, or steel beams from one end of the factory to the other. It was painfully obvious that the intention was to harm, or maybe kill Jessica Ryan.

As the explosions sounded around them, Deborah flattened herself and Jessica as small and as close to the floor as she possibly could. Faster and faster the hook came flying towards the two women. For a split second Deborah panicked, and tried to see if there was anywhere else they could roll to, but they were pinned too tightly between the various pieces of equipment. The hook swung into Deborah, imbedding itself into her cyber suit. As its momentum carried the hook past the two women, Deborah was lifted from her position on top of Jessica, and flung past where they were lying, and out into a clear area where the rest of the crew stood staring in horror.

Jessica quickly rolled as tight as she could against the base of a large control quiosk, and waited until the crew stopped the hook carrying her friend, and now lifesaver. As soon as she could, she sprang to her feet, and ran quickly to Deborah’s side. Jessica could tell by the grimace on her face, that Deborah had been injured. The technical crew was busy, frantically trying to remove the costume encasing the actresses’ body.

Reaching for her hand, Jessica held on while Deborah squeezed tightly in a wave of pain. “Deb, hold on, we almost have you out of there. Go ahead, squeeze with all of your might. I know it hurts, just hang on.” Jessica kept up the banter, to keep Deborah focused on her, and not on what would be revealed when the suit was removed.

The crewman cutting the suit had just reached the final foot or so, when the sound of sirens broke through the chaos surrounding them. Someone had the foresight to call the paramedics. Leaving Deborah lying face down, they prepared themselves for the worst. With the assistance of the paramedics, and the crew, they carefully removed the sections of plastic and foam revealing Deborah’s injuries.

“How bad is it Jess?” Deborah cried to her friend. “Tell me, am I bleeding?”

“A little, but it doesn’t look very deep. It kind of looks like you may have broken some ribs, but I can’t tell. I need to let the paramedics take a look at you Deb. I’ll be right with you all the way.” Jessica tried to remain calm. Every inch of her was on fire. The shock was just beginning to set in. The strongest part of her wanted to bolt as far and as fast as she could.

Suddenly Deborah grabbed her by the front of her costume. Pulling her close so she could whisper, she told her something that Jessica knew was true, but was afraid to hear. “Jess, it was Gregory and his goons. I saw that big hulking idiot of his sneaking around during the break, but I didn’t think anything of it. Honey, they’re trying to kill you.”

“I thought so.” Jessica whispered back. “He threatened me earlier. Said if I didn’t quit causing trouble, he was going to get me. Too bad he’s so lousy at it.”

Deborah grimaced with the pain again. “Call the cops Jess! Call them now.”

Jessica just shook her head no. She knew, and so did Deborah, that there was no way she could stop Gregory right now. He had complete and total control of her life, and until she could find a way to stop that, she had to try to stay alive. She never would have believed he would kill her, but something must have changed recently. She would need to call the lawyer later, and find out what they know.

Jessica backed out of the way, while the paramedics loaded Deborah into the ambulance. She assured Deborah, that she would call her family, and then meet her at the hospital.

The director approached her, and asked to speak to her privately. “Jess, what the hell is happening? Someone said that whoever did that was trying to kill you. Jessica we have to do something. This is only the third week of shooting. The sponsors will have our heads.”

“Yeah, Deborah is badly injured, but I’m okay. But thanks for asking.” Jessica sneered at him. “I agree, that someone is trying to kill me. I don’t know who. I suggest that we completely close the set. Unless you absolutely have to be here, to do a job, you can’t be on the set. That includes office personnel, and even my husband and his group. The only exception is my new Personal Assistant. She is a trained body guard, and I want her with me at all times. No one else. Unless you or I asked them to be there, and you better check with me before you allow them to walk on the set.”

The director gulped back his fear of his greatest star. “I’m sorry Jess. Sometimes I forget what’s important. People, not money. I am so used to being battered by Gregory over pennies, that I forget that I am human. I agree, that we should close the set. Gregory’s not going to like it, but I don’t exactly like him. And the PA is fine. I would feel better if someone with some kind of training was attending to you. My only problem, is what are we going to do without Deborah? She was hurt pretty bad, and I’m sure she won’t be back for at least a few weeks.”

Jessica pursed her lips in thought. “We can shoot around her temporarily. We’re going to have to find someone to fill in temporarily until she gets back on her feet. And I think I have just the person to fit into the suit. Let me work on this, and I’ll get back to you.”

The director nodded his agreement, and then wandered off to finish closing the set. The editing crew would go back over the rushes later, and see if they could figure out just what happened. He could only hope that this didn’t mean their set would be haunted forever after with this kind of garbage. He lived for the action adventure business, and didn’t want anything or anyone to interfere. The fact that he was mostly terrified of Gregory and his men, didn’t help.

Jessica quickly worked her way out to the waiting car. She intended to go directly to the hospital, and then head home for some much needed rest. The stresses of the day were wearing her down, and she had an early call at the gym before having lunch with Kate.

As she approached the limousine, the driver got out and came around to open the door for her. She didn’t recognize him immediately, but her hackles started to rise automatically. Slowly looking into the dark interior of the car, she was relieved to find that it was empty. She got in, and gave him the address of the hospital, and then leaned back in the seats, and closed her eyes for a moment. A few minutes later, she felt the car slow down. Sitting bolt upright, she made a move to grab the door handle to jump from the car, but it was too late. Gregory opened one door while his goon Jerald opened the other. All means of escape had been cut off.

Sitting back quietly, and folding her hands in her lap, she waited for him to grab her. Every fiber in her body was tense. Tight like the strings of a violin. Gregory grinned his evil grin, and slipped into the seat beside her. Jerald took the seat across from them, primarily so that he could grin and snicker at her like some demented, crazed clown.

“So, honey, what’s new? I hear you almost got a booboo. Tsk, tsk! You need to be more careful. You know what I mean? It wouldn’t do to have our little starlet get injured. Especially so early in the season. Of course, I just finished signing the papers on your new insurance policy, and I made myself the beneficiary of everything. All we need is your little signature to make it legal.” His attempt at baby talk made Jessica’s stomach turn. “I made you an appointment for tomorrow, say around noon. Make sure you go there and get this done. We wouldn’t want anymore accidents.”

Jessica’s shoulders slumped in near defeat. If Gregory managed to get her to sign these papers, then there would be no reason to keep her alive. He would end up with the insurance money, and have no need for the steady income the show brought in. Everyone would feel sorry for the grieving widower, and then eventually they would forget her. She barely controlled the sobs caught in her chest.

Gregory picked up the phone, and had the driver drop them at a seedy strip joint downtown. He reminded her again, that she had better make the appointment or else.

The driver continued on to the hospital, and then parked in the lot to wait for her. He apparently had been give explicit instructions to see that she went home after the hospital, and didn’t attempt to go anywhere else. The driver had also been told to pick her up in the morning, and drive her to the lawyers office. Gregory made sure that there was no way she would miss that appointment.

Jessica tried to pull herself into the collar of her jacket. Reporters were always lurking around the emergency room doors to LA General, hoping to catch a glimpse of an actor or actress that may be in the throes of an overdose or some other exciting bit of news. She didn’t want to talk to any of them at the moment. It wouldn’t be good for the show, and it wouldn’t be good for her.

She managed to make it through a side door, and would have made it to the admissions desk without being spotted, except for the young boy in the waiting room, who saw her slip around the corner.

“Dad, Dad!” He screamed. “Dad, that’s Kendra Knight. Dad that’s really her.”

Before she could take one more step, she could see several more heads turn in her direction, including the unmistakably bright orange halo that could only belong to Lavinia Jones, the star reporter for the biggest tabloid rag in the United States.

“Jessica!” Lavinia screeched at her. “Honey what’s wrong, why are you here?”

Swirling over in her trademark cloak, Lavinia, for all her 4’11″ tall frame seemed to overwhelm everything in her path. Jessica envisioned a small tornado with red hair every time she thought of this woman. Lavinia shrugged aside the young boy, and any others that had managed to approach Jessica. Jessica reached around her to hand back the boy’s autograph he had asked for. She was so tired, she was starting to almost feel faint. Lavinia was screeching at her from what seemed like a long tunnel. She shook her head to clear it, and attempted to focus her attention back on the mini-tornado in front of her.

“Lavinia, what do you want? I’m here to visit a friend. I would really rather not be disturbed if you don’t mind.” Jessica said quietly, the weariness showing in her voice.

“Are you sure you’re not checking in yourself darling? You look like ten miles of bad road.” Lavinia giggled unbecomingly.

“We just finished shooting an action heavy episode, and I’m tired. I need to visit my friend, get something to eat, shower and go to bed. After all tomorrow is another day.” She turned, she hoped discreetly, and handed the desk clerk a note asking for Deborah’s room number. She didn’t want the tabloids to get any ideas of who was here, and why Jessica Ryan would make an appearance. She could see the headlines in her mind’s eye, screaming about the dangers and problems on the set.

“Well dear, you know, I’m just doing my job. We all have jobs, Jessica, and mine is chasing you. So tell me, who’s here that would bring you all the way downtown?” Lavinia tried to peek at the paper the clerk handed back to her.

“Nobody you need to know about Lavinia. Just a sick friend. Remember what that’s like, to have friends? I want you to leave her alone. If you can do that, I can see if I can get you a ticket to the People’s Choice Awards after party. I know you’ve been dying to get in there for years. Heck, you can even ride with me in my car.” Jessica smiled her most ingratiating smile.

“Wowza! You sure know where to hit me don’t you Jess? Well, tell you what. I’ll just go back and sit down, and pretend I didn’t even see you. How’s that sound?” Lavina dripped with excitement.

“Great, I appreciate it. I’ll be in touch in a week or two about that party, you can bet on it.” Jessica turned to head for Deborah’s room. She made a mental bet with herself that she would see something about her visit to the hospital in some paper by close of business tomorrow. At least she wouldn’t be taking Lavinia to any parties.

Deborah’s room was lit up like a Christmas tree. Her large extended family had arrived, as well as her boyfriend and several of his friends. Jessica stood in the doorway for a moment, and debated whether or not she would even go in. Deborah’s mom saw her, and hustled through the crowd to grab her.

“Don’t you think you’re going to get away that easy missy. I saw you looking like a deer in the headlights. Let me clear these hooligans out of here, so you can visit in some peace and quiet. Just give me a second.” Momma was clearly in charge here.

“Thanks, I appreciate that. I need to eat soon, and get some sleep, but I didn’t want to go without seeing how Deb is first.” Jessica replied rather lamely she thought.

After all of the “hooligans” as Momma called them worked their way out into the hall, and down to the cafeteria, Momma closed the door, and left the two friends alone.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” Jessica asked.

“Mmm, like I got hit with a Mac Truck. Thanks for coming down though.” Deb smiled through the pain killers.

“Not a problem. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. So have they figured out the extent of the damage yet?” Jessica braced herself for the worst.

Deborah reached for her hand. “Jess, I’m okay. A few cracked ribs, and a bruised kidney. That’s the part that hurt the most, but they already have it under control. They said a few days rest, and then a couple of weeks of reduced work load, and I’ll be fine. But Jessie, what about Gregory’s goons?”

Jessica took a breath, and let it out slowly. “Deb, you might want to think about a different show. Gregory has taken out what promises to be a rather large insurance policy on me. He caught up to me on the way here, and pretty much threatened me. He plans to find a way to eliminate me. With the insurance money, he doesn’t need me to bring home the paychecks anymore. You might get hurt again.”

Deb shook her head. “No, there has to be a way to stop him, and I know that you can do it. I’ll try to help any way I can. But you can’t give up Jess. You can’t let him win.” Deborah was crying by now.

Adding her own tears to the mix, Jessica bowed her head for a moment. “You’re right. Gregory is a snake, and he isn’t going to break me that easily. I’ll come up with a plan. Somehow . . .”

Jessica stayed a while longer, and held Deborah’s hand until she drifted off to sleep. As she was getting ready to leave, Momma stopped her, and hooking her arm through Jessica’s elbow, lead her down the hallway and into a women’s restroom.

“Baby, Debbie cares about you a lot, and she’s worried about you. I want to help you any way I can, because you’re a good girl, and you deserve it.” She reached up to catch Jessie’s tears as they fell. “Your husband is no good. Baby, you need to get rid of him. He hurt my Debbie, and he gonna pay big time. In the mean time, I think we need to get you out of here safely. Big Leo, my son, he gonna take you to your house to get some things, and then you gonna stay the night with me. No big cars, no asshole husbands.”

Momma reached into her big, somewhat bottomless purse, and removed a colorful scarf, a long red, calf length sweater. And some scruffy slippers. “Put these things on, and Big Leo will be waiting outside the door for you. Walk like you drank too much, and argue in your best old lady voice.” She turned Jessica around, and smeared some bronzer on her skin to make her look older, and kind of weathered.

“You should be in the business, Momma. You’re really good at this.” Jessica smiled at her.

“I am in the business baby. The business of protecting my family from dead beats like that newspaper harpy, and low-lifes like your husband. Nobody, and I mean nobody has a right to treat good people like that. And certainly not anyone who belongs to me. Baby you need to find yourself I nice sweet young girl to hold you at night and keep the evil spirits away. Don’t raise that eyebrow at me young lady! I know a lot more about life than half the old birds on this planet. Momma sees don’t you know? Momma sees all.” She smiled broadly, and pulled the still shocked Jessica into her arms.

“You just go on, and I’ll be seeing you a little later. I’ll fix you up something to eat, and then you can get some real sleep. Deal?” Momma inquired.

“Deal.” Jessica hugged her back fiercely.

Momma washed the bronzer from her hands, and then slipped out the door. Jessica adjusted the scarf to cover more of her face, and then taking a deep breath stepped outside the door. As promised Big Leo was waiting for her. Jessica was startled at the figure slumped against the wall waiting for her. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch, and weighed at least 300 pounds. And that was not fat. He was built like a piece of industrial equipment. Jessica started to feel instantly better. If Jerald tried anything with Big Leo around, it would be the last stupid thing he ever did. Leo could crush him with one exceptionally large hand.

Big Leo reached for her as though she were an errant child. “Momma, why you gotta go and drink like that. Come on, I’m takin’ you home. I got better things to do than bail your scrawny behind out of the hospital alla the time. Let’s go you old bag.” Leo’s bass voice boomed down the hallway, so that everyone within a square mile could hear him.

Jessica almost burst out laughing, he was just what the doctor ordered. She bent a little lower, and then struggling a little, whacked him on the arm with the sleeve of her sweater, and then shuffled down the hall ahead of him, mumbling to herself. He followed along dutifully, grimacing like a put out son who is used to that kind of behavior from his mother.

The two of them made the doors, when Jessica almost froze in her steps. A cab had pulled up in front of the door to the ER, and Gregory and Jerald were stepping out onto the sidewalk. Big Leo grabbed her by the shoulder of her sweater, and led her away. He knew who Jerald and Gregory were. He had been on the set with his mother to visit his sister before, and they had been there. At the risk of making his mother angry, he almost stopped and crushed them both right there in the parking lot. But she made it clear that he was just supposed to see to Jessie’s safety, and worry about those two later.

Gregory stopped at the limousine to make sure that Jessica was still inside, and then the two of them strolled through the doors like they owned the place. Gregory walked up to the counter, and after banging on the counter several times finally got the attention of the clerk. Even Lavinia, who was always hot for a story steered clear of Gregory. As far as she was concerned, the man was psychotic. The clerk gave them the information they wanted, and then just to be sure, she called security. She could smell trouble on those two, and she wasn’t going to let that happen in her hospital.

They approached Deborah’s room, and Gregory rudely kicked the door open. Momma was alone with her daughter, holding her hand while she slept. She turned a fierce glare in his direction, mentally willing him to die where he stood.

“What’s the matter old woman, making too much noise for you?” Gregory sneered at her.

“Bah, you excuse for a human being. You injured my daughter. I should have you killed where you stand.” She stood up, and turned to face him directly. He must have felt the energy coming from her, because he stepped back a pace or two fear showing plainly in his eyes.

“I didn’t do nothing. It was an accident. I just came to see how she was doing, and to thank her for saving my wife’s life.” His tone had changed dramatically, tinged with an air of politeness.

“You can’t lie to Momma piglet. I will find the truth, and then you pay. Everyone must pay their debt, and yours grows daily. Be careful young man. You don’t know who you are messing with. Momma always gets respect. You wait, you see.” She smiled a grim viper’s smile.

“Really, I have no idea what you are talking about.” Gregory actually sounded hurt. “Well, I am glad to see that she will be okay, now have you seen my wife Jessica. Jessica Ryan? We came to escort her home, she’s had a long day.” Gregory pouted self-righteously.

“She’s in the ladies room, and then will see the doctor. Something about production schedules. She ask me to tell the driver, or I guess you now, that she be out in about 30 minutes, to wait for her in the car.” Momma smiled most graciously.

“Well, thank you. My associate and I will do just that. If she returns here, let her know we are waiting for her.” They both turned, and exited the room. This time much quieter than when they arrived.

After they were gone, Deborah opened her eyes slightly. “Momma, I love you.”

“Me too baby, I love you too. Now sleep. Sleep well.” Momma whispered back to her beloved daughter.

Big Leo helped Jessica into the front seat of his pick-up truck, and then got in and started it up. “Momma says I should take you to your house to get some things. Is there anybody you should maybe call?” He asked politely.

Jessica found herself instantly liking this mountain of a man. “Yeah, thanks Leo. I appreciate it. I’ll call my brother, and then the housekeeper. If I can get Carla to pack me some things, then we should be able to dash in and dash out before Gregory catches up to me.” Leo nodded his approval, and then put the truck into gear, and pulled away from the curb.

Jessica dialed Michael’s cell phone first. The phone rang 3 or 4 times, and Jessica started to get nervous. Finally Michael answered, definitely sleep slurring his words. “Yeah, speak.”

“Michael it’s me, Jess. Michael this is important, you need to wake up and pay attention.” Jessica could hear Steven’s equally sleepy voice in the background.

Michael covered the receiver clumsily, and told Steven who it was. Jessica could tell that both men were now completely awake. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Should I come and get you? Jess?”

“Mike, I’m okay for now. I’m in a pick-up truck heading for my house. I’m in good hands, but I need to stay out of sight for at least tonight. I am going to get a few things, and then stay at a friend’s house tonight. I’ll call you again in the morning.” Jessica found herself smiling at her knight in size 54 armor again.

“Jessica what happened? Tell! Steven and I can come and get you. You can stay here with us. I’m sure Kate won’t mind. Matter of fact, I’m positive Kate won’t mind. Talk to me!” Jessica could hear the panic in his voice.

Quietly she recapped the events of the day, ending with her current adventure. “So you see Michael. I don’t want to endanger any of you. I don’t want Gregory anywhere near you or Kate and Steven. Just tell Kate that I will make our lunch date tomorrow. Other than that, lay low. Which by the way I see, or rather hear that you are already well on your way. I’m happy for you Michael. Just please, stay safe. If he hurts you, I won’t be able to handle it. Promise?”

Michael let out his breath in a huff. “Okay, for now anyway. But I don’t like this. I want to be with you, and take care of you. I don’t want you out there by yourself.”

“Trust me Michael. Right now, I am not alone. However, I feel that the less you know the better. Just believe me when I tell you that tonight I’ll be safe. Okay?” Jessica sighed.

“Yeah, okay, but call me tomorrow. If I don’t hear from you by ten, then I’m coming after you. Later!” Michael hung up and tossed the phone in the direction of his clothes.

“Are you okay?” Steven asked.

Michael turned and laid his head on Steven’s shoulder. “Yeah, but Jessie’s in major danger. She won’t let me help her, just wants me to lay low. She told me to tell Kate she would be here for lunch tomorrow though. I think I might stick around and wait for her. I want to find out what this is all about.”

Steven gave him a squeeze, and then nodded. “Not a problem. She could have come here, Kate would have loved it.” He smiled a sly grin in the dark.

“Boy, don’t I know it. All I have to do is smile and wink at her, and then say Jessie’s name, and she blushes like a house on fire. Wouldn’t that be a hoot, if those two got together? Even Jess lets her guard down around Katie. I don’t think I’ve seen her like this in a long, long time. Well, all we can do is wait, I guess.” Michael sighed.

They both closed their eyes, and snuggled down for some much needed sleep.

Michael’s last thought was for his sister. He only hoped that somehow they could resolve all of this before she got hurt, or even worse lost her life. She deserved some happiness in her life, and he wanted to make sure she had that chance.

Big Leo nudged Jessica with his elbow. She hadn’t realized that she had dozed off after she had called Carla her housekeeper. Carla was waiting at the door, with her duffle bag packed, and a small suit bag with her business attire hung neatly. Leo picked up both bags, and then carried them out to the truck. Carla ran back into the house, and then returned with a medium sized box held together with a ribbon. Jessica immediately recognized it as the box that contained letters from her mother, and other childhood mementos.

“Thank you Carla. I would have forgotten that box. It’s probably the only thing in there that really means anything to me.” Jessica was saddened at the thought.

“Is okay Ms. Jessica. Carla es looking out for you. I pack-ed some of your jewelry as well. No need for that, how you say, Diablo, Senor Gregory to have these things. Por favor chica. Take care. I go now, and stay at my casa. No want to be here when the Diablo comes. He dangerous bad hombre.” Carla gave her a quick hug, and then turned to close up the house. She wanted to be far away when the Devil arrived. Gregory was well known for his temper tantrums, and she had no desire to be present when the moron exploded.

Jessica, still amazed at how helpful everyone was being, jumped into the truck with Leo, and the two took off for Momma’s house. About ten miles down the hill from her home, they were approaching the freeway, when they saw her limo come screeching off on the opposite ramp, and go speeding up towards her house. Without being asked to, Leo pulled into the emergency lane, and waited for a moment or two. With a sigh of relief, Jessica noticed Carla in her little green Metro pass them as she too entered the freeway. Gregory would find an empty house, and no trace of her whereabouts. Fortunately, he never got involved with the household staff, so he wouldn’t even know how to reach Carla to find out if she had seen Jessica.

Leo nodded his approval at Jessica’s sigh of relief, and the two merged onto the freeway, and disappeared into the Los Angeles haze. About the time that they arrived at Momma’s quiet rural home, Gregory was in the full throes of an all out tantrum. He had broken several vases, and lamps, scattering the garbage over the better part of the living room floor. Jerald stood back in a corner hoping to be unnoticed. He was even slightly afraid of the insanity spilling forth from Gregory’s mouth.

In the meantime, Momma was feeding her special guest a huge supper of the best food Jessica had ever tasted. Her hostess had already taken possession of her cell phone. She simply turned it off. It seemed as though she had stepped into another time frame all together. After her meal, Momma showed her to a private room, with its own bath. She took a long hot shower, and then dressing in a pair of flannel pajamas that Momma had laid out for her, slipped between the sheets of what turned out to be an incredibly comfortable bed.

Momma came by once more before Jessica drifted off to sleep. She correctly guessed that Jessie was probably having trouble sleeping. Momma brought her a large steaming mug of herb tea, and then sat beside her and stroked her hair while she closed her eyes. Jessica’s last conscious thought was of her lunch with Kate tomorrow, and how much she wished she was here with her.

As Jessica was having these quiet thoughts, Kate awoke with a start. For some reason she had a feeling that someone was in terrible trouble, and she needed to be with them. She wouldn’t know until the next morning how close to reality her dreams had taken her.

———————————————-

Perhaps the chief business of life
Is simply to learn how to love.

********Marsha Sinetar********
CHAPTER 5 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me.
Jessica stretched her full length. She hadn’t slept this well in at least a couple of years. For a moment she couldn’t remember where she was, and then the events of the previous day seeped into her consciousness. Somewhere in the house someone was cooking breakfast. Jessica could smell fresh bacon, and the comforting aroma of toasting bread. She decided to get up and shower, and see who was around this early in the morning.

On the other side of town, Kate was searching frantically for her wallet, to run down to the grocery store for supplies for her lunch meeting with Jessica Ryan. The boys were still sleeping, so she thought she would dash out and grab the groceries, and then come back and cook breakfast. Her head was feeling much better, just a little sore where the stitches were. Something though was bothering her. That scary dream she had the previous night kept coming back to her. Her nerves seemed to be on edge.

Kate bent over to pick her wallet up from the floor when someone grabbed her from behind. Without thinking she turned and in a fluid motion hooked her attacker’s arm, and slammed him into the floor. It wasn’t until she had her knee firmly planted in an extremely sensitive position that she realized that she had just dropped Michael Ryan.

Half smiling and half grimacing, Michael held his hands out in surrender. “Hey there, I have no question in my mind, that you are perfectly capable of protecting my sister. Now, can you help me get up? I need to ask you a favor.”

Kate blushed a deep crimson. Reacting to the attack was such an automatic response, that Kate surprised herself. I have to watch that hair trigger of mine! “Michael! Gosh, I’m so sorry! I just . . . . reacted. I didn’t hurt you did I? Holy Cow, make noise next time.” She fanned herself a few times with her hand. “Okay, I think my heart has stopped slamming. What’s going on? What can I help you with?”

Michael put his arm around her shoulders, and led her over to the sofa in the living room. “Listen, I’m worried sick about Jessie.” He had Kate’s complete attention.

“Where is she Michael, what’s wrong?” Kate interrupted, a small tingle of fear sliding up the back of her neck.

“I’m not sure. Jessica called last night, and said there was some trouble. She said she was safe, but she didn’t want to let me know where she was. She did want me to let you know she would be here for lunch. I couldn’t tell, but I think something bad happened on the set. And I would put money on it that Gregory was involved.”

Kate pursed her lips, and wrinkled her forehead in thought. “I know it really isn’t my business, but what is this thing with her husband anyway? It seems to me that there was definitely not any love, or even like involved in this relationship. Frankly, I don’t trust him, and I feel as though he intends to do more than mentally abuse your sister.”

Michael thought about his response for a moment. He wasn’t sure how much he should tell her, but he had this feeling deep down inside that this petite little red haired girl was going to become much more a part of his family, and soon. Besides, he was already becoming a part of hers. He turned his head towards the room where Steven was still sleeping, smiling in spite of himself.

“Okay, but I’ll probably get killed if Jess finds out I told you. Back when we were kids, our dad lost his job, and he never did find another one. He started drinking, and the more he drank, the more abusive he got. Every once in a while mom would try to stand up to him, and he would slap her down. Injured her several times. Jessie was barely 10, and I was 8. We have another brother, but I haven’t seen or heard anything about him since that time.” Kate stopped him for a moment, and went to pour a couple of mugs of coffee for both of them.

When Kate returned, she motioned for him to continue. She didn’t want to make him lose his train of thought. It seemed so strange, yet so comfortable to be sitting here listening to all of the secrets of her idol Jessica Ryan, and her family. Maybe it was the writer in her. That unquenchable need to absorb information. Or maybe something else. Something she couldn’t quite materialize.

Michael continued. “Anyway, dad got meaner and meaner, but he also started getting sicker. We thought it must be the booze, because his skin turned gray, and his hair started to fall out. He was disoriented a lot even when he wasn’t drinking. The abuse excelerated too. Until one day, one by one, we started to fight back. Jessie was first. She clocked him with a frying pan one day, when he grabbed her so hard he almost broke her arm. He was always very careful not to leave bruises where anyone else could see them. He wanted her to do something, that she didn’t like and she told him to leave her alone. That she would never do anything like that ever again. He grabbed her and slammed her into the kitchen counter. She reached back and slammed him with the pan. Then she grabbed me and we ran.

We had built a special hiding place back in the woods behind our house. We hid there for hours waiting for him to show up. He never did, but our older brother Kevin finally came. He brought us food, and warm jackets and told us to stay there until someone came to get us. When he left we talked about how maybe Kevin was going to kill him, or maybe the frying pan killed him. We were scared to death. It was way after dark when our Aunt Jean came and got us. We never saw dad, mom, or Kevin again. I know Jessie knows more about what happened than I do, and she keeps telling me that someday she will tell me, but right now it’s better I don’t know. It frustrates the daylights out of me.”

“Michael, I’m so sorry. What a terrible story. I’m guessing that Gregory must know something about what happened on that day, and is holding it against her. I know it’s hard, not knowing, but I also know she loves you, and is probably just trying to protect you. I promise not to say anything. It would probably hurt her feelings to find out that you told me. Poor Jessie! She’s been keeping all of this inside of her for so long. No wonder she’s in so much pain. We’ll have to take care of her Michael. It’s not right to make someone go through that. Not right at all!!” Kate was now clearly angry. She was going to do everything she could to be the very best assistant, and friend that Jessica Ryan, and Michael ever had.

Kate hugged Michael fiercely, and then sent him back to snuggle with Steve. Grabbing her keys, she dashed out the door, and jumped in the car to go to the grocery store and do her shopping. She never stopped thinking about all of the things she had just learned. Kate arrived at the grocery store, and spent at least an hour making her selections. She wanted everything to be perfect for her new friends. She paid for her groceries, and then went out to the car to load them into the trunk. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a limousine that looked strangely like the one that Michael drove Jessica around in. She was a little surprised, thinking that it must be Jessica arriving early. Kate got into her car, and backed out with the intention of beating them to her house.

For no apparent reason she started to feel a little bit nervous about the car. If Michael was sleeping at her house, and he had no idea where Jessica stayed the night before, then who was in that car. Maybe it wasn’t her car. There are lots of similar limousines in Los Angeles, no reason to believe it was Jessica’s. Except for the fact that the limo had just made a sudden turn into the grocery store parking lot, and was heading right for her. Kate took one last look into the rearview mirror. Staring back at her, was the license plate. It read 1TGHINK.

Spelled from front to back it meant KNIGHT1. That could only mean that she was being followed by Jessica’s husband, Gregory.

DAMN!!! Kate fumbled in her fanny pack, and pulled out her cell phone. Quickly dialing her home number, she maneuvered the car into the street, and drove in exactly the opposite direction from her house. There was no way she was going to lead that jerk home. For all she knew, he had already found out where she lived. But hopefully her luck was with her, and they had discovered another way to track her down. The phone rang several more times, when Steven’s sleepy voice answered it.

“Hello? Who’s calling please?” Steven yawned.

“Steven it’s me. Steven where is Michael? I need to talk to him right now!” Kate nearly shouted.

“Honey okay. He’s right here. What’s wrong?” Steven became immediately alert.

“I need to know if anyone called after I left. Someone’s following me.” Kate sounded a little scared.

“What? Following you? What in Hades is going on?” Steve was shouting now.

“Kate, this is Michael. Someone did call. They said that they were from your agency, and they were going to stop by with the contract papers from Jessie’s office. I told them you were at the Ralph’s on Buena Vista. They must have tracked you there. I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I should have let Steve answer the phone. Drive to the nearest police station. Get out of the car, and head right inside the building. Don’t let them find the house, and don’t let them stop you. No telling what might happen if they catch you.” Michael was frantic.

Kate took his advice. She kept them on the line, to have company while she was being followed. She took them on a winding, wild goose chase. They drove for almost 45 minutes, from city to city, in and out of traffic. Just when they thought they were close, they would pull up on her bumper, and honk at her trying to wave her over to the curb. She kept pretending not to hear them, or to act annoyed until the car pulled up into the lane next to her.

Kate had managed to make it as far as West Hollywood, and was slowly working her way into downtown traffic. The passenger lowered his window, and started waving at her to pull over. She flipped him off, and then gunned it down a side street. When she came out the other side, she turned right and pulled into the service yard of the local police station. She slipped her convertible into a reserved spot between two police sedans. Locking the door, she ran for the back entrance into the station house.

The short round officer standing inside the doorway spotted Kate, and tried to stop her. “Excuse me. Miss? Excuse Me!! You can’t park back there, and you can’t come in this doorway. Hellooooo. Miss? Yeah, you with the red hair? I said. . . .”

“Oh my god!” Kate breathed in relief. “Someone is chasing me in a large black limousine. They’ve been following me since I left my grocery store in Glendale. You have to help me.” She pretended to start crying.

“Oh, wow, okay. I’m sorry. Listen come on up to the desk, and tell us what you know. It’s okay. We’ll take care of you, miss, you can bet on it.” The officer suddenly transformed himself into super cop. “Right this way. Would you like some coffee? Or tea?”

He looked across the main hallway, bustling with activity, and spotted his Captain. “Yo, captain, I think you should hear this. Sounds like one of those prima donna actors or somebody has been harassing this young lady.”

The captain came over, and taking her elbow, led her over to a chair in his office. Kate took the opportunity to take a peek out the window. She could see the long black stretch limo gliding very slowly down the street near the station. The captain looked in the same direction she looked. The familiarity in which he tipped his head in the direction of the car, did not get past her. The captain was obviously on Gregory’s payroll.

“Umm, listen, I think I’ll just be going now. It looks like I may have made a mistake . . . .” Kate muttered.

The captain smiled at Kate, and then picked up his phone. “Hi, Gregory, long time no see. What’s that? Ms. McKenna? Yeah, she’s here Greg, but she never mentioned your name. Something about a red chevy convertible cutting her off. I have her with one of the other officers giving a statement right now. Sure Greg, call me when you have time.”

Kate breathed a deep sigh of relief. Apparently the two men were acquaintances, but not friends. She cautiously turned her gaze in the captain’s direction.

“So, I’m sorry I bothered you, Captain. You’ve been very kind.” Kate tried sounding businesslike, instead of scared.

“Ms. McKenna? You haven’t asked me why I didn’t give you away. Don’t you even want to know what’s going on?” The captain still had his back to her.

“Well, I wasn’t sure if I should push my luck.” Kate mumbled again.

The captain, a distinguished looking man in his late forties, smiled an absolutely open and honest smile at Kate. “You are definitely lucky Ms. McKenna. You are lucky you chose this station, and you are lucky I was here when you did. I’ve been investigating Gregory for several months now. It seems he is involved in some not quite legal ventures here in the city of dreams. Several officers both here, and at another of the stations, are periodically on Gregory’s payroll. I let him think that he has a hold on me, so I can get closer to his operation. He’ll stew for a while at missing you, but you can bet he tries again. I just hope I have enough evidence to bag him, before he does.”

The captain was pacing, and stopped to stare her right in the eye. He was trying to emphasize how important this investigation was to him, and how dangerous it could be should Gregory find out that the captain wasn’t really on his side. Kate thought about how much to tell him, and then decided it could only be to her advantage, and Jessica’s if they had an ally on the force.

“Captain, how much do you really know about Gregory, or his wife Jessica Ryan?” Kate decided to play a cat and mouse game with him.

“Alright Ms. McKenna. I’ll play.” He caught on quick. “Gregory is a small time hood, a scam artist, and an abusive asshole. I know he has taken a hand to his wife in the past, and I know he is blackmailing her. I just don’t know why, or for how much.”

Kate considered her response for a moment. “I don’t pretend to know any of the details, Captain, but I do know that his threats against Ms. Ryan are getting worse. She told me about a situation that occurred last year on the set, and I haven’t seen or talked to her yet today, but something may have happened last night. She seems to have disappeared.” Kate congratulated herself for being smart. Even though the captain sounded sincere, he could be using her for information. Like finding Jessica, and leading Gregory to her.

“I take it you don’t know where she is then?” The captain asked directly.

“No, and unless she was guilty of a crime, I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway. Your story sounds legitimate, but I can’t be sure. As her Personal Assistant, it’s my job to protect her. Completely! Now, I think we’ve said enough for the moment. I’d like to leave now if you don’t mind.” She risked another glance out the window. The limousine was nowhere in sight.

“He is truly gone Ms. McKenna. However don’t underestimate his power and influence. Money can buy a lot more things than we give it credit for. Including people. I hope that you can find it in yourself to trust me Ms. McKenna. And soon. For the safety of all of you. If you need me, call the number on this card. I’ll do what I can.” The captain tried to sound reassuring.

Kate accepted the card, and slipped it into the pocket of her pack. She thanked the captain again, and then slipped out the rear door of his office at his request. She ended up in the hallway, right near the door to the lot where she was parked. The captain had called the original officer that found her, and kept him busy on the phone while she made her exit. It seemed that the captain thought the officer might be one of Gregory’s playmates. He wanted her long gone, before anyone had figured out she had left. He knew she didn’t trust him. But in a strange way that made him feel better. It wouldn’t be good to trust just anyone in this situation. He just hoped that he could keep both Ms. McKenna and Jessica Ryan alive long enough to close this case. It would be a shame for Ms. McKenna to get killed simply because she was doing her job.

Kate walked as quickly as she could to the car, and pulled out, heading in the opposite direction than when she had entered. She appreciated the captain’s caution, but still couldn’t bring herself to trust him. Probably a good thing too. She barely knew Jessica, but what little she did know, was enough to convince her she had to help. She made the determination then that even if it meant she had to die trying. Whoa, I think I need to have my head examined. I need to talk to Laura, and soon!

45 minutes later, Kate pulled into her driveway, just in time to see a large black pickup truck, with an equally as large man behind the wheel. She couldn’t hide her relief at seeing Jessica sitting next to him. They were discussing something, and then the large man patted her on the head with his humongous hand, and then she kind of hugged him, and jumped from the truck. Kate had a moment of what she interpreted as jealousy seep into her heart. Not important McKenna! Ms. Ryan is an adult, and she has every right to spend her time with whomever she wished. As the large guy roared off down the street, Kate discreetly let herself in through the side door. She didn’t want Jessica to think she was spying on her.

Kate set her purchases down on the counter, and began the task of sorting through, and beginning the preparation for lunch. She was trying desperately to keep herself from dropping everything, and running into the living room, to see if Ms. Ryan was okay. Kate had decided that her ordeal was not that important. Important to the overall situation, but not enough to interrupt everyone, and make them feel sorry for them.

Kate took out her knife, and began slicing vegetables for a salad. To her utter surprise, she overheard Michael telling Jessica about what had happened to her. She realized that she had been so quiet coming in, that they didn’t know she was there.

“Jess, she sounded scared. Gregory and the goon squad were chasing her. All I could do was tell her to go to a police station and get help. We haven’t heard from her since.” Michael sounded grief stricken.

“Michael, her car is in the driveway. She must have come in when you were letting me in the front door. We have to make sure she’s alright. Come on.” Jessica was sounding worried now.

Kate set her knife down, and wiped her hands. She was preparing to head into the other room, when Jessica came bursting through the door into the kitchen. Without even thinking, she wrapped Kate in her strong, warm embrace, and hugged her tightly. Kate was surprised, but then the events of the last day or so took over, and she burst into tears. Jessica held her tightly. Stroking her hair with a light but comforting touch. Michael, who was standing directly behind his sister, decided that he could go and wait in the living room. Something was happening here, and it didn’t involve him.

Jessica realized a moment too late what she had just done. Almost stepping back, she decided that she didn’t give a damn. Besides, Kate needed her just now, and she needed Kate. If the tight grip around her waist, and the warm body in her arms meant anything, then she was staying right where she was.

A few moments later, Kate broke from the embrace, and mumbled something about being sorry, and needing a tissue. Michael miraculously appeared with a box of tissues in one hand, and Steven’s hand in the other. He handed out the obligatory tissues, and then was amused to notice that after Kate availed herself of the tissues, she discreetly slipped back next to Jessica, her arm lightly placed around her waist. Jessica, without missing a beat, wrapped her long arm around Kate’s shoulder, and pulled her in closer.

Kate tilted her head towards Jessica’s ear, and very quietly whispered. “Thanks, I needed that. I’m sorry I am not normally such a bold and out of control person. I guess everything finally got to me.” Getting closer still, with the aid of Jessica’s arm pulling her in, she covered her face with her hand to whisper. “Do you think they’re staring at us or what?” Then directly to the men, she turned and smiling said, “Take a picture boys. It will last longer.”

The whole group of friends started laughing heartily, the tensions of the moment broken into nervous giggles. All four people piled into a group hug, including the two cats Corky and Violet, who joined the party when their mother started crying. They were very sensitive about those things, and didn’t appreciate the interruption to their dream period. (Which was most of the time).

The group shyly disbursed throughout the kitchen, Jessica, Michael and Steven taking seats at the table, and Kate returning to her cooking. She had originally intended to cook breakfast for the boys, and then lunch for all of them, but the schedule had radically altered with her wild morning encounter with evil. Instead she put together the makings of a five star brunch. The only thing missing was the champagne. Kate opted for orange juice instead. Under the circumstances, they needed to keep their heads on. You couldn’t tell when they might be under siege again.

When the meal was ready, everyone assisted Kate in setting the table, and putting the food out. It was by mutual silent consent, that they decided to put off talking about what happened until after they had eaten. It never occurred to Kate to ask Jessica if she had eaten already today. Looking at the huge piles of food placed around the table, she was worried she had over done it.

Handing Jessica a glass of orange juice, she suddenly felt shy. “Umm, I hope I’m not over feeding you. I wasn’t sure if you were someplace, where you could get something to eat.”

Jessica fixed Kate with her beautiful, clear blue eyes. She smiled widely, and placing her hand over Kate’s looked down for a moment at the wonderful meal placed before her. Swallowing, she tried to speak, and stumbled for a moment, a catch in her throat. “I . . . . I managed to choke down a piece of toast and some coffee. My hostess was not very happy that I wasn’t eating, but I just didn’t feel like it. Something in my bones told me there was more trouble. Now that I know you’re okay, I’m . . . . quite frankly famished. Please, sit down and eat with us. We’ll deal with the unpleasantries later.”

Kate smiled shyly back at her friend. A warm blush creeping up her neck. The two men were quietly poking each other in the ribs. They both saw something happening, that neither woman would dare speak of. It was almost as if they said something, then what ever this wonderful thing was, that was swirling around them, might just disappear. Before it had a chance to hatch. Jessica shot a sharp, kidding glance at her brother, and then settled into the business of consuming the contents of her plate.

Kate had really outdone herself with this meal. In a very short time, she had eggs benedict, fresh fruit with honey yogurt sauce, and sweet banana bread on the side. Fresh ground coffee capped off the meal. By the time everyone was done eating, the boys both were letting out their belts. Jessica sat back for a moment, and slowly sighed. She hadn’t eaten this well in a long time. She had even made a mental note this morning as she looked in the mirror, that she was starting to look a little on the thin side. Starting to show some ribs where before there had been muscle.

“Why don’t you guys go in the living room, and Kate and I will clean up this mess.” Jessica addressed Michael and Steven. “Just don’t get any ideas that we’re going to wait on you all of the time.” Kate smiled warmly at the reference to “we” the actress had casually dropped.

It didn’t take twice for the men to get the message. They grabbed fresh cups of coffee, and scrambled out of the women’s way. Jessica started to pick up dishes, and stack them. Kate stood rooted to the spot. Jessica stopped for a moment and tilting her head, smiled.

“What’s the matter? Never seen an actress clear a table before? Heck you should see me clean bathrooms. I am as they say Da’ Bomb.” She chuckled at her joke.

Kate blushed again. “I’m sorry. I guess I am just overwhelmed. So much is happening so fast. I just haven’t caught up to myself yet.” A small tear escaped her eye again.

Quicker than lightening, Jessica was by her side. Catching the tear with her finger, she took Kate’s other hand in hers. “Listen I know this is insane. If you don’t want to be involved with me, or any of this garbage, it’s okay, I understand. The last thing I want to do is willingly endanger you in any way. I have a lot of sadness, garbage, and yes even a bit of evil in my past. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I felt that I was forcing you into something you couldn’t handle.”

Kate leaned into Jessica, and laid her head on her shoulder. “You have no idea how much I want to be by your side. To protect you, and to be there when you need me. I even told myself this morning, that I would die for you. I’m at the same time, terrified, and exhilarated about being a part of your life. I am just so confused about my feelings. One moment, I wish I was ten feet tall and bullet proof. The next moment, I want to be held in your arms, warm and safe from all of the bad things in the world. Then I think about how stupid I am, and the fact that I just met you, or you just met me for the first time a few days ago. I must be insane. I definitely don’t want to be a burden to you. I want to do my job and do it well. Oh, damn, I don’t know what I want, or what the hades I’m saying. You must think that I’m insane.”

“No, I don’t. Unless of course we are sharing the same insanity. I have a confession to make. I caught myself the other day thinking about you. And thinking about how a part of me felt as though I had known you for most of my life. I just feel . . . . so comfortable with you. But, my comfort is not important, if it risks your safety.” Jessica turned away. Her sadness and regret becoming an ominous cloud in the room.

Kate immediately felt the loss. A sense of overwhelming despair settled over her, as though a part of her had been taken away. Choking back a new torrent of tears, she stepped back towards Jessica, and turning her resumed her position in the taller woman’s embrace. “Don’t. Don’t turn away from me. This has got to be the strangest job interview on record, but every time you pull away, or leave me, the pain becomes stronger. I don’t know what it is, but for the moment, just let me be here for you. Hell, I’ll work for free. Even if it means starving. I’ll make the cats get jobs, or I’ll make Steven dance at night to supplement our income. Just don’t shut me out.”

Jessica couldn’t hold herself in check any longer. A trickle of her own tears mixed with Kate’s honest and unbridled revelations. No longer thinking about manners, or propriety, she bent her head low, and captured Kate’s lips in a deep and passionate kiss. All conscious thought disengaged itself and fluttered out the windows of their souls. Kate was so overwhelmed by the passion, that she returned the kiss. Her response was as though she were starving, endlessly, and suddenly she had been fed. The interruption of Michael’s voice coming from the front of the house brought them both back to reality.

Jessica broke the kiss, and then touching her forehead to Kate’s, called back out to Michael and Steven. “Sit down little brother. We have to finish cleaning the kitchen, and then we’ll be right with you.” Kate giggled. The last thing she wanted to do right now was clean the kitchen.

Jessica clearly agreed with her. Her heart was pounding, and her knees were turning weak. Unfortunately her rational side took the wheel, and convinced her that this would have to wait. With a quiet groan, and a heavy sigh, she kissed Kate again, with promises of more later. Then she turned Kate around, and marched her to the sink. Kate suddenly turned shy again, and thinking that maybe she had done something wrong, she bowed her head, and began idly rinsing dishes, and loading them into the dishwasher.

Buried in her thoughts, she hadn’t realized she had stopped again, until a pair of warm lips grazed the skin below her right ear. Smiling at the warm shivers that ran down her spine, she reached behind her, and grasping Jessica’s hand, pulled her in closer. Kate had never felt like this before. The few times she had dated, had mostly ended in disaster. A trip to the bar, too many drinks, and a night of unsatisfying groping were about all the “romantic” memories she had. Except for one very bad experience, and that had convinced her that feeling this good was no longer an option for her. Right here, right now made all of her loneliness, and all of the waiting worth it. If she died right now, she would die happy.

Jessica nuzzled the top of Kate’s head with her chin. Her voice a soft, low murmur that tickled the edges of Kate’s senses reminding her that if they didn’t stay focused, they were sure to have company. “Are you ready to let them know what just happened? Or would you rather have time to think about it some more. There is no pressure here from me. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing anyway. I could have very well just sealed your death warrant, but I do know that something deep inside of me refuses to back away. I have never known such pleasurable feelings before. I do know that I want to know more of them. But only when you are ready.”

Kate nodded her head, not looking back, and not speaking her answer. Her body language answered for her. She pressed back into her human shield, and turned her head slightly for another kiss. Then she quickly returned to the dishes. Jessica, blushing again, took the opportunity to finish clearing the table, and then kept herself busy by catching Corky, the bigger and friendlier of the two cats, and hefting her bulk into her lap. Kate was amused at the quick friendship that was born between her pet and her friend. Corky listened attentively, and meowed, and purred appropriately when called upon to comment. She finally crawled up on Jessica’s chest, pushing her head under her chin as though to say, “okay, you can whisper to me, and mommy won’t hear. I’m a good listener”.

Kate chuckled. “I see she has captured you in her snare.”

Jessica, so deeply involved in her conversation with the cat, hadn’t realized that Kate was finished with the dishes, and was leaning against the counter watching her. Embarrassed, she started to put the animal down, when Kate shook her head.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account.” Kate giggled again. “If she feels slighted, the next time you need her she may not want to be bothered. She’s very specific that way.”

Jessica smiled. Right now she could turn her back on her entire life, and her career, just for a lifetime of moments like this. It was almost magic. She kept expecting to wake up and find herself back in the terrors of her childhood, or suffering the abuse and humiliation that she regularly received from Gregory. So much to think about, so little time. She gathered the bulk of her furry companion into her arms, and then followed a snickering Kate into the living room to go over the current events with her brother and Steven.

—————————————————–

I have accepted fear as a part of life
Specifically fear of change—
I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart,
That says: TURN BACK! . . .

********Erica Jong********
CHAPTER SIX: By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!
Michael and Steven could hardly contain the amusement they were struggling with. They had just spent the last several minutes betting on how long it would take before the two women fell in love. Or at the very least like. Michael was daring. He was sure that it had already happened, and that by default he was the winner. Steven was more cautious. He predicted that it would take a few more days before anything major happened. He knew how careful Katie could be with her feelings, and he was sure that the pressure of work and her marriage would be a definite barrier for Jessica.

Their thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the two women. Jessica carefully settled herself into a comfortable armchair, at opposite ends of the room from where Kate was sitting. They were both unconsciously trying to pretend that nothing had happened. It was all business from here on out. Both men were bursting at the seams watching the display in front of them. Michael elbowed Steven in the ribs, and received a response in kind.

Jessica fixed them with one of her best “I’m going to kill you both” looks. “What’s so funny. Just because I’m am wearing a living brooch on my coat doesn’t mean it’s not fashionable.”

The incongruity of her statement made her blush, and the rest of them fell apart laughing. Jessica scowled at them again, and then waited impatiently until they calmed down. While she waited, she quietly whispered to the cat.

“Are you done yet? I want to know what happened this morning. I don’t like the idea of Gregory chasing anyone, or threatening them because of me. This is serious.” Jessica’s revelation quickly squelched the nervous giggling.

“Umm, you’re right. We had better get down to brass tacks here. We need to know what happened to both of us, and then decide how to proceed.” Without much preamble Katie immediately became all business. She had trained for years for similar kinds of harassment, and threats that were being made, and she was ready to jump in with both feet.

The next thirty minutes or so were spent recapping both women’s ordeals. Everyone was amazed at the fact that Deborah’s family had involved themselves so readily in Jessica’s affairs. Of course injuring a member of their family, while trying to eliminate Jessica didn’t win Gregory and his goons any popularity points.

Jessica was especially concerned about Kate’s ordeal that morning, and the fact that Gregory was so close to finding out where Kate lived. The last thing she wanted was for Gregory to find her, and attempt to harm her. Or use her for extortion.

“What would you think if we moved this entire operation to another location, say a security hotel downtown somewhere?” Jessica ventured forth with the question. Somehow she knew before she said it that she would be met with opposition.

Kate surprised her though. “I think you might be right. We would all probably be safer, if we weren’t so easy to find. All he has to do is contact Diane, or one of his buddies, and soon enough we’ll be found. With my luck, he’ll probably blow the place up.” This was met by a semi-terrified look from Steven.

Michael comforted his friend, and then added his comments. “I’ll book the rooms. If you don’t mind, I think we would get along better, if we weren’t under each other’s feet all of the time. I’ll need to know if there is anything special anyone wants or needs for your temporary lodging.” Kate asked if she could have a modem line. She wanted to be able to maintain contact with Laura.

They discussed further details, and then made plans to be safely in their new location by nightfall. Fresh cups of coffee were handed around, and then silence fell among them as they contemplated their collective futures. Jessica was at the highest risk, because of the responsibilities of her job. Kate refused to be locked away. She felt that her place was right beside her boss.

A heated discussion was about to ensue, when a loud knocking sounded at the door. Michael and Steven ducked behind the couch, while Kate dropped to the floor, and crawled to the small window that flanked the front door. Jessica got ready to cover her on the other side, when Kate carefully pulled the curtain aside just a tiny bit. Suddenly Kate was rolling backwards on the floor. She landed on her feet, and in one fluid motion she was in combat stance. The others visibly paled, expecting Gregory, and a group of gun wielding terrorists to come busting through the door, and fill them all full of lead.

Kate did her best to stay as straight faced as possible. When she could no longer contain herself, she let out a loud “HYAHHH!”, and then grabbed the knob and threw open the door. Standing on the front porch, looking every bit as though she had been caught naked at the grocery store, was Diane, Steven and Kate’s boss.

“WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?!?!? Give me a heart attack or something. Honey! You scared the daylights out of me. What is wrong with you?” Diane was alternately yelling, and stomping one foot as she stepped into the room, and stopped each time to address Kate, who was laughing so hard she almost wet her pants.

Michael and Steven, were visibly shaken. They were certain that they were about to meet death. No one expected to see the devil in a blue dress and stilletos that came in the door. Jessica was the most bewildered of all. She hadn’t realized that Kate had such a warped, and yet cute sense of humor. She caught Kate’s eye, and then tilted her head, and smiled a half grin.

“I am so sorry you guys.” Kate pleaded to her friends. “It was getting so intense in here, I thought I might loosen it all up a bit. I didn’t mean to scare all of you.”

“Honey, what has gotten into you? Geez, after the morning I’ve had, what with the office being torn apart and all, the last thing I need is to have you Hyahing, and scaring me half to death.” Diane was still huffing and angry.

Jessica was the first to process what Diane had just said. “You said your office was torn apart? Tell us what happened.”

Diane, always ready to be in the center spotlight, settled in to tell her story. “I got in around 9:00 this morning, because you know I see my yoga teacher before I come into work. Oh I just love yoga, and . . .” She paused when she got a collective glare from the group. “Okay, okay. Anyway, someone broke in through the door, by jimmying the lock, and basically ransacked everything. The only thing missing was Kate’s personnel file folder.”

Kate turned a sad look in Jessica’s direction. Jessica wanted to reach for her, and hold her, but she wasn’t sure if that would be appreciated given Diane’s presence. Or her brother and Steven for that matter. After all, Jess, she may change her mind after this.

Steven was the first to speak. “Maybe we should start packing up and getting ready to leave here. There can’t be much time before they find us.”

Diane looked around the room, questions crossing her perfectly made up features. “Who’s coming, and why are we packing? What don’t I know here?”

Kate shook herself out of her shock and depair, and attempted to bring Diane up to speed. “So, you see, they are trying to use me to find Jessica. Apparently Gregory is trying to kill Jessica. We believe he may have some sort of Insurance policy on her that gives him everything if she is killed on the job. She was supposed to go and sign it today, but we decided that was definitely not going to happen. He needed my file, to find out where we live, to either locate Jessica, or find me.”

Diane seemed to consider, and then process all of the information she had just heard. “Why would he want to find you? What if Jessica wasn’t here if he came here. Why would he need to bother with you?”

Jessica stepped in this time. “It wouldn’t be beyond Gregory to kidnap Kate and use her as leverage against me. He knows I wouldn’t sacrifice her or anyone else for my problems. If I didn’t go to him, he would torture, or kill her. The man is insane.”

“Well, good thing he didn’t get the information he was seeking.” Diane said noncommittally.

All eyes immediately turned in her direction. “What do you mean he didn’t get the information?” Jessica asked quietly.

“Oh, darlin’, I’m sorry, I took the papers out, and mis-filed them when I sent the file out for copying, and loading onto a disk. I am trying to join the 90’s with my filing. So far though, I have a long way to go to get caught up.” Diane took on a look of deep regret.

The group looked around at each other, and breathed a sigh of relief. “That buys us some time. Let’s get busy and start packing to go. Kate, I’ll help you, and Michael you help Steven. Try to keep it light folks, and don’t leave anything around that might lead them to us.” Jessica decided to take charge of this operation.

Michael made the appropriate phone calls, and then he and Steve started packing a suitcase, and gathering some of the necessary business paraphenalia for Steven’s job. They left first, planning to stop at Michael’s place, and then go on to the hotel. In the midst of all of the activity, Diane decided to leave and take care of some other business. She promised to be in contact with them all later.

All that was left, was to take care of Kate and her belongings. Jessica lost track of her, and after a small search found her sitting on the back porch staring at the flowers. Kate didn’t turn to see who was there when Jessica came out the back door.

Hesitating for a moment, Jessica reached to touch her shoulder, and then pulled back. “I don’t bite, you know. I’m just trying to gather my thoughts together. This is all happening so fast, and I’m just a little shook up. I mean what about Corky and Violet?” Kate was softly crying.

Jessica smiled. So that was the problem. Piece of cake. “Kate? Do you actually think that I was just talking to Corky about my problems? I should say not. I told her to pack her bags, that mommy, Violet, Jessica, and Corky were going on a vacation. She thought it would be fun, but she wanted to know if we could leave Violet here. She said Gregory could have her if he wanted her, because the Corky could have all of the cookies to herself.” Jessica held her breath.

Her imagination was soon rewarded. Kate jumped from her seat, and wrapped her arms around Jessica’s neck, squeezing her tightly. “I just didn’t know how you would feel, and I . . .I . . .I couldn’t leave them. I couldn’t. I was contemplating getting a gun, and barracading myself in here. I knew that was a stupid thought. But . . .”

Jessica placed her fingers over Kate’s lips effectively stopping her sobs for a moment. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m not leaving you or your babies to that bastard. If he harmed any of you, I wouldn’t be able to control myself. No way, you’re all going with me, or I am not going. And that’s final.”

Kate buried her face in the soft shoulder of Jessica’s shirt. Her mind was spinning with all the things that were happening. Just three days prior she was a PA for an aging Diva, and now she was involved in a life or death situation, and she was rapidly falling in . . . well, maybe, just maybe, love. I think I’m losing my mind. I need to think, but I can’t. Later . . . . . .

Kate took Jessica by the hand, and led her into the house. After making a preliminary trip through the house to determine what was important, and what wasn’t they packed a medium duffle bag with Kate’s clothes, and then another with kitty toys, and food etc. for Corky and Violet. Jessica busied herself with loading the bags and cat supplies into Kate’s car. She was very proud of herself that she remembered the cat box, and all the various things that go along with that. She had never had a pet, but she knew the basics.

A very short time later, Jessica went in search of Kate. She was starting to worry again about allowing herself to fall victim to her emotions. Jessica had spent so much of her life hiding her feelings from the rest of the world, that she was starting to have doubts. Do I continue this? Am I wrong? I should just back off, and let her go. I’ll end up hurting her or worse. I need to think. But I can’t. I have to think. Later . . . . .

Kate was sitting at her desk downloading information from her PC to a laptop computer. Corky was sitting on her lap, while Violet was draped over the top of her desk. Jessica stood in the doorway for a moment, she was debating on whether or not she should go in. She almost felt like she did not belong in this picture. Maybe I can disappear before anybody figures out I’m gone.

Corky saw her first, and started meowing at her new friend. “Aren’t thinking about taking off now are you?” Kate startled her out of her thoughts.

“No, I , no I.” Jessica had a “deer in the headlights” look.

Kate turned, and smiled. Her look totally melted away any misgivings and fear that were building in Jessica’s heart. Kate tilted her head and held out her hand. “I didn’t know you could speak Spanish. No hay hmmm? Que paso? Muy malo, chica?”

Jessica blushed, and took the offered hand, her much larger hand completely wrapping around those delicate fingers. “No, I mean yes, I mean to say, that . . . well, I don’t know what I’m saying. Stupid cat anyway. Does she have radar or what?”

Kate giggled, and stroked Corky’s head. “Maybe she does. I think though, that she likes laying on your shoulder. Her primary focus is comfort, and she thinks that your shoulder is the most comfortable she’s laid her head on yet. And, truth be told, I agree with her. She is a very sensible person, don’t you think?”

The two women’s eyes locked. Both gazes were unwavering. It almost seemed as though a curtain of energy had been lifted, and they were seeing each other for the first, or maybe the hundredth time. Jessica bent slowly, never losing her grip on those beautiful emerald pools. Touching her lips softly to Kate’s equally as soft lips, she refused to break her gaze. Whether from fear of rejection, or fear of waking from a dream, she kept her eyes open and locked in place. Slowly Kate’s eyes closed, a feeling of utter trust, and security wrapping her up like a favorite old blanket. Deepening her response, and flirting with the idea of throwing caution to the wind, Jessica stood back up, pulling Kate into her arms as she did. Both women felt as though they were moving through a warm pool of still water. Nothing around them mattered. Slowly Jessica extended her tongue, brushing along Kate’s lips politely requesting entry. Kate responded immediately drinking from her partner’s invitation like a hummingbird to a flower.

The fire slowly built in intensity. Jessica from a long practiced exile from happiness or personal pleasure, and Kate, a self-imposed restraint born by a need to succeed, and a deep fear brought by her brutal rape the prior year, and an inability to get close to anyone since she had been treated so horribly by someone she thought she cared about.

Hands began to move of their own accord, lightly touching, caressing each surface they touched. The phone began to ring, and went largely unnoticed so intense was the energy passing between the two women.

Suddenly the loud and evil sound, that could only be Gregory broke through the veil of passion that surrounded them. BEEP! “READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!! Be ready little rabbit. Big daddy’s on his way. He’s going to show you what a real man is like, and then you’re going to take him to his bad girl wife. Act right, do what I say, and you’ll come out of this only slightly damaged. Fight me, and I’ll kill you. After I get what I want. Hard or easy, babe. It’s your call. Toodle-oooo.”

Quickly, but reluctantly they separated. Kate disconnected the laptop, and grabbed Corky, while Jessica grabbed the snoozing Violet. They both shoved their reluctant passengers into the cat carrier Kate had brought earlier from the garage. She silently promised them she would make up for it later. Running to the closet in her office, she grabbed a larger, heavy duffle bag. Jessica grabbed it from her has they hastened out the door to Kate’s car. Kate carefully placed the cat carrier in the back seat of her car, and then indicated that Jessica should put the large bag back there too.

As they jumped into the car, Jessica began to fear that they would be too late, that they might not make it out of the driveway before Gregory arrived. As Kate started the car, and threw it into reverse, her cell phone rang. Digging in her fanny pack, she withdrew the phone and grazed the button with her thumb.

“Hello?” she said hesitantly. “Diane? What’s going on? Where are you? You WHAT? Diane, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you looking out for us, but you might have gotten yourself killed. No, thanks, you’re a real pal, you know that don’t you? We’ll see you later. Call first. If our cover gets blown, we’ll be on the run again. Love you too Diane.”

Kate hung up, and slowly dropped her phone back in her bag. Jessica’s patience wearing thin, she couldn’t wait for Kate to tell her what had just happened. “So? What happened? What’s going on?” She sounded exasperated.

“Calm down. I’m thinking. Diane, Gods love her, but she can be real stupid sometimes, went down to the office building where Jackson Briggs’ office is located. She had a feeling that if Gregory didn’t find my information, the next stop would probably be Jackson’s office. She was right. She stood around, waiting to see when they left, and called me immediately. She doesn’t think anyone saw her, but she wanted to make sure we were gone.” Kate slowed down in traffic now, the urgency to get away waning by each mile.

“If they’re just now leaving Jackson’s office, then it will be at least 30-40 minutes before they get to your house. That will give us a great lead, and time to get settled before I have to go to work.” Jessica visibly relaxed.

“Oh, I forgot you still have to work tonight. Well, you’re not going alone. Since I am now officially an employee, I expect to be in your general vicinity at all times. And there won’t be any discussion about it either. Boy, now I am glad I brought my other bag along.” Kate was thinking aloud.

Jessica almost started to argue about Kate going to work with her, but decided she probably wouldn’t win anyway. Her thoughts turned to the heavy duffle bag sitting next to the surprisingly quiet cat carrier. “What’s in that bag anyway? It was pretty heavy. And what’s wrong with the cats? They’re so quiet.

Kate shot a quick glance over her shoulder at the cat carrier. “Violet has a tendency to get car sick, and Corky hates it. Corky’s probably bunched in the corner with her skirts up, praying that Violet holds it until we get there. Violet is just plain praying. Oh, and the bag? It’s full of weapons. An MK-47 assault rifle, a Kendo Samurai sword, some throwing stars, a Glock 9mm revolver with a 90 round speed loader, and various other support items. I also have two flak jackets, and both a stun gun, and several pepper spray cannisters. Oh, and there’s also rounds of ammunition for all of the guns. I hate guns, and actually I hate violence. But sometimes . . . .” Her thought was interrupted by Jessica’s first gasp of disbelief, and then her nervous chuckles.

“Hades, don’t ever let me make you mad. What are you doing with all of that stuff anyway? Is it yours? I mean like are you licensed to have all that stuff?” Jessica was blown away. Figuratively speaking of course.

Kate shot her a sideways glance. “I thought you read my resume’.” She playfully admonished her friend. “I am a highly, and expensively trained killing machine. Each of those weapons were registered and given to me as I completed each phase of my training. I didn’t ever expect to have a use for them, but I didn’t want to leave them laying around. You never know who might find them, and to what end that would come. I just feel better having them with me. Besides, if we end up with a show down at the OK Corral, maybe we’ll have a fighting chance.”

Jessica turned her head so fast she almost gave herself whiplash. Her long dark hair whipped across her eyes, slapping her in the face. “Excuse me?” She stared incredulously.

Kate giggled at her reaction. “Don’t worry. I could never shoot another living being, even if it was Gregory. But you have to admit, 5 feet 4 inches tall, wielding an MK-47 assault rifle is a pretty formidable picture. Besides, the vests might come in handy. Don’t you wear a jumpsuit on your show?” Kate knew very well what Kendra Knight was regularly attired in. She knew every curve by heart. However, she was much too embarrassed to show the depth of her obsession.

“Hmmm, you know very well what Kendra Knight wears. Did you forget we were just standing in your office a minute or two ago?” Jessica was grinning slyly.

The thought hadn’t occurred to Kate at the time, but now she was thoroughly embarrassed. “Oh, ” she said quietly, “I wasn’t thinking. I’m so sorry. Actually if I could, I would crawl under a rock and die right about now. AUUGGHHHH!” She slapped the steering wheel with the palm of her hand.

Jessica let her have her moment, then reached over and took her free hand. “Hey, it’s okay. Sometimes entertainers get so wrapped up in what they do, they forget the fans. And quite often, they are offended by the attention. I’m probably more embarrassed by it than you are. When you go through life being reminded about how to stand, how to look, how to act, constantly pretending to be someone else, and forever being taken advantage of by pond scum, it is hard to believe that anyone would be interested in you. Especially when you don’t like yourself . . . .I guess I don’t find what I do, or who I am very admirable. It’s just a job. I . . . don’t feel glamorous. I’m not sure I could be glamorous.”

Kate looked out the side window, contemplating her response. “Well, I must say that’s not the usual response I expect from an actress. However, I think you’re underselling yourself. Just from my use of the internet alone, the fan response to you, and your show is overwhelming. And glamour? Not important to the average fan. I mean I’m sure there are those moments, when they do a photo shoot with you in evening wear, or whatever. But the actual photos that get the responses are when you are dressed down in casual stuff, and they don’t have you layered in tons of makeup. My favorite is the Valentine’s Day picture they took of you in the tuxedo. It was very . . . . hot. Besides, most of the people I talk to like you for your honesty, and your natural, friendly attitude. Even though, your “representatives” depict you as hard, cold, and a bear to work with. Diane told me you eat PA’s for breakfast.”

Jessica blushed first with embarrassment at the compliments, and then with anger at the way she was represented to the public. She was left without a response to either claim. She decided to avoid the issue for now. “So, did anyone ever tell you that you have a gift for gab? That’s very admirable. I often have a hard time communicating with people. I guess it’s just from years of training to keep my mouth shut and go unnoticed. Maybe that’s why people think I’m so mean. But, really it’s just to be invisible.”

Kate stole a sideways glance at her. Jessica had such a sad look on her face, that Kate wished she could stop the car and just hold her. “Hey,” she gave the hand she was holding a squeeze, “I don’t think you’re mean, and I never have. I don’t trust anything anyone tells me about other people without meeting those people first. I learned a long time ago, to form my own impressions. It wouldn’t be right to do otherwise.”

Jessica pulled Kate’s hand to her lips and kissed the back of it tenderly holding it against her cheek with her eyes closed. After a few moments, her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of light crying coming from Kate.

“What’s wrong? I didn’t hurt your feelings did I? I wouldn’t want to do that. I would rather die. ” Jessica was deeply concerned.

Kate shook her head, trying to hold her tears in check. Taking several deep breaths, she forced herself to calm down. “It’s just the feeling of pain, that I feel from you. It’s not right. I want to hold you, and make it all go away. Mean people SUCK!”

Their discussion was interrupted by two simultaneous incidents. The traffic in front of them had ground to a sudden halt, and poor Violet couldn’t hold herself in check any longer. She heaved twice, and then exploded in the carrier. Corky immediately began yowling. Kate looked apologetically at Jessica. She was sure that this whole scenario must really be making the actress sick. It’s not every day you get to witness a carsick cat in rush hour traffic.

“Oh, Gods, I’m so sorry. That is so gross. If I had known we were going to travel today, I wouldn’t have fed her. Poor Corky! She’s probably standing on her tiptoes about now.” Kate was stricken.

Jessica kissed the back of her hand again, and then much to Kate’s surprise unfastened her seat belt, and turning in her seat reached for the cage, grabbed Corky first setting her on the seat. Then without removing Violet, she took the small blanket that provided the floor for the cage, and carefully rolled it up, effectively keeping its contents from spilling. Making sure that Violet was settled again, she closed the door, picked Corky up and turned back in her seat. Fastening her seat belt, she settled in for the rest of their ride, Corky quite smugly nestled on Jessica’s chest, with her head under her chin.

Kate stared at her in disbelief. “You, uhh, you just . . . .” She couldn’t finish her sentence.

“What? They were in distress, as were you, so I thought I could help. Is that okay?” Jessica smiled at her bewildered friend.

“Umm, yes, of course it is. I’m just, umm, well, surprised. All though I’m ashamed of myself for being so. Why would I think that just because you are who you are, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t take care of the cats. I should close my mouth while I’m behind.” Kate turned her gaze back to the traffic, clearly embarrassed, for about the millionth time.

Jessica was thoroughly amused. Jessie, Jessie, Jessie! What do you think you are doing? Being happy. For as long as it lasts. Because I feel great.

Several more minutes, and Kate signaled to exit from the freeway. They managed to work their way through the busy traffic, and then before too much more time went by, ended up at the hotel.

Michael had chosen wisely. He had reserved cottages for them at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Each cottage has its own security system, and the management is very discreet, an protective of their guests. Many entertainers, and other wealthy people had stayed there, and more than once an irate husband or wife had tried to bribe, cajole, or threaten the staff into leading them to their spouses. Not once has a staff member ever given in. It was an unwritten rule, that they formed an inpentrable barrier against the outside world. Of course, you had to pay for the privilege, but it was well worth it to those who could afford it.

Kate had driven by here hundreds of times, and fantasized about staying in one of the cottages, or even the main hotel. She never would have believed that she would be going into hiding with her boss here. They pulled into the driveway in front of the lobby, and allowed the valet, and the bell boy to take charge of the car. The staff offered to take the cats as well, but Kate was reluctant.

“Tell you what, why don’t we let them take the carrier, the blanket and the cats, and get everyone cleaned up and comfortable. Then when they’re done, they can bring them over to the cottage. They’ll take good care of them, and feed them as well. I promise, nothing bad will happen.” Jessica tried to reassure Kate.

Kate looked at her pensively. “Okay, if you say so. But . . . . .we’ve never been separated, and I would feel bad if they were upset. If you think they’ll be alright, well okay.” She grimaced slightly at the thought of being separated from her best friends.

Jessica took Kate’s arm, and followed the bell boy down the pathway to their cottage. Jessica gave the bell boy a tip, and then ordered a menu for room service. While she took care of business, she failed to notice Kate standing in the corner, looking bewildered, and out of place.

Quickly she crossed the room, and then stopped short of grabbing Kate and wrapping her tightly in an embrace. She correctly guessed that this could be part of the problem.

“What’s wrong? Would you like another room? What can I do to make you feel better?” She realized she was babbling, but she didn’t know what else to do.

Kate felt terrible that she hurt her friend, without really even trying. “Wait, I just . . ., I don’t know what’s wrong. I guess things are moving so fast, that I can’t keep up. Yesterday, I meet you in the restroom of your agent’s office building, and today I’m sharing a room with you in a luxury hotel. I couldn’t even afford a towel from here, let alone spend the night. I mean. . . .I don’t know what I mean. This is all so weird. Sit down with me here at the table. We need to talk about all of this.” She realized she was babbling as well, but things were so crazy. She really wanted to be here with Jessica, but she didn’t want to seem like a freeloader either.

Bewildered and confused herself, Jessica sat down in the chair that Kate indicated for her. “Listen, I understand if you want to back out of all of this. I mean, I’ve endangered your life, kissed you at least three times without an invitation, and basically thrown myself lock, stock, and dysfunction at you. This would make a great soap opera. I haven’t even taken you to the personnel office, and set you up with any of the important stuff. Probably because I don’t know what the important stuff is that I need to set you up with. There is always someone who takes care of everything. I’m surprised I get to go to the bathroom without an entourage. I never carry any money, or credit cards. The money I gave the bell boy was from Michael. I just sign the paper, and do my job. Somewhere, my money gets deposited, or invested, but where or how I don’t even have a clue. Unfortunately Gregory takes care of a large part of that. . . . .”

Kate reached over and took Jessica’s hand, effectively silencing her for a moment. “Hey, talk about gift of gab. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just feel like a freeloader. I mean I realize that in the classic sense I work for you now, but I feel bad. I should be paying for some of this. As far as endangering my life, well in the big picture, this is the most fun I have had in a long time. And the kisses?” Kate had the decency to blush right about now. “I think they did more to endanger my life, than Gregory and all of his sorry ass sheep. I just don’t want you to think I am taking advantage of you. I feel like I better tell you about the depth of my fandom. I don’t want there to be any secrets between us. And I want our friendship, and our working relationship to be as honest as possible.”

Jessica considered everything that Kate had just said. She took a moment to stare deep into Kate’s emerald eyes, and see if she could find any reason not to believe in her. Nothing came to mind. Nothing but honesty, and a great deal of passion. About herself, and her beliefs. Jessica could find no fault in those attributes. She stood up, and getting down on bended knee, responded in the best way she could.

“Kate, I don’t have any qualms about our friendship or our working together. I’ve spent so much time being around people whose only goal in life is to literally suck the life out of you. I don’t see you doing that. I would quit today, if it meant making a pathway for you in my life. I need you.” She couldn’t say anymore. She found herself choking up.

“Well, I still think I need to tell you about my hobbies. You see, and this is quite embarassing, but I, as well as several of my internet friends and acquaintances, well, we write.” Kate began wringing her hands nervously.

“Yes, lots of people write to each other on the internet.” Jessica was trying to help her along.

“No, I mean yes, they do. But this is different. We write stories. Lots of stories. They are called fan fiction. You know, like about your favorite TV show. See what I mean?” Kate looked at Jessica for any signs of recognition. Unfortunately none were coming forth.

“What kind of stories are these? By your reaction, I might think they were like about me, and my show, and me having sex with Deborah my costar, or you for instance or something.” Jessica couldn’t help it. She was starting to make Kate squirm, and she kind of enjoyed it. Someone at the studio had showed her a story about her a long time ago. She thought it was pretty amazing stuff, but the studio discouraged the performers from reading any more. They didn’t want them to compromise the work that was already being done for them. She thought it quite flattering that Kate wrote stories about her. She just hoped that they didn’t start including her private life. That made her stop and look at Kate for a moment.

Kate was now deeply embarrassed. It was beginning to seem like embarrassed was a good buzz word for this relationship. “Oh well, I guess you do read minds. Yeah, that’s right we do write about Kendra Knight, and we put her into all kinds of well, situations. And yes, oh shoot, you do have relationships with your costar, and various villains, and especially with me. Oh GOD! I can’t believe I just told you that. Kill Me Now!!!” Kate covered her face with her hands.

Jessica gave her a moment, and then burst into laughter. “Hey it’s okay. I read a fanfic story a long time ago. I think it’s great that it inspires people to bring out their creativity. I just have one request. Please don’t go an start describing my private life, okay? That would probably freak me out. Other than that, knock yourself out. Heck, show me some one of these days. Even thought we are not supposed to read it, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Now listen, I need to get off this floor, and eat something before work. What about you? Oh, and if it’s too much for you, I’ll sleep on the sofa. I don’t mind, and I don’t want you to feel pressured.”

Kate held her hands out, and helped Jessica stand up. “I appreciate that. And thanks again for everything. I think you are probably the nicest person I have ever met in this business, with the exception of Lola. Of course she had her moments, but I forgave her. She was always trying to get me into bed. I never gave in, but she kept trying. It got to be a game. I will always love her though, you can put money on that.” Without out thinking, Kate pulled herself into Jessica’s embrace, and standing on her tiptoe’s, kissed her lightly on the lips.

Jessica smiled warmly, and then held her tightly. She didn’t want to spoil the moment by pushing the issue. They stood like that for several minutes, and then a knock at the door interrupted them.

Kate reluctantly broke the embrace, and waving Jessica back behind her, slowly peeked in the spy-hole, and checked to see who was there. Steven and Michael were standing outside the door, with the cat carrier, and both cats. Kate unlocked the door, and let them in. Releasing the cats from their plastic prison, she was delighted to see that they had been brushed, and bathed, and blow dried. The three B’s. She gave each of them a hug, and then turned them loose to explore the cottage. Jessica had already busied herself setting up the cat box in the bathroom. That still blew Kate away. An actress setting up a cat box.

—————————————————————–

The story of love is not important.
What is important is that one is capable of love.
It is perhaps the only glimpse we are permitted of eternity.

********Helen Hayes********
CHAPTER SEVEN: And the band played on . . . . .
Michael was the first to make a suggestion about getting Jessica to the studio, and then back again. “I think we should either hire another car, or check with the hotel, and see if they can transport you. Oh, and I would highly recommend that you contact Mr. Director, and make sure that he does everything he can to keep Gregory occupied. Event though it’s your money that’s financing the show now, it’s made to look like Gregory is the one. He might make a major scene, and then he’s close to you. Too close! I really think it is a good idea for Kate to be going with you. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can get us something realiable for transport after this. As long as we can keep him out of here, we should be okay.”

Jessica mulled over his suggestions, and then the group made their minor suggestions. Kate was surprisingly quiet. She seemed to be somewhere else entirely. And not necessarily a bad place, judging by the look on her face. Steve was just plain excited about the whole thing. It was like playing international spy.

Michael and Steven decided to take off for a while, and check on the car situation. Jessica waited until they were gone, and then decided to take a shower, and get ready for work. Kate was sitting at the table staring out into space again, a silly grin on her face. However, when Jessica started to take her clothes off, Kate’s attention was suddenly drawn back to the here and now. Like lightening striking the back of her head. She was not sure where to look, or what to look at.

Jessica not even thinking, grabbed her bag, and started to dig through it looking for something to wear to the studio. She heard very faintly, a sort of strangling sound from behind her. Again without thinking, she turned around to see if Kate was all right. Kate was trying desperately to count threads in the carpet, and to not stare. She could feel the crimson heat creeping up the back of her neck again.

Jessica could have slapped herself. “Oh God, I am so sorry. I forget that real people might not be as immodest as I am. I’m so used to undressing for costumers, and studio people, that it just comes naturally. I never was very modest anyway. I mean we’re all born naked aren’t we?” She smiled, and tried to make Kate giggle.

Kate swallowed four or five times, and then tried desperately to speak. “It’s okay, fine, not a problem. I’m a big girl, I can handle it. I mean we’re both adults, aren’t we? Of course we are. Umm, tell you what, while you’re in the shower, I’ll see if I can catch Laura. If I don’t check in with her every once in a while, she panics, and starts calling 911 to all of my friends down here. Not that I have any, but well, she’s unpredictable. Yeah, that’s just what I’ll do. Uh huh, you betcha.”

Jessica shrugged her shoulders, stirring up another of many successive jolts of lightening that ran up and down Kate’s spine. “Tell you what, when I get out, I’ll call the director, and get things going, then I’ll call the office, and have my Executive Secretary set up all of your personnel stuff. If you have a bank account where you want your checks to be deposited, leave the name of the bank, and the number on the table by the phone. It will be easier that way.” Then she turned, and went into the large bathroom.

As soon as she was out of sight, Kate threw her head between her knees, and breathed deeply ten times. All along, ever since she had been a fan, the internet topic would stray to the subject of what Jessica Ryan looked like without her clothes. Well, no more mystery there. Nope, no way. Okay, now someone needs to come and restart my heart, because I think I just might expire. Right now! Calm McKenna, calm. She needs you to protect her, not lust after her. But holy moly. I definitely will not be able to keep my mind on much for the next few. Whooo boy!

Kate took another moment to calm her nerves, and then pulled out her laptop. After a small search, she located the modem line, and plugged in, and then dialed for her E-mail. As expected, Laura left her a huge bunch of messages, about the job, and whether or not she was really taking it, and should Laura and April become worshippers now of Kate, etc. After a few moments, the buddy window popped up, indicating that Laura had signed on, and acknowledged Kate’s presence on the net.

Lady Knight: Hey there Goddess, pal of mine. So what’s up with you? Are you working for the true and only Jessica Ryan yet? Or is she waiting for me to relocate, and take your place? Just tell her I’m on my way.

PAK: Hey Laura. Yes, I started working for her this morning, indirectly. Umm, I can’t tell you everything, but someone is trying to hurt her, and I am going to do everything I can to protect her. Can you do me a favor? Use your resources, and see what you can find out about her husband Gregory. He’s bad stuff Laura. If we don’t stop him, he might kill her.

Lady Knight: Whoa, no way. You aren’t yanking my chain are you? That sounds like something right out of the movies.

PAK: I’m not kidding. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. At least not yet. Other than that, things have been . . . . wonderful. She really is a neat person. Friendly, funny, and well just great. We’re in hiding right now, so her husband doesn’t find us. Steven is with us too. It seems he may have a new boyfriend. Michael Ryan, Jessica’s brother. They are so cute together, and I just love Michael. You can tell he really love’s his sister too.

As the two friends chatted away, Jessica finished with her shower, and then dressed in black jeans, and a black turtle neck sweater. She came out of the bathroom, drying her long dark hair with a towel. Kate stole a quick look at her, and again had her breath taken away. She looked down in time to notice that she had just typed a bunch of garbage to Laura. Fortunately, she hadn’t sent it yet, or Laura would be on her in a second.

“How’s your friend Laura doing?” Jessica called to her.

“Huh? Oh, she’s fine. Just wondering where I’ve been. I asked her to do a project for us. She has an amazing number of contacts in the cyberworld. She is going to do some research on Gregory, and then download it to us later. I was just going to put her on standby for a moment, while I showered.” Kate was rapidly typing while she spoke.

PAK: Listen, we have to leave for the studio in a little while, so I need to take a shower. Stand by for a few minutes, okay? BRB!

Lady Knight: Okey dokey kiddo. I’ll be right here when you get back. I can spend some time reading my mail, and catching up.

While Kate took her bag into the bathroom to shower, Jessica used the hotel phone to call Ted, the director of her show. “Hey, Carrie, this is Jessica. Can you find Ted for me?”Jessica had to wait a few minutes, while Carrie, Ted’s assistant located him. She sat down at the table, and took a look at Kate’s computer, and the prior conversation with Laura. A mischievous streak took ahold of her, and she decided she would have some fun. She started typing a message to Laura, and then hit the send button.

PAK: Hey, I’m back. Fast shower. Listen, have I got a secret for you. Did you know that Jessica Ryan has four nipples. No kidding.

Lady Knight: Oh yeah, sure. And how pray tell do you know this? X-ray glasses or something. Give me a break kid! You haven’t even known her long enough to see her naked or anything. I’m telling you though, my money is on the two of you getting together. And soon. It’s about time too. Babe you need to put your past behind you, and find someone who can love you. Just for you, and no BS.

Jessica wished she could talk to Laura herself. She wanted to know more about Kate. Why she detected a small sorrow about her. Jessica was well aware about the rape, and that alone would be enough to mess up anyone’s mind. But it seemed as though there was something else. I guess we all have our secrets!

PAK: Actually, I have seen her naked. Apparently she’s not very modest. She undressed right in front of me. I almost died!

Just as Jessica hit the send button, she looked towards the bathroom to see Kate watching her mess with her friend Laura. She couldn’t tell for sure, but she thought, maybe she just might be in trouble. She tried the sheepish “Kid’s hand in the cookie jar” look, and was rewarded with a smile. A strained smile, but a smile just the same.

“What are you doing? I hope you aren’t making trouble for me. Laura’s pretty smart, but she is also a great dreamer. What did you tell her?” Kate inquired, a question in her eyes.

“I was just messing with her a bit. It’s still on the screen if you want to see it?” Jessica decided there was no lying to this girl. She pushed the chair back, so that Kate could get a look at the screen.

“Oh My God! I can’t believe you said that to her. Four nipples? Oh wow, she must be going crazy by now. And you told her I saw you naked? Oh man. This is too much. You’re nuts, you know that. Completely nuts.” Kate patted Jessica on the head, and then chucked her under the chin for good measure. Kate carefully hid her reaction to Laura’s statement about the two women getting together. She pretended not to notice.

She pushed Jessica back a little further, and then pulled another chair over, so she could try to undo some of the damage that Jessica may have just caused with her friend. Kate scrolled down the screen, to check out Laura’s response.

Lady Knight: Who is this? What alien has captured my friend, and taken over her body. No Kate McKenna I know would ever say that Jessica Ryan has four nipples. Not even in fun. WHO ARE YOU!

PAK: Calm down Laura! It’s me, and you’re right. That was her, Jessica. She thought it would be funny to mess with your head. No, you are right, she does not have four nipples. And, she’s sorry.

Lady Knight: Wait a minute babe, you just said I was speaking to Jessica Ryan. NOT! Don’t mess with me now. I love you kiddo, but that couldn’t have been her.

Kate turned to look at Jessica, who was watching over her shoulder, while she spoke with Ted. They had been hashing out their plan for the shoot that night, and what to do about Deborah’s absence. Jessica had an idea, but it involved Kate. She wasn’t sure she wanted to endanger her that way, or whether Kate would want to do it anyway. She would talk to her, and then let Ted know when they got to the sight.

Jessica said goodbye, and then scooting her chair forward, put her long arms around Kate, and then reaching for the keyboard typed in something that she was sure would identify herself to Laura.

PAK: Laura, go to my fan club sight, and type in Jessica Ryan Knightly where the sign in box is. Then type ardneK for the password. You’ll get to see the new screen capture’s for the next three episodes. They haven’t been released yet. Maybe then you’ll believe it’s really me.

Kate was impressed. She never would have thought that Jessica would give away such a major secret. Of course, Laura was the only one that Kate would trust with that kind of stuff, but Jessica wouldn’t necessarily know that. Moments later Laura came back, totally flipping out.

Lady Knight: Holy cow girlfriend. You do have a warped sense of humor. Katie was right. Listen. Be nice to my friend, or I’ll hunt you down myself. She needs someone like you in her life. And if my suspicions are correct, you need her too. Take care of her.

PAK: You bet Laura. I have every intention of taking the best possible care of her. No question about that at all. Talk to you later.

Kate sat quietly while her two friends, old and new signed off with each other. Part of her was scared. She couldn’t help wonder what the future might hold for her, and she was deeply afraid of rejection. Even before the rape, she had that succession of one or two nighters, except for Gina.

Gina was a beautiful 35-ish studio ornament. Executive Secretary this week, bit actress the next. She never seemed to quite find her knitch in life. Kate met her at an AIDS auction, and fell instantly in like with her. Unfortunately she hadn’t realized what a good actress Gina was. They started dating, going all kinds of places having a great time together. Whenever they had sex though, it was always at Kate’s house. Gina also started to have mysterious gaps in time. She would cancel dates, or have to rush off somewhere. Kate began to wonder if she wasn’t seeing someone else.

Two or three months after they began seeing each other, Gina invited Kate to her home. The two had been drinking, and Kate was pretty drunk. Gina began undressing her, and Kate went along. Suddenly she heard a noise from the corner of the room, and realized that they were not alone. Apparently Gina was married. She and her husband would use Gina as bait, and lure women home, and then try to get them to participate in sex with first the wife, and then both of them. On this particular occasion, there were others as well. Another couple was present and observing as though watching a play at the theater, or a movie.

Kate was so disgusted, and sickened, she gathered her things and fled. She never spoke to Gina again, and she never went back to any of the places she knew Gina would probably frequent. She stayed in bed for days, and was physically ill for a large part of the time she was down. Kate finally told Laura, and then Steven. They were the only ones to know what happened.

Kate thought about that time while she watched Jessica talking to Laura. The thoughts made her start to shake slightly, and she felt as though she might be ill. She quickly turned away, so that Jessica couldn’t see the fear in her eyes. She had no way of knowing if Jessica could ever do anything like that to her, and she very seriously doubted it. Even Laura had already cast her vote of confidence. It just made Kate so scared to open herself up to anyone again. She alternately felt ugly, and unclean. Or just not deserving of anyone’s care and love. This was not going to be easy.

Kate walked over to the window, and stared out for a moment. She had already allowed herself to let Jessica kiss her, and she had kissed her back. From that extent she knew she was still capable of feelings. Boy was she ever. But, trusting someone with her heart. There in lay the dilemma. She was scared. Really scared.

Kate shook herself from her dark thoughts, and decided not to decide. Concentrate on her job, and let time bring her what may. What was it that Laura was always saying? Oh yeah, go with the flow, and ride with the tide.

Jessica turned to Kate, and interrupted any further thought on the subject. “Okay, so what do I do to shut this thing off. We’re done talking, I guess.”

Kate walked back over, and reaching for the laptop, signed off the internet, and then shut the power off. Closing the computer, she unplugged it, and slipped it into it’s case. As she crossed over to where her things were stowed, Jessica noticed the tenseness, and the pale color of Kate’s skin.

“Are you alright? You don’t look like you feel very well.” Jessica asked concerned.

“Oh, I’m okay thanks. Just . . . I don’t know, I guess someone just walked across my grave or something. I’ll be fine. We should start getting together the things we want to take to the studio.” Kate tried to shrug off her fears, and change the subject.

Jessica kind of felt that this had to do with her, but she wasn’t sure what the problem was. She figured that if she kept her mouth shut, and tried to feel what Kate was feeling before she took advantage of her, then maybe things would be okay. The last thing she wanted to do was scare, or hurt Kate in any way. Jessica went over where Kate was sorting through her equipment bag, and stood quietly waiting until she was needed.

Kate babbled on about this weapon, and that weapon. She had decided that they definitely needed the flak jackets, and maybe a boot dagger for each of them. She also reluctantly included a small .38 caliber ladies pistol in a shoulder holster under her arm. She doubted she could use it, but if push came to shove, she didn’t know what she might be capable of. She also pulled out her special keychain. It was a small bar of steel, that when used correctly, could severely disable an attacker.

Jessica continued to watch, used to going through weapons inventories, especially because of the show. She greatly admired the ease with which her friend, and employee rambled on, sorting through all of the instruments of death at her disposal. Jessica was quite familiar with most of the weapons. Both from her own past, from her current job, and from her own training. She was content to continue listening, when she remembered what she and Ted had talked about concerning Deborah’s absence.

“Oh, I almost forgot. We have a small problem for the shoot tonight, and I was wondering if you might want to help out.” Jessica tried not to sound pushy, but she was hoping Kate would take her offer.

“Anything you want. What’s the problem?” Kate inquired, curious now.

“Well, with Deborah down, they have been having a hard time finding someone of the same size, and the same martial arts abilities to take her place. I was thinking that maybe you might be able to fill in. Most of the face is covered with prosthetics anyway, so it would be easy to slip you in. And the voice can be done after using Deborah for overdubbing. What do you think?” Jessica waited, mentally crossing her fingers.

Kate considered the offer. She had never had any aspirations of being an actress, but the idea wasn’t totally distasteful to her. “Well, if it will help you guys out, then sure. Just don’t expect great things from me, because I’ve never done anything like this before. Besides, it will allow me to be closer to you during the shoot. In case Gregory or any of his cronies try something. I just hope I don’t mess things up for you is all.”

Jessica smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll help you through it. We’ll be together for the entire shoot, so we should be okay. I appreciate you wanting to help us.”

“Well hey, that’s where I can most effectively do my job, so that’s where I’ll be.” Kate tried desperately to convince herself.

Soon after settling the evening’s plan, Kate set herself on the task of feeding the cats, and then getting them ready to spend the evening by themselves in the hotel room. She originally wanted to keep them locked away in the bathroom, but Jessica told her it wasn’t necessary. That the staff would check on them, and if there were any problems, they would take care of them. Kate was quite frankly stunned that the hotel would let them keep the two animals in the room with them. She had assumed that they would be exiled to the kitty prison. But once again, Jessica came through. She refused to let them separate Kate from her pets. Jessica wasn’t normally a demanding guest, but sometimes being a star came in handy.

Michael and Steven returned soon after. Michael assured both women that the car that was coming for them was a trusted friend of his. The man danced at one or two clubs in the area, and hung out with some of the same people that Michael did. He had been driving for various companies in Hollywood for quite a few years, and was well trained in terrorist aversion etc.

Michael took off to take care of some business he had, and left Steven to fend for himself for a while. Steven called Diane, and she hooked him up with a dinner party gig for the evening. He was to escort the wife of a studio owner to some charity benefit. He quickly said his goodbye to the women, so that he could have some time to get showered and dressed for the party. Diane arranged for a car to pick him up at around sevenish.

That left the two women. Kate stood at the window idly looking out. Clouds had started to come in, and they were expecting some rain. She was just thinking how appropriate it was for her mood, when she realized that she was blatantly ignoring Jessica’s presence in the room.

Kate turned to address her, and was startled to see her with her head in her hands, a small trickle of tears slipping between her fingers. Kate quickly strode to her side, and crouching down in front of her, put her hands on Jessica’s knees to steady herself.

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” Kate didn’t want to push her.

Jessica took Kate’s hands, and stood helping her to her feet. “I feel like I am repeating myself, but I can’t stand to think I have contributed to your unhappiness. Please, if you don’t want to do this it’s alright. Just don’t stay because you think you have to. I’ll understand.”

Kate smiled a small half smile. “So, I’m that obvious am I? It’s not because of you that I’m unhappy right now. And it has nothing to do with the job. I want this job. The more time I spend with you the more sure of that fact I become. It’s just other stuff that’s bothering me. After reading Laura’s lecture to you about taking care of me, I dredged up some terrible things that have happened to me. Even before the rape. It has made it very hard to get close to anyone again. To feel loved or cared about. I don’t want you to feel as though I am leading you on. I am just so scared. I want to be happy, and I want you to be happy as well, but it is so hard for me to let go. To drop my carefully cultivated shields.”

Jessica smiled back, even through her tears. “Didn’t I just tell you that about myself not too long ago? I have admittedly built what I have felt was an impenetrable fortress around myself. No feelings, no happiness, no love. My little personal kingdom runs on survival, and duty. It has nothing to do with something so soft as personal happiness. And yet. Suddenly there is a small chink in the castle wall, and I see a very scared, but somehow determined little entity trying to gain entrance. I quite frankly like that little ray of sunshine that’s peeking in. There may be some dark clouds hovering over both of us, but I think it’s something we can get past. Until then, just know that I will understand, if you feel the need to bolt. I couldn’t, nor would I want, to make you think that you had to be a part of my life in any way.”

Totally without thinking on both their parts, the two women embraced each other, in a close tight hug. Kate without much thought, rubbed Jessica’s back to reassure her, that she was willing to work past their problems together. Jessica stroked Kate’s hair, silently praying that nothing she might do would bring harm, or scare Kate out of her life.

They separated, when a knock sounded on the door. Jessica quickly stepped to the spy hole, and looked to make sure that it was Michael’s friend, and not someone else. The driver held his ID up to the viewer, so that she could identify him. Satisfied that he was who he said he was, she opened the door. Kate grabbed the bag with the flak jackets in it, and then putting her winter coat on, dashed out the door, Jessica right behind her. They made sure that the door was locked tight behind them, and the alarm was set. The hotel management was very careful about having the codes changed each time a new person occupied the cottage.

The driver led them to the car, and after putting their things in the trunk, they took off for the set. The driver was very friendly, but also very alert to their surroundings. He took a round about way to the factory. Jessica had prearranged to have the costume and makeup people waiting for them on site.

When they arrived, they could see her limousine parked in the distance, away from the actual area. The studio had obviously spared no expense in the need to protect their star. At 10 foot intervals surrounding the entire grounds they had stationed a National Guard officer. The studio had pulled some strings, and convinced the Guard, that there had been some kind of terrorist death threats made against Ms. Ryan. Since most of them were fans of the show, they gladly volunteered their time, and equipment to insure her safety. Most of them didn’t believe there really was a threat, but it was good training for them should there be a terrorist assault on the country.

Inside the grounds, the studio had hired security guards, carefully placed in discreet locations throughout the entire facility. Not a single unauthorized person, was going to gain access to the grounds if anyone could help it. The expense was small considering what they would lose should their star be killed or injured.

Kate and Jessica were equally amazed at how extensive the coverage was. Jessica was still concerned about Gregory being so close. She almost suspected that he would go so far as to launch a bomb over the fence, but realized how silly that notion was. Still and all, she was glad that the protection was there even though she knew it couldn’t last.

Jessica led Kate over to the costume and makeup tent, and after explaining to the staff that she would be standing in for Deborah, she headed out to find Ted the director. He was busy with the camera crew setting up for the first shots. One of his assistants saw her approaching, and gave him the heads up. He turned and was visibly relieved to see her.

“Oh man, I am so glad to see you. So, what do you think about our security tonight? Pretty slick huh? I guess Justin was not too happy about Gregory threatening you. He’s launched a full scale investigation on his activities. It seems . . .” He stood close, and whispered conspiratorially. “well, supposedly he’s been embezzling from the studio, and if I were you, I would call an accountant, and a lawyer, and have your own books checked out. By what I’ve heard, they are going to put him away for a long, long time.”

Jessica regarded him thoughtfully. “Hmm, Justin huh? I think this the first time I could ever recall him getting directly involved in a situation like this. Most of the time he is content to be the studio owner, and let the peons drive the boat. Very interesting. I can only hope that somehow, someone will nail Gregory. Did you know he’s parked outside?”

Ted jumped, and looked behind him like Gregory was standing right there. “Shit, why didn’t you say something. I’ll have one of the girls get in touch with the head of the security team. I don’t want him anywhere near here. What if he launches a bomb over the fence or something.”

Jessica realized after he said it, how truly lame it sounded. She patted him on the shoulder, and was going to ask more questions, when a runner came and told her that they needed her in wardrobe. She politely excused herself, and headed back to the tent where she had left Kate. Judging by the noise emanating from behind the canvas, it was probably a good thing she did. She strode through the tent flaps, and stopped short at the spectacle in front of her.

Kate was on the floor, sitting on one of the male costumers, and holding his hands behind his back. She had leaned down close to his ear, and was whispering something to him. Jessica was sure it wasn’t “sweet nothings”.

“What ya doing there, red?” Jessica called good naturedly to her obviously unhappy friend.

Kate finished what she was saying to the costumer, and then turning scowled darkly at Jessica. “I am teaching this man some manners. No one, and I mean no one grabs me where he did, without an invitation. He has no idea how close he came to losing his arm.”

Jessica walked over, and putting her hands gently on Kate’s shoulders, persuaded her to let the poor guy go. “Hey slugger, it’s okay. He was only doing his job. Come on now, let him go. I’ll help you myself. Will that make you feel better?”

Kate reluctantly turned her captive loose, and then standing up, she brushed off her clothes, and then backed toward Jessica. Jessica encircled her from behind with her arm, and gently put her chin on the top of Kate’s head. Addressing the costumer, she smiled gently, and then tilting her head slightly put him to the test. “Tell me Jerry, were you trying to cop an uninvited feel, or were you actually helping her with her costume?”

Jerry, the costumer, blushed deeply effectively giving away his intentions. Jessica called the supervisor over, and asked her if for the time being she wouldn’t mind only having women as dressers for Kate. The staff had been together for so long, that if Jerry had tried to pull something like that on Jessica, or even Deborah, he probably would have gotten slapped, but with no harm done. Kate however was a different situation, and Jessica would not allow that kind of treatment where she was concerned.

After the staff had returned to their jobs, and the men had all exited to other parts of the set, Kate finally calmed down, and allowed Jessica to let go of her. “I’m sorry I reacted so harshly, but I wasn’t ready for that. I could have hurt him pretty badly. He just grabbed me, well . . . .in a not so nice manner, and then expected me to laugh at him. I suppose it was harmless, it just caught me by surprise.”

Jessica hugged her one more time, and then placing her hand lightly alongside Kate’s cheek, bent down slightly to look her directly in the eyes. “Don’t ever be concerned where your personal integrity is concerned. That guy has managed to grab just about every woman, and half the men on the staff. He thinks he’s really clever, but most of us can’t stand him. The last time he grabbed one of the guys, he received a black eye in exchange.”

Kate smiled, a little relieved that Jessica wasn’t mad at her. While she mulled over her reaction, Jessica had the supervisor bring over Kate’s gear. She insisted that they slip the flak jacket on first, and then fit the rest of the pieces over it. Kate was slightly smaller in size than Deborah, so the addition of the vest actually helped with the fit. After they fit the chest pieces, Jessic had to step over, and get into her own jumpsuit. The flak jacket didn’t fit as well, but she convinced them it was necessary. One of the women took the vest, and then after a few stitches brought it back in a more form fitting design.

After more than 30 minutes of struggling with all of the straps and catches, they finally had Kate encased in her plastic prison. The makeup person added the necessary color, and shading to the parts of her face that were showing. Not too much later, Jessica returned to see how she was doing. With the exception of the grimace on her face, she looked great. At least in the entire staff’s opinion. Jessica thought she looked cute, but she refrained from saying so.

Soon, the director’s assistant came and summoned them both to the set. The weapons master brought Jessica’s laser rifle, pistols, and other assorted hardware. Kate’s costume had been outfitted with all kinds of trick items, but most of them had been temporarily disabled, since there hadn’t been a lot of time to train her how to use them. She was only mildly disappointed, but determined to learn more, if they decided they needed her again after tonight.

Jessica led her to their first mark for the night. Jessica was to stand just short of a large pillar, while Kate approached her from behind. Just as Kate reached her next mark, and large valve was supposed to release steam directly behind her, just missing her. Her part was to bend forward, thereby allowing the steam to pass harmlessly above her. It had already been established, that steam or water played havoc with her characters programming. There wouldn’t actually be any steam, as that would be added later via some pretty sophisticated computer graphics.

The director called action, and Jessica stood in her spot looking as though she were scouting their next step. Kate counted the correct number of steps, and then as required bent forward at the right time. Unfortunately, she leaned too far forward, and miscalculating the weight of the suit, fell forward, and landed face down on the cement floor. Rather than call cut, the director went ahead and filmed Jessica trying desperately to help her back to her feet. Even though it was spontaneous, it made a great piece of film.

Kate was devasted. She was sure the entire cast was laughing hysterically at her. Jessica whispered encouragement to her, and told her not to worry about it. When the director finally called cut, Jessica had managed to get her upright again, and then the two had continued the progression into the next shot. Much to Kate’s surprise, the entire group applauded her most heartily for her efforts.

She smiled broadly, and then blushed with all of the attention. Jessica took her hand, and gave it a swift squeeze. She remembered how hard it was when she walked onto a set for the first time. People could be merciless. Fortunately she knew that this group was a pretty fair, and close bunch of folks.

The next shot was to take place on a cat walk high above the factory floor. A particularly nasty cyber terrorist, built from extremely sophisticated mechanics was going to be climbing the scaffolding leg that supported the catwalk. The mech unit was actually designed and built for exactly this purpose. It had been equipped with a set of extremely complicated claws, that through some incredible software, and a dedicated group of cyber nerds, allowed it to really climb. It had been decided that using a computer generated graphic enemy for this shoot, would just not be the same as using a real one.

The tech crew mounted the mech unit onto the scaffold. The two women were being escorted to the top of the catwalk via a back stairway, in the company of the head of the stunt team. They were only going to be walking across the decking, and then the stunt team would replace them for the actual shot. No one wanted to take a chance with endangering the two women. A misstep, and both could fall to their deaths. Even though they had been tethered to the beams above the catwalk, they didn’t want to take the risk.

This time, Kate took the lead, she took a few tentative steps, then for some reason Jessica couldn’t identify, she stopped. As quickly as the suit would allow her, she turned and trying to run back towards Jessica, she almost got entangled in the safety lines that were protecting her from falling. Jessica became aware of her approach just as Kate managed to launch herself at her companion. Kate landed flat against Jessica effectively knocking her to the deck.

After Jessica recovered from having the wind knocked out of her, she noticed that Kate was struggling to breath. Carefully sliding out from under her, she checked the suit and noticed a hole about the size of a dime in the back of the suit. There was a small amount of smoke lazily drifting from the opening. It only took a second to realize that Kate had been shot.

Praying to every God she could think of, Jessica tried frantically to disentangle the two of them from their safety lines, and then release the back catches to the suit. She was in the process of releasing the stubborn latch pieces, when the first of the stunt crew reached them. Fearing a repeat of the previous night, they quickly removed the plate, and checked Kate over for injury. Much to everyone’s relief, the flak jacket effectively protected her from any grave injury.

Jessica took personal responsibility for lifting Kate’s shirt to examine her for any hidden damage. There was definitely going to be some bruising, but no skin was broken. After checking her back, Jessica carefully removed her helmet. She checked the stitches from her previous injury, and then made sure that no other shots might have injured her. A few moments more, and then Kate finally began to breath a little easier. She motioned for them to help her sit up on her behind, so she could get more air into her lungs.

“I’m okay, don’t worry. I just had the wind knocked out of me. That son of a bitch. Now he’s really made me mad. If I catch him, it will surely be a sorry day in his life.” Kate was absolutely furious.

Jessica was visibly relieved. “Come on, let’s get you down from here. I want to make sure that you really are okay.”

The crew cleared the rest of the cables, and then helped the women back down the stairways. Jessica stayed right with Kate, not letting her out of her sight. The security teams were busy tracking the sniper. Gregory hadn’t moved an inch. He was surprisingly unarmed, and refused any knowledge of the sniper, or the incident. They brought him to the main guard base, along with his buddy Jerald, and the limo driver.

Gregory protested loudly. “You are violating my personal rights. What gives you the right to restrain me. I’ve done nothing wrong. I want to see my wife. Someone give me my phone, I’m going to call my lawyer.” He reached for a passing soldier. “You boy, go in there and have someone find my wife and bring her back here. I need to talk to her, it’s very important.”

The soldier looked to his superior officer for confirmation. Getting an affirmative nod, he dashed through the gates, and set about the task of locating Jessica. He wandered around a bit, and then noticed a group gathering near the scaffold where the most recent filming took place. He knew instantly who Jessica was. Being a fan, he couldn’t miss the tall dark haired woman in the black jumpsuit. She was carefully removing the rest of the torso pieces on her sidekick’s costume.

“Umm, excuse me ma’am?” He stumbled on his words.

Jessica turned when he approached her. “What’s up there? Can I help you.”

Immediately several internal security people closed in on the group, not willing to let anyone else endanger their star. One rather large individual stood directly behind the smaller soldier. If Jessica gave the sign, they would restrain him. Jessica made eye contact with the security officer, and slightly shook her head. She didn’t want these guys going crazy, and hurting anyone.

Jessica smiled again at the soldier to encourage him to deliver his message. He cleared his throat again, and finally was able to speak. “Umm, uh, well ma’am, it seems that we have your husband restrained outside the gates, and he is demanding to speak to you. He’s pretty insistent if you know what I mean? Threatening lawyers and all. They can’t get him to be quiet.” The kid was blushing by now.

Jessica looked at Kate for support. Kate shrugged her shoulders. “Let’s go. I’d love to get a piece of him right now. Let’s take a few of these rather large, armed men with us just in case. If he’s as psychotic as we think he is, he might try something stupid. But yeah, I’m ready.”

Jessica grinned broadly at her smaller friend’s spunk. She started to believe that if Gregory were a 12 foot tall bear, Kate would still probably stand up to him. She placed her hands on Kate’s shoulders. “You be careful. You’ve had enough injuries to last a while. I don’t want you to get into a fistfight with Gregory, or Jerald. Those boys are pretty nasty.”

Kate snorted. Patting Jessica’s hands, she smiled a winning smile, and then assured her she wouldn’t do anything stupid. She managed to stand up on her own, even with the bottom half of the costume in place. One of the crew members had brought her winter coat over, and Jessica helped her put it on. The two women, with an entourage of six security guards worked their way towards the gate.

They could hear the sounds of the continued filming going on behind them. A special helicopter had been brought in as well. It was supposed to drop a line, and rescue the two heroines from the approaching Mech Warrior. Of course the stunt people were in place instead of Jessica and Kate. Too much risk, and the insurance companies these days wouldn’t allow it.

As they approached the gate, the gathering crowd of soldiers parted, and Jessica could see Gregory sitting on a crate, Jerald not too far behind him. He looked up just in time to make eye contact with her. Before anyone could react, he was off his seat and charging her, intent on doing her harm. Apparently his level of sanity was rapidly slipping away.

Gregory managed to get within about four feet of Jessica, when Kate stepped out from behind her, and round housed him with a right to the jaw. She followed with a swift sweep of her left leg, and effectively grounded him. Landing square in the middle of his chest, she drew back and prepared to slam his nose into his head, when Jessica caught her from behind.

“Whoa there! I don’t want to have to bail you out of jail tonight. Calm down, calm down. Don’t waste your energy on that pig. Come on over here, and we’ll let the guards pick him up.” Jessica took Kate by the arm, and dragged her over to the side. Kate struggled a little with her anger, and then she subsided.

Gregory was being helped off the ground by his buddy Jerald. None of the other’s present wanted to have anything to do with him. He was obviously nuts, and the sooner someone locked him up, the better. One of the soldiers handed him a dirty rag to wipe the blood off his face. It was highly possible he had a broken nose.

“JESSICA, you get that little dyke bitch of yours under control. I’ll sue you and her. No court in the land would stand against me when they find out that you’re a dyke. You are supposed to be my wife, not some whoring slut who goes around sleeping with women. No one does that to me, and gets away with it. I’ll ruin you, YOU JUST WAIT!” Gregory was positively foaming at the mouth.

Behind him, Jessica could see a sleek charcoal gray limousine pulling onto the property. That could only mean one thing. Justin Graves, the owner of the studio had decided to pay a visit to the site. His timing couldn’t be better as far as she was concerned. She smiled inwardly, while maintaining her outward mask of non-involvement.

Kate on the other hand was furious. She wanted to make him pay. How dare he talk to Jessica like that? Ha! What marriage? That pig wouldn’t know how to find his way through a relationship if it had a map. Grrr, I hate him! She started to step forward again, hands curled into fists, when Jessica caught her arm and pulled her back. Shaking her head, she pleaded with her eyes to have Kate wait a minute. Something big was about to take place, and she wanted to see what was coming.

Justin Graves stepped from his car. Jessica was only mildly surprised to see that he was not alone. Riding with him were two of the companies seven lawyers, and Jessica’s personal lawyer, Meg Hopewell. The last passenger to emerge from the interior of the car was the studio accountant. Jessica used the same firm, and was relieved that she wouldn’t have to call them herself.

Justin strode purposely towards the group. He was a formidable man, but Jessica had learned over the last couple of years, that he could be quite the teddy bear once you got to know him. He pulled her into a strong hug, and then holding her at arms length, smiled, and then chucked her under the chin.

“How’s my favorite little girl? Doing okay, now that big daddy is here?” Gregory interrupted him.

“Justin, I am so glad to see you. Justin I want you to fire all of these people. Just look at what they’ve done to me. This isn’t right! She’s my wife, and she’s allowing them to treat me this way. You need to stop her.” He continued to whine, over and over about the injustice of it all.

Justin turned his gaze in Gregory’s direction. “Gregory, if I were you, I would make my best effort to keep my mouth shut right about now. You don’t think I brought all of these folks out here for a picnic now do you? I am just waiting a few more minutes for my extra special guest to arrive, and then we can begin. Now, sit down and shut up, or I’ll have someone shut you up.” Justin turned back to the group, and offered them a grin the Cheshire Cat would be proud of.

“So, Jessie my sweet. Introduce me to your friend here. She comes highly recommended by several of my associates, including that Diane from the agency. She plays tennis with my wife every so often, and Carol swears by her word.” Justin extended his hand to Kate. He was surprised at how strong her grip was for such a small thing.

“I’m uh, pleased to meet you sir. I’m sorry that I hit him, but I couldn’t help myself. He could have killed both of us.” Kate was clearly embarrassed.

“Oh no need to feel bad little lady. I’m just sorry I missed it. Seems to me that our Jessie here made a good choice when she picked you to be her PA. I would have been seriously pissed off, if Gregory’s goons had managed to kill her. By the way, I hear you took one in the back, how are you feeling?” Justin was genuinely concerned.

Kate was thoroughly charmed. “Oh, I’m okay. A little bruised, but I’ll live. So, if you don’t mind my asking? What brought all of you out here?”

Jessica turned and looked at her as if she had just swallowed nails, and Justin burst out laughing. “Straight forward. I like that in a woman. Well, our Jessie here was a guest of another friend of mine. That would be Deborah’s momma. We just saw Deborah not but a few hours ago. She’ doing right fine by the way. Anyway, Momma started us on our way here, and then we stopped to pick up Meg here on the way. It seems she got a mysterious E-mail from a person who goes by the moniker of Lady Knight. Is that someone you all might know?”

Kate covered her mouth with her hand. She shot a glance at Jessica, and the two almost burst into giggles. “Um, yes sir, she’s a friend of mine in Northern California. I asked her earlier today if she wouldn’t mind doing some digging for me. I didn’t realize that she would bypass me, and go straight to the top. She must have uncovered something important.”

Justin smiled broadly again, and pulled a large cigar out of his coat pocket. “You can bet on that there honey. She downloaded a whole chamber pot full of information on this sewer rat. Meg started the wheel’s turning, and the information that came back so far was enough to get me to come on out and see you gals.”

Justin was extremely proud of himself for being up on all the latest terminology. He beamed at the assembled group, before he tipped his hand. His missing guests arrived as he was about to tell what they found. The new arrivals stood back several feet, and politely waited until they were summoned.

“It seems that Gregory here, has been scammin’ just about everyone in this entire company. Not to mention several people outside the company as well. Where he failed, was being too greedy. He’s managed to embezzle upwards of almost $100 million from various entities including, me personally, the studio, and of course his lovely wife. Somehow he managed to completely drain her entire bank accounts, and was in the process of attempting to dissolve several of her investments as well. We gathered, and were not too far off, that he was planning to dump the whole thing, or at least a large percentage of it into some sort of offshore investment deal. The problem for him would have been that the investment deal was being run by a combination of US Marshalls, and the Inspector here.” He gestured to the men standing behind him. Kate recognized the police captain she had spoken to earlier that morning.

Gregory tried to make himself smaller, and slowly back away from the group. The careful placement of a semi-automatic rifle behind his ear, stopped his progress.

“Anyway, in the next day or two, your funds should be returned to you in their entirety. Meg here assures me that your investments will be reevaluated, and reinstated as well. Now, how about you two lovely ladies show me around this here lovely shoot site, while these boys do the job that our taxes pay them so well for.” Justin took an arm offered by each of the women, and the three wandered away. Meg and the lawyers headed off to find coffee. They knew it would be a long night ahead of them.

————————————————–

To love one who loves you,
To admire on who admires you,
In a word, to be the idol of one’s idol,
Is exceeding the limit of human joy;
It is stealing fire from heaven.

********Delphine de Girardin********
CHAPTER 8: The calm before the storm . . . .
Kate discovered early on in the evening’s travails that Justin Graves was a good person to have on their side. Gregory had been arrested, and taken to jail. Good fortune had smiled upon them in the fact that a judge had been around, to both issue warrants to several of Gregory’s properties, and to set bail at a whopping 3 million plus dollars. With all of his assets frozen pending investigation, it would be extremely hard for Gregory to come up with the bail. Jerald, the limo driver, and the hired sniper were all incarcerated as well, until a hearing could be arranged, and each person’s involvement be sorted out.

All Justin could hear was the sound of money falling from the sky. He was pleased as punch that his star was safe, and that they had managed to recover a large percentage of everyone’s money. Jessica probably paid the highest price, but she had survived worse battles in her time. The residual publicity alone would boost the show’s rating ten fold.

Jessica and Kate were done showing Justin around the site. He gave Kate a big bear hug, picking her up off the ground, while she squealed. Jessica received a smaller ground level hug, and then Justin whispered something in her ear. She blushed a deep crimson color, and then kissing him on the cheek bade him farewell. She promised to call him the next day, and let him know how she was doing.

Kate watched the exchange between Jessica and Justin carefully. She was curious as ever to find out what he said that made Jessica blush so deeply. She decided to be bold and just ask. “So, have you known him long?”

Jessica seemed to be far away. She turned at the sound of Kate’s voice. “Hmm? Oh, Justin? Yeah, I guess so. He’s a really . . . . great man.”

Kate thought she read admiration in Jessica’s tone, along with a great deal of respect, and something else. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it kind of made her jealous. She changed her mind, and decided not to ask any more questions. Somewhere inside of her she felt something ping. Kate began to wonder if in fact Jessica’s feelings for her were because of undue stress, or something lame like that, and that maybe she was actually interested in someone else.

The two women continued on back to the area where the crew was shooting. The costumers came back, and re-outfitted Kate in her cyber suit. Jessica had noticed that her friend was extremely quiet, and passed it off as fatigue, and shock after all of the evenings trouble. She decided not to bother her, but made sure to stay nearby, in case Kate needed her.

Jessica’s thoughts turned to Justin. She had known him for a long time. They had met each other a number of years before, when Jessica was attending to some personal business in Northern California. Her visit involved a trip to a private mental health facility there. Justin had a son who had serious emotional problems which made it necessary for him to be under constant care. Jessica also knew someone who was being cared for at the same facility, whose treatment she personally subsidized.

It turned out that she had actually met Gregory through Justin. Justin had inadvertently told Gregory about seeing Jessica at the hospital, and why. He started out relatively nice to her, but when she expressed no interest in him especially sexually speaking, he became more aggressive. That was the beginning of his reign of terror over her. Justin had felt guilty, and had tried to interfere any number of times, but Jessica always held him at bay. She did not want her personal business aired in public, and preferred to suffer the extortion, until she could find a more equitable way out of her dilemma. It had taken 3 years of hell, and meeting Kate to start to realize that she was worth more than Gregory had made her believe.

It had been Justin’s idea to take on Jessica and have her star in his new TV show. Unfortunately, Gregory was so entrenched in Jessica’s business, and had so terrorized her, that there was no way to take one without the other. It made for a nice, cushy situation for Gregory, but it made it worse for Jessica. Now she was working everyday to fill his pockets. She loved the show, and she got along great with the crew, but Gregory always seemed to make things turn bad.

Jessica’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Ted the director, and the stunt coordinator. They talked idly amongst themselves about the evenings events, and then got back down to the business of producing a hit television series. The stunt coordinator began the arduous task of outfitting both women with a sophisticated harness system. The idea was that in the process of an attack, Jessica was to fire her batman winch device, and the two would soar 40 feet into the air, and land on a scaffold. They were actually only going up about 10 feet, and then the action would cut back in from the scaffolding, making it seem like they were actually flying up there. Ever since the incident of the prior year, they weren’t willing to take any more chances.

The setup for the shot involved Jessica quickly reaching under Kate’s arm, and making it look as though she was actually hanging on to all 700 pounds of mechanical sidekick while the line carried them up. In reality, the line equally supported both actresses, and there would be no strain on Jessica’s part at all. With the exception of course of stretching her acting abilities.

The two women practiced the grab several times, to assure that all looked good from the director’s vantage point. Kate was still surprisingly quiet. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that maybe her attraction to Jessica Ryan was seriously misplaced, and that maybe she was just being an overzealous fan. She was so confused. Lost in her thoughts, she failed to hear the director call action. One minute she was standing with her back to Jessica, and the next she was pulled tightly to the actress’ chest, and flying upwards rather rapidly. Kate thought she could handle it, but with the prior injury to her head, and the bruising to her back, the jolt made her almost toss her cookies. She refused to let Jessica find out about her discomfort.

They reached the ten foot mark, and then the crew slowly lowered them to the ground. The stunt doubles took over on the top of the scaffolding, so that no further danger came to Jessica or Kate. Jessica checked with the scheduling coordinator, and was glad to see that they weren’t needed again for the rest of the evening.

Kate was standing next to the wardrobe tent, when Jessica caught up to her. “Hey, guess what? It seems they scheduled the rest of the evening to do location, and background shots. So they aren’t going to need us any longer. How about we get you out of that suit, and then head back to the hotel for some dinner, and a good night’s rest?”

Kate was having second thoughts about staying in the hotel now. Gregory had been caught, and most of the trouble seemed to be behind them. She didn’t want to seem like a burden to Jessica, or like she was taking advantage of her.

Jessica noticed the reticence on Kate’s face. “Are you okay?”

Kate tried to pass it off as nothing. “I guess I’m feeling a little shaky. The flight up the scaffold kind of made me sick. Normally I’m not like that. I love roller coasters and stuff. Anyway, I was thinking, maybe you don’t want, or should I say need me to stay with you tonight. I mean, I could pick up the girls, and get out of your hair.”

“Hmmm, and what pray tell gave you that idea?” Jessica responded with a slight arch in her eyebrow.

“Well, I was thinking, that I’m just a PA, and well, you’ve got all of these powerful friends, like Justin. And maybe, well, maybe you would rather spend a quiet evening with him than with me. I mean I understand, and it’s great.” The sadness in her voice gave away Kate’s real feelings.

Jessica turned her back for a moment, and then burst out laughing. Her response almost made Kate mad. This was serious. She hadn’t felt like this about another person in a very long time, and now she was willing to swallow her own feelings, and let Jessica go to someone more in line with her stature, and her own feelings be damned, and the woman had the audacity to laugh at her. Didn’t she know how painful this was for Kate? Her heart was breaking in two, and she was being made a mockery of. Typical actress. Typical Hollywood attitude.

Jessica regained control of herself, but she couldn’t hide the grin stretched across her face. Taking Kate’s arm, she pulled her along behind her until they were well away from the rest of the numerous staff, and crew that were running around the area. Kate tried to pull loose at one point, but Jessica kept a firm grip on her arm until they reached Jessica’s chosen spot. She pulled Kate between two very large shipping containers, and then without much prompting, gathered her into her arms, and kissed her resoundingly on the lips.

Kate fought her for control for several seconds, but her suddenly ignited passion betrayed her, and she found herself melting into a warm, and promising embrace. Before she had a chance to think, she was returning the kiss. Deeply, passionately, with a hunger that completely wiped out any second thoughts or doubts she had about a possibility of a future alongside this exciting and misunderstood woman. McKenna! You worry too much! Enjoy yourself. She must be delirious, she could hear her grandmother’s voice in the back of her mind, telling her she was being stupid.

So deep was the passion being unleashed between them, Jessica realized almost too late that she had best slow them down, or they were going to end up in an embarrassing, or uncompromising position right then and there. She gradually toned down their contact, until they finally broke their kiss, and settled into a tight and unyielding embrace.

“Don’t shut me out Kate. Please don’t turn away from me.” Jessica pleaded.

Kate almost sobbed at Jessica’s impassioned plea. “I wouldn’t, I mean I won’t. I just thought that I should be a good PA, and not throw myself at you like some love struck kid. I just thought . . . . . .”

Jessica held her out, and using the sleeve to her costume, wiped away the tears that were falling unbidden from Kate’s misty emerald eyes. Her own crystal blue ones were beginning to leak as well. She placed her forehead on Kate’s, and closed her eyes and let them fall.

It was several moments before either of them spoke. Kate was naturally the first, considering her propensity for talking. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel bad. I just wanted to give you a graceful out. Please don’t cry. I won’t go away, until you want me to.”

Jessica chuckled at that last statement. “Honey trust me. If I didn’t want you around, we wouldn’t be here right now. I need you in my life. I need you to help me scare away the darkness that seems to linger in my soul. There’s plenty of time, and I know we don’t want to move too fast. For both of us. I can’t lie to you, I’m a tortured soul. Prone to moodiness, and keeping my thoughts inside. You’re the first person that makes me want to share a part of myself. But I’ll understand too, if that scares you away. I don’t want to be considered like most other entertainers. I’m not. I’m just me. Cranky, complex, complicated. The three C’s. What does Popeye say? I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam!”

Kate started to laugh through her tears as well, and managed to stumble out Popeye’s saying with Jessica. She curled back into the security of Jessica’s arms, and closed her eyes for a moment or two more. Jessica tilted Kate’s head back, and placed tiny kisses along her jawline, and behind both ears. She kissed away Kate’s tears, and then planted a small but reassuring kiss on Kate’s lips, to seal their future. Whether it be a short time, or a long time, no one knew or cared. What mattered, was right this minute.

“Hey, we should probably get you out of this suit, and return it to the wardrobe gang. It is worth quite a bit of money, and I know they are going to want to work on the bullet hole.” Jessica let a moment of sadness cross her eyes.

“Was that for me? Don’t worry, I’m alright. Really. We’ll look at it later, when we get to the hotel. You know something? I could stay like this forever.” She smiled broadly to her companion.

“You could huh? Me too. But by the sound of that growling stomach of yours, I think food is going to be a priority.” Jessica chuckled again. Then another thought occurred to her as well. “You know, most of my family and friends call me Jessie, or Jess. You can too. I mean, I think I’d like that.”

Kate considered it for only a second. “Okay, I’d like that too.”

They separated, and started heading back to the wardrobe tent. Kate fought every ounce of her being, to keep herself from grasping Jessie’s hand. She knew it would be inappropriate, but she certainly would enjoy it. Almost as though she were reading Kate’s mind, Jessica reached out and took her friend’s hand, entwining Kate’s fingers through her own. When Kate looked at her with surprise in her eyes, she just smiled, and kept on walking.

They arrived at the tent, and Jessica started the process of releasing Kate from her plastic tomb. Others had seen them holding hands, but most had the good sense to keep their mouths shut. It was common knowledge in Hollywood, that if you wanted to lose your job, and never work again, then go ahead and tell all the studio secrets. Some people felt they could do it and get away with it. Most ended up with a couple hundred thousand dollars or so, and then before you knew it they were broke and on the street.

Kate sat quietly, while the dressers started work on her costume pieces. She hadn’t realized until then how truly tired she was. Jess shrugged out of her “high tech” jumpsuit, and then dressing back in her street clothes, came and taking Kate’s hand again, led her out to the waiting limo.

At the hotel, both Michael and Steven had returned to their room, and settled in for the night. Michael had called a friend from the studio, and he had updated them on all of the events of the evening, including Gregory’s arrest. They were excited, and they couldn’t wait to see the girls, but Steven suggested they wait until morning.

“After all, the girls will probably be extremely tired, hungry, and well, who knows what else. I have an idea! Let’s order room service for them. Food, champagne, all the best stuff. Then when they get here, all they have to do is shower, and eat.” Steven was running around excited, waving his arms in the air.

“Okay, let’s see you know what Kate likes, and I know what Jessie likes. Although it takes major persuasion to get her to eat at all. Get that note pad, and the menu, and let’s get to work.” Michael had picked up on Steven’s enthusiasm.

As the limousine pulled into the entry of the hotel, Michael and Steven were making final adjustments to Jessica and Kate’s cottage. Michael took the opportunity to start the extra large jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, while Steven lit candles at the small dining table. They had a cart brought in with a beautiful display of all types of different foods. Last but not least, they packed the cats, and the cat box, and took them to their cottage. They figured the girls would like some time alone, without the cats in their faces. Steven thought ahead, and left them a note congratulating them about Gregory, and informing them where the cats were.

Kate was dozing, her head on Jessie’s shoulder. Even though Gregory was in jail, Jessie couldn’t seem to drop her guard. She had the uncomfortable feeling, that they weren’t done yet. That somehow it wouldn’t be that easy.

The driver came to the door, and opened it to let them out. He carefully scanned the area around the hotel, watching for any threats to his precious cargo. Sometimes reporters, or paparazzi hung around the entrance waiting for celebrities to arrive, so that they could take pictures, or harrass them in other ways. For some unexplained reason he felt the hair stand up on his neck. He increased his scan, and motioned for Jessica and Kate to stay in the car. Closing the door, he effectively locked them away to their unseen threat.

Waiting several minutes, nothing happened, and no one approached them, so the driver went ahead and motioned to them to exit the car, and head into the hotel. Jessica emerged first, and then turned to take Kate’s hand, and help her out onto the sidewalk. As Jessica turned, she caught a flash from a camera, and out of the corner saw her arch, arch nemesis Sharon MacAfee rapidly approaching from the bushes to the side of the hotel. Jessica released Kate, and gently pushed her back into the car.

“Jessica! Jessica Ryan! Wait, I have some questions for you, about your husband? And say who was that young reddish blonde we saw you with the other day? Jessica don’t go!” Sharon made a grab for Jessica’s arm, while the photographer continued to take pictures. He was trying desperately to take Kate’s picture, but when he finally got a clear shot to the interior of the limousine, he couldn’t see her. Jessica shrugged Sharon off, and then returned to her seat in the car. The driver continued to firmly push back the reporter, and the photographer.

As the car drove away, hotel security took over, and ushered the offensive pair off the property. The driver pulled the car around the block, and then security let him in through the delivery entrance to drop the women off from there.

Jessie searched the interior of the car with her eyes, looking for her missing friend. She reached for the phone to call the driver, when a halo of reddish blond hair, framing a giggling, smiling face appeared between her feet.

Reaching for the offered hands, she burst into laughter as well. “Hey, you’re pretty good at that. How did you get under there so fast?”

Kate jumped into the seat next to her, and hugged her arm. “I’m little don’t you know, and wiry. As soon as I realized what was happening, I was under there in a heartbeat. Besides, there’s enough room for a party down there.”

The hotel security personally escorted them into the hotel, and then they headed off to their cottage for some much needed rest. The management was in a tizzy, verbally abusing the security teams for allowing any discomfort to their guest. They made sure that their entire stay at the hotel was given to them free of charge. Their bill would reflect this in the morning.

Jessica pulled the card key out of her pocket, and opened the door, letting Kate in ahead of her. Jessie wasn’t looking, and almost ran right over Kate. She had stopped just a few feet in, and was staring at the splendor laid out in front of them.

“Oh my Gods! Who did this? It’s absolutely wonderful!” Kate exclaimed.

After regaining her balance, Jessie took in the whole picture. She discovered the note from the boys, and read it out loud to Kate.

“Wow, this is great. Come on over here, and check out this food. Look, just about everything I like. This is cool!” Kate was busy checking out all of the delicacies.

Jessica smiled. Leave it to her brother and his new beau, to anticipate their needs. She’d have to do something really special for him. Someday. In the meantime, she joined Kate at the table. She was speechless. It seemed that all of her personal favorites were present as well. Jessie popped the champagne, and poured a glass for each of them.

Jessie handed Kate her glass, and then cleared her throat for a toast. “Umm, well, here’s to the future. What’s past is past.”

She went to take a sip from her glass, when Kate stopped her. “Wait. I want to say something too.” She held her glass up high, staring at the bubbles as they floated to the surface, oblivious to the fact that it meant their death. “To trust, honesty, and compromise. Without these elements, there is no relationship, and no future.”

They touched their glasses to each other’s, their eyes never separating. Slowly Jessie set her glass down, and then taking Kate’s she stood, and pulling her into her arms, began a slow swirling waltz through the room. Kate began giggling, and Jessie smiled at her, one eyebrow arched high above her sparkling gaze.

“You think this is funny?” Jessie twirled Kate by one hand, all to an invisible orchestra.

“No, I think it’s romantic.” Kate couldn’t stop giggling.

“Then why are you laughing?” Jessie asked, a mock grimace on her face.

“I’m wondering if you’re hearing the same music I am?” Kate smiled coyly.

“Hmm, let’s see. Bolero maybe, or do you suppose it’s Marilyn Manson? I think the jacuzzi in the background is extremely appropriate, don’t you?” Jessie dipped Kate carefully, not wanting to hurt her bruised back. They shifted into a tango, when Jessie set her upright again.

“Well, I was thinking more, umm, maybe Los Lobos now, or maybe En Vogue, that song from their new CD?” Kate stopped Jessie, moving in closer for an embrace.

“I don’t know that one, you’ll have to play it for me sometime. Actually, I don’t get a lot of opportunity to listen to music, unless it’s an awards show I’m appearing at. I usually don’t stop moving for very long. If I did, Gregory would catch up to me. . . . .” She trailed off, not wanting her thoughts to ruin the moment.

“Oh, no problem. I’ll make sure you get to hear some music every once in a while. Say, want to take advantage of that whirlpool I hear running? I bet they set that up for us.” Kate suddenly turned shy again, realizing what she had just invited Jessie to do. It hadn’t occurred to her that it meant taking her clothes off in front of Jessie, like naked, like totally.

Jessie considered her request for a moment. “Are you sure? I mean there’s no mystery here with me, but I don’t want you to do something that’s going to make you uncomfortable. I mean it, you can go ahead, and then I’ll go later if you want.” Jessie was serious.

“No, it’s time I start living life, and stop hiding from my past. Something really bad happened to me once, before the rape even. I almost consider it worse than the rape, and it’s been hard for me to get close to anyone since then.” Kate paused, the memories flooding her mind, and making her shake, and feel nauseous.

Jessie could feel the trembling. She wasn’t sure if she should let her go, or keep holding her. She started to pull away. “You don’t have to tell me, I understand. I don’t want you to feel bad right now. You need to relax. It’s okay.”

Kate stopped her from pulling away. “Don’t! It’s going to be better for me to let go. I need to do this, and I need you to back me up. I’ve never wanted to tell anyone else. I mean Steven, and Laura know, but never, well, never anyone like you. Let’s go in the bathroom, and get in the tub. That’s as good a place as any to start.”

Jessie was surprised, but a deep well of compassion overcame her, and she nodded her agreement. Silently they entered the bathroom, a certain shyness overcoming both of them. Steven and Michael had truly outdone themselves. Every surface had candles flickering with a soft glow. The room was filled with the soft scent of flowers in a summer rain. The tub was enormous, more than enough room for both women to spread out and be comfortable.

Kate entered cautiously. She was fighting desperately to keep her fears at bay, and go through with this. Not go through with this! Geez McKenna, you make it sound as though you were going to be tortured, and put to death. You want this, and you know it. Just take it slow, and don’t be stupid! If all else fails, you’ll find out if you are even capable of feeling anything anymore.

While Kate turned her back on Jessie, and started to remove her clothes, Jessie began her own internal war. Geez Ryan! What are you doing? You are not supposed to be happy, you are not supposed to allow another person into your life. You have no feelings, you are not deserving of this soft gentle soul. There is too much darkness in your heart to allow this. . . . . . Get real. You really do want this. Just don’t blow it. Don’t push her, or make her feel bad. Listen, and care. You might be surprised.

The splash of water broke Jessie from her thoughts. She risked a glance, in time to see the large and nasty bruise that covered part of Kate’s back. She immediately began to regret not taking her to the hospital. She made a mental note to call Dr. Helen, her physician and friend in the morning.

Jessie turned back to undressing, but for some reason her hands had started to shake, and she couldn’t seem to unbutton, or unzip anything. Kate was safely concealed under the water, and had her arms casually crossed over her chest. She noticed when Jessie started to shake, and realized that she was just as scared as Kate was.

“Hey, this is great. You gonna take all day?” Kate called, hoping to lighten the situation.

“Umm, sorry, my hands just don’t seem to want to work.” Jessie replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Jess, it’s okay. I’m not going to melt, bite, or explode. We’re both adults. Haven’t you ever been skinny tubbing before? Think of it that way, just a bunch of adult kids hanging out in the hot tub. We just stayed behind to enjoy the water. Okay?” Kate was surprised that she was capable of taking the lead.

Jessie nodded, and finally got control of her hands. She finished undressing, and then turned to enter the tub. The sight of her magnificent body, long dark tresses framing her face, accented by the glow from the candles, almost made Kate stop breathing. Whatever had pinged earlier when she thought Jessie should move on, completely re-engaged at that moment. Blushing, she put her hand out to help Jessie into the tub. Too late, she realized that she had dropped her own guard, and exposed herself.

The moment that Jessie’s hand made contact with Kate’s, the entire outside world disappeared for them. Jessie thought for sure she might just faint. The smaller compact woman guiding her into the tub was absolutely beautiful. Every muscle rippled under the skin stretched over her abs. Jessie could only think one word, perfect. She stepped into the water. The memory of something bad in Kate’s past, put a damper on the flames of passion that threatened to overwhelm her.

Kate smiled shyly. “Come on now, quit with the looks and sit down. You’re scaring me.”

Jessie tried to empty her mind, and stop the buzz of information good and bad from overwhelming her. She grasped Kate’s hand tighter, and stepped into the swirling, heated water. Seating herself a discreet distance away from Kate, she cleared her throat, and then calmed herself.

Kate tried to still her own chaotic mind. “Okay, where do I begin. First, relax. We both need to relax. Close your eyes for a minute. Go on, don’t fight it, just close your eyes. Now, take a few really deep breaths. Breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. That’s it, good. Now just let the warm water wash over you, and enjoy the bubbles for a minute or two.”

Jessie followed Kate’s instructions, and she did feel a lot better. The dizziness that threatened to overtake her, had begun to dissipate. After several minutes, she opened her eyes, and was met with a relaxed smiling gaze.

“Alright then, my story. Umm, I sort of got involved with, and fell for a studio ornament, you know, does anything for anyone, just to get ahead. Very beautiful . . . .” Kate went on to tell Jessie the entire story about Gina, and the way that she had been set up by her and her husband, to become a pawn in their nasty, sick little games.

When Kate finished telling the story, she looked to see Jessie’s reaction. Jessie had been politely quiet during the entire story, but a certain darkness had begun to creep across her features. She was starting to get angry, a deep seated need to injure those people, who would do harm to this naïve and innocent woman.

Kate saw the fire behind Jessie’s gaze, and again without thinking, slipped across the tub, and curled herself into Jessie’s embrace. Jessie’s heart was racing, and she felt like getting up, and finding those people, and tearing them apart. Kate started murmuring quiet words, to stop the build up of power in Jessie’s heart. Jessie pulled Kate closer, snuggling the smaller woman’s head under her chin, and closing her arms around her shoulder’s.

The two women sat like that. One dark and brooding, the other soaking in the gentle contact. Kate felt as though nothing could harm her. She felt safe, even loved. Her nakedness no longer an issue. She knew somehow that she would not be abused by this soul, but loved, protected, and cherished.

It seemed like hours had passed, since they had entered the water, and began sharing Kate’s story. Jessie was the first to realize that she had dozed off, and opened her eyes, revealing a softly sleeping Kate wrapped around her, much like a child with their favorite teddy bear. She very carefully rose, picking Kate up in her arms, and carried her to the lounger in one corner of the bathroom. Quickly grabbing a towel, she wrapped her sleeping companion up, and tried her best to dry away the steamy water, without waking her.

Kate was really only semi-asleep. She found herself enjoying the care that Jessie was taking of her. She murmured a few unintelligible words, and then drifted back onto the soft clouds that occupied her mind. Jessie wrapped her lightly in the towel, and carried her into the bedroom, laying her down on the clean crisp sheets. At a loss for what she should do for sleeping arrangements, she remembered the promise she made about sleeping on the couch. With a heavy sigh she tucked the blankets up around Kate’s chin, and then wrapping herself in one of the complimentary hotel robes, made herself sort of comfortable on the couch. She had to bend her knees, and kind of wedge herself into the cushions, but she figured she could manage.

Not very much time later, Jessie was tossing and turning, and trying to will herself to sleep, when she couldn’t stand it any longer. She stood up, and with long strides walked to the window, and parting the curtains slightly, watched the moon cross the sky for a while. Considering that this was downtown LA, it was an unusually clear night. Her thoughts turned to the future, and she found herself not willing to think about it right at the moment.

A noise caught her attention, and she turned realizing that it was Kate. She seemed to be crying in her sleep. Quickly stepping to the side of the bed, she pulled the cover down just a little bit, and then lightly stroked Kate’s hair.

“Kate? Honey wake up. Are you okay?” she whispered.

Suddenly Kate sat straight up, gasping for breath. Her eyes were still closed, and she reached for Jessie. It almost seemed as though she were reaching for a life preserver in the middle of a vast ocean.

“STOP! Don’t let them hurt me!” Kate shouted.

Jessie held her tightly, and whispered soft words in Kate’s ear. “Calm down, I’m here. Don’t worry, I won’t let them hurt you. Hey, I’m here, don’t cry. I’ve got you.”

Kate slowly opened her eyes, a little of the nightmare lingering in her stare. “Where were you?” She asked quietly.

“I well,” Jessie started, guilt in her tone, “I didn’t think you . . . . I mean, remember we had talked about me sleeping on the couch, and well, I didn’t want to just barge right in, and you were sleeping so peacefully. I guess I . . . .” She ran her fingers through her hair nervously.

Kate pushed herself away from Jessie’s hold, and then reaching for the tie on the bathrobe Jessie was wearing, untied it. In one fluid motion, she slid back and lifted the covers, inviting Jessie to join her. Jessie blushed, but then removed the robe, and slipped into the inviting depths of the soft mattress. Kate scooted over, and then wrapped herself around Jessie’s naked body, resting her head on Jessie’s shoulder. She stretched one leg across Jessie’s legs, and then draped her arm across the solid muscular torso.

Jessie could hardly breath. She tentatively pulled Kate in closer, and held her tightly with her one arm. She could feel the heat rushing through her body, making her think she was probably glowing in the dark. One thing was for sure, she was glad it was dark. Her body was betraying what she thought was her great self control. Her nipples reacted almost immediately, to the point that they were painful, and she had to fight herself not to squeeze her thighs shut, to stop the immediate rush of sensation to her most private parts.

Kate smiled to herself. “If you don’t slow down that heartbeat, you’re going to explode. I would hate to have to explain that to the powers that be.” Then with a mischievous grin, she rolled away from Jessica and then slid back against her, forcing Jessie to curl around her from behind. Kate could feel Jessie’s body reacting to the closeness of their naked skin, and the heat emanating from both of them. All at once she came to the decision that she was going to have to be the aggressor after all, that she was wrapped in the arms of a shy and reluctant hero.

Carefully, so as to not startle her companion, Kate took Jessie’s hand, and placed it over her own breast. She could hear the soft intake of Jessie’s breath as she realized what Kate was doing. Slowly she moved her hand over Kate’s nipple, garnering an immediate response. Not daring to interrupt the moment by facing Jessie again, Kate closed her eyes, and arched back into Jessie’s embrace. Almost like a hot summer breeze blowing across her bare skin, Kate could feel the soft brush of fingertips, lightly exploring her skin. Goose bumps rose up in the wake of their trail, the soft down responding to the gentle touch.

Unbidden, a slight groan left Jessie’s throat. She worked very hard to hold her passion in check, and not be too aggressive. Lightly, so light she barely touched the surface, she let her tongue brush over the soft hairs on Kate’s neck, below her ear. She was rewarded with a matching groan from Kate, obviously enjoying her ministrations. Continuing with her light touches of her torso, and small tastes of the curve of Kate’s ear, she finally felt brave enough to lay Kate on her back, and persue more of her personal landscape.

Kate was easily persuaded. She could not remember feeling this way, and her mind wouldn’t let her take the time to try. Jessie laid on her side, one arm wrapped around Kate, the other moving in slow circles on Kate’s body. Kate tried to touch Jessie, wanting to mirror the attention she was receiving, but Jessie wouldn’t let her. She realized now that all she wanted to do was to lavish attention on Kate. To show her that life could be good, and that someone in the world could care for her, and be conscious of her needs.

Kate’s breathing became erratic, the tension beginning to build from the inside out. All conscious thought began to escape her as she allowed the rush of heat and sensations to consume her. Later she would have sworn that she saw fireworks, stars, and heard a band all at the same time. Jessie moved her attentions to a lower spot on Kate’s body. The center of all of the building volcanic activity. Kate began to move to the rhythm that Jessie was strumming, playing her like a fine instrument. Thrusting her hips to the silent music, a moan escaped her lips, encouraging Jessie to continue her heated exploration. Faster, and deeper she played, until their movements hit a crescendo, and the years of self loathing and hate, the walls of fear, came crashing down in wave after wave of sensation.

Jessie continued to touch Kate, content to guide her back to reality, an inch at a time. She was willing to take Kate to those great heights again, but Kate stopped her, wanting to cuddle in her arms, and feel their skin touching. Kate pushed Jessie onto her back, and then straddled her hips, their dampness merging. Jessie tried to stop Kate, not wanting her to believe she had to reciprocate in any way. Kate refused her attempts. Silently with her touches she made it perfectly clear that there would be no one-sided attention in their relationship.

Kate slowly moved her hips, pressing her dampness against Jessie. Jessie began to move opposite, increasing the friction that was building between them. Careful not to bite too hard, Kate playfully nipped first one and then the other of Jessie’s nipples. Never once losing eye contact, she continued to touch, and to lavish attention on those most appreciative participants in their dance of lust. Soon her own deep feelings returned, and her urgent moves became more of a mutual dance. Jessie spread her thighs, and wrapped her long legs around Kate’s hips, pulling her closer, tightening their contact.

The sound of heavy breathing and moans circled around them, like the winds of a hurricane. Rapidly they both approached the eye of the storm, moving faster and faster, holding each other to their silent bargain. Within moments the storm hit, bringing both women crashing over like waves, rolling one after the other. The sound of thunder roaring in their ears.

Their lips met, tongues entwined. Moaning into each other’s mouths, they sealed their future. Kiss after luscious kiss, they slowly returned to the planet. Kate began to move off of Jessie’s body, with the plan to lay next to her, but Jessie refused to let her go.

“No, stay here. Let me feel your heat. I don’t want to let you go, because I might wake up and find myself on the couch again. Stay . . . . .” Jessie whispered.

Kate sighed happily, and settled back into Jessie’s arms. Soon both women drifted off to sleep. Sometime in the night, while they peacefully slept in each other’s arms, a dark terror began it’s slow approach.

Somehow, probably through the help of any number of slimy snakes that inhabit Hollyweird, Gregory was able to make bail. It was only a matter of time before the trouble would begin again. He had lost any shred of sanity. The only thing on his mind now was revenge. Sweet luscious revenge.

————————————————–

Love is a symbol of
eternity.
It wipes out all sense of time,
destroying all memory
Of a beginning, and all fear of an end.

********Madame de Stael********
CHAPTER 9: Auntie Em, Auntie Em, there’s a twister coming!
Morning came too soon for the new lovers. Jessie woke first, her mind still not engaged, a slight surprise when she realized that she still had Kate in her arms, that it had not been a dream. She lay still for a moment, just watching Kate breath, a small smile of contentment on her face. She allowed herself the luxury of a matching smile.

Having been born with unusually keen hearing, Jessie noted a light tapping on the front door. She recognized the secret signal from her brother that they had shared most of their lives together. Moments later, he appeared in the doorway, two extremely fussy felines fighting for release. Over his shoulder, Steven was standing on tiptoe, trying to peek into the room. Both men realized at the same time that what they had hoped would happen, did in fact come true. They gave each other a high five, and then gave Jessie “two thumbs up”. Embarrassed, she waved them out of the room.

Seconds later, two medium sized kitties launched themselves onto the bed. Corky, the larger of the animals promptly wedged herself on Jessie’s chest, under her chin, and on top of Kate’s head. Purring loudly, she effectively woke Kate up. Blinking rapidly, Jessie noticed with a small bit of concern, that Kate did not look happy. She had a look of fear, and sadness on her face.

Placing her hand on Kate’s back, she began to slowly rub small circles, hoping to comfort her friend. Kate’s eyes fully opened, realization of where she was, and who she was with dawning on her face. More importantly, what they had done. Kate quickly rose from her place, sprawled across Jessie’s body, and grabbing the robe she had just removed the prior evening, wrapped herself in the covering, and ran to the bathroom. Quickly locking the door, she sat on the edge of the tub, and burst into tears.

Jessie was left with a disgruntled cat on her exposed chest, and not just a little bit of confusion. She ran a mental inventory, and could not come up with any reasonable explanation for Kate’s reaction. Carefully she removed the cat, and then wrapping herself in the bedspread, walked over and tentatively knocked on the bathroom door.

“Kate, hey there. Are you okay? I didn’t . . . . . hurt you did I? Kate? Talk to me. Please . . .” Jessie realized that the pain that Kate was feeling was not physical, but purely emotional.

“I can’t . . . . please, give me a minute, okay?” Kate’s muffled sobs filtered through the closed door.

Jessica sighed deeply. “Take all the time you need. I . . . . understand.”

Quietly retreating, Jessica decided to prepare for the worst. She located her bag, and pulling her clothes out, began to dress. She had decided that she would leave, and head for the office. She needed to make sure that Kate was paid for her work, and then she would begin the task of trying to find another assistant she could trust. Her heart was broken, but she understood. Jessica Ryan had no right to think that she deserved any happiness. It was unthinkable! Never again would she allow another person to see into her soul.

Moments later, as she gathered her bag, and stopped to pet the cats, and bid them farewell, Kate emerged from the bathroom. She had splashed her face with water, and tried to tidy herself up. Noticing that Jessie was attempting to make an exit, she panicked, and dashing to her side, grabbed her arm and spun her around to face her.

“Don’t just think you can sleep with me, and then sneak out Jessica Ryan! Just because you’re some big TV star, doesn’t excuse you in any way. You. . . .enjoyed it . . . .” Kate stopped, noticing simultaneously the wide grin on Jessie’s face, and the way she must sound to the bewildered actress.

At a loss for words, Jessie dropped her bag, and setting the cat down, spread her arms to invite Kate into her embrace. Blushing furiously, Kate bowed her head, and then slipped gratefully into the offered warmth, and security of that embrace.

The two women stood there for a moment, calming their nervous hearts, and soaking in each other’s closeness. Kate was the first to speak.

“I’m sorry. Not exactly what you expect to wake up to after such a wonderful experience. Of course, I’m speaking for myself, but . . . .” She trailed off, not sure how to finish the sentence.

“The most wonderful experience I’ve ever had.” Jessie murmured into ear, effectively answering her unspoken question.

They continued to hold each other closely, not speaking, both sets of eyes closed to the outside world. Suddenly an annoyingly loud meow broke the spell that was winding it’s way around them. Reluctantly they separated. At the last second, Kate decided to ignore the plaintive meows of her pesky animal, and tilting her head back, locking gazes with her taller companion, invited her in for a proper good morning kiss. Eager to please, Jessie accepted the invitation passionately. Lightly she touched her lips to Kate’s, not wanting to proceed too quickly. Kate wrapped her arms around Jessie’s neck, and pulling her in tightly demanded much more than just a light kiss. Opening her lips, her tongue anxiously probed at Jessie’s own lips with an urgency born of total trust, and passion. Jessie’s mind rapidly disengaged. She eagerly returned the aggressive response to her gentle kiss.

Before too long, Kate slowly began to undress Jessica from the clothes she had put on just moments before. Kate tried to concentrate on the slow removal of those offending garments, however, her rapidly ascending passion would no longer cooperate with the rest of the program. With an uncontrolled need, she tore at Jessie’s blouse, ripping the buttons away as she struggled to access the beautiful body underneath.

Jessica unconsciously untied the belt of the robe wrapped around Kate’s smaller, yet no less beautiful frame. Using the advantage of longer arms, she slipped the robe off Kate’s shoulders, and without realizing it, effectively trapped Kate’s arms behind her. Without thought, she directed the attention of her lips in a trail of unbridled lust along the curve of Kate’s neck, kissing her collar bone, her throat, and ultimately working her way to her breasts.

Letting the robe drop, Kate stopped her own quest, and letting her head drop back, moaned quietly as Jessie lavished hot moist attention on first one nipple, and then the other. Unable to hold back any longer, Jessie dropped to her knees, and giving in to her passion unchecked, placed her lips on their final destination. An audible gasp escaped from Kate’s lips, her legs beginning to shake with the strain of their lovemaking. She placed her hands on Jessie’s shoulders to steady herself, beginning to move in sync with her lover’s ministrations.

So great were the waves of passion that washed over them, again and again, neither one realized that Kate was now on the floor, and Jessie was fully undressed. Kate’s hands never stopped, until they found their own sought after destination. Both women touching each other fervently, cried out together with their shared climax, wave after non-stop wave.

Slowly their heartbeats returned to normal. Cradling each other in their arms, they kissed slowly, tenderly. Neither woman had ever felt this . . . .wonderful. Or beautiful, or cared for. Opening their eyes, both noticed at the same time, that tears were streaming down their cheeks.

Kate smiled through her tears, “I thought you were leaving me. You know . . . actress gets what she wants, and then takes off before her conquest knows what’s going on.”

Jessie blushed. “I don’t have . . . . conquests. I don’t just sleep with people to satisfy my own passions. I . . . have to care, and be cared for. Which doesn’t happen often in my life. Like never. Any other time, has been false, or even forced. But never because anyone cared about me.”

Closing her eyes against her own tears she barely whispered, “I wasn’t leaving you . . . I thought you were sending me away.”

Kate frowned slightly. “I don’t know what happened. I guess I was scared, and felt like I had done something wrong. I mean, it’s not everyday you are treated so well, and then not only do you get so close to your boss in such a short time, you end up in bed with her. I, guess, I thought you might decide you didn’t really want me after all. I don’t know what I guess. I panicked. I’m sorry.”

Jessie smiled. “No need for sorrow. I will be here, until you send me away. And, don’t ever hesitate to let me know. I am new to this, and well, I might need some guidance. If I get out of hand, then tell me. I would never want to hurt you.”

Laughing out loud, Kate kissed Jessie hard. “I don’t think you ever could hurt me, not in a million years. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never done this on the . . . . floor before. Isn’t there something about rug burns or whatever?”

It was Jessie’s turn to laugh. “I never thought about that, since I’ve never done this before either. Let me check.”

Shyly Kate turned over, and Jessie began a cursory examination. Not finding any rug burns she was dismayed to see how badly the area where Kate had been shot was bruising. Tenderly she brushed it with her fingertips. Kate gasped, the pain just now becoming noticeable, after the other sensations she had been experiencing began to subside.

“Damn!” Jessie blurted out. “I should have taken you to see Dr. Helen. This looks serious.”

“It’s not as bad as it looks, but it definitely hurts. I probably should have iced it after it happened. Well, after we go to the office, and I find out what my real job is, I’ll look up Dr. MacIntyre.” She tried to look convincing.

Jessie’s eyebrow shot up. “I don’t think so. We see Helen first, then we go to work. I want to talk to Helen anyway. And I think we waited long enough.

Reluctantly, Kate agreed. “Okay fine. If you say so.”

Jessie was momentarily taken aback. Kate rolled over, and realized that Jessie had taken her seriously. She reached out, and poked Jess in the ribs. “Smile, before I tickle you to death.”

“Oh ho! Don’t think so kiddo, I’m not ticklish.” Jessie replied.

Reaching back for Kate, she began her own tickle attack in earnest. Kate giggled uncontrollably.

“STOP!” She screamed through the laughter. “STOP! You’re going to make me wet my pants!”

“You aren’t wearing any, or hadn’t you noticed.” Jessie chuckled back, renewing her efforts.

Suddenly she stopped short. “Oh my!”

“What? What’s wrong.” Kate was suddenly worried.

Jessie sat up, and grabbing her by the hand pulled Kate to her feet. Leading her to the bathroom, she turned her to face the full length mirror, and standing behind her, pulled her hair back.

“What? I don’t see anyth . . . .” Kate began.

“OH MY GODS! Did you do that? Oh wow. How am I ever going to explain that? Sheesh, what are you? Part vampire? Holy Cow.” Kate was starting to giggle again. The reality of what Jessie had just pointed out to her sinking in.

“Damn. I didn’t know I even knew how to do that.” Jessie’s fingers lightly brushed the bright reddish purple stain at the base of Kate’s neck. She had never given, nor had she ever received a hickey in her life. The gravity of this revelation caused a great deal of wonder in her mind.

Kate focused her attention on the emotions playing across Jessie’s face. She had never seen anything so comical before. Turning to hug her bewildered friend, she stopped herself, when she noticed a matching spot revealing itself in a much more noticeable place on the actress’ neck.

Quickly she turned to the mirror, and catching Jessie’s attention, pointed out the quarter sized mark to her. Groaning, Jessie touched the spot herself. All she could think of was how to conceal it from the crew at the studio.

Kate started to walk away, feeling guilty about her own lack of control. Jessie decided that it didn’t matter. She was happier than she had ever been in her life, and a hickey was an okay way to remind herself of that. Smiling, she pulled Kate back, and hugging her from behind, renewed her tickling attack.

“Oooh, that’s not fair!” Kate squealed.

Jessie continued for a moment or two, and then kissing Kate’s neck another time, led her to the shower.

“If we don’t get going, they’re going to send a search party after us. I’ll just wear a turtle neck or something. Heck, it will give them all something to gossip about. And Mickey, my makeup girl can hide it. It may not even be visible with the jumpsuit anyway.” Jessie turned on the water, and checked the temperature before getting in.

Kate agreed, then stepped into the shower with Jessie. Mindful of the time, they carefully avoided too many carresses, for fear of starting up the flames of passion all over again. They systematically washed each other’s bodies, and then washed their hair. Kate made a mental note to shower with Jessie again.

When they had more time. It could be . . . . fun.

After their shower, they both quickly dried off, and dressed. While Kate began gathering her belongings, and her cats. Jessie called for the car, and then called Dr. Helen’s office to let them know she was coming in. Helen always managed to squeeze Jessie in, no matter how busy she was.

Before too long, the driver arrived, and the two women, two cats, and all the assorted luggage headed out to the car. The hotel security was much more careful this time, considering the reporter incident the previous evening. They reminded Jessica that the entire stay would be comped, because of their rude lack of protection for the actress and her guests.

Jessica balked, saying that it was okay, that they could bill the studio, but they refused. Let this be a lesson they said. No one should feel threatened at their establishment!

They climbed into the car, just in time to see Steve and Michael pulling away in their own car. Steve had driven them to the hotel, so they had his car, and did not need, nor necessarily want to hire a car. Michael waved, as the two drove away.

Unfortunately, none of the members of their group were aware that Gregory was out. And he had one thing, and only one thing on his mind. REVENGE!

——————————————————————————-

“We are each of us angels with only one wing,

and we can fly only by embracing one another.”

********Luciano de Crescenzo********
Chapter 10 (Breath deep the gathering gloom . . . .)
After a quick stop at the doctor’s office to see Helen McIntyre, Jessie and Kate continued on to the studio offices. Not before Dr. Helen lectured both women about waiting so long to have her look at Kate’s injury. She reminded them both, that more serious internal damage could have been done, and it might be too late to correct it next time. They both were suitably embarrassed, and promised never to let it happen again.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve seen our Jessie girl so happy in all the years I’ve known her.” Helen whispered to Kate.

Kate smiled. “Thanks, I’m pretty happy too.”

“Okay you two, get on out of here, I have real work to do you know. And next time, don’t wait. We wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to either of you. Oh, and during the hiatus, look us up for dinner or something. Before you take off for the North country Ms. Ryan.” Dr. McIntyre mocked scowled at her actress friend.

Jessie blushed, and then smiled. “You’re on Dr. Mac. I promise. As soon as we make it through this schedule, then it’s dinner and fun. All of us.”

“Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it, Jess. Promises, promises.” Dr. Helen chuckled.

“I’ll make sure she keeps her promise, doctor. You can count on it.” Kate made a serious face in her new boss’ direction.

When they arrived at the studio, Kate suddenly burst into a fit of giggles. “What is wrong with you?” Jessie asked astonished.

“OH MY GODS! What are we going to do with the cats?” Kate could hardly contain herself.

Casting a cursory glance at the cat carrier, Jessie shrugged her shoulders, and then raising her eyebrow, said in her best Mae West voice, “They’re coming with us. I’m the star, and I get what I want. Just let them try and stop me.”

Staring wide-eyed at the pouty face looking back at her, Kate doubled over with another fit of giggles. “Stop. You’re killing me!”

Jessie poked her in the ribs a few times, deciding whether or not a tirade of tickles should take place, when the car came to a stop in the parking garage in front of the elevator. Grabbing the carrier, Jessie slipped out the door, and then extended her hand to help her companion leave the vehicle. The driver made sure that they were safely in the elevator before he drove away. Apparently Michael had called his friend while they were driving, and told him to continue to keep an eye on the two women. A rumor was floating around, that Gregory may be out of jail already. Michael wanted to make sure that his sister and her friend were safe.

Jessie sauntered down the hall, headed for the main office, and the know-all expertise of the Executive secretary, Alice. Stepping through the doorway, Jessie set the cat carrier in an empty chair, and then slipped over, and sat on the edge of Alice’s desk. Garnering a nasty glare from the desk owner herself, Jessie smiled, and stuck her tongue out at the woman as she spoke on the phone to someone who couldn’t take no for an answer.

Hanging up, she stood up, and whacking Jessie with a folder, grabbed the actress’ ear, and gave it a tug. “Get that gorgeous behind off of my desk this instant. Where have you been? Don’t you answer phone messages, and are you going to introduce your friend, or am I going to have to do it myself?” Alice scowled at both of the women.

Jessie chuckled heartily. “We’ve been in hiding from Gregory, I haven’t been home in days, and Alice I would like you to meet Kate, my new Personal Assistant. Okay?”

“Hmph!” Alice snorted. “Okay, sure, fine. Whatever. Hi Kate, pleased to meet you. Now, I have a package of paperwork for you to fill out, and then I’ll show you the ropes. Of course, besides the office stuff, you’ll be spending a large amount of time in the company of this overgrown child. Take care of her, and I won’t harm you. Let something happen to her, and you will have effectively endangered your own existence.”

Kate shuffled her feet, and tried not to look too scared. Nodding to Alice’s every word, Kate swore to protect Jessie with her life. Alice hugged her briefly, and then taking her by the hand led her down the hallway to another office.

Before leaving, she turned back to Jessie. “You need to see Justin right away. Gregory is out of jail, and Justin is about to explode. Apparently the embezzlement, and threats on your life were small potatoes compared to what he’s really involved in. Justin will tell you everything when you get there.”

Kate looked over Alice’s shoulder with a worried look in her eye. Jessie tried to smile, and look brave, but the truth was she thought she might throw up. “Go on you two, get this stuff done. I’ll tell you all about it, when I get back.”

Kate felt a pang of fear stab through her heart. If Gregory was out already, they might be in real danger. She hated to be separated from Jessie, but she knew that she had to buckle down, and start doing some serious work. Jessie’s career depended on it, and this was no time to kid around. Not that she was kidding around, but leaving Jessica without any security, bothered her. Well, we’re in the office, he can’t do much here anyway. Surely someone would call the cops!

Kate turned and looked back, in time to catch Jessie winking at her as she stepped through the doorway. About to say something, Kate caught herself, and squelched her comment. Somehow, she didn’t think that Alice would appreciate Kate’s response to the wink. In fact, she was sure of it.

Jessie wandered down the hallway towards the elevator. Justin’s office occupied the entire top floor of the building. Hence the reason that Alice’s office was one floor down. Justin was obsessed about security, and had taken all of the latest precautions when he had moved into this building. A security guard met Jessie at the elevator, and escorted her to the next floor. She knew without a shadow of a doubt, that she was being scanned by an electronic device that checked for concealed weapons. Part of her felt safe, and part of her was a little scared.

Mulling over what Justin was possibly going to talk to her about, she failed to notice him standing just inside the door to the elevator. He had been previously notified of her arrival, and was anxiously awaiting her appearance in his office. He obviously had something extremely important on his mind.

“Jessie, darlin’ git on in here. Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you, sweet thang!” Justin encircled her in his rather large embrace.

“You knew we were staying at the Beverly, didn’t you? I thought someone had informed Alice after Gregory had been arrested. If you needed me, why didn’t you call.” Jessie was perplexed.

“Oh, well, I thought it was important that you get some time to yourself. You know, it’s been so rough for you, and I know you’ve been under a lot of stress. I’m sure you heard that Gregory has managed to make bail?” He asked.

Jessie nodded her head. “Well, it seems that he has already disappeared. No one seems to know where he drifted off to, but one thing’s for sure, we all believe that he’s up to no good. Apparently his levels of crime go a lot deeper than even we were aware of.”

Jessie looked up startled. “What are you saying Justin? What is he involved in?”

“Well, it seem that he got himself hooked up with some of the biggest crime organizations in the world. He was in the process of attempting to filter our stolen funds into some of the most heinous crime syndicates in the world. They range from controlling political factions in foreign countries, to the trafficking of dangerous narcotics, weapons, etc. Some of these groups are even involved in human slavery. Apparently they were striking up some heavy deals with Gregory, with the promise that after his initial show of good faith, he would continue to produce more cash flow for their various pet projects. It seems that they promised him a certain level of status here in the states, if he managed to put out. Getting arrested, and the discovery of the stolen funds, and those plans were . . . . shall we say “side-lined”. ”

Jessica’s face went pale. Her mind was spinning with the possibilities, as well as the eventual reappearance of a frightened, yet insanely dangerous man. First thing she needed to do, was annul the marriage. That might protect her from any legal problems, or claims to her property etc. Of course, only if he tried to do anything legal. More than likely, legal would not fit in his vocabulary. Once again her thoughts turned to Kate. How can I continue to let her be endangered like this? . . . .Try and stop her Jessie! Just try it!

She returned her attention to Justin. “Anyways, those “factions” were not in the least impressed with his shall we say “mishandling” of what they had already planned for as their funds. There are several theories about his whereabouts at the moment. Some believe that he has already been killed. Others are not so sure. It’s possible that some of the smaller groups, are either holding him hostage, or using him as extortion material against some of the others. Or, he may just have managed to escape everyone, and is still at large. Either way, we have to be extremely careful about how we do our business. I can’t have anymore people getting hurt around here, or the insurance companies are going to shut us down.”

Jessica felt a sick twisting in her stomach. Even gone from her sight, Gregory was still managing to screw up her life. All she could do now, was hope that either he was already dead, or soon going to be. Sighing, she stood up to leave.

“Wait a second, darlin’. I’m not done with you yet. We have a whole big heap of trouble sittin’ on our doorstep right at the moment. It seems that crazy woman reporter that’s always chasing after you, is about to drop a major stink bomb. She seems to think that you were staying at the Beverly for an entirely different reason, than for business purposes. Rumor has it that she is working on some angle, that will publicly question your “new” friendship with that red haired PA of yours.” Jessie stood abruptly, effectively stopping Justin from finishing his speech.

“Just a damn minute here, Justin. I don’t want to hear this kind of crap. That is total bullshit, and you know it. Don’t tell me we don’t have some way to stop her, before this happens!” Jessica was clearly angry.

“Now Jessie, come on. I have a right to know. You know I support you a hundred percent honey, but this could be detrimental to all of us. Are you or are you not having, ummm, relations with this little girl? I realize this is the ninties, but you remember what happened to that blond girl . . . what’s her name? Oh yeah, Ellen. Shoot, put her right out of business. I mean, make sure that she’s really worth losing everything, for some fun-filled nights, if you know what I mean. I love you Jessie, but please, remember what this could all mean to the rest of us.” Justin decided he had said enough. Judging by the look on Jessie’s face, he would be lucky if he were alive when she left this room.

“I understand what you’re saying Justin, that I don’t deserve to have any small bit of happiness in this life, as long as I am responsible for paying for you, and you’re numerous habits.. How dare you say to me the crap that just fell out of your mouth! Nothing I do on my private time, is any business of yours or anyone else’s. I really thought I could count on you to be my friend, and not the crass, self-serving pig I just saw. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go work now. I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself thinking, oh maybe, that you might not get that new Mercedes you were looking at the other day, if I get caught being “naughty” or something. Geez, if I were a man, you would be slapping me on the back, and offering me a cigar.” Jessica turned to leave. All she wanted to do is get out of there, before she threw up.

“Jessie, darlin’, wait! That’s different. I mean to say, hoo boy, I am an idiot. Please don’t go, let’s talk about this. I just . . . well, so much has happened, and I well, you know, I didn’t expect this. Jessie . . . .” Justin took on a pleading tone.

Jessie couldn’t bring herself to stop. She re-entered the elevator, and returned to the lower floor. She was very nearly on the brink of tears, when she reached her destination. Seeking out the office where Alice and Kate were going over the forms for her employment, she stopped just outside the door, and tried to compose herself, before she entered. She didn’t want to give away her distress to her PA/friend, nor to Alice, her bosses’ secretary. She wasn’t sure who she could trust anymore at this point.

Mind reeling, she stepped into the room. “Um, hi you two. Uh, listen, I have some things to take care of in town, so if you don’t mind, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Kate looked up, and could easily see the distress in her companions face. “Jessie, what’s wrong? I. . . .if you could wait, I can go with you, and then head back here to do some more training. I mean, you shouldn’t go out without some protection. What if someone tried to harm you?”

Kate desperately did not want Jessie to leave the building without her. She had promised to herself, and countless others, to protect Jessie, and it would kill her to let her leave without Kate or someone to watch over her. Alice had shared the information about Gregory to Kate. There was no way she was letting her go without any security.

Alice took one look at Jessie’s lousy attempt at covering her feelings, and realized that Justin had gone ahead with his plan to tell her about the reporter, and the story that was going to leak. She had warned him not to say anything, that the whole thing would blow over, and it wouldn’t be right to hurt Jessie by bringing it up.

“Listen, after she’s done filling these out, they have to be processed, and then I have some other things to do, before we do any training. I wasn’t prepared for

you to show up, so I planned other stuff into my schedule.” Alice tried to maintain her stern composure, but Jessie could see right through her. Justin was in serious trouble.

Not sure what to do, Jessie just nodded her head. She was tormented now, by a creeping guilt over wanting to say “piss off”, to the studio, the show, and her boss, or ending any further relationship with Kate. The instant feeling of grief that overwhelmed her at the prospect, almost made her heart stop.

Kate wished she could go to Jessie, and comfort her. Obviously, there was something terrible bothering her friend. Something more than just Gregory. She vowed to herself, that no matter how awful, she would be strong, and help Jessie through it, no matter what. Not realizing of course, that the root of the problem, was herself.

Hurrying through the forms, she filled in all of the blanks, that established her as an employee of the studio. Insurance, tax, salary, all of the pertinent information. They had even included an application for her SAG card, because there was a possibility that they might include her in more episodes. The Screen Actor’s Guild, was not that easy to get into, even for legitimate performer’s. Obviously, this studio had some major pull. Of course, what a silly thought.

Returning the paperwork to Alice, she gathered her cat carrier from the main office, and then joined Jessie on her way to the elevator. Jessie still hadn’t said anything since she nodded her head back in the office. They stood in silence while they awaited the return of the car.

After slipping back into the vehicle, Kate finally couldn’t take it anymore. She lightly placed her hand over Jessie’s on the seat. Jessie, just as slowly, removed her hand and placed it in her lap. Without looking at Kate, she bowed her head, and started to cry softly.

Bewildered, Kate looked at her own hand, and then risked a glance at Jessica’s face. “Jess, what’s wrong? Tell me. What ever it is, I can handle it. If it’s Gregory, I already know. Come on, tell me.”

Jessie snorted through her tears. “No, it’s not Gregory. You have no idea what just happened, and I neither have the courage to tell you, or the ability to decide what to do about it. I need some time, please.” She tried to smile, but her face wouldn’t respond.

Kate was momentarily stunned. A sense of panic, and alarm began to creep down her spine. It took only a second, to add up the information from the time Jessie came down from Justin’s office, to right this moment. She had decided that Kate wasn’t right for her. Personal Assistant, or anything . . . .else.

Clearing her throat, she tried to hold back her own torrent of tears. “I, um, listen, just have the driver take me home. Chances are, Michael will be there, and he can escort you through your errands. I bet if you call Diane, she can have another PA there, in no time. Really, I understand. It’s fine, and I don’t blame you.”

Jessie clenched her fists tighter, and tighter. All she wanted to do was crawl under a rock and die right now. She wanted to scream and yell, and tell the whole corporate structure to go to hell. The guilt on both sides of the coin was too much for her to take though. She did not want to lose Kate, but she didn’t want to ruin the lives of the people she’s worked with for the past few years, and their families.

“I . . . .I’ll call you later today. Think about keeping your job though. I can really use you.” Jessie mumbled.

“I think you already did that. Driver, stop the car. Here, now!” Kate shouted across the moving car.

“Kate, wait, you don’t understand. Someone is trying to out me. It could ruin both our lives. And the lives of everyone at the studio. Please, can I call you later. Let me at least see you home. Please . . . . .” Jessie began to cry.

Kate hesitated a moment, then decided. “Look, do what you want. You can call me if you feel like it, but please, don’t put yourself out. I’ve been used by the best Ms. Ryan, this is nothing new.” Her own tears fell as the driver pulled to the curb. Grabbing the cat carrier, and her duffle bags, she exited the car as fast as she could. She refused to look back at the distraught actress.

As soon as the car pulled away from the curb, she leaned against the door frame of an apartment building, and burst into uncontrollable tears. One man came by, and offered to bury the dead animals in her cage, and then walked away confused, when the cats both meowed.

Finally regaining a small bit of control, she called Steven, and asked him to come and get her. “Honey, what happened? You sound terrible. I’ll be right there. Where is Jessica? Is she okay?” Steven was immediately concerned.

“Steven, please I don’t want to talk about it right now. Please, just come and get me.” Kate’s tears started all over again.

Inside the limousine, Jessica Ryan was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She did not want this to happen. She had tasted just a small bit of happiness, and she wanted more. This couldn’t be happening to her. She wanted to die.

——————————————————————————–

Do not follow where the path may lead.

Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

********Ralph Waldo Emerson********
Chapter 11 (The scent of your cologne still lingers on my lips . . . .)
Steven tried desperately to get Kate to say something, anything. She was so depressed, that she couldn’t stop crying. He finally left her alone in her room, and went and locked himself in the bathroom. He decided the best thing would be to call Michael, and see if he knew what was going on.

The phone rang several times, before Michael finally answered. “This is Michael. Oh, hi Maggie. Oh, my sister and I are running some errands. The homework? Oh yeah, I’ll drop that by later on today, if that’s okay. Yes, there was some trouble, but I think we can work the bugs out before we go to class tomorrow night. Mmm, hmm, me too. Ta Ta.”

Steven figured out right away, that Michael couldn’t talk. His cryptic tale about homework, explained it clearly. There had been some sort of falling out between the girls, and the two of them were going to have to see if they could fix it. Michael would be over soon, and then they would both try to talk to Kate.

Jessie glanced at her brother with only mild interest. She only vaguely cared about his classes right now. She could barely build up enough energy to breath. So broken was her heart, that she kept thinking that death would be a welcome gift right about now. Sullenly she returned her glance to the window, and the passing landscape. Her thoughts turned to her future, and whether or not she wanted to do this anymore.

Michael’s own thoughts were in a whirl. He tried to stay cheery, and get his sister to talk, but she continued to ignore him. “Listen, if this is about Kate, maybe I can help. I . . .”

“Don’t talk anymore. I don’t want to go there right now, please.” Jessie growled low in her chest.

Her despair was enough to cause Michael a great deal of concern. I hope she doesn’t do something stupid, before I have time to do something stupid. Once the thought was out of his head, a plan began to form. He was going to need to see Steven right away.

An hour or so of accompanying his sister’s misery, and he couldn’t take it anymore. He felt sorry for her, but he knew in his heart that with a little ingenuity, and some “devine intervention”, they could get those two silly women back together and find a way to please the studio as well. Jessie had finally given him a brief synopsis of the problem, and it was everything he could do not to laugh. Studio interference in a gay performer’s personal business, was not acceptable in his world, and he had a lot of connections to help with this project.

He had the driver drop him at this own apartment, and then drove himself over to Steven and Kate’s house. He missed driving the limo anyway, and this would be a good way to get back on schedule. Besides, it might help in his plan.

Kate had locked herself in the office, and still refused to speak to Steven. She was busy trying to catch Laura on the internet. She knew she should call Diane, and see if she could get her job with Lola back, but she didn’t feel like it. Maybe tomorrow.

Lady Knight: Hi there, kiddo. I didn’t expect to hear from you for a while. You know, coming up for air and all. How is it?

PAK: It’s not good Laura. I quit, and well, we won’t be seeing each other anymore.

Lady Knight: WHAT?!? What happened? Did she hurt you? Do I need to come and stomp on her or what? Just say the word, and I’m there.

PAK: Oh, Laura, it’s awful. I want to be so mad at her, and I can’t. All I can do is hurt.

Lady Knight: Baby, tell me what’s going on. I’ll try to come up with some words of wisdom.

PAK: Gods I love you Laura. Jessica went to a meeting today with the owner of the studio. When she came back, she made up some excuse to leave, and tried to go without me. I made her wait, because Gregory’s out, and I didn’t want her without some protection. She was very distant, and acting strange. When I tried to touch her, and ask her what was wrong, she pulled away as though I had burned her.

Lady Knight: And…..

PAK: Well, it only took a moment for me to figure out that she had gotten what she wanted, and then she was moving on. I told her this, and then I had the driver let me out. I called Steven, and had him come and get me. I haven’t been able to stop crying long enough to tell him what happened.

Lady Knight: Did she say anything when you wanted to get out of the car?

PAK: She said I didn’t understand, and she just needed some time. Then she said she wanted me to keep my job. She said she could use me. I told her she already had, and then left.

Lady Knight: Holy Cow, Honey! Let me think for a second……..

Kate took the opportunity to let the cats in. They had been yowling at the door for quite a while, and it was driving her crazy. She noticed with some surprise, that Michael was over, and that he and Steven were in some sort of heated discussion. She figured they were probably gossiping long and hard about her and Jessica Ryan.

Lady Knight: You know, something’s a little fishy if you ask me. I mean, she told you she . . . . well, obviously, I mean you two, ummm, well, you know. And anyway, when I talked to her on the net the other day, she didn’t sound like someone who could be that insincere. I mean she just doesn’t seem that way to me. You have to admit, I read everything there is about her, and so far she hasn’t lead me to believe that she is the type of person that is full of themselves, uses people, and throws them away.

PAK: She’s an actress Laura.

Lady Knight: Sweetie, she’s a person. A living, breathing, feeling human being.

Do you suppose that maybe someone may have found out about you two, and could just maybe be threatening her, or her job.

PAK: Damn! She might have said that. I never thought about it. Oh Laura, what if I’m wrong. I was really mean to her. What am I going to do now?

Lady Knight: Is there anyone you can ask? What about someone from the studio, or whatever.

PAK: Laura!!!!!! You are so, so, great! Don’t go away, I’ll be right back.

Kate jumped out of her chair, and ran to find Michael and Steven. “You guys! Come here, I need you. Hurry!!!”

The boys looked at each other, and then shrugging their shoulders, found Kate on her way back to the office. She sat down, and then surprised them both, by smiling for the first time in hours.

“Michael. Do you have any idea what Justin Graves may have said to your sister this morning?” Kate sat on the edge of her chair with anticipation.

Michael shook his head. “Yes, they are afraid that one of the gossip rags is going to out her. She wanted me around, but she didn’t want to talk. She was really depressed. I was almost worried she might do something stupid. Justin thinks that they are going to use you as a weapon against her.”

Kate shot him a concerned look. Steven interrupted them. “You mean you didn’t know what happened either? I figured she must have said something that made you upset, I mean you haven’t been able to speak for most of the day.”

“No, I . . . she never told me. I just . . . . assumed.” Kate bowed her head in embarrassment.

Turning to the keyboard, she dashed out a note to Laura.

PAK: You were right, they said the studio is worried she is going to be outed. They’re blaming me.

Lady Knight: Who’s there with you?

PAK: Oh, sorry, Steven and Michael. Michael came over to tell Steven the gory details.

Looking over her shoulder, both men cleared their throats at the same time. “I’ll have you know young lady, that I was so worried about the two of you, I was trying to get Steven to help me hatch a plan to at least get you to talk to each other.” Michael admonished her.

Surprised, Kate looked from one to the other, and then looked at the floor. “I’m sorry you guys. Everything has been happening so fast, and I am so miserable. I don’t mean to be so awful to you both.”

Both men closed on her for a group hug. When they broke apart, everyone was teary eyed. Michael excused himself for a moment, and went in search of the tissue box.

Kate remembered that Laura was waiting for her. It was so easy to get distracted, and forget that there was someone on line. Not quite like a phone, where they can yell at you for attention. Turning back to the screen, she realized that wasn’t entirely true.

Lady Knight: HEY!!!!! DID YOU FORGET I WAS HERE, OR WHAT?

YOOOOOHOOOOO, KATIE, WHERE ARE YOU? MAYBE I SHOULD SEE IF I CAN CALL JESSICA MYSELF. WORK ON THIS PROJECT FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN.

Pak: Don’t you get any silly ideas. The guys were just trying to figure out a way for me to see Jessica, and talk to her, without anyone prying into our business. I badly need to see her, and see if I made a mistake.

Lady Knight: Hmmm, too bad you can’t get your hands on a limousine. I know you drive, and it would be great to pick her up at the studio, and take her somewhere to talk.

Michael leaned over her shoulder again. “Hmmm, seems to me there is a limousine parked out in front, that has her name on it. Of course, you know that I could lose my job, if anyone were to find out, but oh well. For my sis, and for you, why not?”

Kate jumped out of her chair, and into Michael’s arms squealing like a kid in a candy store. “MICHAEL! I love you! You really would let me do that? Oh wow, I could just kiss you!”

She made a motion to do just that, when Steven mocked grabbed her, and stepped in her way. “Hey there girlie, don’t you go woman-handling my boyfriend, or I might just have to take you out. Now, step back, Loretta, or you are going to get “Touched at an angle” or whatever.”

All three friends burst out laughing at Steven’s attempt at his joke. He was pretty proud of himself for coming up with it, considering most people thought of him as rather conservative.

Settling back down, she let Laura know that her plan was a go. Kate was truly amazed at her best friend sometimes. It seemed that Laura and her girlfriend April had a little bit of everything in the universe at their fingertips. And if they didn’t know the answer, they certainly would find it. Kate still couldn’t believe how her friend had assisted them in capturing Gregory in the first place.

PAK: Hey Laura, tell me just how did you get all of that information about Gregory, and then send it to the right people?

Lady Knight: Oh, that? Just a few well placed threats, and a few favors I called in. You know I still have contacts down there in La La Land. I am probably linked to just about all of the Kendra Knight websites on the planet, and those people are awesome. Especially those Merwolf people. Man, can they gather, find, or resolve faster than the average super computer. Interesting group too, they are really dynamite.

PAK: Oh yeah, I subscribe to their mailing list. I just love Missy’s stories.

Lady Knight: Well, I think you folks have some planning to do. April and I are cutting work today to do some fishing. E-mail me if there is anything else you need. Love you kiddo.

PAK: Thanks Laura, you’re the best friend a person could have. Love you too.

After logging off, Kate and the boys retired to the living room to work out their plan for the evening. It was only noon, but after all they had been through, the group felt like it was early evening. Realizing they were hungry, Steven called out for pizza, while Michael and Kate checked out the car.

“It’s just your basic. Four wheels, air-conditioning, stereo, the works. Jessica hates it, so I put my name on a list to get a town car when one comes available. Most performers prefer the opulence of a stretch, but not my sister. Low-key, that’s her.” Michael opened the driver’s door, and allowed Kate to slip in behind the wheel.

Kate adjusted the seat, and touched everything, making sure she was still familiar with the layout. It had been a while since she had actually driven a car this big, but maybe she would have time to practice. She was about to ask, when Steven came out with the portable phone.

“Katie, it’s for you. It’s mother superior. She wants to know why you aren’t at work right now. You talk to her, she keeps yelling at me.” Steven only half covered the receiver, hoping she would hear him.

“Mother Superior? Who’s that?” Michael asked.

“Oh,” Kate giggled, “that would be Diane. We coined the nickname a while ago, and it stuck. I wonder how she found out so quickly.”

Taking the phone from Steven, she grimaced when she realized she was about to be grilled. “Hi Diane, this is Kate.”

“Honey, you tell that brat friend of yours, that I’ll “mother superior” him. Tell him I have the ruler out, and I’m gonna whack his knuckles the next time I see him.”

Over her shoulder, Kate relayed the message. “Promises, promises.” Steven shot back.

“He says only if you’re wearing leather, and 6 inch spikes.” Kate giggled again.

Steven gave her a blazing look, and mock chased her back into the house. He and Michael settled back on the sofa, and chatted quietly, while Kate tried to get around telling Diane any details about the past 24 hours.

“Listen honey, an Alice at Jessica Ryan’s office called, and asked that we “encourage” you to reconsider your decision to decline employment. WHAT IN THE HECK IS GOING ON? You all are getting to be as bad as some of those silly soap operas on TV. Now, tell me what happened, or I will call Jessica myself.”

Kate realized she wasn’t going to escape Diane quite so easily. With a sigh, she worked out an answer to Diane’s inquiry. “There was a problem Diane. I am not even sure what yet, but it seemed that it would be better for all of us, if I didn’t work for Ms. Ryan any longer. I think there may have been a misunderstanding though, so I am going to try and work it out. I’ll keep you posted if anything changes.”

“Hmph, you better. Face it honey, that girl has it for you bad, and I personally think that you would be a fool to turn her down. All that show with her husband, was just that. . . . show. I know she never even liked him, and I seriously doubt that she has shown any interest in any other man. She sure seemed to like you though. And unless my eyes deceived me, you weren’t exactly hiding your, shall we say, attraction either. Now, fix it, or I will never speak to you again.” Diane smiled smugly to herself. Let’s just see how she comes back now!

Kate could feel the blush creeping up the back of her neck. “I . . . . um . . . .I, not a problem, I’m already working on it. Got to go now.”

Kate clicked the phone off, and slumped in her chair, idly touching the purple mark on her neck. “I don’t know how she does that. She totally figured out part of what’s going on, and I didn’t have to say a thing. She is scary.”

The doorbell rang, before either of the guys could respond. Steven correctly guessed that it must be the pizza person. He paid her, and then the three of them moved back into the dining area, to continue their planning.

“Okay, I think what we should do, is put you in a wig, and formal driver’s uniform. You know, disguise you so she won’t catch on that quickly. I can get the uniform at the limo yard for you, and wigs are easy to come by. I think a light brunette, so we won’t make her suspicious. Do you have any shoe that will make you taller?” Michael had been working out the plan in his head.

“Um, I might still have these old platform shoes I wore for Halloween a few years ago. They are black, so they won’t look so noticeable. But, how do I get into the studio lot? Won’t they recognize me? Either that, or they’ll stop me. I mean Gregory is loose again, and surely they have security.” Kate asked.

“Leave that to me. My friend that was driving you two around the last few days, can get me a substitute driver’s pass for you. I would plan to be at the shoot sight at around 10:30 tonight, they are planning to do a lot of work to make up for the missed days. I guess Deborah’s going to try and come back to work tonight. The doctor suggested she stay in bed for a few more days, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.” Michael shrugged his shoulders.

Kate thought about the past few days, and everything that had happened. It was almost too crazy for her to believe, if she hadn’t been there in the middle of things. She felt absolutely terrible about Jessie. What an idiot I am. She was so worried about hurting me, or ruining my life, and here I am pre-judging her, without a thought for her feelings. I feel sick!

Michael made some phone calls, and got everything lined up that they would need to sneak Kate in to the shoot site that evening. The second group of phone calls, were to the daughter of an actress, and Senator, who was well placed in gay politics in the United States. She agreed with Michael that in this day and age, there was no excuse for harassing a performer, or anyone else for that matter. She promised Michael she would follow up on the problem immediately, and see if she could “convince” them of the need to correct their error.

Jessie spent the rest of her day running from designer to designer, trying on dresses for the upcoming awards show she was attending. She didn’t want to go, but they insisted that she attend. They hadn’t finished selecting presenters, and judging by the high ratings her show was getting, it was a good bet they would ask her.

With a sigh, she walked back to the limousine that was waiting for her. Michael, for some reason, was not driving for her today. She really wished that she could have been more open with him in the morning, but the pain was so fresh. She still hadn’t decided what to do about Kate, the show, her future, or her own security. Gregory was still very much a major fear in her heart.

Jessica knew that Gregory was very likely plotting some sort of revenge against her. She really wished that she had not been so harsh to Kate. If Gregory had his way, he would probably try to harm either Kate or both of them. His level of insanity had reached a new peak. Kate she knew could take care of herself. She hoped so anyway. She wasn’t so sure about herself. Even with her training, and her superior athletic condition, Gregory could be a formidable opponent. Better her than Kate though.

Geez Jess! How many times can you use Kate in a sentence, before you admit that you miss her? Maybe I’ll call her after the shoot tonight. It will be late, but she might still talk to me. Then again, maybe not. And I wouldn’t blame her. Not at all. Gods, I can be so stupid sometimes. Well, I have always known that happiness was not a part of my life. It’s not any different now, than it was before, or ever will be.

Jessica settled back against the seat, and closed her eyes. She knew that she would have to go through the motions of her job tonight, and then concentrate tomorrow on finding a place to live, and talking to her lawyers and accountant about what to do “post” Gregory. The weekend was fast approaching, and Ted, the director had mentioned that they may call a shoot this weekend. She had hoped to sneak away and head north on Friday night, but it would unfortunately, have to wait.

Kate was beginning to pace. She was anxious to get started, but afraid that she might be rejected. There was really no reason for Jessica to speak to her, especially after the way she treated her so early this morning. It seemed like every step of the way, they have miss communicated, and then hurt each other. She didn’t want to hurt anymore. She desperately wanted to be happy. And to be loved. Mentally crossing her fingers, she silently prayed that things would work out tonight.

Michael and Steven had left earlier to collect the costumes and props for the evening. The last stop was to pick up the visitors pass. Michael and his friend had discussed it at great length, and had decided that they would have a better chance of getting Kate into the site, if they told the truth. They convinced the limo supervisor, who in turn convinced the security team, that Kate was only acting within her training. With Deborah’s return to the set, her skills were better used as protection for Jessica, which was the other reason she had been hired.

All the parties involved were skeptical at first, but since Michael was Jessica’s brother, they finally gave in. At first they wanted to contact Jessica herself, but Michael quickly sidetracked them into believing that she was much too busy to be disturbed. He gave them the number to her home, which only went to the answering service. They finally decided to agree, but informed Michael, that he would be held personally responsible, if anything happened to his sister.

On the way back, Steven had an important question. “Michael, where are they going to go with that limousine, that is private enough, and safe enough where they won’t be disturbed?”

Michael grinned like a Cheshire cat. “I took the liberty of making one final phone call. It seems that Deborah’s mom has a major soft spot for my big sis, and according to Deborah, there is a larger than life horse barn on their property that would accommodate a limousine quite nicely. There is even a small studio apartment inside the barn that is currently not in use. The last horse was sold over a year ago, and the barn is empty. Deborah said her mom would be insulted if we didn’t send them there. I’m going to give Kate a map, when we get her all set up.”

Steven squeezed his lover’s hand. “You think of everything, love. How positively romantic. You don’t think they will, like fight or anything, and the whole thing fall apart now do you?”

“Shhhh, don’t jinx it. I know how much Jessie really cares about Kate. So much so, that I think she is considering giving up her career. The only thing that would stop her, is the impact it would have on all the others involved with the show. But, my friend Chelsea should be taking care of the studio problem as we speak. And besides, my sister isn’t stupid. She wouldn’t flaunt her relationship anyway. She is way too conservative for that.” They looked at each other, and burst into a fit of giggles.

Somehow, conservative, happiness, and love did not fit into the same sentence. They both thought that before too long, this was going to be a public situation. After all, as hard as those two women seem to have fallen, in such a short time was bound to make them forget any notion of decorum. New love tends to make people stop using their brains for some reason.

The boys arrived at the house in the early evening, just moments before Kate finally lost her mind. “Where have you been? I’m going crazy here by myself. I almost called Jessica, and hashed it out ahead of time, but I realized that it wouldn’t be the same.”

“Oh, no you don’t, we have been very hard at work setting this up. I’ve got your uniform, wig, and a map to a place you can hide. The part that took the longest was convincing the security team to issue the temporary driver pass. They almost blew the whole thing. But we finally convinced them.” Michael was glad they got there when they did. Kate may have blown all the fun otherwise.

“So, who am I then? Did you make up some crazy name or something?” Kate scowled at them.

“Nooo, you are going as yourself. It was much easier to pass you by them, than to try and create a new identity. All they had to do was check the computer, to get your file, and then argue for an hour or two. They almost called Jessie, but I gave them a misleading number, and they couldn’t reach her.” Michael smiled at his brilliance.

The friends headed for the kitchen, and put together some sandwiches, and salads for lunch. Steven had the foresight to pack a picnic basket for the two women. He included a bottle of champagne, and some special treats he had stashed in the pantry. Kate was grateful. Jessie was bound to be hungry, and it was doubtful that she had anything to eat all day. Of course, if she sent Kate away, it wouldn’t make any difference.

Jessica’s mind was a million miles away. She was at the top of a scaffold, secured by a harness, waiting for her call to action. Deborah had in fact returned to the set, and was working very hard to cover up the fact that she was in pain. Jessica had asked Ted to go ahead and schedule the weekend shoot. That way they could knock off around 10:00 o’clock, and not push her co-star too hard. Besides, if she kept letting her mind drift, she may end up getting hurt herself.

Off in the distance, she could see her car pulling up outside the gate. It was too far away to tell who was driving. She kind of hoped it was Michael. She could stand to have some of his infectious chatter swirling around her. Right at the moment, life was not good. Jessica had no desire to stay in her home again, and yet the prospect of a hotel held no fascination for her either.

“And ready! ACTION!” the crew drew her back to reality.

Racing across the scaffolding, firing shots at her enemies as they retreated from the assault, Jessica returned fully to her character, Kendra Knight. It was a strange feeling for her, to suddenly become another person. Of course, there was definitely a part of her own self in Kendra Knight, but for the most part, she was just that, a character. Deborah was behind her, using the special blast attachment on her costume. She was supposed to be shooting at a winged, mechanical drone, a new weapon that had been introduced by the enemy. As usual, the actual drone would be added in by the computer graphics team during the editing process.

Jessie called out her lines, and Deborah responded with hers. A camera suspended from the arm of a cherry picker, a type of crane, swung around, to change the direction of the shot. The cameraman controlling the rig, was an expert in his field. He managed to capture the intensity of Jessica’s face, and then back out to show the entire shot, with little or no swing in the camera. This crew was definitely the best there was. Which made it hard for Jessica to even think about her options.

“Cut, print!” The director called through his bullhorn. “Let’s knock off for tonight people. I expect to see you all here on the weekend. Everyone meet here in ten minutes, to go over the schedule. Remember this is mandatory, if you all want to have a job.”

Jessica sighed. Waiting for the stunt team leader to help her down the rig, her thoughts turned again to Kate. She made up her mind that no matter what happened, she would call Kate as soon as the car got her out of here, and onto the freeway. She just hoped that Kate would speak to her.

Kate anxiously waited in the car for Jessica. A small bead of sweat began to form on her upper lip, as she pulled into the spot that the security guard indicated was set aside for her. The wig she was wearing was extremely uncomfortable. It was a short brunette bob, with most of her own hair tucked underneath. She had enough bobby pins to build a small house for her cats, to hold the thing on her head. She desperately hoped that their plan wouldn’t fail. That at the very least, Jessie would talk to her.

Kate glanced at the instructions to the horse barn one more time. Not exactly the most romantic spot she could think of, but at least it was secluded. And safe. Deborah’s family was adamant about the need to protect the two women. Big Leo even told Michael that he would stay in the barn with them if they wanted. Michael chuckled, and assured him that they would be fine by themselves.

The moments ticked slowly by. Finally Kate caught a glimpse of Jessica heading for the car. Her heart started to pound rapidly, as she stepped out of the front, and opened the back passenger door. Deborah and a few other crew members walked with her as far as the car, and then continued on their way. Jessica nodded at the new driver, and then climbed inside the car. She had no desire to start a conversation with a stranger. She waited anxiously while the driver turned the car, and headed for the highway. She planned to call Kate as soon as they hit cruising speed.

Kate was relieved that Jessica didn’t recognize her right away. She didn’t want anything to mess up their plans, and being discovered at the site would definitely do that. She maneuvered the car around, and headed out for the freeway. She wondered how long it would take, before Jessica realized they were heading away from the city.

Kate took a moment to glance back in the rear view mirror. Jessica had her head back on the seat again, and had closed her eyes. She looked so sad, and so tired, Kate’s heart felt like it was going to sieze. It almost stopped, when Jessica asked her to close the privacy window, that she had to make a private phone call. Without speaking, she nodded, and closed the window. She prayed silently that Jessica wouldn’t hear her cell phone ring. Steven and Michael were waiting to tell her that Kate wanted her to call that number, if she checked in. Of course, maybe it wasn’t her that Jessica was calling.

Jessica dialed Kate’s home number, and Steven answered it on the first ring. Her shoulders slumped with disappointment. Steven gave her the message, and then quietly hung up the phone. Both men breathed a sigh of relief. So far, so good.

Next, she tried the cell number Steven had given her. Odd, the driver’s cell phone was ringing with about a one second delay from the call she was placing. Oh well, stranger things had happened. She idly gazed out the window while waiting to see if Kate would answer. She suddenly became aware that they were heading out of the city. Her first thoughts went to Gregory.

Kate answered on the fourth ring. “Hello, this is Kate.”

“Hi, it’s me, Jessica. Hang on a minute will you? This driver is doing something strange. I hope I’m not in any danger.” Slowly she reached for the control to the privacy window.

Kate almost started giggling from her nerves. She realized that Jessica had discovered the change in directions, and yet had not figured out that it was Kate driving the car. She watched in the rear view mirror, as the window came down.

“Excuse me, driver? Where are we going? This is not the way to where I had asked to be taken.” Jessica was trying not to sound scared.

“Yes ma’am. Taking the scenic route. Your brother’s instructions ma’am.” Kate drawled with a southern accent.

“My brother?” Jessie tilted her head for a moment. “Where did he say you should take me?”

Stifling an attack of giggles again, Kate thought quickly. “To a friend’s ranch ma’am, he said you needed some rest. I believe the woman calls herself Momma, ma’am.”

Jessie considered this information for a moment. “Hmph, okay, and when did he tell you this?”

Oh great! Time for a grilling session. Kate was trying to come up with something logical, when she noticed Jessica sliding over closer to the window. Quickly she grabbed the brim of her hat, and pulled it lower over her eyes. She risked a glance into the rearview mirror. Jessica hadn’t seen her yet, but it was a matter of moments, before she was discovered.

“Umm, when he passed this assignment over to me this afternoon, ma’am. I’m a black belt in karate, and he wanted to be sure you had some protection.” Kate held her breath.

Jessica stopped moving for a moment. Something about this driver was familiar. She started having some suspicions, when she remembered she had Kate on hold. Sliding back to her original seat, she asked the driver to close the window again. Kate breathed a sigh of relief, although she knew the jig was up.

Jessica took a deep breath, preparing for rejection. “I’m so sorry. I had a problem with the driver. Umm, how are you?”

About to explode, Kate cleared her throat, and then tried to sound a little reticent.

“I’m okay, how about you? I’ve been worried about you all day. I was pretty mean to you, and I’m sorry.”

Jessica leaned back on the seat again. “I . . . I deserved that. I didn’t know what to do, and I panicked. There are so many people that depend on what I do every day, and the thought of ending that for them has been, well, not easy to deal with. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

Kate interrupted her. “Listen, right now, I would really like to talk to you, face to face. I think we both need that.”

Jessica smiled to herself. “I agree, I need to see you. I need to . . . .” waiting again for rejection, “. . . .hold you.”

“Well, let me see those beautiful baby blues first, okay?” Kate finally giggled.

“Wha…?” Jessica was startled as the privacy window was lowered again.

Gazing into the rearview mirror, she saw the loveliest pair of emerald green eyes staring back at her. Hanging up the phone, she crawled forward to the opening, tears beginning to form in her eyes.

Reaching through, she lightly brushed the back of her hand alongside Kate’s downy soft cheek. Kate almost closed her eyes, her own tears welling in the corners. She realized, that if she did that, they both might be killed. She opted for rubbing her cheek against the hand to acknowledge it’s silent message.

“How did you . . .I mean what . . .?” Jessie stumbled on her words.

“I . . . I mean we, Michael, Steven, Laura and I talked it over, and came up with this scheme. I had to see you. I couldn’t let it end like this, especially after Michael told me what happened.” Kate whispered quietly.

Shocked by the group’s involvement, and their obvious concern for both her and Kate, Jessica shook her head, trying to grasp what it all meant. She was speechless, resting her hand on Kate’s shoulder, working hard to make sense of all of this. Kate signaled for the exit to their destination.

Checking her map one more time, she noticed a beat up Jeep exit right behind her. Nothing noteable about the Jeep, except it was riding kind of close to their bumper. She slowed down when she reached the drive, and the Jeep went on past. Kate thought they must live down that way or something. Anxious to stop driving and get settled, she drove directly to the barn. Big Leo and another man were waiting for them, with the doors open. When she eased the limo into the interior, they closed the door behind them. . . . .

—————————————————————————

Those who desire to give up Freedom,
In order to gain security,
Will not have, nor do they deserve,
Either one.

********Thomas Jefferson********
Chapter 12 (Now I lay me down to sleep . . . . .)
Jessica sat in the back of the limousine, shaking her head. She couldn’t believe that her wild little PA, and hopefully still lover, had managed to pull off this incredible stunt. Of course, with her brother, and his lover, and who knows who all else involved, it’s a wonder she is so amazed.

Her reverie was broken, by her door being opened. Sliding over, she accepted the hand of her erstwhile companion, who was bowing as though in the presence of royalty. Say perhaps a princess or something to that affect. Kate helped her kidnapee out of the car, and then standing back at attention, waited for Jessica to say something.

Jessica had no need for words. Carefully removing Kate’s chauffeur hat, she lightly grasped her chin, and turned her face first to the left, and then to the right.

Satisfied that aliens had not abducted her friend, she bent forward, and captured Kate’s lovely lips in a fiery kiss. Expecting to be pushed away, she was met by a small groan, and the welcome embrace of her smaller companion. Jessica wrapped her arms around Kate’s shoulders, and the two women soaked up the tender warmth of being together again.

“Mmmm . . . .” Kate murmured.

“Yeahhh . . . .” Jessica mumbled back.

Realizing how quickly they both connected to each other, the two women stepped back, blinking almost guiltily. Both almost immediately reached for each other’s hands, not wanting the other to misunderstand, and turn away.

“I . . . ummm, I guess we should talk, I mean after all it wasn’t so great the last time we saw each other and all.” Kate found something interesting somewhere around her feet to stare at.

“I, uh, yeah, you’re right. I mean we hardly even know each other, and I mean a lot of stuff is going on, and well . . . . ” Jessica stumbled over her words, talking too fast.

“Okay, right, let me get this silly wig off, and then we can find a more comfortable place to talk, okay?” Kate smiled a half smile at her companion.

“Sure, let me help you with that.” Jessica reached for the offending hairpiece. “It looks like it must be uncomfortable. Did Michael find this for you?”

Kate turned her back to Jessica, and allowed her to start removing bobby pins. “Yes, he actually found everything, except for my shoes.”

“Hmm, and aren’t those something. I was wondering why you were so much taller than before.” Jessica stifled a chuckle at the lengths they went to surprise her. A comfortable little warmth crept over her heart for a moment. They . . . . surprised her. How cool!

Jessica pulled the last pin out, effectively releasing Kate’s long reddish-blond hair. Carefully running her fingers through the strands, she worked out any knots that had built up while being trapped under the wig. Kate unconsciously leaned back into Jessica, settling herself against her chest. Without thinking Jessica embraced her from behind, resting her cheek next to Kate’s ear.

“We aren’t going to get a lot accomplished in our discussion, if we keep doing this to ourselves.” Jessie breathed into Kate’s ear.

A warm blush crept up Kate’s neck. “Um, yeah, okay, right. Let’s check this place out, and see what’s here.”

Breaking away, she tossed the wig, and some other things onto the seat of the limo, and then closed the doors, reaching out with her other hand for Jessie. The two stepped away, and surveyed their surroundings.

The stable was beautiful. The floors were covered in a gorgeous Italian ceramic tile, and the temperature seemed to be perfect, not too cold, and not too hot. There were one or two horses in one of the stalls, but the rest seemed to be empty for the moment. Towards the opposite end of the barn there was a door leading into another room of the building. Motioning in that direction, they both walked quietly towards the door.

“Do you suppose they breed, or race?” Kate inquired looking around her.

“I’m not certain. Deborah never said anything, and neither did Momma when they rescued me from the hospital. I suppose they could do either.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders.

Stumbling, Kate tripped over her own platform shoes. Obviously not used to wearing heels, she came close to landing on her behind, and would have if Jessica hadn’t caught her in time. Sweeping her into her arms, like a bag of feathers, Jessica gave away her quiet strength again. It never ceased to amaze Kate that Jessie could just pick her up and carry her as though she were a child.

“You know, you hide your strength very well. Thanks for catching me.” Kate giggled.

“Anything for M’Lady.” Jessica said in a mock brogue, as she carefully set her down again.

Hmmm, M’Lady, that sure does sound good coming from you! It was a second before Kate realized she had spoken out loud.

Covering her mouth with her hand, she turned a wide-eyed stare in Jessica’s direction. “Oh, I’m sorry, you weren’t supposed to hear that.”

“Hey, it’s okay, I liked the fact that you liked hearing that from me.” Jessica grinned from ear to ear.

The two women stared at each other for a moment, and then burst out laughing.

“Sappy aren’t we?” Kate wiped away the tears of laughter forming in the corners of her eyes.

“Yeah,” Jessica wiped her own tears, “but it feels real good.”

Taking her hand again, Kate led Jessica to the mysterious door in the back. Reaching for the doorknob, she almost held her breath before opening it. Michael had given her some idea of what to expect, and she was hoping it was as special as he had led her to believe. Slowly she pulled it open. Taking a peek inside, she was more than delighted at the sight she beheld. Turning around to Jessica, she asked her to close her eyes, before stepping through the door.

“No peeking now, this is incredible.” Kate sounded mysterious as she guided her charge through the door.

“Okay, open your eyes.” Kate stepped back.

Looking at her surroundings, Jessica couldn’t help but think that she had died and gone to heaven. The room was rather large, with soft natural wood walls, and a huge stone fireplace in the corner. A fire had already been set, the flames reflecting warmly across the blankets, and large pillows that were scattered across the floor. On the opposite wall was a large comfortable looking bed, and in the corner, a bathroom, with a roomy shower. All in all, it couldn’t have been better if she had ordered it herself.

On a small table in the corner, there was a light pasta meal being kept warm in a small chafing dish, with a green salad, and a white California wine. Both women realized that they were starving, and headed right for the table. Holding Kate’s chair, Jessica made an attempt at chivalry. So far Kate had been the warrior, her protector. It was time to share a little of her own secret warrior.

Seating herself, Jessie uncovered the chafing dish, and served them both some pasta. Kate busied herself pouring the wine, and then lit the candles that were placed between them on the table. Someone had very graciously thought of everything, including matches for the candles, as well as everything else. It was like being in a secluded cabin, in the middle of nowhere, with a caterer.

Somehow though, Kate felt better knowing that there were people outside to protect them. She was feeling uneasy taking Jessica so far from the city, without so much as a pistol, or even a sling shot in her possession. She decided that after dinner, they should get to talking, and stop all of this mooning around each other. She knew how she felt about Jessie, but she didn’t want to force the other woman to feel the same about her.

Finishing their meal in silence, Jessica refilled their glasses, and then carried them over to the pile of blankets and pillows on the floor. Kicking off her shoes, and removing her jacket, she settled her tall, lanky frame into a nest of pillows, and then turned her gaze to Kate.

“Oh, I hope this is okay?” Jessica was concerned that she had made the wrong choice. Judging by the sparkle that reflected back at her from Kate’s eyes, she was relieved to see that it was alright.

“Oh no, that’s just fine. Let me take these cruel shoes off, and I’ll join you.” Kate replied, as she removed her platform heels.

Crossing the floor slowly, Kate couldn’t shake the feeling of euphoria that seemed to make time slow down around her. Settling herself cross-legged on the blankets and pillows, she realized that she was staring at the beautiful dark haired goddess sitting before her, almost unable to breath.

Jessica could feel the shift in the atmosphere, and caught herself at the last moment, before she reached over and kissed Kate again, and wouldn’t stop kissing her, if she gave in to the urge. She cleared her throat, and shook her head a few times, effectively shaking them both out of their trance.

“Wow, must be the wine or something.” Kate mumbled embarrassed.

“Yeah, must be.” Jessica sounded a little groggy.

“Well, you go first.” Kate tried to think clearly. “I want to know what Justin said to you. I think you started to tell me, but I managed to block it out.”

Jessica’s face turned momentarily sad at the memory. “Oh, well, it seems that reporter, Sharon MacAfee, the one that’s been stalking me for a while now, thinks that there is something sordid going on in my life. She is planning on putting up a front page expose’ of her impressions of my new Personal Assistant, and the fact that old Jessica here just might be steppin’ over the old gay fence you know. Justin is in an absolute panic, because he is afraid that no matter how well we are doing in the ratings, if that kind of news leaked out, it might destroy the show. There are a lot of people that depend on me everyday, to feed their families, and to pay their rent.” A whole new level of sadness crept over her features.

“I don’t want to hurt these people, but I can’t begin to describe to you the happiness I’ve been able to share with you the last few days. It happens so seldom in my life, that I don’t want to let it go. I feel greedy, but I can’t help it. I’m not even sure I want to help it.” Jessica bowed her head, fearing the tears she felt building behind her eyelids, might just fall.

Placing her hand over Jessica’s, Kate held it tightly, willing her to let the tears fall. “I have a small bit of hope to share.” Kate whispered. Jessica fixed her with a tear filled gaze. Slowly one tear escaped, and slipped down her cheek. “Michael called a friend of his, a woman who works for one of those big gay organizations here in Los Angeles. Her mother is an actress, and her father is a Senator or something like that. Anyway, Michael said she was more than willing to help us. She has already been in contact with Justin, and is doing damage control with that Sharon woman. They are calling a meeting for tomorrow, and we are all supposed to attend. She said she would take care of everything, and that we should just listen, and not comment.”

Again Jessica was stunned. She couldn’t believe that so much had happened in such a short time, and all for her. She allowed the tears to fall freely this time. Kate crawled over to her, and held Jessica in her arms. Stroking her hair, she lightly kissed the top of her head. Jessica cried for a time, and then fearing she was acting like a big baby, pulled away with an apology, and searched for some tissues. Kate jumped up, and trotted to the bathroom, returning with a whole box.

After she had a moment to compose herself, Jessica pulled Kate back in close, and then told her what Justin had said about Gregory, and the things he was involved in. As of the last time she checked, no one had seen him, he was still missing.

“Listen, to tell the truth, I am a little nervous about bringing you out here. I know that Momma will see to our protection and all, but I am completely unarmed. I feel bad. I should be better prepared.” Kate’s guilt was showing clearly on her face.

“Don’t feel bad. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Sometimes the people around me mean well, but they tend to treat me like a china doll. Really, I am far from the china doll stage. I can hold my own pretty well in a fight, and as you well know, I’m pretty strong. Besides, I don’t think Gregory would be stupid enough to try something here. Momma already has a grudge against him, and somehow I think some of her associates would probably back her up.” Jessica smiled at the thought.

“You’re probably right, still . . . .” Kate was lost in her dark thoughts again.

“So, tell me what your thoughts are about all of this newspaper stuff and everything.” Jessica changed the subject.

Kate told her about how long she had cried, and how terrible she felt when Laura had pointed out to her, that she could have been making too quick a judgement about Jessica’s feelings for her. She apologized again, and promised to not react so quickly in the future.

“Heck, even Corky and Violet were freaking out because of me. I couldn’t speak to anyone, and I wouldn’t even let them into the office with me for a while. It wasn’t until Laura reminded me of some very important things, like the fact that you are a person, not just an actress, and then Michael confirmed our suspicions, and I finally calmed down. I don’t think I have ever felt quite this way about another person before. Not so much that it almost hurts to feel this good.” Kate said matter-of-factly.

“I know what you mean. What if Michael’s friend can’t help us, then what do we do?” Jessica frowned.

“I . . . . guess that’s up to you. I don’t have a career, or people depending on me.” Kate matched her frown.

“Yes, you do. You have me depending on you. I don’t want to lose this, to lose you. We just have to be careful I guess.” Jessica’s frown turned to a somewhat evil grin.

“Okay, I’m game if you are.” Kate Slipped back into Jessie’s warm embrace.

The two women spent another hour or so talking quietly with each other. Kate told Jessica about her parents, specifically her father, and how he never felt that women could be anything but secretaries, and then mothers. And how her mother had found happiness again, in the arms of a Silicon Valley CEO. Kate also told Jessica about meeting Laura on the internet, at the beginning of the Kendra Knight shows, and how they would talk until late at night, about the episodes, and about the shows star. Laura was the first to start writing fan fiction, and then Kate tried her hand at it as well. Laura was by far the best, in Kate’s opinion, but Kate turned a good story now and again as well. They both shared the same likes and dislikes as far as the show was concerned, and both had the same favorite authors.

Jessica asked about Laura and her girlfriend April, where they lived, and what they did, how they met. “Well, it all started about 20 or so years ago. Laura was living at home, taking care of her mother, and April was living with someone else. They actually met through the other girlfriend. April went through some pretty nasty times, and Laura just managed to be around, to help her out. She wouldn’t ever say she was interested, but she truly was. Finally, after about three years of all kinds of strange goings on, April finally left her girlfriend. Laura stayed by her faithfully, and then before you knew it they were living together, and the rest as they say is history.”

Jessica thought the story was wonderful. “Did they live happily ever after?”

“Well for the most part I guess. I mean everyone has their ups and downs, and those two definitely had their problems. But, they managed to work them out together, and have lasted this long. I can’t even think of one without the other. For a while I think April was jealous of Laura’s involvement with the internet. She doesn’t even care for your show that much, but she finally got over it. I mean, this way she knows where Laura is, and she actually see’s it as a method for Laura to step up to writing legitimately someday.” Kate refilled their glasses with the rest of the bottle of wine.

“Hmmm, do you think April would let me in their house?” Jessica frowned again.

“Oh, sure, she would probably be speechless, much like Laura. It’s one thing to watch someone you idolize from afar, and quite another to have the idol in your home. I think you two would get along great.” Kate smiled and squeezed Jessica’s hand again.

“So, you didn’t tell me what they do.” Jessica asked again.

“Well, April runs an office coffee service for a worldwide food service company. Laura used to work there too, but she got laid off, so she took a job in Half Moon Bay working for a small business. She is also taking pictures on the side, and hopes to have some published, as well as writing her stories. Her mother lives in the same mobile home park that they do, so Laura sees to her care as well. On top of all of that, they also sort of run a “mommy” service for several of their friends. It seems that people are attracted to the two of them, because they have such a long and vast history of dealing with people and their problems. I guess that’s how Laura managed to get me to talk, come to think of it.” Kate closed her eyes for a moment when the memories came flooding back.

“Well, I can’t wait to meet them. If anyone needs some mommy help, I think it’s me.” Jessica smiled a lopsided smile.

Both women sat in silence again. Kate realized that she had been doing all of the talking, and Jessica had yet to share any of her history. Michael had already told Kate some of the stories, but she knew there were a lot more mysteries surrounding her friend. She decided not to push the subject. All would come out one of these days.

“Listen, I’m feeling a little grubby, and a little tired. Care to join me in a shower?’ Kate was feeling a bit bold at the moment.

Surprised, Jessica raised one eyebrow. “Well, I, well okay. I could use a nice hot shower.

Shyly, realizing what she had just implied, Kate reached down, and helped her taller friend to her feet. She stopped for a moment, and added a log or two to the fire, to stoke it up a little while they showered. That way there would be soft embers, when they returned.

Taking Jessie’s hand, Kate led her to the bathroom. Not sure if it was embarrassment, or the wine making her feel warm, she reached over and turned the lights on. Jessica started to turn, and unbutton her blouse, suddenly shy in front of Kate. With a blush she remembered the first time she undressed in front of her friend. She wondered why now was so different. Because, you still don’t know where you stand, and you are scared, simple as that.

Kate evaluated the situation. “Jess? Is it too soon for this? I mean, there doesn’t have to be sex. Contrary to popular belief, all naked encounters do not have to end up being sexual. If you would rather be alone, I can wait.”

Jessie blushed again. Surprised at her once shy friend’s new boldness, she made a quick decision. “I think we can manage to share a shower, without losing control. Stay. Besides, I need someone to wash my back.”

Getting that out of the way, the two women felt better. Jessie continued to undress, and Kate started her own process. Getting out of the chauffers uniform by herself, proved to be harder than she thought. It had a lot of hidden little catches and things to make it fit right, and she couldn’t reach some of them.

“Could you give me a hand here, I can’t unlatch some of these darned hooks inside the jacket.” Kate was straining to reach the offending items.

Jessie looked up, and burst into giggles at the sight of Kate turning and twisting like a contortionist trying to escape her clothes. “Hang on, stop spinning, I’ll get you out.”

While Jessie reached into the jacket, her fingers brushed by the still nasty bruise on Kate’s back. Kate breathed in sharply. Concerned, Jessica turned back the coat to take a look.

“Wow, that really is getting nasty. Hurts, huh? I’m so sorry. I wish that had never happened.” A deep sadness crept into Jessica’s heart.

“Oh, come on now, don’t start that. I’m alive, and that’s what’s important. If I hadn’t been there, and been prepared for something like that, it might have been Deborah, or you. And neither one of you may have survived. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Kate turned, and put her arms around Jessie’s bare waist.

Jessica just stood there with her eyes closed, soaking in the feeling of being cared for. Kate placed a very light kiss between Jessie’s breasts, and then turned and finished removing her clothing.

Overwhelmed by the tenderness, Jessie stood there, unable to move. Realizing that Jessie was in distress, Kate dropped her clothes and went to her. She reached out her hands, as Jessie slowly knelt on the floor. Covering her face with her hands she began to weep. Kate dropped to the floor, and circling the taller woman in her arms, held her to her chest, and let her cry.

There was no strength left in Jessie when she finally calmed down. Kate stroked her hair, periodically kissing her temple, while she held her friend close. Quietly murmuring soft words to Jessie, she carefully tipped her chin back, and using the corner of a towel, dried away the tears that showed only too well her pain.

Kissing Jessie on the forehead, she waited patiently until the distraught woman opened her eyes. Blinking in the glare, something so simple as opening her eyes became an effort. Using the towel, Kate covered her own head, and then used the end to shade Jessie’s eyes. This had the desired effect, because it made Jessie chuckle, and allowed Kate to confirm that her lover was going to be alright.

“Do you feel better?” Kate whispered.

“Yeah, sure, I just about flood us both out, lose my mind, and then wakeup in the arms of a mermaid in the middle of a porcelain beach. I feel great.” Jessie half-grinned.

“Good, I’m glad. I think you needed that. Laura says that crying and laughing are both good for you, because if you don’t laugh or cry, you might explode. And it’s a lot harder mopping up after a head explosion, than it is to kiss away tears.” Kate was very matter-of-fact about her friends philosophies.

“Did she really say that? That’s kind of an interesting way to look at life.” Jessie found herself more anxious to meet this friend of Kate’s someday.

“Oh, yes. Laura has all kinds of things to say about life. She has seen some pretty terrible things, and helped a lot of people. She should have gotten her degree, and become a psychologist or counselor or something.” Kate frowned slightly.

“Why didn’t she?” Jessie asked.

“She says she ran out of time, and she couldn’t afford it anyway. Laura’s great at inventing logical reasoning for illogical problems, especially if they concern her. I think she’s afraid that if she ever became 100% great at any one thing, that she might not be happy. She prefers to look at her gift for listening, and helping people solve their troubles as a case of good mothering. And she is definitely a great mother.” Kate giggled, thinking about the mother’s day card she sent Laura last year.

“Say, are you ready to get into the shower, or what? I’ve got all of these tears dripping down my chest, and so do you. What say we clean up, and then snuggle in bed and talk. Morning is coming fast, and then we have to work again, so we better get moving. Unless you want to stay here in my tent, and we sleep here leaning against the throne.” Kate began to idly tickle Jessie, trying to keep her good mood intact.

“Okay, okay, I get ya. Let’s get in the shower. Sleeping on the bathroom floor sounds like a Gregory thing, and that’s gross.” Jessie started to unfold herself from the floor, and stumbled.

“Whoa, take it easy. You’re blood pressure’s been up, and fueling those emotions, and it’s going to leave you kind of weak. Trust me, been there, done that. Let me help you up.” Kate was immediately concerned.

Reaching down and grasping Jessie by the arms, she helped her into a standing position. Finishing undressing them both, Kate led her to the shower, and stepping in first, guided Jessie in after her.

“Here, stand under the water, and let it pound right at the base of your neck, where it connects between your head and your shoulders. It will help loosen the muscles.” Kate kept a firm grip on Jessie’s arms, to keep her from slipping.

“Mmm, you are so right. Can I stay here for ever?” Jessie half-joked.

“Well, you could, but you would end up looking like a prune, and I doubt seriously if the hot water will last that long.” Kate smiled broadly.

“Okay, but it’s not fair you know. I could really get to liking this.” Jessie pouted.

“Tell you what,” Kate whispered, “don’t tell anyone, but I’ll be glad to help you out anytime. Okay?”

“Mmm, okay.” Jessie returned Kate’s grin.

A few more moments of soaking in the pounding water, and then Kate began very clinically washing each and every part of Jessica’s tired body. Jessie just stood there, and let herself be pampered. Kate washed her long dark hair, and then after rinsing out the shampoo, applied a liberal amount of cream rinse. Piling as much of Jessie’s hair as she could on the top of her head, she told her to stand still, until she could wash herself. She quickly went through the process, and then finished rinsing both of them off.

Stepping out first, she grabbed one of the large towels, and after helping Jessie out, wrapped her up, and then grabbed the other towel and wrapped herself up. Carefully toweling Jessie dry, she had her sit on the toilet seat, and dried her hair, then brushed it out. At the last minute, she decided to braid the long dark tresses into a single braid down her back. Standing back to look at her accomplishment, she smiled broadly.

“What?” Jessie returned from some far off place.

“Just looking at you. You look very cute, with your hair all done, your face all shiny, and that silly smile.” Without thinking, Kate bent down and kissed her lightly on the lips.

Taking her hand, Jessie kissed first the back and then the palm. Holding it to her cheek, and closing her eyes again, she sighed deeply. “You make me feel wonderful. Absolutely and unquestionably wonderful. I had no idea that there could be such nice moments in my life. I had given that all up for lost. Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do, or anyone else I would rather be with, ever. Now come on, we’re starting to get way mushy, and I might start crying myself. Let’s get me dried off, and both of us into bed. Long day tomorrow, I called Alice before I left to pick you up, and got the schedule. You still need to get a dress for that awards show, and I have a ton of mail to sort through.” Kate pulled Jessie back up, and pointed her in the direction of the bed.

Drying herself off, she reflected on the last few days again. This is so strange! I never would have thought of myself as A: anyone that someone like Jessica Ryan would be interested in, and B: feeling stronger about myself, and my right to happiness. I think, just maybe, that this might be love. I’m scared though. With all of the trouble, and Jessie’s uncertainties, I don’t want to frighten her away. One day at a time, McKenna, one day at a time!

Kate picked up the bathroom, not wanting to be a poor guest, and then worked her way out to the bedroom. Jessie was already under the covers, sleeping lightly. Kate tried to slip in, without disturbing her. There was plenty of time to talk later.

“Mmph, sorry, falling out. Waking up.” Jessie mumbled.

“No, don’t, sleep, that’s it, close your eyes, and sleep. I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere.” Kate reached over, and shut the bedside lamp off.

Jessie rolled over, and slipped into Kate’s arms, resting her head on her chest. Kate stayed awake for a while, listening to Jessie breath, occasionally hearing her mumble in her sleep. She lightly stroked her arm, and murmured sweet things to her, hoping to scare away any demons that might be disturbing her rest.

——————————————————————————–

Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.

********William Blake********
Chapter 13: Engarde, you rogue!!!
Kate wasn’t sure how much time had gone by, when she heard the beginnings of a light rain start to fall on the roof, and patter against the window. She began to drift into her own soft sleep, when suddenly lights flared through the far window, and the sound of breaking wood and screeching tires came blaring across the fields outside. Men were shouting, and she thought she heard gun fire.

“Jessie, Jessie honey wake up! Hurry! We have to get into the car. Hurry!” Kate started shaking Jessie, adrenaline starting to seep into her body.

“Wha . . .! What’s wrong? What’s going on?” Jessie fumbled her way out of sleep.

“Something’s happening outside, we need to get up and get into the car. Now!” Kate was throwing back the covers, and pulling Jessie up with her.

Jessie’s tired mind finally heard what had started Kate moving. She rolled out of the other side of the bed, and grabbing shoes, clothes, and anything else in her path, ran for the door to the barn where the car was parked. Kate was right behind her trying to hear what was happening outside.

Reaching the car, Kate opened the back door, and grabbing Jessie, pushed her in ahead of her. Jessie threw the clothes in, and then laid down on the floor. Kate dove in after her, and laying on top of Jessie, hit the power lock, and sealed them inside.

“Hmm, this is kinda kinky don’t you think?” Jessie couldn’t help chuckling from her place under her protector.

“Shhh, it’s not funny! I heard gun shots, and heard what sounded like a car, or truck driving through a fence out there. It might be Gregory. This is the safest place we can be. The car is built better than a tank. Here, quick, put some clothes on. I told Big Leo that if anything happened, to come and find us. If he couldn’t, or didn’t want to give away our location, then someone is to call us on the cell phone. It’s the best I could do in such short time.” Kate’s eyes took on a haunted sort of look in the shadows.

Jessie sorted through the clothes, and started to get dressed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh. I didn’t realize it was so serious.”

“Hey, it’s alright. Now that I think I have you, I don’t intend to lose you. And with someone as insane as Gregory out there doing God knows what, I refuse to let him win the fight.” Kate wished she had brought an extra pair of shoes. The platforms were not going to be useful if they had to run.

Dressed, she rifled through her pockets, and found the keys to the car. Carefully working towards the front, she slipped through the privacy window, and turned the power on, so she could lower the driver’s window a crack. Looking back to smile at Jessie, she gestured with her head to have her join her up front.

“Just lay low, and if I say down, get down. We may have to take off, if they can’t stop whoever is out there.” Kate helped the taller woman wriggle onto the seat through the small opening.

Slumping low, Jessie nodded her head. It was so quiet in the car, you could almost hear their heartbeats. Kate lowered the window a little more, and turned in the seat slightly, to listen for the outside noises. Not hearing anything, she was tempted to open the door. Just as she reached for the locks, a loud thump hit the side of the car. Without taking the time to even think, Kate turned back in her seat, and starting the car, put it into reverse and prepared to floor it.

Looking towards the front of the car, she had time to see what could only be Gregory, pointing an extremely large weapon at them through the windshield. Honking the horn to warn people, she slammed the car backwards through the barn door, sending splinters and hardware skyward. Cranking the steering wheel as hard as she could, she sent the limousine into a spin, effectively causing it to reverse direction, and face away from the building.

“GET DOWN, NOW!” Kate shouted at Jessie.

Jessie frantically slipped to the floor, and curled herself into the smallest ball she could under the dashboard. Kate shifted into drive, and floored the accelerator, the tires temporarily spinning in the loose dirt of the barn’s yard. Finally gaining traction, the car responded, and they shot towards the roadway, rapidly gaining speed. A loud deafening roar, and a thunk against the left rear of the car almost forced them to the side of the road.

Kate realized that whatever weapon Gregory was carrying, the limousine wouldn’t stand up to too many more hits like that. She pushed the vehicle to it’s safest limits, and careened down the road trying to hold her panic in check. Slipping and sliding on the damp pavement, Kate was afraid they might lose control. When they reached the open freeway, she reduced her speed so she wouldn’t attract attention, or cause an accident.

Looking down to where Jessie was obviously uncomfortably crammed under the dashboard, she reached with her hand, and gestured for her to come back up onto the seat.

“Are you okay?” Kate asked, worry stressing her voice.

“I’m fine. Wow, you really can drive this thing can’t you?” Jessie was wide-eyed with shock.

“Like I said, no one is going to hurt you, especially not that monster, Gregory.” Kate had a look of angry determination on her face.

Grabbing her cell phone, she had Jessie fasten her seatbelt. She couldn’t be sure they were safe, until she talked to someone. Dialing Big Leo’s number, she was growing increasingly nervous when no one answered right away. To her surprise it was Momma’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Katie?” Momma shouted into the receiver.

“Momma, it’s me. What happened? Where’s Leo?” Kate’s nerves were jangling by now.

“That bastard Gregory shot my baby Leo.” Momma spat into the phone. “He’s gonna be okay though, just a scratch. I put a hole in that SOB’s rear end though, don’t think I didn’t. He ain’t gonna sit down for a month. That’s what he gets for trying to hurt my children. Ah’m gonna kill him the next time he darkens my door. You watch me.”

Kate couldn’t hold the nervous giggles back at Momma’s message. “I’m sorry, I’m not really laughing. Did he get away? Did anyone stop him.”

“Yes, he got away. He had a jeep out near the barn, that’s how he drove through the fence. The stupid idiots my son calls friends, forgot to disable the bastard’s car. He managed to get to it, and drive away. They are looking for him now.” Momma was clearly disgusted at the lack of planning these so called “body guards” displayed.

Immediately on the alert again, Kate told her they would be careful, and watch for him. Hanging up, she made two more calls. The first was to the Detective who was handling their case. He told her to find a safe place to stay, and contact him when they got there. The last call was to Michael and Steven. They were shaken from their sleep, and worried sick about the girls, but Kate assured them they were okay, and that they would let them know where they were.

“So, where’s a safe place to go right now?” Kate addressed Jessie with the question.

“Hmm, I know, let’s go to the office. It’s a highly secure building. I know they have deactivated all of Gregory’s access codes. We can hide out in my office.” Jessie was proud of herself for thinking of it.

“You have an office?” Kate was surprised.

“Yeah, it evolved out of my need to have someplace to go, to get away from all of the human garbage that was associated with my “husband”. I actually spent quite a bit of time there in the past.” Jessie lowered her eyes again.

“Hey, it’s nice to have a place to hide sometimes. Especially now. Listen, Momma says they didn’t get him, I guess you heard that part. We need to stay on our toes, and watch for him all of the time. There is no telling when he might try again. Are you with me?” Kate glanced over to see Jessie’s reaction.

An angry, determined look crossed Jessica’s face. “Of course I’m with you. I don’t exactly want to lose you either. I hate feeling like such a baby sometimes. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. I’m with you all the way.”

“Good. If I get too pushy, say so. Just remember, it might save your life.” Kate was deadly serious. “If I say get down, I don’t meant get up and dance! We have to try to stay on our toes, but still get through the day. I am not going to let this bastard make us prisoners either. Besides, Momma says he’s injured. She shot him in the rear end, before he made his escape. Hopefully it will slow him down.” Both women chuckled nervously at that news.

As Kate piloted the big car towards the studio offices, Gregory led Big Leo’s friends on a wild goose chase. Deciding to lay low for a time, he realized that he had better get to a doctor somewhere for his wound. That old bitch! I’ll kill her and the rest of those mutants she calls family, just as soon as I get my “widdle baby Jessie back”. She owes me, and she’s going to pay. I’ll make sure of that. Even if it means killing that baby dyke of hers. Ha, Gregory. You are one clever man. Just wait . . . .wait . . . . wait!

Jessie fished around in her wallet, and found her card key for the parking garage, and eventually to allow them to gain access to the building. After several tries, she remembered her passcode. Most of the time she didn’t have to use the card (like never), and so it didn’t come to mind right away. Michael always used his card to get them in and out of the garage and the building. Kate sat patiently, while Jessie fumbled with the card reader, pushing buttons, and then swearing when it didn’t work.

“Umm, should we call Michael, and get the numbers?” Kate was trying to be helpful.

Wide-eyed, with one eyebrow crooked up, Jessie mumbled her reply.

“What? I’ll be glad to call Michael, it will only take a second.” Kate was nervous about them being out in the open. Gregory could come around the corner at any minute.

“No, I said I’m fine. Just one more second.” Jessie had her tongue stuck in the corner of her mouth with concentration.

Finally, one of the combinations worked, before the system crashed, and wouldn’t let them try again. Kate pointed that fact out to Jessie, that they could have been blocked from entering the building.

“Yeah, but we weren’t were we?” Jessica pouted.

“No, you’re right we weren’t. Now get back in here, so we can get out of sight. I don’t want to be caught out here on the street.” Kate smiled and tried to make up for sounding patronizing.

Jessie ducked back into the car, and Kate drove down into the garage. Parking across from the elevators, they both walked around back to see the damage left by the massive gun Gregory had fired at them. The left rear quarter panel of the car was blown to bits. Fortunately the gas tank is on the opposite side, or they could have gone up in flames. Kate shuddered when she thought of the consequences, had his aim been better.

Taking Kate’s hand, Jessie zapped her card into the elevator reader, and then led Kate inside. Putting her arm around Kate’s shoulders, she pulled her close, and then waving at the security camera, pushed the button to the 14th floor. Her office was two floors below Justin’s, and one below the administrative offices of the studio. They thought it would be better to scatter everyone around. Even Gregory had no knowledge of a separate office for Jessica. She and Justin had made it their little secret.

Checking the hallway when the doors opened, Jessica directed Kate to a doorway at the end and to the right. Again using her cardkey, she punched in her code again, and opened the door. A soft light went on, to allow them to see into the room before entering. Jessie allowed Kate to go ahead of her, and then followed when Kate gave her the all clear. They mutually had decided that it paid to be careful, even if they felt like they were playing James Bond or something.

“Say, this is really nice.” Kate was truly impressed.

Wandering over to the massive sofa on one side of the room, Kate flopped onto her back, crossing her feet as she landed. “Ooooh, is this the infamous casting couch?” she smirked.

“Hey, watch that. That there is some precious bit of furniture you got your feet on. Genuine naugahyde. Lots of little Naugas died for that couch you know.” Jessie chuckled at their joking banter.

“Hmmm, and how many nubile young lassies have you cast on this couch, Ms. Ryan? Hmmm? What’s a matter, cat got your tongue?” Kate winked a few times to catch Jessie’s attention.

“Why, you, I’ll cat get your tongue, you just wait.” Jessie crossed the room with a few short strides of her long legs.

Winding up her fingers for a class-A tickle session, Jessie grabbed Kate, and started tickling her ribs. Kate giggled, screeched, and then started to squirm. Jessie saw her chance, and pinning Kate under her, started to lick her face. Her eyebrows, her chin, her ear. Kate screamed again, and laughed even harder. Suddenly she got an arm loose, and pinning Jessie’s arm under one leg, wrapped her free arm around Jess’ neck, pulled her in for a quick kiss.

Jessie fought for a moment, until she realized that she had been heading in that direction herself, and had gotten distracted. Suspending her struggle, she gave in and returned Kate’s kiss. They kissed several times, carefully exploring each other, and sweetly savoring each and every touch. It was still not important to cross the line to sex, but it was mutually acceptable, in a quiet loving way. In a way it reassured both of them, that they could be so tender and comfortable with each other. It made them both feel . . . . loved!

Jessie slipped over on her side, and pulled Kate into her arms. Kate half laid on Jessie, resting her head on her shoulder. They held each other for a while like this, not speaking, just holding. Recovering from the wild awakening they had just experienced, and the acceptance that they were both willing to battle the odds, to be together. Still, neither one would speak the “three little words” to each other. Both had been damaged for so long, that the fear of commitment was way too much to overcome. Yet, they were comfortable in their own hearts, to know that it wouldn’t be long. As long as they could continue to trust each other, and to feel this good together, then it would be very soon.

Kate watched as Jessie slowly closed her eyes, and her breathing became more rhythmic, as she slipped into sleep. Carefully getting up, trying hard not to wake her love, Kate wandered over to a closet, and opening it quietly, was pleased to find a pillow, and some warm blankets. She never did put her shoes on, so tiptoeing in her socks, she covered Jessie with the blankets, and then carefully slipped back into her arms. Jessie shifted, and mumbled, and then closed her arms around her companion, and drifted back to sleep.

Before they both realized it, the sun started to rise over Los Angeles the bright rays of light slowly gliding over them. Kate was the first to awaken. She sat up part way, and smiling touched one finger to Jessica’s beautiful lips. Jessie looked just like a sleeping child to her. No nightmares, no demons, just soft peaceful sleep. Barely brushing her lips across that sleeping smile, she quietly slipped out of Jessie’s embrace, and began to explore her surroundings. Finding a first class bathroom behind the door that was not the closet, she took the chance to relieve herself, and then freshen up a bit. Another shower sounded wonderful. Quietly she slipped out of her clothes, and turned on the hot water.

Not sure how much time had gone by, Kate was beginning to think she should probably get out, when the aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifted in through the opening bathroom door.

“Mmmm, is that the coffee fairy I smell. Oooh, that smells wonderful!” Kate breathed in the aroma.

Slowly the shower door slid back, and a hand holding a steaming mug of hot coffee came through the opening. Kate grabbed the mug, and stepped back so they wouldn’t get burned. Jessie followed the hand, with another mug in her other hand for herself. She had removed her clothes, before entering the bathroom to preserve her surprise.

“Hey there, good morning.” Jessie touched her mug to Kate’s.

“Hey, good morning to you too.” Kate stepped in closer to Jessie.

Bending down to kiss Kate’s offered lips, Jessie almost burst with the well of emotion in this small act. For all she cared, this could be a Hallmark moment, a picture postcard moment, or a time stopping moment. Nothing gets better than this, nothing!

Careful not to spill the mugs of hot coffee, they both set them down on the small shelf to the rear of the stall. Jessie took the initiative, and grabbing a small bottle of shampoo from the shelf, started the methodical process of bathing her lover. It was like exploring familiar, yet unknown territory. Even though they had showered together just last evening, each moment seemed special, and somehow new. The outside world no longer existed for them. When Jessie was finished, Kate returned the favor. Slowly massaging, and caressing every inch of Jessie’s body, she explored with a new and childlike wonder.

Running her finger across a nasty scar on Jessie’s lower back, she looked into her lover’s eyes, at once realizing that there was no need to question it’s origin, nor the identity of its originator. Kissing Jessie’s chest and collar bones, Kate laid her head down, in sorrow that such an incredible person could be treated so poorly. Jessie held Kate tightly, appreciative of her understanding, and accepting of the knowledge that Kate had suffered her own form of abuse as well. Both injured souls seemed to touch at that moment, almost as though through their mutual understanding, their souls had become one.

Shutting the water off, Jessie reached through the door, and went to grab a towel, when another more masculine hand shook hers from the direction of the doorway. Stifling a scream, she pulled her hand back, and before the intruder had a chance to speak, Kate was out the door, and in the middle of his chest, preparing to pull his lungs out through his nose. She had pulled back her fist, and was about to let loose, when Jessie grabbed her from behind. Wrapping her in a towel, she practically lifted Kate off of Michael, chuckling at his stupidity.

“Wow, that’s the first time in my life I have very nearly been killed by a naked Irish girl. And darlin’ you are truly Irish if I do say so myself.” Michael chuckled nervously at the near death experience that he had just come so close to.

“Little brother, you are not so very smart, do you know that?” Jessica chuckled again, while restraining her fiery charge, and preventing her from killing her sibling. More for the comment about her heritage, than for the intrusion.

“Michael! You are a pig!” Kate spat in his direction.

“Well, if you’re going to launch yourself out of a shower, like a banshee on steroids, and totally naked to boot, then expect your attackee to look for God’s sake. Hell, be proud. There really aren’t that many true redheads or blonds in this whole town. That makes you special, kinda like a virgin.” Michael laughed at his joke.

Shooing her brother out of the bathroom, Jessie wrapped herself in a towel, and then keeping one hand on her charge, closed the door. Turning to face Kate, she was surprised to see tears in her eyes. Pulling Kate into her arms, she held her closely for a moment, and then using the corner of her towel, dried her tears.

“What’s wrong, Katie? Why are you crying?” Jessica spoke softly, kissing the top of Kate’s head.

“Good God! I almost cleaned his clock. What is the matter with him? Don’t you think he might realize that we could just possibly be on edge here? I will not allow you to be harmed, and that is it. Next time, I might not be able to stop myself. I could have killed him, if I had let loose a moment sooner.” Kate was obviously distraught.

“Hmm, are you sure it wasn’t the redhead joke? I mean he does have a warped sense of humor. And besides, he doesn’t always think ahead. He probably assumed that we would know that Gregory couldn’t get in here, so we were most likely safe. He was just trying to be funny.” Jessica tipped Kate’s face up, so she could kiss her lips.

Instantly forgetting Michael for the moment, Kate sank into the kiss, with a passion born on the wings of exhaustion, fear, and the need for Jessica’s touch. Everything around them disappeared again. This time it was expected, and welcomed. Unfortunately, with their guest in the other room, this was not the time to follow that path.

With a small sigh, and a last kiss, Kate separated from Jessie, and kissing the palms of both hands, turned to see if she could find some of her clothes. She wished desperately that she had thought to pack a bag. A clean pair of underwear at least. She was so caught up in her thoughts, that she hadn’t realized that Jessie hadn’t moved yet. She was still standing in the middle of the bathroom staring at the palms of her hands as though they belonged to someone else.

“Jess, honey, what’s wrong? You look like you just saw a ghost.” Kate was concerned.

Jessie turned her hands down, so Kate could see the palms. In the exact center of each one was a bright red spot where Kate’s lips had touched. They seemed to be red hot, as though the kisses had burned their memory in permanently. Kate took both hands in her own, and holding them close to her chest, stared into Jessie’s eyes looking for the answer to their unasked question. Jessie closed her eyes and shook her head. The answer eluded her as much as it did Kate. They stood together for a moment longer, when Michael’s frantic knocking shook them out of their reverie.

“Hey, what’s up in there? Jessie, that detective guy is on the phone for you. And you guys, I brought clean clothes and things for you. I mean geez, you haven’t exactly, like, been carrying your wardrobe around with you or anything.” Michael sighed dramatically.

“Hmmm, resourceful. That’s what I like in a gay man. Always on their toes, when it comes to fashion sense. Well, almost always.” Jessie smiled slightly, still dizzy from the passionate response her body had focused on Kate’s kisses to her hands.

Kate was still shaken up about Michael’s unannounced arrival, so Jessie went out and gathered together the bag of clothes. She talked briefly to the detective. He let them know with great disappointment, that Gregory had disappeared again. He also assured her that they would continue the search, and would not stop until he was apprehended. Thanking him, Jessie returned to the bathroom.

Kate was sitting on the toilet seat, chin resting in her hands. She looked extremely depressed. It was obvious that lack of sleep, and the increased stress were starting to get to her. Jessie mentally hoped that things would settle down soon, at least until the hiatus, when they could take off for Northern California. She knew she could use the break, and she was sure Kate needed it as well.

“Well, I guess we better get a move on. We need to pick up the staging and blocking notes from Alice, and I need to run lines again. Ted is asking us to work through the weekend, to catch up for lost time. I also need to find a dress for that awards show. I wish I didn’t have to waste time with that stuff, but I guess it will be okay.” Jessica tried to get their thoughts on to the business of the day.

“Yeah, I guess so.” Kate mumbled.

Jessie slowly stroked Kate’s hair, and then taking her arms, lifted her into a standing position, and kissed her forehead. “Stop feeling so bad. It will be alright. I’ll talk to Michael. Establish some ground rules. He’s just so used to being my only friend, that he doesn’t know how to act with us. Besides, he really likes you. A lot. And he gets crazy sometimes. He’ll understand. He even brought you some shoes. He likes you.”

Kate smiled, and sighed. “It’s okay, I guess I’m just really tired. Let’s get into the routine, and maybe it will take my mind off all this stuff. Can we get some food around here? I’m starved.”

Michael chose that time to knock on the bathroom door again. This time he was less frantic. “Hey you guys? I brought some pastries, and croissants for breakfast. I thought you might be hungry.”

Both women smiled, and shook their heads.

“You gotta love him.” Jessie chuckled.

The women joined him in the main office area, and filled up on the sumptuous treats Michael had brought them. He also had the foresight to bring juice, and more coffee. After a short time, the nerves in the room settled down, and everyone was talking about the excitement of the night before.

“Where’s Steven.” Kate asked Michael.

“Oh, he really wanted to be here, but some rich old bat needed him to escort her to a charity fashion show of some sort. He said he would try to catch us later this evening if possible.” Michael couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“Looks like you two have really hit it off. I’m glad, because Steven has really been treated like garbage over the years. It’s nice to find someone who likes him for him.” Katie tried to make amends for her earlier outburst.

“Yeah, I really do like him. He’s . . . . well, he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Michael was almost choked up at his admission.

“So Michael, are you driving for us today, or do we take care of ourselves?” Jessie inquired, gently changing the subject.

“Oh, I’m driving you. Say, great remodel on the car. I called the shop, and they came and got it. There’s a town car being delivered in a couple of hours. I didn’t think you would be leaving here anytime soon. I mean, you have stuff to do here right?” Michael asked.

“Oh yeah, I’m several days behind, and I know Alice wants to spend more time with me on the scheduling etc. I would like to be present, when you go dress shopping, if that’s okay?” Katie looked at Jessie for a moment.

Jessica blushed. “Um, of course it’s okay. Besides, I think you need to try on dresses as well. I mean you aren’t exactly going to wear that are you?”

It took a moment before Kate registered what Jessie was implying. “Wait a minute. You’re not intending to take me are you? I mean shouldn’t you like hire an escort, or take Michael or something? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate?” Kate realized her words were coming out too fast.

Jessie tilted her head and smiled. “I realize it’s not subtle, but women don’t always have to have a man on their arm, and since the thing with Gregory has already gone public, I wouldn’t worry too much about what people say. Most of the industry knows he was a bastard to me, and they would probably feel that I wasn’t ready to be with anyone else right at the moment.”

Considering her words, Kate couldn’t come back with an answer right away. A million thoughts flew through her mind, in a very short moment. They still hadn’t resolved the problem of Jessie possibly being outed, and with them going to the awards ceremony together, that would definitely be adding gasoline to the fire.

Somehow, Kate kind of liked the idea. And she would very much like to be Jessie’s companion at this event. What an incredible thrill!

“But . . . .what about Sharon MacAfee? What about the outing?” Kate’s mood shifted down again.

Michael had a ready answer for that question. “Oh, my friend says that there shouldn’t be too much worry about that. She spent some time tracking down Sharon, and putting the squeeze on her. Apparently Sharon had an out of her element affair once, and my friend knew about it. She applied pressure in just the right places, and Sharon backed down immediately. The article that came out this morning is about Gregory’s arrest, and the great fortune and luck that Jessica Ryan is experiencing in finding such a smart, and professional Personal Assistant.”

Both women looked at Michael with surprise. “Isn’t that blackmail?”

“Oh, I guess so. I mean, actually, my friend tried the politically correct way of handling it at first, and tried to convince Sharon that it would be in the best interests of the industry, and the community, if she would refrain from this kind of shlock journalism. Sharon wouldn’t bite, so Cassie pulled out all the stops, and reminded her of a few incidents from her past. Cassie thought that several of the newspapers in town would jump at the chance to respond to her “outing” project.”

Michael smiled broadly at his friends success.

Kate looked at Jessie, and Jessie looked back. Both of them burst into laughter over the turn of events. Considering that this threat to Jessie and Kate’s future was only 24 hours old, it didn’t take much to stop it in it’s tracks. Jessie had another thought though, that might mean more trouble.

Wow, Jessica Ryan’s date at the awards ceremony! Laura will have a small litter of kittens when she hears this! Kate’s attention drifted for a moment.

“Michael, what about Justin? He was pretty adamant about me and my involvement with Kate. It could happen again, maybe with another reporter, or media person. He might still be a problem.” This time the exchanged looks were of worry, instead of relief.

Michael’s grin was even broader. “Cassie is having breakfast with uncle Justin as we speak. I guess I forgot to tell you they were related. What ever little Cassie-Wassie wants, uncle Justin gives her. He already told her over the phone, that he panicked, and that he would meet with you again, and tell you that he was overreacting. I think Alice pinched him a little as well. She said to check your messages when you have a moment, so I think she must have called you after she met with him last night.”

Again the group burst into peals of laughter. Jessie took a moment to check her voice mail, and see exactly what Alice had to say. Kate took advantage of the moment to corner Michael, and apologize for going nuts on him, and attempting to kill him.

“You understand why don’t you Michael? I can’t let anything happen to her. I just can’t. I haven’t slept a lot lately, and I realize I’m a little crazy, but Gregory is crazier. He fired a tank piercing missile at us for God’s sake! Next time we might not be so lucky. I’ll try not to be so edgy from now on, but this is serious business. One mistake could mean her life, and maybe one of ours. Who knows what length he’ll go to in the name of revenge. Hell, we don’t even know what he really wants. I mean, I know the money is the primary issue, but there must be more. I’m afraid that he wants to make Jessica suffer somehow. Maybe because he thinks she’s making him suffer or something. Or, maybe I just watch too much TV.” Kate was slipping into a funk again.

“Hey, I understand. I guess I was unwilling to accept the severity of the situation. I spend so much time around all this LA drama, that I tend to take kind of a jaded attitude towards important stuff. I’m sorry, and I promise I won’t sneak up on you guys again.” Michael pulled Kate into a hug, and the two squeezed each other hard.

“Well, I’m glad you two got past all of that nonsense. It would make a great headline, I can see it now. FLASH! Actress’ brother murdered for sneaking up on Actress and her Personal Assistant, who is not her girlfriend, or is she?” Jessie joined the group hug, before rounding the other two up to start the business of the day.

Michael was going to secure another car, and then start looking for a safe apartment for Jessie to plant roots in for the time being. She would have to wait for a few weeks, before she could put her house on the market. There was absolutely no question in her mind that she would not be returning to her current home. Michael had already made arrangements to have the furniture and belongings inventoried, so that Jessie could decide what to keep, and what not to.

Jessie and Kate headed up to the next floor, to seek out Alice, the executive secretary. Jessie told Kate what Alice said on the voice mail as they rode together in the elevator. They were both giggling, when the doors opened, and they stepped out in time to see Alice coming down the hall. Again they burst into robust laughter, remembering every word Alice had said. Something to the effect of “If that pompous SOB thinks he’s going to sell out his star, the first time it gets a little hot around here, then he has another thing coming. I told him that I personally would make his life a living hell, and that he better change that tune immediately!

“What, are my slacks unzipped or something? You two sound like a bunch of kids on the playground. Knock it off, we have work to do. Oh, and you’re welcome.” Alice grabbed Kate by the arm, and led her off to the office, to continue her training.

Realizing she had forgotten Jessica for the moment, Alice stopped in her tracks. “Oh, and as for you. Don’t think you are getting off easy. There is a stack of paperwork in admin waiting for you to sort through and approve, before we can continue past next week in the scheduling. And check your box. The next 3 or 4 script drafts are there, as well as several press release dates, and the accompanying media blurbs. As usual, the new convention schedule is missing, but Kate and I will hunt that down. Those Enterprise convention people seem to be so disorganized sometimes. Oh, and the meeting with Cassie, Sharon MacAfee and Justin has been cancelled. Seems no one wants to face each other right now.”

Jessie chuckled at the secretaries attempt at barbing her “arch nemesis”, the Convention People. Alice spoke of them as though they were some type of alien, or insect. Resigning herself to the fact that she too had a lot to catch up on, an relieved that the meeting had been cancelled, she wandered on down towards administration, to dig into the tasks awaiting her.

Jessie stopped one last time, just to watch Kate as she listened intently to Alice’s every word. Jessie didn’t move again until they disappeared through the office doorway. Making sure no one was looking, except maybe the security cameras, Jessie leaped into the air, and clicked her heels together, so overjoyed with life, that she could hardly control herself. Hugging herself, she regained her quiet composure, and continued on to her mornings work.

——————————————————————————–

Look not a gift horse in the mouth,

For you may get bitten.

********Anonymous********
Chapter 14 – I could have danced all night. . . .
The morning progressed rather slowly, but a lot of work got accomplished. Kate learned which piles of mail were to be sent to the PR people, and which ones were to be distributed to the various departments in the building. That left her with a small pile which Alice told her was her responsibility. Most of these were requests for public appearances that the studio had already approved, and were still awaiting Jessica’s approval. They required her to attend a certain number of functions per year, but by no means did she have to attend any she considered inappropriate.

Kate cataloged them, and then added them to the tentative calendar profile, that allowed her to see where too many dates were being bottle-necked, and assisted them in determining which ones not to accept. Alice also had Kate familiarize herself with the standard form letters that they kept on file in the studio computer network, and explained to her which ones were used in each circumstance. Most of the correspondence would be handed down to the office pool, but it was Kate’s responsibility to communicate with them.

After several hours, Alice appeared in the doorway, and just watched as Kate diligently poured over all of the materials that she had given her. I guess it’s about time to tell her how it really is. Alice chuckled in spite of herself.

“Hey there, how’s it going?” Alice was amazed at the organized setup Kate had made in such short a time.

“Oh, I’m fine. It’s hard to believe that so much stuff comes in here to Jessica’s attention. And the number of people, places, and things they want her to attend. She could go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for about a year or more, and not hit nearly half of them.” Kate shook her head in wonder.

“Well, you learned that lesson fast. Kate I hate to do this to you, but most of what you’ve been working on this morning, you won’t have to deal with. The best way for me to explain to you what your responsibilities are, is to show you where it all comes from. Unfortunately, you’ve been the best by far at getting this place under control. I’m almost wishing I could keep you here for a while.” Alice sighed.

Kate thought about that for a minute. “I thought I was going to be here. Are you telling me I’m not?”

Alice sighed again. This is not fair this kid is great! “No, you get to sit at the right hand of herself. From this moment forward, your place will be with her. Guarding her from reporters, making sure she stays on schedule, helping her pick the right outfit, running errands, being basically her friend, her wife, her mother. That’s the real responsibility of a Personal Assistant. You get to hold her hand, wipe away the tears, be a cheerleader, and take the abuse when she is unhappy. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.” Alice winked behind her knowing smile.

Kate considered her words for a moment more. “You mean to tell me, that they are going to pay me to do all that? Heck, I would have done it for free!”

Alice chuckled. Ahhhh, young love. I am so jealous. Take care of her kiddo, she needs you more than she needs air to breath.

“Listen, it’s almost lunch time. You have her schedule in your day planner right? Always check in with the service and me twice a day. We will both update you as things change. Try to get her to her appointments on time. She tends to wander a little, and get off track. And for God’s sake, get her a dress for that damned ceremony. They want her to present, and it is only two weeks away. The rehearsal schedule is in the planner. They have to fit her in around the shooting for the show. Now go and get her and you two have lunch. I don’t want you to starve, and I know for a fact, if you don’t make her eat, she won’t. Scoot!” Alice mock growled at Kate.

“Okay, yes ma’am. You can count on me. Lunch, okay. Where is she anyway? I still don’t know my way around her yet.” Kate was embarrassed.

“Second door on the left from here. And Katie . . .” Alice was suddenly serious, “don’t let anything bad happen to her. We all love her kiddo, and if that bastard hurts her, then I’ll have to start hunting for him. And he won’t want to meet up with me.”

Kate nodded her affirmative, and then wandered down the hallway, her mind reeling with all the new information she had just stuffed into it. She couldn’t quite be certain, but she had a feeling that she had just received Alice’s blessing. Wow, and they said she wouldn’t like me. Wow!

Pausing in front of the door to the room that Jessie was working in, Kate listened to the conversation that was taking place inside. Apparently Jessica was meeting with the writer’s, and a producer or two, hacking apart the upcoming episodes they were going to film. They were currently on their third episode, and had at least four more to go before they took a small two week break for promotional responsibilities. Then they filmed the rest of the season, which totaled 15 episodes. Then came the hiatus. It was going to mean a lot of grueling long days, and little rest between shoots, but they were determined to get through it without any hitches. Hopefully they weren’t going to be plagued by the same type of problems they just went through.

One of the writer’s noticed Kate standing in the hallway, and motioned for her to join them. “Listen, welcome. It’s great to finally have somebody to take care of Ms. Thang here. Now, if you can get her to stop nitpicking, so we can get some lunch, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

Pleased by the warm reception from the group, Kate turned her gaze to Jessica. Jessie’s eyebrow was crawling up into her hairline; she was so surprised herself by the staff’s ready acceptance of Kate to the crew. Never before have these people acknowledged an assistant, or anyone associated with Gregory’s group ever as human. Meetings were always strained, and more often than not they ended in major warfare. Her sky blue eyes twinkled with pleasure at the revelation.

“Well, okay, I don’t mean to interrupt, but we have a heavy schedule this afternoon, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep Ms. Ryan on time.” Smiling a little, and blushing at the same time, Kate looked from one person to the other afraid that she may have just overstepped her bounds.

First one, and then another, until all of the seven or eight individuals in the room stood and started applauding. “Eureka, at last they’ve found her!” One of them shouted.

Kate giggled a little, and found something interesting on the floor to stare at. She had no idea that they would react this way, and in a way, if felt . . . . Great! Standing and taking a small bow, she was met by a second round of applause, and raucous cheers along with it.

Jessie sat back, and waved them all away, smiling despite herself. She was only concerned to find that they had all been feeling this way for a while. She wished that someone would have told her. I guess I was so buried under Gregory’s influence, and all of the human garbage, that I couldn’t, or . . . . .wouldn’t see what was happening.

Smiling wider now, she stood herself, and addressing the retreating backs, shouted after them. “Don’t think this gets you off the hook though, we meet again tomorrow. Maybe she’ll be able to protect you, and maybe she won’t”

She was met with grins, chuckles, general razzing and jeering as they dashed down the hallway heading out for lunch. Even though the studio offices had an outstanding cafeteria, most of them went out, just to get away from the confines of the building.

Kate was still staring at the floor. Not sure whether Jessie was angry or not, she preferred to stay neutral and let Jessie make the first move. Jessie was not angry at all, and was actually relieved that things had gone so well. Next time she might even get a moment to make formal introductions, if she could get those hooligans to sit still for a moment.

Stepping over to the door, Jessie stuck her head into the hallway, and making sure no one else was around, she closed the door. Still Kate refused to look up. Finally Jessie couldn’t take the silence any longer. Standing behind Kate, she put both hands on her shoulders. Immediately she felt Kate stiffen. Slowly working her way down Kate’s arms, she lightly ran her hands over the stiff muscles, almost willing them to relax. When she reached elbow range, her left hand suddenly took on a mind of it’s own. The evil hand, controlling the thumb and forefinger, reached out quicker than a pissed off rattlesnake, and tweaked Kate’s left nipple.

Shocked, Kate spun out of the chair, and standing up to her full 5’4″ in height, fixed the owner of the aforementioned evil hand with a stare that could wither a redwood tree.

“Hey, that’s not fair. Don’t think you can go doing that and get away with it. Why I oughta . . . .” Kate suddenly launched herself straight into Jessie’s arms.

Ravishing her with first tickles, and then kisses, she almost let herself get lost in the passion. Ready to throw “Ms. Ryan” onto the conference table, and abandon herself to the ever-increasing tempest building up inside of her, she almost didn’t hear Justin’s booming voice approaching from down the hall.

“Jessie!” Kate stopped her attack, and started to push Jessie away.

“What? This is kind of fun, kind of crazy. Don’t stop now, I was enjoying this.” Jessie whined.

“Jessie, its Justin! He’s heading this way. Knock it off. He’ll catch us.” Kate was frantic by now, struggling to get away from Jessie’s longer reach.

“Huh? Justin? Oh no, he’s with a group of sponsors, touring the studio. Damn! Quick, straighten your clothes, and sit down, and open your day planner. We’ll pretend we are going over the schedules.” Straightening her own clothes, Jessie grabbed her own day planner, with the notes from the previous meeting.

They were flipping to the calendar, when Kate looked over, and noticed that Jessie had buttoned her shirt wrong. Quickly reaching over, and correcting the problem, she almost didn’t get her hands back in time, when the door opened.

“Well, and what luck. Look whom we have here, but our lovely star, Ms. Jessica Ryan, and her new assistant, Kate McKenna. What are you two ladies up to? No good I bet.” Justin chuckled, unaware of how true his little joke actually was.

Jessica and Kate stood, and shook hands around the group, falling into small talk with the men and women gathered in front of them. Both were praying that they were not blushing, and giving away the fact that they had in fact been about to get into trouble. Justin’s eyes narrowed slightly, but he chose not to pursue the matter, at least not at the moment.

After several minutes of schmoozing, the group moved on down the hallway, and left the two women to breathe a sigh of relief. Jessica rose again to close the door, and sinking back in her chair, suddenly burst into a fit of giggles.

“Stop that! It is not funny. We could have been caught, and embarrassed the studio, and ourselves.” Kate’s seriousness made Jessie laugh even harder.

“Holy cow! I haven’t had that much fun in . . . .well, forever. Did you see him looking at us through the corner of his eye? Like he wasn’t sure, but he thought we might be, like doing it or something.” Jessie was having a hard time controlling her excitement of the last 30 minutes or so.

Realizing that Jessie may not actually have had the kind of fun, that normal kids do, pranks, practical jokes, and the like, Kate began to feel Jessie’s excitement too. Soon enough, both of them were giggling, and tickling again, like a couple of kids. It reminded Kate a lot of church with her father, and no matter how mad it made him, she and her best friend Mary Jane could not stop giggling. Every time they looked at each other, they exploded with peals of laughter. And the madder, and redder her father got, the harder it was to maintain.

“Don’t laugh anymore, I’m telling you. You’re making my face hurt, and I’m gonna wet my pants if we don’t stop!” Kate was trying to get her companion under control.

“HaHaHa! That would be great. Explain that to Justin. Oh, no problem, you almost busted us having sex in the conference room, and I laughed so hard about it, I wet my pants. Oh, how old am I? 16?” Tears were streaming down Jessie’s face, she was laughing so hard.

It took a moment to realize that Kate had stopped laughing. Realizing too late that the comment about being 16, struck a bad chord in Kate’s heart. Inadvertently, Jessie had hurt her feelings. Reaching for Kate, she tried to put her arms around her, to make her feel better. Kate pushed her gently away.

“Don’t. I think we’ve had enough fun. It’s time to go to lunch, and then get on with our day.” Kate was all business suddenly.

Jessica was mystified, and felt terrible that she had hurt Kate’s feelings. “Katie? What’s wrong? Did I say something wrong? Honey, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t hurt you on purpose, really I wouldn’t. What did I say?”

Kate took a moment to organize her thoughts. She was overreacting, and she knew it. Now she felt bad about making Jessie feel bad. “Listen, it was one of those things my father used to say to me all of the time. Katie honey, you will never be a grown up. You just can’t find it in yourself to be serious for one moment. You will never amount to anything. My poor little sweet sixteen and never been missed. It used to devastate me. I felt like I was a moron, 2 inches tall, and he had just crushed me under his heel. He never had any faith in me, that I would be able to succeed at anything I tried, no matter how hard I worked at it. I only wish he could have lived long enough to see me now. Of course, he would never speak to me. The pain of having a Lesbian daughter would have ended it a long time ago.”

Jessie was stricken. She had no idea that Kate’s pain went so deep. She made a mental note to gently prod her for more information later on, so she didn’t do something that stupid again. One more time, she offered open arms, and this time Kate went to her. Jessie held her tight, and mumbled apologies, in that low rolling burr of hers.

Several minutes went by, and Kate, sitting up, wiped away the beginning of tears, shook her head a few times, and took a deep stuttering breath. Ever ounce of her wanted to let the tears fly, but now was not the time. She had to let go of this stupidity, and get on with her life. If she burst into tears ever time Jessie teased her, they would never last. Shaking her head again, she fluffed out her hair, and standing gathered her things, preparing to head out for lunch.

Jessie sat in her chair, still bewildered. She couldn’t comprehend how things could go from outrageous hilarity, to disaster in such a short few moments. She vowed to herself to be more sensitive to Kate’s feelings. This was all so new to her, that she was sure to make more stupid mistakes, and she wanted to try really hard not to.

Kate went to the door, and was about to open it, when she realized that Jessie was not following her. Walking back, she set her things down again, touched Jessie’s chin lightly, and tipped her head back. Planting a fierce tonsil-tickling kiss on Jessie’s lips, she broke away, and gathered her things, and headed back to the door.

“I forgive you, now let’s eat, I’m starved.” She opened the door and started down the hall.

Speechless, Jessie grabbed her stuff, and wandered after her in a daze. When they reached the elevator, a thought popped unbidden into her head. If that’s how I get forgiven every time, the hell with sensitivity. Stepping into the elevator, she vaguely heard Kate say something about eating in the cafeteria, and then heading out to shop for the dresses. Jessie just nodded her head, still dazed from that last kiss.

Arriving in the cafeteria, Jessie was still unusually quiet. Mentally running over her schedule for the next million weeks, she was beginning to worry that there would be no time for them to . . . . just be alone. Kate wandered ahead of her, checking out the menu, and deciding on something from the salad and sandwich bar. She didn’t realize that her charge was lagging behind her somewhere.

“I think I’ll have the green salad, and the half a sandwich combo. What about you?” Kate started talking to no one in particular.

Turning to see where Jessie had wandered off to, she was surprised to see her sitting at a table with her hands folded in her lap, a million miles away. Backtracking to the table, Kate set her things down, and sat across from her.

“Helloooooo. Are you in there? Where did you go Jess? Another planet? Are you going to order lunch? Jessieeeee.” Kate waved her hand in front of Jessie’s eyes.

“Oh, sorry, I guess I got lost somewhere in my head. I. . . . don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I just had a little anxiety attack or something. I’ve never had one before, at least I don’t think I have.” Jessie was bewildered, and not sure she wanted to discuss what was on her mind.

“What are you thinking about? Maybe I can help you with it.” Kate was visibly concerned.

“Umm, no, actually I guess I need to work it through my head first, before I can even decide what it is that is bothering me. So, what’s for lunch? I like that salad and sandwich thingy they have. It’s a great lunch deal, and the sandwiches are really good.” Jessie evaded anymore discussion about her thoughts at that moment.

“Hmmm, I think you’re holding out on me, but it’s okay. When you’re ready, you’ll tell me. I like the sandwich and salad deal too. What kind of sandwich do you want? I’ll order it for you.” Kate accepted Jessie’s reluctance. She didn’t want to pressure her into anything that she wasn’t ready for.

Heading back to the counter, Kate ordered for them, and then waited until they were finished before she came back to the table. She had decided that Jessie needed a moment to analyze what was whirling through her mind. Kate stalled for a moment or two, and then after unsuccessfully trying to pay for lunch, she wandered back to their table. It never ceased to amaze her, the diversity of people that populated a studio cafeteria.

Jessie sank back into her thoughts. Is this what real love is? Anxiety over the next time you see her, the next time you make love to her? My heart is pounding! I want to grab her, and run away and hide somewhere, and just absorb her very essence. How can I be in love? I just met her a week or so ago. But . . . . she is so . . . .wonderful. And I am so . . . . .happy! I think I might be nuts or something. Maybe I need to see a shrink, or maybe I can talk to Helen, or no. . . . . not Michael, he’d tell her in a heartbeat. Holy Cow! I could laugh, or cry right now. What’s the difference? Uh oh, here she comes. I hope I don’t expire just because she’s close to me!

Setting their tray down, Kate noticed that Jessie had gone from tan to pale to flush in a matter of seconds. “Hey, Jess, are you okay? Do I need to call the paramedics or something? Talk to me Jessie! Look at me. Tell me what’s wrong. Can you breathe? Do you feel sick? JESSIE!”

Feeling guilty for scaring Kate, Jessie couldn’t stop the rapid pounding of her heart. “This has never happened before. I’m not sure how I feel, kinda dizzy I guess. My heart is slamming, and my skin is burning. Maybe I need to see Helen.”

Before the words had slipped out of Jessie’s now extremely dry mouth, Kate had opened a bottle of water that she had grabbed for their lunch, whipped out her cellphone, and was dialing the number that had been given to her for Dr. McIntyre’s office. Pouring a little water into a cup, she made Jessie sip it while she waited for the phone to connect.

“Um, yes, this is Kate McKenna, Jessica Ryan’s Personal Assistant. Is Doctor McIntyre available? Ms. Ryan seems to be having dizzy spells, and may be running a fever. Okay, I’ll wait.” Covering the receiver, she gave Jessie a stern look, until she took another sip of the water. Her color seemed to be returning to normal, but she still looked a little shaky.

“Hello? Oh great, tell her we’ll be on our way immediately.” Hanging up, Kate called Michael and told him to meet them in the parking garage.

Dashing to the counter, she had the deli person give her a bag, and wrap for the sandwiches. Working quickly, she wrapped everything up, and then stuffing it in the bag, grabbed Jessie’s hand, and all of their belongings, and led her down to the elevator. Jessie still seemed a little dazed, and Kate held on to her as best she could during the ride down to the garage.

Michael pulled in just as the doors opened into the cool, dark area. Jumping out, he quickly ran around the car, and opened the doors assisting Kate while she helped Jessie into the back seat. Kate got in, and Michael roared out of the garage, almost hitting a car passing by on the street.

“Hey, watch it! It won’t be any good, if we kill her before we get her there.” Kate shouted up front to the nervously driving Michael.

“Sorry, sorry! I’ll calm down, just worried.” Michael glanced back in the mirror.

Jessie had her head on the seat with her eyes closed. She really didn’t feel too bad anymore, just the dizzies, and the creeping heat around her head. She smiled in spite of it all, while her thoughts drifted to the monumental realization, that this must be love. Dozing off, she didn’t realize that they had arrived, until Kate touched her face softly, whispering quietly for her to wake up.

“Mmpf, huh? Here already? Michael must be driving like a maniac. Michael take it easy, I’m not going to die . . . . . .really.” The grogginess brought on by the fever, made her feel kind of drunk or drugged.

Kate helped Jessie out of the car, and hanging on to her, walked her into Dr. Helen’s waiting room. Some of the non-industry patients that were sitting there were shocked to realize that they were sharing the same waiting room as the infamous Jessica Ryan. Voices started to buzz around them quietly. Fortunately, they were all very polite, and did not take the opportunity to disturb Jessie for autographs, or conversation.

Minutes later, the nurse came out, and again thanking the room full of people for their patience in this emergency, led Jessie to the exam room. At the last minute, she asked Kate to stay behind in the waiting room.

Nervously Kate sat down, and tried to sit patiently. The waiting patients were not so polite with her. Several called to her from across the room, asking questions, and requesting favors for letting the doctor take Jessie ahead of them. Finally unable to take it any longer, she asked the receptionist for a piece of paper and a pen, and passing it around the room asked them all to put their name and address down, so she could send them an autographed picture. One or two grumbled that they didn’t believe her, but the rest were absolutely thrilled. When the paper was done circulating, she folded it up and put it into the pocket of her slacks.

While Kate mentally paced, she decided she had better call Alice and let her know where they were. After finishing that call, she stepped out the door to talk to Michael. She was getting tired of all the stares she was receiving from the patients.

The nurse helped Jessie take her coat off, and then let her lay down on the table. Moments later Dr. Helen came bustling into the room. Half expecting broken bones or blood, she was relieved to see that those regular signs were missing.

“You know Jessie, I’m going to have to start charging you rent. Heck I’ve seen you more in the last week or so, than I have in the last couple of months. What’s up with you? Tell me what happened.” Helen couldn’t help but smile at her most famous patient.

Jessie recapped the pounding heart, the feverish feeling, and the apparent anxiety. Dr. Mac check her blood pressure, her temperature, listened to all the appropriate sounds, and then watched her for a moment. Checking her glands, and looking into her eyes, ears, and nose, she jotted down some notes on her pad. When she was satisfied she had completed at least a cursory exam, she pulled her stool over and sat down.

“So, tell me about the last couple of days. What have you been doing, that has made you so tired?” Helen was beginning to form an opinion about her patient.

Jessie recapped most of the events of the previous day or so. The escape from the barn, the argument with Kate, the problems with the studio, etc. She also told Helen about the crying jag in the bathroom at the barn, and a little about the events that precipitated today’s visit. Helen consulted her notes again, and asked Jessie what she wasn’t telling her.

Jessie took a deep breath. Blushing this time with embarrassment, she swallowed, her throat dry and scratchy, and told Helen that she thought that she might just be in love.

“Ha! No kidding girlfriend! I could have told you that without the examination. The anxiety, the need to run away, the overwhelming need to touch or be touched, no matter what the consequences, that spells love to me. However, the fever and the dizziness are something else altogether. In my humble opinion, and because of the fact that I just happen to be your doctor, I would say that you have a small virus brewing in your system. Your defenses are down, and quite frankly, you are completely exhausted. Whatever you have on your calendar for the rest of the afternoon, I suggest that you postpone, and go home and take a nap. I’ll give you some medication for the symptoms, but for the most part, you need to rest.” Helen was certain that this would be no problem for Jessie. She could tell that Jessie was actually relieved a little.

“Now, as for the other problem. All you can do about that is give it time. Do you think she is in love with you?” Helen knew the answer, but wanted Jessie’s opinion.

Swallowing again, her voice beginning to crack, Jessie carefully formulated her answer. “I don’t know how to answer that Helen, and I’m not sure I want to try. My guess is that I’ll know one way or the other, soon. But I’m not going to push anyone into anyplace they don’t want to be pushed.”

Helen could see Jessie’s discomfort as her soar throat began to worsen. Grabbing a handful of samples from her cabinet, she put those and some other medication in a bag for Jessie to take with her. Just as she was explaining what each one was for, and how to take them, the intercom buzzed from the reception desk.

“Hello, Dr. Helen? There is this small red-haired woman out here, that is threatening to start taking down walls, if we don’t let her in to see Jessie. Should I send her your way, or call the cops.” The receptionist was only half serious.

Flashing a knowing grin at Jessie, she pushed the button on the intercom. “No, no cops. Just send her down here, I’ll take care of her. Ms. Ryan is on her way out anyway.”

Seconds later, hurricane Kate burst through the door, nearly bowling Helen over in the process. Realizing that she was slightly out of control, she stopped herself and folding her arms across her chest stared expectantly at the two women who were staring owl-eyed back at her.

“Um, hi there Kate. Keep you waiting too long? Hmm, well, Jessie here has a virus, and she needs to go home, and lay down for the rest of the afternoon. I gave her some pills, and I want them to have time to get into her system before she has to shoot tonight, and besides she desperately needs some sleep.” Helen smiled reassuringly at Kate.

Feeling guilty again, Kate went over and took Jessie’s damp clammy hand. Testing the temperature of her forehead with the back of her own hand, she quietly shook her head. Helen’s question about Kate’s feelings seemed to have been answered at that moment.

“Well, if you really didn’t want to go dress shopping, all you had to do was say so. You didn’t have to go and get sick for that.” Kate was trying to make her smile.

Rewarding her with a dreamy half grin, Jessie refrained from talking. Her throat was too sore to respond at the moment. Kate helped her put her jacket on, and then the two of them headed back out the door. Jessie was feeling silly, and before she stepped out into the bright sun, she turned and mock bowed at the group of patients in the waiting room. They all clapped, and waved goodbye, pleased that she had included them in her momentary crisis.

After Kate settled Jessie in the car, she had an afterthought. Stepping back into the doctor’s office, she was fortunate that Dr. Helen was still near the reception area. Calling her aside, much to the groans and complaints of the people in the waiting room, she whispered her question. She was concerned that since she and Jessie had well, contact, will she probably get the virus.

Helen nearly died of laughter. “Sweetie, come in here for a moment, and let’s talk.”

Taking her into the office, away from the prying ears, she handed her a few sample medications as well, and then sat on her desk for a moment. “Kate, in all likelihood you will feel the affects of the virus, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you are in much better health than my big wounded sparrow out there. Take good care of her, soup, OJ etc. And do the same for yourself. You two look like you haven’t slept in days. Way too much emotion I think.”

Kate was crestfallen. “Should I maybe not see her for a while? I mean, if she’s not doing well because of me, then maybe I should just keep it all business, and not worry about the . . . .other stuff.”

Helen wanted to put her arms around this angel, and kiss her herself. “Sweetie, guaranteed, if you did that, she’d probably curl up and die. She has it bad for you, and if I’m not mistaken, I think the feeling is mutual.”

Blushing all the way down to her toes, Kate turned shy for a moment. “I, well, yes. I . . . . think, maybe, but well, I’m not sure, but well, I think I might be in love with her.” There, it was out of her mouth and she didn’t die.

“Babe, that’s the best news I’ve had all day. Don’t worry. This is all new to Jess, and she’s going to fumble, and make some bad judgements, but you can bet she’s with you all the way. Now, get out of here before my patients lynch us, and that girl of yours expires in the parking lot. She doesn’t even have a place to stay yet does she? Well, check her in somewhere nice, and make sure she naps. Of course, I bet she’s down already.” Helen couldn’t wait to go home and tell her girlfriend about the news. Hippocratic oath be damned, these two were friends.

Kate was elated at the turn of their conversation. Trying not to show too much excitement, she practically skipped out to the car. Slipping into the back, being careful not to disturb Jessie while she dozed, Kate motioned to Michael to take off. Jessie shifted, so that she was laying across Kate’s lap. The grin on Kate’s face could have lit up a stadium it was so bright. And was it infectious. Michael had been watching them through the rearview mirror so he could see how Kate was doing.

Realizing he was spying, he called quietly back to Kate, as she sat stroking the side of Jessie’s face, and watching her sleep. “Hey, Katie, where to? Jessie’s homeless at the moment. Should I find a hotel or something?”

It only took a second for Kate to answer. “No Michael. Take us to my house. She’ll be fine there, and I can take care of some of my stuff. Especially the cats. And Mike, do me a favor. Call Steven and tell him what’s up, and then can you guys go sometime and gather what you can of Jessie’s belongings. I think we should bring her clothes down here, so she can stop living out of gym bags, and her secret office stash. Besides, I bet she needs to have some laundry done, and I can just as well do that at my house.”

Michael’s grin matched Kate’s first grin. Wow! My sister’s in love, my sister’s in love! “Sure thing Katie, let me swing you two home first, then I’ll take care of the rest.”

A half hour or so later, Michael pulled into Kate’s driveway. He had gotten his wish, and the motor pool had signed out a town car for their use. The “urban battle tank” was in for extensive repairs, considering that it had just been shot with an anti-tank missile.

Kate gently shook Jessie, and got her awake enough, to stumble into the house. Guiding her into her bedroom, she rifled through her stuff, and found an old T-shirt of Steven’s for Jessie to slip into. Sitting her down on the edge of the bed, she undressed her, and then before she had a chance to put the shirt on her, Jessie grabbed her around the waist and pulled her down on top of her.

“Hey, take it easy! You’re going to hurt yourself doing stuff like that. Now, let me up so I can finish dressing you.” Kate stifled the giggles that were welling up inside.

“No.” Jessie murmured. “Take your clothes off, and lay here with me. I want you.”

Blushing at the bluntness of her companions request, Kate kissed her on the cheek, and stood back up. Tempted to take Jessie up on her request, she watched her for only a second or two, before Jessie started to snore slightly. Satisfied that they would wait until another time, Kate pulled the covers up, and kissing her lover on the forehead, went off to gather some food and some tea. Jessie needed to take some medication, and she needed food before that was possible.

Kate was starving herself. Too late she realized that Michael had driven away with their forgotten sandwiches in the back seat of the car. She went to the pantry, and rifled around until she came up with a can of chicken noodle soup, some crackers, and some herb tea. She could probably whip up a pretty good meal, but somehow she didn’t think Jessie would be able to handle that right at the moment.

Taking a tray with the assembled lunch back into the bedroom, Kate was relieved to see that Jessie was still sleeping comfortably. She could hear a slight rasping in her chest when she breathed, and she noticed that her face was flush again with fever. Setting the tray on the night stand, she sat beside Jessie, and gently woke her from her feverish slumber.

“Are you in there? Jessieeee.” Kate whispered quietly.

“Mmm? Are you calling me?” Jessie rasped back.

“Yes, I am. Honey you need to have some soup, and then some medicine. You’re not doing too well at the moment, and we need to fix that.” Kate tested her temperature with the back of her hand.

Still very warm, Kate made a mental note to hunt down the thermometer, and check her temperature again after Jessie had a chance to eat. Helping her patient sit up, she fluffed an extra pillow or two behind her. The cats had joined them, intrigued by the fact that their new friend was in the nest, eating food. Ever hopeful that they might get to share, they stayed a respectful, however watchful distance away.

Placing a towel under Jessie’s chin to catch spills, Kate attempted to spoon feed her the first mouthful. “Hey, I’m not a baby you know, I can feed myself.” Jessie was sounding just like a baby.

“Stop it! Allow me at least this little pleasure. I’m so worried about you, and I want to take care of you. Just let me pamper you a bit.” Kate smiled encouragingly.

“This is not fair.” Jessie pouted. “This is not the kind of pampering I had in mind.”

“Listen sweetie, you’re too sick for anything else today. You just don’t want to admit it. Now, open wide, and eat some of this soup. You need to take something for that fever, and I’m not going to let you do it without some food in you.” Kate tried to sound like a stern mommy.

Grudgingly accepting her position, Jessie opened her mouth and accepted the first spoonful. Almost immediately she felt nauseous, and was afraid that it might come back. Waving for Kate to stop for a moment, she took a deep breath or two, and closed her eyes, willing for the soup to stay in place.

“Do you want to get up? Should I get you a bucket? What can I do?” Kate was beginning to panic.

Jessie shook her head, and put one finger up to signify she needed a minute or two. Gesturing for a glass of water, she closed her eyes again, and prayed that the room would stop spinning. Must be the fever. God I feel like an idiot. Poor Katie. I’m sure she really wants to be mopping up after me. This must be awful for her. Suddenly noticing the rest of her audience, it connected in her head that they were at Kate and Steven’s house. And she was in Kate’s bed. Some how, she felt slightly better, and the soup decided to stay where it belonged.

Looking up at her furry friends, she growled slightly. “What are you two lookin’ at? Never seen a sick actress before? Go on, quit staring at me.”

Corky meowed indignantly. As if to say, “Humph, our house, our mommy, and our mommy’s nest. Who are you to admonish me?”. Violet lost interest in the whole conversation, and went in search of a nice patch of sunlight to sleep in. As usual, Corky refused to give up her spot. If there was any possibility of food dropping, or a bowl to lick clean, she was going to be there.

Kate dashed back into the bedroom, a glass of water in one hand, and a bucket in the other. She had just caught the tail end of the conversation between Jessie and Corky. Figuring they had settled their problem, she sat back down, and helped Jessie sip some water.

“Slowly, don’t gulp. It will make it worse.” Kate chuckled.

“I’m okay. I think I can eat now. Just got a bad case of the dizzies.” Jessie blurted between gulps of water.

Settling back into the pillows, she stopped talking into Kate had fed her the whole bowl. At the last minute, Kate left a small bit of chicken for Corky. Figuring that if she had waited that long, and was patient enough not to dive into the middle of Jessie’s stomach to get the soup, then she deserved it. She cleared away the tray, and then returning to the bedroom, stood in the door and watched as Jessie and Corky made up with each other.

“She really does like you, you know? What a crazy animal. Well, time to take some medicine, and see if we can slow down that fever. You won’t be worth much at the shoot tonight, if we don’t get you better.” Kate tried to sound cheerful, noting the scowl that was forming on Jessie’s face.

“Why can’t I stay home, and be sick for a change? Everyone else in the world can call in sick, but not me. Because I’m the star. So what. It’s not fair.” Jessie was all out pouting now.

“Are you done? Wasn’t it you that just a day or so ago, wanted to, well, not be together anymore, because of all of the people who depend on you?” Kate wished she hadn’t said it as soon as it came out.

A dark look crossed Jessie’s face. “That wasn’t nice. Maybe I should call Michael and go to a hotel. I don’t want to burden you.”

“Oh come on Jessie. I was just trying to answer your question, and it came out sounding bad. I’m sorry. I just . . . .I wish you didn’t have to work. I wish that we could, spend more time, and not have to acknowledge the outside world at all. But we can’t, and I’m sorry, and I don’t want to hurt you anymore.” The tears started to slide hotly down Kate’s cheeks.

Before she had a chance to get up and run, Jessie grabbed her and pulled her into her arms. “Wait. I’m being a jerk. You were right. I’m acting like a baby, and I need to stop it. I’m sorry. I guess I don’t do sick very well. Try to forgive me?”

Kate chuckled through her tears. “I do forgive you. I think I always will. I . . .”

Kate still couldn’t say it. Not yet. Not those three little words. It was too hard to face the possible rejection. Later, not now. She shifted over to Jessie’s side, and rested her head on her shoulder, secure in her embrace.

Jessie didn’t respond, nor did she pressure Kate to finish her sentence. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought that Kate might have just about said that she loved Jessie, but . . . . maybe not. She wanted to say those three little words herself, badly, but her mouth just wouldn’t let her get it out. Kissing Kate on the forehead, she mentally kicked herself again for getting sick, for acting like a baby, and for being a jerk. Moments later, they both drifted off to sleep.

—————————————————————————-

Insanity is its own best friend,

However misery loves company.

********Anonymous********
Chapter 15 – Ewwwwww!!!!!!
Gregory shifted again, almost causing his “girlfriend” Star to drop the tweezers she was using. Momma had injured him with a shotgun loaded with buckshot, and Star was trying to remove the shot, piece by piece.

“Owwww, Jesus Star! Watch it! That hurts!” Gregory whined through his whisky-induced blur.

“Oh, honey I’m sorry. But you gotta stop movin’. It’s hard to see with all the blood and all, and well you did let me snort, and that kinda blurs my vision.” Star giggled in a childlike voice.

“Shit! Next time I am not gonna let you snort first. This hurts baby, damn old woman, and with you all screwed up it makes it worse. Besides if you don’t hurry up and stop hurting me, no telling what I might do. And you don’t want to make daddy mad now do you? Huh, Star baby?” Gregory turned from patronizing to vicious in the blink of an eye.

Remembering the bruise on her kidney where he hit her just yesterday, Star shook her head no. “Hey! I asked you a question! DO YOU WANT TO MAKE ME MAD??” Gregory started to shout.

“Greggie, I shook my head no, of course I don’t want to make you mad.” Her voice went higher with fear.

“When I ask you a question, I expect an answer. Now, you wouldn’t want me to take away your speedballs would you? No, of course not. Star needs her heroin and speed don’tcha Star? And daddy’s gonna make sure you get them, as long as you keep making daddy happy. Are you gonna make daddy happy Star?” Gregory had started talking in baby talk again.

“Yeah, Greggie, of course I’m going to make you happy.” Or die tryin’ she thought.

Gregory closed his eyes, and grimaced a few more minutes while Star removed the rest of the buckshot. When she finished, she washed the wounds carefully, and put some ointment and a bandage on it. Gregory rose, and zipping his pants, stepped up behind Star, instantly making her freeze. He loved that kind of power. Jessica would have been much better off, if she had learned to cope with that power. And very soon, her lessons will begin again.

Reaching for Star, he turned her around, and lightly touching her cheek, studied her tired eyes under all of the makeup on her skin. “Star, you should slow down on all that crap you’re putting into your body. It’s making you look ugly, and if you look ugly, daddy’s going to have to get rid of you, if you know what I mean. Now, I need to make some phone calls, and do some investigating. I want to find just the right plan to mess up Jessica’s life. I want her begging to come back to me.”

Tears slowly started to leak from the corners of Star’s eyes. She turned her gaze downward, trying to avoid anymore notice from Gregory. He either didn’t know, or more than likely didn’t care, whether or not he hurt Star. Either emotionally, or physically. She tried to will him to leave her alone, and not notice that she was crying. Too late though, she realized that he was scrutinizing her even more closely.

“What is all of this crying about? You don’t really think that all that heroin and speed are gonna make you pretty, do you? And jeez Star, you got enough makeup on for an army of bimbos. Jessica never looked like that. Never! Jessica is beautiful. And she belongs with me.” Gregory’s eyes were starting to take on a wild cast to them.

“Gregory? Why do you want her so badly, if she doesn’t want you? I mean she’s got that little red-haired person now, doesn’t she? And you’ve got me.” Star wished she had kept her mouth shut, the minute it slipped out.

Without warning, Gregory backhanded Star with his fist. Sending her reeling backward into the dresser, she crumpled to the floor clutching her kidney where the corner of the unit had just struck her. Struggling to remain conscious, she curled into a ball, and covered her head with her arms.

“Oh, now see what you did? You made me do that Star. Why did you say that? I love Jessica. Especially her money and I don’t give a rat’s behind about that little red-haired girl. S’matter of fact, you just gave me the beginnings of a great idea. I know just how to get Jessica to see things my way, and it will only mean getting rid of that PA. DON’T YOU EVER, EVER COMPARE YOURSELF WITH JESSICA AGAIN. There is no comparison. She has class.” Gregory was pleased with himself. His sanity seemed to make small appearances, but it was only an illusion.

Picking up the motel phone, he stepped over Star, and went and sat gingerly on the bed. His concern was not for whether or not he had injured her, but how soon he could put his plan in motion. There were several others on his list of “Most Wanted” currently, and he decided that they could make this a group party. That freaking dyke friend of the PA’s, the one that helped get him turned in. She was gonna pay too. He wanted to make her suffer. Torture her bit by bit. Jessica would see what a powerful man he was then, and she would see the error of her ways.

Star groaned softly, and slowly rose from the floor. She tried to stay as small as possible, so as not to attract his attention again. If it weren’t for the heroin, she probably wouldn’t stick around. But she needed that fix, and her last pimp, wasn’t giving her enough to make the pain go away. Gregory paid a thousand bucks to buy her off of Jerome. That’s the most anyone had paid for her in one shot in all of her career. Gregory must think she’s important. Well, she’ll try harder not to make him mad, and if he wanted Jessica to come and stay with them too, that was okay by her! After all, she was an actress, a star, and she maybe could get Star a job too. That would be so cool!

Gregory dialed methodically. The phone rang, and his lack of patience gave way to his jangling nerves. “Uh, yeah, this is Gregory. Is Mr. Shimada there? I need a favor, and I want to speak to him personally. I know I screwed up, but it won’t happen again, I mean it. Tell him I said that.”

The sweat was beginning to form on his upper lip. Mr. Shimada and his organization had been very helpful in bailing Gregory out of his troubles. They got him out of jail, and they gave him an allowance for his expenses. Of course, Gregory thought it should be more, but hey, all in good time. It was Shimada’s group that gave him the tank cannon, that he used to try and stop Jessica’s car. It was a great gun, but he realized that he risked too much using it. He could have killed her, and that wouldn’t do. It was only a matter of time, before she came to see things in his light. He was sure of it!

Moments later, Mr. Shimada’s son took over the call. “Listen you sorry little weasel! My father is growing weary of you by the moment. You said that your wife would be rejoining you, and that all the charges would be dropped. If not you would kill her. We haven’t seen any news items reporting her death, only that the police are searching the countryside for any evidence of your presence. This is not a good sign, Mr. Thomason. My father’s investments are suffering as well as his business in shall we say young women. Against my advice, he is willing to help you further, but any more major mistakes, and well . . .. let’s just say he will be displeased.”

Gregory sat still for a moment, a trickle of sweat slowly dripping down the side of his face. He knew he must plan his next steps carefully, or he stood a chance of losing everything. What he didn’t know, was that Mr. Shimada had no interest in whether or not Gregory lived or died. His intention was to use Gregory to lure Jessica back in, and then claim her for himself. Mr. Shimada was a collector of fine things. To him, Jessica was simply another trophy for his possession.

Gregory grabbed the bottle of Jack, and took a deep pull on it. “Star, come here a minute. I’m hungry, and I want you to go and get something to eat. COME ON, STAR! Don’t keep me waiting.”

Star had been hiding in the bathroom, not wanting to face her tormentor again. She had already noticed that she was bleeding internally, probably from the second blow to her kidney. She rifled through her purse, and found an old bottle of penicillin, from the last time she had the clap. Looking in the mirror again, she hardly recognized the face that stared back at her. Gregory was right. The drugs and the abuse were starting to take their toll. It seemed like just yesterday she was living in her parent’s house in Iowa, watching TV, or hanging out with her friends, dreaming about being a star. Well, she’s a star all right, but only in name.

Star slipped away in her mind for a moment, remembering the day she left home to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. She had saved her money, and taken the bus to California. Only eighteen at the time, her parents tried to prevent her from leaving home, but she went anyway, behind their backs. She stayed in contact for a little while, but then when things started to get rough, and she knew that there was no way she could feed herself anymore, she ended up on the street. An older girl, about twenty took her in and showed her the ropes. Star changed her name and never looked back. She was too ashamed to contact her parents anymore, so she just disappeared.

Hearing Gregory screaming at her again, she sighed heavily, and adjusted her clothes, and ran a brush through her long dark hair. When she first came to Gregory, her hair had been bleached blond. He made her die it black, because it made her look more like Jessica. The two women were about the same height, and when Gregory was drunk enough, it allowed him to pretend, when he . . . . .well, had sex with Star. After all, Jessica only let him touch her once, and it was not exactly the greatest. But, Gregory would change that. And if not, then he always had Star.

Carefully exiting the bathroom, Star was afraid that Gregory might be waiting to hit her again. Instead she was secretly pleased to find him pacing back and forth in the short space of the room, smoking a cigarette, and talking to himself.

“Jeez, it’s about flipping time. What the hell were you doing in there? I’m starving! Take this cash, and go get me something to eat. And don’t even think about taking off. Cause I’ll hunt you down and it will be the last moment you have on this earth. Remember that.” Gregory snarled at Star while he threw the money at her.

Picking the bills up off the floor, Star winced at the stab of pain in her lower back. “Uh, Greggie, honey. Can I have another line when I get back? I mean, well, my back hurts and everything, and I thought it might take the edge off and all. Please?”

Gregory loved it when she begged. “We’ll see when you get back. And don’t take long. I’m hungry, and the hungrier I get the less likely you are to get anything. Just remember, you take off, and you’re dead.”

Star decided not to respond. Much easier to make herself invisible. Making sure she had her purse, and the money, she put her sunglasses on and quietly left the room. The sun was already going down, but it made her feel more secure with her shades on. Desperately trying to walk without limping, Star held her head up high, daring anyone to challenge her twenty-year old attitude.

Gregory lay back down on the bed, and dialed another number. The phone rang several times, and just as his patience had begun to run out again, a machine answered. Angry, he waited for the sniveling little “cute” message to end, and at the sound of the beep he couldn’t control himself any longer.

“JACKSON!!! You stupid faggot! I know you’re there. Pick up the phone right now, or you’ll regret it!” Gregory fairly spit on the phone.

“Uh, oh, who is this?” Jackson stammered.

“Jeez, you make me sick! It’s Gregory you idiot. Thanks a bunch for helping me out Jackson. Christ! You wanted a piece of the action, but the minute it got tight, poof! You were gone. I ought to go ahead and out you, you know that? I think your company, and your business associates would get a kick out of knowing that you procure young boys. Do you think they might?” Gregory was beginning to enjoy brutalizing his “friend”.

“Wait, Greg old pal. Let’s not be hasty! Listen, I had to lay low. What with Jessica firing me, and all the trouble that’s been following her lately, I didn’t want to get caught up in it. Not good for business you know. I’ve got a lot of stuff on the burners right now that could put me away for a long time. I just thought it would be safer to drop out for a while.” Jackson was clearly terrified of Gregory.

“I thought it would be safer….” Gregory whined, “God you make me sick. Okay, so you decided to hide like a little baby, waby! Since I need a hand, because I am currently…how should I say indisposed, I might decide to forgive you, and let you go on with your sick little habits, but you have to do something for me.” Gregory took another hit of his bottle.

“Go on.” Jackson whispered.

“I want you to find out as much as you can about that dyke that got me busted. She’s a friend of that Personal Assistant, Kate McKenna, the one that started this whole mess. She has a friend that lives in Northern Cal, some kind of computer writer, or Internet nut or something. I don’t know her name, but I’m sure you can find out. Check with the papers, and anyone else you can think of. Whoever she is, she’s going to regret the first time she ever saw Kendra Knight, and she’ll surely regret ever crossing me.” Gregory could hardly contain himself he was so excited.

Gregory ended the call by reminding Jackson that he would ruin his life if Jackson tried to sell him out, or just plain screwed things up. He told Jackson to hire a detective from the Bay Area to check on this girl, and find out her routines. Who she knows, where she works, what she does everyday. As soon as he gets back to him with the information, then maybe Gregory will let him off the hook.

Another call or two, and his preliminary plans would be completed. He had four more names on his list to take care of. The first was Michael Ryan, Jessica’s brother. Michael just didn’t know when to mind his own business, and just do his job. Incessantly interfering with Gregory and Jessica, and their personal relationship, it was no wonder she refused to cooperate. Michael had to go, plain and simple. Maybe a good demolitions guy down on his luck, needs some chump change. That would work!

The next few people he could ruin professionally. The first was Dr. McIntyre. She thought she was clever, being a doctor to the stars, and being gay. Not for long Doc. I got some choice info for you. Take you right out of business. The next would be that gossipmonger Diane, from the agency. Way too nosy, and helpful. She sent Kate to Jessica in the first place. A little scandal, a little gossip, and TA TA! Last but not least, was Momma. That sorry bitch that shot him in the ass. She was gonna pay, and the hard way. Gregory didn’t care how many gorillas she had for children, she was gonna hurt.

Satisfied that he was headed in the right direction, he lay back on the bed, and waited for Star to come back with the food. He knew in his heart, that Star would have to go too. She was a great diversion, and he needed her to run errands, since he couldn’t very well be seen in public. Even though she was nowhere near Jessica’s looks and class, she served her purpose.

Turning on the TV, lost in his thoughts, he started to dose. Suddenly a reporter’s voice caught his attention. Turning up the volume, he sat up straight. His skin going pale. Front and center was the motel that he was currently holed up in. He just caught a glimpse of Star, walking quickly along the pathway, food bags clutched tightly in her hands. The reporter was babbling about how “she may very well be the person to lead to the capture of Gregory Thomason, estranged husband of Jessica Ryan the actress, and the number one most wanted in the area”. Quickly Gregory grabbed the rest of their things, and threw them into a couple of gym bags. Slipping into his shoes, he scooped the car keys off the little table near the window, and quietly easing the door open, he practically ran over Star as she was trying to sneak into the room. Surprisingly enough she realized that they were in danger. Without making a sound, Gregory handed her the keys, and crouching low, to be out of the view of the cameras, they snuck off to the car. Gregory lay down on the floor of the back seat, while Star drove away.

The reporter, now joined by several armed police officers, started to lead her ever growing entourage to the room in question. It wasn’t until the very last minute, with the police trying to stop her the whole way, that someone finally pointed out to her that if Gregory were in there, he very probably had a gun.

Being the first in line made her the most likely target. Sharon MacAfee, her first time before a camera, turned tail and in a most undignified manner, ran right back to the news van. The cameraman stayed, and shot the footage of the police breaking into the room.

It was apparent to all concerned, that it was possible that Gregory, or someone fitting his description had been residing in this very room. Quickly the police began to round up witnesses to start the tedious chore of questioning everyone. One person, the motel manager proved to be surprisingly helpful. Not only did he confirm that it was Gregory that had been residing in the room, but he also provided a detailed description of the car. The only gray area, was the girl. For some reason, he couldn’t give a good description of Star. He knew she looked like some actress, sort of anyway, but he couldn’t remember who.

Not a single one of the detectives thought to mention to the motel manager, that Gregory was the husband of Jessica Ryan, Kendra Knight on television. Sharon MacAfee was the next person to get her hands on the manager, and even she didn’t think to mention it to him. The police in the mean time had put out an all points on the old Chrysler that the two were last seen driving. Of course, Gregory had already stolen another car, just in the last 5 minutes since they had taken off. He had to hotwire this one, but no problem. Mini vans were easy.

Star drove again, and Gregory rested in the back. He decided that they had better lay low and thought about heading down to the coast. This time of year, there were occasionally beach houses that had been closed up for the winter. Gregory decided that it would be a good base for a few days, until the heat died down. He figured he could run his search and destroy mission from there.

An hour or so into their trip and Star started to drift. The effects of the speed mixed with the heroin had begun to wane. The frantic honking of a horn and Star’s quick response was the only thing that saved them. Shaking her head, she considered herself lucky that she hadn’t gotten them killed, and that Gregory was sleeping and hadn’t noticed.

Suddenly, Star’s throat was gripped from behind in Gregory’s iron hand. “Jesus Star! Trying to get me killed or what? Don’t You Ever Do That Again! Stay awake, or I’ll kill you myself. Slow down, I want to look at these houses coming up.”

Scared to death, Star did as she was told. Slowing down, they passed several homes, until there was a break in the landscape, and they could see the roof of a small, neat little house tucked back in the trees on the side of the road opposite the beach. Gregory had Star pull to the side of the road, slightly past the property, and then searching in his bag, took out his 9mm revolver. Checking to make sure it was loaded, he signaled to Star to stay put, and then stepping out, quickly faded into the overgrowth that bordered the property.

After circling the house twice, Gregory was pleased to note, that not only was the place closed up, but it also looked as though no one had been there for a very long time. He discovered an enclosed barn-like structure in the back, just big enough to hold the van. Checking carefully for an alarm system, he noticed that for all he could tell, there was not one in place. Finding the driveway, he walked back up, and signaled for Star to carefully maneuver the van through the bushes, and then around to the shed. He wanted to pull the plants back across the opening, so as not to draw attention to the fact that they were there.

Gregory looked around, and finding a small crowbar in the shed, used it to open the door. Checking out their surroundings, with the exception of a little dust, the place was okay. Even more to his satisfaction, was a phone, that was still working, and a computer hidden under some dusty sheets in a back room. Already the wheels were turning in his head.

Star took the opportunity to sit down and rest for a moment. All of the excitement of escaping and then being threatened by Gregory had worn her out. And besides, the speed was wearing off as well. Funny thing though, she really wasn’t that stressed to do anymore lines right at the moment. Slowly she closed her eyes, and drifted to a place far better than the one she was in right now.

“STAR!” Her peace was broken.

“STAR! COME HERE! YOU GOTTA SEE THIS. THIS GUY IS GREAT!” Gregory was elated that he had discovered something about their absent host.

Star stood slowly, and wandered back to the room where Gregory was going through the man’s belongings. She vaguely remembered him saying something like the guy must have left in a hurry. Still in a daze, she stepped into the room, and was met with a horror that literally made her heart stop.

Gregory was digging in the man’s closet. Pasted on the doors and interior walls were hundreds of photographs, depicting women that had been beaten and tortured. Several of the pictures were pornographic in nature, showing men in dominating positions, the women being degraded in the worst ways possible.

Star gagged, and turned attempting to bolt from the room. Gregory grabbed her by the arm, and yanking her back to face the photo gallery, he slapped her once across the face. Taking her shoulders, he shook her until she stopped screaming, and made eye contact with him. Slipping behind her, and grasping her face in one hand he forced her to move closer to the pictures. She could smell the insanity on his breath and in his sweat. The smell of booze and death.

“Look at this Star. Look real carefully. I want you to remember what you see. Cause, if you cross me, then it’s going to be your face up there. Hell, this is so cool; I might just add some photos of my own. He even left a Polaroid camera here in the closet, and there’s plenty of film. Once I make those friends of Jessica’s pay for what they did to me, I’ll take their picture, for posterity. And then hang-em up here. Jeez, will you look at this Star. You thought I was nuts. I couldn’t hold a candle to this guy, but what a man to admire.” Gregory was awestruck by his discovery. He immediately adopted this horrible creature as his idol.

Star was crying silently. If she thought she was afraid of Gregory before, she had no idea what fear was. Listening to him chuckle, and gloat over these pictures, made her insides turn over again. Gregory finally tired of threatening her, and sent her out to warm up their food in the kitchen.

Shock slowly overtook her. Star walked to the kitchen in a daze. Afraid to move, afraid to breathe. She knew now, that eventually her association with Gregory would end in her death. Finding a microwave in the kitchen, she set about methodically heating up their food. Each time she heard Gregory giggle, or make an exclamation about his findings, she would cringe, and her blood would run cold. Still, instead of sneaking out the back door, and disappearing, she stayed and continued to get their dinner ready. Her fear of Gregory was apparently enough to keep her with him. She did not relish the idea of him hunting her down, and doing to her what that other guy had done to those women.

When the food was ready, she carried it on a tray to the room where Gregory had made his discoveries. He was buried almost nose to screen in the computer on the desk. Trying not to look at the pictures, she placed the food on the desk, and then sat down, her back to the closet.

“Hey, baby, thanks for the food. I’m am starving like a big bear. Look Star, this is great. I went and tried to log on to the Internet, and after a few questions about “do I want to reestablish this phone number”, etc. they let me in. I was thinking that maybe I could even find this guy, and thank him for letting me use his house and all.” Gregory guffawed out loud at his little joke.

Star discovered soon enough, that she no longer had any appetite. She didn’t want to ask, but she was ready for that line, and not with speed this time. She wanted some of that full strength china white, and then hopefully it would knock her out, and take her away from this nightmare. Gregory continued combing the computer files, eyes wide like a child. Every so often he would shove some food in his mouth, and wolf it down like an animal.

Star excused herself for a moment, and went back to the kitchen to look for something to drink. Scared to death what she might find, she approached the refrigerator slowly, almost unwilling to open the door. Finally, grasping the handle, she closed her eyes, and pulled the door open. Taking a small peek, she breathed out an audible sigh of relief. Nothing out of the ordinary in the fridge. There was however, about a 12 pack of beer. She grabbed one for herself, and then took one back to Gregory.

“This is great Star. Thanks for the beer and food, babe. Okay, I found out what this guys E-mail address is, and I opened one for myself at that yahoo site. I sent him a letter, you know, introducing myself, and telling him we were here. I’ll check back, and see if he sends anything back to me. Listen, since you aren’t hungry, do you want another line?” Gregory must be happy, he was being generous to a fault.

For the first time in what seemed like hours, Star responded. In a very small voice she said, “Yeah, I would. And if it’s okay, can we just make it heroin? I kinda feel like sleeping in a bit, and the speed will just keep me up.”

Smiling at her, the glow from the monitor casting eerie shadows on his features, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out the packet. Laying a line down on the edge of the desk, he handed her the small straw, and then watched her as she snorted the line into her sinuses.

Grimacing for a moment, he observed her while the heroin worked it’s way into her system. “You know Star, I never have understood why people like to do that crap. I mean what good is it anyway? It makes you sick, gives you cramps, and then it just makes you want to do more. And how come you don’t shoot anyway?”

Gregory’s curiosity was not unusual, but somehow it made Star feel better, like he was getting his mind off all that torture stuff. “You know why, Greggie. I don’t shoot, because you don’t want me to get AIDS, and because it leaves track marks. And I like doing it, because it takes the edge off everything. Makes it all glowy and everything. It just makes me happy.”

Gregory chuckled, and went back to the computer screen. As far as he was concerned, Star was definitely short a few cards in her deck, but she was easy to control. And Gregory loved control. There was something to say about making someone flinch, just by moving a hand, or leading them around by the end of their nose, because they have a chemical dependency, and you’ve got the chemicals.

Star drifted back to the living room. Even in her heroin haze, the small office was giving her the creeps. Settling into one of the chairs, she slipped into a nice, cozy doze. No longer aware of her surroundings, she barely even felt the nausea, and accompanying cramps of the first rush of heroin. After that, all was bliss.

Gregory was idly flipping through screens, looking for any letters, or maybe some porn or something, when a small female voice announced “You’ve got mail”. He wasn’t expecting it, and grabbing his gun, dropped into a crouch and started to crawl to the window to see who was out there. It was several minutes, when the voice repeated itself, before Gregory figured out it was the computer. Embarrassed that he had reacted that way, he stood up and wiping the sweat from his forehead, sat down, and set the gun down. Grabbing the mouse he quickly drove the computer back to the mail site.

His eyes grew large, when he realized that his first idle cast into cyberspace for the owner of the house had scored an immediate hit. Holding his breath, he quickly clicked on the waiting message.

Baby Doll: Who are you, and how did you find me?

Sweet Thing: My girl and I needed a place to crash, and we stumbled upon this fine little home you have here.

Baby Doll: You’re in my house? Which one? WHO ARE YOU!?

This method was proving to be too slow. Baby Doll, obviously an extremely sick individual, directed Gregory to the pager chat window. This way they could “speak” online.

Sweet Thing: Let’s just say, I’m a friend. A man who shares similar tastes such as your own. I’m currently in a little trouble, and have to stay out of sight for a while. We’re in the house on the coast in LA.

Baby Doll: You said your girl. Are you going to . . . . .?

Sweet Thing: Not immediately. She’s hooked on heroin, and as long as she stays afraid of me, she is very useful. When she is no longer useful, then we’ll see. She’s nothing but a two-bit whore.

Baby Doll: She sounds luscious. If you tire of her, let me know. I’m sure I can find a use for her.

Sweet Thing: That’s what I like, a man who knows what he wants. Say, if you help me out, I just might do that. Send you Star as a gift.

Baby Doll: Just what kind of help are you looking for?

Sweet Thing: I’m not sure yet. I have some associates out doing some investigating for me, and I need to get that information before I plan my next move. I may have to head up north to the San Francisco area. There are several women that need “special” attention, and at least one of them is up there.

Baby Doll: Well, stay in touch. I’m beginning to think I might just like you. And, I have another house on the coast up north. I move around, to keep the authorities at bay. So much money, so little time. Ha Ha!

Sweet Thing: I’ll do that. I’m sure we can find a way to make it worth both our whiles. Talk at ya later.

Baby Doll: TaTa for now. You know how to find me.

The two creatures signed off the chat line. Gregory logged off the computer, and rubbing his hands together, giggled with uncontrolled happiness. His little plans were starting to fall into place, and he had a new friend. He couldn’t get over his luck. Jessica, Kate and all the rest of their friends won’t know what hit them. With someone like “Baby Doll” on his side, they’ll soon know what it’s like to mess with someone as powerful as Gregory.

Somewhere in the city, two lovers raced from unseen demons in their feverish sleep. It was almost as though their collective unconscious was feeling the ripples from Gregory’s happiness, and was trying to alert them to the danger.

One cried out, and the other woke and comforted her, fully understanding what she saw in her dreams, but not what it meant, or why she knew this. Drifting back to sleep, the demons were quiet again.

 

To be continued in Chapter 16: (Ooh, Love to Love You Baby……)

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