Poetry In Motion

by J. ‘Harley’ Elmore, 2000 - 2002

See Chapter One for disclaimers


Chapter Eight, Part 1

Rhian and Nicole entered ‘The Pit Stop’ shortly after eight o’clock that evening. The place was already packed with patrons, and it took them awhile to make their way through the mass of bodies as they searched for Deven and Jay. They finally located them sitting around the same corner table they had occupied the first time Rhian had been to the bar.

Jay spotted the women and waved them over. Nicole took the vacant seat next to him. The only other empty chair was next to Deven. Rhian sighed and sat down. "Glad you two made it," Jay said while pouring them each a glass of beer. To Rhian’s relief, Kelly was seated on her other side which made the proximity of the martial artist less daunting.

"Okay. Pay up," Deven drawled while extended her hand palm up.

The two women watched in confusion as money was exchanged. "What’s going on?" Nicole asked.

Jay laughed and then said, "We had bets going as to whether or not Rhian could stomach an evening around Deven." The young blonde blushed slightly, and turned her attention to the glass in her hand.

Everyone laughed, including Deven who watched a slight blush rise up Rhian’s neck. That is pretty cute. Deven was feeling good. She had a plan. She would make conversation like a good girl, and then she would go find a conquest for the evening.

She’d already scanned the crowd and made a few mental notes pertaining to those women who might have the honor of her pleasure before this night was over. For now though, Deven was content to sit there and sip a beer. "I told you she’d show up. She’s already demonstrated that she’s more than capable of handling me." To her astonishment, the woman’s blush increased as it inched its way up to her cheeks.

Rhian smiled politely at Deven’s comment, and then steered the conversation away from her. "I really enjoyed watching the two of you practice today. What were you doing exactly?"

"It’s called a form in English," Deven said. "You may have heard it referred to as a kata. That’s Japanese. In Korean, it’s called a hyung. In Tae Kwon Do, there are traditional forms that have their roots in techniques developed thousands of years ago in what is now Korea. There are modern forms, which include traditional techniques as well as more contemporary moves. Some of the new forms have been set to music like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a form style developed by Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee.

There are weapons forms, which are just what they sound like. And there are creative forms that are forms people make up. What you saw today was a creative form that Jay and I have been working on for some of our students to compete with in the team division. It seems to be coming along nicely."

Rhian looked at Jay and then back at Deven. "It was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. I wish I understood better what you’re doing though."

The martial artist warmed to the subject. "Well, the form is a series of moves in a predetermined pattern. Each move is against an imaginary opponent. It’s as if several people are attacking you from different directions. I like it because it’s the art of the martial arts - it can be very beautiful and expressive when done well. As for the individual techniques, I’d have to show you, I think. There are names for them, but they wouldn’t make sense unless I show you the technique as I name it."

Rhian inclined her head. "What about the last two kicks you did before the back flip at the end?"

Deven realized that she was staring at Rhian, enthralled by the woman’s warm eyes. In the subdued light of the bar, they reminded her of two emeralds framed by pale lashes. She noticed the sprinkling of freckles across Rhian’s small nose and felt the urge to reach out and trace them. "Uh, well, the first one is a 360-butterfly kick. The second is a jump crescent kick."

Rhian was feeling a little unsettled at the intensity of the martial artist’s gaze. She felt like the woman was studying her. "How long have you been training?"

Deven cleared her throat, and took another sip of her beer. "I started when I was five. My father got me into it. I think he figured it would teach me some self-discipline." She laughed and the younger woman smiled. "I guess I was a rather active kid."

"Five? Really? How young do you begin teaching students?"

The martial artist shrugged slightly. "Depends on the child really, but generally not until they’re at least five. Before that, their attention span is still too undeveloped."

"Oh. I think my daughter would enjoy it, but she’s only three right now."

Deven looked over towards the dance floor. A daughter could mean a husband though there isn’t a wedding ring. She felt a slight pang of disappointment. Whoa, Deven. Why should you be disappointed? Because, you moron, there’s something about her… something special. She’s charming, beautiful, a spitfire, and something you can’t have in this lifetime. Stick to your plan. She sighed. "Yeah? And do you think your husband would support her training?"

Rhian looked away briefly. Her hand reached unconsciously up to her chest and gently rubbed the scar through her blouse. "He was killed in a car accident two years ago."

"I’m sorry. I didn’t know."

The blonde took a deep breath and lifted her chin slightly. "It’s all right. I should be over it by now, but I’ve always felt it was my fault."

Deven turned her full attention to the younger woman. "Your fault? Why your fault?"

Verdant eyes took on a pained look and her gaze drifted to her hands on the table. "I was driving us home from a dinner party we’d attended. We weren’t more than five miles from home. This car suddenly swerved into my lane. I tried to avoid it, but there really wasn’t anywhere to go. I couldn’t get out of the way, and Sean … well, he didn’t make it. They told me he didn’t suffer much, and for that I’m grateful."

Deven gently reached over and touched Rhian’s chin with her fingertips. She turned the woman’s face towards hers until she could look into her eyes. She saw the pain there though she didn’t know whether it was over the loss of her husband, the guilt, or both. "That wasn’t your fault."

Rhian nodded her head conscious of the woman’s fingertips against her skin. "I suppose. I just feel that there was something I could have done, you know? Something to get out of the way or lessen the impact."

"I doubt it." Deven dropped her hand. "What about the other driver?"

"The other driver was just a seventeen year old kid. He and his buddies had been out to a party. He was killed along with one of the passengers. Two others were hurt pretty bad."

Kelly broke into their conversation. "Hey, you two, why so serious? We’re supposed to be having fun."

Deven leaned around Rhian and lowered the timbre of her voice. "What would you desire, Kelly?" she purred at the other woman. A shiver passed through Rhian though she didn’t feel a chill.

"Um… well," Kelly stammered. "I think some dancing is in order."

Jay rose from the table. "Good idea." He turned to Nicole. "Would you like to?"

"Sure." Nicole stood up and walked to the dance floor followed closely by Jay. Kelly nudged Carl, and they followed the other couple.

"I don’t suppose you would be interested?"

"With you?" Rhian was surprised.

Deven chuckled at her expression. "Why not?"

"I don’t know. What would people think?"

The tall woman rose and extended her hand in invitation. "Who cares what they think? Besides if they do think anything of it, they’ll think I’m very lucky. Come on. It’s not like I’m going to do anything unseemly to you on the dance floor. It’s just a dance."

Another slight blush slowly crept up Rhian’s neck, and she desperately hoped it was dark enough in the bar that Deven couldn’t see it. Placing her hand in the larger one, she allowed herself to be guided to the dance floor.

She learned quickly that Deven was a good dancer, and she did her best to keep up. Glancing around the dance floor, she realized that nobody seemed to be paying any attention to what she was doing. She relaxed, allowing the music to capture her, and soon found she was actually enjoying herself.

As the evening progressed, she danced several more times with Carl and Jay and even Kelly. She observed Jay and Nicole, and was more certain now that the attraction was mutual.

And she watched Deven. The martial artist danced with everyone in their little group as well as several other women in the bar. Rhian had been surprised at how popular the woman was though she supposed she shouldn’t have been. Deven was beautiful, and moved with an assurance and grace she’d never seen before.

She’d been astonished at how physical and even sensual some of the dancing was at times. Women hung all over the martial artist, and from the smile on Deven’s face, there was no doubt she was enjoying the attention. That bothered Rhian though she couldn’t figure out why. Further, it bothered her that she even cared and so she mentally chastised herself. Why should I care what Deven does? It’s none of my business.

Rhian was dancing again with Carl and as the music ended, he went over to the bar, and she walked back towards their table. Halfway there a stranger blocked her path and requested she dance with him. She politely declined, but still he persisted. He was of average height but well built, and she felt a little intimidated by him. She attempted to move past him, but he blocked her path.

"What’s the matter? You can spare one dance, can’t ya?"

She attempted to sound confident. "Look, I already told you I wasn’t interested."

He stepped towards her effectively backing her up towards the dance the floor. She looked from one side to the other trying to find another path around him and to the table. She stepped to her left in an attempt to walk between two tables, but he was quick and cut her off. Leaning towards her, he swayed slightly. "Come on darling. It’s just one dance. What? I’m not good enough for ya?"

"I said no." She was beginning to feel frustrated by her inability to get him to leave her alone. "Why can’t you understand that?"

He sneered at her while he continued to back her up. "I’ll tell you what I do understand, little girl - I asked you to dance, and you’ll dance."

She took another step back bumping into something solid. She felt two strong hands settle on her shoulders, and Deven’s rich voice filtered over her shoulder. "The lady said she wasn’t interested, Mace."

He looked up at the tall woman. "Aw come on, Deven. Didn’t your mother ever teach you to share?"

She chuckled. "You should know by now that I don’t play nice nor do I share. So be a good boy, and go away."

Mace glanced at his friends. He widened his stance and stared back at her. "Or what?"

Her voice deepened. "Or I’ll make you sorry. I’m not in the mood tonight, little man. So go away."

His face turned red with rage, and his mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Deven cocked her head. "Ah..ah..ah. You’re going to have a stroke at this rate, Mace. I suggest you and your friends call it a night."

With her hands still on Rhian’s shoulders, she nudged her forward. He stepped to the side allowing them to pass. "This isn’t over, Deven." She ignored him, and followed Rhian to the table.

Once seated she turned and studied the blonde’s profile noticing that her complexion was pale. "Are you okay?"

Rhian nodded while staring at the table. "Yes. It’s just so frustrating. I hate feeling like that."

Deven placed a reassuring hand on Rhian’s shoulder. "You were doing all right. I noticed you looking for an exit and that was good. You’d have found one eventually, I just figured I’d speed things up a bit."

Glancing up at the martial artist, she gave her a small smile. "Well, thank you."


Part 2

The small group of friends gathered back at the table to relax and share a variety of appetizers. Conversation was light and comfortable, and Jay provided Kelly and Carl with an update on the new school.

"Well, I’m glad the landlord didn’t give you a hard time about the bad plumbing and water damage," Kelly responded.

Deven shrugged. "Nah. I just gave him my demands and threatened to sic my lawyer on him if he didn’t meet them. He got it all settled while I was gone."

Kelly perked up at the mention of Deven’s hiatus. "Oh, that’s right. Okay, fess up. Where were you for a month? You just vanish into the night without so much as a good-bye and disappear for almost four weeks. What gives?"

She shook her head. "It wasn’t the night. It was very early in the morning, and I left Jay a note. I called in almost every day. I didn’t just vanish."

Kelly waved her hand in the air. "Semantics. Where did you go?"

"I’m not going to tell you."

"I got the same thing, Kelly," Jay said.

Kelly’s tone took on a whining quality. "Why not? What’s so secret?" Deven’s only response was to bite into a mozzarella stick. "Okay. Who is she? Old conquest? New conquest?" Ignoring the questions, Deven took another bite of the mozzarella stick. "Since when are you so secretive about these things?" Still the martial artist didn’t answer, and the exasperation was evident in the lawyer’s voice. "Come on, Deven. This is so not like you. In fact, you’ve been so not like you since you got back."

Turning her head, Deven locked eyes with her interrogator. "Are you complaining?"

The question surprised her friend. "No. Of course not."

"Than leave it. I’m not going to talk about it." She looked across the table at Jay. "And that goes for all of you."

Rhian watched the exchange with interest. She didn’t know her well at all, but she too had felt that Deven had changed and now that suspicion had been confirmed by those closest to her. What can make a person change like that? Whatever it was, I certainly prefer this woman to the other.

Contemplating Deven’s profile she was struck with how strong the woman’s features were, and how that strength didn’t distract from how beautiful a woman she was. She’s not so bad when she isn’t being so intimidating. Then she’s just scary.

Deven turned her head, her eyes coming to settle on the blonde. Their eyes met and held, and Rhian’s stomach fluttered. Oh God, not again. She felt herself drawn deeper into Deven’s gaze, and found she was unable to look away. If anything she felt a longing to stay there.

Deven had an urge to reach out and trace the younger woman’s face with her fingers, and of it’s own accord, her hand began to follow her thoughts. Becoming aware of what she was doing, she rose to her feet and extended her hand to the younger woman. "Dance with me?" It was only after she asked that she realized the song was a slow one. She expected Rhian to decline, and was pleased when the woman accepted the invitation.

Once on the dance floor, Deven casually took the younger woman into her arms. Dancing with Sean had always been an ordeal for Rhian that left her feeling awkward and embarrassed, but Deven was easy to follow and they seemed to move together effortlessly.

Rhian could feel the heat from the martial artist’s hand on her lower back, and she found the contact pleasant. Her own hand rested easily on the taller woman’s shoulder, and she could feel the faint ripple of muscle through the Deven’s shirt. Inhaling the spiciness of Deven’s perfume, she felt almost lightheaded from all the sensations she was experiencing. A desire rose within her to close the distance between them, and rest her head on Deven’s shoulder – to feel the woman’s arms around her.

STOP! Back up, Rhian! What are you thinking? Her thoughts and reactions concerning this woman bewildered her. It occurred to her that Deven might somehow get the wrong idea, and possibly misinterpret the situation. "I don’t want you to get the wrong impression."

Deven raised an eyebrow. "And that would be what?"

"I’m not interested."

She studied Rhian’s face. "Okay. Not interested in what?"

"In you. Not in that way."

Deven burst out laughing. Though the laughter angered Rhian, she pretended indifference. "I have no desire to become another conquest for you, and I’m certainly not one of your groupies."

The martial artist laughed harder. "Now who has the big ego? What makes you think I’d be interested in you?"

Humiliated, Rhian stepped back and quickly turned away. She didn’t return to the table but made her way through the crowd until she reached the front door and escaped into the night air.

Watching her go, Deven felt an odd mixture of regret and confusion. "What did you do to her?" Nicole demanded.

"I didn’t do anything." She looked back towards the entrance just in time to see Mace heading for the exit. "Shit!" Deven began working her way to the table, but Rhian’s friend stepped directly in her path.

Nicole intended to find out exactly what this lunatic had done to her friend. "Where are you going?"

The martial artist snarled at the woman, "Get out of my way. NOW!" Nicole quickly stepped to the side to let her by. Passing by the table, Deven grabbed her leather jacket, and rushed to the door aware that the other woman trailed closely behind her.

Stepping out into the night, she quickly scanned the parking lot while putting on her jacket. She saw no visual sign of Rhian or Mace, but heard some muted noises coming from the alley next to the bar. "Damn!" Turning, she walked towards the sound.

Part 3

Rhian had exited the bar so lost in her thoughts she was oblivious to everything around her. What in the hell is wrong with me? For the second time that evening, she was mortified by her behavior around the other woman.

Why did I say those things? What made me possibly think for one moment that Deven would be interested in someone like me? What am I talking about? Why would I want her interested me? Of all the stupid, asinine things to do, Rhian!

She looked up into the sky. What is wrong with me? I’m thinking things about this woman I have no reason to be thinking. I’m acting like I’m attracted to her. I can’t be. She ran a hand across her face and rubbed her eyes. Then why did I want to be closer to her? Crossing her arms in front of her, she closed her eyes as her thoughts swirled like a vortex.

Mace had watched the two women all evening. He saw Rhian rush out, and noticed that Deven didn’t follow her. Lover’s spat? Lucky me. I’ll just go console the little one. He stepped out of the bar and spotted Rhian standing alone looking up at the sky. Walking up quietly behind her, he placed one hand over her mouth and wrapped his other arm around her, pinning her arms against her body.

He quickly dragged her around the corner, and once he had her deep in the alley, he released her arms just long enough to remove his knife. Snapping open the blade he held it against her throat. "Make one sound, and I’ll cut you. Do you understand?"

Rhian could feel his breath on her neck. She nodded slightly and Mace shoved her hard against the building. Pressing his body up against hers he whispered in her ear, "You should have danced with me."

He turned her around to face him, and ran the tip of the blade along her neck down to her collarbone. "Well, I’ll just have that dance now. A private dance." With both hands he grabbed the front of her blouse and tore it open.

"Please don’t do this," she pleaded. She could not remember ever feeling this afraid. Her body trembled with fear as he ran the tip of the knife down her chest, over her bra and down to the top of her pants before returning it to her neck.

"Not so brave without your girlfriend around are you?" He leaned in to kiss her, but Rhian turned her face away. Mace brought his fist up and slammed it into her cheek, cutting the flesh with a ring on his middle finger. The blow snapped her head back against the wall, and it took everything she had within her to stay on her feet. Instinctively, she knew that if she fell to the ground, she would be lost.

"Don’t mess with me, little girl!"

He roughly squeezed her breasts and Rhian whimpered. Her mind wouldn’t function. Help me. Please help me.

As Deven and Nicole rounded the corner of the building, the martial artist stopped abruptly pushing the other woman back towards the entrance. In a low but clear voice she instructed Nicole to go find Jay, and then moved forward into the alleyway. "What’s going on?"

Mace stepped back pulling Rhian away from the building, placing her in front of him. Deven continued her casual stride towards them. She noted the condition of Rhian’s blouse, and that the woman’s right cheek was bleeding and starting to swell.

"I got your girlfriend here, and I plan to have that dance you denied me."

Deven studied Mace with a calculating eye. That he had consumed too much alcohol was a given. His left arm was wrapped around Rhian’s neck holding her against his body. In his right hand, he held a small knife. She cocked her head to one side and smiled. "She’ll be the first one to tell you that she is most certainly not my girlfriend."

He blinked several times. "Than you don’t mind?"

Deven shrugged. "Not my issue, Mace. Though I find it pathetic that you have to take it. See... you’ll never be in my league. Women want to give it to me. I don’t take it, and I don’t have to pay for it."

"Shut up, you arrogant bitch!" He tightened his grip on Rhian causing her to gasp. Deven just smiled at him while noting how precariously he was holding the knife. One second the point of the blade was pressed against the side of Rhian’s neck, and the next he was waving it in front of her body.

Jay cautiously walked up beside Deven. She turned to her friend, watching Mace tense from the corner of her eye. "Bro, this night’s a major bust and I’m bored. Do me a favor and wheel my bike over here. I’ve had all I can take of the stink of this place. And don’t take all night, okay?"

Rhian watched the exchange in disbelief. She’s going to leave me here like this? Deven lowered her head while flexing her shoulders, and then turned her attention back to Mace as Jay turned to do her bidding.

"Sure. Get right on it," Jay called over his shoulder.

Mace yelled after the retreating man. "Jay, don’t you get tired of having your balls squeezed by this bitch?"

He looked at Mace and smiled. "At least I know where my balls are."

"Fuck you, Thomas!"

Why won’t she look at me? Please, Deven, don’t do this. I’m sorry for what I said. I’m sorry for thinking the things I did. Please. Rhian was terrified, and her one hope for rescue was acting as if she were a complete stranger.

The idea that Deven was just going to get on her motorcycle and ride away was preposterous. Worse, Jay was going to help her. She wouldn’t really do that, would she? Rhian found her voice. "You aren’t going to just leave me here?" she cried and loathed herself for it.

Deven settled her gaze on the blonde. Her eyes were cold and hard. "Ms. McKenna, just a couple of moments ago you weren’t interested, remember? You were quite adamant that you didn’t want anything to do with me. Now you suddenly do? Give me a break. Perhaps Mr. Coullier here is much more to your liking. In either case, this whole evening has been one great big journey into boredom for me." She shook her head. "And I have you to thank for that."

Jay pushed the bike up the alley towards his friend. Still looking at Rhian, she spoke to him over her shoulder. "That’s close enough. Wouldn’t want either of them to breathe on my baby." She turned her attention back to Mace noting that he hadn’t moved. "If you’re going to cut out of here, I’d do it before the cops show up."

Mace glanced around nervously as if expecting the police to be standing there. Deven’s voice rang out "NOW!" Jay turned on the Harley’s headlight while hitting the bright light switch. Momentarily blinded, Mace moved the hand with the knife in it up to shield his eyes. That was the opening Deven was looking for.

Taking two steps, she was airborne. She bent her knees pulling her legs in tight towards her body, cocking the front one against her chest. The sound that erupted from her was feral, and the young blonde felt it reverberate through her body.

Once within striking distance, Deven called out to Rhian to duck. The woman pulled away from her attacker as the martial artist forced her leg straight out in a sidekick hitting Mace square in the face with her boot. Lifting him, the kick threw him backwards several feet before he fell to the ground.

Landing in a crouch, she poised ready to kick again as the wounded man struggled to gain his feet. Come on, Mace. Stand up. You can do. Just stand up so I can beat the crap out of you, you little piece of shit! Losing the battle to rise, he fell face first on the ground.

Rhian looked at the prone form on the ground and then at Deven. Her fear turned to anger. Stepping up to the taller woman, she slapped her hard across the face. "You were BORED?!" She raised her hand to deliver a second slap, but this time Deven caught her by the wrist. "You were going to leave me!"

Her anger dissolved and tears welled in her eyes. Deven felt herself falling into their soft depths. Without thought, she opened her arms and the distraught woman stepped into the waiting embrace. She held the smaller form securely, slowly stroking her back as the young woman released the fear through her tears.

It wasn’t long before the sound of sirens became audible. Stepping back, Rhian looked up at Deven as the taller woman reached out and gently brushed away the tears coursing down pale cheeks. In a quiet voice, she attempted to explain. "Rhian, I would never have left you, and I didn’t mean the things I said. I needed Mace to believe that I wasn’t going to try anything. That I didn’t care what he was doing. It confused him, which gave me the opportunity to do what I did. You understand?"

Rhian studied the martial artist’s face. Reaching up, she lightly touched the reddened area where she’d slapped the woman. The eyes that had been so hard only moments before were warm and gentle. She nodded her understanding. The shock of what had happened was seeping in and Rhian began to shiver.

"Here." Deven removed her jacket and helped Rhian put it on. It was much too large, but it did more to cover her than what was left of her blouse.

Nicole worked her way through the crowd that had gathered and engulfed her friend in a hug. "Are you okay?" She stepped back to look closely at Rhian. "You’re bleeding."

Reaching a hand up, Rhian tentatively touched her face. "Am I?"

Deven looked over at Jay. "Good job. I wasn’t sure you heard me about the headlight."

He bowed gallantly. "I heard you. Nice kick by the way."

She ran a hand along the back of her neck. "Yeah. I’m just glad it worked. Though I’m disappointed I only got to kick that stupid prick once."

The sound of sirens in the background grew louder, and Deven released a heavy sigh. This was not at all how she had pictured this evening would end. So much for my plans.

Part 4

As soon as the police took charge, they separated the women. Still Deven kept an eye on Rhian - albeit from a distance. The younger woman was pale and the swelling of her face looked bad even from where the martial artist stood.

A rescue unit arrived, and Deven made no effort to conceal her smile when the EMT’s proclaimed that Mace’s nose was broken. She laughed when they told him he would probably need some bridgework.

They turned their attention to Rhian and thoroughly cleaned her face before applying a butterfly bandage to the cut. Her cheek was quite swollen despite the icepack that had been applied, and was already starting to discolor from the bruising.

Kelly and Carl stood in as legal counsel for Rhian, Deven and Jay. They were mostly concerned about Deven and wanted to be sure she was supported during her police interviews. It was always a precarious situation using martial arts in defense. The question came down to excessive force. Had she used more force than was required? Perhaps, but Deven knew she hadn’t used nearly as much force as she’d wanted to. She still felt the burning desire to beat the man to a bloody pulp.

They were questioned separately and repeatedly. As the police began the litany of questions again, Deven’s patience reached an end. She quietly but firmly informed the officer that she’d already given a statement twice, and if they needed anything else from her they would have to wait until morning.

Deven harbored many regrets about her life, but none she considered significant since Tiernan’s conception. Now she found herself examining the past hour and regretting her part in what had happened to Rhian. She looked over to where the younger woman stood.

Why in the hell did I laugh at her? She didn’t do anything except be honest. You know why you laughed. She felt good in your arms, and you were thinking about how you wanted to pull her against your body. Run your fingers through her hair. Taste her lips.

Deven ran a hand across the back of her neck, trying to ease the tension. It was like she looked inside me, and knew all the things I was thinking. So, what did I do? I laughed at her to cover up my own confusion. And since when do I get confused!

She was baffled by her feelings and Rhian’s rejection. She scanned the crowd that had gathered in the parking lot. I wish those idiots calling me a hero would just shut up! I’m not a hero. Never was…never will be. Truth is, she wouldn’t have been in that position if I weren’t such an ass! Damn it, I should have stopped her!

Jay broke into her musings. "Are you ready to get out of here?"

"Soon. I just want to be sure she’s okay first."

Kelly walked over and joined them. "They’re almost done questioning her. She looks really tired."

Deven glanced over to the blonde again. "I’m sure she is."

Lifting her head, Rhian looked in their direction. Her eyes settled on Deven’s and she gave her a despondent smile. She nodded her head at whatever the police officer was saying and then began to walk towards them flanked by her friend and Carl. In a subdued tone, she told them Nicole was going to drive her home. Stepping forward, Jay gave the injured woman a hug as did Kelly and then Carl.

Deven regarded the younger woman. She wanted to reach out and hold her, but found herself unable to extend the invitation. "You be sure to keep putting ice on that, and you should probably have your doctor take a look at it."

"I will," Rhian replied. "Um…you need this." She started to remove the leather jacket, but gentle hands stopped her.

"You hang on to it for now." The martial artist straightened the jacket and settled it back over the smaller shoulders. Stepping forward, Rhian wrapped her arms tightly around the tall woman, and Deven enclosed her in a protective embrace. If she’d had her way at that moment, she would have held onto the woman and not allowed her leave, but all too soon Rhian was pulling back.

Deven smiled at her and winked. "You’re going to have one hell of a shiner tomorrow. Just be sure to tell everyone how bad the other guy looked, and you don’t have to mention I had anything to do with it." Rhian nodded, and Deven gave the leather jacket one more small tug.

Nicole took a step towards the martial artist. "I don’t get you. You knew something was wrong, but you took time to get your jacket. Is your image so important that you risked putting her in further danger?"

Deven stared at the woman while biting back an angry retort. A slight flare of her nostrils was the only visible indication of her struggle. "Not that it is any of your damn business, but I don’t give a fuck about my image. I saw Mace leave right after Rhian. I knew it was probable that we would get into an altercation, and the jacket would afford me some level of shielding. It was for protection." Deven took a step towards Nicole who backed away. "It would have done none of us any good if I’d become incapacitated, would it?"

"I guess not." Nicole gently took hold of Rhian’s arm. "Okay slugger, let’s get you home." The group watched until Nicole’s car pulled out of the parking lot.

Carl took off his jacket and held it out to Deven. "You’re going to need this. I won’t since Kelly and I brought the car instead of the bikes."

Deven reached out and took the jacket. "Thanks. What a night, huh?"

They said their good-byes and went their separate ways. Jay offered to come over, but Deven turned him down. She really wanted to be left alone. She’d known when she’d first laid eyes on Rhian that there was something about her, but she never could have predicted that something was going to have such an impact on her life.

She was feeling things for Rhian that she’d buried deep a long time ago, and other things she’d never felt for anyone. Pulling onto the interstate, she opened the bike up, willing all thoughts of the evening to be blown away.

To Be Continued In Chapter Nine

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