Disclaimers: The characters are mine; they reside in my head (good thing there's a lot of vacuous space up there), although I hope by the time you're done reading they'll reside in your heart, as well. All of this is not to say that the two main dudettes don't bear a striking resemblance to folks we know and love <g>. There are a few real live (or dead, in some cases) individuals you might recognize; where they appear I assure you it is with respect and no harm is intended. Ditto places and entities. Oh, and there are several lines in here that might seem familiar to you. Coincidence? NAH!

Sexual Content: Oh, honey, I've been a luuv free zone for WAY too long...err...I mean, I'm living vicariously through my characters...um...what I mean to say is: heck, yeah, there's some sex in here. AND, if that's not bad enough, the sex involves (gasp) two women who are very much in love. The sex is tastefully done (BAD girl, BAAD girl), and is not gratuitous, though in some places it is fairly explicit. If this offends you and/or you are under 18 years of age, this is where you get off...um...I mean don't read any further; this story isn't for you.

Violence: There's a tiny, tiny, and I do mean tiny, little bit, though there is one pretty cool threat.

Acknowledgements: Y'all should know that without the unwavering support and encouragement (read that badgering) of Kat and TJ, this story would never have come to be (so if you hate it, blame them, okay?). TJ, for all your many, many hours of editing and cheerleading, "thanks" hardly seems enough. Kat, for turning me into an obsessive ϋber fan (as if I didn't have enough to obsess about before), as Gabrielle once said: "I don't know whether to thank you or hate you." <g>. And, finally, to LJH, who will never read this because she thinks reading is bad for your eyes, my undying gratitude for sharing so many years of my journey, for believing in me, and for teaching me to believe in myself.

Pesky details: This work of fiction is protected by copyright, meaning ya can't reproduce all, or any part of it, without my express permission. This is not to say you can't tell your friends about it and suggest that they read it, 'cause I sure hope you will.

May you enjoy reading The Price of Fame as much as I enjoyed writing it. Like most authors, I'd love to know what you think (just remember what Miss Manners says: "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all."). Please send your feedback to: AuthorLynnAmes@aol.com.

"I am overjoyed to announce that The Price of Fame will be available in print very soon from StarCrossed Productions (that's www.StarCrossedProductions.com). Now, before you go asking why you should bother shelling out money you could be spending on half a nice dinner somewhere when you can read the story right here, let me count the reasons why: First, there are 23 new scenes in the print version that you can't find anywhere else, including here. Second, a good book lasts a lot longer than a good half dinner. Third, buying the book will save eye strain (hey, I'm just looking out for your best interests here...sitting in front of your computer screen to read 300 pages is hell on your vision). Fourth, my dog likes to eat, and I confess that it's a nasty habit of mine every now and then, too. So, if you want to take the story out for a test spin here, be my guest; I hope you love it. And if you're like me and you just can't resist the feel of a good book in your hands, I hope you'll go out (or surf) and buy it. Thanks for your support, Lynn Ames.


The Price of Fame

Copyright © 2003 By Lynn Ames

book cover

Chapter One

"Phil, do you have that last page?"

"It's right here, Kate."

"You're a prince."

"Have I ever let you down?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"Hey Roger, nice work on those shots from the train derailment; you really captured the feel of the scene."

The cameraman blushed. "Thanks, Kate."

"Okay, people, two minutes."

Bodies were in motion everywhere, and in the middle of all of the chaos, the anchorwoman strode unhurriedly onto the set and sat down in her chair. She clipped the lapel microphone to her silk suit jacket, inserted her earpiece, placed her copy down on the desk and ran her fingers through her hair one last time to settle it in place.

Katherine Ann Kyle was singular. It wasn't just the fact that she was classically beautiful, with long raven hair, piercing blue eyes, high, chiseled cheekbones, clear, lightly tanned skin, and a lithe but muscular body on a six-foot frame. It was more the unconscious way that she carried herself; strong, assured and completely unaware of her attractiveness. She had an intangible quality that made her at once compelling and yet somehow unattainable.

"Kate, we're going to start with camera two and then shift to camera one after we roll the first piece of tape."

She didn't answer the director's disembodied voice in her ear, but he knew she'd heard him just the same; she was a pro.

"And, three, two, one, cue the music. Music fade, and...go."

The anchorwoman smiled up at the camera. "Good evening. This is the WCAP evening news for Wednesday, April 22, 1987, I'm Katherine Kyle..."


Jamison Parker, Jay to her friends, shouldered her way through the hotel room door, trying to balance her briefcase and her garment bag all at the same time. She dumped the briefcase as soon as she cleared the threshold and the door clicked closed behind her. Then she hung the garment bag in the closet and proceeded into the room, kicking off her shoes as she went and running to answer the phone, which was already ringing.

"Yeah, Trish, I agree with you... No, no. His press secretary and his scheduler both told me the Governor would see me tomorrow at four...Yesss, that's four p.m. ya goofball."

The petite, green-eyed blonde cocked her head and listened to her editor ramble on about how important this piece was going to be for the magazine, since this governor was being touted as a rising star and possible presidential material. She wandered over to the bed, flopped down on it with a grunt, and flipped on the television with the remote she'd found on the nightstand. She glanced at her watch; great, just in time to catch the local news and maybe get some idea of the regional issues before her interview tomorrow.

"Trish, you don't need to offer me your first born in exchange for a great story. Hell, I've met your son, you can keep him!" She said it with a smile in her voice and her friend laughed and continued to prattle on. Jay's eyes drifted to the screen as the music came on signaling the start of the newscast. She rolled her eyes at something her editor said and was about to reply when she locked eyes with the news anchor.

"Oh my God I can't believe it, it's HER!" The writer didn't even bother to say goodbye before disconnecting the call.

She sat there, mesmerized, afraid to blink lest the image disappear. For five years this woman had dominated her dreams and fueled her imagination. Now here she was...Jay ignored the ringing of the phone again, knowing it was her editor calling back. Just for good measure, she took the receiver off the hook. "Katherine Kyle. Now I have a name to go with that unforgettable face and voice."

Chapter Two

At precisely 2:30 p.m. the next day Kate strolled through the door to the newsroom. As usual, she was impeccably dressed in a crème colored button down silk blouse and a rich blue silk pantsuit that complimented her deep blue eyes. She poked her head into one of the edit bays and greeted Gene, one of her favorite cameramen, who was laying down pictures to go with a report on dredging PCB’s from the river. Then she continued on to her desk, firing up her word processor, and scanning the national headlines on the Associated Press wire.

The newsroom was quiet at this hour. The day shift reporters were all out covering stories, and the evening anchors and reporters weren’t due in for another hour. Kate always liked to get in early, though; unlike some of her on-air colleagues, she refused to be just a "talking head." She was a journalist first, and an anchor second in her mind. As the primary anchor or "star", she was very rarely required to go out on the street to cover a story these days, but, unlike her male co-anchor, she still insisted on writing her own news copy and took the time to research the days’ happenings instead of simply reading somebody’s else’s words in front of a camera. This fact earned her a great deal of respect among most of her peers, who appreciated her work ethic and intelligence.

As for her co-anchor, well, as she had once told him when he complained that she was making him look bad, "You don’t need my help for that, Gerry. You do a great job all by yourself." The entire newsroom had erupted in laughter and Gerry had stalked from the room to spend his usual two hours in makeup reading the comics.

As the anchorwoman ran through the day’s headlines she listened with half an ear to the usual sounds of the newsroom that had become routine background noise to her over the years. The assignment editor barking into the phone at a field producer, the cameramen complaining about the reporters they were assigned to work with, the tapping of fingers on word processors, the police scanners, and the three television monitors that were tuned to each of WCAP’s competitors.

Then her sharp ears picked up something unusual. She strode purposefully over to the nearest police scanner just as Phil, the producer, reached it at the same time. She turned it up.

"…(unintelligible)…explosion at the Capitol…(unintelligible)…eagle is flying…"

"Holy shit," he exclaimed. "Holy shit. The Governor was in the damn building."

"Who’ve we got in the area?" Kate asked urgently.

"No one. Everybody’s on something else or not in yet."

"Gene," she yelled. "Get your gear. Make sure you bring an extra camera, two extra battery packs, extra tape and a couple of mics, including the wireless lavaliere. I’ll get the satellite truck and meet you out back. Phil, get me a field producer ASAP."

"Kate," Phil started to say, but she was already out of earshot.


The scene on State Street was pure pandemonium. Kate and Gene weaved their way through the crowds of panicked people running in the opposite direction. It had been seven minutes since they had left the station, which was located just on the outskirts of the city. The anchorwoman was already clipping on a wireless lavaliere microphone that would pick up her voice and transmit it back to the satellite truck for direct feed to the television newsroom. Next she inserted an earpiece that would keep her in contact with the newsroom, her cameraman and field producer, when one arrived on scene. In her hand she carried a wireless handheld microphone. She looked up at the building that was the centerpiece of the city and gaped at the hole that had been blown right through the area that housed the Senate Chamber. They were standing some twenty feet from the building. "Get a picture of that, Gene. I’m going to find some eyewitnesses and try to get a handle on this thing. And Gene, tell the station we’re gonna go live with the coverage beginning when I come back here. Get the feed up and running." With that, Kate disappeared from sight, swallowed up by the fleeing crowd.

Within seconds, she had located several members of the state legislature, including the Senate Majority Leader, whose suit jacket was torn and whose hair, for the first time Kate could ever remember, actually was disheveled. He had a small gash over his left eye, and his boyishly handsome face was covered in ash. Never one to miss an opportunity to be seen by his constituents, he quickly consented to be interviewed.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had tried many times to pick Kate up when she first became a reporter in this area. Deferring to the fact that he was very married, among other reasons, she had always politely declined his advances. Clearly he held no grudge against her.

She steered him over to where Gene was waiting in an effort to be sure that she had the dramatic footage of the hole in the side of the Capitol behind her. "Good afternoon," the anchorwoman said looking directly at the camera, "This is Katherine Kyle reporting live from the scene of a tremendous explosion here at the state Capitol building in Albany, New York. With me is State Senate Majority Leader Clyde Hicksdale. Senator, can you describe to us what happened?"

"I was in a meeting with the Governor and the Assembly Speaker in the Governor’s office on the second floor; we were discussing the state budget. All of a sudden there was a thunderous boom, the lights flickered and everything went dark. The Governor’s state police detail came running in, telling us that there had been an explosion, and they physically grabbed the Governor and whisked him out of the building through a back entrance."

"Senator, can you confirm that the Governor and Assembly Speaker are both safe and out of harms’ way?"

"Yes, Kate, I can say that with certainty, since I just got off the phone with the Governor several minutes ago. He is running a command post out of the Governor’s mansion, which, as you know, is several blocks from here."

Privately, Kate couldn’t believe the man could be so stupid as to reveal the location of the Governor publicly without knowing whether or not he had been the target of the explosion. But, as a journalist, she knew it just didn’t get any better than this.

"Senator, I understand that the epicenter of the blast was the Senate Chamber on the third floor, is that correct?"

"Yes, Kate, that is what I was told by the state police bomb experts. Thank Heaven the Senate wasn’t due to go into session for another forty five minutes."

"You said you spoke with the state police bomb experts, Senator, did they give you any indication what might have caused the explosion?"

God, could he really be foolish enough to tell her what she was sure the police would wait weeks to reveal?

"Kate, they believe it was a high powered explosive planted somewhere in the Senate gallery."

"That would be the area reserved for spectators?" At the Senator’s nod, she continued, "Senator, are all of your members accounted for? Have you been informed of any casualties?"

"My people are still getting in touch with everyone, but so far, I think most of the senators have been accounted for. We’re still trying to reach a few."

"Senate Majority Leader Hicksdale, thank you for your time."

"My pleasure, Kate."

"To recap, then," the anchorwoman said as she faced the camera fully and Gene zoomed in for a close up, "An explosion rocked the state Capitol building here in Albany at 2:48 p.m. The blast apparently was centered in the Senate Chamber, and detonated some forty five minutes before the Senate was due to go into session. Senate Majority Leader Clyde Hicksdale, who was in a meeting one floor below the Senate Chamber with the Governor and the leader of the State Assembly, indicates to WCAP-TV that the Governor has been escorted safely from the building and is monitoring the situation from his private office in the Governor’s mansion several blocks from the Capitol. Although we have not had any confirmation from the state police as of yet, Senator Hicksdale informs us that he has been told by the state police’s elite bomb squad that the explosion was the result of a high-powered incendiary device. We will try to get independent corroboration of that fact for you as soon as possible."

Kate knew most of her colleagues simply would have reported the news that the explosion was caused by a bomb as fact, but she wasn’t any reporter, and she wasn’t just going to take Hicksdale’s word for the cause. In her mind that would have been journalistically irresponsible. It was one thing to attribute the supposition to her interviewee, and quite another for her to report it as absolute gospel truth.

Kate continued her report, "At this moment, it is unclear how many, if any casualties there have been. As you can see over my shoulder (this she said as Gene panned the camera back and scanned the panicked crowd behind her), there is much confusion here on State Street. In recent weeks there have been heated debates raging between the Governor and the two houses of the legislature regarding…"


A second explosion rocked the building. Kate felt a white hot surge of air from behind as she was lifted off her feet and thrown to the ground. She looked up to see Gene getting back to his feet. Ever the professional, he still had his camera running and he gave her the hand signal letting her know his equipment was still intact and that he had gotten the footage of the second blast, as well as her going down, and was getting the images behind her of the new horror.

Kate rose to her feet and turned to face the spot where the entrance to the Capitol used to be. She watched in mute terror as members of the legislature, staff, tourists and children ran screaming into the street. There was blood and glass everywhere. Through the now open space where the covered and columned entryway had been, she could see that the first floor ceiling was starting to give way. She looked up briefly at the window that marked the Governor’s office; catching Gene’s attention, she began talking again.

"As you can see, a second explosion has just rocked the Capitol." Gene gave her a thumbs up at her slightly raised eyebrow, which he correctly interpreted to be her questioning whether or not her microphone was still working. He focused in on Kate. "That window there," she pointed to the corner spot on the second floor, "is the Governor’s office."

"Kate," Phil said in her ear from the newsroom even as she continued talking to the viewers, "You’re the only game in town; the scene got cordoned off before any of the other stations could get their people down there. CNN and all three major networks are carrying you live. No pressure here, girl, this is great stuff."

She could hear the excitement in his voice.

Gene followed her hand and zoomed in on the dramatic picture of the tattered curtains in the Governor’s office blowing out the hole where the window once had been. "As we have been informed by the Senate Majority Leader, who had been meeting with the Governor at the time in that room right there (she gestured again to the hole at the corner of the building), the Governor had already been taken to safety just after the first explosion."

Gene marveled at how calm and professional the anchorwoman appeared. It was as if she hadn’t just survived being thrown into the air like a rag doll by a fireball. He allowed himself a few seconds to moon over the statuesque beauty as he had done from the very first moment that she had come to work at WCAP five years earlier, straight out of college. But then, there wasn’t a guy at the station, or heck, some of the women, too for that matter, who wasn’t in love with her. It didn’t matter that she was unerringly friendly to all of them, but dated none of them, no matter how persistent they were.

Kate turned sideways to take in the scene behind her. What she saw touched her deeply as a human being; there were too many people still in harms’ way. She knew her first responsibility as a journalist was to get the story, but as a person, and one who had extensive first aid training, she felt she had a more important obligation to help. Maybe, just maybe, she could accomplish both objectives.

She continued talking as she began running toward the building. "As you can see, there are a number of people hurt or trapped awaiting assistance. Rescue personnel are swarming over the scene, but the number of emergency workers simply is inadequate to deal with the number of casualties."

In her ear, Phil was screaming at her. "Katherine Ann Kyle, don’t you dare put yourself in danger." He could tell that she heard him but was ignoring him. "Kate, please," he pleaded. "Don’t." The last was whispered quietly, as he knew he’d already lost the battle. "Stay safe," he murmured.

Gene moved to follow Kate, all the while training the camera on her as she dodged debris on her way to aid the injured. She motioned below camera level that he could get the general pictures of the scene and still pick up her audio, without putting himself in jeopardy. He appreciated her gesture of concern, but was determined to stay with her as long as he could without losing transmission.

As she moved into the first floor lobby, she kept up a running monologue for the sake of the viewers. "The ceiling has caved in here, as you can see, trapping a number of people." Kate spied a young blonde girl whose leg was crushed under what once had been a pillar to the side portico. She went immediately to the girl’s side. "It’s okay, sweetheart, we’re going to get you out of here." The girl’s watery green eyes and tear- stained face bespoke her terror and pain, and, for a moment, the sight sent Kate’s mind spinning back five and a half years to the winter of 1982.

It had been a glorious mid-winter day at the college snow bowl. Kate, a senior, stood atop one of the most challenging runs on the mountain. She had a half hour before her next shift was set to begin and she was determined to enjoy the superb conditions. "Well," she thought to herself, "If you’ve got to make money somehow, this sure isn’t a bad way to go." As a member of the ski patrol, she could ski for free whenever she was off duty; when she was on, she got paid. In her mind, it just didn’t get any better than that.

The slopes were crowded on this Saturday, no doubt thanks to the fresh dumping of two feet of snow they had received the night before. Kate pushed off, gathering speed and picking the line she wished to follow through the numerous moguls just ahead of her. She loved the freedom of skiing, the rush of adrenaline she got while attacking the hill and the thrill of finding a great rhythm through a minefield of bumps.

She stopped to rest momentarily at the bottom of the first tier of moguls, surveying the next part of the slope. Just as she was about to move on, a blur of movement caught her eye over on the far left side of the trail about 100 yards ahead. A big mountain of a man was barreling down the slope, completely out of control. Kate quickly scanned the area, already calculating the distance between him and anyone below him. "Shit!"

The ski patroller was already in motion, knowing that she was going to be too late. She watched helplessly as the out-of-control goon slammed full speed into a much smaller female skier who had the misfortune to be in his path. The pair disappeared in a cloud of snow, arms and legs flying through the air in a tumble of bodies. Kate arrived before the plume of snow had settled, releasing her skis and planting them to mark the accident even before she had come to a complete stop. The petite blonde was lying motionless, her right arm and left leg at odd, unnatural angles; the behemoth was shaking his head. "Wow, man, that was really something," he remarked.

Kate didn’t spare him so much as a look. "Are you hurt?" she asked him coldly, kneeling next to the woman.

"Naw, I’m tougher’n that."

"Grand, then just sit there until I can deal with you; if you so much as move a muscle, so help me I’ll ram my ski so far up your ass it will come out your mouth. Got me?"

The big man’s eyes opened as wide as saucers, and he just nodded mutely.

Kate was busy assessing the woman’s injuries and checking to see if she was breathing okay. Pulling out her two-way radio, she called to the base patrol hut and radioed her location, calmly asking for a stretcher and leg immobilizer and instructing them to have an ambulance standing by. "And Ken," she added, "send up Robbie to deal with the jerkball who caused this thing; I don’t ever want to see him on this mountain again."

"Roger that, Kate. It’s going to take us a few to get to you; you’re in a tough spot. Hard to reach."

"Do the best you can, Ken, she needs help now. Out."

Kate put the radio back in her fanny pack and looked down at the injured woman, who was just now coming around. Gently, she removed her charge’s goggles, which had cracked but miraculously remained on her face. She had a shocked moment of recognition upon seeing eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea trying desperately to focus. She had caught a glimpse of that unforgettable face on campus once before, but although she had looked, she had never seen the beautiful young co-ed again.

"Did you get the license plate number of the truck that hit me?"

Kate laughed in spite of the seriousness of the situation.

"Hey," Kate said softly, lowering herself so that the blonde could see her without moving her head. "You’re gonna be all right, but I need you to stay very still for now, okay?"

"Yyyesss; I hurt so much."

"I know. I’ve got a team on the way with the equipment so that we can move you safely. Hang in there."

"Mmmyy shoulder."

"Mmm. It’s dislocated from the looks of it; I can try to put it back in if you want." Gently she added, "It will be less painful if I do."

"Oookkkay, but this is going to mess up my lacrosse season, isn’t it?"

"’Fraid so."

Kate dug her foot into the snow and tried to get leverage. God, she didn’t want to cause this woman any more pain, but she knew that the discomfort would be temporary, and that the end result would leave her feeling better. She braced herself and grasped the dangling shoulder, being careful to jar her as little as possible. Then, using direct pressure at the correct angle, she gave a quick push and felt the bone slide back into place. The woman gave a short yell.


The blonde looked up at Kate and gave her a weak smile, her lips starting to quiver and her body starting to shake from the shock of the accident and the cold. Without thought, the ski patroller unzipped her own jacket, sliding carefully behind the injured skier, zipping the jacket with both her and the woman inside, and effectively using her own body heat to try to warm her. Feeling the young co-ed shivering uncontrollably against her, she wrapped her arms carefully around the slim waist, pulling her closer still.

Kate’s lips were almost directly behind the blonde’s ear; murmuring soothing words, she tried to comfort her, wishing with her whole heart that she could take this woman’s pain away. To distract her, she began asking questions.

"What’s your name?"

"Jjammisson Pppppparker."

"Is that five p’s or six?"

"Vvery funny," Jay said, rolling her eyes. But she smiled just the same, a fact that warmed Kate to the core.

"That’s a pretty name."

"Mmyy ffriennds call me Jay."

"Ooo. Are you including me in that number?"


"Boy, you’re easy."

"Ddonn’t let it gget arround."

"Hey, your secret’s safe with me. You’re a student, right?"

"Yess, a sophomore."

Kate looked around impatiently; where the hell was the team? As brave as this young woman was being, she was in shock and hurting, her leg clearly was broken, and it was vital to get her off the mountain and taken care of. She took out her radio once again and asked what the hold up was.

"Almost there, Kate; we’re doing the best we can."

At that moment, Robbie skied up. "Whatcha got, Kate?"

She jerked her head in the direction of the big gorilla and explained to Robbie, who actually made the guy look small, what had happened. "Get him out of my sight," she hissed. Hearing the tone in her voice, Robbie did just that.

Kate turned her attention back to her patient, whose lips were starting to turn blue, and whose skin was very pale. "Is my leg broken? It hhurrtss ssoo much."

"I think so. No dancing at the Winter Carnival Ball for you, I’m afraid."

"Dddarn. And I was ssoo counting on bbrringging Ffred Assstaire as my ddatte."

"Ummm, isn’t he dead, Jay?"

"Hhee iss? See, tthere’s another rrreason I ccan’t ggo."

Kate was utterly charmed.

Just then a snow mobile came over the rise, instantly heading for the crossed skis in the snow. Behind it was a litter with all manner of medical equipment and four more members of the ski patrol. As soon as they pulled up, Kate apprised them of the skier’s condition, noting possible frostbite, exposure, shock, a likely broken leg and dislocated shoulder. As they worked to get her leg stabilized and her arm immobilized, the older woman swathed her in blankets and grasped her good hand, leaning over so that Jay could see her face.

Softly she asked, "Is there anyone you want me to call for you? Your parents?"

Jay hesitated and her face took on a far away look; for a second, Kate wondered if she had heard her. Quietly, the younger woman said, "Nnoo, tthere’ss no one."

Something about the way she said it made Kate want to ask more questions, but she didn’t want to push her right now. Instead she said, "How about a friend? Someone to meet you at the hospital?"

"Tthanks. I’ll ccall my friend Ssarah when I get there; sshee’s got a ccar. Tthanks for taking ccare of me; yyou mmake a ggreat ttoaster ooven."

Kate smiled at her, gave her fingers one last squeeze, and assured her that she was in great hands just before the sled started moving down the mountain.

Sighing, Kate zipped her jacket back up, put her sunglasses and gloves back on, and stepped into her skis. For the rest of her shift, which was another five hours, she couldn’t stop thinking of Jay. Finally, when she couldn’t stand it anymore, she made her way to the base patrol hut, signed herself out, and drove to the hospital.

Going to the Emergency room, she talked to the nurse on duty, asking after the young co-ed’s condition. She was told that the patient was treated for a dislocated shoulder, a severely broken leg, and some minor frostbite on her fingers; she had been released only half an hour ago and left with a friend. Satisfied that Jay had been well cared for, Kate headed back to her dorm for a hot shower.

Kate shook her head to clear it. Gene zoomed in on the child as the journalist first took the time to comfort the girl and then began leveraging her weight to try to move the pillar off of her. With a monumental effort, she was able to shift the marble just enough to slide the youngster’s body out from underneath. She hugged the girl to her briefly and called for a fireman who was speaking into a two-way radio nearby to come and carry the child to safety. Then Kate moved on to the next victim.


At 2:45 p.m. Jay walked back into her hotel room after her run. She grabbed the remote and flicked the TV on to CNN as she peeled her sweaty running clothes off on her way to the shower. She had a little over an hour before her interview with the Governor, and her run had, as always, helped her to focus on the questions she wanted to ask and the ground she wanted to cover in the piece. She turned the shower on, adjusted the temperature, and stepped in, sighing in pleasure when the hot spray hit abused muscles.

A half hour later, she emerged from the bathroom wearing a hotel bathrobe and toweling her hair, freezing in mid step on her way to the closet when she heard the familiar voice. Jay checked the logo in the corner of the screen; yep, this was CNN. What was Katherine doing on CNN? Then her mind registered the words.

"To recap, then…" the anchorwoman was saying. Jay sat down heavily at the foot of the bed, her eyes riveted to the TV; the scene unfolding on the screen was bedlam. She watched in horror as the camera shook violently, but somehow remained focused on Kate, who was being tossed in the air like a mannequin. Jay gasped out loud and clutched a pillow to her chest.

At that moment, her hotel room phone rang. "Hello," she said numbly.

"Ms. Parker, this is Ms. Winston from the Governor’s office. Unfortunately, something has come up and the Governor is going to be unable to keep his appointment with you this afternoon."

The writer marveled at the woman’s power for understatement as she watched the images at the Capitol on her TV screen.

"We will be in touch with either you or your editor later today or tonight to reschedule. We are very sorry for the inconvenience."

"Inconvenience," Jay thought. "That’s what you call it when the Capitol is destroyed by a bomb?!"

"That’s quite all right, Ms. Winston, though I would like to reschedule as soon as possible."

"Of course, we’ll be in touch sometime later today. Thank you for your patience."

Jay was already refocusing on CNN. When Kate came back into view following the explosion, she seemed unfazed, despite the fact that half the building behind her was now missing. When she turned and ran toward the building, Jay jumped up from the bed, screaming at her to get back. "No, Katherine. No." The younger woman buried her head in her hands. This was like some bad suspense thriller; it couldn’t be real. But it was.

Jay’s first reaction was to go to her, but as she started to throw off her robe and pull on jeans, she realized the impossibility of the task. There was no way, with all that chaos, that she was going to be able to get anywhere near where the anchorwoman was at the moment. She growled in frustration, and began pacing the room while she watched.

The CNN anchor was overlaying his voice over the footage of Kate running into the Capitol. "You’re watching dramatic live video of reporter Katherine Kyle of WCAP-TV in Albany, New York, where two explosions have just rocked the Capitol building. Let’s listen in…"

The audio switched back to Kate just as she reached the little girl. Jay smiled wistfully at the woman’s efforts to comfort the child; it reminded her of the events of that day on the ski slope half a decade earlier.

Jay lay on her bed, her leg propped up on a pillow and her arm resting on yet another pillow. She was groggy from pain medication, and tired from her daylong ordeal. She had been completely dazed by the impact that had blown her off her skis. All she remembered was her rescuer’s face, full of concern, as she had leaned over her on the trail. Jay knew that she must have died and gone to Heaven, because she could swear that the woman bending over her was the same one she had seen on campus the previous autumn. "My God," she thought foggily, "What incredible eyes." They had been such a vivid shade of blue and so incredibly intense.

Jay had been in so much pain, but the low timbre of that voice whispering soothing words in her ear and that warm, solid, comforting presence holding her was enough to make it bearable and to make her want to be strong. She could have stayed in that cocoon listening to that woman forever. In truth, she had felt a certain sense of loss when the jacket was unzipped and the warm body slid out from behind her. And then it occurred to Jay that she hadn’t even gotten the woman’s name. How stupid was that?!

Jay sighed, turning her attention back to the coverage. CNN stayed with Kate live as she rescued the child, and then began interspersing images and audio of the reporter assisting other victims with the footage shot earlier of her interviewing the Senate Majority Leader, anchoring a newscast, background information about her, commentary about the Capitol, and speculation about how many people might have been in the building at the time of the explosions. They interviewed experts about the type of incendiary device that might have been used, other experts about the hot issues in New York State politics at the moment, still more experts about what person or groups might have been behind the attack, and everything else CNN could think of to round out the dramatic story that was unfolding less than ten miles from Jay’s hotel room.

When she got tired of CNN’s experts, Jay flipped the channel to WCAP. There was the dark-haired journalist, crawling on her stomach in what appeared to be a very unstable area of the Capitol, trying to reach a middle-aged man who was partially buried under a piece of the ceiling. Although the image was dark, Jay could see that Kate’s once immaculate suit was shredded and covered in blood, her face and hands streaked with ash and small cuts. Her voice sounded tired and strained as she talked to the man and began digging at the rubble. The sight made the blonde’s guts clench. "Oh, Katherine," she sighed sadly.

At 11:45 p.m., when Jay couldn’t stand it anymore and it looked as though the station was about to end its coverage, she called the front desk and hailed a cab to take her downtown in the vicinity of the Capitol. The closest the cabbie could get her was within two blocks. He pointed out the direction in which she needed to go and shook his head at her; everyone wanted a piece of the action, he reasoned.


Kate had just emerged from the wreckage that was once the Capitol. Knowing she was off the air now, she spoke into the microphone to Phil, thanking him for hanging with her and assuring him that she was fine. He scolded her affectionately for ignoring his orders, and then told her she’d done a fantastic job; take the rest of the night off. She laughed at him as she unclipped the microphone, effectively severing their audio connection. Turning to Gene, she gave him a huge bear hug and a kiss on the cheek; his blush was visible even in the moonlight. She thanked him for his dedication and professionalism, and for his friendship. Handing him her earpiece and microphone, she told him to take the satellite truck and head home.

And then Kate walked off alone, moving over to a marble bench in front of the fountain on the Empire State Plaza just across the street from the Capitol, where she sat down heavily, putting her head in her hands.


From some thirty yards away, Jay watched as the reporter hugged her cameraman and then walked off by herself. Part of her resisted going further, not wanting to intrude on this heroic woman when she seemed to want to be alone. Jay could see plainly that the anchorwoman was exhausted both physically and emotionally. But a bigger part of her was desperate to offer comfort; so she followed her heart.


As Jay got closer, she began questioning what she was doing; she couldn’t believe how nervous she was. "What if she doesn’t remember me? Or what if she does remember me but she doesn’t want to see me? Heck, the last time she saw me I was pretty much catatonic." She recalled with a painful jolt that awful night nearly four months to the day after her skiing accident when the compelling stranger had saved her once again, this time from being raped.

Jay had been heading back up the hill from the library after a long night of studying for her Art History final. It was a nice early May evening; the stars were out in abundance and the moon shone brightly. She looked up to the night sky to enjoy the view and was startled when she was tackled from the side, pulled off the path and slammed to the ground.

Jay struggled, trying to escape, but her attacker was much bigger and stronger than she. He pinned her arms to the ground with his knees and smashed his fist into her jaw. It was then that she saw the knife and the fact that he was wearing a stocking mask. Her eyes reflected her terror as, without saying a word, he ripped her blouse open with his free hand and cut her bra off with the blade. She screamed once before he backhanded her again across the face, his hands roughly twisting her nipple as he reached down lower to unbutton her blue jeans. Jay tried once more to squirm free, and was rewarded with a punch to her midsection. She grunted as the air exploded from her body, closing her eyes and willing it to be over soon.

And then the weight simply disappeared off her, replaced moments later by the safety and comfort of that tall, dark stranger, who had come to her rescue for a second time.

For two days afterward Jay hadn’t spoken a word. The few friends who knew of her ordeal had been very supportive, and the rape counselor from the hospital had found her a great therapist. Over the course of the next year, with the help of that counselor, she had been able to work through the devastating effects of the incident. To this day, though, she still had occasional nightmares, reliving the horror in her sleep. But always, always she remembered that feeling of safety she had gotten from the hand holding hers that night: that tender, compassionate voice and presence that had been her salvation.


Vaguely, Kate was aware of footsteps echoing on the marble walkway. She looked up slowly, trying to focus her abused eyes, thinking dimly to herself, "Kyle, you must be more tired than you know; you’re hallucinating." For five years she had tried hard not to dwell too much on the memory of the one woman who had made her consider the possibility that love at first sight might be more than a cliché. Now, for the second time today, Kate found herself thinking about Jay again. Not only that, this time she was seeing her as if she were really here, in Albany. She thought about the very first time she had looked up to see the same vision; it had been the autumn of 1981…

Kate grumbled one more time to herself about the absurdity of tennis being a fall sport in Vermont, much as she had been doing for all of her four years on the team. The temperature hovered in the high 40s and it was all she could do to hold onto the racquet. Her hands were freezing. She applied more sticky powder to her hands on the changeover and rubbed them on the grip. She hated using the stuff, but already she had lost the racquet out of her hand twice. Most of the other matches were already over, and a crowd had gathered to watch what was being billed as the best match up in the conference. Kate was the #1 singles player on her team and ranked second in the division overall. Her opponent, a bulky, 5’8" redhead with wild curls, was top ranked and had yet to lose a match all season. Kate’s only loss of the year had been to this woman on her home court; the senior intended to return the favor.

Currently, they were locked in a tight third and deciding set; it was a psychological battle as much as a physical one. Kate had lost the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6. She had come back to take the second set 7-5, even though her opponent had been up 5-3 at one point; the dark-haired woman simply refused to lose. Now the score was 6 games all and 6 points all in the final tiebreaker and Kate would be serving the next two points with a chance to finish the match. They had been at it for nearly three hours, and dusk was fast approaching.

Kate was tired. She had been up late the night before, first studying for an Economics exam, then giving the late newscast on the college radio station, and finally working on her independent study paper in Abnormal Psychology. She put all that aside, though, as she pocketed the balls and headed to the baseline. She had been oblivious to the crowd to that point, so intent had she been on out-thinking and out-slugging her opponent.

So when she stepped up to the baseline to serve and began her ritual of bouncing the ball twice with her racquet and then twice with her hand, she was surprised to hear a loud chorus of shushing noises. She chanced a moment to look up and was shocked to see the large number of spectators gathered on the hillside just above the court. She scanned the crowd quickly, noting most of the members of her team, as well as the opposing team. She also glimpsed a couple of her friends and several faculty members. And then her eyes were drawn up slightly higher, to a figure standing a little apart from the rest. "Oh my," thought Kate. A young woman was standing there, her hands in her Lacrosse team sweatshirt pockets, sea green eyes sparkling down at her and long golden hair reflecting the dying rays of the sun.

The senior’s heart nearly stopped beating, and then began to beat double time when the woman smiled a full, brilliant smile at her. Kate smiled back reflexively. "Gorgeous" was the word that popped into her mind, before she remembered what she was supposed to be doing. The entire exchange hadn’t taken more than several seconds, but to Kate, it had seemed like the world momentarily had stopped turning.

She shook her head and began the ritual over once again, bouncing the ball twice with her racquet, and then twice more with her hand. Then she arched up, releasing the ball and initiating her powerful swing simultaneously. The serve caught the service and sidelines, spinning away from her opponent, who made a hapless lunge toward the ball. Ace, 7-6 in the tiebreaker, and Kate was serving for the match. She stepped confidently over to the deuce court and went through her ritual one more time. She knew it was silly, but it was something she’d been doing ever since she was old enough to hold a racquet; an even number of bounces for the first serve, and an odd number for the second. She launched herself upward to meet the toss, and sent a blistering serve down the middle. Her opponent managed to get her racquet on the ball, sending a reasonably strong topspin backhand back across the net; Kate, however, had anticipated the shot and followed her serve in to the net. Moving forward gracefully, she put the ball away with a crisp high forehand volley to end the match.

The crowd erupted in cheers, and she waited for her opponent to meet her at the net to shake hands. As she walked off the court, gathering her tennis bag and sweats, the senior looked back to where the vision had been standing. The blonde gave her a huge grin and a thumbs up, then she was gone, melting into the crowd of spectators no doubt heading for warmer surroundings.

Kate smiled at the memory for a second, until, unbidden, thoughts about the third and last time she and this woman had crossed paths, seven months after the tennis match and some four months after the incident on the ski slope, intruded:

Kate had been walking down the hill from the college radio station on her way to meet friends downtown following the 11 o’clock newscast, enjoying the light breeze and the moonlit night, the smell of pine trees strong in the air. She had just taken her tennis team sweatshirt off with the intent to drape it over her shoulders when she heard what sounded like a struggle.

Kate looked around, aware as she did that there had been a series of sexual assaults on campus in the last two months. She spotted a small movement in the bushes just off the path some twenty feet ahead. Throwing the sweatshirt to the ground, she broke into a run, yanking the bushes aside with her hand as she reached the noise. What she saw enraged her. A beefy man, his face covered with a nylon stocking, was straddling a young woman; he was in the process of pulling her pants down. She also saw the glint of steel in the moonlight.

Heedless of the danger, she coiled her body and launched herself at the man, careful to get under his arm so that the blade would be aimed upward, away from his victim. She knocked him sideways and off of the woman, her momentum sending both the assailant and her careening into a nearby oak tree. The man caught his balance first, slashing at Kate with the knife he still held in his hand; she tried to roll away, but he managed to slice her right shoulder. Blood immediately poured from the wound but, furious now, she ignored it. Pushing to her feet she smashed him in the stomach with one of her long legs, following that with a knee to his groin. He howled in agony, and she used that opportunity to kick the knife from his hand. As he recovered and reached for it on the ground, she stomped on his wrist so hard that she could hear the bones snap. Just as she was about to take a shot at his head with her foot, a local policeman came running up, his gun drawn, warning the man to move away from the weapon and lie face down on the dirt. He cuffed him and looked up into cerulean blue eyes.

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Kate sighed. "But there’s a woman over that way a little," she pointed over her shoulder, "Who may not be."

"I’ll radio for an ambulance right away, backup should be here shortly."

"You worry about him, I’ll see what I can do for her." And with that, Kate already was streaking back toward the path.

She looked around for a moment, trying to locate the woman, before spying the reflective tape on the back of a pair of running sneakers. And then she realized why she had had such trouble spotting her: the victim was curled into a tiny ball, lying huddled near where Kate first had encountered her and her assailant. She was in the fetal position, with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, which were pulled up to her chest. The sight broke the senior’s heart.

She moved quickly, but carefully, trying not to traumatize the woman any further. Bending down, she began speaking softly to her.

"It’s okay. You’re safe now." When she got no response, she tried again. "Can I just get a look at you; see where you’re hurt?" Again, nothing. Kate didn’t want to add to the woman’s misery, but she knew she had to get a better handle on exactly how far the scumbag had gotten, and whether or not he had cut her with the knife. In the position the victim was in currently, she couldn’t even see her face.

"Hey, I only want to help you. He can’t hurt you any more, I promise. Please." It was a plea. The woman began to rock back and forth as if in mute comfort. Kate decided she had to make a move; she simply couldn’t chance waiting any longer. Reaching out tentatively, she touched the woman on the back. The traumatized victim lifted her chin inches from its position tight against her knees as if noting someone else’s presence for the first time. Kate gasped.

"Jay," she cried. "Jay, is that you?" All the while her mind was praying that it wasn’t the young woman whose face had been visiting her in her dreams for months. "Oh, God, not her." Tears sprang to Kate’s eyes.

Jay thought the insistent voice sounded vaguely familiar, but she didn’t trust it. She didn’t trust anything right now; she just wanted to die. A gentle arm encircled her, and she flinched involuntarily at the contact.

Although she was stung by the reaction, Kate refused to pull back. "Jay, honey, are you hurt? I need to see. Can you straighten out your arms and legs so that I can see where you’re hurt?"

At the term of endearment, said with such compassion, the young co-ed looked up momentarily with glassy eyes, trying to focus on the face gazing down at her with such concern and tenderness. "Could it really be her, or is my mind playing tricks on me?" she had thought so often about the tall, dark stranger she wondered if this wasn’t a figment of her imagination.

Seeing a flicker of a reaction, Kate continued her coaxing. "I just need a peek, Jay, then I won’t bother you any more, okay?"

With tremendous effort, but without looking up, Jay loosened her death grip and dropped her arms to her sides. Kate moved forward instantly and, as gently as she could, began examining Jay to determine her condition. Bile rose to her throat as she noted the ripped blouse, the cut bra, the half-opened jeans and the scrapes and bruises that liberally covered her chest and abdomen. She could see the swelling on the young woman’s jaw and the beginnings of a bruise there, as well as her split lip. She noted the bruising around Jay’s nipple, too. God she wanted to kill him.

Kate didn’t want to ask the next question, but she knew she had to. Softly, circling Jay with her good arm and stroking her soft blonde hair, she asked, "He didn’t penetrate you, did he, honey?" She closed her eyes against the answer, knowing that if it was in the affirmative, she might well take matters into her own hands and strangle the bastard.

Jay felt like she was underwater. She heard the question, her mind struggling to provide the answer, but she couldn’t find her voice. Instead, she shook her head "no."

Kate squeezed her eyes shut as the tears of relief leaked out of the corners; thank God for small favors.

At that moment she heard the sirens of additional police cars and doors slamming. She looked down and suddenly was aware of how painfully exposed and vulnerable Jay looked. Kate remembered that she had dropped her sweatshirt just a few feet away and she moved to retrieve it.

"No, don’t leave me."

Kate moved back to her instantly. "It’s okay, Jay, I’m not going anywhere; I just want to get something for you to put on. Watch me, you’ll see, I’m right here." She inched away slowly; making sure that the young co-ed could still see her. She picked up her sweatshirt quickly and returned to her side. "Here, let me help you put this on, okay?"

Jay nodded her head numbly. The sweatshirt smelled sweet. "Just like her," the traumatized woman thought.

Not wanting to startle or frighten her, Kate described what she was going to do next. "Jay, I’m just going to help you get your jeans zipped up, okay?" Getting no reaction, she reached down slowly and put her hands on the waistband. Jay didn’t pull away, so she grasped the zipper, pulled it up, and refastened the button. "There you go, that’s better, huh?"

Kate was alarmed that Jay seemed to be so far away, unreachable, really, with the exception of that one exclamation when she had let go of her. So far, that was the only verbal indication that Jay even knew the senior was there.

Two police officers approached, one male and one female, both looking at Kate with a question in their eyes.

"She’s okay. I don’t think he accomplished his goal; she doesn’t appear to have been penetrated, but they should probably check just to be certain. She’s got significant bruising and scrapes and he tore most of her clothes off." She was amazed at how calm her own voice sounded; in actuality, she was shaken to the core.

The officers noted the oversized sweatshirt that now covered Jay’s upper body and pooled around her on the ground where she was half sitting. Following their eyes, Kate added, "That’s mine. I just thought she should be covered up."

"Okay," said the male officer. "You need to come with me so that I can ask you some questions. Officer Dale will stay with her and question her." Kate didn’t like his attitude, thinking him far less compassionate in his tone toward the young co-ed than she thought he should have been.

She sized up Officer Dale and addressed her instead. "I don’t think she’s in any shape to be questioned right now, you’ll only traumatize her worse. I can tell you everything I saw and what happened." Kate didn’t want Jay to have to relive the attack over again so soon. "She needs medical attention."

"So do you," Officer Dale state flatly, nodding in the direction of her right arm, which was dripping blood.

"I’m fine. We need to take care of her."

"Come with me, ma’am," the male officer said, tugging on Kate’s good arm to get her going.

She reluctantly started to stand, but Jay grabbed her hand like a vise before she was half way off the ground. "Don’t go," she whispered. "Please don’t leave me."

"I won’t," Kate said, dropping back down next to her and staring up at the officers defiantly. To them she said with finality, "I’ll answer your questions at the hospital after she’s been taken care of. Don’t worry, I’m not likely to forget anything I saw or did."

"Ma’am," the male officer started, "It’s important to get your recollections while they’re freshest." "Her’s too," he jabbed his chin in Jay’s direction.

Kate just stared daggers at the man. "I assure you you’ll get everything you need. Now where the hell is the ambulance?" She was starting to get light headed from the loss of blood and she was worried beyond words about Jay’s emotional state.

Fortuitously, two paramedics hustled up at that moment wheeling a stretcher. "Somebody rang for us?"

Kate looked up at the sound of the bright voice. "Jen, is that you?"

"Hey, beautiful. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a dump like this?"

Kate was never so glad to see a friendly face in her life. Jen was a fellow member of the ski patrol; she was also a volunteer EMT. "Jen, this is Jamison Parker. She needs your help."

"So do you, from the looks of it, Missy. Let me take a peek."

"Later, Jen, I promise. Jay first. Please?"

The EMT looked intently at Kate; what she saw there galvanized her into action. "Right." Addressing the young co-ed, Jen said, "Hi, I’m Jen; I’m here to help you. Where does it hurt?"

Jay didn’t respond, but her grip on the hand she was holding tightened imperceptibly. Kate leaned over and cooed softly in her ear, "It’s all right, Jay, Jen’s a friend of mine. You can trust her."

After a moment’s inaction, the EMT looked at her friend’s eyes with a question; Kate nodded slightly. Jen squatted down in front of Jay and reached out slowly. "I’m just going to pull your sweatshirt up and have a little look see, okay?" This she said even as she already had her hands in the material and was tugging gently upward. She took the stethoscope from around her neck and the blood pressure cuff and began listening to her patient’s chest and taking her pulse and blood pressure readings.

To her friend, who was waiting expectantly, the EMT said, "Her heart rate’s a little elevated, which you’d expect, and her pressure’s up a bit, too. Her pupils are non-responsive, which is indicative of deep shock. Do I need to use a kit?" She didn’t need to be more specific. The senior knew her friend was asking if the asshole had raped Jay and if they needed forensic evidence that a rape kit could yield.

Kate swallowed hard, willing back the tears that the very thought of that monster defiling this woman evoked. In a voice choked with emotion, she answered, "I don’t think so, but I’d prefer it if you went through the motions just in case. I want to make sure we nail the bastard good."

Jen looked at Kate oddly; she had never seen her friend so rattled, or so fierce. She nodded her head and tried, without words, to let her know that she would take good care of this woman who clearly meant something to her.

"Okay, we’re going to move you to a stretcher now so that we can take you to the hospital and check you over properly, all right? Can you stand?"

Jay didn’t move. Kate tugged on her hand gently, starting to stand herself and pulling the traumatized woman up along with her, never letting go of her hand. Jen moved in, guiding her to the stretcher, putting subtle pressure on her shoulder when the stretcher was maneuvered into position for her to sit. As the EMT laid her patient down, Jay’s eyes tracked fearfully around, panic etched clearly in her face. When pained sea green eyes found reassuring deep blue ones, she relaxed slightly. "Don’t worry, Jay, I’m coming with you." Kate swept disheveled blonde bangs off her forehead with gentle fingers and entwined their fingers once again as she walked alongside the stretcher.

As they moved to the ambulance, Jen caught her friend’s gaze. "You’ve lost a lot of blood, girlfriend; we need to do something about that." As Kate opened her mouth to protest, the EMT added, "And don’t you tell me it can wait. Frankly, your color sucks."

"Thanks for the compliment. As soon as we’re on the road, I promise."

Once in the ambulance, Jen moved over to her friend and peeled back the tattered sleeve of her t-shirt. She sucked in a sharp breath at the depth of the wound. "Jesus. That’s gonna need a couple of layers of stitches and a tetanus shot, to be sure, if you haven’t had one lately."

The EMT cleaned the wound and applied a pressure bandage as a stopgap measure until her friend could get stitched. Kate’s gaze never wavered from Jay’s face, her thumb making gentle circles on the back of her hand. She felt so helpless to do anything for her it made her sick to her stomach. If only she had happened down the path a few moments earlier! Now, all she could do was be there and try to help her to feel safe.

Once at the hospital Jay was wheeled into a private area of the emergency room where a rape counselor was waiting along with an all-female medical team. Kate filled the clinicians in as best she could as to the events of the evening, having gone with Jay only because every time she tried to let go of her hand, she panicked.

After examining the patient briefly, the doctor told Kate, "I’m going to give her a sedative to help her relax a bit; and then we’ll take samples for the lab."

Kate looked to the rape counselor beseechingly. "She’ll be all right." The counselor smiled kindly at her. "It’s going to take time and a good support network." Kate wondered if the young sophomore had one, thinking back to the accident on the ski slope and her reaction to having her parents contacted. Then a name popped into her head; Sarah. She had mentioned a friend named Sarah. Kate asked Jay what dorm she lived in but got no answer.

When the sedative had begun to take effect and her eyes began to slide shut, Kate tried a different tack on a hunch.

"Jay, what’s your roommate’s name?"

"Sarah Alexander," she slurred.

The older woman waited for her young charge to fall asleep, reluctantly disentangling her hand. She went in search of a college directory, looked up Sarah Alexander and headed for the phone.

Half an hour later Kate’s wound had been properly taken care of, closed with a dozen stitches to the under layers of skin and another dozen sutures in the top layer. She sported a stark white bandage wrapped around her shoulder, which was bare thanks to the fashion ignorant doctor who had unceremoniously cut off her sleeve.

She saw a harried looking young woman come running in through the emergency room door and approached her. "Are you Sarah Alexander?"

"Yyes, yes I am."

"Jay’s in there," she nodded her head in the direction of the room just down the hall to the right. "She’s asleep right now but she could sure use a friend." Irrationally, Kate was envious, wishing it could be her. "The counselor will fill you in, she’s in the room with her."

Sarah ran off in the direction of the room, looking back over her shoulder and calling, "Thanks."

Kate continued out into the emergency room waiting area, where the three cops from the incident were sitting. She proceeded to tell them everything she knew, getting a ride back to campus from them when they were done. She had thought about checking back in on Jay, but decided that the traumatized woman didn’t need her; she was in good hands with Sarah, who no doubt knew her friend well enough to know how to comfort her. For some reason, that thought both heartened and saddened her. "Goodbye, Jay. God speed."




The footsteps stopped just in front of where she sat facing the remains of the Capitol. Kate opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. "My God," she thought, "It’s been five years and you are even more beautiful than I remember, Jay."

"Hi," Jay said shyly as she was captured by the intensity of that regard. It was just like the first time they had made eye contact, the day she stopped to see what all the fuss was about as a crowd gathered on the hill near the tennis courts that autumn day five and a half years ago:

She had moved higher in order to be able to see over the heads of the throng. Leaning toward the guy standing closest to her, she asked what was going on. He explained that these were the top two players in the division and that the winner of this match would decide the final standings for the year. It was a four-year-old rivalry, he added, and there was little love lost between these two. It’s 5-3 in Red’s favor in the second set, the young man pointed at the redhead, and she smells blood.

Jay was transfixed, unable to take her eyes off the lanky woman, who, she thought, moved with the grace and speed of a panther. She was so agile, so strong and so very determined. She found herself holding her breath unconsciously, willing the mystery woman to make the next shot, and the next, and the next. Jay knew she was going to be very late to her weekly editorial meeting for the school newspaper, but she just couldn’t tear herself away. And then, when it had come down to the very end and those blue eyes had looked up directly at her…Wow.

Kate motioned her to sit down. "Hello, Jay," she said warmly. "You cut off your hair."

"Well, she remembers me, anyway." "You don’t like it?" she half questioned self-consciously, aware of the absurdity of having a discussion about her hairstyle with a woman who had just been through what this woman had.

Kate, her resistance weakened, reacted without restraint, reaching out and running her long fingers through the locks in question. "No, it’s gorgeous," she said sincerely. "It suits you." Her palm briefly brushed Jay’s cheek.

Jay felt the gentle touch all the way to her toes, but as much as she enjoyed the simple contact, she was aware of something else, too. She grasped the hand that had caressed her face in her own soft hands and turned it over to examine the palm. She gasped when she saw that it was raw and bleeding. Then she got a closer look at the rest of the anchorwoman.

"You need to go to the hospital, Katherine. You’re hurt." She began to pull on the statuesque woman’s good hand to get her to stand.

"No, Jay, the hospitals all have their hands full with the seriously wounded, I’m fine."

"No you’re not, you’re bleeding, you’re cut and you need to be seen," the blonde prodded stubbornly.

Trying to change the subject, the tattered woman said, "My friends call me Kate."

"Oh, are you including me in that number?"


"Boy, you’re easy."

"Don’t let it get around," Kate replied smiling tiredly at the repeat of their very first conversation.

"You’re secret’s safe with me," Jay winked. "And now that we’ve got that settled, let’s get you to the hospital."

Seeing that she was going to have to do something to placate Jay, Kate decided to take a different approach. "I don’t want to spend hours sitting in an emergency room; my doctor can handle my injuries."

"At this hour?" Jay questioned skeptically.

"She’s a friend of mine," Kate answered reasonably.

"Okay, then call her, because I’m taking you there right now."

"That’s really not necessary."

"Let’s go find a pay phone," Jay said determinedly.

"All right, all right already, I know when I’ve been outmaneuvered." Kate sighed and led her companion over to the nearby Convention Center, where a pay phone sat outside the entrance.

Now Jay was feeling a little sheepish. "Umm. I took a cab here. You do have a car, right?"

The anchorwoman laughed for the first time in many hours. "C’mon, one of my co-workers dropped my car off nearby hours ago." She led the way across the plaza to the opposite side away from the Capitol.

Chapter Three

Although she put up token resistance, Kate secretly was glad that Jay wanted to drive her. She didn't think she could keep her eyes open long enough to watch the road, and the blonde seemed only too happy to slip behind the wheel of her sporty little BMW convertible anyway.

She sank into the leather of the passenger seat with relief and, after listening delightedly to the vertically-challenged woman mutter under her breath for a few minutes about how far up she had to move the driver's seat in order to reach the pedals, Kate directed her through the city and out into the suburbs beyond.

The tired woman had just about drifted off when a thought occurred to her. "Jay?"


"What in the world are you doing here in Albany and how did you find me?"

Jay laughed at the last part of the question. "Well the 'how did I find you' was simple; anyone with access to a television set could have found you, Kate. As for what I'm doing here, I'm doing an in-depth profile on the Governor for Time magazine. I'm based in New York City and I was hoping to interview him there, but the only way they could fit me into his schedule was to do it up here; they consider him a real future contender for the presidency. It's going to be next week's cover story."

"Mmm, they're right about that. Wow, that's fantastic, congratulations."

"Thanks. I was supposed to meet with him this aftern...I mean yesterday afternoon now, I guess, but the disaster changed all that."

"What time was your meeting set for?"

"Four o'clock. I was just getting showered and changed when I saw you on CNN and then someone from the Governor's office called to postpone."

"Mmm, I'm glad you hadn't left yet." Kate couldn't imagine what her reaction would have been to finding out that the cute blonde had been caught in that explosion.

They were both quiet then, each woman alone with her own thoughts.

At 12:15 a.m. they pulled up to a brick office building where they were greeted by a wiry, bespectacled woman in her mid-40's. "Kate, come on inside and let's get you looked at." Even as she appeared to be focused entirely on her patient, the woman's sharp eyes took note of her companion and the way the injured woman looked at her. While most people wouldn't have noticed anything at all there, she knew her tall friend well, and she knew she had never seen her look at anyone that way before.

"Doctor Barbara Jones, please meet Ms. Jamison Parker. Jay, this is Dr. Jones."

"Barbara, please. It's nice to meet you," the doctor said as she reached out bony fingers to grasp the blonde's hand in a firm handshake.

"Likewise," Jay answered.

Once inside, the doctor led the way back to one of the examination rooms. "Feel free to come along for the ride, Jay, our Kate here could use a distraction." The writer hesitated, wanting to give her companion her privacy.

Sensing her unease, Kate said, "It's fine, Jay, a heck of a lot more entertaining than waiting outside in Barbara's waiting room; there isn't a magazine out there that's less than a year old."

Barbara poked the injured woman in the side and rolled her eyes.

Jay blushed, clearly embarrassed by the doctor's assumption that Kate would welcome her presence. She looked over at the dark-haired woman, who appeared to be taking it all in stride, though, and decided to shove aside her discomfort.

Which was fine until Kate started disrobing. Suddenly Jay found the diplomas on the wall fascinating. The anchorwoman smiled behind her back.

When Barbara returned, she had gathered several suture kits, some fresh bandages and cleansing solution. "Geez, Kate, you look like hell."

"Thanks for the compliment, I feel better already."

From her vantage point in the corner Jay smiled at the easy camaraderie between the two women.

With an efficiency born of years of practice, Barbara examined her friend from head to foot, stitched two major gashes on her hand and forearm, and applied burn ointment to her hands and salve to the cuts on her face and arms.

"Do try to stay out of trouble now, will you?"

"You know that it's the trouble that always finds me, Barbara," Kate joked hoarsely, "Not the other way around."

"Yeah, right. Now get out of here so I can get some sleep."

Just as they were headed back to the exit, the phone rang.

"Now who would that be at this hour?" Barbara wondered aloud. "Well," she sighed, "If they tracked me down here, it's a sure bet that I should answer it."

After a moment, she handed the phone to her patient, shaking her head. "It's for you," she said, her eyebrows hiking into her salt and pepper hair.

"Hello, this is Katherine Kyle." Now she was all business, all trace of exhaustion gone. Jay marveled at the transformation.

"Hiya kiddo," her producer greeted. I figured when I couldn't get you at home that you might have stopped for some TLC." In actuality, he had spent the past hour trying desperately to locate her. When she wasn't home, and Gene didn't know where she'd gone after they'd parted, Phil was at a bit of a loss; Kate was not exactly the "go-out-and-get-drunk" type. Then he had remembered the way she had looked on camera, and it dawned on him that she might have needed medical attention. He knew that she would never go to the hospital, and, since they shared the same doctor, he thought it worth a try to call the good Doctor Jones's office.

Kate sighed in exasperation. "First of all, how in the world did you track me down and what could you possibly want now, Phil?" she said with a mixture of wonder and respect. "And secondly, I thought you told me to take the rest of the night off."

"Number one, I have many skills," he said proudly. "Number two, I did, and now it's tomorrow morning."

Kate groaned. "Okay, what is it?"

"Great news. You're a star and you're in demand; all three networks want you on their morning shows tomor...err...today. First appearance at 7:05 a.m. You have to be in makeup at 6 o'clock at the NBC Today Show studios."

There was dead silence on the anchorwoman's end.

"Kate, did you hear me?"

A heavy sigh. "Yeah, I heard you."

"Terrific, a limo will be outside your house at 3:30 a.m. That's...two and a half hours from now. Better get your beauty rest, not that you need any."

"Gee, thanks, buddy. I'll fly back and be here in time for the six o'clock 'cast, get me some reservations, will you? And Phil, I'm going to call you at 6:30 a.m. sharp and I want an update on everything we know to this point. See ya." She hung up before he had a chance to respond.

When she put the phone down, both Jay and Barbara looked at her with inquiring eyes.

"I'm the catch of the day apparently; all three networks want me on their morning shows...six hours from now."

"Oh Kate," both women groaned together.

"Kate, you're in no shape to travel to New York right now, that's insane!" Jay was well and truly worried about her friend.

"That's okay, they're sending a limo to drive me."

"Oh, well that makes it all better then," the writer said sarcastically. Barbara decided right then and there that she liked this woman. A lot.

"Come on, Jay, let me get you back to your hotel. Thanks for taking such good care of me Barbara, as always." And with that, the three women walked into the parking lot.

As Kate was getting into the passenger seat, Barbara escorted Jay around to the driver's side. The look in her eyes when she was watching Kate hadn't escaped Barbara, either. "Take good care of her, Jay, she's a special one."

Jay blushed, but nodded her head. "I know."


The ride to the hotel was companionably silent, as both women were too tired for conversation.

Once there, Kate insisted on walking Jay to her room. But before they could get beyond the lobby, the desk clerk called out, "Excuse me, are you Ms. Parker?"

"Yes I am," Jay answered, surprised, approaching the desk.

"Thank God," the clerk exclaimed, relieved. "I've got a message for you; this woman has been calling every half hour."

Jay smiled and shook her head. "Ah, that would be Trish." To Kate she said, "My editor."

Jay accepted the piece of paper from the clerk and read the note, groaning.

"What is it?"

"The Governor has rescheduled the interview for... 2:30 p.m. today...in his New York City office. It seems he doesn't want to appear to be cowed or deterred by terrorists."

Kate thought for a minute. She really didn't want to say goodbye to Jay again so soon. "I've got an idea." At the younger woman's raised eyebrow, she continued before she could lose her nerve, "How about if we get you checked out right now? You can come to my house with me, we can shower there, get changed and get ready and then you can ride with me in the limo back to the City." When Jay didn't respond right away, Kate rushed on, "That is, if you don't mind traveling at that ungodly hour, and I would love it if you would accompany me on the rounds to the shows. If you want to, I mean; I think you'd have plenty of time before your interview with the Governor." She could never remember being this nervous and anxious about an answer before; it had never mattered like this.

Jay was floored by the offer. "That sounds great, are you sure?" At Kate's bashful nod, the blonde turned toward the elevators. "I'll just go get my stuff and be down in a minute." "Heck," the writer thought to herself, "I'd walk to New York if it meant I could spend more time with you."

Chapter Four

After throwing her few things together the writer placed a quick call to her editor from the room.

"Sure," Trish practically yelled at her in her heavy New York accent. "You, the most responsible person I know...first you hang up on me, and then, if that isn't bad enough, you go flying off somewhere and don't even bother to get in touch with me when the whole world is exploding up there. Jesus, Jay, I thought something really bad happened to you."

"I'm sorry, Trish, I guess I didn't think about it that way; don't worry, everything's fine. I don't have time right now, but I promise to explain it all to you the next time we talk, okay?"

The editor could never stay mad at her young friend for long. "Yeah," she said, "Okay this time, but no more heart attacks, all right? I'm too young to die."

"Cross my heart, Trish. Listen, I've already got a ride back to the City, and I'll be there in plenty of time for the interview."

"Jay," the editor said seriously, "There's an awful lot riding on this interview now given what happened. Make me proud."

"Have I ever disappointed you?"

"Nope, and don't let this be the first time, either."

"Bye, Trish."

"See ya, kid.


The ride to the television anchorwoman's house took a little over twenty minutes, Kate driving this time, since it was easier than giving directions. When they pulled into the driveway, Jay was amazed at how beautiful and big the house was. "Wow, Kate, this is impressive."

"It's home," she shrugged.

The house was set back from the road, which was a cul-de-sac, the driveway shaded by large old oak trees and extending perhaps three hundred feet, with a circular drive leading to the front door and a continuation to the side leading to a three car attached garage. From the front door, the writer couldn't even see the lights of the neighboring houses.

The house itself was spectacular; contemporary in style with large windows, including one huge rectangular window above the entranceway topped by a second, semi-circular window. Through that opening Jay could see a beautiful hanging gold and glass light fixture that presided over a wide-open expanse.

Kate unlocked the front door, insisting that she would not take her guest in through the garage. Jay was stunned by the elegance of the interior: it was airy and open, with a high cathedral ceiling and sky lights in what she could see was the sunken living room. And yet it also had a cozy feeling that was most likely a result of the post and beam construction and the choice of furnishings.

Before Jay could make any more observations, Kate called out, "Hi honey, I'm home! Fred, are you here, I brought somebody home to meet you?" Kate completely missed the look of total shock and dismay on her companion's face.

Jay wasn't sure she could stay standing, Kate's words slamming her in the gut like a two by four as she felt the air rush out of her lungs. There was a sharp pain in her chest, and it was hard to breathe; how could she have missed something as major as a husband? Good Lord! Kate didn't have any rings on her fingers, but then that didn't necessarily mean anything; how could she have been so stupid? Of course someone as special as Kate would be taken.

Just as Jay was trying to figure out how she could extricate herself gently from this situation without making too much of an idiot out of herself, a beautiful Golden Retriever came bounding around the corner from another part of the house. The dog had a stuffed parrot in his mouth and what the writer thought passed for a big smile on his face.

"There you are," Kate said, still oblivious to her companion's distress. "Now be a gentleman and introduce yourself." The dog sat obediently, sticking out his right paw for Jay to shake, his tail wagging furiously and his whole body shaking in excitement. "Jay, this is Fred. Fred, meet Jay."

The feeling of profound relief that flooded through her left the blonde feeling light headed. She kick started her brain again, reaching out to take Fred's extended paw.

"Oh, and Fred," Kate said in a stage whisper, "No kissing on the first date." She winked at Jay, who stood there with a lopsided grin on her face. Now that she was pretty sure her heart was going to recover, she was absolutely smitten with Fred.

"How old is he?" Jay asked as she scratched him on the chest.

"Two years," his mother replied. "His parents are both breed champions."

"He's charming and handsome."

"Yeah," Kate agreed with obvious pride and affection. "But don't tell him that, it'll go right to his head."

The anchorwoman indicated that Jay should follow her further into the house, showing her to the living room and inviting her to sit on the couch. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"No thanks, I'm fine."

"I'd light the fireplace, but I don't think we have enough time to enjoy it."

"That's okay, Kate, you don't need to worry about me. You must be exhausted."

After a short silence, Jay decided to take advantage of this moment. "By the way, I've always wanted to thank you for all that you did for me in college," she started conversationally. Kate made a dismissive motion as if to say, "it was nothing."

"No, really," Jay persisted. "You were always taking your clothes off for me," she said earnestly, referring to the sweatshirt and Kate using her ski jacket to warm her on the ski slope.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth and Jay got a good look at her companion, whose eyebrows had hiked all the way up into her hairline, she realized what she had said. She scrubbed furiously at her face, which had turned beet red.

"Uh oh. Damn, I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I mean, I did mean it but," she stammered. "Oh, never mind," Jay finished miserably.

Kate was utterly charmed both by the adorable blush and the attempted explanation; she tipped her head back and gave a full, throaty laugh.

Jay thought it was the most wonderful sound she'd ever heard. "Let's just rewind the conversation, okay?"

Kate decided she should let her friend off the hook. "You're welcome, Jay, I was glad to be in the right place at the right time."

In an effort to lighten the conversation, knowing that they were both too tired right now for anything really heavy, Kate said, "Listen, I need to take a shower in the worst way."

"Me, too," Jay agreed.

"Well, come with me, I'll give you the nickel tour so you can find your way around and show you to the guest suite."

Fred led the way out of the living room and into a fully stocked library, complete with built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves. Jay made a mental note to come back and check the titles in Kate's collection; some of them clearly looked like first editions. On the wall opposite the bookshelves was what appeared to be a well-used fireplace. Noticing her gaze, Kate said, "This is my favorite room in the house; Fred and I spend a lot of time in here reading by the fire."

Jay made note of the fluffy dog bed sitting next to a comfortable-looking recliner, which was sitting at an angle to the fireplace. "Boy," she thought, "I could get lost in here for days."

They exited the library, next entering an office with a rich beige leather couch on one wall and a large dark oak desk on another, with a matching oak filing cabinet and credenza sitting against the opposite wall. It was clear from the state of the room that Kate did quite a bit of work here. There were neat stacks of magazines and newspapers in racks next to the desk, which was free of clutter but still managed to look well used.

They moved on to the family room, which sported state of the art video and audio equipment, yet another fireplace and a light-colored plaid armchair and matching sofa; French doors opening out onto a huge, two-tiered wooden deck completed the space.

Behind the family room was the kitchen, which appeared to have every modern convenience, but lacked any indication that it had ever been used. A mudroom that doubled as Fred's dining area adjoined the kitchen and a bathroom was situated adjacent to the mudroom.

Finally, the last room on the first level was the dining room, which featured a beautifully intricate Oriental rug on the hardwood floor, and very expensive-looking matching mahogany chairs and a table big enough to seat ten people comfortably. A mahogany sideboard and china cabinet rounded out the furnishings.

"C'mon, let's go upstairs."


Kate showed Jay the three bedrooms upstairs, including the guest suite, which included its own large bathroom with a sunken tub. Finally, she stopped at the threshold to her own bedroom suite. With a gesture of her bandaged hand, she motioned Jay to precede her, following her inside.

The room was large and airy, like the rest of the house, but with an intimacy about it that took Jay's breath away. The colors were warm and inviting, the furnishings tasteful and understated, the ceiling featured a huge fan, recessed lighting and a skylight through which you could see the moon and stars shining above.

"It's fantastic," she breathed, "The whole house is."

"Thanks," Kate said simply, "I designed it myself."

"You designed the house?" Jay exclaimed in wonder.

"Um, yeah."

"Wow," Jay looked at her friend with a mixture of awe and respect.

Kate kicked her shoes off and sighed, beginning to shrug out of her suit jacket, although with her hands stitched and bandaged, it was a challenge.

Jay, seeing the flicker of pain cross her companion's features, stepped forward. "I can help you with that."

"No, it's okay, I've got it," Kate said gamely even as she winced again.

"For all the times you helped me, it's the least I can do, please," she looked up into those cerulean blue eyes with pleading emeralds.

Kate lost herself in those orbs for a moment, silently nodding her surrender.

Jay moved forward further, brushing Kate's hands aside gently, undoing the two buttons on the ruined suit jacket and easing it from broad shoulders, then reaching for the buttons on the silk blouse. She swallowed hard and her fingers began shaking slightly as she carefully opened each button, revealing more and more beautiful skin, seeing clearly the line where the ash and dirt ended and the flesh that had been protected by the blouse and jacket began. Exposing more skin, Jay made the mistake of looking up into those incredible deep blue eyes. The expression she saw there precipitated a flush of heat beginning in her stomach and radiating downward. Trying hard to maintain her composure, she lowered her hands and unhooked the button on Kate's slacks and pulled the zipper down. Finally, reaching behind her back, she released the catch on her bra, stepping back as if a snake had bitten her, not trusting herself to refrain from reaching out and touching that amazing body so close by. She turned away quickly and began studying the artwork on the walls.

Kate, who seemingly had forgotten to breathe for several minutes, recovered enough to excuse herself and go grab a silk robe off the back of the adjoining bathroom door. "Good Lord, Katherine Ann," she thought, "You are in so much trouble!" Her entire body was singing with desire, which was no easy feat considering just how tired she was and how much pain she was in.

Once she was relatively sure that her body wouldn't give her away, she returned to the bedroom wearing only the robe and her underwear.

"Um, why don't you go take a shower first Jay, you can use the guest suite down the hall; I'll just rest for a minute until you're done."

Glad for a bit of normal conversation, and beyond relieved that she had had a moment alone to compose herself, Jay readily agreed.


When she returned to Kate's room to let her know she was ready, Jay found her fast asleep curled up in the middle of the bed. The writer took a moment to study the sleeping form, acknowledging that she was by far the most beautiful woman Jay had ever seen, even with her eyes closed. Knowing that her friend was exhausted, she was loath to wake her, though she knew she must; in only another hour the limousine would arrive. But Kate looked so peaceful.

Jay decided to delay the inevitable, going instead to the kitchen to throw together something for them to eat. She was certain that her companion hadn't eaten in at least twelve hours, and she was hungry, too. "Not that that was any great news flash," she chuckled to herself. Opening the refrigerator, it quickly became clear that her initial assessment of the state of Kate's kitchen had been accurate. Aside from a carton of skim milk, a stick of butter, a dozen eggs, a slab of bacon, some cocktail sauce, half a dozen cans of soda, fresh oranges, some salad dressing and a jar of pasta sauce, the refrigerator was a wasteland. "Well, Fred, she's got eggs, bacon, and..." She spied a bag of English muffins on the counter. "It'll have to do, my friend." Fred waited patiently for something to drop, and, wanting to be sure he had the best angle, he did so by sitting on his new friend's feet. Laughing at his antics, she commented, "Fred, you are one beautiful specimen, but your mama, buddy, now she is sensational." Jay noted that he didn't seem to be too crushed at the prospect of coming in second best.

Putting the food in the seldom-used oven to keep it warm, she went back upstairs to wake the injured woman. Arriving at the bedroom door, she knew immediately that something wasn't right; Kate was thrashing around wildly on the bed, clearly in the throes of a nightmare. Running the rest of the distance to the bed, Jay called, "Kate, wake up, it's just a dream." Getting no response, she leaned one knee on the bed, and tried talking to her again. The sleeping woman's discomfort was increasing by the second. Her eyes moving rapidly under her lids, she screamed out in terror. Reaching out, Jay gently grasped Kate under the shoulders, being careful not to jar her injuries. She slipped in behind her companion, holding her and restraining her at the same time, fearful that her thrashing would worsen her wounds. She whispered nonsense words of comfort, rocking her in a soothing motion.

Awakening with a start, Kate was momentarily disoriented. Slowly she registered the fact that she was lying on her own bed, then she realized what had happened and that Jay was holding her. Embarrassed, she sat bolt upright, apologizing and moving away; both women felt the loss of contact acutely. Kate covered her disquiet by pointing out that she needed to get in the shower; the limo would be arriving soon.

Jay let her go, padding downstairs to the library, where she tried to focus on the books on the shelves. In reality, all she could think about was the way it had felt to hold Kate in her arms, to feel that power and strength. She sensed that the older woman was neither used to, nor comfortable with, anyone seeing her vulnerabilities. She wished with all her heart for Kate to trust her enough to let her in anyway.


Kate stepped out of the shower, having spent some extra minutes trying to wash away the residue of the nightmare in which she saw the little boy's face again, his dead eyes staring upward in plea, his body crushed under a portion of the first floor ceiling. She wondered if she would ever get past some of the horror of what she had seen in the past twenty-four hours. But she didn't need to burden her young companion with that.

Throwing on some worn jeans and a t-shirt, she packed a garment bag with the outfit she would wear on the networks later that morning. She exited the bedroom, feeling badly about the abrupt way she had dismissed Jay earlier. Noticing an enticing smell coming from the kitchen, she followed her nose.

When she didn't find her companion in the kitchen, she poked her head into the library. Jay was standing in front of one of the bookshelves with Fred lying at her feet, looking gorgeous in an off-white Armani pantsuit. Kate took a moment to admire the writer while she was unaware of the scrutiny; she seemed lost in thought and a little sad, which made Kate feel even worse about her actions.

"Hey," she said as cheerfully as she could, "I smell something mouthwatering."

"Yeah," turning, Jay smiled at her friend. "I thought you might be hungry, and I always am, so I whipped a little something up. I hope you don't mind."

"Mind? Are you kidding, I'm starving."

Making their way into the kitchen, the two women sat at the table in companionable silence eating the meal Jay had prepared.

"Thanks for cooking, you didn't have to do that, but it was fantastic."

"Judging from your refrigerator, I'd say it's safe to assume that if I didn't do the cooking, it wasn't going to get done."

"Ayeah, that would be too true," Kate said sheepishly.

At that moment, the limo pulled up outside; it was exactly 3:30 a.m.

Looking at Jay, Kate said, "Showtime I guess."

"You're going on network television looking like that?"

"What, you don't like my favorite jeans and t-shirt?"

Given permission to stare frankly, Jay was happy to oblige. The jeans hugged every contour of Kate's shapely legs and narrow hips, and the t-shirt revealed the outline of high, firm breasts, well-developed arms and broad shoulders perfectly. "Oh no, they look great on you. I'm just not sure it's the image you're looking to project."

"Oooh, good save, Jay, well done; you have a future in the BS business to be sure." Her eyes twinkled; it felt good to get back on safe ground after the nightmare fiasco. "Actually, I brought my clothes with me so that I wouldn't wrinkle them before America got to see them."

"Oh great, so you'll look beautiful and I'll look like a Shar-Pei," Jay complained. This she said while bending over to say goodbye to Fred, who was presently wrapped around his mother's knees. She whispered in his ear, "I hope I get to see you again soon, buddy."

"First of all, I think you look fabulous, and, second, the entire country is not going to be watching you. Now come on, our chariot awaits." With a hug and kiss for Fred and a gallant bow, she followed her guest out the front door.

Making her way down the steps, Jay asked, "What happens to Fred while you're gone?"

"Oh, you needn't worry about the king, his minions take care of him and treat him like the royalty he believes himself to be." At Jay's perplexed look, Kate clarified, "The kids next door and their parents are gaga over Fred, they come in and feed him whenever I get hung up. You couldn't see it in the dark, but the entire backyard is fenced in with a doggie door into the garage and the mudroom. They'll let Fred out so that he can play and wander to his heart's content. In fact, most likely the kids will spend most of the afternoon throwing the ball for that pleasure hound. By the time I get home, that boy will be blissfully exhausted, well fed and well cared for."

Chapter Five

The driver was standing at attention outside the limo's back door waiting when the two women emerged from Kate's house. His instructions had said that there was only one passenger, but it was all the same to him; especially when both of his charges were as absolutely stunning as these two were. They were like yin and yang; the one tall, dark and intense, with the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. The other woman was completely the opposite, six or seven inches shorter, blonde, and approachable, with sparkling eyes the color of emeralds. The smaller of the two lacked the overt power of her taller companion, but she was slender and graceful like an athlete and clearly in great shape. "Yeah," he thought to himself, "It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it."

Jay smiled at the uniformed driver as her darker companion stepped aside to allow her to get in first, then, just as she was about to slide in, Kate pulled her back. "Oh no you don't. I refuse to be responsible for you looking like a Shar-Pei," she winked. "Off with the suit jacket." The writer shook her head good-naturedly and complied. Underneath, she wore a simple sleeveless black shell, the top clinging to her breasts and accentuating her slim waist, and the lack of sleeves showing off her muscular arms to good advantage. Kate was inordinately grateful that she could occupy herself hanging up the jacket; she was sure she must have been drooling. "Kyle," she admonished herself silently, "You've got to get a grip here."

When they were settled in the car and the driver had raised the privacy glass, the anchorwoman turned to the blonde. "I'm really glad you're here, Jay. I still can't believe you found me."

"You could've knocked me over with a feather when I turned on my TV set and saw you; I hung up on my editor in mid-sentence. Of course," the writer chuckled, "She's always in mid-sentence."

They both grew quiet then, the motion of the car and the lack of sleep catching up with Jay. Her eyes closing without permission, she slumped unconsciously against her friend's shoulder as sleep claimed her. Smiling, Kate regarded her affectionately. "You look a bit uncomfortable to me, Jay." Her smile turned to a full-fledged grin. "I think I can fix that." Scooting back into the corner of the seat, she gently pulled Jay with her. She settled the blonde's head against her chest, resting her cheek on the soft hair, surrounding her with long arms and joining her in peaceful slumber.


Jay was having the nicest dream. In it she was resting in Kate's arms, listening to the steady beat of her heart. It was the safest, most content she'd ever felt. And then it dawned on her that dreams didn't involve the sense of smell. She inhaled again the delicious scent of Shalimar perfume that she identified so strongly with Kate. Hesitantly she cracked open one eye, her heart rate soaring as she took in her position nestled against the anchorwoman.

She wasn't quite sure how she had gotten where she was, but she knew that she never wanted to move. She could feel Kate's rhythmic breathing ruffling her hair and the thump, thump of a heartbeat against her ear and thought about the fact that she probably should move. The problem was, her body didn't want to go anywhere at the moment. So, with a blissful sigh, she closed her eyes again and drifted back to sleep.


The world intruded gradually on Kate's all-too brief nap; her wounds were making themselves felt and her eyes felt gritty. Taking stock of her location, she noted that Jay remained where she had been when she had fallen asleep, tucked tightly against her body. Kate's arms were wrapped securely around her, and the blonde's arms were resting on top of her stitched and bandaged ones. The pressure accounted for some of the injured woman's pain, but she had no intention of letting that dampen her enjoyment of her position in proximity to her friend.

It occurred to Kate that Jay would soon awaken and she probably should move before that happened; in considering her options, however, it quickly became clear that to do so would mean either propping the writer against the seat or letting her fall to the floor. Since she found both of those possibilities unacceptable, she settled for owing her an explanation when she regained consciousness, which, as it turned out, didn't take long.

Feeling Jay stir and her breathing pattern change, Kate lifted her cheek from the blonde head below hers. "Hi," she began. Jay made no effort to move. "Um, I hope you don't mind too much. You see you fell asleep in an awkward position and I didn't want you to be stiff and sore when you woke up, I figured I would be a decent pillow, and..." She stopped and released a breath. She was babbling uncharacteristically and she knew it. "Anyway," she finished weakly, not knowing what else to say.

She couldn't see her friend's smile. "That's okay, you make a great pillow and that's the best rest I've had in a long time. Thanks."

Kate let out a relieved breath and released Jay from her grasp. Only then did the writer realize where her arms had been. "Oh my God, Kate, did I hurt you?" Moving away, she sat up so that she could see her friend's face.

Seeing her companion's distress, Kate hastened to assure her that she was fine, even as her arms were throbbing.

At that moment, the limousine pulled to a stop. Kate looked out the window at the lightening sky and the NBC peacock logo, then back at Jay. "First stop, are you ready for the circus?"

The door swung open on the curbside and the driver helped the smaller passenger from the car. Following behind, the anchorwoman grabbed Jay's jacket and her own garment bag. Addressing the driver, she said, "Are you going to wait for us?"

"Yes, ma'am, my instructions are to take you to each network, and then anywhere else you have to go today until such time as I drop you at the airport. By the way, I was told to tell you that you are booked on a 2:30 p.m. commuter plane out of LaGuardia."

"Okay, thank you. I'm going to leave the lady's garment bag and briefcase in the car. Is that all right?"

"Yes, ma'am, that's just fine."

"Good; see you in a bit, then." Moving to the curb, Kate helped her friend into her suit jacket and grasped her gently by the elbow, escorting her into the Rockefeller Center studios of NBC's Today Show.


They were met at the reception desk by a harried-looking producer. Barely glancing at Jay, the woman gave Kate's outfit a disgusted look and grabbed at her arm to hustle her away. She was surprised when the tall, clearly under-dressed woman didn't move. She looked up at her impatiently. "I'm Katherine Kyle," the raven-haired woman said with a barely disguised sneer; already she didn't like this producer. "And this is Ms. Jamison Parker."

"I know who ya are, lady, that's why I'm hea."

Kate ignored both the woman's interruption and her grating accent. "Ms. Parker is with me. Would you please make sure that she is made comfortable and given something to eat and some coffee while I'm getting ready?" It was more a command than a request, and the producer knew it.

"Yea, yea, I'll take care a it, okay, now let's go. They're waitin' on ya in makeup." When Kate still didn't budge, the woman sighed in exasperation and turned to Jay with a plastic smile. "Um, would you please come wit' me, too, Ms. Pawka?"

Jay smiled right back at her, though the expression never reached her eyes. "Why, of course, thank you for asking," she said in her sweetest voice. Behind the woman's back, she could see Kate's smirk.

Satisfied that her friend was being well cared for in the Green room, Kate relaxed into the makeup chair. "Good morning," she said to the man who smiled at her in the mirror.

"Hey there sweetie," he enthused. "Oh, this is gonna be fun. Any last requests before I get started?"

Kate couldn't help but smile at the man's upbeat attitude; she knew she looked like hell. The small cuts and abrasions on her left cheek were going to be hard to hide completely, and her normally vibrant eyes looked tired. "Sorry for the major reclamation project," she said, "But you should see the other guy."

Her makeup stylist laughed delightedly. "Honey, it's gonna be a pleasure working with that gorgeous face and hair, believe me. Last week I had to make up Phyllis Diller. Don't even ask."

Half an hour later, Kate emerged from the chair and stopped the nearest official looking person. "I need a phone," she said.

"There's one in the Green room."

"Okay, let me go change my clothes and then could someone point me in the right direction?"

"No problem. I'll wait outside the dressing room for you."

Taking the garment bag with her, Kate disappeared behind the indicated door, emerging ten minutes later and following the waiting lackey to the Green room where guests sat until it was time for them to be on the air.

Swinging open the door to the Green room, she spied Jay sitting on the opposite wall in a comfortable looking leather armchair with her eyes closed and a cup of coffee close at hand. Padding into the room quietly, she gazed down at the adorable blonde head. A lock of hair had fallen into her eye, and Kate eased it off her face. "Jay," she breathed. "Jay, honey, its time to get up."

Jay mumbled something unintelligible before realizing that she had nodded off. Her eyes snapped open and she stared open-mouthed. "Holy mother..." She couldn't censor herself. Kate stood before her in a fabulous navy blue silk suit that had to have been custom made; it fit her like a glove, the skirt stopping at mid-thigh, showing off her incredible legs. Her pale blue blouse was open at the neck, revealing an expanse of lightly tanned skin, and just a hint of cleavage; sheer navy pantyhose and matching navy pumps completed the outfit. Her hair was glossy and loose down her back and cascaded over her shoulders. Her jewelry consisted of a two-carat diamond solitaire necklace and a pair of sapphire and diamond stud earrings.

Gone was the exhausted-looking young woman in the faded jeans and t-shirt; in her place was this magnificently sophisticated, drop-dead-gorgeous model. Jay had to remind herself to breathe. Only the bandages that protruded from Kate's sleeves gave any indication about the ordeal that she had been through in the previous twenty-four hours. "You look amazing," the petite woman gushed sincerely.

Kate gave her companion a brilliant smile revealing rows of perfect, white teeth. "Thanks, Jay, coming from you that means a lot." And that was the truth. Oh, people told her how beautiful she was all the time, but it rolled right off her; with Jay, it was different; with her it mattered. "I just need to make a phone call and then it will be time to go, okay?"

The writer nodded.

"How's the coffee, any good?"

Jay nodded again.

"Are you always this talkative in the morning?" Kate kidded.

"I'm not really a morning person," Jay confessed sheepishly.

Moving over to the phone on the side table, the anchorwoman dialed a number from memory. "Hi, it's Kate. What's the latest?" She listened intently for a few minutes. "Okay, I'm going to give one of my contacts a call over at SPD and see if I can't get anything more solid on the incendiary device. I doubt he'll give me anything, but you never know." A few more seconds of listening and then she hung up the phone. Looking at her friend, she said apologetically, "I'm sorry, I just need to make one more call. I want to make sure I've got everything there is to get on this story before someone asks me a question I can't answer."

"No problem," Jay smiled at her encouragingly. "You just do what you need to do."

Kate dialed another number from memory. "Good morning, Peter. I didn't wake you, did I?" She knew perfectly well that Peter Enright had been up all night helping the State Police Department sort through the rubble of the Capitol to determine exactly what kind of explosive had been used, how much, and by what method it had been smuggled in and detonated. This type of case was his bread and butter. He was an expert in explosives and security and was the man governments turned to when they needed answers and help. Very few people knew about Peter, but Kate had made his acquaintance when she had been working on a story on security at the Governor's mansion as a street reporter several years earlier, before she became the evening news anchor. She and Peter had become good friends.

"Hi gorgeous. Have I told you lately how great you look while crawling on all fours through piles of rubble?"

"Very funny, Peter. Now give."

The technology expert gave a mock sigh; he hated reporters with a passion, but he and Kate had forged an unshakeable friendship based on mutual respect. She was a breed apart, and he never held anything back from her, knowing that she would never betray that trust. "I wish I had something for you. The best I can tell you is that whoever did this really knew what they were doing; they used a sophisticated remote detonator and enough material to take down the whole building. The fact that they set off two devices tells me that they weren't leaving anything to chance. The problem is, it doesn't look like anything local; it has an international flavor to it and that doesn't make any sense to me."

"Hmm. No prior intelligence, no warning?"

"Not that I can find...yet." Kate knew that her friend wouldn't rest until he had every answer he could get. "Oh, and Kate?"

"Yeah," she sighed, knowing what was coming next.

"You know you can't use any of that on the air, right?"

"Why do I like you again?"

"It's my charm and boyish good looks," he shot back.

"Oh yeah, remind me of that the next time I see you."

"Oh, don't worry, I will."

"No doubt. And Peter, let me know as soon as you've got anything I can actually say?"

"You got it, sweet thing."

"'Bye, Peter, be careful out there."

Chapter Six

A knock at the door signaled the anchorwoman that it was time for her appearance. Kate reached out a hand to Jay, who remained sitting. "Come with me?" she questioned. "You can stand behind the camera and make faces at me if you want. I imagine that kind of torture might appeal to you."

"Why Ms. Kyle, whatever would make you think I was that kind of girl," her friend smiled wickedly.

The two women accompanied a program assistant to the set, standing silently just beyond the fake living room and out of sight of the cameras until the next commercial break. As the red light on the television camera clicked off, Jane Pauley got up off the couch on the set and walked towards them. She extended her hand as she reached Kate and Jay. "Ms. Kyle, I'm Jane Pauley."

"As if she needed an introduction," Jay thought.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Pauley," Kate responded. Turning to her companion, she added, "This is a very dear friend of mine, Ms. Jamison Parker. I hope you don't mind her standing in the wings?"

"No, that's just fine. It's nice to meet you Ms. Parker. Haven't I read your byline in Time magazine? My husband Garry and I love your writing."

The writer was floored. Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau, the author of the infamous Doonesbury comic strip, read her stories? "I'm flattered, Ms. Pauley. Thank you. It's nice to meet you."

A disembodied voice called out, "30 seconds people." Jane did not appear even to have heard, though Jay knew she must have.

"Clint," she called to an assistant, "Please get Ms. Parker a cup of fresh coffee and show her where to stand to get the best view, will you?" To the anchorwoman, she said, "Won't you come with me?" As Kate followed alongside her, the Today Show co-host said, "That was fantastic work you did yesterday. Very courageous."

"Thank you, Ms. Pauley."

"Please, call me Jane."

They sat down and yet another assistant attached a lavaliere microphone to the inside of Kate's jacket lapel. The disembodied voice called out, "Five, four, three, two, one and, cue the music." The Today Show theme music played and the camera panned in on Jane.

"Good morning, and welcome back to Today on NBC. With us this morning is journalist Katherine Kyle of NBC affiliate WCAP-TV in Albany, New York. Many of you will recognize Ms. Kyle's face if you were paying any attention whatsoever to the news yesterday..." The co-host went on to recap Kate's role in the incident at the Capitol, replaying taped footage of her first report, followed by images of her running back into the building after the second explosion and shots of her helping to rescue and comfort the wounded.

When the studio camera went live again, the shot had been widened to include both the show's co-host and her guest; a classic "two shot." Jane asked Kate, "What was going through your mind when you turned around and ran toward the Capitol building after the second explosion? Everyone else was running in the opposite direction."

The anchorwoman looked at her interviewer, managing to look directly into the camera at the same time. "I was thinking that there was human suffering." She leaned forward slightly. "I believe strongly that there's a time when it's more vital to be a human being than it is to be a journalist." Kate's eyes conveyed her earnestness.

"Weren't you concerned about compromising your objectivity?"

"It was important first of all to be a human being. Second, I would hope that viewers didn't feel that they had gotten cheated; that they didn't get the story they should have gotten. To me the real story here was that in a world where such cruel and senseless violence exists, there is also compassion and the triumph of the human spirit over terror. I tried very hard to capture that essence in my coverage. And if I helped a few people and eased a little suffering along the way, so much the better." Kate smiled an ironic smile at Jane. "Did I break the rules of professional distance? Perhaps. I would hope the viewers didn't mind too much." She winked.

Several more minutes of gentle questions ensued, then the segment was over, guest and interviewer standing and shaking hands. "Thank you for what you did yesterday, Ms. Kyle. In my opinion you gave us all a good name."

"Thank you, Jane. I just followed my heart and my guts. In the end, I have to be able to live with my actions or inactions, not some television executive reading 'Q' numbers on a sheet of paper," Kate said, referring to the polling data rating a celebrity's popularity with the viewers.

"It might surprise you to know, Ms. Kyle, that I've already seen yesterday's numbers. You outscored the President of the United States and Bryant and me combined." She smiled. "Congratulations and good luck."

"Thanks," Kate answered, turning and heading from the set.


When she and Jay were settled in the limousine once again, Kate turned to her friend. "How did I do?"

Looking at her with something akin to awe Jay said, "First of all, the camera and you clearly are having a love affair."

The tall woman blushed.

"Secondly, today you made me exceedingly proud to wear the title of 'journalist'. You were phenomenal."

"Thanks, Jay." Kate plainly was embarrassed by the compliment.


The interviews by the other two networks went equally smoothly, and, as they walked down the corridor at ABC's Good Morning, America headquarters near Lincoln Center, Kate reached in her pocket for her watch. She had been unable to wear it because of the stitches and the bandages, but she hated to be without one. It was not even 8:30 in the morning yet.

She looked over at the small blonde, who appeared to be fairly wide awake, considering that neither of them had gotten more than two and a half hours sleep in the last twenty four. "I can't tell you what it's meant to me to have you here with me through all of this, Jay. You've really been a trouper."

The writer's eyes danced. "I would hardly classify the past eight hours as a hardship, Kate. I've loved every minute of it. I'm so glad I found you."

"You must be exhausted. I'd love to take you out to breakfast, but I don't want to monopolize your time or keep you from a well-deserved nap."

"Kate, I've never turned down a good meal in my life," she laughed lightly, "And I'm not about to start now; especially with such enjoyable company," she added shyly. "I'd love to have breakfast with you. I know a great place in midtown that makes the most incredible waffles."

"Is it a casual place? I'm dying to get out of this suit and back into my jeans."

"You bet."

"I'll just change here then. I won't be a sec."

True to her word, the older woman was back in very short order. She had gone out to the limousine, retrieved her jeans and t-shirt, and told the driver that they would be going to midtown.


Kate and Jay sat across from each other in a corner booth, enjoying their first real opportunity to spend time together, without any distractions. There were so many things they each wanted to know about the other.

At the same time, they both began, "So, tell me..." They laughed. Kate gestured to her companion. "You go first."

"Okay. Where do you come from? What was your major when we were at school? How did you end up in Albany as a news anchor? How many kids are there in your family? What's your favorite pastime? And who's your favorite author?"

Kate, whose eyes had gone round, laughed. "Is that all you want to know?"

"Nope, but I figure it's a good place to start," Jay answered playfully. Her curiosity about this beautiful woman was very real. Heaven knows she'd been thinking about her long enough.

"Okay, let's see. One: I come from a suburb about 25 miles north of where we're sitting right now."

Jay jumped in, "This is your hometown?!"

"Close enough, and I thought I was going to answer all of your questions just the way you asked them; in rapid succession."

The younger woman covered her mouth. "I'm sorry. But you don't have an accent."

"Thank God," Kate rolled her eyes. "Can I keep going now?"

Afraid to open her mouth again, Jay just nodded.

Her companion smiled triumphantly. "Two: I was an American History major with a Psychology minor. Three: Like most great things in life, it was an accident. Four:..."

Jay started to ask exactly what that meant, but her jaw clicked shut at the raised eyebrow she received.

"Four," Kate continued with a smirk, "I'm an only child. Five: That's a tough one. There are many things I enjoy doing, depending on my mood or the weather or the amount of time I have. Let's see...sitting in front of the fireplace in my library on a snowy night with a great book and Fred by my side; hiking in the mountains with Fred on a beautiful, clear day; playing tennis against a quality player; exercise; traveling to explore new places or to visit favorite ones; sitting quietly by the ocean or a peaceful lake. And six: Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton. Sorry, that one's a toss up."

Jay was soaking in all of the information like a sponge. She was amazed at how much they had in common.

"Now you know everything there is to know about me."

"Hardly," Jay blurted without thought. She was fascinated by Kate and doubted that she could ever know enough.

"Your turn," the anchorwoman perked up. "Only I'm going to ask my questions one at a time and reserve the right to follow up."

Jay rolled her eyes. "Were you a lawyer in your last life or something?"

"Ahem," her friend continued undeterred. "Where are you from originally? I know you're not from around here."

"What makes you so sure?" Jay's eyes narrowed.

Kate just gave her a look that said, "What, do you think I'm stupid?"

"Okay, okay," the blonde relented. "I'm from Phoenix. Scottsdale, really."

"Hmmm, I love that part of the country; Sedona in particular, but I've climbed Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale many times and had more than my share of ice cream at The Sugar Bowl.

Jay was surprised that her companion knew the area so well.

"Does your family still live there?" The dark-haired woman noticed her friend tense minutely. Interesting.

Jay did not meet Kate's eyes, although she knew the older woman was looking at her. "No. They moved a little further south to Tucson a few years back."

"Do you have any siblings?"

"I had a younger sister, but she was killed in a car crash when I was eight."

"I'm sorry, Jay." Reaching out, Kate touched the back of her hand.

"It's okay. It happened a very long time ago."

Changing the subject, Kate ventured, "I know that you wrote for the college newspaper, and that you played lacrosse..."

Jay's head jerked up in surprise. "You do?"

"Yees. Geez, what kind of reporter would I be if I couldn't at least find out the basics?"

Well, she had a point there, Jay thought. Unless you were Jay and you had wanted to keep someone a mystery. She knew she could have found out her darker companion's name in college if she had wanted to, but she didn't figure she would ever really get a chance to know her, the mysterious stranger was so far out of her league, and she preferred to use her imagination to fill in her heroine's life story. Now here she was sitting across from her, completely entranced, and finding the truth far more interesting than anything she had dreamed up. She never would have thought this moment possible.

Kate's voice startled her out of her reverie. "What was your major?"

"Uh, American Literature with a minor in Political Science."

"What did you think you wanted to do with your life?"

Jay didn't hesitate. "I wanted to be an author."

"What kind of books did you want to write and do you write now? Other than magazine articles, I mean."

"I wanted to chronicle the human condition. You know, write the next great American novel," the younger woman shook her head self-deprecatingly. "And yes, I still write for pleasure from time to time. I haven't had anything published yet, though."

"You will."

It was said with such confidence, Jay wondered how she could know that. The question must have shown in her face, because Kate went on, "I have a really good feeling about that. And besides, I've read all of your articles." She looked down at the table, embarrassed by her admission.

The writer's face turned beet red. "You have? You didn't say anything."

"I didn't want you to think I was some sort of deranged fan or something. You're work is really excellent; I love your writing style, the humanity just shines through."

Jay was at a complete loss. She didn't know what to say, and didn't trust her voice just then, anyway. After a moment to compose herself, she said, "I think that writing is a product of one's own life experience," surprising herself with the admission. She hadn't meant to reveal that much.

Kate gathered as much and proceeded carefully, feeling her way. "Jamison is an interesting name. Where did it come from?"

Squirming in her seat, Jay began picking at a napkin and watching the shredding process with seeming fascination. "My father wanted a boy. He got me." When her companion didn't say anything, she grudgingly added, "Just one of many disappointments, I guess. We don't keep in touch much."

Kate thought back to their first verbal encounter on the ski slope. The young co-ed had said there was no one to notify when she had asked her about her parents. The older woman knew that there had to be much more to this story, and she hoped beyond hope that her new friend would share it with her. But she wanted it to be Jay's choice, not because she pushed. So she tried a different tactic and addressed something that had been bothering her for five years.

"You know, Jay," she started softly, "I really wanted to come and see you after that incident on campus. I was terribly worried about you." Reaching out, she grasped the blonde's hand and held it in her larger ones. "But I wasn't sure that seeing me would have been such a great idea for you. I was afraid I would just be a reminder of what had happened, and I didn't want to make things worse for you. I hope you never thought I didn't care, because I did. Very much." She let her friend's hand go. She hadn't been able to bear the thought that Jay would think her well-being didn't matter to her.

Jay could hear the self-recrimination in her companion's voice and was surprised to look up and see unshed tears in those beautiful blue eyes.

In fact, Kate had kept very close tabs on Jay ever since that night. At first, she had prevailed upon Jen, the EMT, to find out Jay's condition that night and the next day after she had left her at the hospital. Jen had told her that the rape counselor who had been with the small blonde that night had recommended a therapist who specialized in sexual abuse issues. Ethically, the woman couldn't reveal more than that.

Having seen Jay's byline in the school newspaper, Kate knew that her good friend Janet would be able to give her some information; she was the managing editor of the paper. And so she had bugged Janet repeatedly to tell her everything she knew. She didn't want to pry into Jay's private life, but she wanted to be sure that she was doing okay. Janet had been a year behind Kate at school, providing an extra year's worth of intelligence on the younger woman's status.

In her senior year, Jay had begun writing articles for the Alumni magazine, which Kate received quarterly. The supervising faculty member for the magazine was a favorite English professor of Kate's, so she kept tabs on Jay that way until the younger woman graduated. The professor had been both proud and happy to report to her that the petite co-ed was one of the best writers he had ever known. He had gotten her a lower level position with Time, knowing that, if given a chance, Jay would advance quickly through the ranks. Kate had taken out a subscription to Time immediately, watching with interest as the writer had rapidly become a rising star at the magazine. Now she was penning cover stories on some of the most important political figures in the country; Kate was inordinately proud of her.

Thinking about what Kate had just said about the night of the attack and the way she felt, Jay was having a colossal debate in her head. "Can we take a walk?" she asked her companion suddenly.

"Sure," Kate responded. "We're not far from Central Park, how about if we walk there?" She wasn't sure what was going on, but she could tell that Jay was working something out in her head, and that it was important. She threw some bills on the table and led the way out of the restaurant. Leaning into the window of the limo, Kate told the driver that they would be a while. Thinking about the area, she arranged to have him wait for them near the Plaza Hotel. She looked at her watch; it was just after 10:30 a.m. She was shocked to see that they had spent two hours over breakfast; it hadn't seemed that long at all. She set the meeting time with the limo driver for noon.


Walking side by side in silence for several blocks, the two women entered the park and took the footpath that skirted the reservoir. Jay chewed her bottom lip, kicking at a few stones on the path, her companion waiting for her to start the conversation.

Looking up at the amazing woman walking next to her, Jay thought about Kate's compassion and genuine caring; first on the ski slope and then during the attack on campus. She had been so gentle, yet so protective at the same time. She remembered Kate holding her hand, never letting it go until she fell asleep in the hospital, and covering her body with her sweatshirt. And she thought about all the many times after that night when she had longed to feel the comfort and safety of Kate's arms around her again to chase away the demons.

There really was no decision to make.

"Um, I'm not really sure where to begin," Jay's voice quivered a little, her nerves apparent.

"Tell me about your parents," Kate said softly. After a moment's hesitation, she followed her instincts. "Did he hurt you?"

Jay's head snapped up. "I..." She swallowed hard, wanting to bolt. Kate put a gentle hand on her arm at the expression of sheer terror on her face. "I've never told anyone," she faltered, "Except for the therapist I saw for a year after the attack on campus. I guess that night brought back a lot of bad memories for me."

They stopped walking, Kate taking Jay's hands in hers. When sea green eyes gazed into crystal clear blue, nothing but a mixture of fierce protectiveness and heartbreaking compassion shown there. "It's okay, Jay. He can't hurt you now."

At that, the smaller woman began to cry, great, gulping sobs issuing forth from her soul, where she had hidden the awful reality of her childhood for so very long. Taking Jay into her arms, Kate held her close until all of the tears had been shed. She rocked her and rubbed her back and soothed her, willing away all that hurt and misplaced shame.

"It started when I was four. When my sister died four years later, I wished it had been me instead." Her voice broke, "I thought she was the lucky one."

"Oh, Jay," Kate whispered, "I'm so glad it wasn't." And Jay knew she meant it; it warmed her to her very core.

The writer recounted the essentials of her childhood; repeated rapes, threats her father made to ensure her silence, her mother's denial and inability to protect her, and her penchant for disappearing into her writing to escape reality. Kate let her talk herself out without interruption.

When she had finished, Kate lifted Jay's chin gently with her fingers. "I'm so sorry for what happened to you. None of it was your fault and it wasn't anything a child could prevent. I know it's hard to accept that, but it's the truth." She looked directly into the emerald eyes before her still shimmering with tears.

"You are an extraordinary woman, Jay; full of compassion, wonder, humor and beauty. And you were an amazingly resourceful little girl who did what she needed to do to survive and become a lovely, talented, incredibly remarkable woman. I count myself exceptionally blessed to know you and I feel privileged beyond words that you trusted me enough to share your story. I want you to know that I will always be here for you. Always."

Jay knew somehow that she would.

They started walking again, Kate keeping hold of one of Jay's hands. She didn't care what it looked like, she wanted Jay to feel a tangible connection to her and to offer all of the strength and comfort she had to give.

After a few minutes had passed, she decided lightening the mood was in order. "I've got an idea. Will you humor me?" Her tone had turned childishly pleading, and Jay had to smile. "Puleease? Please, please, please?"

"Oh, okay," Jay relented. "Boy, I can just imagine what you were like as a kid."

Kate began to jog, Jay struggling to keep up. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see," she said mysteriously.

After several blocks, Kate pulled Jay out of the park and onto the street. When the petite woman looked up, she laughed.

"What?" Kate asked in an innocent tone.

"I might have guessed that you had a carefully hidden juvenile streak in you." Jay shook her head. They were standing in front of FAO Schwarz, the world's largest toy store, on 5th Avenue at 58th Street.

"So," the tall woman said, practically jumping up and down. "Can we go inside?"

"C'mon, ya goofball," Jay sighed as she pulled Kate across the street by the hand.


They spent half an hour romping through the store, trying out the toys, jumping from key to key on the gigantic toy piano that took up a good portion of the floor, playing with the train sets, and generally being kids. Jay was delighted with Kate's ability to have unfettered fun and the dark-haired woman knew she had found the perfect playmate.

When they were both totally exhausted, Kate called a timeout. "As much as I can't believe I'm going to say this, we've got to go, Jay. The limo will be waiting and I've got to get you back to your place so that you can get ready for your interview with the Governor."

"Spoilsport," Jay joked, sticking out her tongue.

Kate was glad she had been able to help her friend have some fun after the seriousness of their earlier conversation. She wished with all her heart that she could give the beautiful young woman back the childhood she never had. And she knew for sure that if she ever saw Jay's father, she probably would rip his heart out of his chest with her bare hands for hurting her.

She told Jay she needed to go make a quick phone call at the pay phone upstairs, and that she would be right back.


When she returned several minutes later, they made their way to the Plaza Hotel and the waiting limo. Jay gave the driver her address in Greenwich Village on Christopher Street, where they arrived within fifteen minutes. Kate asked him to wait in the car for her so that he could take her to the airport for her flight.

Walking Jay to the door of her apartment, she stood back as her companion fitted her key in the lock, opened the door, and threw her garment bag and briefcase onto a nearby sofa. The writer looked back at her friend as she took a step inside. "Can you come in?"

"I'd love to, but the limo is double parked and your neighbors might not take too kindly to having their street blocked."

"Yeah," Jay sighed heavily, "I guess you're right."

Hearing the note of dejection in her friend's voice, and not really wanting their time together to end either, Kate ventured, "Some other time?"

Jay smiled brightly. "You're on." Impulsively she leaned forward and, on her tiptoes, gave Kate a sweet kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for everything. You sure know how to show a girl a good time." Stepping back, she gazed up shyly into her friend's eyes.

Looking into those emerald green depths, Kate knew she couldn't just walk away this time. Reaching out, she gently pulled the pretty blonde to her. Still maintaining eye contact, she inclined her head and softly touched her lips to Jay's. Then she straightened up again, smiling.

"I thought you said there was no kissing on the first date."

A mischievous gleam appeared in the deep blue eyes. "Number one, those were Fred's rules; he's just a teenager, after all. And number two; I wasn't aware that this counted as an official date. But, if that's the way you feel..."

"Me and my big mouth," Jay mumbled under her breath with an aggrieved expression.

Fighting hard to keep the smile off her face, Kate pushed the door open a little wider and took a predatory step forward. Once inside the doorway, she slowly extended her arm and, staring hungrily at the blonde's mouth, ran her thumb lightly across Jay's lips. "I happen to think you have a perfect mouth."

Jay swallowed hard.

Her lips parting slightly, she leaned into the touch, her teeth just grazing Kate's thumb. The dark-haired woman thought she had never seen anything so sexy. She dragged her eyes away from Jay's mouth and up to her eyes, shutting the door behind her with her foot and bending her head in one smooth motion to capture Jay's mouth in a heart-stopping kiss.

Several long, languorous moments later, Kate pulled back slowly and smiled. "I," she began, but had to clear her throat before she could go on, "I hate to kiss and run, but I really do have to get going." The note of regret in her voice was unmistakable.

"Mmmm," Jay hummed, her eyes still closed. It took a few more seconds before the words penetrated her happy fog. "Oh," her eyes flew open. "Yep. Right."

As Kate turned to go, her hand on the doorknob, Jay reached out and grasped her forearm, forgetting for a moment about her injuries. "Um, could...could I maybe call you tonight? You know," she went on in a rush, embarrassed, "Just to make sure you got home all right?"

"Absolutely." Kate grinned.

When Jay didn't release her arm and began shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, Kate looked at her questioningly.

"Umm. I don't know how to reach you," she said bashfully.

Pulling out a business card and a pen, Kate wrote her home number and address on the back in bold strokes. "Now you do," she said, handing over the card.

"Okay then, are you sure it's all right? I mean I don't want to disturb you or anything."

"Jay," she laughed, "I've been disturbed for years." With that, Kate opened the door and stepped into the hallway, turning around to wink at her friend before she disappeared.

Closing the door slowly, the sound of the tall woman's sexy laughter resonating pleasantly in her ears, Jay sighed dreamily, "If the world stopped spinning right now, I'd die a very happy woman."

Kate ducked inside the back of the limo as the driver held the door for her. Once inside and alone, she leaned back into the leather interior and closed her eyes, a goofy grin splitting her face. "Oh no, Fred isn't getting to kiss you, Jay. You're already taken and I will not suffer the competition lightly."

Chapter 7

Jay leaned her back against the apartment door and stared unseeing into her living room. She touched her fingertips to her lips, unable to process the wonder of what had just happened, and not willing to trust that it really had. Her head was spinning; in less than forty-eight hours her entire existence had been turned upside down. She had gone to Albany grudgingly because the Governor could not see her at his New York City office. That one tiny scheduling snafu had brought the writer face-to-face with a vital piece of her past and, she dared to hope, of her future, as well.

From the day she had seen the beautiful stranger on the tennis court, the mystery woman had commanded her attention. And then when she had rescued Jay on the ski trail and again on campus, she had captured her imagination. For her two and a half remaining years in school, the writer had used Kate as her muse, creating fiction around her dark, confident persona. It had been Jay's jealously guarded and somewhat guilty secret. She smiled ironically. Nothing she had conjured or written came close to matching the reality she had been party to in just the past twelve hours she had spent in Kate's presence.

Jay's thoughts strayed to Sarah. She and Sarah had become lovers early in their sophomore year. They had been friends as freshmen and had decided to room together beginning the next fall. It had seemed logical; they were compatible in terms of study habits and the hours they kept and they were best friends. Sarah had made the move to deepen the relationship. She was sweet and bookish, non-threatening and comfortable, and Jay had gotten caught up in the wonder of something new.

It hadn't been until Jay's encounter with the tall beauty on the ski slope that she had realized that what she shared with Sarah hadn't filled that empty space inside of her. It was as if she had been waiting for something or someone all her life, and the moment Kate had put her arms around her to comfort and warm her, Jay knew she had found it. But she was no fool; she understood that her rescuer had just been doing her job and hadn't felt what she did.

So Jay had resigned herself to the fact that she was never going to have that once-in-a-lifetime fairytale ending where two souls unite and become as one. She had stayed with Sarah, who offered her companionship and friendship and a love deeper than she could give in return. She consoled herself with her fiction, where things could be as she dreamed.

Jay knew why Sarah had just popped into her head for the first time in a long time; the only fight they had ever had centered on the beautiful, mysterious stranger. Sarah had found one of the writer's journals and read it. That particular entry had been one of the more explicit fantasies about her dark-haired heroine. Sarah had accused her lover of cheating on her in her heart, if not in deed. Jay had been furious at Sarah for invading her privacy, and after a night during which neither one of them slept but both pretended to, Sarah had apologized. The apology was accepted and they had moved on from there.

That horrible night that Jay almost had been raped had nearly been her undoing in many ways. The attack had brought memories of her childhood back like a herd of thundering horses. It was as if she had been reliving that entire trauma again as she lay there helpless to stop her assailant, and then her dark-haired heroine had shown up and saved her, and had held her and comforted her again. Although Jay had been nearly paralyzed with fear and despair, her body had registered Kate's presence and her soul knew it had found its home.

Awakening after the sedative had worn off in the hospital, she had opened her eyes willing the compelling woman to be there. Instead, it had been ever-dependable Sarah sitting by her bedside. Feeling guilty, Jay had tried hard to hide her disappointment. She had disappeared more and more into her journal and she and Sarah had drifted further and further apart. Sarah had clung desperately to the relationship but by the time they were ready to graduate, even she had known that it was over.

Jay could still hear the anguish in Sarah's voice that last night they had spent together in their dorm room and she had vowed never to put anyone through that pain again. Since then, despite many offers, she had remained true to that vow, categorically refusing to get involved with anyone. Her life had been ordered, neat and tidy, and simple.

Now here she was, standing in her own apartment, having just shared a mind-blowing kiss with the only woman who had the ability to touch her soul and make her fiction come to life. Jay was afraid that she would awaken any second and find that it had all been a dream; she fingered the business card Kate had given her just to be sure it hadn't been.

For years she had believed that the tall, dark stranger who owned her heart would never know it. Jay had resolved to pour her energies into her work, making allowances for friendships and nothing more. She couldn't, and wouldn't, pretend to feelings for someone else that she knew belonged only to the statuesque, blue-eyed woman that she barely knew, and she wasn't much for one-night stands. She had laughed at herself self-deprecatingly more than once, telling herself it was like living some sort of Greek tragedy. But she could no more change her heart than she could change the color of her eyes.

Now...now. She sighed. If she ever doubted what she knew in her soul, the past day had crystallized her feelings with remarkable clarity. "Well, Jamison, you've always believed that things happen for a reason. There's a reason circumstances brought you to Albany and a reason why you turned on the television when you did. This may be your one chance, don't let it pass you by."

Having made that decision, Jay felt more settled and alive than she had in quite some time. Nodding to herself, she moved to her bedroom to change her clothes for her interview with the Governor.


At exactly 2:30 p.m. She was escorted into the Governor's office high up in the World Trade Center. Stepping from behind his desk, he greeted her amiably. "Ms. Parker, it's a pleasure to meet you. I've read some of your work, it's quite good."

"Thank you, Governor Hyland. Coming from you, that's high praise, indeed," the writer smiled easily.

He was a good-looking man: 6'2", with strawberry blond hair and freckles underlining his Irish Catholic heritage. At 48 years of age, he was in excellent physical shape and enjoyed playing weekly basketball games with his State Police protectors and reporters. In the summer, he pitched for an Executive Branch softball team. During her research prior to the interview, Jay had discovered that the Governor was as competitive on a field of play as he was in the political arena; stories about his will to win were legendary.

He motioned her to a pair of winged back chairs across the room. She noted that he did not seem to have suffered any injuries in the explosion. Had it only been the day before? Jay marveled at how time had seemed to lose its relevance in Kate's presence. Then, just as quickly, she admonished herself for letting her mind wander to her friend when she needed to focus on what she was doing.

She fixed the Governor with a concerned look. "Are you all right after what happened yesterday? You weren't injured?"

The Governor, who was well used to journalists feigning real concern or interest or sympathy in order to get information, could read nothing but sincerity in Jay's open face. "No. Fortunately, I was able to escape without a scratch. I wasn't in the building when the second explosion occurred."

The writer leaned forward a bit in her chair. "Your wife must have been so worried."

"Oh, yes. You can bet I got an earful. She heard the first explosion from the mansion several blocks away and immediately called the front gate to find out what it was. It was all the detail assigned to protect her could do to keep her from coming over to the Capitol. I had to go home just to prove to her that I was fine, she wouldn't believe anyone else." He shook his head.

"It must be hard, knowing that danger always exists for you. Do you think about it often?"

"No, but my wife certainly does."

"I can understand that," Jay agreed. "Does her concern change anything that you do or any decisions you make?"

"I try to be considerate and sensitive to her fears, but the truth of the matter is that I have a job to do, and I must do it without reservation. The people are counting on me."

"I bet your wife wasn't too happy about you coming to the office today."

"Oh, you're right about that. She threw a fit. In the end, though, the Governor of the great state of New York can't appear to be cowed by an act of violence. To stay away today and do anything less than carry on the full duties of the office would have been to send the message that terror works. And it would have been disrespectful to those individuals who lost their lives so tragically yesterday. Their deaths will not have been in vain. The good works of this administration will continue, even in the face of acts of cowardice."

"It is obvious, Governor Hyland, that you are a man of deep principles. In that sense this must be a very difficult time for you. I know that the legislature has been debating state funding for family planning services and abortions. I also imagine that yesterday's attack will ratchet up the talk that has been rather loud lately about reinstating the death penalty in New York. I have heard you say on many occasions that, as a deeply religious man, you are morally opposed to both abortion and to capital punishment. And yet, you have gone on record as supporting public funding for abortion and you have said you would sign a capital punishment bill if one were put before you. It must be incredibly tough to reconcile your personal feelings and principles with your professional judgment; I can't imagine having to make those types of choices. Does that ever bother you? Does it make you worry that you might have to abandon your faith to fulfill your role as Governor? Has it ever made you sorry you chose politics as a career?"

The Governor was completely absorbed in the conversation now. This writer seemed genuinely interested in his answers, not just as a reporter, but also as a human being. He had to give Jay credit, she didn't ask run-of-the-mill questions and had a way of making him want to talk about topics near to his heart, but which his advisors wished fervently that he would avoid.

"I think, Ms. Parker, that there are moments in every politician's career when he or she wonders if this is the right path. The sacrifice can be enormous, as you have gleaned. And yes, there are times when the types of decisions to which you have referred keep me up at night. But the rewards far outweigh the price I have had to pay, or may yet have to pay. The amazing opportunity to improve the lives of so many is a balm to my soul. The professional judgments I make, if you will, are arrived at with the conviction that, when it is time for me to be judged, my steadfast desire to help humanity will count heavily in my favor and my individual actions will be weighed accordingly."

"Governor, I know that you are both a student and a scholar of the history of the presidency. It is a topic that has always fascinated me." Jay smiled at him and wrinkled her nose slightly. "I'd be a fool to pass up an opportunity to learn a little something here."

"If I can enlighten you in some way, Ms. Parker, it would be my pleasure."

"I had a history professor once who included as a final exam essay topic the thesis that, at least in the 20th century, governors tend to make better presidents than those who have never served in that position. He claimed that history had borne him out and he cited as an example, Franklin Roosevelt."

"Ooohh that must have been some tough final. How did you answer the question, Ms. Parker and how much time did you have to do it in?"

With an embarrassed shrug Jay answered, "I respectfully disagreed with the hypothesis, citing a list of governors turned presidents whom I thought were less than stellar in the higher office, and an equal number of non-governors whom I thought had done excellent jobs as president. I backed up each choice with facts and events. And, I did it in ten pages in twenty minutes." She looked across at him with something akin to defiance.

"Hmmm. Sounds like you're still carrying some bitterness at the end result. What was your grade on the essay?"

"I got a B minus, it was the only time in that class that I'd gotten anything below an A. It wrecked my average."

The Governor laughed. "I bet you were steamed."

"Yep, I sure was," Jay agreed. "So, do you think he was right?"

"Well, in theory he should have been, but in practice I tend to agree with you..."

"I knew it."

For the next half hour the Governor of New York, a man thought by many to be a likely future presidential candidate, explained at length why governors should be better presidents, but aren't always. It was great stuff. Jay knew that she had gotten what she came for: the human being behind the politician, a deep thinker and philosopher with a pragmatic streak and a keen sense of history.

At 4:00 p.m. the Governor's secretary buzzed him to tell him he would be late for his next appointment if he didn't get going. He appeared to be disappointed that the interview was at an end.

For her part, Jay couldn't believe that an hour and a half had passed. She thanked him for his time and started to excuse herself.

Impulsively Governor Hyland said, "Ms. Parker, my wife and I would love it if you would join us as our guest for the Legislative Correspondents' Association show in Albany. Have you ever been to one?"

"No," Jay answered, caught off-guard by the invitation.

"Well, that settles it then. No individual's life is complete without the experience." There was a smile in his voice. "I'll have my secretary give you the details. My wife will be so pleased to meet you."

"Thank you, sir," Jay said. "I look forward to meeting Mrs. Hyland, as well."

With that, the secretary ushered her out the door.


Kate checked her watch for the millionth time. She had gotten home from the airport with just enough time to give Fred a good scratch, shower and change her clothes before heading to the station. Since arriving, she had been checking facts, following up on leads, and writing copy for the six o'clock broadcast. And thinking about Jay, which brought an unconscious smile to her face, and her eyes to her watch yet one more time. "Yep, right about now," she thought. Then she sighed as yet another street reporter passed by her desk and pretended to be so engrossed in the piece of paper in front of him that he didn't even notice her.

Fame, however fleeting, was a funny thing. The station management, the photographers and the producers had all gone out of their way to congratulate Kate on her performance on the "big three" that morning. Her co-anchor and the reporters who aspired to sit in her chair someday, avoided her like the plague; their jealousy was so obvious she was surprised they literally hadn't turned green. She just shook her head. She had done what she had to do yesterday, not in some quest for glory, but because it was her job, and it was the right thing to do. She didn't care what they thought, she had work to tend to, and a little less than an hour before she had to be on set.


Returning home at 4:45 p.m., Jay opened the door and smiled with relief. She loved her apartment. The location was great: in the heart of Greenwich Village in a beautifully restored brownstone with easy access to the subway. The space was somewhat cramped, as the cost of living in New York City was obscene and this was the best she could afford. Still, she had done wonders with the place and she thought it was both comfortable and quaint.

Her bedroom was in a loft overlooking the living room, which showcased Mission style furniture, like the rest of the rooms. Off of the living room underneath the loft was her office, and a bathroom, and to the right was a small dining area and a reasonably sized kitchen. Racks were hung from the kitchen ceiling with well-worn pots and pans and wine and champagne glasses. The floors throughout were hardwood, and one wall of the living room featured floor to ceiling windows that looked out over a small park.

Climbing to her bedroom, Jay changed into her comfortable clothes, and then walked into her tiny office and deposited her briefcase on the desk. She sat down with the intention of organizing her notes and revisiting background interviews she had done with some of the Governor's close associates and personal friends. Her mind kept straying, though, and her stomach was tied in knots. Telling Kate about her childhood had triggered the fear that something terrible would happen now that she had exploded the secret, just as her father had said it would so many times, so long ago.

At exactly 5 p.m., the buzzer sounded letting her know someone was downstairs in the lobby for her. She frowned, knowing that she was not expecting anyone. She pressed the intercom button and asked who it was: a delivery for her. Hmmm. Jay was no New Yorker by nature, but she was cautious. She asked the delivery person where the package had originated.

"I was told not to ruin the surprise, miss."

"Well, I have no intention of accepting an unidentified package that I was not expecting. So either you tell me where the package is from or who sent it, or you can just turn right back around and take it back with you."

"Umm. I was told that if you gave me a hard time, I was to tell you that it was from a close personal friend of Fred's?" There was a question at the end of his statement, as if to underscore that he didn't get it, either.

"From Fred's friend, huh?" Jay smiled. "Okay, bring it up."

At the sound of the door latch in the lobby being released, the delivery boy shrugged his shoulders and bounded up the stairs to the young woman's apartment. The package was large and somewhat unwieldy and he struggled not to bang into the walls with it.

Jay waited at the door to her apartment. Whereas she had been wary at first, now she was jut flat out curious and excited. What could it be? When she caught sight of the package (she couldn't see the delivery boy behind it except for his legs), her eyes went wide as saucers. "What the...?" She accepted delivery and slid the huge box into her living room. It was bulky, but surprisingly light. There were no markings to indicate where it had come from, nor who had sent it, though the hint the delivery boy had given her had clarified that matter.

Jay grabbed a pair of scissors from her desk drawer and sliced open the tape binding on the box. Her stomach fluttering happily at the anticipation of the surprise; her first reaction was to laugh after she pulled the top flaps back. Then she got a wistful expression on her face. "Awww. That's just too cute for words, Ms. tough anchorwoman."

In the box was a massive cuddly teddy bear. Jay lifted it out of the box and stroked its soft fur; it had such a cute face and a little potbelly that protruded over its plaid shorts. Then she noticed that he had a card pinned to his adorable little vest. It was the same bold, flowing handwriting from the business card that she had removed from her pocket and stared at numerous times since early that afternoon, which prompted a smile.

The card read, "Jay, this guy looks as though he's got a lot of hugs to give, which is exactly what you deserve. Since I couldn't be there in person, I thought he made a pretty good substitute. Thank you again for the gift of your trust. You are a beautiful person and I enjoyed every minute we spent together. I hope we'll have many more. By the way, his name is Theodore E. Bear. Your friend, Kate."

Jay wiped at the tears that leaked out of her eyes. It was as if, from 150 miles away, her friend had seen into her soul, answering her doubts and calming her fears. In her entire life no one had ever been so solicitous or so attuned to her emotions and thoughts. She knew intellectually that Kate could not have known how rattled she was feeling just then, but it felt as though she had.

Closing her eyes and nuzzling against his face, Jay hugged the stuffed animal to her, and her eyes popped wide open. She pulled back a fraction and sniffed at his fur, grinning delightedly. "Oh, Katherine, were you testing him out? You just got caught." Taking another whiff of the traces of Shalimar that clung to her new companion, she knew she would be grilling her big, tough friend about it later. But for right now, she just wanted to enjoy Ted E. Bear's company and the delicious scent that had been bringing her such comfort for so many years. She decided that a nap was definitely in order, and, carrying her buddy, she trundled off to the loft.

Chapter 8

Kate was so tired she wasn't sure she could even make it up the stairs. Not counting the brief nap in the limousine and the even shorter shuteye she'd gotten when she and Jay had come back to the house to shower, the anchorwoman had been up for nearly 48 hours straight. Phil had practically had to prop her up to do the 11 o'clock newscast.

It had been a long day, to be sure, but, she mused, there had been some good points. Immediately, Jay's face loomed in her mind's eye, her smile like the sunshine on a brilliantly clear day. Kate wondered for the umpteenth time what Jay was doing right now, if she had enjoyed her surprise, and if she was dead tired, too.

As if she had willed it to happen, the phone rang just as she reached her bedroom. Already knowing whom it would be, Kate grinned broadly, flopping gracelessly onto the bed, and picking up the receiver. "Fred's Pizza Palace."

There was a second's hesitation on the line, and then a throaty laugh. "Yes, I'd like a thick crust with all the fixins'. Oh, but could you hold the anchovies, the olives, the green peppers (they give me gas), the sausage, the meatballs, the onions, the mushrooms, the tomatoes and the artichokes?"

"Sooo, let's see, then. You want a plain cheese pizza with sauce, right?"

"You got it." Jay smiled into the phone.

"Well, Fred could probably make that."

"I'm willing to bet that you can't."

"Hey, I resemble that remark!"

God, thought Jay, it was great to hear her voice. "Hi, Kate. How are you? Did you get home all right? How was your flight? Did you get a hero's welcome? How was the rest of your day?"

"I'm tired, but fine. Yes. Fine. Yes and no. Loooong."

"Ugh," Jay uttered in exasperation, "I've got to learn to start asking you one question at a time."

"Uh huh." Kate's amusement at her friend's mock frustration was obvious.

"Okay," Jay decided. "You want to play, do you? I can do that." She screwed her face up to achieve a serious tone in her voice. "You won't believe what happened to me today a few hours after you left. A mysterious package arrived, no identifying markings, no labels, no return address, no nothing. I try to be very careful about my safety; after all, this is New York City. The delivery guy tried to give me some cock and bull story about the sender not wanting the surprise to be ruined so he wouldn't tell me where the package had come from," she scoffed.

Kate was dead silent for a few seconds. "Gee, how odd. Umm, so, what did you do?"

Jay loved the note of panic in her friend's voice as she tried for reserved nonchalance. "Well, what do you think I did? I turned the guy away; made him take it back. What idiot would accept a big, unmarked box like that without knowing where it had come from? Especially if they hadn't been expecting anything. Can you imagine?"

Kate had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Yeah, what idiot, indeed."

Hearing the note of defeat in her friend's voice, Jay couldn't carry on with the charade any longer. She laughed. "Hah. Gotcha good that time, girl! I love my Ted E. Bear; he's so cute and cuddly. In fact, we took a nap together this afternoon."

Kate felt an unexpected surge of jealousy. "Of a teddy bear, what is that, Kyle?" "You rat."

"Hey, I just want you to know that I can give as good as I get."

"Apparently," Kate had to smile at being taken in by her friend; she had been pretty convincing.

"Seriously, I do love him and that was amazingly sweet of you. When did you do that? I was with you the whole time."

Kate thought about her trip upstairs to use the phone in FAO Schwarz. She had seen the bear sitting in a huge rocking chair on her way to the back of the store. She had been thinking about everything Jay had been through and how courageous she was, and how hard it must have been for her to tell Kate about it. She couldn't imagine what that felt like, and she knew she wanted to do something to comfort her friend. She had hefted the bear experimentally, first checking to make sure she was quite alone. Then she had hugged it to her chest and rubbed her cheek against his face. Yes, he would do quite nicely. She had gone to the store clerk nearby and explained what she wanted done. He had looked at her strangely, but when she pulled an extra fifty dollar bill out of her wallet, he gladly went along with her wishes.



"Let's just say I have many skills." She laughed.

"Um, there is one thing I don't understand about him, though," Jay said.

"What's that?"

"How come he smells like you, Ms. tough anchorwoman?"

Uh oohh: Kate knew she had been busted. "She knows what I smell like?" She spluttered and hemmed and hawed, trying to come up with a plausible explanation. After a few seconds, she knew she had been caught. "Well, I couldn't very well entrust just anyone with such an important job, you know, I had to make sure he was up to the task. There was only one way to do that." She said it with as much dignity as she could muster under the circumstances.

Jay imagined her friend scooping up the stuffed animal in the middle of a toy store and hugging it; the sight made her smile. "Careful, something like that will kill your image."

Suddenly serious, Kate said, "It will have been well worth it if it did. I'm so proud of you, Jay, for everything you've accomplished and the person you are. You are very special and words can't express how much it means to me that you would have shared such a vital part of yourself with me. I really do wish I could be the one there hugging you, but, since I can't, I tried for the next best thing; I hope I succeeded."

On the other end of the phone, Jay was so choked up she wasn't sure she could speak. "I'm so glad you're the one I shared it with, Kate. No one has ever made me feel as safe or as understood as you do. I can't tell you what that means to me. And your gift came at just the right moment. I just had been starting to freak out that now that I've exploded the secret, all of my father's dire warnings about terrible things happening would come true. Ted E. and your note chased the demons away. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Kate's chest ached at the thought of her friend, alone in her apartment, and afraid. "Nothing bad will happen, Jay, I promise you; especially as a result of choosing not to carry the burden alone any longer. Your father told you those things to scare you into silence. When you are a helpless child, it's easy to believe such lies. But you're not that kid anymore, Jay, and he doesn't have that kind of power."

Feeling the truth of her friend's words in her soul, Jay breathed, "You're right."

"Any time you need to talk or to be comforted, or just not to be alone, I'll be there for you, Jay." More quietly, she added, "If you want me to be, that is."

"I'd love that."

"Are you going to be all right to sleep?" The concern showed in Kate's voice.

"I will be now. And besides, I've got a big old teddy bear to keep me company."

"If you have any trouble, it doesn't matter what time it is, call me. I mean it, Jay." And she did.

"Thanks. Hey, it's Friday, well, actually, Saturday now that I look at the time. What are you doing for the weekend?"

Kate sighed, "I have a lot of leads to track down on the bombing story. It's sort of my baby now, and the news doesn't take the weekend off, as you know. So, while I won't have to anchor this weekend, I'm going to be putting together some new material that I can get through some of my contacts. I'm going to be pretty much flat out. What about you?"

"I have to have my story on my editor's desk by 10 a.m. Monday morning, so I'll be spending my weekend writing. Aren't we just a couple of live wires?"

"Sounds like it. Can I call you tomorrow to see how you're doing, or will that disturb you?" Kate asked hesitantly.

"To quote a very dear friend of mine, 'I've been disturbed for years.'"


"I'd love it if you'd call, Kate. Do you need the phone number?" She gave it to her.

They both hung up somewhat reluctantly, neither wanting to sever the connection. Hugging the teddy bear, Jay took a strong whiff of her friend's perfume, as, 150 miles to the north, Kate snuggled with Fred for a few minutes, then made her way into the bathroom to get ready for some much-needed rest.


On Monday morning the writer caught the subway uptown to turn in her story. Working throughout the weekend, she had taken breaks only to eat, go running, and talk to Kate. The very thought brought an unconscious smile to her face. True to her word, her friend had called Saturday afternoon.

Jay had been in her office, engrossed in some interesting personal stories about the Governor she had collected from her interviews of his longtime friends. She'd been contemplating how many, if any, of the anecdotes to include in her piece when the phone rang, startling her.


"Hey there, I'm looking for the next great American novelist."

Jay chuckled. "Sorry, you must have the wrong number."

"Oh, do you mean to say that Jamison Parker doesn't live there? You know, beautiful blonde, about 5'4" with golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean in the Caribbean?"

Jay blushed. "She thinks I'm beautiful?" "I don't recognize anyone by that description."

"Hi, Jay, how did you sleep?"

"Ted E. kept me great company, and I slept very well as a result, thank you."

"I'm glad." The warmth in Kate's voice soothed Jay without effort.

"How about you? Did you catch up on some sleep?"

"I don't think you can ever recapture lost shuteye, but I logged in a good nine hours, and I feel much better for it. How's the story coming?"

"Pretty well, I think. I'm just trying to balance the man with the Governor at the moment to make sure that the readers are left with a good, well-rounded sense of who he is."

"I have every confidence in you."

"Anything new on the bombing?"

"Unfortunately, just more victims dying and an ongoing search for survivors and bodies; loved ones looking for those who are still unaccounted for. So far there's nothing more on who might have been responsible. The whole town is pretty subdued. Government is the big industry in this area, and almost everybody knew someone who was in the building at the time of the explosions."

"Doesn't sound like an uplifting way to spend a Saturday."

"It's not, but it's my job. Well, I didn't want to bug you, I just wanted to...um...let you know I was thinking about you and say hi."

"Thanks, Kate. I was thinking about you, too." Jay hesitated, and then plowed ahead, "Same bat time, same bat channel tomorrow?"

"Don't tell me you were a Batman fan!"

"Yeah," she admitted sheepishly.

Kate laughed. "I loved the costumes for Batgirl and the Catwoman."

"You letch!"

"Oh, and you didn't?"

"I didn't say that, now did I?"

The Sunday conversation was equally easy, light and comfortable, each woman finding out odd little things about the other. It felt great to both of them, getting to know one another better. Kate had discovered that Jay had an affinity for the Green Lantern. Jay, in turn, had learned that Kate was partial to Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, Captain America and the Flash. They had laughed, and teased, and generally managed to provide a much-needed distraction and enjoyed each other's company at the same time.

Jay smiled as she recalled her friend's uncertain parting words. "Would it be all right if I called you tomorrow sometime?" It was almost as if she were unsure of herself, which, in truth, she was.

"I'd love that. I have to go into the office in the morning to file my story and I'll probably be there until late afternoon."

"I get a dinner break around 6:45 p.m. How about then?"


"Until then, Jay. I'll see you around."

"Yeah, see you around."

The screeching of the subway wheels on the tracks brought Jay out of her reverie. She rushed up the steps and into the Manhattan morning with countless other commuters on their way to work. Trish was already there and on the phone when she arrived at the office, so, opening her briefcase, she pulled out the sheaf of papers and dropped them in the middle of her friend's cluttered desk. Rolling her eyes, the editor indicated that she was going to be a while on the phone, leading the writer to motion that she was going to her desk, and the editor could find her there when she was ready.

As it turned out, it was early afternoon by the time Trish stopped in front of Jay's desk sporting a big smile on her face. She had read the writer's piece several hours ago and had gone directly to the managing news editor with it.

When Trish had wanted to give the assignment to Jay, he had balked. He thought she was too young; not seasoned enough or sophisticated enough to do a good job. Trish had argued back at him that while she might not be long on experience, Jay had more talent and potential in her little finger than most of the rest of the writing staff combined. She had a way of disarming even the toughest interviewee and getting material that nobody else could. She also had a real ability to capture the essence of her subject and draw the reader inside. That was rare, and the editor knew that this woman was going to go far if given the opportunity. Reluctantly, the managing news editor had agreed.

Now, Trish stood there looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. The story was fantastic; the managing editor had been raving about it. Trish couldn't wait to tell her young friend.

"Hey kiddo."

"Hi, Trish." The writer was anxious, but she didn't want to show it. "Something I can do for you?"

"More like something I can do for you."

Blonde eyebrows hiked up into an equally blonde hairline. When the editor said nothing further, even given the silent invitation, Jay couldn't stand it any longer. "Come on, Trish, you're killing me here. What did you think? Was it okay?"

"Nope, it wasn't okay."

"It wasn't?" she questioned, crestfallen, so softly the editor barely heard her.

"Nope. It wasn't okay; it was the best damn cover story I've seen come across my desk in ages, and believe me, girlfriend, that's saying something." The New Yorker grinned for all she was worth.

Jay's head shot up and she stared at her friend as if she'd sprouted wings. "Really?" Her face lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July.

"Really," Trish nodded. "In fact, it was so good, I took it directly to Lou."

It took a second for that to register. "You took my story to the managing news editor? Before you came back to me with suggested changes?" The writer's voice rose with each word. "Bbbut. Are you crazy?"

"Well," the editor scratched her ear, "Lot's of people tell me so. But I know a great piece when I see it." She regarded the young writer seriously. "Jamison Parker, that was fantastic work; truly first rate. In fact, it was so great that I want you to do a follow up story for next week's issue. It may be a cover again, we'll have to wait and see what else develops during the week."

"You...you do?" Jay was numb.

Trish nodded at her with pride, a thought occurring to her: "By the way, you owe me a story, as I recall. Where in the hell were you when I was trying to find you all over that measly little town up there?"

"Oh, that." Jay was still trying to regain her equilibrium. "Well, it's a long story."

The editor parked herself on the corner of the writer's desk, intrigued at the blush that crept up her friend's neck. She folded her arms across her chest. "That's okay. I've got a few minutes."

Seeing that she wasn't going to get out of it that easily, Jay decided to give her friend the short, very tightly edited version. She could feel the heat in her face, and she wasn't ready just yet to share too much about Kate and their friendship with anyone. "When I got into my hotel room, I turned on the television. The news was on and the anchorwoman turned out to be a fellow alumnus; I recognized her immediately, although I hadn't seen her in five years. She hadn't changed a bit." Jay worked hard to school her face not to break into a grin at that. "When the explosion happened, I was getting out of the shower, and I had the television tuned to the news. I saw that she was down at the scene, so I decided to track her down."

It was quiet for a few seconds. "That's it?" Trish's voice was a shrill shriek. "You saw some broad you knew in college and you walked into the middle of bedlam to say hello? Have you lost your mind, girl?"

The writer glanced up sheepishly. "Well, yeah, I figured if I didn't track her down then, I wouldn't be able to find her." Silently Jay was praying that her friend wouldn't think too hard and realize that there was only one reporter at the scene, and it was Kate.

Trish shrugged. Kids these days. "Speaking of the bombing and reporters, that's sort of what your next assignment is."

Jay looked at her editor expectantly.

"There was one reporter that captured the world's attention in this whole thing. She was local, but she's got big time written all over her. Her name is Katherine Kyle. Did you happen to catch any of her coverage?" Trish didn't wait for an answer. She was looking at her notes now, which was a good thing, since Jay practically had passed out at the mention of her friend's name. The editor continued, "We want a full spread on this chick. The angle is something like 'The New Breed of Journalists' or something similar. I think you can find her at WCAP-TV in Albany. She's a news anchor there. You can look up the number." Finally, Trish looked up at the writer. "Can you handle it, kid? 'Cause you're going to have to get started right away, like yesterday, even."

Jay paused before opening her mouth. She wasn't all that sure she was capable of speech at the moment. They wanted her to do a story on Kate? Maybe even a cover story? What she said was, "Of course, Trish, I'll get right on it. I think I know what you're looking for; I might want to shadow her for a few days, you know, see how she works, what impact this story has had on her, talk to her colleagues."

"Right kiddo, sounds like just the ticket. We don't need too much of the personal stuff here; probably won't have room for it. Focus on the career and the professional approach she takes to her work, her philosophy, you know."

"Yep. In fact, you're right, there's no time to waste. I'll try to get up there this evening if I can, start following her right away. Let me guess, you want it on your desk at 10 a.m. next Monday, right?"

The editor just smiled as she walked away and winked at Jay over her shoulder.

As soon as she was out of sight, the writer looked around to make sure that she was alone. Assured that she was, she let out a little whoop and did a happy dance in her chair; this was too good to be true.

Looking at her watch, she noted that it was 1 o'clock. Kate wouldn't have left for the office yet. Taking out the much-thumbed business card from her wallet, Jay dialed her friend's home number. It was picked up on the second ring.


Jay thought she sounded a little distracted. "Hi. Is this a bad time?"

Realizing who it was, Kate ceased all movement and focused on the voice on the other end. "No, it's never a bad time for you, Jay. Are you okay? Is something wrong?" They weren't supposed to talk until later in the day, and the older woman was the one who was supposed to make the call.

"No, no," Jay hastened to assure her tall friend. "Everything's fine; in fact, I think it's pretty great right now."

"Oh yeah?" Kate couldn't help but smile; Jay seemed about ready to jump into the phone. "Why's that?"

"Well, for one thing, the editor and the managing news editor loved my story. Trish said it was the best piece she's seen in ages!" The wonder was clear in the writer's voice.

"That's terrific, Jay, I told you your stuff was awesome; I'm glad to see that others have good taste, as well." The note of pride and happiness was clear even over the phone. "Really, that's great news; we'll have to celebrate sometime, I'll buy you dinner."

Jay hesitated, suddenly unsure of herself. "Well, now that you mention it, there is a part two to this news."

"Hmm, what's that?" She sounded distracted again.

"Kate, are you sure this isn't a bad time?"

"Huh? Oh, no. It's just that I was on the floor wrestling around with Fred and I lost an earring. I'm on my hands and knees just trying to find it before he swallows it or I step on it."

Picturing the scene, Jay took a deep breath and plowed ahead. "They want me to do a related story for next week, it may be another cover, they're not sure yet."

"That's great."

"Yeah, I think so too. Especially since you're the subject of the story." There was a loud thump on the other end of the phone. "Kate, are you all right? Kate?"

"Oh yeah, I'm fine, just lost my balance for a second there; must have been the way I was kneeling." She was busy rubbing her head where she had slammed it on the bed frame. "Let me make sure I understand you correctly. Your bosses, the editors of Time magazine, want you to write a story about me. Does that about sum it up?"


"You're not making this up to get one over on me, are you?"

The writer was charmed by her friend's befuddlement. "Nope."

"Are you going to give me more than one word answers?"

Jay smiled mischievously. "You never do."

"That's different." Rolling her eyes, Kate sighed in exasperation. "Jamison, please tell me more details," she said in her most contrite voice.

"That's better," Jay gloated at this small victory and explained to her friend what she wanted to do.

By the time she was finished, Kate had already begun to calculate the angles. She would be getting to spend 24 hours a day with Jay, at least for the next few days. Well, that would be tough to take. She smiled an altogether evil smile.

Jay was saying, "So, I can be there in a few hours, get myself settled in the hotel, and then come over to the station."

"What?" Kate practically screamed into the receiver. "There's no way you're coming to my town and staying in a hotel. You can stay with Fred and me. In the guestroom," she added belatedly, rushing on, "We have plenty of space, as you know, and it would be much easier for you to study your subject."

"I don't want to impose, Kate."

"It's no imposition at all, and I won't hear another word about it. How about if you catch the 3:15 p.m. Amtrak and I'll pick you up at the train station on my dinner break? The timing should be just about right and we can get a bite to eat and I'll take you back to the station with me."

Jay didn't even want to say no, so she didn't.

Chapter 9

Phil had beckoned to Kate as soon as she had arrived at the station. "Hey. How are you feeling?" The producer was almost never serious, so his tone took her by surprise.

"I'm all right, Phil. You know me, tough as they come, a few cuts and stitches aren't going to stop me."

"Yeah, I know. But I have a right to worry, too, okay?"

"There's nothing to worry about, friend."

"Good, 'cause the next few days aren't going to be easy."

"Why don't I like the sound of that?"

"The brass wants you to put together a one-hour special on the 'Crisis at the Capitol'. They want you to talk to the families who lost loved ones, and people who were in the building at the time. They want it to be a gritty, moving piece. And they want it to air on Thursday." At the last, he couldn't even look her in the eye.

She let out a slow breath. "Geez, they don't ask for much, do they?" she asked rhetorically. Her wheels were already spinning. "I get to name my crew, including the cameraman, the editor, and the producer."


"Am I expected to anchor at the same time? I can't put together a quality program and do my regular job properly."

"They want you to stay visible, Kate. Heck, you're the hottest thing since Miss America lost her crown for posing for explicit lesbian photos!"

The anchorwoman glanced sharply at Phil, who, in his oblivion, was busy eyeing one of his cuticles. Nah, he couldn't know. It wasn't that Kate wasn't comfortable with who she was. It was more that being a woman in her business was difficult enough; being an out lesbian when she was as recognizable as she was simply was out of the question. She would have been fired in a heartbeat and blacklisted in the industry. That was one of the reasons why she had been so careful about who she slept with. That and the fact that she couldn't find anyone who could keep her interest or capture her heart.

She thought about that. In college, she and Jen had become lovers when they both served on the ski patrol. It had been a mutually satisfying arrangement: good sex, and someone to have some fun with. Since her lover hadn't been a student and lived on the other side of town from the campus, there were few complications. Kate preferred it like that, since it allowed her to keep her private life just that. They had things in common like their love of skiing and hiking. Jen knew the area like the back of her hand, since she was a forest ranger by day, doing the EMT thing on a volunteer basis.

Everything had been going fine, or so Kate thought, until the night that Jay had been attacked. The EMT had taken one look at her lover's face as she sat there with the small blonde in her arms, and she had known that her secret dreams of having a real future with Kate were dead.

Jen had never told Kate how much she loved her, or how much she wanted to make a life with her. Instinct had warned her that such declarations would send her lover running in the opposite direction, so the ranger had kept things light and fun, even though her heart had demanded more. The expression on the senior's face as she had held Jay so tenderly, had told Jen more than Kate ever would: she understood that her love would never be returned the way she wanted it to. It was as if Kate's heart already belonged to this petite stranger.

Jen hadn't been able to handle knowing that she could never have her lover on her terms. Shortly after that incident, she had broken it off with Kate, explaining tearfully that, much as she wanted to be able to, she couldn't erase from her memory the way Kate had looked at that virtual stranger. She had been waiting two years to see that look directed at her, and it had never happened. Now she knew it never would.

Kate had been baffled by her lover's reaction. She had never realized how deeply Jen had cared for her, nor could she fathom what "look" the ranger was talking about when she spoke of that night. She wondered if it had been because she had asked Jen to follow up on Jay's condition that night and the next day, but couldn't understand why that should have bothered the EMT; shouldn't she have cared what happened to the girl?

Of course, in the years since, she had tried hard not to examine too closely the reasons why she had insisted on keeping tabs on Jay and the reason why, whenever she heard something about the writer or read one of her articles, it made her stomach flip and brought a smile to her lips.

Now there was no denying what Kate felt; she had known it the second she had looked up from her seat on the bench across from the Capitol to see Jay standing in front of her. She had been glad to be sitting, because the jolt in her guts would have been enough to bring her to her knees. No one else had ever come close to making her feel that way before. It was terrifying and exciting at the same time, and Kate had no intention of running away.

To Phil she said, "Fine. Then at the very least I want to name the copywriter for my stuff so that I don't end up looking like an idiot on the air."

"Done," the producer promised, relieved that she hadn't put up more of a fight.

"Oh, and buddy," the tall woman towered over him as he sat behind his cluttered desk, "I think you should know that Time magazine is doing a feature on me for next week's issue; sort of a 'New Breed of Journalist' type of thing. There's going to be some backlash, I'm sure, but I expect you to see that the writer who will be putting the piece together is given full access to anything she wants and is treated like royalty. Right?" She growled the last.

"Anything you want, Kate."

"Good." She walked away to begin planning the special.


Making her way to her desk, Kate was surprised to find it papered with phone messages from family members of people lost in the blast who wanted to talk to her and from people who had been in the building at the time.

Returning the first few messages, the pattern became clear to her: the media was crawling all over these poor folks like vultures, leaving them feeling overwhelmed. They had seen Kate's coverage, had watched her run back into the ruins to help the injured. They only wanted to talk to her; the rest of the media be damned. She made appointments to visit one of the victims and one of the families tonight, and more tomorrow. By the 4 o'clock story meeting, she had returned every phone call and made arrangements to see all of them; these interviews would form the backbone of her special.

The 6 o'clock newscast was a blur, as Kate had too many things swirling around in her mind. Although her performance was flawless, it was unlikely that she remembered a single story. As soon as the red light went out, the anchorwoman bolted from her chair and hustled down the corridor from the set to the newsroom, grabbing the keys off her desk and flying out the door.

Making her way to the inbound platform just as the train from Grand Central Station pulled in, she watched anxiously until she saw a familiar blonde head pop out of the business class car. With three strides and without thought, she met Jay as her feet hit the platform, catching her up and spinning her around. Even as she thrilled to the greeting the writer's face turned beet red.

She pulled back a little in the circle of the taller woman's arms. "Yikes, how am I supposed to stay professionally detached with a hello like that!" There was a note of teasing in Jay's voice, but also a kernel of truth, which Kate heard without difficulty. She dropped her arms to her sides and quickly took a step back, giving her friend some space. The rebuke had stung a little, even as gentle as it was, but the anchorwoman understood what the writer was telling her: this was business.

"Of course. I'm sorry, Jay, I guess I got carried away."

Her friend looked like a spanked puppy and Jay couldn't stand it. Achieving distance from this amazing woman was the last thing in the world she wanted to do. "No, Kate. That was the best greeting I've ever gotten; I'm thrilled. I'm the one who should be sorry."

"Forget it," she shrugged. "I hope you're hungry, because I've got a great place picked out for dinner."

Jay noticed the abrupt change of subject and the fact that her friend had put about three feet of distance between them, but let her get away with it for now. "Sweetie, I'm always hungry," she said with a laugh.

As they made their way out of the station, Jay couldn't help but notice the stares that her companion was getting. There were some wide-eyed looks of recognition, like those that might accompany the sighting of a celebrity, which, she reminded herself, Kate was. And then there were some folks, mostly men, who turned to watch the blue-eyed woman simply because she was breathtaking. What amused Jay about all of this was that her friend appeared to be completely ignorant of all of the attention she was getting.


Dinner was at Sam's, an out-of-the-way Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the city. The food was fabulous and Jay loved that everyone catered to her companion as if she were royalty. The chef came out to make sure that their meals were satisfactory, the owner's came over to make sure the service had been good, and the bartender sent over free sodas, knowing Kate was still working.

Jay kidded her friend gently about the treatment she was receiving, and Kate blushed an appealing shade of pink and mumbled something about this being one of her favorite restaurants.

From dinner, the anchorwoman drove them back to WCAP, where Gene and Phil were waiting with a station car; she made the introductions, explaining teasingly to Jay that she'd been given her pick of a crew, and, motley as they were, this was it. Jay thought she might recognize the cameraman as the man her friend had hugged at the scene of the explosion that night, and she knew the name Phil from her friend's phone conversations with him, first at the doctor's office and later in the Green room. If Kate had hand-selected them, she must have thought very highly of their work. The writer made a note to herself to get each of them aside and talk to them about their co-worker.

Kate did not miss the appreciative looks both Gene and Phil gave Jay when they thought no one was paying attention. While she admired their taste, she was surprised to find herself feeling both protective and a bit jealous. But this was no time for that, this was business, after all.

She already had filled Jay in on the parameters of her assignment and how she had spent her afternoon. Allowing as how this would be great material for her story, the writer asked if it would be okay to come along on the interviews. Kate agreed, as long as the families were comfortable with the arrangement.

The first visit was to a man who had received burns to his hands and arms and suffered a broken leg. The anchorwoman remembered his face as one of the unfortunate folks who had been trapped on the first floor under the rubble of the second blast; she had helped to free his leg that night. As soon as she walked into the room his face lit up with a smile. She had made the crew and the writer wait outside for a minute to make sure that the man was okay with being taped and with Jay's presence. He enthusiastically agreed, and she motioned the three stragglers into the room.

While Gene set the camera up, the burn victim gestured to Jay to approach the bed. In a conspiratorial stage whisper he told her, "Katherine saved my life, you know. She was amazing; I've never seen a woman that strong. She moved that marble pillar like it was made of Styrofoam. I've thanked God for her every day since," his voice choked with emotion and tears threatened to leak out of the corner of his eyes. "She's an angel."

The writer smiled at the man gently and patted his shoulder, thinking to herself, "I know what you mean."

The interview didn't take very long, the anchorwoman managing to get her subject to take her through his actions up until the point of the explosion and his thoughts once he knew what had happened. It was poignant and emotional, and powerful: just what she had been looking for.

The group thanked the injured man, Kate lingering behind at his request for a more personal goodbye. Hugging her, his eyes moist, he thanked her for her strength and courage in the face of danger, telling her she would always be his angel. She assured him it was nothing anyone else wouldn't have done, but he knew differently.

When they gathered outside in the parking lot, Phil looked at his watch and then at Kate questioningly: it was 9 o'clock. It would be up to her how close she was willing to cut it to get back to the station and get ready for the 11 o'clock broadcast. She told him they could fit in one more interview.

Ten minutes later they were standing outside a tidy little home located in one of the quieter sections of the city. Kate knocked on the door, the others hanging back a little. She introduced herself, explaining who was with her and asking if they might come in. The woman of the house, a short, stocky brunette with graying temples, ushered them all into a neat but well-used living room.

She and her husband sat on the couch and motioned Kate and the others to take seats on the loveseat and recliner. As soon as they were seated and Gene had the camera rolling, the couple began to cry. Wiping his eyes after a few moments, the man looked up at Phil and Gene, finally settling his gaze on Jay.

"You'll have to forgive my wife and me, you see, our Joey just died this morning. He was only eight years old."

There was a stunned silence in the room. Kate motioned to the cameraman to turn it off. Crossing the room, she knelt before both of the grieving parents. From where she was sitting, Jay could see tears in her eyes. "I didn't know, I'm so sorry. He seemed so strong. I want you to know that he was very brave in there; he didn't cry at all, and even smiled. He told me how much he was looking forward to going to a baseball game with you. I don't know what to say."

"Ms. Kyle, we wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts." They each had a hold of one of Kate's hands, but it was the wife who spoke this time. "Joey was so excited that he got a chance to meet you, it was all he talked about. He told us how you told him stories and kept him from being afraid. You were a great comfort to him and for that we are more grateful than we can say." The woman turned to Jay. "We want to make sure you put in your story what an angel Ms. Kyle was. We want you to tell that story to the world so that everyone will know that she was a hero to our little boy."

"I will," Jay promised. She was so proud of her friend at that moment. She marveled at Kate's sensitivity and willingness to sacrifice the story rather than exploit the family's grief. And she began to understand a little bit about the scope of what this incredible woman had done that night.

They bid their farewells, Kate taking down the information about the funeral, which was to be Wednesday morning; she wanted to be there.

Once they were back in the car, the producer complained, "Kate, we can't shut the camera down when it gets emotional like that or we won't have any material to work with. That was great stuff."

"It's my call, Phil." Blue eyes flashed dangerously. "And there is no way in hell that I'm going to take advantage of pain like that just to get a story. It was too personal, too raw. For God's sake, the kid just died this morning. Gene and I are going to get some footage of the funeral on Wednesday, don't worry."

Phil wisely didn't answer and the remainder of the short ride to the station was made in silence. Once inside, the anchorwoman went directly to her desk to look over the copy for the 11 o'clock newscast. The writer took that opportunity to pull Gene aside and talk to him about her subject.

It quickly became quite clear to Jay that the cameraman was in love with Kate; it was written all over his face and in the way he spoke about her. The writer felt a rising surge of jealousy and fought hard to keep it from showing. Gene had been working with her friend since she first came to the station, and he shared many stories with her about some of the more interesting assignments they'd been on. Some of them were humorous, and some were downright horrifying, like the explosion. When they were through talking, Jay felt she had a much better sense of Kate as a journalist.

At 10:56 p.m., Kate came over to where Jay was grilling one of her favorite editors. Leaning down menacingly toward the diminutive tape jockey she said, "No telling tales out of school or I'll have you back cutting commercials for toilet paper and tampons." The editor only laughed and winked at Jay. Turning, the anchorwoman said, "If you want to see the magic of television, you'd better come with me now."

Obediently, Jay rose and followed her subject through the labyrinth of offices and corridors to the set. Kate showed her to a seat just out of camera range and gave her an earpiece so that she could hear what the anchorwoman heard. From that vantage point, she could watch the anchors, the director and producer in the booth off to the side, the cameras and the teleprompters. The writer watched the newscast unfold in wonder, as each member of the team did his or her job and the end result appeared to be seamless.

Although Jay knew that her friend had been shaken deeply by the earlier visit with Joey's family, there was no sign of it in her performance. She marveled as Kate looked directly into one camera while reading without seeming to be, then shifted to another without losing the thread of her thought, all the while the director was relaying instructions into her ear. The writer couldn't understand how she could keep track of it all.

On the breaks, new pieces of copy were handed to the anchors and instructions given as to where to insert the words and what to delete to keep the newscast on time. The anchors were also informed whether the newscast was running over or under time at any given point and whether they would have to speed things up, drop things, or fill time. Reporters came and went on the set, along with the meteorologist and the sportscaster. All in all, it was a whirlwind of activity.

When it was over, Jay let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. Kate joked around with some of the crew and then came to get her friend. "Well, what did you think?" she asked as she took the earpiece out of her ear, and collected Jay's as well.

"I think you're the most amazing person I've ever met." Getting no response except for a single raised eyebrow, she added, "Objectively speaking, of course."

"Of course," Kate laughed. "What do you say we call it a night? I'm beat and Fred is so excited that you're coming he broke out a new tennis ball."

"Who could turn down an enticing prospect like Fred waiting with a nice, slimy ball?" Jay threw her head back and chortled.


True to form, the playful Golden was waiting at the door for his mistress and her affectionate friend, tennis ball in mouth. As soon as his mother had crossed the threshold, he began weaving in and out of her legs, his tail wagging, all the while making noises that sounded like Chewbacca, the Wookie from Star Wars.

Jay shook her head. "What is that racket?"

The tall woman looked at the 73 pounds of dog fur between her legs. "Fred, apparently your friend doesn't know talking when she hears it." She paused while the beast continued his welcome home ritual. "What's that?" She bent her ear to him. "We should forgive her this time? You're too easy, buddy." She gave him a few more scratches in just the right places and sent him on to the next hapless victim.

Jay quickly got the idea that if she didn't make space between her legs for Fred, he was going to do it for her. "You are too much, my boy." To her human friend she said, "So it's okay for him to get between my legs on the second date, but not to kiss me on the first date? What kind of manners are you teaching this teenager?"

Kate laughed and pushed her guest ahead of her into the kitchen, wisely choosing not to answer. "Are you hungry, or thirsty?"

"Neither, just whipped."

"Mmm, me too, it's been a heck of a long day. May I show you to your quarters, m'lady?"

"Why, yes, madam, that would be lovely." Jay let her friend guide her by the elbow upstairs to the guest suite, where she deposited her suitcase.

"I hope you'll find the accommodations at this hotel more than satisfactory, miss. There is a customer service survey that you can fill out at the end of your stay so that we can work to improve our performance. Should you need anything, please feel free to call the front desk."

Her guest smiled. "Has anyone ever told you you're a nut?"

"Yes," her companion deadpanned, "But no one who has lived to tell about it. Now, about the activities available to you at this resort...tomorrow morning...errr, make that this morning, she said glancing at her watch, "At 8:00 a.m. sharp the workout facilities will be open in the basement. At exactly 9:01 a.m. a run will commence from the front steps. Breakfast is served, should you choose to skip the continental breakfast, at approximately 10 a.m. in the main kitchen. You may shower at your leisure."

"Wow. I guess this really is a full-service hotel."

"You have no idea," Kate grinned wickedly at her friend and winked.

"No," Jay thought, "But I'm dying to find out." Out loud, she said, "Is there a personal fitness trainer that goes with the workout and run?"

"Of course. What kind of second rate dive do you think we're running here?"

"Well then, all of those activities appeal to me, so I guess that means I'll be at the gym doors when they open at 8."

"My able assistant and I look forward to your presence. Until then, please enjoy the hospitality and sleep well." The mistress of the house turned on her heel, summoning Fred, who had made himself quite comfortable on the floor at the side of the bed. Reluctantly, with a sidelong glance in his new friend's direction, he followed his human out of the room.


In her own room, Kate shed her clothes as she headed to the bathroom. She splashed her face with ice-cold water, hoping that would cure her of the fervent desire to kiss Jay senseless. She wasn't sure how she was going to make it through these next few days, keeping "professional distance" from that gorgeous woman down the hall was proving to be damn near impossible for her.

Still, she was determined to play this by Jay's rules, and she had no intention of inviting any more rejections of her affectionate overtures. She was surprised, truthfully, at how much that gentle rebuke had hurt. Shaking her head to clear it, she set the alarm for 5:15 a.m. It was 12:25 a.m. now, and it was going to be a short night for her, but she had an appointment to keep at 6 a.m. and she couldn't be late.


Down the hall, Jay finished unpacking her clothes and toiletries. Biting her lip, she had to fight hard the urge to sneak down the hall and crawl into bed with the blue-eyed knockout she just couldn't seem to get enough of. No, she didn't think that would qualify as "professional detachment" somehow; instead, she took a quick cold shower and put on her sleepwear, going to the bed and turning down the covers. What she found there caused her to laugh out loud in delighted surprise.

Sitting underneath the covers were three original issue Green Lantern comic books and a flashlight. The note taped to the first cover read: "In case you have trouble sleeping, I thought you might enjoy these. Sweet dreams, princess. See you in the morning. K."

"That woman is just too much. Is there anything she doesn't think of?" Jay scooped up the comics, turned on the flashlight, turned out the light and settled down to read "The Adventures of the Green Lantern."

Chapter 10

At precisely 7:58 a.m., a disheveled-looking blonde appeared in the kitchen, smiling when she caught sight of the coffee, tea, and choices of orange, tomato, and grape juice on the counter. She picked up the note: "Good morning, sunshine, I wasn't sure which was your poison, so I thought I'd cover my bases. After all, this is a five-star resort. Follow the light to your right and open the door to a world of total fitness. K."

Jay turned to the right and noticed an open door leading to a set of stairs, struck immediately by a sense of dÈjà vu as she descended. From above, she had a perfect view of a well-equipped gym and a magnificent body in a pair of short running shorts and a cropped t-shirt, perfectly sculpted abdominal muscles glistening with sweat. She smiled as she thought about the first time she had seen that sight, the very first time, in fact, that she had ever laid eyes on Kate so many years ago in school.

Jay whistled tunelessly as she cut through the cemetery on her way to the field house. She needed a break from the paper she was working on and she thought going for a nice, long swim might be just the thing to help distract her for a while. Open swim would be going on for another hour or so, so she took her time.

She wandered past the doors to the basketball court, down the corridor with coaches' offices lining either side, and took the stairs to the second floor. She started toward the women's locker room at the end of the hallway, but something caught her eye. She backed up and looked in the glass at the newly remodeled weight room. The facility housed several circuits of Nautilus equipment, free weights, treadmills, and stationery bikes. But what the young co-ed noticed was the lone figure lying prone on the chest press bench, lifting an enormous amount of weight without so much as a grimace. The woman had her back to the window, but Jay could see her quite clearly in the mirror on the opposite wall. The weightlifter wore only a sports bra and a pair of short running shorts. The muscles in her chest were prominent and her abdominals were well toned. "Wow," she thought. "That is the most magnificent creature I have ever laid eyes on."

"Still is," Jay sighed. "You have a complete Nautilus circuit in your basement?"

"Well, what kind of five-star resort would this be without one?"

"You have a point there. Good morning, Kate, thanks for the coffee and juice, by the way."

"You're quite welcome. Did you sleep well?"

"I made it through one and a half comics before I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Where in the world did you find those, anyway?"

"I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. And I hate to be violent so early in the morning, it interrupts my routine."

"You have lost your mind," her guest laughed, noticing that her friend's gaze was glued to a television strategically placed on a wall that could be seen from every machine. Reaching the bottom step, she guffawed, "You mean to tell me you're watching reruns of Charlie's Angels?"

"Naturally, what else would you work out to?"

"Is that why the workout is scheduled at precisely 8 a.m. and the run at 9:01? I wondered about the timing."

"It might be," Kate pretended to be defensive.

"Okay, favorite Angel."

"That's easy, Farrah Fawcett; Cheryl Ladd was a close second."

"No, no, you've got it all wrong; Jaclyn Smith had it all over those two."

"Hey, to each her own, missy. Most disappointing development?"

"Simple, losing Cheryl and Kate and adding Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts."

"Can't disagree with you there, that's for sure."

Having settled that critical piece of business, the "fitness trainer" handed her guest a set of workout gloves and the two women set about their routines. It wasn't easy, since each had one eye on the other, and the second on the television where Farrah was chasing down one of the bad guys on a racetrack in her mustang. Kate had to work hard to keep from drooling at her workout partner, who was appealingly tousled and wore a form-fitting sleeveless workout top and a brief pair of nylon shorts. "Good Lord," Kate thought to herself, "As if I wasn't having enough trouble controlling my libido. Well, I could always blame it on Farrah if my drool starts to show."

She helped Jay adjust the machines to fit her stature, and tried to refrain from making too many short jokes in the process. The petite blonde only called her companion "stretch" once, and they considered that they were even. At 8:58 a.m. as the credits rolled, the hostess turned off the television and gestured for her friend to precede her up the stairs. The two spent several minutes stretching side-by-side before heading to the front door.

Once on the street, the writer thought to ask, "Just how far are we going, anyway?"

"I usually go five miles, but we can go shorter or longer as you like. What's your pleasure?"

It took much self-control for Jay not to tell the blue-eyed woman exactly what her "pleasure" would be right then, as it sure as shooting wasn't in keeping with the phrase, "professional detachment." Out loud she said, "Five is fine." In truth, that was her usual distance, as well, and she was inordinately glad that she had kept up with her fitness regimen since college; matching Kate's long stride was going to be no mean feat.

The long-legged woman led them through tree-lined streets and onto a path that followed along the Mohawk River. Along the way, she pointed out spots of interest and explained a bit about the history of the area.

"It's beautiful, Kate, I can only imagine what it's like when the leaves are changing in the fall."

Before she could think about what it meant, Kate said, "Guess you'll just have to see for yourself, then."

Jay felt a happy thrill go up her spine at the prospect. "Yes, I guess I will," she smiled up at her companion.

As they looped around to head back toward the house, a man appeared out of the shadow of a large oak tree, brandishing a long butcher knife and waving it at the anchorwoman menacingly. His eyes glazed and spittle forming at the corners of his mouth, he didn't seem to take any notice of the other runner. In one easy move, Kate put herself between the man and Jay.

"I told you you were going to be mine, cunt, and I meant it. All those nights you been taunting me in my livin' room, begging me to take you. Well, here I am, are you ready?"

Jay was frightened beyond words, but her mind registered that this maniac knew exactly who her friend was. How did he know she would be here at this moment? He must have been watching her; the thought made her blood run cold.

Needing to buy them some time and keep him as far away from them as she could, Kate addressed her assailant as her mind flashed on the thought that being confronted by him might set off Jay's memories of that night in college. That angered her more than having to deal with this lunatic. "I got your letters, what is it that I've done to offend you?"

Becoming enraged, the man took a step closer. Kate reached behind her and put one hand on Jay's waist to make sure she knew precisely where she was and to let her companion know to stay behind her. "I seen the way you look at that bastard. I ain't stupid, you know. I know what's going on between you two."

"You mean Gerry, my co-anchor? What is it you think is going on?"

He took another step, and Kate put subtle pressure on Jay's waist letting her know to back up a pace, which they both did. Now the foam was flying from the deranged man's mouth. "Don't play with me, cunt," he roared, "I'm gonna put an end to it right here." Lurching forward, he began to come at her, still seemingly unaware that there was another person present.

Out of the corner of her eye, Kate caught movement to her right, coming from the direction of the street. As the maniac took one last lunge at her, she used the hand she had resting on her friend's waist to throw her to the side, out of harm's way. At the same time, she pivoted in the opposite direction, and her assailant stumbled past her. Within seconds, two uniformed police officers and a detective had tackled the man and disarmed him.

Running to where Jay lay several feet away on the grass, Kate reached out her hand and pulled her to her feet and into a hug, "Are you okay?"

Jay nodded into the chest she was pressed against.

"It's over now, can you stay here by yourself for a second?"

Another nod.

Kate walked over to where the detective was speaking into a two-way radio. The uniformed men already had the suspect on his feet and were leading him up to the street and the waiting squad car. "Hi Bob, that was a little close for comfort."

"I'll say," the detective wheezed, clearly out of breath. "It took us a while to figure out where he was hiding. We saw him watch you leave the house, and then we lost him in the trees for a few minutes. That was some fancy footwork there, for a desk jockey, Ms. Kyle."

"Thanks...I think. You're sure this idiot was acting alone, right, is it finally over now?"

"Yes, we're confident that we've got him and you'll be safe now."

"Good work, detective and thanks, I owe you," she smiled at him.

The plainclothesman blushed and scuffed his shoe on the ground, "Just doing our jobs, Ms. Kyle. Thanks for your patience, we'll be in touch." And with that, he, too, headed off in the direction of the street.

Standing several feet away, Jay heard the entire exchange. When her friend turned to her, she said, "This wasn't random." It was a statement, not a question, "You knew he was stalking you."

"No, Jay, I knew he had been threatening me," Kate corrected gently. "I had no idea he would take it to that level, or I never would have had you anywhere near me." She was cursing herself for not thinking of her friend's safety.

The emerald eyes flashed with anger, "Me, you're worried about me? Katherine Kyle, that man wanted to kill you!"

"He didn't know what he wanted, he wasn't rational, Jay."

"He could have killed you," Jay said softly, tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.

"Hey," Kate lifted her friend's chin, gently wiping the tears away with her thumbs. When the green eyes finally met blue, she continued. "Hey, the point is that nobody got hurt, and he'll get the help he so desperately needs. I was well protected, as you can see."

"How did the police know to come here?"

The anchorwoman blew out an explosive breath; she wouldn't lie to Jay. "I've been getting letters from this guy for months now. Lately they've been getting more violent and more explicit. When the rhetoric escalated, I went to station management and the police were brought in." She shrugged her shoulders, "When you're in the public eye like I am, unfortunately sometimes things like this happen. Usually it isn't this serious."

"Thank God for small favors," the blonde mumbled, adding with a hint of sarcasm, "I feel much better now. You still didn't answer how the police knew to come to this spot."

"I'm pretty much a creature of habit, Jay, I follow the same routine almost every morning. The police have been watching my house and me for weeks now, just in case something like this happened. I knew they wouldn't be too far away."

Jay still was not satisfied, "That was too close; he could have killed you before they had a chance to get here."

Kate looked into sea green eyes that brimmed with more unshed tears and obvious concern. "He didn't, and he won't be hurting anyone now, I promise. Let's just go home, okay?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."


When they arrived in the kitchen, Fred was waiting for them, tennis ball in mouth. Kate looked at Jay apologetically. "I usually spend a few minutes with the big guy playing ball in the back yard before breakfast; I know you must be starving." In truth, she thought a good, fun distraction might be just the thing to take her friend's mind off of what had just happened.

"Are you kidding me," Jay said gamely, "Nothing like a good game of fetch to get your blood pumping in the morning when nothing else has."

"Uh huh," Kate rolled her eyes at Jay's sarcasm. "In that case, smarty pants, you can be the one to play with him, I'll just come along for the entertainment."

Fred led the way to the atrium door that opened onto a two-tiered wooden deck. In front of the deck was an expanse of lawn that stretched nearly as far as a major league baseball park; the entire thing was fenced in with privacy fencing. "My God, Kate, I didn't notice this before. It's incredible, it's so big."

"Coming from someone who lives in the middle of the City where there are no lawns, and who grew up in the desert, I suppose I should take that with a grain of salt."

Jay bumped her with her hip. Fred, meanwhile, was waiting none-to-patiently, pacing back and forth in front of the pair, and eagerly pointing his nose to the spot where he had dropped the ball at their feet. His mistress made the first throw most of the way to the back fence, while moving to step off the deck onto the lawn.

"Nice arm, there, ace. So, from this I take it she not only plays tennis, but she plays softball, too."

"Oh, brilliant deduction, my dear Watson," Kate intoned in an awful British accent, adding, "The Governor always tells me I'm the best left-handed shortstop he's ever seen. I always answer that I'm the only left-handed shortstop he's ever seen."

"You know the Governor that well?"

"We've had some 'friendly' games of basketball in his driveway and we've played softball on opposite teams. And occasionally we have some fascinating conversations about politics and religion. He's a very bright guy, very interesting to debate."

By this time Jay's mouth was hanging open. "Kate, you knew I was writing an in-depth piece on him. Why didn't you tell me you knew him so well and share your insight?"

Kate shrugged sheepishly, "I didn't want to influence you in any way. Like I told you before, I love your work." At this she looked directly into the emerald depths. "I thought your piece would be better if you had a chance to make your own judgments." More quietly, she finished, "You didn't need me to write a great story; I can't wait to read it."

Jay's face blushed an appealing shade of pink at the compliment. At that moment, 73 pounds of fur ball was headed directly for her at a dead run. Her eyes opened wide.

Kate laughed, "Um, Jay, you'd better spread your legs in a hurry."

That earned her a fully raised eyebrow, but the younger woman complied; which was a good thing, because right about then Fred flew into the space she had made for him, his tail wagging vigorously.

Still chuckling, Kate instructed, "If you scratch his haunches, he'll march in place for you, it's his favorite thing to do." And sure enough, Fred was true to form.

"All we need now is a John Phillip Sousa march," Jay muttered under her breath, laughing at the dog's antics. He finished going all the way through her legs then, and came back around, depositing the ball at her feet and staring at it. Reaching down, she grabbed the soggy sphere, and launched it almost as far as his mistress had before her.

"Ah, a fellow ball player, I do believe."

"Mm hmm, I play in a league in Central Park in the summer."

"What position do you play? NO, wait, let me guess." She pretended to size her friend up, "I'm fairly confident that it's not first base."

"Wise ass."

"So I'm told. Let's see," Kate scratched her chin. "You look quick enough to be an outfielder."

"Nooope," Jay was enjoying the flustered look on her friend's face.



"Hmmm, well, you've obviously got a good arm; third base?"

Jay made a sound like a buzzer, "Oh for two there, Stretch."

"Okay, okay, you don't play the outfield and you don't play first or third." She looked at her companion sideways, "Are you sure?"

The emerald eyes sparkled with amusement. "Positive. You'll never get it, Kyle, so why don't you just give up?"

"No, no, one more shot, I still have one strike coming to me. You play shortstop, too?"

"Ooohh, I'm sorry, you lose!" But she didn't sound sorry at all.

"Well," Kate said exasperatedly, "Aren't you going to tell me?"

"Oh, okay, since you can't seem to figure it out yourself...I'm a catcher." Jay looked up guilelessly.

"You've got to be kidding me, at your size?"

"Yes," Jay straightened up to appear as big as possible. "Size isn't everything, you know, you've never seen me block the plate!"

"That, I'd love to see."

"You're on, wise ass; this summer." As the words escaped her lips, Jay realized she had just assumed that the two would have an ongoing relationship.

She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding when Kate said, "I can't wait."


Making their way back into the house, Kate asked her guest whether she wanted to shower before or after breakfast.

"I'm famished, if you can stand the smell of me a little longer, I'd opt for food before cleanliness."

"You're on. What do you say to the house special; cinnamon French toast and a side of bacon."

"I'd say it sounds like Heaven."

"Coming right up."

After a few minutes during which the hostess concentrated on mixing up the batter and starting the bacon to cook, Jay spoke. "Kate, I know it's none of my business, but I'm worried about your safety. And before you say anything, I'm willing to bet that he isn't the first nutcase to bother you."

Kate was about to give a glib reply when she snuck a peek at her friend's face. Jay seemed disturbed. For some reason, Kate didn't want to be the source of even the slightest worry for her. "I tell you what," she said at length. "I'll give my friend Peter a call right now, he's a security expert. He's been bugging me for a while now to install a state-of-the-art security system here at the house. I'll let him come over today and go to town, if he has the time and the inclination. Okay?"

"Yeah." Jay brightened perceptibly.

In truth, her lack of security had been the cause of one of the only fights Kate and Peter had ever had. He was appalled that she wouldn't take him up on his offer to put in a motion-sensitive detection system that he had specially designed. As recognizable as she was, she was a sitting target for just about any fanatic with the will to find her. She had always rejected his offer, not wanting to admit that she might be vulnerable.

After today it would be hard to argue that he hadn't been right; she had just been kidding herself. Still, she might not have given in except for the fact that she wanted to make sure that Jay would be safe in her house. That was enough to make her pick up the phone.


Now the two women were showered, dressed, and on their way to the station to pick up Gene, Phil and the station car with the equipment. They had a bunch more interviews lined up for late this morning and early this afternoon before Kate had to be in the newsroom to get ready for the six o'clock broadcast.

Into the comfortable silence, Jay said, "I'm glad your friend agreed to come over to put in the system today; I don't want to have to worry about you. Not that installing security in your home will prevent everything, but at least it will cut down on the chances of something terrible happening."

"If you're happy, I'm happy."

Jay looked over to see if she was being tweaked, but the blue of her companion's eyes revealed only sincerity. She smiled in return.

"By the way, if it's okay with you, I told Peter that in return for doing the work today, we would take him out to dinner on my break tonight. I really want you to meet him; he's a neat guy and one of my best friends. I trust him with my life. If I were ever in trouble, he's the man I'd call."

"I can't wait to meet him." Jay had the distinct feeling that her friend didn't bestow her trust lightly; she was curious about the kind of man that could inspire that feeling in Kate.


The day had been flying by. The anchorwoman and her crew had conducted six more interviews by the time 3 o'clock rolled around and the still photographer for Time had shown up in time to take some pictures of the last interview. Now they were all headed back to the station; the writer so that she could conduct some interviews of her subject's colleagues, and Kate so that she could prepare for the six o'clock newscast. Tomorrow, she explained to Jay, she would attend the funeral of the little boy who had passed away the day before, and then spend the bulk of the day in the editing booth, putting together the special that would air Thursday night in prime time.

The news director had agreed to allow the Time photographer to take pictures of Kate on the set during the early newscast, provided the shots included the station logo in the background, of course. He also snapped some film of her in an editing booth, pointing out some footage on the screen to an editor that she wanted included in one of her stories.

As soon as Kate stepped off the set following "the six," as they called it, she collected Jay and pushed her out the side door to the parking lot. "C'mon, Scoop, or we'll be late for our dinner date."

"Scoop? Did you just call me Scoop? Nobody calls me Scoop," the small blonde mock growled as she hurried to catch up to her long-legged companion.

Kate hadn't seen Jay in hours, since she was caught up in getting ready for the broadcast and the writer had been busy digging up dirt on her. The anchorwoman was surprised to realize just how much she had missed her friend in that short time. "Look's like I just did. Whatcha gonna do about it, short stuff?"

"Oooh, aren't we full of ourselves. Just don't forget, the pen is mightier than the sword, and this 'Scoop' hasn't even put pen to paper about you yet. You'd do well to keep that in mind and be nice to me," Jay smirked.

"Well, don't I just feel suitably threatened. Why, I do believe my hands are shaking." Kate held up her hand and wiggled it as though it were trembling in mock fear. In response, she got hip-checked into the car door.

"Hey, young lady, that was a little uncalled for."

"Hardly," Jay snorted as she settled herself in the passenger seat.

In ten minutes time, they were sitting at a table in a tavern on the outskirts of town near the State University. The smell of beer and burgers was almost overwhelming and co-eds were everywhere. Jay looked around and laughed, "Wow, Stretch, you take him to the nicest joints, don't you?"

"I gave him his choice," Kate answered defensively, as a shadow fell over the table and she felt herself lifted into an embrace from behind.

"That's right, she did give me a choice...this place or McDonald's."

"Listen, if the two of you are going to gang up against me, you can just eat by yourselves."

At that, the man came around the table, grasped Jay by the elbow with a gleam in his eye and said, "Shall we?"

Jay played along and got up, grinning from ear to ear. "I believe we should," she nodded her head at him.

"Wait a minute," Kate interrupted, looking pointedly at Jay. "You haven't even been introduced to this letch yet and you'd just go off with him? You floozy!"

Peter and Jay looked at each other mischievously. They each stuck their hands out at the same time.



"You ready to go?"


"Just like that?" Kate exclaimed indignantly.

In unison, both the writer and the security expert said, "Yep!"

And from there, dinner turned into a raucous affair. Peter regaled Jay with stories of his exploits with her friend, and Kate revealed some of Peter's more embarrassing moments. It was obvious to Jay that these two shared a real affection for each other; almost like a brother and sister. She liked the older man right from the start. It was so clear how much he cared about Kate.

When Kate excused herself to go to the restroom, Jay turned to him urgently. "Will that security system that you installed today really keep her safe?"

The security expert looked at her appraisingly. He had taken a shine to her right from the beginning, which was most unusual for him. And, observing her with his good friend, it was as plain as day to him that there was some serious chemistry at work here. The thought made him happy. Heck, if he couldn't have the blue-eyed vixen, this petite spitfire would do just nicely for her.

At first, Peter had tried hard to get the anchorwoman to fall for him. Finally, as delicately as she could, Kate had explained the facts of life to him. He had reddened, chuckled, and said, simply, "Aaaahhh, I get it now." And that had been the end of it; except for the endless jokes, asides and friendly contests to pick out the prettiest women everywhere they went. But deep down, Peter knew that his tall friend kept herself too far apart from the rest of the world. She was lonely and she didn't even know it, which broke his heart. He could see, though, looking next to him at this pint-sized woman, that he wouldn't have to worry too much longer.

"As long as she's in the house and the alarm is set, she'll be as safe as a babe in her mother's arms."

"Good, because what happened this morning scared the living daylights out of me for her."

When Peter looked at her oddly, Jay said slowly, "She did tell you what happened, didn't she?"


"She was attacked this morning by a stalker. She didn't mention that?"

"Nooo." Now he was angry.

Jay noticed the shift in mood and reached out to place a gentle hand on her new ally's arm. "She's fine, not even a scratch. The police caught him after his first pass at her. It must have slipped her mind."

"I'll just bet it did," he said ominously. "It's okay, Jay, she probably didn't tell me because she knew I'd go down there and beat the tar out of the jerk."

"That's right," a low, sexy voice rumbled from behind him.

"Geez, you sure know how to ruin a guy's good time."

"Yeah, I know, I feel so sorry for you. Listen, Technowiz, it's not that I'm not having a great time, because I am, but we've got to run. Some of us have a job to do." Kate winked at him, "Thanks again for taking care of the security system so quickly."

"No problem, Anchorbabe, I'll meet you at the house at midnight so that I can set the system with your code. That's how you set and disable the alarm."

"Great, we'll see you there."

As she made to leave, Peter held her back just a little. In her ear he said, so that only she could hear him, "I can set it to recognize a different code for Jay, too, if you want her to be able to get in and out of your place."

Kate started to protest, but the look on Peter's face told her that he wasn't trying to jerk her chain.

The security expert said, "I really, really like her, kiddo, she's special. And, whether you know it or not, you've got amazing vibes going on between you. I think it's fantastic, now just don't mess it up."

"I'll try not to, thanks for the vote of confidence." But behind the light-hearted tone, it was obvious that his opinion had meant a lot to her. She jogged a few steps to catch up to Jay, and they disappeared into the parking lot to retrieve the car and head back to the station.


True to his word, Peter met the two women in the driveway at midnight as they pulled into the garage. Showing them the system, he explained its features at length, taking them to the main control panel in Kate's office so that he could individualize the program. He punched a sequence of numbers and symbols in the blink of an eye, and told the anchorwoman to enter the four-digit code she wanted to use on the keypad on the console. Then he entered another string of numbers and the system beeped. Next he turned to Jay, who was watching the process with interest.

"Okay, half-pint, your turn."

The writer didn't move. "Are you talking to me?" she asked incredulously.

"Are there any other vertically challenged individuals in this room?" Peter, who stood 6'4", was fairly confident of the answer.

Jay looked from one of them to the other. Kate nodded at her and said, "Let the man do his job, Jamison." Her eyes sparkled.

"Yyyou want me to be able to arm and disarm your security system?"

"Is there some reason I shouldn't trust you?"

"Well, no, of course not, but..."

"Then follow the man's instructions. After all, it's your fault I'm stuck with this damn thing now, anyway." Kate hid her smile behind her hand at the look of befuddlement and wonder on Jay's face.

Within minutes, the programming had been completed and tested. Remote consoles inside the front door, inside the garage door and in Kate's bedroom would each allow the system to be activated and deactivated with the proper code sequence. Peter already had taken the time during the day to ensure that the laser beams on which the system functioned would not be set off every time Fred came bounding through the house.

The exhausted women bid the security expert goodbye, and headed into the living room.

"Peter seems like a great guy," Jay began.

"Yeah, he's the closest thing to a brother I have. And he's pretty handy to have around, as you can see."

"I guess. Does he work for the police?"

"Technically, no, his main job is with the New York State Department of Correctional Services; in other words, the state prison system. He's their technology, tactical and weapons expert; he knows more about explosives, weapons, electronic surveillance wizardry, and security than any one else in the country. Which means he does a lot of freelance work on loan to other agencies and companies. He designed the security systems for the White House and the Governor's Mansion, for instance. And anytime there's a bombing anywhere in the country, it's Peter they call to come figure it out."

"He sounds like a good guy to know."

"Mm, he can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. Let's just say I'm glad he's on my side, I'd sure never want to piss him off."

"I'll try to remember that."

Kate fidgeted for a minute, wanting to ask Jay her plans for the rest of the week, but suddenly getting nervous. She couldn't believe how quickly the woman was becoming a part of her life that she didn't want to be without. She was fun, companionable, intelligent, compassionate and beautiful. The anchorwoman wasn't sure how much more material the writer would need in order to put together her story, but she didn't imagine it could be much. And that would mean that she didn't need to be here, with Kate.

For her part, Jay was interpreting her friend's fidgeting in an entirely different way, wondering if perhaps she wasn't overstaying her welcome. In truth, she had more than enough material to write the story right now, but she didn't want to leave. She could justify staying to experience her subject's reaction to the funeral of a boy she had saved and the editing of the special, both of which would take place tomorrow, but beyond that...

Jay had never met anyone remotely like Kate. She enjoyed everything about her; her sense of humor, her passion for everything she did, her intellect, and her unconscious elegance and beauty. She had a toughness and strength about her that belied her thoughtful, caring, gentle, and compassionate nature. Jay wished she could find a way to prolong her assignment, and was desperately afraid that Kate might not want her to.

"Um, how's the story coming along, Jay?"

"Good, good, your co-workers have given me some interesting material to work with," at this the writer smiled, which scared the pants off of her companion.

"You're not going to write anything embarrassing are you?" she asked uncertainly.

The emerald eyes danced and Jay let her friend sweat for a minute before she let out a full, throaty, laugh. "This isn't the National Enquirer."

"Oh, right," Kate seemed to relax a bit.

Jay continued, "And some of the families and victims have helped me to see how much what you did that day meant to them. It puts a completely new perspective on what makes a good journalist and where the lines are between professional objectivity and inserting humanity into a story."

"Sounds like you've got most of what you need then, huh?"

Lost in her own train of thought, Jay didn't catch the note of wistfulness and disappointment in Kate's voice, she only heard the words. "I guess so. I was going to stay for the funeral and the editing of the special tomorrow, and then I could get out of your way. I'm sure you'd like to have your life back." She couldn't even look up.

"NO," Kate's mind screamed, "I just want you." "Um, actually, I was planning on taking Thursday off, and I wanted to ask you if you could take the time, too?" Now that she had started, she wanted to finish in a rush before Jay could turn her down. "I know you have to have the story in on Monday morning, but I would love it if you could spend a day off with me. If you needed to, you could even start writing here. I promise Fred and I wouldn't bother you at all."

Jay couldn't believe her ears. Was this amazing woman asking her to spend a day off with her, as in a date? She needed confirmation. "Are you asking me for a date?"

Kate found something interesting to study on the rug. "Yes," she answered so quietly her companion wasn't sure she'd said anything at all.

"I can't think of anything I'd rather do." Jay's face split into a grin from ear to ear, a look that mirrored the one facing her. "I can go home and start writing on Friday, and finish on Saturday morning before I have to come back up here."

"You're coming back up here this weekend?" She didn't know what to make of that. "Has she met someone up here already and she's going on a date Saturday night? That was quick; one of my co-workers? Well, duh, Kyle. She's a knockout and everybody in the world wants to be around her, of course she's found someone." Kate's heart dropped into her stomach.

Jay, who was busy calculating ways to make the schedule work in her mind, answered distractedly, "Didn't I tell you? The Governor invited me to join him and his wife for something called the Legislative Correspondents' Association Show. It's this Saturday night."

"You're going to the LCA Show?" Kate tried to sound nonchalant as her heart found its way back up into her chest.

"Well, yeah, the Governor invited me. Do you know anything about it?"

"Sure, sure. It's sort of a spoof of state government put on once a year by the journalists who cover the Capitol beat. It's supposed to be pretty good, I'm sure you'll have a great time."

"Do you know what I'm supposed to wear? I have no idea."

"It's formal. Are you sitting at the Governor's table?"


"Wow, that's amazing." Kate tried to kick start her brain. "You know, Jay, that show ends pretty late. You're not going to want to travel back to the City afterwards. Why don't you just plan to stay here Saturday night? You could go home Sunday morning, if you want."

"Oh, Kate, I don't want to be an imposition."

"Are you kidding me? Didn't we go through this once before? Fred and I would love to have you. I've got plans Saturday night, but I should be done right around the time that you are, so it should work out fine. In fact, if you can catch a cab to the show, I could pick you up and take you home."

"She's got plans Saturday night?" Irrationally, Jay was jealous. "Get a grip, Parker, of course she's got a life. She's gorgeous; she's perfect. You think she sits home on a Saturday night? Get real." "I don't want you to have to cut short your plans just for me."

"Trust me, Jay, the timing will work out perfectly. I'll pick you up outside the Convention Center when the show lets out, okay?"


"Well, now that that's settled, I'm beat." Kate's announcement was punctuated with a yawn. "The funeral's at 11 a.m., so the activities schedule for tomorrow morning will be the same as today's, if you're interested. Or, you could sleep in."

"What, and miss an episode of Charlie's Angels? No way. I'll see you in the fitness center at 8 a.m. sharp." The blonde smiled tiredly at her friend.

"Sleep well, Jay."

"You, too, Kate. G'night Fred."

With that, both women toddled off to their respective bedrooms for some much needed shuteye.

Chapter 11

Sneaking back into the house at 7:15 a.m., Kate sighed; one more day and she wouldn't have to be up before the sun anymore. She couldn't wait. This burning the candle at both ends stuff was for the birds. She scratched her faithful canine behind the ears and made her way quietly upstairs to change into her workout clothes, glad that her houseguest seemed to be a sound sleeper.


As she had the previous day, Jay found freshly brewed coffee and orange juice on the kitchen counter. She smiled at the notion that her friend had observed her choices of the day before; gone were the tea, the grape juice and the tomato juice.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs in the basement/gym, she said, "Good morning. How did you know I wouldn't want something different to drink today?"

"That's easy. You ordered coffee and orange juice when we had breakfast in the City, you accepted coffee gratefully at the Today Show interview, and you chose coffee and orange juice yesterday. Do I need to say anything more?" Kate was inordinately pleased with herself at having noticed the little things. In truth, she noticed everything about this gorgeous woman.

"I can't believe she was paying that close attention!" "Hmmph. I guess I need to work at being less predictable."

"I don't know," Kate replied, "I think there's something to be said for being steady and reliable."

"What about boring and mundane?"

"Jamison Parker, those are two words I would never use to describe you. Now get your butt the rest of the way over here. Your girl Jaclyn is just about to lay out one of the bad guys."

The rest of the workout was spent in companionable silence with the exception of occasional comments about the action on the television screen.

As the two women headed out the door for their run, Kate turned to Jay. "Do you want to take a different route today? Is it going to bother you?"

"No, I think it will be fine. It's such a pretty run, I don't want to let anything spoil that."

But as they reached the spot of yesterday's incident, Kate could feel her friend tense up. She reached out, touching her on the arm. "It's okay, Jay," she said softly, "He's in a very secure place and he can't hurt me anymore. Please don't worry."

Jay smiled a half-smile up at her long-legged companion, "I know you're right, it's just..."

"I know. But we can't spend every minute worrying about what might be around the next corner, or we'll forget to live in the moment, right?"

"Right," Jay agreed.

Completing the rest of the run without any difficulty, they spent a few minutes playing ball with Fred, eating breakfast, and showering in preparation for the day.

Once they were in the car on their way to the funeral, Jay looked over at her friend. "This is going to be hard for you, isn't it?" She had seen the other night how deeply affected Kate had been by the news of the little boy's death.

"It just seems so damn senseless. The kid goes on a fieldtrip to learn about the history of his state, and he ends up crushed under the rubble of the Capitol. Why? All because some nutcase somewhere has a beef with someone or something that has nothing to do with this poor little boy, who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Knowing there wasn't anything to say to that, Jay merely reached out and wrapped her fingers gently around Kate's arm in mute comfort. The contact lasted only for a few seconds, but it made both women feel better. Blue eyes met green in a look of silent thanks.


The church was packed. Kate stopped to give some instructions to Gene, who was already set up in an unobtrusive position with his camera. Then she and Jay made their way midway up the aisle and chose seats on the end of a row, barely sitting down before Joey's father approached them from the front of the church. "Ms. Kyle, I know it's short notice and a lot to ask, but we'd be greatly flattered if you would say a few words about our Joey. He was so taken with you and so excited to meet you. It was all he talked about the last two days of his life." Tears coursed down the man's cheeks.

Kate didn't know what to say, the request caught her so far off guard. Her eyes welled up with tears, also. Quietly, she said, "I'd be honored, thank you so much for asking me."

Seemingly pleased and satisfied, the man went back to his seat, his head bent close to his wife's. She looked back at the dark-haired angel and smiled. The anchorwoman smiled sadly in return.

As the service began, the writer noticed that her friend's breathing had changed. She chanced a glance upward and saw that Kate was struggling with her emotions. Without hesitation, Jay reached out and slid her hand into the larger one resting next to her on the seat where no one else could see. God, it was getting harder and harder to keep from touching this remarkable woman. She got a squeeze of the hand in return and a quick look of gratitude.

When it was her turn to speak, Kate straightened to her full height and made her way gracefully to the altar. A buzz of recognition went through the crowd of mourners, but Kate noticed none of it. She had not known what she would say until the moment she looked out across the sea of faces.

"I look at you all today, united in your grief and sadness for the loss of a small boy who had his whole life in front of him, and I share your pain. I only got a chance to know Joey for a brief moment in his young life, and even in that short time, I knew there was something special about him. He had a light: a vibrant curiosity about the world around him. Lying there, trapped under the rubble, we spoke of baseball and his favorite teams. He showed no fear, just bravery and maturity well beyond his years. We here on Earth may have been robbed of his presence, but I know that his spirit and courage will live on for me as an example to be followed for the rest of my life. I hope he has touched you all in a similar way. I know that I am a richer person for having had the opportunity to meet him. Good rest, Joey, thank you."

As the regal woman made her way back down the aisle, she searched for a pair of shining emerald eyes. What she found there was a haven of compassion and understanding in a world that made no sense. When she was seated again, Jay leaned close and whispered, "That was beautiful, I can't think of a better tribute to such a special young man. I'm sure you brought many people comfort with your words."

Kate could only nod a thank you, unable to speak around the lump in her throat and unwilling to lose her composure here. Sensing that, her companion said nothing further.

They were almost to the car when Joey's parents stopped them. "We just wanted to say thank you one more time," the mother said, tears blinding her vision. Reaching out, she grasped Kate in a hug. "What you said about our Joey was so true, and so beautiful. He will always live in our hearts."

"Mine too," the blue-eyed woman said as she pulled back a little. "I'm so sorry for your loss, I hope you find peace."

"God bless you, Ms. Kyle," the father said, as he put his arm around his wife and led her away. "We'll never forget you."

Ducking quickly into the driver's seat before her emotions could get the best of her, Kate drove around the corner and down several side streets before pulling over in a small, deserted alleyway. "I'm sorry," she said to Jay, "I just need a minute." She would never have allowed herself to let down her guard in front of anyone else, but with this wonderful, gentle soul sitting beside her, it was different. She felt safe. She bowed her head against the steering wheel, tears running down her cheeks.

Jay moved the center console and scooted over closer to her friend, running a hand up and down her back in a comforting motion, just trying to be there for her. After a few minutes, Kate straightened up and gave her smaller passenger a watery smile. "Thanks, I needed that."

"Anytime, Kate. I'm glad I could be here for you."

"Me too." And with that, she started the car again and drove them to the station.


Settling herself in front of her word processor, Kate began writing the introduction to her special. She had explained to Jay apologetically that she would be tied up for several hours putting together the verbal part of the one-hour show. After that, the writer could join her, Gene and one of the editors as they combed through the mountains of taped material that would yield the pictures to go with the words.

The process fascinated Jay. In the meantime, she had made an appointment with Gene to go through old footage of the anchorwoman's stories. She wanted to get a better feel for her subject's reporting style; she also was curious to see if that style had changed and evolved over the five years that Kate had been a broadcast journalist. And, of course, the thought of spending two or three hours watching that gorgeous woman on tape didn't bother her a bit.

By 2:30 p.m., satisfied with what she had written, Kate went in search of Jay, finding her holed up in one of the back editing rooms with Gene looking at a story she had done four years earlier about the discovery of toxic waste contamination at a local manufacturing plant. She groaned as she looked at herself on the screen.

"If you two are quite finished, can we get started on some real business here?" Kate smiled into the somewhat bloodshot emerald eyes that met her blue ones.

"Ready when you are, boss," Gene said. Grabbing the editor, the three of them moved down the hall to one of the new, spacious, state-of-the-art editing rooms.

The anchorwoman handed each of them a copy of the script so that they could get a sense of what she had in mind, and so that they could all be looking for the pictures that would tell the story as much, or more, than the words could. Gene, who had shot all of the footage they would be using, proved to have a phenomenal memory when it came to finding specific shots and the interviews Kate had indicated she wanted to use. Jay was mesmerized watching the journalist and the cameraman work together to make the words come to life. It was as if they had a language all their own; the reporter seemed to know exactly what they had on tape, and the talented cameraman knew where to find it. Each piece of footage was clocked for time, so that they would know if they had enough to cover the words in the script.

Once they had all the footage they thought they would need, Kate put on a set of headphones, sat down in front of the microphone that hung down from the ceiling, and laid down her voice on tape. In those spots where an interview was to be put in, she paused, indicating the correct interview to be slotted, and counting down from five to one. She explained to Jay that the countdown was so that the editor would know where to insert the interview and wouldn't have to worry about running over, or "stepping on," the anchorwoman's words. The countdown would be deleted in the editing process.

When Kate was satisfied with her delivery and speed, the editor gave a listen and indicated that the quality was fine, explaining to the writer that the reporter's voice had been recorded on audio channel one. The interviews and ambient sound would be laid down on audio channel two, and the two tapes would be melded together into one master audiotape, which would then be matched with the video images.

With the anchorwoman's initial part of the process complete, she left to deliver the six o'clock news. Jay chose to stay with the cameraman and editor, sitting transfixed for the next hour as they took the selected images and matched them to the words from the script to tell a compelling story.

By the time Kate returned from the set, the preliminary draft of the special was ready. She suggested that they order dinner in and watch while they ate. Everyone agreed, the pizza order was placed, and the viewing began. Every so often, she would make the editor stop the tape and make a comment, or suggest a small change, or the addition or deletion of a piece of video. Two hours and two large pizzas later, everyone was satisfied with the finished product.

The special would include footage taken from home movies of Joey at his last birthday party and again at a little league game last summer. Then the scene would shift to the eight-year old trapped under the rubble of the explosion and his parents at his funeral just this morning. Finally, an image of Joey's parents standing together, strong in their faith, would deliver the message that their son would live on in their hearts and the hearts of many others as a beacon of courage and bravery. Similar segments with other victims and families would drive home the theme of the triumph of the human spirit over terror.

When the last credit rolled and silence filled the room, Kate turned to Gene and the editor expectantly. "Well, what did you think?"

The cameraman weighed in first. "I think it was edgy and powerful. Fast in the places it needed to be, and slower and more subdued where it had to be. I like the pacing."

The editor agreed. "You know, everyone is expecting a rehash of what happened; the who, what, where, when, and how. Anybody could have done that. What you did here is far more potent; it gets past the mechanics and material issues and into the emotional stuff. I love that."

Kate merely listened to the comments, processing the information. Finally, she turned to the person whose opinion mattered most to her. "Jay, what about you?"

The writer was surprised to be asked as she had planned only to stay in the background and observe, but she was pleased beyond words that Kate wanted to know what she thought. "Well, I can't speak to the technical aspects of the piece like these guys can. But as a viewer my gut reaction is that it's alternately the most depressing and uplifting story imaginable. Watching it I felt the helplessness and hopelessness of the moment. And then, I was so moved and inspired by the ability of these victims and their families to bounce back and take something positive from the most devastating of horrors. In the end I was left with a warm, powerful feeling inside my heart about the strength of the human spirit. Wow."

Kate simply nodded when Jay was done talking, but a slight blush was creeping up her neck. She couldn't have asked for a better reaction. Turning to the cameraman and the editor, she said, "Great work, folks, thanks for making it so good. I think that's a wrap." Then she took the master dub and walked down the hall to hand it to the news director.

An hour and a half later, shortly before she was getting ready to go on the air, her boss appeared at her desk. Without preamble he said, "Nice job, Kate, that showed great vision. I loved it."

Shocked by the compliment, which was rare at best coming from the news director, Kate mumbled her appreciation and thanked him again for giving her the day off the next day. Then he was gone, and she was off to the set. Jay decided to go with her to get one more look at Kate at work, although she wasn't foolish enough to think that it was anything other than a personal desire to be close to this amazing woman for as long as she could be.


At midnight they were once again walking through the front door of the house, both of them beyond exhaustion and barely able to hold their heads up. Kate turned to Jay, saying, "I've got some ideas what we could do tomorrow, but I'm also flexible if you've got something else in mind."

"Try me," Jay said as she stripped off her suit jacket.

"Okay, I thought maybe we could skip the workout and run in the morning. You could sleep in a little longer, and then we could go hiking instead for part of the day; there are some beautiful trails in the Catskill Mountains that I'd love to show you. We could pack lunch and have a picnic, take our time, then come back here, shower and relax a little before I take you out for a fabulous dinner at a wonderful place I know."

The blonde sighed with pleasure, "That sounds fantastic, I can't think of anything I'd rather do. The only drawback is that I didn't think to bring my hiking boots with me."

"That's okay, the hike isn't too terribly difficult. You could do it in your sneakers, or we could stop and I could buy you a new pair of hiking boots if you'd be more comfortable."

"No, no," Jay replied, "my sneakers will be just fine."

"Great then, that's settled. There's no rush to get going in the morning, so whenever you wake up is perfect."

At that the writer smiled, and the two walked up the stairs together. "I'm glad you liked the documentary, Jay."

Emerald eyes looked up to meet dark blue. "I thought it was incredible, Kate. I was moved to tears; you did a magnificent job with it."

"Thanks." They had reached the top of the landing. "I'll see you in the morning. Sleep well, princess."

"You, too, Stretch."


Two hours later Jay was sleeping soundly, dreaming of lying in the taller woman's arms. This was a recurring dream for her; one she'd been having off and on since their first real encounter on the ski slope. It always brought a smile to her face.

So caught up in the dream was she that it took her several moments to register the sensation of her hand being tossed up into the air. At first, she thought it was part of the dream. Shortly, however, a whine made it clear something else was going on. Finally, as more of her senses awakened, she figured out that Fred was trying to get her attention. The canine was pushing his nose under her hand and throwing it up into the air in an effort to wake her.

As her brain began to kick in, Jay registered the dog's agitation. He was poking his nose at her and tugging at her clothing. In the several nights she had spent in Kate's home, the faithful companion had never left his mistress's side at night. Jay sat up quickly.

"What is it, buddy, what's wrong?" As she talked to Fred, trying to calm him, she heard a noise. She was quiet for a few moments, and then she heard it again, this time more distinctly. It was Kate, and she was screaming.

Within seconds, Jay was down the hall and pushing her friend's door open further. The light in the hallway that spilled into the room combined with the bright moonlight filtering in through the skylight to allow her to see clearly. Kate was thrashing around, screaming and crying in her sleep.

Jay experienced a moment of uncertainty; the last time she had tried to awaken her from a nightmare, Kate had pushed her away, growing cold and distant. That was the last thing Jay wanted to have happen, but she couldn't stand by and watch her friend suffer.

She moved to the bed, gently grasping the struggling woman by the shoulder and shaking her. "Kate, please wake up. Kate, honey, you're having a bad dream. Please, sweetheart, wake up."

As the dark-haired woman moved toward consciousness and her eyes began to flicker open, Jay backed away from the bed. Not wanting to risk the reaction she had gotten before in this situation, she started to move toward the door, apologizing as she went. "I'm sorry, Kate, Fred came to get me. You were having a nightmare; I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Even in her confused state, Kate could sense Jay's discomfort. "It's okay, Jay." Looking into the fearful green eyes before her, it took her another few seconds to understand her companion's reaction. She hated that her behavior had put that look there. This time, she vowed, she would handle her embarrassment differently. "Come here, please," she motioned for Jay to sit on the bed. More softly she added, "I could use a friend right now."

No more invitation was required, the writer moving to join Kate and sitting on the side of the bed close to where the blue-eyed woman was just propping herself up against some pillows. Tentatively, Jay reached out and took hold of her friend's hands, which were shaking. "What was it about, do you want to talk about it?"

Kate shrugged, "I just can't seem to get the images out of my head," she began. Looking into the concerned emerald depths facing her, she said, "It was the same thing I saw in my dreams last week, right after the bombing; something I saw while I was in the building. I had been crawling through the remains of the first floor, helping some of the kids who had been in the lobby when the explosion happened. In fact, I had just finished freeing Joey, and had moved maybe another ten feet or so when I stumbled across something. I looked down, and there was this young boy, he was probably a classmate of Joey's. His eyes were fixed and staring unseeing at the ceiling, as if in a silent plea. Part of the first floor roof had collapsed on him." Tears began to stream down her face. "I haven't been able to get his face out of my mind, and I wonder if I ever will."

"Shhh. Oh, Kate, it's okay, sweetheart." Jay moved closer and took the anchorwoman into her arms. "It's going to be all right." Rocking and comforting her friend until all her tears were spent, she reached to the bedside table and handed Kate the box of tissues that had been sitting there.

Pulling back a little, Jay used her thumbs to wipe the tears from the face in front of her. Impulsively, she leaned forward, replacing her thumbs with her lips, placing light kisses on the softness of Kate's cheeks and eyelids. The combination of the feel of the silky smooth skin and the scent of Shalimar that had been etched in her memory for so long was almost too much for Jay.

Slowly, she reached up and ran her fingers through the raven hair, pulling Kate to her. Their mouths met in a kiss that was at first gentle and undemanding. As their lips became better acquainted, it was Jay who deepened the contact, wanting to express with her kiss the feelings she had never spoken.

Kate moaned at the sensation of this extraordinary woman's tongue mingling with hers, united in a dance of welcome and desire. She ran her hands up and down the smaller woman's back, reveling in the delicious texture of the sheer satin nightgown as it brushed against her palms. Feeling the aroused state of Jay's nipples where they pressed against her, it was all she could do to hold herself back.

Breathing raggedly, she pulled away from the kiss. Looking into deep green eyes darkened with passion, she teased, "Aren't you afraid you'll compromise your professional objectivity?"

Jay growled, "I don't care any more, I'll make it work. 'Professional detachment' is driving me crazy."

Kate laughed, "Glad to hear it's not just me, but you'd better be getting back to your room or I won't be responsible for my actions."

Reluctantly, Jay agreed. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"I am now."

Jay leaned over one last time as she stood, bestowing another passionate kiss on the perfect lips below her. Then, with a small smirk and the raising of an eyebrow, she turned and made her way across the room to the door. "I'll see you in the morning." She winked at Kate, who was still reclining on the bed with a wondering look on her face.

"I can't wait," came the husky reply.

Both women fell asleep dreaming about what the next day would bring.

Chapter 12

Jay continued her pacing in the kitchen, back and forth, back and forth. Running her hands through her hair, she worked hard to stay calm, but it had been over an hour since she had first gone to check on Kate and found no sign of her. She had searched everywhere she could think to look. What if something had happened to her; where could she possibly be at this hour? For the fourth time in as many minutes, she checked the clock on the wall: 7:32 a.m. From his vantage point on the floor in the doorway, Fred watched his new buddy with interest.

At 7:45 a.m. Kate let herself into the house quietly from the garage. As soon as she stepped into the kitchen and saw Jay, she froze. The younger woman wore a look of such abject fear and despair on her face that it broke her heart. She barely had time to open her arms as the blonde threw herself into them, burying her head in Kate's chest.

Not knowing what else to do, Kate held on and tightened her grip, rubbing Jay's back and kissing the top of her golden head. She couldn't begin to fathom what had prompted such a reaction. At length, she pulled back enough to see Jay's face. "What's wrong, are you okay? Did something happen while I was gone?"

Jay shook her head "no" and fought for her composure. What was wrong with her, anyway? "I was worried about you after your nightmare, and I couldn't sleep, so I thought I would just check on you to make sure you were okay. That was at a little after 6 o'clock this morning, and when I didn't find you in bed, I began to wonder where you might have gone. I searched the whole house and then, when I realized you weren't here, my imagination started running away with me and I was afraid something bad had happened to you. It sounds so stupid now when I say it out loud," she finished meekly.

Kate smiled down into the shimmering emerald eyes. "It doesn't sound silly to me at all, Jay; it sounds as if you care, which is a foreign concept to me. No one has ever worried about me that way before, and I'm deeply touched. I'm sorry I gave you such a fright, I didn't mean to, I just wasn't thinking; I should have left a note. Forgive me?"

Looking up into those pools of blue, Jay knew she would have forgiven this woman almost anything. She nodded her head.

Kate said, "Now, can we start the day off properly?" Putting her hands on either side of Jay's face, she looked deeply into eyes that reminded her of a beautiful summer day. Just as she was about to lower her mouth to Jay's, she knew a moment of uncertainty. She asked, "May I?"

"Please," the writer breathed.

The long, slow, thorough kiss that followed wiped all thought from both women's brains, leaving only sensation in its wake. Every nerve synapse in Kate's body was standing at attention, begging for more, but she was in no rush. She would not push Jay too far, too fast. She wanted to be sure of her friend's feelings for her rather than make assumptions; Heaven knows she knew what she felt. She sighed, "Now that was the way a day like today should start."

"I'll say," Jay seconded dreamily, her senses reeling from the taste of the softest lips imaginable. "Oooh, I'll take some more of that, thank you very much." Out loud she said, "So where were you, anyway?" She caught a flicker of something in the other woman's eyes, but then, just as quickly, it was gone.

Kate wanted to be completely honest, at least as far as she was willing to go. "I stopped by to see Barbara before her day got too busy so she could take my stitches out. See?" She held out her hand and arm for her companion to examine. Indeed, the tiny rows of X's were gone, leaving only healing pink scars in their wake.

Jay ran her fingers over the thin lines that bisected Kate's palm and the other marks that marred her perfect forearms. "God, her skin is like velvet." Not content simply to let her fingers explore, Jay lifted one of the injured hands and kissed the palm gently.

Kate tried hard to contain the involuntary shiver of pleasure the contact evoked, knowing that if she were to pursue her impulses, they would never get out of the house today. Still, her eyes revealed the desire that was building in her, and the emerald orbs that held her gaze sparkled with the knowledge.

Finally, the magic of the moment was broken when Fred pushed between them, unceremoniously depositing his ball at their feet. Both women laughed and shook their heads. Kate moved off to entertain her canine while Jay took a shower. Within an hour, both women were clean, dressed and sitting at the kitchen table over coffee and Raisin Bran.

"Ready to go?" Kate asked as she cleared the bowls and glasses from the table. She was anxious to show Jay the beauty of the Catskill Mountains and it was the perfect day for it: sunny with just a sprinkling of clouds and 72 degrees.

"You bet. Where are we going, by the way? And what, pray tell, is in that huge backpack?"

"In keeping with your love of American Literature, I thought I'd take you to one of the most oft described vistas of the romantic era. Is it safe to assume that you've read James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers?"

Intrigued, Jay said, "Of course; 1823. Natty Bumppo and all that."

"Right, well, if you go back and look at the book, you'll find that Natty gives a wonderful description of the view from one of the spots we're going to hike to today."

"Really? Now I'm going to have to dig out my old copy and reread it."

"No need," Kate smiled indulgently. "I've taken the liberty of marking the passage and bringing along my copy, which is one of the things in that backpack." She motioned with her head to the large framed pack that sat in the corner of the kitchen by the mudroom. At Jay's raised eyebrow, she added, "Hey, I've got all the essentials. Lunch, water for humans and Fred, binoculars, and James Fenimore Cooper."

Jay laughed, "Who could ask for anything more?" Then, after a minute, she added with a note of suspicion, "You read The Pioneers?"

Kate gave her companion one of her full-fledged-intimidating-arched-eyebrow-looks. "Just because I'm a television news anchor doesn't mean I'm illiterate, ya know. You'd better be nice to me or I'll start spewing Shakespearean soliloquies from Macbeth."

"Oooh, we wouldn't want that, now would we, Fred?" The canine wisely chose to remain silent, and followed his mistress, who had shouldered the pack and was heading out the door.


The drive was a relatively conversation-free affair, since, with the top down, it was virtually impossible to hear. Fred happily occupied the back seat with the backpack and left the driving and navigating to the humans.

Almost an hour into the drive, Kate was startled out of her reverie by the feel of a warm hand covering hers where it rested on the gearshift. Tentatively, slowly, smaller fingers wrapped around her larger ones and she glanced over to see Jay looking at her, a question in her deep green eyes. Smiling broadly into that beautiful gaze she picked up their joined hands, placing a delicate kiss on the back of the smaller one and bringing them both to rest on her thigh. Both women sighed happily.


A little more than half an hour later as they neared their destination, Jay reluctantly released her hold on Kate's hand so that she could downshift and guide them to a stop. "Where exactly are we?"

"North Lake to be specific. The hike we're going to take is a five mile loop encompassing Kaaterskill Falls and the Cliff Walk. I really wanted to share this with you because it's one of the most scenic, peaceful, least populated trails around here, and a personal favorite of mine. I hope you'll like it as much as I do; the views are sensational, especially on a clear day like today."

Kate hoisted the heavy pack onto her back as if it weighed nothing, cinching the chest and waist straps and shifting the weight until it was balanced perfectly. Fred, waiting impatiently for his mistress to give him the signal that he could begin blazing the trail, leapt with glee when her hand gesture finally indicated that he was free to go. She checked her watch and turned to Jay. "How hungry are you?"

"Is that a trick question?"

Kate laughed, "No, in this case it's not. We can either hike to the Falls first, in which case lunch will be in half an hour, or we can hike the Cliff Walk first, in which case lunch will be in two and a half or three hours. The choice is yours."

"Hmm, decisions, decisions. Do I want to eat first and then walk it off, or do I want to work up an appetite first and feel as if I've earned my meal? That's a tough call, Stretch."

"I have faith in your ability to figure it out and come up with the perfect solution, Scoop."

"Oh you do, do you? In that case, I say we go to the Falls and eat first, since I want to make sure I have an appetite for dinner tonight."

"Wise choice, young lady, as dinner will be a spectacular affair; the Falls it is. Right this way." She swept her hand in the correct direction, indicating that Jay should lead the way and set the pace. As they walked, Kate explained that the Kaaterskill Falls were once as popular as Niagara Falls, and, at 260 feet, represented the highest falls in New York State, including Niagara Falls. The Falls consisted of two tiers, the upper, which was a 175-foot vertical drop, and the lower, comprising the other 85 feet.

Jay was impressed with her friend's knowledge of the area and its historical value, and she loved listening to her talk; Kate's deep, melodious voice flowed over her like honey. The day was still fairly young, but already it was shaping up to be one of the best she could recall having in a long, long time.

A short time later the trail led through a stand of virgin hemlock trees, emerging at the lower basin of the Falls. When the two women arrived at their destination, Jay was struck speechless. Standing at the bottom of the Falls looking up, the roar of the water crashing down was overwhelming and, even from a good distance away, the spray proved powerful enough to coat them with a light mist.

"My God, Kate, this is amazing. I've never seen anything like it." Jay regarded the scene with a sort of child-like wonder, turning around in a circle to take in the entire view. "And there's nobody else here."

At that last comment, Kate smirked, knowing that she had picked this spot in which to picnic for that very reason. She had been fairly confident that, this early in the season on a weekday, the place would be relatively empty of tourists and day hikers. She was glad beyond words that she had been correct.

She led them further down the trail, far enough away from the Falls that the noise was minimal and the spray non-existent, yet the view of the Falls was still breathtaking. They were standing on the edge of Spruce Creek, which featured a number of huge stones and some pieces of the upper segment of the Falls that had fallen to the creek bed long ago.

"Come over here and give me your hand, Jay."


"Has anybody ever told you, you ask too many questions?" the taller woman mock growled.

Jay chuckled and moved closer, making a grand show of presenting her hand. At that, Kate grasped the hand, pulling the smaller woman to her and scooping her up in one smooth motion, supporting her under her knees and her shoulders.

"Wha," the writer sputtered, "What are you doing?" She latched on to Kate's neck reflexively.

Kate smiled down at her mischievously. "Well, I assumed that you didn't want to get wet, and since our picnic spot is over there..." With her head, she gestured to a huge, flat rock in the center of the creek, "I thought this might be the best mode of transportation for you. Now if you'd prefer..." She made as if to set Jay down in the water.

"NO," the petite blonde screamed.

"I didn't think so." With little effort, Kate picked her way across the rocks that populated the creek and over to the designated dining area carrying Jay in her arms. Since the water wasn't particularly deep at that point and her hiking boots were waterproofed, unlike her companion's sneakers, she wasn't concerned about her feet getting wet. When she reached the giant boulder, she set her date down gently on top of it. "How's that?"

"Mmm, great." Jay knew Kate was asking about the lunch spot, but she was actually thinking more about being swept up into those strong arms.

"Glad you like it," Kate chuckled. She proceeded to remove the pack from her back and spent several minutes looking around inside for the items she wanted. First, she pulled out a red and white checkered tablecloth, which the two of them spread out on the rock. Then she produced two paper plates, napkins and silverware, which she arranged on the makeshift table. Next, she unloaded several sandwiches, bags of chips and pretzels, fruit, and carrot sticks. Finally, she removed two bottles of water from the pack and hoisted herself up onto the surface of the boulder.

"Wow, this is quite a spread."

"I wasn't sure what kind of sandwiches you liked, so I got a bunch of different ones for you to choose from; you get first pick. There's turkey with mayo, roast beef with Russian dressing, grilled chicken breast on a hard roll, and a lettuce, tomato, and cheese sandwich with mayo in case you don't like meat."

Jay was flabbergasted. "You are amazingly thoughtful, you know that? I can't believe you went to all this trouble and carried all this stuff in that pack, it must weigh a ton!"

"Nah, it's not too bad, and besides, since I didn't work out today, this will substitute nicely."

Jay selected the turkey sandwich, some fritos, a handful of carrot sticks and an orange and arranged them on her plate. Kate handed her a bottle of water, took the roast beef sandwich, some of the remaining carrots and the other orange, and the two women sat side-by-side watching the Falls and laughing at Fred, who had taken to hunting for rocks on the creek bed.

When they had finished eating, Kate collected the plates, orange peels, chip bags, and silverware and placed them in a plastic bag before putting them back in the pack. Then they folded up the tablecloth and she stuffed that in, as well. With everything cleaned up and put away, she leaned back against a shelf in the mammoth rock, motioning for Jay to lean against her. The writer happily complied, fitting herself in the space her taller friend had made between her legs and resting her back against the convenient chest.

Kate wrapped her arms around Jay's waist and rested her cheek on the fair head. The smaller woman placed her arms on top of her companion's and turned her head slightly. "That was a fantastic lunch, thank you for putting it all together. This is a beautiful spot."

"Mmm, almost as beautiful as you, but not quite." She smiled as a blush crept up Jay's neck and into her cheeks.

"Yeah, right," Jay said dismissively and shifted uncomfortably.

Kate put her fingers briefly to the lips below her and tightened her grip around the blonde's waist, bringing them into even closer contact. "Don't, Jay. Don't do that. You are without question the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I'm not known for giving idle or false compliments. Please don't dismiss or discount how incredible you are; you need only look in the mirror to know that I'm right."

Jay was quiet for a moment before saying, "My father used to tell me that I was ugly and nobody but him would want me and that I was lucky to have him. I guess I believed him, and, even though you'd think I should know better by now, part of me still believes him."

Once again, Kate was glad she'd never met the man, because she would have strangled him if she could have. "Your father was a sick man, Jay, the things he told you were designed to lower your self-esteem and keep you under his control. They weren't the truth." She let her words sink in for a few seconds before continuing, "Do you trust me, Jay?"

The younger woman was surprised by the question. "More than I've ever trusted anyone in my life. Why?"

"Because I want you to know that you can always, always trust me to tell you the truth, and the truth is that you are gorgeous, and amazingly desirable, and that, right now, I'm having a really hard time keeping my hands to myself." Kate's eyes had darkened with longing; the urge she felt to touch this woman was nearly overwhelming.

Jay shifted in the circle of Kate's arms, burying her hands in the dark mane of hair, urgently drawing the taller woman to her mouth. This kiss was filled with passion, promise, and desire, igniting a fire deep inside both women. Time stood still for several long minutes and the rest of the universe ceased to exist, until reality finally intruded as they became aware of the sound of hikers in the distance.

They both pulled back at the same time, breathing heavily, eyes locked on each other. Kate ran her finger along Jay's jaw line and across her lips, and gently disentangled herself. Without a word, she stood up, shouldering the pack and settling it, and hopped down off the rock. Picking the smaller woman up into her arms, her sapphire eyes never losing contact with the sea green ones, she carried her back across the creek to the trail where, reluctantly, she set her back on the ground.

"Shall we go on?" Kate asked huskily. "It's a magnificent hike from here along the Cliff Walk."

"I'm all yours," Jay said with a twinkle in her eyes.

"I can only hope," Kate murmured, so softly the petite woman wasn't sure she'd heard her correctly. "C'mon Fred, let's go." With that, the canine bounded out of the water and back onto the trail, shaking himself off and managing to spray his mistress in the process. "Gee, thanks buddy, I guess you could tell I needed some cooling off."

Jay just laughed.

They moved along the trail at a comfortable pace, with Fred running ahead several hundred feet and doubling back to check on the humans' progress every now and again. The two women estimated that by the time the day was over, he would have covered twice the ground that they had.

After a short time they came to a series of open overlooks atop steep outcroppings of rock. On two sides were clear vistas of mountains, and below was the Kaaterskill Creek, which led to the Hudson River. They stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view and to allow Fred to rest and get a drink, since his tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth.

"Let's keep going," Kate said. "The view gets even better when we get to Sunset Rock and Inspiration Point." And, true to her word, as the pair approached those landmarks they came upon a riot of wildflowers lining the path, along with colorful butterflies and several varieties of birds.

"Oh, Kate, it's amazing."

"Yeah, this is my favorite time of year to hike up here because all the wildflowers are in bloom. I sometimes spend hours up here just looking out at the mountains and flowers; it's a great place to get away from it all and just 'be.' I've never brought anyone else here before."

Jay soaked up her companion's words like a sponge; she wanted to learn everything about her, including the things she liked to do and how she liked to spend her time. The writer reached out and took Kate's hand. "Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I feel so privileged that you wanted to show me this place."

Kate squeezed the smaller hand and began moving again, not letting go. The trail was wide enough here to accommodate them walking side-by-side, and they continued on through forest until they came to a grassy knoll and the taller woman brought them to a stop. Jay looked around, not seeing anything but the junction with another trail. At her inquiring look, Kate explained, "This was the site of the Kaaterskill Hotel. It was built in 1881 and burned to the ground in a fire in 1924. At its peak, this area was the place to see and be seen by the rich and famous. Presidents, movie stars and socialites all gathered here in the Catskills to play and vacation."

"I think you missed your calling, Stretch. You should have been a tour guide."

Kate rolled her eyes and tugged on Jay's hand and they resumed their hike. The trail led them through open fields with views of the surrounding mountains and through dense forest where the smell of pine trees assaulted their senses. Twenty-five minutes later they emerged from the forest into a large open space.

"Let me guess," Jay said, "Another hotel site."

"Very good, Watson, but not just any hotel. This was the famous Catskill Mountain House."

"You've got to do something about that British accent, woman. Either do it right or give it up, because I gotta tell ya, ya just ain't got it."

"Everybody's a critic. Just for that, maybe I won't share this with you." She waved the copy of James Fenimore Cooper's book in front of Jay's face.

Jay did her best to look contrite. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. I promise I'll try to behave."

"That's better." Kate turned her friend slowly in a full circle so that she could appreciate the view of the entire valley as it stretched below her, and then she began to read a passage from The Pioneers.

Jay closed her eyes and listened to that low, smooth voice, and then opened them to take in the scene depicted by one of the greatest writers in American literary history. "Wow. It still looks the way he described it 150 years ago. That's incredible!"

"I thought you might appreciate that. Just think, someday one hundred years from now, people like us will be walking along on a hike, quoting from a classic great American novel by a giant of her time named Jamison Parker." At the incredulous look on the smaller woman's face Kate added, "If you dream it, it can come true, Jay. Don't ever give up on your dreams, they're too important and you're too talented."

Jay was about to make light of the compliment, and then, remembering what Kate had said earlier about selling herself short, said simply, "Thank you."

"Are you ready to go? We're almost at the end of the hike, and if we go now we'll have a little bit of time once we get back to the house to relax for a bit and shower before dinner."

"Sounds great."

Once settled in the car and on the road, they held hands all the way back home, each woman reliving some of the magic of their day together and content just to be in each other's company. Fred was sound asleep in the back seat, having gotten his fill of exercise for one day.


As Kate was putting the finishing touches on her outfit for the evening, the front doorbell rang. She smiled to herself and called out, "Jay, could you get that please, I'm not quite ready yet."

"Sure," came the answer from downstairs.

Jay opened the door to reveal a deliverywoman carrying two long rectangular boxes. "Can I help you?"

"I'm looking for Jamison Parker."

The expression on Jay's face was one of shock. "I, I'm Jay Parker."

"Well then, I guess these are for you. Somebody must like you a whole lot, that's for sure. Well, have a great night." And with that, the delivery person was gone.

Kate, watching the entire exchange from just out of view, grinned to herself.

Jay slowly untied the ribbon and opened the first box. "Oh, my, these are gorgeous." She put the bouquet of twelve blood red roses to her nose and gave an appreciative sniff. Then she reached inside the box and found the card that had come with them.

"Thanks for a fantastic day, I'm so glad you could spend it with me. Love, K."

"Wow, you are something else, Ms. Kyle," she said to herself, "Aren't you?" Her curiosity peaked, she unwrapped the second box. Inside were a dozen perfect yellow roses, and another card.

"I haven't had a chance to figure out your preferences yet, so I thought I'd take the coward's way out and hedge my bets. I hope I guessed right with at least one of these choices. May your life always be filled with the beauty and joy you've brought to mine these past few days. Love, K."

"Fred," Jay addressed the canine that was busily scouting out the new scents, "Your mother is a closet romantic. The more I learn about her, the more I want to know."

"I hope so," Kate said as she strode into the room.

"These are so beautiful, I can't believe you did this." Tears sprang to Jay's eyes. "In my whole life, no one has ever treated me like this."

"Their mistake." Kate moved forward another step and enfolded her companion in her arms. "You look magnificent," she murmured into the strands of golden hair. Jay was wearing a rich, rust-colored silk pants suit with a cream-colored button-down silk blouse that revealed just a hint of cleavage. "Now, are you going to tell me which color you preferred?"

"Are you kidding, when I could keep you guessing and continue to get double the amount of flowers? What do I look like, a fool?"

"Jamison Parker," Kate growled menacingly, "What makes you think you'll ever get more if you don't state a preference now?"

"Um, because I'm irresistible? Charming? Witty?"

"Full of it," the older woman finished for her.

"Hey, I resemble that remark!"

"Yes, you certainly do, but I'll forgive you this time." She kissed the blonde head and released her.

"You look pretty sensational, yourself, there, Stretch." Kate wore a jet-black linen pants suit with a scooped-neck pale blue silk camisole underneath that Jay thought picked up the color of her eyes perfectly. "Are you going to tell me where we're going yet?"

"Thank you, and we're going out to dinner."

"Oh, that was helpful and informative."

"Well, excuse me, Miss-I-won't-tell-you-what-color-roses-I-prefer, if I'm somewhat less than forthcoming, but two can play that game."

"Oh, you are such a brat!"

"Yep, that's just what my mother used to say. Now come on, or we're going to be late."

"Wait," Jay said as Kate began to push her out the door. "I want to put these in water first. Do you have a vase?"

Obediently, Kate went to a cupboard in the kitchen and removed two cut crystal vases as Jay trimmed the stems on the yellow and red blooms. She arranged them to her satisfaction, leaning over one more time to take in their spicy fragrance, and then allowed herself to be herded out the door.


Within half an hour they had pulled up to a well-lit mansion with a wrap-around driveway. A valet parking attendant greeted each of them and helped them out of the car. Kate took Jay's hand, placed it in the crook of her arm, and escorted her up the front steps.

"We're eating at someone's house? You're taking me to dinner at someone's house?"

Kate chuckled, "Not exactly, but you're close. This was once the home of General Burgoyne during the Revolutionary War; it has been preserved in its original style. Have you ever heard of the Battle of Saratoga? It was one of the turning points of the war."

"You know, being around you is an education. I can see I'm going to have to read up on my history."

"Actually, no need, you can read the abbreviated version on the menu once we sit down."

"Ah, Ms. Kyle, it's so nice to see you this evening. Everything has been arranged for you as you requested." "Ma'am," the tuxedoed man turned to Jay with a nod and a bow in polite greeting. "Please, come right this way."

Jay's ears perked up; what in the world was her friend up to? She followed along like a curious puppy as they were led through the stately foyer, past the great room, the library, and the sitting room and into a private dining room overlooking the river. There was a single antique mahogany table set for two, with two antique pewter candle sticks, white tapers burning in each. A single red rose sat in the center between the two candles. The cutlery was sterling silver and the plates fine china; cut crystal glasses rounded out the scene. A waiter pulled out Jay's chair and motioned for her to sit down with a bow. When she was seated, Kate sat as well.

The waiter handed each woman a heavy, leather bound menu and asked Kate if she wanted him to open the bottle of champagne. "Jay, do you drink champagne? I didn't know if you did or not, so I had them chill a bottle just in case. Is there something else you'd prefer?" For some reason, she was suddenly nervous. Wanting so much for the evening to go well, she was feeling uncharacteristically insecure about her choices.

"I'm not much of a drinker, but a nice glass of champagne would be great, thank you."

Kate motioned for the waiter to fill their glasses, which he did before discreetly disappearing.

She held up her glass and proposed a heartfelt toast, "To a very special, very beautiful woman, thank you for the most fabulous day I've spent in a very long time."

A blush crept up Jay's neck and face as she touched glasses with her companion. "I should be the one thanking you, Kate. I feel like a princess in a fairy tale; this has been the most wonderful day I can ever remember, and believe me, I have a pretty good memory."

They opened the menus, concentrating for a few minutes on the choices. Jay settled on the Seafood Newburgh and Kate opted for the Salmon in Glazed Orange Sauce. The writer spent a few extra minutes reading the description of the battle and the history of the mansion in which they were sitting.

Finishing, she looked up, "They've turned the General's house into a restaurant, what about historic preservation and all that?"

Kate glanced at her friend shyly, "It's not exactly open to the public; I pulled a few strings and called in a couple of favors. And the room you're sitting in was the General's own private dining room where, legend has it, he used to sit and watch the progression of the fight across the river."

They spent the remaining time while waiting for dinner to be served talking of favorite places they'd traveled, sights they'd still like to see, and the most significant influences in their formative years. As the food was served, they were still chatting, completely absorbed in learning more about one another.

In between courses, long minutes were spent gazing into each other's eyes. Jay was mesmerized by the play of the light from the candle off the deep blue of her companion's irises, and, for her part, Kate was captured in the swirling depths of the emeralds that sparkled as they looked at her.

As dessert was cleared and coffee served, Kate took Jay's hand and asked, "Have you enjoyed this evening so far? Is there anything more you want right now?"

To herself, Jay thought, "Oh, yeah, there's definitely something more I want, but not here." What she said was, "Let's see, you've called in favors from curators of historic landmarks and topflight chefs in order to provide the ultimate romantic, private dining experience. Gee, I'm sure there must be something you've forgotten," she laughed. "What did I ever do to deserve you?"

Kate laughed, too, "Um, got run over on a ski trail?"

"You had to remind me, didn't you? It took months for my leg to heal, hell, I missed the entire lacrosse season that year." More seriously, Jay said, "But it was more than worth it to meet you." She debated whether to reveal her secret, and, after a second's hesitation, decided that if she really wanted this woman, and God, did she, then she needed to come clean. "In fact, I've always thought of that as one of my luckiest days; the day I found my muse."

Kate's eyebrow hiked into her hairline, "Me?"

Jay chuckled, "Oh yes, you." Sheepishly she admitted, "You were the cause of the only real fight my girlfriend at the time and I ever had." She was too embarrassed to hold Kate's gaze, so she lowered her head to take in their joined hands and began fidgeting. "Sarah read some of the, um, writings in my journal and accused me of having an affair with you in my heart, if not in fact."

"She did?" Kate's voice was full of wonder.

"Yep, and with good reason, too. I got really mad at her for invading my privacy, but it should have occurred to her that I never argued whether or not the substance of her accusation was correct." Quietly, she added, "I couldn't argue that; she was right." Jay hazarded a look up into Kate's face.

"She was?"

"Mmm hmm, she most definitely was. That was when I started to realize that what I had with Sarah wasn't the real thing. I felt more when you held me, innocently trying to warm me in your jacket on that ski trail, than I had ever felt in the midst of making love with her."

"You did?" Kate knew she sounded stupid, but she couldn't help herself, she had never imagined that Jay had given her more than a passing thought.

"You turned a switch on for me; it was as if, in you, I had found something that I had been searching for my entire life, and I never even knew I'd been looking. But I figured I didn't stand a chance with someone like you, so I shrugged it off, except in my dreams and my journal. Sarah and I stayed together until graduation, but my heart wasn't in it. Since then I've sworn off relationships; I never wanted to cause the kind of pain that I caused her again."

"And now?" Kate asked hesitantly.

Looking up directly into those fathomless cobalt blue eyes, Jay knew that these might be the most important words that she would utter in her lifetime. "And now we're here, and you're so much more than I ever imagined, and I know that I must be dreaming, but if I am I don't ever want to wake up again." She took a deep breath, and decided to go for broke, "You may think I'm crazy, but I've known from the very first time you held me in your arms five years ago that you were the one for me. Being with anybody else would have been a sham. I don't know if you believe in soulmates, but I do, and I have been waiting for you forever, Katherine Kyle, and I'm so glad I've found you again."

Kate let out a shaky breath; she knew that Jay had taken a huge leap of faith in confessing her feelings, the least she could do was do the same. "The night that you were attacked on campus my girlfriend was the EMT that helped you. She broke up with me a short time after that; she said that she'd been waiting two years for me to look at her the way I looked at you when I held you in my arms that night. At the time, I didn't understand what she meant. But the night of the explosion, when I looked up and saw you standing there, I finally got it. No one has ever made me feel the way you do just by looking at you, Jay, and she must have seen that mirrored on my face. I guess what I'm saying, sweetheart, is that I feel that connection between us, too; I've always felt it." She picked up their joined hands and reverently kissed the smaller one.

"I can't believe this is happening to me; it's too good to be true," Jay mumbled in awe.

Kate was charmed beyond words, and offered her most engaging smile. "Ms. Parker, may I take you home now, before I make a scene and ravish you right here in the middle of this historic establishment?"

A brief shadow of fear shrouded the beautiful green orbs, and then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. "By all means, I can't have you ruining your reputation with such a public display of wonton lasciviousness, now can I?" "You know this is everything you've ever wanted, Jamison, so why are you scared all of a sudden?"

Despite her companion's light tone, Kate had noticed the quickly hidden kernel of apprehension and mentally kicked herself for making the writer even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Oh, there was no question that she wanted Jay, more than she'd ever desired anything or anyone in her life. But she had no intention of scaring her, or pushing her, if she wasn't ready yet.

As they made their way out of the mansion and to the waiting car, Kate said, "You know you're safe with me, right Jay? You know you don't ever have to be afraid that anything will happen that you don't want, right?"

"Of course." But the blonde inwardly cursed that tiny, irrational, part of her that was terrified for no logical reason.

The drive home was made in contemplative silence.


"Can I get you anything else to drink?" Kate asked as she led Jay into the family room.

"No, I'm fine, thanks."

Moving over to the fireplace, Kate lit a match to the wood that she'd placed there before they'd left for dinner. Almost immediately, the fire began to cast a warm glow throughout the dimly lit room; she opened the French doors leading to the deck and stepped out, inviting Jay to join her. For a few moments they stood there, gazing up at the profusion of stars above and the full moon that hung overhead.

"It's a gorgeous night, isn't it?" Kate asked.

"Mmm, it most certainly is that. I can't remember when the last time was that I saw this many stars this clearly."

"That's the price you pay, living in a big city; you tend to lose the sky, don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess you do, although until now, I never gave it that much thought." Jay shivered slightly as a light breeze buffeted her.

"Are you cold?"

"Just a little."

"Come here." Kate opened her arms and surrounded Jay with her warmth. After a moment she asked, "Is that better?"

"Mmm, you're like a walking electric blanket. How do you do that?"

"Just warm-blooded, I guess. Would you like to go inside? We can leave the doors open to enjoy the night and take advantage of the fireplace to take the edge off the chill."

The two women walked back through the doors and into the family room.

"Do you like to dance?"

Jay smiled, "I love to dance, but I haven't had much chance lately."

Kate was at the stereo, selecting a homemade tape out of her collection. "We can fix that." Holding out her hand for her date to take, she moved them to the middle of the floor as the first notes to the Bee Gees' 1977 megahit How Deep Is Your Love began to flow out of the speakers. "Do you know how to swing?"

"I've seen it many times, and always wanted to try it, but I've never danced with anyone who knew how."

"Well, it's your lucky night; we can solve that, too. Just follow my lead, okay?"

Looking up into those amazing eyes, Jay just nodded her head and smiled; she would have followed this woman anywhere, and she knew it.

Kate took Jay into her arms, steering her expertly around the floor, starting with a series of simple moves and spins and then progressing to more difficult handholds and positions. "You're a natural, Scoop, you move very well; just relax and let the music take you...that's it." She spun her partner one last time as the song was ending, bringing her back into her body and dipping her slightly as the last notes faded.

Jay laughed. "Where did you learn to dance like that, Stretch? That was so much fun! Will you teach me more moves?"

"Anytime you want, but probably not on a full stomach," Kate's eyes twinkled.

"Yeah, that's probably a wise decision," her companion agreed, patting the somewhat stuffed body part in question.

"So for tonight, how about if we keep it nice and slow?"

"Slow sounds lovely," Jay murmured, as the sounds of a brand new Whitney Houston song, Didn't We Almost Have It All, began to fill the room.

Kate pulled her date close and took the lead, moving them gently in a circle to the rhythm of the music. Jay rested her forehead against the side of her dance partner's neck and sighed happily as the now-familiar scent of Shalimar filled her nostrils. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the music and the feel of this incredible woman who was holding her in her arms, smiling when she felt the brush of lips against her hair.

"Is this okay?" Kate breathed into a nearby convenient ear.

"Oh, yes, it's wonderful; a perfect ending to the perfect day, in fact. A beautiful hike, lovely flowers, a truly special, romantic, private dining experience, topped off with dancing in a fire-lit room; you certainly know how to treat the ladies."

Hearing the unspoken question, Kate looked deeply into the green eyes and confessed, "Actually, I've never done this for anyone before; I've never wanted to."

"You haven't?"

"No, I've never had a woman in this house before; there was never anyone I wanted to bring into my home...until now. As I told you earlier, I've never taken anyone on that hike, nor have I ever bought flowers for a woman; only for you, Jay," she tipped the smaller woman's chin up, hoping the emotions behind the words would show in her eyes, "Only for you."

As Whitney Houston transitioned into Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's 1981 duet Endless Love, and intense blue eyes melded with softer green, Kate reached down and caressed the writer's face and neck, drawing her in for a passionate kiss. Jay's hands moved of their own accord, sliding under the back of Kate's jacket as she ran her palms over the softness of the pale blue camisole, feeling the heat of the skin underneath. Moaning into the kiss, Kate deepened the contact, matching the rhythm of the tongue that sought hers as she buried long fingers in the soft golden tresses.

Within seconds a slow burn had started within each woman, and, without ever breaking the kiss, Jay began unbuttoning her companion's jacket, coaxing it from her broad shoulders. She needed to explore more of the delicious body before her.

As she felt the smooth fingers caress her bare arms and roam over her silk-covered torso, Kate redirected her lips to taste Jay's neck and throat, the blonde's head tipping back reflexively to give her better access. Strong hands made short work of the rust-colored jacket, tossing it on the nearby sofa without missing a beat. Through the thin material that still separated them, each woman was acutely aware of the feel of firm breasts and taut nipples aching to be touched.

Taking a sensitive earlobe into her mouth, Kate grazed it with her teeth while using her hands to trace the smaller woman's ribcage through her blouse. As she bit down gently on the earlobe, Jay groaned in pleasure. Grasping the cream-colored material, Kate began tugging it free of the rust-colored slacks, seeking the skin underneath. When Jay immediately stiffened in her arms, she pulled back slightly to look into emerald eyes, seeing unmistakable desire mixed with a small dose of fear that the younger woman tried, but failed, to hide.

Stilling her hands, Kate rested them on Jay's waist, gazing intently into the sea green depths. She leaned forward and placed a nearly chaste soft kiss on the perfect lips below her and then pulled back again. "There's no rush, darling. I'd wait forever for you."

Studying the sapphires above her, Jay expected to find pity or disgust. Finding nothing there save love, passion, tenderness, and understanding, she began to cry and tremble. She shook her head, clearing the tears from her eyes. "Oh, Kate, I don't want to wait; I want you, and this, more than I've ever wanted anything in my life, but I'm scared and I so don't want to be afraid."

In truth, Jay had never been in a situation where she hadn't been in complete control at all times. She had never given herself fully to anyone, always achieving a measure of detachment in her head and her heart, even in the midst of lovemaking. Now she was here, with this woman who had fueled her fantasies and dreams for what seemed like forever. Not only did she know with certainty that she couldn't maintain any distance from her, she didn't want to; and it frightened her to death.

Smoldering blue eyes burned into her, "Tell me what you want, sweetheart, I'll do anything it takes to make you comfortable."

There was nothing to do but to follow her heart: "Make love to me," Jay breathed, sliding her arms around her soon-to-be-lover's neck, pulling her down into a mind-numbing kiss that stoked the burning embers into hot flames.

Reaching down and scooping Jay into her arms, Kate made her way up the stairs by memory alone, never breaking the sweet contact until they arrived in the master bedroom, where she set the blonde back on her feet.


Her hands trembled as she raised them to unfasten the buttons on Jay's blouse. For Kate this was about so much more than sex: it was about freeing her heart and opening it to true love for the very first time. And then there was this beautiful, gentle soul before her against whom sex had been used as a weapon when she was a child. It was no wonder that Jay was scared. Kate was determined to do everything possible to make their first time together perfect for her lover, and to leave no doubt in the smaller woman's mind what was in her heart.

Glancing at Kate's hands, Jay was shocked to notice the tremor in them. The emerald eyes, darkened with desire and longing, sought and found sapphire as she deliberately placed her hands on top of her lover's, helping her to unbutton first her blouse, and then her slacks. She stepped out of the pants, watching the deep blue orbs as they seemed to memorize every inch of flesh revealed.

Kate's fingers were barely a whisper on Jay's skin as she swept the blouse from her shoulders. The taller woman's fingers and lips ran lightly over creamy flesh, caressing shoulders, neck, and throat. Stepping back, she locked gazes with the vision in front of her, slowly removing her own clothes and coming to stand naked before her heart's desire.

Jay was finding it hard to breathe; never had she seen such perfection. Kate's body was all long, lean, sculpted muscle and velvet softness and it made Jay's mouth water just to look at her. Add to that the way the moonlight streaking in through the skylight combined with the dim glow of the indirect lighting in the room to bathe this goddess's form, and it was enough to leave her weak in the knees.

Moving forward, Kate skimmed her fingertips over perfect lips before leaning down to capture them once again with her mouth. She reached behind her lover and unclasped the satin lace bra, sliding it down off of well-developed shoulders and dropping it on the floor at their feet. Then she hooked her fingers in the matching lace underwear and supported Jay as she stepped out of them, as well.

"You take my breath away," Kate murmured, wondering if her heart would start to beat again any time soon. The woman before her was lithe and toned, flawlessly proportioned and balanced and without question the most magnificent creature she had ever laid eyes on.

Jay's eyes sparkled at her lover's obvious appreciation, and an appealing blush crept up her neck to her cheeks. "That's okay, love, because if Michelangelo had had you to use as a model, he could've retired a wealthy man."

Smiling, Kate ran her fingers along the younger woman's jaw line. She mapped out the eyebrows, the cute little nose, the well-shaped lips and the rounded cheekbones before sliding her hand down to stroke Jay's neck and shoulders. Unhurriedly, she threaded her fingers into the golden strands of hair, initiating a soul-searing kiss and bringing their naked bodies into full contact for the first time.

As liquid fire spread through their veins, Kate backed Jay up, gently guiding her down onto the bed and coming to rest beside her on one arm as she continued to kiss her. She began exploring the body beneath her with her mouth and her hands, finding and memorizing especially sensitive spots, taking her time and enjoying Jay's reactions to her attentions. She was completely focused on satisfying this amazing woman, blocking out her own rising excitement, not wanting to be distracted even for a second. There would be time for that later; right now, it was all about Jay.

Bringing her to the edge several times, Kate eased her back in each instance, not wanting her first time making love to Jay to be over just yet. She wanted to imprint each taste, each touch, each look, smell and sound, in her memory forever, because no one had ever made her feel the way this wonderful, gentle woman did. Finally, when she couldn't deny her any longer, Kate claimed her lover with her body, her heart, and her soul.


Jay felt as if she were floating free in the universe, the climax ripping through her in waves of rapture the likes of which she had never known, nor imagined. "Oh, God Kate!"

"Shhh, I'm right here, love. I've got you, shhh." Kate rolled over and pulled her lover on top of her, holding her close and soothing her with her hands and her voice. They stayed like that for several moments, catching their breath, until she felt the moisture on her shoulder where Jay was resting her head. She brushed her thumb gently across the younger woman's cheek and it came away wet.

"Hey, hey, honey, what's the matter?" Kate began to panic, worry coloring her tone. Lifting Jay's chin with her fingers, she tried to look into her eyes as her heart plummeted through her stomach. "Oh, love, I didn't hurt you, did I? Please, God, tell me I didn't do anything to hurt you."

Jay shook her head emphatically, trying to find her voice. "No, no, Kate; it's nothing like that. Quite the opposite, in fact. That was the most incredible feeling I've ever experienced. I'm just completely overwhelmed, that's all; I never, in my wildest fantasies, imagined it could be like that."

"It should never have been otherwise, sweetheart. I wish with all my heart I could change that for you."

"You already have," Jay said, wiping at her own tears. How could she put it in words? For her, it had gone so much deeper than purely physical satisfaction. "You didn't simply make love to my body, Kate; you nourished my soul. I don't know how else to explain it."

"Sooo, you're telling me these are tears of joy, then?"

"Oh, yes, love, that they most certainly are." Smiling a watery smile, Jay planted a small kiss on Kate's forehead.

"Well, I guess that's okay then."

"Okay? I'd say it's a whole lot more than okay, Stretch," the emerald eyes swept hungrily over the body below them, the look sending an involuntary shiver through Kate.

Jay began placing feather-soft kisses on her lover's shoulders, neck and collarbones, running her fingers slowly up Kate's sides until she was nothing but a mass of goose bumps. Then Jay shifted her focus to the finely chiseled abdominal muscles and the cute little navel, licking, tasting and touching everywhere. When she was sure she had her lover's full attention, she bit down lightly on a taut nipple, nearly sending the taller woman into orbit and vaulting herself into space at the same time as Kate arched up off the bed, letting out a groan.

For the next hour Jay explored and experimented, testing for sensitive spots, teasing, and generally driving her lover crazy. Finally, when Kate couldn't stand it anymore and begged for mercy, Jay drove her over the edge, gladly allowing her heart to go with her.

A short time later, uttering twin sighs of blissful contentment, the two women fell asleep on a combined breath, each knowing with absolute certainty that she'd finally come home to the other half of her soul.

Chapter 13

Several hours later Jay awakened. It was still the middle of the night, and she was snuggled securely in the arms of easily the sexiest woman in the world, wrapped around her like some sea parasite. She marveled at the sight of their bodies intertwined as if it had always been and would always be; they fit together perfectly.

A wave of warmth flowed over her as she conjured the memories of their lovemaking. Kate had been alternately tender, gentle and attentive, and passionate, exciting and provocative. Jay had surrendered to her body and soul, knowing intuitively that this woman had the ability to breach all of the barriers she has spent a lifetime erecting. She had made a conscious decision to allow herself to be vulnerable; to let go of her fears and to place her trust in this exceptional woman who touched her in ways she never imagined possible. Jay smiled; her faith had been well placed. No one had ever made her feel so well loved or so complete.

Now, gazing adoringly at the strong profile, nudging aside a stray lock of dark hair that had fallen onto that remarkable face, Jay felt no more fear, only desire and passion. She wanted to give everything to this woman, and to take everything in return. Her hands began to play over the silky skin as her lips danced along a strong shoulder, then across the swell of a high, firm breast. Her tongue flicked the tip of an awakening nipple and she took it into her mouth, groaning in delight at the taste and texture.

Another moan joined hers as Kate came awake on a surge of white-hot heat, her body responding instantly to the stimulation. Fiery emerald green eyes met glittering blue in a gaze that promised unrestrained passion. This time the lovemaking was not the slow, sweet, tantalizing seduction of earlier in the evening; this time it was more like the intensity of a sudden electrical storm, with sparks flying, igniting a fire that consumed everything in its path. Both women crested together, bodies straining, hearts pounding, and heads exploding in ecstasy.

Eventually, their breathing calmed and their bodies began to cool. Running her fingers over her lover's face, Kate leaned in to kiss her reverently on the mouth. "Do me a favor; if that was a dream and I'm still sleeping, please don't bother to wake me up, okay?"

"Mmm, I know what you mean," Jay sighed dreamily as she smoothed her palm over the softness of her lover's backside. "I'm sorry I woke you, I just couldn't seem to help myself."

"Honey, don't ever apologize for waking me like that," Kate chuckled. "You can do that anytime you like; believe me, you'll never get a complaint from me." Kissing the tip of the smaller woman's nose, her eyes began to close again involuntarily.

Within seconds, both women were sound asleep, smiling, sated and exhausted.


The next time they opened their eyes, the moon had been replaced above them by blue sky. Rolling onto her back, Kate pulled Jay tight to her side. She reached over and smoothed the disheveled blonde hair, enjoying the feel of its softness against her fingers. "How are you feeling?"

"Mmm, I've never felt better in my life. You?"

"That about sums it up." Kate's gaze turned serious. "Thank you, Jay, for trusting me. I know that can't have been easy for you, and I hope I didn't disappoint you."

"Disappoint me? Oh, sweetheart, believe me, let down is the last thing I feel." She propped herself up so that she could look directly into those baby blues. Running her fingers lovingly over the high cheekbones and tempting lips, she tried to let everything she felt show in her eyes and her touch. "Kate, I have been dreaming of a night with you like last night since we first met, and I have to tell you: nothing I envisioned came close to the reality of making love with you. It was everything I ever thought I wanted and so much more, love." There were tears in her eyes.

Arching up and kissing Jay's eyelids, Kate tasted the salt of her tears. "I'm so glad, sweetheart. I feel the same way, you know. All these years I've been waiting for someone to make me feel anything close to what I felt when I looked up at you during that tennis match. Do you remember?"

Jay smiled wistfully. "Oh yeah, I sure do; you were the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen. You made me late for my editorial meeting because I couldn't take my eyes off you."

"And you almost made me forget what I was doing on the court. Well, I never found anyone who could measure up to that, not even remotely, so I stopped trying a long time ago. I guess I knew that there was only one person who could make me feel that way, and I didn't think I'd ever see her again." At the inquiring look Kate added, "That person is you, Jamison Parker. I told you last night, you're the only one for me; there is no doubt in my mind, or my heart." Softly she added, "I love you, Jay."

At that the blonde did start crying, her tears spilling onto her lover's neck and chest. "I love you, too, Kate, more than I ever thought possible. I've been in love with you from the very first, but I never imagined that I'd get the chance to say those words to you out loud, much less hear them from you. I'm at a complete loss here."

"Well, how about you kiss me, and we take a shower together for starters. What time do you need to leave?" Kate hated to ask the question as much as her lover hated to contemplate the idea, but they both knew that Jay had to go back to the City to write; there was no sense even pretending that she could get the work done here.

Leaning down, Jay captured the waiting lips below her, losing herself in the kiss for several precious minutes. "It's 6:05 a.m. now, if I catch the 7:25 a.m. I can be in the City by 10:30 a.m. That should work."

"In that case, we'd better get going." Kate vaulted off the bed, pulling her lover with her.

They spent a little while exploring one another's bodies as they washed each other, both trying hard, with mixed success, to control their wandering hands and mouths long enough to get clean. When they were done, Kate steered Jay over to sit on the edge of the bed with the best of intentions as she began drying her off. Kneeling before the younger woman, carefully drying her breasts, the temptation was simply too great; the thought of a day and a half passing before she could see Jay again was making Kate crazy. Blue eyes grew heavy-lidded with arousal as she fitted herself between her lover's legs, tasting the sweetness there and quickly bringing the beautiful blonde to a shattering climax and pushing herself to the edge, as well.

When she had recovered sufficiently, Jay rose from the bed without a word, taking her lover by the hand and returning them to the shower. Turning on the spray, she began to touch and taste her partner as she guided them into the stall. Jay positioned the taller woman so that her broad back blocked the spray as she sat on the ledge facing her, pulling her close. The combination of the warm water pulsing on her back and the exquisite pressure building between her legs made Kate's knees weak; reaching out, she braced her arms against the shower wall. Both women moaned as Jay took her lover in her mouth, driving all thoughts of trains and schedules out of their minds.

Finally, they were clean, dressed and on the road with less than twenty minutes to make it to the train station. Kate promised Jay that she would have her on that train without fail. "You'd better, Stretch, since it's all your fault that we're running late," the writer joked.

That earned her an arched eyebrow look. "Oh, right, you had nothing to do with it, little miss innocent."

"Well, you started it..."

"That's true, but you sure didn't have any trouble finishing it, now did you?"

"Are you complaining?"

"Do I look like an idiot to you? Of course I'm not complaining! I'm merely setting the record straight, that's all."

Reaching over, Jay took hold of her lover's hand. "I'm going to miss you, Kate."

"I know, me too, sweetheart. I'll pick you up outside the Convention Center tomorrow night after the LCA Show, though, and at least we'll have tomorrow night."


"Well, here you go; two minutes to spare, too. Let me get your bag and your briefcase, you just worry about getting to the platform. I'll be right behind you."

Jay was moving before the car had even come to a complete stop, reaching the conductor just as he was making the last call. She turned around, searching for her lover. She didn't have to look far; Kate was standing just behind her.

"Here you go," she said, handing Jay the bag and briefcase. "Travel safely. I'll see you tomorrow night." She didn't know if the writer understood sign language, but she made the sign for "I love you" anyway.

Leaning down quickly from the steps, Jay brushed her lips against her lover's ear, "I love you too," she said, so quietly that only Kate could hear her. And with that, she was gone.


Standing there for a minute, Kate watched the train pull out of the station before heading back to the illegally parked car and home.

She walked into the kitchen where Fred greeted her enthusiastically, weaving in and out of her legs as he always did. Everything should have felt comfortingly normal, and yet...the place seemed empty and lonely, and she knew why. In just a few short days, one single little blonde whirlwind had transformed this house from a place to live into a home. God, she missed her already, and she'd barely left. Pathetic.

She scanned the cupboard since they hadn't had time for breakfast before leaving. Well, they hadn't had time for food, anyway. Kate smiled evilly, remembering their last bout of lovemaking, her skin flushing just thinking about it. Jay was the most talented, most enticing lover she had ever known. Somehow, her lover just seemed to know what she needed, and when. It was as if their bodies were speaking to each other in their own language, rendering words redundant. That had never happened to her before.

She sighed. What she felt for Jay went so far beyond physical compatibility, though; it wasn't just about the sex, although that was a most pleasant development. It was everything about her. It was the way she looked at the world, her sense of humor, her gentle nature and compassion. It was her intelligence and natural curiosity, her beauty and spirit. Kate was sure if she looked hard enough she could probably find something about Jay that she didn't like or love, but for the life of her, she didn't know what.

Spending 24 hours a day with the woman for nearly four days, she hadn't felt the least bit boxed in or smothered; for a woman as independent and solitary as Kate, that was extraordinary. "Now what, Fred? Back to the routine, I guess."

Going upstairs to the bedroom to change into her workout clothes, she found herself standing at the threshold to the guest suite instead, where she closed her eyes and extended her senses, detecting a trace of Jay's perfume in the air. Stepping into the room, she moved to the bed to pick up her lover's pillow. "God, you've got it bad, Kyle," she thought to herself. As she reached for the pillow, a folded piece of white paper fluttered to the floor. Reaching over and picking it up, she opened it to reveal neatly printed handwriting.

Guest Satisfaction Survey, it said in block letters across the top. Laughing, she said to Fred, who had followed her upstairs, "Well, I did tell her it was a five-star resort and she could rate her stay on the way out. I ought to be more careful what I say, shouldn't I buddy?"

She began to read, "Accommodations: Excellent, especially the last night. Service: Outstanding, loved the personal touch (pun intended), and the comic books were great. Facilities: Superb, particularly enjoyed working with the personal trainer and the rent-a-beast. The kitchen could stand some...well...use. Activities: Top-notch, do you really want me to go there? Overall Impressions of Resort: Mmm. Need I say more? Would You Recommend This Establishment to Others: Absolutely, but it better not be open to others."

By the time she had finished reading, Kate was laughing so hard she was in tears. "You are too much, Jamison Parker. What am I going to do with you?" Stopping for a moment to think, she got serious. "The bigger question is: what am I going to do without you for a whole 36 hours? Yuck." Pondering what was in store for tomorrow night, a wicked smile crossed her face. The wait might be worth it, after all. She made her way down the hall to her room to change into her workout gear. It was going to be a long, busy, lonely day and a half, and she needed to get started.


Jay had her notes from the past four days spread out on two service trays in front of her, trying to organize her thoughts in preparation for writing the article as the train carried her home. Professional detachment, that was what she said she had needed. "Well, so much for that," she chuckled to herself. Then she got serious. How was she going to separate the Kate that she knew from the anchorwoman and journalist that the rest of the world had seen? Was there a difference? Gazing out the window at the Hudson River as it sped by, she smiled as she thought about the last four days. Images of the raven-haired beauty swam before her eyes; her lover lost in rapture, her friend with eyes full of caring and concern, the woman she loved vulnerable and uncertain. And her professional demeanor: resolute, powerful, intelligent, engaged and compassionate. Oh, yeah, there was definitely a difference.

The writer began reviewing the impressions she had put to paper on Monday, the first day she had arrived and had gone with Kate and her crew to interview Joey's parents and the man who the anchorwoman had rescued from the rubble. If she were going to be able to maintain any semblance of objectivity, it would be because she focused the article less on her own very personal knowledge, and more on the opinions of people like these and Kate's co-workers.

Having settled that, Jay began to focus and get lost in her work. She had a lot to do to get this story ready before she got back on a train to return to Albany tomorrow night, but she was determined to have it done before she saw her lover again. She didn't want anything to detract from the time they could spend together, and for that she needed her mind and her calendar to be clear on Sunday. She sighed. It was going to be a long, busy, lonely day and a half.


It was Saturday night, it was almost time, and Kate was nervous; not for the obvious reason that most people standing where she was right now would have been, but because her conversation earlier in the day with Jay had left her unsettled. She knew that her lover had been upset with her for being less than forthcoming about her plans for this evening, but she hoped that Jay would forgive her when she understood why; which, the anchorwoman mused, she would soon enough.

She thought back to her lover's reaction Thursday to her not being in the house so early in the morning; it was clear to her that Jay was expecting the worst. "I guess that's what happens when that's what you've always gotten," Kate thought to herself. It only strengthened her resolve to make sure that she never gave her lover cause not to trust her. In the end, she knew, only time and consistency would prove to Jay that she needn't worry any more, and those were two things Kate hoped they would have forever.

"Kate, it's time," a disembodied voice said from close by.

"Yes, it is," she smiled.


An intense 36 hours after she had left, Jay was back in the Capital. She was tired, and a little grumpy, and just wanted midnight to be here already. Her conversation with Kate earlier in the day had left her a bit out of sorts; she was still fretting over the other woman's secretive plans for this evening and trying not to let her imagination get carried away with her. Although she had dropped several hints, her lover had refused to divulge her plans except to say that it was "an obligation" that she had to keep. Now the writer was going to be stuck for the next three-plus hours trying to be cordial to a man who might one day be President of the United States, when all she really wanted to do was to see Kate and be reassured. Well, she was here now; she might as well make the best of it.

A plainclothes State Police officer met Jay at the door to the Convention Center and ushered her inside to the Governor's table, directly in front of the stage. The Governor, resplendent in a black tuxedo, stood as she approached. The writer looked positively elegant in a strapless floor length black gown and matching heels. The dress hugged her slim form and highlighted her creamy skin and well-defined shoulders and arms. Her neck was adorned with a beautiful emerald and diamond choker that complemented the emerald tear drops in her ears and the emerald ring on her right hand. Every man within fifty feet sucked in his gut, straightened his bowtie, and stared at the extraordinary beauty. The Governor was no exception. He offered her his hand and politely introduced her to his wife, the Lieutenant Governor and his wife, and the other members of his Administration present around the table.

Just then the lights flickered once in warning. Jay took the seat the Governor held for her to his right, less than fifteen feet from the front of the stage. The huge room, which was filled to capacity with every manner of state official and journalist and their guests, went pitch black for a full minute. In the darkness, the orchestra began to play and a beautiful voice pierced the silence with the first notes of a song. The writer recognized the tune as the Carpenters' We've Only Just Begun, but the words had been changed.

And then the curtain rose to reveal the singer. Jay thought she might pass out right on the spot; all thoughts of being tired and grumpy disappeared, in fact, if she had been old enough, she could have sworn she was having a hot flash. There, leaning on a high stool perched in the very center of the stage in a bright red, sequined, cocktail length sheath with plunging neckline, spaghetti straps, and three-inch heels looking directly at her, was Kate. Her hair was swept up in a French knot, revealing her long, slender neck. Smiling broadly, she arched her eyebrow a fraction, enough for Jay to know it was meant just for her, and winked at the Governor as she parodied his penchant for trying to build consensus in a government where no one could agree on anything.

Jay's mind was reeling. Busy tonight. Her lover had said she was "busy" tonight. The ratfink. When she'd gotten over her initial shock and the guilt she felt for giving her sweetheart a hard time about where she was going to be this evening, Jay allowed herself the luxury of watching Kate and letting the timbre of her voice penetrate directly into her heart. "My God," she thought, "she's got an amazing voice. I wonder what other little secrets she's been keeping?" She decided she would grill Kate later. Right now, she just wanted to listen and ogle, which was pretty much what everyone else in the room was doing.

The anchorwoman sang two more numbers during the course of the evening, one to the tune of Carole King's It's Too Late regarding the perennially late state budget, and another sending up the Governor's on-going negotiations with the Senate Republicans over the death penalty to the Beatles' We Can Work It Out. The crowd ate it up, laughing uproariously at the new lyrics and marveling at Kate's singing talent. And, Jay had to admit, the other performers and skits had been very entertaining, too. All in all, the night was a smashing success.

Now it was time for the finale. The Capitol bureau chief for one of the major New York dailies walked onto the stage from the wings wearing a stodgy pinstriped business suit and singing his own version of the first stanza of You're the One that I Want, the final duet from the musical Grease. He had a rich, deep singing voice and even looked a little like John Travolta. There was a dry ice-induced fog of smoke emanating from the other side of the stage, and then the entire Convention Center rose to its feet as one, whistling and cat calling as Kate emerged out of the fog singing the second half of the duet. She was clad in tight black leather pants over leather boots and a sleeveless ribbed knit black v-neck sweater, her hair cascading freely down her back. Jay's eyes nearly popped out of her head.

Kate prowled to the middle of the stage where her singing partner was standing. As they continued singing their own hysterical lyrics to the song, she moved right up against him seductively, running her fingers up his chest, and ripping off his suit. Jay nearly growled in jealousy at the sight. She reminded herself that it was all part of the show, but boy, could Kate act. Underneath the suit, the newspaper reporter was wearing his own tight black pants and black muscle t-shirt. He ground his body against the blue-eyed siren's as they danced and sang in perfect harmony. Jay clenched her teeth, knowing every guy in the place was wishing he were on stage with her lover. Then, just as she was sure she was going to commit homicide, Kate locked eyes with her and gave her a smile that was reserved for her alone. Jay melted and felt her own mouth respond with an answering grin.

The show ended with a thunderous standing ovation and several curtain calls from the performers. Kate got the biggest cheers of all. As the lights came up, the Governor turned to his guest. "Did you enjoy the show, Ms. Parker?"

"Oh yes, it was fabulous. Who knew that journalists had such hidden talents?"

"Yes," the Governor agreed, "They were rather amazing, weren't they? It's tradition for the Governor to respond to the performance with one of his own. I promise to leave you in splendid company, though. Will you wait here for a moment?"


He stepped away for a minute as the writer surveyed the crowd. Within a very short time he was back. "Ms. Parker?"

Hearing her name, she turned around to find the Governor standing next to her once again. "I have someone I'd like to introduce you to." He smiled as a figure emerged from behind him. Jay's eyes went wide. "Ms. Jamison Parker, may I present one of the Capital's true treasures, Ms. Katherine Kyle. Kate, Ms. Parker is a fine reporter for Time magazine. Perhaps you are familiar with her work?"

The anchorwoman didn't miss a beat. She took her lover's hand in a formal handshake, addressing the Governor but focusing directly on the smaller woman with a completely sincere look, "Yes, Governor, I am a great admirer of Ms. Parker's work. I have found it to be most stimulating."

Jay choked and spluttered, nearly swallowing her tongue. Patting her on the back, the Governor asked with concern, "Ms. Parker, are you all right?"

"Oh yes, I'm just fine," she rasped. She chanced favoring Kate with a murderous glare that only the taller woman could see. The anchorwoman's eyes were sparkling with mischief. "Oh, you evil, evil, woman. Two can play that game," Jay thought. Aloud, she said with a straight face, "Yes, Governor, I'm a big fan of Ms. Kyle's, as well. Her work takes my breath away."

"I asked for that," thought Kate.

Oblivious to the undercurrent between the two women, the Governor offered a self-satisfied smile. "Good, then I can see I'll be leaving you in excellent hands while I tend to business." To the show's star he said, "Kate, please take my seat and keep Ms. Parker company while I pay you back for your insouciance."

Without taking her eyes from her lover, the performer responded, "It would be my pleasure." She held out the seat for Jay as the Governor and his tablemates made their way backstage.

When they were both seated and alone at the table, Kate turned to her companion and gave her a brilliant smile. "You look magnificent." Lowering her voice to its lowest, sexiest register, and fixing Jay with her most lustful stare, she added very quietly so that only her lover could hear her, "Good enough to eat."

Flushing, Jay leaned over and purred in Kate's ear, "Promises, promises." Then she straightened up once again and added, "And you look rather fabulous yourself, Ms. Kyle-who-was-going-to-be-'busy'-tonight." She raised one eyebrow in challenge.

"I couldn't spoil the surprise, Jay," Kate snickered and said apologetically. I did tell you you were going to love the show, didn't I?"

"Yeees. But you failed to mention that you were the star attraction."

"I was not." It was Kate's turn to blush.

"Yeah," her lover slapped her lightly. "Tell that to the 500 people who were busy drooling over you and especially tell it to the guy who was trying to get inside your pants on stage at the end. Thank God there was no room in there." There was an edge to Jay's voice that she tried in vain to hide.

"Aww. You're not jealous, are you?"

The writer hesitated a beat.

Kate couldn't believe it. Turning to face Jay fully, she stared at her intently with eyes gone dark. "Expect the worst, right? Oh, honey, we're going to have to work on this," she thought. For her lover's ears only she said with all of the feeling she could summon, "Ms. Jamison Parker, you are the only one for me, now and forever. Don't you ever doubt that. They can look all they want, but you are the one who lives in my heart and who owns my body and soul."

Jay felt the sting of tears leap to her eyes just as the lights were dimmed once again. She never imagined hearing those words from the one woman her heart had craved for so many years. "Oh, sweetheart. What did I ever do to deserve you?"

Reaching under the tablecloth, Kate caressed her lover's hands where no one could see them. "I believe that's already been asked and answered before; besides, I'm the one who should be asking that question, love, not you."


When the Governor's rebuttal had finished to laughter and applause and he returned to the table, Kate took her leave. Turning to her lover, she took her hand formally once again. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Parker. I hope I'll get to see you again very soon." Her eyes twinkled.

"Yes, I would like that very much," Jay responded, smiling.

"I'm glad you two hit it off," the Governor nodded. "I thought you'd like each other; two smart, beautiful, talented women. That's great."

As his words trailed off the star of the show was surrounded by well-wishers. Everyone wanted to compliment her on her performance. Over the heads of those encircling her, she watched Jay make her way to the exit. As if sensing eyes on her, the smaller woman turned around. Kate gave her a look as if to reassure her, "You're the only one I'm thinking about." Jay grinned and proceeded through the doors.

Five minutes later, Kate met her at the elevators to the parking garage, as they had agreed before the Governor returned to the table. "What's a gorgeous lady like you doing in a place like this? Can I interest you in a ride in my car, perhaps?" The taller woman waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Do you think I'm so easy that I would swoon over a little red convertible?"

Kate paused dramatically for a beat and then grinned. "Yep."

"Hmmph." Crossing her arms over her chest in mock indignation, Jay pretended to think. "Do you come with the car, or is that a la carte?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On who is asking," Kate said.

Jay dropped her voice an octave and moistened her lips, raking her eyes with exaggerated slowness over her lover's leather clad form. "I'm asking," she said huskily.

Feeling a chill chase itself up and down her body, Kate swallowed convulsively. "Um, in that case, I definitely come with the wheels. Yep. Definitely."

"Good," the writer said triumphantly, hooking her arm through the anchorwoman's, "Then you've got a deal and a date."

Chapter 14

They barely made it through the door of the house before Jay grabbed Kate by the arm, spinning her around so that her back was against the wall. She stepped between her lover's leather-clad legs and reached up, tangling her fingers in the dark locks and pulling her head down for an incendiary kiss.

When they finally broke apart, Jay breathed, "God, I missed you so much I thought I would lose my mind."

"Mmm, I know the feeling." Kate ran her hands up and down her lover's mostly bare back. "Have I told you how fabulously sexy you look tonight?"

Jay laughed. "Once or twice, but that's okay, I don't mind hearing it again."

"You look amazingly sexy tonight, Ms. Parker, and you made it incredibly difficult for me to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing. All I could think about was how much I wanted to have my arms around you, and how quickly I could make it to your table if anyone tried to make a move on you."

"As if..." Jay began, but was stopped by the look in Kate's eyes.

"Jamison, there wasn't a guy within fifty feet of you who didn't have his tongue hanging down to his shoe laces; not that I blame them, I felt the same way."

"Sweetheart, you've got nothing to worry about. This body and this heart belong only to you; I think they probably always have, and I know they always will."

"Mmm. I like the sound of that." Kate locked eyes with her lover. "Jay, about our conversation today..."

"Oh, Kate, I'm so sorry I was such an idiot, I feel terrible about that. I shouldn't have pushed you and I shouldn't have doubted you. When I first saw you up there on stage, I just wanted to run up there, fall at your feet, apologize and beg forgiveness."

"Well, that would have been quite a show," her lover gave a small smile. "I know that this is going to take some time for you to get used to, and I know that you've had reason in the past to expect the worst of people, but I promise you with all my heart, Jay, that you can trust me, and that I will never knowingly hurt you."

Tears sprang to the emerald eyes. "I know that, love, or at least a big part of me does. It really isn't even about you; it's just this little internal voice that says that I don't deserve happiness, and I don't deserve to be loved, especially not by someone as perfect as you. It's an expectation, I guess, that something will happen to take you away from me. I know it's not rational, and I try to fight the feeling, but sometimes I don't win," she finished dejectedly.

"Hey," Kate said, lifting her chin so that their eyes met again. "We'll get through this together, okay? Like I said, I know it's going to take time, and, I hope, we'll have all the time in the world, right?"

"You don't want to walk away because I'm an insecure fool?"

Kate pulled Jay close, kissing her forehead and then her temple. "Sweetheart, I don't want to walk away for any reason, let alone a false one. I love you, Jamison Parker, and nothing and no one is going to change that. You're stuck with me for good, okay? How about if we agree that when this kind of stuff comes up we'll talk through it together until there are no doubts, huh?"

"That sounds great," Jay agreed, awed and humbled once again by the depth of Kate's understanding and compassion, and her ability to see the younger woman's invisible scars and help her to heal them.

"Now, if you don't mind," Kate said with a gleam in her eye, "I'd like to take a very beautiful woman to bed. I've been burning the candle at both ends for weeks now, and I'm just about at the end of my rope. Getting up to rehearse for the show every morning before dawn and working until midnight rots."

Realization dawned on Jay then. "That's where you were Thursday morning when I was so worried? You were off singing your heart out?"

"Noooo, actually my heart was at home pacing in my kitchen, as I recall," she grinned. "But yes, I was off practicing with the rest of the cast before I went to get my stitches out, just like I had been every morning for three weeks." She paused, "Oh, Jay, when you told me you were coming to the show, I just wanted it to be a wonderful surprise for you. I didn't mean for my evasions to make you worry. I'm so sorry, I should have just told you."

"No, it was a great surprise; fantastic really. It's not your fault that my imagination tends to work overtime."

"Well, how about if we redirect that energy and put your imagination to great use right now?" Kate waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Lead on, woman."

And with that, the two lovers retired to the bedroom and a night of blissful togetherness.


Kate sighed contentedly, running her fingers lightly over Jay's bare back. They had made love well into the night, first with the urgency of new passion, and then again more deliberately as each woman strived to express with her body that which her heart was feeling. She had never known such happiness. For the first time in her life, her heart and soul felt full and the future looked bright.

The future; she had never given it much thought. She had always chosen to live one day at a time, tackling whatever challenges life presented her as they had arisen. But the day and a half that she had spent without Jay by her side had made her pensive. She was miserable on her own, wondering how the writer was progressing with her story, what she was thinking and whether or not she was missing Kate as much as Kate was missing her.

For five years, her career had been her only focus, the only driving force in Kate's life. Not any more, she realized with a start. Without giving it a second thought, she knew that this relationship had become the most important thing and she would put it above anything else.

"What are you thinking about, love?"

"I'm sorry," she smiled affectionately at the blonde limpet attached to her. "I didn't mean to wake you. Why don't you go back to sleep."

"Hmm. I'm not sure if that was a deliberate evasion or not, but I do know, even in my weakened state, that you didn't answer the question."

"What weakened state is that?"

"Well, someone, whose name shall remain anonymous but whose initials are Katherine Ann Kyle, managed to turn me into a bowl of Jell-o last night and I haven't fully recovered yet."

Kate chuckled. "In that case, we're even, so there's no advantage there. Good morning, by the way," she said as she bent her neck to meet her lover's lips as the younger woman's chin rested on her collarbone.

"Mmm, good morning, but it's not working, Stretch. Out with it. I know that little brain of yours is chewing on something, and I want to know what it is before I have to torture it out of you."

"Ooooh. That could be fun." At her partner's raised eyebrow, Kate relented. "I was just thinking about the future, that's all."

"Well, that's kind of a broad topic. Could you be a little more specific, perhaps?"

While they had said many things to each other over the course of the past few days, Kate was still fearful of pushing Jay too far, too fast. She didn't want to scare her away, and she didn't want to pressure her before she was ready; this was all happening so quickly!

In less time than it took her to shop for running sneakers she had gone from complete self-reliance and independence, to not wanting to spend a single night without this amazing woman who had captured her heart so effortlessly. She had never felt this way before. With Jen, all she had wanted was to maintain her own space and to keep it light, seeing the EMT when it suited her. Now, she couldn't imagine a day without Jay in it. Did the writer feel the same way?

Kate suddenly was afraid of the answer. What if she didn't? Even though Jay had made it clear that she wanted to be with Kate, what if she didn't mean that kind of total commitment? She had a life of her own, with a successful career and dreams for the future; what if there wasn't room in her plans for a life lived together? What if she only wanted to be with Kate every once in a while when it was convenient? Did the 150 miles that separated their lives right now matter to her?

"Hello, Earth to Kate," Jay said as she tapped on her lover's chest with her forefinger. "Honey, your heart is beating a million miles a minute and you look as if your best friend just died. Please, tell me what's going on."

Anxious blue eyes met concerned green ones and still, the older woman didn't know what to say. "Um, Jay, how did you sleep Friday night?"

"How did I...fitfully. Why?"

"Well, I didn't sleep much, either."

When no more words were forthcoming, Jay said, "And that's why your heart is beating out of your chest now?"

"I slept poorly because you weren't here with me and I missed you," Kate blurted out in a rush.

"I missed you, too, sweetheart." Jay was a bit at sea about the direction of the conversation.

God, this was so hard! Why was she thinking about this right now, anyway? She couldn't do this yet; she wasn't ready. After all, they'd only spent two full nights together, right?

Who was she kidding; she already knew that she wanted to make a life with Jay, to live together facing the future as one. That fact alone was enough to scare the living daylights out of her, but what if her lover didn't share the same vision, didn't want the same thing? Could she live with that? Was it too soon to ask her?

Jay could see the panic in Kate's expression, but she couldn't fathom what was causing it, which made her worry. What should she do? Should she keep pushing her lover to talk about it, or back off? She was afraid if she pushed her too hard she might bolt like a skittish colt. Hmmm. A skittish colt...

"It's okay, love. Whatever it is can wait, I mean, geez, we haven't even had our morning coffee yet, right? We've got time, and I'm a very patient woman." She grinned evilly.

"Oh you think so, do you? I wouldn't call the way you were last night patient, Princess."

"Well, that was different, I was going through withdrawal at the time. That didn't count."

"I see." Kate was relieved at the banter; she felt much more at ease.

Jay nodded her head to herself; she could tell that she had made the right decision because her lover's heart had returned to its normal rhythm. She adjusted her position and kissed Kate passionately.

"I thought you said you were Jell-o."

"I was, but I'm young, I bounce back quickly," this last Jay said as she began exploring the body below her with single-minded intent. Yep, this conversation could wait.

All talk ceased, as neither woman was capable of coherent thought for the next little while.


"What would you like to do today, love?" Kate asked, coming up behind Jay and putting her arms around her. It was just before noon, they finally were dressed, showered and standing in the kitchen.

Tilting her head back, Jay gazed up into those pools of blue that she never tired of looking at. "Truthfully, I've been on the go non-stop for the past few weeks, and I know that you have, too. What do you say we just pick up the Sunday paper, sit in that wonderfully decadent swing on the deck, do the crossword puzzle together and enjoy the day? Then, if you're nice to me, I'll cook you a fabulous dinner and we can watch an old movie on television."

"Mmm, my idea of a perfect, lazy, Sunday afternoon." Kate squeezed her lover's waist and nuzzled her neck.

"But first, we're going shopping."


"Well, Stretch, even I can't make a feast out of Raisin Bran and American cheese. You need some food in this house."

The older woman groaned. "I hate to shop."

"That's because you haven't shopped with me."

"Mm hmm," Kate said dubiously. "I'll do it, but only if dessert is included with the meal." She gave her lover a lecherous look.

"I'll think about it," Jay smirked as she slipped out of her lover's grasp and bent down to scratch Fred behind the ears.


Two hours later they were comfortably ensconced in the two-person hammock swing on the second tier of the deck. Kate was semi-reclining with her back and head resting on a pillow, her legs stretched out the length of the swing; Jay was lying between her legs, using her as a backrest. The younger woman held the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in one hand, and a pen in the other, her lover leaning her chin on her shoulder as they studied the puzzle together.

"Tell me again why we're doing this in ink instead of using the more widely-accepted and cautious pencil?"

"Because, Stretch, it shows that we have confidence in our answers. Only wusses use a pencil. But if you don't think you're up to playing with the big boys..." The blonde tresses were ruffled by a loud exhale. "Just as I thought," Jay nodded. "We need a ten letter word for strong in battle or possessing powerful weapons. Any ideas?"

Kate looked at 22 down, where the writer was pointing. "Yep."

"Care to share?"


"You're making it up."

"Am not, go look it up."

"Hmmph. I'll trust you, and besides, it works with the other answers."

"Of course it does."

Jay turned her head a little so she could look at her lover. "How did you know that?"

Kate shrugged. "Dunno, just did."

"You're so smart." Impulsively Jay lifted herself up a bit and kissed her lover on the mouth.

"Nope, just full of useless trivia." The blue eyes smiled down affectionately at her.

They worked on the puzzle for another hour or so, managing to fill in most of the answers. Jay yawned and stretched.

"I saw that, young lady. That's about the tenth time in the last five minutes that you've yawned. Ready for a nap, perhaps?"

"Only if I can take it right here, lying in your arms."

"I think that can be arranged." Scooting down further so that they were lying more prone, Kate used her leg to start the swing rocking gently. Her companion turned so that she was lying on top of her, and the two of them promptly fell asleep.


It was several hours later when they awakened, the sun just beginning its descent in the western sky. It had cooled down quite a bit and Jay shivered involuntarily.

"Cold, love?"

"Just a little."

"Wait here." Kate disentangled herself and disappeared into the house, returning several moments later with a quilt, which she laid over them after re-positioning herself. "Is that better?"

"Much. I feel like I'm in Heaven here. I never want to leave."

"Fine by me," Kate smiled fondly at her lover.

They were both silent for a time after that, each lost in her own thoughts. Jay was thinking about what she had just said. She had really meant it, but did Kate mean what she had said; would she want her to live here with her? Was it too soon to talk about that? "How about if we start small, Parker, eh?"



"Would it be all right if I stayed until tomorrow morning instead of going home tonight? I could catch the 6 o'clock train and be in the City by 9 a.m. in plenty of time to get to the office and turn in my story."

"Do you really want to?" Kate thought it was too good to be true.

"Oh yeah," Jay's smile lit up her green eyes.

Kate pulled her up closer and hugged her tight, whispering in her ear, "I'm so glad. I've been wanting to ask you all day, but I was afraid you'd say no."

"Never," Jay said, leaning in for an ardent kiss.


Jay was standing in front of the kitchen counter, chopping up vegetables to sautÈ for the pasta primavera she was making. She had changed into a pair of tight-fitting jeans and a light cotton v-neck sweater under which she wore nothing. She had already prepared the garlic bread and put it in the oven to bake and was just getting ready to toss the veggies into the pan.

Kate stood in the doorway for a moment, admiring the way her lover looked in her jeans. With a lascivious glint in her eyes she stole up behind Jay and began nibbling on her exposed neck, reaching under the sweater at the same time to cup high, firm breasts in her large hands and brush her palms over responsive nipples. "God, you look so sexy," she breathed in between bites and licks.

"Hey...ooooh...I was....ahhh, trying to...mmm...cook here."

"Yeah, you're looking pretty hot to me." Kate's voice dropped to that low, sexy register that made Jay's blood boil. She already had undone the younger woman's jeans and was busy exploring.

The blonde was trying her hardest to ignore the ache that instantly spread outward from her groin to the rest of her nerve endings, but it was fast becoming impossible; the exquisite combination of long, talented fingers and the friction of the material rubbing against her was pushing her over the edge. Kate's hands and mouth seemed to be everywhere and Jay was rapidly losing the ability to focus on anything but the sensations being created by her lover's attentions.

"Agghh, Kate, in a minute I won't be able to stand....ohh, baby..." She reached her arms back over her head, grabbing her lover behind the neck in an effort to remain upright as her knees began to buckle.

"It's okay, love, I've got you." Kate wrapped one arm firmly around Jay's waist as her lover began to climax.

For several minutes worth of heartbeats they stood suspended there, panting and struggling to regain their equilibrium. Finally Jay gave up the fight and sank slowly to the floor, pulling her partner with her.

"That was such an unfair sneak attack."

"Hey, life's unfair."

"I will get you back for this, you know."

"Oh," there was that low, sexy tone again, "I'm counting on it."

Eventually dinner made it to the table, as did the two women, and they spent a leisurely time just talking quietly about nothing and enjoying the food. After the meal Kate insisted on doing the dishes and cleanup, telling Jay to go relax in the family room and pick a movie out of her tape collection.

When her lover joined her, Jay was sitting on the couch with a tape of Casablanca in her hands, quietly looking at the fire she had built in the fireplace. "Ah, excellent choice. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in one of the finest performances ever." Kate took the tape from her lover, placed it in the VCR, and sat down next to her, pulling a quilt over both of them. At critical moments in the movie, they both recited the lines along with the characters, and at the end they were both crying.

When it was over, Kate put her arm around her lover and they walked together upstairs to bed. "Jay," she said, "I think this is the beginning of a beau-ti-ful friendship." The younger woman bumped hips with her and smiled as they made their way up the rest of the stairs.


It was 2:30 a.m. and Jay hadn't slept a wink. She tried snuggling closer to Kate, which was difficult since she was practically on top of her already. "What's the matter, love, can't get comfortable?"

"No," she smiled, "I'm more than comfortable, I just can't seem to fall asleep." In truth, she couldn't stop wondering when the next time was she would be able to see Kate, and it was bothering her. How were they going to make this work? Would they only see each other on weekends? Would they see each other every weekend? God, that would never be enough for her. But did Kate feel the same way? It was so clichÈd to talk about moving in together less than two weeks after finding each other again, wasn't it?

"Something bothering you?"

What should she say? 2:30 in the morning two and a half hours before she had to get up and catch a train hardly seemed like the appropriate time to be having a conversation with such important implications. "Maybe if you sang to me I could fall asleep. Did I tell you how beautiful your voice is? What other little secrets are you hiding from me?"

"There are no secrets from you, love, just more things to discover about each other. Do you really want me to sing something?"


"Any requests?"

"Oh, you take requests?"

"Only from you," her lover kissed her on the nose.

"Anything you want to sing is fine by me, sweetheart."

Kate was quiet for a minute and then, with a deep breath in, she began to sing an old Anne Murray tune, "A Love Song;" "...I want to sing you a love song, I want to rock you in my arms all night long..."

Jay closed her eyes and listened as the melody washed over her. Kate's voice was magnificent, and the song was perfect for the occasion. She let herself drift, feeling the vibration of her lover's diaphragm beneath her ear. By the time the last notes had faded away, she had fallen peacefully asleep.

Kate smiled to herself when she heard the deep, even breathing that told her that her lover had, indeed, conked out. She tightened her arms around the lithe form and joined her in slumber.


At 5 a.m. the alarm went off, startling both of them. A long arm snaked out and swiped at the insistent buzzer. "ARGH."

A second groan was audible from underneath the covers, where a disheveled blonde head was poking out. "That clock can't be right, it is not possible that it could be time to get up already. For pete's sake, we just went to sleep."

"Come on, sunshine, we don't have a lot of time to spare this morning, got to get up and face the day."

"Don't want to."

"Have to."

"Don't have to like it."

"Nope, I'll give you that." Kate chuckled. "But you do have to get upright. Come on," she grunted as she pulled her lover up with her. "I'll get the coffee started, you get the shower going."

"Oh no, we're not going to have a repeat of Friday morning." Jay felt a tingle as she thought about their impromptu lovemaking session in and out of the shower.

"What, you didn't enjoy Friday morning?"

"Oh, I didn't say that," Jay grinned evilly, "I just said we couldn't repeat it this morning; we don't have time."

"Aw, honey, where's your sense of adventure?"

"I think I lost it when we were doing 95 mph on the interstate so that I wouldn't miss my train."

"Hmmph. And I thought you liked to live dangerously."

"Sweetheart," the blonde woman said as she reached up and planted a kiss on her lover's cheek, "There's dangerously and then there's dead. One's okay, I'm not so crazy about the other."

Kate swatted her on the behind and headed for the kitchen, Fred following closely at her heels, his tail wagging vigorously.

They both managed, with much difficulty and not a little grumbling, to behave themselves, get showered, dressed and ready to go without much delay. The ride to the train station was depressingly silent, both women clearly unhappy at having to separate. Jay clutched at Kate's fingers and the anchorwoman rubbed her thumb lightly over the back of her lover's hand.

"I don't want to go."

"I don't want you to. Unfortunately, you have to turn in your story and go to work, and so do I."

"You know what, Kate?" Jay asked, turning her face up to gaze into those cerulean pools that never failed to mesmerize her.

"What love?"

"Sometimes being a grown up sucks."

Kate laughed. "You've got that right, sweetheart. I promise I'll call you later, okay?"

"I guess it will have to be, won't it?" Jay sighed unhappily.

"I guess so." Kate used the cover of darkness in the parking lot to capture her lover's lips in a sweet goodbye kiss. "I love you so much, Jay. I hope you know that."

"I do, love," Jay said as she nibbled at her lover's lower lip. "I love you, too, you know."

"Yes, I do. Come on, we've got to get going before you miss your train and blame it on me."

Jay got out of the car and ran around to the driver's side, jumping into Kate's arms where she stood. "I'm going to miss you so much," there were tears in her eyes and she clung desperately to the strong body pressed against hers.

"Me too," was all Kate could get out around the lump in her throat. She stroked the blonde head. "It will be all right. Hey, it's a big day for you." She pulled back a little to look into those emerald eyes that she adored so much. "Your second cover story in as many weeks. Pretty soon you're going to be too important to talk to the likes of me."

"Too important to talk to the woman who made the cover of Time magazine? Somehow I don't think so." She smiled and stepped back, a bit of her usual self-control evident once again. "Okay, let's go."

Together they made their way to the platform and the waiting train.


As she had before, Jay selected a window seat with a view of the scenic Hudson River. For a little while she just enjoyed the sights as they flew past her, the sailboats catching the wind, a tug pulling a barge, and some ducks paddling around in the tall grasses near the shore. Focusing on nature like this helped to calm her a bit and to restore her normally good humor.

Leaving Kate was more difficult this time; at least last time she had known that they would be seeing one another in two days. Now she was unsure when they could be together next and it was making her nuts. She shook her head, trying to get a handle on her feelings.

This was so unlike her; she had spent years being completely work driven and single-minded of purpose to the point of walling off all other parts of her life. She had never noticed how lonely her existence was, or how solitary, until this incredible thing called love happened to her. Now all she wanted to do was to be with the woman who owned her heart, and nothing else seemed to matter very much, including a coveted cover story assignment. Were it not for the fact that it was her lover who was to be on the cover, she wouldn't have cared at all, and that scared her silly.

Thinking about the piece she had written, she wondered, would Kate like it? Would she think it was accurate and fair? What if she didn't? Jay pushed the thought from her mind. As a professional, she knew she shouldn't be concerned with what her subjects thought about her work as long as she stayed true to the facts and presented a balanced and insightful story. But this wasn't just any subject: this was the woman she had desired right from the first and the owner of the other half of her soul.

Kate hadn't asked her about the story even once; hadn't asked to read it, hadn't asked how it had turned out, hadn't even inquired as to whether or not she would like the outcome. She seemed to understand intrinsically that Jay needed to keep some professional distance about the piece, and for that the writer was eternally grateful.

It actually had been easier to stay objective than she had thought it would be. The extensive interviews she had done, the amount of time she had spent just observing the journalist at work, and the reactions of those around the charismatic woman had given her a solid foundation from which to write. For that period of time that she was working on the story, Jay had set aside her own thoughts and let the interviewees and the anchorwoman's performance speak for themselves. In the end, the question she had asked herself was if the piece was something she would have written about a subject she had never met before and knew nothing about. She was confident that it was.


Kate sat at her desk, but she wasn't really there. Her heart was 150 miles south and her head was busy contemplating when she could see Jay next. She closed her eyes and remembered the feel of her lover clinging to her in the parking lot. There was no question that the younger woman had been as distraught as she was about parting. "What we really need," she thought to herself, "is time. Yeah, a solid block of time without any distractions; just the two of us together, getting to know each other, seeing if we're compatible and if we could live together in harmony." She laughed at herself, "Oh, who are you kidding, Kyle, you've already made up your mind, you just want time to convince Jay." Chuckling again she thought, "So, what's wrong with that?"

"Hey, you okay Kate?"

She hadn't realized how long she'd been sitting there with her eyes shut, so deep in thought that she hadn't even heard Phil and Gene approaching. "Fine, just a little tired, I guess."

"Yeah," the producer said, "You've been working really hard lately, and then there was the LCA Show. When's the last time you took a vacation, kid?" He knew the answer: never.

Gene piped in, "I meant to tell you, Kate, you were fantastic in the show. Thanks again for the tickets. I tried to congratulate you Saturday night, but there was a huge crowd around you and I couldn't get close."

"Thanks, Gene, that's sweet." Smiling at him, she patted him on the arm, which made him blush.

"Hey," Phil exclaimed, "I just remembered, wasn't that Jay Parker I saw at the Governor's table?"

Kate's heart sped up at the mere mention of her lover's name, but she answered casually, "Yeah, I guess he had invited her to be his guest when she interviewed him for this week's cover of Time."

"Woo boy," Gene shook his head, "She looked hot, and I mean hot with a capital H! Did you see that dress she had on? Wow! Do you think she's single Kate?" Without waiting for an answer he prattled on, completely oblivious to the change in his friend's demeanor. "If I had any balls I would've gone right up to her and..."

"If you had any balls you wouldn't know what to do with them," Phil interrupted, laughing.

"Gentlemen, and I use the term very loosely, if you'll excuse me, I've got some work to do." And with that she stalked off.

"What got into her, you think?" Gene wondered.

"Ah, probably just PMS or something," Phil shrugged.

Kate gripped the sink in the bathroom so hard her knuckles were white. She knew if she had stayed there even one moment longer she would have slugged Gene. It wouldn't do to haul off and deck a co-worker for encroaching on her girlfriend when he didn't know he was doing it.

Once she was satisfied she was under control again she returned to her desk. An idea was forming in her head, sparked by her own thoughts and something Phil had said. But first, she had to make a phone call.


Jay arrived in the office a few minutes ahead of schedule after stopping at her apartment to drop off her suitcase and change her clothes.

Trish greeted her as she was passing by, stopping and leaning on the corner of the writer's desk. "Hey, you look like you got a little color this weekend. Do anything interesting?"

"Oh yeah," Jay thought dreamily, "I spent it with the love of my life, snuggled up doing nothing except crossword puzzles, napping outside in the sun, and making love." Aloud she said, "I went up north to the Catskills and did a little hiking. It was beautiful and I guess I must have forgotten the sunblock." "Well, that was the truth, wasn't it?"

"Well, whatever you did, you look great, kind of like you're glowing or something." The editor paused for a second. "Okay, kid, come with me and let's see the goods."

Obediently Jay got up, bringing the manila file folder with the story, her notes and background materials with her. She stood in front of the editor's desk, unsure whether she should just hand her the piece or sit down. Her dilemma was solved when her boss pointed to the chair and put her hand out for the story.

Chewing on her lower lip, the writer handed it over. For the next twenty minutes, as Trish read, grunting occasionally, Jay's anxiety level increased; she couldn't read anything in the editor's expression as her eyes danced across the pages.

Finally, just when the blonde was sure she would spontaneously combust, Trish looked up. "Jamison Parker, I have to tell you, you've outdone yourself again, girl. This," she pointed at the papers, "Is the most three-dimensional piece I think I've ever seen, and believe me, I've seen plenty. I mean, really Jay, it shows uncommon insight into the subject. Congrats. This chick must have given you unprecedented access, geez, what'd she let you do, spend 24 hours a day with her or something?"

Jay almost choked. "You have no idea," she thought, but the words that came out of her mouth were ones she knew would have made Kate laugh: "She was most accommodating."

"Well, you keep this up and you're going to be writing every cover from here on in. Now, why don't you go review the pics they took and help them decide which ones to use. Then maybe I'll give you some time off for good behavior."

"On my way, Trish, and thanks," Jay beamed. She was overjoyed at her boss's comments about the piece, and, if that wasn't enough, she was going to get to spend her afternoon looking at proofs and 8 x 10's of the most gorgeous woman in the world.

"Don't mention it, kiddo," Trish said indulgently as she turned to the other piles of papers littering her desk.

When Jay stopped by her cubicle to drop off her folder on the way to the photo department, the phone was ringing.

"Hello, Jamison Parker."

"Hi beautiful."

The warm, seductive quality of that voice cut through the smaller woman's business demeanor like a hot knife through butter. "Hi yourself, Stretch."

"How was your trip down?"

"Uneventful. I even managed to get to the office a few minutes early."

"That's great. I'm not catching you at a bad time, am I?"

"Well, I was just about to go review pictures of the sexiest woman alive, but..."

"Oh yeah? Who might that be?" A note of indignation crept into the anchorwoman's voice, "I need to know who my competition is."

Jay chuckled and shook her head. "It's you, ya goofball; I was talking about you."

"Oh, well, I guess that's okay then. Everything all right?" She didn't want her lover to think she was prying for information about the story, so she kept the question deliberately vague, giving the writer the room to answer any way she liked.

Jay smiled, easily understanding her lover's intentional use of language and appreciating the gesture. "Everything's more than okay, Trish loved the piece. She said, and I quote, 'it shows uncommon insight inta da subject...dis chick musta given ya unprecedented access...what'd she do, let ya spend 24 owas a day wit ha or somethin''?"

By the time she was finished, Kate was laughing so hard there were tears flowing down her cheeks. When she could breathe, she croaked out, "That's a pretty mean Noo Yawk accent you've got there, Scoop. I can't wait to hear how you answered her question."

"I just told her the truth," Jay paused for effect, knowing that her lover must be dying on the other end of the phone.

"You told her...the truth."

"Yep," Jay answered smugly. "I told her you were very accommodating."

"Oh, you are such a brat. Hey, that was a pretty good one."

"Well, I told the truth, didn't I?"

"That you did, love, that you did." God, it felt so good to be talking to her! Casually she asked, "So, what's next for you?"

"I don't know yet, Trish said something about maybe giving me some time off for good behavior." The younger woman let the comment dangle there, hoping her lover would understand the implications.

"Oh, that's nice," Kate said, seemingly distracted all of a sudden. "Listen, love, I've got to run. Want me to call you when I'm done tonight, or are you going to be asleep?"

Jay tried to hide her disappointment. "Um, you don't have to call if you don't want to."

Kate easily heard the emotion in her lover's voice, fully aware of the reason for it. Although it pained her to ignore it, she did. "Come on, love, trust me, I won't disappoint you." "Of course I want to, sweetheart." Softly, with all the feeling she could convey, she added, "I love you, Jay. I miss you."

"Miss you, too. Love you, bye."

Kate hung up the phone, having heard her lover's attempt to cover her sniffles. She felt awful, but, for right now, she would have to leave it that way until she could be sure she could deliver on her plan.


Jay swatted at the alarm, but the incessant ringing didn't stop. Blearily, she opened one eye and peeked at the offending instrument; nope, she'd been right, she hadn't set the damn thing by accident. So what could be making all the racket? Oh yeah, the telephone.

She grumbled, searching for the receiver by feel; she wasn't ready to open both eyes just yet, not having gotten much sleep after her brief midnight conversation with Kate. Jay hadn't had much to say. She was depressed because her lover hadn't mentioned seeing each other again, even though she had told her that she had the rest of the week off. It wasn't in her to invite herself to Albany. "I will not beg," she told herself resolutely, although that's exactly what her heart wanted her to do.

It was obvious Kate didn't want her there. If she had, she would have offered. After they had hung up, Jay cried for a long time, finally tiring herself out and falling into a fitful sleep at around 3 a.m. Now here it was 9 a.m. on her first day off, she had nothing to do and nowhere to be, and the phone was ringing.

"Hello," she mumbled, her voice rough from crying and too little sleep.

"Hi, I'm waking you, aren't I?"

Jay cleared her throat. "It's okay. What's up?"

"Um, Fred misses you."

Still half asleep, the blonde muttered, "Then how come he's not the one calling me?"

"He's a little shy and he doesn't want to appear to be needy."

"Hmm, I didn't realize he was that deep a thinker. Hold on, it's hard to hear, there's a fire engine going by outside." Jay paused for a moment, noticing as she came more awake that she was hearing the siren in stereo. "Kate?"

"Yess." The sound of the siren faded into the distance.

"Where are you, exactly?"

"At the pay phone outside your building; you can probably see me if you look outside your window."

"Are you kidding me?" Jay was fully awake now.


"Get up here, you goofball! I'm hanging up, go to the door so I can buzz you in."

Within seconds Kate was bounding up the stairs, arriving at the door just as it was being flung open. She scooped her lover into her arms, stepping into the apartment and shutting the door behind her with her foot, as she had done the very first time they had kissed. This time, though, there was no limousine waiting downstairs and nothing on Kate's mind except how much she loved and wanted this wonderful woman in her arms.

She leaned down and reverently ran her hands over Jay's face, finally tangling her fingers in the sleep-tousled golden strands and pulling her into a heart-stopping kiss that didn't end until they were both desperate for air. "Which way is the bedroom?" Kate asked huskily, her eyes darkened with passion.

Without saying a word, Jay took her by the hand and tugged her toward the loft, where she quickly stripped them both, all the while backing her lover toward the bed with purpose.

"I missed you so much, sweetheart, I couldn't stand not having you in my bed last night. I never knew I could feel this way." Kate had to stop talking then, because her lover had inserted a thigh between her legs and the delicious pressure was driving her to distraction. Jay was hovering over her now; her breasts tantalizingly close, but just out of reach of her mouth. Reaching up, Kate ran her thumbs over the aroused nipples, watching avidly as her lover's eyes closed in reaction and she leaned in to the contact. They were both so ready they knew they couldn't stand much more in the way of foreplay, but they continued to tease, taste and touch as long as they could before giving in and taking each other completely.

Sometime later, when they had both recovered and were lying peacefully entangled in one another, Jay asked, "Not that I'm complaining, because I'm not, but what are you doing here, love?"

"If I have to explain it to you..." Kate chuckled, indicating their entwined torsos.

"I don't mean that and you know it, wiseguy. I mean it's Tuesday morning, it's 10 a.m., and you're 150 miles south of where you're supposed to be four hours from now."

"Oh, that. Hand me my jeans, will you?"

Jay shook her head, once again baffled by a non sequitur. She leaned over the edge of the bed and found the requested item where it had been dropped in haste. "Here you go. Are you planning on running out right now or something?" She laughed nervously. "If so, then please disregard the question."

"No, love, of course not. I'm trying to answer you."

"And you need your pants for that?"

"Yess," Kate supplied as she dug around in the pockets. "Ah, here we go. Close your eyes."


"Do you always have so much trouble following simple instructions? Close your eyes, woman."

Jay did as she was instructed.

"Now hold out your hand."

She did, and Kate placed a flat item in her palm, closing her fingers around it.

"Okay, you can open your eyes now."

Jay cracked one eyelid, peeking into her outstretched hand, where a brochure rested. She opened the other eye and studied the picture on the front. It showed an endless expanse of sun-drenched white sand and ocean, a beach chair, and the inviting caption: "This could be you." She looked up at Kate questioningly.

Her lover smiled broadly, making her blue eyes twinkle in the sunlight seeping into the loft. "I, um, thought you might enjoy a little time away." She pointed at the brochure. "That's St. John in the British Virgin Islands."

"I don't understand, you're sending me away?"

"Oh, sweetheart," Kate shook her head and pulled her lover on top of her. "I'm sending us away, as in a vacation, as in just the two of us, as in quality time with no distractions, as in we have a plane to catch in..." She looked at the bedside clock..."Three and a half hours."

Jay leaned up on one elbow and stared hard into the eyes of the woman she loved with all her heart. "You're serious."

"Oh, yes, I certainly am," Kate offered sincerely. "I love you, Jamison, and all I want to do is spend more time with you. Will you come away with me? Today? Now? I know I didn't give you any warning, or any choice about the destination, but..."

"Yes. Yes, love, I would follow you to the end of the earth...or at least to a beautiful beach in the Virgin Islands." She smiled and winked. "But how...when...how long..."

"I know there's a question in there just dying to get out, sweetheart. I didn't want to say anything last night until I was sure I had all the arrangements worked out and everything set. That didn't happen until very late, and then I had it in my head that I'd rather surprise you in person than tell you about it over the phone."

"How did you get the time off? Didn't you tell me this is sweeps month? And, you're going to be the hottest property going once the magazine hits the newsstands."

"I asked. Yes it is. And I agreed to be back on the air Monday night, the day the magazine comes out."

"Wow. I can't believe this." Jay looked at her lover, her emerald eyes shining with delight and anticipation. "A whole five days alone with you on a tropical island. Well, this will be tough to take. My God, I've got to pack!" She jumped off the bed, realization dawning, running to her closet to retrieve her suitcase. Before she'd gotten five steps away, she turned around, ran back, and kissed Kate soundly on the mouth. "You're the best, you know that? God, I love you so much."

"I love you, too, sweetheart," and the truth of that shown in the cerulean blue eyes that gazed at her unblinkingly. "Now come here. We've still got time and I am nowhere near done with you yet," Kate growled, pulling her lover back down onto the bed and pinning her in one smooth motion, beginning a very thorough exploration of that tantalizing body.

Chapter 15

Two silhouetted figures strolled hand in hand on the deserted beach, their bare feet splashing softly in the surf, their bodies barely illuminated by the sliver of moonlight and the profusion of stars.

"Kate, this is the most breathtaking place I've ever seen. The sand is so soft and the water is so warm." Jay smiled up at her lover, her emerald eyes sparkling. "This feels like such a dream, being here with you. It's like magic."

"I'm glad you like it, sweetheart."

Their flight had gone without a hitch, and the resort was everything it had been promised to be. They had a secluded villa with a bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and a balcony overlooking the water. Most importantly, they had each other and time to spend exclusively together without interruption in this island paradise.

"Can we go snorkeling tomorrow? And I want to try sailing, too."

Kate laughed at her companion's enthusiasm. "Honey, we can do anything you want tomorrow, anytime you want to do it. As long as I'm with you, nothing else matters." She stopped for a moment, brushing her fingers along a rounded jaw line and leaning down to kiss the waiting lips.

Jay felt the truth of her lover's statement and it made her heart soar. Could it just have been last night that she lay crying herself to sleep, unsure whether Kate wanted to spend time with her? She sighed, knowing that her past demons had once again led her to expect the worst. So far, all she had gotten from the woman at her side was the very best, and she'd repaid her with doubts and insecurities. She scowled.

"Hey, beautiful, what's with the frown? Did I say something wrong?"

Jay's head jerked up. "No, no, of course not. Just beating myself up a little, that's all."

"Any particular reason?"

"It's nothing, really." She was dejected and it showed.

"Not good enough, Scoop. Come on, let's talk about it so we can get past whatever it is." When her lover didn't look up or respond, Kate added, "Please?"

"Okay, but I feel so stupid."

"Love, you are many things: gorgeous, talented, exceedingly bright, criminally good in bed, funny, compassionate and caring, but one thing you most certainly are not is stupid." She squeezed the hand she still held.

"Well, sometimes I sure feel dumb." She took a deep breath. "When you didn't seem interested that I had the rest of the week off, I thought maybe you didn't want to spend the time with me, even though I desperately wanted to spend it with you. I guess I went down that road pretty far and managed to get myself into a state where I cried myself to sleep last night for three hours."

"Oh, sweetheart, believe me, I was plenty interested, but I didn't want to get your hopes up in case I couldn't get the time off, or couldn't make the plan work. I'm sorry if I led you to think anything different. Nothing could have been further from the truth."

"You don't need to apologize to me, love, it wasn't you; it's just that disappointment has always been a fact of life for me. Reacting to you based on my past experiences isn't fair. I'm the one who owes you an apology: you deserve so much more credit than I've been giving you."

"Jay, look at me." She waited until the green eyes locked on hers. "I will never fault you for reactions that are second nature to you. All I ask is for the chance to re-train your mind until there are no doubts left to erase and no insecurities to overcome; until you can trust in me, trust in us. Can I have that? Can we have that?"

"You are so much more than I deserve. How can it be that of all the women in the world you could have, you want to be with me?"

"Because of all the women in the world, you are the one who owns me, body and soul and the only one I'll ever want or need. I love you, Jay, with all my heart."

"I love you, too, Kate." Jay waited a beat, then bumped her companion with a hip. "Criminally good in bed, eh?"

"Oh yeah."

Together they turned back toward the villa, content just to be in each other's company.


Wednesday dawned bright and clear, sunlight splashing across the bed where a sole occupant lay sprawled. Jay reached out, expecting to find her lover, but instead connecting with the soft cotton sheet. Frowning, she picked her head up; no human teddy bear. Disappointed, she listened for sounds coming from the bathroom. Hearing none, she turned her attention to the kitchen, where she was rewarded with the smell of freshly brewing coffee. She followed her nose and discovered the caffeine, but still no sign of her missing partner.

A quick check of the entire villa confirmed that Kate was AWOL. Still naked, Jay walked to the sliding glass doors that opened onto the balcony and looked out at the beach. Straining her eyes she spied a single figure running gracefully along the surf, long strides eating up the vast expanse of sand, head up, hair flying in the breeze. She smiled reflexively; the sight of her lover caught unaware as she was, outlined against the rising sun, took her breath away.

Several minutes later, dressed in a pair of very short running shorts and a cut off short-sleeved shirt, Jay stood with her toes in the sand at the water's edge, a cup of coffee in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. As she watched, the solitary runner came into view, her features resolving themselves as she got closer.

The second Kate spied the stationary beachcomber, her smile widened into a full-fledged grin. "Good morning, love," she greeted, sweeping her lover into her arms, kissing her lightly on the lips before setting her back on her feet.


"What are you doing out of bed?"

"I missed my snuggle partner."

"Sorry about that. I didn't want to wake you; you were sleeping so peacefully. I get restless sometimes in the morning and it was so beautiful out, I thought I'd come out and take a quick run. I didn't think you'd miss me."

"Honey," Jay chuckled, "I miss you when you go to the bathroom. And I always have a cure for morning restlessness." She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Oh you do, do you? Well, I'll have to remember that, although I also seem to recall that you're not a morning person."

"For that, I'd make myself into a morning person." She slipped her arm through Kate's as they made their way up the beach to the villa. "I thought you might need this," she said, handing her partner the water bottle.

"Thanks, as a matter of fact, I could use some. Now all I need is a shower and I'll be good as new."

"Well you'd better be quick about it, because I have plans for you."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mm hmm." Jay proceeded to describe in great detail exactly what she had in mind. After all, they were on vacation.


They lay side by side on a beach blanket, soaking up the sun as it dried their salty skin. Snorkeling gear and fins sat dripping nearby, a testament to their first foray into the lush underwater world of the warm Caribbean waters. It had been a lot of fun, swimming together along a nearby reef, pointing out to each other all of the colorful tropical fish as they motored along their way. They had spotted clownfish and angelfish, lobsters and kissing fish and some species whose names neither one of them knew.

Now they rested quietly, each lost in her thoughts on the peaceful stretch of beach they had claimed for their own. Kate was remembering the earlier part of the morning. Given the proper motivation she had managed to get showered in record time, returning to the bedroom to find her lover waiting for her impatiently. Jay had made good on everything she had promised and more, and it was a wonder that Kate was able to move at all afterward. She smiled; having Jay as a lover would never be boring, that was for certain.

"What are you smiling about, Stretch?"

"Mmm, just thinking about making love with a very beautiful woman this morning. You're going to spoil me, you know. I'll be ruined for life."

"I'm counting on it," Jay responded. "Wait until you see what I have planned for dessert tonight."

Kate groaned, but her grin gave her away. "Still interested in going for a sail?"

"Yeah," her lover replied enthusiastically.

"Okay. How about we dry out a little more, then I'll go make the arrangements while you go find the ingredients for a picnic lunch at sea."

"Oooh, that sounds great. You've got a deal."


The fifteen-foot Javelin skimmed along the water, the anchorwoman at the helm, and Jay hanging backward over the side as the boat heeled almost halfway out of the water. "Prepare to come about," Kate yelled to be heard over the rush of the wind. She waited until her mate nodded before yelling, "Coming about!"

At the command, Jay ducked under the boom and came up on the other side of the boat, where she assumed the same position she had on the starboard side. It went on like this for nearly an hour, until they came in sight of a tiny island off the port side. Kate maneuvered them into the wind, dropping the sails as her lover threw the anchor overboard. They were about twenty-five feet from shore and blocked from the bulk of the wind by the trees.


"Am I ever not hungry?" Jay asked, slapping Kate lightly in the stomach.

"I guess that was a stupid question. Let me re-phrase it: are you ready to eat lunch? This seems like a nice spot."

"It's perfect, and I'm more than ready for food, as always." Jay dragged the mini-cooler she had purchased with their supplies from under the hull and opened it. She brought out a tablecloth, a hunk of cheese, some French bread, a couple of mangoes, and a half split of champagne with plastic glasses, along with some water, and closed the cooler, which would double as their table. "Will this do?"

"Looks great to me. Want me to do the honors?" Kate asked as she pointed to the champagne.


She popped the cork smoothly and poured two glasses, handing one to her partner. "To a fantastic vacation with the most extraordinary woman in the world."

"I'll drink to that," Jay agreed, interlocking arms with her lover as they each drank from their glass.

They settled side by side on a bench, sharing cheese on bread, licking each other's fingers to ensure that they hadn't left any crumbs behind. In between the bites of food, they traded kisses and nibbles.

"I didn't know you knew how to sail, Stretch. Yet another one of your many secret skills I suppose."

Kate chuckled. "I told you, love, I have no secrets from you, only things we have yet to discover about each other. I grew up on the Atlantic Ocean, it was natural to learn to sail. I learned when I was about ten to skipper boats just like this one. It feels like coming home."

"Yes, I suppose it would. Who taught you to sail?"

"Friends of the family. They would take me out in all kinds of conditions just to make sure I knew how to handle myself out there in the elements. It was great training and good for my confidence; it taught me how to think quickly, be decisive, and react under pressure. All things that have served me well."

"Mmm." Jay wanted to ask more; wanted to know all about Kate's family, but, as her lover had never seemed inclined to talk about them, she was reluctant. She hadn't needed to know for the cover story since the focus had been on the journalist's career, and though she knew she could have asked in that context, she hadn't wanted to satisfy her curiosity by hiding behind a professional pretext.

Wondering when another opportunity might present itself and fearing that it wouldn't, Jay decided to broach the subject delicately. "Your parents didn't sail?"

Kate's posture stiffened imperceptibly; imperceptibly, that is, to anyone who didn't know her body as her lover did. "No. They never went out with me."

"We've never really talked about your family. I'm sorry, if it's a sore subject, we can drop it."

"No, no, that's okay, love. Nothing is off limits to you; ask away. I don't want there to be anything but honesty and full disclosure between us." The blue eyes darkened in memory. "My mother was a strong woman; she was an artist and an advocate for those less fortunate than we were. She volunteered in the court system for abused spouses and fought single-mindedly for the things she believed in; a great athlete, too. She's the one who taught me how to play tennis." Kate smiled at the recollection. "She was tough, but very smart and passionate about social causes and the difference between right and wrong; there wasn't much gray with her, everything was black or it was white."

"It sounds like you loved and admired her very much." Jay reached out and touched the back of her lover's hand. "But you talk about her in the past tense."

"Yes." Tears sprang unexpectedly to Kate's eyes. "Both my parents were killed by a drunk driver when I was 18."

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm so, so sorry; I didn't know." Jay moved the few inches and wrapped her arms around her partner, offering comfort for a pain that would never end.

"My father had always wanted a Corvette. He finally found a mint condition 1968; maroon with tan leather interior and a stick shift. He was in Heaven; I called it his mid-life crisis car. He and my mother were driving home from a party late one night on the Hutchison River Parkway when a drunk slammed into them from behind, knocking them headfirst into a tree at 85 miles per hour. They didn't stand a chance."

"Love, I don't know what to say."

"It's okay, at least they didn't suffer; they were both pronounced dead at the scene. Their best friends, who also were lawyers and the executors of their estate, called me at school. It was December 22nd, three days before Christmas my freshman year. They took care of the details of selling the house and all of that kind of stuff, and set up a trust for me. There was plenty of money for me to finish college and live comfortably afterward, but..."

"But you'd give it all back just to have them alive, wouldn't you?"

"Yeah, I would. I never had any brothers or sisters, so it's just been me ever since."

"Seems like we've both become orphans, in a way."

"There are two kinds of families, Jay. Those you are born into, and those you create. To me you are my family now, and nothing could make me happier."

"Me too, love. Me too."

They sat for a while, holding each other silently and enjoying the peaceful solitude of the water and the nearby-uninhabited island. As the wind began to pick up a bit and the sun crawled across the sky, Kate roused them from their reveries and headed them back toward the resort.


The candles flickered in the breeze, creating interesting shadows across the faces of the lovers as they enjoyed a romantic dinner for two on the outdoor patio at a local restaurant on the water. They were so wrapped up in each other that they barely took notice of the other restaurant patrons around them, some of whom stared at them in open disgust.

"Can you believe they just sit there like that, holding hands as if it were normal? What is this world coming too, anyway? Somebody ought to do something about that sort of thing. Earl, go over and talk to them."

"I'm not goin' anywhere. I'm gonna sit here and eat my meal and mind my own business, and I suggest you do the same."

"Hmph. Well, I tell you, they're ruining my appetite."

"Yeah, I can tell," Earl said, as he noted his wife's mostly empty plate.

Kate, whose ears were finely tuned and very sensitive, heard the entire exchange, but chose to ignore it and concentrate instead on the beautiful woman sitting across from her.

"What are you smiling about, Stretch?"

"I'm just trying to remember what I did before I had you in my life. Right about now, if it wasn't a work night, Fred and I would be sitting in the library reading a good book and munching on stuffed animals." At the raised eyebrow, she clarified, "Of course, the book is for Fred and the stuffed animals are mine."

"Of course," the emerald eyes twinkled.

"You've brought so much into my life, Jay. I'm so thankful to have you."

"Right back at ya, sweetheart. Right about now I'd be sitting on the sofa with a magazine and a bag of popcorn, critiquing the competition's writing style. Shallow, but somehow satisfying."

Kate laughed. "Aren't we just a couple of live wires. Can I interest you in dessert, perhaps?"

Jay smiled evilly, "Only if you're on the menu."

"I dunno, have you read the menu? Do you know your choices?"

"I know that I would choose the same thing every time, I don't even need to see what's available."

"In that case, may I escort you home, princess?"

Unable to resist the temptation on the way out, Kate stopped at Earl's table, pulling Jay to a halt with her, not letting go of her hand. She put on her most charming smile, oozing charisma, and, in her best southern accent drawled, "Excuse me, but we couldn't help but notice what a lovely couple you make. How long have y'all been married, if you don't mind my askin'?"

"Forty two years," the wife replied, puffing herself up like a peacock.

"Well, I do declare. Jam'son, did y'all hear that? I just hope that someday we can be just like you...so in love after so many years. In't that right, suga?"

"Why yes, honeybunch," Jay played along, not at all sure what was going on, but having great fun just the same.

"By the way," Kate lowered her voice conspiratorially, snaring the old woman with her gaze, and resting her free hand on her arm, "I just luuv your outfit. Liz Claiborne, if I'm not mistaken; one of my personal favorites. It looks just perfect on you, honey."

"Thank you very much."

"Well, we'd best be goin' now and leave these nice folks alone, right Jam'son?"

"Right, peaches. It was sooo nice to meet y'all. Have a great night."

When they had walked away, the old woman swatted Earl on the arm. "Well, wasn't that nice. I had no idea those kind of people had such good taste; they know a good marriage and proper clothing when they see it." Earl didn't answer; his eyes were still following the two gorgeous women's progress as they disappeared from the restaurant.

Once outside, Jay turned to her lover, her eyes gleaming. "Okay, want to tell me what that was all about, 'suga'?"

"Just having a little fun, that's all," she smiled warmly at her partner.


"The old bat took exception to our public display of affection, and I thought I'd play with her a little. Thanks for going along with me, that was great sport."

"How did you know she was wearing Liz Claiborne, a lucky guess?"

"Nope. Her tag was hanging out in back."

"You are so bad."

"You're about to find out how bad," she purred in her sexiest register.

Jay, her skin already tingling in anticipation, could only whimper.


Kate brushed her fingers lightly over her lover's bare buttocks and back, reveling in the feel of silky soft skin and the scent that was so uniquely Jay. She had been overwhelmed with a desire last night to show this exceptional woman exactly what she felt for her. She had started with slow caresses and deep kisses, added some strategically placed nibbles and bites, and luxuriated in the thrill of her lover's rising excitement. She had stilled Jay's wandering hands, wanting her instead to focus exclusively on her own pleasure.

"Tell me what you want, sweetheart, all of it. I want to make everything you've ever fantasized about, everything you've ever dreamed, come true."

"You already have," Jay breathed, and that was the truth.

"Is this what you want?" Kate asked, running her tongue up the inside of one thigh, lightly kissing the engorged tissues, briefly sucking her lover into her mouth and then letting her go.

"Argghh. God, Kate, that feels so good."

"Or would you prefer this?" She smoothed long fingers over downy soft skin and into blonde curls, barely dipping into the wetness, swirling her fingers around once and retreating.

"Ahhh. Oh, love."

"Tell me what you want, sweetheart, and it's all yours." She looked into emerald eyes gone coal black with need.

"Please, take me now, I need you so much; I want you so much. I can't stand it." Jay could barely grind the words out.

Sensing that no further instruction was forthcoming, Kate made her own decision, entering her lover slowly with long, slender fingers, seeking the sensitive spots she knew so well, adding to the pressure with a thigh, setting the rhythm, following the rise and fall of her lover's hips. Then she lowered her head, taking an aroused nipple into her mouth, swirling the tip and biting down gently. Jay moaned, grasping her lover's hair and pulling her more firmly onto her breast. Kate complied, biting down harder, Jay crying out her name as she exploded in orgasm.

Continuing to stroke her lightly Kate gentled Jay, allowing her breath to settle briefly before replacing fingers with tongue, taking first quick and then long, firm strokes until she was once again begging for release. Grasping Jay's buttocks, Kate pulled her tighter against her mouth, increasing the pressure of her tongue against the already swollen tissues. Immediately she felt her lover shudder with pleasure and heard her gasp as she came again.

Moving up to lay along side her exhausted lover, Kate brushed stray blonde strands from her eyes, kissing her with as much feeling as she could convey. "I want you to know how incredibly good you taste, love. You are my life. I love you, Jay."

"I love you too, sweetheart, and I'd love to show you just how much, unfortunately someone has worn me out completely for the moment."

"That's all right, all I want right now is to hold you." And she had, the two women falling blissfully asleep tangled in each other's arms.

Now here it was just before dawn, and Kate was as content as she'd ever been. She closed her eyes again and waited for her lover to wake.


The remainder of the morning was spent lying on the beach, taking an occasional swim and snorkeling. The afternoon was reserved once again for sailing to the spot they had discovered the day before. As she had previously, Kate took the helm, but this time, she explained to Jay as she went, teaching her what she knew. Halfway out, she motioned her lover to join her at the tiller, positioning her between her legs facing outward, and placing her hand on the tiller as well.

"Here, just pick a point over the bow and keep the tiller pointed at it. With your other hand, you hold the ropes that control the mainsail and jib. Pull tighter if you want to catch more wind, let them out a little if you want to slow down, okay? If you want to get stopped dead in your tracks, head directly into the wind."

"Sounds easy enough," Jay said.

Kate let them run along that way for a bit so that her lover could get the feel of it. She leaned down into a nearby ear. "Ready to turn?"

"Just tell me what to do." And the skipper did, letting her mate do some of the work, but never relinquishing full control. "How'd I do?"

"Not bad. Don't forget the tension on the sails, that's critical, and make sure you warn the crew when you're about to shift directions."

"Got it."

They practiced together all the way out to the island, Jay getting more and more excited about her new skills as they went. Kate smiled at her enthusiasm, loving the sparkle in her eyes that matched the color of the water.

"Honey, I don't want to stop just yet. Can we sail around the island, and can I take the helm by myself?"

"You think you're ready for that?"

"Nothing to it," Jay replied.

Kate, who was a seasoned sailor, was a little leery of letting her lover handle the boat by herself. Then she remembered the first time she had gotten to solo: her mentor had taken her out to an island not that different from this one and let her loose, calmly correcting her when she had made mistakes and giving her the freedom to learn. That trust had meant so much to her. "Okay," she smiled. "Let me just get us around this corner, then it's all yours."

Jay could hardly contain her glee.

Kate moved out from behind her lover, positioning herself on the starboard side for now. "Okay, pick a point and follow it with the bow and the tiller."

Jay did.

"Good, now pull in the mainsail just a little bit and point the tiller a little to your left so that we catch a little more wind. Not too much, though."

"Aye, aye, cap'n."

"Easy, there, matey, easy...that's too much, let it out a bit."

Jay had pulled the sail tight as she turned to the left, causing the wind to fill the sail full. The boat picked up speed at what was to Jay an alarming rate.

"It's okay, love," Kate shouted to be heard over the wind and the water rushing by. She was leaning out over the boat as far as she could, trying to keep them from heeling all the way and capsizing. She could see the panic building in her lover's eyes as they grew wide. "Don't worry. Just let the sail out a little, don't make any sudden shifts."

But even as she said the words, a small swell caused Jay to lose her balance. As she began to fall, she yanked the tiller hard, causing the boat to turn violently to the right. The mainsail line slipped through her fingers, the sail beginning to flap wildly in the wind. With the sudden shift in direction the boom swung hard the other way, catching Kate in the side of the head before she even had time to duck and knocking her unconscious, the momentum pitching her overboard and into the water. Jay barely had time to blink in the space it had taken to lose her lover. Her scream died on the wind.

On the shore of the tiny island, some tourists who had disembarked from a nearby cruise ship witnessed the entire scene. The two crewmembers that had transported the passengers in a motorized dinghy saw the tragedy unfolding as well, and they were in their craft even before Kate hit the water and were speeding to the rescue.

"Hang on. We'll be right there," the smaller of the two men yelled.

As they reached the sailboat and grabbed hold of the side, Jay dove overboard, desperate to find her lover. Surfacing once to take a breath, she dove back down, trying valiantly to see despite the tears that clouded her vision. She struggled to clear her mind and let her lifesaving instructor training take over, trying to gauge the current, figuring how far the boat had moved past the spot where Kate had gone overboard. Running out of air, she was forced to break the surface one more time to take a breath before re-submerging. It had been two agonizing minutes, and every second more decreased the chances of finding her lover alive.

There! Finally, she spotted the still figure, lying limp on the ocean floor, fifteen feet below the surface. Kicking hard, she propelled herself downward, reaching out and grabbing an arm, then planting her feet on the bottom and pushing off with all her strength. Jay broke the surface, pulling her limp lover into a lifesaving carry and signaling to the circling dingy. Within seconds, one of the men pulled along side, grabbing the unresponsive woman under the armpits and hauling her into the dinghy. Then he reached over again and assisted the small blonde into the craft.

"Can you get us to the island? Please hurry." Jay turned her attention to the prone figure, checking for a pulse and breathing. "She's not breathing, but she has a pulse." Her voice shook and her whole body trembled, but she put everything aside except the thought of saving the other half of her soul. Nothing else mattered.

She laid Kate out and rolled her onto her side, clearing her mouth and then compressing her abdomen, emptying her stomach of the water that had seeped into her system. She checked again for breathing and pulse. The pulse was there, although weaker, and she still wasn't breathing.

"Miss, we're at the shore now." There was a hand on Jay's shoulder. "Let us help you get her onto the sand."

"Hurry, I have to save her. I have to."

The look of agony on her face told the man all he needed to know. "We'll do everything we can, Miss."

Two passengers who had been watching from the shore met them as they hit the sand, grabbing the dinghy and beaching it and helping the crewmember lift the unconscious woman out of the boat and onto the ground.

Jay dropped to her knees by Kate's head, checking one more time for pulse and breathing before laying her head back, pinching off her nose, and beginning mouth-to-mouth. This couldn't be real; it had to be a nightmare, that's all. The only sounds she could hear were the beating of her own heart hammering in her ears and the whoosh of the air she was breathing into her lover's lungs. In between breaths, she watched for the telltale rise and fall of the chest, listened with her ear by Kate's mouth for air escaping. For an agonizing minute, nothing happened save the continued rhythm of the mouth-to-mouth breathing every five seconds.

Tears streamed down Jay's face as she leaned over one more time, breathing life into the woman without whom she was sure she would die. "Please, love," she pleaded, "Please don't leave me now, I couldn't bear it. I need you so much. Please, please stay with me." She turned her head to the side, placing her ear near her lover's lips and watching her chest. Just as she was about to turn and give another breath, Kate coughed weakly and made a choking sound. Quickly, Jay inserted herself behind her upper back, sitting her up a little to clear her airway. Kate coughed several more times, gasping for air, her lover holding her tightly from behind.

"Jay..." It came out as a hoarse whisper.

"Shh. Don't talk now. You're okay, love, you're going to be okay." She rocked Kate back and forth in her arms, forgetting for a moment about her head injury; ignoring that there were other people present; blocking out everything except the feeling of life coursing through the body pressed against her chest.

After a moment, Kate leaned to the side and vomited, Jay soothing her and rubbing her back.

"Miss, she really needs to be checked out. We have a doctor aboard the ship," the young crewmember pointed in the direction of the cruise ship, which was now plainly visible from this side of the island. "We could take you on board and let him have a look. She took a nasty blow to the side of her head, it could be dangerous still."

"Thank you, you're right. Are you sure that would be okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," the other crewmember smiled at her. "I'm sure doc would be happy to help. He's always complaining about being lonely."

Jay looked around for the first time, noting the crowd of people that had gathered. She also noticed that the sailboat had been towed safely onto the sand. She wiped her eyes self-consciously, never letting go of Kate, who was wheezing and semi-alert.

Seeing the indecision on Jay's face, one of the male bystanders said, "We could lift her into the dinghy for you."

"That's very sweet, thank you."

"No problem, and don't worry, we'll be careful not to move her head. Okay guys, give me a hand."

With that three other burly men stepped forward, gently grabbing Kate and lifting her into the dinghy. Jay never let go of her lover's hand and scooted in behind her in the boat as the men helped the crewmembers give it a shove off.

Within minutes they had arrived at the side of the large cruise ship, several more crewmembers meeting them and attaching lines to the dinghy so that it could be lifted mechanically out of the water and up to deck level, where a stretcher and the doctor were waiting. For the first time, Jay realized that the crewmembers must have been in contact with the ship by radio, transmitting the emergency and getting everyone ready to assist. She was grateful beyond words.

"I don't know how to thank you two. You saved her life; I don't know what I would have done without you." Tears spilled down her cheeks.

"No, no Miss. You saved her life, we just lent a little bit of a helping hand."

There was no time for more talk just then because the mechanical lift ground to a halt, the crewmembers and doctor springing into action, transferring Kate to the stretcher and carrying her to the infirmary.

"Hi, I'm Doctor Hanratty," the medic said, noting that the small blonde woman hadn't moved from the patient's side, nor let go of her hand.

"I..." Jay cleared her throat around the emotion that still threatened to choke her. "I'm Jamison Parker and this is Katherine Kyle."

"Nice to meet you both. Trust me, I promise to take good care of your friend." He smiled kindly at Jay, who looked as if she might collapse herself. "Do you want to sit down for a minute?"

"NO," she said too quickly. She didn't want to let go of Kate's hand, couldn't bear to lose contact with her.

"Okay, well, let me tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to take a quick look at her, then x-ray her head. I understand she took a nasty blow, is that right?"

Jay simply nodded, unable to answer around the lump in her throat, knowing it had been all her fault.

"Don't worry, young lady, I'm sure she's going to be just fine, and from what I hear, she owes that to you. You're quite a hero."

"I don't feel like a hero. If it hadn't been for me, she wouldn't have gotten knocked in the head in the first place."

"Excuse me," a voice said weakly from the stretcher. "Jamison," she motioned her lover to lower her head so that she could make eye contact with her. "This was not your fault, it was an accident. Stuff happens. I love you, and I'm here with you and that's all that matters, okay?"


"Look me in the eye and say that like you mean it, Scoop."

Jay smiled for the first time in what seemed like hours. "Okay, Stretch," she said more strongly, glad beyond measure just to be able to hear her voice.

"That's better. Okay, doc, let's get this over with, I've got a vacation to get back to."

"That's the spirit," the doctor said, and proceeded with his examination.


Outside, the two crewmembers were talking amongst themselves. "Man, that poor woman took a hell of a whack to the side of her head; that boom was really moving."

"No kidding, she sailed about five feet in the air before she landed. You could tell by the way she hit the water that she was already out cold. Sank like a stone."

"The cute blonde did all right, though, finding her so quickly. Must have had some training; she knew just what to do."

"Yep, handled everything by the book, just like they teach you. Come to think of it, that was pretty amazing, considering how shook up she was. Did you see the way her hands were trembling?"

"Wouldn't yours have been if it had been you? Jesus, her friend would've been dead, or at least brain damaged in another minute or two."

"You think something's going on there?"

"You mean do I think they're more than 'friends'? Hell, I wish my wife would like at me the way they looked at each other. Yeah, I think something's going on there."

"Too bad, they're both awesome looking. Nice bodies, too."

"Man, you need a girlfriend."

"You got that right. By the way, the captain says we can use the dinghy to take the two of them back to the main island if the tall one checks out okay. We can tow the sailboat behind, it should be alongside by now, they were bringing it with the other dinghy that went out to cover the passengers we left on the island."

"Good, I'd like to see it through, make sure they get back all right. I feel badly for the kid. You know she's got to be thinking it was all her fault. Bet she's gonna have trouble sleeping tonight."

"Yeah, can't say I envy her. I wouldn't want to live with that."

"If the wind hadn't picked up just then like it did, she would have been fine."

"Yeah, and with the direction it was blowing, we could hear the instructions, but she obviously couldn't. Her friend was telling her the right thing, if she could've heard her, she probably could've made the correction in time. Poor kid."

The ship's captain joined them.

"Hi guys. Any word on our visiting patient?"

"She and her friend are in with the doc right now."

"Good, I think I'll take a peek." With that, he opened the door to the infirmary.

The doctor glanced up at the sound of the door opening. "Hi Bert. How are you?"

"Fine Jake, just fine. How's our guest doing?"

"Captain Bert Higgins, I'd like you to meet Ms. Jamison Parker and Ms. Katherine Kyle. Ladies, this is the man in charge of this tub."

"Hey, old man, watch how you talk about your home. Hello ladies, it's a pleasure to meet you both, though I wish it were under better circumstances."

"Captain, we can't thank you enough for offering us your facilities and the assistance of your crew. The doctor and your crewmembers have been fantastic."

"You're quite welcome, Ms. Parker. We're all happy we could help. Do you have everything you need? We'll be docked here for another few hours, and I've instructed the boys to take you back to the main island when you're ready. We've got the Javelin, too, and you can tow that behind." He noticed that Jay was shivering slightly, which made sense, since she was wearing only a wet bikini. "If you'll excuse me for a minute, I'll be right back."

"Okay, Katherine," the doctor turned his attention back to his patient. "Here's the deal: you've got a pretty bad concussion and you're going to have a heck of a headache for a while. The bump should go down by tomorrow morning as long as you ice it every now and again. I don't see any skull fracture, which is a good thing. Your pupils are still a bit dilated and your vision isn't as clear as I'd like, but I think that will resolve itself by tomorrow. It seems as though your brain is working fine, and your hearing is clearly superior. As for your lungs, you took in quite a bit of water and that's got to clear your system. You and your friend here managed to get rid of most of it, but there may be some hiding in there. I'm going to give you some antibiotics just in case; can't have you developing pneumonia on your vacation after all. I'd rather you didn't lay flat tonight and I don't want you sleeping for too long with that concussion. Jamison, your job is to wake her up every two hours or so to make sure she's all right. No heavy exertion for the next couple of days, and you should probably stay out of the sun tomorrow. Otherwise, you're going to be just fine. You're young and strong and you obviously have a hard head."

"Hey, I think I should resent that!"

"Who are you kidding, Stretch, you know he's right."

"Whose side are you on, anyway?"

Captain Higgins returned at that moment carrying something in his hand. "Not that you two don't do those bathing suits justice, mind you, but you looked a little cold. I thought you could use these." He held out two brand new sweatshirts bearing the ship's logo and likeness.

"You didn't have to do that, sir, but thank you." Jay reached out and took the offered clothing, taking the medium for herself and giving the large to her partner.

"Bert, I think these lovely ladies are ready for transport anytime you're ready. That is, unless you have any questions, ladies?"

"Doctor, we can't thank you enough," Jay threw her arms around him and hugged him briefly, which made him blush.

"If all my patients were like you two, I might actually enjoy my work." He winked as he and the captain helped Kate off the examining table.

The injured woman walked slowly toward the door, shaking hands with the doctor and thanking him on her way out.

"Jamison, can you wait a second?" He motioned to the captain to walk Kate out.

She looked at him expectantly.

"Listen, you've been through quite a trauma yourself. Watching your friend go overboard and nearly drown, saving her, doing mouth-to-mouth; that takes a lot out of you, especially when it's someone as important to you as Katherine clearly is." He looked at her kindly. "I want you to know that what you did was extraordinary. You saved her life. She wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for your quick thinking and good reactions. You did better than most professionally trained personnel under a heap of pressure. I'm very proud of you." He noticed that she still hung her head.

"None of that would have been necessary if I hadn't screwed up in the first place. And enough hours with Resusci-Annie ought to prepare anyone for mouth-to-mouth. I've never been so glad to be a certified lifesaving instructor in my life, believe me. At the time I took the course and started teaching it was just a way to earn extra money at college."

"Well, the training certainly paid off. And, young lady," he added, lifting her chin with his fingers, "To hear Katherine tell it, you were doing just fine out there. Sometimes circumstances have a way of wreaking havoc with us, and there's not much we can do about it. She doesn't blame you; in fact, she's more worried about you than she is about herself. When you stop to breathe, this is all going to hit you pretty hard. When it does, remember how lucky you are to have each other and count your blessings, not your faults. Now go on, she's waiting for you."

"Thanks, Doctor," she reached up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek, "For everything."


By the time they got back to the villa and got settled it was late afternoon, and it was the first time they had been alone together since the accident. Jay moved around the room, putting away their things, opening and closing the drapes, keeping herself busy doing anything and everything except looking at her lover.

"Sweetheart, come here."

She stopped mid-motion. "Um, are you hungry? Gosh, you must be. Let me go get you something to eat." She started out of the bedroom.

"Jamison, please, come here." Kate held out her hand, beckoning to her lover.

Jay perched on the far edge of the bed, picking at her shorts with nervous fingers.

"Not good enough, Scoop. I want you right here." She patted the bed next to her.

Still without making eye contact, Jay moved gingerly next to her.

"Look at me, love."

She couldn't.

"Jay, please, don't do this. I'm sitting right next to you and I miss you desperately. Look at me."

The eyes that met hers were filled with so much pain, so much agony, that it made Kate bleed inside. "I love you so much, sweetheart," she said as she took Jay's hand in hers and kissed it. It was freezing.

The physical contact was all it took for the dam to break. Jay threw herself into Kate's arms, great heaving sobs wracking her body. "I could've killed you. I nearly did. It was all my fault, I..." She couldn't go on for a moment around the lump in her throat.

Kate pushed aside the pain in her skull, stroking the blonde head, whispering nonsense and letting Jay cry herself out. She knew her lover needed to release all of the pent up emotion; it was the only way for them to get past this.

"Hey, what happened could've happened with anyone. It was an accident, honey. An accident, that's all. I'm here and alive thanks to you. Your quick thinking and skill are what saved me. I'm so impressed with what you did, Jay. The guys couldn't stop talking about it all the way back here.

"I thought I was ready. I thought I could handle it. I was having so much fun."

"And you were doing a great job. You just need a little more experience and you'll be a great skipper."

"I'm never going out there again."

"Nonsense. It's like riding a horse; you have to get right back on. Love, I don't even want to tell you all the mistakes I made when I was first learning. Let's just say that there was a stretch there when the boat spent more time upside down than it did right side up."

"Maybe, but I bet nobody drowned as a result of your screw ups."

"No, they didn't, but that was just by dumb luck. And, thanks to you, nobody drowned today, either." Kate chuckled, reminiscing, "I did get us trapped under the hull on more than one occasion."

"You're just saying that to make me feel better."

"Jamison, look at me." She picked her lover's head up with her fingertips. "I will never, ever, tell you something just because I think you want to hear it. There will never be anything but the truth between us, remember?" The intensity of her gaze, even with eyes clouded with pain, bespoke how seriously Kate meant what she said, and her lover knew it. "I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, and yes, some of them have been pretty costly, but I know I can't do anything to change that. I can only live with the knowledge and move on, using those experiences to make me a better person."

"God, I love you so much, Kate. I couldn't have borne it if I'd lost you."

"But you didn't lose me, love, you saved me. Your refusal to give up on me is the reason I'm alive. Jay, accidents happen to everyone. Did you mean for the boom to hit me in the head?"

"Of course not!"

"Did you mean for me to get knocked unconscious and fall overboard?"


"Right, that's exactly my point; sometimes things are beyond our control. I never should have put you in a position where something like that could happen, I should have known better."

"How could you know what was going to happen? Don't be ridiculous."

Kate smiled, having led her partner right where she wanted her. "Mm hmm."

Jay looked up sheepishly. "That was sneaky."

"Well, you know I'm like that."

"Yep, I do."

They each leaned forward, their mouths meeting in a dance of thanks and prayer and love.


The next day was spent resting and relaxing in a secluded, shady spot in the shadow of their villa, in view of the water. Jay was tired, having awakened several times during the night with nightmares and several more times to check on her lover and reassure herself that she was really there. As for Kate, her skull was pounding and her body was sore. She was more than happy to hold Jay as she napped and wait for her to stir.

When she did, Kate asked, "Could you tell me a story, my head hurts too much to read?"

"A story?"

"Yeah, you know, make something up, or pick one that you know. Didn't you write your own fiction in college?"

Jay laughed. "Yep, most of it was about you."


"Uh huh. Remember how I told you about Sarah reading my journal and accusing me of having an affair with you in my heart?"

"Oh yeah," Kate said unenthusiastically. "I think I was trying to forget the part where you had a previous lover in your life."

"Sweetheart, that wasn't love, that was comfort and companionship. This, now, this is love." Jay pulled herself up and kissed her lover in a way that clearly reinforced her point.

"Mmm," Kate licked her lips. "Okay, so tell me one of those. Puulleease," she pleaded, batting her eyelashes.

"You asked for it..." For the rest of the afternoon Jay regaled her lover with the stories that she had created in her imagination about the mysterious, remarkable dark-haired siren that had captured her heart.


Saturday morning Kate awoke far more clear-headed, the pounding in her skull reduced to nothing more than a dull ache. It was their last full day of vacation, and she had plans to set in motion for today. She kissed her lover's fair head, running her fingers through the silky strands. When that didn't rouse the sleeping beauty, she began taking more drastic measures, nibbling her lover's exposed neck and along her jaw line and brushing her fingers ever so lightly over her ribcage.

Jay groaned and snuggled more closely. "It can't be time to get up already," she mumbled into a breast.

Kate chuckled. "Well, I guess that depends." She nipped an earlobe.

"On what?"

"On whether you want to stay in bed alone all day, or spend it with me."

"Urgh. That is so unfair. You know that, right?"

"Uh huh."

"But you don't care, right?"

"Uh huh."

"Wench. I bet I could find a way to put you back to sleep." She waggled her eyebrows suggestively, knowing full well that a round of thorough lovemaking was sure to relax her partner to the point of slumber. She bit down on a convenient nipple.

"Oh no you don't, Princess," Kate shook her head as she captured her lover's hands and pulled away from her questing mouth.

"Hey, I was enjoying my breakfast."

"Ayup, and so was I, but it will have to wait for later, doll. We've got things to do."

"We do?"


"Like what?"

"What do you say, since it's our last full day of vacation..."

"Don't remind me."

"...That I get to choose how we spend the morning, and you get to pick the afternoon activity."

"Sounds fair enough. You go first."

"Okay, we're going sailing." She felt her lover go stiff as a board against her and tremble slightly. "Hey, we won't go far, and I promise to stay right by you."

"Oh no you don't. We only go if you take the tiller." Jay was terrified and it showed.

"No can do, love," Kate said gently. "You need to get past this, and I need for you to. Sailing is something I really enjoy, and I know you do too. I've always wanted to own a sailboat," she admitted. "I want to keep it docked on a lake not far away from my house, and I want us to be able to spend time together on it. More than that, I want to be able to sit and enjoy the ride sometimes while you play skipper, which I know you're going to love. Please, this is important to me."

Jay couldn't resist the plea in her lover's eyes, so she gave in. "Okay, but you stay right by my side."

"Every second."

"And then we get to go over to St. Thomas and go shopping this afternoon."

Kate rolled her eyes and sighed, inwardly thrilled that her plan was working out perfectly. "Deal."


The day was calm, with not much wind and no chop to the water. Still, they did not venture out of the shelter of the bay, and Kate stayed by her lover's side the entire time. At first, Jay was so petrified that she could barely function, but Kate kept talking to her, instructing her and encouraging her, until at last she began to relax a little.

Gradually, the pupil learned how to tack, when to let the sail out, when to pull it in and how much, how to read the wind, how to get herself into and out of irons, heading directly into the wind and then maneuvering into position so that the wind would fill the sail once again, and how to prepare to drop anchor. By the end of the morning when they returned the boat, she was actually laughing and having a good time.

She looked at Kate, who had sat beside her the entire time, patiently teaching, cajoling, and correcting. "Thank you," she said with as much feeling as she could convey.


"I said thank you. Thank you for making me do this, thank you for showing me that I could, thank you for being patient with me, and thank you for trusting me."

Kate beamed. "Thank you, for humoring me and being brave. Going out there today took a lot of courage, and I want you to know how much it means to me that you would do that, despite your misgivings."

"If it's important to you, it's important to me, love. And besides, you were right: I did enjoy that."

"I have to tell you that you're the fastest learner I've ever taught. You understand the concepts intuitively, and your reactions are quite good. I'm really impressed."

"You're just..." The rest of the phrase died on her lips at the raised eyebrow she received; message understood. "Thanks," she murmured instead. "Now can we go shopping?"

"You, young lady, are incorrigible. Yes," she sighed dramatically, "We can go shopping."

"You're the best." She kissed her lover on the lips as they made their way into the villa to change for an afternoon of shopping and dinner on St. Thomas.


"I can't believe we have to leave here today, it's not fair." Jay, whose hair had bleached to an even lighter shade of blonde after nearly a week in the Caribbean sun, was snuggled securely in her lover's arms, watching the Sunday morning sunrise from their balcony. Surprisingly, she had been first to waken and suggest they throw on some clothes and step outside. She turned to see the face she knew so well, and to look into eyes that held her soul, eyes that now gazed at her indulgently.

"I agree, sweetheart, and there's nothing I'd rather do than stay here with you forever. Unfortunately, reality has a way of intruding, and, since neither one of us is independently wealthy, there is the small matter of having to get back to work tomorrow." As she had told Jay before they left for St. John, when Kate had bullied the news director into giving her the time off, he had grumpily given in, but only on the condition that she be back on the air Monday night, the day the Time cover story was to hit the newsstands. After all, it was sweeps month, that time of year when ratings were calculated and advertising rates set accordingly. Good ratings meant big bucks and every station pulled out all the stops to draw viewers.

"Kate, what are we going to do when we get back? I mean, you're in Albany, and I'm in New York City..." She had waited all week for her lover to say something about their future together, and, now that they were about to leave, she was getting anxious about it.

Kate rose quickly from the lounge chair. "Take a walk on the beach with me, love?"

Jay was puzzled and not a little concerned about the abrupt change in subject, but, as she was already being propelled back inside the villa, she had few options except to go along.


The two women had the stretch of brilliant white sand all to themselves in the moments just after dawn, and they strolled hand in hand, their feet in the surf and their hearts beating in synchrony. Reaching an old piece of driftwood a ways down the beach just out of view of the resort, Kate motioned for Jay to sit. She did, surprised when her lover didn't immediately join her.

The newly risen sun shone on the blonde's face, making her emerald eyes dance and glitter. The sight took Kate's breath away, and she had to pause for a moment to gather herself before speaking. She knelt before Jay and fidgeted in the sand.

"This vacation has been like a dream come true to me, spending five uninterrupted days with you. I never imagined that I was capable of feeling for anyone what I feel for you, nor did I think anyone could ever love me as I know you do." Kate swallowed audibly; this was even harder than she thought it would be. "I know that as long as you're by my side, my heart will always be full of love and joy and my soul will always be complete." She peeked up at her lover through dark bangs. Jay's eyes were focused intently on hers.

Looking down at her hands, Kate sighed and pushed ahead, "I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few days, and a lot of soul searching. I know with absolute certainty what I want, and I can only hope that it's what you want, too." At this point she looked directly into her lover's eyes with a gaze so honest, so open, direct, and so full of love, that it made Jay's heart skip a beat. Kate reached out and took the smaller hands in front of her.

"Love, I can't imagine a day...no, a minute of my life without you in it. I want us to be together always, not 150 miles apart, not 15 miles apart. I will go anywhere, and do anything I have to do to make that happen. Believe it or not, I've always been an old-fashioned sort of gal, so I'm going to do this the old-fashioned way: Jay, will you marry me and live with me as my wife?" Letting go of one hand, she reached into her pocket, bringing out a small velvet box, placing it in her lover's palm and closing her fingers around it. Jay looked down at her hand, unable to find her voice right away.

Nervous beyond measure that she had read Jay wrong and moved too far too fast, Kate began to babble into the stunned silence. "I know it hasn't been that long, and I know we can't legally get married, and I know there's a lot of logistics to work out, but I don't care about any of that, all that matters is that I want to be with you for the rest of my life, and I want that to start right away, today, right now..."

"Yes," Jay whispered so quietly that Kate was sure she hadn't said anything at all. "Yes," she said more strongly, lunging forward, wrapping her lover in a huge hug and knocking her over backward into the sand where she landed on top of her. "Yes I will marry you, yes I will live with you, yes it can't happen soon enough, yes I love you more than life itself. Yes!" She punctuated her exclamation with a kiss that left no doubt as to how she felt about the proposal.

After several heart-stopping moments, Kate managed to breathe, "As much as I'm enjoying myself, and believe me I am, perhaps we should take this somewhere more private, love."

Jay, who had lost any sense of time or place, looked around her sheepishly. "Yeah, maybe that would be a good idea, Stretch." She got up, dusted herself off, and helped her lover to her feet.

"Aren't you going to look at what's in the box?"

"Oh, my God, yes." Jay had forgotten all about the small item she still clutched in her grasp. She opened the lid and gasped, tears leaping to her eyes and rolling down her cheeks when she blinked at the sight before her.

"May I?" Kate asked, lifting the platinum band with 2 1/2 carats worth of glittering channel set princess cut diamonds around most of its circumference from its velvet nest.

Jay nodded mutely as her lover slipped the ring onto her left ring finger. "Sweetheart, it's the most beautiful ring I've ever seen." She turned it in the sunlight, watching as the rays reflected off it, creating rainbows. "And it fits perfectly; how did you do that?"

Kate blushed. "I cheated a little and borrowed the emerald ring you wore to the LCA Show and had it sized by a jeweler friend of mine while you were squeezing the produce that Sunday in Albany when you made me go to the grocery store." She had made a quick call to her jeweler, asking him to meet her at the store with his circle full of ring sizes in hand. He had thought it an unusual request, but God knows he'd gotten stranger ones, and Kate was one of his best customers.

She had met him in the frozen foods, giving him the ring, and he had compared it for size before handing it back to her. When they got home, she had slipped the emerald ring back onto the nightstand where Jay had left it the night before. The next day, after she had dropped Jay off at the train station, Kate had met the jeweler at his store and explained exactly what she wanted. He hadn't had it in stock, or anything like it, but he had located it for her, handily enough, in St. Thomas at a store called Diamonds International with whom he had an ongoing relationship. Kate had predicted accurately that her lover would want to browse the stores on the island that was famous for its jewelry before going home, and she had picked it up yesterday when they had been window-shopping, using the excuse that she had to find a restroom and leaving Jay several blocks away in another store.

The younger woman was silent for a moment, her mind working furiously. "But Kate, the LCA Show was more than a week...ago and we had only spent one or two nights together," she looked up, shocked recognition on her face. "You had this all decided and planned out that soon?"

"Um, I knew how I felt, and I knew what I wanted, and I usually go after the things I want, Jay, especially when they mean everything to me. I didn't have any doubt what I was going to do, only the timing of it and how you would react."

"You had no need to worry there, love," she smiled adoringly up into those beloved blue eyes.

By this time they had reached the villa, and Jay fitted the key into the lock, letting them into the air-conditioned comfort. Walking deliberately over to the table in the dining area, she placed the key on it, turning back around and taking a running leap into her partner's surprised arms, wrapping her legs tightly around the muscular torso and kissing her with unbridled passion.

After the initial moment of shock, Kate returned the embrace, her hands cupping her lover's backside as she maneuvered them into the bedroom. Before they had even crossed the threshold, Jay had managed to shed her lover of her top, and she was busy licking and biting her way down to taut nipples that begged for her attention.

Kate gasped as Jay found a particularly sensitive spot, barely managing to deposit her safely on the bed before losing track of what she was doing. Within seconds she had been shorn of the remainder of her clothing, and the blonde, who had somehow managed to strip herself, as well, was in complete command, straddling her prone lover and taking her in a haze of pure lust.

As she was cresting, Kate's last conscious desire was to carry her lover along with her, and to be able to see her face as she came. She freed one arm, running her long, tapered fingers up the inside of a muscular thigh and entering Jay in one swift motion, knowing she was ready. With a cry, the two lovers came together, soaring into the atmosphere for several glorious moments as one.


Two hours later they had ordered room service and were sitting at the dining room table, feeding each other a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and home fries. "I'm really glad we decided to take the later flight, honey, even if it means we're dragging our asses tomorrow," Jay said.

"Yeah, that was good planning on our part, now we can spend a couple of hours on the beach before we head out. Speaking of which, you about ready to hit the sand and surf?"

"Mm hmm, just need a little lotion on my back and I'll be all set."

"I think that can be arranged," Kate winked at her and began massaging the sun block onto her lightly tanned back. When she had finished she placed a small kiss on one shoulder and gently shoved her lover ahead of her out the door, grabbing two beach towels on the way.

They found that they still had the beach to themselves, most of the tourists preferring the pool or the shopping on St. Thomas to the heat of the sun and the beach. They sat on their towels side by side for a while, holding hands and watching the surf roll in and out.

"Want to go in the water?" Jay asked.

"Sure, why not."

The blonde got up and moved to the water's edge, her back to the beach and a stand of nearby trees and brush. Kate ran past her into the surf up to her knees, splashing her on the way by. Reaching down, Jay splashed a little return spray in her lover's direction, which started a small water fight. The two were playing with each other, having fun like children.

Finally Kate got to within arm's reach of her companion, facing her and wrapping her arms around her, effectively pinning Jay's arms to her side and preventing her from further splashing. Just as Jay was about to protest, Kate leaned down and kissed her gently on the mouth, silencing her.


At that exact moment, about one hundred feet away hidden in the brush, a man with a camouflage vest and shorts was busy taking photos of the women with a Nikon camera and a lengthy zoom lens. He couldn't see anything of the shorter woman except her blonde head, back and a tiny bit of her profile, along with a nice view of her bikini-clad backside, but he had a clear shot of the dark-haired woman, who was his main concern. He snapped off a few shots in quick succession of the two women, clearly lovers, frolicking in the surf and kissing. Oh, he was going to get paid well for this.

"This is my kind of assignment," he thought to himself, "Follow a beautiful woman to an exotic island and take pictures of her without her knowing it." He leered, "And to make it even better, it turns out she's a lezzy and I've got the snaps to prove it. Yeah, it just doesn't get any better than this, although I wish I could get a click of the blonde's face; that might make it worth even more."

He briefly entertained the notion of staying around for a few more minutes to see if he could get a better shot, but thought better of it when the tall one paused and began looking around. Creeping quietly away, he headed directly for the airport and a flight back to Miami. "Heh," he thought, "The press photo didn't do that bitch justice, she's much better looking in person and in less clothing." He laughed as he considered that the images he had just captured of her would be splashed all over country in the gossip rag by Tuesday morning.

He had been distracted with other things when the editor from the National Enquirer had called telling him he had a job for him, but his ears quickly had perked up when he heard what the assignment was. He had shown up in the man's office less than an hour later. The editor handed him a release from Time promoting the upcoming cover story on a "new breed of journalist" and naming Katherine Kyle as the subject; it was the kind of advance publicity major magazines put out all the time to increase the buzz about the next issue to hit newsstands. The magazine helpfully supplied a publicity photo of Kate and a little background about her.

The editor fixed the photographer with a meaningful stare. "Find this woman. No one knows anything about her except what they saw on CNN. Time is only interested in her professionally. I want to know the more...personal side to her." He upturned his lips in what amounted to more of a snarl than a smile. "I don't care what it costs, but I want the goods to go to print Monday and to hit the newsstands on Tuesday, got me?"

The freelance photographer agreed, getting to work right away. He was surprised at how easy it was to track his quarry to the Virgin Islands. He had merely posed as a friend looking for her, and the helpful receptionist at WCAP-TV had been only too glad to tell him that she was on vacation in St. John; she even told him that it was the first vacation the anchorwoman had taken in the five years she had been at the station. The fact that she took time off was the talk of the newsroom. He was most grateful for her help, and had hightailed it out of there and onto the next plane so that he could meet his deadline.


Kate paused for a second after the first gentle kiss at the water's edge, and looked around, a troubled expression on her face.

"What's the matter?"

"I don't know, I just..." The hair on the back of her neck was standing on end. "Nah, it's silly."

"No, go ahead, what is it?"

Kate didn't want to alarm her lover. "I feel like we're being watched; it's nothing, I'm sure." And, as quickly as the sensation had come, it passed. "We better get back, though, if we're going to have time for a shower before the flight." Leaning down once again, she brushed her lips against the soft ones below her, and the two women picked up their towels and headed off down the beach arm in arm toward the resort, home, and a new life together.

Chapter 16

They were buckled into their seats on the flight from Miami to New York, Jay in the window seat and Kate, with her longer legs, comfortably sprawled in the aisle, having just taken off on the second leg of their journey home. "Kate?"


"Can we talk about the logistics now?" Jay was bubbling with enthusiasm.

"Sure." The anchorwoman looked directly at her tanned lover, whose hair had lightened to platinum in the time they'd been away. She was positively radiant, and Kate's admiration showed in her eyes. "I meant what I said, Jay. I will go anywhere and do anything to make this work."

"I know you did, love, and I can't tell you how much that means to me. I've already been giving this considerable thought."

"Oh you have, have you?"

"Mm hmm."


"Okay, here's the deal," Jay turned to face her lover fully, her breath momentarily stilled by the sight of piercing blue eyes in a face more relaxed, deeply tanned and beautiful than she'd ever seen it, "Really, I can do what I do from anywhere, as long as I show up in the office for assignments and to meet with my editor when I'm supposed to, which is usually on Monday mornings. Other than that, I can write my stories anywhere I can take my word processor or a pad of paper and pen, if necessary, and do the interviews as I always do, wherever the story takes me, as long as I have access either to my car or major transportation like an airport or a train station. Given that Albany has all of those things, there's no reason I couldn't move in with you in your house," at this point she paused shyly and looked at her lover, "Assuming that's what you would want."

Kate was speechless. She never expected Jay to make that kind of offer. "You'd want to live in Albany? But what about your place?"

"Well, I've thought about that, too. I think we should hold onto my place for now; it will be convenient to have a place in the City for those times when I absolutely have to be near the office or am doing a New York-based story, and the rent is reasonable, for New York anyway, and the location is good. As to whether or not I'd want to live in Albany, darling, wherever you are is home to me and where I want to be. Your house is gorgeous and far more of a home than my apartment could ever be, Fred will be much happier there, there's plenty of space, I love what I've seen of the area so far, and besides, you need to be there everyday." Jay shrugged as if to say, "It makes all the sense in the world, silly."

"Huh. Seems to me like you've thought this out pretty thoroughly, Scoop."

"Yep," Jay said smugly.

More seriously Kate asked, "Are you sure? It's a lot to ask...giving up your comfortable home and everyday life to fit into mine."

Shimmering emerald eyes locked on cobalt blue, "I've never been more certain of anything in my life, love. What do you think?"

Kate's smile was brilliant. "I think I love you more than anything in the world and nothing would make me happier than to share my home and my life with you. When do you want to move in?"

Jay laughed. "Tonight would be great. But since that doesn't seem realistic, how about this: you stay with me tonight at my place, since we'll already be getting in fairly late, and tomorrow I'll drive you and the first load of my stuff to Albany before you have to get to work, stay with you tomorrow night, leave my car at your house since I don't need it in New York, and take the train back to the City Tuesday morning to be in the office at 10 a.m., which was when Trish said I needed to be there."

Kate shook her head in wonder, "Is there anything you haven't thought of?"

"I'm sure there is, but I've got another..." she looked at her watch, "three and a half hours to figure it out."

Kate entwined her longer fingers with those of her partner, thrilled once again to note the ring on her finger as it sparkled back at the lovers. "You're amazing, have I told you that?"

Jay pretended to consider. "Probably, but feel free to tell me again anytime."

"We could turn the third bedroom into an office for you, unless you'd prefer your office downstairs, in which case I could either give you mine or convert the library..."

"No, I love the library, and so do you. The third bedroom would be fine, it has a nice view of the backyard."

"I'll have a second phone line installed for you, and we can even forward your phone in the City to that so the move will be transparent to anyone calling you unless you want them to know you've relocated. What do you think?"

"I think that's a stroke of genius."

"And the guest bedroom can be your room."

Jay looked at her oddly.

"For your clothes and when you need space, goofy. I meant that there would be 'our' room, and then you could have an additional room, okay?"

"Aha. I see. That's more than generous, Kate."

"What else would make you feel at home, love? Do you want to bring some of your furniture or anything?"

"No, I don't think so. Can we shop together to outfit the office?"

"I'd love to. Anything you want, you shall have."

"I want to be clear," Jay fixed her with a stern look, "I intend to pay my equal share, nothing less."

Kate scowled.

"I mean it, Stretch. Otherwise, no deal."

The older woman was taken aback. "You can't be serious."

"Oh yes I can. Ours is a partnership, 50-50. I am more than capable of pulling my own weight. Anything less will make me uncomfortable."

"Okay, but fair share, not necessarily equal share: we pay as a percentage in proportion to our income and assets."

Jay started to protest.

"Ah, ah, that's more than reasonable and as far as I'm willing to go. Love, my living expenses are a lot higher than yours, and I won't have you taking on the burden of paying for my lifestyle. I've got more than I need to cover my tab and more on my salary alone, and on top of that my parents made sure that I was well provided for. Please, you don't know what it's taking for me even to agree to let you do that."

Jay chewed her lip. "It's a start, I guess, but I get the right to reopen the discussion at some point after we've had a chance to settle down and see how things are working."

"You drive a hard bargain." Kate squeezed the hand she was holding.

"Mm. And all this negotiating is making me sleepy. Mind if I take a nap and use you as a pillow?"

Kate smiled indulgently, flipping up the armrest that separated the seats and opening her arms, not caring what any of the neighboring passengers might think.


Jay took another sip of the strong coffee and stretched. It was amazing how motivated she could be in the morning when the objective was important enough to her. She had spent several hours after they had gotten back to her place the night before organizing her things and deciding what to bring home in her first carload. Home. She liked the sound of that. Now here it was barely 7 a.m. and she was in the middle of packing two suitcases full of clothes and sundries, having already packed several boxes worth of stuff. She had decided to leave some work clothes and some play clothes in the apartment just in case, but she was taking the bulk of her wardrobe with her.

Kate was in the living room. An advance copy of this week's edition of Time had been waiting for the writer when they got home, and Jay had given it to the anchorwoman just a little while ago to read. She had fretted about having her lover read the story in her presence, but, in the end, she bit the bullet and gave it to her without comment. And then went to busy herself packing since she was so nervous she didn't know what to do with herself.

Kate looked at her own image staring back from the cover, her soot-stained face, bloody hands and torn suit testaments to her efforts following the detonation of the second bomb. It was a gritty picture, one that bespoke dignity, professionalism, and humanity, all without a single word. The title on the cover, in big, bold print was: A New Breed of Journalist. In slightly smaller print below were the words: Katherine Ann Kyle of WCAP-TV in Albany, New York.

Inside was a three-page spread including Jay's story and four pictures, three of her and one of the Capitol building following the explosion. The snapshots of her included one of her anchoring taken on the set, one of her interviewing one of the victims, and one of her working with Gene in an editing room. There was also a sidebar story by another writer debating whether or not journalists should ever take an active role in a story they were covering.

Kate read it all in silence, re-reading portions and staring hard at the pictures. When she was finished she nodded to herself and smiled a private smile of pride for her partner. Then she went in Jay's office and placed a phone call.

Jay was deep in her walk-in closet when long arms wrapped around her from behind. She tensed, not sure what to expect. A low, sultry voice whispered against her ear, "You are the most talented writer I have ever read. I am so humbled by you, love. You wrote an incredibly insightful, lively, interesting piece under incomparably difficult circumstances. It was balanced, and fair, and remarkably objective; you didn't let your own personal feelings or knowledge color the content, your approach was fresh and unique, and I am impressed beyond words. Thank you."

Not knowing what to say to that, Jay turned in the circle of her lover's arms, her eyes bright with pleasure at the unexpected praise and her smile big enough to light the City without electricity. She reached up on tiptoes and kissed the waiting lips, murmuring, "I'm so glad you thought it was okay, sweetheart. I think that was the hardest thing I've ever done. Maintaining professional distance and detachment from you was a virtual impossibility. It took me quite a while to decide how to avoid letting my personal feelings for you bleed through."

"Well, I think you succeeded masterfully, and you should be very proud of the job you did. Now about these pictures..."


They pulled into Kate's driveway at a little after 11 a.m., opening the front door to be greeted by a mass of flying fur.

"Hi buddy. Easy, guy, easy Fred. Yeah, I'm happy to see you too, baby," Kate cooed as the excited Golden threaded his way back and forth between her legs, talking the entire time even though he had a stuffed animal firmly held between his jaws. When he was finished with her, he gave Jay the same treatment as she scratched him behind his ears and on his haunches.

"How did he get here? I thought you said Peter had him."

"He did; I called him this morning and asked him to drop him off for us."

"Wow, now that's service."

"Yep, it sure is. I told you, he's a great friend to have."

They made their way inside, Fred glued to his mistress's leg.

"Shouldn't we get the stuff out of the car?" Jay asked.

"In a minute. First, there's something I want to show you in here." She disappeared into her office, smiling when she saw that her instructions had been followed precisely. She owed Peter big time now. She walked back out into the entryway. "Close your eyes."


Kate sighed in mock exasperation. "Do we have to go through this every time about you following instructions, woman? Close your eyes," she poked her partner.

"Okay, but last time I did that I ended up in paradise, and you have to be to work in a few hours."

"Don't remind me. Come with me." She took her lover by the arm, guiding her carefully into her office. "You can open your eyes now."

Jay obediently cracked first one eyelid and then the other. Opening her mouth to speak, nothing came out. She pivoted and looked at her lover in wonder. "There's a word processor on your desk, and it's identical to the one in my apartment."

"Mm hmm."

"That wasn't here before, I would have noticed it."

"Very observant, Watson."

"But sweetheart..."

"Listen," she argued, holding up her hands, "It only makes sense for you to be able to do your work in either place and not have to cart a word processor back and forth. I thought we could set you up in here just until we have time to shop for office furniture for your office. You don't mind, do you?"

"Mind? Are you kidding me?" The writer surveyed the brand new word processor, the two reams of typing paper lying neatly next to it, the three pads of legal paper and pens resting nearby. Tears sprang to her eyes as she acknowledged the love and caring behind the gesture. She turned into Kate's arms and buried her head in her chest. "I don't know if I will ever get used to being this spoiled, love."

"You'd better start, sweetheart, because I intend to spoil you for the rest of your life." She wiped the tears from her lover's cheeks and replaced them with tender kisses. Before long the caresses turned more ardent, and hands began to wander. Kate backed them out of the office and over to the stairs, managing to lead them to the bedroom without losing contact with her lover's increasingly more naked body.

"You have to be to work, love," Jay panted in between kisses.

"Not for a few hours," came the muffled reply. No more talking was heard for the next little while.


At exactly 2 p.m. Kate strolled through the newsroom, finding her desk just as she had left it six days earlier. She smiled to herself as she revisited the intervening time; so much had happened and so much had changed in her life in such a short period of time, it was hard to believe. Before settling down to business she picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number.


"Hey, Technowiz."

"Hey, Anchorbabe. What's happening? Did I get everything right?"

"You are a prince, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

"Sooo, does this mean that something is officially going on between you and Jay?"

"Um," she lowered her voice so that no one else could hear, "I've asked her to marry me and she's moved in to the house."

"You're kidding me?" Peter was stunned. Was this the same aloof, deliberate woman he called his best friend? "Way to go, Kate! I'm assuming she said yes, then?"

"Yep, she did," Kate said with a note of wonder in her voice. "In fact, she's there now and I thought maybe, if you weren't doing anything, you could drop by and take her to dinner. She doesn't know anyplace around here and there's nothing in the refrigerator. I'd tell you to call her, but I'm not sure she'd answer the phone yet, since nobody knows she's here except for you now."

"Hmm," he pretended to think, "Am I available to take a beautiful woman to dinner? I'll have to think on that and get back to you." He paused for a second. "Kate, I'd love to take Jay to dinner. I can fill her head with all sorts of stuff about you and then..."



"Stick to the truth, okay? And don't scare her too much?"

"Geez, you take away all my fun."

"Yeah, I'm like that."

"I've got you covered, Anchorbabe, don't sweat it."

"Thanks buddy, I knew I could count on you. And thanks again for getting the word processor and supplies. I owe you."

"Ooo, I like the sound of that. Bye, Kate."

"Bye Peter."

As she was hanging up the receiver, her producer walked by.

"Hey, woman, you look great. You should go on vacation more often; it obviously agrees with you."

"Thanks, Phil. Anything big happen while I was gone?"

"You mean locally? Nah, no one's saying anything much about the bombing except that it appears to have been done by professionals. Other than that, it's been the usual quotient of fires, murders, robberies and political shenanigans. You know how it goes. Glad to have you back, kid, we missed you."

"It's good to be back." The anchorwoman turned her attention to her inbox and a stack of telephone messages, immediately re-immersing herself in the job.

Meanwhile, at home, Jay was busy unpacking boxes and suitcases, filling the huge walk-in closet in "her" room and the dresser drawers, as well. So engrossed in the task was she that she was shocked when she glanced over at the digital clock to find that it was 5:58 p.m. She ran downstairs into the family room and turned on the television just in time to catch her lover teasing the upcoming stories for the 6 o'clock newscast.

"My God," she mooned, "She is the most gorgeous creature alive. And she's mine." She shook her head in wonder at her incredible good fortune. "Parker, you dreamed about her for years, and now you're going to be married to her. Never in a million years..." She shut up as the news came on and she turned her complete attention to the chiseled features that she now knew as well as her own.

At 6:30 p.m., the doorbell rang. Jay wasn't sure what to do. She knew it wasn't Kate, because she was just getting off the air and wouldn't have rung the doorbell, anyway. Should she answer it? It rang again. Fred was barking and whining. Whining? Why would the dog be whining? She decided to investigate. Cautiously approaching the peephole, she peered through to see someone familiar on the other side of the door.

"Um, hi Jay, it's Peter. Can I come in?"

She unlocked the door immediately and stepped aside to let him in. Fred danced around him until he petted him and said a proper hello. "Is there something I can do for you, Peter?"

"Actually," the tall man shifted from foot to foot, "I was wondering if you've had dinner yet?"

"No, I haven't gotten that far. How did you know I was here?" She was starting to smell a plot.

"Um, a little birdie told me."

"Hmm, I'm thinking it was more of a big birdie, say, oh, about six feet tall with fabulous blue eyes?"

"Well, I guess I'd better come clean. Kate called me this afternoon and told me you were here and that there was nothing in the house for dinner and suggested that you might want to go out to dinner with me, since you don't really know the area yet. She wasn't sure if you would pick up the phone if I called, so she told me to stop by."

"That's so sweet," she sighed, "She is the most thoughtful person I have ever met."

Peter noted the dreamy expression on his new friend's face and smiled. Yep, they both had it bad. He decided to play with her just a little. "Hey, that's a really nice ring you've got there. I don't remember you wearing that the last time I saw you. Is it new?"

"Um, yeah, it is," Jay's eyes were shifting everywhere around the room.

"Huh, you must have found yourself a great guy...that sure looks like a wedding ring to me."

She didn't know what to say. She didn't like to lie, but she wasn't sure what Kate would have told him or wanted him to know; she knew they were close, but...

Peter started to laugh, and Jay's head whipped up. "It's okay, small stuff, Kate told me she proposed and that you're living here now." He moved in and gave the woman a huge bear hug. "I think it's great. I couldn't be happier for the two of you. And it is a beautiful ring, by the way. Now, are you hungry, or what?"

"Yes, and I have another job for you, too. Lead on, Technowiz."

"Ugh, not you too."

"Oh yeah."

At 6:35 p.m. Kate, Gene and Phil were heading out the back door to grab something to eat. The anchorwoman exited first and froze in her tracks as flashbulbs exploded and she was surrounded by fans seeking her autograph on the cover of the Time magazines they waved in front of her face. Both men stepped quickly in front of her to protect her from the crowd as they made their way to Phil's car. Kate stopped them with a hand on their arms, then turned and graciously and patiently began signing autographs until everyone of the two dozen or so fans had been satisfied.

The guys continued to give her grief all through dinner about her newfound goddess status, and she took it good-naturedly, although inwardly she was a bit discomfited by all the attention. Even their normal waitress wanted an autograph. She got the same treatment after the 11 o'clock news when she exited the station for her car in the parking lot, but this time the powers-that-be had taken precautions and had hired security guards to escort her and keep her safe.

Nothing felt better to her, though, than arriving home and being greeted at the door by an irresistible blonde wearing nothing more than a lacy negligee and a smile. God, she was going to love coming home to this every night! Within seconds she had been shorn of her suit jacket, with her skirt and pantyhose not far behind. By the time she had made it upstairs, she was wearing only her panties and bra, and those quickly became history, too.

A while later, she breathed, "Now that's something to come home to." She stroked the blonde head resting on her chest. "How was the rest of your day?"

"Come see for yourself," Jay said as she jumped up off the bed, pulling her lover with her.

"Where are you getting all this energy, Scoop?"

"Dunno, must be just being here with you."

They arrived in Jay's room, which had been transformed from a generic guest suite into a true living space.

"Wow, this is amazing. You did all this after I left?"


"Incredible." Kate looked around the room. "You got everything unpacked?"

"Yep. And I had time to play ball with Fred, too, and watch both newscasts and have dinner with Peter in between."

"I'm impressed."

"Yeah, me too," Jay laughed, wrinkling up her nose. "How was your day?"

Kate told her about the overzealous fans, Phil and Gene coming to her rescue, and the security people assuring her safety after the late newscast. "You know, I've had people approach me before in the mall or at a restaurant occasionally, but never anything like this frenzy. It was disconcerting."

"Mm, I bet. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, it just caught me a little off balance, that's all. It turned out all right, though, everybody was nice enough."

"Well," Jay said, wrapping her arms around the muscular torso she loved so much, "If anybody so much as lays a finger on you, they'll have me to answer to."

"Ooo, that ought to keep them away." Jay swatted her on the behind.

"Come on, shorty, we've got to get you to bed; you've got to be on the 6 a.m. train, and I don't want you to be cranky."

"I'm going to be cranky in any event because I don't know what the next assignment is or whether I'm going to be able to come back home tomorrow night."

"Let's just wait and see, huh? No sense getting our knickers in a knot until we know, right?"

"Yeah, I guess," Jay sighed. "You're far too practical and pragmatic, love, you know that?"

"Mm, I do now."


Having delivered Jay to the train on time, Kate was just completing her workout and run, albeit earlier than usual, when she noticed the message light on her answering machine blinking. She glanced at her watch: 8:32 a.m. That was odd. She depressed the play button, surprised to hear her news director's voice.

"Kate, this is Les. I need you to come in as soon as possible to meet with me. It's 8:15 a.m. now. I'll be waiting for you in my office."

It was the first time in memory that Les had called her at home, and certainly the first time in the five years that she'd been working at WCAP that he had been in the office before 9 o'clock. He had sounded gruff, but that was nothing unusual; he always sounded gruff. Well, there was no sense speculating, she would just get showered and get to the office.


When Kate arrived at the station 45 minutes later the same two security officers from the night before greeted her at her car. "Hi guys. It's okay, I don't see any unruly fans this morning," she smiled at them. Neither one of them smiled back; in fact, neither would even look at her.

"Boss's orders, Kate. We're to escort you to his office."

"Okay," she drew out the word. The uneasy feeling she'd had since hearing the phone message was blossoming into a full-fledged knot in her stomach.

The security guards waited with her as she knocked on Les's door. "Come," he growled.

The anchorwoman poked her head in. "You looking for me, boss?"

"Yes, Kate, come in." To the guards he said, "It's okay fellas, you can wait outside."

Stepping across the threshold, Kate closed the door behind her. She was beyond shocked to find the station general manager, the owner, and Phil all seated around the room. "Wow, this is quite a welcoming committee. Randy, it's good to see you," she acknowledged the owner. "How's your daughter doing with tennis?" The little girl had an aptitude for the sport, and the station owner had asked Kate one day to talk to her about training and the finer points of the game. She had done so and from that moment on the girl had sought her advice on any number of topics.

"She's doing fine," he mumbled, not shifting his gaze from a spot on his trousers.

None of them would meet her eyes, which was making her angry, although she was careful not to let it show.

"Have a seat."

"No thanks, Les, I'm fine." She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. This felt suspiciously like an ambush and she intended to use every advantage; and towering over the four men in the room was certainly one of them. "What can I do for all of you fine gentlemen?" Whatever this was, she had no intention of making it easy for them.

The news director fidgeted in his seat, picking up and then dropping his pencil. "Um, our switchboard started lighting up kind of early this morning with some rather ridiculous nonsense, but it raised a flag, so the receptionist called me." He still hadn't looked up. The anchorwoman remained silent, forcing him to feel even more uncomfortable.

"We know it's just garbage, Kate, but still we have to take it seriously." John Isaac, the station manager, picked up the ball. When she said nothing but continued to regard each of them steadily in turn, he stumbled on, "There were some pretty irate callers, you see, and they were insistent that we do something."

Kate merely raised an eyebrow.

"We know it's a hoax, I mean, we know you, right?" Randy chimed in. "I mean my kid idolizes you, for God's sake."

"Anyway," Les picked up the thread, "I had Phil here go out and get a copy of the thing so we could see for ourselves how trumped up it was. But when the receptionist started babbling at me as soon as she saw me about how sorry she was and how she thought the guy was really a friend of yours and she only told him where you were because she was trying to be helpful, well..."

Now Kate truly was perplexed. What the hell were they talking about? She was tempted to tell them just to spit it out, but she had a sinking feeling she wasn't going to like where all this was going, so she decided to play it cool and wait them out. Outwardly she simply maintained a relaxed posture, seeming as though she hadn't a care in the world, even as her insides were churning.

"Oh heck. Here." The station manager threw something down on the desk.

Glancing down, she saw that it was this week's edition of the National Enquirer, with the headline in huge bold print, "A New Breed of Journalist? Indeed!" There were two large, grainy pictures side by side underneath the headline. One of the pictures showed two women kissing on a beach. The second snapshot showed the women playing in the surf. In each picture the taller of the women was clearly visible and identifiable, the other woman's back was to the camera and her face was almost completely obscured with the exception of a tiny bit of her profile. The caption underneath the photos read: "What Time magazine didn't tell you about stunning journalist/heroine Katherine Kyle, seen here getting up close and personal with an unidentified blonde in celebration of her cover girl status."

"We know they probably just took a picture of you and pasted the other woman in there, I mean, geez. Right, Kate?" Randy looked at her hopefully.

The anchorwoman knew she could probably get away with agreeing, after all, it's what they wanted to hear. But she wouldn't do that. She loved Jay too much to cheapen their relationship by hiding or lying about it. In the past she had chosen to remain silent because there wasn't anyone worth fighting for, but to deny that the kiss with her lover that had been captured on film was anything other than what it was was to deny her own heart, and Jay's importance in her life. Kate wouldn't do that, no matter the cost or the consequences.

Her silence made the men in the room exceedingly uncomfortable. "Hell, you don't even know who that other woman is, right? You've probably never even seen her, never mind...well, you know."

Kate shifted her gaze discreetly to Les, and then to Phil, realizing that even they, who had met Jay and spent time with her, didn't know who the blonde was. Good. She straightened to her full height, looking each man in the eye before responding.

"No, you're wrong, John. As you gentlemen can see, that is clearly me, and the woman you see with me is my fiancÈe." She lifted her chin and stared at each man defiantly.

"Your WHAT?" Les exploded.

"I believe you heard me, Les."

"Who the hell is she? What the hell is going on? What are we supposed to do now? You're a lesbian? You've got to be kidding me! Why didn't you tell us? You're going to ruin us."

With a calmness belying the anger seething in her veins, Kate said, "To answer your questions in order, Randy: None of your business. I'm in love and getting married and I was on vacation on a remote Caribbean island with my soon-to-be-wife when some lowlife obviously hunted us down and invaded our privacy. I have no idea. Yes. No. I think it's obvious given your reaction why I didn't tell you, apart from the fact that it has no bearing on the job I do. And finally, I'd like to think that the job I have done, the consistent number one ratings we've gotten since I've been anchoring, and the recent positive nationwide publicity for WCAP that resulted from my coverage of the bombings speak for themselves."

John had his head in his hands, Randy's mouth was opening and closing but nothing was coming out, the veins were popping out of Les's neck, and Phil simply stared at his shoes, unable to look his friend in the eye. Finally, Les spoke up. "You know there's a morals clause in your contract, Kate."

"Yes, I'm aware of it. I believe the clause states that I must maintain dignity and the upstanding reputation of the station and myself."


"Are you saying I haven't done that?"

"Well, um, ah, Kate, you've done a great job for us and we all know it," John said. "It's just that this is going to create a landslide of negative publicity. Already there are people threatening to boycott the station and advertisers are talking about pulling spots."

"We just can't afford to lose that kind of money, Kate. Nothing personal," Randy added. "Listen, we're going to honor the remainder of your contract, which is another two years, and pay it out to you in a lump sum. In fact, here's the check." He handed her an envelope that he pulled from an inside pocket of his suit jacket.

She glanced down at it and up into his eyes, cobalt blue burning into him. "Are you firing me, Randy?" Her voice was low and measured, without a hint of the anger, incredulity or disappointment she felt.

He looked to the others for support. "Um, I'd rather not call it that, Kate. I'd rather just say that you have decided to pursue other opportunities and leave it at that. In fact, we have prepared a statement to that effect that we're ready to release as soon as you agree." He handed her a piece of paper.

With a shock she realized that this had all been pre-rehearsed and choreographed; they were just going through the motions. "In fact," she emphasized, using Randy's terminology and taking a step forward, "I'm guessing it doesn't really matter one way or the other what I want or how I want to play this. You seem to have everything figured out." There was no rancor in her statement, just a frank assessment.

"I'm sorry whom I love or how I love offends some of your viewers, that's most unfortunate for them. I have always had the utmost respect for all of you and this news operation. I wish you all the best." She started to leave. With her hand on the knob, she turned back and said, "As for what you say in the press release, you do what you feel you must, but I will not be quoted in it, is that clear? You may lie or put a pretty face on it if you choose, but I will not demean my credibility for the sake of expedience. Good luck, gentlemen, I will always be grateful for the opportunity you gave me. Thanks."

With that, she was gone.


They waited until the door clicked closed, then slumped back in their respective chairs. "Whew. Glad that's over with," Randy said, running two fingers under his shirt collar.

"Yeah, you got that right," John agreed. "That was easier than I thought it would be. I thought she would put up a fight. Well, you can't say we weren't prepared for anything. Sitting down with the lawyers in that conference call before she got here was a stroke of genius, boss. I'm sure they're right and paying off her contract will keep her from suing or making a public fuss; heck, we treated her better than most places would've."

"I've got to admit," Les threw in with a note of grudging respect, "I thought she was pretty classy and pretty gutsy about the whole thing. She never once lost her cool."

"Like an ice princess," John agreed.

"I can't believe she's really a lesbian. She's so hot; she could have any guy she wanted. What a waste," Randy intoned. "I don't know what I'm going to tell my kid when she asks why she can't talk to her anymore."

Phil just sat there glumly, knowing that the station had just lost the finest anchorwoman and one of the best reporters it had ever had, and he had lost a good friend. He didn't know how he could ever face her again, or if he would ever get the chance, but he hoped he would, someday.


At 9:34 a.m. Jay was riding the subway on her way to the office. She was standing in one of the middle cars, as was her custom, thinking about what she wanted to outfit her home office with when her stomach suddenly clenched. Caught off guard, she nearly doubled over. "What the hell?" Just as she was regaining her equilibrium a surge of adrenaline pumped through her, as if she were responding to some sort of threatening situation. She looked around her for the source of her discomfort, but could find nothing.

Getting off at her stop, she made her way into the building and onto the elevator. She was alone in the car when she was bombarded with a rush of anger so strong it scared her. What was going on? She shook her head to clear her mind. What could she possibly be angry about? Now she was completely puzzled. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before.

Exiting at her floor, she went directly to the ladies' room, splashing her face with cold water in an attempt to alleviate the pressure in her head. When she reached her desk she relegated the odd sensations to the back of her mind, focusing instead on organizing her workspace and seeking out Trish to find out what her next assignment might be.

"Hiya, kid. Hey, that's some tan you got there. You look great. And it's a good thing you're well rested, 'cause I got a doosy for you. How do you feel about being a globetrotter?"

"Okay, Trish, now you've really lost me."

"I know you were hiding away somewhere and probably didn't pay too much attention to the news, but did you hear about the Stark?"

"The what?"

"The USS Stark. Got blown up on Sunday, killed 37 and another 5 or more were injured. They've been taken to the military hospital at Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, Germany. I want you to go over there and interview some of the injured."

"Okay. Now I remember seeing something last night about it. The USS Stark, hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles in the Persian Gulf while out protecting the shipping lanes for oil."

"Right. I want you to do a little research and then fly over there tonight. We've got you clearance to be on the base tomorrow for the interviews. Then I need you to be flexible, 'cause we're thinking there might be a memorial service somewhere. If there is, you're going to cover it."

"Okay. I'll get right on it." Making her way back to her desk to plan her next steps, Jay tried to order her thoughts; she needed to get the newspapers for the last several days, and the Associated Press wire reports, and talk to sources at the Pentagon to see what she could find out about the injured sailors ahead of time. And she'd need to make plane reservations for later today.

But first, she wanted to call Kate and tell her that she wouldn't be home tonight, and probably not tomorrow night either. She might not be able to get home for the rest of the week, which was a depressing thought. Dialing the now-familiar number, she was surprised when the answering machine picked up. She looked at her watch: 10:22 a.m. That was odd, her lover should have been home. One thing Jay quickly had discovered about the anchorwoman was that she was a creature of habit. By 10 a.m. she would have worked out and run, played ball with Fred and been inside reading the newspaper or a book in the library, or out on the deck.

"This is Kate. I'm not home right now to take your call, so please leave a message after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks."


"Hi, sweetheart, it's me. I can't imagine where you are, but I'll try you again in a little while. Seems like I'm heading to Germany to interview injured sailors from the USS Stark, which was attacked in the Persian Gulf over the weekend. Unfortunately, that means I won't be home tonight, and probably not tomorrow night, either. I'm bummed." She thought about mentioning the unsettling emotions she'd been experiencing all morning, but decided to wait to tell her in person. "Anyway, I'll try you again, or you can try me at the office. I've got some background research to do, so I may be away from my desk for a while, but you can leave a message if you want." Lowering her voice, she added, "I love you, Kate. Bye."


At 12:30 p.m. Jay was just getting back to her desk from the research room. She couldn't shake this roiling feeling of misery and despair that had seeped into her consciousness for the past couple of hours, replacing the anger that had preceded it. Was she just upset at having to go out of the country and not being able to see Kate? It seemed to her as though the reaction was out of proportion to the situation, if that was the case. But she didn't think it was. Something else was going on, although she couldn't imagine what, and it was really disconcerting.

Trish appearing at her elbow interrupted her ruminations. "Hey, kiddo. Have you seen this yet?" She pointed to something she held in her hand.

Jay glanced at the newspaper and shook her head.

"Well, it seems there's a little something we didn't tell our readers." She said glibly, offering the writer the newspaper.

Jay unfolded it, noting that it was the National Enquirer, hardly something she would have taken notice of. Then she saw the big, bold headline, caught a glimpse of the pictures and read the caption. Her face drained of color.

"Are you okay, kid? You look like you saw a ghost or something."

Jay took a moment to compose herself, a thousand thoughts running through her head at the same time, but one overwhelming desire: she had to find Kate. God, what if she had seen it? What if her bosses had? Did that explain the strange emotions Jay had been experiencing all day? She looked again at the pictures with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Kate was clearly identifiable, though anyone would have been hard-pressed to know that it was she with the anchorwoman. She refocused on Trish. No, she didn't seem to have figured it out.

Trying to control the quaver in her voice and the angry sparks in her eyes, Jay pointed at the pictures and said, "I didn't think that was something the reading public needed to know. It wasn't germane to the story. Does it matter to you?"

"What, that the woman is gay? Nah. Love is love. I told you we were only interested in her professional life, and I meant it. This kind of crap isn't anybody's business but hers and her lover's."

Relieved beyond measure by her boss's attitude, Jay considered telling Trish that she was the other woman in the photo, but she didn't want to take anything away from the story she had done about Kate. It had been a fair piece, a good piece, and she didn't want to taint it or the anchorwoman by raising questions in her editor's mind of objectivity. All she could think about was getting to her lover as soon as possible. Then she remembered that she needed to be on a plane in five hours. Damn. She needed to get moving.

"Thanks, Trish. You know, I've got to hustle if I'm going to catch that plane. I've got to go home and pack. I've done all the preliminary research I can from here. I've got three or four interviews lined up for tomorrow at the hospital in Wiesbaden and I hope to catch up with some of the family members of the injured, as well. I'll call you when I'm done with that to find out if you want me to cover the memorial service, if there is one, okay?" She was already gathering her things and putting them in her briefcase.

"Sounds good. You have a safe flight, you hear? Be careful over there."

"I will. Thanks, Trish."

As the editor moved away, Jay immediately picked up the phone, looking at her watch; it was just after 1 p.m., surely Kate would be at home now. She dialed the number and was greeted by the answering machine. Hanging up, she tried Kate's work number.

The receptionist picked up. "WCAP-TV, may I help you?"

That had never happened before; Jay knew that she had dialed Kate's personal extension. "Is Katherine Kyle there, please?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Kyle is not available at the moment."

"Is she in? When will she be available?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Kyle is not in today. Would you like to talk to the news director?"

The news director? Not in today? What was going on? "No, thank you," Jay said distractedly, hanging up the phone and hustling out the door.


After leaving the station, Kate had gone directly home. Putting on her favorite pair of ripped jeans and a black t-shirt, she went into the yard to play ball with Fred. She was furious, but not surprised, at the spinelessness of the station management. When she had taken over the anchoring chair the station had been number three of the three major networks in the market. Within a month she had taken them to number one, where they had remained the entire time she had been in the hot seat.

Now they were unwilling to stick with her and ride out a little adverse publicity that probably would have increased their ratings even more anyway; she had no doubt that people would have tuned in just for the curiosity factor. But viewers didn't account for profits, advertisers did, and a threat to pull ads was the kiss of death. The thing that stung the most was not even that they had fired her; it was the premeditation of it all and the machinations. It was clear to her that the station lawyers had been consulted and had called the shots. Did those idiots honestly think she was going to sue them? Fools; the job was never about the money to her.

Well, this wasn't getting her anywhere. Her biggest concern at the moment was Jay. It was clear that Les and Phil hadn't put two and two together and figured out who the other woman was, but what about Jay's boss? Would she see it and would she know? Kate couldn't bear the thought that this could jeopardize her lover's career. She needed to get to Jay as soon as possible and make sure she was okay.

Within a half hour she was on a train bound for New York City; she could be at the apartment by 1:30 p.m. The question was what would she do once she got there? As she sat looking out the window at the river passing by, she considered her options. Some things she knew with absolute certainty. The first was that her face was now one of the most recognizable in the country. And the second was that she would protect Jay no matter what, which meant that she had to stay away from her. It was the only way to guarantee that no one could connect them.

She knew that making this decision unilaterally without getting Jay's input would likely destroy any trust that she had earned; after all, walking away without explanation would no doubt make her lover question Kate's true feelings for her. And hadn't she promised that whenever trust issues came up they would discuss them until there were no doubts? Tears formed in her eyes and leaked out as she thought about the idea of leaving Jay and breaking that vow, even if it was the right thing to do to salvage her privacy and her career. Kate replayed every conversation in which she had assured Jay that she could always trust her, never foreseeing a circumstance where she would break that solemn promise for any reason. "God, I never envisioned something like this happening."

Leaving this open to discussion would be impossible; loyal to a fault, Jay would never agree to Kate's plan and she knew it. "I love you, Jamison Parker, and nothing and no one is going to change that. But I don't see any good alternatives here. I have to do this."

As a writer, Jay had the advantage of anonymity, something Kate would never have again. So far, no one knew who her lover was; the anchorwoman intended to make sure it stayed that way, which meant that she couldn't take a chance on them being spotted together. It would be hard for both of them, but at least Jay could move on and continue to advance professionally.

Kate's heart ached. How could she say goodbye to the other half of her soul so soon after she'd found her again? She closed her eyes against the pain, wondering how she would survive without Jay, and hoping against hope that her lover's road would be easier. After all, she would still have her career, and, as gorgeous and outgoing as she was, Kate had no doubt that the emerald-eyed blonde could have any woman she wanted.

Wiping her eyes, she exited the train and took the subway downtown to the Village. She knew what she had to do. "I hope someday you'll understand and forgive me, Jay."

Chapter 17

She watched from a short distance away as the lone figure hurried down the sidewalk, head down, briefcase in hand. Just as the lobby door was about to close behind Jay, Kate sprinted across the street and through the opening.

Catching up to her partner's side, she said softly, "Hi, sweetheart. Fancy meeting you here."

Jay, who had been preoccupied trying to figure out how she was going to find her lover before she had to board a plane for Europe, hadn't noticed the tall shadow that slipped in after her, but there was no question that she knew that low, sultry voice that made her heart race every time. She turned and threw her arms around her lover. "Kate! My God, I've been trying and trying to get you on the phone. What are you doing here?" Noting the ripped jeans, t-shirt and sunglasses, she swallowed her dread and added, "I even called you at the station. The receptionist answered your personal line and wanted to transfer me to the news director. What's going on?"

Gazing affectionately at the concerned and confused expression on her lover's face and glancing around to make sure no one was watching them, Kate put her hand on Jay's elbow and guided her to the stairs, saying, "Let's get upstairs and I'll explain, okay?"


Stepping inside the apartment the writer turned, dropping her briefcase on the floor and wrapping her arms around the sleek t-shirted torso. When Kate removed her sunglasses, Jay could see that she had been crying. Reaching up, she brushed her fingers along the chiseled planes of the face that she wanted to wake up to everyday of her life. She grabbed Kate's hand and led her over to the couch.

"What is it, sweetheart?" she asked, even as she was afraid she already knew the answer.

"Why are you home so early?" Kate answered the question with one of her own, needing to know that her lover hadn't suffered the same fate as she.

"For one thing, my assignment has me going out of town, so I need to pack, and, more importantly, I was worried sick about you and needed to get out of there so I could track you down."

"Why were you worried about me?"

"Trish showed me the National Enquirer at lunchtime. Oh, love, I'm so sorry." Tears formed in her eyes.

"Did she recognize you as the other woman?" Kate's jaw was tight.


"Did you tell her?"

"No, I didn't want to detract from the story, or you, by making her wonder whether I had been objective or not."

"Good." She breathed a sigh of relief. So far, at least, Jay was safe.

"Now will you tell me why you're here and why my guts have been in knots since 9:30 this morning?" She climbed into Kate's lap.

"Your guts have been in knots?"

"Yeah, it was the weirdest thing. First it was as if someone was twisting my insides, then it turned to a burning anger, and finally, just this overwhelming feeling of despair. I can't explain it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with what was going on with you. Am I right?"

Kate was flabbergasted. She knew that twins shared bonds like that, where they could feel each other's distress, but lovers? "Yeah, the timing sounds about right."

"Please, love, let me in." Jay patted her lover's chest.

Taking a deep breath, Kate recounted the events of the morning. When she was done, she looked down at emerald eyes brimming with tears.

"I can't believe they did that. That is so wrong. Why didn't you take the out they gave you and just let them think it was fabricated? You could've and they would've believed it."

Tipping Jay's chin up, Kate locked eyes with her. "Because, love, I will never deny what we have and what you are to me. You are my love and my life, the other half of my soul; don't ever doubt that, no matter what happens." She looked away because she couldn't bear to see those sea green orbs gazing at her so trustingly, knowing what she had to do.

"Oh Kate, this is all my fault."


"If I hadn't written that story, they wouldn't have been gunning for you."

"Jay, look at me. Did you assign yourself to write the piece? Did you determine that it was going to be the cover? Did you take us on vacation to St. John? Heck, did you initiate that kiss the slimeball caught on film?"

"No," she answered quietly.

"Right. Sweetheart, first of all you wrote a beautiful story, one that you should be proud of; I know that I am. Secondly, I'm not sorry about us, and I never will be. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I will always believe that. Always," she said with feeling. "We can't change what is, so there's no sense playing the 'what if' game. It won't serve us well. My main objective now is seeing that folks don't put two and two together and figure out that you're the other woman."

"I don't care what they think."

Kate smiled at her lover's natural feistiness. "Well, I do. You have a great career in front of you and your whole life before you, and I will not sit by and watch that be jeopardized by some sleazebag with a camera trying to make a little money."

Jay's eyes opened wide. "What are you saying?" When her lover didn't answer right away, she captured Kate's face between her hands. "What are you suggesting here?" The note of rising panic was clear in her voice.

Hearing it and seeing the look of fear in her eyes, Kate couldn't bring herself to tell Jay what she thought she needed to do. Instead she said, "You said you were packing to go out of town on assignment. What's the assignment and where are you going?"

Now used to her partner's seeming non-sequiturs, Jay answered, "I've got the sidebars to the main story this week. I'm going to Wiesbaden, Germany to interview some of the sailors injured Sunday when two Iraqi missiles hit the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf. Then, depending on whether they have one or where it is, I may have to cover a memorial service for the 37 who were killed in the attack."

Kate was calculating in her mind. The fact that Jay had to go out of the country would work in their favor. She nodded to herself. "Okay, that's good."

"It is? You want me to go away? That's the last thing I want to do right now."

"Frankly, sweetheart, I want to spend every minute of my life with you. But right now, your being out of the country is a positive for us. They can't put us together if we're not anywhere near each other, now can they?"

"Rrright. Kate, I'm only going to be gone a couple of days, the rest of the week maximum. Do you think the story will die down by then?"

"It's hard to say, maybe, maybe not."

"If it doesn't what are we going to do when I get back and we're living together?"

Kate wouldn't look at her. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Jay felt a wave of uneasiness settle in her guts. "What, exactly, does that mean?"

"C'mon, love, let it go." "It means first things first. Let's just get through one day at a time, okay?" She couldn't talk about it any more right now. All she wanted was to spend the remaining time they had together holding the love of her life in her arms and making love to her. "What time is your flight?"

Jay looked at her watch. "Three and half hours from now."

"Good, we have time," Kate said huskily as she leaned down to kiss waiting lips.


Their lovemaking was slow, deliberate, and poignant. Kate wanted to savor every touch, every taste, every sensation, every sound, knowing it could be the last time. When they were satiated, her lover lay spent in her arms and Kate was content just to hold her, stroking her hair and her back, breathing in her scent and memorizing the way their bodies fit together. She made sure that Jay couldn't see the tears in her eyes.

"Kate, what are you going to do now?"

"You mean professionally? I don't know. I think it unlikely that I could get another job in television. I really haven't thought about it. The fact that they paid me the remainder of what would have been due on my contract means I don't have to figure it out for a while yet."

"Mm. I'm going to miss you so much while I'm gone. I'll call you every day, though."

"Um, I may not be home, love."

"Why, where will you be?"

Kate sighed. "I'm going to go away for a little while, get out of sight and out of range of the vultures." And besides, phone records could be traced.

Jay's insides clenched. "How long and where are you going?"

"I'm not sure yet." Technically that was true, she hadn't picked up the tickets and finalized her itinerary yet. In truth, she thought it best for the writer if she didn't know too much, and she was afraid Jay would try to find her.

"How will I find you? How will we keep in touch?" The note of panic was back, and it made Kate miserable.

"If something comes up and you need something, call Peter. Do you have his numbers?"

"Yes, he gave them to me last night when we had dinner. But surely you're not suggesting that..."

Kate cut her off before she could finish the question she didn't want to answer. "Peter will be the point person. If we need to talk, we can do it through him."

"We're going to pass messages through a go-between?"

"Possibly. Also, he has conferencing capabilities and we could set up a conference call via his phone line if need be."

"If need be? Love, I don't want to talk to you only in case of an emergency. I love you, I need you, and I want to talk to you all the time."

"I know, sweetheart. Me too, but for now, at least, this is the most practical solution."

"Maybe the most practical solution is for me to quit my job and disappear with you."

That was exactly the reaction Kate had been afraid of, and why she had rejected the notion of talking her decision out with her lover. No matter what, she couldn't let Jay ruin the rest of her life, not for her. "No, Jay. No. Everything will be fine, you'll see." She kissed the top of the golden head. "Right now, though, we'd better get you packed or you'll be late."

Reluctantly Jay rose from the bed and set about her task, her lover lying in bed observing her, soaking up every opportunity to watch her and to memorize everything about her.

When she had finished packing and they both were dressed, Kate said, "You'd better get going or you're going to miss the plane."

"Aren't you coming to the airport with me?"

"I can't love, that would be way too obvious," she said regretfully.

"I'll be home Friday night at the latest, will you be there when I get there?"

"I don't know, Jay. Are you sure you want to be in Albany?"

"Yes," Jay said vehemently. "It's our home."

"Okay, I just wanted to be sure." Kate didn't see any harm in her lover being in the house; her phone number and address were unlisted and it was unlikely that anyone would find her there, especially if it were clear that the ex-anchorwoman was out of town. At the very least, they would try to follow her wherever she went, leaving Jay in peace.

"I don't like not knowing where you're going to be, or when I'll be able to talk to you or see you next."

"I know sweetheart, but the truth is that wherever you are, that's where I'll be. I'll always be thinking of you, love, and carrying you in my heart. Remember how much I love you." Kate worked hard to keep her voice from breaking.

They were at the door to the apartment. "Aren't you going to walk out with me?"

"No. I'll give you a few minutes and then head out."

Jay's head was down. "I hate this."

"Me too, sweetheart, but it won't be forever."

Jay dropped her suitcase and threw herself into Kate's arms. She couldn't shake this feeling of doom that was hanging over her. Reaching up, she pulled her lover down into a scorching kiss. "That's just to remind you what you'll be missing until we see each other again."

"Mm," Kate hummed. "As if I could forget." She returned the favor, saying, "That's to remind you how very much I love you. Be careful over there, sweetheart."

"I will. You too, Stretch. I miss you already."

"Me too."


"Be safe, love." Kate waited until she saw her lover catch a taxi from the living room window. Only then did she go to the door of the apartment, looking back one last time. "Never forget how much I love you, sweetheart. You will forever own my soul and in my heart we will always be together. Goodbye, Jay."

She couldn't stop the tears then. She didn't want to.


A while later Kate was on a train headed back home. She had just taken a window seat from which she could watch the river when she felt a presence standing over her.

"If it isn't my very favorite celebrity. I just knew there had to be some advantage to coming to this conference in the City. Is this seat taken?"

Kate looked up into the smiling countenance of Dr. Barbara Jones. Although she wasn't sure she was really up to company, the ex-anchorwoman was grateful for the appearance of one of her best friends.

"Depends on who's asking."

"Ooo, you sound rough, there, kiddo. Having a tough day?" the doctor asked sympathetically, noting that her friend still wore sunglasses, even inside the train, a fact that was way out of character for her.

"I suppose you could say that."

"Well, I got my copy of Time magazine yesterday, and I happened to catch the cover of that filthy gossip rag a little while ago at a newsstand as I was passing the time in the train station, so I think I can imagine a little bit of what might be going on in that brilliant head of yours." Reaching out, she put her hand on Kate's arm. "Want to talk about it? I'm a great listener, as you know."

Kate stared out the window, not sure how much to share, even with her good friend.

"Let me start, then. It's nearly 4:30 in the afternoon, and you're sitting on a train in ripped jeans and a t-shirt. That tells me that you're not going to work today. You don't have any luggage with you, or even a briefcase, so that tells me that this is a day trip, and that you probably didn't pre-plan it, but came to the City to do something specific. Like maybe talk to the other person in that picture, who I do believe, if I'm not mistaken, is someone you introduced me to not that long ago in the middle of a very long night."

Kate's head snapped around.

"How am I doing so far?" The doctor gave her friend a wry smile. "It is Jay, isn't it?"

Kate nodded minutely. "How did you know?"

"Well, I didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to see the way you looked at each other that night. I figured if something wasn't already going on between you two, it would be soon." She lowered her voice, "I'm glad for you, Kate, she seems like a wonderful person, and you deserve nothing less."

"Thanks. That picture was taken on the day I proposed to her. We were on a beach in St. John."

"You're getting married? That's fantastic! Congratulations."

Kate sighed. "We were getting married."

"What do you mean?"

"Barbara, no one else has figured out that she's the other woman, and I intend to keep it that way. She has a great career ahead of her and her whole life, and I'm not going to screw that up for her."

"You're leaving her?? Have you told her that? Is that why you were in the City?"

"Not exactly. I needed to make sure she was all right and that she knew what had happened. I also needed to tell her that I got fired this morning."


"They invoked the morals clause in my contract. It seems they were getting some threats from advertisers who were going to pull spots, and it was going to cost them money that they didn't want to lose more than they didn't want to lose me."

"Those ungrateful sons of bitches. Who the hell do they think got them those advertising contracts in the first place! They were in the cellar until you came along and gave them some class. You made them number one, and this is how they repay you?"

Kate had to smile at her friend's righteous indignation. "All's fair in love, war and television news, I guess," she said resignedly.

"That's a load of bull and you know it. Tell me the whole story."

And Kate did.

When she was finished, Barbara whistled, "That took guts, woman, to tell them it was your fiancÈe and that who she was wasn't any of their business. You were right, of course."

"When I saw that even Les and Phil, who had met her and spent time with her, didn't know who it was, I knew she could be okay in all this. That was the one bright spot."

"What's your plan?"

Kate explained about Jay's assignment and her intention to get away for a while.

"Where are you going?"

"I don't want to say. The less people know, the better," she said bluntly.

"This is me we're talking about, Kate, not some fly-by-night acquaintance," Barbara said, a little bit annoyed. "Does Jay know where you're headed?"

"No, and that's the way I want it. I've set it up so we'll both be talking to Peter at some point every day. If there's an emergency he can be the point person for a two-way conference call. If she knew where I was she might try to find me."

"Might?? I don't think there's any question that she'd move Heaven and Earth to locate you. Why are you doing this?"

"I told you," Kate sighed exasperatedly, "If we're not seen together, she'll be safe and she'll be able to maintain her anonymity. If she shows up anywhere near me, someone will make the connection and she'll be exposed. It could ruin her career."

"Instead, you're going to ruin her life."


"Kate, that woman loves you with all her heart. Do you think she's just going to be able to forget about you, put you in the past? Your disappearing is going to kill her. My guess is she'd rather lose her job than lose you, and if you were thinking straight you'd know that too. Did you even give her a choice?"

"No," she answered quietly. "She doesn't know I'm planning an extended absence."

"Well that's a fine euphemism. She's a big girl; don't you think she should have some say in what happens here? What gives you the right to make unilateral decisions for both of you?"

Kate ran a hand through her hair. She couldn't listen to this right now, not after spending the morning asking herself the very same questions. God, she felt so impotent. "Look. All I know is that I'm the juicy story of the day, every idiot and his brother is going to try to dig up more dirt. The most obvious piece of gossip would be the identity of my lover, and if they figure that out it will raise questions about the reliability of the story she wrote. That woman bent over backwards to make that piece objective and fair. She has more integrity in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies. I won't have anyone call that into question. It would kill her personally and professionally. I will do anything it takes to make sure the vultures don't find her, and that includes disappearing out of her life so that she can have the future and career she deserves."

Barbara reached out a soothing hand, recognizing that her friend was about at the end of her emotional tether. At least, she reasoned, Peter would be able to bridge a little bit of the gap and maybe talk some sense into their mutual friend. Kate had introduced her to the security expert a year or so earlier, and the three of them occasionally did things together. She liked him and knew he was as protective of her friend as she was. "Kate, they're not going to be out there gunning for you forever. Don't give up your chance at happiness because some money-grubbing opportunists are making you the meal of the day. Two days from now or a week from now they'll move on to someone else and all of this will be forgotten."

"And what if you're wrong and it isn't? I can't take a chance on that. You can never put the genie back in the bottle, Barbara. I'll never be able to go anywhere without someone pointing and saying 'look, there goes that famous lesbian. What's her name again?' Jay doesn't deserve that, and she doesn't have to live with it."

"All I'm saying is that it should be her choice whether she wants to stay with you and face the consequences or not. It doesn't matter where you go, Kate, she's going to try to follow you. I know that I would if it were me, and she seems like a pretty determined young woman. Do you love her?"

"With all that I am."

"Does she love you?"


"Then don't give up and let those fools win. Because that's what you're doing."

"Do me a favor?"


"Watch out for her? She says that she wants to be in Albany because that's where our home is, and I think that's where she'll go when she comes back from her assignment later this week. Will you check up on her, make sure she's okay? Try," Kate's voice broke, "Try to help her through this? She's going to need some friends who know and understand. I can't think of anyone I'd trust to help her more than I trust you and Peter."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. You know I will do anything I can, but I do wish you'd reconsider. I think you're making the mistake of a lifetime, or maybe it's just that you don't think you deserve happiness and love in your life."

Kate glared at Barbara with an intensity that was clear even through the dark glasses. "Since when did you start specializing in the field of psychology?" she snapped.

"My friend, I've been watching you for a lot of years now, and I've seen enough to know that what I say is true, although I still don't understand why. Well let me tell you something: you do deserve to be loved and to be happy, despite what you think. This woman is the best thing that ever came into your life. Don't let her go; I'm not sure either one of you could survive it."

Kate knew it was true; Jay was the best thing that ever happened to her and she wasn't at all sure she could make it without her. She only knew that she had to protect her, and this was the only way she knew how. Out loud she said, "Jay's a survivor, she'll adapt and find her way; she's tougher than she looks." And she hoped it was true.

Barbara just shook her head, knowing that she wasn't going to be able to change her friend's mind, but hoping that she'd at least given her something to think about.

They were silent for the rest of the ride to Albany.

Chapter 18

Jay arrived at her destination near dawn Germany time on Wednesday. She had tried her hardest to sleep on the flight but found it virtually impossible, as thoughts and emotions kept running rampant through her mind. She couldn't shake the feeling of dread gripping her heart and was finding it difficult to focus on her assignment when all she could think about was where her lover might be and when she could see her next. "Parker, you owe it to these men and their crewmates to do a good job here. Stick to the issue at hand and the faster you complete the assignment properly, the sooner you can go home and concentrate on Kate."

She found a driver willing to take her from Frankfurt, where she had landed, to the US Military Hospital at Wiesbaden, and spent the ride going through her notes. When the writer arrived, she was forced to spend an hour slogging through mountains of red tape and "helpful" public affairs officers, despite earlier assurances from her sources at the Pentagon that she would have no problems on site. Once she had convinced the watchdogs that her interest laid in the sailors' personal stories and not in vilifying the navy or condemning the military's readiness for an attack, she was allowed to visit with three of the injured.

The interviews went well, the men responding instantly to Jay's naturally sunny personality and good looks. They were happy to open up to her and talk about their lives, their choice to join the military, how they viewed that decision now, what they felt and thought during the attack, and how they thought the incident on the Stark might have changed them. By early afternoon she had gotten everything she needed to write a great human-interest story.

Now she had a choice to make. Rightfully, she could do some sightseeing, check into a hotel in Frankfurt, and sleep until tomorrow before catching a plane back to the States. Or, if she were so inclined, she could leave right away. Unbidden the thought came to her that if a certain tall shadow were here, they would have a great time seeing the sights. But, alas, that wasn't the case. Looking at her watch she noted that it was 8 a.m. New York time on Wednesday. She smiled at the vision of Kate working out to Charlie's Angels in the basement gym, her smile fading, however, with the notion that her lover had probably already left for parts unknown. She sighed. The first thing she needed to do was to call Trish to find out if there was a second leg to her journey to cover a service for those who had died in the attack. Since the editor was usually in early, Jay figured she wouldn't have any trouble finding her at her desk.

"Hiya, kiddo. How's tricks?"

"Hi Trish. Everything's great. I think I've got some really good stuff; it'll make a great sidebar. These guys have been through a lot and, as you might expect, it's had a pretty profound impact on them. It's a very human story."

"Terrific. Listen, I got a line on the memorial service. It's going to be Friday morning in at the naval station Mayport near Jacksonville, Florida. That's the Stark's home base. Looks like the president is going be there. And guess what? So are you, what a coincidence!"

"You're in a good mood."

"Eh, doesn't pay to complain, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do. Okay. Well, I'll come home now so I can write this story tomorrow in the office and then get on a plane for Florida tomorrow night."

"Sorry about that, kid, doesn't look like you'll be getting a lot of sleep this week."

"That's okay, Trish, I know you'll make it up to me," she smiled into the phone. Her editor and friend really did take pretty good care of her.

Jay was exhausted, and her stomach was in knots. She thought about trying to call Kate, but knew in her heart it would be fruitless. She would call Peter when she got to New York later. While it would be near 10 or 11 o'clock Wednesday night in Germany when she touched down, she would gain six hours at home, putting it closer to 4 or 5 in the afternoon in New York.


By 8 a.m. Wednesday morning Kate was somewhere over the Midwest on her way to Chicago and then Denver, the jumping off point for her journey. It had been a long evening and a longer night after she'd returned from Jay's. She had gone from the train station to her travel agent's, then to her florist, then to the house to feed Fred, play with him, get his things together and take him over to Peter's, where she had dinner and more discussion than she bargained for.

Like Barbara, Peter was convinced that Jay would try to follow her, and not at all certain that Kate's solution was best for either one of them. The ex-anchorwoman was tired, emotionally drained and grumpy. "What do you suggest, then, smart man? Let them feast on us and have Jay lose her career in the process? Never. I won't do it."

"You don't know that Jay will lose her career, you're making an assumption. And that should be her choice, not yours."

It was the first time they had ever raised their voices to each other. They faced off across Peter's kitchen table, where Kate's meal sat untouched. "Jay is too kind and too compassionate, she would never choose her career over me, even if it was what she really wanted. I will not be pitied; I am not some charity case."

"Then stop feeling sorry for yourself and playing the martyr," he boomed. More quietly he pleaded, "Go away for a few days and get your head together if you need to, Kate, but for God's sake, don't disappear from Jay's life. That girl is head over heels in love with you and can't wait to be your wife." He thought about the little side trip the pretty blonde had made them take the night before when he took them to dinner. "The two of you are strong enough to face whatever challenges come your way. Your friends will be here to support you. If you want, I'll arrange it so that no media can get within a mile of either one of you."

"I know you would, my friend, but even you can't hold them off forever," she said quietly. "I'll ask you the same thing I asked Barbara: please, please look out for Jay and help her through this. I will take you up on your offer to make sure that no media go anywhere near her. I don't think anyone who would be looking for a story can figure out where I live, but I can't guarantee that. I'm hoping that by making my departure from the Capital District painfully obvious, they'll trail me instead." She hadn't made any secret about the fact that she was leaving the area and had, in fact, called the station earlier in the day, deliberately telling the receptionist that she was leaving the next morning at 7:00 for an extended period of time to visit relatives in Chicago if anyone called looking for her. She might as well put the idiot's "helpful" nature to good use.

She sighed heavily. "Jay will be calling you; I trust you not to tell her where I am. You're the only person who will know. I'll be moving around, so I'll check in with you once a day, most likely in the evening after you would have talked to her. You're my eyes and ears, my friend, if there's something I need to know I expect you to tell me."

She stood and Fred rose from under the table where he had been laying on her feet. She knelt down before him and gave him a big hug. "As for you, big guy, I expect you to be a good boy. When your other mother comes home, I expect you to keep her company and give her lots of love, okay? You take extra special care of her for me and make sure she's not lonely." She kept her head down to hide the tears that spilled from her eyes. "I love you, buddy." She kissed him on the top of the head and he licked her chin.

When she had composed herself, she stood and faced Peter. "You know I can never thank you enough for everything you do for me, right?"

"Yeah, I know, but I'll think of something."

"So you keep threatening; I'm scared." She made a mock-frightened face. "I'll be in touch." And with that she was out the door.

At home again late Tuesday night, she spent a couple of hours doing laundry and packing, walking around the house making sure that everything was in order and admiring the dozens of red and yellow roses that she had placed in strategic locations for her lover to find. Each had a card standing against its vase, all with a different sentiment but expressing the same love and devotion. She knew she shouldn't have done that; after all, if she were leaving her, why not make a clean break? But she couldn't do it; the ache in her heart was excruciating and she needed to let Jay know how she felt about her. She couldn't live with the idea that her lover might think she was using this as an excuse to walk away, and she wasn't willing to let the younger woman's insecurities get the better of her without making an effort to set the record straight; she hated hurting her, even if it was for a good reason.

Going into the attic, she found her boxes of old comic books, separating out all of the Green Lanterns and setting them aside. Then, for good measure, she made piles of the Aqua Man, Flash and Captain America comics, too, taking them all to the bedroom. She wrote a note to accompany them and put the flashlight and a fresh set of batteries nearby.

Finally, at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, she tried to lie down and sleep for a couple of hours. It was 9:30 in the morning in Wiesbaden, and she wondered what Jay was doing. She pictured her interviewing injured sailors, listening intently to their stories, her sparkling green eyes alight with sympathy and curiosity. It made her heart ache painfully. God, she missed her already.

At 5 a.m. she gave up any pretense of sleep and went downstairs to workout and then to run before showering and leaving for the airport, where she made her presence well known. Standing in line waiting to check in for a flight to Chicago, she removed her sunglasses and talked with the other passengers, signing some autographs for those who approached her timidly with issues of Time. She made a special point of making eye contact and saying hello to those few who gave her disgusted looks and pretended not to notice her. She even took the time before departure to browse through the newsstand near the gate, where she signed some more autographs. She made sure that her one-way boarding pass to Chicago was visible to anyone who cared to take notice before she boarded the flight.

She spied two still photographers lurking nearby and one reporter; it was nice to know the WCAP receptionist was good at her job. None of the "journalists" had gotten on the plane with her. She knew she would have to put on a show in Chicago on the other end, in case they had other colleagues waiting there, but she had already made provisions for that.

For now, she sat in the air, her heart thousands of miles away and her soul feeling as if it had been ripped to shreds.


The first thing Jay did when she arrived at her apartment shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday was to pick up the phone and call Peter, who answered on the third ring.

"Peter Enright."

"Hi Peter, it's Jay."

"Ah, the world traveler. Where are you now?"

"I just got off a plane from Frankfurt, Germany. I'm at my apartment in New York."

"You sound exhausted."

"Well, I tried to sleep a little on the plane, but I haven't been having much luck in that department the past twenty four hours or so."

"I bet," he said sympathetically.

"Do you know where Kate is?"

"Not exactly."

"What does that mean, have you heard from her?"

"Not yet today." He needed to tread carefully here. He didn't want to lie to Jay, but Kate was adamant that her lover not know where she was. He also knew that his friend hadn't told her fiancÈe that she might not be coming back. Though he disagreed vehemently with her decision, he would be loyal and play the good soldier. "I saw her last night; she left Fred with me before leaving town."

"She's gone?"

"Yes, she left early this morning."

"Driving or flying? I guess that's a stupid question; if she had been driving she probably would have taken Fred, right?"

"Right. Are you done with your assignment?"

"Part of it. I have to go into the office tomorrow morning and finish writing the story from Wiesbaden; I started writing it on the plane, but I've got a lot more to do. Then I have to fly to Jacksonville, Florida tomorrow afternoon to be at the Mayport Naval Station in time for a memorial service for the sailors killed on the Stark on Friday morning. I'm planning to fly directly back to Albany from there. I can write the story at home over the weekend and take the train to the City to turn it in Monday morning."

"Sounds like they're running you ragged."

"A little bit. I can't decide whether that's a good thing or not; I guess being distracted right now can't hurt." She sounded dejected and Peter felt for her. "Do you think she's okay, wherever she is?"

"I'm sure she's fine, honey. Kate is a very strong woman, she'll be all right."

"She was hurting so badly yesterday. She was trying hard to be tough, but I know that whole thing with her bosses really threw her. I'd like to wring their scrawny little necks."

Peter laughed. "Get in line, you're not the only one who feels that way."

"Do you really think the story's not dead?"

"Well, I know your fiancÈe thinks it's not, and I can't really disagree with her there, she's got amazing instincts when it comes to that kind of stuff. She's taken some measures to handle it, though." He had no intention of telling his new young friend about his promise to Kate to keep the media away from her. And he wasn't sure if he should share her Chicago plan with Jay, either. God, he hated this.

"I'm not sure what that means, but whatever it is, I'm sure she's cooked up something good," Jay chuckled thinking about her lover scheming and devising ways to play with the media. "Well, I'd better get going." She hesitated for a moment. "Peter?"


"She is going to call you sometime today, right?"

"Yes, Jay, she promised to call in every day at some point."

"Would you...would you tell her I love her? And that I miss her terribly?"

"Of course honey, you know I will." He paused. "Jay?"


"She loves you too, you know. Very much. That's why she's doing this. She just wants to keep you safe and out of the spotlight."

"I know, but I don't have to like it or agree with it, do I?"

"No, I suppose you don't."

"Can I call you again tomorrow, Peter?"

"Honey, you can call me anytime you want. I'll always be here for you Jay; for one thing, Kate made me promise that I would, and for another, I would have done it anyway."

"You're such a sweetheart."

"Don't let that get around, you'll ruin my tough reputation."

"Your secret's safe with me, Technowiz. And Peter?"

"Mm hmm."

"Would it be okay if I took Fred home Friday when I get to Albany? I have a feeling I'm going to need his company."

She sounded so sad it broke his heart. "Of course. Tell you what; why don't I plan on picking up dinner and bringing it, and Fred, over to the house Friday night. Okay?"

"Yeah, that would be great. I can't promise that I'll be wonderful company, but..."

"It will be good to see you, Jay."

"Yeah, you too. Bye, Peter, thanks for everything. You won't forget to give Kate my messages, will you?"

"Never. Bye Jay, try and get some sleep, okay?"



Stepping off the plane in Chicago late Wednesday morning, Kate spotted them: two more photographers and one reporter. "Good," she thought, "They're taking the bait. That ought to keep Jay in the clear." Just thinking her lover's name gave her a pang, and she sighed as she made her way unhurriedly to the baggage claim area. She wanted to be sure to give her tails plenty of time to follow her. It wouldn't do to lose them yet.

Once her suitcase arrived she exited the terminal, noting that her shadows had followed. She waited at the curb for a few moments until a big Crown Victoria pulled up and an older, matronly-looking woman stepped out. Kate approached the woman and gave her a big smile and a warm hug, saying loud enough for anyone nearby to hear, "Aunt Marie, it's so good to see you. It feels like it's been forever. Thanks so much for letting me stay with you for a while; I really appreciate it. I just need some time to get away for a couple of months, and it will be so good to spend time with you and Uncle Nick."

In an unsteady voice the old woman replied, "Oh now Kate, you know you're always welcome in our home. You're like a second daughter to us and we're honored to have you around. Besides, you can reach all those things Nick puts up in the tall cupboards that I can never find. Come along now, let's get you settled in and unpacked."

The two women got in the car and drove off. Once they were a safe distance away, Kate reached over and squeezed the woman's hand. "Marie, you never cease to amaze me. Where in the world did you come up with that costume on such short notice? It's brilliant; you almost had me fooled."

"Hey, sweetie, that's what you pay me for, remember?" The voice belonged to a woman no older than Kate.

"Yeah, boxes and boxes of Freihofer's Chocolate Chip Cookies, as I recall. You were addicted."

"Yes, and you fed my habit quite nicely, thank you."

"Well, you were my roommate and the only theatre major I knew; who else was I supposed to enlist to play practical jokes on unsuspecting fools?"

"Mm hmm. It would be nice if you just said that I was the most talented actress you knew and that's why you hung around with me."

"Yeah, that too, I guess." Kate paused and looked seriously at her old college friend. She and Marie had been paired together randomly freshman year and had hit it off right away. She loved the fact that Marie accepted her just as she was and gave her space, while at the same time offering her unconditional friendship. They had roomed together until Kate had gotten a single junior year. Marie was one of the few people who Kate let get close; and one of the very few in college who had known that she was a lesbian.

"I can't thank you enough for putting yourself on the line like this for me, Marie. It's an awful lot to ask."

"For you, Kate, anything, you know that. I was glad you called; I just about burst a button when I saw the cover of Time. I couldn't think of anyone who deserved the recognition more. And then when I saw the Enquirer yesterday I was mad enough to spit nails. It'd make me only too happy to screw them up."

Marie smiled. She knew she would do anything for Kate, and vice versa. In college most people had shied away from her, her off-beat manner leading most of her classmates to dismiss her as a nut; but not the tall, quiet beauty. Kate had befriended her right away, and, in turn, she was one of the few people who ever got to see Kate's wicked sense of humor. She loved her with all her heart and hated to see her in pain.



"Are you all right? I know I haven't been the best about keeping in touch, what with doing the show at the Improv and all, but I'm still here for you, you know?"

"I know you are, friend, that's why I felt comfortable making the call. I knew you would come through for me."

"You haven't answered the question."

"Oh, haven't I?"

"No, smartass, you haven't."

Kate sighed trying to figure out how to answer her friend. She had never lied to her before and had found her to be, on those few occasions when she had wanted to talk, a good listener... "No, I'm not okay," she said quietly. "I got fired yesterday, I have no idea what my future holds, I had to leave my fiancÈe behind so she wouldn't lose her career and get caught up in all this, and my heart is sick over it."

"Oh sweetie." Marie squeezed the large hand that rested on the seat. "I'm so sorry for you. I'm assuming your fiancÈe was the one in the picture, right?"

Kate poked her friend. "No, I'm sleeping around, but don't tell her, okay? Of course it was her. In fact, that was taken on the day I proposed to her; we were on a beach in St. John. I had taken her there to get away from everything." She sighed wistfully.

Marie noted the ironic tone in her friend's voice. "It will be all right, Kate, you'll see. This will blow over and the two of you can ride off into the sunset."

"I wish I could believe that."

"Who is she? All I could see from the pictures was the back of her head. Nice kissing technique, by the way."

"God, you are such a brat."

"Just part of my charm, remember? And, my dear, once again you haven't answered my question. Am I going to have to beat it out of you?"

"Huh, you and what army, woman?"

"Just remember my husband is bigger than you are."

"Yes, but he'd probably be on my side."

"Not if he wants me to put out anytime in this century."

"Oooh, now there's a threat."

"We're getting off the subject, missy. Are you going to tell me who the lucky woman is?"

Kate sighed heavily. "Her name is Jamison Parker. You might remember her; she was two years behind us...an Am Lit major. And, Marie...I'm the lucky one."

"Wow. You've got it bad, woman. Jamison Parker, Jamison Parker. Where have I seen that name recently?" She thought for a moment, and then turned incredulous eyes to her friend. "You can't mean the same Jamison Parker whose byline graces the Time magazine story about you, can you??"

"Mm hmm."

"My what a tangled web we weave. Yikes. No wonder you're trying to keep the hounds off the scent; that could look really bad for her."

"Right. Marie, she's an incredibly talented writer, she's got a brilliant future in front of her, I can't take a chance on her credibility being called into question."

"I see your dilemma here. Why didn't she just recuse herself from the story in the first place?"

"It's all my fault. We weren't involved sexually when she was given the assignment. In fact, we had only kissed a couple of times and had really just found each other again the week before."

At Marie's inquiring look, she explained, "She was in Albany doing a story on the Governor when the bombing happened; she saw me on television, and came to find me. That's how we got reacquainted. We had met briefly a couple of times in college and she had really made an impression on me, and, I guess, me on her. So we began talking on the telephone. When her editor gave her the piece to do on me, she made it clear up front she needed to maintain professional distance from me. I was the one who pushed her. And even then, we didn't sleep together until she had done all of the interviews and research for the story. By the time she actually wrote it, we were head over heels in love, and just after she turned it in, I whisked her off to a remote Caribbean island and asked her to marry me."

"That's quite a tale. And they said romance was dead; apparently it's alive and well and living in Albany, New York, who knew? I have to say, Kate, I never would have known the depth of your relationship from the story. She did an amazing job of staying objective, there's no hint of anything too personal in there."

"I know, I was so proud of her. Now you see why I have to let her go."

"No. Now I see why you want to keep her out of the spotlight, but not why you need to ditch her."

"I'm not ditching her!" Why couldn't they see? First Barbara, then Peter, now Marie; she had to do this for Jay's sake, that was all there was to it.

"What would you call disappearing and not telling her where you're going?"

"Look, the less she knows, the less she's likely to try and follow me, and the less likely she is to lose her job and her future."

"Seems to me if she loses you, she is losing her future. But that's just me," she tweaked her friend gently. "A job is a job and love is everything. Katherine Kyle, you are one of the most desirable women on the face of the planet. Why, if I weren't straight and happily married to Nick I'd chase your skirt myself. I can't imagine this woman is just going to let you go and be okay with that."

They had arrived at their destination, a nice, solid brick home in a respectably middle class neighborhood. Getting out of the passenger side, Kate watched with awe as her friend transformed herself back into an elderly aunt in the blink of an eye. She had always loved watching Marie work; it fascinated her. If anyone were watching, it would appear as though Kate was visiting with a beloved relative, which was just what she wanted him or her to think.

Once they were inside the house, Marie turned to her friend. "How much time have you got before your next flight?"

"A little over two hours."

"Okay, that means you have to leave here within a half hour to get back to the airport in time."

"Fine. There is a back way out of here, right?"

"Yep, through the backyard and a small path over to the next neighborhood. I'll call Nick and tell him to meet you over there."

"You don't need to do that, I can call a cab."

"Don't be ridiculous, I won't hear of it. You might want to be careful though, in case your friends are still hanging out waiting at the airport for a flight, or something."

"I will, but I'm guessing they're based here in Chicago or on the west coast somewhere, and will either be watching your house or be gone by the time I get there."

"I hope you're right. Just in case, do you want a disguise?"

"Mm. That could be fun."

"We'll make it something easy to take off, so you can be yourself by the time you get on the plane if you want."

"Okay, and if they're still lurking about I'll just stay in character."

Within twenty minutes Kate had been transformed into a stooped old lady, warts and all, with the help of baggy clothes, a large bra stuffed with feathers, and some fake wrinkles that looked so real even she had to do a double take in the mirror. A wig of finely woven salt and pepper hair completed the look, with her real hair swept up underneath.

"My, my, Katherine, you really should take better care of yourself. Why, you're positively going to seed!"

The ex-anchorwoman leaned over and kissed her friend on the cheek. "Thanks, Marie, you're the best."

"Watch your voice there, Grandma Kate, and I know." Her eyes twinkled. "Just you take care of yourself. And don't give up on your lady, either, my friend. I can't wait to meet her; it sounds like she's a keeper, and so are you."

They hugged and Marie, still in costume, checked the backyard. "All clear. And don't worry, Kate, if I see any sign of anyone sniffing around, I'll just get back into costume and yell from the porch into the house for you to "...come out and get some fresh air, young lady, you stay cooped up too much for your own good."

Kate laughed at her friend's old lady voice. "That ought to work. I'll be in touch sometime, Marie, I promise," she said as she stooped over and made her way slowly across the backyard and over into the next neighborhood. Her suitcase had already been transferred to Nick's car in the enclosed garage away from any potential prying eyes fifteen minutes earlier before he headed back out to wait for her.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful, with no sightings of any reporters or photographers. Still, Kate chose to stay in costume until she reached Denver, where she disappeared into a ladies' room and removed the makeup and costume, paid cash for a rental car, picked up a large container of coffee to fight off her exhaustion, and headed off in the direction of her first destination, the Great Sand Dunes in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.


By 9 p.m. Wednesday, after nearly seven hours driving, she had arrived in tiny Mosca, Colorado, the town closest to the Dunes, where she stopped for the night at a small bed and breakfast called the Inn at Zapata Ranch. She was grateful just to be able to get out and stretch her cramped legs.

Checking in, she put her suitcase in the homespun room, noting that there was no telephone. She frowned and headed back out to the main lobby. "Excuse me," she said to the elderly night clerk, "I'm looking for a telephone."

The white-haired gentleman smiled a smile that was missing two prominent teeth, and pointed to a lounge chair in the corner of the lobby closest to the communal fireplace. "That's the only phone available to the guests, miss. Just dial '9' to get an operator."

"Great," thought Kate, looking around and seeing several people milling about the lobby. "Just what I need; no privacy." She sighed heavily and went over and sat down in the lounge chair, dialing Peter's number from memory. She glanced at her watch; it was a little after 11 p.m. back home.


"Hey, Technowiz."

"Hey woman." He had been about to call her 'Anchorbabe', as had become his custom, but he didn't want to remind her of what was no more. "How's things?"

"Peachy. I'm so far beyond exhausted...hey, what comes after exhausted, anyway?"

"Um, dead?"

She chuckled, "Well, that's helpful. Let's just say I'm halfway there and leave it at that."

"How'd the trip out go?"

"Like clockwork. Two photographers and a reporter at the airport in Albany, two different photographers and a different reporter in Chicago. My friend met me and put on a great show, which I think they bought, and no one followed me to Denver that I could tell. Certainly no one followed me here. I'm in the middle of nowhere and I didn't see another set of headlights in either direction for the last 125 miles."

"Sounds good. Where exactly is the middle of nowhere?"

"Are you sure you want to know? If you don't know, you can't lie about it." She was only half-joking, and they both knew it.

"Kate, someone ought to know where to find you in case of emergency, don't you think?"

"Is everything all right? Have you heard from Jay?"

He could hear her rising anxiety. "Everything's okay, and yes, I heard from Jay 7 hours ago."

"How is she?"

"Lonely and depressed, from the sound of it, but otherwise okay. She sounds about the same as you, come to think of it. Imagine that."

"Okay, I get your point, that's enough. Where is she?"

"She's back in New York at the apartment. You could probably get her there now if you wanted." He didn't think she'd do it, but he felt he had to try.

"No, it's too late; I'm hoping she's sleeping. It sounds like she had a whirlwind trip; she wasn't even there 24 hours. And besides," she added softly, "It will only make things harder."

He decided to let the subject drop for the moment. "She's going into the office tomorrow morning to write the story on the injured sailors, then she flies off to Jacksonville, Florida tomorrow afternoon or evening for the memorial service for the dead, which takes place the following morning. The President is going to be there. She says she's, and I quote, 'Coming home to write the story over the weekend and then take the train to the City Monday morning to turn it in.' She's flying directly from Jacksonville to Albany on Friday after the service. I told her I'd pick up dinner and bring it, and Fred, to the house Friday night."

"Thanks, Peter, you're a prince, as always."

"Yeah, yeah, tell it to somebody who believes you. Oh, and she had two messages for you. She said to tell you she loves you and she misses you."

Kate's heart clenched. "Tell her I said the same, okay?" she asked huskily.

"Of course. Now are you going to tell me where in the world you are?"

"Right now I'm sitting in a lounge chair in the lobby of a bed and breakfast 15 minutes away from the Great Sand Dunes, one of the great wonders in this country. Unfortunately, this is the only phone they have for the guests to use, so it's not the most private place in the world. I'll probably spend the day tomorrow at the Dunes and I may stop at the Zapata Falls, which are nearby. Then I'll move on before nightfall. I'll call you again tomorrow night from the road."

"Good. Oh, and Fred says goodnight and to tell you he misses you, too."

"Give him a kiss on the nose for me. I'll talk to you tomorrow, bud. See ya."

"Bye, Kate. Be careful out there."

She held the dead receiver in her hand a moment longer. God, she so wanted to talk to her lover. But she meant what she had said to Peter: it would only make things harder for both of them, and she knew Jay would want to know exactly where she was and when she was coming home. It would hurt her more when Kate refused to tell her. No, it would only make things worse. With a heavy heart, she turned and went to her room, where she lay down and cried herself to sleep.

Chapter 19

Jay spent Wednesday night in the apartment, surrounded by Kate's scent and the lingering fragrance of her perfume on the pillows and sheets. While Jay had found that somewhat comforting, it also had made the longing for her more acute.

She turned in the first sidebar before leaving for Jacksonville Thursday afternoon, calling Peter when she checked into her hotel. He had told her only that Kate had been in touch late the night before, that she had been followed in two places by the media, that she had managed to lose them after deceiving them, and then gone on her way. When Jay asked him if he thought her lover would be home soon, he simply indicated that he had told Kate of her impending trip to Florida and her plans to be at the house in Albany over the weekend. He never answered the question one way or the other.

Friday night, true to his word, Peter met Jay at the house with Fred and dinner in tow. She already had been there for a couple of hours, and had ferreted out six dozen roses in various locations throughout the house: three dozen red and three dozen yellow, each with a card containing some expression of love and devotion that made her ache for her partner's presence. She also had found the stash of comic books, with a note indicating that "this ought to keep you busy and out of trouble for a while," and that Kate expected that, if she gave it a chance, she'd understand the draw of Aqua Man, Captain America, and the Flash, too. Jay had smiled wistfully, thinking to herself that she'd much rather be personally persuaded by a certain someone than discover an affinity for them on her own.

The dinner with Peter was a nice diversion, although he seemed somewhat uncomfortable. She imagined that was because he could not tell her what she really wanted to know, which was when she might see her fiancÈe again, or where she might be at that particular moment. For yet another night, she cried herself to sleep, this time in her lover's bed with Fred lying nearby. He seemed to sense her distress and followed her everywhere, staying close by her side, putting his head on her lap as she sobbed, and giving her his favorite stuffed toys to comfort her.

On Saturday she sat down to write the story of the memorial service, but was too distracted. She called Peter to find that Kate had, indeed, called in late the night before after he had gotten home from dinner to say that she was fine, and to tell Jay that she loved her and missed her. The younger woman felt the walls closing in on her after that and set out for Kaaterskill Falls with Fred and a little lunch. The two hiked the same route they had taken with Fred's mistress previously and stopped to have lunch by the waterfall, where Jay cried thinking back to the sweetness of that first real date they had shared, and how it had culminated later that night, or, more accurately, early the next morning.

Saturday night Barbara stopped by to see how Jay was doing. She related that she had bumped into Kate on her way back to Albany Tuesday, the day all hell had broken loose, and their mutual friend had asked her to check in on her. The two women spent a little time just talking and getting to know one another a bit better, each finding that she liked the other immensely and that they shared some common interests and philosophies.

After Barbara left Jay dialed Peter to discover that she had just missed Kate, who again sent her love. "Did she say she was coming home?" she asked hopefully. She missed her so much it was making her sick to her stomach.

"No, honey, she didn't. She just said she'd call again tomorrow sometime. I'm sorry."

"That's okay, Peter, I appreciate everything you're doing."

"You're welcome, Jay. You know I'll do everything I can for both of you, right?" He had been worried by her appearance the night before and had told Kate so on the phone. She had looked tired and drawn, with no sparkle in her eyes, she'd hardly touched her dinner, and it was clear that she was getting more depressed with each passing day. He would have felt better, he thought, if she at least had gotten angry. Somehow he had expected her to react differently than this. After all, she had plenty of spunk and seemed an equal match for Kate in terms of determination and will. But, then again, he was smart enough to know that there was probably a lot about her that he didn't know.

Sunday was set aside for writing the memorial service sidebar, which Jay did, sitting down at her new word processor for the first time in her lover's office. There was a note on it, telling her that Kate knew the next great American novel was going to be penned on this machine, and that she was so proud of her. Reading it, Jay cried for what seemed like the tenth time that day.

She talked to Peter again that night just to check in and let him know she was going to the City via train in the morning to turn in the story. She was planning to leave her car at the train station, but Peter offered to come by and get her instead. By this time, Jay was so depressed she had stopped even asking him for any details of her fiancÈe's whereabouts or actions. She only passed along the usual message: that she loved her and missed her and wished she were coming home. At her core, Jay was afraid that she had been right: nothing as wonderful as Kate could really be meant to happen to her.


Kate, meanwhile, was in no better shape than Jay. On Thursday morning she got up early and took a run, then climbed to the top of one of the tallest sand dunes in North America, watching the sun rise over the spectacular snow-covered peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was breathtaking. She had selected this spot, as she had the others she would visit, because it was among the most spiritual, most peaceful places in the country; she hoped these vistas would be a balm to her tattered soul. She was all alone up there, not another soul in sight at that early hour, and she sobbed until she had no tears left to give.

She cried for the happiness that she had been forced to sacrifice, and the love that was so far away; she cried for the pain the separation was causing Jay, and for a future she had just begun to consider, but now knew she would never have. She sat like that for hours, knees pulled up tight to her chin, rocking back and forth in a vain effort to comfort herself. There was only one thing, one person, who could bring her solace, and she wasn't selfish enough to put her own needs above those of her lover. No, she would have to work through the pain on her own.

Eventually, Kate descended the dunes and detoured to the Zapata Falls on her way out of the area, but the water was running so high she wasn't able to get too far, and turned back to the car to continue on her journey. It took her nearly five hours on US 160 West, climbing over the treacherous Wolf Creek Pass, to make it to Mesa Verde. On the way through the pass, she had gotten out at a scenic overlook to peek over a breathtaking valley below, and to stretch her abused body. By the time she stopped for the night in the Mesa Verde National Park at the Far View Lodge, she was so tired she could barely see straight and wanted simply to be able to close her eyes and shut out the emotional pain that had been buffeting her continuously for two days. My God, had it only been that long since she had last held Jay and made love to her?

Calling Peter to let him know she had reached her next destination, she got the information that Jay had landed safely in Jacksonville and that he would be having dinner with her at the house the next night. He wanted to suggest to her that she call her fiancÈe once she had arrived home at their house, but he resisted, knowing that Kate would do whatever she thought was best in this situation and needed no prodding from him, just his unconditional support.

Unable to get her mind to stop spinning, she was up and dressed in running clothes once again before dawn on Friday, her long legs eating up the winding curves of the pavement as she wended her way up and down the inclines, occasionally catching glimpses of Shiprock, New Mexico, the Four Corners where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico intersect, and the various types of wildlife that populated the area.

She spent the rest of the day hiking the trails in the park and touring the ruins of cliff dwellings created from 600 A.D. to 1200 A.D. She marveled at the Cliff Palace, so well preserved that it was easy to envision hundreds of Anasazi people populating the structure, built literally right into the side of a cliff. She made the steep ascent up the Spruce Canyon Trail and climbed the ladder to access the Spruce Tree House, amazed at the ingenuity it must have taken to create such a beautiful and practical dwelling. Then she ventured over to the Balcony House dwelling before proceeding to several others in a different part of the park.

The history and architecture fascinated her, and the engineering skill of these long-ago peoples astounded her. Beyond all that, though, there was something inherently spiritual about the place that beckoned to her, and Kate felt the pull of that at her core. She decided to spend a second night at the lodge before heading out in the morning.

Once she had made the arrangements, she settled in for the evening and tried to read for a while. Her mind kept drifting to Jay, though, and she found herself reading the same paragraph over and over again. Finally, she gave up, setting the book aside and turning on CNN instead. That, however, made her even more melancholy than she already was, so she turned it off and closed her eyes, allowing her mind to wander.

She felt so off-balance; so rudderless. What was she going to do with her life when things settled down and she didn't need to be out of sight anymore? By then, surely Jay would have gotten over her. In truth, at the moment she didn't care about her professional future, but she knew that sooner or later she would have to do something. She was pretty sure her days as a broadcast journalist were finished; the business had very little use for "out" lesbians.

So then what? A degree in American History made her well rounded, but not specifically qualified for anything. She could go to law school, something she had considered when she graduated college. It wasn't as if she couldn't handle the class work. But she didn't think she really wanted to go back to school at this point in her life; not to mention the financial resources it would take to do so. Frankly, she was too tired to think clearly about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

She checked her watch: it was close to 11 p.m. Friday night in Albany. Peter should be back from his dinner with Jay by now. She called him, getting him on the second ring.

"Hey, Technowiz."

"Hi yourself." Wow, she sounded terrible: tired, depressed and lonely, and he could tell that from just two words. Not good.

"How was your dinner with the most lovely woman in the world?" She couldn't help the smile the mere thought of Jay brought to her lips.

"Well, I enjoyed it. She, on the other hand, barely ate a bite."

"Why, did you cook it?"

"Very funny, string bean. No, I brought takeout Chinese, which she said she loved, and managed to push around her plate for the better part of an hour."

"Hmm. That doesn't sound like the Jay I know. That woman can eat more than most NFL linemen. I never understood where she put it all."

"It's not good, my friend. She looks drawn and tired and emotionally distressed. It's odd, really, I would have expected her to be more angry and insistent on getting answers from me. All she wants to know is when you're coming home."

Tears tracked silently down chiseled cheekbones. Peter knew nothing of Jay's background, and therefore couldn't understand what Kate knew: Jay wouldn't push this because, deep down inside, she expected the worst and thought she deserved it. It was what she had always gotten. There hadn't really been enough time for Kate to establish a trustworthy track record. By disappearing she had unleashed all of Jay's doubts and insecurities.

Kate knew a moment of uncertainty. Was she doing the right thing by staying away? There was silence on the line for several moments. "Did she make out okay in Jacksonville?"

"Yeah, said she got some great human interest stuff and a few minutes with President Reagan. Said he was very charismatic."

"Mm. I know; I've met him, too. Lousy politics, but an engaging man."

"That's pretty much what she said."

"Did she, um, say anything about finding anything in the house?"

"No, but I did notice a profusion of roses in vases everywhere I turned. You wouldn't have had anything to do with that, now would you?"

"Me? Nah, not a romantic bone in my body." She knew Jay was a very private person and probably wouldn't have shared the information about the flowers and the comic books, but it was worth asking. Anything that told her that her lover knew how she felt would have helped soothe the pain a bit.

Peter snorted. "Where are you and where are you heading next?"

"I'm still at Mesa Verde. I'll head out first thing in the morning and point myself in the direction of Sedona. I'll probably make some side trips along the way, so I'm not really sure how long it will take me or where I'll detour to, but I'll call you when I settle for the night."

"Okay. Kate, I called Barbara when I got home tonight and asked her to stop by and see Jay tomorrow night."

"Why?" There was a note of alarm in her voice. "Is she sick?"

"Heartsick, to be sure. And if she keeps going the way she is, she'll be physically sick soon enough." This time Peter could hear the sobs on the other end of the line. He closed his eyes, imagining that his blue-eyed friend wasn't doing any better than her fiancÈe. He gave her a minute to compose herself, before continuing gently, "I just thought maybe Barbara could get her to talk a little. Right now she's trying hard to bottle everything up inside, and I'm afraid what will happen when she lets it all go."

"You're a good man and a better friend, Peter. Thank you for taking such good care of her. You have no idea how much I appreciate it."

"I know she means the world to you, Kate. And that means she means the world to me, too, and I know Barbara feels the same way."

"Thanks, friend, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Will you talk to Barbara after she sees Jay?"

"Yes, we made arrangements to talk. I figured you'd want a second opinion tomorrow night."

"Yeah. Thanks, buddy." Kate would wait and see what Barbara had to say before deciding whether or not she needed to change strategy.

"You're welcome, Kate. Hey, take care of yourself now, you hear?"

"'Bye, Peter."

"See ya, babe."

Kate spent Saturday driving through parts of the Navajo and Hopi reservations, stopping often to talk to the Native American craftsmen who were selling their wares along the side of the road. Unable to resist, she purchased a beautifully woven Navajo blanket for Jay and an intricately carved silver bracelet for her from a Hopi woman who had engaged her in conversation.

She drove through Shiprock, New Mexico and Monument Valley in Arizona, her mind easily conjuring all those old westerns in which this exact scenery had provided the backdrop for countless hours of melodrama. She stopped briefly as the shadows grew long on Saturday at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. She didn't want to linger long there; it was too populated with tourists and she didn't want to take a chance on being recognized, although as rough as she knew she looked she doubted anyone would know who she was.

She found a small motel on US 89 south of the Canyon, where she stopped for the night. Waiting until she was sure Barbara and Peter would have talked already, she made her nightly phone call, this time getting her friend on the first ring.

"Well, what's the word?"

"Hello to you too, sunshine."

"Have you talked to Barbara?"



"And she agrees with me that Jay is seriously depressed and missing you like crazy. She's not eating, not sleeping, and even Fred knows something is wrong; he follows her everywhere, tries to give her his favorite stuffed toys to cheer her up, and puts his head on her lap when she sits down."

"I'm glad he's there for her." "Damn, should I go back?"

"Me too. She told me she tried to sit down and write the memorial service story today but couldn't focus. So she took Fred and went to Kaaterskill Falls for a hike."

Kate's breathing caught as she envisioned her lover sitting alone in the spot where they had shared their first picnic and their budding romance. There was a sharp pain in her chest where her heart used to be. "Oh, love," she thought, "It must have been so hard for you, being there by yourself."

Peter continued, "She said she's going to write the story tomorrow, stay at the house tomorrow night and then travel to the City Monday morning."

"Have you seen anything?" Kate had asked Peter each night whether or not he'd spotted any stories about her or seen anyone anywhere near Jay.

"Still not a word since the TV coverage the day the news release came out." "No, I won't go back now, this way at least I know she's still safe from scrutiny, if not happy. Her future is what's important; she can get over me."

Kate thought about that first bit of news coverage: that had been hard, each of the local news stations reporting that Kate had departed abruptly following some "adverse" publicity. To their credit, the competition had shown some class and didn't trash her. She was grateful for their respect.

"I think the reporter and photographers who hounded me must have been from the tabloids; probably the Globe and the Enquirer. Can you figure out when they publish? I guess we know the Enquirer comes out on Tuesday. How about the Globe?"

"I'll have an answer for you tomorrow when I talk to you."

"Okay, 'night, Peter."

"'Bye Kate."

On Sunday she stopped first at the Wapatki National Monument to hike the area and investigate some well-preserved and diverse ruins, before moving on to Flagstaff and the Kaibab National Forest, where she explored a number of hiking trails. She thought about stopping there for the night but decided it was too early, and ventured instead on a side trip to the Walnut Canyon National Monument. There she found a beautiful canyon with a clear stream at the base and more unique ruins. Finally drained of her manic energy, she returned to Flagstaff to find yet another small motel for the night.

Her conversation with Peter was brief. He relayed that he was taking Jay to the train station early in the morning, and that she had told him to tell Kate that she loved her and missed her and wished that she were coming home. He also told the ex-anchorwoman that this week's edition of the Globe was due to hit newsstands Monday morning, as in tomorrow.

Kate informed him that she was in a town big enough to have a newsstand, and that she would check out the story first thing and call him right away to discuss it. They rang off.


Peter dropped Jay at the train station Monday morning in plenty of time to make the 6 a.m. express to New York. She smiled sadly when she thought how easy it was to be on time when there were no distractions in the house. Since she had some extra time to kill, she wandered into the newsstand. She browsed the magazines briefly before her eyes fell on the front page of the Globe. She snatched up a copy and threw some change on the counter just as her train was being called.

Once onboard she picked her usual window seat in an isolated car and pulled the tabloid out of her briefcase. There were two pictures of Kate, a large one on the front apparently taken in Chicago on Wednesday, according to the caption. An old woman, identified only as "Aunt Marie," a mother figure to the deposed anchorwoman, was greeting her. They were loading her suitcase into the trunk of a large sedan. The second picture, which was on the inside cover along with an accompanying story, was of Kate at the airport in Albany awaiting her flight to Chicago. As always, she looked calm and regal. Jay touched the pictures, as if the gesture would bring her closer to her lover.

Then her eyes fell to the story with the banner headline that read, "Gorgeous Lesbian Anchorwoman Leaves a String of Broken Hearts Across the Country." Jay groaned as she read, "Sensational beauty and now ex-anchorwoman Katherine Kyle abruptly disappeared from the airwaves on Tuesday, the day photographs were published of her and a mysterious blonde woman cavorting on a beach in the tiny tropical paradise of St. John. The Globe caught up to Ms. Kyle as she fled her hometown to lick her wounds with relatives in Chicago; she was quite alone, the blonde nowhere in sight. Apparently, that is not unusual for Kyle, as the Globe's investigative journalists have uncovered a bevy of broken hearts the statuesque siren has left behind all over the country.

"'I was head over heels in love with her, but she was only interested in a casual relationship; something superficial. I broke up with her because I thought she was in love with someone else.' So says a Vermont forest ranger with whom Kyle had a two year affair in the early 1980's. Other women have told the Globe similar stories, painting the model-pretty ex-anchorwoman as a love 'em and leave 'em female Lothario who has never settled down, preferring instead to 'use 'em and lose 'em,' as one poor victim of her considerable charms told the Globe. For now, she remains secluded with elderly relatives in a Chicago suburb, no doubt planning her next conquest."

Jay read the story over several times, her insecurities multiplying by the minute. She knew the forest ranger quoted had to be Jen, the EMT that had treated her the night of the attack that Kate had interrupted. She had no idea who the other women the story quoted could be, nor could she figure out who the woman was in Chicago who obviously had picked her lover up at the airport.

Peter had said that Kate had seen the photographers and reporters, and had managed to deceive them and lose them. What exactly did that mean? Who was this mysterious relative? Hadn't Kate told her she didn't have any living relatives, that Jay was her family now? Had she meant that, or was she just another in a long line of jilted lovers? Had she been played for a sucker?

Kate had seemed so sincere, so in love with her. Was she really, or was she just a great actress? "Parker, it's the story of your life; if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is." Jay started to get agitated. Why hadn't Kate gotten in touch with her? She knew, according to Peter, that Jay was staying at the house; she could have called any time. And why wouldn't she say where she was? Was she already off wooing some other unsuspecting potential lover? Jay's overtired mind leapt to all kinds of conclusions.

By the time the train pulled into the station and she made her way to the apartment before heading to the office, she was in a full-blown rage. She was exhausted and emotionally wrecked, and beyond feeling anything but pain and betrayal.


Kate ran to the nearest newsstand as soon as it opened at 5 a.m. local time, knowing that it was two hours later at home and Peter already should have the story in his hands. She looked at the photographs and read the story once quickly, and then again more thoroughly, raising her eyebrows at the fact that they had managed to unearth Jen. And then built a pack of lies around a truth her ex-lover had told to make it more plausible. Typical tabloid bullshit.

She sighed and chewed her lip. Either Jay would see the story on her own, or Trish or some other helpful person would call it to her attention. What would she think? Kate's face was grim as she added up the likely conclusions that her sometimes-insecure lover might draw, if left to her own devices. She'd better talk to her.

Peter answered his office phone on the first ring. "Peter Enright."

"Yeah, I know who you are."

"Good morning. I take it you've seen this morning's trash."

"Yeah. They took one tiny shred of truth, that Jen and I had a relationship and that she broke up with me because she thought, ironically enough, that I was in love with Jay all those years ago, and blew it up into me being the cold-hearted bitch-slut of the century. Yipee."

"Don't sweat it, babe, you know how ridiculous the whole thing is."

"Yeah, I do, but does Jay? She has a tendency to let her imagination get carried away with her, Peter. She's had a lot of really bad stuff happen to her and she doesn't think she's worthy of being loved; she simply doesn't trust that that kind of love exists for her, and I can't be there to reassure her. " She paused, sighing heavily. "I think I need to talk to her now, buddy; I'm sure she'll see this and her brain will start working overtime."

Kate looked at her watch; it was nearly 9:10 a.m. in New York. "I bet she'll go to the apartment before she heads to the office. Can you call her there now and conference me with her?"

"Yep. I'll put you on hold, dial her, then bring you back in and take myself out, okay? It will just be you two, I promise."

"Thanks Peter. You're a prince."

"Don't thank me yet..."

Chapter 20

"Jay, are you there?"


"Kate, how 'bout you?"

"Right here, Technowiz."

"Okay. Well, I'll leave you two to it then. See ya."

There was silence on the line for half a beat as Kate just enjoyed the sound of her lover breathing at the other end.

"Hi sweetheart, how are you?"

"Great," Jay answered sarcastically, "You? Are you having fun on your 'vacation'?"

Kate was taken aback by the biting tone. "Is that what you think, that I'm just off having a good time?" she asked softly. "I miss you so much it's tearing me up inside. There isn't a second that goes by that I don't think about you and wish I could be with you."

"I bet that's what you say to all the girls, isn't it?" Jay shot back, unwilling to be deterred and way too tired to think straight.

"Don't believe everything you read, love. I take it you've seen the Globe this morning."

"Oh yeah, I saw it. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you haven't told me where you are, or that you haven't wanted to talk to me, even though you knew full well where I was. You've probably already moved on to the next sucker, haven't you? How stupid could I be to think someone as perfect as you really could be interested in me as anything other than the flavor of the month? Jesus, Jamison, just take out an ad that says, 'My name is Jay and I'm naïve, please step on me now and then kick me when I'm down.'"

Kate was reeling. She had expected her lover to be confused, perhaps even upset about the article, but this...everything she'd done, she'd done because she loved this woman heart and soul. And all Jay could think was that once again someone she loved had betrayed her trust and given her what she thought she deserved. Kate's heart shattered in pieces right there in the hotel room, but Jay was too far gone to feel it.

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Jay," she said stiffly.

"That's what you have to say?"

"Yes." "Go ahead, Kyle, let her get good and mad. She's been conditioned to expect the worst for 25 years; that's not going to change in the month that you've had together. From where she's sitting, it looks to her like you've just been using her. Let her think that; maybe it will help her get over you faster. This is best for her; anger always supercedes pain. She'll be fine. Let her go." This Kate thought even as she was dying inside.

"Fine then. I hope you and...whoever your next conquest is...are having a wonderful time. Don't bother sending me a postcard. Goodbye, Kate."

"Goodbye, my love," Kate said to the dial tone on the other end. "I will be yours 'til the end of time and beyond. I hope someday you'll know that." She dissolved into tears, huge, wracking sobs that burst forth from her tortured soul as she lay face down in the pillow.


After slamming down the receiver Jay picked it up to dial once again with shaking hands. "Peter?"

"Hi half-pint, how did it go? It must have been great to be able to talk to her, huh?"

"Oh yeah, a real pleasure," Jay ground out.

Peter was immediately alert and concerned. "What happened, Jay?"

"Never mind, I just think it would be better if you went over and took Fred, okay? I'll come by later or tomorrow sometime to get my things, give you the key and have you undo whatever it was you did that allowed me to set and deactivate the security system."

"Whoa, whoa. What are you talking about?"

Jay proceeded to relate in detail everything she had said to Kate and her lover's responses.

When she was done he screamed into the phone, "YOU SAID WHAT? YOU DID WHAT? Oh my God, oh my God. Shit, I've got to find her before she really does disappear."

The decibel level of Peter's voice shocked Jay. She had never heard him lose his cool before. Testily, she said, "It figures. I'm the one who gets screwed, and you're worried about her. Guess she's got you wrapped around her little finger too, huh?"

"You listen to me, Jamison Parker," he said in a low, barely-controlled growl. "I know that you've been hurting over all this. Kate told me that she was worried how you would react to the article. She didn't tell me why, just that you had had a lot of bad stuff happen to you and that she was concerned that your imagination would run away with you." He paused a second for thought. "Boy, I guess she got that right, now didn't she?

"Now let me tell you a thing or two about our friend Ms. Kyle: in all the years I have known that woman I have never, ever known her to be anything but painfully honest. I personally have watched her shun gorgeous women who literally have thrown themselves at her feet because she didn't want to hurt or mislead them. She has avoided relationships, yes even casual sex, for years because, as she always put it, 'The right one is out there for me, and until she comes along, I'll just wait on the sidelines, thank you very much.' Hell, I didn't think people like that still existed! So many people misunderstood and labeled her 'cold and aloof...the ice princess.' She never showed how much that hurt her; she just let them think what they would and went about her life with style and class. Katherine Kyle has more integrity than anyone I've ever known, and that's going a ways.

"When she fell so hard for you, I was flabbergasted and overjoyed. I never thought I'd see the day that my best friend would find true love and happiness. But she found it with you. When she told me she had proposed to you, well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. And when all this bullshit happened, I was sick for her that she felt so strongly that she would do anything in the world to protect you. Yes, she went away to protect you, Jay, because she thought your future and your career were worth more than her happiness and her future, despite my arguments and Barbara's arguments to the contrary. She was adamant that she would never do anything to jeopardize you, no matter what it cost her. Being away from you was killing her, and, frankly, I don't know what she'll do now."

Jay felt any remaining color drain from her face.

On a roll, Peter was too upset to hold anything back. "Today, this morning, when she didn't refute anything you said, that was her way of letting you get on with your life because she knew that if you were truly angry at her, that would override the hurt you were feeling and you could move on and stay anonymous and have the life and career she thought you deserved. Bully for her, she's a better person than I, I don't think I could have done what she did."

By this time Jay was beside herself. The tears rolled down her cheeks unimpeded and she felt so sick to her stomach she thought she might have to make a run to the bathroom. "God, I'm such an idiot. What have I done? Now she thinks I don't believe in her and she has nothing to come back to. She's hurting and alone and I just threw grease on the fire. Peter I'm so, so sorry. Oh God, this is all my fault."

"It's not me you need to apologize to, Jay," he said quietly, hearing how distraught she was. Kate would kill him if she knew he had made her lover feel badly, but he felt he owed it to both of them for Jay to know the unvarnished truth. After a few seconds he said, "Do you love her?"

"More than life itself."

"You'd better mean that, young lady."

"You have no idea," she answered.


"Can you get her on the phone for me again; if she'll take my call, I mean?"

Peter sighed heavily and ran his hand through his thick hair. "I don't know where she is, Jay. I don't know where she called me from."

"You don't?"

"No, she never gave me the names of the places she was staying, only a rough idea of where in the world she was. She wanted to be so careful; she didn't want there to be any way anyone could trace her. Heck, she's been paying for everything with cash and even took a detour to Chicago with the help of an old theatre friend of hers to fool those tabloid jerks into thinking she was going to be staying with a matronly aunt for a few months. All to keep them away from you. She made me promise I would keep an eye out and wouldn't let the media anywhere near you. I've never seen her this crazed about anything. She gave up everything that she was, everything that she had, for you.

"And Jay, despite the things you said to her this morning, she'll continue to protect you and keep you safe. Kate loves you with all her being. Knowing her, no matter what you did, or do, to her, that will always be the case. She never does things in half measures."

"I have to make this right. Somehow, I have to make this right." Jay's head was about to explode. After a minute she said, "I know what I have to do." It was as if she was talking to herself and she'd forgotten that Peter was even there. "Peter? I'm going to the office now. I need to talk to Trish."

"Wait a minute, Jay. Wait. Don't do anything rash, now. Kate has gone to a lot of trouble to keep you out of harm's way. If you fly in the face of that, she'll murder me."

Jay smiled for the first time in what seemed like years. "Don't worry, baby, I'll protect you," she teased. "Listen, I have to turn in my story and see what, if anything, my next assignment is. By the time I'm done with that, can you try to pinpoint where you think she might be so that I can go find her?"

"I don't know, Jay..."

"Peter, please. I know you probably don't like me very much right now. Heck, I don't much like myself. But I do love Kate with all my heart and soul, and I'm not giving us up without a fight. I just made the biggest mistake of my life, but I'm going to do everything in my power to fix it. Will you help me? For Kate's sake?"

Now that was more like what Peter had expected from Jay in the first place. He felt better already. Maybe this could work out in the end. "God, you are incorrigible, you know that?"

"So I've been told."

"Okay, call me back when you've done what you need to do." In spite of the fact that she had just trampled all over his best friend and likely broken her heart in a million pieces, he did know that they loved each other more than any couple he'd ever seen, and any fool could see that they belonged together. Beyond that, he liked the little imp. She'd been under a lot of strain and was exhausted and depressed; clearly she just hadn't been thinking straight before she jumped in with both feet. He shook his head, "You're turning into an old sentimental mushball, Enright. Disgusting."


Jay showed up in the office just before 10 a.m. and found Trish buried behind stacks of paper.

"Hiya, kiddo," the editor said without looking up. "Got a story for me?"

"Here it is," the writer said so quietly Trish almost didn't hear her; that made her look up.

"Geez, you look terrible, kid. What the hell happened to you? Come on, come with me." Without waiting for an answer she led Jay out of the office and down to the coffee shop downstairs. "What's up, Jay? This isn't like you. What's the matter?"

Jay couldn't look her in the eye. "I need to tell you something, Trish, and I'll understand, whatever you decide to do about it."

"Sounds ominous. What is it?"

"You remember you showed me those pictures last week in the Enquirer of Katherine Kyle?"

"Yeah," the editor drew the word out. "The ones that made her lose her job."



Jay looked up and pinned her friend and editor with a piercing stare, her chin held high. "I'm the other woman in those pictures."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that the woman Kate was kissing was me. We'd gone away to St. John to get away from everything. That picture was taken the day she proposed to me." She smiled wistfully.

"Holy Mother...you mean you're getting married...to her? Wow, Jay. Wow."

The writer plowed on, "And now she's disappeared in order to protect my career and my future and to keep the tabloid vultures away from me. When she realized that no one could see my face and even you didn't know who 'the blonde' was, she devised a plan to keep anyone from figuring it out."

The editor whistled. "Now that's love."

"Yeah, the only problem is that I saw the item in the Globe this morning and I let some ugly stuff from my past get in the way. It was the first time I'd talked to her since she went away, and I said some very ugly things and now she thinks I don't believe in her and there's nothing to come home to and I have no way to get in touch with her. I don't even know where she is, no one does, exactly." Jay raked her fingers through her hair.


"I'm sorry, Trish, I never meant to mislead you. We weren't involved when you assigned me the story and we didn't get involved until after I'd finished all the research and all the interviews..."

"Jay, stop it, hon. Listen to me. You're the best damn reporter I got. You wrote a fabulous story. I sure couldn't figure out that you were involved with her, so I know it must have been objective. I know you would never do something like that on purpose. It's okay. Really. I don't care. You've got so much potential, Jay, it just doesn't matter to me. You can love anyone you want. Hell, who wouldn't want to be married to that woman!"

Jay smiled shyly. "Yeah, she's pretty amazing, isn't she?"

"Yep, honey, she's a real looker. So this is what we're going to do: I'm going to put you on floater status." She winked. "No firm assignment, just an 'in case' kind of deal. You call in once a day this week to see if I've got anything for you, okay?"

"Are you sure?"

It was the first spark of life Trish had seen in her friend's eyes yet. "Positive. You love her, right?"

"Oh God, do I."

"Then go get her and bring her back here. I don't give a damn what they say about you, you're mine and I'm not going to let anyone mess with you. Don't worry. Now you better get going, and don't forget to invite me to the wedding."

"You're the best, Trish," Jay gushed, getting up and hugging her friend hard.

"Careful, you'll bruise me. I'll talk to you tomorrow, kid; let me know how it's going."

Jay nodded and ran out of the coffee shop and out the front door of the building, not stopping until she was on the subway headed to the apartment.

"What do you have, Peter? Anything?" She was breathless.

"Nothing solid, but I have a pretty good guess."

"Okay, I'm listening."

He could hear the life in her voice, the first time he'd heard it since Kate had been gone, and it made him smile. "I think she was in Flagstaff this morning when you talked to her. She said she was someplace big enough that they had a newsstand, which knocks out everyplace else in the area. I think she was on her way to Sedona."

"That would make sense. She told me once that it was one of her favorite places and she'd been there many times."

"I can't guarantee that she'll follow through with that now, though."

Jay closed her eyes and thought for a minute. "I think she will. It's a very important place to her, and I would think she'd want to seek solace in the familiar." Her chest ached at the thought. "Oh, love, I'm so, so sorry. I'm going to find you, whatever it takes, and get you back here with me, where you belong."

"You may be right about that. If not, there's not much I can do to find her under the radar screen without alerting people we don't want to alert."

"I hope you're right, Peter, and my heart tells me you are."

"Good, 'cause I've taken the liberty of booking you on the next plane leaving from New York for Phoenix in oh, two hours. And, I've got you a private plane from Phoenix to the Sedona airport."

"You're amazing!"

"Don't mention it. There's a car waiting for you downstairs to take you to the airport when you're ready. Don't worry, the driver won't ask any questions."

"Peter, do you think you'll hear from her again before I see her?"

"I don't know, I don't think so. Kate tends to pull completely into herself when she's wounded."

The thought of that made a silent tear slide down Jay's face. "Okay, but if she does..."

"Don't worry, I'll handle it. Call me when you land in Phoenix and I'll give you an update."

"Thanks, Peter, you're a prince."

He rolled his eyes. "Now you sound like someone else I know."

"'Bye, Peter."

"'Bye, Jay. Good luck."



Kate wasn't sure how long she'd lain there crying. Eventually she fell asleep for a short period of time, her body reacting to the extreme emotional release. When she awoke, all she wanted to do was run away and never stop. The pain was unbearable. She had hoped the combination of her love and time would be enough to help Jay over her insecurities. Now she knew that it was something Jay was going to have to work out for herself. Kate had failed; she had gambled on the strength of Jay's faith in her and lost. Now her lover was gone for good.

She thought about her options: there was nothing she needed to be doing, no responsibilities to be taken care of, and no place she needed to be. She literally could drop off the face of the Earth and no one would care, except for maybe Fred, Peter and Barbara. She'd go back briefly and pick up Fred, the other two would get over it.

As she lay there on her back thinking, a wave of nearly nauseating fear struck her. She opened her eyes wide. Odd; it was as if it wasn't coming from her, but from somewhere else. She quieted her mind and concentrated on the feeling. After a few minutes the fear was replaced by self-loathing, resignation and despair. Huh. Kate remembered her conversation with her lover the day she'd gotten fired, when Jay had told her she could feel Kate's anger and distress. Could these be Jay's feelings and not hers?

She thought about it for a minute. The sensations certainly weren't consistent with Kate's normal range of reactions; but then, these weren't normal circumstances. It wasn't every day your heart stopped beating while you were still alive and breathing. As she was debating this, the emotion shifted to a sense of determination. Definitely Jay, she thought; it sure as hell wasn't her right now. She wondered what it meant. Then, just as quickly, she tried to put it out of her mind. Jay had made it clear where she stood, and Kate would do well to try to train herself to let go.

Nonetheless, the fact that she had some connection to the love of her life gave her cause to be grateful. She decided to get up, shower, and move on to Sedona as she had planned. It was, after all, one of the most spiritual places in the world and God knows she needed the help right now.


Jay twirled the ring on her finger for the thousandth time, watching it sparkle, taking it off and looking at the small, neat script her lover had engraved on the inside of the band: Forever; she could only hope it was still true. She was almost there. If she could have flapped her wings herself, she would have; the flights seemingly had dragged on for an eternity. There had been plenty of time to think, though, and it had made her miserable. Now that Peter had knocked some sense into her, it was all so clear: Kate had given up everything for love; everything for her˜her career, her future, her life and her happiness. Wow. For her, Jamison Parker.

And she had repaid her lover by doubting her and damning her, judging her not by her actions and words, but by those of a sleazy tabloid reporter. Jay was ashamed of herself. She wished she could somehow turn back the clock and do this morning's conversation over again, but she knew real life didn't work that way; she'd just have to make it right somehow.

She flashed back to the conversations between her and Kate about trust. "She asked me to trust in her, trust in us, and I failed abysmally. Great, Jamison, this time it may have cost you your one chance at love and happiness. Worse yet, you managed to devastate this incredible woman who sacrificed everything for you." She knew she was going to have to work harder to overcome her trust issues, no one else could do that for her, not even Kate; she just hoped she wasn't too late.


As soon as the small plane touched the runway in Sedona, she was out of her seat. Now that she was here, she wasn't sure what to do. There were more than sixty trails in the area, and that was assuming that Kate would have gone hiking. IF she were here, which was yet another assumption. Jay chewed her lip.

Peter had reconstructed the places he thought his friend had been in the week she'd been gone. He knew she'd been to the Great Sand Dunes and to Mesa Verde; he also knew she had stopped briefly at the Grand Canyon. He'd looked at maps and routes and was fairly sure she'd gone through Navajo and Hopi reservations. He thought she'd been in Flagstaff last night or this morning. He had told Jay all of that when she had called him from Phoenix. And he told her that he'd had no word from Kate.

Closing her eyes, Jay tried to focus. She knew Kate favored quiet, peaceful places, mountains and water. She also knew her partner loved to hike. She would have gone hiking someplace quiet where she could be alone. Jay looked at her watch; sunset was a little more than an hour away. She thought about everything she knew about Sedona. Growing up only two hours away, she had spent much time in this land of extraordinary red rock. There were so many beautiful, peaceful places to hike; and then it came to her. All of the places Peter thought Kate had been were spiritually significant. She would have gone to Bell Rock, one of seven vortexes in the world, a fantastic place from which to watch the sun set and perhaps the most spiritual place in this area.

Walking out the front door of the tiny airport, Jay hailed a waiting cab, which she had deliver her to the trailhead for the Bell Rock Pathway. She would have to hustle; it was a three and half mile one-way hike. Fortunately, she had brought only a light backpack with a single change of clothes and her hiking boots, which she put on her feet before settling the pack on her back and setting off up the trail. Although there were several ways to get up Bell Rock, she was fairly confident that this would have been the one her lover had taken; it had the nicest views from the top.

As she jogged up the trail, she tried not to think what she would do if she had guessed wrong and if Kate hadn't come here, or wasn't even in Sedona. She couldn't entertain such notions; her lover had to be here. There wasn't a soul in sight as Jay wended her way up the red rock, red rock dust now coating her boots and a light sheen of sweat on her brow.

Within half an hour, as the trail turned sharply steeper and more difficult to follow, Jay caught a glimpse of a single figure sitting near the very top of the rock formation. She couldn't make out the features or even if it was a man or a woman from this distance, but in her heart she knew it was Kate. She redoubled her efforts, all her energy being poured into getting to that lone figure, fighting for footholds and handholds in the rock, not caring about anything but her ultimate destination.

Twenty minutes later, she was close enough to see clearly that the solitary hiker was, indeed, Kate, and that she had her eyes closed. Jay approached cautiously, quietly, unsure of exactly what to say or do. She got to within seven feet, and her heart broke. She could feel waves of despair and hopelessness that she knew belonged to the proud figure seated before her. Silent tears tracked unhindered down Kate's face; she looked so lost, so forlorn and alone. She was gaunt despite her tan, and too thin, and it was obvious that she didn't know she was being watched.

Looking at that immense pain, Jay began to cry herself. "Oh my God, what have I done to you, my love? I destroyed you. What have I done?" She stood there, rooted to the spot, unable to move forward or back.

Sitting there, deep within her own world of pain and anguish, Kate fought with herself and prayed for wisdom. She had been so sure of herself, so positive that walking away would be the right thing. And on one level it was. But on the other hand...she replayed for the millionth time that morning's phone conversation. Could she live with her lover thinking she'd betrayed her? That she was just like everyone from Jay's past? Kate knew she could survive with Jay believing she'd been played for a sucker and that she was a cold-hearted, scheming bitch. But that Jay would be convinced yet again that she didn't deserve anything better? There was no way that Kate could allow the woman she loved more than anything in the world to spend the rest of her life believing that. She had to go back.

Just as she had reached that conclusion, she suddenly was bombarded by feelings of deep self-loathing and self-recrimination and a stabbing ache in her heart. Her eyes snapped open, knowing instinctively the cause of the emotions. There was Jay, standing mere feet away, tears rolling down her cheeks, pain etched in every aspect of her manner. Red-rimmed and bloodshot blue eyes locked on green for a timeless moment, before Kate simply stood and opened her arms.

Dropping the pack off her shoulders, Jay covered the remaining distance between them in three steps, falling into her lover's arms and choking on her own sobs. "Oh Kate, I love you so much. I would give anything to have this morning to do all over again. I'm so, so sorry. I was over-tired and stressed, and I missed you so much. I wasn't thinking straight and I was way off base. You didn't deserve that. I...I don't even know where to start or how to begin to apologize to you or ask for your forgiveness. I know I have no right to ask it..."

"Shh," her lover interrupted her. "That you're here is enough, love." Kate felt her heart slide back into place. "I wish that we could have been together longer before this happened. If I had only had more time to earn your trust..."

Jay cut her off. "No Kate, you're wrong. You have earned my trust...with every word and every gesture; if I hadn't been half out of my mind with fear, I would have known that. You can't take responsibility for my mistakes, love; I have to do that, and I will. That's why I'm here." She paused. "Well, that and the fact that I love you more than life itself and I can't live without you. Oh, and Fred told me I couldn't come home without his mama."

Kate smiled for the first time in days. "How did you find me?"

"After I hung up on you, I talked to Peter again. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that he helped set me straight." Jay could feel the outrage building in the body holding hers. "Don't Kate, don't get mad at him. He was right; there was so much I didn't know, wasn't seeing, and didn't understand. I begged him to help me locate you; I just had to make this right. I had to. What I did to you this morning was like cutting out my own heart."

A lone tear slid down Kate's face at hearing her own feelings expressed so succinctly.

The two lovers stood there for a time, simply enjoying the feeling of being in each other's arms.



"What were you doing when I walked up?"

"I was asking for guidance."

"Did you get any?"

"Mm hmm. In fact," she squeezed a little tighter, "I had just decided that I needed to come home to you right away and beg you to take me back when you showed up."

Jay looked deeply into the eyes of the woman she loved more than anything in the world, trying to convey with her expression all that she couldn't say. Nudging Kate back into a sitting position, she knelt between her legs. "You know, I was so focused on how bad it felt to be without you after spending every minute together when we were away all I could think about was how unfair it was and how mad I was at the uncertainty of it all; I felt cheated, Kate.

"I didn't stop to consider how you must have been feeling and what you were going through and why. My God, love, you gave up so much for me." Jay shook her head in wonder. "I will learn to get past these trust issues, I swear to you with all that I am I will," she said determinedly, her voice breaking. "And I need you to know, by the way, that my career means nothing without you in my life."

"It's okay, love, your career should mean a lot to you..." She was stopped by a hand on her knee.

"You are everything to me, Katherine Kyle; everything. I told Trish this morning that I was the other woman in the pictures. I told her I was madly in love with you and that we were going to be married..." She paused, looking up hopefully into the face she knew so well, seeking reassurance. What she got was a brilliant smile. "She said she would stand behind me no matter what, and that our relationship and any resulting publicity didn't matter to her in the least. She encouraged me to follow my life and my love." More quietly she added, "And I have."

"Oh, Jay, you shouldn't have put everything on the line like that..."

Green eyes flashed, "Oh I shouldn't, but you should? No double standards here, sweetheart; I won't have it. This is a partnership, remember?"

"Yes, but you could've lost your career, your future."

"You don't get it, love, do you? Losing my job wouldn't have mattered to me as long as I had you by my side. You're all I care about, Kate; everything else pales in comparison." There were tears coursing down Jay's cheeks. "Please, please come home and marry me."

The watery emerald eyes locked onto beloved cobalt blue, the plea evident there, as Jay reached into her backpack and pulled out a small velvet box, holding it out in front of her in supplication. "This signifies my commitment to you. I will always love you, Kate, always, and I can't wait to start our life together." There was a slight question in the air.

Kate looked down at the box nestled in her hand and opened the lid. Inside was a gorgeous ring, fourteen carat gold, set with a three-quarter carat oval natural blue sapphire accented with 18 small circular cut diamonds on the outsides, and ten tapered baguette diamonds. The inscription on the inside of the gold said one word: "Eternity."

She had trouble talking around the lump in her throat. "Jay, this is magnificent; I've never seen anything so beautiful."

"I have...you. I want everyone," Jay's eyes glistened as she gazed lovingly at her partner, "Especially you...to know that you're mine for now and eternity."

"That I am, love, and I always will be; I give you my word." Leaning forward, she planted a gentle, tentative kiss on waiting lips. "I love you, Jay, with all my heart and soul. There is no one else in my life, and there never will be. You're all I want and all I'll ever need. I can't wait to be married to you."

Jay wiped a tear from her lover's eye. "I believe you," she said, tracing the chiseled cheekbones with loving fingers, and she meant it. "Just promise me you'll never leave me again."

"I promise, love."

"May I?" Jay asked, indicating the ring.


The ring fit perfectly, which was a good thing, since Kate's jeweler had promised her it would the night that Jay had dragged Peter there before they went to dinner. She leaned forward, kissing Kate with deliberate slowness and smoldering passion. The contact felt so, so sweet. When they parted after breathless moments, she murmured, "Perhaps we should head down now and continue this somewhere more comfortable?"

"Mm," Kate hummed against her lips. "Lead on."

Both women knew there were deep wounds that needed mending and that only time and togetherness would take care of that, but for now they had each other, and that was a balm to both of their wounded souls.


At the same time, in a hotel suite thousands of miles away in Albany, three men in sharp-looking business suits were meeting in secret.

"You're too hot, we've got to move you out for a little bit."

"Yeah, it's causing too much of a stir. We'll create a new position in another agency, get you away from the media, and put you there for six months until this all dies down. Then we'll bring you back."

"What are you going to do with my position, it's not as if you can leave it vacant."

"I have the perfect solution for that, and the big guy will love it: Katherine Kyle."

"Oooh, good thinking. He loves her, and she just got fired. She's probably desperate for a job, since she got canned for being a dyke, and she's expendable in six months. Nobody will care what happens to her after that."

"Perfect. She's got the credentials on paper to do the job, and it shouldn't be any problem getting her to screw up in six months and having to bring me back to fix the mess. I like it."

"Okay, I'll pitch it to him tonight and have him call her personally and offer her the job. He'll be none the wiser, and she'll no doubt accept. That should seal the deal."

"Right gentlemen, we'll keep in touch only when absolutely necessary, and I'll expect to be updated in three months. Talk to you then, I've got a plane to catch."


Kate and Jay decided to stay the night in Sedona and fly home the next day. The first time they made love that night they both cried, overcome with emotion and the renewed realization of just how precious their love was, and how close they'd come to losing it. They continued to make love well into the morning hours, each feeling the enormous strength of their shared connection, and both feeling whole for the first time since all this began.

They slept like babies on the plane to Albany from Phoenix, and by the time they arrived at the house, the dark circles under their eyes had started to fade and their hearts had begun to heal, nourished by the comfort of each other's presence. They hadn't talked about the future any further just yet, both knowing that they needed some time to get reacquainted and settled before dealing with anything that weighty. For now it was enough to know that they had each other, and that they would face whatever challenges lay ahead together, as one.

Setting the mail aside, Kate scratched Fred lovingly; he had been waiting for them thanks to Peter, who had dropped him off a couple of hours earlier. The security expert had been ecstatic when she had called him to tell him that she and Jay were coming home, together, although she still wanted to talk to him about his role in all this.

Jay called from the other room, "Sweetheart, there's a message on the answering machine."

"Okay, I'll be right there." She pushed the play button.

"Hello, Kate, this is Governor Hyland calling. I'm sorry I missed you and I understand you've had a bit of a rough time of it lately, but I think I may have the answer: I'd like to offer you a position in my administration serving as Chief Spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services. Next to my Press Secretary, no public relations person gets more exposure or is more important to me. It's the third largest prison system in the country, so I imagine we can find a way to challenge you. What do you say? I'd love to have you on board. Please give me a call as soon as possible and let me know. I hope to talk to you soon. 'Bye, Kate."

"Wow." That was all Jay could think to say. "Wow, that's fantastic! I knew I liked that man." She went to her partner, who was standing in the middle of the room with her mouth open, and squeezed her tightly.

"Um, huh. What do you know?" was all Kate could manage.

"I know I love you and you'll do a great job, and so does the Governor. Smart guy." Jay went to her lover, slipping her hands under her shirt and finding warm skin. She ran her palms over the taut abdomen, hooking her fingers into the waistband and popping open the button to Kate's jeans in one fluid motion.

Within moments they were naked and lost in each other once more, pausing in their lovemaking for just a few seconds, blue eyes meeting green, as they pondered the wonder of the beginning of a new life together. Then all thought became irrelevant, leaving only feeling and sensation in its wake.

Welcome home, indeed.


Please send feedback to: AuthorLynnAmes@aol.com

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