Posted 14 July 03

 

 

Tropics

©2003

 

by Snowolf

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

"All's quiet, love," Kirsten said as she walked into the kitchen. "Don't think the captain had that bath after all."

 

"The look on her face was priceless," Emma said with a laugh, Kirsten joining in with her own low chuckle.

 

Kirsten's mirth trailed off after a moment as she traced idle patterns on the brushed stainless bench top; a small frown creasing her brow. After five years Emma could read her partner's every thought and mood and she watched the former Marine disappear into worried thoughts of her friend.

 

"Hey," she said gently, as she placed a hand over Kirsten's moving fingers, pulling the tall woman's attention back and softening the creased brow.

 

"I'm worried about her, Em."

 

"I know you are, but we will find out what's going on soon enough," she said as she leaned across the bench and placed a gentle kiss on full lips. "Are you hungry? We didnít have lunch."

 

"Thatís your answer for all life's troubles, isnít it, my love?" Kirsten said with a quiet laugh.

 

Emma appeared to consider this for a moment before turning a sensual smile on her lover.

 

"Well, its close, but not the only answer to all that ails us." Emma said as she moved around the bench to wrap her arms around the tall woman's waist. The kiss they shared was slow and deep and seemingly endless. Emma pulled back to look at Kirsten with darkened eyes.

 

"Why did you take out your tongue bar? I didnít even notice until now," she said quietly. A slight flush crept up the taller woman's neck as she looked into her lover's eyes.

 

"IÖerÖwell the captain hasn'tÖ" Kirsten's voice ground to a halt as Emma chuckled softly.

 

"Oh, my big brave Marine," Emma said through laughter as she again reached for Kirsten's full lips. After all their years together, the fire between them had never dimmed. A casual touch or a long look was all the pair needed for the carefully banked embers to burst back to life.

 

Kirsten's hands trailed down Emma's back to her hips and she molded their bodies together; the kiss they shared became a force of nature as she lifted the blonde and deposited her on the bench top. Emma's legs wrapped around the taller woman's hips as her head fell back exposing her throat to Kirsten's searing kisses. A deep groan of pleasure issued from Emma's throat and was answered by a rumbling growl from Kirsten's.

 

"Oh, God, Kirs," Emma breathed. "This is probably not a good idea." A questioning rumble was all she heard in reply as the first of her shirt buttons opened to make way for Kirsten's warm lips.

 

"Really KirsÖ" Emma's protests weakened as another shirt button was released. Her third and final attempt died on her lips and her head rolled back as Kirsten straightened. She ran the tip of her tongue from between the blonde's breasts up the column of her throat to finish at her lips, gracing them with a deep kiss. Finally Kirsten pulled away bringing Emma upright against her body.

 

"I want you," she growled. The statement so simple, yet delivered with such sensual force that Emma had no choice but to yield. Her eyes darkened and her skin flushed with the power of her desire; any thoughts of their houseguest disappeared without a trace. Blue eyes locked with green as sure, strong hands made short work of the remaining shirt buttons.

 

Pushing back Emma's shirt, Kirsten claimed the spot between neck and shoulder, biting down and marking her lover. Emma's blood turned molten at the sensation; wrapping herself around the beauty that possessed her soul. Needing to feel Kirsten's hot mouth elsewhere on her body she leaned back slowly; the tall woman taking the hint and kissing down the pale skin until she found first one and then another taut nipple, Emma's already rapid pulse picked up speed as she moaned Kirsten's name. Placing a firm but gentle hand on Emma's shoulder Kirsten pushed her flat onto the bench and trailed kisses down taut abdominal muscles; teeth gracing flesh as often as not. As her tongue found the indent of Emma's navel it was the blonde's turn to beg.

 

"Please, Kirs," she breathed, her body arching under the assault. As aroused as Kirsten was, she was determined to draw this out; their earlier encounter while physically satisfying had been fast and now Kirsten wanted to take her time. Moving back up along Emma's body she gave the blonde a slow melting kiss.

 

"Keep your legs around me," she said against Emma's ear as she lifted her off the bench. Emma bit off a guttural cry as her centre was pressed firmly against rock hard abs, easing into a position to maximize the pleasure jolting through her at each of Kirsten's steps as they walked up the hallway to their bedroom. With a strong arm around Emma's waist Kirsten climbed onto the bed, laying them both down; Emma's legs still firmly around her hips. With her arm under Emma's shoulders, hand entangled in thick blonde locks, Kirsten began a slow exploration with her free hand of the flushed skin she had so far revealed. Emma's breathing picked up speed as she felt the buttons of her cutoffs open one after the other followed by a hand slipping inside and cupping her sex.

 

"KirsÖAhÖ" Anything else she might have said was cut off as Kirsten claimed her mouth in a searing kiss. With an amazing display of manual dexterity Kirsten moved to lie beside Emma and removed her remaining clothing while never once losing contact with her mouth. Finally breaking the kiss Kirsten shifted back to fully cover the body beneath her.

 

"I love you, Emma. With everything that I am," she said softly, the full range of everything that she felt for this woman showing plainly in her eyes. Emma couldnít reply, emotion welling up in her making speech impossible she simply opened herself up hoping Kirsten could read everything she felt mirrored in her eyes. With that declaration Kirsten began the slow torturous decent down her body; the fact that she was still fully clothed only served to heighten the sensation. Lavishing kisses and nips along the column of her throat and across her shoulders all Emma could do was clutch at her partner and moan single syllable words of encouragement. When Kirsten reached her nipples even those small words departed leaving in their wake primal groans of pleasure.

 

Emma loosened her hold on Kirsten as she felt the tall beauty begin to edge her way further down, kissing first the undersides of her breasts then gracing the hard muscles of her abdomen, to her navel. Ever fibre of Emma's being tensed in anticipation of Kirsten's next downward movement so when all that happened was a quick kiss on the inside of her thigh as the tall woman stood up and walked into the bathroom she was suitably unimpressed.

 

"What the hell are you doing, Brennan?" she asked in frustration. "If you thinkÖ" Emma's voice trailed off and a fresh flood of heat rushed through her as the tall woman walked back into the room replacing her tongue bar. A feral grin spread over Kirsten's features as she stopped a moment to appreciate the sight of her partner spread over the bed in all her naked glory. Noticing the desire flash across Emma's face she gave a throaty chuckle then clicked the ball against her teeth.

 

"All the better toÖ taste you with, my dear," she growled.

 

"You donít look like anyone's grandmother, so come over here, my wolf," the blonde demanded, her voice rough with need.

 

Emma was leaning back watching the fluid movement of her partner as she crossed the room. Kneeling on the bed between her knees the tall woman leaned in gracing her lips with the slowest of kisses, her tongue slipping into Emma's mouth causing a shudder to wrack her body. All the blonde could think of as Kirsten again made her way down her body was the sensation she knew was coming so when Kirsten's cell phone started to vibrate around on the bedside table the stream of profanity that escaped her would have made a gang banger blush.

 

"Em love, ignore it." The smoky tones issuing from the vicinity of her waist served to refocus her attention as she gazed down at her lover who was now lying between her spread thighs. Their eyes locked and with exquisite slowness Kirsten slipped the tip of her tongue between wet folds. The writer's abs rippled and pulled tight as she lifted her upper body for a better view then leaning back on an elbow as the sensation of Kirsten's teasing tongue gained momentum. Unable to take much more of the teasing  Emma reached down wordlessly with her free hand to caress a sculpted cheekbone before tangling her fingers in long dark hair; pulling her lover against her fully. With an internal smile Kirsten ceased her teasing, opened her mouth and devoured her. Emma's head fell back as she groaned with pleasure at the sensation of a soft tongue and hard metal against her intimate flesh; her excitement spiraling upward as Kirsten concentrated her attentions. This time the sound of Kirsten's cell phone went largely unnoticed as Emma's pleasure began to peak; the thump as it vibrated off the edge onto the floor was drowned by a cry of release as Kirsten maneuvered the ball of her tongue bar under the hood of Emma's clit, sucking the surrounding flesh into her mouth. Kirsten managed to keep the pressure just right to prolong her lover's release as wave after wave crashed over the blonde. Finally Emma loosened her hold on dark hair as her body collapsed on the bed, unable to respond any further.

 

"Oh, God," she groaned as Kirsten climbed back up along her body, planting kisses here and there. Finally reaching Emma's lips they shared a deep slow kiss before Kirsten reached down beside the bed.

 

"What do you think you are doing, Brennan?" Emma asked, arching one pale brow at her lover. Kirsten flopped back on her pillow waving the fruits of her search; her cell phone.

 

"I donít think so," Emma continued when she realised Kirsten intended to interrupt their afternoon. "You told me you were taking a few days away from business. Paul and Shayne are more than capable of handling anything that might come up and you know it."

 

"Em," Kirsten began in a reasonable tone. "Paul wouldnít have called if it wasnít something that needed my input. I told him before I left yesterday not to call unless it was vital."

 

"Well, I'll concede one point, lover of mine," Emma said in a throaty voice. "We do have a life and death situation here." Taking the phone from Kirsten's hand and sliding across to cover her body she made a production of dropping it back onto the floor.

 

"Oh, yeah?" Kirsten asked grinning up at her. "How so?"

 

"Yes," Emma said then paused to kiss the lips beneath her. "If I donít taste you soon, I'm going to die."

 

Kirsten's awareness suddenly contracted as arousal kicked through her body. She could feel the heat from every square millimetre of skin in contact with her lover and the force of the kiss that descended on her threatened to steal her breath. Any thought of calling the office disappeared like smoke in a storm as Emma's tongue slid into her mouth.

 

Emma finally released Kirsten's lips and sat up, pulling the taller woman with her. Still sitting astride Kirsten's lap she reached down drawing the white tank top up over her head. Leaning back in, Emma began laying a series of kisses on the newly exposed flesh as she reached around to release Kirsten's bra, resting her head against a muscular shoulder and groaning in frustration as the phone began to ring. This time it was the landline extension next to the bed. Kirsten started to swear as she reached over to pick up the receiver only to have it ripped from her hand by her somewhat irritated partner.

 

"Yes?" she barked, eyes blazing green fire. As Kirsten lay back against the pillows she allowed a small flash of pity for whoever was interrupting them. The pity was short lived however when Emma's sudden movement as she handed the phone over caused another flash of fire through her veins.

 

"Brennan," she growled. Kirsten's voice was now equally as dangerous as Emma's.

 

 

 

Emma had watched her partner yank on clothing all the while muttering what she would do to Paul if this ended up being a false alarm; she had almost laughed at one or two of the more colourful punishments.

 

Almost.

 

When they had first met it had taken Emma a while to work past the strong hold Kirsten had on her emotions and sexuality. The wall she had built around herself for the sake of her career was like three feet thick reinforced concrete. Once breached however the raw power and beauty of her lover had thrilled and captivated her. Kirsten had been nearing the height of arousal when the phone call came and now her release was thwarted; Paul had better have a good excuse.

 

"I donít know how long I'll be love. I'll call you when I find out what's going on, should have a better idea by then."

 

"No problem, I think I might see if I can get some work done. Taelor will be out for a while yet so take your time," Emma said as Kirsten sat down beside her on the bed. Leaning in she gave Emma the softest of kisses whispered "I love you" and left.

 

 

* * * * * *

 

 

"Oh, Paul, this had better be good my friend." The tone his boss used as she walked into his office unannounced almost made the man gulp. Once Shayne pointed out that there was only one possible reason for Brennan not answering the phone when she said she had been home all afternoon, Paul had wanted to crawl into a hole and die. "How bad could it be?" he had asked at the time. Shayne had just laughed and told him he would find out.

 

Now, standing in the larger than life presence of the former Marine Lieutenant Colonel, he prayed that she would agree that this did warrant her immediate attention. As the boss of the Asia Pacific branch of HospSec, a multinational Hospitality and Security company founded by her parents, Kirsten Brennan put in more than her fair share of hours. Now, when he and Shayne had finally badgered her into taking two weeks off while her friend was in the country, their latest deal had started to go sour needing a bit of the Brennan magic to smooth things over. Meeting her eyes Paul was suddenly reminded of high school science lessons when the teachers explained about the blue section being the hottest part of a flame. His heart sank as he realised not only had Shayne been correct in her guess but the mileage the woman would run with this. Kirsten shifted suddenly, raising an eyebrow in question and he realised he had waited too long to answer her. Just as he opened his mouth to speak Shayne breezed in the door greeting them both and giving Paul a knowing smirk.

 

"Hey, boss lady. Thought you were on holiday," Shayne said in an entirely too innocent tone.

 

Paul MacClintock and Shayne Daniels were Kirsten's seconds in command; Paul with the security arm and Shayne with hospitality. She had promoted them to the positions shortly after taking over this branch of the company and in the relatively short time since they had proven fiercely loyal to both her and the company and a strong friendship had formed between the three families. Unable to hold her stern look any longer in the face of Shayne's smirk and Paul's apprehension Kirsten allowed a grin to creep across her face.

 

"You know, there are few things I enjoy more in this world than working with the two of you," she began in a conversational tone. "Unfortunately Paul, you interrupted the most important one."

 

"HA! I told you!" Shayne combined this statement with a firm slap on the man's shoulder.

 

"Okay, children. When you've finishedÖ" Kirsten paused then let the grin slide back across her face. Paul gave Shayne a dirty look then moved around the other side of his desk.

 

"Its that damn Bishop deal. The head guys are getting funny about spending the cash for the network security upgrade. They donít want to talk to me; they'll only speak to you. God only knows how this company has managed to get to where it is in the global marketplace with the way they do business."

 

Kirsten heaved a deep sigh and gave Paul a pained look.

 

"Okay fine," she said with a note of resignation in her voice. "I'll go in and have a quick look where you're up to and give these fine people a call." As she walked out of his office, Paul heard her mumble something like "bombing the shit out of them would be quicker".

 

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Emma lay in bed for a while after Kirsten left, listening to the noises of the old house and the sounds from outside, simply allowing the peace to wash over her. The last of her blood's fire gentling to the place it waited until next stoked to life. She had never bought in to the whole soul mate thing; not really. WellÖ that is, until she had spotted a particular Marine across a smoky bar.

 

"God. Now I'm thinking in really bad poetry," she snorted and climbed out of bed. Pulling on her discarded clothing Emma made her way out into the kitchen for some lunch. Two sandwiches, two oranges, a muffin bar and a glass of juice later she felt satisfied enough to do a little work. One of her novels was being made into a movie on the proviso that she had final approval on the script. She had another two weeks to read it and make any changes and she was on track to finish with it early. Not wanting to be cooped up in the house she picked up her laptop and headed for the deck. As she walked back through the kitchen the phone rang, Kirsten said she would be late but was unable to give her an exact time. Emma grimaced in sympathy when her lover told her it was due to the "damn Bishop deal" before ringing off with a promise to call before leaving the office. Settling herself in front of the open French doors in case Taelor should wake, she powered up the laptop and set to work.

 

 

The sound of the phone ringing several hours later startled Emma from her work haze.

 

"Hey Em. I'm sorry it has taken so long. Everything is back on track and I'm on my way home now," Kirsten said when Emma answered.

 

"Well, you sound well pleased with yourself. I take it you've smoothed everything over."

 

"Yes, thank God. We shouldnít have anymore problems with the damn fools. Imagine taking a company public without upgrading the network security. They were trying to tell me they thought it was a waste of money." Kirsten didnít suffer fools and Emma could hear the frustration in her tone.

 

"Donít worry babe, it's done now."

 

"Yeah," Kirsten said with a heavy sigh. "Anyway, I called to ask if you want me to pick something up; I'm in Smithfield now."

 

"A couple of fillet steaks from the butcher will do. We can have them with char grilled vegetables and the leftover shiraz jus from the other night."

 

"Oh, yes, and who will be doing the char grilling?" Kirsten asked, amusement lacing her words.

 

"Well you were the one who insisted we have the five thousand dollar toy sitting out here on the deck. I thought you could do it."

 

"Emma I've told you about this. It isnít a 'toy' itís a barbeque and we needed one." Emma rolled her eyes at this often repeated excuse.

 

"Yes, we did need one, but not the space age, stainless steal, 'we will have to reinforce the deck' model."

 

"WellÖ" Emma was openly laughing as she interrupted her lover.

 

"Just come on home, my love. I'll get the vegetables ready."

 

Emma laughed again as she heard Kirsten mumbling something about "her barbeque" as she hung up the phone.

 

Packing up her work Emma went inside to get the vegetables ready, wondering if she should wake Taelor yet. Deciding they had a few hours until dinner she left their friend to sleep a little longer. Taelor had looked so very tired when they picked her up from the airport; Emma again wondered what had put the haunted look in her eyes.

 

Deciding again that there was no point in speculating Emma set to work. Cutting capsicum, mushrooms, zucchini and red onion into a bowl, she added olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh ground salt and pepper before covering it and putting it away for Kirsten to cook later. She was just pouring herself a glass of wine when a bang and a loud curse sounded from the guest room, hurrying up the hall she knocked gently on Taelor's door.

 

"Taelor? Are you alright?" Emma heard another curse and then the sound of footsteps coming to the door. The door opened to an extremely rumpled and bleary looking Taelor.

 

"Hi, Em," Taelor said, her voice husky with sleep. "Sorry I disturbed you; I just got up to use the bathroom and ran into the coffee table." Emma gave her a slightly puzzled look before looking at the placement of the room.

 

"How did you sleep?"

 

"Sleep? Well, I'm sure that sofa is quite comfortable for sitting but it isnít conducive to restful sleep."

 

"AhÖOkay. You did notice the great big bed in this room didnít you? It's the big square thing at the opposite end to the bathroom?"

 

"You knowÖ you're really funny. You should do standup," Taelor dead panned before giving Emma a small smile.

 

"As you can probably tell I started out in the bed and after tossing and turning for an age I decided to move to the sofa. Believe it or not thatís when I finally fell asleep. I half woke up to answer the call of nature and barked my shin on the coffee table." Taelor grimaced and looked down to inspect the injury. Emma followed her gaze down to the nasty bruise already forming on her friend's shin.

 

"Come on out, I have some ointment that might relieve this before it gets too bad." Taelor nodded and followed Emma down the hall and into the large living area of the house. Hearing a sharp intake of breath behind her Emma turned, belatedly remembering they hadnít given their guest a guided tour earlier.

 

"Oh, my God. This is beautiful!" Taelor exclaimed as she walked towards the open doors to the deck.

 

"And peaceful," Emma said. "That's part of what appealed to us about this house and the region in general. Itís a bit of a change from an apartment in the middle of Sydney."

 

"Thatís one way of putting it," Taelor chuckled.

 

The back half of the house was comprised of a large semi open plan kitchen and living area with the hall doorway emptying into the lounge area. To Taelor's immediate left the original wall had been opened up revealing an area taken up by a blonde wood dining table. The living room its self contained several sofas and single lounge chairs all of the 'sink in and go to sleep' variety. The wall to Taelor's right held a big screen television and a mix of other entertainment equipment. It was, however, what hung from the wall above that caught the redhead's eye; a huge photograph residing in an elegant timber frame measuring at least five feet across. It was a panoramic shot of knarled trees and mossy stones beside rushing water. Stepping closer she read the handwritten text in the bottom corner of the matt 'TNQ  001/300  K Raines'.

 

"This is beautiful," Taelor exclaimed. "How on earth did you manage to acquire the first of a limited print run?"

 

"We know the photographer and that was in appreciation for something Kirsten's company did."

 

"Well it's a beautiful piece; the photographer has an amazing eye." Taelor said as she turned away to continue her tour.

 

The rear of the house consisted of large windows and two sets of French doors that opened onto a covered deck. After opening the requisite insect screen Taelor walked out onto the deck. No traffic noise greeted her only fresh air and the sound of birds and insects. A sudden sense of calm washed over the captain as if some of the weight seemed to lift from her mind; a weight she hadnít realised was quite so heavy until some of it had gone. Taelor walked over to lean on the railing, closing her eyes she basked in the tranquility of the setting. After a few moments the captain was bought back to the present by a shuffling noise behind her as Emma walked over to the railing.

 

"It's so peaceful here, isnít it?" she asked in a soft voice, not wanting to disturb the mood that bought the look of serenity to the captain's face.  

 

"Yes," Taelor said simply, a husky edge to her voice. "Itís like the dead calm at the eye of the storm my life has been of late."

 

Emma saw this as the perfect opening to find out what was happening with their friend but as she gathered herself to ask Kirsten's car came down the driveway at the side of the house and into the garage beneath the deck.

 

"I didnít even realise she was out," Taelor said with surprise.

 

"There were some problems at work and she was the only one who could deal with them," Emma said, still slightly irritated. Emma walked to the right of the deck as Kirsten bounded up the stairs. At the top the tall woman lifted her lover into a fierce embrace kissing her deeply.

 

"I missed you, babe," she said softly after pulling back from the kiss. Before Emma could reply, a sudden voice made Kirsten gasp with surprise.

 

"Gee, do I get one of those as well?" Taelor said, trying for an innocent tone and failing miserably.

 

"I thought you'd still be asleep." A slight flush colored Kirsten's neck at being caught.

 

"Yeah, yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls." Kirsten simply bared her teeth in reply before turning her attention back to Emma.

 

"Oh, while I'm thinking of it. The butcher says hi," Kirsten said. "He also said to tell you he cut these special for you. Anything I need to know about here babe?"

 

"Oh, very funny," Emma said as she reached for the bag. "Go light the barbeque while I get everything ready."

 

Kirsten grinned and landed a kiss on Emma's cheek as she walked back into the house.

 

"So, Phillips, how did you sleep?" Kirsten said as she motioned the captain over to the barbeque area.

 

"I've slept better; just donít ask me how long ago that was." There was an odd tone in Taelor's voice as she said this; a tone of finality. Kirsten took the hint and decided to keep the conversation light for now.

 

"So did you have any plans for this trip or can we drag you all over the countryside playing tourist?"

 

"Do with me what you will," Taelor said with a laugh. "I didnít really have time to plan anything definite."

 

"You are taking your life in your hands you know Taelor," Emma said as she came outside carrying the food for the barbeque. "I donít think there's a square inch of this region that Kirs isnít prepared to drag you around."

 

"Yes," Kirsten said rubbing her hands together. "Starting with 'Rusty's' tomorrow night."

 

"AhÖ donít you think we should let her settle in first my love?"

 

"Nope."

 

"What's Rusty's?" Taelor asked with a little trepidation.

 

"Oh, no. This will be a surprise."

 

"Kirsten." Emma said in a warning tone.

 

"My love would you like to choose the first bottle of wine for the evening?" Kirsten asked in a sweet tone completely ignoring the warning.

 

"Fine. Just cook the food will you? I'm starving."

 

"Some things never change," Taelor said laughing.

 

 

 

"Would you like anything else Taelor?" Emma asked as they finished their dinner.

 

"Oh, God no," The captain said with a groan. "The half a cow I just ate has finished me off. That steak was huge."

 

Taelor struggled out of her seat to help Emma clear the dishes. Walking into the kitchen she started filling the sink to wash up.

 

"No, you don't, Captain. As the US Navy's current conquering hero, you my friend get to choose the next bottle of wine," Kirsten said.

 

To both Kirsten and Emma's dismay Taelor's eyes filled with tears before a hard mask fell across her features.

 

"Whatever you choose will be fine. I think I'll go outside and enjoy the night air for a while." The casual tone was at complete odds to the brittle look in the captain's eyes as she stood and walked out onto the deck. Her friends watched silently as she stopped just outside the halo of light spilling onto the deck and leaned against the railing. Kirsten was jolted back to reality by a sharp cuff to the arm.

 

"What?"

 

"Good going, Brennan," Emma said, before turning to the sink. Kirsten eyed her lover, not entirely sure how this sudden turn of events was her fault.

 

"Well? Are you going out there to see if she's okay or what?" Emma said after a moment.

 

"I hadnít planned to, no."

 

"Kirsten, she's your friend. Go see if she's all right."

 

"Fine. I just donít think we should force the issue here. If she wants to talk she will." Pouring the last of the current bottle of wine into her own and Taelor's glass Kirsten followed the captain out onto the deck. Handing the quiet woman her glass Kirsten rested against a support post and looked out at the darkened rainforest. Gathering her thoughts she drew in a breath to speak when Taelor forestalled her question with a hasty one of her own.

 

"I noticed lights through the trees on the other side of the valley. Who lives over there?"

 

"A photographer named Kamryn Raines. My company did some work for her shortly after we moved up here and we've been friends ever since."

 

"That would be her photograph hanging in the living room. Emma told me about it just before you arrived home."

 

"She's a great person; incredibly talented, intelligent and gorgeous as well." Taelor grinned at the effusive description.

 

"Well she seems to have it all," Taelor said around a stifled yawn. "I think I'll pass on another glass of wine; I really want to test run that bath before I fall asleep again."

 

Kirsten heaved an internal sigh and followed her friend inside. Maybe she should just let Emma find out what was wrong; she was the master interrogator in the family.

 

 

 

"So did she say anything?" Emma asked, as soon as Taelor was out of earshot.

 

"She didnít even give me a chance to open my mouth. Its like she knew what I was going to say and forestalled me." Emma looked towards the hallway where Taelor had recently disappeared, concern clouding her features.

 

"Em, I think we need to back off a bit here. Let her settle in and then we will see if she'll tell us anything."

 

"You're probably right," Emma sighed. "Okay sunshine, you get to dry the dishes."

 

"But I cooked," Kirsten protested, quite used to the sudden shifts of conversation.

 

"Yeah, yeah, just pick up the towel."

 

 

 

Taelor couldnít get away to the safety of her room fast enough. She knew her friends were worried about her, she just felt too raw right now to tell them what had been happening in her life just now.

 

"In a few days when I'm more settled, then I'll tell them some of it," she thought as she undressed and readied the bath. She lay back in the warm water, willing herself to relax. Slowly her muscles, if not her mind, began to let go of the tension. Her thoughts refused to give her any peace, the same visions and questions of the last few months playing in a continuous loop.

 

The warm water did finally have a quieting affect on her mind as she drowsily pulled herself out of the tub. Half heartedly wiping the water from her skin and forgoing sleepwear, she walked back through the bedroom and climbed into bed. Whether it was the wine she'd had with dinner or just simple exhaustion, this time she fell almost immediately into fitful slumber.

 

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Kirsten was instantly awake to the sounds of footsteps in the hall. Untangling herself from her partner she quickly dressed and padded out to greet Taelor. The captain was in the process of filling the kettle when Kirsten walked into the kitchen.

 

"Sorry, I didnít mean to wake you," she said.

 

"No problem, I'm usually awake by now anyway. Want some help finding anything?"

 

"I was just going to search till I found some instant coffee but help is good," Taelor said with a grin.

 

"Oh, I think we can do better than instant," Kirsten said, mirroring the grin.

 

Opening a cabinet, the tall woman brought out two mugs and a chrome and glass coffee plunger. From the fridge came a sealed bag of fresh ground coffee which Kirsten opened spooning a generous amount of the contents into the plunger. A comfortable silence settled between them as they waited for the water to boil. Switching the kettle off hastily just as it started to whistle, Kirsten turned to look at Taelor.

 

"Think you can handle this bit, sailor?"

 

"Oh I think I can manage," the captain said, raising an eyebrow.

 

"I'll be right back then. Just leave my mug on the bench and I'll join you on the deck in a minute." Taelor nodded and Kirsten turned, heading towards the hall.

 

Taelor had just finished pouring their coffee when someone came running up the steps to the deck. A blonde woman in running clothes appeared just as Taelor walked to the door. As the captain opened her mouth to ask the young woman's business, she lifted the light tank top to wipe her face and Taelor was given a rather spectacular view of her sports bra clad breasts and bare stomach. A flash of heat rolled through her body and the response angered her making her enquiry as to what the woman was doing slightly more abrupt than she had intended.

 

The woman looked up startled and Taelor was nailed in place by a pair of the bluest eyes she had ever seen. What seemed like an eternity passed with neither of them speaking before Kirsten's voice startled them both back into the present. Kirsten handed the captain the mug she had abandoned as she walked past to greet the newcomer.

 

Taelor was waiting for a break in their conversation to introduce herself when she heard the distinct tones of her cell phone ringing. She had hoped to make a few phone calls before either of her hosts woke, so she had brought it out to the kitchen with her. Leaving the pair to speak she went inside to answer it.

 

"This is Captain Phillips."

 

"Hello Taelor." Taelor, instantly recognising the voice, stifled a groan and wondered what the woman was calling her to criticize her about this time. She put on the best bright voice in her repertoire before returning the greeting.

 

"How are you today, Mother? I'm sorry it's been so long since I called you."

 

 

Continued in Chapter 4 soon

 

 

 

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