Chapter 25

The elegant spires of the Hotel Del Coronado loomed in front of them before T.J. realized just what hotel Cami was taking them to. "You call this quiet and out of the way?" The dark woman chuckled.

"Actually, I call this a childhood dream." Cami mentioned softly.

"Aye?"

"Yeah. I’ve driven past this place a hundred times since I was a kid, and every year at Christmas, Grams and I would come here and look at the amazing tree they put up in the lobby, but I’ve never gotten to be a guest here, and I always dreamed about it." T.J. smiled at the wistful look on Camryn’s face and didn’t have the heart to say no.

The venerable old hotel was built in the 1800’s in the Victorian style. Since then, it played host to Kings and Queens, Presidents and movie stars, and was even one of the star settings for the classic comedy "Some Like it Hot" with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. Thousands flocked to the Del every year, just to walk through the lobby and take pictures of the incredible architecture. It was lush and opulent, with the charm of a bygone era - truly one of San Diego’s gems, and arguably the city’s finest hotel.

Cami piloted the Miata up to the valet and started into the lobby with T.J., before she realized that they had a problem. "Oh damn. I guess I should have taken us to a cheap motel or something where they don’t ask for any ID. We can’t register under our own names…"

T.J. was two steps ahead of her. "I’ll take care of it."

They entered the elegant lobby and approached the dark wood front desk. "Do ya have any suites available?" The barkeep asked charmingly.

The man behind the counter barely blinked at the two bedraggled women in front of him. They had no luggage, were dirty - covered in soot from the fire and scratches from the tree they had climbed - and neither of them looked particularly like they could afford a room at the Del. "Yes, ma’am." He politely replied. "And how long will you be staying?"

T.J. smiled. "A week or so."

"Indeed, well if you would fill out this form and provide me with identification and a credit card…"

Before he could finish, T.J. reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of cash that would choke a horse. Camryn gaped, trying hard not to do her impression of a deer in the headlights. "How much would it take to secure a suite for a week? Will $5,000 do?" T.J. continued endearingly.

The man blinked at the amount of cash and cleared his throat. "Uh…certainly ma’am. That would be fine…um…" He looked down at his computer screen. "And what name shall I put this under?"

"Ya can call me Maggie, Ms. Maggie O’Shea." She was really laying on the accent as she extended a hand to the man, who was rapidly losing his austere composure. T.J. proceeded to fill in a fake address for the name she had made up and handed the form back to the man.

"Well, then Ms. O’Shea, welcome to the Hotel Del. Do you have any luggage?"

"No, this was a spur of the moment trip, if ya know what I mean." She winked cheekily at the man. "Do ya have a place for us ta buy some necessaries?"

"Of course, Ms. O’Shea. The gift shop here is well stocked, and we also have complimentary toiletries available, such as toothpaste and the like. Just call down to the desk here if you don’t find what you need in your room."

"Thank ya kindly. Does our suite have a view?"
"Indeed. You are in suite 210 - it overlooks the beach."

T.J. took the key from the man, thanked him again, and turned to guide Camryn towards the antique elevator before the small blonde burst into peals of laughter right there on the spot.

They quietly chuckled as they rode the elevator, and although Cami’s brain was whirling with questions about what had happened tonight, and just why T.J.walked around with more than $5,000 in cash, she prudently kept quiet – saving the hard questions for when they were alone in their room.

Stepping out onto the second floor, they followed the elegant signs that pointed them in the correct direction and made their way towards their suite. Once T.J. shut the door behind them and secured the lock, she took Camryn in her arms and held her so tight it felt like she was crushing her. For the moment, words were unnecessary – they were just so grateful to be alive and to be together.

The women stayed silently locked in each other’s arms for a full five minutes before T.J. pressed her lips to the top of Cami’s head and then tilted her chin up for a tender kiss.

"I’m so sorry, Cami. I missed ya so." T.J whispered into the blonde head that smelled of the acrid smoke from the firebomb.

"I…missed you too, T.J." Cami sighed into the leather of her jacket. The blonde was confused, but right now she was just happy to be home in T.J.’s arms.

Although each of the women was aching to talk, they realized that a few necessities were in order. So they ordered room service first, and while Cami showered off the soot from the fire, T.J. had the front desk send up various toiletries. She even called one of the several boutiques and had a variety of clothing brought to the room for both of them.

When the blonde emerged from the steamy, refreshing shower, she was delighted to find a toothbrush, hairbrush and several other essentials waiting for her, as well as a pair of khaki pants and a comfy navy blue sweatshirt that was emblazoned with "San Diego."

In the sitting room of their spacious suite, she found the table set for a candle lit dinner and T.J. standing on the balcony just beyond the sliding glass door. T.J. had been sorely tempted to join the gorgeous little blonde in the shower. But she knew that they both needed to talk and discuss their relationship much more than they needed to climb into bed and confuse matters even more. So to calm her raging libido, she had opened the sliding glass door and allowed the cool sea breeze to wash over her.

While Camryn had been in the shower, T.J. used her cell phone to place a brief call to Jake to let him know she and Cami were safe. She didn’t tell her cousin where she was; it was safer for both of them that way. But the big man was obviously relieved to hear from her, since his guard had called him with the news that T.J.’s house had been firebombed. She promised to call him with updates and then tossed the phone on the bed before retiring once again to the balcony.

Camryn eased up behind the tall woman and wrapped her arms around her from behind. The moonlight lit up the beach beneath them, giving everything a silver, ethereal glow. They stood in peace and silence for a few moments, until Cami’s growling stomach interrupted the reverie. T.J. laughed, "Guess we’d better eat, eh?"

They sat down to their candlelight dinner while T.J. began her tale of what had transpired just before she tackled Cami in front of her condo. "I had hoped that the sting would take down Reynoso. But…" T.J. shrugged. "Sometimes I wonder if I was wise ta involve the Feds."

"Of course you were, T.J. It sounds to me like they were just doing their job tonight – they were protecting you. You made your plan based on the fact that Miguel promised to be at the delivery. How could you know he wouldn’t be there?"

"I should have known dammit!" T.J. tossed her napkin onto the table and pushed her plate aside. Ever since the debacle this evening she had been beating herself up for not sensing that Reynoso was setting her up.

"Don’t be so hard on yourself, T.J. The last time I checked you were far from being a psychic." Cami reached across and took her hand, reveling in the feel of the soft skin of T.J.’s hand and carefully avoiding the couple of scrapes that she found there.

T.J. gave her a thin smile. "Hmmm…Well…I guess I just have ta hope that Knight takes care of him." She shrugged, knowing in the back of her mind that the FBI would have a hell of a time finding the bastard.

"Exactly. The Feds will get Reynoso. They have enough information to put him away and then you’ll be safe." She ached inside for the pain she read on T.J.’s face and reached out to touch T.J.’s cheek. "After seeing you in action tonight, Reynoso doesn’t stand a chance…my own James Bond…or more rightly, Lara Croft?" She grinned wickedly at the dark-haired woman.

They locked gazes for an intense moment and T.J. finally broke the silence. "Cami…there are some things…things I need ta tell ya. Things I’m not proud of, but they are a part of my past and therefore a part of who I am today. I’m no Lara Croft, no knight in shining armor. I…I’ve been afraid ta tell ya, because I dinna think I could stand ta see the disappointment on your face." T.J. took a deep breath. "But now…now I…"

Camryn interrupted her. "Sweetheart, don’t you know by now that there is nothing you can tell me that will stop me from loving you." Tears were welling in Cami’s expressive green eyes.

T.J. gaped at her in surprise. "You…you love me?" She whispered, her voice husky with emotion.

"Of course, woman! Don’t you know that’s why I was coming to look for you tonight? I was sitting in my hotel room in Philly last night, crying my eyes out after opening your birthday gift, and I realized I was being a ridiculous fool. So, I told myself that since I admitted to myself that I loved you, it was probably time for me to let you in on the secret too." She smiled endearingly at T.J. and wiped away the single tear that coursed down the tall woman’s cheek.

"You liked the necklace then?" T.J. managed a small smile.

Cami reached into the neckline of her sweatshirt and pulled out the piece of jewelry in question. "It is stunning T.J. And it also told me volumes about you…about us. For one, you left me that box even though you were walking out. Which told me that you wanted me to see it, to read the inscription, to know how you felt about me." She searched T.J’s face for confirmation and read her answer in the deep blue eyes before her. "Still feel about me?"

"Cami…I… I love you. You must know that I do. But I left to protect you. Without me in your life, Reynoso would have no reason ta mess with you. It is my fault that man hurt you that night, and I couldna live with knowing I caused ya anymore harm."

"But, T.J…"

The barkeep stood and began to pace. "Shh…hear me out. I know my logic was right, but I was rather late in actin’ on it. If I really wanted ta protect you I had two options: ta not get involved in the first place, or ta protect ya myself. But by the time I really thought this out, it was too late…I had already lost my heart ta you."

Cami’s eyes sparkled with tears. "Then I guess that leaves us just the one choice -for you to protect me until the Feds bring down Reynoso. Guess that means you’ll have to stay near me and be my personal body guard, right?" She had a mischievous grin on her face, and winked saucily at T.J.

T.J. sat down heavily on the bed across from Camryn and just stared at the blonde for a minute before she responded. "Darlin’ let me get this out. It is a long, ugly story, but ya need to know it…No. That’s not right. I need ta tell ya the story. Ya need ta know who ya are giving your heart ta, trusting your safety ta…"

Cami nodded and leaned forward in her chair to listen to the long awaited tale. "Ok…honey. I’m here. I’m listening."

T.J. began at the beginning, telling Cami of her childhood in Belfast – how her father had been IRA and how T.J. was raised to be a fighter and a champion for the cause. "But somewhere along the way…I …I got lost, Cami. They made me a leader at a very young age. And because I was good at what I did, and I was good-looking and charming, I soon had men that followed me, who would do anything for me."

She told of her father’s death, about how her group splintered away from the IRA and formed their own coalition. She gave Camryn all of the grim details – the bombs, the death, the gunrunning, and the murder – all of it. T.J. paused only a few times, to take a couple of sips of water, or to take a few deep breaths to regain her composure. During the course of her tale, she tried not to look at Camryn, deathly afraid of the horror she would read on that loving face. Instead she paced the room, a woman on a mission.

"Ya must understand, Cami, that Irish history is full of bloody causes – wars, politics, riots. We grew up with it, t’was a battle we learned from our ancestors. I learned ta defend myself proper before I could hardly read or write. T’was our way of life. Like here in America the children are raised on fast food and Disney cartoons. Back home, t’was bread lines and bombs. But we dinna feel sorry for ourselves…never laid around moanin’ and complainin’ about our lot in life. No. Instead we did somethin’ about it. We fought back. Damned if we were going ta let the bastards drive us down – enslave us."

"Oh god, Cami…I was so idealistic when I was young. I believed in people. I believed in our cause. And most of all, I believed that good always triumphed over evil. When that belief was shattered, t’was a hard lesson indeed. Because of my upbringin’ I had lost my youthful innocence at a very young age, but that sense of idealism…damned if I didn’t try hard ta hold on ta that. It was futile though."

"We were family, the boys and I. They blindly followed where I lead, especially since where I led them was lucrative for all of us…gunrunning. We were young, rich and powerful – it was quite a rush. A sense of being immortal almost…or at the very least, untouchable. We could do whatever we damn well pleased. And for a bunch of punks raised on the dirty streets of Belfast, that power and money was intoxicating. ‘Tis where a good deal of the money I have now comes from – I had set up a Swiss bank account for easier transactions. I used that…dirty money ta build the pub, ta get set up. But now I try not ta live beyond my means – mostly I live off the profit of my business." She paused and raked a hand through her jet black, already disheveled hair.

"I’m not excusing what we did. I knew right from wrong, and I willna cop out like some people today and say that I became what I did because of my environment. That’s a load of horseshit. I knew what I was, and for a while…I loved it. I loved paying back the bastards that made my life miserable, that brutally killed men, women and children in the streets…" T.J. sat on the corner of the bed and stared blankly out the window at the waves crashing on the shore below them.

"But it all caught up ta me. My brother was falsely imprisoned for setting off a bomb, and when I found the bastard that really did it – he was a kid…just a child, no more than 15 or so. My men wanted me ta kill him…and I couldna do it. I froze. Killing people in a ‘street war’ is one thing. But killin’ that kid…that would have been cold-blooded pre-meditated murder. So because I couldna kill him, I knew my men would consider me a traitor - especially since I was supposed ta be seekin’ revenge for my own brother. After that night I gave it all up…I went ta the police and traded my exile for my brother’s life. I left everything I had ever known behind in Ireland – disgraced among my friends and expatriated…I boarded a plane bound ta San Diego because I have a distant cousin here – ya know, Jake – and the next day my brother was killed in an explosion. So it was all for nothin’. I gave up my homeland, the chance ta see my ma again, ta free my brother...for nothin’."

"When I came here, I needed ta take the fast track towards citizenship, so I made my deal with Frank. But that part ya already know." T.J. took a deep breath to finish. "So, here I am. An ex-patriot, ex-terrorist, murdering gun-runner." Crossing the room, she knelt before Camryn. T.J. gently took the smaller woman’s chin and raised those amazing green eyes so that they were practically nose-to-nose. "So take a good look, Cami. I’m no hero, not even close. This…this is who ya have pledged yer heart ta. And if ya want ta leave now, I willna blame ya a bit."

The two women sat and just stared intently at each other for a few moments. Cami knew her response to what she had just heard would be critical to the future of their relationship. In all honesty, what T.J. had told her did not make one bit of difference – Cami was deeply, hopelessly in love with the woman who knelt before her – the past be damned. But now she just had to convince T.J. of that.

Before she even spoke a word, Cami leaned forward and kissed T.J. – a deep, passionate and yet tender kiss that nearly shattered T.J.’s soul. When she leaned back, eyes shining with unshed tears, she looked T.J. right in the eyes and took both of her hands. "Now. If that wasn’t enough of an answer, it is my turn to talk, and for you to hear me out." T.J. nodded, not trusting her voice at the moment.

"I love you, Taylor Jameson. Somehow, someway…I think I always have. There is a connection between us that is far greater and deeper than anything I have ever felt in my life – stronger than it logically ought to be, considering we have known each other just a few months. And I don’t care if you dug ditches, built nuclear weapons, or were the bloody Queen of England in your past…all that matters to me…to us is who you are now." She paused long enough to lean forward and kiss T.J.’s forehead. The dark-haired woman, who had remained so stoic while telling her story, was now crying – strong, silent tears of happiness.

"All of those things you told me, your past, your experiences…I’ve told you before that our past makes us who we are – it shapes us. And I love the woman you are today. I would not have you change one thing about your past, because it has led you here – to this place – to become the loving, amazing, incredible, intoxicating woman that kneels here before me. You supplicate yourself to me as though you are asking for my forgiveness. But sweetheart, in this case forgiveness is not mine to give. It’s yours. You must learn to forgive yourself. Forgive the things you have done that you are ashamed of. If it helps, think of all the good things you have done – and will do - and balance them out. And I think that giving your heart to me is a definite plus on the ‘good side’." Cami grinned down at T.J., pausing to wipe away the tears with a gentle hand.

"Cami, I could never do enough ‘good’ to make up for all that I have done." She whispered."It’s not a contest T.J. You don’t have to match the good and the bad point for point. What matters is not the quantity, but the quality. Think of it like this– when you love someone, it is not the length of time that you love them that really counts. For instance, I’ve seen couples that have been together for 20 years and they are miserable – they barely spend time together, barely know each other really. And then there is you and I…we’ve known each other for just a short while, but love each other so deeply that the short time is irrelevant." She reached a small, soft hand to T.J.’s cheek and cupped it lovingly. "T.J. it is not the number of ‘bad’ things that you have done, but the fact that now you only want to do ‘good’. You have changed your perspective…give yourself a break and forgive yourself."

T.J. rose and paced back to the window without a word. In fact, she was silent for a very long time. After a giving her friend a minute alone, Camryn rose and joined her on the balcony, wrapping her arm around T.J’s waist to stand silently beside her.

Finally, T.J. quietly whispered into the dark. "That’s a tall order, darlin’. Ta forgive the things I’ve done…ta forget the things I’ve seen. I dinna know if I am capable of that." She paused and looked down at the incredible woman beside her. "But I love ya for trying ta help me see…and I love ya even more that ya are still standing here, strong beside me. I was so afraid, Cami…afraid ya would see the blood on my hands and run the opposite direction as fast as ya could." She gazed into Cami’s trusting, adorable face, and swallowed hard before asking: "Are ya sure, darlin’? Sure that you want to be here, with me?"

Cami smiled up at the dark woman. " ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.’"

T.J. quirked an eyebrow in response, so Cami elaborated. "It’s Shakespeare. It means that love is not truly love if it changes when you find out something different about your lover that you didn’t expect. It means that just because I learned something new about you today, that doesn’t mean I love you any less, or any differently than I did yesterday, or even a few hours ago. If anything, I love you more for trusting me enough to tell me about your past."

T.J. chuckled and kissed the top of Cami’s head. "I know what it means, darlin’. I was just surprised ta hear ya quote Shakespeare. But thank you, t’was a lovely sentiment…from one of the sonnets if I’m not mistaken."

"Bravo, milady." Cami reached up and kissed T.J., sensing the lightening of the mood, and shifting gears. "Now, to steal another phrase from the bard… ‘wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?’" She asked cheekily, running her hands up T.J.’s chest and kissing her exquisite neck.

T.J. immediately picked up the rhythm of the dialogue from Romeo and Juliet. " ‘What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?" She purred as she bent her head to nibble on a delectable ear.

But the ear nibbles were enough to throw Cami off of the game. "You know damn well what satisfaction." She growled as she grabbed T.J.’s hand and pulled her towards the bed.

Much later, as T.J. stared at the beauty lying beside her in the enormous bed, she couldn’t resist stroking the luscious, smooth skin of Cami’s back, and whispering to the sleeping form, " ‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till’ …well…until I met you darlin’." And with a kiss on Cami’s creamy bare shoulder, T.J. wrapped an arm around Cami’s waist and pulled her soul mate closer, feeling strangely safer and more whole than she had ever remembered feeling in her life.

***************

 

Chapter 26

The warm summer breeze lazily ruffled the curtain before it danced across their naked bodies. The sun was just beginning to make its descent into the Pacific, leaving behind its temporary calling card of red, pink and orange fire.

The two women had spent the day alternately making love and napping, only pausing long enough to order room service when Camryn’s stomach loudly protested the lack of sustenance.

"Not a bad way to hide out." Cami mused as she munched on a ripe strawberry dipped in dark chocolate.

Sprawled out next to her, T.J. sipped on iced tea. "Mmmm…no…not bad at all." She playfully snagged some ice from her drink before setting the cup down, and running the cube down Cami’s unsuspecting bare back.

"Aaahhh! Shit! T.J.!" Cami yelped as the tall woman left an icy trail on her overheated skin.

T.J. just chuckled in amusement and deftly caught the pillow that Cami swiped in her direction. With a swift movement, she pinned the blonde beneath her, straddling her stomach. From her dominant position, T.J. began to tease Cami with tickles and the ice cube.

At first, Cami just laughed like crazy, trying in vain to defend herself against T.J.’s superior strength. But when the tall woman slid the ice up a breast to her suddenly alert nipple, Cami groaned in exquisite torture.

"Ahhh…T.J…please!" Cami cried.

"I thought you could use some cooling off." T.J. whispered, bending her head near Cami’s delicate ear.

Cami’s brain was refusing to work properly, but she did catch the irony in T.J.’s statement. "Sorry sweetheart. If ‘cooling’ is what you were after, you failed miserably."

T.J. laughed, a seductive, low sound that rumbled in her chest and rolled over Cami like the waves that crept up the shoreline just below their window. "Hmmm…" The barkeep continued to blaze a trail with the ice cube, but followed the frosty sensation with her hot, tempting tongue. The icy-hot path that she followed across Cami’s body traced from nipple to nipple and then down the blonde’s stomach, causing her to arch her back in wondrous ecstasy. "Dinna think I ever enjoyed ‘failing’ quite so much before." She muttered, thoroughly enjoying the deepening of the green in Cami’s eyes, as the smaller woman was enveloped in desire.

Along the way, the ice cube melted, but T.J. continued to nibble along Cami’s delectable body, winding her path back up towards her neck. However, as T.J. shifted her weight to reposition herself above Cami, the smaller woman neatly used her momentum to flip the unsuspecting T.J. on her back.

"Victory!" Cami crowed, grinning with success, and placing a palm on either side of T.J.’s head. "Now it’s my turn for torture."

T.J. smiled seductively. "So…ta the victor goes the spoils, darlin’." Her eyes were twinkling with mischief, and Cami knew that T.J. had been a willing accomplice in her small victory – she would never have been able to flip the stronger woman so easily otherwise. But at the moment, neither woman was complaining.

As she straddled T.J.’s well-defined stomach, Cami began running her tempting fingers over T.J.’s smooth, muscular body, eliciting an involuntary shudder from the dark woman. Underneath her, T.J. swallowed hard and Cami had the pleasure of watching the wave of passion crash over the beautiful woman. She paused momentarily; suddenly feeling like her heart was heavy in her chest. "My god…T.J…. you are the most damned beautiful woman…it …it almost makes me ache to think that someone like you…as amazing as you…could love me."

T.J. lifted a graceful hand to Cami’s face and pushed aside her unruly hair, before gliding her fingers down the side of her face and down her chest. "And here I was thinkin’ that I was the luckiest woman in the world, ta have someone as incredible as ya are…"

Cami smiled down at the tall woman. "I think…No. I know…that we are both incredibly lucky." She leaned in for a sensuous kiss, easing her body down on top of the taller woman. Running mischievous fingers up and down the length of T.J’s body, Cami grinned wickedly. "Now…where was I?"

"I believe I was about ta get paybacks for the ice cube." T.J. was laughing, resigned to her torturous fate.

"Damned right you are…" Cami growled as she sat up and neatly grabbed a chocolate covered strawberry from the tray next to the bed. Cami licked the tip of the berry with the tip of her tongue, and T.J. felt goose bumps raise on her body at the sheer erotic image that the naked, golden-haired woman presented above her.

With the tongue-dampened chocolate, Cami began to run the berry down T.J.’s body, leaving a trail of chocolate in its wake. She started with T.J.’s full, luscious breasts, adding swirls and simple knot-work designs, and finishing by drawing an adorable heart on the tall woman’s taut stomach.

Cami took a large bite of the treat, leaving a part of the berry protruding from her lips. Gently leaning down over the seductive grin beneath her, Cami fed T.J. a taste from her mouth. Their lips slid together, savoring the moment of contact, before Cami pulled back to allow T.J. to chew her portion.

"Delicious." T.J. groaned. "And the berry is pretty good, too." She muttered, enjoying the playful grin on Cami’s face as she gave the blonde back some of her own teasing word play.

Cami took the remainder of the berry and traced chocolate over each of her own breasts. With exquisite slowness, she leaned her delectable breasts over T.J.’s mouth and allowed her to taste the creation. T.J. devoured the offered treat, and finished by licking her own lips before grabbing Cami and pulling her down for another long kiss.

Finally, Cami began to clean up her handiwork, swirling her tongue down T.J.’s body. She lavished attention to each breast, spending an erotically agonizing time suckling each of T.J.’s tasty nipples. When the dark woman began to squirm, Cami refused to relent. "Got to make sure you are all clean." She winked at T.J. The blue eyes above her were as dark as the raging seas, and Cami knew that the barkeep wouldn’t take much more of the delicious torment.

So she finished removing the traces of the chocolate heart on T.J.’s stomach, easing her body down between T.J.’s legs. From her position lying on T.J.’s stomach, she could smell the dark woman’s intoxicating musky scent and Cami quickly forgot all about the chocolate, instead having a more nefarious plot in mind.

She could tell from T.J.’s body language that the dark haired woman was anxious for the teasing to stop, but Cami couldn’t resist one last gratification. She again straddled T.J.’s stomach and lifted one finger, tracing it deliberately along T.J.’s stomach and over her breasts, making sure she had her full attention. Next, Cami ran the same finger down her own body, starting by licking it with her mouth, dropping down her stomach towards her mound, and with a sexy grin, dipping it into her own freely flowing juice.

T.J. partly sat up in surprise. "God…darlin’." She whispered, her voice husky with desire. "Ya are so damned hot…ya take my breath away…" But T.J. trailed off, lying back down on the pillow, her eyes mesmerized by what Cami was doing to herself with that tempting finger.

"Shhh…just wanted to give you one more taste of something sweet." She eased up T.J.’s body and gently placed her dripping finger into T.J.’s greedy mouth. With ravenous moans, the tall woman grabbed the small hand in a strong grip and proceeded to lick every trace of Cami from her finger.

"Ambrosia." T.J. husked as Cami eased her hand away from T.J’s mouth. "Now I know what they meant by ‘Better than Chocolate’." She finished with a devastating smile that made Cami’s knees go weak.

But the blonde was not done with her torment. She pushed T.J.’s shoulders back onto the bed and began to nibble her way back down to the prize she was seeking.

With a gentle move of her knees, she parted T.J.’s legs and settled herself by wrapping her arms around strong thighs. With a final look at T.J.’s face, dark with desire, Cami kissed the top of the dark curls on T.J.’s mound and traced an overwhelming tongue right into the dark woman’s core.

Cami’s tongue was nimble and tempestuous as she licked, kissed and lightly sucked on the taller woman, refusing to allow her any rest as she gently eased her to the top of the precipice.

T.J. threw her head back in surrender, and deliberately moved her hands until they tightly gripped onto the headboard for fear that in her passion she might accidentally hurt Cami.

T.J. was over come with love and desire. This was certainly not the first time she and Cami had made love. But for some reason, each time they did, it seemed to be more intense, as though they were lost in a dimension in time where only they existed – not as two individuals, but as two halves of the same being. And this time…now Cami knows my past…and she’s still here…we don’t have that shadow over us…

But T.J.’s thoughts derailed as Cami continued her onslaught, her talented tongue and lips teasing T.J., slowly spiraling her upward towards the deliciousness of the unknown.

Finally the dark haired woman cried out, "Please, darlin’…Cam…Ah…aye…!" The torment in T.J.’s voice caused Cami to relent, slightly increase her tempo and pressure, and allow the dark woman the sweet release she so desperately craved.

With a yell, which sounded to Cami like some sort of a primitive war cry, T.J. came crashing over the edge, floating on clouds of bliss, her convulsions pulsing against Cami’s tongue. The blonde eased her captive back down towards earth, skillfully and greedily lapping up the evidence of T.J.’s pleasure.

After she felt T.J.’s pulse settle back towards normalcy, Cami released her prize and crawled slowly up T.J.’s body. Cami allowed the barkeep to clean her lips and chin with a hungry mouth, before settling onto her chest and feeling her powerful arms wrap tightly around her.

"My anam cara." T.J. whispered into the gathering twilight, giving Cami another gentle squeeze.

"I love you, T.J." Cami whispered back.

"Forever and always, darlin’." T.J. gently spoke into Cami’s ear. Finally, wrapped in each other’s arms, they drifted off to sleep listening to the comforting sound of each other’s heartbeat.

*********************

"So, tall, dark and Irish…what happens now?" Cami asked, as she clicked on the soft bedside light. She had awoken after a half hour nap, to find T.J. sitting on the edge of the bed and staring into the near darkness.

"Well, first I thought I’d start nibbling on your ears, move down your neck…" T.J. purred, turning around and moving in to complete her quest.

Her suggestion caused Cami to flush pink with anticipation and goose bumps coursed down her arms. "Umm…well…" Cami licked her lips. "Sounds like a plan, but…um…not quite what I was asking."

T.J. continued her path of devastation as her lips trailed skillfully over Cami’s body. She paused only long enough to respond before continuing her torture. "So…what were you asking?"

"I…um…I…" But Cami couldn’t concentrate. T.J.’s lips were driving her insane and her brain had short-circuited. "I…um…I…"

"You already said that." T.J. teased, earning her a playful smack in the shoulder.

"I …meant…what do we do now…wait for Agent Knight…or…?" Her thoughts trailed off again, as T.J. found a particularly sensitive spot on her inner thigh. But the question had gotten T.J.’s attention, and she momentarily stopped her onslaught.

"Aye. Well…’tis a bloody good question...As a matter of fact…" She rolled over and grabbed her cell phone to check her voice mail. She had turned it off last night, knowing full well that Reynoso would try and contact her, and not wanting to deal with him until she was sure what direction she was going to take with the drug lord.

She punched in her pass code and skipped through a message from Jake. Agent Knight’s voice came through, sounding a touch worried, as he had heard about the attack on her condo. Guess I’d better call him and tell him I’m alive.

Erasing the message from Knight, she skipped ahead to the next and her blood began to pound as she recognized Miguel Reynoso’s voice: Senora Jameson, we need to talk. Contact me at the usual number. Now.

He neither said his name, nor gave the number, but she knew who it was. T.J. could also tell from his tone that he believed she was involved with the FBI. "Ah…for fuck’s sake!" She spit out.

Cami eased over to T.J’s side of the bed and began to softly rub the taller woman’s back. "Trouble?" She asked, as T.J. snapped the phone shut and put it down next to her.

"Aye. Reynoso. Just as I figured…He wants ta talk." T.J. took a deep breath, trying to weigh her options.

"Talk?" Cami snorted in derision. "Why do people say shit like that when you know full well that what he really wants to do is kill you? Must be his limited vocabulary."

T.J. was silent, still brooding. When she was really honest with herself, she held out little hope that the Feds would even find Reynoso to bring him in. And as wonderful as her day had been here with Cami, they couldn’t hide out in a hotel room forever. That left her two options: leave the country, or set up yet another meeting with Reynoso. While she knew that she had enough money and connections to set both she and Cami up in just about any other place in the world, she couldn’t ask Cami to do that – to leave her friends, her career, her life.

T.J. sighed and turned to face the earnest pair of green eyes that were shining up at her – so full of love, passion, and trust. No, I canna ask her ta do that. And there is no way I will spend my life without her. Not now. Not now that she knows who I am and still loves me. She leaned down and kissed Cami. No. That leaves us with one real viable option. I go back in. It was a deadly game of cat and mouse, but she would be damned if she would let Reynoso get the best of her.

She turned to face the naked blonde next to her, and absently pushed her unruly hair off of Cami’s forehead. "Darlin’, I…I think I’m gonna have ta do something…go somewhere where ya can’t follow."

Cami’s brow creased. "Huh? I don’t…what are you talking about?" She was afraid that she knew where T.J. was heading, but she needed to hear it all for herself.

"Ya know that I probably have enough money for us ta hide out for quite some time." T.J. began, trying hard not to look away from the puzzled, serious face beneath her.

"Yeah. And?"

"And…and as glorious as today has been…the best day of my life." T.J. smiled at that, caressing Cami’s cheek with her fingertips. "We canna live like this forever. Ya have a career, friends, a life ta get back ta. And I have the pub…"

"T.J. nothing else matters except that we are together and safe."

The tall woman sighed again. "I know darlin’. But even if we left here…I’m afraid a man like Reynoso…I’ve known men like him…hell, I was like him. He willna just forget about this. If he thinks I betrayed him, he will hunt me down. And sooner or later, he’d get lucky and find me…find us. I willna live our lives like that – forever on the run, always lookin’ over our shoulders. No way."

Cami paused, processing the logic she was hearing. As much as she wanted to just say "Fuck it!" and run away with T.J., she knew that the barkeep was right. They couldn’t spend their lives like that. "So what are you saying?"

"I have a plan that’s rattlin’ around in my head. Something that should get Reynoso out of our lives for good. But… I canna do this thing if I am worried about ya – about your safety. Understand?"

"This isn’t the part where you tell me to go away again, is it? ‘Cause I told you last night, if you say that again I’m gonna have to kick your ass." She twined her fingers in T.J.’s hair and pulled her close, whispering against the tall woman’s soft lips. "You are stuck with me Taylor Jameson…so get used to it!" The last was growled rather than spoken, as she brought her lips to T.J.’s and gave her a devastating kiss that left them both panting for breath.

When she regained a bit of composure, T.J. responded. "No way, darlin’. Besides, I believe it is ya who are stuck with me. No, I just meant that I…well, would ya be willing ta go and stay with Jake for a few days? Just until I finish this up. If ya were there with him, I’d know ya were safe – I wouldna have ta worry about ya."

Cami’s first instinct was to say "No way!", to never leave the dark woman’s side. But as she paused and thought about the situation, she knew that T.J. was right. The woman could handle herself, without a doubt, but if she had to worry about both of them…She might get hurt protecting me. Cami stared again into those incredible blue eyes, and her heart ached. Now that I have her, how can I ever let her go…even for a short time…especially knowing she is heading into danger? Cami stood and paced the room for a moment.

"Darlin’, ya know I wouldna ask ya ta do this if I dinna think it was important. If I know ya are safe with Jake, I can fully concentrate on getting rid of that bastard Reynoso."

Cami was still silent, and T.J. worried that she had pushed her away again – maybe one time too many. But finally Cami came over and knelt before the dark-haired woman, who was still perched on the side of the bed.

"When do you have to go?"

"Uh…well not likely I can set anything up before tomorrow."

Cami nodded. "What will you be doing? Or is it best that I don’t know?"

Knowing would make the blonde worry, but not knowing could set her imagination into over-drive. "I’m going ta call Reynoso, tell him I had no idea the Feds would be there, arrange ta meet with him and then take him out. By whatever means necessary."

Cami nodded again. "Will you involve the Feds, or are you playing Lone Ranger on this one?" T.J. could tell by the set of Cami’s jaw that the smaller woman was trying desperately to maintain her composure.

Good question… "I think…well…I’ll call the Feds, but as a clean-up crew – ta act as the cavalry. It’s a delicate game I’m playin’, and …"

"You mean dangerous, don’t you?" Cami interrupted.

T.J. swallowed hard. "Aye. ‘Twill be dangerous."

Cami rose again and paced the room. Finally she turned and faced T.J. "I don’t like it. You are planning to ride into the enemy camp alone – to hand yourself over to a man who wants you dead?" Cami’s fury was clearly evident now.

"Well. I…I suppose ya could look at it that way." She stammered.

"What other goddamned way is there to look at it!? You can’t go in there alone, T.J. No way!" Her jaw was clenched tight. "I just found my soul mate, god dammit! And I’ll be damned if I will lose you now." Cami was boiling with fury, her face flushed.

T.J. rose and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman; gently rocking her back and forth and stroking her blonde head until she felt some of Cami’s anger subside.

She could see Cami’s point. It ripped T.J. apart to think of losing Cami, so she could imagine what this situation must feel like from the photographer’s perspective. Face it old girl, if ya were her, ya wouldn’t let her just walk alone into the lion’s den, now would ya? She knew she had her answer. She had to find a way to include Cami without really putting her in harm’s way. Just exactly how to do that would be the trick. You’ll figure it out, Jameson.

"Ok, darlin’, ok. I’m here. I’m not goin’ anywhere…" She hesitated a moment before finally committing herself. "And neither are ya."

Cami pulled back and looked up at Taylor. "What?"

"I willna make ya go and stay with Jake." T.J. finally relented.

"You mean it?" Cami was clearly surprised.

"I do. I promise. But…" She held up one long, elegant finger in warning. "But ya must promise ta do everything I tell ya. Everything, understand?"

Cami nodded. "I understand, T.J. I…you have my word."

"Darlin’, I know that. What I am askin’ is for your obedience." When Cami raised an eyebrow, T.J. elaborated. "We are goin’ ta war. And in a battle, a General must know that her soldiers will follow every order ta the exact letter. Even if they don’t like the order, or don’t agree with it." Her voice was deeper than usual, the product of the intensity of their conversation.

Cami’s eyes narrowed. "Like I said, I understand. But, this better not be some elaborate way for you to get me out of the picture. I agree to follow your orders and the next thing I know you order me to stay at Jake’s or something…"

T.J. chuckled. "Very clever of ya, baby. But no…I made ya a promise. Besides…I really do need someone ta watch my back, someone that I can trust." She was absently playing with Cami’s hair.

"Where you go, I’ll follow." Cami replied, causing both of the women to blink at the rush of déjà vu they experienced. "So what’s the plan?"

"I’m figuring that out…" T.J. tapped her own forehead. "I need ta make a few phone calls." Then she became acutely aware of the length of Cami’s naked body pressed into her own. "But…for now…the plan is for us ta practice a little…uh… ‘camaraderie’ in the ranks." T.J. grinned wickedly and began backing Cami towards the bed.

Cami laughed. "Uh, sweetheart? If I’m not mistaken, the army has a policy against fraternization between officers and enlisted."

T.J. eased her prize back onto the bed. "Aye, true, darlin’. But they also say ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’" And with an evil waggle of her eyebrows, she began the first of many more skirmishes to come – battles where they were both the victors.

**********************

They ate a lavish meal in the Crown Room of the hotel, and with T.J.’s cell phone in tow, they kicked off their shoes, rolled up their pants and began to take a moonlit stroll down the secluded Coronado beach that ran right up to the Del.

T.J. wasn’t worried about Reynoso getting a triangulation trace on her cell phone. After the incident in the mountains where the women had been stuck without a cellular network to call for help, T.J. had bought a state of the art satellite phone, and had asked Jake to work his magic and make the phone’s location untraceable. She also didn’t mind the sound of the surf in the background, as California had miles and miles of coastline – not to mention that by now, as far as Reynoso knew, T.J. could be anywhere in the world. No, she chose to make the call to the drug lord on the quiet, secluded beach, mostly because she just wanted somewhere private, and partly because she was thoroughly enjoying the feel of the sand between her toes, the waves on her ankles, and the blonde holding her hand.

The phone rang twice before Carlos Reynoso answered. "Si?"

"Who is this?" T.J. demanded.

"Who the fuck is this??" Carlos shouted back.

"Senora Jameson." T.J. purred. "Get your brother on the phone, Carlos. Now."

She heard Carlos and Miguel roundly arguing in Spanish before Miguel obviously took the phone away from his imbecile brother.

"Senora Jameson. I’ve been expecting to hear from you." Miguel’s voice dripped honey and what he thought of as charm.

"Aye? Well, ya have me on the phone then, so start explainin’." T.J. sounded gruff, annoyed and thoroughly pissed off.

"Excuse me? Explaining? Explain what?? It is you, my dear, who need to begin to tell your side of the story." Miguel was matching her in ire and clearly confused about what in the hell Taylor was talking about.

"My side?? My side? Listen ya sonofabitch! Ya never told me that the goddamned Feds were on your tail! Ya nearly got me killed, for fuck sake!" Cami clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from giggling at T.J.’s amazing performance. If she didn’t know better, the blonde might almost believe that the barkeep was telling the truth.

"What are you talking about, senora? It is you who alerted the authorities. If you were in danger it was your own fault." Some of the bravado was clearly leaving Miguel’s voice. T.J. could tell she almost had him.

"Are ya fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Listen mate, I dinna know what ya already know about me – about my past - but if ya had done your damned homework, ya would realize that the last possible thing I want invading my life is the bleedin’ cops!"

"What? What are you suggesting?" Oh, yeah. He’s buying it…hook, line, and sinker.

"I’m tellin’ ya that if ya look inta it, ya will find that I am no longer welcome in Ireland. I was expatriated. Told never ta return, due ta my ‘criminal’ activities. It’s why I’m here in bloody America, ya daft prick! So, why in the bloody hell would I want ta draw attention ta myself! No fuckin’ way!" She was fuming now, in rare form. Mixing in the truth about her past lent an air of credibility to her story. Now all she could hope would be that Reynoso would look into her past, find out she was exiled from Ireland, and hopefully, just hopefully believe her version of the story.

"All right, senora. Calm down." Miguel’s voice had mellowed. He was clearly interested in this new development. Because he lusted after Taylor, he had honestly hoped that the arrival of the FBI had not been her fault – would be a shame to have to kill such a gorgeous woman…before he fucked her that is.

"Ya calm the fuck down! Now ya got the damned cops crawlin’ all over my pub. I canna go there for a while without havin’ ta answer questions! Ya better fix this, Reynoso!" There, keep him away from the pub, keep everyone there safe.

Reynoso was silent for a moment. "I do not understand then, how this happened, Senora. Who else could have possibly known…" But before he finished his thought, both Miguel and T.J. had the same light bulb flash on over their heads. Frank. Son of a bitch!

"My apologies, senora, for thinking you had anything to do with this…trouble. I will take care of the problem." He was a man on a mission and T.J. knew Frank was in deep shit.

"Ya’d better, mate." T.J. hesitated, knowing she had to turn the direction of the conversation. "So. Now that we have that settled…when…uh…when am I gonna get ta see ya?" T.J. pulled Cami tighter into her embrace, feeling the shudder run up the blonde at the thought of the barkeep with the drug lord. She absently stroked the smaller woman’s back, to let her know that everything would be fine.

Miguel sucked in a breath on the other line. Up until five minutes ago, he had been sure that he would have to kill the dark-haired beauty. But now… "Soon, querida. Soon…"

Dammit. I need a definitive time. "Well, as long as ya know, Miguel, that I’m not a patient woman." She purred into the phone, hating herself for every second of the charade.

"Indeed, senora? Well, then…Friday night. Plan to spend the weekend with me, and I’ll call you later with the time and location."

"Mmmm…the weekend ya promised me? That’s more like it. Friday it is. I’ll be waiting." Goddamn, Taylor. I dinna know if I loathe what ya can do ta men, or absolutely love ya for it.

"So will I, querida. So will I…and don’t worry. I will take care of our…difficulties. By Friday, they will be over. Buenos noches." He severed the connection, and T.J. did the same from her end.

She stuffed the phone into her pocket, grabbed Cami with both arms, and promptly sat them both down in the sand, with the blonde firmly across her lap. Cami was silent and simply held T.J., lavishing little kisses on the sleek, black head, and stroking her hands gently up and down her back.

They sat like that for a good five minutes before T.J. felt like speaking. She had just been reveling in the incredible feel of Camryn – not just her body, but the love she felt radiating off the woman. For T.J., it was like sitting in the warmth of the sunshine for the first time, after spending her life in the shadows.

"I think he believed me." She finally whispered.

"Good, sweetheart. That’s…good… Isn’t it?" Cami was a bit confused by T.J.’s extremely pensive mood.

"Aye. ‘Tis good…and bad."

"What do you mean?"

"He seems ta believe that I didn’t call the Feds. That’s good. But…I believe he now thinks Frank did it instead."

"Ah. Shit." Camryn pulled back for a moment, before turning a bit in T.J.’s lap to face her. "But sweetheart, Frank is a grown man who brought these bastards into your life in the first place!"

"True. He’s a stupid sonofabitch…" T.J. heaved a big sigh. "But, I dinna think he deserves ta die for his stupidity."

"So, what are we gonna do?" Cami inquired.

T.J allowed herself a moment to enjoy the wonderful sensation of Cami’s use of the word "we", before she answered. "We…we are gonna warn him. He deserves at least that much…but after that…he is on his own." She leaned forward and gently kissed Cami. "You’re right, Cam...ya know? He started this mess in the first place. So I guess it is time that he learned it’s not smart ta play with matches when ya live in a gasoline factory."

 

Chapter 27

"No. I don’t like it, Jameson. Not a chance."

"I dinna see how ya have a damned choice, Knight. Do ya?"

There was silence for a moment on the other end of the phone.

"What exactly do you mean by that?"

"Exactly? That without me, ya probably willna be able ta reel in Reynoso. And since I refuse ta play the game on your terms, I guess ya are stuck with playing by my rules." T.J. knew the agent was pissed. But, she also knew if she was going to put her ass on the line, she wanted it done her way this time – she was leaving nothing to chance.

"I’m not in the habit of negotiating with people, Ms. Jameson. I could just bring you in for obstruction of justice and force you into witness protection." It was mostly an idle threat, but his only trump card at the moment.

T.J. laughed. "We both know ya are bluffin’, Agent. Theoretically, ya could bring me in…but the catch is, ya’d have ta find me first." T.J. knew that Agent Knight was well versed on her background. Taylor Jameson was a woman who could go so far underground you couldn’t find her with a map and a backhoe.

"All right, Jameson. If you want to risk your own neck, I am obviously in no position to stop you."

"Agent Knight, I believe that we are not understanding each other here. I do not intend ta bring in Reynoso myself. I won’t steal your ‘collar’. I told ya that he would see me on Friday. And when the timin’ is right, ya will get a phone call with nothing more than an address. I’m expectin’ that ya will know what ta do with that information."

He contemplated that for a moment. "So you are going to go play with the big boys, and you expect Federal Agents to come and bail you out when the shit goes down."

T.J. laughed again. "Why Agent Jameson, I do believe that is the first time I’ve ever heard ya use such a strong swear word." She chuckled again. "No. I’m tellin’ ya that I am goin’ ta see Reynoso on Friday night. When I feel I can get out of the way safely, I will have someone call ya and ya can come in and arrest him…that is, if ya still want ta arrest the bastard."

"Interesting plan, Jameson." Knight paused before finally committing himself. "So, I’ll expect my call from Ms. Wells on Friday night. I’ll have a team standing by – helicopters and the works."

It was Taylor’s turn to be a bit surprised. "I never said who would be callin’ ya, Agent."

"You didn’t have to."

Taylor digested that. "I see. Well then, Friday night."

"Oh, Jameson? I know you don’t want to tip your hand. But, it would speed up the process tremendously if your …um…contact could call us beforehand with a five-mile radius. It will make our response time faster."

He has a point. "Done. But, I don’t want ta see anyone poking around in that five miles until ya get the call with the exact location. Deal?"

"Deal."

"Later, Knight."

"Hey, Taylor?"

"Aye?"

"Watch your back."

He couldn’t see it, but T.J. smiled broadly. "I already got someone ta do that for me." And with a click, she disconnected her cell phone.

Cami had entered the room just in time to hear the tail end of the conversation. "Everything okay?"

"Aye. The Feds are in. Surprisingly, on my terms. Although, I guess it is not so surprisin’ if ya consider that I dinna leave him much of a choice."

"Good, honey." Cami hesitated, before adding. "I brought you a surprise." Cami mentioned gleefully as she plopped her package down on the table next to T.J.

"Really?" Taylor’s face was a study in childlike anticipation, and it caused Cami’s heart to skip a beat in wonder at how much she truly loved this woman.

"Yup. There is a Ben & Jerry’s down on the corner."

T.J.’s smile lit the room. "God, but I do love ya, woman." T.J. leapt up from the table, grabbing the bag in one hand and a squealing Cami in the other. "Fun with ice cream!" She shouted, dragging them towards the bed.

And then she proceeded to show Cami just how much fun they could have with the frozen treat.

************************

The remainder of the week passed by in a blur. They made love, ordered room service and walked along the beach each night, reveling in each other’s presence. Despite the fact that T.J. felt secure that Reynoso had no idea where they were, they seldom ventured out in public during the day, just in case someone spotted them.

Cami called Jo and Vicki and let them know she would be out of touch for a few days. Her friends were clearly puzzled, until she explained that the job was on hold until the following Monday, as the team was in town on a home stand. They left Monday for a lengthy road trip to Atlanta and St. Louis. Cami tried not to think about what she would do then. Will T.J. come with me if I ask? But before she crossed that particular bridge, Cami knew she had Friday night to worry about.

She was also worried about her lack of self-defense skills. For two nights in a row, T.J. had taken her to a shooting range before their peaceful stroll on the beach. She had quickly taught the blonde to safely handle and fire a weapon.

Although Cami was a quick study, she hoped it wouldn’t come down to her having to actually shoot someone. My aim sucks - I couldn’t hit water if I fell out of a fucking boat. T.J. was patient with her student, and Cami was slightly comforted by some of the tactics that T.J. taught her, but next to her tall, dark companion, Camryn couldn’t help but feel inferior.

T.J. was amazing. Cami knew she hadn’t been far off when she quipped that T.J. was James Bond. The woman had deadly accuracy, no matter what weapon she used. And her self-defense and martial arts skills would have made Bruce Lee proud.

Friday dawned clear and hot, and neither woman wanted to get out of bed to face the day. They held each other for an extra half hour past the alarm; each battling her own demons about what the night might have in store for them. But face the day they must, as preparations needed to be made.

Jake knew a bit of their plan, and although he insisted on being back up for Taylor, she would only allow him a slightly better advantage than she gave Knight. Jake would be in the approximate vicinity and he gave Cami a direct radio to connect them.

T.J. would be wearing a wire, and had prearranged verbal signals with Cami, who would be waiting in the car with a radio and a cell phone. When the first signal came, Cami would radio Jake to move in for back up, start the car for a fast getaway, and then at a second signal would make the phone call to Agent Knight with the exact address. Everything was perfectly mapped out. Except that they had no clue where they were going.

Reynoso was playing things very cautiously. Although he seemed to believe that T.J. had nothing to do with the failed sting operation, he was also not giving her the chance to set him up, by not telling her where to meet him until the very last minute. She had tried playing coy – asking him what she should be wearing for dinner, and other leading questions, but he simply told her to dress casually and pack an overnight bag.

T.J. was slightly bothered by the fact that her phone messages to Frank had gone unanswered. But, she hoped that he had gotten her first message and bailed out of town before Reynoso had a chance to pick him up. Although she blamed Frank for the mess they were all in, she also wasn’t cold-blooded enough to just hand him over to Reynoso like the proverbial sacrificial lamb.

********************

T.J. and Camryn had a sunset dinner served on their balcony. It was a picture perfect summer evening, with a slight breeze coming off of the Pacific that cooled them after the blazing heat of the day.

Cami was too nervous to eat, so she just picked at her food, trying to simply enjoy her time with T.J. and willing herself not to think morbid, horrible thoughts. This might be our last meal together…I was allowed just a few days in paradise and now it will be taken away from me…

Her thoughts turned, however, from morbid to fierce when T.J.’s cell phone rang. It was Reynoso, and while she got directions from him, Cami put on her steely mask of resolve. No way…no fucking way I’m going to lose this – to lose her. Not now. Not after I’ve waited my whole damned life for her. That son of a bitch will have to take us both out first, before I’d let him hurt her.

"You get the address?" She asked as T.J. rejoined her on the balcony.

"Aye. But the street is unfamiliar. Do ya know where 32nd Street meets Bayside Drive?"

Cami froze for a second and took a deep breath. "Yeah. Uh…that’s…that’s the warehouse district down by the docks." It was a dirty, dingy part of town; the place where they loaded and unloaded cargo ships and stored goods. It was primarily known for the rotten conditions of the warehouses, and for the fact that no one in their right mind would wander around that part of town at night - much less take a date there. "Why does he want you to meet him there?"

T.J. merely shrugged, being unfamiliar with the place. "I dunno. I suppose he must have a business there, or a boat moored nearby if ya say it is near the docks."

Cami reached across the table and took T.J.’s wrist. "No way he has a boat there, sweetheart, unless it is a cargo ship. That is down near where the Navy anchors their ships and they don’t allow anything that far into the harbor unless they are loading or off-loading cargo – all private craft have to moor on the North side of the Coronado Bridge. I don’t like this, T.J. I don’t like it at all!" Cami was nervous enough as it was, and even more so now that she knew their destination.

T.J. patted Cami’s hand, but pondered the information. "Well, from his directions, it sounds like we’ll be going to some sort of a warehouse, not a boat. So at least I won’t have ta worry about him takin’ me out ta sea." Although she had thought of a back up plan for that possibility as well, considering her little midnight ‘visit’ to Reynoso’s boat a few weeks before. "It will be fine, darlin’. Just relax."

But that was easier said than done – for both of them.

*********************

Taylor guided the little sports car towards their gloomy destination. Both women were quiet, content to just hold each other’s hand for their last few minutes of peace together. The silence was only broken by Cami’s occasional direction on which way Taylor should turn, as the barkeep had no idea how to get to the address that Reynoso had given her.

As they approached the location, T.J. stopped the car just around the corner and turned out the lights. She had skillfully positioned the car so that the corner of the warehouse was just visible, but no one inside should be able to see Cami waiting in the car.

T.J. turned to face Cami before she began to whisper. "Remember, no matter what ya hear on the wire do not make any calls until ya get my signal." Cami nodded. "Promise me, Camryn. Ya are watching my back here, and I need ta know that ya will follow my orders, no matter what." T.J.’s voice wasn’t harsh, but she was deadly serious.

"I promise, T.J., I swear I do. I will not call anyone until I hear the signal from you." As T.J. would be wearing a wire, Cami was fully prepared that she might hear some things that would upset her, even make her want to call the whole plan off and call in the cavalry. But, she also knew that T.J. could handle herself, and Cami jumping the gun might get T.J. hurt, even killed. "You can count on me, T.J."

"I know, darlin’. But I also know how damned hard it is ta listen ta things that ya can’t do anything about." She put her hand under Cami’s chin and lifted her gaze. "Leave the safety on your gun, unless ya see someone approaching ya, and just remember, whatever I say in there, I’m just acting – don’t believe a word of it."

"I know…T.J.?"

"Aye, darlin’?"

"I love you. Bring yourself back in one piece, ok? I’m kinda fond of having all of your body parts in the correct place."

"I promise, Cami." T.J. reached over and tipped back the bill of Cami’s baseball cap, sealing her promise with a long, deep kiss. When she broke away she took an extra minute to stare into Cami’s eyes before whispering. "I told ya – now ya are stuck with me, ya ain’t getting rid of me that easy." With a jaunty wink, she slipped from the car and Cami watched her lithe form move silently into the blackness towards the meeting place.

The little blonde slid over into the driver’s seat of the Miata, eased the gun T.J. gave her from the glove compartment and set it on her lap, and settled back in her seat, eyes alert and heart pounding harder than she could ever remember. Breathe, Cam…just breathe.

******************

T.J. eased up towards the door of the appointed place. She felt the presence of a man in the shadows nearby, and figured he must be one of Reynoso’s chumps. Likewise, she had spotted an armed figure patrolling the roof. Her instincts told her that there was likely one more guard around – a wildcard that could be just about anywhere. She just hoped he was more interested in watching the building than he was in checking out her car. From her position near the door, she could just see the fender of the bright red car, but not Cami. Good.

"I’m goin’ in, darlin’. Remember. I love ya." She whispered quietly into the wire she was wearing, knowing her words were small comfort to Cami, but needing to say them nonetheless.

She straightened her jacket and reached for the grubby dark handle of the door, only to have it open for her. T.J. managed not to be startled that Reynoso’s guards were so efficient. "Thanks, mate." She drawled to the swarthy looking man who sported a huge sidearm attached to his belt. "Miguel around?"

The man looked her up and down, and for a brief moment of panic, T.J. feared he would search her and find her gun. But luck was on her side, as Miguel Reynoso chose that moment to appear, interrupting the guard’s inspection before he could pat her down.

"Buenos noches, Senora Jameson. Welcome." He was smiling, but Taylor noticed it didn’t quite reach his eyes. In fact, he looks rather… menacing tonight. As she pondered that fact, she began to take a subtle inventory of their surroundings. Where in the hell have ya brought me, asshole?

The entry way was dark, and only led into an even darker hallway with a dimly lit doorway at the other end. From the desks and file cabinets, T.J. judged that the room they were in was likely an office at one time, but she noticed no doors or windows nearby, and every last inch of the place was covered in a layer of filth and cobwebs. It smelled like a combination of rotten fish, musty wood, and backed up sewer. She fought down the nausea and donned her attitude.

"Evenin’, Miguel. Uh…nice place ya have brought me ta. Ya surely know how ta charm a woman." She smiled her best seductive smile and held out her hand for Reynoso to kiss.

He accepted her hand, but did not offer the kiss on the hand she expected. Instead, he smoothly pulled her close and kissed her soundly on the lips. T.J. ignored her first instinct, which was to bite his lip, and instead concentrated on not throwing up on his shoes. "I have been waiting for this all week, querida." He growled, their faces still mere inches from each other.

"Have ya? I have been filled with…anticipation myself." She answered smoothly. "But, I had expected something a little more …um…classy. And a lot more private." She slightly lifted an elegant eyebrow and cocked her head at the two bodyguards who stood behind Miguel. She had noticed that Carlos was nowhere to be seen, and she idly wondered if he was off eating a side of beef, or if Miguel had finally gotten rid of his idiot brother.

"Si. Si. We will get to the…what did you say? Classy place? Later. And we will most assuredly be alone when we do." He had released his vice-grip on T.J.’s waist, but he still held her hand in both of his clammy ones. "But first. A surprise." His eyes sparkled with something a bit more than mischief, and T.J. began to inwardly curse.

Fuck, fuck, fuck! I hate surprises! "A surprise? Well since we are here, I can only guess that the surprise isn’t reservations at a gourmet restaurant." She answered dryly, continuing to smile at him and loathing herself more with every passing second.

"No. But I have a feeling you, of all people, will like this surprise." He began to lead her along the dark hallway, towards the door at the other end. T.J. still could see no other possible exits, except the one she came in.

Ah shit. Now what? She inwardly sighed, not liking the way things were going one bit.

"Actually, Miguel. If ya really knew me, ya would know I absolutely hate surprises." T.J. deliberately kept her voice low and husky, completely masking the rush of adrenaline that was coursing through her body.

They stepped through the doorway, followed closely by the two guards, and entered a large, dark, warehouse. The smell T.J. had noted before was even stronger here and she felt, rather than saw, cockroaches scuttling across the floor away from their feet. Great. Not sure which is worse – having cockroaches run across my feet, or being kissed by one. She resisted the temptation to pull her hand away from Reynoso’s sweaty one, and stopped where he bid her to, in what appeared to be the center of the room.

Two skylights, one door on my right – but it looks chained, one large sliding delivery door straight ahead, and a set of stairs ta my left. If she had to run for it, she figured she would never make it to the sliding door, as there was no good, visible cover between her and it. The side door did not look promising, as she could see something that glinted like a chain wrapped around it. Skylights are kinda high, unless I find a rope. That leaves the doorway behind me and out the front, or those stairs that lead to fuck knows where.

She sighed, not liking her options. "Charming, Miguel. Did ya buy the place with the smell and all, or did ya add that later – for the ambiance?"

He released her hand and waved to a man who was positioned at the foot of the stairs. The man quickly disappeared up the rickety stairs, and T.J. could see that there was a door at the top that led to something that resembled yet another office. "Relax, querida. We will soon be leaving here. Just be patient."

Leaving? Fuck! T.J. knew that if they left the vicinity, her plan would have to be modified or scrapped, which only left her two options: go with Reynoso - which would likely prove fatal, or get the hell out before they left. Bloody hell. Why can’t things ever go like I friggin’ plan?!

"Leave? But I was just startin’ ta like it here." She drawled, making one more sweep of the room with her eyes. I make six men in here, besides Miguel. Two behind me, one by the sliding door, two to my right, and one up the stairs. But where the fuck is Carlos?

Her question was answered in moments, as the giant man came out of the office at the top of the stairs, carrying something large over his shoulder in a fireman’s style carry, and followed close by the guard who had been sent to fetch him.

"Ah. Here is my surprise. A little gift for you, querida. Hopefully, in this way I can make up for the trouble you were caused by the FBI the other night." Miguel whispered close to her ear. He had never left her side, but T.J. couldn’t figure out if he had been trying to intimidate her with his presence, or if he was just really damned horny.

As Carlos neared, it became apparent to T.J. that the package he was carrying was not a package after all. Ah, fuck me! He didn’t!

But. He had. Miguel had found Frank and he now presented him to T.J., by having Carlos drop him unceremoniously onto the concrete floor with a thud. Frank’s hands were bound behind him with a pair of rusty looking handcuffs, and his legs were tied with thick rope. He was filthy, his mouth taped shut with duct tape, and he sported a giant welt on his forehead, a black eye, as well as various scrapes on his face. Fucking shit!

T.J. looked blandly at Miguel. "This is your present? Dinna your ma teach ya that should bring a lady flowers on a first date, not a piece of shit? What in the holy fuck would I want with him?" She kept her tone playful, never betraying her inner turmoil. She had a pretty damned good idea what Miguel planned for her to do with Frank. And she also knew that her careful plan had just taken a huge turn for the worse.

"Taylor, this is the man who called the FBI on us. I thought you might like to show your…appreciation to him." Miguel’s voice was low and steady, with a slight hint of glee.

"And how do you propose I do that?" She turned to face Miguel now, running her hands up his chest, hoping to distract him.

But he caught both of her hands and stopped the seductive move. "You tell me, querida. I figured a woman with your background would know just what to do with traitors." He leered at her, releasing her hands and running a finger down the lapel of her black silk blouse, his fingers stopping as they caressed the top of her breast.

"Aye. In Ireland we would have just shot the son of a bitch and been done with it. But ya dinna do that yet. So, I’ll ask again – how do ya propose I pay him back?" She smiled up at Miguel, a charming smile full of promise and anticipation – one that had the drug lord licking his lips. Men. T.J. snorted. So fuckin’ easy when ya get them thinkin’ with their dicks.

"Oh, we shoot traitors as well. And the reason I haven’t shot him yet is that I was waiting for you to do it." He purred to T.J., stroking her jet-black hair with his right hand and using his left hand to draw his own gun and hand it to her. T.J. managed to not look surprised, and she also ignored her first impulse, which was to just shoot Miguel on the spot and get it over with. But with seven other armed men in the room and several more outside, ya’d never make it outta here alive, old girl.

Instead she felt the cold steel of the weapon as it hit the over-heated skin of her palm. She checked the gun, realized the safety was off, and with a deft movement found out that a round was already in the chamber. Safety off and a chambered round while ya wore it on a shoulder holster? Ya really are a dumb fuck, Reynoso. Wish ya had shot yourself, ya bleedin’ idiot.

Miguel noted the expert way in which T.J. handled the weapon, pointing it at the ground since it was ready to fire. He also noted that she did not take the golden opportunity he had given her – a chance to take him out. He still held out hope that the fact that she hadn’t just killed him outright meant that she really was on his side. But he had to know.

"Nice gun, Reynoso. But do ya think I’m a bleedin’ fool? I kill Silva, and all ya have ta do ta get rid of me is turn the weapon over ta the Feds with my prints on it. No way, mate." She chuckled and used her blouse to clean off her prints, then carefully turned the handle of the weapon towards Miguel for him to take.

But Miguel’s face had darkened, and she knew her bluff was failing. "I don’t think you understand, Senora Jameson. I was not offering you the chance to kill Silva. I was ordering you to."

"Excuse me?" She raised her eyebrows in mock surprise, continuing the playful tone she had started. "Is this how ya entertain all of your dates? A nice murder and then dinner?" She continued to carefully hold the weapon out for Miguel to pick up, and although the drug lord took a step closer to her, he didn’t reach for the gun.

"I am not playing, Senora. Consider it a sign of good faith. You show I can trust you by doing what I tell you to do, and I’ll show you that you can trust me by allowing you to wipe your prints from the gun before you return it. I assure you that it is not my intention to frame you – merely to prove your loyalty."

Fuck! T.J. was rapidly running out of cards to play. She wracked her brain for another stalling technique and briefly toyed with the idea of giving Cami the verbal signal to call in the cavalry. But the Feds would take five minutes or more to get here, and she didn’t think she could stall Reynoso that long before he forced the issue of Frank. And she also knew that even if the FBI arrived in time, she would have a very slim chance of getting out of here alive. The Feds arrive now and this place becomes another friggin’ war zone. No, wait ta call until ya are on your wait out, Jameson.

She took one last long look at Miguel and knew she was left with only one option. Taking a deep breath for composure, T.J. turned the gun in her hand and for the first time since he had been dumped before her, she looked down directly into Frank’s eyes. His pale eyes shone with tears and he silently pleaded with T.J. for mercy. In an instant she was transported back to another warehouse – another place and time, another set of eyes pleading for life. The boy! I canna just commit cold-blooded murder. T.J. swallowed hard and shook her head.

"Problem, Senora?" Somewhere in the back of her brain she registered that it was Miguel speaking. It seemed like time slowed to a crawl, and although it could have only been seconds that she stood motionless, to T.J. it felt like a lifetime.

Slowly she raised the weapon towards Frank’s head, licking her suddenly dry lips, and trying to ignore the ghostly voices that were echoing through her mind. Do it, Jamie. Do it for Colin! She glanced down at her raised hand and noticed that it was trembling, and her heart pounded so hard that it was causing pain in chest. Wait! This isn’t the boy. This is a grown man, responsible for his own idiotic actions. Go on, Jameson. It willna be the first time ya have killed someone, now will it? Ya have killed so many before, one more will not make a difference. A blackened soul, is a blackened soul…a dead rose by any other name…

The gunshot almost made her jump. The explosive sound echoed through the warehouse. T.J.’s brain registered that she had pulled the trigger, and her street smarts kicked her body into motion, even though it took her conscious brain a moment to catch up with her instincts.

She executed a perfect diving roll behind a crate nearby and with two neat pops of the weapon in her hand she took out two of the guards that were aiming at her, by shots to each of their upper thighs – wounds intended to bring them down, not to kill.

The bullet T.J. had fired had neatly broken the chain holding Frank’s handcuffs together. The idiot had jumped and yelled for help for an instant before he realized that she hadn’t actually shot him, but helped him. In a flash he rolled away from the hail of bullets that swept the center of the warehouse and used his now free hands to remove the tape from his mouth and ropes from his legs. But now he found himself pinned down in a corner of the room, weaponless and cut off from the only escape routes.

T.J. fired the last few rounds in the gun that Reynoso had handed her, before tucking it into her belt and smoothly pulling her Sig out her holster. "Cami. I’m all right." She whispered into the wire, her eyes intently searching the warehouse for a way out. "Cami. Plan C umm…Capulet. I repeat, execute Plan Capulet."

The two women had decided to use Shakespearean names for their code words, that way they could be sure that the passwords would not just randomly come up in the conversation. Cami had wanted to use something like "baseball," but T.J. patiently explained that common words like that were no good, as it was too easy for them to accidently slip into everyday dialogue. Shakespeare had been T.J.’s idea – one taken from their impromptu balcony scene a few nights earlier.

Out in the car, Cami had been trying really hard to follow her orders. When Reynoso had first brought Frank out for T.J. to kill, Cami nearly panicked and called Jake in. But she took deep breaths and concentrated on the words T.J. was saying. The dark woman had sounded calm, almost playful and Cami realized if T.J. was not panicking, then neither should she. Yet, anyway.

But Plan C, or Capulet as they had dubbed it, told her to skip the call to Jake and go straight for the cell phone to bring in Agent Knight and his men. Oh shit! She’s calling in the proverbial air strike and she is still in there…in danger! Cami knew the contingency plans by heart. Plans Arden and Benvolio were the two easiest, both meaning that she was on her way out and safe. But the remainder of the plans were meant to cover the possibility that she might get stuck, trapped in the building. Fuck! T.J.!

*********************

A bullet sailed past T.J.’s ear and slammed with a solid thud into the wood of the crate behind her. Bloody hell! She dropped to her stomach and crawled to the other end of her hiding place, hazarding a look around the corner and seeing nothing but a clear shot to the hallway that led to the door she had come in from. But right now I’ll bet there are at least two or three guns trained on the open area between that damned hallway and me. She calculated that she had between five to ten minutes before Agent Knight and his crew arrived. She also knew that the last place she wanted to be was in the warehouse when all hell broke loose.

Crawling back to her previous position, she saw movement to her right. The man who had been firing on her position was on the move - heading closer to this side of the crate. Sliding her gun back into the holster, she crawled backwards, around a second set of crates and disappeared into the shadows, patiently waiting for the man to approach.

It took him only a few moments to cautiously make his way to the end of the crate where he thought she was. Just as T.J. was about to pounce on the man, she heard a loud crash and groan from the other side of the warehouse. Frank. Now what?

But, as fortune would have it the man who had been stalking her turned around quickly at the sound of the crash, leaving her the perfect opportunity to smack the guard in the head with the butt of her gun. As he slumped to the ground, she caught the man under both arms and slid him gently down to keep him from making a sound as he fell. T.J. stripped him of his weapon and slung the modified Uzi across her shoulders. I probably won’t use the damned thing, but why give him the chance ta use it if he wakes up? She hated Uzi’s – they were light, with good balance, but she found her aim was horribly impaired with them. Of course, when ya pump out that many damned bullets at a time, who in the hell needs ta aim?

T.J. briefly contemplated finding Frank and helping him to get out, but two things stopped her. One, she had her hands full with getting herself out alive; and two, the man who had just groaned sounded distinctly like Frank, which meant he might be unconscious, unable to move, or possibly even dead, and therefore she might be risking her own life for nothing. The Feds will be here soon to help him. Besides, ya already did your part by sparing his ass earlier. He’s on his own now.

Sticking to the shadows in the far reaches of the warehouse, T.J. crept along the walls, behind crates and various large machines, always listening intently for the sound of someone nearby. She was sweating in the steamy confines of the warehouse, and it briefly tickled her sense of humor that perhaps she would be able to smell one of Reynoso’s men before she could see him.

She inched along towards the hallway and freedom, still not seeing anyone guarding the doorway. But she knew he was there – only a complete fool would fail to block the most obvious means of escape, and Reynoso may have been many things, but T.J. would not underestimate him enough to call him a complete fool – nor was she willing to bet her life on it. So she crouched down in the shadows for a moment, to watch and evaluate.

*******************

"Goddammit, T.J. Say something! Let me know you are alive!" Cami whispered into the darkness of the car. But her plea remained unanswered and she strained her ears against the crackle of the connection to hear just one sound of life. It had been a full two minutes since she had heard a distant crash, followed almost immediately by a scuffle and rustle of clothing. But since then, nothing.

After she had called Agent Knight, she sent the word out to Jake and informed him of the situation and what her present location was. He promised Cami that he and his men would come in quietly and make sure that the Feds got T.J. out of the warehouse. But Jake will take longer to get here – he’s not using a helicopter.

Cami felt utterly helpless. The love of her life was just around the corner and inside the building that Cami could see the corner of from where she was sitting. As she willed Agent Knight to hurry, Cami glanced up and caught sight of a man climbing down the outside stairs of the building and heading towards what she presumed was the front entrance. Fuck! It was too soon for Agent Knight to have gotten there, although he had informed her they were choppering in a special unit. Jake’s men would have been coming from behind her, as the Miata was sitting on the only surface street route to the warehouse. Nope. That’s trouble…

Without hesitating, Cami snagged her gun, secured the cell phone in her pocket and eased her way out of the car, closing the door as quietly as she could. She headed towards the other side of the street from where she was parked so that she could get a better view of the warehouse door, and hide in the shadow of the building that was across the road. She had promised T.J. to follow her orders to the letter; which she was technically doing, since the barkeep had never ordered her to stay in the car – it had just been assumed.

The gun felt heavy and foreign in her hand, but the adrenaline she felt was somehow making her bold. What am I, one of Charlie’s friggin’ Angels all of a sudden? She scoffed at herself, unsure why she suddenly felt like this was not the first time she had headed into danger behind T.J. That’s one damned weird sense of déjà vu, you’re developing woman. Where are these images of epic battles coming from? With a shrug she stuck to the shadows of the building, sure she was fairly invisible in the all-black get up that T.J. had insisted she wear. She was even sporting a black baseball cap to hide her light blonde hair.

As her vision of the warehouse cleared the corner, she could see that the man who had climbed from the roof was waiting just outside the front door of the warehouse, his gun up and aimed to take out whoever happened to come outside. Anyone leaving from that exit was a sitting duck; they would be dead before they knew what hit them.

Cami didn’t think - she simply reacted. She knew that it was possible T.J. would try and get out of that exit before the Feds arrived, and Cami also knew that there was no way to warn her lover about the man guarding the door. So she continued to stick to the shadows and quickly make her way around towards the warehouse door.

Before she could analyze what she was doing, she flipped off the safety of her weapon, silently eased up behind the man and raised the gun towards the back of his head. But she was apparently not as quiet as she thought, for as she got within two feet of the man, he turned suddenly and both he and Cami nearly jumped from the surprise of coming face to face.

Instead of panicking, which up until a few minutes ago Camryn had feared would happen to her in a crisis, she simply continued the motion of her arm forward and cold-cocked the guard by slamming her gun into his jaw. He dropped like a lead weight.

The pain in her hand was instantaneous, as her fingers and wrist took the force of the blow from her end. But what really made her wince was the clattering of the man’s gun to the ground that sounded to Camryn’s ears as loud as the gun shot might have been, and the fact that she shouted "Shit!" fairly loud when she felt the impact of the gun on her hand. She glanced quickly around, but if the noise had drawn the attention of other guards she sure didn’t see any. But she also wouldn’t stand around and just wait for them to arrive either.

Gathering up her courage, she put her back to the wall of the warehouse and eased her head around the doorframe like she had seen the police do on television. Great. Life and death situation and I’m using what I’ve seen on TV to try and keep myself alive. Terrific. Next time I think I’ll just buy ‘Urban Warfare for Dummies’; it would probably be more helpful. Then realizing how silly her brain was working at the moment, she shook her head again and began to silently creep around the door and into the warehouse itself.

The stench was the first thing to hit her. But it was the sound coming over her radio earpiece that froze the blood in her veins.

Miguel Reynoso’s clear, resonant baritone voice intoned, "Going home so soon, Senora Jameson?"

T.J.!

 

*******************

Chapter 28

T.J. had just decided that the hallway was the wrong answer and she should head for the sliding delivery door instead, when she heard the clatter of a gun hitting the pavement outside, followed immediately by a very familiar, distinctive voice muttering "Shit!"

Cami? Damn it all ta hell! It occurred to T.J. that she had not told Cami to stay in the car; she just assumed that the blonde would do just that. Of course, if the roles were reversed ya idiot, would ya still be sittin’ in the car with her in here getting shot at? Not a fuckin’ chance.

But that changed things a bit. If Cami was out in front of the warehouse, then T.J. could not go out the back. The blonde might continue inside and get caught in the middle of all of the mess when the Feds arrived.

So T.J. continued her trek towards the hallway, careful to stay in the shadows and remain silent. What she really wanted to do was to tell Cami to go back to the car, and although it occurred to T.J. that the photographer was probably still wearing the earpiece to hear her, the barkeep could not very well say something in the silence of the warehouse without drawing fire to her position. With a heavy sigh, she stopped about three feet to the right of the hallway and was just about to step around the corner when she felt the presence of several men on the other side of the door.

In the dimness she could make out three figures, one was definitely Carlos, from the size of him, and she guessed one of the others was Miguel from the smell of his strong aftershave.

Her fears were confirmed a second later, when Miguel’s voice rang through the warehouse. ""Going home so soon, Senora Jameson?"

Fuck! But T.J. was slightly heartened by the fact that he had not just shot her on the spot. She also figured that Cami heard what he said and would hopefully stop wherever she was.

Miguel and Carlos stepped a bit closer, the bigger man dragging Frank next to him, holding a knife to his throat. T.J. couldn’t help herself. "Dammit Frank, ya really are getting ta be a pain in my ass. I probably should have just shot your sorry ass and been done with it." She locked eyes with Frank, who looked even more pathetic at the moment than he had early when he was facing down her gun. Stupid son of a bitch.

"So, Senora Jameson. Put down your weapons and put your hands on your head." Miguel stated, inching forward towards T.J. and holding a gun steadily pointed at T.J.’s head. "And that was not a request, querida. Do it. Now! Start with the Uzi…slowly." He was growling now, his eyes flashing with unabated anger.

T.J. sighed, her brain working at lightning speed to figure out what her next move should be. But the decision was taken out of her hands when she bent down low to put the Uzi she had taken from the guard on the ground. A shot rang out in the warehouse, flying over T.J.’s ducking head and catching Miguel right in his outstretched gun hand. The drug lord yelped in pain and dropped his weapon.

T.J. didn’t even look to see who her savior had been, she simply kicked Reynoso’s gun away, and stood up quickly, catching him square in the jaw with a left hook. He staggered backwards but was still on his feet.

Frank took the opportunity in the chaos to elbow Carlos sharply in the jaw, the big man lost his grip momentarily, enough for Frank to slip out of the way and grab for Miguel’s gun.

Miguel stepped towards T.J. and swung wildly at her, which she deftly side stepped, grabbing his arm and easily tossing him over her shoulder using his forward momentum. He landed with a solid crack on the concrete floor behind her.

T.J. turned to finish the job, her Sig outstretched. Get it over with Jameson, get him out of your lives and be done with it. She was saved from that choice however by the arrival of Agent Knight and the FBI. The place was instantly lit up with spotlights and T.J. could hear the distinct thumping of the rotors of a helicopter overhead. "Federal Agents! Drop your weapons! Hands where we can see them!" Blared over a loudspeaker, echoing like cannon fire through the spacious warehouse.

A quick glance to her left and she realized that Carlos had taken off running after Frank, and neither were anywhere nearby. So, go collect Cami and get the fuck outta here.

Peeking around the corner, she caught sight of the familiar form of her lover at the other end of the hall, and couldn’t help herself from grinning widely at the sight. Not seeing anyone else in the hallway, she realized that the bullet that had taken out Miguel’s gun must have come from Cami. Damn. Way ta go, darlin’. Nice shot!

Cami looked down the hall and saw T.J.’s outline walking towards her and she had never been so relieved in her life. "T.J.!" She whispered in gratitude.

"Aye, Cami. In the flesh." She was a good five feet from Cami before she sensed a presence behind her. "Get down!" She shouted to Cami as the shot rang out from the other end of the hall. T.J. felt a burning sensation in her leg, which caused her to hit the floor.

But she spun her body as she fell and pulled her Sig up in one smooth motion. Two more shots rang out almost simultaneously and she registered that one was hers and the other must have been Cami’s.

Miguel Reynoso had been aiming for his second shot down the hallway when the two bullets struck him – one right between the eyes and the other in the chest. He fell backwards and hit the floor with a sickening crunch; T.J. knew he had likely died instantly.

The warehouse was now swarming with Agents, and T.J. felt herself being pulled back into Cami’s lap. "Shhh. Sweetheart, you have been hit, just lie still. I’ll…Agent Knight!" Cami hollered down the hall.

Cami pulled off her sweatshirt and used it to apply pressure to the bleeding. T.J. had taken the bullet in the back of her thigh, just above her left knee. Peter Knight came down the hallway and barked orders into a walkie-talkie for someone to send an ambulance immediately.

He checked T.J.’s wound and satisfied that it was not life threatening, Peter turned his attention to Cami. "Are you okay, Ms. Wells?"

"Peachy." She drolly responded. "Just see to T.J., okay?"

Jake chose that moment to come barreling through the doorway behind them. "Jamie! Everything…oh shit!" He noticed the blood soaking through Cami’s sweatshirt.

T.J. rotated one blue eye up at Jake. "Better late than never, eh cuz?" She mused. Despite her fear for T.J. at the moment, Cami couldn’t help but laugh at the jest.

Glancing down at the barkeep, Agent Knight grinned. "You’re going to be fine, Jameson. You are one lucky woman, you know it?"

T.J. offered up a wan smile and then turned to look at Cami’s concerned face before answering. "Aye. But then again…someone once told me that I didn’t need luck, ‘cause I’m Irish." She winked at Cami, who chuckled, not believing that T.J. remembered her quip from the first night they met. Reaching up and taking Cami’s hand, T.J. smiled at her lover. "But, aye, Agent Knight. I’m damned lucky."

**************************

Cami looked so adorable curled up in the chair next to the hospital bed, that T.J. didn’t have the heart to wake her. Her short blonde hair was sleep tousled and she was using T.J.’s leather jacket as a blanket. The middle finger of her right hand was taped and resting in a splint – she had broken it when she decked the guard outside with the gun still in her hand. Cami had fought like a spitfire to continue to stay in the room with T.J. – the nurses tried in vain to set her up in her own room, but the blonde would have none of it, preferring to stay right by T.J.’s side the whole time.

It was Saturday night and T.J. was now resting comfortably. The doctor had removed the bullet from her knee, and there was no ligament damage; so she would have to stay off of it for a while, but she shouldn’t have any permanent damage from it - except a penchant towards having the ache in her knee predict the changes in the weather.

Agent Knight had been by earlier in the day, along with one of the District Attorneys who was working on the case. Miguel Reynoso was dead – officially he had been killed in a gun battle with Federal Agents. Unofficially, the autopsy would reveal that two bullets from two separate guns were the cause of death. T.J. knew it was for the best, but her heart ached for the guilt that Cami was going to inevitably feel over taking a life. You’ve done it a hundred times, old girl. And it still bothers ya ta know…can’t imagine how Cami is gonna feel when the shock wears off.

Frank Silva had been arrested for his involvement with the Reynosos, but T.J. knew he would probably be given a fairly light sentence, based on the fact that the stupid idiot didn’t know very much and was only minorly involved.

The agents at the warehouse had taken down Carlos Reynoso rather easily. They had found him at the back of the warehouse, pounding the living crap out of Frank. Once they had him in custody, he sang like a canary about his family, the drugs, and their whole empire – giving the FBI and the DEA enough information to put away everyone involved with the Reynosos. Apparently Carlos’ loyalty only extended so far, and he was more than willing to reduce his sentence in exchange for information. Agent Knight figured that with the evidence they had on Carlos, he would likely be serving at least fifty years in jail, no parole – and that was the ‘light’ sentence he would probably receive for turning state’s evidence.

The Agent himself ‘officially’ chastised T.J. for her vigilante tactics. But ‘unofficially’, he had thanked her tremendously for managing to bring in the entire family and not getting herself or any other civilian killed in the process. The bureau was taking care of both T.J. and Cami’s medical expenses, and Agent Knight had promised T.J. a week’s vacation anywhere in the world she wanted to go…with Cami along of course. Agent Knight had also assured Cami that Jo’s Miata would be taken back to her friend A.S.A.P. Jo and Vicki had both been furious at Cami for putting herself in such danger, but they were also secretly thrilled that things worked out for Cami and T.J.

The photographer’s cell phone rang cheerily, and T.J. laughed at the melody. Cami woke up and looked grumpily at the chuckling barkeep. "Gotta change that damned ringer…"

"Hello." She muttered. "Oh, yeah. Uh…I’m not sure I’m gonna make that." Cami glanced over at the figure in the hospital bed. No way I’m gonna leave T.J. in the hospital. "Uh…okay…well…how about I call you tomorrow and let you know?…fine…fine…thanks for calling." She snapped the cell phone shut and put it on the bedside table before standing and stretching from her nap.

"What are ya passin’ up on?" T.J. asked nodding at the cell phone.

"Oh. Nothing much." But T.J. knew Cami a bit too well to not see the cover up.

"Aye?" She arched an eyebrow. "Nothin’ much like Vicki wants ya ta have dinner tomorrow, or nothin’ much like ya are supposed ta be workin’?" She inquired.

Cami sat down on the edge of T.J.’s hospital bed and narrowed her eyes. Busted. "Don’t worry about it, T.J."

"Camryn Wells." T.J.’s voice was a low rumble of warning. "Are ya gonna sit there and tell me ya are giving up work ta sit here and play nursemaid ta me?"

"Well. I wouldn’t exactly put it that way." Cami bit her lower lip, knowing she was about to be chastised – especially since T.J. used her full name like that. "Besides, it isn’t like my job is earth-shattering or anything. I take pictures, I don’t save lives."

"Excuse me, but ya take damned amazing pictures." But T.J. softened a bit at the sheepish look on Cami’s face. "Although I canna say I dinna like the idea that ya would rather stay here with me." She was rewarded with a dazzling smile from the cute little photographer. "So what job is this that we are talkin’ about?"

Cami flushed a bit and swallowed. Oops. Almost got away with this one. "Just a thing for the Padres. It’s…nothing."

"For the…Padres? The baseball team? I dinna understand, ya already took their picture."

Cami laughed. "Yeah, I did. But this is…uh…extra."

T.J. could smell a rat. "Extra?" She reached out and took Cami’s hands, not allowing the squirming blonde to escape. "Ok. ‘splain yourself." T.J. affected her best cheesy Ricky Ricardo accent.

"Uh…well." Cami swallowed again. Oh for god’s sake, Wells. Just tell her, you moron. She took a deep sigh. "You know how I sort of ‘disappeared’ last week? And I told you I was out of town on a job, right?"

"Aye?"

"Well. I was with the Padres. I was hired to shoot all of the farewell ceremonies for Tony in each of the cities they travel to. He’s uh…retiring. So…anyway…they were in town this week, but they play in Atlanta on Monday. That was the traveling secretary checking to see if I would be flying with the team or on my own."

T.J released Cami’s hands and sat up straight. She didn’t know much about baseball, but she did know how much Cami admired Tony. "Ya mean ta tell me that ya are giving up what, for you, must be a chance in a lifetime ta sit here in this damned hospital??"

"Uh. Well…T.J. there is no way I’m leaving you here!" Cami stated, her emerald green eyes insistent.

"And there is no way I’m gonna let ya pass this up!" T.J. shot back, equally stubborn. She grabbed Cami and stopped the blonde’s retort with a kiss.

Finally, she released Cami. "You. Are. Going. Dinna argue with me, woman!" T.J. put on a mock ferocity.

"T.J. this is silly. I just finally got you, I’m not leaving you now – in the hospital or not." Cami insisted.

T.J. could see that stubbornness was getting her nowhere fast, so she switched to her considerable charm. "Cami, darlin’. Ya will be back. Ya will only be gone for a few days…"

"A week!" Cami interrupted, pushing out her bottom lip in a pout.

Cami smiled. "Ok, a week. But ya willna be gone forever. In the meantime I willna be any fun at all, as I willna be able to do much but lie around on my bum and watch the telly."

Camryn knew T.J. was right. It was only a week after all. But since Cami had waited a lifetime to find T.J., she was hard pressed to be away from her, even if it was only for a few days.

"Besides darlin’. I wouldna be able ta forgive myself I let ya pass up this opportunity."

When Cami didn’t respond, T.J. opted for a compromise. "I’ll tell ya what. When do they go out on the road again? After this trip I mean?"

Cami shrugged. "I’m not quite sure. I know they have another trip to Florida coming up…and Colorado. In a few weeks time though – they’ll have another home stand first."

"Ok. Well ya go with them on this trip, and I promise ta go with ya on the next one." Cami’s face brightened. "But. That means ya have ta go this time, otherwise ya will be giving up the job all together."

Cami pondered that a moment. "You mean a working vacation with you?" Cami’s mind was already racing at the possibilities – a few days in Florida with T.J. would be awesome.

"Aye. I’ll leave the pub ta Tommy, which he will love. And ya can have me for as long as ya like." T.J. ruffled Cami’s hair. "How about it, darlin’? Please?"

"You can be really damned charming when you want to be, you know that?" T.J. just grinned in response. "Ok. You win. I’ll go. But, you’ve got to know we’ll be racking up the long distance bills." Cami leaned in and kissed T.J.’s grinning beautiful lips.

****************

Chapter 29

The road trip had been uneventful, and Cami was really glad that she would be heading home tomorrow. Atlanta had given Tony a huge send off, and likewise so had St. Louis. Both cities proved that their fans were also students of the game who knew what a contribution Tony had made to the sport, and they sent him off in Hall of Fame style.

Although Cami was ecstatic with her current assignment that had her rubbing elbows with the best players in the game of baseball, taking pictures had been a challenge with the broken finger on her right hand – she had quickly adapted, but her usually adept hands seemed clumsy and very awkward. With the pain in her finger and the ache in her chest from missing T.J., Cami was certainly ready to head home.

Cami had been welcomed to her hotel here in St. Louis by an enormous bouquet of flowers from T.J. and a card that read: Hope you are having fun. I’m counting the days. Yours, T. It was likely in response to the basket of goodies that Cami had sent T.J. from Atlanta – puzzle books, a few novels and comic books, and a teddy bear wearing a nametag that said "Cami" on it. The photographer had hoped it would help the impatient barkeep to pass the time while she was confined to the couch.

Cami went into the bathroom and drew hot water into the tub for a bath. Why do most hotel rooms look the same? She mused, looking around at the strangely familiar décor. She toyed with picking up her cell phone, thinking about calling T.J., but knowing she should just wait until their usual bedtime phone call.

It had been a long five days away from Taylor, but they had made up for it by talking to each other three or four times a day on the phone. They had even made it a routine for Cami to call T.J. just as the blonde crawled into bed every night, so that T.J. could talk to her until she fell asleep. You would think that I’m a child who can’t go to sleep without my bedtime story. Camryn chuckled. But the wonder and joy in her heart at just hearing T.J.’s voice was incredible. It truly is as though we have known each other for a lifetime – or more.

Her fingers absently crept up to the necklace T.J. had given her, which she wore continuously; it was becoming a habit of hers to play with the pendant when she was thinking of T.J. - which was all the time.

A discreet knocking on her door interrupted her reverie. She checked the peephole and spotted a bellman. "Yes?" She called through the door.

"Urgent telegram for you, Ms. Wells." Urgent? What in the hell?

She reached for her wallet and fished out a tip for the man, before opening the door a bit and accepting the envelope. "Thanks."

Puzzled, she shut the door and locked it, before sitting down on the edge of the bathtub and opening the telegram. It read:

You are cordially invited to a private party on Sunday evening. Stop.

To be held at C.J.’s Pub at ten o’ clock in the evening. Stop.

Formal attire suggested, but not required. Stop.

Love, T.J. Stop.

Cami grinned foolishly to herself. What in the heck is she up to? She reached over and turned off the water so it wouldn’t overflow the tub, then headed into the room to call the enigmatic woman.

"Good evenin’, darlin’." T.J. drawled on the other end, recognizing Cami’s number on her caller ID. "Ya are goin’ ta bed earlier than usual, aren’t ya?"

"Actually, I’m not in bed yet…I just got your invitation."

Cami could almost hear the glee in T.J.’s voice. "Did ya now? And are ya callin’ ta R.S.V.P.?" T.J. inquired, chuckling to herself.

"Do I need to R.S.V.P.?" Cami teased.

"Of course, darlin’. Didn’t your ma teach ya it is good manners?"

"Actually, about all my ma taught me was when happy hour was." Cami snorted. "But. If you insist, this is my formal declaration to attend your…um…private party." Both women were grinning like fools, and loving every minute of it.

"Grand. I’ll be lookin’ forward ta it."

"T.J., what are you up to?" Cami inquired.

T.J.’s initial response was a sexy laugh that sent shivers down Cami’s spine. "Can’t a woman invite her lover out for a special evening after she has been gone a week?" T.J. teased.

Cami refused to allow the velvet and whiskey voice to fluster her. "Of course you can. But…I…but T.J., you sent a telegram."

Cami could almost see T.J. giving her a shrug. "Aye. Ya don’t have a laptop, so e-mail was out, snail mail was too slow, and well…I just thought a telegram would be fun."

"T.J., you’re crazy. You know that?"

"Certifiable." She agreed. "Now. Go take your usual evening bath, order room service and call me back when ya crawl inta bed. Naked." T.J. laughed wickedly on her end of the line, and knew full well that Cami was blushing.

**************************

Cami was carefully dressed in black linen slacks and an emerald green silk blouse she had bought before she left St. Louis, just for this occasion. T.J. had been very close-lipped about the special party at the pub, and Cami had been buzzing with anticipation since she had received the telegram invitation. The photographer’s plane into San Diego had arrived just over an hour earlier, giving her just enough time to race home, shower and change.

She pulled her little rental car into the pub’s driveway, and was rather surprised to see how empty the parking lot was. It is a Sunday night, but…hmm…She climbed out of the econo-compact she had rented and muttered to herself that now she was home she would have to go car shopping. And take T.J. of course. T.J. – Cami’s brain raced and her pulse began to pound at the thought of seeing the beautiful woman again.

As she approached the door of the pub, she noticed a sign that read: Closed early – for a Private Party – Sorry for the inconvenience.

She closed down the pub for this?? Holy crap! Before she could open the door, it opened for her, as if by magic. She was face to face with an attractive woman in her mid-to-late twenties, dressed in black jeans, black shirt, and a tasteful tie. "Good evening. You must be Ms. Wells. I’m Cee, the new bartender here. Please come in."

Cami blinked at the elegant formality, but followed her into the pub just the same. "Uh…nice to meet you Cee. I’m…well…I guess you already know who I am." Cami finished sheepishly.

"Indeed. You are just as stunning as Ms. Jameson described." When Cami flushed pink at the compliment, Cee continued. "And just as adorably shy as she mentioned, too." Cee lightly chuckled to herself.

Cee locked the door behind Cami and led the blonde into the pub. The room was very dark, much dimmer than usual, and was lit by the flicker of at least a hundred little white candles placed variously about the room. It looks like fairyland, she thought in wonderment.

"Please have a seat, Ms. Wells. Ms. Jameson will be with you in just a moment. May I get you something to drink?" Cee politely inquired.

"Uh…I’ll have a…" She had started to order her usual pint of Harp, when she was suddenly struck by the elegance of the evening and changed her mind. "I’ll have a glass of Cabernet." She decided with another glance around the pub. Except for Cee, the only other person in the room was Tommy, who was currently standing behind the bar, dressed in a nice, charcoal gray suit and tie. What on earth? Where is the ‘party’? Where is T.J.?

"Any particular vintage in mind?" Cee asked politely.

"Whatever you suggest." Cami shrugged.

"Well, we currently have an excellent ’97 from Stag’s Leap." Cee offered, and at Cami’s nod of assent, she turned and headed for the bar.

"Thank you, Cee." She called after her, and saw the dark-haired woman gesture to Tommy. The lanky manager knocked softly on the door of the office and then he and Cee disappeared discreetly into the kitchen.

After a breathless moment of anticipation for Cami, the door to T.J.’s office opened and the dark woman entered the room, looking more exotic and beautiful than Cami remembered. Get a grip, Wells. It has only been a week.

The publican walked with a very slight limp, the only real testimony to her recent injury, and was dressed in an elegantly cut black suit, and a royal blue blouse that made the color of her eyes even more startling.

She crossed the room and Cami stood to greet her. "Welcome home, darlin’. Ya look gorgeous." T.J. appraised the smaller woman with a sexy smile.

Cami walked happily into the loving embrace. "And you…you take my breath away…God I missed you, T.J." The dark head bent and gave her a soul-searing kiss.

"I missed ya too, love." She softly replied.

Cami looked around the empty pub. "So, Ms. Jameson…what’s with all of this then? Not that I don’t think it is lovely…"

T.J.’s voice was huskier than usual, testimony to her over-charged emotions. "I wanted ta give ya a welcome home party."

"Oh, sweetheart. You didn’t have to do this. Just seeing you is ‘welcome home’ enough for me." Cami grinned and kissed the barkeep again.

They broke apart when they heard footsteps from the kitchen. Cee was returning with the bottle of wine and two glasses, followed closely by Tommy, who delivered a plate of delicately arranged cheeses, crackers, and fruit.

T.J. gestured to the table. "Shall we, Ms. Wells?"

It occurred to Cami that she was desperately hungry, but the thought of food had been supplanted by her incredible eagerness to see her lover again. However, Cami obediently sat down at the table when T.J. gallantly pulled out her chair for her. "Thank you, madam." Cami teased.

Taylor sat opposite the photographer and began to ask her questions about her road trip, while Cee and Tommy unobtrusively brought each successive course of their meal. The appetizers were followed by a tasty, leafy green salad.

The women savored every bite, and especially took their time enjoying the main course: filet mignon covered in T.J.’s own special creation of a whiskey-peppercorn sauce, along with baked potatoes smothered in everything. Cami devoured her food with her fork and her lover with her eyes. Damn, how is it possible that she got even more gorgeous in a week?

Cami regaled Taylor with stories about the ceremonies for Tony, as well as the other boisterous players who never gave up trying to flirt with the small photographer. "One guy in St. Louis even went so far as to have a hot dog and coke delivered to me in the press-photographers’ well during the game with a note attached that said, ‘Drinks. 11 p.m. in the hotel bar. I’ll be the one in the baseball hat’." The two women chuckled over the antics, but T.J. narrowed her eyes a bit, suddenly struck by a twinge of jealousy.

"Hmmm…guess it is a good thing I’ll be going with ya on the next trip, huh?" She almost growled at the thought of the barely-past-adolescent boys leering at her adorable lover.

"So, you still want to go? Great! We head out to Florida the week after next, and then to Arizona…should be fun!" Cami’s face was plastered with a child-like glee at the thought and her eyes sparkled with delight. Baseball, taking pictures of Tony, and T.J. in a bikini – damn…can life get any better than this? Her rhetorical question was about to be answered.

In her reverie, Cami had missed the subtle signal that Taylor had sent to Cee, who with a nod to her employer had inconspicuously made her way to the pub’s sound system, before quietly disappearing again.

The silence of the pub was suddenly broken by the sweet violin strain of one of the Coors’ popular songs. Cami recognized it and looked questioningly at T.J.

The barkeep pushed back from the table and stood. "May I have this dance, Ms. Wells?" She inquired with a charming smile and an outstretched hand.

"Always." Camryn confidently replied, placing her small hand into Taylor’s waiting one.

As they danced together gently, in deference to T.J.’s still aching leg, the barkeep began to softly sing the words of the song into Cami’s flushed pink ear.

…tell me you feel it too, and I would run away – I would run away with you…’cause

I have fallen in love…with you…I’m never gonna stop fallin’ in love with you.

Cami grinned up at the dazzling smile she saw above her and tears shone in her eyes as she replied. "Oh, T.J. I love you too, sweetheart. Believe me, though, you don’t want to hear me sing about it." That earned her a chuckle from the taller woman.

Close the door, lay down upon the floor, and by candlelight – make love to me

through the night…

Cami couldn’t take it anymore - it felt like her skin was over-sensitive. Between the beauty of the candles, the sweet words and melody of the song, the velvet of T.J.’s voice, and the intensity of the prolonged absence from her lover, Cami pleaded with the dark woman in a husky voice: "Take me home, T.J. Please!"

T.J. cupped her cheek in one soft, strong hand. "Oh, darlin’. I wish I could…"

Cami looked surprised at the regret in T.J.’s voice. What? What’s the matter? But then the truth dawned on Cami and she began to laugh, breaking the intensity of moment.

"Oh damn, I forgot. You don’t have a home to take me to." T.J.’s condo had been virtually destroyed by the Reynoso’s firebomb.

T.J. laughed too, glad that Cami had caught on to her joke.

"Well, there is always my home." Cami offered. "By the way, did you enjoy staying with Jake?" T.J.’s cousin had felt so bad about her getting shot, that he had insisted she stay with him for a few days, until she was able to get up and around on her own.

"He is a lousy cook, let me tell ya." T.J. hugged Cami tight.

"Well, I can’t promise that I’m much better. But…if you…that is…if you want…" Cami took a deep breath and just decided to let it all out in a rush. "T.J. will you move in with me?" There. That wasn’t so hard was it? But when the barkeep took a second to answer, Cami rambled on. "I mean, your condo probably isn’t fit to live in and I have that big house and all and I …mmmph…" Cami was silenced by a deep kiss.

T.J. answered when they finally broke apart. "Darlin’, of course I’ll move in. As long as you are sure you will have me?" She stroked her fingers down Cami’s soft neck and toyed with the silk of the photographer’s blouse.

Cami joyfully smiled. "Am I sure? T.J…. do Irishmen drink whiskey?"

"Well…only the real ones." The two women laughed and then lost themselves in a slow, passionate kiss.

"Cam…I…I wanted ta thank ya." T.J. managed to whisper.

"Thank me? What for?" Cami’s brow knit in puzzlement.

"For…for seeing past my sometimes rough exterior ta what is buried inside…for that sweet little smile and sexy laugh of yours that gives me goose bumps…" T.J.’s hands smoothed over Cami’s back, as she leaned her forehead on the top of Cami’s head, and choked back the emotion. "For making it so damned easy ta trust my heart…and for…well…for holding up a mirror ta my soul – making me see that my first step towards forgiveness had ta come from within." T.J. barely finished her discourse, with a rough, deep voice.

Cami was momentarily speechless; so she just held on to T.J.’s strong, broad shoulders for a moment as they continued to sway to the music.

Finally, Cami’s brain began functioning properly again. "You…you’re welcome, sweetheart. But you don’t have to thank me for loving you…I’m not sure I could have stopped myself from falling for you – rather like trying to stop the tide from creeping onto the shore." Cami’s eyes crinkled with a genuine smile.

"And I…I think I’ve loved ya my whole life – before I knew ya even." T.J. gave Cami a squeeze, her hands continuing their exploration of the blonde’s body. "Sounds crazy, I know…but…" T.J. shook her head. "Sometimes I think love defies explanation - words aren’t nearly enough."

The sweet song that had been playing faded into the night, but the women failed to notice. Instead, they were lost in each other – the wonder and joy of being together, being in love.

"Sweetheart, let’s go home." Cami insisted when the sexual tension between them became nearly unbearable.

"Ok, darlin’. Whatever you say." The two women began to leave the pub, arm in arm. "But will you drive?" T.J. asked.

"Sure. But I’ve got this damned rental car…" Cami muttered as she reached the pub door, fishing for her car keys in the pocket of her slacks.

Taylor stopped her arm. "No. Try these." T.J. grinned and reached into her jacket, pulling out a car key wrapped with a red ribbon.

"What? T.J.? What did you…?" But by that time the barkeep had opened the front door of the pub. While they had been dining, she had Tommy drive the new car to the front door so it was now sitting directly in front of them - a bright red ribbon wrapped around the hood.

The brand new, shiny black Jeep Wrangler was gorgeous – fully loaded with a soft top, just as Cami liked it. T.J. even had the dealer install a special padded lock box in the back for Cami’s camera equipment.

"T.J.! Ohmygod! I can’t…You shouldn’t have…I…" Cami stammered.

T.J. just shrugged. "I figured it was partly my fault you were without a car, because the Reynosos trashed your last Jeep. Besides, I think it is an unfair trade."

"Trade? What do you mean?"

"You get the car, but I got a house." T.J. grinned, waggling her eyebrows.

Cami turned and pressed the taller woman against the door of the Jeep, leaning in until they were nearly nose-to-nose. "And we both got each other. Now that’s a deal."

T.J. smiled, lifting a soft palm to Cami’s cheek. "My anam cara…It’s about damned time ya showed up in my life!"

Cami smirked. "See…that must have been our trouble…why we couldn’t find each other for so long– I don’t speak Gaelic."

The two women burst into laughter before their eyes locked and T.J. bent her dark head to crush Cami in an eternal kiss.

The End

Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse