By K. Stoley
Disclaimer: This is a sequel to Just By Chance. It is not imperative that you read it first but, it does lay out a nice background for you.
Each road leads us on a journey towards self-discovery. We can choose to acknowledge it for what it is or continue to convince ourselves otherwise. Many paths will converge upon our own, each for their own purpose. It is only ours to recognize what that purpose is and to embrace the moment, and learn what we can from this life experience. It is at this time that Lindsay found herself at a crossroad in her life, and the decisions she would make would forever play a role in charting her future course.
Staring out over the expanse of blue ocean with the phone still in her hand, Lindsay's face twisted with deep inner thoughts that seemed slightly edged with guilt, or maybe fear. 'What exactly am I doing?' Lindsay's mind came down to that one final question. She and Jade have lived together for almost three years now. Things have seemed to grow comfortable between the two women; no, maybe complacent would be a better description. Lindsay could make a list of all the things that were wrong with their relationship, but she also couldn't say that she was ready to walk away from it either. Consciously, she became aware of the phone still in her hand when the buzzing of the disconnected line turned to the canned operators voice. Pressing the off button, she placed the phone on the table next to her as worried lines creased her forehead. 'What have I just done? Why did I agree to that?' Lindsay looked out over the expanse of restless waves that matched her inner turmoil and thought about the conversation she had just concluded.
Andrea Loring had been a classmate of hers over six years ago before moving on to the university to finish her graduate degree. They had taken many of the same classes throughout undergraduate school. They had kept in touch by telephone and email, even after Andrea had moved to Chicago to pursue her career. Their relationship had quickly grown into a comfortable friendship long before Lindsay was aware of her sexual identity. It had been over two years since Lindsay last saw the woman and their contact via electronic convenience had turned even more personal over the last year. Lindsay had a feeling that Andrea's light bantering held an underlying cord of feelings that spoke of them becoming more than just friends. Lindsay had finally admitted to herself that it had stroked her tired ego to feel desired again. Not, that Jade didn't want her, it just seemed that the woman spent more and more time out on assignments and the time when she was home, she was too tired to do anything but sleep and watch TV. But, the rare times that Jade seemed to turn back into her old devilish self, Lindsay would fall back into her arms eagerly and their passion would be like it had in the beginning. Unfortunately, the intervals between these encounters had grown longer and longer over the recent year and Lindsay found herself drawn into a cat and mouse game with Andrea. Andrea touched a part of Lindsay that had been silently craving for attention. It seemed sometimes that Jade would be oblivious to simple things and the easy spoken 'I love you' seemed unfulfilling at best, and other times, Jade would be so consumed with Lindsay that it left her confused. She had tried to talk with Jade about her feelings and Jade was always genuinely interested in wanting to make things better. But, for all their talk and plans, things would only get better for a short time and then they would slip back into their old habits. Jade would readily apologize and promise things would get better when this or that assignment was over, but in actuality, there was always another event to take its place.
Now, Andrea was moving back to Florida and asked Lindsay to meet her with the ominous request that she needed to talk to Lindsay. Andrea wouldn't tell her what it was about and finally Lindsay hesitantly had agreed to have dinner with her friend.
Lindsay moved into the kitchen and replaced the phone on its charging unit; looking up at the clock she realized that she had a few hours until meeting Andrea. She walked over to the computer and turned it on mumbling, "I might as well try to get some work done." Her latest efforts on her manuscript had left her dry and bored; she had put it aside for almost a month before trying to tackle it again. She needed to get it completed and to the editor soon, but after writing a few pages, she soon grew bored and logged onto the Internet.
Going through her mailbox she saw a post from Jade and her heart skipped a beat when she opened it as a smile readily broke across her face when Jade told her she would be home earlier than expected. The light in the smile soon faded when Lindsay thought about her plans with Andrea that evening. Chewing on her bottom lip in consternation, Lindsay finally decided that she would have to make sure that Andrea understood she wasn't available. Feeling less than sure of this resolution, Lindsay chastised herself and sent a passionate reply to Jade and felt better about herself by the time she sent the missive. Returning to her manuscript she was able to finish another chapter before she realized that she only had 30 minutes to get ready and quickly logged off the computer to head toward the shower.
Walking into the dimly lit restaurant, Lindsay waited for her eyes to adjust before looking around at her surroundings and for the woman she remembered. The ambience was that of a romantic Italian cafe and Lindsay groaned knowing what she didn't want to admit. A motion in the corner caught her attention and she looked over to see Andrea stand up by a corner booth and wave to her. Lindsay caught her breath at the sight. Andrea had changed, the past few years had given her a new self-assured poise and confidence that Lindsay could sense just by the cut of her clothes. To say that she was beautiful would be an injustice; she was a tall muscular brunette and as Lindsay approached, she could see that she had still had the penetrating brown eyes that she remembered. It made her feel a little self-conscious as she felt them bore into her very soul.
"Lindsay! It is so good to see you!" Andrea's voice was warm with a deeper tone than she remembered; gone was the high lilt she had always associated with her friend. In its place was a maturity that alerted Lindsay's senses; making her feel things she instantly pushed aside.
"Andrea, you look wonderful." Lindsay replied softly and returned the embrace of the taller woman. "So do you." Andrea responded and pushed Lindsay at arms length to get a really good look at her. Lindsay blushed and shied away from the compliment and quickly took a seat across from Andrea.
Andrea's chuckle was low and warm as she sat back down across from Lindsay. "I see you still have trouble with compliments." Lindsay looked up grinning, "only when they are pure flattery." Andrea laughed again, "Ooh, busted."
"Big time!" Lindsay replied, their repartee easily slipping back into their light banter and Lindsay had to caution herself on this. "So what brings you back to Florida?" She asked trying to keep the conversation on a neutral plane.
Andrea watched Lindsay's change of emotion curiously, but didn't comment and just went on to answer her question. "I've been offered an interesting position that I couldn't pass up."
"Oh really?" Lindsay took a sip of her water before looking up into brown eyes waiting for them to continue.
"Yes, I've been offered a full-time tenured track position at the college. Since tenured positions are not so readily available in my field, I decided it would be prudent for me to accept. Plus, I really like the idea of coming back home." Andrea stopped and watched the blonde's face trying to read her emotions.
"Then we will be teaching in the same department?" Lindsay asked, her feelings were a mixed bag of positive and negative emotions. On one hand she was happy that Andrea was able to get such a position and on the other hand, she wasn't sure she wanted it to be so close to her.
"Yes, I'm taking over Professor Jarvis's office when he is retires next month. I never thought the old man would actually retire. I kept expecting them to carry him out of his office instead." Lindsay smiled at Andrea's reminder of the jokes surrounding the old man; teaching had always been his life. "Yes, we were all surprised he finally gave up, but I think he has some medical problems that were causing him to miss classes and it's a good decision for him to take it easy." Lindsay explained smiling.
Andrea nodded without commenting and looked long at Lindsay before asking, "So, how are you doing?" The question was more than the normal polite greeting and Lindsay knew that. Smiling broadly she replied, "Great, just great. Things have been going good, and you?" Lindsay picked up her menu to conclude her answer and let the question slide back to Andrea. Andrea wasn't sure she liked what she was seeing and it would definitely make it harder to tell her what she needed to say. After all the years of talking on the telephone and chatting on the computer, she thought they had developed a sort of mutual understanding and bond past the light conversation that was taking place.
"I'm fine. Why don't we order?" Andrea's answer was short and curt causing Lindsay to raise her head up quickly. The question seemed more like an order than a request and Lindsay watched Andrea's face, which seemed etched in stone. She wasn't sure which part of her response did it, but she was sure something had pricked Andrea the wrong way.
The silence was beginning to sound like a ticking bomb to Lindsay, after the waitress brought their drinks and left to place their order, she decided to confront the issue and turned to Andrea. "So what did you need to talk to me about?"
Andrea looked up seemingly surprised by the question Lindsay asked. "Why should it matter as long as we get to see each other?"
"Well, uhh yes, it is always good to get together with friends." Lindsay responded totally caught off guard by the question. She had an idea that Andrea had felt more, but didn't expect her to be so blunt about it.
Andrea smiled disarmingly and eased off her attack. "Yes, what I meant was I really enjoy talking with you and I thought it would be more fun do so in person now." Lindsay nodded her head, letting out the breath she had unconsciously held, thinking that maybe she had misjudged the whole situation. The rest of the evening went comfortably and soon Andrea and Lindsay were laughing like old friends again. Afterward they decided to take a drive down near the ocean and parked on the boardwalk and sat at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water.
The moon shone brightly and they could see the tops of the waves as they crashed along the shoreline. The breeze was full and Lindsay shivered in response. Andrea moved closer on the bench and nudged her shoulder against Lindsay's to provide some form of shelter and body heat. Lindsay smiled in response and her fears of earlier were completely gone. This was the Andrea she had formed a strong bond with over the years and was quickly falling back into the spell of their relationship. They sat talking for a while; mostly Andrea listened as Lindsay talked about what had been happening down at the college since the brunette had left it.
Andrea didn't want the evening to end, when their conversation fell quiet and they sat staring at the water, she looked over at Lindsay in the moonlight. Never had anyone looked as beautiful as she did this night. She looked exactly how she had remembered her and smiled when Lindsay looked her way questioningly. "How are things with Jade?"
Lindsay stalled for moment, it had been so easy to talk to a faceless voice over the telephone and on the computer, but to talk about her private thoughts face to face was another matter. She looked out over the water thinking about what she could say and finally shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Things are fine, Jade is coming home early from an assignment. She will be in tomorrow." Smiling up at Andrea after the last comment she saw the woman slightly frown before the wall came down and she returned the smile. 'I guess that wasn't what she wanted to hear.'
"That's good. Tell me Lindsay are you happy? Are you really happy?"
Lindsay wasn't ready for the intensity of Andrea's stare or question and she looked away briefly before nodding her head yes. "Yes, I am." The answer did not hold the conviction that she had wanted it to and she knew that Andrea would be easy to pick up on it. How could she sit here with this woman, feeling what she did, and then be able to honestly say she was happy at home? Somehow, Lindsay felt like she was betraying Jade or, at best, lying to Andrea.
"It's okay if you don't want to talk about it right now. I just want you to know that I am here if you ever need me." Andrea replied quietly and took Lindsay's hand into her own and held it for a moment. Another car pulled up next to there's and the sound of young voices broke the moment. "Well, if you are ready, I'll drive you back to the restaurant for your car?"
"Yes, looks like we are about to be invaded by a moonlight beach party." Lindsay smiled and stood up brushing the sand off her pants. Andrea watched the young people carry their cooler and blanket down to the beach and smiled, "Sometimes I think they have the right idea." Lindsay laughed and replied, "Oh, to be young again."
"You don't have to be young to enjoy life. A blanket, a bottle of wine and someone to enjoy it with is all you need." Andrea replied indicating the party down on the beach. Lindsay nodded in understanding and turned to walk back to the car and Andrea opened the door for her before walking around and sliding in behind the wheel. They drove back to the restaurant in silence and when she stopped her car next to Lindsay's, Andrea turned to the blonde and asked, "When can I see you again?"
Lindsay hesitated in her reply, "Well I don't know? Jade comes home tomorrow and I don't know how long she will be home. I really don't like making plans when she is home, we don't get to see each other that often lately."
"Oh, okay, I understand." Andrea replied, not happy about the answer, but she would just have to be patient. "I guess we will just have to see how it goes."
"Yes, well, it was nice seeing you again and I had a great time. Maybe I'll see you at school then." Lindsay replied as she exited the car. Andrea waited until Lindsay was safely into her car and followed her out of the parking lot and continued following her all the way home. Lindsay looked in her mirror surprised at Andrea's actions, but glad for the company on the empty roads. When Lindsay pulled into the parking lot of her condo, Andrea tooted her horn and drove off. Lindsay waved her thanks out her open window and proceeded to park her car and enter the building where they had a condo on the fourth floor facing the ocean. As she waited for the elevator she couldn't help thinking, 'I guess chivalry hasn't died after all.'
"Hi honey, I'm home!" Jade's voice rang out. Lindsay called out from the patio, "I'm out here." Lindsay smiled up when she saw Jade's face and the familiar blue eyes that she loved. "How was the trip?"
Jade leaned down, resting her hands on the armrests of the blonde's chair; kissing her lightly on the lips. Jade leaned back to look into emerald green eyes. "Too long, as usual." "I second that!" Lindsay replied smartly. "Oh you do, huh?" Jade rubbed her nose against Lindsay's affectionately before moving on to consume her lover's lips. "God I've missed you!" Jade replied huskily when they broke their kiss. "I've missed you too." Lindsay answered looking up, curious at Jade's new found passion and thought, 'I don't know what got you awake, but I'm happy something did!'
Jade flopped into the chair next to Lindsay and laid her head back tiredly. "I'm getting too old for all this adventure." Lindsay chuckled lightly at Jade's remark and rested her head against the taller woman's shoulder. "Are you hungry?"
"Famished!" Jade replied with a lopsided grin on her face and cracked an eye to look at Lindsay sexily.
"Promises, promises...where have I seen that look before?" Lindsay replied laughingly as she got up to move into the house. Jade caught her hand and pulled her back to sit in her lap and snuggled her face against Lindsay's body. "Boy, I've really missed you this trip." Lindsay smoothed back Jade's hair lovingly and thought, 'I know honey, just not enough to stay home for longer than a week.'
Lindsay stood up and grabbed Jade's hand pulling her to her feet, "Come on and lets get some food into you before you pass out and I have to drag your butt into the house." Jade laughed and swatted at Lindsay's behind, "Yeah, you and what army?"
"Be careful or I just might have to leave you out on that patio in your birthday suit! Won't that be a nice picture for Mr. Adamson in the morning!" Lindsay retorted as she moved into the kitchen to avoid any further assaults to her backside. "He'd love it!" Jade retorted.
"Yeah, you are probably right!"
Lindsay watched Jade as she struggled to stay awake after her dinner. They had retired to the couch and Lindsay could see the lines of fatigue that etched themselves around Jade's eyes. Her mouth was pursed in an uncharacteristic pout that made Lindsay almost giggle. She leaned over and softly whispered in Jade's ear, "Come on to bed before you fall asleep right here. I've slept enough nights alone in that bed, now that you are here I want you next to me." Jade smiled her response and dutifully followed Lindsay to the bedroom; stripping off her clothes she pulled on a t-shirt and shorts and gladly slipped into the queen size bed. Lindsay went to brush her teeth and change and by the time she came into the bedroom, Jade was already breathing deeply. Sighing to herself, she climbed into the bed. Jade instantly pulled her closer to snuggle against. "Sometimes I wonder if I am not just a huge body pillow for your comfort." Lindsay whispered and Jade mumbled some intelligible reply before falling back into her deep sleep. Lindsay just smiled knowingly and let herself be comforted by the arms that held her, listening to Jade's breathing until it lulled her to sleep.
Lindsay awoke the next morning and looked at the clock, it was ten a.m., an ungodly hour to awake on a Saturday morning. She snuggled backward against Jade and unsuccessfully tried to fall back to sleep. Finally, giving up around 10:30 she decided to get up and go into the kitchen and see what she could cook for Jade today. She knew that after traveling and eating in hotels and restaurants, one of Jade's favorite things was to eat at home, especially if it was Lindsay's cooking. Lindsay smiled at her sleeping lover and pulled the covers back up over the slumbering woman's shoulders. Quietly she slipped her feet into her slippers and headed for the other room. She started a pot of coffee and busied herself with planning a feast for Jade. After pulling out steaks to grill, she sat down at the bar, contemplated her the grocery list for the week. She would have to go shopping either later today or tomorrow. She would wait to see if Jade wanted to go too, at least it was something they usually did together. Lindsay let her mind wander to the dinner and conversation of last night with Andrea.
She thought about the change that she had seen in her new friend, most of it for the better, but there was a new facet to her friend that she just couldn't put her finger on. It made her uneasy in the same way that it intrigued her and she thought of the way Andrea's body had changed and how the outfit she had chosen had certainly enhanced it in every aspect. Lindsay's mind traveled over her memory of last night and she didn't hear Jade enter the kitchen until arms wrapped around her waist causing Lindsay to jump with a sharp intake of breath.
"Oh God Jade, you scared me half to death!" Lindsay's face was a sea of emotions and Jade looked at her carefully as she backed off and replied, "I'm sorry you just looked so inviting that I couldn't resist."
Lindsay felt like a complete fool when she saw the hurt look on the woman's face and she moved toward Jade and pulled her into her arms. "It's okay, I was just daydreaming instead of writing out the grocery list." Lindsay placed her head against Jade's chest and could almost hear the steady beat of the woman's heart. "By the look on your face, I sure hope it was me you were thinking about." Jade's heart skipped a beat before resuming a slightly faster pace. Lindsay sensed the hesitation in her lover and looked up into clouded blue eyes and replied softly, "Whom else would I be thinking of?" Jade smiled at this response and pulled Lindsay in for a much-missed morning kiss. "God, I've really missed you."
"When is your next assignment?" Lindsay asked hesitantly deciding that its better to get the unpleasantness over with quickly and move on with the time that they do have. Jade stepped back and leaned against the counter sadly. "I have one more contract." "Oh, okay." Lindsay replied and turned her back on the pretext of making coffee. Jade didn't have to see Lindsay's face to know how the woman was feeling. She could tell by the drop in her shoulders that her decision had been the correct one.
"Lindsay?" Jade called out softly and when the blonde just replied, "Hmm?" but didn't turn to face her., she moved behind Lindsay and turned her slowly around. "Hey, I need to talk to you about something."
Lindsay looked up into Jade's face questioningly and when Jade had her full attention she stepped back and pulled a packet from off the counter behind her. "Here."
"What is this?" Lindsay questioned taking the folder extended to her. "Open it." Jade replied and leaned back against the counter trying to contain her excitement. Lindsay looked up with a slightly worried look on her face and alternated looking between the folder and Jade.
"Open it. It won't bite you I promise! I think you will like it actually." Jade answered excited at the prospect of what she was giving to Lindsay. Lindsay nodded and opened the folder and held her breath as she read the contents. The folder contained an itinerary and two tickets to Tahiti for the next week. "What is this?" Lindsay asked letting out the breath she was holding.
"I told you I have another contract and I thought maybe we could make it a vacation together like we use to. I have to finish shooting the last of the beaches of the South Pacific layout. It shouldn't take me more than a few days to finish the layout and then we can have the rest of the two weeks to ourselves. I hear some of the beaches are quite deserted at this time of year." Jade smiled seductively and pulled Lindsay into her arms for a passionate kiss. "Hey, I'll even take you shopping this week for some outfits.” Jade chuckled warmly into her lover's ear and held her tightly. The best times she could ever remember with Lindsay had been when they had been together on assignment. Lately, it seemed they never had much time together and Jade wanted to make this trip special. She kissed Lindsay along her jaw line and neck, but when she didn't feel the woman respond, she lifted her head and looked at Lindsay questioning. "What's the matter?"
"I'm not going." Lindsay blurted out handing the packet back to Jade. The tall woman took the packet and tossed it on the counter next to Lindsay, hurt at the blonde's response. "What do you mean?"
Lindsay looked at the packet and then back at Jade thinking, 'she is oblivious to my life and my responsibilities. All that have ever mattered was what she wanted.' "I can't just drop what I'm doing and follow you whenever you want me to. I have responsibilities, my work and my writing!" Jade stepped back at the vehemence with which Lindsay replied to her.
"I didn't mean it that way." Jade shortly responded and took the folder and walked out of the kitchen.
"You always do that!" Lindsay shouted after her. Jade spun around surprised and confused at Lindsay's anger. "I always do what?"
"When things get tough or we need to discuss something serious, you always disappear. There is always a photo shoot that needs your attention or a layout that you have to work on at the office. You run away from any confrontation, just like you are doing now!" Lindsay's anger was misplaced and she knew that Jade didn't deserve all that she was firing at her. She was angry with herself for the way she felt about Andrea and for the way her relationship with Jade seemed to be falling apart. It wasn't totally Jade's fault, but at the moment, Jade was the scapegoat.
"What are you talking about? If you don't want to go with me, fine it's no big deal. Why are you making it one?" Jade asked angrily. She would feel the tension radiating off the blonde and she didn't understand what had gotten into the woman all of a sudden. She had sensed Lindsay had been distant the last few months, but she had thought it was because of the lack of time they had been spending together and this was her way of trying to make things better.
"It's not that simple. You are never home anymore and even when you are, you still aren't here."
"Well, I'm here right now. Why don't you tell me exactly what you mean and what you want from me!" Jade replied and threw down the envelope on the counter before sitting down on a stool at the breakfast bar and crossing her arms across her chest.
"Look at you, you are already sitting there all defensive and closed off." Lindsay replied and turned away.
"Lindsay I'm here and I'm listening, I just don't know what you want from me. So talk to me." Jade replied keeping her voice even without any inflection of the anger and hurt she was feeling.
"You just don't get it do you?" Lindsay spun around asking. She didn't know what exactly to say, the pent up frustration she felt was keeping her thoughts jagged and disconcerted. The hurt in Jade's eyes only served to make her feel guiltier and in turn angrier.
"No, I don't!" Jade shouted losing her composure for the moment. Taking a deep breath during the ensuing silence, Jade softly continued, "Please tell me what is going on. What am I doing wrong?"
"Nothing. Just go to your next assignment." Lindsay replied quickly and walked out into the living room. She felt she wasn't getting anywhere with Jade except into an argument which she did not want to do.
"Lindsay...." Jade called after her with a slightly perturbed plead in her voice. Lindsay hesitated for a moment, but the tone in Jade's voice set her teeth on edge and her resolve strengthened. 'No, if I give in now, nothing will ever change.' "Just forget it." Lindsay threw over her shoulder and walked out onto the patio.
"Whatever!" Jade threw back and went back into the den and booted up the computer.
She spent the next three and a half hours working on her last layout and getting it ready for the final pictures that she would be taking during the coming week. During that time, Lindsay was uncharacteristically quiet and absent, but ever present on Jade's mind, and when she couldn't concentrate any longer, Jade went into the bedroom and changed for a jog on the beach. As she dressed, she thought about Lindsay's behavior and sadly concluded that maybe Lindsay was tired of their relationship. She sat on the edge of the bed to tie her shoes and remained there thinking, 'Have I really been that clueless that I didn't see she was so miserable? Things had been crazy that last couple months, but after this shoot everything would be back to normal.' Jade hadn't even told Lindsay of her decision to accept the managing editor's offer to become the assistant editor. Jade was growing weary of life on the road and had wanted to spend more time with Lindsay. Now, it seemed that maybe Lindsay didn't want to spend that same time with her. Getting up she went in search of the blonde to try one last time to talk with her and see if they couldn't sort things out.
The blonde looked up squinting in strong afternoon sun and found Jade standing in the doorway hesitantly. "What?"
The ringing of the telephone interrupt the rest of Jade's attempt at conversation as Lindsay picked up the cordless on the chair next to her.
"Oh hi Andrea, what's up?"
Jade blanched at the name and when Lindsay stood up and walked to the edge of the balcony and looked out over the water, Jade felt like an intruder and went inside. As much as she didn't want to admit it, Jade didn't like the idea of this woman living so close. The tall woman stood just inside the door, hating that she was reduced to eavesdropping as she listened to Lindsay's end of the conversation. She had met Andrea once when she had gone to school to pick up Lindsay. She had known right then that the woman had a crush on Lindsay. Jade had said as much to Lindsay during the time that they had corresponded, but the blonde was always quick to laugh it off and change the subject. Jade hadn't thought much of their friendship since the brunette had moved to Chicago, but now she was back in Florida and Lindsay seemed to be interested in spending more and more time with this woman.
"Tonight? No, not really why? Oh, I don't know...it is? Well, how can I say no if its your birthday. Sure 6 p.m. is fine. Okay, I'll be downstairs waiting. Oh, by the way, Happy Birthday!" The lilt in Lindsay's laughter told Jade that the other end of the conversation would have been infinitely more interesting to listen to. Saddened by Lindsay easy acceptance of the other woman's invitation told Jade all she needed to know. she left the apartment and headed down to the beach to run off her frustrations and clear her head.
Lindsay rang off with a smile, which quickly dissipated when she looked down from the balcony to see a familiar figure running along the surf line. Sadly she whispered, "Run Jade, that seems what you are best suited for anyway." Lindsay walked slowly into the house and worked on her lesson plans waiting for Jade's return. When it neared 5 p.m. and Jade still hadn't returned from her run, Lindsay put her work aside and headed for the shower. After dressing, she looked up at the clock and saw that it was time for Andrea to pick her up. There was still no sign of her tall lover and sadly realized that maybe Jade didn't want to talk to her anymore and was staying away purposely. Lindsay grabbed her things and headed down to meet Andrea with the resolve, 'well if you don't want to talk to me that's fine with me. I'm through trying to fix things, maybe it's just not worth it anymore.' With a mixture of sadness and anger she jerked open the door and almost ran smack into Jade. "Sorry."
"Are you going out?" Jade asked cautiously not allowing her hurt to show and kept her face a solid mask. She had just spent the past two hours on the beach thinking about their relationship and coming to the conclusion that she couldn't make Lindsay stay if the blonde didn't want to be with her anymore.
"Yes, I'm going out with Andrea tonight." Lindsay sharply finished cutting off the rest of the reason why she was going out and thought, 'Stew on that for a bit.'
"Oh." Jade replied and moved past the blonde into the condo. "Have a nice time then I guess!" Her words coming out more bitter than she had meant them too. Lindsay's head snapped up at the change in Jade and her eyes narrowed in guilt and anger. "Thank you I will." Lindsay moved off down the hall toward the elevator and Jade closed the door without another word, restraining herself not to slam it with all her might. Her anger quickly dissipated and her shoulders slumped in defeat as she walked into the bedroom and stripped to take a shower. "Well, girl I guess you know when you aren't wanted." After taking her shower she packed her bag and put it back into the closet. She had a feeling she would be leaving early for her assignment.
Jade tossed and turned as she waited for Lindsay to return from her night out with Andrea. As hard as she tried to fall asleep her eyes kept straying to the clock as each hour ticked off the lateness of Lindsay's return. "What is she doing at this time of the night?" Jade grumbled but the answer her mind gave her did little to comfort the already restless woman. Finally, Jade heard the key in the door and voices enter the apartment and thought defensively, 'I can't believe she actually brought that woman back here!' She lay still listening to the whispered voices until they went silent and Jade knew she hadn't heard the door open. Her curiousness got the better of her and she got up quietly from the bed and peered out into the darken hallway, seeing nothing, she crept stealthy down the hallway to the living room. Pecking quickly around the corner, in the light of the foyer security lamp, she saw Lindsay in the arms of the taller woman. Her heart felt like it had split in two at the glimpse of their embrace and quickly backtracked down the hallway retreating to the bedroom. She heard the rustle of steps and the front door opening and got into bed facing away from the door. After a few minutes, Lindsay tiptoed into the bedroom and went into the bathroom to change for the night. When she slipped into the bed Jade didn't move but kept her body rigidly as far on the edge of the bed that she could. As a tear escaped down her cheek she thought, 'Tomorrow I'll leave and let Lindsay have her freedom, and Andrea.'
Lindsay lay in the bed regretting her decision to go out with Andrea. It had started out as a relaxed evening as they went to dinner and then to a show. Afterward they stopped by the club for a few drinks and she had let Andrea coax her into dancing with her. The music had been slow and soft and Lindsay let herself relax and go with the flow, before she knew it, they were dancing close and it wasn't until Andrea whispered in her ear that Lindsay realized she wasn't dancing with Jade. She quickly took a step backward effectively ending the closeness the two women had been sharing. "What?"
"I asked if you were ready to go?" Andrea smiled sexily. She had just had the best date of her life and wanted to move the night forward. "Oh yes, I guess it is getting late and I should get home. Jade is going to wonder what happened to me." Lindsay's rattled her words fast and furiously showing her nervousness to the brunette. She felt a twinge of angst when Jade's name was mentioned, but quickly let it slide as she though about the evening the two women had just shared.
"You don't have to go home, you know?" Andrea said softly as they walked out into the night air to her car.
"Yes, I do." Lindsay responded and got quickly into the passenger seat. She didn't look up at the woman holding the door for her, and after a few awkward moments, Andrea closed the door and moved around to the driver's side. She slipped smoothly behind the wheel and didn't say anything until they reached Lindsay's condo. "Can I at least walk you upstairs?"
Feeling suddenly foolish, she nodded her head and replied, "Sure." Letting herself out of the car she waited for Andrea and together they walked toward the lobby. Riding up in the elevator was a silent affair and Lindsay wasn't sure how far Andrea meant to go. As they walked down the hall she unlocked the door and realized Andrea had no intentions of leaving at the door and sighing whispered, "keep your voice down, I'm sure Jade is asleep by now." Andrea nodded silently and followed the blonde into the foyer. She loved everything about Lindsay, from the curve of her smile to the light blonde highlights that shown when the sun bounced off the crown of her head as she walked across the campus. Lindsay paused in the foyer and Andrea knew this was where she would say good night to the blonde. Letting her emotions get the better of her she reached softly for the blonde and pulled her into her arms and gently kissed Lindsay before she gave her a chance to react. Lindsay was startled and when Andrea deepened the kiss she pushed against the taller woman's shoulders and backed away from the entreating lips.
"Stop! Please don't do that again." Lindsay whispered hoarsely and opened the door for Andrea to leave. Andrea looked at Lindsay for a minute, then nodding sadly she said "Good Night Lindsay", and left the condo. Lindsay stood for a moment to get her bearing as her heart raced at the scene that had just taken place. She wondered if it was for the excitement or Andrea's touch or just the danger in kissing her while Jade slept not twenty feet away. Feeling instantly guilty, she mentally slapped herself for letting it go this far and went into the bathroom to change for bed.
Getting into bed her head swam with mixed emotions and she felt the distance of Jade as the woman's back face stiffly toward her, gone was the warmth of their night embrace. Sadly, Lindsay let the emotional exhaustion of the day engulf her and she quickly fell asleep missing the muffled sound of Jade's tears.
Jade awoke early the next morning after a restless night of sleep. She felt Lindsay's body curled up against her back and immediately got out of bed to distance herself from the pain that she felt at her nearness. As fresh tears sprang to her eyes, she went into the bathroom showered and quickly dressed. Moving into the den she called the airlines and changed her departure to the next flight leaving that morning. Sadly, she sat at her desk and penned a note to Lindsay. It was the hardest thing that she had ever done, letting the love of her life go, but she knew that she couldn't keep Lindsay trapped in a relationship that she no longer wanted. She propped the envelope again Lindsay's laptop and silently went into the bedroom to retrieve her two bags from the closet. She stood for a moment looking down at the beautiful blonde that held her heart and knew that she would never give it to another. As a tear slipped down her cheek she left their condo and Lindsay's life. She would decide later where she would go, but for now, she just needed to put distance between herself and the pain. How far would she have to run to be able to do that, she did not know as she thought of the sleeping blonde she left behind?
"What am I going to do?" Lindsay cried as she paced the length of the room and stopped just before the door to the balcony. She looked out over the expanse of blue ocean and felt the hot tears as they coursed down her cheeks. She felt arms envelope her from behind and soft words whispered, "you go on from here."
"I'm here for you Lindsay, whatever you need me to be, I'll be." Andrea softly replied feeling a surge of determination within to win over the blonde she held tightly in her arms. Nothing mattered to her except winning the love of this woman. Lindsay felt safe for the moment and let herself relax into the strong arms that sheltered from the pain she was feeling. Looking down she saw the crumpled letter still in her hand and the stabbing pain was renewed in her chest. She quickly pulled herself away from the comforting arms, feeling unsure of where her life was at the moment.
"Why did she just leave? I know we were having our problems, but I never wanted her out of my life! Why, didn't she talk to me?" Andrea felt at a loss on how to comfort the distraught woman and went on pure instinct as she reached to pull Lindsay back into her arms. "I don't know, maybe she felt a need to make a clean break? Do you know where she went?"
Lindsay shook her head sadly and moved to stare out over the ocean again. She didn't think she would ever look out over the water and feel the same way that she had when Jade first brought her to the condo. She had loved the surge of the tides and felt a warm calming effect from the deep hues of the ocean. Now, the blues and greens only felt cold and distant to her. "No, I called her office and all they would tell me was that she was out on assignment and they would let her know I called when she checked in for messages."
"Well, then I guess we wait. I'm sure Jade will get in contact with you when she gets a chance." Andrea couldn't help in her heart secretly hoping the opposite were true. She liked Jade, but she loved Lindsay and if she had the chance she wanted to be a strong part of the blonde's life. She couldn't help how she felt, but knew that she would give Lindsay all the comfort she needed without pushing herself onto the woman.
"Do you think so? It's already been a week!" Lindsay asked hopefully and Andrea saw the first spark of light in the pained green eyes. "I'm sure of it, just give her some time."
Lindsay smiled at Andrea and the woman seized upon the opportunity to continue this positive effect. "What do you say about going out for brunch and getting some fresh air?"
"I don't know if should?" Lindsay whispered puzzled at the thought of actually going out other than to work had seemed foreign to her during the past week. "I think it would be good for you to get out and relax a bit." Andrea's smiling determination was becoming hard to refuse.
"Well, I guess I can't just sit here waiting for the phone to ring, can I? I'll take my cell phone just in case though." Lindsay replied and moved away from the balcony doors. "I'll go and take a quick shower, give me ten minutes".
"Great!" Andrea replied watching the young woman leave the room before walking out onto the balcony and leaning against the rail. She rested her elbows on the rail and looked down at the beach and the ocean. Somewhere out there was a woman that held the key to Lindsay's heart and she was jealous and scared at the same time. Jealous that she had never known such a love as Lindsay's and terrified that she may never know it. Right now she knew she needed to put that aside and concentrate on helping Lindsay in whatever way she needed. It was up to fate how things would turn out, but she wanted to make sure she would be in the right position should they shine favorably upon her.
Lindsay walked into the living room dressed and ready to go out. She had to admit that a big part of her didn't want to leave the condo for fear of missing Jade's phone call, but the realistic part of her told herself that she couldn't hide away forever. If Jade really wanted to talk to her, she would know how to find her anytime of any day. She moved to the balcony and watched the woman leaning against the rail, her face in deep concentration. Lindsay paused for a moment and took in her friend's countenance and couldn't help wondering what she was thinking. Even after their shaky start, Andrea was fast becoming a good friend to her without any of the pressures of their first reunion.
"Ready?" Lindsay asked as she popped her head out the door. Andrea turned quickly flashing a broad smile. "You bet!" Lindsay couldn't help but return the infectious smile and it made her feel better than she had all week. "Well then, let's go, I'm starving!" Andrea chuckled as she followed the shorter woman out the front door and waited while she locked it. Together they walked down the hallway to the elevator as Andrea enticed Lindsay's appetite with various culinary possibilities.
Jade dropped in her last roll of film into the camera and wound it up tightly before closing the rear cover. Checking her settings, she knew she was ready to take the last of her pictures in the field. After this, she was back to working in the office as Editor of the magazine. She had agreed to go back to the office in order to be home more with Lindsay, but even though that wasn't to be the case, she still hadn't altered her plans. She sat on the quiet mountain perch waiting for the late afternoon sun to reach just the right spot to resume her work. Her mind instantly fled back to Lindsay as she wondered how the blonde was doing. Numerous times she had dialed her phone number, only to hang up before the connection was completed. She felt the familiar burning in the back of her eyes that thoughts of the blonde always evoked. This time she quickly blinked them away and allowed her resolve to fall firmly back in place. 'I'm doing the right thing. " If Lindsay wanted her freedom I shouldn't stop her. If she wants me, she knows where I am." 'And so far, she hasn't wanted you.' A small voice replied in Jade's heart causing an instant burning pain in her chest. Shrugging off the feeling and burying the hurt deeply, she picked up her camera and began to focus her attention at the job at hand. This would be the last of it. After being on the road for a month, she would finally be heading home. 'Home? Whatever that was.' Jade thought as the camera clicked away. Finishing her final roll, Jade packed up her gear and headed down the path back to the lodge. Tomorrow she would be on a plane back to Florida. She hadn't made arrangements yet for a place to say, but she knew she wouldn't need much. Sadly, she headed down the hill and once again found herself embarking on a journey that held no joy for her.
On the flight back to Florida Jade squirmed around in her seat trying to find a comfortable position. Finally, exhausted of the futile effort she looked out the window and sighed thinking, 'Face it, you haven't been comfortable with anything since you left, not even your own company!' Jade's mind had constantly replayed the last days of her trip home and she was beginning to wonder if she hadn't just jumped the gun on her assumptions. 'I really didn't give Lindsay a chance to say anything, I just assumed she wanted her freedom and left.' Her little voice kept undermining her determination at each turn of the road, but the one glaring factor still remained, 'why hasn't she contact me?' Jade eyes burned with this one fact as it was constantly seared into her heart. "It can only mean one thing!" Jade softly said outloud.
"Excuse me?" Jade turned to look at the brunette sitting two seats away from her. She had almost forgotten there was anyone else in her row. Smiling embarrassed she replied, "Sorry, just muttering to myself." "That's okay, I do it all the time." The woman smiled and turned her full attention to Jade. This fact was not lost on Jade and she took a more than cursory look at the woman now and liked what she saw. Attempting to take her mind off the constant drama that played through her head, she smiled broadly and held out her hand. "I'm Jade, sorry I haven't introduced myself sooner."
"That's okay, it takes awhile just to get comfortable on this planes, let alone strike up a conversation. My name is Erin." The woman's hand was strong and soft, Jade almost felt a sense of loss when their connection broke. "Is this trip business or pleasure?" Jade shook her head and shrugged, "strictly business".
"What a shame." Erin murmured before catching herself and adding, "I mean it is such a beautiful area to not enjoy it personally." Jade nodded without responding as she watched the subtle maneuvers of the woman seated next to her, nothing had been lost on Jade's senses. Erin had moved her armrest up so that she could turn to face Jade, effectively shutting out the rest of the passengers in their little cocoon. 'Interesting, very interesting.' Jade thought coyly to herself before focusing her attention back to Erin. The brunette had a beauty about her that wasn't limited to her physical appearance, which in itself was very nice indeed. But, Erin had an inner warmth that immediately caught your attention and made you feel at ease and welcome.
Erin told Jade that she was a co-owner of a restaurant in town and has been traveling to look into another location to purchase. "Did you find one?" Jade asked. "Yes and no, It wasn't exactly what it was described to me by the real estate." Erin replied frowning. "Things never are when someone is trying to sell you something." Jade replied chuckling. "Isn't that right!" Erin replied turning the frown into a grin. Jade was actually feeling better just conversing with the woman than she had in the past few weeks. She was surprised she hadn't noticed the woman sooner.
"Have you thought about going south in your search?"
"Actually, I really haven't been that far south since I moved to Atlanta five years ago. With getting the business going and the relocation, I haven't traveled much." Erin admitted not wanting to go into detail about her relocation. It was too soon to go into that with this woman. She was beginning to like the depth she saw in the blue of this woman's eyes. She exuded a self-confidence that instantly drew Erin in.
"Well then, you should definitely consider coming down to south Florida and looking around, especially around the Los Olas area in Ft. Lauderdale. There are a lot of great opportunities to start a solid business in that area." Jade answered and laughed, "Oh God, I sound like the Chamber of Commerce!" "No, but it does sound intriguing!" Caught off guard, Erin's reply had meant for more than just for a business investment. The brunette caught herself for a moment before smiling and adding, "I'll have to have my real estate agent look into it."
The rest of the flight sped by quickly as light laughter could be heard from their area, before they knew it the plane was readying for its descent into Atlanta. Jade had a layover before she caught her plane for her continued flight into Ft. Lauderdale. Conversation lagged as they walked up the gangway toward the terminal until Jade turned to Erin. "Is someone meeting you here?"
"No, I left my car parked in the long term lot." Erin replied sad that their brief encounter would soon end. "Is your flight leaving soon?" "No, I have a two and half hour layover." Jade answered questioning why she was encouraged at the fact that Erin was alone. 'What did it matter? It didn't mean she didn't have someone waiting for her at home did it?'
"Would you be interested in having some dinner? I hate to go home and cook for myself after a long flight." Erin watched Jade's face for a response to her admission of being alone. She quickly felt light-hearted when she saw the twinkle in Jade's eyes return. "Sure, that would be great. I was going to catch a bite and I'd rather not eat alone. I do that too much as it is." Jade's eyebrow curved upward at her own admission. 'Why did I say that?' Shaking it off, she turned to Erin and motioned with her hand, "Lead the way". Erin stopped and turned to the taller woman. "Would you mind if we ate outside of the terminal? It's only about a 10 minute drive and I promise to have you back in time for your flight." Jade looked at the hopeful face and knew she wouldn't say no. "Okay, sounds good to me." She followed Erin toward the parking area. She had her boarding pass for the next flight already, so what would the harm be she asked herself.
"Oh my God your plane!" Erin blurted out over coffee. The two women had been enjoying their dinner in Erin's restaurant and had completely lost track of time. Jade quickly looked up at the clock frowning. She had to admit that she had actually been relaxed enough to enjoy herself for the first time in the past few weeks. "I'll never make it back in time. Can I use your phone to see about another flight?"
"Sure, let's go into the back to my office." Erin replied standing up and weaving a path through the crowded restaurant. "I'm so sorry. I even promised I'd have you back in time for your flight."
"Don't worry about it, it's just as much my fault for not paying attention too." Jade replied wondering why she wasn't more upset about the disruption to her itinerary.
Erin left her in the office and went back into the kitchen to give the woman privacy to make whatever calls she needed. She couldn't help wondering if there was someone special she would have to call and let them know she would be late. After waiting fifteen minutes she couldn't help herself and went back into the office just as Jade was hanging up. The frown on Jade's face told Erin that the news was not entirely good. She hoped the missed flight had not caused the tall woman any problems. "Everything alright?"
"Well, I got a seat on the next flight, the only problem is that it is at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning." Jade replied with a half grin. "I guess I'll have to pick up a toothbrush and find a hotel." "No." Erin instantly replied causing Jade to lift her eyebrow curiously. "What I mean is it's partially my fault you missed your flight, why don't you stay at my place. I have an extra room and it's the least I can do to make it up to you."
"You don't have to do that, I can just stay at the hotel at the airport and catch my flight out in the morning." Jade easily replied trying to make the brunette not feel so guilty. "No, really, it's no trouble at all and then I can drop you by in the morning for you flight. This time I really promise you will be there on time!" Erin smiled hopefully. She had really felt bad about not watching the time and at the same time felt a sudden rush at the thought of having this woman in her home.
"Well, if you are sure it will be no problem?" Jade answered feeling actually better about staying at Erin's rather than a hotel. "Sure, we can run by the store and get you whatever you need for tonight and tomorrow I can take you to the airport before I come back here." Erin's face lit up enthusiastically and felt her heartbeat just a bit faster when Jade nodded in agreement.
"So, now you know my story." Jade replied putting down the almost empty glass of wine. It was obvious that the raven-haired woman had enough to drink because she couldn't believe she had just told a perfect stranger about her breakup with Lindsay. She knew it was the alcohol that had loosened her tongue but, in a way, she felt lighter and free of the burden she had been carrying lately.
"Breaking up is never easy under any circumstances." Erin offered. "Are you sure that is what you want to do?"
"What do you mean?" Jade asked sarcastically. "There really wasn't an option was there?"
"I don't know, it’s just that I sense you are not too sure about what you did." Erin explained softly. She liked this woman before her, but definitely wasn't ready to get involved in any dramarama. 'Been there, done that!' she thought to herself. 'No more rebounds!'
"It wasn't an easy decision if that is what you mean, but I also didn't need a neon sign to tell me it was over." Jade answered sharply and then grinned to try to soften the edge to her voice. It wasn't Erin's fault that everything in her life had gone to hell in a hand basket. It did feel good having her to talk to and as Jade explained her circumstances; she realized that it was the cleansing she had needed to get on with her life. "Thanks for listening to me rant and rave tonight, I guess it's been something I've needed to do to get it over and done with."
"Anytime you need a ear, 'or any other body part', you know where I am". Erin smiled thinking 'maybe there is hope after all'. Looking down at her watch she sighed and added, "It's late, we'd better get some sleep if we want to get you to the airport on time in the morning."
Jade got up and grabbed the small bag containing the toothbrush and other essentials she had purchased and waving it less than enthusiastically replied, "All set!" Erin led the way down the hall to the spare bedroom and turned on the light. "The bathroom is at the end of the hall and my room is right there if you should need anything else." Erin pointed to the door directly adjacent to the spare room and smiled innocently. "Well, good night then."
"Good night Erin and thank you for everything, I really mean it." Jade replied sincerely and looked into Erin's intense green eyes. They suddenly reminded her of another pair of green eyes and she looked away, suddenly embarrassed and ashamed.
"No problem, I really enjoyed the evening. I'll see you in the morning." Erin moved down away down the hall and turned when she heard the other door close behind her. Shaking her head she left her door ajar and moved toward her dresser and began rifling through its drawers. Finding the garments she sought, she turned back down the hall and knocked on Jade's door. Jade answered the door barefoot with her shirt untucked and Erin caught her breath thinking, 'even in disarray she is gorgeous!' Smiling, Erin reigned in her thoughts and held out the silk pajamas toward the taller woman. "I thought maybe you could use something to sleep in. Her face flushed pink when the thought hit her that maybe the woman didn't actually sleep in anything!
Jade smiled and reached out for the offered garments. "Thanks, that's very kind of you." Erin nodded and murmured another good night and quickly escaped to the confines of her bedroom, this time closing the door behind her. Jade grinned at the blush she saw creeping in the other woman's cheeks, she wondered what Erin would have done if she had told her she only needed the top to the set. Chuckling to herself she closed the door and proceeded to change for the night. Crawling into bed she lay trying to still her mind enough to fall asleep and when she finally did, thoughts of a certain blonde painfully crept in.
It had been a rough day and Lindsay sat slumped at the desk in her cramped office. Sighing, she shuffled through her papers one more time and realized that she wasn't any closer to finishing them, then when she started over an hour ago. Her concentration level was totally gone and she finally stacked them neatly in her inbox resolving to tackle them in the morning. Looking out the window she watched the twinkling lights of the cars as they moved along the highway, ever vigilant toward their destination. Lindsay wondered if they were going home to someone or, like her, just watching and wondering. The ringing of the telephone jarred her morose daydream and she picked up the receiver, answering it quickly.
"You sound tired? Is everything okay?"
The voice was warm and comforting and held just the right hint of tenderness that made Lindsay feel good again. She could almost see the little frown that would edge Andrea's mouth when she was worried about something. "Hi! No, I'm okay. It was just a long day. How about you?"
"Actually, I just finished up some work and took the chance that you were still in the office. How about grabbing some dinner tonight, my treat?" Andrea held her breath, as she always did when waiting for Lindsay's reply. She hoped the blonde wasn't too tired because she really wanted to spend some time with her.
"Sure, why not. I'm always up for a free meal." Lindsay laughed teasingly to the woman on the other end. "Good, then let's say I meet you downstairs in about ten minutes?"
"Works for me!" Lindsay replied, definitely smiling and in a better mood since talking to Andrea. "Great, see you soon." The brunette responded before ringing off. Lindsay cleared her desk and packed her briefcase and headed out of the office toward the lobby. She reached the lobby before Andrea and leaned against the wall waiting. Realizing she had left her cell phone on her desk, she hesitated going back up and decided, 'why bother, its not like anyone has been calling me!' The thought instantly brought her good mood down and she slumped against the wall dejectedly. 'Obviously, Jade doesn't want to talk to me.'
Andrea rounded the last flight of stairs and saw Lindsay's posture and knew instantly what the blonde was thinking about. A little pang of fear touched her heart as she wondered if Lindsay would ever really be over Jade and if she could ever feel that same devotion to her. Shaking these negative thoughts from her head she took the stairs down at a trot and slid in against the wall next to the blonde. "Hey beautiful, come here often?"
Lindsay’s face spread into a grin and she looked up lopsided and replied, "Yeah, just hoping to pickup a wayward sailor or two!"
"Ahoy matey!" Andrea replied and linked her arm through Lindsay's to pull her away from the wall and out of the building. "Let's eat, I'm starved!"
"Hey, that's my line!" Lindsay whined playfully as they walked arm and arm across campus to the parking lot. "Beat you to it sweetie!" Andrea smiled and unlocked the door to her Range Rover before bowing to Lindsay. Safely tucking her inside, Andrea jogged around to the driver's side and slide behind the wheel.
"Okay, my friend what shall it be tonight?" Andrea asked as she started up the car and pulled from the lot onto the busy street. "What are my options?"
"Steak, seafood, Italian, Chinese, you name it! The sky's the limit!" 'Boy, that's an understatement!' Andrea finished thinking to herself. "How about a burger and a beer? I'm in that kind of mood." Lindsay replied thoughtfully and her eyes sparkled in delight. "So be it! A burger and a beer coming right up! A&B Grill okay?"
"Maybe two!" Lindsay added out of the blue. "Two burgers?" Andrea looked over laughing at her friend's voracious appetite. 'Wonder if that is just limited to food?'
"No, beer!" Lindsay answered firmly breaking Andrea from her wandering thoughts. "Oh...okay, how about a pitcher?"
"Sounds good to me!" Lindsay smiled and folded her arms across
her chest as they drove down the highway toward the restaurant.
Dinner was a joyous affair; compliments of a few pitchers of beer and some much needed bantering. Andrea and Lindsay headed back toward their car and Andrea realized that Lindsay wasn't really in any position to drive, 'heck she wasn't in much of a better one herself'. She turned right out of the lot and headed toward the condo. Andrea still couldn't bring herself to call it Lindsay's because it always felt like Jade was all over it. Lindsay kept up a patter of chatter that didn't really make much sense but Andrea responded dutifully to it as they drove. Pulling into the condo parking lot, Andrea pulled into Lindsay's spot and got out to assist Lindsay. Lindsay laughed out loud when Andrea tripped slightly over her own feet and replied, "Looks like we've both had a few to many!"
The two women teased each other all the way up to the condo and Lindsay flopped down on the couch followed by Andrea. "Oh God, I think I'm going to regret this in the morning!" Lindsay complained. Andrea lifted her arm to look at her watch before turning her head to face the blonde. "I hate to tell you, but it is morning!" Lindsay let her head slide to Andrea's shoulder moaning, "Ugh!" Andrea lifted her arm to circle the blonde and pulled Lindsay closer. She waited a moment before cautiously kissing Lindsay's forehead, letting her lips linger for a few seconds longer. Lindsay allowed her body to sink deeper into the comforting arms and felt a tingling of electricity when Andrea's lips touched her. She wasn't sure if she wanted her to stop or to go on and instead remained silent.
'This is nice, maybe things are turning around after all?' Andrea smiled over the blonde head and tucked Lindsay in tighter. After a moment, she leaned back to look down into green eyes and lifted Lindsay chin up to place a light kiss on her lips. The taste was heaven and she wanted to savor more and intensified the kiss. Lindsay's lips parted invitingly and Andrea readily accepted. Kiss after kiss lingered longer bringing their molded bodies together as they slipped down onto the couch. Legs and arms intertwined as lips met again and again. Andrea's hands caressed the length of Lindsay's body beneath her on the couch. They molded together tightly as they pressed into the narrow leather cushion.
"I...I can't, please?" Lindsay’s muted cry barely registered on Andrea's raging flood until she felt the woman's body begin to shake.
"What?" Her voice hoarse with passion sounded foreign to Andrea's own ears.
"I'm sorry. I just can't!" Lindsay replied looking away as a tear slipped softly down her cheek. Andrea slid to the side so that she was lying next to the blonde and held her lightly. "It's okay, I shouldn't have pushed you so soon." Andrea's heart felt heavy as she whispered soothing words to comfort the distraught woman. Her lips kept moving but her mind and body felt the opposite of everything she was saying. It wasn't okay! She wanted this woman more than she had ever wanted anyone in her life.
Lindsay slowly extracted herself from Andrea's arms and got up. "I know this isn't fair to you, but I don't know what to tell you. My heart just isn't free yet."
"Will it ever be?"
"I don't know." Lindsay's voice wavered with uncertainty, but she didn't want to lie to Andrea. "I will tell you this, if my relationship with Jade is really over, then I will need to move on. All I can ask is that you please be patient with me. You are a very good friend to me and that is a start I hope?"
Andrea nodded and tried to smile, a gesture she didn't feel inside. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll be here."
"Thank you. I guess it's late and we should get some rest. Would it be too much to ask you stay? I could take the couch and you can have the bedroom." Lindsay didn't want to be alone tonight, but it was more the need for a warm body in the condo than for any romantic possibilities.
"Yes, but I'll take the couch. Just toss me a pillow and a blanket and I'll be fine." Andrea slipped off her shoes and looked disgustedly at the couch as the blonde went in search of the aforementioned items. Returning she helped Andrea make up a bed of sorts. "Are you sure you don't want to take the bed?"
"I'm positive, now run along and try to get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning." Andrea replied settling herself down on the couch and watched when Lindsay turned to leave the room. "Good night."
"Night." 'This isn't exactly what I had in mind for tonight.' Andrea groused to herself and punched her pillow in frustration. 'Oh well, I will just have to wait things out and see what happens.'
Jade waited until most of the passengers had exited the plane before getting up and making her way down the aisle. There wasn't much of a rush as she had caught the early flight and it was only 8:30 a.m. She had said good-bye to Erin at the airport with an invitation for her to visit South Florida soon. But, as the hour flight moved closer to its destination, Jade couldn't help but think about Lindsay and what had happened. As she walked though the airport terminal, she decided firmly that she and Lindsay needed to sit down and talk about what was going on. 'If it's over, then it's over but, I can't think of anything or anyone until I know for sure.' Jade's thoughts were firm as she moved with a determined step toward the taxi stand and hailed a cab.
Lindsay came out of the bedroom to find Andrea in the kitchen making coffee. "I hope you don't mind that I made myself at home?" "Not at all, I could use some coffee." Lindsay smiled slightly and rubbed her temple. "Headache?" Andrea smiled.
"Oh yeah!" Lindsay replied holding up a bottle of aspirin. "Soon to be taken care of!" The two women sat at the table sipping coffee until they felt more alert and like their old selves. Andrea yawned and stretched before asking, "Do you mind if I take a shower and try to get rid some of this stale beer smell?"
"No, not at all! There are towels in the cabinet in the bathroom and you can use my robe hanging on the door, it's clean." There was a thump at the front door and Lindsay got up to answer it. Opening the door, the hallway was empty except for the paper lying on the carpeting in front of her door. She picked it up and went back into the kitchen to read it while she waited for Andrea. It wasn't long before the brunette appeared drapped in Lindsay's white terrycloth robe. "Feel better?"
"Yes, almost human! One more cup of coffee and I'll be doing good!" Andrea replied and sat in the chair next to Lindsay. Lindsay handed her the paper and got up. "Well, I guess it's my turn. See you in a few." Lindsay headed off to the shower and turned the water on hot to wash away the cobwebs from her brain. Andrea settled down with a fresh cup of coffee and opened the paper just as a knock on the door startled her. She waited for Lindsay, but she couldn't hear anything from in the shower. Andrea opened the door and came face to face with a startled Jade. The tall woman was fishing through her backpack for her keys, but couldn't find them.
"Oh hi! We didn't expect to see you today?" Andrea blurted out before catching herself. She hated feeling like a child and straightened her body out to its full height. Jade looked down at Andrea and noted her attire and felt her heart drop to her toes. 'So, it is true!'
"I'm sorry Lindsay is still in the shower." Andrea replied and stepped back to let Jade into her own condo. Jade hesitated for a moment before replying. "That's okay, just tell her that I will stop by for my stuff at a more convenient time."
"Oh, okay." Andrea smiled as she closed the door and leaned against it. 'That was easier than I thought!' Her revere was cut short when she heard the water shutoff in the bathroom and she moved back to the kitchen table. Taking a seat she picked up the paper and began reading like nothing had ever happened.
"Was someone just here?" Lindsay appeared rubbing her hair briskly in an attempt to hasten its drying. The robe she wore hung down to her ankles and she had to roll the sleeves many times in an effort to keep her hands free. It didn't take Andrea long to figure out whose robe it was. The brunette hesitated with a pang of jealousy before replying, "No, I was just talking to myself and reading out loud." The brunette grinned and ducked back behind the paper; afraid to keep eye contact with Lindsay for fear she could see the deception. "Oh, okay. Just give me a few seconds and the bathroom's all yours." Lindsay replied shaking her head and walked back into the bedroom.
Jade walked toward her parked car before pausing and turning to look up at the condominium building. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears and she thought about the blonde up on the tenth floor and the life they had shared. Dropping her eyes to the ground she turned away and admonished herself, "Well, that's it Jade, when it's over it's over. I think you just had a lesson on when it's time to move on, you move on." Sadly, she dug in her pocket for her keys, unlocked her car door and slipped behind the wheel as her thoughts continued to plague her, 'Yeah, I just wish she would have talked to me first. Was I that blind and unapproachable?' The car turned over with slight hesitation from not being driven in three weeks and Jade felt sad for the neglected car, herself and, at this moment, everything. Sighing, she gave the engine a little more gas to smooth it out. Putting the car in gear, she drove out of the parking lot and headed toward her office at the magazine. She had some calls to make unless she wanted to sleep on the couch in her office.
Jade sat behind her desk flipping through the yellow pages. After finding what she was looking for, she called and arranged for a moving company to meet her at the condo on Monday morning to pick up her things. She knew that Lindsay would be at work and she wouldn't have to worry about running into Andrea either. 'I wonder if Andrea has moved in already?' Deciding it was a place she didn't need to go at the moment, the raven haired woman straightened her shoulders and gave the movers directions, informing them that it would just be light personal items and computer equipment. Jade had decided to leave Lindsay the rest. She needed a fresh start if she was going to make it through this and she didn't need anything that would remind her of Lindsay. Maybe she should leave Florida and start new elsewhere, somewhere without a history. Jade pondered these thoughts as she made her next call.
"Hi Dave? It's Jade."
"It's been awhile?" The voice on the other end replied.
"Yeah, I realize I haven't called in a while. I just got back into town. "I was wondering if you had any condos available right now for say a six-month lease?" Jade wasn't ready to make any permanent decisions and a lease would be the best thing right now. If she decided to leave in the end, she would need this time to settle things at the magazine.
"For you?" "Yes, it's for me", Jade replied unenthusiastically.
"Care to tell me what's been going on?"
"No, it's long story." Jade grimaced hoping Dave wouldn't press for details. Thankfully, he was perceptive enough not to and went on searching his files. He came up with four listings he thought she would like and could show her.
"Okay, I'm sure I can find you something with no problem", the deep voice answered easily.
"You do, fantastic. When can I make an appointment? The sooner the better."
"How does right now sound?" Dave replied adding enthusiasm to their conversation. "Great, I can meet you at your office in twenty minutes. Thanks." Jade hung up the telephone and went to change into something less rumpled for their appointment. 'This isn't as much fun when you are looking by yourself.'
After Dave and Jade toured the last condo, they stopped for a drink to catch up and discuss their afternoon's endeavors. They ordered and sat talking about Jade's last photo shoot until their drinks arrived. "So, did you see one you liked?" Dave asked when the waiter had left. Jade nodded as she sipped her vodka tonic. "I think the one downtown would make the most sense. I'll be spending a lot of time at the office now."
"Oh? No more assignments?" Dave inquired curiously picking up his frosted mug of beer. He took a sip and licked the foam from his top lip and waited for Jade to expound further than just shaking her head.
"No, I've decided it was time to settle down and take over as editor. Sam's been bugging me to do it and I finally decided it was time." Jade smiled trying to sound light about it, hoping that her answer would be sufficient for Dave. 'But, knowing Dave, he won't buy it.' True to her thought, Dave grinned and laid a hand over Jade's. "Jade I've known you too long to know when you're trying to avoid the obvious. I'll mind my own business if you say but, are you okay?"
"Sure I'm fine. I just thought it was time to stop roaming and take a closer interest in the magazine." Jade replied deceptively calm as her emotions screamed NO!
"Right, ok-a-ay", he whistled, "I guess I'll just be blunt then. Where's Lindsay and what about the condo you own on the ocean? Remember, I'm the one that sold it to you! I hope you don't want me to put it on the market again?" Dave leaned forward not allowing Jade to wiggle out of this one. He had known the woman since high school and she was always like a sister to him. He could sense that something was very wrong and wasn't going to let her withdraw into herself like she usually did when things got tough.
"No, it's not for sale, at least not yet." Jade replied shortly and after a few moments of silence Dave sat back sighing. "Jade, come on honey. You know I care about you and I know something is wrong. If you don't want to talk about it okay, but I can't stand when you crawl inside yourself and shut the rest of us out! Do I have to get Mike on your case?"
Jade chuckled and relaxed a bit, "No, I don't need Mike in my face too! He's your nightmare, don't make him mine!" Dave laughed out loud at their inside joke about his partner. Mike could be possessive, smothering and motherly, but they both knew he didn't have a mean bone in his body. "I'm going to tell him you said that!" Dave grinned evilly and leaned his elbows on the table to get closer to Jade. In a conspiratorial whisper he asked, "Okay then, what gives?"
Jade spent the next hour explaining to Dave about what had happened to her relationship with Lindsay and that it was time for her to start a new life and move on. Dave's eyebrows furrowed as he asked, "Are you sure this is what you want to do? You two seemed so good together."
"Yes, if Lindsay wants a relationship with Andrea, I'm not going to try to stop that or break them up. What good would what we had be if its not what she wants now? I don't know if that just made sense, but its how I feel." Jade replied quietly and lowered her eyes. Dave had never seen Jade react to anything this way. He had never seen her just give up without at least a mild skirmish. He took a deep breath before pushing ahead, "Is that what she told you?"
"No, we haven't spoken."
"What???? You mean you don't even know what she wants?" Dave blurted out incredulously.
"I think it was pretty obvious when I didn't hear from Lindsay the entire three weeks I was gone, and then I go to my own condo and find her new girlfriend answering the door wearing her robe! I would say that says a lot don't you think?"
"Maybe, maybe not."
"Maybe nothing. I love Lindsay enough to let her go without making a scene or making it difficult for her and that's the end of it! I don't want to discuss this further!" Jade retorted, abruptly pushing her chair back leaving no doubt that the conversation was concluded. "Let's talk about this condo downtown. When can I sign the lease?"
"Okay! Okay!" Dave replied throwing his hands up in surrender. "We can go back to my office and draw up the paperwork and you can take possession of it this afternoon."
"Good, let's go." Jade's words ended with a finality that wasn't to be countered as she stood and proceeded to walk out of the bar. Dave pulled out his wallet, quickly paying for their drinks and shaking his head as he trailed behind the tall woman out of the bar. 'You haven't made it easier for anyone but Andrea!' He knew exactly what Jade was feeling and how good she was at hiding it. 'If only he could find a way to make her see that. Maybe Mike would be the better one in this situation.'
Lindsay walked beside Andrea as they left the condo deciding where to go for brunch. "Wha-at?" Andrea stopped in her tracks as she realized the blonde was no longer at her side and turned to find Lindsay looking at the empty space in the carport next to her car. "Lindsay?" The brunette nervously asked trying to feign ignorance at the significance of the missing car. She had realized as soon as she saw where the blonde's attention was focused that Jade had retrieved her car when she had stopped by earlier.
Lindsay looked up at Andrea with a cross between confusion and speculations. 'Had Jade stopped by and taken her car without saying anything or, had it been her voice she had heard that morning?' She watched Andrea's face for any sign of deceit and only saw a questioning look returned. 'No, Andrea would have told me and Jade wouldn't have just left, would she?' Lindsay bit her bottom lip in consternation and then replied out loud. "Jade's car is gone. Do you think was stolen?"
Andrea started to feel a surge of panic rising up and knew she had to figure out something before Lindsay's mind came to any other conclusions. "No, I don't think it was stolen. Maybe Jade just came by and picked it up when she got back in town."
"Without saying anything? Why wouldn't she at least come home?" Lindsay replied quietly and feared that she already knew the answer. 'She didn't want to come home because Lindsay was there.'
"I don't know Lindsay". Andrea simply replied and remained silent, 'the less said the better'. "I guess she doesn't want to see me huh?" The tears began to cloud Lindsay's sight and she saw a blur as Andrea came closer and swept her up in her arms holding her against the ravages of sobs that began to consume the blonde. 'Damn! I thought we were past this!' Andrea tightened her hold vowing never to let go. "It will be okay. I promise. If you need a place to stay you can stay with me, no strings attached."
Lindsay nodded against Andrea's shoulder and regained control of her raging emotions. She had thought she could handle what was happening and let Jade go, but she knew now; it wasn't going to be so easy. Maybe she did need to get out of the condo and away from things to be able to think more clearly. "Thank you. I just might take you up on that offer."
Andrea nodded smiling and looked down at the shorter woman. "Still want to go eat or what? We can do anything you want to do." Lindsay stepped back and thought for a moment looking up at the condo high rise and listened to the faint sound of the ocean behind it. She would miss that, almost as much as she would miss a certain blue eyed woman. Sadly, she looked back at Andrea and stiffened her resolve saying. "No, let's go eat and then see about getting some boxes." Andrea couldn't contain her joy and grabbed Lindsay's arm dragging her toward the car before she could change her mind. She received a slight chuckle out of the blonde and hoped this was a sign of good things to come.
Lindsay tried to shake off her gloom and see the facts. Reality could be such a bitch, but she knew she needed to see things in a new light if she were ever going to get through what was to come.
Jade spent the remainder of the afternoon going through the stores purchasing the barest essentials she would need. The condo was already furnished, so she just had to get the smaller personal items she would need. Thinking of all the things she had back at the oceanside condo, she sighed and closed the hatch proceeding on to her last destination. Pushing the cart through the grocery store she didn't have much of an appetite and ended up getting a few things like coffee, milk and cereal to get her through the next week. She couldn't seem to think any farther ahead at the moment. Loading the last of the bags into her hatch, she headed toward her new home. "Home, ha!" Jade mumbled out loud, "it's just a place to sleep. Maybe I'm just not meant to have a true home." Tiredly, she pushed the remote for the garage to the condo and backed her SUV in, closing the door after her. She unloaded her packages and put the groceries away before moving to the bedroom. The condo was furnished with modern furniture, mostly leather and chrome, its cold, sterile look fit Jade's current demeanor and she barely noticed that there wasn't much color other than the black and gray scheme. It took all her remaining strength to rummage through her suitcase until she found her sweats and t-shirt to change. It was just beginning to grow dark outside, but she was too tired to amuse herself any further and pulled back the covers on the bed. Jade curled up on her side, pulling the covers up to her chin and willed herself to sleep.
Jade let herself into the familiar condo and stood just inside the door looking around the living room. She could feel a heaviness descend upon her heart as she saw reminders of Lindsay scattered about. Sighing she pulled in the empty boxes she had brought with her and closed the door behind her. She had wanted to get started before the movers came so that things would move along quickly. The condo was still as she moved into the bedroom, hoping that she wouldn't see any other reminders to make her feel even worse then she already did. Jade noticed that the bed was made and that there were empty boxes stacked against the wall. She noticed another box on the bed half full of clothing. She didn't bother looking any further into the box as she thought, 'Looks like Andrea has moved herself in already. It didn't take them long!' Tears stung her eyes and she angrily wiped them away and opened her closet to start packing her things. She pulled things from their hangers and haphazardly threw them in the boxes, she didn't care anymore as she just wanted to get her things and leave. For the next two hours, she packed up her things and stacked them in the hallway. Next, she would have to tackle the computer. Closing the lid on the last box, she carried it out to the living room to stack on her growing pile of possessions. She didn't notice anyone was in the apartment until she ran smack into Lindsay, dropping her box and grabbing the blonde before she tumbled backwards.
Lindsay had just returned to condo with more boxes from her trip to the U-haul outlet. She proceeded to assemble the first one when she heard a door close down the hall and went to investigate. As she rounded the corner she was slammed backwards and looked up into two surprised blue eyes. Her heart leapt involuntarily until the eyes narrowed slightly and Lindsay felt a chill run down her spine.
"Whoa! What are you doing here?" Jade asked more harshly than she had intended. The scare had made her defensive as she looked deeply into familiar green eyes. Lindsay pulled herself from Jade's grasp and took a step back bristling at the greeting. Sarcastically she replied, "I could ask you the same thing!"
Jade's eyebrow arched in response to Lindsay's attitude and she bent over to pick up the fallen box and proceeded to walk past Lindsay. "I didn't think you would be home or I would have called. I just came to get my things out of your way."
Lindsay stood watching the tall woman's graceful movement and felt a tugging at her heart, but before she would let it grab hold she pushed it aside and let her anger and hurt fill what was left of it. "Sorry, I didn't even know you were back in town. You've neglected to say anything for the past month."
Jade snorted and replied, "I guess I could pretty much say the same thing to you, huh?" She tried biting her lip to stop herself but she was on a roll of anger and betrayal and added, "but, then again, you've been rather busy lately haven't you?"
"Excuse me?" Lindsay replied startled by Jade's accusations. 'Jade was the one that just left without so much as a good-bye, how dare she act the martyr.' Lindsay stood with her hands on her hip looking at the tall stranger in front of her.
Jade whirled around at the reply and began to say, "Lindsay, I know about Andr...!" but was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door. Lindsay stood her ground waiting for Jade to finish, but the tall woman just turned and walked to the door opening it. The mover's had arrived and Jade stepped back to let the three men enter the apartment ending their almost conversation. Jade ignored Lindsay and began to tell the mover's what she wanted done. As she helped one mover dismantle her computer the other two began taking the assorted boxes and furnishings that Jade had indicated.
Lindsay watched for a few moments fuming at Jade's actions and turned to walk out onto the patio. She couldn't say anything until the mover's left but then, she would speak her mind. She sat listening to the front door open and close, as numerous trips were made downstairs. Her anger turned to inner reflection and Lindsay took a closer look at her actions. She began to let the guilt that she felt replace the sadness and she finally had to face the fact that she had not acted in the most noblest of fashions when Jade had come home from her trip. Her going out that evening with Andrea hadn't helped their already troubled relationship. When the noise of people moving in and out finally halted, Lindsay went in search of Jade. She needed to sort this all out and talk with Jade; she wasn't ready for it to end this way.
Lindsay walked through the quiet apartment to the spare room that had been Jade's study expecting to see the woman still packing her books. But, when Lindsay walked into the room, it was bare except for the bureau that stood against the far wall. Turning quickly she went down the hall to the master bedroom, their room, but it too was empty. Lindsay leaned against the wall as a wave of pain spread from her stomach throughout her body. She let herself slide down the wall until she was sitting on the floor huddled in the corner of the hallway. Her body began to quiver as the knowledge struck home that Jade was gone, 'gone for good' and she had been effortless to stop her.
Jade spent the next couple of weeks getting settled in at the office and at home, and going through the motions of living. She found the routine almost calming if it weren't for the storm she felt brewing within herself. Looking out the window of her office she muttered to herself, 'I really need to get past this anger and move on. It isn't going to change anything, but continue to make me miserable.' The telephone on her desk rang breaking her from her self-chastisement and away from her vigil at the window.
"What, no warm hello for an old friend?"
The voice was deep and mellow and brought a rush of feeling to Jade as a slow smile touched her lips. "Erin?"
"Yes, I thought I'd call to see how you are doing, but I guess I don't have to ask do I?" Jade stood listening to the voice, recalling the woman she had met in Atlanta and felt a spark of life enter her. "No, no! I was just working on something. Things are fine here. How about you? Been up to anything good lately?"
"Hmmm define good." Erin's wit brought out a deep chuckle and reply from Jade, making the brunette smile on the other end of the phone line. "That good huh?"
"No, actually quite boring if you must know the truth." Erin replied wryly. "Which is why I'm calling, I've decided to make some definite changes. I was thinking about taking your suggestion and coming down to check out a few locations for a new restaurant."
"That's great!" Jade replied suddenly excited about the prospect of seeing Erin again. "Yes, I was wondering if you knew any local realtors that know the best areas to look?"
"I sure do. Actually, he is a friend of mine and I used him to get my condo." Jade answered, flipping through her Rolodex for Dave's office number. She relayed that information to Erin and then paused waiting for the brunette to finish writing it down.
"Great I'll give him a call and see if he can pull together some listings for next week. I thought I'd drive down this weekend and get a head start looking around." Erin replied hesitant to broach her next subject. She wanted to see Jade, but didn't want to push herself on the woman if she wasn't ready to move on.
"Okay, then let me give you directions to my place." Jade replied getting down from her perch on the corner of her desk and sitting in the soft leather chair behind it. "And don't even think of making any kind of comment about not staying with me!"
"Okay, I won't....as long as it's no trouble." Erin answered, happy that Jade wanted to see her too.
"I wouldn't have offered if it was silly." After giving Erin directions to her condo and a rough idea of when she would arrive, Jade rang off and sat back in her chair with a smile on her face.
"Well, it's about time! I never thought we'd actually see you do that again!" The booming voice from her doorway caught her in the middle of her day dream and Jade sat up guiltily sputtering, "do what?"
"Well, smile, but if you are up to something better do tell!" The broad silver-haired Les chuckled as he entered Jade's office taking a seat in front of her desk expectantly.
"There's nothing to tell, a friend is coming into town this weekend to look at property for a new restaurant." Jade replied matter of factly and picked up a folder handing it to Les. "Here is the last of my photo layouts. It's all ready to go to press for next month's issue. My last and greatest accomplishment!"
"Don't make it sound like you are old and drying up! You've got other accomplishments just waiting and you've been doing a great job here too!" Les replied taking the folder thoughtfully, his brow creasing with hesitation. 'A new friend huh? Maybe it would be for the best.'
"Actually, I don't mind being back behind a desk as much as I thought I would. There is a lot more to this business than I ever dreamed and, for once, I'm really enjoying working on the total product to completion." Jade's answer made Les smile broadly as he replied. "That's what I like to hear. I was afraid that there would be no one to inherit this rag when I was dead and gone!"
"Hah! You've got a long way to go Les. Somehow I can't picture you slowing down long enough for your body to know it's dead!" Jade chuckled at the older man's sheepish grin. "Don't worry I don't plan on going anywhere for a long time, except maybe down to the Keys!"
"By the way, what do you do down there every weekend?" Jade leaned forward on her elbows with an over dramatized look of expectation on her face.
Les stood up slapping the folder against his palm replying, "Never mind, things you'll never understand! They require a reel and relaxing, you do remember how to relax don't you?"
"Very funny Les!"
He paused before going out the door and threw back, "maybe this weekend you could practice on that!" Jade threw her pencil at the closing door and could hear Les' booming laughter as he walked away.
Lindsay paced back and forth in front of Andrea as she tried to explain to the brunette the reason for her change of plans. "Andrea, you know I care about you a lot, but I'm just not ready to make the type of commitment that moving in together will require."
"I'm not asking you to share my bedroom, just my apartment." Andrea replied sharply and silently added, 'at least for now'.
"Please understand, I just need to live alone for awhile. It doesn't mean we can't still be friends. I'm just not ready for any serious commitments." Lindsay sat next to Andrea on the sofa and grasped her hands in her own. "You mean a lot to me, please don't think I'm pushing you away."
"Okay, but how do you know you can stay here? This is Jade's condo after all isn't it?" Andrea tried a new line of reasoning with Lindsay. Somehow she felt desperate that if she lost this battle, she would surely lose hope of having Lindsay all together. Lindsay stood up and resumed her pacing again as she thought about the question. Stopping, she turned to Andrea and shrugged her shoulders; "I don't suppose I could afford the rent on this place by myself. I guess I'll just have to start looking for an apartment."
"That's probably a better idea, I'm sure the rent on these condo's are pretty high and you don't even know if Jade wants to rent it out. She might be considering selling it since she moved out." Andrea stood up and walked over to the shorter blonde and put her arms around pulling her in tightly. "It will all work out, maybe we can find something nice on my side of town so we can be closer." With that last word, she tightened her hold on Lindsay unconsciously relaying more than she was saying. Lindsay quickly hugged her back and then pushed back against the brunette's arms in an attempt to loosen their hold on her. "Hey! You're squishing me!"
"Sorry", Andrea sheepishly answered and reluctantly let go of Lindsay. "So, are we going to the movies or not?"
"You bet!" Lindsay replied and grabbed her jacket off the back of the chair. "Let's go!" The two women left the condo and headed down to the lobby. Andrea gallantly opened the car door for Lindsay and stole a light kiss as she settled her in the seat. "What was that for?" The blonde asked softly looking up at the taller woman. "Just because, do I need a reason?" Andrea asked intently holding her breath against the answer. "No, I guess not." The reply was less than she had hoped for, but it also wasn't a flat refusal either. Andrea walked around the car, her forehead creased in thought as she began to strategize her next move.
The drive to the theater was accomplished in quiet reflection, neither woman noticing their lapse of silence. Andrea was lost in her game plan with only one woman on her mind, and that woman's thoughts were filled with unanswered questions as she faced a future filled with decisions she wasn't ready to make, 'or maybe didn't want to make'.
They arrived at the theater and Andrea pulled into a parking spot and looked over at Lindsay. She could see that Lindsay's face had that faraway look she got when she was deep in thought. It was times like these that Andrea felt a pang of sadness or maybe jealousy, as she feared that Jade was in the forefront of those deep thoughts. "A penny for your thoughts?" The brunette whispered softly trying not to startle Lindsay out of her revere, but to join her in that place that the blonde went to so often. Lindsay looked over as a sly smile slowly crossed her lips and answered teasingly, "Only a penny huh? But, they are worth so much more than that." She opened her door and exited the car leaving a startled Andrea staring after her with a puzzled look on her face. Lindsay closed the door bringing the brunette back to the present as she shook her head marveling at how Lindsay was constantly able to amaze her. Just when she doubted herself the most, the blonde would make a teasing remark and set the wheels of their courtship in motion again. Fumbling with the door handle, Andrea exited the car as quickly as possible and almost fell out the door in her haste. Lindsay stood at the end of the car smiling mischievously as Andrea collected herself and moved toward her mumbling, "You never cease to amaze me." "Good! It's to keep you on your toes my friend", Lindsay replied nudging the brunette with her shoulder as she fell into step alongside of her.
They jostled with one another as they walked up to the ticket window and got into a line. "So, what shall we see tonight?" Andrea asked as they looked over the board above them. "I don't know, you choose", Lindsay replied and waited as Andrea looked over the offerings. Lindsay's attention was diverted to the crowd around her as her eyes scanned the patrons in line. A familiar tall figure caught her attention and she squinted over the crowd to get a better look. The dark-haired woman had her back to Lindsay as she leaned down to whisper something personal in her companion's ear, but when she turned, her profile made Lindsay's breath catch in her throat and a soft cry slipped past the lump she tried to swallow.
"What? Did you say something?" Andrea looked down at the pale face next to her and became alarmed, "Hey, you okay?" Lindsay didn't answer Andrea as her attention was riveted elsewhere and the brunette followed the stare and saw what was going on. Realizing that Jade was not alone, Andrea smiled softly to herself before turning a solicitous look at Lindsay. "Do you want to leave?"
"No, it's alright. I'm perfectly fine." The blonde turned a slightly shaky head toward Andrea and the set of her shoulders told the taller woman not to pursue this any further. "So, what did you decide?" Lindsay's face was a mask of stone at the moment as she tried to rein her wild emotions. Part of her wanted to run to Jade and throw herself in her arms, and the other part wanted to punish the woman for what she was doing. Instead she took a deep breath and pushed those emotions away and concentrated on her friend.
"How about a comedy? Yes, I certainly think that would be the right ticket." Andrea replied cautiously, she had nixed the romantic option for something a little lighter considering Lindsay's current demeanor. "Fine". The line had been steadily moving as the women waited in silence. Andrea would occasionally catch Lindsay looking sideways toward Jade and her date and the blonde's fixed eyes would falter slightly. Lindsay would catch herself and turn forward letting the wall slide back into place.
Jade and Erin decided to go to the movies before starting in on their property search the next day. Coming out of the darkened theater, Erin wiped a tear from her eye. The romantic comedy wasn't all they had expected and the sudden twist at the end really hit home for the two women. Jade put her hand on Erin's elbow and guided her out to the parking lot. "You okay? I'm sorry about that, I thought it was suppose to be a comedy."
Erin looked up and laughed, "Yes, just caught me by surprise, I'm fine. Thanks for asking though." "My pleasure." Jade replied and kept her hand firmly in place as they came around the corner of the theater to the parking lot. Erin allowed her steps to drift closer to Jade as they walked side by side. Turning the corner of the building they met the throng of moviegoers in front of the theater. Weaving through the crowd Jade's heart gave a lurch as they came face to face with Lindsay and Andrea.
"Fancy meeting you here." Andrea broke the deafening silence that had engulfed the couples. Erin smiled at Andrea and then looked toward the blonde next to her. It instantly dawned on her who these people were. When she saw the blonde's green eyes were solely focused on the woman next to her she extended her scope of vision and saw an intense pair of blue eyes returning the green stare. Erin's heart took a sudden lurch at this sighting and then instantly dropped when she felt the arm on her elbow slide away, and Jade distance herself physically and emotionally.
"Hello Lindsay." Jade's voice was deep and strained as she ignored Andrea's greeting. "Hello Jade", Lindsay broke her gaze from the blue eyes that had always hypnotized her and looked down to the woman standing next to Jade. She saw a beautiful brunette with green eyes smiling nervously at the people around her. Jade regained her composure and turned to offer her friend's introduction. "I'm sorry, this is Erin. She is a friend visiting from Atlanta. Erin, this is Lindsay." Erin nodded to Lindsay and murmured, "Hello, nice to meet you" and fell silent along with the rest.
"Oh, and I'm Andrea!" The tall brunette stepped forward offering Erin her handshake. 'Well, I have to give her credit, Jade certainly does have good taste in women.'
"Oh, I'm sorry." Lindsay replied shaking her head after realizing she had forgotten all about the woman standing next to her. Andrea looked down with a frown at the blonde's apology and replied, "I'm sure Jade didn't mean to exclude me in the introductions."
"Didn't I?" Jade retorted quickly with a dark smile on her face causing Lindsay to unconsciously shiver when she saw it. Once again she found herself flooded with emotions that she couldn't react upon. 'What have I done? I've pushed the one person who means the most to me out of my life.'
"Excuse us but we haven't had dinner yet and it's getting late. It was really good to see you again Lindsay." Jade stepped away detaching herself from the little crowd and waiting for Erin to join her. She needed to put distance between herself and the tall brunette before she did something she would regret. She silently reproached herself for not being able to get past her jealously and hurt that Lindsay had chosen that women over herself.
Erin caught up with Jade and could see the tension outlined in the broad shoulders and sighed thinking, 'My friend, you are still very much in love and I'm afraid at what this loss might cost you.' Erin fell into step next to Jade without saying a word as they walked silently toward the parked car. "I'm sorry about that." Jade offered as she unlocked the door for her friend. She pulled it open and wearily rested her chin on her hand atop the doorframe as she looked down at Erin. Erin paused smiling up softly into troubled eyes. She reached out and touched Jade shoulder, "Hey, nothing to apologize for, I understand."
"I wish I did." Jade replied, looking doubtfully into the darkening night. "Maybe you both haven't thought this one thoroughly through?" Jade shook her head with a slight smile, "No, Lindsay has pretty much made her choice clear. I don't think there is much that can be done." Erin slid into the passenger seat and looked up, "It didn't look that way to me." The raven-haired woman looked down at her new friend and realized that Erin was worried about where this was all going in relationship to the two of them. Instantly feeling guilty Jade leaned down into the car and gently touched the side of Erin's cheek. "Hey, I know things have been a little rocky, but its occurrences like these that strengthen my understanding that my life is on a different course now. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing either." Jade's soft smile turned into a lopsided grin and she added, "Did I tell you I'm glad that you came down this weekend?"
Erin could never resist this woman's charm and looked up happily, "No, but I'm glad that you are." Jade leaned in closer and placed a soft kiss on Erin's lips and murmured, "Good, then we are both glad, let's go eat!" Jade closed her door and walked around the back of the vehicle and momentarily looked up into the starry sky as her thoughts assaulted her. 'Had she felt anything with that kiss? She wasn't entirely sure, maybe it just wasn't enough of test to know for sure.' Shaking off these negative thoughts she continued to the driver's side and slid in behind the wheel. Reaching over she grasped Erin's hand and lightly squeezed it flashing a smile over at the woman. 'The only way to know is to try, I have to give her at least that chance.' Driving to the restaurant, their conversation was mainly about Erin's search for a new restaurant site. Jade half listened to Erin's description of what she preferred as she thought about the woman sitting next to her. She was almost everything Jade would have looked for, had she been looking, except one thing. She hadn't captured her heart.
The ride home had been uncomfortably silent as Andrea looked broodingly over at Lindsay. The blonde was looking out the window lost in thought, somewhere Andrea was never privileged to go. Tired of the constant roller coaster ride, Andrea decided it was time to step up the quest another notch. "You hungry?"
"Hmmm?" Lindsay replied not really focusing her attention on the woman driving. Andrea let out a slow sigh and replied, "Hello? Anybody home?" Lindsay turned to the brunette and recognition of the woman next to her slowly crept in as Andrea looked at her inquisitively. "Oh, damn! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ignore you, I guess I just wandered off. What did you say?"
Now that she had Lindsay's attention focused on her she smiled softly and reached over to touch the blonde's hand. "Hey, it's okay. I was just wondering if you wanted to stop and get something to eat or would you like to come over and I can whip something up?"
Lindsay's apologetic smile turned sly as she replied, "So, you can cook?" Andrea laughed out loud and replied slyly, "There are many hidden talents you haven't seen yet." "Ohhh....well then I guess you will have to show me this one at least." Lindsay replied chuckling and playing along with the light teasing. 'Oh, honey I will, just wait. There are many things I'd like to show you.' Andrea smiled as her thoughts conjured up romantic images of the blonde next to her. 'Well, maybe its time you see the more special talents I possess.' The light bantering continued until they reached Andrea's apartment and she went around to open Lindsay's door. Reaching down for her hand to help the woman out of the vehicle, Andrea didn't release it and held Lindsay's hand as they walked toward the apartment. She didn't release it until they were inside and then she pulled Lindsay into her arms and looked down into her green eyes. "So, what would you like?"
"Like?" Lindsay replied suddenly nervous and shifted her weight back on her heels in an effort to keep from leaning into the taller woman. Andrea sensed the pulling away and didn't pursue. "To eat?"
"Oh, umm...whatever is easiest." Lindsay answered and chastised herself for being so standoffish. She purposely slid her arms around Andrea's back and leaned in for a tight hug. "Whatever you feel like cooking is fine with me." Andrea leaned down and kissed the top of Lindsay's head and waited for the usual withdrawal, but it didn't happen. Pleased, she pulled back and kissed Lindsay lightly on the nose before releasing her and moving into the kitchen. "Okay, let's see what we have." Pulling open the refrigerator Andrea listed their options and waited for Lindsay to choose.
Andrea once again was faced with a far away look on Lindsay's face, as she grew impatient standing before the open refrigerator door. Clearing her throat loudly, she let out a deep breath when the blonde jumped at the noise and looked back at her in frustration. "Oh, anything. It doesn't really matter to me." Turning, Lindsay walked away into the living room leaving Andrea stewing in the kitchen. After a few moments of pacing, Andrea closed the refrigerator door with a slam and walked out into the living room to find Lindsay. She found the blonde looking out the sliding glass doors at the sky and came to a stop directly behind her.
"Then tell me. What does matter to you?"
Lindsay started at the harsh spoken directly behind her and whipped around to face Andrea. "Wha-a-t?"
"I need to know. This Jekyl and Hyde thing you have going is driving me insane! One moment you are with me and the next you are a million miles away and could care less if I were in the same room or not!" Andrea stood with her hands firmly on her hips, waiting for Lindsay to respond.
"What are you talking about? I'm here now aren't I?" Lindsay replied a little more harshly than she had planned. She just had too many things rushing at her at once tonight to go through this too.
"Not for me you aren't! Every time I get close to you, you push me away and when I leave you alone you start playing around and confuse the hell out of me!" Andrea's temper was close to erupting and she tried to rein her voice down a few decibels.
"I don't know what you are talking about!" Lindsay replied and moved past the angry woman. Andrea reached out and grabbed Lindsay's arm halting any further movement. The blonde pulled back but stopped when the grasp tightened. "Ouch, let me go, you're hurting me!"
"Just tell me one thing?" Andrea replied and pulled Lindsay back toward her stopping when the shorter woman stumbled into her chest. Looking down into smoldering green eyes she asked, "Are you still in love with Jade?" The shift of Lindsay's eyes told Andrea more than any words ever could. Angry and hurt she leaned down and crushed Lindsay into a hard kiss, trapping her from any movement.
The question brought Lindsay back to reality and before she could respond she was wrapped up in a bone-crushing kiss and could do nothing to free herself. Finally, she felt Andrea's hold lessen and she pulled herself free and stumbled back out of reach. Looking up at Andrea, it was like seeing her for the first time and she finally admitted that yes, 'she was very much in love with Jade!'
The brunette sensed her failure and stepped forward to try to reason with Lindsay one last time. Lindsay put up her hand to stop Andrea, shaking her head she whispered, "Take me home."
Jade sat down next to Erin and put her arm along the back of the sofa behind the brunette. Erin could feel the heat radiating from the tall woman's body as it brushed lightly against her shoulder. Closing her eyes, she silently prayed for strength. 'Oh God, why does she have to be so perfect!' Opening her eyes, she looked up into deep blue pools and swallowed trying to keep her racing heart from reaching her throat. Her mind kept pace with her heart as she tried to make sense of what she was feeling and what she knew to be true. 'As much as I want this, really want this, it's not going to work! Jade is not free, I'm not sure if she ever will be.' Looking closely into the sea of blue, she noted the look of fear thinly veiled with an attentive demeanor. Resolutely leaning back against the cushion and detaching herself as far as she could from temptation, Erin asked, "What are you thinking?"
"I was about to ask you the same question." Jade replied with a familiar grin. "You just look like you have something on your mind?"
Erin smiled and nodded slightly before answering, "Maybe, I guess I do."
"And that would be what?" Jade asked smiling mischievously as she leaned closer toward the brunette. Erin shook her head and groaned softly as she pushed Jade back to her side of the sofa. "Not what you think, Jade."
Jade looked confused and slightly rebuffed when she asked, "Why, is there a problem?"
"Jade, listen", Erin began and stood up pacing in front of Jade. "I'd like to think we have the makings of a great friendship."
"Oh, okay." Jade's demeanor stiffened as she folded her hands in her lap with a stony expression on her face.
"Before you raise up that wall, I need you to listen to me." Erin knelt in front of Jade and placed her hands over the woman's clasped hands. She could feel them clench tighter at her touch. "I value your friendship and I don't say these things lightly, but you and I are no more meant to be in a relationship than Lindsay and Andrea. But, I would hope that I am one step better than Andrea. I'm not willing to lose the friendship that we've started in a vain attempt to have you for myself. As tempting as that may be, we both know that we were never meant to be together in that way." Erin could feel Jade's hands relaxing and took that as an encouraging sign. She slipped onto the couch next to Jade, keeping contact with the taller woman. "Do you see what I'm trying to say?"
"Yeah, I guess so", Jade shrugged her shoulders unwilling to totally give in to what she knew was the truth. Some stubborn part of her still wanted to defy what had always been staring her in the face. No matter where she went or what she said, a big part of her was buried deep within her, unavailable to just anyone.
Erin bumped Jade's shoulder lightly with her own, "Come on Jade and help me here. You've been building up walls ever since you and Lindsay split. So much of you is tied to that relationship that you barely have enough left over to survive." Jade snorted at the remark thinking, 'That is absurd, I can survive just fine on my own'.
Erin shook her head softly, "You know exactly what I mean. I'm not talking about walking and breathing, I'm talking about LIVING! Do you really think that is what you have been doing for the last four months?"
Jade stood up gently shaking Erin's hands from her own and replied, "And what do you suggest I do? I think it's pretty obvious that Lindsay no longer has a need for our relationship or me, for that matter." Erin looked up at Jade and watched the woman begin pacing, trying if she could, to run away from the truth that was before her.
"How do you know? Have you talked to her lately?" Erin inquired trying hard to keep her voice soft and not go to the woman and shake some sense into her.
"Listen, I know that I've made some mistakes by not addressing the situation from the very beginning. I also know I never should have taken so many extra assignments without explaining to Lindsay why. But, I didn't really know why myself, except for the fact that I was afraid of the decision to change jobs. How was I to know that it all meant nothing, all the travel in the world wasn't what made me happy. It was in knowing that I had Lindsay waiting for me when I came home that really mattered. Maybe I should have told her that I was planning to quit, but I thought I would surprise her. I guess I was the one who ended up being surprised. While I was off coming to terms with my happiness, she found hers with another woman. I can't fault her for that, now can I? I'm the one that left her behind, abandoned, and alone." Jade stopped her pacing to look down at Erin unsure if it was affirmation that she sought or balm for her tortured soul.
Quietyly, Erin stood and stepped up to the taller woman and looked deeply into troubled blue eyes. "Jade, maybe you made a mistake then when you didn't understand what you were feeling but, now you do, and you are making a bigger mistake by not going to Lindsay and talking with her. Tell her what you just told me. I can't guarantee you that things will turn out happy ever after now, but you have to at least make an attempt to explain what happened. You owe her that much." Jade looked away for a moment fighting Erin's words, knowing the truth in them, but not wanting to hear any of it. Finally defeated, she looked back at her patient friend with tears in her eyes and whispered, "It's not that easy".
Erin took Jade into her arms and held her softly trying to comfort her. "I know that, honey. It may be one of the hardest things you've ever had to do, but there is no other way. Don't you think you have let this go on long enough? Isn't your love for Lindsay worth taking the risk?" Jade nodded and replied, "Yes. I just need time to figure out what I need to say." Erin pulled back and looked up into watery blue eyes. "You've had plenty of time, just say what's in your heart", Erin replied softly. Jade nodded and added, "Mel has been bugging me about taking one more assignment; maybe now would be a good time to get away for a few weeks".
"Maybe", Erin replied pulling the taller woman's eyes down to look at her, "Just don't take too much more time, okay?" Jade smiled and nodded again wiping an errant tear from her face.
"Now, I believe you mentioned dinner, didn't you?" Erin patted Jade's cheek smiling.
"I believe so!" The tall woman replied stepping back and moving toward the kitchen. Before Erin could follow, Jade turned in the doorway and said, "Thanks for...for this", opening her arms in gesture of what had just taken place. Erin smiled and moved to link her arm in Jade's replying, "That's what friends are for. Now let's go see about some food." The two women smiled and laughed as they dragged each other off into the kitchen.
"You can't just quit." Andrea's voice could be heard from behind the closed door causing a few passing students to hesitate and look toward the office before continuing on their way.
"Yes, I can and I have", Lindsay replied firmly as she packed her few belongings into a box. She had given her notice that morning but had hoped to be gone before Andrea had arrived for her afternoon classes. For the last couple of months, Andrea had quietly accepted Lindsay's rebuffs of her attention. But, Lindsay could sense the woman was growing restless and she wasn't sure how long the calm demeanor would last. Unfortunately, the Dean had kept her in conference most of the morning trying to talk her out of her decision. By the time she returned to her office to pack the last of her belongings, Andrea was waiting with the note Lindsay had left crumpled in her fist. Her attitude was anything but solicitous.
"This is ridiculous! Where are you going?" Andrea demanded halting her exit as the blonde tried to move past her with the box. Taking the box out of Lindsay's arms, Andrea waited for an answer.
"I've decided to write full-time. I've wanted to do this for so long, but could never find the time to devote to write a book. Now, I'm going to do it." Lindsay replied holding her hands out for her possessions. Andrea shook her head and replied, "I'll carry it", and followed the blonde out of the office and down the hallway. The taller woman tried everything to dissuade Lindsay from her course of action, but nothing was reaching the blonde. Finally she fell silent as they crossed the parking lot. Inwardly, Andrea thoughts boiled as they silently screamed at Lindsay to stop and not do this. Giving into the thoughts that raced through her head, Andrea angrily spat, "So, you are just going to walk out and not give us a chance?"
Lindsay sighed tiredly as she stopped at her car. She turned the key in the lock and opened the trunk before turning to Andrea and softly answered, "there never really was an us. It was a dream, but we both know it would never really happen."
Turning back to the car Lindsay let the trunk release and waited for Andrea to place her box inside. The taller woman hesitated before placing the box inside and slamming the lid shut. Lindsay stepped back and went around the car to open the driver's door. Andrea halted her by stopping the car door half open and spat, "It could have been our dream together; if you had just given it a chance!" Lindsay shook her head no and pushed the door farther open before slipping behind the wheel. Andrea held the door against Lindsay's attempt to shut it until Lindsay's hoarse voice whispered, "Please just let me go". Andrea lost her resolve for a moment giving the blonde time to close the door and start the engine. As Lindsay backed out of the spot, Andrea ran up and began banging on the window for Lindsay to stop the car. Through tears in her eyes, Lindsay put the car in drive and drove away leaving an angry woman shouting at her from behind.
Lindsay quickly drove home and picked up the suitcases she had already packed and had waiting by the front door. She looked at the condo one last time as a tear slipped down her cheek. Picking up her bags, she headed down to her waiting car and drove away from her once happy home. Pulling into the post office parking lot, she stopped in front of the mailbox drop-off. Lindsay slipped a key into an envelope and sealed it. Looking at the address one more time, she smiled through watery eyes at the familiar name and placed the letter into the mailbox. Driving away she headed toward Dave's, she didn't want to risk another confrontation with Andrea and knew it would be safer staying with them until it was time to leave. He was Jade's friend first, but over the course of the last three years, Dave and Mike had become family to Lindsay.
Pulling around the house and into the courtyard, Lindsay was rewarded with the sight of Dave coming out of the patio doors to meet her. Opening her car door he leaned in and hugged the small woman. "Everything okay? You didn't have any trouble did you?" Pulling back he looked into liquid green eyes worriedly. When Lindsay had called explaining she would be going away and asking to spend the night, she had explained about Andrea. He had known there was another woman from his brief conversation with Jade, but not that she was actually dangerous. Lindsay shook her head as Dave helped her out of the car. "No, I think I got away before reality sunk in. I'm just glad I'm not staying at the condo alone tonight."
"Don't you worry, you are safe with the 'pitbull' and me'". Dave smiled grimly as he relieved Lindsay of her keys. Watching him walk to the rear of the car and disappear under the rising trunk lid, she smiled and asked, "Does Mike know about your little pet name for him?" Dave peeked around the car sheepishly at Lindsay and then up toward the house before quietly replying, "Yes, but he's not thrilled with it so let's keep it between the two of us." "Deal!" Lindsay replied laughing as she followed Dave toward the house.
Finishing her meal, Lindsay smiled at the light banter between Dave and Mike. Mike was the complete opposite to Dave, one was tall, the other short. Dave had dark hair and complexion to Mike's blondish head and fair skin. But, they fit each other so perfectly that Lindsay had to marvel how two totally different people could make such a perfect match. A frown creased her brow as her thoughts turned to Jade and their relationship. They too had been two different people, but their relationship obviously proved not to be 'a match made in heaven'.
Lindsay started when she felt a warm hand covered her as it lay on the table, looking up she saw Mike's warm brown eyes. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine, just thinking." Lindsay replied, forcing a smile that she didn't really feel.
"Having second thoughts?" Mike inquired and took both of Lindsays hands in his to let her know she was not alone. Dave quietly got up and began clearing the table. 'This conversation is best left to the master', he thought grinning, ' it's his field after all.' Dave moved into the kitchen and began loading the dishwasher giving the two some privacy in the other room.
"No, not like you think, Mike. This is something I need to do for myself. I've always wanted to finish writing my book, but never seem to have enough time to devote to it. I need to get away for awhile to think, so now is the perfect time for me to do this." Lindsay looked deeply into Mike's eyes hoping he could understand and not fight her on her decision. It had been a hard enough one to make without having to constantly defend her reasons.
"Honey, its not the extended vacation that worries me, its the location. Why Tahiti? Why not just go up to your cabin in Michigan?" Mike studied the blonde's movements and could tell that she wasn't as confident in her future venture than she tried to make everyone to believe. "Not the cabin, too many memories there at the moment. Tahiti is some place that I've always wanted to go. Then, I found this little island retreat on the island of Tahaa, away from all the tourism and big cities. The biggest industries on the island are the pineapple and vanilla plantations and, of course, Polynesian temple sites, which I plan on visiting. I have rented a place on a quiet little bay near Haamene that will give me the peace and quiet I need to write. I had a little money put aside from my brother so I want to do this," Lindsay replied and shrugged her shoulders.
"Well, it sounds like you have planned everything out." Mike replied smiling. Standing up, he led the way into the living room. He felt better about Lindsay's plans knowing that she had put a lot of thought and research into her venture. Lindsay took a seat on the sofa and replied, "Pretty much, the only problem is I don't know what to do with the stuff I've left at the condo. I don't know how long I'll be gone and I'm not sure what Jade's plans are with the place." Mike sat next to her and leaned back against the cushions. "I take it you haven't told Jade about your plans?"
Lindsay looked down at her hands lying in her lap and shook her head no. "We haven't really talked much since she moved out."
"Do you want to call her and let her know you are leaving?" Mike inquired hopeful that she would, but not wanting to push too hard. Again, the blonde shook her head no, "After all this time, I don't think it really matters that much to her. I just wanted to make sure my stuff doesn't get in her way."
"Don't worry about your things, I'll make sure they are removed and put into storage if Jade decides to sell the condo." Mike replied and looked up smiling as Dave entered the room hesitantly. "Hi!"
"We were just discussing the situation with the condo. Has Jade mentioned anything to you about selling it?" They looked at the tall man questioningly. "No, I don't think she has any immediate plans to put it on the market. She only took out a short-term lease on her present place. Why?" Dave replied.
"Lindsay left some of her things there and she is afraid they will be in Jade's way." Mike answered and winked at his partner. "Oh, I don't think that is the case, but if you want we can keep them here until you return."
"Thanks, I'm not sure when I'll return or if I will, but if I don't then I can always have them shipped to me." Lindsay replied unsure of what her future would hold.
"You can't just leave and never come back!" Dave blurted out before catching himself. "I mean we'd miss you too much." He quickly took a seat next to Mike on the sofa and the two of them looked expectantly at the blonde.
"It's an option, I didn't say it was for sure." Lindsay explained. "I'm not really sure what will happen. But, I promise, no matter what, I will visit and keep in touch. You two have become family to me."
"We feel the same way", Mike replied with Dave nodding in agreement before adding, "Have you talked to Jade lately?"
Lindsay shook her head as her gaze alternated between the two men. "I really don't think that it would matter to Jade what I do. I don't really blame her either. I've made some stupid mistakes in my life, but in the last few months it seems that I've completely outdone myself!"
"We all make mistakes", Dave replied. When Lindsay began shaking her head in disbelief, he added, "So, you locked yourself away in that cabin after your brother's death, I don't consider that a mistake. It would have been if you had stayed there, but you didn't."
Mike gently squeezed Lindsay's arm, attempting to get the focus of the conversation back on target, "Listen, we all do things we regret but, right now, I don't think you have done anything that can't be undone with a simple phone call."
Lindsay stood up tiredly and her shoulders drooped as she spoke. "Listen, what's in the past is better left there. I've made my share of mistakes and I'm willing to admit them, but during this past four months Jade hasn't given me an indication that she remembers I exist. I know you two care deeply for Jade and want what is best for her. I am obviously not it. So, let's just let this one go. I've got to find a way to get on with my life and I'm taking the first step tomorrow when I get on that plane. At the moment, I'm exhausted and I have a long trip ahead of me tomorrow. If you don't mind, I'd just like to get some sleep."
Mike and Dave stood up in unison and the taller man went to the front hall to pick up Lindsay's bags and take them to her room. Mike led the blonde down the hall in his wake. "Lindsay, let me just say one more thing and I won't mention any of this again." Mike waited for Lindsay to reply and she nodded her head. "Just don't be so hard on yourself and remember just because something goes wrong, doesn't mean it can't be fixed. A relationship is made of two sides. Don't become both judge and jury without searching out all the facts. Nothing is gone for good unless you decide to let it go. Don't make the decision in haste, think about it."
Lindsay leaned up tearfully and kissed Mike's cheek. "Thank you for caring so much. I promise you that thinking about everything is exactly what I have been doing. I need to find a way to get past the pain and to get on with my life. When I lost my brother, I thought my world was over until I met Jade. Then, I lost sight of what was truly important to me and I closed myself to it. I swore after my brother died I would never let anyone get that close to me again, but I did. And now, I feel myself slipping back to where I was right after my brother died. If I stay here, it's going to happen. I need some time to think and figure out where I belong."
The last phrase was stated as they entered the guest room and Dave looked up blinking back tears and said, "You will always have a place here whenever you need one". "Yes" Mike chimed in. "We are not giving up on you or our friendship. You are family to us."
"Thank you!" Lindsay hoarsely whispered as a tear escaped down her cheek and pulled both men into a group hug. "You don't know how much that means to me."
After saying goodnight, the two men left Lindsay to her sleep and moved down the hall toward the family room. As Dave turned to enter the room, he realized Mike had turned the opposite way and headed into the study. He quickly moved to follow his partner with a puzzled look on his face. Mike picked up the telephone receiver from its cradle on the desk and began punching in numbers.
"What are you doing?" Dave asked half knowing who would be on the other end of that phone number.
"I'm going to knock some sense into someone." Mike replied listening to the ringing of the other phone.
"Jade I presume?" Dave replied grinning. He felt a brief pang of sympathy for their tall friend, as Mike was about to be unleashed upon her.
A frown crossed the shorter man's brow as the answering machine picked up. Pushing the bar on the receiver he waited for the dial tone and quickly punched in another number. When the another answering machine picked up notifying him that the party was not in the office, he waited for the irritating beep and began, "Jade, this is Mike. I just wanted to let you know that Lindsay is here and will be leaving the country tomorrow for good. If you have half a brain in that gorgeous little head of yours, you will get your ass over here and talk to her. Her flight leaves at noon. I have never met two more stubborn women then you two...call me!"
Mike hung up and turned his ire toward Dave who backed up throwing his hands in the air innocently. "Hey, I tried talking to her, but I couldn't get anywhere either!"
"Well, we shall see about that!" Mike replied and stalked out of the den. Dave chuckled and followed his partner knowing that if anyone could the job done, Mike could.
The next morning saw Erin off on her return trip home. They had made plans to get together again the following month when Erin came in to sign the final paperwork to purchase another restaurant. Jade had called Mel the night before telling him she would take this last road assignment. He had been extremely pleased and asked if she wouldn't mind leaving first thing in the morning. He would have her travel documents ready if she would come to the office before going to the airport.
Walking into the office, she found Mel's secretary waiting for her at the front desk. Your documents are on your desk, but you only have about two hours before your flight leaves. Mel said to call him after you get settled in and he'll give you the details on everything.
"Same old, same old!" Jade muttered under her breath as she hurried to her office. Her secretary was not at her desk as she pushed past and into the office. Her travel package was lying on her desk with a neatly typed itinerary on top. Grinning, she knew that her secretary had hastily gotten the job done efficiently as soon as she had arrived that morning. She probably had just now gone for her morning coffee.
Hastily she grabbed up the packet and put it into her briefcase before turning and heading out the door just as the elevator arrived and got in. Adjusting her brief case strap on her shoulder she watched the lights as the car descended to the lobby. Half running across the lobby she halted muttering loudly, "Damn!" Turning she moved back to the elevator and angrily punched the buttons. Running back into the office she found her secretary, Susan, sipping her coffee and relaxing. Sitting up quickly at the sight of her boss, she looked questioningly as the tall woman ran by shouting, "I forgot my damn passport!"
Jade moved toward the top drawer on her desk and rifled through it until she found her passport. Grabbing the leather billfold, she closed the drawer and noticed the message light flashing on her phone and sighed thinking, 'No time for that right now. I'll have to get it later'. Walking quickly toward the reception area, she called back to Susan, "Anything urgent I need to worry about before I go on this assignment?" Jade couldn't help thinking about the message waiting on her voicemail.
Susan replied quickly, "Nothing except Mr. Fisher wants you to call him when you get to your hotel. I put that in your travel packet."
"Okay, thanks." Jade replied uncertainly. Time was running out as she exited the main doors and hurried onto the elevator that stood waiting. 'Lucky break!' Jade thought, 'I'll need it if I'm going to get to the airport in time.' Speeding to the airport she rushed to find parking and then sprinted toward the customs area to get checked in on her flight to New Zealand. The message on her phone was quickly forgotten as she went through the boarding process and boarded her plane.
Jade stepped off the plane in Christchurch, NZ after 22 hours and two different planes only to collect her bag and find herself standing in a crowd of people trying to get through customs. Tired and frustrated, she watched the crowd before her, a mixture of tourist and business travelers each jockeying for prominence in line. Grinding her teeth resolutely, Jade shuffled along in line trying to remain patient and calm. Each time the line moved two steps forward and stopped, she was rear-ended by the suitcase of the older gentleman behind her. The man would then sigh loudly announcing his displeasure at the halt of their progression. After taking about as much as she could bear, the next time the line began to move, Jade quickly took a step and raised her foot to block the inevitable collision. When the suitcase hit her foot, she smartly pushed it back until she got the desired effect and the old man collided with his own luggage. Smiling devilishly when she heard him grunt, Jade took another step forward and waited for her turn before the custom's official.
Finally breaking free from the airport, Jade opted for a taxi instead of the hotel shuttle. She wasn't in the mood to wait or to be packed into a van with ten tourists and their luggage. 'I might have to hurt someone!' She thought smiling evilly as she reveled in the quiet, empty backseat of the taxi. Reaching her hotel, Jade didn't bother unpacking since she was only spending the night before catching the Tranz Alpine Railway in the morning. Jade pulled out warmer clothing, as she knew the temperature would be cooler at this time of year. She had left on a balmy 80 degree spring day in Florida to arrive to fall temperatures of 62 degrees in Christchurch. It would also be much cooler when she reached her destination, the mountains somewhere between the Southern Alps and the Black Mountains. After unpacking the few things she would need for the night, she looked at her watch and calculated the time change back home; picking up the telephone, she placed a call to her boss, Les Wilson.
"Hello Grace, I'm here. Is there anything new I need to worry about?" Jade asked when the familiar voice of his assistant answered the telephone.
"How was the trip?" The secretary asked grinning at Jade's familiar brand of dry humor.
"Totally not fun", Jade answered tiredly and added, "Next time, if there ever is a next time, tell Les that I'm flying first class or I'm not flying at all!"
"I think you had better tell him that yourself, he's been waiting for your phone call", Grace laughed lightly.
"Okay, put him on", Jade sighed bored, causing another giggle out of Grace as she transferred the call into the boss's office.
"Hello Jade! And how are things down under?" Les's voice was too jovial for Jade at the moment and she quipped, "Still down under".
"I see we are cranky this morning", Les responded heartily.
"Uh, Les? It may be morning for you, but it's bedtime here and I'd like to do just that, go to bed. So what do you need to tell me", Jade asked stifling a yawn.
"O-kay, let's not keep you from your beauty rest" Les chuckled and preceded to explain the photo layout he was looking for, before asking, "You don't by chance have Lindsay there with you, do you?"
Jade was lying on the bed half asleep listening to Les until she heard his last question. At the sound of Lindsay's name she bolted upright and stammered, "Ah no, was she supposed to be?"
"No, I just thought that if Lindsay were there, she could get started on writing the accompanying copy. But, no problem, I can get someone here to take care of it when you send in the photos." Les replied quickly sensing life awakening on the other end of the phone line. Taking a chance he asked, "Have you talked to Lindsay lately?"
Jade felt her eyes tear up and she shook her head angrily to block them before stiffly replying, "Not you too, Les!"
"Hey, I'm just asking", Les replied defensively.
"I know, just give me some time okay?" Jade was tired, too tired to carry on this conversation right now. "I just need to get some rest right now."
"Okay, enough said, keep in touch Jade and, try to enjoy yourself too." Les replied letting the subject drop.
"Thanks Les, I'll try." Jade replied sincerely and hung up the receiver. 'Talk to Lindsay, yeah, easier said than done'. Jade changed into her sweats and t-shirt and climbed beneath the covers before turning on the TV. Flipping through the channels, she settled on a movie and promptly fell asleep before the first commercial came on.
Lindsay stepped out onto the front porch of her rented cottage. She lifted her face into the warm sunshine and took a deep breath of warm sea air, lightly touched with the scent of vanilla. Lindsay had been surprised to find Vanilla Plantations on the island. She hadn't known that Vanilla was actually a product of the south pacific. Leaning against the porch railing, she looked out over the surf and sighed. It was an ocean view, but vastly different from the one she left back in Florida. A momentary sadness touched her when she thought of the times she would sit on the condo balcony and look out over the waves below. She thought of Jade and wondered what she was doing right at that moment. Shaking her head to clear the sad feelings that were invading her thoughts, Lindsay's eyes scanned over the deep azure sea as the gentle waves rolled onto the beach and lapped against the rocks that served as a border to the side of her property. If she walked about 100 yards down the beach in the opposite direction, she would find another such rock wall. These barriers left her with a virtually private beach all her own, although anyone could climb the rock jetty and reach her portion of paradise. Lindsay smiled as this wasn't much of a concern, her landlord was the closest neighbor and the old woman was about a mile down the road in the opposite direction, towards town.
Lindsay went back into the cool interior of the cottage where the ceiling fan idly turned and kept the room cooled with the breeze off the ocean. There wasn't much need for air conditioning on this side of the island as the trade winds blew unceasingly in her direction. Their only change would be in their intensity if a storm approached. Lilia, her landlord, was a native by birth and had lived on this island all of her life. She had eased any fears that Lindsay had had regarding typhoons and storms as the waves break approximately 1 mile out against a natural reef, leaving the shoreline protected as a sheltered cove. Lindsay picked up her keys and shopping bag and went back outside letting the screen door close behind her. It had taken Lindsay by surprise to find that the cottage doors had no locks, but Lilia had assured her that they had never needed to worry about that here. The motorbike had come with cottage, saving Lindsay from having to purchase a car or other means of transportation. Dropping the shopping bag in the rear compartment, Lindsay hopped on the scooter and started it up. Letting the brake out, she throttled the accelerator and the bike leapt forward. Lindsay hung on, still getting use to driving the bike and steered it down the path toward the road to Haamene.
Lindsay greeted the locals that she knew thanks to Lilia's introductions when she first arrived. They were a friendly community with a mixture of islanders and europeans, both fiercely independent and protective of their quiet way of life. Lindsay loved to shop at the local market where the farmer's sold their crops. Although watermelon, vanilla and copra were the majority of the crops raised for export in the fertile fields on the island, Lindsay could find all the fresh vegetables and fruits that she needed from the smaller farms on the island. Her next stop was at one of the few restaurants on the island for lunch. The Island House was a quaint clapboard structure on stilts in the midst of a tranquil lagoon. Here you could either sit inside under the cooling current of the large bamboo paddle fans, or enjoy the breeze off the water and watch the fish swimming in the shallow lagoon that surrounded the restaurant. Her weekly trip to town for supplies and lunch was also the time for Lindsay to make any phone calls to the States that she needed. The blonde had decided against installing a phone at the cottage when she first moved to the island. If she were going to write, she would need the solitary peace and quiet that the isolated cottage would afford. So, the few times she had needed to place a call to the States, she had motored into town and used the public phone at the Island House.
Lindsay placed her order and went to the pay phones. She needed to call the University to make sure they had forwarded her last checks to her mailbox on the island. Using her credit card, she placed a call to her old boss and waited for the call to be connected. Lindsay listened to the ringing of the phone and looked at her watch trying to estimate the time it was back home. Satisfied that she had called at an appropriate time, Lindsay grew impatient and was sorry that she hadn't made arrangements with her bank to just transfer her a monthly stipend and they could have handled this call. The connection was finally made and Lindsay found herself talking to Ruth, the department head's secretary. Lindsay had always liked Ruth and she quickly found herself talking to the older woman about the island the wonderful cottage she had rented. After about 45 minutes of chatter, the two finally ended their conversation with Ruth promising to take care of forwarding Lindsay's check to her current address. Lindsay went back toward her table smiling and stopped when she heard a familiar voice.
"Good news I hope?"
Lindsay turned to find Lilia entering the restaurant, blinking as her old eyes became accustomed to the change in lighting in the interior of the restaurant. Lindsay gripped the outstretched hand and guided Lilia up the last step onto the main floor. "Actually, I was talking to an old friend back home, and how are you doing today?" Lindsay answered.
"The sun is shining and the fish are biting, what more can an old woman ask for?" Lilia smiled at the young woman and patted her cheek before adding, "And I have some nice fish for your dinner".
"Well, I was just about to have some lunch, why don't you join me?" Lindsay asked. Lilia shook her head and replied, "Sorry dear, I just stopped in to pick up my granddaughter Pearl, and give her a ride home. How about a rain check?"
"I'll hold you to it." Lindsay replied with a grin. "Fine, you do that", Lilia laughed. "I'll have James keep your fish on ice in back." Lindsay nodded in reply and waved as the old woman went toward the back of the restaurant. James was Lila's granddaughter's fiancée and owner of the restaurant, which gave the old woman many privileges. But, James didn't mind, he loved Lila as if she were his own mother. Lila and Pearl were James's entire family and he would do anything either of them asked, including cleaning fish for Lindsay.
Lindsay moved out onto the deck and took a seat in the shade out of the heat of the early afternoon sun. Eating her lunch, she lazily threw pieces of bread to the fish that schooled near the shade of her table and watched them for a while. Sitting back, Lindsay looked out over the expanse of blue as far down the lagoon as she could see. She couldn't help but think how close this island was to paradise. Her mind wandered to her past and a tall raven-haired woman. Lindsay could almost see Jade's lopsided grin and a smile involuntarily crossed her lips. A sudden breeze kicked up and the face of Jade suddenly turned into Andrea and a chill ran down her spine causing the blonde to shiver.
Lindsay stood abruptly and pushed back her chair, she couldn't let her thoughts stray and take her where they were headed. 'I've got to get past these thoughts and move on. I can't even settle down and write anything'. Lindsay moved through the restaurant silently admonishing herself and didn't hear her name called from behind her until a waiter touched her on the arm as she passed. Startled from her thoughts, she pulled back and looked up in fear. The waiter quickly pulled his hand back and embarrassed pointed toward the tall islander approaching from behind the bar. Lindsay smiled apologetically to the waiter and walked to meet James.
"Your fish. Lilia said to make sure I gave it to you when you left", James replied smiling and handed her a rather large package. Lindsay took the heavy gift and laughed, "How much does she think I can eat? I'll have enough fish for a week".
"You know Lilia, she takes care of all wayward souls." James smiled again, his white teeth flashing against his deep tan. "Wayward soul, huh? I've never thought of myself that way." Lindsay replied amused and thanked James before leaving the restaurant. She could feel the heat from the afternoon sun, but the steady breeze from the ocean kept things cool as she headed around to the side of the building to retrieve her bike from the shaded parking. Putting her package in the back with her earlier purchases, she started the bike and headed home. 'Maybe I can get a couple hours of writing in before dinner'.
Jade waited for the phone to connect as she leaned back wearily against the headboard of the bed in her hotel room. Tonight, she felt all of the last three weeks of travel and working alone, she wanted nothing more than to get back home. Being on the road wasn't any fun anymore, not since she had lost her travel partner. 'Travel partner? No, she was more than that, much more', Jade's thoughts ended there as the connection on the phone was made.
"Yes, it's Jade. Did you get the last set of prints I FedEx'd? I think that should about rap it up for this assignment. I got some pretty good stuff didn't I?" The brunette rattled on until she realized that Les wasn't responding, feeling a sense of dread she asked, "Okay, you are too quiet, what's up Les?"
"Well Jade, ummm it seems that a set of your earlier negatives have been misplaced. It was the opening layout for the cover and we can't find them anywhere. I have a feeling one of our ever-efficient maintenance staff discarded them. I'm sorry," Les answered apologetically.
"Awww no Les. Do you know what that means?" Jade replied in a slightly whining tone before catching herself.
"The entire staff has turned the office upside down Jade, they are nowhere to be found and we really need those shots from the Bay of Islands to start the layout. You know I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important Jade." Les explained patiently.
"Shit Les!" Jade's ire released she sat back with a thud against the headboard in dejection.
"I'm sorry Jade, but I really need you to come through for me this time," Les asked with a desperate plea.
"This is the last time Les. I promise you, after this assignment, I'm through. No more road trips," Jade replied firmly.
"Deal, just get me those photos," Les answered quickly and rang off before the tall angry woman could change her mind.
Jade slammed down the phone in frustration and rolled over grabbing the other pillow and clutching it to her. "Poor substitution!' Jade thought as she let herself calm down. After she had become resigned to her fate, she rolled over and picked up the telephone to make the necessary arrangements to head back up to the north island to finish her last assignment. Sitting on the edge of the bed with the pillow still in her lap, Jade looked across at the mirrors on the closet doors. Staring at the reflection skeptically, she saw the lines and dark circles marring the usually clear blue eyes. Grinning slightly to change the face she saw did little to help it, and finally she let the grin slide down to a frown and whispered, "Yeah, that looks more at home". Frustrated, Jade threw the pillow at that person and fell backward onto the bed as a tear slipped down her cheek.
Jade awoke the next morning and found herself lying fully clothed across the bed, in the same position she remembered from last night. Sitting up she looked once again at the reflection in the mirror and groaned at the puffy face reflected back at her. "Wonderful! Just freaking wonderful!" Jade spat and stood up turning her back on the mirror as she moved toward the bathroom and turned the shower on full blast. After a hot shower, letting the steam clear her head, Jade dressed, packed and was headed to the airport to catch her flight to Auckland. 'Once this assignment is over, I need to face this situation once and for all'. Jade silently promised herself as she ran to her departure gate.
"So, what does the boss want to see me about now?" The brunette asked the secretary as she took a seat across from her desk.
"The usual, next term schedules are due and he wants to talk to you about changing some classes around", Ruth replied shrugging her shoulders.
"Wonderful, can't they just leave the curriculum alone for two semesters in a row?" Andrea complained slapping her hands against the arms of her chair.
"Well, since Lindsay's leaving, some adjustments have had to be made. It looks like we won't be filling the vacancy until Fall, so the rest of you will have to pick up an extra class or two to cover the schedule", Ruth replied solicitously.
At the mention of the blonde's name, Andrea sat up straight as a sharp pain ripped through her chest, followed by the heat of anger and something deeper. She still couldn't believe that Lindsay had just walked out on her without giving them a chance. At first, Andrea had thought if she had been able to get Jade out of the picture totally, things would have been very different. But, lately she was beginning to understand that it had nothing to do with the Jade. It was Lindsay who made the decision to abandon her and, it was her alone that should answer for those actions.
Andrea almost missed what Ruth was prattling on about, but caught enough to make her thoughts stop instantly and her ears perk up. Focusing on Ruth's be-speckled face, she interrupted barking, "You've heard from Lindsay?"
"Why, yes," Ruth replied timidly from the force with which Andrea had spoken. "I talked to her just last week."
"Oh," Andrea replied, trying to keep her voice calm and noncommittal after seeing the look of fear in the eyes of the secretary. Sitting back in her seat, she looked at her nails absently and said, "That's nice, is she enjoying her sabbatical?"
"Who wouldn't? What I wouldn't give to be down in Tahiti with her!" Ruth replied relaxing a bit after seeing the brunette slump back down into her chair seemingly unimpressed with the news about Lindsay.
"So, is that where she told you she was?" Andrea asked slowly as her heart raced and her fingers itched to throttle the woman in an attempt to get her to stop fawning over her discovery.
"Well, more like an island not far from Tahiti. I have the name here somewhere, she left her address so we could forward her last paycheck." Ruth rambled as she rifled through the papers in her top drawer searching for the information. "Ah, here it is", Ruth remarked holding up the slip of paper, but before Andrea could say anything further, the buzzer on the secretary's phone rang and Ruth picked up the receiver and placed the paper on her desk blotter. After a few brief words, she hung up and glanced toward her boss's door looking at Andrea and speaking, "Dr. Dever is ready to see you, I just need to get the papers he signed first". Andrea nodded to the secretary as opened the paneled door and went through, leaving it open after her. Andrea could hear her department heads' voice speaking, but her eyes were focused on the slip of paper on Ruth's desk.
"Andrea?" The sound of the deep voice brought the brunette's attention around to face Dr. Dever. As she turned, she brushed against the desk in her approach of the man standing in the doorway of his office. "You can come in now".
Andrea nodded and walked past her boss into the office. Ruth waited and then exited the office with signed files in her hands. As the door closed behind her, Ruth placed the files on her empty blotter and looked questioningly at the closed door. Unable to remember her previous task, she shrugged her shoulders and began tackling the stack of files on her desk.
Jade sighed contently as she watched the sun rise in the eastern sky, changing the hues of the water as it rose higher and brighter to herald the new day. The only sound out of place was the click of the tall woman's shutter as she took a series of photos to mark the event. This interruption in the early light did not stop the morning birds from singing as the waves broke upon the shore. A light cool breeze ruffled Jade's hair and she was glad she had worn a light jacket. Summer in New Zealand was not the normal heat and humidity that Jade was accustomed to in South Florida. Average high temperatures on the north island ranged in the mid to upper 70's, and the evenings could drop into the low 60's. Until the sun warmed the sand and air, there would be a light chill to the morning's breeze.
Finishing her roll of film, Jade sat down on the wooden stairs that led from the road to the beach. It had been a breathtaking, but exhausting, three weeks with its mixtures of highs and lows for Jade. But, one thing still eluded the tall one; she still searched for the inner peace that seemed just out of her reach. Loading a fresh roll of film in the camera, she placed the used roll in its container and marked it with her own coding for date and location. Putting the camera away in her backpack, Jade leaned back against the weathered stairs and put her hands in her pocket as she stared out to sea. She watched the varying patterns of the waves as they broke over the empty stretch beach. Her mind left empty of work details, allowing Jade's memories to emerge and reach out to her. Her thoughts found themselves drifting to a picture of a short blonde running through the waves along the shore near their condo. 'Our condo?' Jade smiled, knowing she would always think of it as mutual ground; she didn't think she could ever consider it any other way. Sadly, this led her down the path of its current situation, not sure whether she should keep it or if it was time to sell the home they had built.
"Well, I think it is time that you find out and stop procrastinating don't you?" Jade asked herself out loud. Her voice tinged with worry broke the silence around her and forced the woman to sit up straighter and take stock in herself. "This is ridiculous, I'm running from the very questions that are driving me insane night and day!" Standing up and brushing the sand off her pants, Jade thought, 'It's time I make a few phone calls and get some answers so that I can get on with my life. I won't be on this assignment forever and I need to know where I stand or at least where I'm headed.' Picking up her backpack, she determinedly climbed the stairs to her car. 'Tonight', she promised herself, 'when I return to the hotel, I'm going to start making those calls!'
Much later that same evening, it was a tired Jade that entered her room and fell backwards onto the bed in exhaustion. She let her pack fall lightly to the floor as she let out an audible sigh. Jade was finally finished with the assignment and this time she made duplicate copies of her prints, sending one Federal Express and keeping the other with her. 'Just in case there are any more accidents with my film!' Jade thought smiling devilishly as she slowly sat up and stared at the telephone. The usual energy that accompanied a completed project eluded Jade as her heart told her she had one more task to complete that night. Too tired to do anything about dinner, Jade decided to make good on her early morning vow. First, she needed to call the office to let them know the prints were in the mail.
Jade listed to the ringing on the other end, which was finally answered by her secretary. "Good afternoon, Jade Torma's office."
"Jade? How's it going?" Susan's voice was chipper and with the slightest provocation could burst into a light lilting laughter. It was one of the reasons Jade had kept her around, she had the uncanny knack of lightening the taller woman's cloud of gloom that had descended upon her in the last few months.
"Finished! I wrapped the Bay of Islands shoot up today and FedEx'd the prints to you a few minutes ago. Anything new I should know about? Any messages?" Jade rattled off questions amidst a deep yawn as she stretched out her body to remove the kinks.
"Hang on, I'll transfer the call to your office and read the messages on your desk." Susan replied and before Jade could respond, she heard the sound of light jazz come through the telephone. Lying backward on the bed, the tall woman relaxed to the easy tones of the music and began to drift. Suddenly, the music cut off and Susan's voice reappeared bringing Jade disappointedly back to the present.
"Let's see, you have two requests from Holiday Travel to run your Maui feature again." Jade could hear Susan flipping through papers as she read off messages to her. "Accounting is still looking for your budget for next quarter, " Susan's voice held a light chuckle with that announcement causing Jade to just snort in reply. "Yeah I know, tell them its almost finished," Susan retorted.
"Anything else earth shattering?" Jade replied ignoring the comment.
"I've pretty much handled everything else," Susan replied as she looked around Jade's cluttered desk and spotted the message light flashing on Jade's private line. "However, your message light on your private line is flashing. Do you want me to play that back for you?"
"Yes, please." Jade replied slipping off her shoes as she heard the familiar beeping just before the message began to play.
Lindsay felt the warm sun on her back as she walked through the small market in the center of town when suddenly a quick chill caused her to shutter as it raised the hair on the back of her neck. Rubbing her arms briskly to get rid of the goose bumps, she looked around her but didn't perceive anything that would cause such a reaction. 'Maybe it's the heat, although it isn't that hot, but they did say the sun can be pretty deceiving here,' Lindsay reasoned to herself as she moved on with her shopping. 'What I need to do is finish up and get something to eat,' the blonde concluded in her attempt to rationalize the current sensations. Finally finished, Lindsay walked to where she had her scooter parked in the shade of the restaurant and placed the package of fruits and vegetables in the rear compartment before going into the restaurant. However, the uneasy feeling returned causing her eyes to dart around her before she moved into the darkened interior of the dining room.
"Hi Lindsay!" A familiar voice called out from behind the bar as the blonde's eyes adjusted to the light.
"Hi James!" Lindsay replied and smiled at the tall Tahitian, who was slowly warming up to her. At first, Lindsay didn't think he really liked her, but lately it seemed he was very considerate of her. 'Mostly likely Lilia's influence,' Lindsay thought, smirking at the image of the feisty older woman. She was definitely the matriarch of that family and neither her granddaughter nor James questioned this fact. Still feeling uneasy, Lindsay opted for a change and approached the bar, taking a seat on one of its stools instead of her usual table outside. "How's it going James?"
"We got a new load of tourists in at the resort, but it's been pretty quiet. I like it that way," James replied his white teeth flashing against his dark skin. "Sounds good to me too," Lindsay replied smiling in reply as he placed a frosty mug in front of her.
"Am I getting that predictable?" Lindsay asked raising the mug indicating her question. James nodded and replied, "You also want a tropical salad for lunch, right?"
The blonde shrugged her shoulders in response, "Yes! But, I can see that I'm going to have to change things up a bit. I wouldn't want to get too predictable!" James laughed and walked back into the kitchen to place her order. As he reached the swinging doors, he called out over his shoulder, "Oh, by the way, someone was asking about you earlier."
"Lilia?" Lindsay asked, but James was already out of earshot and didn't reply.
"Hey, long time no see!" Lindsay suddenly heard and then felt a hand on her shoulder; she turned quickly on her stool as Lilia took the stool next to her.
"I hear you've been looking for me," Lindsay replied helping the older woman up onto the tall stool.
"Me? I'm always looking for you. I have to keep an eye on my girls, don't I?" Lilia grunted as she settled herself on her perch and turned her attention toward the blonde. "How is everything at the cottage? Any problems?"
"No, everything is perfect. It's nice and quiet and I'm getting a lot of work done. I'm just in town doing my usual weekly shopping and lunch out." Lindsay's reply didn't seem to satisfy the older woman as she put her hand on the blonde's arm as though she wanted to ask her more. Before she could continue, James called out as he waked down the length of the bar with Lindsay's lunch.
"There you are, Mama, how are you doing?" Placing the salad bowl in front of the blonde, he leaned over the bar to place a kiss on the tanned wrinkled cheek before pulling another draft and placing it in front of the old woman. "You are a good boy, James, thank you," Lilia took a long swallow of the cold liquid before turning her attention back to the young woman next to her. "And what is that?" Lilia asked, pointing to the salad before Lindsay had begun picking at it. The blonde cringed knowing what was coming next, but Lilia just picked up her mug muttering, "I don't understand you kids, you insist on eating leaves when there is so much bounty around you". Shrugging her shoulders, she took another long swallow of her draft as James and Lindsay smiled at the expected comment every time Lilia saw the blonde's favored lunch.
Lindsay enjoyed a leisurely lunch chatting with Lilia and James. She headed to her moped for her journey home, but not before she promised Lilia that she would stop by for supper the following day. With a quick wave, she motored off down the road, unaware of a pair of eyes that watched from the shadows.
Lilia began to turn back into the restaurant when she remembered something and tried to call Lindsay back, but the blonde was already out of earshot. She moved into the restaurant to her seat at the bar.
"So, how's business James?" Lilia asked when her granddaughter's finance sat down next to her.
"Not bad for this time of year, new tourists in at the resort have been making their way down here," James replied.
"Sure, why not, the food is better here," Lilia quipped with a smile. James laughed and nodded in appreciation, "Yes, word must travel fast one of Lindsay's friends is at the resort and was in here looking for her."
"Lindsay has a friend visiting?" Lilia asked curious that the young woman hadn't mentioned it.
"Yeah, I told her when she was here that someone was asking about her," James responded.
"That's odd, you would have thought she would have said something or gone to the resort for a visit," Lilia thought outloud.
James shrugged and got up going back around the bar as new patrons entered the restaurant. Lilia sat contemplating why this thought bothered her and decided she was getting to be too nosey in her old age. As her granddaughter came out of the kitchen, the old woman stood up and waved to James at the other end of the bar, and the two women headed home.
"What do you mean you can't give me that information?" Jade paced back and forth in her hotel room still berating herself for not checking her voicemail sooner.
"What I mean is that I can't find the slip of paper that I wrote the information down," the secretary scrambled frantically through her papers trying to find the phone number Lindsay had left. "Wait, let me call payroll. I can at least get you the address we mailed her last check to."
Jade heard the phone mute as she was placed on hold. She pulled her backpack up on the desk, sat down and pulled out her day planner. Rifling through the addresses, she pulled out Dave and Mike's phone number. Drumming her fingers on the desk, she waited for the secretary at the college to return. Finally, Jade heard a click and a timid voice spoke, "I've got the information, but it's only a P.O. Box."
Jade let out an exasperated breath and replied, "Let me have it!"
"Lindsay is on the Tahitian Island of Tahaa, P.O. Box 108. Maybe you can write to her and have her call you," the secretary answered hopefully.
"I need to contact her sooner than that. I don't have time to send a letter," Jade replied trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She knew she wasn't very successful as she heard the secretary begin to stammer out an explanation. Jade was tuning her out and ready to hang up when the secretary mentioned Andrea's name.
"What about Andrea?" Jade tried to ask nonchalantly as her heart began to pound in her ears.
"Well, I was just saying that I remember having the information the day she came in to talk to our department head, but that is the last time I can actually remember seeing it," the secretary's voice trailed off in thought as Jade's mind began to whirl and she asked, "Can you transfer me to Andrea's office?"
The secretary quickly replied, "I can't, she's not there. She is off on summer break. Andrea was supposed to cover classes this semester since Lindsay left, but she said she had a prior engagement. I can tell you that Dr. Dever was not happy about that at all."
Jade cringed when she heard the secretary's reply, having a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she knew exactly where Andrea was at that moment. "I'll just bet he wasn't happy," Jade replied with mumbled, 'and neither am I!'
Rapidly disconnecting, Jade repeatedly pushed the phone line for another connection. When she heard the desired dial tone, she quickly dialed Dave's number and hoped that by now the two men were home from work. She had tried calling them first, but got no response. Calculating the time, she estimated it would be close to 6 p.m. and whispered a silent prayer until she heard the ringing stop and a male voice answer.
"Yes", the voice replied hesitantly as he tried to place the voice and felt his heart jump at realization, "Jade, is that you?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well, it's about time! I left you a message over three weeks ago!" Mike replied slightly miffed at Jade not calling sooner.
"Yes, I just checked my messages at work tonight. I didn't know she was leaving." Jade's voice replied heavy with worry and Mike felt his resolve softening toward his tall friend.
"She left that next morning. Dave and I were hoping that you would call before and try to talk her out of it. No matter what she said, I think she was secretly hoping you would." Mike informed Jade.
"Damn it, how can I be so stupid!" Jade rebuffed herself. "Do you know where she is?"
"Yes, she is on some island near Tahiti trying to get her life back together and write." Mike answered.
"Do you have a phone number for her? I tried calling the college but all they had was a P.O. Box somewhere on Tahaa," Jade asked unsure of exactly how much Mike knew of the situation.
"That doesn't surprise me, I don't think she wanted anyone to know exactly where she is. She said she would call us when she got a phone, but we've only gotten a letter so far saying that she had arrived and found a great little cottage." Mike offered in explanation, but was quickly set back on his heels when her heard Jade's next remark.
"I guess Andrea is the only one who was privileged with that information!" Jade replied, this time unable to keep the sarcasm from infiltrating her words.
"What? Are you sure? But how?" Mike stammered, a sudden fear enveloping his thought process.
"Well, I'm putting two and two together. When I spoke with the University secretary, she told me that the last time she had Lindsay's information was when she was talking with Andrea. Then, thje woman suddenly couldn't teach the summer session because she had a prior engagement. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together and get four!" Jade retorted angrily, suddenly wondering why she had bothered trying in the first place.
"Wait! Jade, before you go off half-cocked let me tell you what was going on just before Lindsay left. Andrea is the last person that Lindsay wanted to see!" Mike quickly replied and began to tell Jade about the abuse and problems Lindsay had been having with Andrea. It wasn't just the desire to write again that the blonde had decided to go far away for a while.
"Oh shit, Mike! How do I contact her? If my suspicions are correct, then Andrea could already be over there!" Jade replied, as her fear continued to grow.
"Where are you now?" Mike asked quickly. "Maybe you should come here and we can try to contact the authorities in Tahaa together."
"I'm in New Zealand, for God's sake!" Jade ran a shaky hand through her hair and decided, "I'm going to Tahaa!"
"That's good, Jade!" Mike felt some of the tension easing with the knowledge that Jade could reach Lindsay relatively quickly.
"Okay, but where do I begin to look? Tell me all you know about this cottage. Did the letter have a return address instead of the P.O. box?" Jade asked, pulling the telephone directory out of the desk drawer. The decision made, she began to systematically collect every bit of information she could about Lindsay's whereabouts.
Mike went in search of the letter as Jade flipped through the phone book for airline information to Tahiti. There were too many flights to guess which would be the fastest and she closed the book with a slam when Mike returned to the phone. He had found the name of a road for Jade to begin her search. After ringing off, Jade telephoned the concierge desk and asked for help in getting the quickest flight to Tahaa.
Five hours later, Jade found herself on an Air France flight to Raiatea and a short boat ride to Haamene, Tahaa. If all went as scheduled, she would arrive on the island mid-morning, which made the island three hours later than Pacific Time. Settling back in her seat, Jade closed her eyes and tried to relax, but her mind wouldn't give her that peace.
Lindsay sat on the steps of cottage looking out over the sky as the sun began its descent from afternoon. The colors that streaked across the sky were so vivid and real that she was mesmerized by the play unfolding before her. 'If only Jade were here to see this.' Lindsay caught herself in mid-sentence and sighed, thinking about the tall raven-haired woman. The familiar pain was ever present in her chest but the guilt had lessened into sorrow for the things she had neglected to say and do. Her mind kept lapsing back toward the past and the events that led her to her present situation. Looking around her, she realized that she could have ended up in a worse place, but how much better this paradise would be if she had her heart's companion at her side. Lindsay got up and walked to the other side of the porch and made sure her motorbike was secure under the carport. Turning back, she caught a glance through the open kitchen window to her laptop that had sat idle on her desk. She hadn't written as much as she had intended to do when she came to the island. It seemed her mind continued to wander from its course whenever she looked out over the gentle waters. Her inner soul felt more like the surf that thundered outside the coral ridge a half-mile from the shore. The waves then broke over the wall before rippling toward the shore. She missed Jade more than she thought anyone was capable of missing another human being. It was at times like this that she came closest to vowing never to let anyone get that close to her again. 'What could I have possibly been thinking with Andrea?' Lindsay shook her head in disgust at the thought of what she had let turn her life upside down. Turning her attention back to the evening's performance, she watched the sun's descent until it fully dipped into the ocean and the twilight of night began to settle around her, just outside the glow from the interior cottage lights. Her thoughts continued to echo in her head and she couldn't stop thinking, 'How could I have been so stupid to just let the situation with Jade get away from me and not confront it? Now, its too late, she's found someone new and I can't blame her'. "What the hell was I thinking?" Her disgusted voice echoed in the dusk that surrounded her.
"That maybe you missed me?" The voice that came from out of the darkness made Lindsay jump up. She began backing away toward the door of the cottage as a figure extracted itself from the shadows, making its way around toward the front of the porch. Lindsay's hand felt the screen door as she fumbled with the knob, pulling it open behind her as she watched the figure approach. Something seemed familiar yet she felt a sense of fear as the shadow moved closer. Finally pulling the door open enough to slip halfway behind it, stopping only when the figure became illuminated in the light that streamed past her from the interior of the cottage.
"You have missed me, haven't you?" Andrea's voice was edged with something more than the toying sarcasm it portrayed.
"Andrea?" Lindsay's voice was a mere squeak as she fought to regain her composure. Her hand felt clammy on the doorknob as she pulled it tightly allowing the screen door to close between them.
"In the flesh, although I'm hurt that you don't seem very happy to see me," Andrea replied and placed a foot on the step, poised to jump up onto the porch.
Lindsay was anything but pleased to see her and felt extremely ill at ease at the moment. "What are you doing here?"
"Is that anyway to greet your girlfriend? The least you can do is invite me in," Andrea replied moving to step fully onto the porch, but stopped dead in her tracks when Lindsay's voice rang out.
"No! You are not my girlfriend!" Lindsay jumped back away from the door, surprised at the strength in her own voice.
"What are you saying?" Andrea asked angrily. "After I come halfway around the world to see you, are you telling me you don't want to see me?"
"Why did you come here? I told you there was nothing between us!" Lindsay asked as she watched Andrea's hands clench into fists as she held them rigidly against her sides.
"Because you ran off without giving me a chance," Andrea replied stepping closer to the door. In reaction, Lindsay moved her body further behind the interior door in anticipation of Andrea's behavior.
"Andrea, I told you then that there wasn't anything to discuss, nothing has changed. There never was an us, nor could there ever be. Now, please don't make this harder, just go back home where you belong and leave me alone," Lindsay pleaded with Andrea hoping that the other woman might see reason and go away.
"Right now, I don't think you know what you want and it's obvious you don't know what's good for you or you wouldn't have run away like you did. Now stop this foolishness and let me in." Andrea moved to open the screen door and just as quickly Lindsay slammed the inner door and bolted it. Her hands trembled as she fumbled with the lock until it slid home. Lindsay instantly jumped back from the door when the woman outside began to batter against it.
"Open this door, Lindsay! I'm not kidding around anymore," Andrea shouted as she turned the doorknob and grew angrier as it resisted. Lindsay leaned against the door to brace it hoping the lock would hold. She remembered, in dismay, her comment to Lilia when she first moved and noticed the old lock. Lilia had informed her that there was no need for locked doors on the island. 'Lilia obviously hasn't meet Andrea!' The pounding suddenly stopped, causing Lindsay to look around nervously. Her heart froze when she spied the curtain in the open kitchen window flutter in the evening breeze. Hurrying, the blonde ran into the kitchen and pushed the windows closed, just as an angry face appeared in the glass.
"Lindsay, open the door now!" Andrea demanded, pointing toward the closed front door. Lindsay shook her head back and forth and looked away saying, "Go away Andrea, just leave me alone!" She closed the curtains in the angry brunette's face and wished that the outer storm shutters had also been locked down for protection. But she knew that was out of the question because there was no way she was going to open a window or a door right now. Backing away from the window, she went on a frantic search of all entrances and windows to make sure they were latched securely. Lindsay even wedged a kitchen chair under the knob of the backdoor to the carport for good measure. It was already starting to get stuffy and warm in the cottage from lack of circulation and the ceiling fans did little but swirl the still hot air around. Lindsay knew that Andrea had an underlying anger and a quick temper that had always frightened her. She wasn't exactly sure how far the brunette's temper would go, but she wasn't in any hurry to find out either.
The first crack of thunder was heard in the distance, as Andrea's tirade seemed to be lessening as the pounding on the door ceased. The woman continued to demand that Lindsay open the door at once, even as the first drops of rain descended upon the house. Soon, the downpour beating on the clay tiled roof added to the incessant demands from Andrea to open the door. Tired of listening to the woman's voice, Lindsay dropped into a chair and put her hands over her ears in hopes of making it all stop.
After what seemed hours, the rain was the only sound that Lindsay could hear. The banging finally ceased and Lindsay could no longer hear Andrea's irate voice. Still unsure of where Andrea could be, Lindsay continued her vigil in the darkened house and resigned herself to a sleepless night.
After many delays and re-routings, Jade's plane finally touched down ten hours later in a driving rain, at the only airport on the island of Raiatea. From there, Jade needed to make her way Haamene on the neighboring island of Tahaa. Tahaa was a smaller island just three miles to the north, and another two miles to where Haamene sat within its protected harbor. Jade and two other passengers disembarked the small aircraft and quickly went in opposite directions. The other two passengers were picked up by a van as Jade headed toward the little building that served as the island's airport terminal. By the time she entered the small building, she was soaked to the skin. Shivering in the cooler temperature of the building, the tall woman walked directly toward the only counter in the room and to the only person in the building.
"I need to get a boat to Tahaa, as close to Haamene as possible. Can you help me?" Jade asked as she dripped on the counter and she pointed at the map on the wall behind him. The Tahitian looked outside and then to Jade, smiling apologetically. His warm brown eyes were edged with genuine regret when he told Jade that her request would not be possible until the storm lifted. "I'm sorry, no one will take a chance with their boat in this weather."
Jade closed her tired eyes temporarily in defeat before they snapped open again and piercing blue eyes looked into warm brown ones. "Listen, I've got to get to Haamene, whatever the cost, I'll pay it!"
"Ma'am, it's not a question of money. It's a question of sanity. The islands here are edged with coral reefs that would shred the bottom of a boat given half a chance, and with this weather, it would be pretty hard to keep it off the reef." He looked up and saw the raw determination emanating from the tall woman's body, and knew that she must have a very good reason to want to get to Haamene.
"I tell you what, why don't you just have a seat and I'll see if I can't get you some towels to dry off, and I'll make some calls," the agent quietly offered and pointed to the chairs in the waiting area. "There is a fresh pot of coffee on; it should help warm you up." He left the counter and disappeared through a door behind the counter. Jade made her way to the windows and looked out over the rain soaked tarmac as it continued to pour, leaving visibility down to almost nothing. She felt more than heard the agent return and turned to find him approaching with towels in one hand and a t-shirt in the other. He was a large islander with an engaging smile and calming manner. Jade couldn't help but smile through chattering teeth as the chill from the A/C began to permeate her wet clothing.
"Sorry, it's the best I can do at the moment," he grinned handing her a handful of bathroom towels. "Luckily, we have these shirts left over from a promotional affair. You can change in the bathroom in the back." Handing her the shirt, he pointed toward the restrooms and moved back toward the counter. Jade moved toward the doors in the back and stopped at the desk when the agent called out to her.
"My name is Tomo," he offered as he picked up the telephone and began punching buttons. "I'm Jade. Thank you for all your help." The big islander nodded and watched appreciatively as Jade continued on her way to the back restroom. Smiling sadly to himself, he went back to his phone call thinking, 'Forget it brudda, she's out of your league.'
Closing the door behind her, Jade quickly stripped her wet shirt off and made an attempt to dry as much of her body as possible with the smalls towels. Quickly, she put on the warm; dry t-shirt as a shiver racked her body. She turned the warm water on and let it run over her cold hands in an attempt to warm up her body. Drying her hair the best she could, Jade tucked the oversized shirt into her wet jeans sighing, 'Well at least half of me is dry.' Leaving the bathroom, she made her way toward the coffee pot. Tomo was still hunched over the telephone in conversation as Jade cupped her steaming coffee mug and sat looking out at the rain. Her brow creased as she thought about Lindsay and the million questions were racing through her head. 'Is she alright? Will she be happy to see me, or will I find her contently in Andrea's arms?' Jade took a deep breath at her last thought, she couldn't help wonder if she was making some big mistake in coming here like this. But, the panic she felt deep down in her soul kept her steady toward her goal to reach Lindsay. "Second guessing everything is what started this whole mess. I will not do that again. I need to talk with Lindsay, to explain face to face that I my traveling days were over. I was coming home to because I wanted to be with her more than I wanted to be on the road. If after we talk, Lindsay still wants us to continue on our separate paths, then I've done all I could.' Jade's resolve was strengthened and she would go on with her gut instinct, which is what she should have done from the start. Jade's mind replayed the last couple of months over and over, and each time Jade's heart sank at missed opportunities to talk with Lindsay. 'So much lost time, so many moments stolen from us because I didn't have the courage to ask one simple question. Do you still love me?'
After what seemed like hours, Tomo approached Jade and sat down across from her hesitantly. "The best I could do was line you up with a private charter. The captain is a mate of mine and he agreed to come by to pick you up on his way to the dock. However, it may not be for another couple of hours as this weather cell isn't moving very fast. I'm sorry, but it's the best I can do given that the others I called refused to go out at all today. Mark is going to make the crossing at first sign of a break in the weather."
Jade looked out at the sheets of rain and knew that she had no choice but to wait out the storm. Turning to Tomo, she smiled softly, "I appreciate your help. I know you did the best you could do. I guess I'll wait here until the storm breaks and your friend picks me up."
"Good. You are welcome to watch TV or stretch out and take a nap if you wish. I'll let you know when things change." Tomo got up and went back behind the counter and continued with his paperwork, occasionally looking up to check on his visitor. Jade watched the rain for a while before turning the television onto the weather station. She propped her feet on the table before her and slid down into the chair as she continued to listen to the weatherman talk about the large cell that hung over the islands. It wasn't long before exhaustion and the steady patter of the rain helped Jade drift off into a light sleep.
A rush of warm, wet air suddenly brought Jade back to full conscious and she opened her eyes to see a young man enter the building and call out to Tomo and make his way toward the counter. The two men conversed for a few moments before the agent nodded in Jade's direction.
Jade looked outside quickly to see that it had stopped raining and although the clouds were still heavy, the wind had also subsided to a strong breeze. Looking back toward the two gentlemen, she stood as the newcomer walked in her direction. He was definitely not a native, but an islander just the same. Although his steps were quick, his easy stride was born of time spent in the laid-back atmosphere of the islands.
"Hello, I'm Mark. Do you still want to get to Haamene today?" The young man quickly asked as he approached.
"Yes, I do," Jade replied instantly.
"Well, then we better take off now before the next band of rain rolls in. I figure we have about a hour's window of good weather and just about that long of a ride to Haamene," the young man smiled devilishly. "You up for it?"
"More than you know!" Jade replied, picking up her backpack and waited expectantly for Mark to lead the way.
"Good, let's get to it then!" Turning, the young man headed toward the outer door waving to his friend. Jade looked up to watch Tomo shaking his head in mock disbelief. She knew he thought she was crazy for taking the trip, but he didn't understand her motivation. Waving and mouthing thank you to the islander, Jade followed Mark out the door to his waiting jeep. Laughing lightly, he opened her door and replied, "Buckle yourself up and hang on, we don't have time to waste."
Jade did as he requested and they sped off across the wet tarmac and out onto a bush lined roadway. The young man kept up this reckless pace, only slowing when the jeep slid occasionally on the rain soaked roads. Finally, they reached a small jetty that stretched out into a cove and at the end of the jetty, a sport fishing boat bobbed in the relatively calm current of the cove. Jade knew that it would be a lot rougher once they cleared the protection of the coral ridge that circled the islands. She followed the young man down the jetty and onto the boat, helping release the lines as requested. "You've sailed before?" Mark asked as he motored the vessel away from its docking.
"Some, back in Florida," Jade replied, ducking out of the wind and into the pilot housing of the fishing vessel. The wind was coming off the ocean stronger than it had been at the airport. "Good, that may come in handy if the storm moves in faster than anticipated." Mark smiled at Jade as he maneuvered the boat out of the cove through the narrow break in the coral and into the rougher ocean waters.
They had been moving steadily head long into the wind for some time before Jade turned to look at the captain. He seemed young to have a boat of his own, but he certainly knew how to handle it. Curious if it was adventures of youth or another reason, Jade asked the one question that had been on her mind. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, what?" Mark replied, without taking his focus off the ocean in front of him, moving the vessel left and right to catch the incoming swells. The storm clouds that were once hovering in the distance were quickly descending on them and a light rain had already begun.
"Not that I'm complaining, but why did you agree to this trip, knowing it is so dangerous?"
Mark smiled and replied, "Purely personal reasons," before he expertly spun the wheel as the boat swerved into another swell. Turning his attention back to Jade he continued, "My wife is on the island visiting her family and we are expecting our first child any day now. I promised her I'd be there a soon as I finished my last charter, which was yesterday." Jade nodded in understanding. "Congratulations!"
"Thank you. If you don't mind saying, what brings your urgency in reaching Haamene?" Mark asked, focusing his attention back onto the ocean as he waited for Jade to decide.
Jade took a deep breath before replying, unsure of how much to tell him. Then decided to basically tell the truth but not go into details. Jade told Mark about her friend coming to the island for an extended stay to write and to escape an unpleasant situation. "Unfortunately, the situation may not be as finished as Lindsay thinks. So, the reason I need to get to the island is to warn my friend," Jade ended and watched Mark but his face was its normal calm demeanor. She wasn't sure what she expected to see there, but she still found herself watching nonetheless. Mark remained silent and just nodded as he kept his attention focused in front of him. The swells had increased with the rain and visibility was rapidly decreasing.
"Do you happen to know where Old Cove Road is?" Jade shouted over the fury of the wind and waves as they kicked up, renewed with the rapidly approaching storm.
"Your friend rented the old cottage on the cove from Lilia. I know exactly where it is." Mark's reply brought a quickened heartbeat and Jade sat up in response. "Can you get me as close as possible to there?"
"We are coming close to the island now. I can probably put into the cove at the dock down the beach from the cottage. The islanders use it and there is usually an old truck parked there for emergencies. It also might be safer for us to get shelter as quickly as possible." Mark replied as the reef came into sight in the distance and fought to maneuver the vessel toward its craggy surface. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes," Jade replied hesitantly, unsure if she were nervous about the storm or the request.
"Are you the one that broke her heart?"
Jade stopped cold and felt her heart skip a beat as she stumbled defensively to reply. "What do you mean? How?"
Mark shrugged, "It's a small island, everyone talks about everyone, especially outsiders. Lilia doesn't usually rent out her cottage to just anyone, she has this affinity for lost souls. I met the young woman when I dropped my wife off last month. It's easy to see how the speculation started, she is a very beautiful and very sad young woman."
"Yes, she is," Jade, replied quietly. Mark looked at her, still waiting for an answer and blue eyes flashed up and she quipped, "Would it matter?"
"No, not to me, but I couldn't answer for Lilia. She is pretty protective of her foundlings," Mark replied and turned the boat sharply as he prepared to enter into the narrow channel of the cove. Jade found herself hanging on as the boat fought against the wind and waves to keep it in the center of the inlet to the cove. The jagged coral on either side coming perilously close every time a wave crashed into the boat. Mark's knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel and gunned the engines into the inlet. After a few minutes of roaring the engines, the waters began to smooth out somewhat. The wind still whipped the rain into the pilothouse, soaking both occupants. Mark continued their journey until an old wooden jetty circled by old tires came into view. Slowing the engines, he bumped the boat up to the dock and Jade quickly went forward to throw the ropes onto the piling to tie the front of the vessel. Mark then reversed the engines, countering the boats outward swing away from the docking. He cut the engines and grabbed the rear docking rope and leaped onto the dock and strained to tie off the boat before it could push away from the jetty again. Once secured, he jumped back onto the vessel and retrieved more ropes and with Jade's help, continued to secure the boat to the jetty.
Once the boat was battened down for the storm, Mark directed Jade up the jetty way and while in the wind and rain gave her directions down the beach toward the old cottage. Jade tried to pay for her trip, but he just waved her off and ran for the old truck parked up at the head of the road. Jade waved in reply and shouted her thanks but they were caught up with the wind and swept away unheard. Giving up, Jade turned and ran down the beach in the direction that Mark had said. It was difficult to run in the wet sand and she was almost out of breath when she saw the outline of a darkened structure. Turning toward this haven, she climbed up onto the old porch and began pounding on the doorway. The cottage seemed empty and hollow as there was no response to her repeated knocking. Jade began to wonder if she had found the right cabin or if she had missed Lindsay altogether. Frustrated, she pounded a little bit harder before turning and looking out in the rain for her next move.
Just before stepping off the porch, Jade heard the scrape of metal on metal as the door was unlocked and flung open violently. "I told you to go away!" Lindsay shouted into the storm and her mouth dropped open before she could continue. The tall woman stood before Lindsay dripping wet, looking miserable and lost, a sight she was sure she would never see again.
Jade looked at the disheveled blonde and knew that Lindsay had just been startled awake by her pounding, but Jade was definitely unprepared for the negative reception she had just received.
"I.... I," Jade stuttered in reply as the rain ran from her hair into her eyes, turning the sight before her into a surreal watery vision. She quickly wiped away the drops to clear her sight, as she stood defensively against the anger directed toward her.
"Jade, is that you? What are you doing here?" Lindsay's voice cracked as her anger deflated.
Jade stood for a moment as her shackles rose in anger at Lindsay's attitude thinking, 'Obviously, intruding.'
"I came to see you, but I guess I should have called first," Jade's sarcasm was bitten off on the end. The wind chilled her wet back and the warmth of the cottage was inviting but the occupant wasn't. "Sorry," Jade added before turning to walk back down the stairs.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Lindsay called out fearful that Jade would, once again, leave without giving her the chance to explain herself. Jade turned and looked questioningly at Lindsay, unsure of what to think or do.
"Come in here before you drown in this storm," Lindsay's voice demanded, causing Jade's eyebrow to arch up in response.
"Please?" The reply was a timid request that freed Jade's heart from its cold moorings and she hefted her backpack higher and entered the cottage. Lindsay closed the door behind her and turned to Jade. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to snap at you. I thought...."
"You thought I was Andrea. Has she been here?" Jade asked quietly and saw Lindsay's undisguised disgust. "Yes, she has."
"Are you okay?" Jade didn't want to push anything, but her concern for Lindsay couldn't stop her from asking.
"I'm okay, Jade, honest," Lindsay replied as her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. "Everything is such a mess. I'm just glad you are here." Jade felt the fears from the earlier rejection lessen and replied, "I was worried about you." Jade didn't move to approach the blonde and just stood in the middle of the room dripping onto the tile floor. Her t-shirt was plastered to her skin and a puddle was rapidly growing around her feet. Lindsay finally came to her senses and pulled Jade toward the bedroom saying, "Jeez, I'm sorry you are soaking wet. Let's get you a towel and some dry clothes." Lindsay pulled some towels out of the closet and handed them to Jade. "Now, for some dry clothes."
Jade dropped her backpack on the chair and began rifling through it for dry clothing. "I think my pack is waterproof, let me see if I can salvage anything." Jade pulled out a pair of shorts that were relatively dry, but frowned when she pulled out two damp shirts from the bottom. "I guess it's not as waterproof as I thought. Do you think you can loan me a shirt?"
"I'm sure I can come up with something," Lindsay replied and began hunting though her dresser drawer, finally pulling out an oversized t-shirt. "Um, I think this will fit, it's yours." The blonde smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed.
"I was wondering what happened to that shirt," Jade replied, her eyes sparkling with laughter.
"I guess I took it," Lindsay's face turned slightly flushed and Jade smiled softly, touching Lindsay's arm, "I'm glad you did." Lindsay looked into blue eyes and the held the gaze. Finally, the blonde nodded, severing their connection and moved toward the bedroom door. "I'll go put on some coffee and you get into dry clothes okay?"
Jade nodded and watched the blonde walk out of the room and close the door behind her. 'So, not everything is as lost as I had imagined." Feeling much better in dry clothes, Jade began drying her hair and thinking about all she needed to say to Lindsay.
Lindsay turned on the lights in the kitchen and began to put on a pot of coffee. As the water dripped through the grounds, she pulled mugs out of the cupboard just as a knocking began on the front door. A sudden chill ran down her spine as she looked toward the living room and set the mugs down with a nervous rattle. Taking a deep breath, Lindsay opened the front door and found Andrea standing on the porch once again.
"What do you want now?" Lindsay asked, without a hint of politeness.
"Don't even start with me, Lindsay. I came here to try to reason with you and take you home where you belong," Andrea's voice was sharp and demanding as it echoed in the small room.
"I think you need to leave right now before there is trouble, Andrea. I've told you before that I am not going anywhere with you," Lindsay replied stubbornly. She was tired of running and refused to let Andrea intimidate her any further.
"I didn't come here to make trouble, Lindsay. I came here to salvage our relationship and to tell you that I love you. Why can't you just give me a chance?" Andrea's voice softened and Lindsay almost believed its sincerity, but not quite. She was tired of being a pawn in this woman's sick head games. It had cost her too much already.
"Andrea, what is it going to take to get you to understand that we do not have a relationship? I do not love you, I never did." Lindsay's furious and hurtful words were fueled by the months of anguish and guilt she had spent acknowledging the mess she had made of her life. Once and for all, she wanted her peace of mind back and she wanted Andrea as far out of her life as she could get her.
"You are just saying that now. In time, you will realize that you do love me. Jade was never the woman for you. When are you going to realize that? After all, she did leave so easily." Andrea moved to touch Lindsay and the blonde stepped back exploding at mere mention of Jade's name by the brunette.
"No! Don't even go there! I made the biggest mistake of my life and it cost me the only woman who ever meant anything to me. You could never be that woman. You couldn't even come close! I will always love Jade no matter what happens and I will never forgive myself for thinking that you were the answer to anything! I have never, nor will I ever, love you! Now, for the last time, I am not asking, but I am telling you to leave my home and never, ever come near me again!" Lindsay's chest heaved with labored breathing as her adrenaline soared, pouring out all her anger and frustration at Andrea. She clenched her fists tightly to stop their trembling, digging her nails painfully into the flesh of her palms in the process. The pain only fueled her to focus her anger toward the brunette, as she stood face to face with her, unwilling to back down ever again.
Andrea’s face slowly turned from pink to crimson as the blonde's words continued to assault her. She forced the building feelings of rage and frustration in check, and through clenched teeth replied, "Don't you see you are just making another mistake by denying your feelings for me? What more do I have to do to make you see that we were meant to be together?"
Lindsay shook her head incredulously and spat, "There is nothing you could possible say to make me ever want you! What I really want is for you to leave and right now!" Lindsay replied, tiring of trying to explain to Andrea, tired of the woman's interference in her life, and just plain tired of looking at the brunette's face.
"You don't mean that?" Andrea bit off her reply as she stood solidly in the doorway. Lindsay tried closing the door but Andrea was standing firmly in its path. Lindsay was to the point that she would move her physically if that was what it would take to get rid of the woman. Andrea reached out and tried to pull Lindsay toward her in an embrace. Lindsay tried to side step the woman, but Andrea caught a firm hold on her arm as a tug of war ensued.
"I believe you were asked to leave!"
The low feral voice caused both women to stop and look in the direction of the hallway. Jade stepped from the hall shadows into the room; her wet hair slicked back giving her a cold, hardened appearance. The muscles in her jaw clenched in warning of the fury that lay just beneath the surface. She had heard the entire conversation and it made her insides clench as if kicked, in self-punishment for not having faced Lindsay sooner. Jade faintly registered the fact that Lindsay was had love her and maybe there was a chance she could again. But, at that moment, Jade's main attention was focused on Andrea. It was time to either remove this woman from their lives or remove herself from Lindsay's. There was no turning back now.
Andrea was taken by surprise and loosened her hold on Lindsay, causing the blonde to stumble backward before catching herself. In her anger and frustration, Lindsay had forgotten that Jade had been in the other room. She wondered how much of her conversation Jade had actually heard. Lindsay felt her flesh burn with shame where Andrea had touched her and her countenance darkened in response to the anger growing within her.
"Well, I should have guessed Lindsay's change of heart would have something to do with you. What did you do fill her head with more promises you can't keep?" Andrea's venomous voice was sharp and to the point, causing Lindsay to wince wishing she could take back all the confidences she had shared with the woman. 'How could I have possibly believed that she was my friend?' Lindsay glanced quickly at Jade's face, but the taller woman's expression hadn't changed from its stony mask, and when that mask turned in her direction, she shivered from the chill it evoked.
"Lindsay, do you need my help or would you prefer I wait in the other room?" Jade's voice was even and held no emotion toward either direction of her request. It was up to Lindsay now to decide the turn of events. Jade was not going to force herself on the situation. She had made the offer and now it was up to the blonde to decide the answer.
"Yeah, why don't you be a good girl and wait in the other room so we can finish our conversation. I seem to recall your presence interrupting us once before and it's really getting to be a nuisance". Andrea's voice was condescending and Jade wanted desperately to knock the smirk off the woman's face but, the comment made Jade stop and, she couldn't help asking, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Andrea moved over toward Lindsay putting her arm around her and trying to pull the uncooperative woman to her side. Lindsay stiffened when Andrea replied, "Well, that first night I think would have gone a lot farther if you hadn't been in the other room asleep. As I remember, there was some mutual kissing taking place in your foyer. Isn't that right, honey?" Andrea looked down at Lindsay with an evil smile daring her to say differently. Jade had to call in every ounce of reserved strength that she had just to stay motionless and not tear into Andrea. The pain she was feeling wasn't just anger, it was also turning to betrayal. Jade turned and looked at Lindsay with a mixture of confusion and angst written on her face, unable to voice the question screaming inside her head, 'you kissed her?'
Lindsay saw the depth of pain she had caused reflected back at her in Jade's blue eyes and it steeled her anger to a peak she had never known. The blonde forcefully pushed herself away from Andrea and with a calm deadly fire looked the brunette in the eyes.
"Ha! Your kiss was a fluke that I stopped before it even began. I should have recognized my revulsion of you then, but I blinded myself to the fact that you could never be half the woman that Jade is." Lindsay could feel her body shaking as she faced off against Andrea. She kept her focus on the brunette, afraid to look at Jade for fear of seeing that haunting pain again, and knowing it was her fault.
"Yeah right! I seem to remember we kissed after that too, or was that also just a fluke?" Andrea demanded.
"Our entire friendship was a fluke. I don't know why I ever considered you someone I would want to be a friend with in the first place!" Lindsay's voice was sharp and cutting in her desire to inflict pain on Andrea. "I was a fool for ever trusting you."
"All of a sudden you are having a change of heart because she shows back up," Andrea replied angrily. "She's just going to hurt you again, can't you see that? Do you even know what you want?"
"I know that I don't want you," Lindsay spat back in response. Her need to wound the brunette would not let her stop there and she coldly asked, "Didn't you ever wonder why I never wanted to sleep with you? Maybe part of me wasn't so stupid after all." Lindsay's remark surprised Andrea with her sudden bravado and she stood staring at her for a moment before reply, "So, you are going to throw any chance we have out the window, just like that? You won't even give me a chance to show you how good we could be together?" Andrea asked, her anger blinding her to the reality of the situation.
Frustrated Lindsay looked from Andrea to Jade and paused when blue eyes looked back at her curiously. Jade had watched the entire encounter between the two women in rapt attention. Her earlier sense of betrayal replaced by surprise at the response of the blonde woman. She had never seen this side of Lindsay, but then again, they had never been in a situation like this before. Jade's wandering senses were instantly reigned back to the present when she saw the look of frustration turn to question in the blonde's eyes and thought, 'Oh, oh, what does that look mean?'
Lindsay was inspired with an inner strength at the change she saw in Jade's eyes, the pain she had previously caused seemed to be replaced by a new curious light. If Jade could believe in her again, then Lindsay needed to make the situation with Andrea right and leave no doubt in the woman's mind to her true intensions. Fortified with this new determination, Lindsay turned back to Andrea and coldly replied, "Nothing with you could ever be like this..." Lindsay moved quickly before anyone could respond and wrapped her arms around Jade in a familiar embrace. She pulled the tall woman's head down and kissed her with all the heartfelt need and longing that had always been within her. Jade's body responded to Lindsay's connection before her mind could even comprehend what was happening and, when it did, Jade tightened her hold around the shorter woman's waist. Their kiss continued until both women were spent of air and broke apart gasping. Without missing a beat, Lindsay turned to face a surprised brunette and said, "You could never equal the meaning and passion that I feel when I kiss Jade. This is because you mean nothing to me and she will always mean everything." Lindsay brushed passed Andrea who, this time, did nothing to stop her. Opening the front door wide, Lindsay was hit by a rush of cool wet air and remembered the storm has not completely passed. But, that storm was nothing compared to the one she felt within her. She cared nothing about what might happen to Andrea now; she turned back to the brunette and coldly stated, "NOW LEAVE!"
Andrea looked from Lindsay to Jade and her eyes narrowed knowing she had been beaten. Her anger caused her to rise up momentarily, but the truth in the blonde's eyes was more than she could take at the moment. She turned abruptly and walked out into the remnants of the passing storm. The wind whipped the sand around, stinging the brunette's face, but her senses barely registered the pain. She turned away from the house and headed to the road where she had parked her car. Her heart a myriad of jumbled emotions as she drove back toward her hotel. Only one thing standing out solidly from the pain, she had been betrayed.
Lindsay slammed the door shut behind her and whirled around to face a still surprised Jade.
"Now, we need to talk!" Lindsay stated matter of fact and walked into the kitchen leaving Jade to follow.
"Yes, we do," Jade replied, a grin slightly touching her lips as she followed Lindsay into the kitchen.
"Coffee?" Lindsay asked over her shoulder as she poured the steaming brew into mugs before giving Jade a chance to respond.
"Well--sure, thank you." Jade replied taking a seat at the table and waiting for Lindsay. The younger woman held all the cards and by the look of determination on her face, Jade knew to keep silent and wait on her to begin the discussion.
Lindsay placed the mugs on the table and pulled the half and half from the refrigerator, placing it between them on the table before taking her seat. The only sound in the room was the clinking of metal against crockery as they fixed their coffees. Finally, Lindsay broke the ice as she toyed with her mug. "I just want you to know that I meant every word I said in there. I know that what I did to you, and to us, was inexcusable. I have no defense for my actions, other than stupidity. I don't know how I could have let her come between us, she is nothing; she is less than nothing." Lindsay swept her hand toward the front door in an angry attempt to push away anything to do with Andrea. She then ran the shaky hand through her hair before clasping them together on the table before her and focusing on them instead of Jade.
"I was feeling ignored and bored with my life, but I should never have blamed you for that. It was my own fault for not taking charge of my own life. If I wanted to write, then I should have made the necessary adjustments and done so. I could have just as easily done it from home. I didn't need to come halfway around the world to write. I've learned a lot of things in the past few months." Lindsay looked up with glistening eyes. "I just want you to know that I'm so sorry, but I will understand if you can't forgive me right now. I hope in time you will be able to." Lindsay stopped with a catch in her voice and looked up sincerely into clouded blue eyes.
"Wait," Jade interjected softly and reached across to lightly touch Lindsay's hand to keep her attention. She could feel the woman trembling and took the hands in hers and lightly squeezed. "I too have something to confess. I feel like most of this is my fault and could have been avoided if I had just talked to you instead of running away like I did. I did see you in her arms that night, even though I didn't see the kiss. I should have confronted you right then instead of just assuming you wanted it that way."
Lindsay nodded and softly said, "At first I waited for you to call me and explain why you left so abruptly and then, I guess I just started believing Andrea's lies. Still, during that whole time, I couldn't get you off my mind, no matter what anyone said." Lindsay pulled out one hand and placed it lightly on top of Jade's, sandwiching it between her two palms.
"I guess I was hurt somewhat too. I had come home that night to tell you that I had told Mel I wouldn't travel anymore and had taken back the assistant editor job. But, then when I saw you two, I let my hurt and underlying guilt overrule my heart." Jade answered shaking her head at all the time she had wasted and all the pain they had inflicted on each other. "I'm sorry for being so stubborn and stupid these past few months."
Lindsay signed and shook her head, "We sure make a pair don't we?" Jade nodded and smiling answered, "Yes we certainly do."
"Where do we go from here?" Lindsay's voice was little more than a whisper as she steeled herself for the forthcoming answer. Jade sat back in her chair, breaking their connection, and looked intently at the blonde before responding. "You know that we probably haven't seen the last of Andrea."
"Yes, I was afraid of that. I just don't know what to do next, she doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word no!" Lindsay replied looking down into her half empty mug of coffee.
"We could tackle that problem together, if that is what you want?" Jade answered causing Lindsay to look up at her expectantly before adding, "Is it what you want?"
"Yes, I do," Lindsay replied, "with all my heart."
Jade smiled at the response and took Lindsay's hand in her own again, squeezing it lightly in confirmation. "Then we see this through together this time." Lindsay nodded her head emphatically as unshed tears burned her eyes. She didn't trust her voice to speak and just reached her other hand to hold onto Jade's.
Jade squeezed Lindsay's hand lightly before saying, "We take it one step at a time and go on from here." Lindsay continued nodding in reply as she blinked back the burning tears.
The two women spent the remainder of the morning talking until the storm had completely passed over and the sun emerged from behind the clouds. Stepping out on to the porch, the two women decided to check for any damage caused by the storm. Picking up the scattered palm fronds that lay strewn around the porch, Jade began making a pile off to the side while Lindsay went to check the carport and her motorbike. Satisfied that all seemed to be in order, the two women decided to ride into town to grab a bite to eat and stock up on more supplies. The weather report did not sound encouraging and it seemed that another storm front was heading their way. The news was warning that the next wave was going to be twice as bad as the storm that had just passed through. Since Lindsay hadn't said anything yet about returning to Miami, Jade was relieved she didn't have to make the decision to leave. Lindsay found a jacket for Jade and donned her poncho for the wet ride into town. They would have to double on her moped, as for the moment; there was no other means of transportation. Jade climbed on behind Lindsay and wrapped her arms around the woman snugly.
The ride into town was nerve-wracking as Lindsay tried to maneuver the bike around fallen palm fronds and water holes. The sandy road was still wet and very slippery. Jade did her best to help keep the bike steady and balanced and by the time they turned onto the paved main road she could see the blonde's knuckle were white from her grip on the handlebars.
Turning onto the road into town Lindsay gasped as the rear wheel of the bike slipped out from under them, but with Jade's help they maintained their balance. She slowed the bike to a moderate pace trying to use the friction on the pavement to loosen the wet sand stuck on the tires and the bike. Focusing her attention on their situation, she didn't see the truck coming up behind them until it started honking its horn. Lindsay pulled the bike as far to the right as possible and let the vehicle pass, but it continued to beep its horn and try to pull up next to them. Lindsay looked out of the corner of her eye but did not recognize the huge dark blue Ram as it tried to overtake them. Fearing that it may be Andrea, Lindsay punched the engine on the bike and sped forward in an all out race toward town. The bike was no match for the pickup truck and it soon caught up and pulled up along side. Lindsay kept her eyes focused on the road ahead and refused to look to her left, even when she heard her name being called out. Jade felt the wind whipping her hair back and the sting of loose sand on her legs as it flew off the front tire. She looked at the occupants in the truck in anger as they pulled up along side. Realizing it was not Andrea calmed her somewhat, but she was still leery about what they were doing. Jade's hold on Lindsay tightened when the tinted windows of the truck lowered until an old woman stuck her head out waving frantically and calling to Lindsay. Recognizing that they were no threat, Jade leaned forward, close to Lindsay's ear and shouted in the wind for her to stop the bike.
Lindsay felt Jade's lips upon her ear and her body tingled as her passenger told her to stop. Looking fearfully to her left she saw the worried face of Lilia as she waved at Lindsay. Lindsay slowed the bike and pulled up to a stop as the pick-up also slowed to a stop behind them. Jade put her feet down and slid off the back of the bike stretching out her legs. Lindsay put the kickstand down before getting off and turning toward the old woman as she got down from the truck and moved toward them.
"Lindsay what's wrong?" Lilia asked as she eyed Jade skeptically in passing. She touched the blonde on the arm and looked intently at the woman's pale face. "Are you okay?"
Lindsay nodded, finally taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "Yes, we were just headed into town," she replied unsure what to tell her. Lilia looked from the blonde to the tall dark stranger and back again. "Tell me what is going on? Why did you speed up like you thought you were being chased? Who is she?" Jade stood watching as a tall, muscular Tahitian had moved from behind the driver's seat to stand next to the old woman. She could tell that the old woman didn't seem all that pleased at Jade's presence, but stepped closer to Lindsay and was thankful when the blonde took Jade's arm and pulled her closer.
"Lilia, this is Jade, she is my friend from back home," Lindsay began the introductions, "Jade, Lilia is my landlord who is also a good friend."
"Hello," Jade replied softly smiling at the old woman, and waiting to see her response. Lilia looked at both woman and noticed that the two were very close as Lindsay continued to hold onto the tall one's arm. Still she couldn't help but feel this woman played some role in Lindsay's quiet sadness, but she liked her protective instinct toward the blonde. Turning toward the raven-haired woman, Lilia smiled politely and murmured, "Yes, how do you do." It was more a statement than a question and Jade just nodded as Lindsay waved toward the tall man and continued with the introductions.
"This is James. He is engaged to Lilia's granddaughter and he owns the best restaurant on the island," she waved with a flourish causing James to chuckle and approach, extending a hand to Jade replying, "I think she exaggerates. It is nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too," Jade answered, instantly like the tall man. She was glad to know that Lindsay had made some nice friends on the island and that she hadn't been totally alone.
"James picked me up to come check on you but you drove past before we could stop you. Where's the fire? Is everything alright at the cottage?" Lilia pulled Lindsay's attention back toward her and looked over the blonde thoroughly. She didn't see any obvious signs of trouble, but there was still an aura of fear surrounding the young woman.
"Everything is fine. We cleaned up the fallen palm fronds and didn't see any damage. We were heading into town to get something to eat and some supplies before the next storm hits," Lindsay didn't mention anything about their visitor and looked up at Jade for her reaction. Jade's expression was passive and she didn't let on that anything was wrong.
"As long as you are alright that is all that matter," Lilia replied looking cautiously at the exchange between the two women. "However, I don't think you are telling me everything," the old woman challenged and placed her hands upon her hips. She stared the two young women down defying them to keep anything from her.
"Why do you think something is wrong?" Lindsay asked, trying to keep her voice on an even tone. "Let's just say I'm psychic. I'm an old woman who has lived too long not to be!" Lilia responded sarcastically. Lindsay looked at Jade and the two remained silent.
James finally broke the silence and spoke up, "Why don't we all get in the truck and take this debate to town?" Lilia nodded and James moved to put the bike in the back of the pickup. Jade gave him a hand as Lindsay helped Lilia up into the front seat of the cab. He closed the tailgate and turned to Jade, "So, are you the reason Lindsay came to our island?"
Jade stopped short and looked up into warm brown eyes. She didn't see any animosity in his eyes or in the tone of his voice and replied, "Are you psychic too?"
James chuckled, "Not a bit, just curious." Jade smiled and nodded her head but did not answer his question. Pausing a moment, he touched Jade's arm and asked, "We saw a woman speeding past the house this morning. Is she a problem?"
"It's a distinct possibility," Jade replied. James frowned and said, "Hop in and we can talk at the restaurant". Jade nodded and joined Lindsay in the back seat of the extend cab.
James led the small group into the quiet restaurant and only turned the lights on near bar. The restaurant wasn't going to open for business and James didn't want to advertise that anyone was inside. The streets had been relatively active with locals trying to get their business completed before the next onslaught of rain. The radio predicting that the next cell would gain strength out at sea before approaching land some time later that evening, possibly early the next morning. James went around the bar and put on a pot of coffee before going in the kitchen. Lilia led the two women to a table near the bar. "This one is going to be a lot worse than the little rain that went through last night. You want me to send James over to secure the shutters tonight?" Lilia asked.
"No, I think Jade and I can handle it. James will have his hands full at your place," Lindsay responded looking to Jade for affirmation. Jade nodded replying, "I think we can handle it." James peeked out from the kitchen and motioned for Jade to come over. After a brief whispered conference Jade called over to the women at the table, "I'm going to give James a hand covering the upper windows in the kitchen and he wants to pull together a few supplies for the storm. I'll be right back."
"I'll help too," Lindsay replied and stood up but Jade waved her back down, "It's okay, we've got it. You just sit an relax for a minute okay?" Lindsay settled back in her seat unsure but nodded her head in acceptance. The two watched the kitchen door swing back and forth as it swallowed up the tall woman.
Turning to watch the profile of her young friend, Lilia saw the subtle changes in Lindsay. "So, tell me the story," Lilia asked quietly. Her tone leaving no room for question about what she meant.
"There's nothing really to tell. Jade and I use to live together back home," Lindsay explained. She didn't know how to tell Lilia about their relationship or how the older woman would accept it.
"So, she is the one that broke your heart?" Lilia asked softly, her eyes peering into Lindsay without wavering. Lindsay looked away briefly and replied, "Not exactly. It's a long story."
"We have some time," Lilia replied.
Lindsay looked toward the kitchen door for Jade's return, but the restaurant was fairly quiet. Taking a deep breath, she turned toward Lilia and saw compassion in the older woman's eyes. Haltingly, she began to tell Lilia a shortened version of their story.
Jade followed James' lead as they worked in relative silence with James' directions their only vocal conversation. The islander hadn't missed the tension that emanated from Jade's body. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the woman, he knew her cool exterior was only a front for the boiling emotions that lay just beneath the surface. The sparks he caught in her eyes told him enough to know the nonchalance she portrayed was as far from the real woman as you could get, and to ignore the fact wouldn't be wise. As they began covering the second window, James suddenly stopped and pointedly looked at Jade before speaking. "So, tell me where exactly do you fit into this unfolding drama."
"Me?" Jade piped back, surprised at his question.
"Yes. To begin with, I'd like to know what your interests are with Lindsay." James reiterated watching Jade shift uncomfortably under his scrutiny. Instantly gone was her cool bravado, replaced by a mixture of anger and worry.
Jade caught herself and tensed stretching to her full height as she looked fully into the tanned face before her. She noted nothing of what he might be thinking by his expression.
"Right now, Lindsay is my only concern," Jade replied shortly, her muscle tightening and her look dared him to refute her answer. James remained cool but his response hit home, "Yet, she left you to come here?"
Jade looked away from the steely gaze as a pang of guilt shot through her. Angry with herself for everything, she slapped her hands hard against her thighs and looked directly back into the man's eyes.
"Yes, so I admit I haven't made some wise choices lately, but I'll be damned if you or anyone else is going to stop me from protecting that woman out there."
"Protect her from what?" James asked the concern etched on his face. Jade wasn't sure how much to tell the big man and finally decided it was time for the truth. She began her explanation with the car he saw racing down the road from the cottage and about the woman behind that wheel. She told him about Andrea's manipulation of Lindsay and the resulting confusion and fear that sent the woman running so far from home.
"So, this Andrea is the reason you two split up?" James questioned as he shifted his attention back to boarding up the last window. He had known there was something different about Lindsay and now it all fit into place. Most of the women that come to the island for an extended visit usually end up getting involved with one of the local men, but the blonde seemed to have other things on her mind.
"Yes," Jade replied, her voice echoing in the quiet room. James turned to look at her again, "So, now she's decided to go back with you?"
"You will have to ask her that question yourself," Jade simply replied. James nodded and pounded the last nail into the wood and dusted off his hands as he thought, 'Well, Lindsay certainly has good taste, she choose looks and a brain with this one'.
James grabbed the tools and motioned for Jade to follow him into the storeroom. Putting the tools on a shelf, he grabbed a box and told Jade, "You better take some supplies back to the cottage. We don't know how long the next storm is going to last and you must be low by now." Jade nodded and held the box as he began adding canned and dry goods to it. James worked in silent reflection before pausing and turning to Jade, "So what are we going to do about this woman?"
Jade noted the 'we' part of his question and breathed a sigh of relief. 'Help is good,' she thought. She had been afraid that she would have to contend with him as well as Andrea. The two discussed various scenarios before coming to the simple conclusion that they would have to wait for Andrea to make the next move. At least this time, they would be prepared and James planned on being just down the road tonight.
Lindsay propped her elbows on the table as she told Lilia everything that had been happening in the last few months. She hadn't gone into exact detail about the conversations or her relationship with the two women in question. She wasn't sure how receptive Lilia would be to her lifestyle and chose to just stick to the basics. She knew, however, that her story would leave little doubt as to the interest of the two women in herself.
Lilia shook her head in disbelief as the blonde spoke, 'No wonder she always jumped like a scared rabbit when something unexpected happened.'
"Well that's the excitement in my life lately, fun huh?" Lindsay finished sarcastically. "It does explain a lot," Lilia answered, still digesting everything the young woman had said. "Why didn't you say something when that women first showed up?"
"You mean Jade?" Lindsay asked quickly, she didn't want the old woman to get the wrong idea about her friend.
"No, the tall one loves you, why would she hurt you? It's the other one, Andrea is it?" Lilia asked without hesitation or judgment. Lindsay looked at the old woman in surprise, causing her to chuckle and quip, "I'm not so old or senile that I can't see when two people belong together." Lindsay's shoulders dropped in apparent relief as she lowered her gaze down to her hands. Lilia reached over and laid her hands over the young woman's and gave them a gentle squeeze. "Honey, love is where you find it, it has no barriers or limitations except the ones we place on it," she whispered softly. "I may not understand everything, but it doesn't mean that I am blind to the fact that it exists."
Jade held the kitchen door for James as he carried the food-laden box. They both noticed the two women bowed closely in conversation and looked at one another. James shrugged his shoulders and put the box on the nearest table. "Why don't you put the rest of the coffee that's behind the counter into the thermos while I finish here," James asked and moved to shutter the windows on the lagoon. Jade nodded and went behind the bar to find the thermos. After filling it, she began to unplug all the electrical equipment on the bar. Finished, Jade stood by the end of the bar unsure if she would be welcome in the two women's conversation. Placing the thermos in the box, Jade decided to find out and walked over to the table and asked, "Are you two ready to go?"
Lilia patted the seat next to her and replied, "Why don't you sit down for a moment. I want to talk to you." Jade looked at Lindsay nervously as the blonde just grinned and shrugged apologetically. The tall woman rolled her eyes and dropped into the offered seat thinking, 'This should be interesting.'
The conversation proved to be anything but boring as Lilia held court, pulling out details from Jade's side of the breakup and Andrea's involvement. Hesitant at first, Jade finally gave up trying to avoid certain issues and pointedly answered the old woman's questions. The conversation ended when James returned to round up the trio to leave. As the women stood, Lindsay's knees felt weak from the interrogation she had just witnessed, and could only imagine how angry Jade must be at the moment. The normally private woman had just been forced to explain herself and her motives to a stranger. Lilia had a way about her that made it hard for anyone to dispute her; maybe it was her age or the lack of a threatening demeanor. But, it was easy to confide in her and she had no problem unraveling the story at hand. The corner of Lindsay's mouth couldn't help but curl up into a grin at some of the revelations she had just witnessed, especially from Jade. She hadn't been completely sure where they stood in their relationship until now and it seemed there was light at the end of this tunnel.
"Enjoy that, did ya?" A warm breath tickled the hair on the back of Lindsay's neck causing her to jump slightly.
"Ummm," the blonde stammered, looking up into laughing blue eyes. "I'm really sorry about that Jade. I had no idea she would ask so many questions." The blonde grimaced until the light humor in Jade's eyes registered, and the tall woman grinned offering, "Don't worry about it. I didn't say anything outrageous, did I?"
"No, just enlightening," Lindsay replied matching the grin as she walked away toward where James stood waiting. Jade shook her head in amusement and followed.
As they stepped out onto the porch, they noticed the wind had picked up considerably. Lindsay helped Lilia toward the truck as James handed Jade the box of supplies and proceeded to lock the door and shutters to cover them. Jade took the box and placed it in the back of the truck bed before opening the passenger door to slide into the rear seat and let the two women sit up front. Sitting sideways on the seat, she tried to stretch out her long legs, momentarily regretting her decision to sit in the back. After a few adjustments, she found a comfortable spot and reclined her head back into the corner of the cab.
James carefully maneuvered the truck in the increasing gale that blew in from the ocean. As they passed closer to the open expanse of ocean, James tightened his grip on the steering wheel as it tugged sideways under the strengthening onslaught. James realized that the women would never have made the return trip on the moped and looked over into the rearview mirror. His eyes met knowing blue ones as Jade was having the same thoughts.
"Looks like the storm is coming in sooner than we anticipated," he observed as they turned onto the dirt road that led to the cottages. Lindsay mutely nodded as she peered out the windshield nervously. Dodging the fallen palm fronts and debris kicked up by the wind, James pulled into Lilia's driveway and stopped in front of the house. Most of the shutters were already in place on the clapboard house, with only the front door unprotected.
"I'm going to help the girls get the cottage secure and then I'll be back. There isn't much left to do here except getting ready inside," James spoke to Lilia as he helped her down from the truck. She turned to Lindsay and Jade and told them to take care of themselves and call if there was any trouble. The front door opened and Pearl came down the porch steps to meet Lilia and James. She waved at Lindsay inside of the truck and, after a few brief words with James, the two women went inside the house.
"Hey, Lindsay and I can take care of things at the cottage, don't you have to take care of your house?" Jade inquired as James climbed behind the wheel. Putting the car in gear and backing out James answered, "I live over the restaurant at the moment and we've already secured it. I want to make sure you two are shored up on the beach side, it's wide open to the elements." James turned the car down the road toward the cottage.
The storm wasn't the only unwelcome element they had to contend with now. The element in question watched from the beach as three people got out of a vehicle at the cottage before heading down the beach.
Andrea moved carefully through the brush toward the old fishing hut she had found. The mixture of smells that permeated the wood made her nose wrinkle in distaste. A new smell had begun to overpower the smell of rotten fish and seaweed, which reminded the woman of her mission. 'This is just another injustice forced upon her by Lindsay's inability to see reason,' Andrea thought as she checked her supplies and waited. "But, everything will be taken care of soon," the brunette vowed aloud as she pushed the offensive odor toward the door. The contents of the metal can sloshed around as they slid across the plank flooring. Andrea obsessively switched on the flashlight to make sure it worked. The skies darkened outside as she shivered listening to the wind rattling around her little hideaway. Never did she think her life would come down to this, forced to sit in filth during a storm in order to get back what was hers. 'Jade has Lindsay confused now, but soon the blonde would be able to think clearer when a certain tall obstacles had been removed. Lindsay would know undoubtedly that they belonged together,' Andrea thought confidently as she gathered up her things and headed out into the brewing storm.
"I don't suppose I could convince you to come back to Lilia's with me?" James asked quietly to keep the woman inside from over-hearing. Jade shook her head quickly, "No, we will be okay here. I don't think Andrea will do anything with this storm hitting. She is probably at the hotel plotting something for when it clears."
"Let's hope so," James stated, the uneasy feeling hadn't lifted since they had arrived at the cottage. Looking around, he couldn't find anything out of the ordinary except the gathering clouds and hoped it wasn't an omen.
"Whether now or later, its something I will have to deal with. If Andrea wants to cause trouble, I will be here to answer her. Either way, she's not getting near Lindsay again," Jade's emphatic statement left little room for debate or argument as the raven-haired woman walked back around to the front of the house. Jade walked with James to his truck after he had satisfied himself with double -checking both the exterior and interior of the cottage.
"Call me if anything happens. I don't care how late," James demanded as he pulled the box of supplies out of the truck. Removing the thermos of coffee, he handed the box to Jade. Opening the passenger side of the truck he dropped the thermos on the seat before opening the glove box.
Jade stepped back instinctively when she saw the gun. James held it up for her to see, "Don't worry, it's a flare gun. If the power goes out and you need me, just fire this out over the house and we'll see the light."
Jade didn't move to take the offered weapon and said, "I really don't think that this is necessary."
"Take it!" James demanded, placing the pistol on top of the supplies the woman carried.
"Okay, okay," Jade, sighed looking down at the gun. Even thought she had handled guns before, it wasn't one of her favorite methods of defense.
"Just point it up and pull the trigger," the big man instructed. "I think I can figure it out," Jade replied sarcastically but James refused to be baited, getting into the truck. He started it up and said, "Remember, anything funny, you call!"
"I will, I will," Jade's voice was tense as she moved up onto the porch and watched the truck disappear down the driveway.
'Okay, now what do I do with this,' she questioned as she looked down at the gun grimly, 'It's not coming into the house!' Putting the box down on the top step of the porch, Jade gingerly picked up the gun. She was uneasy with the feel of the metal in her hand and looked around for a safe place to store the gun. Eyeing the carport, Jade decided to put the weapon where it would stay dry. Finding a safe place, she turned and went back to pick up the box and go into the cottage.
"Everything okay out there?" Lindsay's voice called out. Jade closed the front door and followed the sound into the kitchen, finding the blonde pouring a cup of coffee.
"Yes, the winds are kicking up, but no rain yet," Jade replied placing the supplies on the table. "Hungry?" Lindsay asked as she handed Jade the mug.
"You bet!" Jade smiled and sat down when Lindsay motioned to her. Lindsay poured another mug of coffee and pulled a plate of sandwiches and cheese from the refrigerator and offered, "Nothing fancy, but I figure we better eat up what will spoil if the power goes out." The two women ate as they discussed the pending storm. "You're not worried are you?" Jade asked hesitant that maybe she should have insisted they go with James.
"A little, I guess it's because we are so close to the ocean," Lindsay confided, toying with her mug. Jade got up and grabbed the empty plates and put them in the sink before speaking. "We should be okay, we are back pretty far from the surf and the house is elevated. I think the worst will be from the winds. Why don't we just settle in the other room and relax because there isn't much we can do right now. If the storm looks like it's going to get really bad, we will call James."
Lindsay grinned, placing her mug in the sink. "I'm being silly, we will be fine here." Jade placed her arm around her lightly and led her into the living room, depositing her on the sofa. "No, not silly, just cautious."
Lindsay flopped down on the sofa as Jade fiddled with the stereo finally finding a station that would come in clearly. She then joined Lindsay on the sofa as the blonde thumbed absently through a magazine. Jade rested her head against the back cushion and peered through an opening in the shuttered window, watching as the last of the light disappear as the dark clouds converged in the sky.
"Whatcha reading?" Jade asked peering over Lindsay's arm at the pictures in the article. "Read this," Lindsay replied pointing to a portion of the article in question. Jade read what was a travel piece on the various islands that make up the Tahitian chain.
"Nice, isn't it?" Lindsay asked. Jade murmured, "It's on Raiatea, but what is it?"
"Raiatea is considered one of the most sacred islands in the South Pacific. The island is steeped in legends and myths and there is a preserved historical site called Taputapuatea. It's considered sacred to Oro, the God of war, a national monument. You can only reach it either by horseback or 4x4. I would love to see it," Lindsay wistfully finished.
Jade moved closer to the blonde to finish reading the text and offered, "Well, maybe after this storm clears out of here, we should go over there." It seemed a like a natural reply until Jade became aware of the silence and looked up at Lindsay. The blonde had a look of surprise on her face and Jade thought she had overstepped her boundaries, 'maybe the 'we' part wasn't right.' Jade sat up and was about to do some serious backpedaling when Lindsay asked, "You would want to go there? Would you have time?" Lindsay noticed Jade's nervous hesitation and mentally slapped herself and quickly added, "Wait, what I mean is we never talked about how long you were going to stay. I mean what about your job?"
"Well, I guess I could take a vacation, but if you'd rather not...," Jade left the sentence purposely hanging.
"No!" Lindsay almost shouted, "There is nothing more I'd rather do than to go there with you."
Jade took a deep breath and exhaled. "I guess we need to sort out a few things, huh?"
"Yes we do. I don't want any misunderstandings between us ever again," Lindsay answered and looked deeply into Jade's eyes before asking, "I need to know is there an 'us' somewhere in here?"
"Do you want there to be?"
Lindsay rolled her eyes at Jade's ability to answer a question with a question, but she let it go and simply replied, "Yes, I do."
Jade relaxed and grinned sheepishly realizing what she had done. "Good, because I don't want to have to go through this all over again. I've really missed you."
"Me too," the blond replied and laid her head on Jade's shoulder. Jade rested her head lightly on Lindsay's and said, "Ok, where do we begin?"
Lindsay hesitated for a moment and quietly asked, "How about with that woman I saw you with at the move theatre."
"You mean Erin? She is just a good friend. Actually, she is the one who slapped some sense into me and made me see how stupid I've been."
"She did?" Lindsay replied as surprise crept into her insecurity. Jade looked down at Lindsay and tipped her chin up to meet her eyes. "No matter what has happened of late, there is no one I want to spend time with and no one I want to grow old with, but you. Every time something would happen, you were always the first person I wanted to tell." Jade leaned down and lightly kissed Lindsay's lips.
"You were always the only one for me. I was just blinded for the moment," Lindsay murmured and deepened the kiss.
"Damn her!" The wind tore the words from Andrea's lips as she peered into the shuttered cottage. She quickly backed away when Jade's head popped up alerted to the sound.
"What's wrong?" Lindsay's voice was husky as she reclaimed her breath from the searing kisses they were sharing.
"Probably nothing, I just thought I heard something different with the wind." Jade hesitated getting up to check it out and instead sat listening as the rain began to fall upon the metal roof. "It's raining."
The pounding on the metal roof grew steadily louder drowning out any noise Andrea made as she scrambled off the porch and under the shelter of the carport.
Jade awoke to the sound of the wind as it lashed against the cottage. Her sleep had been restless as the storm progressed through the night and she burrowed deeper into the coccoon that she and Lindsay had made. The blonde responded by pulling the long body toward her and wrapping herself around it. Jade smiled at the familiar way Lindsay's body fit against her side, her leg and arm draped across her body as she slept. Jade lay listening to the storm as an uneasy feeling crept over her. She kept telling herself it was just the weather and hoped it would clear up soon. Jade wanted to get up and look outside, but didn't want to disturb the woman in her arms. She knew how nervous Lindsay had been about the storm and finally had fallen into a restful sleep. 'No sense in both of us not sleeping.' Jade finally succumbed to the steady drone of the wind as it blocked out all other sounds, and fell back asleep.
'The fog was thick as Jade desperately tried to find Lindsay. The heat that seemed to emanate out of the fog seared her throat as she ran calling for the woman. Her eyes stung as she tried to focus through the tears to get her bearings and find Lindsay. Jade's foot hit something pitching her forward sprawling across Lindsay's limp body.' Jade screamed out the blonde's name and began choking on the acrid smell of smoke. Blinking her eyes, she realized that this was no dream. She and Lindsay still lay on the sofa in the cottage, but now the room was filled with a thick blanket of smoke. "Lindsay, wake up!" Jade choked out and she shook the blonde's body.
Lindsay felt something hitting against her as a loud noise assulted her peaceful sleep. She didn't want to leave her comfortable spot and groaned at the persistent interruption. 'Alright! Alright!' Lindsay thought as she was pulled roughly to the present. Blinking awake, she took a ragged breath as she opened her mouth to speak, and began coughing instead. Jade tried to breath as shallow as possible as she pulled Lindsay upright. 'Damn, how long have we been breathing this stuff?' Jade thought as she pulled Lindsay to her feet.
"What's happening?" Lindsay croaked. "Fire," was all Jade could manage, as she pulled Lindsay toward what she hoped was the front door. They stumbled into furniture nearly toppling them over, but Jade kept their footing and pushed on. Reaching through the smoke she felt for the door and twisting the unyielding handle, she quickly reached up for the deadbolt and slid it open before yanking open the door. Letting herself be sucked out into the wind, Jade pulled Lindsay out behind her, down the porch steps, she set her down on the bottom step to get a breath of fresh air. The remnants of the wind sent a chill through Jade and she hesitated before turning to go back inside. They were going to need some kind of protection to cover themselves. As Jade ran back up the steps and across the porch, she caught a flash out of the corner of her eye followed by the flash of a million stars as they erupted across her vision. She was amazed by their brightness as the enveloping darkness engulfed her and she slid across the threshold of the cottage door to the floor.
Lindsay felt the blanket wrap around her and over her head as she was pulled roughly to her feet. Stumbling, she followed Jade's lead away from the cottage. Neither woman spoke as they moved through the foliage. Lindsay saw only brief glimpses of the ground as they hurried through the brush. Finally stopping near a vehicle, Lindsay was bundled into the front seat. She pulled at the stifling blanket covering her head and turned to look as the driver's door opened. Expecting to see Jade slip behind the wheel, Lindsay was horrified when the woman pulled back her jacket hood to find it was Andrea.
"What? Where's Jade?" Lindsay crocked, her throat dry and sore. "Don't worry about her," Andrea replied and fumbled with the ignition to get the rental started.
"No!" Lindsay rasped, and turned to open her door.
"Stop!" Andrea called out, pulling the blonde back away from the door. "You are going to finally listen to reason and hear me out."
Lindsay struck out at the brunette as she flailed her arms about in an attempt to be free.
"Damn it Lindsay! I said stop!" Andrea shouted over the wind that buffeted the car, but even it was no match for the struggle taking place within. Lindsay raked her nails across Andrea's cheek causing the woman to rear back and strike the blonde in a reflex motion. Lindsay's head snapped back against the car door and she became still. Andrea angrily touched her cheek before reaching out to Lindsay and pulling the dazed woman toward her.
"Damn you, Lindsay! Why couldn't you just listen to me for once," Andrea whispered as she gently laid the blonde's body back against the seat. Turning her attention back to the car, she started the engine and proceeded toward the road, carefully picking her way past fallen debris. "I'll be damned if I'm going to just give you up to the likes of that woman and walk away. You started this relationship and, by God, you'll honor it!" Andrea's hands tightened on the steering wheel as she spoke. She knew her odds of successfully getting Lindsay off the island were slim, but she wouldn't go down without a fight.
Driving past the old woman's cottage, she failed to notice the truck was no longer in the driveway. With a sigh of relief, Andrea pulled the car onto the paved road and headed back to the bungalow she had rented. If her luck held out, by the time they found out where she was, the storm would be over and she could get Lindsay on a boat off the island. After that, they could go anywhere they wanted to start over.
James parked his truck on the narrow lane and pulled up the hood on his slicker. Stepping out into the wind, he turned on his flashlight and pointed it up the narrow trail. Following the beam, he reached the wooden shack and paused. It had been awhile since he had been here, but he knew instantly someone had been there recently. Cautiously, he approached the entrance and took a deep breath before wrenching open the door. He shone his light all around the interior and didn't relax until he was fully satisfied that it was empty. Stepping inside, he noted an unfamiliar smell mingling with the fish and earthen smells of the cabin. He paused for a moment before stepping back outside and followed the trail down toward the cabin. As James neared the clearing, a gust of wind hit him along with the scent of smoke sending the big man running toward the clearing.
Jade felt the sensation of her body moving along a rough surface before being lifted onto her feet. She struggled against the arms that held her trapped as she took in a deep breath of fresh air. Her feeble attempts were easily thwarted by James as he called out, "Jade, its me, James." Through the fog, she slowly came back to her senses and stopped fighting. There was a dull ringing in her head, but she heard his next words clearly, "Where is Lindsay?"
"Lindsay!" Jade shouted, hoarsely looking around before attempting to go back into the cabin. The smoke had lessened dramatically, but James stopped her and went in himself, calling out to Lindsay. He searched each room before coming back out into the living room and meeting Jade as she came out of the kitchen. "She isn't here," he said stopping her from going any further through the cabin. Jade sagged against his arm and he took her back outside and sat her down on the top step. It was then he noticed the blood in her hair. Jade flinched when James gently touched her head in examination. Other than a large knot and nice cut, she didn't seem in any immediate danger. He sat down on the step next to her and looked into her eyes to see that her pupils were slightly askew and he knew that she had a mild concussion.
"Stay here. There doesn't seem to be a fire, but I need to see where the smoke is coming from," James ordered and went about checking the cabin. He found the source of the smoke and pulled out the charred materials to be sure. James went back to Jade, who was now standing next to the porch trying to clear her lungs, and asked, "What happened?"
Jade tried to focus on the events and spoke in a rasping voice, "I remember coming out onto the porch with Lindsay and then turning to go back inside when everything exploded in my head." Jade coughed deeply trying unsuccessfully to clear her lungs of smoke. "We've got to find Lindsay!" Jade choked out in a coughing fit.
"Don't try to talk too much. I don't think you will be able to for a while yet," James replied.
"Lindsay?" Jade waved him off and swallowed hard against her burning throat.
"I don't know. You have a nice lump on your head and I somehow don't think it was an accident," James observed grimly as he looked around for some kind of clue.
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking," James replied. "She couldn't have gotten very far in the storm, nothing is leaving the island. Wait here and I'll go get the truck," James ordered as he walked back toward the path through the brush.
"No! We don't have time to waste. I'm coming with you," Jade replied following him on shaky legs.
"Will you stop being so damn stubborn? If you had let me help and hadn't had to do it all yourself, Lindsay would be here right now!" James rebuked Jade and stormed off through the trees leaving her rooted to her spot. He pushed through the brush berating himself for that last comment.
Jade stood mute, the comment had hurt and certainly had a ring of truth to it. 'Have I really caused harm to Lindsay again?'
The self-doubt crept in for a moment before she took hold of her fears and set them right. It was easy for James to think what he did, but he didn't know Andrea, or Lindsay for that matter. Neither woman would be satisfied with anything less than Jade confronting Andrea. 'And, neither would I,' Jade admitted to herself. With renewed resolve and strength, the tall woman walked over to the lean-to and picked her way towards the bike. She pulled the flare gun out from where she had hidden it. Luckily, the bike and the gun had been on the opposite side of the shed from the fire so they both escaped damage. Turning it over in her hands Jade thought angrily, 'Next time Andrea, you might not be so lucky.' Tucking the gun into her pocket, she pulled her sweater down to cover the bulge and went out to wait for James.
James drove silently down the debris littered road; glancing over at the woman next to him, he was met with a stony profile. He looked up at the sky trying to take his mind off of the tension that had built up, and rebuked himself for causing it. The rain and the wind had cleared and it looked like the clouds were finally starting to break up. Pulling into Lilia's drive, Jade spoke for the first time, "Why are we stopping here?"
James turned off the engine and without looking at Jade said, "We need to let Lilia know about Lindsay. She has more connections on this island than God." When Jade did not reply, James added, "Listen, I'm sorry for what I said back there, none of this is your fault."
"No, it isn't," Jade replied cooly as she turned ice blue eyes toward James. "If you knew Andrea, you would also know that she would have still waited for her opportunity. You being around last night would not have made any difference." James let out his breath and grinned, "Okay, strike one for the macho male. I'm just angry and worried about Lindsay."
"So am I," Jade simply replied and got out of the truck. James followed and walked around the truck to lead the way to the front door. The door opened as they approached and Lilia's face peered out in concern. "What's wrong?"
James and Jade entered the living room of the house and found Pearl standing in the kitchen doorway. The house was set up much like the cottage, except for the personal touches that filled the walls and tables. The room was decorated with native art and carvings in a vast array of colors. The cheery atmosphere did nothing to soothe Jade's mood. Her body was tense as her eyes paced around the room, like a wild animal looking for an escape.
"There's been a problem at the cottage," James began and before either woman could speak he continued, "There's been a small fire, but don't worry there's been no major damage." Lilia looked from James to Jade and noted her disheveled appearance. She could sense the tension that emanated from the tall woman and knew that wasn't all that had happened. Lilia's eyes widened in recognition and spat out, "Where is Lindsay!"
"She's been taken," Jade bluntled replied with no explanation.
"What do you mean taken?" Lilia looked directly toward Jade for an answer. "Who?" Pearl asked softly when no one replied.
"I can only assume Andrea," Jade answered. Frustrated with the slow answers, Lilia looked at James, her eyes demanding clarification.
"I found this one lying on the porch and the house full of smoke when I got there. Lindsay was already gone," James explained.
Jade could see the distress in the older woman's eyes and it calmed her down. Pearl gently took Lilia's hand and led her over to the couch. The four of them sat down and Jade, with James' help, pieced together what had happened.
"We don't have time to lose, we need to find them," Jade ended, growing impatient once again.
"Don't worry we will. They couldn't have gotten very far yet and there are no boats going off the island for awhile yet," James tried to reassure everyone. "The storm has blown over and the weather has cleared around Raiatea," Pearl informed him. "The boats will be coming over soon," Lilia cautioned. "We probably have two hours before any arrive and another hour before they depart to go back."
James nodded, "We can still get up to the resort beforehand and check it out. I can't imagine where else she would have taken Lindsay."
"You don't know Andrea," Jade retorted and went out the door toward the truck. James sighed and moved to follow but Lilia caught his arm to stop him. "I'll call around and alert everyone to the situation, better to have many ears and eyes."
"Okay," James agreed.
"And, go easy on that one, she's in a lot of pain right now," the old woman said.
James nodded with a mild rebuttal, "I know, but she can be so bullheaded." Lilia smiled knowingly and said, "Sometimes that is good, especially right now."
"James, please find Lindsay," Pearl asked, touching James' arm lightly to get his attention. The big man turned and engulfed the smaller frame into his own and murmured, "I'll do my best." Kissing her warmly, he released Pearl and turned to give Lilia a quick kiss on the cheek before heading outside to join Jade.
Jade watched the scenery pass in silence as James drove down the only road between Haamene and Poutoru to where the resort lay along the coast where the pearl farms were abundant. They passed through the lush dense foliage of the valley, occasionally dotted by wild vanilla pods curing in the sun as they continued around the mountain to the other side of the island. Jade could catch the heavy scent of vanilla whenever the wind blew just right into the truck window. It would take them approximately an hour to reach the resort and another hour to head back if the women were not there. Jade's fists tightened in her lap as she silently prayed, 'Let them be there.'
James looked over at Jade's chiseled features as he weighed their options. 'If the women have already left then we would either pass them on the road or they could take the road to Vaitoare, which is the closest city to take a boat to Raiatea. Unless, they never went back to the resort...' James sighed praying, 'let's hope that's not the case.' If the women never went back to the resort then there were a few other options available, none of which they would be able to reach in time. James sensed Jade watching him and turned to find her trying to read his expression. Trying to make his face impassive, he offered, "The resort is just around the bend, we will be there in a few minutes. The assistant manager is an old friend of mine; she should be on duty."
Jade nodded and turned her attention back to the road. She didn't feel reassured by the emotions she had seen cross his face before he shut the door. 'Oh, God Lindsay. I can't lose you now.' Jade's eyes teared as she thought about what might happen when Andrea finally realized that Lindsay didn't want her. Up until now, Andrea had fostered her own illusions of their relationship, but faced with the reality of everything, it might be a different story. Jade's stomach clenched and her eyes narrowed as various thoughts ran through her head, the strongest taking hold as she vowed, 'If you so much as hurt her, I swear that I will hunt you down and kill you!'
James pulled the truck onto the resort road and didn't slow down until they were in the lobby parking lot. Gravel and sand flew as he pulled into a parking space and hit the brakes. Jade was jarred out of her inner shell, surprised to find they had already arrived. Clambering to get out of the truck while James walked around the front of the cab and headed toward the lobby entrance, she quickly caught up with him as he opened the glass doors. They entered the cool interior and James scanned the interior until he saw who he was looking for, without a word to Jade, he crossed the floor past the front desk to the concierge desk against the back wall. Jade lengthened her strides and followed him easily coming to stop in front of woman dressed in flowered print shirt. She had beautiful brown almond shaped eyes that sparkled when she looked up and saw James approaching.
"James, this is a pleasant surprise," the woman offered and paused when she noticed Jade with him.
"Hi Sara, this is my friend Jade," James introduced her and Jade nodded with a brief smile offering her hand to the one extended to her. "Hello," Sara murmured and turned back to James inquisitively, "What can I do for you today? Are you up for the day or plan on staying with us?"
"No, sorry. This is purely a business call. We are looking for someone who is staying here. She might have come back with a friend of Jade's and we are looking for her friend," James replied.
Sara stood up and moved around the desk asking, "Is there a problem?"
"There might be," James replied. "Okay, let's go to the registration computer so I can access the files," Sara replied and pointed them over to the lobby counter as she quickly disappeared through a side door, and reappeared behind the counter where they stood.
"What is the name?" Sara asked as she punched in the access keys to the guest database. James looked to Jade who replied, "Andrea Loring, L-o-r-i-n-g."
Sara clicked a few more keys before asking, "Is this the friend or the guest's name?" "The guest," James and Jade replied in unison. Sara's face creased into a frown as she kept clicking away at the keyboard. Finally she looked up in confusion and said, "I'm not finding anyone by the name Loring."
"Damn!" James muttered under his breath. Jade looked around the lobby in frustration until a thought came to her. "Try Torma, T-o-r-m-a," Jade offered.
"Wait, I've got something on Torma. Here it is Torma, Jade, checked out an hour ago," Sara finished, the enthusiasm on her face dimming with the last information.
"Who checked her out?" James asked quickly. Sara scanned the screen and called into the back office, "Elan, can you come out here for a moment?"
The three waited as a short, graying gentleman bustled out of the back office and looked at them inquisitively. "How may I be of assistance?"
"You checked out a Ms. Jade Torma about an hour ago. Do you remember if she was alone, or remember her saying where she was going?" Sara questioned the desk clerk. The man thought for moment before replying, "I believe so, a redhead in bungalow nine."
"Was she alone?" Jade asked impatiently before James placed a restraining hand on her arm. She backed off and waited for the answer.
The old man adjusted his glasses and replied, "No, when I put her luggage in the trunk, there was a woman asleep in the passenger seat. Ms. Torma indicated that her friend wasn't feeling well and that they were going to catch a boat to Raiatea for a morning flight back to the United States."
"She wasn't sleeping; she was kidnapped, " Jade snapped.
"Oh, my!" The clerk blinked rapidly and looked from Jade to James.
"Did she say where she was going to catch this boat?" James asked, ignoring Jade's quip. The clerk nodded slowly, his eyes widened and watched Jade, "She asked me where the closest dock was and I directed her to Vaitoare."
"How long ago was that?" James questioned trying to keep the man's focus on himself and not Jade as she paced in front of the counter.
"A little over an hour ago sir," Elan answered politely.
"Damn, that gives them an edge on us. We will have to hurry if we have any hope of catching them, "James told Jade before turning to Sara. "Thanks for all your help, Sara." The two of them turned toward the door and began running.
"Wait!" Sara called out and followed them outside. "We don't have much time Sara, that woman almost killed Jade here and has taken Lindsay," James called back.
"I know the dock master in Vaitoare, I can call him," Sara shouted as she followed the pair into the parking lot. James open the truck door and stepped up onto the cab runner and looked back at Sara.
"Call him, tell him to delay any boats leaving and to watch out for those two. If at all possible, stall and detain them until we can get there," James shouted and slapped the top of the cab with a cheer of hope. "Thanks Sara, I owe you big time!" Sara waved back and chuckled, "What else is new?" as she headed back inside to make the phone call. She could hear the truck tires kicking up gravel and sand as the lobby doors closed behind her.
James raced as fast as he dared down the two-lane road. Every ounce of Jade's body was pressed into the ride as she silently urged the man to go faster. They climbed over small mountains, occasionally catching a glimpse of blue expanse as they skirted along the coast. After what seemed like forever, the truck finally crested the last hill and the harbor lay before them. There were two boats in port and one boat slowly making its way out of the harbor.
"Oh my God, James, that boat!" Jade cried and began removing her seatbelt in anticipation of exiting the truck as soon as it slowed down. James pulled the truck up short of the dock and they both flew out the doors and ran down the length of the pier. James checked both boats as they passed looking for passengers, finding none his heart dropped as he raced toward the group of men at the end of the pier. They were coiling up the lead ropes from the departed boat.
"Hey! Did two women go out on that boat?" Jade shouted out to the two men. One of them nodded and the other stood silently wary of the two that approached. 'After that woman', his senses were heightened and he dreaded the thought that there was a problem.
"Where is the harbor master?" James asked. The silent man swallowed and pointed toward a burly man hurrying toward them. As the man approached he called out, "Are you James?"
"Yes," James replied.
"Sara just reached me. The lines have been down all morning, they just came back up," The man gasped and inhaled deeply to catch his breath, his face red from the exertion.
"We are looking for two women and I think they are on that boat," Jade replied. "We need to get the captain to turn around."
The red-faced man shook his head and apologized, "I'm sorry I have no authority to call that boat back; it's a private charter. I can try to reach Pete and explain the situation."
Jade ran to the end of the pier and watched as boat grew smaller and smaller, straining her eyes to catch any glimpse of a blonde head. Tears began stinging her eyes as the boat disappeared. She felt a hand on her shoulder and quickly wiped away any tears that threatened to fall. "Don't give up on me now," James softly spoke.
Jade turned to him and replied with venom, "I'll never stop looking until I find Andrea, and then...." Jade hesitated finishing her sentence but the meaning was not lost on James and he pulled Jade back up the pier toward the remaining two boats.
The harbormaster was speaking with the two men from the dock and another man who James assumed was another boat captain. The new man nodded his head in affirmation and hurried his men in their preparations. Walking halfway down to meet James and Jade, the harbormaster called out, "John will take you over to Raitea, he has the fastest boat out there. With some luck you might even overtake them on the way. I'll try to radio the other captain and call the harbormaster at Apooti Marina in Raitea. Either way, I'll apprise everyone of the situation and we will try to stop them before they get any farther."
"Thanks," James replied as he helped Jade onto the launch and followed behind her. "We appreciate all your efforts." Jade nodded but remained silent, afraid to speak, as the need to scream was stronger. Reigning in her emotions, she retained a stony facade as the boat pushed off from the docks. The boat was new and built more for speed and pleasure than anything else. Jade braced herself against the seat cushion as the boat skimmed over the choppy water. The sun and wind against her face felt good as Jade focused her attention on the horizon before them, trying to catch a glimpse of the boat that held Lindsay.
The shore grew further away as James conversed with the captain. The boat they were chasing was an older vessel that the captain used for private fishing charters and to ferry passengers between the islands. "We should have no trouble catching up with them, we will be able to spot them as soon as we round the next cove and get out past the coral reef boundary," the captain shouted over the wind. James nodded and gave him the thumbs up sign. Looking back over his shoulder he saw Jade, her eyes intent upon the horizon and felt a sense of urgency swell within.
"You know why we are chasing them right?" James asked John. John nodded and replied; "We thought it was pretty odd that someone would not wait for their friend to recover before taking them out on a boat."
"What was wrong with her?" James asked worried that Lindsay might be seriously injured from the fire, or worse. "She looked like she was maybe hung over or something, you know, confused and disoriented. The redhead had to practically help her walk. Do you think maybe she drugged her?" John asked.
"Maybe," James replied, grimly.
"I will tell you one thing," John added. "That woman was one cold fish." James nodded and tried to quell the queasiness he was feeling. Not so much from the boat ride, he had been on boats all his life, but he knew in his gut that Andrea wasn't going to give up Lindsay easily.
Jade first noticed the speck on the horizon as they exited the breakwaters into the rough ocean swells. The boat slowed when it hit the waves head on, but the captain adjusted their coarse and they picked up speed again as he cut sideways through the swells. James looked forward when John pointed out the boat ahead of them. "There they are," he called out. James' grip tightened on the glass panel in front of him as they raced after the other boat.
They made progress and slowly began to catch up with the other boat. As they neared their prey, the captain shook his head and said, "Man, he is crazy pushing that old tub that hard. It's an old Hattaras and I know the owner is still using the original engines. With any luck, they'll blow a gasket and we won't have any trouble catching them." John grinned at James and then nodded toward Jade asking, "Is that girl her family?"
"Yeah, you could say that. They are as close as any family I know," James replied. "I just hope for that woman's sake," James added dipping his head toward the opposing vessel, "that she hasn't hurt Lindsay. I won't be responsible for holding that one back if she has." James looked at Jade's steady resolve and shivered at the pure hatred he saw directed out to sea.
"James, over there, do you see that?" John asked, swinging the boat around widely. James looked in the direction the captain pointed and noticed an object bobbing in the waters ahead of them. As they neared, they could see a figure waving frantically to get their attention. John waved to indicate they had seen him. James peered intently but his stomach flipped when he saw that it was a man. When they pulled along side, James leaned over the side and began pulling the man into the boat. As soon as he was aboard, John flipped the engines full throttle and they jerked off again in pursuit.
James helped the man to his feet to make sure he was all right. "Did you come from that boat?" James asked.
The man coughed and nodded affirmly. "What happened, Gavin?" John knew the man they had rescued and pulled out a towel from under his seat and handed it to him.
After the swimmer cleared the saltwater from his throat he replied, "That crazy broad we took aboard back at the pier, she pushed me overboard! I knew she was trouble when I saw her friend; a bunch of druggies if you ask me."
Jade had come forward and heard the conversation and grabbed the wet man, spinning him around. "What do you mean by that?"
The wet man looked over the tall woman and instantly knew that if he didn't want to go for another swim, he had better watch his step. "The blonde one with the other woman, she was on drugs or something. She could barely walk, let alone anything else," Gavin replied and waited defensively for the tall woman's reaction. Jade looked over at James, "We've got to stop her." James nodded and told Gavin to sit up front with John and took Jade to the other two seats in back.
Jade fell back into her seat as the boat hit a swell and her shirt came up in the wind revealing the gun still tucked snuggly in the waistband of her pants. "Give me that!" James ordered as Jade tried to pull down her shirt to cover the flare gun. Jade flashed a look at James, but then backed off and pulled the gun out, placing it in the outstretched hand. James checked to see if the gun was loaded and replaced the safety before tucking into his jacket pocket. "What do you think you were going to do with that?" James asked and instantly regretted the question when he saw the look in the blue eyes in front of him. "Don't even go there," Jade hissed.
"We will get her, but not that way," James replied seriously. Jade turned her attention once again to the expanse of blue and their prey. At this moment, James wasn't sure who was more dangerous, Andrea or Jade.
They had been in steady pursuit for nearly an hour and they were almost within hailing distance of the boat. The two men in the front were preparing to come around the side of the vessel when they noticed the red hair of the pilot up on the top bridge. John called back to James, "It looks like the woman has command of the boat." James peered over at the other ship and saw the woman behind the wheel. He couldn't see Lindsay anywhere on deck and assumed she must be below, hopefully safe. On the back deck he noticed a male figure slumped on the deck not moving. Gavin pointed frantically to the figure and called out, "That's Pete!"
John sped up the boat parallel with the old fishing vessel and Gavin called for the woman to stop the boat. Andrea glanced over once and turned her attention back toward where she was headed. John called back to James, who stood just over his right shoulder, "At this course, she is going to miss Raitea altogether."
"Can you get us closer?" Gavin asked John, "I'll try to jump over." John nodded and steadily maneuvered the boat in position. Andrea, noting their proximity, pulled the wheel violently to the left almost colliding with the speedboat. James caught Gavin as he fell backwards, keeping him from falling between the two vessels. If that were to happen, there would be no way of saving the young man. If the boats didn't crush him, he would be sucked under the boat and the propellers would be next.
"Try again!" Gavin shouted as he pulled up the docking rope and attempted to lasso one of the fittings of the other boat. Successful on his fourth attempt he tried to pull the boats closer together. James grabbed the end of the rope and added his strength to the attempt. As John let the boat swing to the right, they came within inches of each other. The next thing the two men saw was Jade flying through the air and landing with a crash on the deck of the fishing vessel. She rolled to a stop within inches of the still captain and didn't move for a moment. James held his breath fearing the worst and didn't let it out until Jade rolled over and attempted to wave at them, but the pain burst through her shoulder and she gave up trying. She stood on her feet and gingerly held her arm against her waist, trying to move it.
"DAMN HER!" James shouted into the wind. Then he saw Jade trying to limp forward on the bucking deck of the old ship and pointed to Gavin to try again. The young man nodded and balanced himself on the side of the speedboat, attempting another pass at the fishing vessel. As the boats bounced together, the young man leaped for the deck and came up standing after hitting the deck and rolling. He ran over to his friend and found that he was still alive. He waved the clear sign to James and moved to follow the tall raven-haired woman as she made her way forward toward the bridge. Catching up with Jade, he redirected her away from the stairs up to the bridge where Andrea was and pointed to the lower bridge area. "I don't think she's seen us yet. Let's find your friend first," Gavin said quietly to Jade and pointed toward down to the galley. As they entered and climbed down the few steps, Jade found herself in the salon area. The room was empty, but there was a doorway ahead and Gavin pointed, "In there."
Jade ran forward and pushed open the door. Her heart stopped for a moment when she saw Lindsay laying on her side on the lower birth. Her back was to them and Jade approached gently and slowly rolled the woman toward her. Lindsay moaned as her body moved and looked up blinkingly trying to focus on the face before her. "I don't feel very well," she slurred through thickened speech. Her eyes rolled back and she moaned again before falling quiet.
"I'm going to kill that bitch!" Jade vowed as she gently laid Lindsay back down with her good arm and turned toward the cabin door. Gavin stood in her way and warily asked, "What do you plan on doing?"
"I'm going to throw her sick ass off this boat!" Jade replied and pushed past the smaller man. "Wait! I've got an idea," Gavin called after her. "So do I!" Jade replied snidely.
"Wait, listen to me!" Gavin asked pulling back on Jade's arm dangerously. Jade looked down at his hand and back up to his face and the man blanched, but he held firm.
"What?" Jade demanded trying to remember that she had nothing against this man. "I can steer the boat from the bridge down here, but you have to throw the switch in the fly bridge to give me the helm," he replied quickly. "If you could distract the woman and flip the switch first, then I don't care if you hang her from the bridge or use her as bait!" Gavin threw up his arms animatedly.
Jade couldn't help but grin at the tenacious young man and nodded, "Done!" She turned and headed out the door, noticeably holding her arm against her body. "Are you sure you can get up there?" Gavin asked, gesturing to her injury.
"If I have to do it using my teeth to hang on, you better believe it!" Jade replied quietly as they moved back out onto the deck. Gavin quickly explained the control panel set-up and which switch Jade needed to throw. Jade nodded and began to slowly pull herself up the bridge stairs as Gavin stood below waiting. As Jade made it to the top of the stairs, he slowly followed up behind her. Jade stepped up onto the fly bridge just when Andrea's attention was adverted to the right side of the boat as the speed boat sped around her bow.
"Hey, fancy meeting you here," Jade drawled sarcastically, causing Andrea to spin around in surprise, taking the wheel with her. Jade fell sideways into the bridge railing as the boat changed course quickly, cringing as the pain coursed through her left shoulder.
"You! How did you get here?" Andrea spat and moved toward Jade. She pulled the tall woman back by her hair as Jade stumbled toward the stairs she had just come up. Gavin flattened himself against the railing in hopes of keeping his presence a secret. He watched anxiously as Jade's body appeared over the railing and thought she would fall backward at any moment.
Jade reached out and clasped her hand around the front of Andrea's throat and used every ounce of anger that she felt and squeezed. Andrea let go of Jade's hair and pulled at the hand that choked her airway. "You bitch! If you've hurt Lindsay, I'll kill you!" Jade threatened through clenched teeth and squeezed her right hand with all her strength. Andrea's arms flailed in their attempt to dislodge the woman and she struck out against Jade's bad arm. Jade lost her grip on Andrea as the pain registered instantly, realizing her shoulder had to be dislocated to be feeling this much pain. Falling back against the bridge controls, Jade attempted to slow the boat and as Andrea returned the chokehold, Jade pulled the controls forward. Andrea finally let go of Jade's throat and pinned her good arm back as she tried to regain control of the boat. Jade refused to budge from in front of the panel and as the boat began to slow, Jade flipped the switch turning the controls over to lower bridge.
Gavin clambered back down the stairs and reached the bridge throwing the throttle wide open, causing the boat to suddenly lurch forward. Andrea lost her balance and was thrown backward off balance. Jade took the opportunity and threw the hardest punch she could muster ignoring the pain it caused. Andrea tumbled backwards toward the stairs and caught herself just as she fell off the bridge. She managed to catch the stair rail and break her fall as she tumbled down to the deck below.
Standing up, Andrea's eyes focused on Jade as the tall woman began her downward descent on the stairs. Andrea reached up pulling Jade's foot loose from the stair rung, causing her to fall backward onto Andrea. The two women tumbled to the deck together and Jade felt, more than heard, the shifting of her shoulder joint. The pain blinding her long enough for Andrea to recover and push away from Jade.
Jade rolled over as the initial pain subsided and sat up finding her shoulder, although painfully tender, had mobility again. Before she could get to her feet, she felt a noose drop over her head and her body yanked backwards. Andrea dragged Jade across the deck as the tall woman fought to get the rope off her neck.
"One of us isn't leaving this boat alive," Andrea screeched as she dropped the rope and attempted to pull Jade over the back or the boat, where the propellers viciously churned through the water. Jade took advantage of the slack in the rope and pulled the noose off over her head and replied in a raspy whisper, "That's fine by me."
Jade kicked out at Andrea and rolled backward onto the deck, trying to catch her breath. Andrea stood over Jade and stomped her foot down, inches from the woman's head. Jade attempted to dodge the woman's kicks and assaults as she attempted to get away. Andrea landed a blow to Jade's side causing instant pain. Angered beyond anything she had ever felt in her life, Jade slid away from the woman and got to her feet. With wild abandon, Jade ran toward the charging woman and tackled her backward against the back rail. Pinning the woman, Jade edged Andrea over the back rail until the woman hung backward barely hanging on.
Jade looked down at the fear in Andrea's face and knew that all she had to do was let go, and their troubles would be over. Fighting with her conscience, Jade let all the anger and emotions that had been building against this woman and let the redhead slide farther down toward the propeller. 'She would be out of our lives for good,' Jade reasoned with herself. 'And it isn't like anyone wouldn't say she deserved it.' Jade closed her eyes and Andrea screamed as she slid just to the water's edge. Jade could feel the tug of the water on the woman's body, requesting Jade to release her hold. Opening her eyes, she saw Andrea coughing for air as the waves of water splashed against her face. One more slip and she would be under... gone.
Jade looked out over the blue waters behind the boat, her left arm aching and both arms trembling from the weight they held. She looked down again and began pulling the woman up. She struggled to keep control of the heavy weight as she brought Andrea up and let her fall onto the deck. Andrea rolled to her side coughing up seawater and gasping for fresh air. Jade leaned down over the woman and answered the questioning eyes, "You are not worth it!" Jade grabbed the rope that had been wrapped around her neck and bound the redhead's hands together, and left her lying on the deck. Getting up, she went below to where Lindsay lay.
Jade held Lindsay in her arms brushing back her hair and soothing the blonde whenever she opened her eyes. At one point the blonde had woke up screaming about Andrea and it had taken awhile for Jade to assure her that she was safe. The drugs were beginning to wear off and Lindsay was exhausted from her ordeal. As the boat had slowed to a steady speed and droned on, Jade laid her head back against the bulkhead. She had fallen asleep sitting with Lindsay in her arms and hadn't felt the boat as it slowly pulled up to the dock. Jade was startled awake when she felt someone shake her and call her name. Opening her eyes quickly, she looked up to find James smiling down at her.
"How's she doing?" He asked, nodding toward the sleeping woman in her arms. "I think she will be okay once whatever Andrea gave her is out of her system."
"How are you doing?" He asked noticing the bruising on her face and the general tatters of her clothing. "I'll survive," she replied and then sat up straighter. "Where is Andrea?"
"Don't worry about her. I don't think either one of you will be seeing her for a long time. The government of Tahiti takes a dim view of hijackers and kidnappers. Pete is awake and screaming like a banshee about how she commandeered his boat and almost killed Gavin," James chuckled remember the spectacle he had just witnessed.
"So, what are your plans now?" James asked as he sat down on the other bunk across from Jade. Jade looked down at Lindsay's peaceful face and back to James smiling, "I don't know. I was thinking about some rest and then maybe taking a look at some of the other islands. I'm due for a long vacation."
"Well, it's about time," came a whispered reply. Jade looked down to find Lindsay peering up at her through half opened eyelids. "Well, the princess awakens," James said and motioned to Jade that he would wait on deck for them. Jade nodded and looked back down at Lindsay. "Hello there."
"Where are we?" Lindsay asked; smiling up at the most beautiful sight she had seen in the last eight hours. "I believe we are on Raiatea, somewhere called Apooti Marina," Jade replied, pushing back a strand hair from Lindsay's forehead. Lindsay attempted to sit up and the room swayed briefly before everything righted itself. "Just take it slowly," Jade cautioned. After a few attempts to stand, the two finally made it out on deck and Lindsay took a deep breath of the gently cooling afternoon breeze. "What was that stuff?" Lindsay murmured as her head finally began to clear.
"Valium," James replied. "Seems Andrea was giving you her prescription, triple the dose of course."
"Well, at least you didn't get seasick," Jade replied with a grin. "I don't get seasick," Lindsay replied staunchly. "If you say so," Jade replied and helped Lindsay onto the pier.
"The local authorities are going to want a statement and then we will be cleared to go home," James informed the two women.
"How long do you think this will take?" Lindsay asked.
"Shouldn't be more than an hour or so. We will still have enough light to make it back or we can stay over and return in the morning when you feel better," James offered.
Jade looked at Lindsay and said, "It's up to you, whatever you want to do, we will do."
"I'd rather get this over with and go home," Lindsay answered, "that is if we have a home to go to?"
"Yes, the cottage is fine, just a little smoke damage. The fire was confined to the back of the lean-to. All of the rain kept it from flaring up so basically it just smoldered and generated a lot of smoke," James explained to Lindsay.
"Then let's get this show on the road and go home," Lindsay enthusiastically decided as the trio made their way toward town.
After all the depositions and statements were taken, Andrea was placed in custody pending her transfer to the main island of Tahiti for trail and incarceration. With Pete and Gavin's testimonies, there would be no need for Lindsay to appear for the trial.
Lindsay and Jade sat huddled under a blanket in the back of the speedboat as John and James sat up front talking. The two women watched the evening sun set as they sped across the ocean toward home. Before long the stars appeared and Jade put her arm around Lindsay and held her back against her as they looked upward at the vast array of constellations.
"I don't know what I would have done if I had lost you today. It wouldn't be living without you in my life," Jade murmured against Lindsay's ear. Lindsay looked up into sparking eyes and replied, "You could never lose me, even through everything that has happened, the only place that has felt right for me is here," Lindsay replied touching Jade's heart. "I think of all the time we wasted, all the moments I lost not telling you how much you mean to me," Jade said and shook her head sadly.
"From this day on, no more stolen moments, no more regrets, no more I love you's left unsaid," Lindsay vowed. "I agree," Jade murmured as her lips touched Lindsay's. Their kisses deepened as the moonlight danced across the waters lighting their path home.