Whiskey Sour

I watch her fuss with the skirt she's wearing and resist the urge to laugh. In fact I go the opposite route and put on a very serious face. "Nora, go." I give her a slight push towards the bar and the man we've been watching for the past forty minutes.

She looks back at me and huffs, "Why can't you do this again?"

"Because," I say putting my hands on my hips, "I tried and failed. He has been looking at you all night."

Her face sours and I would almost swear to that being a pout. "What's not to like?" she asks, clearly annoyed as her hand makes a motion at me.

"Well," I say stepping closer to her and dropping my voice, "Maybe he doesn't like charming brunettes with ample bosoms, but prefers tough looking blondes with disarming smiles. Now," I purr, grabbing her shoulders and spinning her back around to face our intended mark, "git and don't come back without him on your arm!" I give her tush a little pat and shove, causing her to stumble forward.

With one last withering glance in my direction, I watch as my partner for the past five months turns and saunters up to Jeremiah McCafferty then start to flirt. I sit back in my chair and observe. She is something to look at. When I first saw her, I was dumbstruck. Her appearance alone wanted to make me fan myself. Since our first and final conversation regarding our mutual attraction, I've found that my barriers against her have all been run asunder. To say that I want her would be putting it mildly, but…

We're partners.

We work together practically every day and our lives depend on trusting each other. I promised her that morning that we would remain partners at work only.

It's been hell trying to keep to that promise.

Tonight, after watching this man flirt casually with a few women, sizing them up, I know I have big problems. If we don't bust him, then I'll be forced to go home to an empty bed and a very, very cold shower. I move my attention back to the man that we suspect has been drugging and raping women for the past month.

This irrational streak of jealousy burns and I cap it to focus on my job. We know he's guilty; all we need is a little sample of DNA and to witness him trying to slip the Rohypnol he uses into the drink he just ordered for my partner. Nora leans in and gives him a nice shot of her cleavage. His eyes stay focused on her chest and I want to smack him as he licks his lips.

I make a mental note to tighten the cuffs on him extra hard as I watch Nora fumble with her cell phone. It falls and playing the ditzy blonde role to a tee, she bends down to pick it up. He slips his hand into his coat pocket, pulls something free and drops it into her drink just as she stands back up faking an 'awe shucks'. I would never have guessed she'd be so good at playing the role, but I'm about ready to nominate her for an Oscar, right before I take her back to my house and cuff her to my bed.

Standing, I toss a twenty on the table, shake off the image of a bound Nora to bend to my will and make my way over to my blonde counterpart and our resident rapist. I slide up to Nora and slip my hand around her waist, winking at her. She nods slightly as I break away; stepping behind Jeremiah to make sure I'm between him and the main exit. I lean in and purr in his ear, while reaching behind me for my cuffs, "Sugga, I'm Detective Nikki Beaumont and you are under arrest."

He shoots up, causing me to stumble back. As he turns to me and tries to bolt, I slam a fist into his solar plexus. He doubles over and I grab his head, shoving it down to meet my bent knee. A crack and wet gush of hot blood splatters my bare leg.

I cringe a little, but inside I'm all smiles.

He drops to the floor crying out in pain. I look at Nora as she shoots me a look and straddles our suspect, slapping her cuffs around his wrists while reading him his rights. I go over to the bartender and ask for a plastic bag. Stunned, the handsome man reaches under the counter and pulls one out. Bagging the drink, I join my partner and we march our boy out into NOLA's muggy August night.


I strut from the interrogation room and wink at Henry, our A.D.A. Giving him a good solid pat on the shoulder, I say, "Try not to lose our case."

He gives me a scowl, but Nora's behind me. I don't even need to see her to know how she's looking at him. But I know I want to see it. Turning around I see her leaning against the closed door where Jeremiah and his lawyer should be putting together some type of legal defense to get him out of four counts of assault, rape, drug possession and a few other crimes to add to the stack. I'll call Henry later and have him tack on assault of a police officer, resisting arrest and I swear I should charge him for the cleaning bill on my boots. There's blood all over the one foot.

I wiggle my eyebrows at her, but she gives nothing away as she stares our prosecutor up and down. Her tongue causes her bottom lip to protrude as she sucks on her teeth daring him to screw our collar up. He plays with his tie and says, "I'd like to get through."

Not saying a word, she pushes off the door and shoulders past him. She moves past me, but her right hand lingers on my upper arm. I watch a few seconds more as Henry audibly gulps and sweat drips from his brow. He fumbles with the door a second before composing himself and stepping inside the room. Nora and I both know that he's gonna cut a deal with McCafferty, but at least we'll get a little bit of justice.

Instead of staying to listen, I follow my partner out of the viewing room and downstairs to our desks. The squad room is in full swing and I look around spotting Nora by the coffee maker. My desk looms in front of me and I take my seat opening up my right side drawer to make sure I've got some Rolaids for her indigestion later. Drinking the swill they pass for coffee around this place would give anyone indigestion.

Confirming they are where I had put them last, I shut the door a little too hard and a small stack of folders topples over, spilling on to my keyboard and knocking over my pen cup. I sigh as Nora comes up and leans against the left side of my desk. Her leaning shakes another stack close to her and I glare. "You knock those over and you'll be the one filling out all of my reports for the next two weeks."

She wiggles her hips a little and the pile tilts some more.

I'm half-tempted to threaten her more just to see her be as playful as she is, but I don't. Instead I place a hand on the leaning stack and give her my best glare. One hand immediately goes up and she backs away, scurrying to her side of our mess.

I laugh and shake my head, pleased at this one small victory.

I watch her a second more and then go back to straightening my piles. I start sorting them into stacks; a stack that goes back to records, one for reviews, one for everything that needs a signature and one that needs my write ups. I grab the first file off the stack that needs my signature when my phone starts vibrating across my desk. Snatching it up, I look at the display and see Darius' picture.

"Beaumont," I answer.

"Kouzin'!," he shouts into my ear.

Laughing, I lean back in my chair, relaxing for this talk. "Darius, it's entirely too early for you to be calling me in such a good mood."

"Nik, check your clock. It's after one in the afternoon," he informs me.

Gaping, I look at my computer and confirm the time. I sigh. Nora and I have been at it nearly two days straight. No wonder my eyes burn. Last night after we brought Jeremiah in, we stayed and pulled a forensics team member to start the DNA and tox on the drink. Then there was sweating him for a few hours, the lawyering up process…I think I may want to sleep sometime soon too.

"So," he says in that tone of voice that makes me suspicious, "we still on for tonight?"

Tonight?

What's tonight?

"Uh," I say trying to stall. What the hell was I supposed to do tonight? "I don't…"

"Nikki, you ain't doin' this again." He sighs and I hear a door open. The muffled sounds of traffic don't come close to masking the annoyance in his voice, "You are supposed to meet me and my friend Gwen at the club tonight. Ya know that girl I've been trying to introduce you to for the past coupla weeks."

Oh shit.

"Dar, I'm sorry, but Nora and I've been at it since early yesterday morning. Neither of us have been home since Thursday night," I plead.

"Nikki," he says, resigned. "Look, why don't I do this then? You meet us for a quick bite for lunch. I'll even bring the girl to you."

I start to shake my head. I was really counting on taking Nora out for a nice lunch. "I don't think…"

"Too late, I'll meet you across the street with Gwen in thirty minutes." I hear his car start up and sigh, slouching down in my chair.

Damnit.

I really want to get Nora something to eat; she's just as tired and haggard as I am. Well, now…

"Fine, but Nora's coming. She hasn't eaten either."

"Nikki, you can't bring the woman you're lusting after to a lunch date with a girl I'm trying to hook you…" I don't give him the chance to finish the sentence as I snap my phone closed.

Nora's looking at me funny, so I say, "Darius wants us to meet up with him for lunch at the café. He's bringing a friend. You in?"

She shrugs and stretches, leaning back in her chair. Her shirt rides up and exposes a few inches of skin between the waistband of her skirt and hem of her shirt. I lick my bottom lip and have this urge to lick her belly button.

I drop my phone on my desk and cover my eyes with my hand, shaking my head. I need to focus. A small voice in the back of mind tells me that I was. The other part, the more rational, sane part says that the texture of Nora's skin wasn't what I should be focusing on. That's a ship I can't cruise on. It's pointless to think of it. I drop my hand and look over at my partner.

Then, as I watch her right herself and smile at me. I think there can't be any harm in thinking about it or taking a fantasy cruise in the privacy of my own home. I do an internal groan curse the devil that's gotten into me today. I've been starting to think that I'm in way over my head. I smile back at her and try to think clean pure thoughts until we're supposed to meet Darius and this woman, Gwen.

"So," Nora says, "who's the friend?"

I bite my lower lip deciding on how to answer. I could lie and she'd get pissed or I could tell her the truth and see the reaction that I get. "It's a she." I lean in to whisper over the two desks, "It was supposed to be my blind date for tonight, but I'm hell bent on sleeping tonight, so," I lean back up and continue, "Darius being Darius, insisted."

Her mouth makes this cute 'oh' shape and her cheeks tint pink.

She shakes her head and then ask, "So you're asking me to accompany on you on your set up?"

I offer her a charming smile and say, "What kinda partner would you be if you left me to the wolves?"

"Nikki," she says in this tone, I've come to not like all that much if only because it means she's gonna say something I don't like, "I don't think that's a good idea."

"Why not?" I counter before realizing what the implication was.

For that question, she leans back in her chair and folds her arms across her chest.

Shit.

I stand and go around to her desk, perching myself on the edge I pout, "I'll owe you. It'll be a favor you can call in day or night." I linger on the night and she flushes.

I adore seeing her turn red.

"Fine," she grumbles and I resist the urge to kiss her.


Bouncing down the steps of my apartment, I slip my sunglasses on and greet the stuffy summer morning. I do love the summer months. I wave at Nora in her car, but as I approach, I see she's on the phone, having quite the conversation.

I quietly take up my seat on the passenger side as I listen in.

"Well, no, I…"… "You know that's not fair, right?" … "Tell her to can it." … A sigh, a groan and she leans down, banging her head off the steering wheel.

I'd say it was her mama, but she wouldn't use that tone with her. Hmmm…now this does have me curious.

"See, I shouldn't have said anything." … "Fine, fine. I give. When are you arriving?" She motions to me for a pen and I pull one from the glove compartment. Scribbling down flight information on her hand, she repeats, "Flight 1642, seven p.m., United, on the twenty-first." … "Yeah, alright."… her face breaks into a smile and she says, "Love you guys too. You drive me up a wall, but…" She laughs and then closes her phone.

By the end of the call, I'm turned in my seat, looking her over. She offers me one of her nice big smiles, which I've come to accept as at the 'I'm calling in my favor from you' look. We won't talk about the fact that she's already called in the favors I owe her.

"Good morning," she chirps.

"Mornin', sugga." I smile back at her and wait. She puts June Lee in gear and takes off.

"So," she says, "Uh, that was a good friend of mine. Her and her partner are coming to town Friday."

"I wasn't aware you had any friends," I tease.

She takes her hand off the wheel and swats me in the arm. "I have a few, okay well; I have Ann and then the people I work with." She glowers at me for a moment and then continues, "Anyhow, since we decided to take the next week off together, thank you for not sticking me with desk work by the way, they want to come visit."

"Alright." I'm not really sure how this applies to me. I am sure my lovely Delaney will make it clear soon.

"Look, you can say no, but I'll catch hell for it. Would you be willing to come with me to pick them up?"

I look her over and know there's more to it.

"And," she adds, "Go out with us Friday night?"

Well now, that's certainly a surprise.

"Who are your friends?" I ask genuinely curious.

"Ann Flemming. We went through the academy together and her partner, Jill Ness." We slide into our usual parking space and she cuts the engine.

The name Ann sounds familiar, maybe from her mentioning her at some point during our conversations. I do know the name Jill Ness. I laugh a little surprised that Nora would know Jill. When I think of Nora and what type of friends she may have, a model from the top agency in the world isn't one of them.

My partner always does surprise though.

I look at her and she's looking at me, eyebrow raised, expecting a decision. This is just going to be too much fun to not mess with her a little.

"You know Jill Ness, the model?" I turn her way and rest against the door.

She rolls her eyes at me and sighs. "Yes. Her and my friend, Ann, went to school together. They fell in love in high school. Been together nearly since then."

I laugh a little at the vague story. I know Jill Ness' story, they did a profile and interview with her in Vogue and while she was vague on what her partner does, she was not shy on telling the reporter their tale of love.

…Wait a minute…she mentioned a woman that her partner was seeing at time time of reconciliation…no…Nora wouldn't, would she?

A tingle on the back of my neck tells me I'm barking up the right tree. It's the same tingle I get when we get a break in a case or an idea hits me and points me in the right direction.

My eyes narrow in my partner's direction and I ask, "You and Ann used to be an item?"

"Yes," she answers resigned.

"Do you know Vogue did an expose on Jill Ness?"

"Yes," she answers blandly.

"So then…"

"Yes, Ann and I were seeing each other. Yes, we broke up and they got back together." I'm pushing her buttons. I know it. She knows it and she says, "So are you in or are you out?"

I sigh dramatically and say, "If I must, I must. I wouldn't want to be accused of not having my partner's back."

Her shoulders drop, relieved. "Thank you."

I reach for her hand and give it a squeeze. "You know, Nora, I just love giving you a hard time."

She laces our fingers together and nods. "I'm going to have to sign out a sedan for Friday." She laughs.

I look around June Lee and it dawns on me. Her car won't hold all of us. Coming up with an alternate solution, I say, "Don't worry about it. I'll pick you up on Friday morning."

She looks at me funny and I explain, "There's cars I can borrow if I need to. I'll have you drop me off at my daddy's Thursday night and borrow one of the one's in the garage."

Her eyebrows lift and she says, "Ah…nice. This is when Daddy Warbucks comes into the picture."

I swat her arm with my free hand and chastise, "You know it's nothing like that."

"I know." She lets go of my hand and I immediately miss the contact. "Come on, let's go sign in before we're late and Dan gets a bug up his ass."

I lock and close the door then meet her on the sidewalk. "Dan's already got a bug up his ass. I just hope it doesn't involve us."

She laughs and gives me a playful shove in the direction of the station house. I had not been looking forward to my time off. I did it because she would do the same for me if asked. Now, given the expectancy of visitors, I don't think I can wait for Friday to come around.

Lagging behind, I watch her walk up the steps and admire the view.

I just know I've got a special place reserved in hell. The kicker is that I can't seem to care, not if caring means giving up Nora.


It's Friday and once again, I find myself looking at Nora out of the corner of my eye, except now I get to do so in an airport waiting for her friends. It's something that I've been doing with increasing frequency. Something seems off. Hell, it's felt off since I've joined S.C.U. At least with that I know it's because of her. I just can't seem to put my finger on what's been going on between us the past two weeks. There's a charge between us that won't die down despite our trying to make light of said tension.

Also, for the first time in years, I don't feel haunted. Erica's birthday is coming up and usually I'm a bear the entire month of September, but that's changed too. In just as many months as I've been partnered with Nora, I find that Erica's memory holds more nostalgia and happiness then the sense of loss that is usually associated.

The only thing that has changed in my life has been the addition of Nora Delaney. I wonder what Erica would say to that?

I need to figure this out before it drives me up a wall. I glance at her and she's looking at me with her soft, gray eyes, concern etching her features. I want to reach out and smooth that concern away, but I can't. Instead, I give her a smile and let her go back to waiting on her friends.

The terminal isn't too crowded today, which is nice. More entertainment would be good, but I can't say I'm disinterested in meeting these two women. I mean, the very little bit of information I've gotten out of Nora tells me that she cares for these two deeply. It will be good to meet someone other than her ex-partner. She's met Darius and Daddy. While I know that she rarely speaks to her family and goes out of her way to avoid them most days, except for her little brother.

She's got a soft spot for him.

I look over at her and her right leg bounces furiously up and down. Oh dear. Firm, but gentle, I place a hand on her knee and still it. She looks at me and I wink at her. "Sugga, your drivin' me up a wall will not make them de-board any sooner."

I leave my hand on her knee, liking the feel of her underneath my hand. She leans into me and I ask, "So what are you guys gonna do for the week that they're here?"

"I don't know. We usually drink a lot, eat a lot and talk. What are you going to do for the week?" she asks as her hand covers mine.

"Shop, Nora dear, I was gonna shop." I beam at her and she rolls her eyes.

She rolls her eyes at me a little too much.

I look up and the doors to the gate open. Nora springs from her seat. I stand with her, placing a hand on the small of her back and rub.

We move to the end of the row of chairs directly in front of the gate and watch the crowd of passengers make their way off the plane. It's hard to miss Jill Ness. She's tall, slender and graceful. The woman holding her hand is on the shorter side of her partner, but striking in her own way.

Capping the small sprig of jealousy that blossoms, I can certainly see why Nora was attracted to Ann. I watch as Jill and Ann's face light up as they see Nora. The model hands her partner her bags without warning and breaks into a run, leaping at Nora.

I'm more shocked when Nora catches her and long, lean legs wrap around my partners waist. Nora holds her own as Jill braces Nora's face between her hands and plants a firm, closed mouth kiss on my partner. I start to step forward and break it up, but catch myself.

I can't stop any woman from kissing her. Even if the kiss is just a friendly, a very friendly, hello kiss.

"Jill," Ann hisses. "Would you let my Nora go so we can all have a proper introduction?" She smirks my way and I grin.

Jill's head pops up and she drops from Nora's waist effortlessly. Nora seems just as unfazed by her friends missing weight. "Ann," my partner teases, "I thought I told you to keep this woman of yours on a leash?"

"Nora you know better. There isn't a leash forged that can stop me." Jill takes her bag back and slides up to me extending her hand in greeting. "Hi, Jill Flemming."

I reach for her extended hand and notice the ring on her left finger that explains the name shift. "Hi, Nikki Beaumont, Nora's partner."

I watch Nora's face flush a little and my grin widens.

"Sorry," Nora says slipping between the two of us, "I forgot my manners after being attacked. Ann and Jill I'd like you both to meet Nikki Beaumont, my partner at the N.O.P.D."

Ann comes up and shakes my hand next. She has soft, blue eyes and straight brown hair that looks messy in that causally, styled way. We all have a chance to greet each other and head out of the terminal while being informed that the carry-ons they have is all the baggage they brought.

And here I was expecting them to be over packed for a week in the Big-Easy.


I drive and observe the catch up between the three. I also love seeing the difference in Nora. She's open, she's smiling and having a good time. I'm happy that she has people that she can share things in her life with. When we were partnered back in March and I got to know a little more about her, it worried me that outside of work she led a pretty solitary life.

We make it to Nora's place and I laugh as Jill heads straight for the back bedroom. I assume it to be the guest bedroom as this is the first time I've been to Nora's. I look around the apartment and realize that though it's a lot like her, it somehow lacks her warmth.

I had thought that she would have made her apartment a sanctuary against the horrors we see at work.

I wonder where that is?

I follow Ann back to the bedroom Jill is in and realize that it's the master.

I hear Nora coming from the bathroom. "Jill, you are taking the entire bed for yourself this week?"

Ann shakes her head and moves around the room like she's lived here forever. "Nora, you and I both know, I'll end up with an eighth of the mattress, Jill will get the rest and you'll be lucky to not end up on the floor."

I hear Nora sigh behind me as a hand presses into the small of my back. Electricity runs the length of my spine and I press into her hand. "So, you three share a bed?" I ask. I hope that sounded more casual than accusatory.

"Yeah," Ann says, efficiently putting away the clothes from the two carry-ons they brought with them. "Jill likes Nora's bed the best, so…what Jill wants, Jill gets."

"Hey now," the model pipes up from her reclined position on the item in question, "I'm not that spoiled." She looks at me and pouts, "I'm really not. You should see Ann when she doesn't get her way. I just like Nora's bed better 'cause she's more fun to cuddle with."

I choke on the laugh, trying to imagine Nora cuddling with that woman. I will not get upset.

"Alright, you two, I will make you sleep in separate rooms." Nora steps around me and goes to her bed side table. There's a small safe underneath, she enters in the code and the door pops open. "Anyone that wants to stash their service weapon in here, please hand them over." She removes her own sidearm and puts it on the top shelf of the safe. Her hand automatically extends behind her and Ann places her own gun in Nora's outstretched hand.

And here I was thinking that my partner was talking about me.

She places the gun on the lower shelf then turns to me coughing expecting me to hand her my gun. I fumble a second and then unclip it from my belt.

Jill comes up beside me and says, "What is it with you cop-types and the need to have your gun on you at all times?"

"Policy." All three of us say at the same time.

This makes all of us bust up.

All cops are really alike.

"Alright ladies. We've got tequila and dancing with our name on it," Ann announces taking her wife's hand. "Let's boogie."

I can't disagree so I follow the two love birds out of the apartment while Nora locks up. Tonight's going to be very interesting.


The night seems to pass on by as we all sip our drinks and I get to know more about Nora Delaney. I learn about Ann being her first and why they broke up from Ann's perspective. I get to hear about Lee, Jill and Ann's oldest friend from high school. He would have come, but had a hard time getting the week off from work as he teaches high school and the year just started.

As the witching hour strikes, we all silently agree to switch to beer, knowing the tequila has caused me to inch closer to Nora. I also know that I'm not nearly as strong willed as I should be.

The D.J. begins playing music we can dance to. I also learn that the bartender, Casey, was intimate with Nora. I won't admit to sizing the woman behind the counter up all night, but if I saw her in the street, her accidentally tripping may or may not happen.

"Come on," I hear Ann say. Thinking that she's talking to Jill, I expect the woman on my left to move, instead, Nora heaves herself out of the booth we've been occupying and takes Ann's hand. "If you excuse us ladies, Nora and I have some catching up to do." Ann leans down and leaves a kiss on Jill's neck right before spinning my partner out on to the dance floor.

We watch them for a minute as a silence settles over the table. I know that this jealous streak, this insecurity I feel, isn't like me. It sort of pisses me off and it's all Nora's fault. I think things between us could be different if she'd just…

No, that's not fair.

We both agreed. Agreed because it's the smart thing to do. We're both so much of our jobs that if we lost that what would we do? Who would we be?

Who would I be?

"You know," Jill's voice cuts into my angst ridden thoughts. "You should."

My head snaps over to her and I manage an ineffectual, "Uh?"

She slides closer to me and sips her beer. "I'm going to give you some unsolicited advice, Nikki Beaumont. I like you. I'm pretty sure my wife likes you and Nora, well…that's a whole different hill of beans that you need to discover for yourself."

Casually, I lean back in the booth intrigued. I'm open to the advice. I need it. They have a much better grasp of Nora's quirks than I do.

"Let me guess, 'we can't sleep together, we're partners. We work together and we can't take that risk.'?" she mocks in a sweet tone.

She's right though. That is the nuts and bolts of the whole thing. I watch as she points to the two women that are with us tonight on the dance floor.

"I spent nearly three years apart from my wife, when she came down here after I rejected her. I was so scared when she came clean about her feelings toward me. I was freaked right the fuck out. My fear nearly cost me her too. If not for the grace of the blonde woman she's dancing with, I more than likely would have." She takes another sip of her beer and sighs. I notice that she's talking slow, the alcohol finally taking a bit of effect. "Look, I know you and I don't know each other well. We just met, but don't let the threat of what could happen stop what is."

I turn to her and let the words sink in.

She finishes up the rest of her beer and sets the glass down on the table. "You two have been drooling over each other since I've been here. The only thing either of you haven't done is start making wild monkey love on the table and while some might enjoy the show, Nora would blow a gasket." She quirks a smile and says, "She's so not the exhibitionist type."

We both laugh at the truth of her statement. The tension at the table eases and she shoves me out of the booth. "Now, up, come on. I need my Delaney to get some action and you my dear are just her type."

Her words stop me cold. I don't want to be just 'some action' with Nora. Apparently, Jill knows what I'm thinking as she follows up with, "Trust me when I tell you, it won't be a notch sort of action. That's really not Nora's style. She's been with two women her entire life. My wife and the bartender back there, and their relationship was monogamous despite the casual appearance."

I allow my feet to start working again and we find the women on the dance floor moving slowly to the music. Ann's face lights up as Jill cuts in and spins her wife in the direction of the stage. Nora stands there a little uncomfortable as I take her hand and put it on my hip. I pull her to me and start a slow dance around the floor with her in my arms. I'm not sure if it's the effect of the alcohol or Jill's words. Maybe both.

Maybe I don't give a damn.

Not anymore.

We fit together wonderfully. I notice how her curves slip into mine. It worked that way with Erica too. Is it love that causes the fit or is it something more, I wonder? And love… a sardonic laugh sounds in my head and I want to kick myself, despite the truth to my slip up.

I blink and know I have to do something here. I've never not gone after what I want.

"Nikki?" Nora's voice husks my name. "I…" I stop her from finishing as my hand caresses her cheek and the pad of my thumb presses softly against her lips, enjoying the intimacy of the moment as everything else falls away.

I look at her and see the permission that both of us have been wanting. I think maybe Ann talked to her while Jill was talking to me. Those two are good. I make a note to thank them both then bring my right hand up to cup the back of Nora's neck. My fingers thread into her hair and I pull her mouth to mine. Our lips brush tentatively together, until I close the minute gap to finally connect us.

This cross between electricity and fire spreads out from the center of my gut as our tongues meet. We mold into each other and the ache I feel is like nothing I've ever experienced before. It's painful and amazing and all I want is more of it.

I want more of her.

My hands slip under the back of her shirt and it shakes as it runs up and down the length of her back. Her hands follow a similar course and I go weak at the knees as she lightly scrapes her short nails over my skin. I break from her mouth and trail kisses from the side of her mouth to her neck, behind her ear and then suck in an earlobe, pinching it between my teeth.

We need to get out of here. I need her underneath me or on top of me, preferably naked and wanton.

She's the first to step back and lead me from the dance floor. Jill and Ann are standing by the table settling the tab. They both turn as we approach. Jill has my purse in her hand and she grins, handing it off to me.

"We'll grab a cab back to Nora's," Ann says decisively. "Nikki, we'll see you and my ex at breakfast tomorrow at Nora's."

We nod dumbly and make a bee-line for the door. Over the music I hear, Jill call out, "Take of her or you answer to me!"

I give a short laugh and we hit the warm summer night. I haven't let go of her hand as we make it to my car.


We collapse on to the bed, sweaty, spent and wondering where in the hell my central air went to. It's fucking hot in here. It's also really early. Nora cuddles up to my side and she mumbles, "We have to be up in a half hour."

I look at her, her face pressed against my arm, relaxed and truly open to me for the first time since I've known her. She's everything my world lacks. She's the missing piece to my puzzle. I caress her cheek and a lazy smile makes its way onto her beautiful face. Unable to resist, I lean in and kiss her. Our tongues slide together as our bodies respond to the demands of the energy between us. I think we may have left the club at around one in the morning. It's well past eight and we've been at this all night.

As she moves me to my back, her leg swings over me and she straddles my hips, pressing herself into me. I arch up into her body and the way she moans is instantly seared into my memory. Her moans of pleasure will forever be etched into me.

She's branded me. I'm not sure if she knows that or not. I also think that this is part of her competitive nature. She may just be trying to make me pass out. Her tongue hits a particularly sensitive spot on my ribcage and she smirks against me. If she keeps that up, she may just do me in.

I groan and wiggle to get her attention. "Didn't you just say we have to be up in a half hour?"

She looks up at me and bats her lashes innocently.

Shit.

I fold like cardboard poker table and pull her up to me. I need her. I grasp her hand, threading our fingers together to slowly move them between my thighs. I plead slightly into her mouth, "I need you in me."

Quickly she complies and my world tilts on its axis, righting itself. She presses deeper and I wrap my legs around her waist. I push up and cover her left breast with my lips. I nibble and suck until she's near whimpering.

Smirking, I release her and she pulls out of me for an instant to adjust herself over my thigh. She slips back inside and begins riding my leg. Her fingers play with me. Three are buried deep inside me and her thumb begins ghosting over my clit.

She's teasing me and I'm so close it hurts.

I buck my hips but she stops me from getting what I want.

Well, two can play that game, Nora Delaney.

Not caring where her hands end up, I buck my thigh, sending her toppling off me. I manage to quickly change our positions and already have my hand between her legs before she knows what happened.

I know she feels what happened as she pulses around my fingers.

With our positions switched, I'm able to time myself to her climax. I use the pad of my thumb to mirror what she was doing to me not more than a minute ago. She whimpers, she pleads and she cries for her release. Lucky for her I'm just as on edge. With a bit more pressure, I draw circles over her swollen nerve bundle and lean down nipping and sucking her neck.

"Go ahead, sugga," I purr in her ear. I find her mouth and fuse our lips together as my climax hits me. Just like the first one that rocked me tonight, this one is no different in intensity or emotion.

I swear this woman will be the death of me.

She bucks and shudders underneath me. Her slick insides, clamp around my fingers, contracting and squeezing them. I ride it out on top of her and shh her when we finish. Our breaths mingled and labored as I shift and fall half on the bed and half on her.

We lay there quietly for a few minutes catching our breaths once again. This time it's her drawing lazy circles over my skin and I swear I can see a small trail of fire where her fingers have grazed my skin.

"So," she drawls, finally showing her southern accent, "I know you said something about shopping on vacation, but…"

My lips turn up and I say, "Well, if you could think of a better use of my time, detective, I may be open to alternate suggestions."

"Hmmm," she hums, pulling me tighter against her, "Ann can drop off food to us once a day and we can stay in bed."

I hear her giggle then. The first time it's ever happened. I think it may be the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. "What?" I need to know.

"I was just thinking that really wasn't a bad idea and I know it must be love if I'm willing to spend not only a day, but an entire week in bed..." She stops when she realizes what she just said.

I don't offer her a chance to take it back as I kiss her again. This time hard and possessive. I pull back and tap the tip of her nose with my index finger. "That'd make two of us, darlin'."

Her face breaks into a wide smile and I'm about to begin teasing her again when her phone starts blaring from the bedside table.

I see her warring with answering it or not. Sighing, she picks it up, looks at the display and answers the call. "Yeah?"…"Hang on." She hits the speaker option on the phone and says, "Alright."

"You two are late!" Ann shouts.

Jill giggles in the background and I hear her say, "Quit screwing each other's brains out and come over for breakfast!"

Nora looks to me and I shrug. May as well, I know I've burned off enough calories to take the four of us out for some oysters for supper tonight.

"Alright," Nora huffs. "We'll be there as soon as we find our clothes."

A few cat calls and whistles later and she ends the call.

Well this wasn't exactly how I thought I would be spending the first day of my vacation, but damned if I'll complain.

Nora rolls off the bed and begins tossing my clothes at me. I lay still using my hand to prop my head up as I watch her. She's nothing that I was expecting. I thought I'd had my shot. I was wrong and expecting or not, she's turning out to be everything that I need.

Which is crazy, five months and it's only our first night together, but…

It's like the same sort of feeling when I knew I was going to join the police force.

She turns to me and gives me this half smile that I've never seen before. Her eyes soften and her hand reaches out to me. I grasp it and allow her to pull me up from my bed, my thoughts and my past.

Still naked, we press together. I lose myself in her, again. As she lays me back down on the bed, I just know her friends are gonna be upset that we're missing breakfast.


Waving goodbye one last time, Nora and I stand shoulder to shoulder watching her friends, well, I guess they're our friends now, retreat. Our vacation is up tomorrow and we both need to get back to reality. As nice as this break was Nora and I really need to talk.

She tugs on my hand I thread our fingers together allowing her to lead me from the airport. Getting to the car, I pull short and stop her at the bed of the car. She was supposed to drop me off at home after this. I don't feel like leaving her just yet. "Nor," I softly say, "You wanna come with me?"

A concerned look is sent my way as her grip tightens around my hand. "Nikki?"

I turn fully and look at her. A strand of hair has come loose from her ponytail and unthinking, I reach out and tuck it behind her ear. "I just, okay, I just don't want to leave you just yet."

"Nikki," she says gently warning me.

"I know. I get it, but look, there's someone I want to introduce you to. Would you?"

Don't make me beg, baby.

I see her about to say no, but she stops. Either I look needy or she's a softy because she nods.

I pull her to me, snaking my hand around her waist and kiss the tip of her nose. Pulling back her face scrunches and she rubs where I just kissed. "You know," I tease, "you aren't supposed to rub those away."

"It tickled," she says by way of an explanation.

"Uh-huh," I let her go and step back, holding out my right hand. "Keys."

Her mouth drops between me and the car, pointing between the two of us. "I don't…"

I shake my head and ask, "Do you trust me?" I look June Lee over and am glad all of us crammed into the cab of her. Being smooshed into Nora made the trip fun. That and trying to watch one tall woman sit on the lap of her smaller lover was good for entertainment.

I'm just glad we didn't get pulled over.

She falters for a second before fishing into her jeans pocket and handing me the keys to June Lee.

Grateful, I accept them. "Get in, darlin'."

I pull out of the parking space and head towards the highway. She keeps shooting me these looks and I ask, "Somthin' I can help you with, bèl fi?"

Her arms are crossed and her eyes narrow as she says, "Depends."

I motion to her seat belt. For my troubles, she glares a little more, but buckles up anyhow. I wink tossing her a flirty smirk and she rolls her eyes. I sigh and ask, "On?"

Leaning back in the seat, she laces her fingers together and tucks them behind her head. "Where you're taking me."

I laugh a little and answer, "Patience is a virtue, Nora dear."

She smirks at me and shrugs. "It's never something I was very good at."

"Don't I know it." I ignore her indignation and let the conversation lapse into silence. The miles peel away and I occasionally look over. Sometimes she's staring out the window, looking up at the stars, and sometimes she's looking at me.

I'd give anything to know what she's thinking about. I could ask, but…I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared to actually know.

I glance at the dashboard as I pull off the highway and turn left on to a two-lane country road then right on to the dirt road that's my daddy's childhood home. It only took forty-five minutes. That's not so bad. I pull around the circular drive way and smile over at her as her eyebrows raise.

"Come on." I hop out of the car and wait for her to catch up. We round the back of the house and I see the staff's quarter lights are on. She lags behind me a few steps so I stop and grab her hand to lead her over the hill and into the dark family cemetery below.

"Nikki," she hisses, "Where the hell are you taking me?"

"Shh, you'll see." I answer reaching the bottom of the small hill. Thankfully, the moon provides a little bit of light, but for me it's not really necessary. The candles that are constantly lit by my mama's and Erica's headstones shine. My beacon for this evening. I stop us in front of my mother's headstone.

"Nora, I'd like you to meet my mom." I take my free hand and brush away a few stray leaves that have fallen on top of the gravestone. I then trace her name, Margaret Nicole Beaumont with my finger.

It seems that the gravity of what I'm doing has dawned on her as her grumblings about crazy partners has ceased.

Good.

I right myself and tug on her hand. "Come on, there's someone else you need to meet." I pull her the few feet over to Erica's plot and smile. It's clear even in the low lighting that Daddy's instructed the staff to care for her grave like they do mamas.

I swallow and breathe in the night air. I need to be able to get through this without breaking down. "Nora Delaney," I say, "I'd like you to meet Erica Jamison."

Her face quirks and she points to the headstone. "Darius' cousin," I answer her unasked question. "She passed away in Ninety-four. You two, I think would have gotten on real well."

"Nikki," she whispers, her hand tightening in mine.

"We met in college. She was pre-law; I was just taking some classes to get my daddy off my back. We fell in love. Shocked the hell outta me," I laugh. "We were together for nearly two years, before she died."

I look over and smile at her. I see in her eyes that she gets what I'm saying. Her only response is, "How?"

"Shot. She was taken coming home from a study group. I'm not sure what happened really. I've looked at the coroner's report, there were traces of opiates in her system, but cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head." I squeeze my eyes shut and block the images of the crime scene. "The report indicated sexual assault. From everything that I've been able to piece together, she was taken, shot up, then raped. When they were finished with her, they killed her."

I feel her arms wrap around my waist from behind me and she pulls me tight. She whispers, "I'm sorry."

"I, Nora, she was a great woman. Like I said you two would have gotten on real well." I lean against her, thankful for the comfort and warmth her embrace provides.

"Why?" she probes.

"Because," I say turning in her arms to look her in the eyes, "Her birthday is at the end of September. She was my first love. Since her death, there was never a day that went by that I haven't felt her absence."

"Was?"

"Was. I'm not sure why, but since we've been partnered, that part of me has begun to heal. I wanted to thank you for that." I struggle with pulling away from her touch, but know it's the best thing. "You've helped me. Just knowing you and having you in my life. You deserved to meet her."

She nods in understanding, but there's pain in her eyes. She doesn't release her grip around my waist. Instead, she tightens her hold and draws me deeper. For her wonderful stubborn streak, I brush my lips across her cheek and whisper in her ear, "Thank you."

Her head rests on mine and I feel her nod. "We need to talk you know," she whispers.

This time I do pull away and tug on her to follow me. She does, but doesn't let go of my hand. I lead her to the bench my daddy and I use when we come out here. "So," I say sitting down, letting her take up residence by me, "Where do you wanna start?"

She shrugs. "Us. Work. The mess we've made?" Her mouth quirks into that smile again and I'm glad I'm sitting down.

"We have made a mess of things haven't we," I confirm as she snuggles into my side and lays her head on my shoulder.

"Good mess though," she whispers.

"Yeah," I agree in an equally hushed tone.

The night is warm and I'm thankful that the weather is on our side. Jacketless, I can feel her skin on mine as it clouds my thought process.

"I…well, you know, I…Nikki, I'm not out…anywhere," she confesses.

I nod and take her hands in mine. "I figured."

"What about you?"

"My family and friends know. I don't really talk about it at work. If I'm asked, Nora, it's not something I deny, but I don't freely offer the information."

"You think we can do this?" she asks, insecurity laces her words and I can only mirror her thought.

One hand reaches up and pulls her head from my shoulder. I turn to look her in the eyes. "Nora, this past week has been a dream for me. I know we gotta wake up tomorrow morning and go back to work, but I don't want this to end."

"Me either, I just…damn her." She shakes her head and offers me nothing more than a self deprecating laugh.

"Damn who?" I ask, afraid I'm losing her.

She laughs and her eyes brighten in the heat of our serious conversation. "Ann. She told me this would happen."

"This would be what sugga?" I tilt her chin and look at her beautiful face.

I can see the blush in the low light and my heart clenches as she answers, "Fall in love and change my tune."

I draw her in for a kiss, deep, possessive and needy as our tongues slide together. Her arm pulls me closer and I clutch at her t-shirt. Her teeth graze my bottom lip and she pulls away leaving me panting and a little light headed. Unthinking, I rasp, "I'm glad she was. I love you too Nora."

She smiles at me, the one that she uses on me to get her way. "So we'll make it work. We have to."

I nod and swipe at the tear that escaped. "Whatever we have to do, baby, we will."

Her eyes twinkle and she says, "Just think of all the fun secret rendezvous we can have." She wiggles her eyebrows and breaks the tension, something I'll be eternally grateful for.

"And just why do you think I'm the sorta of woman that will participate in a rendezvous?" I ask, raising my eyebrow and folding my arms across my chest.

She doesn't answer as she stands and holds her hand out for me to take. As she lifts me from my seat, she says with confidence, "Because you love me."

I shake my head, but don't refute the assertion. She's right. I do and it's something I don't want to change. "Come on," I say. "It's late and we gotta be at work tomorrow."

"True, but Nikki, still," she says, tipping her chin towards Erica's grave, "Thank you for introducing me to her."

I give her another small smile and tug her back up the hill. I send a small silent prayer up to Erica and hope she understands.

Something tells me that she will and as we reach June Lee, Nora hands over her keys without protest. She offers me a sound, loving kiss, before sliding into the passenger seat.

A little stunned, I look up into the heavens and know that it won't be easy. It never is, but I know it, can feel it in the core of my being, that it's right. Her head pops out the window and she hollers at me, "Quit stargazing, I need to get you home and in a ravished state of undress!"

I roll my eyes at her and toss the keys in my hand up in the air. Catching them, I grin at her, following her direction and thinking that her 'well-ravished' plan seems like the best idea I've ever heard.