I've never seen this kind of love
The kind that won't wash away
And then leave you in the dark

I would die for you
I would die for you
I would die for you

I've never kissed a sweeter mouth
I've never been swept away
It's what dreams are made up of
Don't you know I could not survive
Without you in my life

Jann Arden

Chapter 1

Two pairs of white patent leather shoes, child sized, stick out from beneath the floor length curtain. The old floorboards creak as a man slowly approaches. Golden curls hide behind the head of a cheap carnival bear's head. Blood seeps along the floor like a live thing. The white, patent leather shoes shuffle back until they can go no further. Mommy said not to get the new shoes dirty.

"Come out, come out wherever you are."

Mommy said not to make a sound.

"I know you're in here sweetheart. Come out and see what Uncle Tony has for you darlin'." Don't like Uncle Tony, his beard scratches. Mommy said not to move. "Ah there you are." The curtains twitch. Little fingers grip the bear tighter and little blue eyes squeeze shut.


A blast makes little teeth dig into a soft, full little lip. A heavy thud makes tiny white patent leather shoes jump. The curtains fall back. A large hand slides slowly to the floor. A gun falls with a loud clatter and skids harmlessly away.

The wail of sirens fills the sudden silence.

"I swim. I'm a swimmer. I don't know anything about kids." A bystander would be forgiven for thinking of her as being in her late teens. With her hair pulled back into a simple, practical pony tail, without even a trace of makeup and wearing a track suit, the young woman following the social worker down an industrial looking, dim hallway could pass for one of the teenage girls sitting in office from which they've just emerged. "She hardly even knows me. I think she's seen me at like…one birthday and I think maybe two Christmases."

"Are you saying she'd be better off in a stranger's home Miss James?" The social worker with her wire rimmed glasses, her utilitarian bun and her severe features doesn't even glance over her shoulder at the woman behind her. Her square heeled, tan, comfortable looking shoes make a loud sound on the linoleum floor.

"If they know something about kids, probably," the young woman mutters, half under her breath. She knows the woman with her identity card and her clip board hears her though. The woman's shoulders square under her beige cardigan and she hears that 'tsk' sound the woman's been making ever since Cody James walked into her office. The middle aged government worker stops, turns abruptly on her heel and faces the young woman with pursed lips. The expression on the social worker's face makes Cody want to find some place to hide.

"You'd be amazed, Miss James, at what the call of blood will do. I once heard of a five foot nothing ninety pound woman lifting a car off of her child." The vaguest hint of a smile tugs at the corner of the woman's thin lips. She has those lines around her lips that suggest that she smokes, although none of the usual reek of tobacco clings to her twinset. "The police say that your sister used the her very last breath to pick up a gun and kill the intruder before he could murder your niece. Maternal instinct is an amazing thing isn't it?" It was on the tip of Cody's tongue to say she wouldn't have a clue, that her uterus didn't have a ticking clock inside of it but those and every other caustic thought she'd had since she'd been unceremoniously dragged out of bed by the RCMP officer at the door was immediately erased by the sight of the little girl with the golden Shirley Temple curls and the big blue eyes framed by long dark lashes clutching a bright blue well loved looking teddy bear.

"She hasn't spoken a word since the police took her away from the scene." The woman with the clipboard stood in front of the door, not obstructing the view of the little girl who appeared to be doing her very best to be invisible. Cody stared at her niece and realized quite suddenly that it didn't matter anymore that she hadn't seen her in almost a year. Becka needed her. "One of the officers packed a couple of bags for her," the woman tapped her pen against the sheet on the clipboard. That much was obvious. There were two gym bags on the floor near where the Becka was sitting on one of those tiny, brightly coloured, plastic toddler sized chairs. "I assume yours are out in your vehicle." Bags…? Cody tore her attention away from her niece long enough to fix the social worker with a non comprehending stare. "They did explain to you about the witness protection program when they brought you here…?"

"Witness protection?" Cody's mouth fell open and she stared at the woman who was now looking back at her over the gold rims of her glasses. "I have a meet next week. I have training tomorrow morning…. Witness protection, I can't go into…. You said my sister killed the perp." Cody did her best to keep her voice low, so that it wouldn't carry through the observation window to her obviously already shell shocked niece.

"She did but Tony Rosa was a high ranking member of the Hell's Angels and your sister's boyfriend was an IS and your niece is the only eye witness and the Angels don't like leaving witnesses behind. And, to be honest, we don't often get the chance to speak with actual witnesses to a gangland killing like this." Cody turned to face the source of the voice, a grizzled officer in full uniform. She looked down at the gun on his belt and then at the badge on his jacket. "It's for her protection, and, because you're her only living relative, yours as well."

"So that's it? My messed up sister and her fucked up junkie pimp boyfriend get hit and my whole life gets sucked away, just like that?" she asked and immediately realized just how selfish it sounded.

"I'm afraid so," he replied with a genuine smile that said he sympathized. He'd probably seen a few people reacting to the same, bad news. "I have two tickets on a plane to Pittsburgh for this afternoon." Cody blinked. She hadn't really thought about it, but now that she had to, she was imagining some cabin in the woods somewhere, not a big industrial city across the border.

"Pittsburgh," she repeated, trying to wrap her head around it.

"And we've lined up a position for you…we find that it helps with the assimilation process," he added in a softer voice, like he expected her to react badly.

"I swim," she said simply. "I don't know how to do anything else. Literally, nothing."

"We can work with that," he promised, holding out a manila folder. "Personal trainer. I thought that was something you could handle."

"How's the head?"

He was getting bored of the question. Actually the question was starting to irritate the shit out of him. It was giving him a headache.

"I was good this morning," he answered honestly. "Not so much now. It comes and goes." The big man across the mahogany desk nodded sagely, as if that was exactly the answer he'd been expecting.

"And the visit home," the man asked, "did that help?"

"I hate not playing," he answered simply, shrugging his broad shoulders and then dropped his head. He knew that his mentor would understand. They both loved the game in equal measure. He knew there were days that the big man with his sky blue eyes missed being on the ice as much as he was missing it now. "I want to skate."

"We were talking about some off ice training," Mario ignored the statement, just as Sid knew that he would. He tried not to let it bother him but it did but then again, a lot of things seemed to be getting under his skin lately.

"Yeah, about that," Sid began only to have Mario hold up his hand and give him an impatient look. Sid sighed, but held his tongue.

"I know how hard it can be to keep motivated under these kinds of circumstances," the big man continued and Sid did his best not to roll his eyes at the understatement of the year. "I thought that a little something different might help so we've brought on a swimming coach." Sid looked up from beneath the brim of his baseball cap and waited for the other shoe to drop. When Mario continued to silently level his blue eyes at him Sid closed his hazel eyes with their gold flecks and shook his head. "You swim in the summer, you like to fish, you like the water…we thought it was worth giving a shot." Now Mario was waiting for an answer, but that old adage, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all, was keeping Sid silent. "I would like you at the pool tomorrow morning, nine," Mario sighed and picked up his pen and went back to the stack of paperwork on his desk, which was his way of dismissing his star player.

Sid knew better than to argue. Not that there was a hell of a lot of point. He couldn't jog, that made him see stars and they weren't going to let him skate that much was obvious and he had to do something to keep in shape.