in pursuit of justice

Synopsis

In the dynamic double sequel to
Shield of Justice
and
A Matter of Trust
, Det. Sgt. Rebecca Frye struggles to return to duty after a near fatal shooting. Joining forces with enigmatic computer consultant J.T. Sloan, Rebecca accepts a temporary assignment with a Federal task force investigating an Internet child pornography ring.

Rebecca’s obsession with finding her partner’s killer and her involvement in the multi-jurisdictional investigation threaten both her life and her new relationship with Doctor Catherine Rawlings. When Catherine becomes professionally involved and an attempt on the life of a task force member ensues, the pursuit of justice becomes a deadly race against time.

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Acclaim for Radclyffe’s Work

Lambda Literary Award winner
Stolen Moments
“is a collection of steamy stories about women who just couldn’t wait. It’s sex when desire overrides reason, and it’s incredibly hot!”
—On Our Backs

Lambda Literary Award winner
Distant Shores, Silent Thunder
“weaves an intricate tapestry about passion and commitment between lovers. The story explores the fragile nature of trust and the sanctuary provided by loving relationships.”
—Sapphic Reader

Lambda Literary and Benjamin Franklin Award finalist
The Lonely Hearts Club
“is an ensemble piece that follows the lives [and loves] of three women, with a plot as carefully woven as a fine piece of cloth.”
—Midwest Book Review

ForeWord’s Book of the Year finalist
Night Call
features “gripping medical drama, characters drawn with depth and compassion, and incredibly hot [love] scenes.”
—Just About Write

Lambda Literary Award finalist
Justice Served
delivers a “crisply written, fast-paced story with twists and turns and keeps us guessing until the final explosive ending.”
—Independent Gay Writer

Shield of Justice
is a “well-plotted…lovely romance…I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!”—Ann Bannon, author of
The Beebo Brinker Chronicles

Lambda Literary Award finalist
Turn Back Time
is filled with “wonderful love scenes, which are both tender and hot.”
—MegaScene

Lambda Literary Award finalist
When Dreams Tremble’s
“focus on character development is meticulous and comprehensive, filled with angst, regret, and longing, building to the ultimate climax.”
—Just About Write

A Matter of Trust
is a “sexy, powerful love story filled with angst, discovery and passion that captures the uncertainty of first love and its discovery.”
—Just About Write

“The author’s brisk mix of political intrigue, fast-paced action, and frequent interludes of lesbian sex and love…in
Honor Reclaimed
…sure does make for great escapist reading.”
—Q Syndicate

Change of Pace
is “contemporary, yet timeless, not only about sex, but also about love, longing, lust, surprises, chance meetings, planned meetings, fulfilling wild fantasies, and trust.”
—Midwest Book Review

“Radclyffe has once again pulled together all the ingredients of a genuine page-turner, this time adding some new spices into the mix. shadowland is sure to please—in part because Radclyffe never loses sight of the fact that she is telling a love story, and a compelling one at that.”—Cameron Abbott, author of
To The Edge and An Inexpressible State of Grace


Innocent Hearts
…illustrates that our struggles for acceptance of women loving women is as old as time—only the setting changes. The romance is sweet, sensual, and touching.”
—Just About Write


Sweet No More
…snarls, teases and toes the line between pleasure and pain.”
—Best Lesbian Erotica 2008


Word of Honor
takes the reader on a great ride. The sex scenes are incredible…and the story builds to an exciting climax that is as chilling as it is rewarding.”
—Midwest Book Review

In Pursuit of Justice

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In Pursuit of Justice

© 2003 By Radclyffe. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-264-1

This  Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, New York 12185

First Bold Strokes Printing: April 2010

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Credits

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])

By the Author

Romances

Innocent Hearts

Love’s Melody Lost

Love’s Tender Warriors

Tomorrow’s Promise

Love’s Masquerade

shadowland

Fated Love

Turn Back Time

Promising Hearts

When Dreams Tremble

The Lonely Hearts Club

Night Call

Secrets in the Stone

The Provincetown Tales

Safe Harbor

Beyond the Breakwater

Distant Shores, Silent Thunder

Storms of Change

Winds of Fortune

Returning Tides

Honor Series

Above All, Honor

Honor Bound

Love & Honor

Honor Guards

Honor Reclaimed

Honor Under Siege

Word of Honor

Justice Series

A Matter of Trust (prequel)

Shield of Justice

In Pursuit of Justice

Justice in the Shadows

Justice Served

Justice For All

Erotic Interludes: Change of Pace

(A Short Story Collection)

Radical Encounters

(A Erotic Short Story Collection)

Stacia Seaman and Radclyffe, eds.

Erotic Interludes 2:
Stolen Moments

Erotic Interludes 3:
Lessons in Love

Erotic Interludes 4:
Extreme Passions

Erotic Interludes 5:
Road Games

Romantic Interludes 1:
Discovery

Romantic Interludes 2:
Secrets

Dedication

To Lee, my heart’s pursuit

Chapter One

Everything hurt. Her jawed throbbed where he had struck her; her wrists chafed beneath the rough nylon cord that bound them tightly behind her back; and her breasts, exposed in the chill damp air, ached. The cavernous room was alive with shifting shadows, turning her fear to horror. His hands were rough—holding her down, violating her body, invading her soul. Helpless, she screamed silently, casting into the dark for salvation.

Please, please help me.

And then a voice—strong and certain and sure—called her name. A woman, blazing with strength and purpose, stepped from a darkness deeper than night to light the corners of her terror.

She’s here. I prayed for her help, and she heard. She came.

With the cold circle of impending death pressed to her temple, she realized her mistake. Dread followed quickly on the heels of relief. Desperately, she shouted a warning that made no sound. She begged not for her own life, but for that of the woman she had summoned.

No, no! I didn’t mean it. Don’t come here. He’ll kill you. I’m sorry. Oh God, don’t do this.

A thundering explosion, deafening her. A searing trail of fire, dazzling her vision, blinding her. A thick red torrent—warm against her cheek; all that remained of her tormentor—his blood on her face and the hole in her heart.

Not my heart,
her
heart—oh, My Heart, don’t leave me like this.

Stumbling, falling, her breath tearing from her chest in slivers of pain, she forced herself to look upon her own soul dying. There on the floor in the flickering candlelight, all of her hopes dissolved in a river of crimson, pumping past her hands with inexorable force. Relentless, pitiless, victorious death. The stakes had been set; the trade had been made—one life for another. She had been spared and, in the sparing, had lost everything. She would live, empty and forsaken. Guilt did not do justice to the agony of remorse she suffered for having called this one woman to her destruction.

On her knees in her lover’s blood, her neck arched as if pleading to be sacrificed, begging to be taken instead, beseeching to be freed from the torment, she screamed again.

“Catherine.”

Cold, she was so cold. Drowning in an agony of loss and self-recrimination. So dark, no air. “No…”

“Catherine, it’s all right.”

“Oh, my God.” Dr. Catherine Rawlings shot upright in bed—gasping, sweat-soaked, and disoriented. Frantically, she turned in the dark room to the woman beside her, her hands roaming over the naked figure, reassured by the solid heat of her.
Alive, she’s alive
. Finding her voice, she whispered hoarsely, “I’m sorry.”

“No.” Detective Rebecca Frye pulled the trembling woman into her arms, stroking the damp wisps of auburn hair back from her cheek. “Don’t apologize.”

“I woke you,” Catherine said, her voice still shaking. “You should go back to sleep.”

Rebecca gathered her closer, fitting their bodies together, breast against breast, thigh between thigh. “Let me comfort you, just this once.”

“You do.”

“Not often enough.”

“Having you next to me is all the comfort I need.”

“Well, then, let me believe I’m slaying your dragons. It makes me feel important.”

“Oh, you are that.” Catherine shivered, the image of Rebecca lying in a pool of blood chiseled indelibly on the tablets of her memory. She didn’t need to be asleep to revisit that moment. Every time she looked at her tall, blond lover, she saw her precious life ebbing away with each heartbeat—seconds from death—having willingly sacrificed herself for Catherine.

During the first few weeks after the shooting, she had been able to shrug off the swift rise of terror and dread that so often took her unawares and left her shaking—sometimes when she was awake, more often when she slept. With Rebecca in the hospital, so critically injured, she’d had enough to occupy her thoughts that she had managed to ignore her own sleepless nights and anxious days. But Rebecca had been out of the hospital for more than two weeks, and the episodes were getting more frequent, and more terrifying.

Smoothing her hand down Rebecca’s chest, lingering for a heartbeat on the thick scar tissue above her left breast, she murmured, “You’re very important. Without you, I’d never get that great table at DeCarlo’s, and I’d so miss having dinner there.”

“We’ll go tomorrow then.”

“Rebecca…let’s wait another week.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s just dinner,” Rebecca murmured, running her hand upward along the curve of Catherine’s side until she cradled her breast in her palm. “Besides, I’m ready for a night out. I’m going stir crazy—for a lot of reasons.”

“I know, but it’s too soo—oh—” She caught her breath at the sharp point of pleasure that sparked from her nipple through her stomach as fingers closed hard on her breast. “Don’t.”

“Why not?” Rebecca teased, her mouth on Catherine’s neck, tasting the salt, reveling in the pulse of blood beneath her lips. “I’ve missed you this way.”

“You’re still recovering,” Catherine gasped.
You’re not healed. You’re still too thin; you’re still so pale.

Rebecca smoothed her palm down Catherine’s abdomen, fingertips brushing lightly through silky hair. Catherine moaned—a faint strangled gasp of longing.
Oh, my God, don’t do that. I want you so much. I was so afraid I’d lost you
.

When Catherine’s hips lifted involuntarily beneath her fingers, Rebecca smiled and promised, “I’ll be very still—just let me touch you. It won’t hurt me.” Shifting lower, she found a nipple with her teeth. Biting lightly, she slid her hand between Catherine’s thighs, hovering a whisper above her, her palm warmed by the heat. “But I want you so much. Please.”

“Yes. Oh, yes.” Catherine relented because she needed so desperately to know in her bones that Rebecca was safe, to burn with the desire only this woman could stir in her, to extinguish fear with passion. “Touch me, Rebecca. I need to feel you. Make me…”

She choked, unable to speak, as Rebecca’s fingers danced lightly over her straining flesh, stroking her fleetingly, dipping into the shimmering depths of her desire to spread liquid fire over her painfully engorged tissues. Turning her cheek to her lover’s chest, Catherine closed her eyes, struggling to contain the avalanche of release that thundered demandingly through her blood. Trembling, she filled her hands with Rebecca’s body, fingers digging into her arms, needing to be connected to her—everywhere. Only the tiny fragment of her mind still functioning kept her from pushing her hand between her lover’s thighs to claim her, too. But she resisted with the last fiber of her strength, rocking against the fingers that tormented her.

Too soon…toosoon…ohI’mcomingtoosoon

“Yess…” Rebecca held back as long as she could, listening to the cadence of Catherine’s breathing, feeling her heart hammering against her own chest, sensing the tightening of muscles deep inside. When the woman in her arms went rigid, a strangled cry escaping her throat, Rebecca slid into her, filling her completely in one swift, sure motion. Muscles clenched, then spasmed, and Catherine arched, shouting in surprise, before finally convulsing in sweet, sweet surrender. Rebecca Frye closed her eyes and, secure in her lover’s embrace, rode the crest of passion like a conquering hero. Never, never had she felt more alive.

*

“What time is it?”

Rebecca rolled over and peered at the digital clock. “Almost six-thirty.”

“Ugh,” Catherine groaned, pushing back the covers to get up. “Thank God it’s Friday. Ohh…I can’t believe I just said that.”

“Wait a minute,” Rebecca said quietly, pulling her back down. When Catherine moved against her with a sigh, Rebecca settled onto her back with her arms around the still-drowsy woman. “So. Tell me about the nightmare.”

“It was nothing. Just a dream.”

“The third one this week?”

Catherine traced her fingers along Rebecca’s ribs, down her abdomen, remembering what it was like to make those muscles flicker with urgency when they made love.
What if they never…
She came back to herself with a start. “It’s a bit of stress. Nothing to worry about.”

“Because of me?” Rebecca insisted, tightening her hold. “Something I did?”

“No,” Catherine assured her quickly.
It was hardly your fault…

“Is it Blake?”

Catherine’s stomach turned over. She should have realized that Rebecca was much too astute not to make the connection, although she doubted the detective realized exactly what about that night plagued her. For Rebecca, the idea of sacrificing herself in the line of duty was a simple reality of her life. “It scared me, almost losing you.” At least that part was true. So terribly, terribly true. “When you were shot, I saw it. Your body jerked backward as if a giant hand had struck you. And then you fell. You were so still, so quiet, and there was so much blood.”

“Catherine…”

“I was terrified…I remember, I was so cold. I felt something inside of me begin to die.”

“I’m all right now.”

“Not quite,” Catherine said fervently, running her fingers over the scar tissue even as she pushed the lingering memories away. It was over. “But you will be.”

“It’s true,” Rebecca insisted vehemently. She hated knowing that Catherine still suffered because of what had happened to her. The sooner she was back on her feet, the sooner this would be behind them. “Listen, I know you’ve had to take care of me the last couple of weeks, but I’m
fine
now. Everything is back to normal—at least it will be as soon as I pass the physical, re-qualify with my weapon, and jump through hoops for the shrink…uh…sorry. But you know what I mean.”

“Yes.” Catherine laughed finally, loving the certainty in her detective’s voice. “I know what you mean. And you should remember that I
am
a psychiatrist. So believe me when I tell you I’m fine and there’s nothing to worry about.”

Rebecca pushed up against the pillows until she was sitting and looked seriously into her lover’s eyes. “I’m still going to worry until those circles under your eyes go away.”

“Well, then, just concentrate on getting well.”

“That’s exactly what I intend to do. Starting today.”

*

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice. I’m sure you have other more pleasant things to do at home on a Friday evening.”

“When you call me for a session, I know it’s important,” Hazel Holcomb replied, indicating the two overstuffed chairs flanking a low coffee table. The furniture was arranged upon a thick oriental carpet in front of a stone fireplace; the walls on either side were lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and a large antique mahogany desk sat before bay windows that looked out on a well-tended flower garden. It was a functional but decidedly comfortable space. “Sit down. Do you want coffee or…let me see, I think I have some soda.”

“No, I’m fine. I’ve been drinking coffee all day.”

“You look tired, Catherine,” the chief of psychiatry said kindly, thinking to herself that the woman across from her looked more than tired. She’d lost weight; there were new stress lines around her green eyes and a few more wisps of early gray in her hair. “Even considering the fact that it
is
Friday evening, with your clinical load and the recent events, you have every right to be weary.”

“I am. That’s why I’m here…in part.”

“From the beginning, then,” Hazel urged, settling back and looking for all the world as if she had nothing better to do than to listen indefinitely to her younger colleague.

“I’m not sleeping.” They were in Hazel’s private home office, and the warm comfortable atmosphere was a welcome relief from the too bright, too impersonal spaces of the university clinic. Still, Catherine found it difficult to relax as she leaned forward, her clasped hands on her knees, her fingers intertwined to hide the faint tremor. “I think I have post—”

“Let’s wait before we worry about the diagnosis, shall we? Just tell me what’s happening.”

“Of course.” Catherine smiled ruefully and ran a hand through her collar-length auburn hair, then regarded her friend and mentor apologetically. At sixty, Hazel was fit and vigorous, her quick blue eyes catching every nuance of expression, and she allowed nothing of consequence to pass without comment. “Is there anything worse than a physician as a patient?”

“Not many I can think of right offhand.”

“This is hard…”

“Being a psychiatrist doesn’t make it any easier. That’s for television programs. Maybe I can help. This isn’t about work, I take it? You would have come to the cafeteria for that.”

Catherine smiled. When she needed a curbside consult, or just assurance that she was following the right clinical course in a difficult case, she sought out Hazel’s advice during the chief’s morning ritual of coffee and danish in the hospital cafeteria. “No. It’s not work. It’s the shooting.”

“What about the shooting?”

“My…part in it.”

Hazel regarded her steadily. “What part was that?”

“I insisted on going to meet him,” Catherine said slowly, looking beyond Hazel’s face into the past. “Rebecca didn’t want me to go, practically begged me not to get involved. But I wanted to. I
wanted
to. I thought I could stop him.” She brought tormented eyes to meet Hazel’s. “My arrogance almost got her killed.”

“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Hazel asked, choosing not to comment but to let her talk. She had known Catherine since the younger psychiatrist was a resident, and she considered them friends as well as colleagues. What Catherine needed was for her to listen, not to point out the obvious fallacy in her reasoning. Reason carried very little weight where the emotions were concerned.

“I dream,” Catherine replied, her voice choking. “I…feel him. He’s hurting me, and I want Rebecca to come. I want her to make him stop. I want her to
kill
him.”

“Go on.”

“I’m so cold. He’s torn my blouse.” She shivered, rubbing her arms unconsciously. “I call out for her, and she comes for me. I’m so glad, so relieved. And then he shoots, and she’s bleeding. She’s bleeding and there’s so much blood…oh God, there’s so much blood…”

Catherine pushed back in her chair, as if pushing away the images, breathing rapidly, struggling to erase the vivid memories. “It was my fault.”

“No, Catherine,” Hazel said firmly. “It was the fault of the man who pulled the trigger, and I suspect you know that. I’ll wager that’s not much help, though, is it?”

“Not at the moment, no.”

“I know. We’re going to need more time than we have tonight to talk about why you feel that you’re to blame. What I’m more interested in right now is a quick fix so you can get some rest.”

Catherine smiled. “Such heresy.”

“Fortunately, no one will ever know,” Hazel replied with a grin. “How do you feel about medication?”

“I’d rather hold off for now.” Catherine blew out a breath. “I was hoping it would be better when
she
was better. But it isn’t. It’s worse.”

“How is she?”

“Recovering well. Chomping at the bit to get back to work.”

“How is
she
sleeping?”

“So far, she seems fine. She’s so focused on getting back to work that I don’t think she’s allowed anything else to really register consciously. Not Jeff Cruz’s death, not even the fact that
she
almost died.”

“She intends to resume active duty?” Hazel asked noncommittally, watching Catherine carefully, knowing that ultimately her friend would have to deal with how her lover dealt, or
didn’t
deal, with these issues.

“Yes. The minute she’s able.”

“And there’s no possibility she would change her mind…if you asked?”

“No, and I couldn’t ask her. She loves being a cop. It’s more than a job; it’s who she is.”

“So, she’ll be on the streets again soon.”

“Yes.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

Catherine stared at her friend. Finally she admitted, “It terrifies me.”

“I should think it would. I don’t need to tell you about the fear that every partner of someone in a life-threatening occupation lives with on a daily basis. And you have not only
that
general anxiety with which to contend, you also have the actual experience of seeing her almost die in the course of doing her job.” She shrugged. “You need to give yourself a break.”

“That’s it? That’s your medical opinion?” Despite herself, Catherine was smiling.

“In a nutshell, yes. That and the fact that you need to see me on a regular basis for the time being. If your detective intends to go back to work, I suspect there’ll be some things you need to sort out.”

“Yes. I know,” Catherine said quietly. If she and Rebecca were to have any future together, she would have to accept the fact that every time Rebecca walked out the door, it might be for the last time. She would have to learn to say goodbye, and she wasn’t at all sure that she could.

Chapter Two

The next morning, Catherine watched Rebecca pack with a sense of loss. It had taken her by surprise when after breakfast Rebecca had announced that it was time for her to move back to her own apartment “before the super rents it out from under me.” That excuse was so thin Catherine could practically see it hanging in the air between them like a curtain of smoke.

The news shouldn’t have been unanticipated, because in the last week Rebecca had improved dramatically; nevertheless, Catherine’s first response had been one of disappointment. It was an occupational hazard to ask herself why she should feel abandoned, especially when she was genuinely elated at her lover’s rapid recovery, but it was her nature to be reflective. So, as she leaned against the dresser watching Rebecca carefully fold jeans and T-shirts into a duffle, she struggled for perspective.

Too many conflicting emotions, that’s all it is. Things will settle down in a week or two. As soon as I get used to the fact that she’s all right, I won’t feel as if my world is teetering on the brink of disaster
. She jumped as the sound of the bag’s zipper rasping closed cut sharply through the silence, a knife severing ties with heartless finality.

“I’ll miss you.”

Surprised, Rebecca looked up, a crease between her brows. “I’m not planning on going anywhere. But I can’t stay here any longer.”

Why not?
But she knew why not. Her heart might not, but her head did.
Too soon. We’ve spent most of our time together in crisis mode, first in the midst of a high-pressure, horrifying case, and then in the aftermath of the shooting. That kind of intensity can push things too quickly. We need time to know one another better. There are far too many secrets still to tell
.

“I don’t want us to end up practically living together by accident,” Rebecca continued, placing her bag by the bedroom door.
You might discover you’ve made a mistake. You might decide I’m not relationship material, just like the others did when they spent enough time with me
.
Maybe if we’re not so close, you won’t be disappointed
.

The detective slipped on a dark gray blended silk blazer and automatically reached under the left side to adjust her shoulder holster. Of course, it wasn’t there and wouldn’t be until she was no longer on medical leave and had re-qualified on the range. Some rule from the city council about preventing impaired police officers from having access to service weapons.
Impaired
. Its absence was a constant reminder that she was not herself. At least they hadn’t taken her shield. The weight of the slim leather case in the inner pocket of the jacket was some comfort—small comfort perhaps, but a reassurance that she
would
be whole again.
And soon. Today I start getting my life back
.

“And I especially don’t want it to be because you were taking care of me.”

“I was hardly taking care of you. You barely tolerated me cooking dinner every night without trying to do the dishes before you could even stand upright. I don’t consider grocery shopping and a few loads of laundry a hardship. Skilled nursing it was not.” Smiling wistfully to herself, Catherine thought about the three weeks she had taken off to spend with Rebecca after her discharge from the hospital and realized that they were some of the most relaxing weeks she’d had in months. Vacations had become a rarity as she tried to juggle private practice with her university teaching responsibilities. While she was at home with Rebecca, they’d watched a dozen movies on DVD, discovered that they shared a passion for screwball comedies, and managed to actually complete the Sunday
Times
crossword puzzle together—a first time for them both. Solitary and private by nature, she had never shared that much of her life with anyone before, other than her parents, and that had been far in the past. It had been surprisingly easy. “Besides, I liked it, you being here.”

“So did I,” Rebecca said softly, quickly crossing the bedroom to her side. She lifted Catherine’s chin in her palm, searching her eyes. “I like a whole lot of things about being with you—having dinner with you, unwinding with you, and especially being there when you wake up.” She blew out a breath, searching for the words to explain that she didn’t want to build a relationship on the foundation of her own weakness. Finally she said, “When things are back to normal, I’ll feel as if I deserve you.”

“What makes you think you don’t already?” Catherine realized even as she asked that Rebecca would only feel worthwhile if she was also a cop. “There isn’t some test you have to pass with me, Rebecca. You don’t have to
qualify
at anything to be cared about.”

“I’m no good to anyone like this,” Rebecca said in frustration. “I can barely carry my own suitcase!” Unconsciously, she’d taken a step back, putting distance between them.
You’ve only seen me when I was hurting or hurt. First Jeff’s death and then this. I need to be able to give you something
. I
want to feel as if I deserve you, whether you think it matters or not
.

“It hasn’t even been two months. You just need a little more time.”

“Yeah, well,” Rebecca said as she reached for her duffle, “it’s time for me to get back to doing what I should be doing.”

“Meaning what, Rebecca?” Catherine asked, her voice rising sharply. “Putting yourself in the line of fire before you’ve even healed from the last gunshot wound?”

“What?” Rebecca stopped dead, staring at her, completely perplexed. “You don’t think what happened is normal, do you? It’s a one in a million thing. Most police officers never even have to draw their weapons in the line of duty their entire careers.”

“I don’t care if it’s ‘one in a million’ when it’s you,” Catherine replied softly, unable to keep the tears from her voice. “You’re the only
one
I care about.”

Rebecca’s frustration at her own sense of helplessness disappeared in the face of Catherine’s clear distress. “Hey,” she said gently, moving quickly back to her and slipping firm arms around her waist. “Are we fighting?”

“No,” Catherine sighed, leaning her cheek against Rebecca’s chest. “
We’re
obsessing.”

“Uh-uh…cops don’t obsess. We just act.” There was a playful tone in her voice, but on some very basic level, she meant it. What she did, she did by instinct and reflex. Part of it was training and part of it was just her. When you stopped to think, you got yourself—or someone else—killed. Unfortunately, it probably wasn’t the best approach to relationships, but it had never mattered so much before. “Cops don’t go in too much for self-analysis. Nothing worse than second-guessing yourself out on the street.”

Catherine snorted. “Don’t think I haven’t heard that before—from every cop I’ve ever talked to.”

“Well then, see? It must be true.”

“Detective?”

“Hmm?”

“Shut up.” And then Catherine kissed her, forgetting for the moment that her detective was still healing, forgetting that she was worried about her safety, and even forgetting that she was angry—so angry—for her risking her life with no thought to how Catherine would survive the loss. She kissed her hard, enjoying the feel of those familiar arms tightening around her, thighs pressing close, hands claiming flesh. She kissed her until her own breath fled and her trembling legs threatened to desert her. “Much better,” she finally murmured.

“Yeah. I’ll pick you up at 7:00 for dinner,” Rebecca said, her voice low and throaty. Another minute of that and she could forget the gym, because she wouldn’t be able to walk.

“Yes.”

As the door closed, Catherine listened to Rebecca’s footsteps fading to silence. A silence so deep she thought she might drown in it.

*

“Well, well, well…will you just look at what’s arrived to brighten the mornin’,” a voice bearing a hint of Ireland crooned in her ear. “And looking mighty fine as ever.”

Rebecca finished the upward motion of her arms, deposited the barbell on the cleats, and turned her head on the slant board to eye the redhead kneeling by her side. Sparkling sea-foam eyes, faintly frizzy shoulder-length red hair pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, a dusting of freckles across pale skin. And a smile to light the darkest night. “Flanagan know you’re loose?”

“Oh, no,” Maggie Collins, the senior crime scene technician, whispered conspiratorially. “The general is mighty busy combing through a raccoon coat with a magnifying glass lookin’ for dandruff and whatnot. She didn’t see me sneaking away on my lunch break.”

“She gives you a lunch break now?” Rebecca asked, sitting up on the end of the weight bench and toweling off. Her navy blue T-shirt with the police logo on the left chest was soaked through, as were her sweatpants, and she’d only been working out for fifteen minutes.

“Aye. Something about human rights requirements in the workplace.”

“Huh. Amazing. What’s she trying to find—DNA from the shed scalp skin?”

“That or from a hair follicle that isn’t too desiccated to type.” Maggie offered the detective her unopened plastic bottle of water. Frye was shaking, and she looked like she’d dropped twenty pounds off a frame that had always been lean. Her blue eyes were still the same, though—sparkling chips of ice, hard and penetrating. If anything, she looked more austerely handsome than before her injury, but Maggie sensed she was hurting. “Here—it won’t be doin’ you any good to get dehydrated before you’ve had a decent workout.”

“Thanks.” Rebecca took a long pull before asking, “What’s new in the body shop?” She was referring to the crime scene investigations unit, or CSI, which was headed by Dee Flanagan, Maggie’s lover. It was not just the morgue—which, strictly speaking, was the purview of Andy Corcoran, the medical examiner—but rather an extensive evidence analysis lab that examined all physical material collected at a crime scene and from the bodies involved. What Flanagan and her techs turned up was often instrumental in pointing the detectives in the right direction to solve a crime and virtually essential for proving a case in court. Means, motive, and opportunity were no longer enough for a conviction. You needed cold, scientific evidence—prints, ballistics, chemistry, DNA, serology, toxicology—and anything else that would link a suspect to a crime.

“Oh, every day it’s a surprise. People keep inventing new and different ways to kill themselves and others. We’ve been missin’ your company, though.”

“Oh, I’ll bet.” Rebecca laughed. Dee Flanagan made it no secret that she didn’t like cops in her lab, “bothering her techs and messing with evidence,” as she so scathingly remarked, and she suffered their presence with very little patience. Like any good cop, Rebecca made it a point to review the forensic evidence herself, despite Flanagan’s protests. “I’m sure she’s been happy to have one less person bothering her.”

“No,” Maggie said softly, smiling a fond smile that Rebecca had seen before when Dee was the topic of conversation. “You she’s been missin’.”

“I’ll stop down in a day or two. As soon as I get back to work.”

“You’re coming back soon, then?” Maggie tried to hide her surprise. Many officers injured a lot less severely than Rebecca took advantage of the disability premiums for as long as possible. But then she should have known that Frye wouldn’t be one to sit at home.
Goin’ crazy, probably
.

“I’m seeing Captain Henry first thing Monday morning.”

“Well then, you’d best get back to pumping that iron. You need a spot?”

“No. I’m not pushing. Just easing back in.” In truth, she’d been about to quit when Maggie’d come along. Her chest was on fire, and even though she’d reduced her usual weights by half, she’d been struggling. What worried her the most, though, was how short of breath she got after ten minutes on the treadmill. Although the doctors had assured her that her lung—collapsed by the bullet that had entered between her third and fourth ribs, an inch above her heart—had not sustained any permanent damage, it felt like something wasn’t working right. And if she couldn’t run, she couldn’t work. “I’m doing okay.”

“Right,” Maggie agreed. “Good to see you back, Rebecca.”

Yes. It will be good to get back. All the way back
. When she went into the locker room to shower, despite the pain and the fatigue, she felt more like herself than she had since the moment two months before when she’d come to in a sea of agony to find Catherine bending over her, terror in her eyes. All she needed now was to convince everyone else that she was fit for duty. She had a lot of unfinished business to attend to, and she couldn’t begin to take care of it until she had reclaimed her place in the world.

*

“Is something wrong?” Rebecca asked quietly. They were seated at a small candlelit table in the nook formed by floor-to-ceiling bay windows in DeCarlo’s, a very exclusive restaurant that occupied the ground floor of a century-old mansion. A bottle of imported champagne sat chilling in a silver ice bucket beside them and the appetizers—grilled figs and sweet sausages—had just been placed in the center of the linen-draped table. Despite the elegant décor and the intimate atmosphere, she had a feeling that her dinner companion was absorbed in something other than the fine meal and her own stellar company.

“Hmm? Oh, no.” Catherine reached for her hand, smiling apologetically. “I’m sorry. I drifted away there for a minute. Work.”

“Don’t apologize; I know the feeling. Even been guilty of it a few times myself. Anything you can talk about?”

“No, not really.”

Rebecca nodded understandingly. “No problem.”

“Thanks.” Fortunately, Rebecca had appreciated from the first that Catherine’s work was something that she could only allude to in the most general of terms, for obvious reasons of patient confidentiality. It had been just that conflict that had brought them so explosively together just a few short months before. It was one thing, however, to have the barrier exist professionally and quite another to have it crop up in their personal dealings. Because she’d never before had a relationship that had been so central to her life, Catherine had never had to contend with the fact that she couldn’t discuss some of the ramifications of her work with the person closest to her. She was still learning how to navigate those murky waters, and, thankfully, Rebecca, who was used to compartmentalizing her life, didn’t push. It helped defuse the awkwardness, but there were times—like tonight—when Catherine wished she
could
talk. The session earlier in the day kept returning to her thoughts.

“Let’s get the paperwork out of the way first, okay?”

“Sure.”

“No significant medical, surgical, or psychiatric conditions in the past?”

“That’s right.”

“Ever been hospitalized for any reason?”

“No.”

She’d wait to ask about the obvious bruise under the left eye and what looked like finger marks on the neck. “Any drug allergies or current medications?”

“No.”

“Recreational drug use?”

“I drink now and then. Nothing else.”

“Do you smoke?”

“When I drink.” Faint laughter.

Catherine smiled. She had found that with new patients it was best to start with something basic and unthreatening such as reviewing the data the patient provided on a standard medical questionnaire. It established a bit of rapport, although the young woman in her office didn’t seem particularly nervous. Upright posture, no apparent tics or nervous habits. Her button-down-collar pale blue cotton shirt and dark tan chinos were meticulously pressed, her oxfords polished and shined, her thick wavy hair cut short, no make-up. If anything, the clear-eyed brunette with the sharp blue gaze was watching her with just a hint of suspicion—or was it something else? Intense curiosity? Not unusual from patients, but it usually developed later in the course of treatment—that need to know the therapist as a person and not as someone who merely existed for fifty minutes once or twice a week and to whom you exposed your most intimate secrets. But about whom you knew almost nothing.

“My secretary, Joyce, made a notation that we’ll be billing insurance,” Catherine remarked, checking the intake form. It was Saturday, and she didn’t usually see patients, but after Rebecca had left with all her belongings in tow, the apartment had seemed so empty—almost lifeless—that when she’d picked up her messages and found one about a request for a semi-urgent appointment, she’d decided she might as well work. “I see you have a good plan that doesn’t cap the number of visits, so that will be simple.”

“I don’t think I’ll be coming long enough for that to be an issue.”

Her tone was level and matter-of-fact, no hint of aggression or combativeness. Just a statement.

“And that brings me to the next question,” Catherine responded just as evenly. “It says your reasons for coming are work related. Can you tell me about that?”

“I’ve been ordered to see a therapist and to obtain a written statement that I am fit for duty.”

“Ordered? I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Catherine said, glancing down at the form, confused. Joyce had left a message that a new patient had called asking for an appointment as soon as possible, but there had been no indication that it had been any kind of official consultation. She often performed evaluations of city employees—mostly work-related disability claims, and occasionally confirmatory profiles on detainees—but someone from the appropriate city department usually called ahead to set up the meeting. “What do you—”

“I’m a police officer.”

“I see.” Catherine pushed the folder aside, leaned back in her chair, and met the young woman’s eyes. Now it was time for them to talk. “Is this a disability situation, or something else?”

“It’s a disciplinary investigation.”

“I didn’t get any referral papers. Usually someone sends me a summary of the incident.”

“It’s probably in transit. I’ll call them on Monday.”

“No need—we’ll take care of it. How did you get to me? Isn’t there an in-house psychologist who signs off on an officer’s duty status?”

“There is, but the department has to provide alternate choices for reasons of impartiality. You’re on the short list.”

The lesser of two evils?
Actually, she hadn’t even realized she was on
any
kind of list, and the only reason she minded was that, had she known, she would have asked Joyce to screen new patient calls differently and to prioritize calls from police officers. Her already busy private patient schedule could only accommodate so many therapy sessions per week, but she always made time for emergencies.

“Is there some reason that you
didn’t
want to see…is it still Rand Whitaker doing the psych evals for the department?”

“Yes.”

The young officer shrugged, a move that reminded Catherine of Rebecca’s dismissive gesture when she considered something unworthy of her attention.
Lord, do they stamp them out of some mold somewhere, these silent women with suspicious eyes?


I’m asking why you went outside channels because I need to know if there was a conflict or problem within the department that will affect how you and I communicate, or that we need to discuss.”

“No problem. I just want my private business to stay private. And…”

For the first time she looked the slightest bit uncertain.

“And…?” Catherine asked gently.

“And I wanted to talk to a woman.”

“Fair enough. Let me tell you a little bit about how I do this, so that we’re on the same page. It helps to avoid confusion if you have an idea of how long this might take.”

A curt nod, an attentive expression, despite a faint frown line between dark brows. Catherine sensed her ambivalence—she had come because she had been ordered to, but she was also cooperating.
Perhaps, on some level, she wants to be here.

“As I said, the department will send a summary of why you’re being referred, but I want you to tell me in your own words. Then I’d like to spend some time getting to know you. General background kinds of things. When I feel that I can make some determination about this event within the context of your professional life, I’ll file my report.”

“How much of what we talk about will be in it?”

Two references in less than five minutes to issues of privacy and confidentiality. She’s worried about keeping something in her personal life a secret.

“You may see my report. I will not discuss your case with anyone without informing you and obtaining your consent. You understand that I will need to include some details of our meetings to substantiate my findings, and that this will become part of your personnel record?”

“Yes.”

A bit of anger there. She feels violated. Betrayed by her superiors, by the system that sent her here
?

“Do you want to proceed? You could still see Rand Whitaker.”

“No. How long will this take?”

“I don’t know. Have you been suspended?”

“No. But they’ve got me riding a desk.”

Stiff shoulders, condescending tone of voice, one quick, frustrated fist clench.
She’s chafing at the restrictions.

“More than a few sessions, most likely. I’ll see you on an accelerated schedule, but that’s as definite as I can be. What do you say?”

Several beats of silence.

“Okay.”

“So. Tell me what happened.”

“If there’s something you
can
say, I’m here if you want to talk,” Rebecca remarked.

“I’m fine. I was just daydreaming about something that happened in a session today—something that brought up more than I realized, apparently. Rather like a waking version of what Freud said about dreams. He called them day residue, things we are still trying to process that we didn’t finish before sleep.”

“He said a lot more than that about dreams, didn’t he?” Rebecca commented dryly.

Laughing, Catherine nodded agreement. “Yes, quite a bit—most of which I take issue with.” Linking her fingers through Rebecca’s, she continued, “Nevertheless, even if I could talk about it, I certainly wouldn’t want to take up our time together tonight with business. After all, this is a date, right?”

They’d made love, spoken of love, but they’d never had the time to fall in love. As much as she missed Rebecca’s subtle presence in her apartment—the extra clothes in the closet, two coffee cups in the sink, her keys and wallet on the dresser—she liked this new distance, too. It was a distance heavy with promise and hope, a kind of charged separation she’d never experienced before. It was the very opposite of lonely, because even though they still had a lot to learn about one another, Rebecca was a part of her life now.

“Well,” Rebecca mused, feigning thought, her thumb playing over Catherine’s palm, “I got all spruced up in my best suit and I washed the Vette. And I’m trying like hell to impress you with the dinner and the wine.”

Watching a pleased smile flicker across Catherine’s elegant face, Rebecca thought of how much she’d missed her that afternoon when she’d opened the door of her own apartment to be greeted by the musty scent of abandonment. Out of years of habit, she’d dropped the duffle inside the door and walked directly across the rugless living room to the single window, pushed it up, and leaned out to breathe the aroma of car exhaust and Saturday dinners. Home. As familiar as a favorite bar, and as lonely as the tail end of the night with only a bottle for company.