~ Improbable Protector ~
J M Dragon
Part Two
© 2000 by J M Dragon
Email:  jmdragon1@hotmail.com

Disclaimers: See Part One

Chapter Eight:
Scene: No turning back

Jojo had a hangover!

Not a run of the mill hangover either. It was a hell of a good one and to cap it all she looked like she had a hangover too. Her blue eyes were bloodshot and as the sunlight streamed in from another glorious day. Her eyelids closed at the pain it caused, not only her eyes, but also the headache that twisted inside her head, making her feel nauseous.

Normally when she’d tied one over there was a good excuse. It usually meant she wasn’t sleeping alone. Today, she tentatively turned over and looked at the empty space beside her and felt the enormous relief of not having to share morning platitudes with anyone. Her ears went into bat mode as she failed to pick up any sound from the bathroom, ‘thank you god!’ Jojo thought as she settled her pounding head against the pillow on the bed.

Looking over to the small bedside table, she squinted at the small travel clock and was amazed to find that it was barely eight-o-clock in the morning. Then she grimaced as she wondered if it was the next morning or she’d slept the clock round and she’d lost a day. It had happened in the past when drugs had been part of her life, but not in recent times.

A debate went on in her head as she considered the pros and cons of getting out of bed and eventually decided that it was a good idea. Maybe a decent coffee and a good breakfast would make her feel more humane. Although, her stomach was doing a flying cartwheel as the thought registered.

Gingerly making her way to the bathroom, she turned on the shower and deposited herself under it rather unceremoniously. However, it did have the required effect of making her feel a little better.

Rummaging around for a clean pair of jeans and a shirt, she reluctantly accepted that today she really did need to do the laundry!

With a sickly feeling in her stomach like a lead weight she left her room and went towards the lobby. As she did so the reason for her over indulgence in hard liquor came to her full force and she reeled at the sense of loss she felt. Not wanting to remain in the motel with the woman who had caused her to loose herself in the bottle. She exited the building and slowly made her way towards the diner. At least there Lucy would make sure she ate the right things to make her feel better… or, she hoped that was the case.

Fleur Danvers sat at her desk and looked at the numerous bills that had arrived that morning. Although she was looking at the paper, she couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried read any of the contents.

Sitting back on her chair and closing her eyes her thoughts wandered to the guest in room five. Joanna Lackerly, the woman she had thought might become a friend and who had promised her protection.

Yet, she had thrown that protection to the winds last evening and possibly the tender friendship as well! It should have been so easy to tell Joanna that she had no choice in the matter; her debts for the motel would have brought about bankruptcy and then what would she have done?

She had no immediate family, or at least none that had bothered with her in years. When had been the last time her mother had sent a note or acknowledged her existence? Far to long, there had been no hope from that slim chance of her mother coming back into her life.

The only person who had helped had been Joanna. It was clear she had no means beyond her singing and that only brought enough for her to live on. How could she have helped financially, should she have a mind to?

As her thoughts continued to picture the smiling face of the tall woman from their lunch yesterday, it was entirely too painful to imagine not having Joanna Lackerly’s friendship. What was she to do?

Hearing a sound from the lobby Fleur moved swiftly to the door leading to the lobby and stood behind it unable to venture outside. She really didn’t know what to say to the woman, such had been the case the last evening. Oh, how she had wanted to knock on Joanna’s door and talk to her; but she had feared that she would disturb the woman and the young man she had taken out of the bar with her. Nothing in this life was ever easy!

Discreetly watching Joanna, she could see that the woman didn’t look her confident self and she looked extremely tired. Then again it was the first time since Joanna had been resident at the motel that she’d ventured out of her room before mid-day, except for yesterday and that had been a close call.

As Fleur was about to take her courage in her hands and face the woman, Joanna Lackerly had swiftly left the building. The swinging of the door the only evidence that she had been there at all.

With a heavy heart Fleur went back to her desk and contemplated what would happen next.

Scene: Differing views

Lucy Evans watched the tall figure of Jojo Lackerly slowly make her way towards the door of the diner. Normally the woman walked in with a buoyant step but not today!

As Jojo walked closer to the counter, she turned bleary eyes to Lucy Evans and gave her a tired defeated look.

“No need to ask if you’re feeling fine this morning.” Lucy couldn’t help the smile that tugged her lips at the scowl that developed on the woman’s face at the observation.

“If you’re so clever, what do you recommend as a cure?  I’d pretty much accept anything at this moment if you can stop the queasy feeling in my stomach.” Jojo asked pathetically.

“What was your poison?” the older woman asked gently and pointed to a stool at the counter and indicated that the younger women sit there.

“Seems a popular expression around these parts, and quite frankly it feels like poison about now. Scotch!” Jojo replied and seated herself at the stool.

“Hmmm didn’t your mamma ever tell you to beware the after effects of the hard liquor?” Lucy spoke; trying to keep the woman’s interest for her face was turning some rather interesting colors.

“I always knew better.” Jojo replied and gave the older woman a wry glance.

“Yeah, I bet you did. I bet you were a handful for her too?” Lucy smirked and saw the nod of the head indicating that she was right about that.

Lucy went into the kitchen and a few minutes later came back with an interesting looking drink and placed it on the counter in front of the woman.

“There you go. Will have you right in no time. My husband always swore it was the best hangover cure ever.” Lucy chuckled as she watched Jojo tentatively pick up the beverage and it became an audible laugh as the woman turned her nose up at the smell.

“Hey, I never said it smelt good did I?” Jojo was wondering if retching at this moment was about to be in her repertoire for the day. Then pulling another face, she quickly swallowed the revolting mixture, which tasted even worse than the smell… if you could use that expression.

“Jesus! Lucy, have you ever tried that?” Jojo spluttered out and rocked back on the stool her stomach wondering what was hitting it.

“Can’t say I have but it sure took your mind of feeling sick I would say?” Lucy smiled and turned to see who was entering the diner it was kind of early for most people, those that were regulars had already been and gone.

Fleur Danvers hesitated at the doorway and then went inside of the diner. She was hungry, but she had also known this was the only place that Joanna Lackerly would go at this time in the morning.

Lucy looked at the pained expression on the blondes face as she looked at Jojo’s back. So Daisy was right, there is something between those two. Wonder just how deep it is?

“Ms. Danvers, it’s not often you come here this early in a morning.” Lucy said smiling and beckoning over to the counter.

Jojo stiffened as she heard Lucy mention Fleur’s name. Why now?

Fleur moved closer to the counter and softly answered, “No that’s true but…I well I wanted to….” Her green eyes flashed towards the tall woman seated silently with her back turned to her at the counter.

Lucy decided that nothing could possibly be gained by this stand off between the two women. “Well, it’s mighty nice to see you this fine morning, isn’t that so Jojo?”

The prompting from Lucy didn’t go unheeded by either woman. Fleur gave her a grateful smile and Jojo looked up and scowled.

“Sure. It’s a fine morning.” She finally replied now her stomach really was shifting about like a boat in a storm.

Fleur heard the comment and shrugged her shoulders slightly. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Would you mind if I sat next to you?” Fleur attempted to begin a tentative conversation with Joanna Lackerly.

Jojo never looked up and stated flatly that it was free seat.

Lucy gave Fleur a smile of encouragement. “So what can I get you two ladies?”

Fleur discreetly looked to her left side and noticed that Joanna didn’t look up from her contemplation of the glass that she held. Which glancing at the remnants didn’t particularly look very appetizing to her?

“I’ll have bacon, hash browns and scrambled eggs, please Lucy.” Fleur said quietly and noticed the tall woman at her side shift in her chair and turn towards her.

Bloodshot eyes peered at the blonde in disbelief at her order. “Toast for me as dry as you can get it and keep the coffee coming.”

This time it was Fleur’s turn to stare at her friend green and blue locked and held.

“I’ll be back soon with your orders. Want to take a table?” Lucy threw back at them as she went into the kitchen and began the preparations for the meals requested.

Both women looked away as the comment was left hanging in the air. Fleur twisted her hands in front of her and Jojo looked back down at her empty glass held securely in her hands.

“I guess I’ll go and sit down would you…that is will you…,’ Fleur swallowed hard and began again. ‘Joanna would you care to share a table with me?”

There it was out, now it was up to the woman she had hoped to call friend.

Joanna Lackerly concentrated on the glass in front of her and didn’t really know what to say except… say yes! “Same as yesterday?”

Fleur felt her heart begin to beat again in her chest as she felt a deep sense of relief at the rejoinder from her friend; perhaps all was not lost.

“Yeah, that would be good.” Fleur slipped from the chair and moved towards the table they had shared the previous day, when everything had been so different between them.

Jojo shook her head and moved from her position to join the blonde at the table.

“I’m leaving at the end of the week, thought you’d want to know for the room.” Jojo said, in a voice so barren it was hard to associate it with the singer who could make the most implausible song sound great.

“You’re leaving?” Fleur repeated the word that brought all her hopes of a renewal of the tentative friendship come crashing in a heap at her feet.



Jojo looked at the small hands that picked at the napkin on the table. There was another napkin about to hit the dust; it momentarily brought a smile to her somber features, but only momentarily.

“It’s time to move on.” Jojo said calmly and shot a look in the direction of the kitchen. Lucy was certainly taking her time over a simple matter of dry toast.

“I thought you liked it here?” Fleur asked her eyes looked over to the averted profile of the beautiful woman with only the width of the table separating them.

Jojo heard the desolate expression in the other woman’s voice. What did it matter to the blonde? Surely she would be far too busy with her future than to care if Jojo stayed or not.

“Liked? Whatever gave you that idea? It’s a small backwater town just like all the others I’ve experienced in the past. Why on earth would this one be any different? Means to an end Ms. Danvers, a means to an end.” Jojo replied in a cold sarcastic tone.

Fleur looked away and tried to recover from the pain she felt at the words. So Joanna really hadn’t cared about her in anyway at all. It was just her own loneliness and need reaching out to a figment of her imagination. Oh, she had been such a fool to think that there was anyone in the world that did care for her other than as a prize!

“I see. Well I wish you luck and a safe journey.” Scrapping back the chair Fleur left the table and made her way as fast as possible towards the exit of the diner. Although her eyes filling with tears did not help, for she simply couldn't see all that well through them.

Lucy edged out of the kitchen just as Fleur Danvers made a tearful getaway from the stunned woman still seated at the table, but not for long.

“No! No! Fleur please don’t leave.” Jojo Lackerly pleaded and shot out of her own chair and managed to grasp the blondes arm as she was about to open the door.

Fleur looked up with green eyes brimming with tears and gazed at the steel blue ones that reflected back at her with a warmer expression within the depths. “Why? Why shouldn’t I? You don’t want my company!” her voice broke on the words and she sobbed at the thought.

“I do! I do. Please Fleur we will have breakfast and you can tell me about your new protector. What do you say?” Jojo tried to sound lighthearted about the subject matter, but it never reached her eyes.

Fleur Danvers looked into the beautiful face of the woman before her and gave a weak smile. “I can do that, besides I really could do with breakfast.”

Jojo laughed and then wished she hadn’t as a blinding pain shot through her head. The ache from her alcohol binge was again making its presence known to her.

“Good, come on then let’s sit. Lucy is about ready to bring our breakfast.” Jojo tugged at Fleur’s arm and they went back to the table.

Lucy watching from her vantagepoint breezed from around her counter and placed two large platters in front of them and smiled. “There you go girls. Something tells me you need this meal down you.”

“Hey Luc, I didn’t order this!” Jojo said, frowning at the loaded platter with eggs, bacon, hash browns and tomatoes. Her sensitive stomach once again lurched at the prospect of something coming into direct contact with it.

“I know you didn’t, but dry toast? Really Jojo look at you. I doubt that a bitsy piece of toast is going to solve what ails you my girl. So eat and enjoy.” Lucy laughed and walked away.

“She’s right you know.” Fleur spoke softly and watched the steel blue eyes briefly meet hers and then look back at the food.

“Mmm… not so sure I can eat it.” Jojo grumbled and picked up her fork and poked at the bacon.

Fleur watched the woman for some reason the roles had reversed and Fleur felt very protective over Joanna Lackerly. It really was absurd. “I think it’s dead Joanna.”

Jojo looked up and saw the laughter sparkling out of the green eyes and it brought a smile to her lips as she ruefully nodded her head.

“Always best to check,” and placed a small forkful into her mouth and chewed.

Fleur felt at ease and placed a much more generous portion on her fork and began her meal in earnest.

Jojo was feeling slightly less queasy as she finally gave up on her breakfast, which she had tried but failed to do justice to and had only managed about a third of it. Now Fleur on the other hand was entirely different she was even mopping up the juices of the tomatoes with her toast. She had asked Lucy to provide more toast, which the owner had duly complied happily with.

Bringing her steaming coffee cup up to her lips she sipped at the beverage and watched the younger woman eagerly decimate the final remnants on her plate. It was touch and go that Jojo didn’t offer her own wasted meal to the blonde. The thought itself brought about a chuckle that she couldn’t suppress.

Green eyes glanced up shyly at the blue eyes that watched her eating and she gave a sheepish shrug of her slim shoulders. Placing the juice soaked final piece of toast in her mouth, she sat back and placed a satisfied hand on her belly.

“You enjoyed that obviously?” Jojo said and smiled with indulgent warmth at the woman opposite her.

“Oh, yes.  Lucy is a good cook and I was hungry. I haven’t eaten much since lunch yesterday.” Fleur admitted and then reached for her own coffee.

“How come you never get fat eating all that? You’re such a tiny thing. If I did that on a regular basis I’d never get in my jeans.” Jojo mused lightly.

“Must be the metabolism I guess. I’ve never had a problem with eating whatever food I chose. Just lucky I guess. You don’t look like you have a problem.” Fleur stated and looked the tall woman over swiftly and then turned back to her coffee.

“That’s because I travel around a lot and don’t have the luxury of eating this well most of the time. I confess this month has given me some excess pounds.” Jojo reluctantly admitted and looked down at her own body.

Neither woman talked for a few minutes, then Lucy brought more toast for Fleur and gave Jojo a disparaging look as she saw the plate of food only partially eaten.

“You want me to take that away?” Lucy pointed to the plate in front of Jojo.

“Well I’m not going to eat it I’m afraid Lucy unless Ms. Danvers here will help me out?” Blue eyes tracked to green and both women accepted the careful banter.

“Sorry. I’m all full up right now, another time perhaps I might help you out.” Fleur chuckled.
Lucy clucked her disapproval at the waste and removed the plates, muttering to herself as she did so.

“So, tell me about your new fiancé?” Jojo didn’t particularly want to know, but then again she did.

Fleur now looked uncomfortable and starred over Joanna’s shoulder and sighed heavily. She hoped what she was going to say wouldn’t cause more friction between the fragile understanding they had developed.

“George Andrews I’ve known forever I guess. He’s been hoping that I would take up his offer of marriage for some time now. He’s the local banker and has a solid background. I could do worse.” Fleur quietly spoke and then drank heavily from her coffee cup, the liquid now tasting bitter in her mouth.

“I was always under the impression that you married for love and not because someone has a ‘solid background’ as you call it? Correct me if I’m wrong?” Jojo couldn’t help the caustic tone that accompanied the words.

“Is that why you’re not married?” Fleur asked her and waited for the reply, her heartbeat slowing in anticipation of the answer.

Jojo laughed and tapped her fingers impatiently on the table. “No, no that’s not the reason.”
Fleur was fascinated at the vague comment.

“Do you mind telling me what the reason is?” Fleur tentatively asked.

Steel blue eyes flicked over the blonde woman’s features and saw the sincerity in her expression.

“No one ever asked me!” a simple explanation really and quite factual, but not the entire truth. However, she wasn’t going to say that to the woman before her.

“Really? I find that astonishing you are so very beautiful and talented. All the men in the town are raving over you, surely you know that?” Fleur couldn’t believe it was that simple.

“Ah, Fleur remember one thing about men, they think with a part of their anatomy that doesn’t see the light of day unless it needs to pee and lust is about the only way to describe what the men here generally feel when they look at me.” Jojo said, with a wry expression clearly experience had developed that attitude.

“Why are you marrying Andrews?” Jojo asked directly, the other answer hadn’t been sufficient.

Fleur knew she didn’t have to answer the question. She felt that Joanna wouldn’t push it, but she needed to explain to this woman. She wanted her to know, even if she didn’t approve.

“My father left me heavy debts and the motel is mortgaged to the hilt. The insurance company has refused to pay out on my father’s life policy. I had no choice.” Fleur spoke in a calm voice and it appeared as if she was retelling someone else’s problems not her own.

“Why not just leave town and start again? Why marry someone you don’t love?” Jojo was about to add didn’t like either, but she thought that would be going too far.

Fleur looked down at the table and the toast that was growing cold, she no longer had any appetite left.

“I do not have your talents for singing or anything else other than running a motel… and I guess… I’m not that good at that either!”

“Perhaps not as a singer, but I’m sure you are talented in other things. And what's wrong with the way you run the motel? You can get work elsewhere surely!” Jojo was exasperated with the answer. The woman was intelligent; she didn’t need to stoop to this type of life for what? Who on earth would benefit? Oh, yeah! The asshole banker Andrews!

“No. I can’t Joanna. I’ve never left this place. It’s the last part of my family heritage. My forefathers founded the town and the area, I owe it to the family line!” Fleur’s eyes now glistened with tears of frustration at her own choices.

Jojo knew about family heritage. She had been born into a Greek family that believed the Greek Gods themselves still had the power to affect their lives. It had annoyed her when she was young. Now she was basically listening to the same philosophy just called different words.

“I’m leaving on Saturday morning early, come with me?” Joanna Lackerly couldn’t believe she’d said those words. She heard them right enough, but it wasn’t her voice asking the question was it?

By the look on Fleur Danvers face, she couldn’t believe it either. She wiped a hand across her eyes and tried to remove the moisture and starred back at Joanna in shock.

“Go with you?” Fleur whispered and was pierced with a sharp glance from the steel blue eyes of her friend.

Jojo knew she was being stupid and ridiculous, but she didn’t care. From the first moment she met this woman it was important to protect her and the only way to do that was to take her with her on her travels.

“Yes.” A stark word that was full of so many possibilities both good and bad.

Fleur this time slowly got out of her chair and as she did so she put out a hand and touched Joanna’s shoulder. “I…I need to go, I’ll see you later.” With that she moved hastily out of the diner and Jojo this time let her.

Several minutes passed and Lucy came over to the silent and solitary woman and looked pointedly at the space that Fleur had vacated.

“I guess you get the check as Ms. Danvers has left you alone. I assume she’s left you alone?” Lucy asked quietly and saw that Jojo looked even paler than she had when she came into the diner earlier.

“Yeah, she seems to do that to me.” Jojo answered absently and then as she moved out of her chair held onto the back as she felt a wave of nausea over take her.

Lucy took one look at the younger woman and put an arm around her and led her gently, but swiftly to the bathroom; guess her breakfast wasn’t going to stay long with the woman today.

Chapter nine:
Scene: How to say no and yes all in one breath.

Fleur had walked back to the motel and her office without really knowing how she did so or how long it took to get there. All she remembered was the last words from her friend and protector Joanna Lackerly.

“I’m leaving on Saturday morning early, come with me?” Come with her? My god it was like something out of a movie. She was certain if she closed her eyes for any length of time the words would disappear and perhaps the woman who had voiced them also.

Starring unseeingly out of the window onto the colorful flowers that adorned the yard area, her pride and joy, her escape from reality in many senses, all she wanted to do was sleep. When she awoke, all would be well with her world and she would be free to make her own choices and have none of the weight of family heritage and debts weighing her down.

The door to her office opened and Daisy Kendall tentatively walked inside and was distressed to see the vacant expression that peered at her from across the desk. This wasn’t the child she had watched grow from a baby to a beautiful young woman. One who had really not experienced much joy in the last few years. And that’s what all-young people should be experiencing she felt.

“Fleur, Fleur darling are you alright?” Daisy walked briskly over to the young woman who slumped her shoulders in defeat. The older woman wrapped her ample arms around the woman she still considered a child in many ways.

“I…I don’t know what to do Daisy. I really don’t know what to do…what shall I do?” the blonde pleaded her eyes fighting tears, but the heartfelt fear was heavily embedded in the green orbs.

“Oh, my dear, please, it’s going to be alright. When has your Daisy ever been wrong?” Daisy pulled the woman into her arms in a comforting hug and rocked her gently.

“It’s not! It’s not Daisy. How can she ask me that question it’s far to late!” the last words said flatly and she let the tears flow as she realized the desolate nature of her situation.

Daisy Kendall had watched the inter-change between this woman she considered a daughter and the tall stranger who was as far removed from Fleur in both background and manners that it was hard to associate the two together. But together, they were and it was obvious to anyone who cared about either woman that the relationship was a strong bond.

What type of relationship exactly was developing could be cause for speculation. But whatever it was, it had set in stone and neither one of them looked happy about the events currently taking shape around them.

“Why not tell me what ‘she’ asked you and perhaps I can help?” Daisy asked gently and tipped up the tear-stained face and smiled encouragingly at her.

Fleur gulped several times and then gave her a weak watery smile and nodded her head a few times and related a short version of Joanna going away and that she’d asked Fleur to accompany her. “What shall I do Daisy?”

Daisy gave her a rueful glance and smiled gently back at the face she loved. She was such a sweet child. It was heart breaking to see her troubled so. “What does your heart tell you to do child?”

Fleur gazed over to her yard and watched the slight breeze ruffle the leaves of flowers in its direct path. The butterflies that frequented her yard were flitting from one flower to another and appeared to sunbathe on the green leaves in the harsh glare of the full sun, their pretty wings held together in defiance of the sun’s rays.

“My mind tells me I must marry George Andrews. My roots tell me I must marry George Andrews. My financial situation tells me I must marry George Andrews!” Fleur said quietly as if she was speaking to elements of the natural world she was watching rather than the woman at her side.

“What does your heart tell you Fleur?” Daisy prompted her again.

“My heart tells me to accept Joanna’s offer and leave with her and forget everything I have grown up with and feel comfortable with. To be a free spirit just like Joanna and travel and find my true path in life.” Fleur heard her voice utter the words and she felt a sense of peace as she did so. It was as if her soul had escaped it’s chains and was now soaring free to meet whatever challenges the world saw fit to throw in her path.

Daisy grinned at the flowery description, but she could see the happiness the words brought to the younger woman’s face. It quite transformed it and had anyone doubted that the tall stranger was bad for Fleur Danvers, that expression alone would convince him or her that she was the opposite!

“I think you have your answer my child. I think the earlier you tell George Andrews the better don’t you think?” Daisy coaxed the younger woman to look at her directly with those words.

“I could just leave with Joanna and let him find out that way.” Fleur sighed heavily at the unwelcome prospect telling George Andrews she wasn’t going to marry him would be.

Daisy raised an eyebrow at the cowardly comment. “ I never had you down as a coward Fleur. Some of your other relatives perhaps, but not you!”

Fleur knew without any further words exactly which relative Daisy was talking about… it was her mother. Who had up and left her father with a young daughter to rise with little more than a short note. No. That wasn’t her style, it really wasn’t. She had more backbone than that! Or so she hoped.

“Perhaps you should tell your stranger friend that you’re going with her, when she walked in here a few minutes ago she look deathly pale to me.” Daisy had watched the woman slowly come into the motel entrance glance quickly round, grimace at the beverages brewing happily and that was a first! Then turn what can only be described as the color of Fleur’s eyes and headed for her room decidedly pale.

Fleur turned concerned eyes towards the older woman. “Did Joanna look ill or just upset?”

Daisy patted her arm and smiled briefly. “Why not go and check on your friend and see for yourself. Then clear up the matter of your broken engagement.”

Daisy chuckled as Fleur said she would and rushed out of the room, leaving the other woman in her wake. ‘Well I know what type of relationship those two could end up in with the way Fleur ran to the tall strangers room.’ The whole situation was quite romantic if it didn’t have Banker Andrews sitting in the middle of it.


Fleur rapped gently on the door of room five and waited impatiently for Joanna to either open it, or ask her in, or say something, but so far nothing.

Repeating her knocking on the door she was tempted to just barge in as she had on that occasion…god was it only two days ago, for her it seemed like a lifetime and she had known Joanna forever.

Trying another tactic she knocked and shouted “Joanna,” and was becoming more and more frustrated. Perhaps Daisy had been wrong and Joanna had only come into the motel briefly and left again. But had she gone for good or just to do laundry, or visit John-Henry, or even perhaps that man of the previous evening. Her last thought galvanized her into action she placed her passkey in the door and opened it quietly and stepped inside.

“Joanna? Joanna are you here?” she asked from the small corridor leading to the main room and she heard a low moan and her heart rate increased, maybe Joanna was ill.

Walking swiftly forward she saw her tall friend spread eagle on the king-sized bed, her shirt thrown off and only wearing brief panties. She was lying on her stomach and the smooth back that came into view was to Fleur like looking at creamy blemish free silk. She wondered what it would feel like to touch. Shaking her head from the thoughts that seemed to invade her mind when she was in close proximity with this woman, she knelt at the front of the bed as close as possible to Joanna’s head and spoke softly to her.

“Joanna are you sick? Do you need a doctor?” There was obvious concern evident in Fleur’s voice.

Jojo Lackerly peered blearily at the woman and she groaned a little louder this time, but still didn’t say anything.

Fleur was now very concerned for the woman didn’t look well at all. She looked drawn, pale and the bloodshot eyes didn’t help. Fleur had noticed them earlier, but hadn’t thought it fit to mention that in light of the tentative conversation between them.

“I’ll get a doctor Joanna. Please let me cover you up, your shaking.” Fleur tugged at the edge of the sheet under Joanna and was surprised at how easily the sheet came free in her hands.

The movement of the sheet and Fleur’s words finally penetrated Jojo’s sub-conscious and she turned her pounding head towards the blonde as she did so her body moved closer and she was now within inches of body contact with the blondes.

“Fleur it’s ok.  I’m ok, I have a hangover.” Jojo croaked out and gave the concerned woman a tight smile.

Fleur gazed into the steel blue or should she amend that to steel bloodshot probably. “Hangover? You have a hangover?”

Jojo heard the disbelief in the woman’s tone and she gave another feeble smile. “Yeah, kind of tied one over on myself last night. Sorry you thought I was sick.”

Fleur couldn’t believe it. So possibly all that Joanna had said earlier was probably not any more real just something to forget when the hangover passed.

“I see, well I guess I’ll leave you to your hangover then.” Fleur replied grimly feeling a fool.

Jojo heard the cold reply and she knew something more was wrong than the fact that she was suffering a hangover.

“Fleur what is it?” Jojo asked tentatively and this time she moved closer to the blonde and her naked breasts brushed up against the fabric of Fleur’s cotton shirt.

Breathing had suddenly become increasingly difficult for Fleur, she was annoyed at herself at this woman and now her body was once again showing signs of uncontrollable emotions that she didn’t fully understand. Was she attracted to her friend?

Closing her eyes to ward of the chaotic thoughts that trespassed over her mind and body it appeared. Not to mention the sight of the beautiful woman who was pressed with unconcerned ease against her body, surely she could hear the increased tempo of her heart?

“I thought you were sick and needed the doctor.  I’m very sorry for disturbing you. I seem to make a habit of invading your privacy without permission.” Words tumbled out of Fleur’s lips. She wanted very much to hear Joanna once again ask her to come with her on her travels, but she dare not ask and tempt the fates. While she didn’t know for sure if Joanna had been genuine in her request, she still had hope and that would give her the strength to see George Andrews and terminate their business deal, for that's all it was to her at any rate.

“You never disturbed me Fleur and thank you for your concern, I appreciate it.” Jojo murmured and was gratified at the smile that was turned her way shyly.

“I guess I’ll go and get on with things then. Are you sure you don’t need anything?” Green eyes locked with blue and for several seconds they just gazed at each other messages passing between them, but undecipherable.

“Yeah, I need to sleep it off that’s all. I’ll catch up with you later. Would you have dinner with me early… say six this evening?” Jojo whispered tenderly. She was even surprised at the tenderness she heard in her own voice.

Fleur heard the gentle question and it brought her senses out of hiding and soaring like an eagle in the sky. “Sure. I have some business to take care of this morning and then I’m free the rest of the day, if you want to have coffee with me at any time.”

Jojo grimaced at the thought of coffee and the dinner also. She was certain later in the day she would be fine and she still needed to do the laundry. God that was going to be a chore. “Business?”

“Yes, business.” Fleur looked away and attempted to move from the vicinity of Joanna. However, the woman seemed to get a new lease of life and she put a hand out quickly and grasped Fleur's chin turning her face back so that they were mere inches away from each other.

“Do you need a protector on this business?” Jojo knew it wasn’t anything to do with her, but she had asked the woman to consider travelling with her, so she felt justified.

Fleur smiled and the warmth was felt through Joanna’s fingers as she unconsciously smoothed the planes of Fleur’s face with the tips as she waited for her answer.

“Are you offering your services as protector to me again Ms. Lackerly?” Fleur asked her demurely and couldn’t help the heat that traveled into her cheeks at the soft caresses she was receiving from her friend.

“I guess I am Ms. Danvers. Would you like to take me up on the offer?” Jojo was feeling better with this woman at her side and although she didn’t understand her need to protect Fleur. She had given up wondering about it and just let it flow.

“How about you sleep and take me to dinner later. I’ll be fine.” Fleur responded with a grin.

Jojo smiled back and then realized what she had been doing with her fingers and felt a tinge of color flood her face. ‘Damn what must Fleur be thinking!’

“Yeah. Ok, I’ll catch up with you later. I have laundry to do anyway. Can’t have me going around naked can we?” she jovially replied.

Fleur chuckled at the thought and turned away quickly, ‘naked the woman never seemed to be in all her clothes whenever I’m around. Then again her bedroom was her domain, she probably didn’t expect visitors.’

“No that we can’t. See you later and if you need me, just call.” Fleur replied as she moved away from the bed and the beautiful woman sprawled out on it.

“I will. Oh, and Fleur?” Jojo said as the blonde reached the door.

“Yes?” Fleur had her hand on the door and waited for the question before she opened it.

“I meant what I said earlier. Will you come with me when I leave?” Jojo looked at the ceiling and prayed for an answer.

Fleur if Jojo could see her had the most stunning smile on her face at the words. She wanted to go back and hug the woman, but it wasn’t the time or place… yet.

“Yes.” The one word answer was given in a quiet, but decisive tone and she left the room on that note.

Jojo continued to stare at the ceiling. She was stunned. Had she said yes? Had Fleur really said yes!

Fleur had said YES!

With that clear picture in her mind she closed her eyes and although still feeling drained, tired and with a sledgehammer working on her temples. She smiled with quiet joy and sleep claimed her. Her dreamscape of green eyes that had once seemed to glow from a faceless person now had a visage and it was very welcoming to behold.

Scene: To face the truth.

Fleur had never felt this alive in all her twenty-nine years and it was all to do with her lone guest at the motel… one Joanna Lackerly. She was eternally grateful to who ever was looking out for her to have the woman enter her life at this stage. It could have been too late had she turned up a few weeks later.

Walking determinedly towards the bank, she couldn’t help the happy grin that was plastered on her face and for those who saw it wondered at how the young woman could be so happy.

Entering the bank she smiled at the teller who looked at her with interest it was rare Ms. Danvers set foot in the bank. Usually Mr. Andrews would personally go and see her and had always dealt with her account personally as well.

“Ms. Danvers wonderful to see you. Congratulations on your engagement to Mr. Andrews. I hope you will be very happy.” Ted Wassle the teller said quietly. Everyone in town knew that George Andrews had used his business rather than his personal attributes to get that result.

“Thank you Mr. Wassle. I wonder perhaps is Mr. Andrews in and if he could spare me a few minutes.” Fleur smiled at the teller who had worked in the bank for as long as she could remember, years and years.

“Sure thing Ms. Danvers. He will certainly make time for you without a doubt. Please take a seat. I’m sure he will be with you shortly.” The teller immediately went to a door-marked private and knocked on it and waited to be told to enter.

Within two minutes Ted was back behind his counter and George Andrews was ushering Fleur into his opulent office. Or that’s how it seemed to Fleur having been used to her meager office furniture, there had been no expense spared with the furniture or the various pieces of office equipment.

“My dear, this is an unexpected, but pleasant surprise.” He bent close to her and kissed her cheek. Fleur had evaded the lip-to-lip encounter, but couldn’t stop the impact on her cheek.

Moving away quickly she went towards the window and looked out over the town. It was a very quiet day here, but when wasn’t it.

“George I need to speak to you about our agreement.” Fleur said quietly and turned to face the rotund man whose face never ever seemed to be anything but streaming with perspiration.

George Andrews eyed the young woman with suspicion. He had not done well in the banking business not to know when something wasn’t right and he saw Fleur Danvers fidgeting nervously standing by the window.

“Ah… what is it? You need money to make preparations for the wedding? Never mind that my dear, I have everything in hand and everything will be ready for a week from Saturday and we will be married.” He asserted arrogantly.

Fleur couldn’t believe her ears; the man had everything in hand? Everything? Had he been so confident that she would say yes? Obviously!

“No, George that wasn’t the reason.” Fleur countered and gave him a quizzical look. He really had been so sure of her, but why? She had hoped for the insurance money from her father’s death. Surely he couldn’t know about that until the company had responded with their verdict.

“Then Fleur please, what’s on your mind?” George Andrews said silkily and seated himself in his large plush office chair that would have been more at home in a house than an office.

Fleur looked back out over the window and her eyes turned to her motel, yes for just this last moment it was hers. From today it would belong to the bank and the man seated in the room with her. The last of her family heritage and the release to a new life for her anyway!

Clearing her voice, she said in a controlled and confident tone, “George I’m sorry, but I’ve been thinking it over and I can’t marry you!”

George Andrews had expected some nerves, but not this early. “Fleur my dear, it’s just a few nervous jitters. I’m not giving you much time to get used to the idea I appreciate that. Perhaps if we postpone the wedding until the following…week, then you will have gotten used to it?”

Fleur gulped at the very thought of marriage to the man in front of her. She now had a better offer, it might not be permanent, but it was a solution. One that she couldn’t refuse, her heart would whither and die if she did.

“No, George it’s not nerves and delaying the wedding wouldn’t help at all! I’m sorry, but I’m not going to marry you.” Fleur’s voice raised a fraction and she felt the jitters starting to move to the surface of her emotions. ‘Perhaps she should have brought Joanna with her as her protector.’ The mere thought of the tall beautiful woman eased her fears and she looked at the man who was now bristling with anger his face turning bright red.

“I don’t accept that Fleur! You will marry me and that’s final!” he shouted and his whole body shook with rage.

Fleur felt her own anger surface at his angry and arrogant assumption that she had no choice in the matter. “Go to hell George. I’m not marrying you and that’s final.”

George was loosing it and he needed to think and find out exactly why she had changed her mind. Yes that’s what he had to do… find out why?

“If you don’t marry me, you lose the motel as of now!” He said pointedly and waited for her answer.

“I know.” Fleur agreed quietly.

“Just like that! You’re giving up something you have nurtured and cherished for years. I don’t believe it. Who’s put you up to it?” George exploded and watched with satisfaction as Fleur shivered at the harshness of the tone.

“No one put me up to it. I decided that marrying you wouldn’t make me happy and if I had to lose the motel, so be it.” Fleur battled back her own voice mildly aggressive.

“It was Bascome wasn’t it?’ He saw her gaze at him with a disinterested look in her eyes. “If it wasn’t John-Henry, maybe it was Lucy Evans or perhaps them both? Come on Fleur I’m going to find out sooner or later so tell me?” he shouted in rage.

“It wasn’t anything to do with either of them! I told you it was my idea and that’s the end of it. Serve whatever papers you need to do and I will sign over the mortgage deed to the bank. Goodbye George.” Fleur made her way swiftly to the door and was stopped by his sweaty hand on her bare arm.

“No way are you leaving here until I know who talked you out of marrying me?” His vice like grip on her arm, hurt, but she refused to acknowledge the pain to him

“It wasn’t anyone in this town George, let go of me. I’m leaving.” Fleur replied in a controlled voice.

George didn’t take his hand from her arm, but he did release the grip a little and starred at her comprehension in his face. “Get out of my sight you worthless piece of trash. But remember this Fleur, I do not take rejection well… so beware.” He spit at her and the moisture for the spittle that had ejected from his mouth was making a small track down her face.

Not giving him the satisfaction of letting him know that the words had scared her, she rushed out of the door and was breathing heavily in the morning air outside the building within thirty seconds. Her hand shakily went to her left cheek and she wiped at the moisture there. She needed a shower that was a certainty.


George Andrews was livid, he stomped around his office cursing and swearing.

So it had been that whore drifter that sang in the bar that was the culprit, Fleur hadn’t said it, but she had given it away in that comment about it not being anyone from town. How could it have been he had the town sewn up? Fleur was his and she was going to regret ever having met that drifter. And drifter she would be again that was a promise.

Walking quickly over to his desk he placed a call and waited.

“I have a job for you and I want it done this afternoon and no mistakes as to who sent you. I want the bitch to know exactly who sent you and why.” George Andrews spoke caustically to the other person at the end of the line.

‘Revenge they say is sweet and for a spurned lover to get his revenge surely that must be even sweeter.’

Andrews continued his conversation to the audience of an empty room.


Scene: It wasn’t meant to be this way.

Jojo Lackerly pushed herself off the bed and picked up her laundry lethargically. She’d been up about half and hour had a coffee and shower and was now as near normal as she could be at three in the afternoon.

Her stomach felt hollow and sore, but she guessed that was with the reaching she’d done after her breakfast. Still at least the pounding in her head was over, for she had a set tonight in the bar and planned to let John-Henry know she was leaving the day after tomorrow.

Walking out of the room she hummed a tune that she had been working on to herself happily as she made her way to the small laundry unaware of the interest of a party lurking in the shadowy buildings.

Settling herself in the empty Laundromat, she put her things into piles and calculated that she would be here at least two hours and went over to the magazines that were scattered on the small table. The vending machine hadn’t worked last time she was in, but the light appeared to be on and not flickering this time around. Selecting an iced tea from the list she waited for it to vend and then turned as she heard someone else enter the building.

Tony Reed brought his bulk squarely into Jojo’s personal space and stood looking at her they were pretty much the same height, but the man clearly had the breadth of shoulders and body that could be mistaken as intimidating.

“You want something?” Jojo asked with a confident tone. No man had ever intimidated her and she wasn’t going to start with this sack of muscle without a brain.

“Yeah! You.” Reed smirked, his voice full of pent up anger. He’d wanted a session with this bitch from the time she’d made a fool of him in the bar.

“Well, well sorry can’t oblige.” Jojo replied sarcastically and turned away to pick up her beverage from the machine.

“No one turns their back on Tony Reed you hear?” The man shouted and put out his hand and wrenched her back round to face him.

Jojo was surprised at his action, “What the fuck is wrong with you asshole?”

Tony Reed gave her a nasty look and put both hands on her shoulder and slammed her against the machine Jojo felt the shock wave of metal to her body on impact. “Jesus what was going on?”

“My boss say’s hello bitch.” He again pushed her against the machine and this time Jojo felt her teeth rattle.

Recovering slightly she finally gasped out a reply. “Who the hell is your boss?”

Tony Reed sneered and pushed his face virtually nose to nose with his prey.

“Oh, I’m going to tell you that bitch, but first I want you to feel his message,” with that he placed a fist in her face.

After the stars subsided, Jojo could feel moisture trickling from her nose. ‘Shit her nose might be broken.’

“He wanted me to tell you that leaving town within the next hour might be beneficial to your health.” Reed slurred blurrilly and watched the amazement pass briefly over her blue eyes.

“He also said that you take with you only what you came with. No extra baggage, comprehend?” Reed spoke in a vicious tone and once again brought his fist up and smashed it in her face.

Reeling from the second impact her eyes smarted and she felt her left eye take the main impact. ‘No baggage. So this was about Fleur. There would be only one man interested in that!’

“Tell Andrews to go fuck himself, because it’s still a free country and it’s not my choice to make.” Jojo spoke in a voice that held no hesitation; this idiot wasn’t going to get the better of her, no way in hell.

Tony Reed looked at her in surprise. He hadn’t expected her to catch on who his boss was so easily, but now she had he thought that he could have some fun and positioned himself to kick her in the stomach.

Seeing the pose Jojo reacted automatically and lifted her own leg and placed it as hard as she could between the man’s legs.

His howl of pain made her grin wickedly through her own pain. She had hit the target.
Staggering back Reed shouted abuse at her. “You bitch! I’m going to get you for that.” He headed back unsteadily in her direction.

Jojo smiled devilishly and moving slightly forward used one of her many talents, that of kick boxing to take the stupid brute down.

Reed didn’t know what hit him and he was on the floor writhing in agony and looking up at steel blue eyes that held no mercy in them. “You know if I wasn’t a lady, I would kick the shit out of you until you begged for mercy. As it is, I’m a lady and if I hear or see you, or any of Andrews goons anywhere near Ms. Danvers, or me… well suddenly, I forget the lady ever existed. You understand me?”

Tony Reed had never met anyone who had taken him down so easily and at this moment she looked like the very devil himself all dark and malevolent standing over their victim. “Yeah. Yeah, I understand you.”

“Good, now get the fuck out of here. I want to do my laundry in peace.” Jojo said picked up her iced tea and sat in the chair and looked at the two machines that had her clothes innocently turning in the drum as if nothing had happened in the room.

Reed gingerly picked himself up off the floor and sidled out of the building like a mad dog going home to lick his wounds.

Jojo as soon as he left the building put a hand to her nose and saw the deep red blood that covered her fingers. Then she tentatively touched her left eye and could feel the swelling on the eyelid. ‘I guess I look a sorry sight.’

Moving out of the seat she could feel areas protesting and knew she would probably have bruises on her back after being forced against the machine. It looked like she was going to be leaving town earlier than expected. Now, how to explain this to Fleur? She hoped that the woman didn’t panic and change her mind, for that would only favor Andrews and no way was that bastard going to win, not as long as her name was Joanna Xianthos Lackerly!

Chapter Ten:
Scene: Resolving the issues.

Fleur had hoped to see Joanna, but so far the woman hadn’t turned up and something told her that there was a problem! But what kind of problem and why always a mystery with her new friend. Joanna had shown she was capable of handling herself and who wouldn’t want to cause her any trouble anyway?

Having collected all her personal possessions and taken them to Daisy for safe keeping, all she had left were two battered suitcases packed with her clothes, toiletries and two of her current journals she kept of her writing. The others now safe with Daisy, the older woman had shed tears of unhappiness that Fleur was leaving so suddenly. However, she was also happy in her heart that the child had made the right decision, for her marriage to George Andrews could never have been called that. Walking out into the afternoon sun that was beating down on her beloved yard full of flowers she walked among them for the last time she surmised.

Her attention so caught up in the blooms she didn’t hear the person come up silently behind her until a hand settled on her shoulder and she turned in startlement and fear.

“Joanna! Joanna you scared the life out of me!” Fleur shouted at her friend gasping for breath at the unexpected visitor, although she had hoped Joanna would seek her out.

“Sorry I frightened you but….” Jojo never finished the sentence as she was led by a concerned Fleur Danvers to sit on the chair in the yard.

“My God! Joanna, what happened to you? You look like you’ve had a collision with something?” Fleur asked her tone full of tender concern.

“Well I guess you could call it that! Fleur I need to stop the nose bleed and I think an icepack on the left eye would help. You going to help me out here?” Jojo asked sheepishly and stuffed what was once a white handkerchief under her nose again to stem the flow.

“I’ll go get the icepack. Have you broken the nose do you think? Shall I call the doctor?” Fleur asked anxiously and gently pulled back from the taller woman and as she did so pushed away the loose bangs that fell over Joanna‘s face tenderly.

Joanna turned her steel blue eyes to the small blonde and smiled at her, “Need to get a hair cut don’t I?”

Fleur smiled back and shook her head. “No. No please, you have beautiful hair. Maybe if you just tied it back that would help.”

Joanna grinned at Fleur, “Ok, for you anything. So the icepack….”

“Sorry be back in a minute. Do you want the doctor to come take a look?” Fleur threw back over her shoulder as she went towards her office.

“No, I think it’s gonna be fine just need to stop it from bleeding.” Jojo answered and pulled the now blood soaked handkerchief away for scrutiny.

Fleur returned within minutes with an icepack for the eye and a cold compress and placed them on Joanna’s injuries.

“Thanks.” Joanna said with her head tilted backwards.

“You’re welcome.” Fleur dragged the chair that was the other side of the table a little closer to Joanna and sat there silently for several minutes neither woman speaking.

“What are you thinking?” Jojo finally broke the silence with the question.

Fleur was surprised at the question, but smiled at the possibilities of the answer as she watched the beautiful woman at her side.

“Oh……this and that, but mainly about you.” Fleur replied and held her breath as she waited for Joanna to respond.

“Me? What’s to think about concerning me?” Jojo spluttered out and the cold compress fell down her face as she moved suddenly.

Fleur quickly captured the compress before it fell on the floor and firmly tilted back her friend’s head and replaced it.

“Yes, you! I was wondering why you want me to come with you?” Fleur answered quietly.

Joanna was so silent and unmoving that Fleur wondered if she had heard the question, then Joanna replied.

“I didn’t want you to think that was the only option left open to you marrying that bastard!” Joanna spit out the final word.

Fleur reeled at the vehemence of the last word.

“We really need to work on your vocabulary when we travel together Joanna.” Fleur said primly.

Joanna couldn’t help but chuckle at the comment. ‘You and whose army?’ she thought to herself.

“Thank you for looking out for me Joanna Lackerly.” Fleur said sincerely.

“Well, I am your protector. I know an improbable one, but…hey it works.” Joanna said her voice slightly nasally with the bleeding nose.

“Yes, it does work. And when we travel, what exactly will I do? I’m not exactly full of as  ‘many skills’ as you posses, now am I?” Fleur said her confidence wavering slightly.

Joanna heard the hesitation and the insecurity behind the questions.

“Fleur you can do whatever you want, when you want, if you want. I will be there to make sure no one takes advantage of your good nature that’s all. The rest as they say, is up to you.”

“Who looks out for you?” Fleur asked tentatively and smiled as she felt the woman next to her shift uncomfortably in her chair.

“Me? Me well I guess…I guess I…no one has ever asked that before?”  Jojo admitted her confidence shaken momentarily at the innocent question. No one had been bothered about her for years. She had fended for herself. That was just the way of it.

“Would you mind if I did?” Fleur asked in a soft tone.

“If you did what?” Jojo said disconcerted with the conversation.

“Look out for you on our journeys?” Fleur stated once more, holding her breath once again in anticipation of an answer.

“Our journeys? Yeah sure Fleur, anything you say.” Jojo chuckled as she conjured up an image of the small blonde defending a much taller friend in a dispute it was cute… real cute.

“Thank you. So do you think the nose as stopped bleeding?”

Gingerly moving in the chair, she released the cold compress from her nose and the blood stained handkerchief, and waited for a few moments. Nothing… that was good, as it looked like the bleeding had stopped.

“Yeah. I think it has. Thanks Fleur. Whatever would I have done without you?”

“You have many skills, I’m sure you would have managed.” Fleur retorted.

“No, no I think your caring skills cured all that ails me.” Jojo dropped her voice a notch and turned her steel blue gaze to the green orbs only inches from her.

Fleur could feel the heat on her cheeks at the remark. ‘What did you say to a comment like that?’

“You flatter me.”

“Flatter you Fleur? No I was speaking the truth.” Jojo didn’t understand what was happening with the two of them, but it didn’t matter. They were going to be travelling together for a while and they would find out what the connection was between them. After all, according to her father, each soul matched another and if you were lucky in life you connected at some time and were ever the richer for it.

“What is your favorite flower Joanna?” Fleur asked to get the conversation from the previous heavy overtones.

“My favorite flower?” Jojo was astonished at the question, from out of the blue.

“Yes. Your favorite flower? Even you must have a favorite surely?” Fleur requested again, smiling at the chagrined look she received.

Joanna starred at the blonde and smiled. “Yes, I do. It’s a daisy.”

“A daisy? A simple understated flower. It is beautiful in a very discreet way.” Fleur said indistinctly.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I like it anyway. What about yourself, which flower is your favorite?” Jojo asked, chuckling at the blonde’s loss for words. She had a very good idea what flower it would be.

“Mine? Well I love lots of them as you can see but if I had to chose…the carnation, yes the carnation.” Fleur said softly and turned towards her friend.

“Nice choice, always good to know that kind of information.” Jojo said absently and let her gaze travel over the numerous flowers in the yard.

Fleur continued to glance her friend’s direction and she nodded her head at the last comment. ‘Yes, yes it certainly was good to have that information about someone.’

“How about coffee?” Fleur volunteered and was rewarded with a grateful smile from the woman at her side, who was now looking a little better, but only just.

Getting up from her seat she re-entered the building in search of coffee.

Scene: Implications

George Andrews paced his office floor and saw the tread of his shoes on the smooth beige carpet and scowled at the marks that his anxious pacing had caused. ‘Where was Reed? He should be back by now.’ The words spun in his mind and not for the first time in the last ten minutes.

A soft knocking on the door brought his attention from the marks on the floor to the paneled wooden door and he barked out, “COME IN.’

Ted Wassel tentatively poked his head around the door and saw the anger on the man's face. He had known George Andrews for years, far too many years not to know the expression on his face.

“What is it Ted?” Andrews bit out savagely.

“Tony Reed is here he wants to know if you can see him? See him immediately that is?” Ted asked and saw the man before him change tactics.

“Show him in Ted, now! Oh, and Ted, I don’t want to be disturbed until Reed has gone. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand that Mr. Andrews. I’ll show him in immediately.” Ted closed the door and within less than a minute Tony Reed was being ushered in to the office and the door closed on the two men in the room as Ted went back to his counter.

“Where the hell have you been Reed?” Andrews spit out at the man and saw the large bulk of muscle before him shift uncomfortably around at the words.

“Well it was like this….” He was prevented from saying more as Andrews interrupted.

“All I want to know is have you convinced the bitch to leave town now and without my fiancée?” Andrews walked across to within a foot of the much taller man although they both had the same rotund stature.

“Boss… it was like this, she wasn’t easy to convince.” Reed replied in a defensive tone of voice.
Andrews eyed him with suspicion. “What does that mean exactly?” He uttered, his tone menacing.

“I made your point known as you instructed. I thought she was on the rails, when suddenly she jumped me and did some fancy footwork with her legs and then I was the one of the floor, kind of embarrassing.” Reed admitted ruefully and stroked his stubby chin.

“Hell man, you let a woman! A woman, get the better of you? What kind of man are you that let’s that happen?” Andrews was scathing and the look he gave Reed implied as nothing else could, that the man was a complete waste of time.

“She might be a woman boss, but she sure knows how to defend herself. Her feet should be called lethal weapons. Not sure I’ll father a child in the next year or so.” Reed reluctantly admitted and saw the smaller man raise an eyebrow, but said nothing.

“What condition is she in if you worked her over first?” The banker demanded to know.

Tony Reed smiled as he recalled all the blood pouring from the bitch’s face. “Well she might have a broken nose.  I know she’s going to have at least one black eye. Won’t be a pretty picture for a week or two that’s certain… not a nice outlook for her audience.”

“Does she know I’m behind it?” Andrews asked his mind now full of other solutions to the irritating problem of the whore drifter.

“Yes, she figured it out. Must have been something I said.” Reed admitted and grinned he knew that had been the aim so he’d succeeded at one of the tasks at least.

“Mmm… in the circumstances that’s not always good if she reports the assault.” Andrews moved away from the man and went towards desk and picked up the phone.

Dialing a number he waited for it to be answered. “You can go. I’ll let you know what I want you to do next.” He motioned for the man to depart. As Reed turned to do so Andrews spoke again.

“Keep quiet about this little episode. Wouldn’t be good for your reputation if it got out that you could be walked all over by a woman, now would it?” Andrews pointed out nastily.

Reed nodded his head in shame and left the room as the line at the other end answered.

“Sheriff Smith, what can I do for you?” The male voice said distinctly.

“Ah, Sheriff it’s George Andrews at the bank. I have a situation I need you to handle for me, if you wouldn’t mind?” Andrews spoke to the officer of the law knowing that Smith was one of the most gullible people in town.

“What’s that George?” Sheriff Smith asked having his interest sparked at the words.

“It’s like this Sheriff…” Andrews continued the conversation a satisfied smirk on his face.


Jojo was laughing at something Jerry the young bar tender was saying as she nursed a beer waiting for John-Henry to appear. He’d gone to take a call from a friend and would be back soon.

Jojo wanted to explain her situation to John-Henry herself and waited patiently for the man to return. She’d wanted Fleur to come with her, but the blonde had said she was closing the motel and would visit her friend Daisy. She would stay there until Joanna came back for her.

Drumming her fingers on the sparkling bar counter, she smiled as she recalled the concern from her new friend over her injuries. Looked like they would get on fine when they traveled. It had been a pleasant shock when Fleur had said she wanted to look out for Jojo. At least it had made them both laugh at the absurdity of the situation, pretty much as improbable as she was a protector. Smiling at the clean surface she failed to notice John-Henry arrive back in the room.

“Penny for them?” John-Henry asked quietly and was amazed that this woman had so many expressions as yet untapped.

Jojo looked up from her quiet contemplation and grinned happily at him. “Oh, I was just thinking about a friend.”

“Then it must be a very special friend with the expression you had when I walked back in here?” John-Henry smiled back at the woman. When you got to know her she was a very likeable character.

Jojo considered the words and the smile grew on her face again. “Yes. Yes, I actually think it is a very special friendship.”

“Anyone I know?” the man asked making an educated guess as to the party in question.

“Now that would be telling and I’m not… not yet anyway.” Jojo chuckled and sipped on her beer.

“Well tell you what I’ll trade your information for mine. How is that?”

“How do you know I want your information?” Jojo prevaricated.

“Tell you what else, I’ll go first.” The older man pulled a beer out for himself and came round to her side of the bar and sat next to her.

“Sounds good to me.” Jojo replied and waited for him to start.

“I just received a call from a friend of mine in Nashville.” John-Henry started to explain.

“So? Nashville is a thousand miles away. What’s that to do with me?” Jojo picked up her beer and started to rub a fingernail over the label, the moisture from the refrigerator making it very pliable to the touch.

“If you let me finish Jojo, perhaps you will get to know how it affects you.” The bar owner smirked and saw her nod her head accepting his gentle rebuke.

“When you came here I was impressed by your singing talents obviously, or I wouldn’t have asked you to entertain the customers. But what I didn’t tell you is that after that first week I started to record some of your sessions. You see my friend is a record producer in Nashville, a small label called ‘Trigon Records’. He works with raw talented singers and songwriters.” The man saw a puzzled expression cross the beautiful face, although the swollen eye and shining nose didn’t do much for her, he’d ask about that later. “I took the liberty of sending him a tape of yours and he just called back.”

Jojo was watching him with a mildly interested expression on her face, but inside her stomach was churning. Not for the first time today, but for a totally different reason.
“And?” she asked with feigned nonchalance.

John-Henry looked at the woman. She didn’t fool him, she was excited, but he suspected that she’d had that many disappoints in her life, and it became second nature to doubt that things could swing her way for the better.

“And,” he mocked her and caught her smile at him. “He wants you to get yourself there as soon as you can, because he wants to hear you live. If he likes what he sees well…I guess that’s up to you and him.”

Jojo was astonished; this was like a dream come true. She’d had the odd skirmish with record companies back in New York with the original band, but it had never taken off. This sounded to good to be true; here in this hick town she had not only found a friend she felt she could rely on, but the chance at a dream. How had it happened?

“John-Henry why?” Jojo finally whispered and watched as the older man shook his head at her.

“Why not?” he replied.

“That’s not an answer and you know it?” Jojo laughed at his evasive comment.

“True, but then again, why should there always be an answer to every question? Something’s you just have to take on faith.” John-Henry answered and saw her give him a quizzical glance.

“I guess what I’m going to say next won’t come as a shock then. I need to leave John-Henry, I was going to stay until the end of the week but… circumstances have forced my hand and I need to get out of town either later today or early in the morning.” Jojo explained quietly knowing that the man beside her was very understanding.

“Does it have anything to do with the marks on your face this haste to leave town?” The man asked softly and lifted up her chin and looked closely at the half-shut left eyelid.

“Could be, but I’m taking a friend with me when I leave.” Jojo spoke gently as she mentioned a friend.

“Wouldn’t be the newly engaged Ms. Fleur Danvers would it?” John-Henry asked his eyes tracking to the corner table where only the night before Fleur Danvers had become engaged to George Andrews.

“Yes. That would be the friend, but it’s the newly broken engaged Fleur Danvers that will be accompanying me.” Jojo grinned at the older man who smiled at her and winked his eye in acknowledgement of the sentiment of the broken engagement.

“I guess you must be more of an attraction.” John-Henry playfully implied.

Jojo blushed slightly at the inference but managed to control it and answer clearly. “No, hardly think so, but I suspect she enjoys the company more.”

Both of them laughed and drank from their respective beers in a reflective mood.

“So, who do I see in Nashville?” Jojo asked to break the companionable silence.

“Forgot to tell you that didn’t I? Jack Wicklow, he’s one of the finest people I know. Yeah, yeah even if he’s in the record industry.” John-Henry laughingly admitted as he saw the skeptical expression cross the woman’s face.

“Guess I’ll find out, won’t I? When’s the next bus out of here heading that way, tonight? Tomorrow?” Jojo took anther long sip of the warming beer as she questioned the man.

“Tomorrow morning, early morning that is… five a.m. Do you think you can manage that?” the man chuckled.

“Yeah, sure. Especially, if I am required to only perform one session here tonight. Assuming you want me that is?” Jojo gave him a glance that said she knew his answer.

“Lady I want a last session from you or the customers are going to be devastated.” He said and lightly tapped her on the shoulder and glanced towards the entrance of the bar as Sheriff Smith walked in.

Both of them waited and Jojo had seen the expression on the Sheriff’s face numerous times in other towns when she was about to be asked to leave.

‘Probably just as well I’m going,’ she thought as the officer of the law in town came closer to them.

Scene: It was never to be!

Fleur looked out of the window of the room that faced the small neat drive leading up to Daisy Kendall's small single story home.

Had anyone told her twenty-four hours ago that she would be leaving her home, her motel and contemplating the drifting life with a virtual stranger, she would have laughed in their faces! But facts speak for themselves, so, here she stood, waiting for Joanna Lackerly to escort her back to her… or should she concede… the bank’s motel for her last night in what she considered to be her home and the town that had been founded by her ancestors.

The nerves she felt at the prospect were of excitement at the prospect, when hours earlier, she had felt totally bereft of hope in the future. It might not be a life she had ever contemplated, but it was far better than existing in a marriage of convenience and being miserable.

Joanna had said she wouldn’t be more than half hour, but already the woman had been gone over an hour and after what she termed a disagreement with something and the injuries she had sustained, Fleur was skeptical that same something might come looking for her again.

As she watched for the tall figure to appear, she was dismayed to see the portly figure of George Andrews her ex-fiancé striding, if you could call it that, rolling might be the better adjective in the circumstances, up the drive towards the house.

‘Damn, the sooner I’m out of this town the better.’ Fleur mentally shouted and went out of the room towards the kitchen and the older woman who had shown her nothing but love and understanding from her childhood through to now. Hadn’t it been Daisy who had insisted she listen to her heart? She had, now this was the outcome.

“Daisy, George Andrews is about to make his presence known.” Fleur said quietly to the older woman, not wanting to startle her as she placed a roast in the oven and her back was averted to the newcomer in the room.

Daisy stood up to her five-foot stature and smiled in compassion at the blonde woman, noticing the lines of worry etched on her face.

“Fleur don’t worry. I’ll get rid of the silly man. He surely can’t take no for an answer can he?” she chuckled and moved towards the small hall and the rapping on the door.

Fleur waited behind the kitchen door for Daisy to get rid of the intruder. There was no doubt about it that is exactly how she viewed George Andrews now an intruder!

Opening the door, Daisy looked at the man who had a look of determination on his face. “What can I do for you George Andrews?”

“It’s Mr. Andrews to you and I want to see Fleur. Don’t tell me she’s not here, because I know she is and I have news that she might be interested in.” Andrews said dismissing the older woman with a look of annoyance.

“I can’t believe that there is anything you have to say to Miss Danvers, that she would possibly be interested in.” Daisy said quietly, but with a hit of censure in her voice for his condescending attitude.

“Well at least you didn’t bother to deny she was here.” Andrews bit out annoyed at this delay to him seeing his Fiancée.

Daisy laughed at the remark. “George Andrews, why would I bother? You have spies everywhere. If you want to know anyone’s whereabouts, you will know. You have known Miss Danvers whereabouts for years. It was just never discussed. There are names for people like you and I’m sorely surprised her daddy didn’t use them on you.”

George Andrews had the grace to color at the comment, but shrugged his shoulders. “Tell Fleur I want to talk about her friend. It will be in both their interests.”

“I will do nothing of the kind. Why should she believe you, or anything you might have to say?” Daisy spoke briskly back at him. This small despot wasn’t going to intimidate her, or the child inside her house either, for that matter.

“If Fleur doesn’t come and talk to me, her friend might end up in the local jail. I’m sure she wouldn’t want that if she could prevent it. What do you think about that?” Andrews questioned with a sneer.

Fleur had been listening intently to the conversation and was convinced that it was a ploy of George’s to get her to talk to him. But…but if it meant there was any danger of Joanna being jailed and she could prevent it well…there wasn’t an issue. She did after all say she would protect Joanna didn’t she?

“I’m here George, you had better come inside.” Fleur moved around the door of the kitchen into the small hall and gave Daisy a weak grateful smile for her help.

“You sure Fleur? I don’t mind telling this sorry excuse for a man to get out of here!” Daisy retorted and watched stains of anger appear on Andrews’s face, but he kept silent for now.

‘The old hag wouldn’t get away with that remark, but I’ll bide my time for now. There was always other solutions to problems.’ Andrews thought as he waited to be allowed over the threshold.

Finally accepting defeat on the subject, Daisy moved aside and watched him follow Fleur to the small sitting room and gave a disappointed shake of her head as she saw the door close behind them.

Fleur walked over to the window and waited for George Andrews to say his piece. The sooner he did, the sooner he would be out of her sight and she never wanted to see him again the rest of her life.

“My dear, surely I’m not that abhorrent to you. After all, it was less than a day since you agreed to marry me and we shared our first kiss to seal the promise.” George Andrews reminded her and Fleur flinched at the memory.

“Say what you have to say George and then please leave.  I have things to do before I leave town.” Fleur spoke quietly not rising to the bait.

Andrews was seething at her disregard for him, but she would pay… he would make sure of that once the whore drifter was out of town.

“I wanted to clarify the situation between us Fleur. I know you have a nervous disposition. I’m sure now you have realized that your rather hasty words this morning should be retracted?” he stated with a confidence that made Fleur turn to him in surprise at his arrogance.

“You said that Ms. Lackerly may be in trouble and I could help. That’s the only clarification that I need MR. Andrews.” Fleur replied her own simmering anger reaching a level that was ready to boil over. She hadn’t been happy about the reference to him knowing her whereabouts in town for years, for that was to her, a total invasion of her privacy.

George heard her words and the veiled anger behind them; at least he was getting a reaction from her. “Ms. Lackerly was in an altercation with an employee of mine, who has agreed at the moment not to press charges for assault.”

Fleur raised her eyebrows at the remark. ‘So that was how Joanna had received her injuries. One of Andrews Goons had been dispatched to make their mark on the woman.’

“Who exactly would that be?” Fleur asked quietly threading her fingers together in front of her to stop them moving around in agitation.

“Tony Reed.”

Fleur virtually choked on the laugh that bubbled up at that. Tony Reed was supposed to be an excellent caretaker of the body and who would believe that Joanna would attack him! “That’s preposterous! Who in this town would believe that?”

George Andrews looked down at the tip of his highly polished shoes, smiled and then looked her directly in the eyes. “Sheriff Smith for one. He’s seeing your ‘friend’ as we speak. I can, of course stop any of this escalating, if you would work with me on the problem?”

Fleur couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This was ridiculous, Tony Reed and Joanna; obviously they had an altercation at the bar involving her, but never Joanna would never assault the man. Or would she? What did she really know about her new friend, not a great deal true, but…but no she knew that Joanna wouldn’t have picked the fight. She just knew it in her heart.

“What exactly do you want from me?” her voice indistinct.

“I want you to tell your friend that you’re staying in town and that she leaves without you, the earlier the better.” George smiled sweetly at her and she turned back to face the window and the afternoon sunlight that was now gradually disappearing round the house.

“That’s all?” Fleur this time asked in a stronger voice.

“Well, my dear I want you to reconsider your earlier words, but we can work on that when your friend has left town,” the man stated in a reassuring voice.

Fleur heard the tone but didn’t believe it for one minute. Still there was a question of Joanna being locked up in the local jail. It looked like enough of a case could be fabricated to do that. Sheriff Smith was a nice man, but he could be fooled, just like the rest of the people in town, and Joanna would not have a chance.

“I need to speak to Ms. Lackerly and tell her myself.” Fleur answered in a desolate voice.

“Oh, no! I don’t think so Fleur. That…that woman might convince you otherwise.” George blustered and was astounded when Fleur turned angry green eyes to him and silenced his words.

“If you want me to co-operate George, I suggest you let me see Joanna and I mean alone!” Fleur spoke with quiet authority and her face told Andrews she wasn’t going to give in to any external influence on this point.

“As you wish my dear.” Andrews conceded and turned towards the door to let himself out. He wasn’t going to be in the room, but he could arrange for someone to watch both women’s every move.

Fleur didn’t say any more to the man. What was there to say? She heard the door click shut behind him and the low mumble of voices as Daisy showed him out of the house probably. Not moving away from the window, she watched the banker walk from the drive to his waiting car and the drive no doubt all of  three hundred yards to the bank!

Her mind so preoccupied, she failed to hear the door open and Daisy pop her head in to see if she was still in one piece. About to move to the younger woman’s side, she heard the timer go off in the kitchen, as one of her recipes was ready. Later she would find out what was happening. Now to get some food prepared for her two guests… for the stranger was due anytime, she was sure.


“No! No damn you Fleur Danvers! What has made you change your mind about coming with me?” Jojo couldn’t believe her ears, they had just enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal rather than go out to dinner and, as Jojo was about to impart her good news, the blonde was telling her she couldn’t go. She had changed her mind.

“Joanna it is my prerogative to change my mind surely?” Fleur countered and saw the hurt look she received from those steel blue eyes.

“Give me credit for some intelligence Fleur. Two hours ago we were practically out of this town and now all of a sudden you want to stay? Give me one good fucking reason?” Jojo was angry, not so much with her friend, but with the reaction she was feeling to the rejection.

Daisy had left the two of them alone when she’d heard Fleur explain in her soft tones that she wasn’t going to go with Joanna when she left.

“Was it a prerogative or cohesion that made you change your mind Fleur? That is what I want to know? Who has been here? Andrews? Reed? Or that stupid Sheriff you call law in this town.” Jojo wasn’t going to mention either Reed or the Sheriff, but her emotions got the better of her and she spewed it out.

Fleur turned startled green eyes to blue, ‘So! It had been true. Joanna was in trouble and now she was the only one who could help her friend. The only one, she was sure of it. Even if it did mean her own unhappiness.’

“Why do you mention Reed and what’s this about the Sheriff?” Fleur asked innocently, her heart hammering knowing this could be the end of her dreams.

Jojo shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing, nothing that concerns you Fleur. A misunderstanding, that’s all.”

“A misunderstanding you say? So tell me. Perhaps I can help clear up the ‘misunderstanding’?” Fleur queried and watched as blue eyes shifted away from her, not wanting the blonde to see her lie.

“What does it matter?  I’m out of here in the morning and you’re coming with me. That’s the only thing there is a misunderstanding about at the moment.” Jojo replied decisively.

“If you don’t trust me enough to tell me what the problem is with our local law enforcement officer, how do I know that going with you won’t cause me trouble?” Fleur pointed out practically, hating herself as she did so.

Jojo glanced back at her friend and was hurt at the accusation that she might be in trouble and that it would affect the younger woman. “I do trust you Fleur. However, on this one, I want you to let it go and I’ll explain when we are out of this fu… this town.”

Fleur felt the sadness creep over her as she knew the futility of the conversation they were having. “You need to go to the bar for your last night.  John-Henry would be upset if you’re late.”

Jojo heard the finality in the words. Fleur didn’t trust her. Why should she? What did she know of her? Except for once in her life, she was trying to be helpful and as was usual in her life… it was backfiring. ‘Fuck this town. To hell with you too Fleur. Stay in this crummy town and marry that asshole banker,’ words she wanted to say, but didn’t.

“Yeah I do! Can’t let down the only person in town who does still want me, now can I?” Jojo jeered sarcastically as she turned on her heal and left the smaller women with tears streaming down her face.

“I still want you Joanna, I still want you!” Fleur whispered into the gradually dimming light in the room.

Chapter Eleven
Scene: Last night in town

Jojo Lackerly was playing to the crowd with every ounce of energy she possessed and indeed she looked possess or according to anyone who had watched her perform in the bar that night.

The frenzied performance was the best that she had ever done and it showed John-Henry that his faith in her as a performer wasn’t misled. She was a wonderful entertainer and deserved to achieve credit for her talent. He hoped it would work out for her and Fleur Danvers, whatever that might be.

As she finished her final session in the bar she moved forward through the wolf whistles and calls for encore towards the bar counter and the man who had given her the chance to try out for one of her dreams.

“That was magnificent Jojo! What the hell was firing in you tonight? You better have some left for that live performance in Nashville and I guarantee you will be on all the billboards in a year.” John-Henry laughingly said as she sat down on the stool opposite him.

“Lots of pent up energy that I needed to release. Much better than going out and crashing heads with that goon of Andrews.” Jojo said her voice stilted.

John-Henry had listened intently to the Sheriff and his questions regarding a possible assault on the ‘bodyguard’ of the banker Andrews, although Jojo’s description was fitting.

Nodding his head in understanding, ‘I thought Ms. Danvers would have been here with you tonight?”

“No! Ms. Danvers is otherwise pre-occupied probably with the banker.” Jojo said caustically and watched the man raise his craggy eyebrows in surprise at the remark.

“I thought you said the engagement was broken?” he asked tentatively.

“Ah, well it appears that I might have been wrong on that count, so very wrong.” Jojo said her mind running over the fact that the woman wouldn’t be travelling with her in the morning.

“Does that mean you leave on your own in the morning?” John-Henry waited for his answer in interest.

“Yeah, sure does and I was thinking I might as well continue tonight and sit it out on the porch until the bus arrives in the morning, have any objection?” Jojo asked absently.

“You don’t want a decent nights rest and a shower before you travel?” the man asked in concern.

“I hardly think I’m going to be making any friends on the bus that will care about my personal habits do you?” Jojo gave him a wry look and then drank heavily from the beer had had placed automatically in front of her.

“Well let’s hope not, for you might have a slightly stale aroma about you that’s certain.” He smiled back and stroked his chin contemplating the information that had just been given to him.

Jojo looked at the crowd and drained her bottle placed it carefully on the bar and walked back to the podium and talked to the people who had been hoping she might do another song.

After explaining she was going to stay to the end and wanted to know any requests, she said she had one more song she wanted to sing and then it was up to them.

What made you change your mind?
I can’t believe it you said you’re leaving with me. Was it something I said? Something I did? Tell me please I need you so.
What made you change your mind?
You said you would come with me and let me protect you no matter what. I know I’m not the best that the world has to offer, but I would be there regardless the cost.
What made you change your mind?
When you accepted my offer you made my life come on fire. My heart, it was singing, my body was ringing with the happiness you were bringing.
What made you change your mind?
As I step out the door, I wait to hear you take your place at my side. As I leave this place my heart will ache if you’re not here with me.
What made you change your mind?
How many roads will I travel alone? What dreams will I shed now that you stay away from me? Whatever will it take for you to come home to me, for you are my home no matter the place? You are where my dreams come true and my thoughts are true.
What made you change your mind?

Jojo was exhausted by the time her session for the evening had been completed. She had been so absorbed in her performance that she failed to see Fleur Danvers watch her sing that final song of her own repertoire, before the blonde had quickly exited the building in tears.


Fleur was crying softly on the porch and hadn’t heard the soft footfalls of Daisy as she opened the screened door and walked out with coffee for them both.

It was heart wrenching for the older woman to see the child in pain. Whatever the trouble was, it wasn’t going to end like this. No! That wasn’t an option. Not for this gentle young woman who had done nothing in this life except love her father and want to help him through his woes. It had been a difficult time those last five years with Daniel Danvers once the drinking and gambling had taken control.

Now there had been a little light for the woman. She had seen something in the tall dark stranger that had brought a torch to light the flame of hope within Fleur. And by all that was holy she wasn’t going to see it extinguished by that arrogant son of a …… whatever Andrews was!

“Fleur darling, drink this. It will make you feel better, please.” Daisy passed over the coffee cup to the crying woman.

Fleur looked up at her with red-rimmed eyes and gave her a slight smile as she gratefully accepted the beverage. “I’m not sure it will make me feel better, but thanks Daisy.”

“Once you take a drink and tell me what’s going on, then perhaps with the coffee and the talk we can find a solution. What do you say?” Daisy grinned engagingly at her blonde friend.

Fleur began her story of the reason behind George Andrews visit and then Joanna’s lack of trust in her to tell her exactly what was going on and how much truth was in the statement that Andrews had made. Perhaps if Joanna had trusted her with the information, they might have worked something out. But no, the woman had denied her that privilege.

“So you decide that it’s in Miss Lackerly’s best interest for you to stay here and fend off Andrews is that it?” Daisy asked gently.

Fleur blew her nose on her tissue that was wet with her tears and weakly nodded her head. “Yes, but that would also keep her out of trouble with the sheriff too!”

Daisy chuckled at the words. “If Miss Lackerly had anything to worry about on that score, do you think she would still be singing in the bar? Sheriff Smith might be a little stupid at times, but he isn’t totally dumb. He would have her locked up for sure; he’s very black and white in those circumstances Fleur.” They have nothing substantial on the woman, or nothing that a judge would find credence in, Daisy was certain of it. But with the emotions running high in this town with certain parties, it could get out of hand easily and then perhaps Miss Lackerly might have a problem.

“Darling, the only thing that is going to be trouble for that tall stranger is when you travel with her and she has to keep YOU out of trouble.” Daisy laughed at the affronted look she received.

“I’m not going with her Daisy. I won’t see her hurt, and I never want to see her suffer in any way because of me.” Fleur responded with vigor.

“Don’t you think she’s going to suffer more if she doesn’t know the truth?” Daisy countered equally vigorously.

“What truth is that? She wouldn’t understand my reasons.” Fleur pointed out emotionally.

“Love! That’s the truth. I’ve never known anyone not understand the type of reason.”

“I can’t tell Joanna I love her Daisy!” Fleur said agitated, little realizing what she’d said, or the implication behind it for her and her friend.

“Why not? She obviously cares about you or she wouldn’t have asked you to go with her, now would she?” Daisy replied with a knowing smile on her face.

“Because…” Fleur was at a loss for words.

“Because you’re afraid? My child we are all afraid of reaching out for something that might be taken away, or never given back with equal measure. Darling it’s worth taking that step if there is a chance in a million that your love is returned.” Daisy resounded softly, her words clearly wanting the younger woman to understand her choices.

“I could lose her or even worse, she could end up in jail if I try to leave with her?” Fleur whispered her mind tossing the negative and positive issues around in her head.

“Fleur, answer one thing and only one thing, for that’s all that will matter in the end. Would you be happier going with her and taking your chances together than staying here knowing that you have no chances left? You know where that will lead?” Daisy stroked a blonde bang away from the woman’s eyes and saw the answer without words.

“I’ll leave you to ponder that thought my child. Don’t forget to lock the door whatever you decide.” Daisy slowly got up from her chair and walked towards the screen door when she was suddenly engulfed in a warm hug.

“I love you Daisy.” Fleur whispered tearfully into the older woman’s neck.

Daisy shifted slightly and hugged the young woman back and smiling, “Yes, I know you do Fleur and I love you too. So drink your coffee and stop crying, or this old woman will be joining you.”

Fleur smiled tenderly at the retreating back of the woman who had at least given her things to think about, even if she hadn’t made a decision. Walking back to the chair, she looked towards the town and heard the faint strains of music from the bar. Her mind now drifted to the problems at hand.

Scene: Departure!

Joanna Lackerly sat on the steps leading to the bar, her guitar by her side and her few personal possessions in the haversack at her feet in the dust. She gingerly placed her hand over her left eye and grimaced at the pain it caused, although that was nothing to the pain she felt at leaving this town without Fleur Danvers.

The sunrise was a beautiful sight to the onlooker; it’s gentle swirls of golden light heralding the dawn of a new day and the fresh possibilities that presented. Jojo never glanced at the glory it presented. She waited patiently for the bus that would pass through town and take her away towards her destination… Nashville… well part of the way at any rate.

She’d said her good-byes to John-Henry who had been sad to see her go but made her promise to call him if she needed any help. There was also the promise of free tickets if she made it to her first show. Jojo had laughed at his optimism. It had cheered her up and made her think of something other than her melancholy thoughts of Fleur Danvers.

Then Lucy Evans had surprised her at the end of the night by a short visit to say goodbye, also bringing with her some freshly made sandwiches and snacks for her journey. Even Jojo had to wipe the tear away at that gesture, no matter how happy she felt at leaving this town, there were some people she would miss that had been good to her.

So here she sat waiting for the bus to come and she would be leaving this nondescript town with a heavy heart.

Focusing her blue eyes on the horizon, she saw a dust cloud approaching the entrance of the main street, at this time of the day the town was deserted, nothing stirred.

Glancing at the motel for one last time, she wondered if Fleur had gone back there for the night or the rest of her life perhaps! Shaking the thought away, she pulled her tall frame up from the steps and dropped down onto the roadside away from the building to signal the approaching vehicle.

Picking up her bags and guitar case she looked around her and gave a wry smile, ‘Hell, a month ago she was cursing having that argument with Jed that had left her here. Now here she was wondering why it was causing her so much heartache to leave.’

Her mind then tracked back to the moving vehicle, she was so pre-occupied she failed to hear the footsteps that lightly came up behind her.

“Could you use company on the journey?” Fleur Danvers whispered and placed two battered suitcases down as she stood behind Joanna.

Joanna’s back stiffened at the sound of the voice she had never expected to ever hear again… it was like music to her starved heart.

“Who says I’m going on a journey?” Jojo answered back her voice full of the happy confidence that Fleur associated with the woman whose back was still turned away.

“Isn’t that why you’re waiting for the bus?” Fleur replied her smile creasing her previously worried face. Joanna was happy to see her she knew it.

“Yeah, yeah it is. Don’t know how long the journey will last though. Sure you’re up for it?” Jojo still hadn’t dared turn around she felt sure it was a trick of the early morning and she was talking to herself. Facing the oncoming bus that was about to stop any second to pick her up…no to pick them up she prayed!

“Yes I’m up for it. For however long it lasts Joanna. Even if it’s a lifetime.” Fleur disclosed softly and waited for a reaction to her leading comment.

Joanna turned around and gave her a wide infectious grin that had Fleur returning one with equal measure.

“Well I’m not sure getting to Nashville will take a lifetime… but let’s go shall we?”

Fleur laughed at the statement and picked up her bags as the driver opened up the back for them to stow their belongings inside.

“You know Fleur, you’re going to have to ditch the suitcases, and we travel light you know?” Jojo smirked at her distressed glance at her cases.

Taking pity on her friend. “That’s fine for now Fleur, we’ll work it out, never fear.”

As the two boarded the bus to start the journey to a new life, Tony Reed was fast asleep at his sentry post watching for Fleur Danvers to leave the motel. She had never moved inside the building all night. He had fallen asleep with boredom. No one had bothered to tell him that Fleur Danvers had been staying the night with Daisy Kendall, so he wasn’t likely to be disturbed for quite some time, enough time for the bus to be well out of the state.

“Joanna may I ask you a personal question?” Fleur wrinkled her nose as she did so.

Joanna having just seated herself at the blonde’s side she smiled, “Sure.”

“You don’t always travel without getting a shower do you? I kind of think that in the future you need to break that habit if you do.” Fleur tried to point out tactfully.

Joanna Jojo Lackerly laughed, eliciting a comment from the two other passengers on the bus wondered what had made the taller woman laugh so much? At least someone was happy to be up at this godforsaken time in the morning, it was a happy sight to see.

“Well you see, it was like this Fleur….” Joanna settled down next to her friend as the bus speedily left the town’s perimeter.


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