Written by: SwordnQuill (Susanne Beck)
Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation. Thats right, this is an uber story. Some may bear a resemblance to characters we know and love who are owned by PacRen and Universal Studios.
Violence and Naughty Language Disclaimer: Yup, both. And quite a lot of each, to be truthful. This takes place in a prison, and where there are criminals, theres gonna be violence and naughty words.
Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, theres that too. This piece deals, after a fashion, with the love and physical expression of that love, between two adult females. There are some graphic scenes located within this piece, but I have tried to make them as tasteful as possible so as to not avoid anyones sensibilities. Let me know if Ive succeeded.
Serialization Disclaimer: When I first started writing and posting, I made a promise to myself, and to anyone who read me, that I would never post a work that wasnt finished. I detest serialization, normally. But . . .this novel, which is one week from being finished, is becoming very long and Ive had readers write to me stating that they wont read novels because they just dont have time to sit down and read such gargantuan works. So, I compromised. This piece is finished (very nearly) and will go up at regular intervals so that the folks who like to read in small chunks can do that and the ones who like to read the whole thing can do that too.
Dedication: As always, Id like to thank the man who gives up some of his free time every day to read the stuff I send over to him. The best beta-reader on the planet, Mike. Id also like to thank my other betas: Candace (who read the entire novel in IM and showed her support every night), Rachel, and Alex. A special thank-you goes to Sulli, who made a very bad day a wonderful one with her gift of generosity. I would also like to thank Mary D for reading and housing this at her site. But mostly, Id like to thank the readers for reading my stuff and giving me such great feedback. Its what makes sitting in front of this balky computer and tickling the tans so much fun. Feedback, if anyone is so inclined, is always gratefully received and appreciated. I can be reached atSwordnQuil@aol.com.
The next morning, it was all I could do not to start humming at odd moments as I dressed, ate, and made my way down to the library to begin another day in the Bog. The memories of the evening before played in a continuous loop behind my eyes and Im sure I was probably glowing like some preternatural mist. Try as I might, I just couldnt manage to wipe the silly little grin off my lips, as the imp in me responded to the looks I was receiving with an internal You just wish you knew what Im smiling about, dont you. Im afraid I was quite insufferable that morning.
Corinne greeted me with a cat-ate-the-canary grin of her own that set alarm bells jangling. Determined to play it cool and not give her any ammunition, I walked over to my desk and sat down as if I didnt have a care in the world. It wasnt really an act, given the fact that if she had pressed a gun to my head and told me to name a worry, I wouldnt have been able to think of a one.
Her smile faltered just slightly, then grew wide again as the tipped a wink at me, conceding the round. She peered at me over the tops of her glasses as she relaxed back in her chair, stretching her corpulent frame just slightly. "So . . .I hear congratulations are in order." Her smile turned sly, daring.
Play dumb, Angel. Shes just fishing for information. Dont fall into her trap. "Thanks," I replied, smiling brightly, parrying her leer with feigned innocence. "It was fun."
"Mmmm. Ill just bet it was."
Oh, shes good. "It was," I agreed. "Very . . .exciting. Stimulating, even."
Her eyes widened infinitesimally before the smug expression slid back down over her complacent features. "I heard you were . . .quite good. With a very fluid stroke."
I narrowed my eyes. "Yes, well, Ive been doing it since I was a young girl."
"A young girl, eh?"
"Oh yes. I have lots of experience, you know. Dont let these innocent looks fool you, Corinne."
"Lots of experience, you say?"
"Indeed. Just ask around. There are plenty of women here whod be happy to prove my point."
We looked at one another for a long beat of silence before both breaking out in gales of laughter. I laughed so hard that tears ran down my face in buckets. It provided an excellent release of the sexual tension that had been building since Id woken up that morning. Not quite how I wanted to release the tension, mind you, but it would do. For starters.
When we both managed to calm down, Corinne dragged herself out of her chair and came over to me, bearing the sheaf of newspapers Id requested. Setting them down in front of me, she took the chair next to mine and lowered herself into it. "My apologies for teasing you, Angel. Though you certainly have learned to give as good as you get. Its just that you have this sort of glow about you this morning and I have the feeling its from more than just winning a softball game."
I patted her hand as I looked into her solemn eyes. "Corinne, I dont think its any surprise to you that Im in love with Ice." At her nod, I continued. "Well, yesterday I found out that she feels the same way about me. So, if you see a glow about me, lets just say its been well earned and leave it at that, ok?"
Her smile, this one almost one a proud parent might bestow a favored child, reappeared on her face and she nodded. "Fair enough, Angel. Fair enough." She gestured to the stack of newspapers lying before me. "So, what of these? I thought youd already given them a good going over. What more do you hope to find?"
"I dont know, exactly. But theres got to be something here. Something Im missing." A week earlier, Ice had given me permission to share the full story of Cavallo and his cohorts with Corinne and I did so without hesitation. I was bound and determined to see justice done against Morrison and Cavallo, and to see it served well before Ice had the chance to do anything damaging to herself and her soul. Corinne, with her wisdom and street-smarts, was a perfect compatriot in my quest.
I looked up at my friend. "Corinne, do you think Im doing the right thing? I know Ice wants to handle this herself and I know Im kinda prying here, but . . . ." I sighed. "I just dont want to see her get hurt."
Corinne looked back at me, compassion in her eyes, knowing I was talking about far more than mere physical injuries. "A little digging wont hurt matters any, Angel. But if you get to the point where actions needed, youd best speak with her first before doing anything. She doesnt take well to betrayals. Even if theyre supposedly in her own best interest." She finished the last with a pointed look and I read the message clearly.
Taking in a deep breath, I let it out slowly, my eyes scanning over the newsprint that Id already studied a dozen times over. Logic warred with my heart. My heart won. I eyed Corinne. "Looking cant hurt anything. I promise, if I find anything, Ill go to Ice with it, alright?"
My friend smiled. "Its not me you need to be promising that to, Angel."
Chagrinned, I nodded. "Yeah, I know. And I will. Take it to her, I mean. When Ive found something worth mentioning. Until then . . . ." Running a hand through my hair, I set out, once again, to try and read between the lines of the text, scanning every inch for a clue well hidden. "If I could only get a hold of the trial transcripts," I half-muttered, more to myself than anyone.
I didnt see the brief smile that crossed Corinnes lined face as she pushed herself away from the table and returned to her desk.
With a strangled moan, I collapsed down on top of Ice, snuggling into her strong, sweaty frame as I tried to regain control of my breathing. Withdrawing her hands from their pleasurable task, she enfolded me in an embrace and pulled the sheet up to cover my naked body from any prying eyes that should happen to be about.
Making love in Ices cell hadnt been my first choice, but when Id come up there to visit with my new lover, one thing quickly led to another and soon any cares of being spied upon were swept away in the rising tide of our passion. I lay smiling on my human mattress, listening to the music of Ices heart as it gradually slowed its frantic beating and feeling warm tingles that spread though my spent body in time to her tender stroking of my hair and upper back.
I had found a haven in this hell, or, more accurately, a Heaven. It was here, in the all-encompassing embrace of the woman I loved, surrounded by sure strength and the perfume of clean sweat and musky arousal. My very pores were open wide, drinking it in, fusing it to me in a primal mating of the senses. My eyes fluttered closed and I rested in a cocoon of love.
Sometime later, I woke up out of a wonderful dream and immediately flushed with embarrassment as the living reality of my situation filtered down through my sleep-fuzzed senses. Lifting my head slightly, I wiped a bit of drool from Ices warm chest. Her low laugh sounded as she tousled my hair affectionately. "God, I am so sorry," I mumbled, struggling to pull away from her in my mortification of falling asleep on her. Literally. "I must be crushing you."
Her arms gave no quarter as she pulled me back down on top of her. "Relax. You didnt do anything wrong, Angel."
"I fell asleep!"
"I . . .well . . . . I . . .um . . .Ive never done that before."
Her laugh sounded once again. "Then Ill take it as a compliment."
"Yeah, but it wasnt very fair to you."
Her hand slipped down and tilted my chin up to meet her gaze. "Angel, let me decide what is and isnt fair to me, alright?" She sealed her statement with a kiss that drove away embarrassment still lingering within me. Pulling away after a long, wonderful moment, she playfully tapped me on the end of my nose. "I love you, Angel. And if you wanna fall asleep on me, thats perfectly alright with me." Her grin turned rakish. "As long as you dont do it while were otherwise engaged."
I snorted. "Morgan Steele, if I live to be a hundred, I will never, I repeat never fall asleep on you while were otherwise engaged."
When the laugh I expected didnt materialize, I looked up into Ices stormy eyes, my heart clenching at the look of desolation I saw there. Easing myself up her body, I reached out to gently cup her cheek and turn her head to face me. "Ice? Whats wrong? Did I say something . . . ?"
Ice tightened her embrace around me. I could hear her throat working as she tried to put whatever emotions were running through her head into words. I caressed her cheek again, offering whatever support I had to give and praying to any god who would listen to give her the strength to open up to me.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, she turned her head completely toward me and pressed a kiss to my forehead. Then she pulled away slightly, looking down into my eyes, her own completely open and unguarded. "Its nothing really. Its just that . . . ." her throat worked again as she swallowed, "your talking about being old and gray makes me realize all over again how this, what we have, will only last for a short time."
"I dont understand, Ice. What do you mean?"
She smiled sadly. "Angel, theres gonna come a time in the near future when youre gonna be able to walk out of this dump. And dont think that I dont wish every day for that to happen. And when it does, youll be free and Ill be . . .here," she finished with a whisper.
As I looked at her, many ways to answer this came to mind. My spirited heart overruled the others and made me speak the words closest to it. "Then why dont you fight it?"
"You heard me, Ice. Youre in here for a murder you didnt commit. You know that. I know that. The warden knows that. For Gods sake, Josephina knew it and she died for it."
"I know all this, Angel. Im living it, remember?"
"Yes, Ice, I do remember. What I wanna know is why you wont fight it. And dont give me the because I belong here routine, either. I didnt buy it then and Im not gonna buy it now."
She stiffened, as if about to push me away, but I grabbed her hard and held on. "No, Ice. Youre not running away this time. I wont let you. I know youve killed, Ice. Ive got that down pat already. I know you feel guilty about what youve done. Thats patently obvious to anyone with half a brain. What I dont get, no matter how often I think about it, is how someone who is so strong and so courageous can just lie down and roll over without putting up any fight at all! You were framed, Ice! You were betrayed by someone you thought you could trust and cut off from people you considered your family! Certainly that has got to be worth something to you!"
Ices eyes, so warm and tender during out lovemaking, became cold and stony as an arctic beach. Her face was set in grim lines and I could practically feel the anger radiating from her tense body.
"I dont want to talk about this right now, Angel." Her voice held a clear note of warning.
I refused to be cowed, though I well knew exactly how much danger I was in. I could feel her heart pound strongly beneath my breast but I continued to keep hold of her. It was like trying to harness a lightening bolt, but I was nothing if not determined. "I know you dont want to talk about it, Ice. You never want to talk about it. But I have news for you. Its not going away. This self flagellation kick youre on is not going to take care of the problem. You need to do something. If not for yourself, then do it for Josephina."
Her eyes narrowed, blue flame licking out and burning through me. "I intend to do something, Angel." Her voice was a deathly purr.
"How? Through murder?"
Her smile was death itself. "Thats right. Its who I am. Remember?"
"Its not who you are, Ice. Its not. You can fight this through legal avenues. If Josephina knew, that means Salvatore did as well. And who knows who he told? And Morrison knows too! Theres a whole slew of people who know the truth, Ice. Demand your case be reopened!"
"Like you did?"
I stiffened against her. "What?"
"You heard me, Angel. Youre no more guilty of your crime than I am of mine. Yet you sit here while your own case gets moldy in some file drawer somewhere. Tell me, Angel, why are you so hot on me getting my case reopened when you left yours to die?"
Stunned, I could only look at her for a long span of moments. Logically, what she said in some ways made perfect sense. In my mind and heart, I knew I was no more guilty of murder than of jay-walking, yet I never once thought to appeal my case. And, if I were being totally honest with myself, it was because . . . . "Ice, my husband died because of me. I crushed his skull with a baseball bat."
"While he was raping you, Angel. Its not like he came home drunk one night and you clubbed him to keep him from waking up the neighbors. It was self defense! You dont belong in jail for that."
Releasing my grip on Ice, I slid from her body, lying between her and the cool concrete wall.
"Now whos running, Angel?"
"Im not running, Ice. Im right here. I just need to think."
"About what? The facts are plain to see. Were both in the same boat here."
"No were not. Not really. Im here because my husband is dead and I killed him. I pled self-defense, but a jury of my peers decided otherwise. You didnt kill that man, Ice. In fact, when you found out who he was, you refused to kill him. Theres a big difference between our situations and you know it."
"Is there? Were both here for a crime we didnt commit. Your husband is dead, yes. You killed him, yes. But you didnt commit a crime."
After a long moment of silence between us, I looked back up at her. "Ill try if you will."
"Angel . . . ."
"Ice . . . ."
"Angel, listen. Please. You have a chance. I dont. Look at this logically. You have the word of a prison warden whos managed to get a bunch of powerful people elected in this state. And against him, you have the word of a convicted murderer, a psychotic inmate, a dead woman, and a Mafia don. Theyll laugh the case right out of court. Cant you just accept my word that Ill handle this in my own way?"
"I want you to try to do it the right way, Ice. The legal way. Just sign a note to obtain your trial transcripts. Ill even write it for you if you want. It cant hurt anything for you to just look them over, can it?"
"Youre really passionate about this, arent you?" Her eyes held a slight hint of incredulity.
"Yes, I am. Will you do it?"
For a long time, I didnt think she was going to answer me. I contented myself with watching the fascinating interplay of emotions as they crossed through her almost colorless eyes. Finally, her white teeth flashed as she bit her lower lip. She sighed. "Fine. Ill do it. But if theyre released, which I doubt, I look at them first, deal?"
I grinned so broadly that I though my face would split in two from the force of it. "Deal."
"And you try and get yours too. Im not going through this alone."
After a moment, I nodded. "Alright. Though I dont think Ill find . . . ."
She silenced me with a kiss. When it ended, Id forgotten what I was going to say as my hormones played etch-a-sketch with my thoughts.
"Fight over?" she asked, a touch of amusement in her voice.
"Good. Cause I can think of a couple things Id rather be doing right now."
The rest of the evening melted away in a haze of absolute bliss.
"Youre sure you dont have them."
"Positive Maam. Ive checked and rechecked the files. Nothing with that name or docket number shows up here. As Ive told you before, Maam, you need to call the Hall of Records. We dont usually keep court transcripts here unless theres an active appeal."
"Ive called the Hall of Records. Ive written the Hall of Records. They keep sending me to you!"
"Im sorry for the inconvenience, Maam, but as I said, I really cant help you here. Perhaps you might think about putting in a call to the District Attorneys office?"
"Ill . . .think about it. Thanks for your help."
"Sorry I couldnt do more, Maam. Goodbye."
Stonewalled. Again. Frustrated beyond words, I slammed the phone back down on its hook so hard that the bell jangled back at me in outrage. Running my hand through my tangled hair, I spun away from the wall so quickly that I almost managed to knock Corinne, out in the prison square on a brief sojourn from her library, flat on her keister.
"Struck out again, huh?" she asked as she adroitly avoided our near-collision.
"Yeah," I replied, resisting the urge to rip my hair out of my skull just to relieve the pent up frustration. "The newest suggestion is to call the DAs office."
"That might be a possibility."
"Not one Im ready to explore yet, Corinne. Id rather keep that particular office out of the loop for the time being. No telling what would come up if they found out Ice has a sudden interest in her case, if you know what I mean."
"All too well, unfortunately." She slipped a hand through the crook of my arm, tugging slightly. "Come on back with me to the library. I think youve given our friends enough of the Angel blows her cool show for one day, dont you?"
I looked around for the first time, noting the interested gazes of my fellow prisoners, and just managed to keep the blush from coloring my cheeks. "Alright. Not much more I can do today anyway."
When we arrived in the library, I threw myself down into my chair as Corinne busied herself at the hotplate. It had been two of the most frustrating months of my life. It began simply enough. I had typed up a letter requesting access to the transcripts in Ices name and brought it up to her for her signature. To my surprise, she signed it with little fuss and even wished me luck, though with an expression that was a hair short of patronizing.
Ignoring the look, I happily went about my business, sending the letter away and waiting for a response. I received one, two weeks later. It appeared I had forgotten to put the docket number on the letter and the records could not be found using the case name. After several phone calls, I was able to track down the docket number and so sent another letter. That came back saying I was missing some other important piece of information. And so on and so on, world without end. Amen.
When I finally got a letter off that had all the required information in the required fields with the required names and the required numbers, I received a phone call from a very nice woman who kindly informed me that she had no record of either the case name or the docket number in her files. She then told me that perhaps it was better if I spoke to someone in the Hall of Justice and gave me the name and number of some clerk or other who might be able to help me find what I was looking for.
I would have done my mother proud with my utter politeness, disguising as it was the fits of apoplexy I was undergoing at the time. Back and forth I went, talking to one low-level clerk after another, all without success. Like the Dodo bird, Ices court transcript seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth.
When a mug of steaming tea was slid in front of my face, I broke out of my frustrated musings, smiling as I breathed in the bracing aroma. Lifting the mug to my lips, I took a grateful swallow, then almost spit it right back up again when the hard burn of a strong liquor hit my stomach. I turned a hard-eyed look at Corinne, who grinned at me, totally unrepentant.
"Dont tell me youre a teetotaler, Angel."
"No. Its not that, really. I just wasnt expecting it." And that was the truth, as far as that went. As for the other, liquor and I usually didnt cross paths. On the few occasions I was allowed it at my parents table, I hadnt liked the taste very much. Plus, you must remember that I lived with a man for whom liquor was a cruel mistress. Seeing its effect on Peter didnt make me want to run for the bottle any time soon.
"Yes, well I thought you could do with some unwinding." She saluted me with her own mug. "Cheers."
I returned the salute. "Thanks." Taking another, smaller, sip, I was pleased when the warmth of the tea and liquor settled in my stomach pleasantly, loosening some of the tension that had accumulated during a totally fruitless day.
"How goes your own hunt, Angel?" Corinne asked.
"That was the easy part," I responded, continuing to sip my tea. "I wont see the transcripts for at least another four months though."
"Yeah. Apparently theres a real backlog in the Hall of Records. Something about state cutbacks and the lack of transcriptionists. She offered to put a rush on it, but four months was the earliest she could offer me." I shrugged. "What choice did I have? I took it."
I looked up to find my friend looking speculatively at me. "What?" I asked.
"The fact that youre having trouble finding Ices records wouldnt have anything to do with this laissez faire attitude youve adopted toward your own, would it?"
Setting my mug down, I narrowed my eyes at her. "One has nothing to do with the other, Corinne. If you remember, I havent given a thought to my own case since I came here, and that was well before I met Ice."
Corinne must have found what she was searching for as we continued to lock gazes because she finally blinked and looked down, nodding slightly. I wont hesitate to say that I found more than a bit of pride in finally winning a stare-down with the woman. It may have taken almost two years to prove to her that I had some strength of will, but it finally happened, and for that, I congratulated myself with another swig of the potent tea. My limbs tingled pleasingly as my heart pumped the alcohol through my system. The tension started to dissolve away and I could fully understand, at least in part, why the bottle seemed a savior to so many.
The rest of the afternoon passed in pleasant conversation with Corinne and the other visitors to her library home. When I next looked at the clock, it was coming on dinnertime. Dragging myself out of my chair, I extended my good-byes and headed back toward the prison proper, hoping to catch Ice as she made her way back from her day at the auto shop.
I was just about to step into the brightly lit main square from the hallway when an arm wrapped itself around my waist and tugged, pulling me backwards into one of the utility closets that shared hallway space with the library. The liquor Id drunk dulled my reaction time slightly, but I was able to thrust an elbow back toward my captor, though I managed to hit nothing but the handle of a mop sitting in an old bucket in the corner.
Rubbing my smarting crazybone (and really, is there anything that hurts worse, save for stubbing your toe or getting a paper cut?), I tried to use the rest of my body to struggle against the arm which held me trapped. The grip loosened somewhat and I whirled, teeth bared, ready, willing and able to show my abductor exactly what an Amazon named Angel could do in close quarters.
The skills I wound up using were quite different than the ones Id intended.
Soft lips covered my own, their taste one with which I was intimately, wonderfully acquainted. Melting into the body of my captor-cum-lover, I returned the kiss with the fervor of new love too long apart. Our deepening breaths seemed to suck up all the air in the small room and all too soon we broke apart, though I continued to caress Ices body in random patterns, happy again to feel her against me.
She squirmed away, slightly. "Hey! No fair!"
I looked up from my happy task toward her upraised palms. They were black with grease and dirt from her work in the shop. Im afraid a quite evil grin mirrored my thoughts as I moved back in against her, pulling her zipper down just slightly and feasting on the flesh beneath.
"Angel . . . ."
The moaning, breathless quality of the admonition rendered her attempted warning moot. "Mmmm?" I mumbled around a mouthful of succulent flesh.
"Unless you wanna walk through the prison to the tune of snickering inmates cause you have two big black handprints on your ass, Id suggest you let me take a shower first."
Laughing, I pulled away only slightly, still remaining within striking distance. "Im only practicing my counter-attack maneuvers, Ice," I said with a voice innocent as a newborns. "Are they working?"
"Good. I think Ill add them to my repertoire. What do you think?"
"Youd better not."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"Because then youll have every woman in the prison wanting to fight you."
I laughed again. "And that would be a bad thing . . .how?"
Mirroring my laugh, she leaned down and playfully nipped my nose. "Because theyll have to get through me first, and I have a very strict three broken arms a month policy. You wouldnt want me to have to up my quota on your account, would you?" In the feeble light cast by the hallway, I could see her eyebrow arch as a grin played around her eyes.
Sighing in mock frustration, I pulled further away and obediently returned her zipper to its original position, primly patting her chest after I was done. "I suppose not."
"I was on my way up to say hello before I was so wonderfully detained." Straightening, I executed a half bow, crooking my arm gallantly. "Would you do me the honor of dining with me at Chez Dump tonight? Ive heard a rumor that the mystery meat might even be recognizable this evening."
"Sounds like a plan. Give me some time to grab a shower and Ill meet you outside the cafeteria, alright?"
"Will do." Standing on my toes, I kissed her quickly, then turned and left before that mischievous streak she always seemed to bring out wound up with me needing to change uniforms.
The mystery meat remained a mystery as I finished off the last bite, wincing slightly as it stuck to the inside of my throat, dry as dust. We were sitting at a corner table with Critter whod just come in, bearing a piece of paper and a big grin. "Whats the smile for, Critter?" I asked, taking a big slug of lukewarm milk to wash the rest of the meat down.
"My first parole hearings next week. Isnt that great?"
Standing up, I hugged my friend, then kissed her cheek. "Thats wonderful news! You nervous?"
She shrugged, then nodded. "Yeah, a little," she admitted.
Grinning, I patted her shoulder affectionately. "Youll do great. Dont worry."
Critter had served five years for an assault with a deadly weapon charge, coupled with breaking and entering. The weapon in question was a brick that shed used to break through the glass door of a local convenience store to grab some liquor. Shed made the mistake of retrieving the brick after shed made entrance into the darkened store, and the sight of her, weapon in hand, scared the elderly proprietor, whod just finished closing up, into a massive heart attack. Emergency surgery saved her from a manslaughter rap and the proprietor from a date with a harp and white robe.
From the stories Id heard, shed grown up a lot in prison, from a street-smart young punk with a taste for booze into the beautiful and wise young woman that sat grinning across from me.
The rest of what passed for dinner went pleasantly, with Critter and I engaging in spirited conversation and Ice listening and contributing as she desired. Corinnes killer tea was still spreading its warm tendrils through my veins and I suspect I was a bit more animated than usual.
Finally, I wiped my mouth with a cheap paper napkin and looked to Ice, who nodded slightly, then rose and bore our dishes off to be washed by the kitchen help. Critter and I stood up as well and she tipped a wink at me, which in turn caused me to flush furiously. Grinning, she clapped my shoulder, waved, and left the cafeteria, humming off key to herself.
Ice returned, cocking an eyebrow at my slowly retreating color.
"Its . . .um . . .nothing."
She let it go. "Where to now?"
"How about a walk? Whatever we just ate has transformed itself into a ball in my stomach."
"A walk it is. Shall we?"
I rested my head on the flat plane of Ices lower abdomen, savoring the taste of her on my lips as my fingers traced idle patterns on one muscled thigh. Her hand released its death grip on my hair as she relaxed, stretching slightly.
After a moment, her husky voice filtered down to my ears. "Well, youre certainly in a good mood this evening."
"Mmmm," I agreed, kissing the sweat-salty skin beneath my lips. "Just being near you, especially in my current position, does that to me." I grinned. "Of course, Corinnes magic elixir didnt hurt any."
Ices hand returned to my hair, tugging to bend my reluctant neck up to meet her gaze. "Magic elixir?"
"Yup. Two-hundred proof and good to the last drop." I licked my lips. "Sorta like you."
Releasing my hair, Ice groaned and flopped back onto the pillow once again. "And why did Corinne feel the need to get you drunk?"
"She wasnt trying to get me drunk. Just . . .relaxed."
"And why did you need relaxing?"
I sighed. "Another fruitless round of find the transcript."
"Well, I wont say I told you so," she replied drolly.
"How very big of you."
"I do try."
A very comfortable, warm silence settled over us as my drowsy eyes idly scanned the room, not remembering quite how my jumpsuit managed to get tossed across the room to land, one sleeve draped over an outstretched limb of the Freedom of Power bonsai. I squinted as my eyes alit on something, like my uniform, that hadnt been there the last time Id been in Ices cell. Sitting against one of the other trees was the photograph Id looked at when Ice had been in the hole.
This, most definitely, was an opportunity too big to pass up. Problem was how to introduce the topic without letting on that Id already seen the picture in question. With the coming on of fall, I decided to go with the football analogy of an end around. "Ice, what is that?"
Her body shifted slightly as she looked around the room. "What is what?"
"That," I pointed, "the picture near your bonsai. Is that your family?"
I could feel her body stiffen beneath me and I held my breath, hoping I hadnt again pushed things too far. After a long moment, she finally relaxed and I started breathing again in relief. "Yeah," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "Thats my mother, father, and Boomer."
I snorted against her belly. "Boomer?"
And received a light slap on the head for my sacrilege. "I was five at the time, if you must know."
"Oh I must. I must."
That earned me a hair ruffle, which I leaned into with pleasure. After a moment, I decided to push a little further. "Do you mind if I get a closer look?"
"You will anyway, so go ahead."
Grinning at her tone of melodramatic long-suffering, I slipped out of the bed, wrapping the sheet around my naked body and leaving Ice to lounge in nude splendor on the bottom sheet as I walked over to the table and picked up the photograph. As I turned back, the sight of her long, tan, gloriously naked body sprawled out on the white sheet, her dark hair fanned out on the pillow and her normally pale eyes darkened with residual eroticism, made my body hum again with need.
Unwrapping the sheet from around my body, I climbed on the bed to straddle her waist, then allowed the cloth to drape, tent-like, over my shoulders, shrouding us both in a field of white. "The interrogation can wait," I growled, leaning down to capture her lips in a fierce kiss which sparked the burning embers of my passion into a roaring bonfire once again.
Some time later, I sat, once again wrapped in the sheet, leaning against Ices shoulder as I looked down at the black and white photograph now laying in my lap. "Tell me about them?"
Her breath tickled the hair at my ear as she turned her head to look down at the picture. "Nothing much to tell, really. Alexander, my father, was a chemical engineer at DuPont. My mother was a mezzo-soprano with the Baltimore Opera Company."
I turned wide eyes to her. "Your mother was an opera singer? I love opera!"
Ice shrugged. "Yeah. She was pretty good."
I snorted. "Pretty good she says. Forgive me for saying so, but youre probably the type who looks at a Picasso and shudders, arent you."
"What can I say? Im not exactly the artistic type."
"Oh, youre not are you," I replied with a knowing grin as I looked over at the beauty of the bonsai sitting complacently on the table.
As I turned back, I swore I could see the faintest trace of a blush on her bronzed cheeks but wisely neglected to mention it as her face resumed its business-like mask. She shrugged again. "Anyway, I wouldnt know. She gave it up after she had me. Said she wanted to be a full-time mother and that was that." A small, almost shy, smile cracked the somber façade. "She could hum a mean lullaby, though."
"What about your dad?"
"My dad? He couldnt carry a tune in a bucket."
Groaning, I thumped my back against her shoulder. "Thats not what I mean and you know it. What was he like? What kind of a man was he?"
"Uh . . .manly?"
"Ice . . . ."
"Angel, listen. Its kinda hard to talk about this, alright? I only took the picture out yesterday. I was hoping you wouldnt spy it quite so fast."
Biting my bottom lip, I nodded, understanding her gentle rebuke for what it was. "Im sorry, Ice. I didnt mean to push."
"Youre not pushing. I just need to be able to tell this in my own way, at my own pace, alright?"
I smiled warmly at her. "No problem. We can continue this another time if you want."
"No, thats alright. Just give me a minute here." Shifting on the bed, she pulled me in close once again, nestling my head against her neck and laying her cheek atop my hair. Then she took the picture from me and laid it on her own lap, the very edge of her thumb brushing over the static figure of the tall, handsome man who was her father. "My father was a good man. Hyper intelligent, but very easy going and friendly. I dont think there was a person in the world who didnt like him once they got to know him." I could feel her smile against my hair. "He probably should have gone into sales or politics, but instead he worked Research and Development at DuPont.
"He was also passionate about sports, especially the local teams. He had season tickets to watch the Colts play and even managed to score two Super Bowl tickets to watch Unitas get outfoxed by Namath. I was with him that day." Her voice grew slightly wistful. "It was one of the best days I can remember having, even though we lost."
"Sounds like a really special time," I remarked, more than a trace of wistfulness present in my own voice. I had spent most of my childhood aching for such a relationship with my own father. "How about your mother? Was she . . .jealous over your closeness to your father?"
She laughed. "Jealous? No, not exactly. She was an Orioles fan, with season tickets of her very own. Shed take me to some of the night games. I even got to hear her sing the National Anthem before a couple of em."
I straightened, gape jawed. "Your mother actually sang the Star Spangled Banner before baseball games?"
"Yeah. Her voice sounded really strange, echoing through the stadium. It was an . . .interesting experience, to say the least. I used to have a bunch of signed memorabilia from them. You know, jerseys, mitts, balls, bats," she shrugged, "stuff like that."
There was a moment of silence as she looked down at the photograph as if seeing into a past long buried. "She was a pretty soft touch as mothers went. Pretty much let me try my hand at anything I was interested in, as long as it wouldnt get me in trouble with the law." Her laugh this time was slightly bitter. "Bet shes rolling over in her grave about now. Her and my dad both."
I wanted so badly to tell her what she already knew. That if her parents were still alive, chances were excellent that Ice would never have done the things she did to wind up here. But I decided to keep my own council on the subject, hoping that by sharing more of this life with me, shed eventually figure it out on her own.
"About the only thing she insisted on was voice lessons. Said that the human voice was Gods instrument and youd best keep it well tuned and not risk pissing Him off sometime down the road."
I shuddered with the memory of my mother forcing me to take deportment lessons for almost the exact same reason. "Did you hate them?"
"Nah. They werent so bad. I suppose it could have been worse, if Id been born with a voice like my fathers. I was lucky, though. Singing came naturally to me, though I hated all things opera. Still do."
Tilting my chin up to meet her eyes, I smiled. "Maybe I can hear you sing sometime?"
She returned my smile with a little quirk of her lips. "Maybe."
Satisfied, I returned my head to its place burrowed against the warm skin of her neck. "How did your parents meet?" Not able to resist, I took a gentle bite of her sweet flesh, grinning as I felt a minute shudder pass down her body. Pressing a kiss into the mark Id made, I felt her heart pick up its pace beneath my palm.
She shifted against me. "Keep this up, Angel, and youre never gonna hear the story."
If it had been any other story, the choice would have been an easy one. Ever since our first real time together, my body had been in a constant state of sexual arousal. Just the smell of her would turn my insides into flaming gelatin and right now, I was surrounded by her heady, exotic scent.
The more logical part of my mind, however, reminded me that if I gave into my bodys demands, I would more than likely have to wait months for the chance to question her on this topic again. If, indeed, that chance ever came. With Ice, nothing was ever a sure thing.
Lassoing my hormones, I pulled slightly back from temptation. "Alright, Ill be good. For now. More story, please?"
Leaning in, she gave me a kiss, then pulled away, resting her head against the wall. "Unlike me, my father loved the opera, as did his fiancée at the time. My mothers company was putting on their rendition of Massenets Werther, and she was singing Charlotte. To hear him tell it, from the moment my mother walked on till the time she left the stage before the final curtain, he didnt have eyes for another living being."
"God, that is so romantic!"
"Yeah, well my fathers fiancée didnt think so. After the show was over, he dragged her backstage to meet my mother. She might have been a piece of lint on the carpet for all the attention he paid to her after that point."
"Did your mother feel the same way when she met him? Smitten, I mean?"
"Oh yeah. She said that when she looked into my fathers eyes, someone she knew was looking back, even though shed never met him before." Ice laughed. It sounded almost frightened. "All my life, I never knew what that meant. Until now."
When this kiss connected, it was almost a carbon copy of the first wed ever shared. Images flitted though my mind too quick for me to follow, but I knew, down deep in my soul, that we were connected on a level far deeper than mere surface attraction. There was something elemental and bedrock in what we shared, something both primitive and new and ageless at its very foundations.
It was not a kiss of passion, though it was indeed passionate. It was a kiss of healing and of home. If the ancient sages were right and we did spend our lives searching for the other half of our souls, I had found mine in almost as deep a pit of hell as it was possible to go and still be able to struggle to the surface intact and alive.
When it ended, I collapsed against her, weak and spent, yet filled with strength and energy, as if I had connected with some elemental force that nourishes the soul and relieves the heart of its heavy burdens.
My voice was very definitely plaintive as I asked my next question. "More?"
Ice chuckled. "Of what? The kiss or the story?"
"Mmmm. How about both?"
"Nope," she teased, "one or the other."
"Oh alright. The story then. Ill always be able to get kisses out of you."
"Ya think so, huh?"
"I know so."
"Hmm. Ill remember that." She tightened her grip around my waist once again. "Lets see, where were we? Ah yes, the meeting. Well, after the girlfriend left in a huff, they sat and talked until the opera house closed for the evening. After that, they had what my mother called a scandalously short courtship. Two months. The scandal came in because of the fact that the ex-fiancés father was a noted patron of the arts and wasnt very happy to hear that his daughter had been dumped like yesterdays trash by the side of the road while someone whos career he funded made off with the goods."
"You have such a way with words, Ice," I snickered.
"Yeah, well in many ways, Im my fathers daughter. Anyway, after two months of dating, they got married, bought a new house, and a year afterwards, had me."
"It sounds like they loved one another very much."
"They did. Even though theyd have a fight every now and then, even as a kid I knew theyd always be together. I know most kids dont think their parents will ever split up, but there was just something about them that even I could notice, young as I was. It was almost like they were two halves of the same whole or something." She shrugged. "I cant explain it any better than that."
"I think you did a great job. That describes the feeling perfectly, dont you think?"
She smiled. "Yeah. It does."
I spent the next several silent moments trying to gather up the courage needed to take the next, obvious step. I was torn with indecision. Torn between needing to know and needing not to open up what was obviously a wound that still festered deep inside Ices heart.
As if reading my thoughts, her body stiffened once again and she took in a deep breath before letting it out slowly. "They got hit by a bus."
"My parents. You were wondering how to ask me how they died. They were hit by a bus. They had driven in to DC for their anniversary to see Werther. They never made it. My mother was killed instantly. My father managed to hang on for a few days, but he never woke up. They finally decided to pull the plug."
"Oh, Ice. Im so sorry."
"Yeah," she said quietly, wiping the tears from her eyes. "So am I."
Later that night, in the solitary darkness of my own cell, I lay on my back as tears wended their slow course down my cheeks, dampening my pillow. As I replayed our conversation in my mind, part of me wondered whose life had the more tragedy. Ices, whose family loved and doted on her and were taken away? Or mine, whose family had, at best, only tolerated me and now considered me, though still very much alive, dead in their eyes?
I cried for us both that night. For the young girls we had been and for the women we had become. For our families. For ourselves.
But within the tears of sadness there also mixed tears of joy. If new life can spring from the ashes of the old, then a new life had sprung up between us from the barren soil of our individual tragedies.
A snatch of an old lullaby I had heard in some movie or other sprung to my lips and I hummed it to myself as I fell asleep, tears slowly drying on my cheeks.
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