Provincetowns newest, and only, deputy sheriff pulled her cruiser to a stop in the parking lot overlooking Herring Cove. It was 6 a.m. on a clear, crisp morning in May. Other than a Winnebago parked at the far end of the lot, she was alone. To her right stretched the curve of sand leading to Race Point, and in the distance she could make out the figures of a few early morning walkers. Seagulls swayed low over the water, searching for their breakfast, their shrill calls echoing on the wind. The water reflected the color of the nearly cloudless sky, iridescent blues and greens slashed through by the frothy white of the churning waves. The air carried the damp mist that hovered over the dunes, chilling her skin. Despite the chill, she rolled the windows down, allowing the scent and sounds of the sea to rustle through the vehicle. A coffee cup sat on the dash, tendrils of steam drifting off on the breeze. Unconsciously she shifted her equipment belt, settling the revolver more comfortably against her right hip.
She reached for her coffee, her gaze idly following a trawler far out on the bay. Her mind held no clear thoughts, only the impressions of the timeless forces of nature that surrounded her. She felt totally insignificant and yet completely at peace. She felt more at home than she ever had. That fact should have been surprising, considering that she had only called this tiny town on the curving finger of land thrust arrogantly out into the Atlantic home for a few weeks. She had moved across the country to a place she had never even visited before, leaving behind a life that had shaped her since she was a child. Nevertheless it felt right to be here, and she accepted it with equanimity, as she had been trained to face all the circumstances life presented her.
Her attention was caught by a flash of color closer to shore. A red kayak with a bright yellow racing stripe streaked into view, the powerful rhythmic strokes of the kayaker propelling the craft swiftly through the water. Rather than disrupting the quietude, the image of churning arms and slicing paddle seemed to blend with the motion of the waves, joining in the harmony of swirling tides. She watched until the craft was just a dot on the horizon before she started her engine and pulled slowly away from the waters edge.
Sheriff Nelson Parker glanced up as the door to the station opened, admitting a gust of wind that rustled the papers on his desk. The Sheriffs department was one large room with several desks that was separated from the waiting area by a low railing and a latched gate that squeaked when opened. In an adjoining room, at the rear of the building, were two holding cells that rarely saw any use. His deputy entered with the last of the breeze, and he was surprised once again by the slight disquiet he felt whenever he saw her. Maybe it was her height, she was damn near as tall as he was, or maybe it was the way she carried herself, ramrod straight even at parade rest. She had slightly broader shoulders and narrower hips than most women did, and she was in better physical shape than any of his men. The trim fit of her khaki uniform reminded him once again that he needed to work off those extra twenty pounds that seemed to have settled all too solidly around his waist. Maybe it was only that she seemed totally unaware of how imposingly good looking she was in that androgynous way that so many of the Provincetown women had. He thought ruefully that he might be just a little jealous.
"Morning, Chief!" she said, as she headed for the coffee machine. A frown creased the sculpted features of her angular face as she tilted the pot to survey the two inches of dark liquid in the bottom. "Last nights?"
"Fraid so, Reese," he answered apologetically. "I just nuked mine and chewed it."
"Jesus," she muttered, dumping the remains in the sink. "That looks worse than barracks coffee. And I wouldnt even drink that unless I was half dead." She started a fresh pot and settled behind the other desk. There were a few reports from the night shift stacked in the bin, and she picked them up to review.
"Anything I should know?" she asked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary. A few traffic stops for speeding, one DUI, and a couple of bar brawls down at the General Bradford. Not much happening until this weekend, I expect."
She glanced at the calendar displayed in one corner of the bulletin board. It was two days before Memorial Day Weekend. She had not yet experienced the transformation that befell the tiny fishing village with the onset of the summer season. Beginning in the end of May until after Labor Day, a flood of tourists would swell the normal population of several thousand to many times that number. The townspeople depended on the influx of visitors to support their economy, despite the constant complaints by the year-rounders of the hectic crowds and unmanageable traffic.
"Yep," the sheriff continued, "expect a lot of traffic - vehicular and foot, more accidents, more nightlife, and more drunk and disorderlies. Six months of nonstop pandemonium, and then six months of deadly quiet."
Reese filed the reports silently, envisioning the weeks of work ahead of her.
"Think youll be able to stand the winters?" Parker asked. "By December youll be able to see the length of Commercial Street without a car blocking your view. Youll walk down the street and the only footprints in the snow will be yours."
Reese looked up in surprise, her blue eyes questioning. "Why wouldnt I?"
He shrugged, curiosity warring with his sense of diplomacy. Shed been working for him for almost two months and he didnt know word one about her personal life. She never mentioned her past, or talked of any family. He found it hard to believe that someone who looked like her wasnt attached someway. Still, she never left any room for those kinds of questions, and he often found himself fishing for some clue as to who she was. "Its probably not the kind of life youve been used to."
Reese fiercely guarded her privacy. It was not only instinctual, it was learned. She fought the urge to leave his unspoken question unanswered. This man was not only her boss, but the person she was likely to spend most of her time with in the coming months. In his own way he was trying to be friendly. She reminded herself she had nothing to hide. "The life I was used to was military life, Sheriff. It can be very boring in its own way. It hasnt changed much in two hundred years."
"Youre way over qualified for this job," he continued. "I knew that when I hired you. I just couldnt not hire you, not with your military police experience and a law degree thrown in."
She contemplated how much she wanted to share. Her social interactions were molded by a lifetime in the military, a rigid hierarchical world where relationships were defined and shaped by rank and politics. There were rules determining where you ate, where you slept, and whom you could and could not sleep with. There were ways around those rules if you were careful, and so inclined. Reese had never found the need to challenge them, but she was far from naive about the consequences. Revealing ones thoughts, and certainly ones feelings, could be dangerous and in some instances, deadly. As a young recruit she had been taught there were only three acceptable answers to any question or request put to her by a superior - "Yes sir", "No sir," and "No excuse sir".
She took a breath. "After fifteen years I found I was getting a little cramped in the military. I had to make a decision to stay for the rest of my life or make a move. I didnt like military law, but I still wanted to work the law, just differently. This job gives me the chance to do that." She didnt even try to explain the unrelenting restlessness she had felt the last few years; she didn't understand it herself. She had looked at her life and couldnt fault it, yet still she had left. She was here; she was happy with her decision; and she looked forward to her new life.
He looked at his deputy, wondering what she wasnt saying. She returned his look impassively, and he knew he had all the answers he was going to get.
"Well, Im glad to have you," he said gruffly. "And for Christs sake, call me Nelson."
She brushed the lock of jet-black hair from her face with one long fingered hand, a tiny smile deepening a single dimple to the right of her mouth. Her clear blue eyes were laser-like in their focus.
"Sure thing, Chief," she responded, suppressing the grin. "You want to take the first circuit through town or you want me to?"
He shook his head, trying not to laugh. "You go ahead. Im waiting for a call about next year's budget from the County Office. God, I hate the paperwork. I should never have run for Sheriff. I was much happier as the Deputy Sheriff."
"Too late now," Reese rejoined. "The jobs taken." She settled her hat over her thick, trim hair, snapping the brim to secure it over her deep-set eyes. For a second Nelson had the urge to salute her. Grabbing her keys, she headed happily for the door. She loved to be out on patrol, simply observing the day to day activities of the community she had made her own.
She had nearly completed her slow tour through the still sleeping village when the Sheriff radioed her.
"Here," she answered, thumbing on her mike.
"They need you out at the clinic on Holland Road. A break-in."
She wheeled her cruiser up one of the narrow side streets that criss-crossed the main part of town, flipping her lights on with one hand.
"Two minutes," she replied tersely. "Is there a suspect on the scene?"
"Negative. But keep an eye out on your way. The doc just got there, so we dont know how long the suspects been gone. And Reese - the doctor is inside the building."
"Roger that," Reese replied curtly. A civilian in an unsecured building could easily turn into a hostage situation. At the very least it made her reconnaissance more difficult because she had to be on guard for both innocent bystanders as well as the possible perpetrator. She did not use her siren. If anyone was still there, it was best not to alert them. For the same reason, she did not want an army of police cars barreling into the scene. Not that there were an army of patrol cars in the small Provincetown force.
"Ill call in when Ive checked the area. Hold the back-up for now."
She saw no one suspicious as she traveled the short distance to the East End Health Clinic. The small parking lot was empty except for a Jeep Cherokee with a kayak roped to the top. She recognized the red craft she had seen an hour earlier on the bay. She left her cruiser angled across the drive, blocking the exit. She quickly circled the building on foot, noting the shattered window at the rear of the small one story structure.
As she moved around to the front, the door was opened by an auburn-haired woman in a white lab coat. Her hazel eyes were wide with concern. She leaned slightly on a burnished mahogany cane. The lower end of a leg brace was apparent below the cuff of her creased blue jeans.
"Im Deputy Sheriff Conlon, maam. Ill need you to step outside." Reese had slipped her revolver from its holster and held it down by her side. As she spoke she took the woman firmly by the elbow and maneuvered her out through the door onto the small porch. "Please wait in the patrol car while I check the building."
"Theres no one here," the women replied. "I looked."
Reese nodded, her eyes already scanning the interior of the clinic. "Just the same, you need to wait outside."
"Of course," the doctor replied. She stepped down off the porch, then turned back. "Patients will be arriving in a few minutes."
"Just keep them in the parking lot," Reese instructed as she moved cautiously into the waiting area. After she checked the offices and examining rooms, she returned to her cruiser and called Nelson.
"Go ahead, Reese."
"No one on the premises. Ill be here for a while getting the details."
"Let me know what you get."
"Will do." She turned in the seat to face the women beside her. "Why dont we go inside and you can fill me in."
"Im Victoria King, by the way. Im the clinic director," the women informed her as they entered the building, extending her hand as she spoke.
Reese took the offered hand, returning the firm grasp. "Reese Conlon, doctor. Can you tell me what you found when you arrived?"
"I opened up at my usual time - 7 a.m.," the doctor began once they entered her office. "I didnt notice anything unusual until I opened exam room one. You saw the mess for yourself," she added in disgust. She leaned her cane against her desk and sat behind it, her folded hands resting on the scratched surface. They were steady, Reese noted.
"I called the Sheriff immediately, then I looked around."
A brave but dangerous thing to do, Reese thought to herself. "Did you see anyone walking on the road before you got here, or a car that seemed out of place?"
"No. But then I wasnt looking for anything. I came straight here from Herring Cove."
Reese studied the woman carefully, noting the strong forearms exposed by the rolled sleeves of her white coat. She wore a simple deep blue polo shirt and pressed blue jeans underneath. She looked to be about thirty-five, lightly tanned with a smattering of freckles on her cheeks that only added to her attractiveness. She had the well-toned look of an athlete, despite the cane at her side. "Your kayak?"
Victoria ran a hand absently through the short layers of her shoulder length hair, shrugging slightly as she did so.
"Yes." She waited for the expression of disbelief that usually followed. Most people looked at her leg and assumed she couldnt manage anything physical. She had come to expect it, but it still angered her.
"Do you do that everyday?" Reese asked pointedly.
"Yes, why?" Victoria replied defensively.
"Because in a town this small any local would know that," Reese responded evenly, giving no sign that she had heard the edge in the doctor's tone. "And they would also know when the clinic was empty."
"Oh, I see," Victoria murmured, feeling a little foolish at her own reaction. She wasnt usually so sensitive. Maybe it was just the stress of the situation or the fact that this rigidly professional officer unsettled her. The cool, controlled manner of the woman across from her was disconcerting. She was so remote as to be unreadable. Victoria was used to establishing rapport quickly with people, and now she felt a little off balance. The sheriffs precise, impersonal approach reminded her of some surgeons she had known - excellent technicians but no feel for people.
"Are you all right, Doctor?" Reese asked quietly. The womans tension was obvious.
Victoria was more affected by the violation of her clinic than she had realized, a fact that apparently had not escaped the notice of the observant sheriff. She was embarrassed to appear less than capable in front of her, and then quickly wondered why she should care. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yes, Im fine, thank you. Im usually much better in a crisis."
Reese smiled. "I dont imagine you deal with this sort of thing very often."
Victoria breath caught at the sudden transformation that accompanied that brilliant smile. Suddenly, the sculpted features were suffused with compassionate warmth, and a stunning beauty. It was like watching a work of art unexpectedly come to life. She blushed at her visceral reaction, hoping she wasnt as transparent as she felt. She was grateful to see that the dark head was bent over a small note pad Reese had balanced on her crossed knee. Taking herself firmly in hand, Victoria replied calmly, "Youre right. What can I tell you that will help?"
Victoria raised her hands helplessly. "I have no idea. Ill have to inventory all the examining rooms and the pharmacy."
"What drugs do you have here?"
"The usual - antibiotics, a lot of pharmaceutical samples, AIDS meds"
"What about narcotics?"
"Not much. I dont dispense drugs here, but I need a small quantity of a variety of medications in the event of emergency. Im the only doctor for thirty-five miles. I have a limited supply of codeine, percocet, methadone."
"About a dozen ampoules of morphine. All of the narcotics are locked in the drug closet."
"Was it broken into?"
"I didnt have time to check."
"Lets do that."
Reese followed the doctor into a small room at the rear of the building that was little more than a walk-in closet. Shelves held linens, sealed surgical packs, IV solutions, and other supplies. A cabinet with a built in lock was tucked into the corner of the room.
Victoria sighed with relief when she saw that the door to the drug locker appeared sound. Inserting a key, she opened the front and scanned the interior.
"It looks okay."
"Good," Reese replied. "Ill need a list of all the employees, the cleaning service, and anyone else who has access to this building. Who owns the building?"
"I do." Victoria grasped Reeses arm as Reese turned to leave the storeroom. "Theres no way anyone who works here would do this."
Reese faced her, her expression carefully neutral. "Im sure youre right. Its just routine."
After Victoria prepared a preliminary list, Reese folded it into her note pad. She studied the doctor for a moment, not missing the slightly distracted look in her eyes.
"Are you sure youre all right?"
Victoria extended her hand, squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin. She was very aware of being appraised by the cool blue eyes that searched her face. "I am. Thank you, Sheriff."
Reese shook the offered hand.
"Maam." She touched a hand to her cap and left.
"Tory! Tory! Where are you?"
"In here," Tory called, "in the procedure room." She looked up from where she was kneeling, sorting and cataloging supplies, to greet the clinics head nurse. "Hey, Sal - glad to see you."
"What is going on? Are you okay?" Sally Price asked anxiously, surveying the mess on the floor.
"Yeah, Im fine - somebody broke in last night."
"I saw the cop out front. Shes a new one, isnt she?" Sally retrieved several unopened boxes of surgical gauze from the floor and stacked them on the counter. "What a hunk! Did you catch the body? Jesus!"
"God, you never miss a thing do you?
"Not when it comes to women," Sally laughed. "So are we seeing patients or what?"
Tory rose slowly to her feet, trying to ignore the cramp in her leg. "I think wed better reschedule the morning ones. We need to clean this place up and figure out whats missing.
Sally sighed. "Ill start calling. Come out when you can and tell me about this morning."
"You mean tell you all about the Deputy Sheriff, dont you?" Tory questioned sharply. She wasnt sure why, but she didnt want to talk about the remote, albeit attractive sheriff. She would rather forget about her all together. Tory knew that the sheriff had simply been doing her job - calmly, coolly, and entirely professionally. But there had been something about her attitude of command that had taken Tory by surprise. No one had ever managed to set her emotions so on edge from a single encounter. And no woman had captured her attention so immediately in more years than she could count.
Sally couldnt miss the strain in Torys voice. She had never known anything to upset her usually implacable demeanor. In fact, sometimes Sally wondered if her reclusive friend wouldnt benefit from a little disruption in her life. From her point of view, Torys life was all together too safe and predictable. In the four years they'd worked together, she had never known her to date anyone, or even show interest in doing so. Tory worked longer and longer hours, refused to consider taking on an associate, and even when she could be coaxed out to a party, she usually made an excuse to leave early. Sally had made any number of attempts to set her up with friends, but Tory always smiled and firmly declined.
"You dont like her, do you?" Sally stated. "Shes so gorgeous she should be illegal - so tell me what she did to piss you off."
Tory looked startled, her cheeks coloring. "I dont have any opinion of her, one way or the other. I hardly know her!"
"So, okay!" Sally cried, raising her hands in mock surrender. "So dont tell me what she did to make you so touchy!!!"
Tory stared at her in total exasperation. "Just go, already! Call patients!" She turned resolutely back to her checklist, determined to put the tall, handsome officer from her thoughts.
"So, what have you got?" Nelson asked before Reese even reached her desk.
She pulled a blank report form from a stack in the file cabinet and settled into her chair.
"Amateur break in. Rear window smashed, cabinets rifled, stuff thrown around. They didnt get to the drug cabinet, which either means they werent locals or the doctor surprised them before they had finished."
Reese reflected on the clear strong features of the clinic director -- her rich auburn hair and porcelain skin, and the way her green eyes sparked fire when she was provoked. The thought of Victoria King walking in unexpectedly in the midst of a bungled robbery made her uncomfortable. She had a feeling the doctor might have tried to handle things herself. Reese dismissed the disconcerting image and unfamiliar disquiet and methodically began to fill out her report.
"What?" Nelson asked when he saw her frown. He could tell something was on her mind; she had that distant look in her eyes again.
"If she had walked into the middle of that, it might have been a disaster," Reese said quietly. "She doesnt look like the type to back away from trouble, and she could have gotten herself hurt."
Nelson snorted. "Dont bet on it. The doc has some kind of black belt in one of those martial arts. Plus shes strong as a horse. Ive seen her lift a grown man onto a stretcher without blinking. That leg slows her down some, but it sure doesnt stop her."
"Im glad to hear she can take care of herself," Reese said, bending her head to her paper work, ignoring the strange lingering unease. There was no point thinking about something that hadnt happened. She had work to do.
Nelson stared at her, aware that he had been dismissed, but at a loss to know why. Damn, she was a hard one to figure!
When Gladys Martin, the sole department secretary, dispatcher, and general all around manager showed up for her nine to five shift, she found them both silently typing. She wondered, not for the first time, how well the chief was going to adjust to his new deputy. It wasnt so much that she was a woman, as the fact that she wasnt so much like a woman. Gladys had a feeling that he hadnt had much close experience with this type. The girl was so private it made you all the more curious. And God knows, Nelson Parker was too curious as it was! But anyone with a smile like that young one had - the kind that breaks your heart whether you were "that way" or not - was worth getting to know, even if it did take some work!
"Good morning you two!" she said, settling behind the reception desk and general message center. "Why is it you both look busy? The president coming?"
Nelson snorted and Reese smiled as she tilted back in her swivel chair.
"I thought he only went as far as Nantucket," Reese joked. "Not civilized enough out here."
"Then it must be the excitement out at the clinic."
"How do you know about that?" Nelson asked in surprise. Was there nothing Gladys didnt know about?
"You forgot about my scanner, Chief," Gladys replied smugly.
"Dont call me Chief," Nelson replied automatically.
Reese stood up and stretched, grinning at the friendly banter. "Im going to make another tour, Chief," she called, already anxious to be out of the cramped office.
Gladys waited until the door swung closed before turning to the Sheriff.
"Hows she doing?"
"About what youd expect, considering her resume. Shes the best officer Ive ever had!"
"Quiet, isnt she."
Nelson eyed his old friend speculatively. "Just what is it you want to know, you old busybody?"
"Ha! Like you arent nosey! I worry about a young girl like that in this town out on the end of nowhere. Could get mighty lonely."
"She doesnt seem lonely to me," Nelson mused. "Just solitary - like shes used to being alone."
"That can get awfully close to lonely," Gladys observed.
"Maybe. But I wouldnt worry about her too much. Looks to me like shed have no trouble finding company, no matter what kind she chose."
"As if it aint plain what kind of company that would be!" Gladys commented dryly.
"Now dont go making assumptions, just because this is Provincetown," Nelson remarked, irked that Gladys always seemed to know more than he did.
"Oh, Nelson. You could put that girl anywhere in the country and shed be turning womens heads!"
"Yours too, Gladys?" he joked.
"If I werent so old and twenty years married to George, she just might at that."
Nelson stared at her, finally at a loss for words.
Reese left the engine running outside the deli while she ran inside for a sandwich. The two women who ran the tiny gourmet market in the center of town greeted her warmly. After only a short time she seemed like one of their regulars.
"Tuna, lettuce, and tomato?" Carol called as the tall, trim officer entered.
Reese laughed. "Im obviously getting too predictable. Make it corn beef today."
"Sure. Hows the new house?"
Reese hid her surprise. She hadnt yet gotten used to the easy intimacy of the year round residents. This was definitely not the place to come if you didnt want to know your neighbors.
"Fine. Im living in it - and the renovations will be done in a few weeks. Sarahs crew is really good."
Carol nodded in agreement as she wrapped Reeses order. "I envy you that view. There arent many places left with a clear line to the bay."
"I was lucky to find it," Reese agreed.
"Here you go. Take care now."
Reese opened the sandwich on the seat beside her, eating as she slowly cruised through town. Theyre werent many people in the streets yet, but in two days there would be. She was looking forward to it even though she knew her work would be tripled. She liked the sense of being part of the community, and taking care of it in her own way. Without conscious thought, she found herself headed back to the clinic. The parking lot was crowded as she pulled in.
The young man behind the counter in the reception area looked harried. Reese waited while he finished making a chart up, standing quietly beside a mother with two small children in tow. He looked up at her expectantly, flipping his hair out of his eyes distractedly. His astonishingly beautiful face was set in an anxious frown.
"Any chance I could see Doctor King?"
"Oh please! Id sooner get you an audience with the Pope," he sighed dramatically. He had the longest eyelashes she had ever seen. If he were a woman, she'd call him pretty, but there was still something decidedly masculine about him that belied that description. "Let me see where she is, okay? Were way behind, but I guess you know why."
Reese nodded, shrugging apologetically.
He returned a moment later.
"Follow me - shell meet you in her office when she gets a break. She said she'd just be a couple of minutes."
He led her to the office Reese had left just a few hours previously. As she waited, she perused the walls. There was just the one diploma, announcing that Victoria Claire King had received her medical degree from McGill University in Canada. Of much more interest were the many framed and mounted photographs of women rowers, some in squads of four or eight, many in single sculls. Reese bent closer to look at the faces. In several photos the woman pulling the oars was unmistakably Victoria King.
The sound of the door closing behind her interrupted her study, and she turned to find the doctor watching her.
"Surprised, Sheriff?" Victoria questioned edgily.
Reese raised an eyebrow at the defensive tone in the womans voice. Her blue eyes met the flashing hazel ones calmly. "Why should I be?"
Victoria tapped the leg brace with her cane. The metal rang sharply.
"Ah - to be honest, I didnt think about that," Reese replied, her gaze still surveying Victorias face.
Victoria returned the look steadily and finally shook her head ruefully. "You may be the only person who ever has forgotten about it."
"I didn't say I forgot," Reese said softly. "It just never occurred to me that it would inhibit you on the water. I saw you this morning - out on the bay. You seemed so much a part of the sea, you didnt even disturb the rhythm of the waves."
Victorias lips parted as a small gasp escaped her. There had been many descriptions of her rowing, but none quite so genuine, nor so eloquent. She averted her gaze, swallowing hard.
"Thank you," she said at last into the silence around them. She walked to the desk, finally looking at Reese, who stood ramrod straight in the middle of the room, her hat tucked under one arm. Victoria wondered if she had any idea how imposing she was, or how attractive.
"Sit down, Sheriff. Youre making me nervous," Victoria said lightly.
Reese laughed, a deep full laugh, as she strode to the chair facing Victorias desk. "Now that I doubt."
Victoria was irrationally pleased at the response, and aware of her disappointment as a serious look eclipsed Reese's smile as quickly as it had come.
"I know youre busy," Reese said. "Have you had a chance to find out whats missing?"
Victoria sighed wearily. "It would figure today would be the day half the town has the flu. Ive been going nonstop since you left. I did get together a list for you though. A damn strange one."
Reese sat up a little straighter, her eyes flashing. "How so?"
"We are missing needles, but not syringes. Some surgical instruments, but not scalpels. Boxes of gauze and alcohol, and of all things - a portable sterilizer."
"The narcotics are all accounted for. I cant be sure, because I dont inventory pharmaceutical samples, but I think there is an assortment of antibiotics missing."
"As near as I can tell. If I find anything else, Ill let you know."
Reese nodded. "Mean anything to you?"
"Not a thing. Addicts would want the syringes. I guess the sterilizer would make sense if someone wanted to reuse the needles, but what good are they without the syringes?"
"I dont know," Reese mused. "How late are you open?"
"Until six, except Wednesdays, when I see patients until ten oclock."
"Is there someone here with you the whole time?"
"Well, Randy, the receptionist, leaves when the clinic closes, and my nurse, Sally, stays until we clean up. I usually stay an hour or so later to finish the paper work."
"Dont," Reese stated flatly, "at least not for the next few days. Leave when Sally does, and make sure youre both in your cars with the engines running before either of you drives away."
Victoria looked at her in amazement, her shoulders stiffening. "Is that really necessary? Ive got work that needs to be done - and Im sure this was just some kids"
"Im not sure of that," Reese rejoined firmly. "Youre fairly isolated here. There might be something else they wanted and couldnt find this morning. I dont want you here alone if they decide to come back."
Victoria heard the unmistakable tone of command in her voice, a tone that came easily and suggested that she was used to being obeyed. What she was saying made sense, but Tory resented being told how to conduct her business.
"Is there any room for negotiation here, Sheriff Conlon?"
Again that hint of a smile. "None, Doctor."
Victoria tapped her pen on the desk, trying to decide if she felt so resistant because the request was unreasonable or because she resented the authority behind the demand. Whatever the reason, this woman had an amazing effect on her. She was so certain, so sure, it made Tory want to argue with her, even when she knew what she said made sense. Reese waited.
"All right," Victoria conceded reluctantly. "I can manage that for a few days."
Victorias eyes flashed fire as she prepared to protest.
"Please," Reese added.
It was Victorias turn to laugh, despite her annoyance. "You are very hard to resist Sheriff," she stated, then immediately regretted her words. Not only did it sound flirtatious, she realized with chagrin that it was true. The sheriff's combination of pristine control and subtle humor was powerfully appealing.
Reese responded dispassionately. "I understand that its difficult, Dr. King, and I appreciate your cooperation." She stood and tapped a finger to the brim of her hat. "Thanks for making time in your busy day. Ill let you know when I have a lead on this."
"Thank you!" Victoria called as Reese left. She sat for a moment trying to gather her thoughts. Again she had the disconcerting sense of being slightly off balance, when she was so used to having everything in her life firmly in hand. Exasperated with herself, she pushed the memory of that fleeting smile and rich laughter from her mind. There was plenty of work still to do, and she could count on that to put the new Sheriff out of her mind.
At the end of her shift Reese sat in her Bronco in front of the station house fiddling with her keys. She had been avoiding this moment ever since she arrived in Provincetown, and she knew she couldnt delay any longer. The place was just too small. Already most of the storeowners knew her name. She pushed the car into gear and headed for the east end of the three-mile long street that ran the length of town along the harbors edge. She pulled to the curb in front of one of the myriad galleries tucked into every available niche. After a minute of hesitation, she headed resolutely to the tiny adjoining cottage. She rang the bell, her pulse racing.
A fiftyish woman in baggy jeans and a tattered sweatshirt opened the door, looking questioningly at the tall officer on her steps.
"Yes?" she queried. Then her eyes widened as she focused on the steel blue eyes and chiseled features. The resemblance was unmistakable. "Oh my God," she gasped. "Reese?"
"Hello Jean," Reese said softly.
"Kate!" the woman squeaked. Then finding her voice she called loudly, "Honey, youd better come here!"
"What is it?" called the tall woman who entered from the rear of the house. She halted behind her lover, at a loss for words.
"Hello mother," Reese said quietly. She looked at her mother, at the sun burnished skin, the blond hair laced with grey now, and the blue eyes so like her own. Despite her anxiety, she felt strangely peaceful. "I thought it was time I visited."
"Id giving up hoping you ever would," her mother murmured in a choked voice.
"Im sorry - I -" Reese faltered, not knowing how to explain the years between them.
"Dont be sorry. Just come in and tell me - well, tell me whatever you want." Kate touched her daughters cheek gently as she spoke, then reached for her hand to pull her inside. She led Reese through the few rooms to a small kitchen that looked out on the bay.
"Sit," Kate said, pointing to the table in front of the windows. "Theres tea?"
"Yes, thanks," Reese said, laying her hat on the table.
"How long have you been here?" her mother asked, unable to take her eyes off the strikingly handsome woman at her table. If she hadn't been practically cloistered preparing for an upcoming show, she would have known. A newcomer always attracted attention.
"Just eight weeks," Reese said, gesturing to her uniform. "Im the Deputy Sheriff."
"Just cant give up a uniform, huh?"
Reese laughed and the tension in the room dissipated. "I never thought of it that way, but I think youre right."
"And you live here now," her mother stated in wonder.
Reese nodded, uncharacteristically uncertain. "Is that all right?"
Tears shimmered in her mothers eyes and a small sob escaped her lips. Jean, her mother's partner, placed her hand protectively on her shoulder, knowing how often she had dreamed of this moment.
"All right is an understatement, Reese," her mother said at last. "I thought when I met Jean all my dreams had come true. I never even dared hope for this."
Reese looked away as the pain of old memories washed through her.
"If it could have been different Reese, if there was something I could have done" Her mother stopped, knowing there were no words to explain the past. Or to undo it.
Reese met her mothers gaze evenly, her voice steady. "I didnt come here for an explanation."
Kate twisted the gold band on her ring finger, the one that matched Jeans, and said sadly, "I tried to tell myself that you would be well cared for, and loved"
"And I was," Reese said. "But it was time for me to see you - long past time."
Kate searched her daughters face in alarm. "Are you all right, are you sick, or--?"
"No, Im fine," Reese smiled, taking her mothers hand.
"So youre here to stay?"
"Yes," Reese said, feeling the rightness of her words. "I am."
Jean set a large tureen of chowder in the center of the table, saying firmly, "I have a feeling its going to be a long night."
And they began to talk.
It was close to midnight when Reese left them. It had taken that long to sketch in the outline of the last twenty years of her life. They hadnt touched on deeply personal things; neither of them had been ready for that. But it was a beginning, and it felt right. She was too excited to sleep, so she decided to drive.
She turned off Commercial Street, following the meandering turn of narrow streets to the clinic. It wasnt exactly on her way home, but nothing in the two by three-mile town was out of the way. She frowned when she saw the Jeep Cherokee still parked in the lot. The clinic was dark. Reese left her truck on the shoulder of the highway and circled through the scrub and sand to the rear of the clinic. When she gently tried the handle, the rear door swung open. Gun in hand, she made her way slowly down the hall, carefully opening each door she passed.
Rounding a corner into the shadowy reception area, she sensed movement to her right. Swinging her outstretched arms in that direction, gun double-fisted, she shouted, "Police!"
Her movement deflected the already descending blow, but pain seared along her forearm where she was struck. She propelled herself forward, catching her forehead against the edge of a metal file cabinet as she dove. She came up into a crouch, poised to fire on the shape backlit in the moonlight when a voice called out, "Sheriff, no! Its Tory King!"
The lights came on and Reese found herself face-to-face with the doctor, whose cane was still raised for a second sweeping strike.
"Stand down, Doctor," Reese muttered, wiping her face with one hand. Her hand came away bloody, and she swayed, suddenly dizzy.
"Sit down, Sheriff," Tory commanded, moving forward quickly. She grasped Reese around the waist, directing her into a chair. "Youre injured."
"I need to secure this place," Reese protested, shaking her head, trying to clear her vision. "The back door was unlocked."
"Never mind that. Sally is always forgetting to lock it." Tory scrutinized Reeses face carefully.
"I need to call for backup"
"Whyam I under arrest? I didnt know it was you until you spoke. I heard a noise in the hall"
"Terrific," Reese grimaced, doubly embarrassed. "First I announce my presence, then I let you take me out. Maybe you should be wearing the badge!"
Tory smiled grimly. "This cane is nearly as deadly as that gun of yours, at least at close range. Im thankful I didnt break your arm." She looked at Reese with mounting concern. "I didnt, did I?"
Kneeling with some difficulty in front of Reese, she grasped Reeses right hand in hers. "Squeeze my fingers," she said.
"Cant," Reese mumbled, battling a sudden wave of nausea.
"I must have hit the median nerve," she noted clinically. "It may be a couple of hours before you can flex your fingers, but nothing seems broken."
She continued to probe along Reeses forearm, aware of the well-developed muscles under her fingers. "Youre lucky youre in such good shapeyour muscle mass protected you. Still, well need to watch for compression injuries. Youre going to get a lot of swelling." She rocked back and studied Reeses face, brushing a lock of hair off Reeses forehead. The sheriff was pale, but her gaze was clear. "Youve got a laceration through your eyebrow. We need to go back to the procedure room so I can take care of it. Can you walk?"
Reese nodded, holstering her gun as she carefully pushed herself to a standing position. She extended her left hand to assist Tory to her feet.
"I cant tell you how sorry I am, Sheriff," Tory began as they moved to the rear of the clinic.
"It was a lesson well learned, Doctor," Reese said grimly. "Having a gun sometimes make you overconfident. A well-trained martial artist is a real threat in close quarters. Thats what you are, isnt it?"
"Sit here," Tory indicated, motioning to the operating table in the center of the room. She was silent as she opened gloves and a suture tray. "Are you allergic to any drugs?"
"Lie back. I just need to clean this up a bit." As she set about her work, she continued, "Hapkido. Do you know it?"
"Some - Im trained in jujitsu," Reese replied, wincing slightly at the sting of the novocaine injection. "Hapkido. Thats Korean, isnt it?"
"Uh huh," Tory responded as she began placing the sutures. "Its a combination of Aikido and Tae Kwon Do. Fortunately for me, it also teaches the art of the cane."
"Well, its certainly effective," Reese said flatly. "Youll have to show me sometime."
"If you like. There, thats it. Ill need to take these stitches out in five days." She pulled the stool over and sat down facing Reese. "What are you doing here?"
"I happened to be driving by and I saw your Jeep. The place was dark. I was worried. Youre not supposed to be here alone, remember?"
Tory sighed, "I know. We ran so late I sent everyone home an hour ago. I had literally just finished and was heading out the door when I heard you. I am so sorry"
"Please," Reese said, pushing herself up to a sitting position. Thankfully her head felt clear. "Im glad to know you can take care of yourself so well. Lets just leave it at that, okay?"
Tory stood, reaching for an alcohol swab. When she cupped Reeses chin in one hand, Reese tensed.
"Youve got blood on your neck," Tory said quietly, wiping the skin gently.
"Thank you," Reese murmured, her eyes meeting Torys deep hazel ones. She was acutely aware of the warmth in Torys touch.
Tory stepped back quickly, averting her gaze as she quickly broke their contact. The withdrawal was so abrupt, Reese shivered involuntarily. Tory frowned. "You need to be in bed. Come on, Ill drive you home."
"Im okay," Reese muttered, jumping down from the table. She swayed with a sudden wave of dizziness, and would have fallen if Tory hadnt slipped her arm quickly around her waist.
"Not quite, youre not. You may be strong, but youre not made of steel. Youve had a nasty blow to your head and with that arm, youre not fit to drive. I mean it."
"I cant leave my truck on the road," Reese protested.
"Ill drive it. Come on."
"Go get into bed," Tory said when Reese led them into the living room of her new home. "Ill get some ice for your arm - kitchen through there?" she indicated with a nod of her head.
"Yes, but I can get it"
Tory rounded on Reese, her eyes flashing. "Look Sheriff, you can save the butch routine for the bad guys. I know you can get it. The point is that I want you to lie down, so Im going to get it."
Reese stared at her, an uncomprehending look on her face. "Im not trying to be butch! Im just used to doing things for myself."
Torys features softened, and a smile curved her full lips. "Yes, Ill bet you are. But tonight you dont have to. Now go onplease."
Tory found her a few minutes later awkwardly trying to hang her gun belt and uniform in the closet. Her right arm was still uncoordinated and visibly swollen. She had managed to pull on a faded cotton T-shirt, USMC stenciled over her left chest. Her legs were bare below the hem of the shirt. Tory tried not to stare at the expanse of smooth skin and tightly muscled limbs, finally deciding she couldnt avoid looking at her unless she suddenly went blind. Taking the hanger from Reeses fumbling grasp, she said firmly, "Bed."
Tory folded the trousers carefully and hung them up in the precisely ordered closet. Shirts and pants were neatly segregateddress clothes to the left, casual clothes to the right. She stared thoughtfully at the crisp Judo gis and the carefully folded hakamas on the top shelf. The mysterious sheriff was more than a casual martial artist.
Turning, Tory found Reese propped up in bed, her hands folded on the sheets that covered her to the waist. She was watching Tory carefully, her face inscrutable. Tory stared back at her, thinking that this woman spoke volumes with her silence.
"What?" Tory asked softly.
"I was watching you study my closet with such interest. Are you always so observant?"
"Occupational hazard. Being a doctor is a little like being a detectiveyou have to learn not to overlook the subtle details. How about you? Always so neat, ordered, and controlled?"
Reese laughed. "Yes. Fifteen years of the Marine Corp will do that for you. Although it might be hereditary. My father is career military."
"And your mother is an organizational systems manager?" Tory joked.
Reese grew suddenly still, her expression thoughtful. "No, my mother is an artist. Im afraid I didnt inherit anything from her."
Tory saw the subject was clearly off limits and once again a vast distance settled between them. "Here," she said, approaching the bed with the plastic bag of ice in her hand, "hold out your arm." She wrapped a towel loosely around Reeses forearm, then applied the ice pack, securing it with another towel. "Keep this on as long as you can. If you have more pain during the night or the numbness worsens, call me. Its unlikely youll have a problem, but I dont want to take any chances."
"Whats your phone number?" Reese asked politely. She had no intention of taking up any more of this womans time. The whole ridiculous situation was her fault to begin with. No one had ever taken her by surprise like that before.
"Just yell - Ill be on your couch."
Reese shot straight up in bed. "You are not staying here!"
"My Jeep is at the clinic, and Im tired, and Im starting to get cranky. I intend to go to sleep - immediately. Dont worry, you wont even know Im here."
"Thats not the point!" Reese exclaimed. "Youve already done too much for me!"
Tory raised an eyebrow. "And just how would you define "too much", Sheriff? Is any help at all too much? Just tell me where the sheets areIm beat."
Reese pointed to a military footlocker pushed under the windows. "Beddings in there, Doctor. Military issue Im afraid. Ive only been a civilian a short time, and shopping has not been high on my list of priorities."
"Itll do for a night. Thanks," Tory said as she headed for the door. "Now lights out, please."
"Yes, maam," Reese sighed, realizing she had been out maneuvered in more ways than one that evening.
At five a.m. in May, sunrise was still a long way off. Reese stood in the dim light reflected from the kitchen, looking down at Tory King. She slept on her side, her arms wrapped around the pillow. Her tousled hair framed a face soft and youthful in sleep. Her clothes were tossed over a nearby chair, her leg brace and cane leaning within arms reach. Reese was captivated by how peaceful she appeared. Before Reese could move away, Tory rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, moving from sleep to full wakefulness almost instantaneously. She saw the curiosity in Reeses face before all expression fled.
"What?" Tory asked. "Is there something strange about the way I sleep?"
Reese contemplated her for a moment, aware that she was naked under the light covering. The curve of hip and the slight swell of breasts were outlined in light and shadow. Reese knew she was staring, and forced her eyes to Torys face.
"You dont just sleep - you seem to embrace it, as if it were nourishing you." Her voice trailed off. She had no words to express how beautiful the woman had been. "I didnt mean to disturb you," she finished awkwardly.
Tory sat up, holding the sheet to her chest with one arm. With the other she brushed her hair back from her face. "I think I felt you in my sleep, but it didnt disturb me." She looked at Reese uncertainly. She knew Reese hadnt touched her, but her skin tingled with the sense of a lingering caress. Abruptly she swung her legs to the floor. This was getting ridiculous. Too much turmoil in the last twenty-four hours had her imagining things.
"I need to be up anyhow," Tory said more sharply than she intended.
"Right. Ill let you get dressed," Reese said, turning away, nonplussed by the abrupt change. "Coffee?" She asked as she retreated quickly to the kitchen.
"Please," Tory called after her. She joined Reese in the kitchen a few moments later, looking around her in surprise. The room, newly renovated, was modern and equipped with professional appliances. "What a great kitchen! You must cook!"
Reese grinned, ducking her head shyly. "A secret vice." She handed Tory a steaming cup of freshly ground French Roast.
"However did that happen? Werent you forced to eat in the mess hall or something?"
Reese laughed, warming Tory with the rich timber of her voice. Tory relaxed, leaning against the large center cook-island that dominated the space. She sipped her coffee as she examined Reese in the bright morning light. She was in uniform again, the creases in her sleeves and trousers razor sharp, her tie knotted square under a crisp collar. The surface of her shoes sparkled with a flawless shine. She seemed flawless, too. Her black hair was trimmed precisely around her ears, and above her collar. The full front fell rather dashingly over clear blue eyes, a straight nose, and full strong chin. She was handsome and beautiful at the same time, and warning bells began clashing in Torys brain. Women this good-looking generally knew it, and that always spelled trouble. The years had not quite erased the pain left behind by someone nearly as heartstopping as this. She forced herself to concentrate on what Reese was saying, reminding herself she would never make that mistake again.
"I lived mostly off base. Learning to cook gave me something to do, since Ive always lived alone."
"Always?" Tory asked. It was hard to believe that a woman with her appeal wasnt attached.
"Yes, always," Reese replied quietly.
Once again Tory sensed a door closing as a distant look settled in Reeses eyes.
"How is your arm?" Tory asked, retreating to neutral ground.
"Stiff, but the sensation has returned."
"Can you handle your weapon?"
Reese looked surprised. "I think so."
Tory shook her head. "You have to be able to or you cant work. Seriously, Sheriff"
Reese held up a hand. "Please, call me Reese. You cant keep calling me Sheriff in my own kitchen."
Tory laughed. "And Im Tory. Now, draw your weapon."
Reese studied her for a second, recognizing the solemn set to her features. She reached behind her with her right hand to set the coffee cup on the counter. In the next instant, she had pivoted away from Tory, her revolver in both hands, crouched in a shooting stance. The tailored uniform stretched taut against coiled muscles, the gun unwavering.
Torys caught her breath, surprised by Reese's speed and grace. "You pass," Tory said lightly, aware that her throat was dry and her pulse racing. She had to admit the combination of physical beauty and controlled power was a compelling image.
Reese straightened, holstering her revolver. She smiled faintly and saluted Tory casually. "Thank you, maam."
Reese wasnt sure why Tory was staring at her so curiously, but she liked the way she laughed. For some reason, the laughter made her happy.
After returning Tory to the clinic, Reese circled through town to the station house. Nelson was at his desk, frowning over yet another voluminous report he had to complete.
"Jesus, Conlonwhat happened to you?" Nelson asked when he saw the bruise on his deputys face and the fresh stitches on her forehead.
Reese shook her head ruefully, tossing her hat on her desk. "If I told you the truth, youd fire me."
"Try me," he ordered. He was laughing by the time she finished the story. "I told you the doc could look after herself! Just be glad shes only got one good leg, or she really might have hurt you!"
They stared at one another as he grimaced in disgust. "Oh hell, I didnt mean that. Its a damn tragedy, and here I am joking." He shook his head in discomfort.
"What do you mean?" Reese asked quietly.
"I guess its not a secret - as if anyone in this town has secrets. She was a rower. Did you know that?"
"I know she rows," Reese remarked, recalling the photographs in Tory Kings office.
"She did row. She rowed for the Canadian Olympic team. She was their big hope for a gold medal in the 88 Olympics. Another rower hit her scull in a trial heat just before the games. Cut her boat in half and nearly took her leg off with it. She never rowed again."
Reese turned away, her chest tight. "Is this stuff last nights dregs again?" she said gruffly, snatching the coffeepot from the burner.
Nelson gaped at her in surprise. He was never going to understand this woman. She closed up faster than anyone he had ever known, men included. But he respected her moods, so he just grunted as he returned to the endless paperwork on his desk.
Reese focused on making coffee, forcing the painful image of Tory lying injured in a shattered boat from her mind. Unexpectedly, she flashed on the way Tory had looked asleep that morning, remembering the still beauty of her form beneath the light covering. The image was inexplicably calming. Reese took a deep breath, her emotions under control once again, and turned back to the Chief.
"Im going to start my tour."
"Sure. Hey, grab me some donuts, will you?"
Instead of turning right into town, Reese went the opposite direction to Route 6 and Herring Cove. The fishermen and women were out in numbers, casting in the offshore depths for the plentiful sea bass. Reese parked at the waters edge, searching the horizon. Sunlight shimmered on the cold blue-grey morning water, two forces of nature meeting. There, off to the right, cutting swiftly and surely toward Race Point, was the red kayak. The tension in her chest eased as Reese watched Tory fly across the surface, unfettered and free. Calm once again, she wheeled out of the lot to start her day.
After her second pass through town, she headed east on Route 6, the main highway that ran the length of Cape Cod. A roller blader a hundred yards ahead of her caught a wheel on something in the road, flying off onto the shoulder. The skater didnt get up.
Reese pulled up nearby, lights flashing. She ran to the prone figure.
"Take it easy, son," she said as she bent down next to the wiry youth with short cropped dark hair. "Oops, sorry," she amended as she looked closer, realizing the skater was female. "Are you hurt?"
"Jammed my knee pretty good," the young woman muttered, grimacing as she tried to get to her feet. She had been skating in tight shorts without gear, and the length of her thigh was badly scraped and bleeding.
"Dont try to stand up," Reese cautioned, slipping an arm around her waist. She bent slightly, getting her other arm behind the youths legs and stood, lifting her easily. "Come on. Ill take you to the clinic," she said as she walked the few feet to her cruiser.
"Im okay," the pale young woman protested.
"That may be, but wed better make sure." Reese pulled the rear door open, sliding the girl gently onto the back seat. "Whats your name?"
"Brianna Parker," came the quiet reply.
Reese looked at her carefully. Her hair was very short and spiked; she wore no makeup. She had a small silver ring through the corner of her left eyebrow, a tattoo encircling her right upper arm, and a wide silver band on the middle finger of her left hand. At first glance she appeared like a typical teenager, but on closer examination, the girl had a haunted look.
"Are you related to Sheriff Parker?"
"Ill radio him," Reese said as she slipped behind the wheel.
"Do you have to?"
Reese swung around in the seat to face her young passenger.
"How old are you?"
"Youll need your dads permission to be treated"
"Cant we wait to see if I need to be treated? Hes going to be mad. He doesnt want me skating out here. Besides, Im supposed to be in school."
Reese considered the request. Nelson was likely to be angry if she didnt call him right away, but there was something in the girl's face that swayed her. She could wait a bit.
"Ill have to call him, Brianna - but lets check the damage first okay?"
"Yeah," the young woman sighed. "And you can call me Bri. Everybody does."
Tory pulled into the clinic lot just behind Reeses cruiser. She looked at Reese questioningly as the officer approached.
"Hi!" Tory called, pleased to see her again so soon.
"Good morning," Reese replied, her voice warm. "Im afraid I brought you some early business. The Chiefs daughter took a header out on Route 6 on her roller blades. Banged her knee up."
"Damn," Tory muttered, mentally already planning what needed to be done. "Neither Sally or Randy is here yet. I guess you can handle a stretcher, cant you?"
Reese didnt reply as she opened the door of her patrol car and leaned inside. To Torys surprise, Reese straightened up with the young woman in her arms. Bri threw one arm around the tall officers shoulder for support.
"Lead the way, Doctor," Reese announced.
Tory merely nodded, deciding that she should get used to being surprised by the seemingly totally self-sufficient sheriff. Reese followed her through the building to the treatment room, depositing Brianna gently on the treatment table.
"Ill wait," Reese said. "Im going to need to call her father."
Tory nodded distractedly as she bent over her patient, then as an after thought asked, "Think you can make some coffee?"
"Absolutely," Reese replied with a grin. She found the tiny kitchenette and soon had a pot brewing. She was just pouring two cups when Tory reappeared.
"Shes fine," Tory answered to Reeses questioning look. "A pretty bad sprain, but I put her in a knee immobilizer. Shell be skating again in a week or two."
"Thanks," Reese said. "Im sorry to have bothered you, but I thought"
"Nonsense," Tory said, stilling Reese with a touch on her arm. "You were right to bring her in. Shes more worried about her father than her knee. Nelson keeps a pretty tight rein on her. She got into some kind of trouble a year or so ago. Teenager stuff."
Reese nodded. "Its hard being that age. Ill call him, then Ill run her home."
"Youre good at this small town policing, Sheriff."
Reese smiled, pleased. "Thanks. I dont have much experience with community life. I was a military brat, then active duty right after school." She halted self-consciously. "Id better go call Nelson."
It took her a few minutes to calm her boss down, but she finally convinced him that he did not have to personally come to the clinic. She thanked Tory once again, then settled Bri back into the cruiser.
"Is it true you have a black belt in karate?" Bri asked as Reese pulled out onto the highway.
"Not exactly," Reese answered. "I have a black belt in jujitsu. Theyre quite a bit different. How did you know?"
"My dad told me."
Reese knew it was on her resume, and assumed the Sheriff had noticed. It was certainly true that there were no secrets in Provincetown.
"Could you teach me?" the young woman continued.
Reese turned her head to study the teenager. Her hopeful look touched a distant memory. Reese had been a solitary teenager in a world of adults. Her martial arts training had helped focus her aimless adolescent energy. It centered her still.
"Its a very serious commitment, Bri - and it takes a long time to learn. Why do you want to do it?"
Bri knew she was being asked a serious question, and it felt like Reese really cared about her answer. She struggled to find the right words.
"Because I want something thats my own - something I chose, something I earned. And because Im bored, and I feel restless all the time."
Reese nodded. She had been about Briannas age when she began her training, and she remembered that difficult time in her life. She didnt want to refuse, but it meant a commitment for her as well. Taking on a student was a deep responsibility.
"Youd need to train three times a week. And your dad has to approve."
Bris face set in determination. "All right. When can I start?"
"Not until your knee is healed, and Doctor King gives you the go ahead. But you can come to my house on Saturday and Ill explain some things that you need to know. Seven a.m."
"Ill be there."
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