Disclaimer: All the characters of in this story are of my own creation. Any physical resemblance the people in this story may have to real people is coincidental and no infringement on anyone’s rights is intended.

Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to physical relationships between consenting adults, who may happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.

Paradise Series #6.

Storyline: Hustle, bustle and headaches abound on a fictional Caribbean island as a recently, nearly completed resort is brought to life and we follow the lives of the people who are trying to make it happen. In the middle of it all is a closer look at two strangers, two women, who are thrown together by outside forces and struggle to contend with the problems they will have to share if the Paradise Beachside Resort is to open on time, and their own emotions as strange happenings make them question themselves, and each other.

Please send any comments to asdease1@gte.net

Enjoy, I hope.

Chapter six

Written by FlyBigD

The tropical breeze floated in from the sea and time went on its merry way unnoticed as an eternity took place between two souls locked together in a single gaze. Contented and curious, their eyes searched and flirted with each other, but never strayed as the gentlest of explorations moved at will over smooth softness warmed by the sun’s rays.

The moment tarried as Teddy abided in it, her questions on hold, her thoughts on the fringe of her perception and her fingertips gliding slowly over Holly’s back. Relaxed, content and sated, her desires were met as she gazed as she was gazed upon. In an intense but satisfied way that didn’t make her heart beat faster or halt her breathing, as if having her dream fulfilled was the most natural thing in the world.

Imbibing in the moment as well, Holly was no less quenched than the woman she looked down upon. Attaining the closeness she sought, she sought no more as the light sweeps upon her back only added to the richness she was already enjoying with her own stroking caresses of Teddy’s face, neck and shoulders.

As all things go, both good and bad, there is only so much time that can be given to one moment, no matter how much its survival is yearned for. As a wave cannot be held back from the shore forever, so the eternal moment shared moved irrevocably onward toward its end, but it did not go willingly. Fighting her expanding perceptions, Teddy could feel the outer world infringing on her dream as primal instincts returned to give her an uneasy feeling. Though sheltered within the confines of the moment, she became aware of where the moment was taking place and how vulnerable it was to unwanted observation. Exposed to the sun, the elements and anyone who happened by, it was the latter that gnawed at her contentment. This is never gonna work. She told herself as the uneasiness grew. We’ve gotta move this someplace else.

The sigh was the first sign Holly received that the moment was ending. The warm breath brushing against the back of her hand, she watched the peaceful expression change almost imperceptibly as Teddy’s focus seemed to become more distant and the light touch on her back disappeared. Feeling an ache from the absence of all three, she drew back as an unhappy, worried expression replaced her contented one.

Holly was silent, but her gaze was full of questions and Teddy quickly returned her hand to the narrow between her shoulders to keep Holly from retreating any further. Although she was ready to be someplace else, she was less ready than she thought to have Holly someplace else and with her palm flat, fingers spread, she began to knead the warm skin as she slowly shook her head. “You’re fine.” She whispered, adding a reassuring smile.

Getting two out of the three things back, the body language was right, but there was still a look to Teddy’s eyes that kept Holly from being totally convinced nothing was wrong. “What is it?” She asked quietly, cupping a tanned cheek.

Teddy’s smile softened as another sigh escaped her lips. “I just remembered something I need to do, but it can wait.”

She wants to leave. Holly thought sadly and removed her hand as she started to sit up.

That didn’t come out right. She thought as she put more effort into holding her in place. “Holly, you’re fine.” Teddy repeated, using a firmer tone in her voice as well. “It isn’t important. It can wait. I swear.” The last was spoken quietly and with a hopeful smile. And if anybody shows up, I’ll just kill have to kill them.

The pressure on her back brought Holly to rest on her elbow again with a sigh. Shaking her head, she spoke with a quiet seriousness. “Teddy, you don’t have to stay just for me.”

The seriousness spread into Teddy’s eyes as words welled from deep in her soul and her other hand came up to cradle Holly’s face. “Yes, I do.” She said as her thumb followed the line of a sun kissed cheek. “You’re what’s important to me. Nothing else matters.”

You could have knocked Holly over with a feather as the words sank in and perfect blue, unwavering, love filled eyes conveyed the rest of the story. Love was an aspect she hadn’t seen before and a prospect she had never conceived, and as the full breadth of it brought with it a weight upon her soul, she slipped out of Teddy’s grasp.

Words weren’t the only thing sinking as Teddy watched the change she had been dreading, finally begin. She’d laid all her cards on the table in one fell, unintentional swoop spoken from the heart and now her nightmare was coming true. First confusion, then doubt, then surprise and as she let Holly pull back, she saw the flicker of disenchantment in green eyes as they turned away from her. Arms falling to her sides in desolation again, she stared up at the sky as Holly stood and walked away, then slowly, her hands came up to cover her face as it contorted in anguish. There were no thoughts of regret. There were no recriminating curses. There was no hope for recompense. There was no way to undo what she had done. There was only devastation as Teddy sat up to slump forward, her head in her hands, resting on her bent knees. A love freshly born that day lay shattered within her with no one to blame for its destruction but herself. She had been prepared to live the unrequited life, keeping her love to herself to keep Holly within her world and be satisfied with never getting a taste of the life she had begun to dream of, but then it had happened. She had gotten that taste, just when she thought all was lost and basked in the moment, only to throw it all away, making the loss all the more painful for having gotten that single taste.

Holly didn’t go far. She walked out to the sea until the warm waves lapped at her ankles and then she stopped to stare out over the water, her eyes unseeing, her mind in disarray, her arms wrapping themselves around her tightly. Secluded from the outside world, she sank deeper into the inner one as a voice sounded from within the chaos, asking if she could have been mistaken. If, perhaps, she had read more into the words and the look than was actually there. Closing her eyes, she saw the look again as the purity and honesty in the perfect shade of blue removed any doubts as to the love within it. Clear, unmistakable and so deep, Holly felt as though she had gazed into Teddy’s soul and found it filled with love. A love that didn’t go hand in hand with friendship. That was the other doubt to be dispelled as the vision stayed. The love she had seen was wider than the kind you give a friend. It hadn’t just filled Teddy’s soul, it had beamed from it in an all encompassing warmth which Holly could feel still, as she could still feel Teddy’s hands upon her skin. An afterglow of the love and the warmth of the caresses, she turned her head into a palm that was no longer there, to feel again the closeness she had craved. A new question raised, Holly opened her eyes, to look to the sea, as she remembered the yearning which had taken her into Teddy’s embrace. The desire to be close, the decision to make the move and the peace she had found when she got there.

Teddy opened her eyes as she slowly lifted her head from her hands. Her gaze fell on the object of her affection, the woman she loved, the dream she had thrown away who stood no more than twenty feet in front of her, though the distance seemed like miles after having been so close. I miss her already. She thought as the pain turned into an ache for what she’d only had for a few minutes at the most, but that was enough. She couldn’t live in ignorant bliss anymore, thriving off her imagination. She’d know what she was missing from now on and it already hurt. Sure that the damage had finally been done, hoping that Holly would turn around and say it didn’t matter was even too far fetched for Teddy to come up with, which left her with few delusions about the future. Exile was certain, or as close to exile as she could get working in the same resort, but it would feel the same. Watching Holly day after day, knowing there was a gulf between them. One she couldn’t cross. One she shouldn’t have crossed in the first place. One she wouldn’t cross again. One that would keep her from a friend and which was half of her pain. Losing Holly’s friendship. It didn’t matter that that was young too, because it didn’t feel that way. It never had, but that didn’t matter either, because it was gone. Everything was gone. The friendship, the dream, the closeness, but not the love. That was the one thing Teddy knew she would never lose.

She sat and watched Holly for a few more minutes, engraving the good memories of the day into her mind until the stillness and silence started to get uncomfortable, and Teddy realized her exile had already begun. Her head dropped a notch then, as she dealt with the first glimpse of what the rest of the days were going to be like. To have her existence ignored by the woman she wanted, to live on the outside of a life she wanted to be a part of and to watch while others got to do what she couldn’t. Her head lowered again, as did her eyes and she looked away from Holly to glance at her things. Still stacked neatly on the edge of her blanket, Teddy didn’t have to reach too far to touch them and she did. Running her fingers over the folded pale yellow blanket, it was warm and smooth like Holly, which brought a brief smile to her face before she pulled her hand back with a long, heavy sigh. That’s not mine. She thought sadly and sighed again when it became time for her to realize it was time for her to go. She had never stayed where she wasn’t welcome and it was obvious she wasn’t welcome here anymore, so she would at least show the common sense and courtesy to leave without making Holly anymore uncomfortable than she already was. It’s the least I can do. She thought as her eyes strayed to the blonde and the question of ‘or is it’ popped into her head to suddenly fill her mind with things she needed to say. Then, as she got to her feet, she hurriedly tried to put the words in some kind of order, praying her years of winging it as a bartender would pay off and in case they didn’t, she tried to remember how much money she had in her savings if she ended up getting fired.

Taking a few steps forward, Teddy moved up behind Holly just enough to keep herself from having to speak too loudly, then stopped well out of arms’ reach to make sure Holly didn’t feel infringed upon, if that were humanly possible. A couple of deep breaths, a few solid lines to start out with and she cleared her throat to give laying it all on the line another shot for the one chance to plead her case against total exile from the woman she loved. “Look, Holly, I uh know you’re probably pretty spooked right now and all, and that’s understandable, and I’m not going to stay, but I wanted to say something before I left and all you have to do is listen.” She concluded her opening lines and watched for some sort of reaction from Holly, but didn’t see any so she started the winging it phase with her eyes closed. “I meant what I said. You are important to me and I think you got the rest, but I need for ya to know that I never meant to hurt you with it. I don’t ever wanna hurt you and I didn’t plan for this to happen. I mean, I just figured it out myself, ya know and this is all kinda new to me too. I’ve never been in love before and I guess I just got carried away, but that’s as far as it’s gonna go.” Stated firmly, Teddy opened her eyes. “I’m not gonna start stalking ya, or anything. I’m not some kind of lesbian leech who can’t control herself and I know you’re not gay, so . . . “

Holly turned her head to glance over her shoulder with a questioning look, but she didn’t elaborate.

“ . . . I asked Rolando, okay?” Teddy responded to the look and held up her hands in innocence. “I didn’t know doodly hoot about your personal life, so I called him the night you stayed at my house, when you were out on the deck because I’d been getting these weird vibes all day and I didn’t know if you were trying to put the moves on me or what and he said all you had ever dated was guys, then you got too busy to date, so we figured you weren’t gay, and don’t ask me where Rolando gets his information from, because I don’t know.”

Holly lowered her eyes before returning her gaze to the sea.

“Anyway.” She snapped then paused to take a deep calming breath before she went on. “Anyway, I am gay and I always have been, and yes, I was attracted to you before I figured out that I was in love with you, but I never intended to act on it, Holly. When I invited you back to the house, it wasn’t to put the moves on ya to try and get you into bed. . . I was just trying to make up for dumping ya in the mud and have ya help me pick out some fish. I’m not in the conversion business. I’m just attracted to women instead of men, and I wasn’t trying to hide that from you, and I’m not in the closet. You know me, Holly. I don’t care what people think about me. It’s just that I believe what I do in my private life isn’t anybody’s business, no matter if I was gay or not and you know the reason why I keep to myself. It has nothing to do with my sexual orientation.”

“Rolando knows.” Holly whispered.

Teddy rolled her eyes with a sigh. “Yesss, Rolando knows I’m gay. He and Maria both know and he’s having a hissy fit because he thinks I’m gonna end up with two pissed blondes on my hands, and I don’t even want to think about the field day Maria is having with this.” Throwing her hands in the air, one came down to be put on her hip, while the other was used to cover her eyes. “Why me?”

Hissy fit. Pissed. Blonde. Were the three clicks Holly’s mind made before her blonde head came around slowly to stay over her shoulder as her body followed through on a 90 degree turn and the fourth click took place. Barracuda. “Jennifer.”

Oh, dear God. Why me? Teddy groaned. Closing her eyes as she lowered her hand, she gave her big, fat, stupid mouth a hard swipe before opening it and her eyes at the same time. “You want Rolando’s version or the truth?” She sighed in admission.

She didn’t want either until she was asked, then she wanted to get it over with quickly. “The truth.”

Teddy hesitated a second to take a deep breath, then she began with calm resignation in her voice. “Jennifer and I go back about six years. We’ve worked at a couple of resorts together and about three years ago we started having an intimate relationship. It wasn’t constant, but it lasted around a year and a half and as it turned out, it meant a lot more to Jenn than it ever did to me. She wanted more and she wasn’t happy when I didn’t, but we kept it going for a little while longer until I decided it was time to move on. That’s when she got really pissed and I transferred to the Piper. Nobody ever knew about it because that’s the thing with gossips. They love telling everything they know about other people’s business, but they’d rather keep there’s off the front page, no matter how pissed they get.” Intending to end with a shrug, Teddy continued with the explanation when Holly frowned. “I didn’t use her, Holly. We both wanted the same thing going into it and she’s the one who changed her mind.”

It was short and to the point, and for what it was worth, Holly believed her. It explained why Jennifer didn’t like Teddy, but it left out one important detail. “Does she know you never loved her?”

“Holly, Jennifer and I were never even friends, really. I never made her any promises.” She explained and got a look that told her to stop beating around the bush. “I don’t know.” Teddy sighed and shook her head. “Maybe she did, but if she thought that, she got it on her own because I never told her that, Holly. I may have stayed in the relationship longer than I should have, but I never lied to her. I never told her I loved her because I didn’t love her. Hell, I didn’t even like her most of the time.”

“Then why?” She asked and turned around another step.

“I don’t know. Because she was there, I guess.” Hands going up in the air again, they came down flop at her sides when Holly gave her another disapproving look. “That’s not what I meant. Look. Yes, she was convenient, I’ll admit that, but there was more to it than that. We had some good times together, when she wasn’t being a royal bitch and we got along pretty good, but I made it clear right off the bat that I was not looking for a long term relationship and she agreed. If she hadn’t, I never would have gotten involved with her.”

Relaxing her arms, Holly folded them across her chest. “And now?”

Teddy didn’t have to think about that one. “Holly, if I had never met you, Jenn would still be out of the picture. I’ll work with her and I’ll play nice, but if she’s got something else on her mind, she’s shit outta luck.”

“She’s convenient.” She commented quietly.

“What part of I don’t care about Jennifer are you not getting, Holly?” Teddy asked as her hands returned to her hips and an irritated glint entered her gaze. “I am not interested in Jennifer anymore. I was once, but I got over it, big time. She’s not a player here. She’s not even in the stands, okay? She is not a part of my life and I plan on keeping it that way. I don’t even want her to know where I live, alright?”

Holly frowned in confusion. “You had a relationship with her and you never told her where you live?”

“She knew where I lived then, but she doesn’t know about my house here, no.” Teddy shook her head and pointed over her shoulder in the general direction of the mountain without looking. “Max, my family, Rolando, Maria and their kids are the only people who know I have a house up there.” Bringing her arm down, she held out her hand to Holly. “And you.” She said in a softer voice and the hint of a smile, then her expression changed to an almost pained one. “I shared my bed with her, Holly. I didn’t share my dreams.”

Jennifer’s true standing finally registered in Holly’s mind, as did her own. “I see.” She whispered as she gazed off into the distance at nothing.

Teddy chewed her bottom lip for a few seconds while she tried to figure out if this was where she was supposed to take her cue to leave, or if there was more she wanted to say. It was the latter. “Look,” she started softly, “I uh . . . I’m not trying to put anything on you, Holly. How I feel is my problem, not yours and I can deal with it. I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, like you’ve got to watch your p’s and q’s around me so I don’t get the wrong idea or anything or have you feel like I’m lurking over your shoulder. I won’t be. I know you’re never gonna feel the same way I do and I know things aren’t gonna be the same, but . . . I . . . I uh . . . I don’t have a lot of real friends and I guess I . . . uh was kinda hoping . . . damn. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except that I like you, Holly. I mean without all the other stuff attached, I just like you, as a friend and I don’t want to lose you like that. I don’t have a lot of friends and I don’t cozy up to people, male or female, but you’re different. I can talk to you. I can talk to you without having to cut off every other word . . . I . . . I know it’s crazy, because I haven’t even known you a week yet, but I trust you, Holly. I don’t know why, but I do. I feel comfortable with you around and I think you do with me, and I don’t want that to go away.” On a roll, Teddy paused to revisit her nightmare. “But if you’re not comfortable with me anymore, don’t worry about it. I uh . . . I can take a hint and it’s like I said, I won’t be bothering ya. I’m pretty good at steering clear of people, ya know. I’ve had a lot of practice at that. Rolando taught me everything he knows.” Realizing she was beginning to ramble, she stopped. “Holly, I’m sorry if I upset you with all this. I didn’t mean to if I did and you really don’t have to say anything. I know I’ve made a mess of things, but I can’t say that I’m really sorry about it. I don’t know what keeping it inside would have done to me, but I don’t think I would’ve liked lying to you.” Feeling a pang, she dropped her head and shook it. “I guess that’s been the point all along. I thought I could pretend like nothing had changed to keep you in my life, but I can’t. I can’t give you just a part of me. I’d rather live without you, than lie to keep you.” With that, Teddy had said all she wanted to say and then some. Smiling a sad wistful smile, she turned away to hide the watershed building above her dark lashes and with no response expected, she took her cue at last.

Once there were no more words for her to hear, Holly listened to her heart. Its quiet rhythm beat slowly, silencing all but a few questions filling her mind and leaving her with troubled echoes of Teddy’s voice. Nothing Teddy had said wasn’t felt by Holly. The regret, the confusion, the angst, the fear, the sorrow, the hope, the loss and the conviction of the soul. Teddy had spoken honestly from the heart and fought her way through the clash of emotions to finish where she started. Standing behind the love she wouldn’t deny and ready to pay for her honesty by sacrificing what she wanted most, and it was the honesty which troubled Holly the most. Although she still wasn’t sure of what she was feeling, as Teddy had gone on, she’d been trying to deny what she’d felt before. She no longer wanted to accept the blending of their colors as the creation of the perfect shade. She didn’t want the desire to be close to Teddy to be real. She didn’t want to admit to the contentment Teddy had given her. Holly wanted to deny it all as a bad dream, or bad tuna fish, or sun stroke, or anything which wouldn’t make it true, but in the end, her heart wouldn’t let her lie. Not even to herself and when Teddy stood by her convictions, she felt her own burn inside her because she had tried to deny it. Because she wanted to deny it. Because she was afraid of what it meant if she didn’t and in the process she felt something slipping away from her. Something she couldn’t keep if she kept fighting. Something she wasn’t ready to lose. Something she didn’t want to lose. Something worth the honesty it was going to take to keep. Teddy.

Arms still folded across her chest, Holly turned back to the sea to let the blue/green waters give her the courage she needed to follow her heart. “I lied.” She said after a deep breath.

Teddy had her blanket folded on top of her chair by this time and was bent over picking up her book when Holly’s voice made her turn her head. Confused, because she wasn’t sure what she heard and if she had heard what she thought she heard, it wasn’t even close to anything she would’ve expected Holly to say, which quite frankly, wasn’t anything at all. Coming up without her book, she scratched the back of her neck and took a reluctant step forward. “Pardon?”

“I lied.” Holly repeated and closed her eyes. “I have a scar.” It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Okay. She thought and was lost for a second until her brain back pedaled far enough to remember their previous conversation that had lead to a tickle fest. When she did remember, it didn’t help much, because she couldn’t understand why Holly was bringing it up now. That was until Holly bowed her head as she reached behind it to move her hair away from the back of her neck. Oh, I get it. She wants to show it to me. Oh, okay. I think. Walking slowly forward, she stretched her own neck upward as she did to try and see the scar before she got too close to Holly. The maneuver worked part of the way, because she spotted it while still a few paces away, but as soon as she saw the thin jagged line, she thought about the pain it would take to cause it and she didn’t like the thought of Holly in pain. So, the madder she got, the closer she got until she was standing directly behind Holly with a scowl marring her features. A not so thin line now, it was still jagged and about four inches long with a double row of dots on either side following it up from the middle of the neck to just inside the hairline where it had been stitched closed. Absorbed and angry, Teddy’s hand rose from her side to glide her thumb over the line. “What happened?”

She could feel the heat from Teddy’s body replace that of the sun on her skin and as the touch turned into a gentle massage, Holly closed her eyes as she slipped effortlessly into her comfort zone. “Rolando wasn’t completely right. I did stop dating, but it wasn’t because I got too busy.” She sighed a whisper as a deep breath filled her lungs. “I was living with someone when I showed Big Daddy the blue prints for the Paradise.”

Teddy’s hand never wavered as she began to pray that there was no correlation between the scar and the story, because if there was . . . if someone had done this to Holly, that someone was living on borrowed time. Her time. “And.” She coaxed quietly.

“I think he got jealous then or maybe the signs were there before and I was too busy to see them, but after I was given the project, everything seemed to go downhill. We started fighting over little things, stupid things and nothing I did seemed to make it any better.” As she spoke, Holly’s eyes opened to stare at the water just in front of her, as if watching the disintegration play out on the waves. “He kept saying I cared more about the project than I did him . . . and I tried to tell him it wasn’t true. I told him it was going to be good for both of us, that we’d be able to do the things we’d talked about, but he didn’t see it that way. All he cared about was I was going places and he wasn’t. All he had to do was be happy for me and he couldn’t even do that.” Trailing off to a whisper, then silence.

Her prayer had gone unanswered and Teddy could feel her rage building rapidly when her focus suddenly changed from the faceless walking dead man she intended to rip the heart out of to the woman leaning into her for comfort. Giving all that she had to give the moment it was requested, she draped one arm around the front of Holly’s shoulders and the other around her waist to pull her closer. “I’m sorry.” She said softly.

“So was I.” Holly sighed. Unfolding her arms, she grasped the one around her shoulders with both hands, clinging to the safety she felt in Teddy’s arms and letting the embrace soothe the pain she’d been holding onto. “I thought I could have it all.” She continued quietly. “ I thought everything would work itself out and I’d get to keep my dream and the man of my dreams, but he kept getting angrier because I wouldn’t quit the project . . . and when he found out I was the one in charge, he . . . I guess I should have seen it coming.”

And Teddy could feel it coming like a blazing freight train at her soul, but she pushed the fury back to hold Holly a little bit tighter and wait for the words she never wanted to hear, but knew she had to. That someone had hurt Holly and she hadn’t been there to stop it. “What happened?” She asked as she lowered her head to hang it in sorrow beside Holly’s cheek.

Holly shook her head. “It was about four months after the project got rolling. He had been after me not to stay with it and I kept putting off telling him it was my project, that I was in charge of it, because I didn’t want to make things worse than they already were between us. Then Big Daddy ran a full page ad in the paper with an artists rendering and my name as the architect and project manager. You know how he is, Teddy. He likes everybody to be as excited as he is and he didn’t know.” She explained quickly, to remove the blame from Big Daddy, then she got quiet again. “I guess I didn’t know either . . . until Trent saw the ad.” Holly sighed with the memory of how upset he had gotten and stared at her hands as they tightened around Teddy’s arm. “Somebody had asked him about the ad at work and he was furious by the time he came home. I’d never seen him that mad before. I’d never seen anybody that mad before . . .”

Holly’s voice was just above a whisper tearing at Teddy’s heart like a dull butcher knife. She didn’t want to close her eyes, but she did, as the story unfolded and she placed her cheek against Holly’s neck, to nuzzle it tenderly as every painful detail played out like a bad dream in her mind.

“. . . He threw the paper in my face and asked me what I was trying to do to him. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I mean, I knew they were going to run an ad, but I thought it wouldn’t be for months. We had just gotten the project off the ground. I hadn’t even finished the budget yet . . . and I . . . I didn’t know what to say to him. What could I say?” Shrugging in reflection, Holly shook her head again. “I wasn’t going to give up the project and I guess . . . I guess I was tired of having to defend myself by then. I guess I felt if he couldn’t be happy for me, there no sense in putting it off anymore. So I told him everything. I told him how much I wanted the Paradise, how hard I’d worked on the design, how long I’d been waiting to get up the nerve to show it to Big Daddy, how happy I’d been when it was turned over to me, about it being my dream. . . he just stood there and stared at me.” Holly lifted her head and stared at the sea for a moment, then her head fell back against Teddy’s shoulder and she closed her eyes. “He didn’t care.” She said bitterly. “It was all about him. It was all about how my success was going to make him look bad. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that the man who I thought loved me, who had always told me to go for it was standing right there telling me to give up my dream, just so he could show his face at work the next day. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he was that immature, or insecure, or self centered, or whatever he was to ask me to do that. I thought I knew him. God, I felt like such a fool.” Releasing a heavy sigh at how blind she had been, Holly opened her eyes as a rueful chuckle followed close behind. “Then he told me I had to choose. It was either him or the project and me, being the fool I was . . . I tried to tell him, one last time, how important it was to me, and it didn’t have to be that way. He didn’t want to hear it. He wasn’t interested in what I wanted and the more I tried to explain, the madder he got, and I . . . I got tired of trying.”

There was a sad smile on Holly’s lips when she stopped. Feeling the same exhaustion she had then, her eyes closed again as she sank further into Teddy’s arms. “I wasn’t going to give up my dream for him and I didn’t want to fight about it anymore. So I went upstairs, to get away from the shouting . . . to clear my head and Trent followed me up there . . . and he just wouldn’t stop. He kept telling me what I was doing to him and giving me ultimatums . . . so I finally told him . . . I told him I wasn’t going to give up the Paradise. I told him how long I’d waited for this chance and I wasn’t going to give it to somebody else just to satisfy his ego.” Inside her mind, Holly could see Trent’s face contort with rage. She could see it turn a dark crimson as the veins on his temples began to pulsate. “I don’t think that was what he wanted to hear.”

Teddy felt Holly’s body begin to tense. “Holly, it’s okay. It’s over.” She whispered, but the tenseness grew. “Holly . . .”

Standing at the top of the stairs, Holly shook her head at Trent. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you think I’m doing this to deliberately hurt you, because you’re wrong. I’m sorry your ego won’t let you be happy for me. I’m sorry you can’t understand how much this means to me, but this isn’t a project to me, Trent. It’s my dream. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid and I’ve worked too hard, and too long, longer than I’ve been with you, to make it happen. This project is mine, Trent and I’m not walking away from it . . . not even if it means losing you. “He looked so strange . . . and he . . . he just stood there for a second . . . staring at me, like . . . like he didn’t know who I was. Then everything seemed to slow down and I . . . I guess I never saw it coming . . . I just stood there . . . waiting for it to happen . . .”

The body within her arms began to tremble. Holding on tightly, Teddy squeezed her eyes shut as she waited for it to be over. Suddenly Holly’s head jerked to the side by the smallest margin and it felt like every muscle in her body tightened at once. “It’s okay. I’ve gotcha.”

“ . . . I fell . . . I remember falling . . . down the stairs . . . after he . . . hit me . . . and I . . . I remember seeing his face . . . it looked the same way . . . nothing had changed . . . then I felt something hit my head . . . “ She said and reached up to touch the back of her neck.

“It’s okay. It’s over, Holly. It’s over.” Teddy kept whispering as she cradled Holly’s head against her shoulder. Then slowly, ever so slowly, after forever had passed, Holly began to relax within her embrace. A sigh of relief escaping her lips, she placed them on a lightly sweat sheened brow and let them linger there until Holly’s hand returned to it’s place, taking a gentler hold of her forearm. Pulling away just a bit, her fingers got lost in blonde hair as she looked down to see green eyes make a watery reappearance. “Are you okay?”

Holly nodded and settled her head at the base of Teddy’s neck. Her mind now empty of the memories, she held onto the present as she shed the last fragments of pain. “I didn’t wake up until I was in the hospital.” She said in calm reflection. “They kept me almost a week and by the time I got home, Trent had already moved out. I don’t know if he was afraid I’d press charges or if he just wanted to put as much distance between us as possible.”

“What did you do?” Teddy asked solemnly.

“I cleaned up the house and called into the office for 30 days personal leave.” Taking a breath, she let it out slowly. “ I still had the stitches . . . I didn’t want to have to go into work . . . I think I was still in shock.”

Teddy closed her eyes. “Did he come back?”

“No. I didn’t hear from him for a long time after that . . . it was funny then, when he did call.” She said with a semi-confused expression. “While he was apologizing, he said he’d never hit a woman before . . . he didn’t like it and then we started talking about something else, but . . . he never asked to come back. I don’t know why I thought he would and I know I wouldn’t have let him . . . but it was just strange that he never asked. It was like he’d made some kind of point and moved on.” Holly mentally shook her head to clear it and continued. “Anyway . . . so did I, I guess and I sold the house while I was on leave. It wasn’t too big . . . I just didn’t want to be there anymore and after my leave ran out, I went back to work.”

“To build your dream.” Teddy smiled.

“Hmm.” Holly agreed, but without the smile. Drifting into a somber mood, as she got quiet again, she thought about the events which had led to her revealing that part of her past. Though she’d gotten over the incident with Trent and Trent himself years before, she’d never told anyone about it until now and it served as a reminder of how secure she felt with Teddy. Within the arms which held her still, the comfort and security remained, even with the knowledge of how Teddy felt about her. Being held by a woman who was in love with her, she’d found the strength to face a painful part of her life she’d chosen to forget, but never truly released and gained a sense of closure she hadn’t felt before. Yet, in those arms, as one door closed, another one opened, bringing with it a sense of guilt for allowing herself to be comforted when she wasn’t sure she had anything to give in return. The honesty which put her denial to rest had not resolved her deeper emotions. The contentment was undeniable and her desire for closeness hadn’t changed, but whether those things translated into something more, she didn’t know. All Holly knew was that she didn’t want to lose Teddy, but just as Teddy wouldn’t lie to keep what she had wanted, Holly wouldn’t do it either. Undecided, but unwilling to fall into the trap of selfishness, Holly lifted her head from Teddy’s shoulder.

Simply put, Holly wasn’t showing any inclination toward wanting to leave, so Teddy didn’t feel the need to let her go. Her arms still holding Holly close to her, she stood quiet and still, her cheek resting on Holly’s forehead as she waited, watching the waves amble into shore. Thinking about nothing really, Trent, the future dead man who now had a name, never crossed her mind, nor did the many ways she intended to dismember his worthless body. Just as the unwanted observers she had been so worried about earlier didn’t give her a single momentary twinge of concern either. The only thing that mattered was making sure Holly was really alright, because Teddy had discovered, among many other things today, she did not like it when Holly wasn’t alright. Not even close. Love me, or don’t love me, she thought, but nobody better mess with my puddle buddy. Here she comes. Raising her head as Holly lifted her’s, Teddy didn’t move anymore than it took to look down into green eyes. “Are you alright? I mean, really alright?” She asked immediately.

There was a short sigh before Holly nodded. “I’m okay . . . but there’s something I need to tell you.” She said as she began to turn. Coming around to face Teddy, as she was released from the embrace, she reached out to take Teddy’s hand. “I don’t know if I’ll ever love you the way you love me . . .”

Oops. I forgot about that. “Holly, you don’t have to say . . .” Teddy interrupted, then got interrupted herself.

“Let me finish. You had your say, now it’s my turn.” She said firmly enough to the desired level of silence from Teddy, who sucked her lips inside her mouth. Starting over, she took a deep breath first before she began. “Teddy, I don’t love you the way you love me and I’m not sure I ever will, but I don’t want to lose you. Just hear me out.” She added when Teddy started to speak.

Teddy wanted to give her the reassurance she wasn’t going to be lost anytime soon, but she acquiesced to Holly’s request with a sigh and a nod. “Go on.”

Satisfied she wasn’t going to have anymore interruptions, Holly continued. “The past couple of days I knew there was something between us, I could feel it, but I didn’t take the time to really look at it until now.” Lowering her eyes, she stared at their combined hands and laced them together. “After Trent, I got so caught up in the project . . . I didn’t take the time to do a lot of things. I was so determined on getting my dream, I never took the time to look around and see if there was anything else I wanted.” Her eyes came back to Teddy’s then. “The Paradise was all I knew, it was all I did, I didn’t need anything else and I knew I didn’t know what I was doing all the time, but I didn’t care . . . until you came along . . . and now I do.” Holly took a deep breath, then another as she stared into Teddy’s eyes. “I need you, Teddy. I need you with me.”

“Holly, you don’t need me.” Shaking her head, Teddy smiled and gave Holly’s had a squeeze. “You’re doing a great job. You’re almost finished. You don’t need my help to get it done.”

Holly shook her head in return. “You’re right. I don’t need your help. I just need you . . . to be there for me . . . to be close to me.” Letting out an exhausted sigh, she took a step forward to lay her forehead on Teddy’s shoulder. “I’ve been pushing myself so hard, for so long . . . and it’s only going to get worse . . . I don’t want to have to do it alone anymore.”

“Then you won’t.” Teddy whispered as her arms came up to encircle Holly’s shoulders.

When Teddy’s arms began to pull her in, Holly pushed them apart and stepped back, shaking her head at how easy it would be to let herself be held again. “No. I can’t let you do this. Not until I’m finished.” Retreating further, she put several paces between them.

Teddy didn’t want to let go, but she did and fought herself to stay her ground as Holly openly fretted.

One hand went in the air and the other went around to rub her scar. “Teddy, I don’t love you. I feel something and it probably is love, but not that kind of love and it’s not fair for me to ask you to be there for me, knowing the way you feel. I don’t want to lose you and for me nothing has changed. I don’t feel uncomfortable around you, I don’t think that’s possible, but I can’t take advantage of you like this. Not when I can’t give you what you want.”

“Holly. Whoa. Wait a minute.” Waving her arms around, Teddy broke in. “I’m not asking for anything here, okay? I’m in love with you, yea, but what I said earlier, that was just to make sure you knew how I felt. I wasn’t trying to put any pressure on you.”

“It’s still not fair, Teddy. I can’t take, if I can’t give.” She said as the other hand was thrown in the air.

“Holly, if you need me to be there for you, I’m there, alright?” Teddy said with a jab to her breastbone. “And I’m not going to be there expecting to get something from you. That’s not how friendships work and if all you need me to be is a friend, I don’t have a problem with that because I don’t want to lose you either.”

“Teddy.” Sighing, she shook her head.

“No, now listen to me.” Wading deeper into the waves, Teddy put her hands on Holly’s shoulders. “I am in love with you. I wasn’t lying about that and I can’t change the way I feel, but my love is not an obligation, Holly and I won’t let you turn it into one. You don’t feel the same way I do and I know that, and you probably never will, but that’s okay because I can still be your friend, if you’ll let me. If you need me, you got me and as long as I know it’s what you really want, that’s all I’ll ever need, and if somewhere down the line you change your mind . . . I’ll just have to shoot Jennifer, because this island is too damned small for me to hide from two pissed blondes, even though Jennifer isn’t a natural blonde.”

Holly didn’t want to smile and she didn’t. She smirked. “I didn’t need to know that.” She said with an arched natural blonde eyebrow.

“Sorry.” Teddy snickered as she took a step to the rear to stand with her hands behind her back, her feet pigeon toed and an oh so expectant look on her face. “Sooo, wadda ya say? Can I still be your puddle buddy, love and all?”

Actions always speak louder than words and Holly’s spoke volumes when she didn’t hesitate to silently close the gap Teddy had just created, and enter her comfort zone with a warm smile.

As a blonde head was laid upon her shoulder, Teddy wrapped its owner up in her arms and closed her eyes to send a soulful thank you to whatever power had kept her from losing the woman she loved.

What was to come next was up in the air, but they weren’t in the mood to discuss the details of this new phase of their friendship. The silent understanding, which had started the whole thing rolling, was firmly intact and a mutual ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there’ attitude eliminated the need for posting ‘no trespassing’ signs on their relationship. Enough had been said to last a lifetime and as they gathered their gear for the walk to the parking lot, there was more bumping of shoulders and smiles exchanged than words. When the gear was stowed in their respective vehicles, Teddy made a point of looking for scratch marks on hers while Holly argued the finer points of modern road construction and paving capabilities, or something to that effect. Then it was time for them to go their separate ways and Teddy gave her boss a sharp salute, once she had followed Holly home, and saw her safely to her door.


When Holly got into her office bright and early Monday morning, there were seventeen messages waiting for her on her voice mail. Thirteen were the standard ‘I need to see you as soon as you get in Monday’ messages, which accounted for thirteen of her sixteen managers, leaving out Jennifer, Teddy and Rolando. Number fifteen was from Bruce, who was apparently as persuasive as he claimed to be and the other two message were forced to wait when an excited Holly left them unheard in a rush to find out the status of her jasmine bushes.

“You got the waiver.” More of a question than a statement, it was made the moment Holly stepped into the landscaping trailer.

A self-satisfied Bruce held up the paperwork in his hand. “I was bigger than they were. Did you get somebody to put a hole in the roof?”

Holly winced. “The roof. I forgot all about it.” Closing the door behind her, she hung her head.

“Well, you better get remembering.” He told her as he slapped the paperwork down on his desk. “Your bushes are going to be here in two weeks, all six of them and I need to know how to schedule my guys to build the arbor.”

And it was such a nice weekend. She thought with an added disgruntled comment about hating Mondays. “I’ll get right on it. I’ve got one more person to check with and I should have an answer for you by the end of the day.”

“If I have to cancel after all the trouble I went through . . .“ Bruce eyed her with the warning.

“You wont. I promise.” Holly held up her hands. “I’ll get the hole in the roof if I have to cut it myself.”

“Well, if you do . . . don’t come looking to borrow any of my equipment.” He told her. “You don’t have a union card.”

Holly stuck her tongue out at him, earning a chuckle from the big man. “I don’t know how, but I’ll get you.” She waggled a finger at him.

“Take yourself on outta here.” Bruce waved a hand at the finger. “You’ve got a hole to get and I want another cup of coffee before have to start putting my boot up some lazy asses.”

“In case I forget to say this later,” she smiled at him, “you’re a pain, but thanks.”

“Yea, yea.” He said as he got up to get a cup of coffee. “Just don’t forget that six hundred bucks you owe me.”

“That’s strange.” Holly frowned as she opened the door. “I would have sworn I said sixty.” She said with a wide-eyed smirk when he opened his mouth. “Gotcha.”

“Out! Out of my office!” Bruce boomed.

Chuckling her way out the door, Holly made a beeline for the patio bar where she hoped to find Teddy, her last hope for the hole before she was going to have to resort to buying a sledge hammer. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She clasped her hands together when she found the bartender right where she expected her to be.

Sitting at the bar with a cup of coffee in her hand, Teddy looked away from her laptop when the blonde came rushing in. “Where’s the fire?”

Holly took the cup from Teddy and set it on the bar, then grabbed the brunette’s arm with both hands. “Tell me you know somebody who can put a hole in the roof and have it finished in thirty days.”

Teddy blinked at her. “Well, good morning to you, too and that depends on what roof and how big is the hole?”

Relaxing her grip a hair, she glanced at the corner where the hole was supposed to go. “This roof and maybe five by five square. I haven’t worked out all the dimensions, yet.”

“Come again?” Teddy stared at her boss. “What do you mean this roof? My roof? Why do you want to put a hole in my roof?”

“I want to put an arbor in the corner of the bar.” Holly said as she backed up to tug Teddy to her feet. “Bruce worked his magic and got me three rose bushes, and three night blooming jasmine.”

Completely lost to begin with, the fog began to lift . . . a little. “You want to put an arbor in my bar? Like the one at my house?”

“Yes.” She nodded and let go of Teddy’s arm to point to the inside corner of the ceiling. “The bushes are going to need lots of light, so I need someone who can put a hole in up there and finish it off.”

“Uh huh.” It all began to click and as it did the person in charge of the bar put her hands on her hips. “Alright. I can probably find ya somebody who’ll do the work, but I got a question first.”

“What’s the question?” Holly asked as she turned around to face Teddy.

Teddy stared at the ceiling a moment more, then dropped her eyes to meet a pair of excited green ones. “What are you going to do when it rains?” She asked and pointed at the floor. “This is an open air bar. There’s no drain in the floor.”

“There’s one in the planter.” She said, pointing over her shoulder.

“You mean the three inch drain meant to handle the run off from the misters those palms use?” Shaking her dark head. “No way. One good downpour and this place will be a tidal pool.”

“No it won’t.” The blonde took her turn shaking her head. “The floor is slanted. That’s why there’s no drain in it. It doesn’t need one.”

“It doesn’t need one.” Teddy closed her eyes and scratched her forehead. “Okay, let me rephrase the question.” Opening her eyes, her hand returned to her hip. “Instead of putting those bushes outside where they belong, you’re going to put a hole in my roof and whatever rain doesn’t make it down the drain is supposed to run across this slanted floor, through the bar? Is it me or does making the customer have to wade up to the bar sound like a bad idea to you?”

“I . . .” Holly started to argue, then closed her mouth, pursing her lips. “Do you know anybody who can put a drain in the floor and have it finished in thirty days?”

The brunette with her tips at stake narrowed her eyes. “You’ve got a stubborn streak a mile wide, don’t ya?”

“I want that arbor.” She answered with a determined expression.

“That’s what I thought you’d say.” Rolling her eyes, Teddy let out a long sigh as she walked around Holly to give the corner more consideration. After a minute or two of trying to make it work in her mind, she came to the same conclusion. It was never going to work, but instead of relating giving up, she began to look around for a possible alternative which would keep Holly happy and everybody’s feet dry. “What’s on the other side of this wall, here?” She asked, indicating the section of exterior wall in front of the planter.

“The other side of the wall?” The blonde with the burst bubble snapped.

Teddy arched an eyebrow as she turned her unamused gaze Holly’s way. “I’m trying to get you what you want. You wanna work with me here?”

Holly bobbed her head. Unfolding her arms, she joined the bubble buster at the wall. “There shouldn’t be anything, but grass. The landscaping for the pool area doesn’t come back this far.”

“Hmmm, okay.” She nodded to herself. “Are there any pipes or electrical conduit running through the wall?”

“Not this wall, no. All the utility conduits are in the wall behind the bar.” Getting a little curious, she gave the bartender a sideways glance. “What do you have in mind?”

Teddy smiled. “Ya cut a hole in the wall, here, instead of in the roof and build your arbor around a small patio on the outside of the bar. With the landscaping between it and the pool area, and the roses and jasmine growing up the arbor, you’d end up with a small private patio where you can eat your lunch, if you want?”

Holly liked the idea. She really liked the idea, but she shook her head at the idea. “Teddy, I can’t put in a private patio just for me.”

“Well. How about we move your desk out here?” Altering her original idea. “That way I can shoot spit balls at you between orders.”

Gazing up at an all too willing grin, Holly didn’t feel bad about shaking her head. “No.”

“Alright. How bout this?” Still smiling, Teddy moved on with the redesign. “How about ya make it big enough for two, maybe three tables and leave it open for guests and take your chances getting a seat?”

The blonde put her imagination to work at visualizing the patio as she stared at the wall. An elbow resting in a palm, she tapped her bottom lip with an index finger. “What about when it rains?” She asked, cocking her eyes Teddy’s way. “How are you going to keep the rain from coming through the hole in the wall?”

“Ha! You think you’re so slick.” The tall brunette shook her finger. “Ya cut the hole no more than five feet wide and leave the two foot overhang on the roof. With the landscaping and the bushes as protection, and if you put the patio a step down from the floor of the bar, I won’t be needing no galoshes to hand out with paper umbrellas.”

One step behind and back to liking the idea a lot, Holly took two steps forward to put her hand on the wall. “Okay, smarty britches.” Smiling as she turned to face the brunette with all the angles covered. “Who do you know who can cut a hole in the wall, do the finish work and lay the foundation for the patio in thirty days?”

“Bruce.” Teddy flicked her eyebrows. “Neat and convenient.”

“Aha! I’ve gotcha.” Holly shook her head. “Bruce doesn’t do construction work.”

Teddy’s eyebrows went together. “Yes, he does.”

“No he doesn’t.” She shook her head again. “That’s why I was looking for someone else to put a hole in the roof.”

The know it all bartender folded her arms across her chest. “If Bruce doesn’t do construction, then why does he have a builder’s license?”

The resort manager stared at the know it all bartender. “He doesn’t?” She asked in a ‘I’m gonna kill him’ voice.

“Yes, he does.” Teddy chuckled. “Who do you think the Payne is in Franklin and Payne Construction, Inc you hired to do the structure work for this resort?”

“Bruce Payne . . . that . . . little . . . lazy bald faced liar. I’m gonna kill him.” Holly growled. “Do you know the headache I went through trying to find someone who could put a hole in the roof and have it finished in thirty days?”

“Ya had that Rolodex a spinning, I bet.” Chuckling a little harder.

“Wait till I get my hands on him.”

“Can I watch? This otta be a good match-up.”

“You can do better than that. You can guard the door so he can’t get away.”

“Ooooo, a ring side seat. My favorite. Whoa! That arm is attached, ya know.”

“Come on.”


Trapped in his own trailer with a hell-bent blonde and a big mouthed brunette, Bruce never stood a chance. Spitting and sputtering, he tried to tap dance his way out of doing the job, but Holly was having none of it and with Teddy blocking his escape, the poor construction contractor who had taken a cushy landscaping job on a tropical island as a working vacation had to make a few phone calls of his own to round up the equipment he was going to need to get the job done in thirty days . . . at cost.


Chewing Bruce’s butt was the most exciting thing to happen Monday. The rest of the day was the usual grind and to Teddy’s relief, no one mentioned seeing them together on the beach the day before. Rolando, the Latin blood hound she expected to sniff something new in the air was tied up scheduling interviews all day, which left the love struck bartender alone with her boss and no nosy chaperone to smack her in the back of the head every time she smiled at Holly. Holly, for her part, seemed to like the arrangement as well and with the patio project needing a set of blueprints, and a parts list, she used the reigning authority on roses, jasmine and arbors to help her with the layout.

“It looks good, but you need to add another set of posts on either side.” Sitting next to Holly, Teddy pointed at the simulation on the large computer screen. “You’re gonna need more support for the beams on top.”

“Why?” Holly asked. “Those are 4x4 posts. They can handle the weight of the beams.”

“Yea, when they’re dry and don’t have any vines growing on them.” Teddy agreed, then continued. “But those beams are gonna get heavy when they get wet and you add in the weight of the vines, and those things are gonna be bowed like a son of a gun in a couple of years.”

Holly leaned forward in her chair. “Switching to 6x6’s won’t do any good either.” She said to herself.

“Nope.” She nodded. “You could switch to make it more sturdy, which might be a good idea, but it won’t help with the sagging. You need another set of posts for that.”

“Hmmm.” Her fingers found the keyboard and she looked down to put in the spec changes. “Switch to 6x6 posts and add another set.”

“How deep did you put the posts for the gazebo?” Teddy asked as another problem popped in her head.

Holly paused to look up. “I went by the building code. They’re set six feet down in reinforced concrete. Why?”

Chewing the inside of her bottom lip, she closed one eye. “Where are the main irrigation lines for the pool landscaping?”

Green eyes shot to the screen, then back to the keyboard to change the simulation to an elevation drawing. “Don’t do this to me.” Typing fast, she added all the specs for putting in the posts to the layout.

“Ummm um um. Now, that’s what I call close.” Teddy said when the layout for the patio was overlaid with the one for the irrigation system. “You better call Bruce and have him cancel that back hoe. He’s gonna need a drilling rig to put those posts in and one hell of an operator to go with it.”

“He’s gonna kill me for this.” Closing her eyes, Holly turned her head and let if fall on Teddy’s shoulder. “Who do you know who I can trust with a drilling rig?”

“You’re never gonna believe it and you’re doing the asking.” Teddy chuckled and patted the head on her shoulder.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” The blonde barracuda with the manicured nails shouted to the rooftops.

Standing on the other side of Jennifer’s desk with Teddy beside her for moral support, Holly looked to the brunette for a little more support. “Your turn.” Okay, so she passed the buck. Same difference.

Teddy rolled her eyes. Since there was no gentler side to appeal to where Jennifer was concerned, she took the logical approach. “Look, Jenn. It’s a one day job, tops and what’s it gonna hurt putting a couple of holes in the ground? You can do it on the weekend when nobody’s here.”

“And you’d be doing me a really big favor.” Holly threw in for good measure.

Jennifer glared at the pair. “Not for a million dollars and not in a million years.”

Holly hung her head to confer with her partner. “Now what?”

“Give me five minutes alone with her.” Teddy whispered.

“I’ll be in my office.” Holly whispered back and smiled as she left the room, closing the door behind her.

“Forget it, Teddy.” Jennifer shook her head. “I’m not doing it and I can’t believe you told Holly I knew how to run a drilling rig.”

“What can I say? The subject came up and she asked.” Teddy shrugged and took a seat. “You’re the only person with the qualifications she needed.”

“You’re so full of shit.” Disgusted that a forgettable part of her past had been leaked to her boss, Jennifer got up to pace behind her desk. “You’re trying to make me look bad.”

“You don’t need my help with looking bad, but I don’t see how doing a favor for Holly is going to make you look bad in her eyes.” Sticking with the logical approach. “And what’s the big hoopla over putting a couple of holes in the ground anyway? You can run a drilling rig with your eyes closed, Jenn and Holly needs somebody who can put four twelve inch by six feet deep holes in the ground three inches away from a water line without breaking it.”

“Three inches?” She asked incredulously. “Are you out of your mind? Four feet of that would be through solid rock and the bit drift on a standard rig is more than three inches.”

“That’s the clearance to the main irrigation pipe.” Teddy shrugged. “Any further out and there won’t be room to put in the other set of posts.”

“You don’t need me, Teddy.” Jennifer shook her head. “You need a priest, because that’s going to take a miracle.”

“So, there’s no equipment out there that can do the job?” The woman with the ulterior motive asked calmly.

“Of course there is, but . . .” She stopped to point a deadly finger at Teddy. “Oh, no you don’t, Teddy Cooper. I know your tricks. You’re not going to get me with the ‘just tell me what you need and I’ll have it tomorrow’ routine. You can go find yourself another sucker. I am not drilling those holes.”

“Not even if I got you something with a laser guidance system and diamond bits?”

“Nice try. No.”

“How about a gift certificate for the manicure parlor of your choice?”


“I’ll wash your Jag.”


“I’ll get you out of having to stock toilet paper with Claire.”

Pause. “No.”

“How about . . .”

“Well? How did it go?” Holly asked hesitantly as Teddy flopped down in the chair across from her. “Is she going to do it?”

“You know,” Teddy aimed a finger at the woman she loved, “I’m beginning to think you’re a lot more trouble than you’re worth.”

Holly took that as a yes and moaned. “What did you have to promise her?”

“An assistant.” Folding her hands across her stomach. “Starting tomorrow, you’re down one and I bet you a nickel you can’t guess which one of us she wants.”

Closing her eyes, she hung her head. “Teddy, you didn’t?”

“I guess I owe you a nickel and you owe me so big, you’re not gonna see the light of day for a month of Sundays.”

The low hung blonde head descended to the desk and landed with a thud. “It wasn’t supposed to be this complicated.” She mumbled into her desk calender.

Getting to her feet, Teddy reached in her pocket and fished through a handful of change to find a nickel. Slapping it down the the desk, she put the rest of the coins back in her pocket. “There’s your nickel and if you need me, I’ll be in my office trying to hunt down a drilling rig with diamond bits.”

“Morrision Drilling Equipment.” Holly blurted out as her head shot up. Reaching for her Rolodex, she began flipping through the cards. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of them earlier. They have diamond bits and they lease equipment.” Finding the card, she pulled it out and handed it to Teddy. “They’re out of Tampa. It’s who we used to get the equipment from to drill the holes for the stanchions.”

“Do they have any good operators?” Teddy asked hopefully.

Holly shook her head. “They lease equipment to oil companies. They don’t have any operators. I asked.”

“Well, it’s better than nothing.” Looking at the card, she smiled. “I guess maybe I’ll keep ya, after all.”

Putting the Rolodex down, Holly stood up. “Teddy, you don’t have to work with Jennifer. I’ll see if I can get the same company we used before. They did a really good job.”

“Drilling a twelve foot hole is a lot different than drilling a twelve inch hole, Holly.” Teddy shook her head. “As much as I hate to admit it, Jennifer is probably the only person who can do it without busting that pipe. Her father owned a precision drilling company in Texas and she learned how to run a rig before she learned how to tie her shoes.”

Holly’s shoulders slumped. “Nobody else can do it?”

“Holly, trust me.” She sighed. “If I could get outta working with Jennifer, I’d be on the phone right now, but it’s a precision job and she’s got the touch.”

“It’s her touch I’m worried about.” She said in a serious tone. “I don’t think she’s over you, Teddy and I don’t want you to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation for my sake. I don’t need the arbor that bad. It’s not worth it.”

“It’s worth it to me and don’t worry about Jenn.” Teddy smiled warmly. “I’m as good at handling that barracuda as she is at handling a drilling rig, and,” adding a little more whimsy to her smile, “who knows? She might send me packing it back to you when I start telling her the million and one blonde jokes I know.”

Despite how the last bit of information affected her, Holly smiled. “Well, make it quick.” She said, tugging on the bottom of Teddy’s t-shirt.

“I will. I’ll be back before ya have time to miss me. I promise.”

“Too late. I already do.”


To be continued.

Thanks for reading.



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