DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, Fox does. I'm only taking them out for a test drive.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains some adult situations, so be forewarned.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die, Mighty Blue, Defense/Offense

After the Fall
By Sam

Part 23

I had a long list of names that I kept in my back pocket,
but I've cut it down to one and your name's at the top
       - Margo Timmins

Billie followed Sophia down a long hallway, passing a number of closed doors before arriving at an expansive, circular foyer. The lieutenant paused to admire a single painting that hung on the large column standing in the center of the room. The dark-haired servant continued on toward an archway on the opposite side, waiting patiently for the young woman to catch up with her.

She stared at the canvas, noticing that one edge looked slightly damaged, as if it were burnt. The painting showed a raging sea churning, as darkened clouds billowed down to touch the cresting waves, while far off in the distance a single boat battled to ride out the storm. As Billie's eyes roamed the gloomy images, her eyes caught a tiny figure standing along the shore in the foreground. Although impossible to distinguish clearly, she had the distinct impression it was a little girl.

"This way Lieutenant."

Billie's gaze lingered on the painting for a few more seconds before she finally turned and walked toward Sophia. The older woman's expression remained neutral as she motioned for the younger woman to enter ahead of her. "Madam is waiting in the garden. Please follow the path at the bottom of the stairs." She stood motionless, the finality of her tone and her extended arm a clear indication that Billie was to continue on alone.

"Thank you," the brunette replied as she started to make her way down the stone steps. When she reached the bottom, she looked back over her shoulder to see that her guide had already disappeared from view.

Taking advantage of her solitude, Billie ambled along at a leisurely pace, using all of her senses to survey her surroundings. The flat stone path beneath her feet guided her along through a series of high, arcing trellises. In some places the foliage was so thick they could barely keep the wild greenery at bay. There were flowers everywhere, their rich perfume filling the air as stunning colors created an indelible image of beauty.

It would be easy to be taken in by the splendor around her, if it weren't for the reason that Billie was here. Her usual cocksure attitude was somewhat muted, mostly due to her own uneasiness at the thought of being in Felicia's company for an extended period of time. She had to be on her guard every single minute. Having worked undercover for years, it wasn't exactly a new concept for her, but the idea of a whole evening of parrying the woman's advances wasn't something she was looking forward to.

Even more disturbing was the possibility of having to give in to those advances if the opportunity presented itself. She knew that getting physically close to the woman might be her only chance to find the flaw in Felicia's otherwise impenetrable outer shell. And no matter what the cost, Billie was determined to breach that barrier.

The sound of water reached her ears several moments before she saw the fountain. The path she was on eventually opened up into a small courtyard, a whole new array of flora assaulting Billie's senses as she walked straight ahead, her blue eyes fixed on the ornate granite monolith before her.

As she stood there, staring up at the carved figure, a soft voice broke the silence, startling Billie with its seemingly close proximity. "Isn't it beautiful?" The lieutenant spun around, fully expecting to see Felicia standing directly behind her, but to her surprise, the taller woman was more than ten feet away, watching her from a previously unnoticed opening in the greenery.

"Yes, it is," Billie answered, keeping her voice steady. She knew it was Felicia's intention to take her by surprise, obviously wanting to set the tone for the evening, but she wasn't about to allow the other woman to gain the upper hand. She paused for a few beats before adding, "It looks a bit like your mother." The startled expression that flashed across Felicia's face was so fleeting Billie almost thought she'd imagined it.

"As I said before," the blonde replied softly. "You do have a keen eye."

"It's an important tool in my line of work." The lieutenant turned to look back at the statue again. "It's quite an image," she commented. "You must have loved her very much."

Felicia stepped forward, keeping her eye on Billie as she said, "The relationships of mothers and daughters are very complex." She came to stand beside the lieutenant, clasping her hands together in front of her as she lifted her eyes to look at the fountain. "I didn't really know her all that well. She was far too busy with the matter of providing for us. But, she was a very strong person, and I always admired her for that." She glanced over to see Billie's gaze focused on her. "Such a maudlin topic, don't you think?"

The lieutenant shrugged as she said casually, "We could always switch our conversation to dead cops and their killers. I, for one, would be very interested as to what you'd have to say on that topic."

"We haven't even had a drink, yet," Felicia responded with a slight grin. "The least you could do is wait until the main course before going for the throat." She suddenly leaned in toward her guest as she placed a hand to the base of her neck. "Oh, how forgetful of me, you've already done that, haven't you?"

A pair of ice blue orbs fixed on her. "Why did you want me to come here tonight, Felicia?"

The taller woman turned fully around this time, her face tilted to one side as she studied her guest for a moment. The young woman was wearing a lovely, black dress with the barest hint of royal blue trimming along the moderately plunging neckline. Her tanned legs were in full view, and Felicia almost felt compelled to reach out and touch that soft, enticing skin.

Her considerable physical aspects aside, there was something so irresistible about the lieutenant, a mixture of qualities that drew Felicia to her in a way she'd never been drawn to anyone before.

Billie was impossibly earnest, yet remarkably deceitful. There was an air of danger about her, but carefully tempered, when necessary, by an easy-going nature. Her manner was completely unflappable one minute, explosive and unpredictable the next. She was an outgoing young woman who emitted an innate sense of complete self-confidence, yet she was secretive and introverted, always trying to keep her volatile emotions hidden somewhere deep within.

And all of it was wrapped in an incredibly enticing package.

"I know you feel that you've been coerced into coming here this evening."

"Blackmailed would be a better word."

"Perhaps," Felicia conceded. "But, I thought this would give us both a chance to get to know each other better."

"I know everything I need to know about you, Felicia," Billie stated firmly.

"Do you?" Felicia questioned. "Then, just consider this evening an opportunity to.make your play." The blonde smirked. "That is the correct lingo, isn't it?"

Billie folded her arms across her chest, a familiar gesture when she intended to take control of a conversation.or close herself off from it. "Considering how much you already know about me, Felicia, I doubt there would be an angle I could play on you."

The older woman flashed her most seductive smile. "My dear Billie, something tells me you are nothing if not.creative." She turned away and began to stroll along the path, casually running one hand along the edge of the stone rim as she made her way to the other side of the fountain. Once again, her voice dropped to a softer tone, barely reaching Billie's ears over the sound of trickling water. "Let's get started, shall we?" Felicia disappeared from view and the young lieutenant lifted her gaze skyward, shaking her head with an air of impatience as she started to follow.

This was going to be the longest night of her life.

Detective Deaqon Hayes was not a happy man. There were only two things in this world that could bring him to the brink of utter frustration.and both of them had dark hair.

Van was supposed to be at home, sleeping off his lethargy from the previous evening so his skills would be sharp as a tack when needed. which was in about five hours from now. But, unfortunately, downtime was not something that Officer Ray did very well, a fact that his more grounded partner had reluctantly grown accustomed to over the last year.

With a big bust looming so close, Deaq often found it difficult to relax, as well, but he usually tried to replace sleep with more sedate pursuits, such as reading or an occasional yoga session. And although he would have been more than happy to have a few hours to himself, he knew with absolute certainty that his co-workers would be up to more rigorous activities.

So, it came as no surprise when he arrived back at the Candy Store several hours earlier than necessary, only to find his partner beating the hell out of a punching bag.

"Yo, V," Deaq called up as he spotted Van's agitated form at the top of the stairs.

Van immediately stopped his pummeling and grabbed the bag to steady it. "Hey," he replied, breathlessly. "What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same question, slick." He glanced around at the empty warehouse. "Where's Billie?"

"Don't know," Van answered with a shrug and a quick jab. "Maybe she and Hill went out for Mai-Tai's." He resumed his movements and began to throw his punches a bit more vigorously.

"Or, maybe she's out dumping the body somewhere," Deaq mumbled.

"So, what the hell is up with that, huh?" Van continued to jump around, slamming his fists with ever-increasing speed. "I'm sick of this shit. She's always leaving us in the fucking dark, man." His final hit seemed to put the emphasis on his last words. He leaned over, slightly, resting his wrapped hands on his knees as the sound of his labored breathing punctuated the quiet.

"I hear that." Deaq watched the younger man make his way down the stairs, unwinding the tape from his hands as he went. It was obvious he'd been at it awhile, as evidenced by the shabby condition of his knuckles. "Why don't you use those slip-ons, my man? They are much easier on the hands."

"It takes away the feel," Van replied. "I like the feel."

Deaq arched his eyebrows. "The feel of pain?"

"It lets me know I'm hitting something solid." Van dropped the balled up, bloodied remains of his workout into the trash barrel and faced his partner, a scowl firmly affixed to his face. "So, what do you think?" There was no need to explain the change of topic to the other man.

"I think she's doing what she always does."

"Need to know," they both stated in unison.

"Yeah, well, I say screw that," Van shot back, angrily. "With everything going on around here, I think we need to know. Now. Don't you?"

Deaq regarded his partner with a weary expression. His head began to move, slowly, back and forth, as if already in denial. "I know that look, man."

"We can be in and out in five minutes."

"Forget it."

"Come on, Deaq." Van knew his partner would play it the same way he always did. There would be token resistance, a little bit of heated debate, and then.

"We're just supposed to waltz into Hill's office?" Deaq asked, incredulously. "After what happened to Ollie? Are you fuckin' nuts?"

Van flashed a grin. "You said the same thing when we busted in here."

"That was different." Deaq pointed his finger at the younger man. "Billie's life was on the line."

"It's on the line here, too.".

"The rat squad isn't gonna kill her, you dumb shit," Deaq barked. "They might want to fry her ass, but we're talking about her job.not her life."

"First of all, the job is her life," Van pointed out. "And, secondly, if she's out in the cold, she's a sitting duck. No badge, no access. No access, no protection."

The young detective knew that everything his partner was saying was true. If Billie were suspended, or worse, it would only leave her more vulnerable. Jill Kistler may have skipped town, but Felicia Ralston was still in the picture, along with who else knew. And after what happened in Malibu there was no longer any doubt that someone was after their boss.in a big way.

Hill's usual smugness had been on full display earlier, but it was tough to tell if he really had something on Billie, or if he was just looking forward to raking her over the coals for past transgressions. Either way, shining a spotlight on the lieutenant wouldn't be good for her, especially in light of her newfound relationship.

Deaq hadn't realized exactly how serious things had gotten between the two women until Billie showed up in the interrogation room on the day of Sara's attack. Her demeanor was all business, as it usually was, but there was no denying the emotional impact the event had on her, and for he and Van that meant there was only one thing they could do: It was time to circle the wagons.

One of their head's had been turned by a mark. This certainly wasn't unfamiliar territory, but it was usually Van who ended up dropping his pants for any chick with a gun and a sob story, although even Deaq could admit to an occasional turn of the screw.

But, this was Billie. Big, badass, I'm-in-control, I-call-the-shots, Chambers. The woman who prided herself on always being in the know. The one who had an answer for everything, even when that answer was just about the last thing on this earth you wanted to hear.

She'd gotten in close. Too close. And before you could say lickety- split, she was ready to put it all on the line for someone she barely knew. Sara Matthews had managed to find a way to get to Billie, and even though she certainly wasn't the worst criminal Deaq had ever seen, he still wasn't sure how he felt about the idea of her getting next to his friend.

Regardless of that, however, was the simple fact that Billie was in way over her head, and it was up to him and Van to watch out for her. She'd pulled out all the stops to bail them out of trouble when they needed it, and they owed it to her to do the same.

Hopefully, they wouldn't end up bringing the house down on all of them.

"If we get caught," Deaq warned. "You are a dead man."

Van smiled at him.

"I would've expected servants to be running around," Billie commented as she stared across the small table at her hostess.

"I wanted us to have some privacy," Felicia explained as she filled the brunette's wine glass.

"So, there aren't any hidden cameras anywhere?" the lieutenant questioned as she made a show of looking around her.

The blonde began to pour the vintage Beaujolais into her own glass, as she answered, "Not out here." She placed the bottle on the table and reached for her glass, lifting it up toward the younger woman. "There's only you and I. Let's toast to that, shall we?"

Billie lifted the delicate crystal goblet to her lips and hesitated. Felicia peered at her over the rim of her own glass, an amused smile on her face. "I assure you, it's not been poisoned." Their gazes locked for a moment, until the lieutenant finally took a small sip and reset her glass on the table.

"It's very good."

"An educated palette, as well," Felicia said approvingly.

"Truthfully, I'm not much of a wine drinker," Billie informed her as she leaned back in her chair. "I prefer vodka."

"I know."

Silence fell over the two women as they started with the first course of their meal. Felicia watched as Billie began to pick through her salad. She kept moving things around, but didn't appear to be eating anything. The older woman observed her for a few moments, a small crease forming on her brow. "Is something not to your liking?"

"The food is fine," the brunette replied absently as she continued to skewer the fresh arugula with her fork, only to flick it off with a quick motion. She finally dropped her utensil to the plate with a loud clatter. "My problem is the company."

"I see," Felicia responded coolly as she carefully set down her own fork. "Well, I'm not keeping you here at gunpoint, now am I?" She pushed her chair away from the table and stood up, throwing her napkin to the plate in a dramatic flourish. "Feel free to find your own way out, Lieutenant." The tall blonde spun around and purposefully headed toward the large, leaf-shaped swimming pool.

Billie watched as Felicia slipped off her sandals and removed the aqua-colored sarong she wore, revealing her well-toned, sleek body, clad in a bikini of the same color. With slow precision, the blonde walked straight out to the edge of the diving board, executing a single jump as she dove, effortlessly, into the clear, blue water and disappeared.

Taking a moment to contemplate her strategy, Billie stood up from the table and fixed her cool gaze on the water. If Felicia was going to persist with her little mind games, then perhaps the only thing she could do was to give the wealthy woman what she wanted.

She grabbed both glasses of wine from the table and walked to edge of the pool, waiting for the blurred figure below to come to her. As she set the goblets down and kicked off her own shoes, Felicia broke the surface of the water with a heaving breath, her head lifting up in surprise when she spotted the brunette standing in front of her.

"I still don't have what I came for," Billie replied as she seated herself on the ground, letting her bare legs dangle over the edge and slipping her feet into the water. She took one glass into her own hand and held the other one out to Felicia, who merely looked at her with a curious expression. "I want the name of Cathy McKenzie's killer."

Felicia knew the young woman was completely serious. She gripped the tiled wall with one hand and took the offered glass with the other, her fingers leaving a trail of droplets along the back of the brunette's hand. Sipping the wine, slowly, her eyes never strayed from Billie's as she savored the rich taste, along with the sight of the young lieutenant's determined gaze. With a pleasurable sigh, she set the glass back on the ground, pausing for a single instant as she ran a hand along the inside of Billie's leg. She could feel the muscles tense underneath her fingers, and she smiled. "We both often want things we can't have." With a quick twist, she slipped beneath the surface and swam away.

Billie held the glass of wine to her lips and tossed back its contents in a single motion, her cheeks puffing out as she held it in and swallowed hard. "Oh, Chambers, you are out of your fucking mind," she rasped softly, clearing her throat as she felt the alcohol burn a trail down to the pit of her stomach. She swiped the back of her hand across her mouth, her eyes following the lithe form as it streaked across the clear depths, coming up for air at the opposite end of the pool. Long legs took slow, methodical steps up and out of the water, and immediately began heading in her direction.

Her mind was giving her all sorts of useful advice, but Billie was too focused on her objective to hear reason. As she continued to watch those legs coming closer, her blood began to race through her veins at lightning speed, the loud thumping of her heartbeat drowning out all other sounds. A shadow fell over her and she glanced upward, seeing nothing but a dark eclipse against the bright sun.

"Come in for a swim," Felicia prodded, gently.

"I didn't bring my suit," Billie responded crisply, her voice sounding far off to her own ears. As Felicia knelt down to retrieve her wine, the sun hit the lieutenant's eyes like a knife, causing her to flinch in response.

"I took the liberty of purchasing several for you," the blonde said helpfully as she gestured to the small building just behind her. "They're hanging up inside." She flashed a quick smile and straightened up before turning away and heading back toward the table, her cat-like steps somewhat quicker than usual. "I'll get the wine."

The lieutenant sat there trying to will her body to do her bidding. She had to keep reminding herself of the purpose of this dangerous exercise. There was a killer out there, and catching them was paramount to everything else.

Felicia watched with interest as Billie got to her feet and walked into the cabana. She could feel her pulse speed up, the anticipation nearly suffocating as she stood there and waited for the young woman to reemerge. She continued to sip her wine, warmth flooding her body as the alcohol worked in tandem with the sunshine, leaving her feeling both relaxed and humming with a pleasant tension.

After a few moments, the brunette stepped back outside, and Felicia gazed appreciatively at the woman's semi-nude form. Her athletic, yet distinctly feminine body looked nearly perfect in the black two-piece suit she wore. As Billie raised her arms to tie her hair back, a small slice of her flat stomach was revealed, and the other woman smiled. She knew all along that would be the suit the young lieutenant would choose.

The blonde waited for Billie as she retrieved her empty glass and made her way back to the table. Without a single utterance, she held it out to Felicia, who dutifully poured the wine.

"The water is lovely at this time of the day," Felicia commented as she walked away, still holding the bottle by its neck as her arm swung, casually, at her side. When she reached the edge of the pool, she set it down, along with her glass, and held her hand out toward the young lieutenant. "Come to me, Billie."

Billie found herself riveted by the woman's powerful gaze, a trickle of sweat running down her back as she felt the subtle draw of Felicia's commanding stance. This time the warning bells going off in her head were more like a deafening klaxon pounding against the inside of her skull, and its message was loud and clear: Once she set the wheels in motion, there would be no turning back.

Without the slightest hint of hesitation, she walked toward the pool.

Part 24

I do not struggle in your web
because it was my aim to get caught.
       - Fiona Apple

Felicia Ralston considered herself to be an extremely patient person. It was in her nature to be slow and methodical, having learned from vast experience that the longer it took to achieve her goal, the more infinitely sweet the moment of victory.

When she first laid eyes on Lieutenant Billie Chambers, her thoughts were focused on a single objective. She knowingly stoked the fires of Jill's anger, thereby feeding her own desire to manipulate her lover and bring about a violent confrontation between the two women.

But, as Jill grew increasingly squeamish about the execution of her revenge, Felicia had taken control of the situation. And it was in helping the young woman to have what she so obviously craved that Felicia soon came to realize exactly how formidable and determined the object of their joint obsession really was.

Now that her former lover had run off to parts unknown, she was free to pursue Billie in her own fashion, no longer hindered by concerns of subtlety. Not that she ever really was, but there were certain precautions she'd needed to take in order to make her moves without giving Jill any indication of her ultimate plan. Unfortunately, her biggest obstacle where Billie was concerned was the very same one she'd had with Jill.

Sara Matthews.

It was almost maddening how she continued to get in the way of everything Felicia wanted. In hindsight, she knew the critical error she'd made in not removing the young woman permanently when she'd had the chance. But, at the time of Sara's attack, she and Jill were still very much involved, and her desire for Billie not yet known to her.

Apart from observing their physical interaction, Felicia's face off with Sara had been her first opportunity to gauge the depth of the young woman's feelings for Billie, and it was perfectly clear from her insistent threats that the blonde was in love, or at least thought she was. After hearing endless stories from Jill about her roommate's somewhat disparaging love life, it was obvious that Sara attached herself to people who were inevitably going to hurt her. And Felicia knew that Billie was no exception.

The young detective was far too intelligent to be taken in by Sara's dim-witted bad girl image. Of course, it must have seemed alluring at first, the element of danger adding some excitement to their budding relationship. And there was no denying that Sara was pleasing to the eye. But, once the newness of the physical attraction wore off, Felicia knew it wouldn't stand the test of time. The proof of that had been the pictures. Sara's look of utter betrayal hopefully marked the beginning of the end, and even though Felicia wasn't sure if it had been enough, at this moment, it didn't matter.

She stood there, watching Billie coming closer, intense blue eyes filled with anger and hell-bent resolve. The lieutenant's movements were calculated, but cautious, years of hard-won instinct undoubtedly taking over, and Felicia couldn't help but admire the young woman. She knew Billie could feel the dangerous undercurrent between them, but despite the threat, the young woman continued to play the game, and Felicia found that compulsive determination to be utterly exhilarating.

She'd greatly enjoyed sparring with the seasoned detective, their exchanges serving as a type of intellectual foreplay, only now, that was no longer enough to satisfy her. It was time to move to a different battleground, and she'd already decided here and now to launch a new offensive. But, what she wanted from Billie went far beyond anything in the physical realm, and even she wasn't sure how much the young woman truly understood that.

As Billie came forward, she tilted her head up and gave the blonde a defiant look. "I'm not a trained poodle, Felicia." She placed her wine glass on the ground and stepped up onto the diving board. With casual grace, she took several quick steps and jumped, coming down on the board and pushing off with her powerful legs, body arcing into the air before slicing, cleanly, into the water and swimming away.

Felicia smiled, broadly and turned to watch the brunette's fast- moving form. "Indeed, you most certainly are not."

Billie's thoughts were racing through her head, strategy and intent slowly coming together as she swam toward the shallow end. She kept telling herself that this situation was no different than any other. She would do what she had to, and later on, hopefully distance herself from it, just as she'd done so many times before.

But, there was a difference.

Most of the people she'd worked over the years were mainly interested in things like drugs, weapons, or money. There were even a few that dealt in jewels, or other rare, stolen goods. Throw in one or two unscrupulous corporate raiders, and it all boiled down to a group of lowlifes who were only interested in whatever they could get. None of them had ever been interested in her.

Until Felicia Ralston.

As Billie neared the end of the pool, she waded up to the first step, immediately spotting Felicia, who was just getting into water. The blonde began her descent, not stopping until she reached the bottom. When she closed the short distance between them, the two women were standing face to face.

"I'm not letting you get away this time," Felicia announced.

"I wasn't trying to get away," the brunette informed her. "I just wanted to get wet." She continued to hold the blonde's steady gaze.

Felicia lifted a hand out of the water and trailed a single, manicured nail along Billie's jaw. "Well, now that we're both wet." Her fingertip came to rest under the brunette's chin and she leaned in close, her soft, full lips making delicate contact with the young woman's mouth. She could feel a fraction of resistance, but within seconds all opposition seemed to dissolve.

The kiss was soft and sensual, nothing at all like Billie had anticipated. Their first encounter in Felicia's car had been intense, even a bit forceful. But, this was very different.and quite unexpected. As the kiss slowly deepened, the lieutenant tried to push all other thoughts from her mind. She just had to stay the course, and remember that pleasure was not a part of the equation.

Just as before, Billie decided to play the role of aggressor, resting her hands on Felicia's hips and pulling the woman toward her. But, this time, she was not the one who broke the kiss.

As their lips parted, Felicia took a small step back, fixing the brunette with a hungry look. Slowly, she reached back and undid the ties to her bathing top, letting the loose strands slip down over her shoulders. Billie took her hands away, watching with rapt attention as the other woman removed the garment, exposing her upper body to the lieutenant's cool gaze.

Felicia moved closer, bare breasts pressing against Billie's as her hands came to rest on the young detective's shoulders. With her bathing top still clutched in one hand, she slowly trailed her fingertips down along the moist skin of the brunette's arms and slipped them under the water, finally reaching a pair of slender wrists. She clasped them gently, but firmly, and began to move them toward the small of Billie's back.

"Wait," Billie warned, staring into those dark, dangerous eyes.

Felicia pressed their bodies together even tighter as she leaned in and caressed the brunette's earlobe with the tip of her tongue. "You want his name, don't you?" she whispered hotly, pulling back just enough so their eyes could meet again.

His name. Billie heard that loud and clear. But, she knew the slip-up had been intentional, its only purpose being to lead her into more perilous territory.

"Give me what I want," the blonde replied, her voice soft and sultry. "And, I'll give you what you want."

Billie stiffened, slightly, the warmth of their close proximity causing her to break out in a light sweat. "What do you want, Felicia?" she finally asked.

Felicia brushed her lips against the young woman's cheek. "I want control, Billie." She continued a trail of soft kisses along the slender contour of the young woman's throat, finally reaching her shoulder and biting down gently. "Do you understand?" The blonde picked her head up and met the other woman's stunning blue eyes. They stood there in the water, barely an inch of space between them, as a test of wills was waged in absolute silence.

Once again, Billie realized she'd been unwittingly maneuvered. Giving up control wasn't something she thought she could do, and it was obvious Felicia had anticipated that, which was precisely why she wanted Billie to do it.

She seriously doubted that Felicia intended to do her any harm. This was purely a psychological game, and even with the remote chance that things took a turn, Billie knew she wasn't exactly helpless. Coupled with the innocuous surroundings, the risks were negligible. Still, none of that was sweetening the deal.

Felicia could see the indecision in Billie's eyes. Choosing this particular method to seduce the young woman was no accident. She knew how difficult the choice would be for her. Allowing someone you didn't trust to actually restrain you, especially given the nature of what they were about to do, involved a certain daring that very few people possessed. But, knowing what she did about Billie, Felicia never had any doubt as to the outcome.

The movement was barely perceptible, but Felicia felt it. Her expression never changed as she reached around behind the brunette and began to wind the fabric around Billie's left wrist.

The lieutenant could no longer see Felicia's face as she worked, but the woman's warm breath blew, tantalizingly, across her neck, causing the tiniest shiver to run up her spine. She closed her eyes, briefly, cursing her own recklessness. Once again, she was playing with fire, but for some unknown reason, that realization never seemed to cross her mind until she was well past the point of no return.

Or, perhaps, she wouldn't allow it to.

Felicia's face came back into view, her dark eyes boring into Billie's as the young lieutenant gave the makeshift restraints an experimental tug. They were surprisingly strong. A sudden smile graced the blonde's pale features, but Billie couldn't see the slightest hint of pleasantness in it.

"What if I were the killer?" Felicia questioned as she dragged a finger down the length of Billie's torso. "You'd be placing yourself in a very dangerous position." She flicked her eyes at the brunette, who remained silent, and the corner of her lip turned up in a slight grin. "You enjoy taking risks, don't you Billie?"

"You didn't shoot Cathy McKenzie," the lieutenant replied, her tone steady and confident.

"You say that with such conviction," the blonde noted. "So.you don't think me capable of murder?"

Billie looked down at the woman's hand as it moved across the exposed skin of her abdomen. "I think you're capable of anything."

Felicia laughed softly and slipped her arms around the brunette's waist, her hands sliding over Billie's bound wrists as she pulled their bodies together in a tight embrace.

"Let's test that theory, shall we?"

"Here he comes."

Van tilted his head to look in the rearview mirror, just in time to see Roland Hill walking toward his car. The man's back was ramrod straight, his movements quick and confident. For some reason, he always reminded Van of his high school principal, which was one explanation as to why he disliked the man from the moment he first laid eyes on him.

Of course, he also had that whole by the book, smug, sarcastic, major league asshole thing working for him, as well.

"Two minutes and we move, got it?" Deaq glanced over from his position behind the wheel to stare at his partner. "Hey, player, where are you?"

"Something's not right," Van mumbled.

"Your damn right something's not right," Deaq shot back in a hushed, irritated tone. "We're about to break into the rat's nest, man. And based on past experience with some of your stupid plans, my ass'll probably wind up as a big piece of fuckin' cheese."

"Hey, at least I can think on my feet," the other man replied, indignantly. "And, if you recall, my stupid plans have saved your ungrateful booty on more than one occasion."

"Thanks to you, my booty is damaged goods."

"Thanks to me, the rest of you is still in pretty good shape."

Deaq stared daggers at him. "You shot me in the ass."

Van rolled his eyes and replied, "Am I gonna have to hear about that for the rest of my life? Can we focus on work here?"


"So, as I was saying-"

"Something's not right," Deaq interrupted. "Yeah, I heard that. So, what is it?"

"His briefcase."

Deaq furrowed his brow as he watched Hill getting into his car. "He doesn't have a briefcase."

"Exactly," Van confirmed.

"So?" the other detective said slowly, knowing that fact was significant, but not quite sure as to why.

"He's got this big meeting tomorrow, right?"


"So, after months of bustin' our nads and chasing after Billie, he finally gets his chance to lay her out and he isn't even taking any work home to get ready for the big day?"

"That's assuming he's going home," Deaq pointed out.

"Well, if he's not going home, and he doesn't have his briefcase, then that means he's definitely coming back," Van reasoned. "So, the question is, where is he going?"

"And how long is he gonna be gone?"

Van nodded and glanced at his partner. "That's actually two questions."

Dark eyes still pinned to the mirror, Deaq immediately came to a decision and started the car. "Let's see if we can get some answers."

Hill's car pulled out of its space and headed for the parking garage exit, the driver completely unaware of the small black Jaguar discreetly following at a safe distance.

Billie was seated on the stairs of the pool, chest high in the water, with a beautiful, half-naked blonde on her lap. Her hair had been pulled out of its ponytail, a combination of water and sweat causing long, dark strands to stick to her neck and shoulders.

Felicia was moving her body slowly, and rhythmically, one hand buried in Billie's dark hair, the other beneath the water, fingers moving teasingly, between a pair of taut, tanned legs. The bikini top was doing its job in preventing Billie from using her hands, so she tried to use her mouth to its best effect, but from her current position, she was definitely at a disadvantage.

Despite being aroused, Billie tried to stay focused on her objective, part of which was supposed to include that she be the one doing the seducing. Unfortunately, things were not exactly happening the way she'd hoped.

The blonde's movements suddenly stopped, and her hand traveled up the front of Billie's body. One finger brushed against an erect nipple and Felicia cupped the breast and began lavishing attention upon it. The sudden intake of breath from the young, firm body beneath her only served to spur her on.

"Felicia." Billie's voice was soft and raspy.

A pair of dark, brown eyes gazed, lustfully, at the lieutenant. "I love the way you say my name." Felicia tugged on Billie's hair and tilted her head back, exposing the soft, vulnerable skin to her eager mouth. She slid her tongue across the brunette's pulse point, finally eliciting a small moan from the young detective, and she smiled against the warm, heated skin.

"I want the name," came another breathless response.

Felicia took Billie's earlobe between her teeth, biting down gently as her hand traveled lower to resume its earlier ministrations. She could feel the lieutenant's legs closing in response to the sudden intrusion, and she suddenly leaned forward, her superior leverage serving to drive Billie further back against the stairs.

The back of Billie's head came to rest against Felicia's forearm, the water's edge barely licking against her cheeks. Her ears were now submerged, and she squirmed against the uncomfortable sensation.

"Ssh." Felicia brought her hand up and placed a finger against Billie's lips to silence her. "Can you understand me?"

Billie could easily make out the woman's words, although she doubted the muffled sounds would have made sense if it weren't for the fact that Felicia was hovering directly above her. "Yes," she answered.

The blonde kissed her, softly. "Well then, Billie, it's time to give you want you want." Her hand reached down and cupped the brunette's crotch, pressing firmly as she began to rotate her palm in small, tight circles.

The lieutenant's breath quickened, the sound loud against her blocked ears, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything outside of her own body. She stared up at Felicia from her nearly prone position, unsure as to why she was even allowing this to happen. The woman was manipulating her body in a way that she'd never allowed anyone else to before.

Not even Sara.

The thought of her lover suddenly jolted Billie out of the surreal state she was falling into, and with a quick mental shake, her mind immediately refocused itself. All she needed was the name, and then she would put a stop to all of this.

Felicia's lips were slightly parted, and Billie was certain she was about to speak again, until she suddenly lifted her gaze to look at something else.something Billie couldn't see. The blonde's expression turned angry, and that was all the incentive the lieutenant needed to push back to an upright position.

"-were not to be disturbed."

The last few words Felicia spoke reached Billie's ears as she came out of the water. The blonde was already backing off, although she kept one hand poised, possessively, on the brunette's shoulder. A shadow fell over them, and Billie glanced over to see Sophia standing at the edge of the pool.

"My apologies, Madam, but it's urgent."

Felicia glared at the other woman, briefly, before turning her attention back to her dinner guest. "Would you excuse me for a moment?"

Billie had to admit that she was still somewhat amazed by the blonde's unflappable demeanor. The fact that they were discovered in an extremely compromising position, not to mention that Felicia barely had any clothes on, didn't seem to bother her in the slightest. The lieutenant, on the other hand, decided to practice a bit more discretion. Servant or no servant, she didn't want the other woman to see her.unusual accessory.

Billie merely nodded as she shifted to look in Sophia's direction, and Felicia gave her a knowing smile. She slipped her hand off Billie's shoulder, brushing her fingertips across the young woman's cheek as she stood up. "Don't go away."

The lieutenant squinted as she looked up at her, preferring to remain seated until the newly arrived party's attention was diverted. "Where would I go like this?" she mumbled under her breath.

Felicia headed out of the pool and walked back toward the house with Sophia trailing dutifully behind. The two women stopped near the edge of the patio, speaking in hushed tones that Billie had absolutely no chance of hearing. She sat there twisting her wrists in an agitated fashion to free herself, all the while keeping an eye on the conversation taking place nearby.

Within a short time, she successfully removed her bindings and started to make her way out of the pool. She could see Felicia coming toward her, her mood considerably darkened by whatever news Sophia had given her. The blonde still seemed oblivious to her state of undress. Despite her nudity, the woman might as well have been walking into a board meeting.

"An important matter needs my attention, Billie," Felicia explained with a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry to have to end our evening so abruptly."

"This doesn't involve a homicide, does it?"

The blonde's stony expression suddenly faltered, only to be replaced by a look of amusement. "Whatever would I do without your witty repartee?"

"Don't worry," Billie said helpfully. "I'm just as entertaining through a plexi-glass wall."

Felicia pouted in mock disappointment. "I was rather hoping for conjugal visits."

The lieutenant held out the slightly mangled bathing top. "In that case, I'll be sure to leave my handcuffs at home."

As Felicia reached over to take the dripping wet garment, her hand lingered on Billie's, and she stared, thoughtfully, at the young woman. "Hopefully, next time, we won't be interrupted." As she started to pull away, a firm hand clasped, tightly, around her wrist.

"Not so fast."

"Interested in a little role-reversal?" the blonde questioned.

"We're not finished," Billie replied.

"Billie, I don't have time for this," Felicia responded as she attempted to wrench her arm free from the younger woman's grasp.

The lieutenant yanked, hard, and Felicia nearly stumbled as she was forced to take a step closer to Billie. "We had a deal, Felicia, and you're not going anywhere until I get what I came for."

The blonde narrowed her eyes and replied, "Neither of us got what we wanted this evening, Lieutenant. And our `deal', as you call it, was never consummated."

"I gave you everything you wanted," Billie stated firmly. "Either you ante up, or our game is over." She knew that pushing Felicia too hard was a big risk, but after everything she'd put up with today, it was painfully obvious that all she had left were desperate measures.

Felicia suddenly reached out and grabbed the back of Billie's head, pulling her in for a bruising kiss. The lieutenant was so stunned she could only stand there while the beautiful blonde ravaged her mouth.

Both women released ragged breaths as their lips finally parted. Felicia held Billie's unflinching gaze, her face still hovering close enough to brush the younger woman's swollen lips with the tip of her tongue. "The game ends when I say it ends, Billie," she replied, fiercely. "Don't ever forget that." She reached up and cradled the brunette's chin with her thumb and forefinger, turning her head slightly as she placed a soft, tender kiss on her cheek. She paused to whisper a single word into Billie's ear and pulled away.

The lieutenant remained perfectly still and watched as Felicia walked away from her. The blonde tossed the wet bathing top, casually, over her shoulder as she headed toward the main house. In less than a minute, she completely disappeared from view.

The first thing Billie did was walk back to the cabana to grab her clothes. She managed to do a quick change and found her way through the garden, where she found Sophia waiting at the top of the stairs that led back the way she came. Eerily, the woman seemed to be poised in exactly the same spot where they'd parted ways only a short while ago.

"This way please, Lieutenant."

As the brunette followed her, she decided to try and make some conversation. "So, how long have you worked for Fel.uhh.Mrs. Ralston?"

"Nine years, Miss."

"You must have known her husband, then."


Billie rolled her eyes. Sophia was definitely a woman of few words. "What was he like?"

"He was a very fair employer," Sophia answered in a bland tone.

"Uh-huh." As they approached the main doors, Billie decided to take one last shot. "Is there anything I should be concerned about, Sophia? In relation to this urgent matter, I mean."

"If Madam requires your assistance, she will notify you." She pushed on the ornate, carved handles with smooth, practiced efficiency, and stepped outside, perching herself against one of the open doors. If the woman's rigid posture wasn't dismissive enough, her next words made everything perfectly clear. "Good evening, Lieutenant."

Billie hesitated, lingering in the doorway for a few seconds. The older woman remained where she was, not even sparing a glance. With a soft sigh, the lieutenant walked by her and headed for her car, giving the servant a casual wave. "Nice chatting with you, Sophia."

Just as she reached her car, her cell phone rang. She quickly grabbed it and tossed her purse onto the passenger seat, before slipping behind the wheel. "Chambers."

"Billie, it's me."

It was Van's voice on the other end of the line, and he sounded stressed. More so than usual. "What's up?"

"Hill's been shot."

Billie blinked a few times. "What?"

"Hill's been shot," the young cop repeated emphatically. "Look, Deaq and I are on our way to CSU. You'd better get over here."

"Who did it?" she immediately asked.

"We don't know," came Van's agitated response. "We never saw them."

"How bad is it?"

"Pretty bad."

"Were you with him when it happened?" Billie questioned, trying to comprehend what the hell Van and Deaq would be doing with Hill when they were supposed to be getting ready for tomorrow's bust.

"We were.close by, okay?" He quickly headed off any further inquiries. "It's a long story. Just get here as soon as you can." The connection went dead.

"Van!" Billie nearly shouted into her phone. "Shit." Angrily, she threw the phone aside and started up the car, not bothering to spare the pavement as she floored down the driveway and headed for the gates.

Someone shot Roland Hill the day before he was about to put an end to her career. That absolutely could not be a coincidence. She thought of Felicia's sudden exit, which must have practically coincided with the shooting.

Unfortunately, that just didn't seem to fit. Felicia would never have made such a tactical error as to be called away right at that moment. And without knowing the reason she left, Billie would have to put that connection aside for now.

Her first order of business was to get the lowdown on Hill's shooting. She had no idea how Van and Deaq had gotten involved, but knowing them as she did, it couldn't be good. Van probably hatched up some little scheme, looking to work some angle or another. She could only hope that the two of them had enough sense to cover their asses.

As she sped through the gates and made a somewhat suicidal turn onto the steep, winding road, Billie's thoughts turned to the other unexpected event of the evening.

She wasn't sure Felicia would be truthful with her about McKenzie's murderer, mainly because in giving up the killer's identity, she could risk being implicated herself. But, if there was one thing Billie had learned in these past few weeks it was to never try and second-guess Felicia Ralston. The woman always seemed to be one step ahead of her, and tonight had been no exception.

But, from the wealthy widow's very own lips had come the first tangible piece to a frustratingly erratic trail. She'd only given Billie his first name, just to tease her, but in doing so, she unknowingly confirmed what the young lieutenant had already suspected: There was a serial killer out there.

And his name is David.

Part 25

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