DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and its characters are the property of Shed Productions. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge great thanks to Ralst for posting and also anybody taking the time to read it. This is my attempt at creating Nikki and Helen's lives, friends and loves, leading up to (& including) episode 1, series 1. Therefore my perception of Helen is taken from the show and my own personal view, that her reaction over her feelings towards Nikki were too strong to have been something she would have experienced in her past with other women. Hence in this story, Helen's relationships are all with men, something I hope will be forgiven. After all, we all know how it really ended :)
WARNING: This story contains a scene of attempted sexual assault.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Kate


Chapter 16

Nikki slowly courted Emma. She was reluctant to rush headlong into anything, as she had done with Natalie and wanted to give Emma time; she still appeared overwhelmed that Nikki was interested.

On their second date, Nikki only kissed her lightly on the lips when she dropped her off. More a friendly gesture that anything else. She let it continue that way for a few days.

It was after they went out for a meal, two weeks later, that Nikki really kissed her, and discovered that Emma was a wonderful kisser. She was passionate and gentle and kissed Nikki back just as equally.

It was two months before they slept together. Nikki cooked them dinner at her flat, and hadn't planned on anything more.

Sitting on the sofa, they cuddled each other and listened to some music. Nikki leaned in and kissed Emma softly. She pulled away, but Emma pulled her face back to her, and captured her mouth again.

From there, Nikki felt things begin to get heated. She let her hands roam Emma's slim body, and Emma responded in the same manner.

When Nikki realised what it could lead to, she stopped.

"I should take you home." She said.

"Why?" Emma looked puzzled.

"Because if I don't…" Emma interrupted her.

"Nikki, I don't want to go home. I want to stay."

The dimpled smile let Nikki know what Emma was asking.

"Are you sure?" Nikki looked at her.

"Oh yes." Emma said, her smile even wider.

Emma kissed her and her hands began to gently explore over Nikki's body again. Unable to move on the sofa, Nikki stilled her hands.

"Let's do this properly," Nikki said softly. She got up and held out her hand to Emma. "Where we'll be more comfortable."

Emma took her hand and allowed herself to be led slowly to the bedroom.

Emma loved Nikki's seduction. She'd never experienced anything like it. Her one relationship was her first real sexual experience. Her girlfriend at the time was the same young age, and a little more skilful. It ended when she left for University in Dublin. They had remained friends, knowing the distance would be an obstacle.

But with Nikki, Emma felt she had been made love to, in the true sense of the word. It went beyond sex. As she lay wrapped in Nikki's arms in the morning, she pinched herself to see if she was dreaming.

Emma couldn't stop staring at Nikki's face. She looked so peaceful and so beautiful. Her long eyes lashes rested against her skin, her eyelids closed and hiding her brown eyes from view. They were eyes that Emma knew were the windows to Nikki's soul. So much was conveyed in them, that Nikki didn't have to say a single word. Emma looked at her mouth and lips, and remembered what they had been responsible for during the night. But Emma loved her mouth for another reason. Her smile. It was the most warm, outward expression of who Nikki was inside.

Nikki stirred from sleep, sensing she was being watched and opened her eyes, to see Emma smiling at her.

"Good morning." Emma said.

Nikki looked at her and she appeared to be glowing.

"Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

Emma giggled. "Yes. When I was allowed to."

Nikki laughed. "What do you want to do today?"

"Stay here and watch you sleep." Emma blushed.

Nikki smiled to herself. Emma was incredibly sweet and despite her shyness, a gentle passionate lover. It appeared to be true, that the quiet one's, were the ones you had to watch out for.

This became more apparent to Nikki in the afternoon. They spent a leisurely Sunday relaxing; popping out to the pub for some lunch and then ambling back to Nikki's flat.

A slow kiss started them off, and this time the softness of a rug on the living room floor, provided all the comfort they needed.

Nikki discovered Emma's new found self confidence had blossomed since last night, and she was now energetic and eager to please. She sought Nikki's assurance, softly asking her if what she was doing was ok and Nikki helped to guide her when she was unsure.

When Emma announced the following week, that Nikki was invited to dinner with her parents, she felt incredibly nervous. It was the first "meet the parents" she'd ever experienced. Natalie's parents had retired to the south of France, and because of her independent nature she had never felt the need to visit them.

Emma's parents were very accepting of their daughter's sexuality, so Nikki knew she wasn't going to be viewed as a corrupting influence, but there was still the worry of whether they would actually approve.

Within thirty minutes of being in her parent's house, Nikki was extremely relaxed. Her dad possessed the same whacky sense of humour and was the family entertainer. Emma's quiet nature came form her mum, a lovely woman, who appeared to stay in the background allowing her husband to be the spokesperson. But her sense of humour was just as quick.

Emma's younger brother Phillip, only fourteen and suffering from volcanic eruptions of acne on his face, couldn't take his eyes of Nikki. Emma later told her, that he thought Nikki was gorgeous and he wished he was a woman.

Emma gradually moved in with Nikki. If three weeks after meeting her parents, could be classed as gradual. She stayed Friday through Sunday, and then occasionally during the week. On the nights she wasn't with her, Nikki felt displaced and missed her not being there. Emma was feeling the same, and the week nights dwindled until she went straight to Nikki's flat from work.

There was only one time, a dark reminder for Nikki that could have left a blemish on their relationship. But it was Emma's young, wise nature that wiped it away.

Nikki sat in the chair, puffing away on her cigarette. Emma wasn't home at the usual time, and she hadn't heard from her. As the time passed, her mind and thoughts took control and she was starting to fume.

She heard the key turn in the front door. When Emma came into the room, she remained seated.

"Sorry I'm late. One of the cash registers was off quite a bit of money. We had to reconcile it." Emma said.

"Where have you been?" Nikki heard the distrust in her own voice.

Emma looked at her and finally noticed the anger in her face.

"I was at work. We couldn't leave until we found the money." Emma said quietly.

Nikki slowly inhaled on her cigarette narrowing her eyes as she did so. She leant forward in the chair and was horrified when Emma's body appeared to jump, as though in fear.

She closed her eyes, realising how she had let someone else's action in the past cloud her judgement of somebody completely different.

Emma saw the anguish on Nikki's face and went and knelt in front of her.

"I know she hurt you, but I'm not her Nikki. I wouldn't do that to you, I have no reason too. And I'll never understand why she did."

Nikki's chest sank with relief. She reached for Emma and pulled her onto her lap.

"I'm sorry. You're never late and I didn't know where you were." Nikki kissed her. "I was imagining all kinds of stupid stuff. I didn't mean to scare you. I would never hurt you Em."

"I know you wouldn't. I'm sorry I didn't call, but we had to sort out the problem"

"What was the problem?" Nikki asked.

"I was. It my register that was off. We found it in the end, in the foreign exchange register. I don't know how I got so messed up. I haven't been able to concentrate properly all day."

"Why?" Nikki frowned.

"I spent all day daydreaming about you. How you make me feel and the things you do." Emma looked embarrassed and Nikki laughed.

Everybody noticed the influence Emma had on Nikki and Nikki was even aware of it herself.

She felt relaxed and Emma brought a quiet calmness into her life. They shared an energy, an element of fun, that made most of the things they did together turn into fits of giggles, especially Emma. Nikki also enjoyed their quiet moments. Snuggled on the sofa, reading or watching a soppy film, a box of tissues handy when the sniffing started.

Nikki also loved Emma's spontaneous moments, when she would take control and initiate an intimate moment between them. It always took Nikki by surprise, as Emma gave away no indication of what she had in mind.

A food fight while they were cooking, led to one of the most erotic nights Nikki had experienced. Emma's insistence in the use of chocolate ice cream had Nikki screaming on the kitchen floor, and not just because it was ice cold on her skin.

They were getting ready to go out for dinner for Emma's 19th birthday, meeting the gang at the restaurant. Nikki had been delayed and was rushing as she got ready. Emma sat on the bed, already dressed to go out.

She watched Nikki quickly remove her clothes and head for the shower. She stood in the bathroom chatting to her and when Nikki stepped out handed her a towel. Her gaze took in the sight of Nikki's naked body as she hurriedly dried herself.

Following her back to the bedroom, she now watched her get dressed, then it was back to the bathroom to watch her dry her hair and put on her make up. She knew Nikki had no idea of the plan she had already formulated before Nikki got home.

"Ok, we should still make it on time." Nikki said.

Emma stood in the bathroom doorway, leaning against the doorframe. She blocked Nikki's exit as she tried to leave.

"You look sexy." Emma said.

"And so do you." Nikki smiled at her. "Hungry?"


"Good, let's go eat." Nikki said eagerly.

Emma reached up and put her arms around her neck.

"It's not food I'm hungry for."

Nikki saw the gleam in her eyes.

"Emma?" Nikki looked at her and shook her head slightly. "You're a devil." she realised Emma had deliberately waited until she was dressed and ready to go.

"We will be incredibly late."

"Then everybody will just have to start without us. It's my birthday, I get to do what I want." Emma backed up, pulling Nikki with her towards the bedroom.

They arrived at the restaurant an hour late, holding hands as they rushed over to the table where everybody was sitting. Nikki knew it was obvious from their appearance why they were late. She hadn't had time to do anything with her hair, after the mess Emma made of it. She knew their make up faired better, but it didn't disguise the huge smiles on their faces or the fact that both their lips, swollen from kissing, looked as though they had been injected with Botox.

As they sat down it was Jackie that said what everybody else was thinking.

"I'd say certain persons have already had dessert by the looks of it."

The months lazily passed and they celebrated a year together. They took weekend trips, when they had time off and a short holiday. Went to the movies and theatre. Spent crazy nights out with all the friends, and at times emotional intimate nights in.

Emma enjoyed Nikki's intellect and it amazed her that Nikki always played it down, almost as though Nikki didn't think she was as intelligent as she actually was.

Emma also knew the strongest part of Nikki's nature was her emotional side. It was a deep and strong streak that seemed to be in the very marrow of her body. At times Emma feared for her, that it could leave Nikki easily vulnerable.

But Emma also feared that she, herself, wasn't deserving of it, or strong enough to handle it. So she made the hardest decision of her life.

To let Nikki go.


Chapter 17


Helen was in shock as Michelle was led away and the courtroom started to empty. Gavin went over to the prosecution team and shook hands, jovially talking and laughing with them.

She could still see the look on Michelle's face when the judge announced the sentence and Helen had said quietly to her "we'll appeal", hoping she looked as reassuring as she sounded.

Helen still wasn't able to speak as she sat in the car as Gavin drove. Back at his office, she slumped into a chair and rubbed her forehead.

"Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?" He smiled.

Helen couldn't believe how cheerily he said it.

"How can you even think about dinner? Aren't you a little upset at what happened?" Helen frowned.

"Why should I be upset? So, it wasn't what we expected, but she can appeal. It happens all the time. Bad judgement, bad sentencing." He looked at her as though it was par for the course.

Helen suddenly felt angry.

"If it happens all the bloody time, then whose accountable? The judge just having a bad was he? Thought a suspended sentence, but still locking her up for twelve months was okay considering the abuse she'd suffered? What about probation? She's not a danger to anybody else, she was just trying to survive!"

"Oh don't be so naïve. This isn't some Hollywood movie where the underdog gets to go free. This is real life."

"Stop telling me I'm naïve! I've just witnessed a system that is deeply flawed. A convicted sex offender would get the same sentence!"

"Calm down Helen," Gavin said dismissively. "You're over reacting. Why get yourself all upset about it?"

Helen couldn't believe he'd just said that. "Because I don't like it, not one bit! And I can't believe how blase you're being. This kind of stuff doesn't affect you?"

"I can't go around with a bleeding heart every time something doesn't turn out the way I expect. Win some, you lose some. It's what happens in my profession. Plus, she did actually kill someone. There has to be a system that dispenses punishment, regardless."

"So you're saying, she deserved what she got?!" Helen shook her head.

"In essence yes. It could have been worse, it could have been better. We did what we could. Judge and jury decided."

"That's it? You can wash your hands of it?"

"What are you expecting me to do?" He looked at her and frowned.

"Maybe have a little more compassion, want to change the system!?"

Gavin laughed. "Now you are being naïve. Whether you like it or not, is of no matter. The system works for the majority of the time. That's what matters. There are holes and Michelle fell into a small one. You can't go around thinking that you can just change things because you don't think it's fair. You can't control everything Helen. What makes you think, morally, you are above the system?"

Helen stood up. "What I can't believe is that people like you are happy to put with it. That you think it doesn't matter, as long as the majority of the time, every thing is working. I thought perhaps you were someone that might actually care. But it seems this is just a pay check to you!"

"Don't get on your high horse and lecture me Helen! That high moral standing of yours is going to be tested one day. Then it'll be interesting to see if you stick to your morals or walk away from them!"

"At least I believe I have some! And as far as this," Helen waved her hand between the two of them. "I'm done! This I can walk away from!"

She turned and headed towards the door. When she got to it, she turned to look at him again.

"Claire was right. You are an arrogant prick!"

Helen slammed the door shut behind her, for the final time. As she walked away, she heard Gavin laughing on the other side.

Two weeks into her sentence, Michelle Adams was killed. In the wrong place at the wrong time, two other inmates began a fight on some stairs. Michelle was just passing and got caught in the melee. She fell down the metal stair well, breaking her neck.

When Helen heard the news, she drank herself stupid with guilt.


Chapter 18


Nikki sighed deeply. Emma's arm was across her chest as they lay in bed. She let her fingertips stroke up and down it, gently caressing the skin. Her eyes were closed and she replayed in her mind, the love they'd just made and smiled.

"I love you." Emma said.

Nikki kissed the top of her head. She loved hearing those three little words. It was the first relationship she'd had where somebody had ever said it to her. But what Emma said next took her completely by surprise and tore through her heart.

"But I know I'm not enough for you."

Nikki froze and her eyes flew open, as she tried to comprehend the comment. She gently lifted Emma's head and looked at her.

Emma saw the confusion on her face and stroked her cheek.

"Em, what do you mean?" Nikki's heart was racing.

"You go somewhere when we make love. Somewhere deep in here." She touched Nikki's heart. "I'm never able to follow you. I watch you and it's like I lose you. It goes beyond what I can give you."

Nikki was stunned. She swallowed hard.

"I love you, you know that don't you?"

"Oh God yes. I've never felt so loved Nikki. You make me feel so special. It's incredible how alive I feel. But I don't make you feel the same. I know I don't."

Nikki looked up at the ceiling, forcing the tears back, but she couldn't.

"I never thought I'd hurt you." Nikki began to cry, her body becoming racked with huge sobs and Emma pulled her into her arms.

"You haven't hurt me Nikki, you're not capable. Please don't think that. I'm afraid it's me that will hurt you. I don't want to be the one you waste your time and love on."

"But I'm not." Nikki choked.

"Yes you are," Emma said gently. "I don't want to be the one that holds you back. I know you'd stay for my sake."

Nikki couldn't believe how calm Emma was being. She knew it was tearing Emma apart as much as it was her.

"When you find her, you'll thank me for doing this." Emma said.

"Find who?"

"Your soul mate. The right one for you. The woman that will give you all that you need. Love you as deeply as you'll love her. I just wish it could be me."

Finally a tear slid down's Emma's face.

"Don't say anymore." Nikki begged. "How can you be so young and be this wise."

It was a statement rather than question and Nikki held her tightly and cried even harder.

The split was gradual and slow, with Emma easing Nikki into it. They remained close, always phoning each other and still going out amongst their group.

When Nikki received the most devastating news during this time, it was Emma that helped her through it.

Nikki picked up the phone one Sunday morning, and it was Mandy.

"Nikki." Mandy's voice sounded tiny and quiet, and Nikki immediately sensed something was wrong.

"Mandy? What's wrong?"

"It's mum. She had a heart attack last night. She's gone Nik." Nikki heard Mandy begin to cry and still holding the phone, she slid to the floor in shock.

Emma, unaware of what happened, rang Nikki fifteen minutes later to chat. When Nikki told her, she flew round there and drove her to the Baker house, staying with her and the family through the night.

Nobody knew, not even Cheryl, that she had lived with a faulty heart valve all her life.

Mick Baker became a lost man. The light in his eyes dimmed. Four months later he gave up and joined his wife. The death certificate simply said natural causes, but they all knew he had died of a broken heart, unable to live anymore without Cheryl.

While Nikki supported Mandy, Emma supported her once again. For Mandy the only small mercy she felt, was that Cheryl and Mick had lived to see and hold their first grandson. They never got the oppourtunity when their granddaughter arrived.

As time passed, Emma met someone else. She rang Nikki to ask her advice and when Nikki met her new girlfriend, Jo, she was overjoyed for her. They were the same age, and were deliriously happy. Nikki often went round for dinner and she and Jo got on famously.

When the same thing happened to Nikki, Emma was pleased for her too. It wasn't the person Emma envisioned for Nikki, but Nikki was happy and that's all that mattered.

Three years after they broke up, Nikki suffered devastation again, when Emma was killed in a car crash.

Nikki deeply mourned the loss of her young vibrant life; mourned the loss of her friendship, and the intimate times they had shared. She wept openly and uncontrollably at her funeral, along with Jo. Her friends, unaware of what Emma had said to Nikki that night, were concerned at her grief. They were oblivious to the fact that Nikki had lost the only person who had so far understood her. None of them, not even Trisha, could do anything to console her.


Chapter 19


Helen and Claire found themselves almost neighbours again. They had both moved to London, for work reasons.

Claire had moved to another law practice and while there had met a young guy from South Africa. Peter Vandermeer's family were originally Dutch immigrants, part of the Dutch colony that settled in South Africa. He had come to the UK to study law at University and was now a junior partner. He was a little older than Claire and Helen thought that both of them seemed a good match. Claire was the happiest she had seen her in a long while.

After the break from Gavin and then Michelle Adams' untimely death, Helen threw herself into her work. She had taken another position, still in the same sector, but was contemplating a new direction altogether. But at this point she didn't know what it would be. Either back to university, or head into another profession. She decided to see how settled she would become presently and take it from there.

Helen loved the close proximity to the city. She spent hours wondering around Covent Garden, soaking up the atmosphere, weaving in and out of the shops, and sitting to watch some of the Royal Academy for Performing Arts students entertain the passers by with their skits or mimes, and the music students, happily performing for anybody that would listen.

From there, she would wander further into Leicester Square, hiking up Regents Street to Oxford Street and along the longest street of shops anywhere.

Other times, she would turn towards Trafalgar Square and watch children squealing as the pigeons chased them for food. The Mall was another of her favourite walks; she'd sit in St James's Park with a small picnic and read a book.

The museums and The West End theatre district also gave her hours of entertainment. Claire and Peter would often accompany her to a play, and Rachel and Mel were regular visitors, coming to stay for the weekends.

Chinatown became their favourite haunt; every Chinese restaurant there offered great food and the prices weren't too extravagant considering the location

For once Helen wasn't late. She was one of the first to arrive at Peter's London apartment, a large flat ideal for entertaining. Both he and Claire were hosting a dinner party for a fairly large group of acquaintances, some work and some friends. Rachel and Mel were also due to arrive with their partners and Helen was busy helping them prepare stuff for the evening.

The doorbell rang again and Helen called out to Claire and Peter in the kitchen.

"I'll get it".

Helen opened the door and standing there was a man with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine. He was tall, well over six feet, with short dark hair and hazel eyes. His features were strong; a roman nose and firm jaw line. Not movie star looks, but how a real man should look and Helen thought him the most handsome man she had ever seen. He smiled at her and Helen was captivated. It was also the most incredible smile she'd ever seen on a man.

"Hello, Claire?" He asked tentatively.

"No, I'm a friend of Claire's. She and Peter are in the kitchen." She stepped aside so he could enter.

"I'm Jon. I'm Peter's cousin."

His South Africa accent was more clipped than Peter's. She held out her hands and took the flowers and wine, as he took off his camel coloured great coat. Underneath he was wearing a suit and the smell of Dunhill aftershave filled the small space between them. His shoulders were broad and his body looked strong. Helen noticed the ring on his left hand.

He hung up his coat and then seeing Helen's casual attire, he smiled again.

"Would you say I'm a little over dressed?"

"I certainly wouldn't say so. It's nice to see a man who dresses up for dinner. Not many make the effort these days." Helen wasn't sure if she sounded overly flirtatious.

They stood looking at each other for a moment then Peter appeared.

"Jon, I'm glad you could make it."

They shook hands and hugged each other.

"Jon, this is Helen. Jon's my elder cousin. He's visiting on business. Come on through."

Jon followed him and Helen headed to the kitchen.

"Who was that?" Claire asked as she removed a dish from the oven.

"Peter's cousin, Jon." Helen put the bottle of wine on the counter and found a vase for the flowers.

"Oh good. Peter said he might make it. I haven't met him before. He's over here quite a bit for work, normally on flying visits though. He's older than Peter, early forties I think."

"Does his wife not travel with him?" Helen asked.

"What makes you think he's married?"

"He's wearing a wedding ring."

"Oh. Sadly Jon's wife and their only child, a daughter, were killed in a car crash six years ago. Peter said he was devastated. Hasn't really got over it."

The conversations at the dinner table were lively. Groups of people talking as they ate. Helen found herself sitting next to Jon at the end with Claire and Peter, and Rachel and Mel and they were all engaged in a chat with some others on legal issues. One of them asked Jon what his line of work was.

He sipped his wine and smiled, but Peter answered for him.

"Jon works for De Beers, he's in charge of a diamond mine in South Africa."

All the women around the table halted their conversations.

"You own a diamond mine?" Rachel asked.

"Sadly not anymore. One of our ancestors did start one, but De Beers owns the majority of mines now." Jon answered.

Everybody went back to their conversations, including their little group. But Helen wanted to know more.

"What do you do for the mine?" Helen asked Jon.

"I'm in charge of operations. It means I travel a lot, especially to Europe and the UK." He continued to explain about the company.

"Do you ever handle the diamonds?" Helen sipped her wine.

"Yes, in their raw form. They're not very much to look at. But once they're cut, they look much better.

"What makes a diamond so special?"

"That depends on the four C's."

Helen frowned.

"Clarity, colour, cut and carat." He went on to explain.

Helen was enjoying their conversation and he spoke with a quiet passion about his work.

"Are diamonds a good investment?" She asked.

He pondered for a moment.

"I've never known a woman consider a diamond engagement ring as an investment. The investment has been made in the commitment she's about to make. A woman will pick a diamond for its beauty. And that's the only reason a diamond should ever be bought. And then its beauty becomes all the more enhanced when it's seen hanging from a woman's ears, or resting against her neck, or on her finger. That's when their value becomes priceless. When they make a woman feel special."

His eyes sparkled as he spoke and Helen found herself staring into them. She noticed his clean shaven face, the slight greying colour of his hair at his temples. The shape of his mouth.


Helen heard her name spoken, as though in the distance but she was still looking into hazel eyes.


This time it broke her form her reverie and she saw Jon smiling at her and blushed. She turned to Claire.

"Can you help with the dessert?" Claire asked.

"Yes. Yes of course." Helen got up quickly and followed Claire to the kitchen.

Claire handed her a dish. "Are you ok?" She asked. Helen seemed to be distracted.

"Yes, I'm fine." Helen shook her head slightly. Claire just smiled at her.

"He's very handsome isn't he?" Claire said.

"What? Who?" Helen still wasn't listening.

"Wow, he's certainly got you in a state." Claire laughed.

Helen felt herself blushing again.

"Is it that obvious? I just feel…" Helen stumbled for an explanation. "This is ridiculous. I've just met him!" She exclaimed.

"It's called attraction. I would say immediate for you. Probably when you opened the door?"

Helen couldn't believe it. "How do you do that?" Helen laughed. "You and your bloody body language. You and Mel are as bad as one another!"

As the evening wore on, everybody mingled and Helen constantly found herself in the same group as Jon. She wasn't sure if it was a subconscious effort on both their behalves, to find each other out, but at one point they stood alone.

"Your work must be very stressful Helen. It must paint a very damaging picture of the male population to see so many women treated so despicably and violently."

Helen saw the genuine look of concern on his face.

"It's a tiny part of the male population. Plus not all domestic violence cases are against women, it happens the other way too. So I don't have a biased view." She smiled reassuringly at him.

"Good." He said and Helen found herself mesmerised by his smile once again.

Eventually everybody began to leave, work beckoning them in the morning. Helen saw Jon enter the lounge, now wearing his coat and she suddenly felt saddened that he was leaving.

He saw her and came over.

"Well Helen. It was very nice to meet you. I enjoyed our conversations, very much." He held out his hand and she took it.

"It was lovely to meet you too. I hope it's not too long before you visit the UK again." Helen blushed, realising she may have sounded a little forward in her assumption.

He smiled as he shook her hand firmly and said nothing more, although Helen sensed he was contemplating something.

He turned and Claire and Peter showed him out.


Chapter 20

Helen was just on the way out of her office when the phone rang.

"Hello, Helen Stewart"

"Hello Helen," She felt herself holding her breath as she recognised the clipped accent. "It's Jon Vandermeer. I hope you don't me calling your office number? Claire gave it to me."

"No, that's fine." She tucked her hair nervously behind her ear.

"I just wanted to tell you again, what a pleasure it was talking to you at Peter and Claire's the other night…" Helen heard him pause. "I was wondering, if you're available for lunch tomorrow, if you're not too busy that is?"

Helen knew she had an appointment, but she could cancel it.

"No, I'm free tomorrow. I'd love to have lunch."

"Great. Are you too far from Leicester Square?"

"No, I can easily get there from here." She knew it would be a few tube stops, but that was of no concern to her now.

They made arrangements and when Helen hung up the phone, she felt her heart beating heavily in her chest.

Jon was even more handsome that Helen remembered. And he looked incredibly sexy in a suit. It was better than seeing a man in uniform. They sat and talked and laughed. She discovered he had a quick and dry sense of humour and she lost all sense of time.

"Will your boss mind you taking a three hour lunch?" He asked her. Helen laughed then saw he wasn't joking. She quickly looked at her watch.

"Shit!" Helen mumbled and Jon laughed.

"I'm sorry, I should have said something before, but I didn't want this to end."

Helen smiled at him. "It's no problem. But I should probably go and make my apologies."

"Of course." He caught the attention of the waiter and paid the bill.

They both stood up and Helen stepped out from the table, unaware that she was directly in the path of someone coming past her. She felt herself collide with the person, and their arms catch her.

Helen turned and looked at the women holding her.

"I'm so sorry." Helen apologised and smiled. The woman smiled back at her.

"No need to be sorry. It was my pleasure." She held Helen's gaze and in her arms a little longer than necessary, before releasing her and then continued on her way.

Helen stood for a moment, perplexed at the woman's comment. It sounded an incredibly flirtatious thing to say and her reluctance to let Helen go was also odd. She was stunning to look at and spoke impeccably. And her eyes were the purest azure colour Helen had ever seen.

Helen smiled at the absurdity that she'd just been hit on by a woman.

Outside the restaurant they stood for a moment, hesitating to say goodbye.

"I'm going to be in London for another four days. Would you like to meet up for lunch again, or maybe dinner in the evening? That way I won't make you late back to work." Jon smiled.

"Yes, dinner sounds lovely. I'd like that very much." Helen said softly.

"Tomorrow?" He asked tentatively.

Helen smiled at his eagerness. "Yes, tomorrow."

"I've had a wonderful time, these last four nights. I shall miss our nights out." John said as he walked Helen to her door, the taxi waiting for him.

"So have I," Helen hesitated. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to come in for a coffee?"

She didn't mean it as it sounded, and she knew Jon would know that there wasn't anything meant in her offer. She was just trying to delay his leaving.

"I'd love too, but my flight is early, and I'm afraid," He frowned slightly. "That I'll miss it."

He really wanted to say, "I'm afraid I'll never leave" and was surprised. He hadn't felt this strongly about anyone, since his late wife. And he hadn't gone out with another woman socially since her death.

"Well, I hope you have a good flight home," Helen said, then added quietly. "When do you think you'll be back?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe in the next couple of months."

"Oh." Helen heard the disappointment in her voice.

He leant towards her and Helen waited for him to kiss her cheek. He hadn't attempted anything else the last four nights

But this time, his lips touched hers softly and too briefly.

"Good night Helen." He smiled and left to the waiting taxi.

"Night." Helen murmured, not understanding what had happened.

"Damn it!" Helen was just going out the door, when the phone on her desk started ringing. She contemplated leaving it. Any longer and she would get caught in the rush hour traffic. But she picked it up.


Helen froze at the sound of the voice. "Jon?"

He'd been back in South Africa for two weeks and this was the first she'd heard from him.

"Yes. How are you?"

"I'm fine. How are you?" Helen slowly sat back down in her chair.

"Very well."

"It's lovely to hear from you. This line is very clear. It's almost as if you're right here." Helen smiled.

"Well, it's odd you should say that," Helen frowned as the line went quiet.

"It's because I am."

Helen jumped at the sound of his voice and turned to see him standing in the doorway.

"Are you available for dinner?" He smiled.

Helen was paralysed and she stared at him. "I thought you weren't going to be back for…"

"I had some vacation due. Haven't taken any in a while, so thought I should."

He moved closer until he stood in front of her and held out his hand. "Ready to go?"

The next two weeks went by too quickly for Helen. Only able to see Jon of an evening, due to her job, she began to resent the time she had to spend at work.

He stayed at a hotel, but would now come in for coffee. But wouldn't stay beyond that. Helen loved the fact that he seemed old fashioned in his wish to court her.

Helen felt herself falling deeply for him. It certainly wasn't anything she'd felt for Gavin, and Rory had just been the tip of the iceberg.

When he kissed her properly for the first time, Helen knew she had never been kissed like that before. There was a passion and emotion, deep within this man, not visible from his outward appearance. He was quietly strong and principled with a strong sense of justice.

Helen felt herself becoming emotional as he stood ready to go through to the departure area at the airport. She tried her best to hold back her tears, but found she wasn't able to.

"Visit me." Jon said softly. "Take some vacation. If it's the cost of the ticket, don't worry, I'll take care of it. I won't be back for at least six weeks."

Helen nodded, unable to speak and he pulled her to him one last time.


Chapter 21


The fallout from the deaths of Cheryl and Mick and the split from Emma, was an emotional time for Nikki. But she found solace in supporting Mandy and her brothers through it. She knew the healing would take a long time for them all, but they laughed and joked and cried as they celebrated their lives and it helped to heal their loss.

Life went on as usual. Nikki was still busy with Bob and Shirley and six months away from her 23rd birthday.

Sitting with everybody in their usual bar, Nikki commented on its recent demise.

"This place really has gone downhill." Nikki said.

"Yes, I believe it was the change of management two months ago. Most of the regulars seem to be leaving a sinking ship." Jackie remarked.

"It's a shame it used to be a really nice place." Emma explained to Jo. It was their first night out together with the usual crowd.

"That's a relief. I was beginning to doubt your taste. Sorry guys, but this place is a dump." Jo said.

"We'll have to find somewhere else nice." Teri said, sipping her drink.

"Or start our own club." Trisha said.

They all looked at her as though she was mad. It was only Nikki that thought the idea a good one.

"Why not," Nikki said. "We know what we like. The fact that this place is half empty must mean so does everybody else."

"You'd need some serious money though wouldn't you?" Jo asked.

"Yes, if you're starting from scratch but buying an existing club is easier. "Trish said. "It's already licensed. I know what's involved. I have to go over people's business plans all the time. Most people are so unprepared."

"So, hypothetically, what would have to be done?" Nikki was now very interested.

Trish sat and explained, talking about loans, finding premises, sales and marketing. Employees and payroll.

"You two should seriously think about it," Jackie said. "Nikki's got experience in management, hiring and firing, and all that good stuff. Trish, you could handle the rest."

Everybody was now animated at the idea and they all sat throwing in ideas.

Nikki arrived at Bob and Shirley's for Sunday lunch. A regular ritual, but Nikki sensed something extra lay behind this one. Bob had been having "meetings" on the phone the last few weeks, and Nikki wasn't sure what had been going on.

They all finished eating and Nikki helped Shirley clear away the plates. When she went to start washing them up, Shirley stopped her.

"Come and sit down Nikki."

Nikki frowned, but followed her back to the table. On it were three champagne glasses and the champagne to go in them.

Bob looked at her and was smiling happily. He took a deep breath.

"Nikki, you've probably been aware that something's been going on," He said and then got straight to the point. "I've had an offer on the business, a buy out form a large chain of flower shops."

"Fantastic! You're going to take it, aren't you?" Nikki exclaimed.

"Yes, I'd be an idiot to turn it down."

"Oh this is wonderful. You both off to retire in Spain, like you've always said you wanted to?"

"That's the plan." Shirley said. Nikki got up and hugged and kissed them both.

Bob and Shirley both looked at her.

"You haven't asked what this means for you." Bob said.

"That's not important, this is about you. I can find something. Just as long as I get an invite to Spain."

They all laughed and then Bob continued.

"Well, in fact it is also about you. You've been invaluable to us. We could never have got the other shop without you. What you've done for the business and your commitment has meant a great deal to us, not just in business, but personally. We want to share our good fortune with you Nikki."

Bob slid over a sheet of paper. As she glanced at it, she saw the buyout offer, and then towards the bottom her name was mentioned and a monetary figure beside it. One hundred thousand pounds.

Nikki stared at it and felt herself begin to shake. She looked at them both.

"I can't, I can't accept this. That's insane." She shook her head and her eyes welled up with tears.

"Yes you can love," Bob said softly. "You've earned it."

Nikki still shook her head.

"You can start your own business. You were saying a few weeks back, you and some friends were thinking of starting a club. Now you can." Shirley smiled at her.

Nikki couldn't speak.

"You take that, and do whatever you want with it." Bob urged her. He began to pour out the champagne.

"To new adventures." He said.

It took the Knights a few more hours to get Nikki to accept their offer. She left their house still in shock.

It became a hectic three months as the buy out came into effect. Nikki moved out of the rented flat above the shop and moved in with Jackie and Teri for a month, until she found something else. With the money, she paid off a small loan on a car she had been buying.

She and Trish then began to talk seriously about starting their own club. Trisha's immediate advice to Nikki was to invest a large portion of her money. She said there was no need to use it all as collateral. Should the business fail, she could possibly lose everything.

They put a business plan together, something Trish could take to her own bank. Her employee interest rate would be beneficial to them, until the got the club off the ground.

Next, came finding a suitable location and premises. The spent evenings and weekends, driving all over, until they finally found the right place.

It meant moving quickly and with a business loan in place, a deal was settled. Remodelling began and both of them went over the design, the feel and look they wanted, discovering they shared the same taste in almost everything.

They ate on the fly, takeaways at Nikki's or Trisha's, while they continued to discuss the venture.

As they sat hungrily eating Chinese, and going over resumes to begin the process of interviewing for staff, Nikki sat looking at Trish.

Nikki had picked out the best of the bunch and Trish was going over them, forking noodles and vegetables into her mouth straight from the carton. Her brow was furrowed as she concentrated on what she was reading.

Her expression changed from surprise, to concern, and back again. Nikki began to study her face. The blue eyes and her mouth. Looked at her blonde shoulder length hair, and her figure. Over these past couple of months, they had spent a lot of time together, and Nikki had got to know her well. Trish was intelligent, confident, and appeared cool and controlled. But she was fun, with a great sense of humour. She was also incredibly attractive. Nikki wondered why Trish and Gill had split up. Knowing Gill as she did, Nikki concluded Serena must have come back into her life.

"There a lot of prospective employees here. What ones did you think?" Trish asked. She wiped her mouth on a napkin and turned to look at Nikki.

Nikki was still staring at her.

"Nikki?" Trish said.

"Huh? Oh, err," Nikki leant across and took the resumes. "I like the sound of this guy, Matt. I think he'd make a good assistant manager." Nikki felt herself blush at being caught out. She fumbled through until she found another person she liked.

Trish didn't appear to have noticed anything was wrong. She continued to be business focused and agreed with the choices Nikki had decided on.

When they finally concluded their evening and Trish put on her coat to leave, there was an awkward moment, when they hugged each other. Both going in the wrong direction, a peck on the cheek ended up being a peck on the lips.

"I'm sorry." Nikki said.

"Don't be sorry," Trish smiled at her. "I'll see you tomorrow."

When Nikki went to bed, she couldn't sleep. She knew it wasn't the business keeping her awake. It was the feel of Trish's lips.

Trisha sat and watched as Nikki interviewed their prospective employees. She was amazed at Nikki's ability to put them at ease. She joked a little and managed to weed out their personalities from any nervousness.

They were overjoyed that Matt accepted their offer and so was he at finding himself assistant manager. The rest of the bar staff followed, as well a DJ, Josh. His music choices appealed to them both. They knew they would need a back up, but for now he was happy to work the hours they needed him for.

Opening night was planned in a few weeks and the last touches were being done to the remodel.

Nikki was now finding it harder to be around Trish. As a business partnership, it seemed the ideal mix of personality, but the longer she spent with her, the more she felt her feelings could complicate things.

They were all at the pub for a night out and Trish was the last one to arrive. When she walked in, Nikki's mouth fell open. She was wearing the most incredible dress, a backless light blue colour that complimented her eyes and hair. The split in the side, allowed a teasing glimpse of thigh, and half the pub, men and women alike, were looking at her.

As she walked over, she smiled and leant in and kissed Nikki first, on the cheek, before greeting everybody else. Nikki's stomach flipped in the way it always did.

It was the usual laugh filled evening, marred only for Nikki when Trish announced she had to leave. Nikki half hoped they could spend time together, and then kicked herself for thinking that Trish would want the same. She'd showed no obvious sign.

'So, everything is set for opening night then?' Jackie asked.

"Yes. All staff hired and the place is ready to go." Nikki replied.

"That's great. We're really happy for you." Emma smiled at Nikki.

"You are all going to be there I hope?" Nikki said.

"Of course. Although I think it only fair, that your friends get the first one on the house." Jackie said. "By the way, are these two love birds old enough for your establishment?"

Jackie looked at Emma and Jo and Nikki thought it an odd remark. Jackie was up to something. Emma and Jo just laughed.

"So, who's the one that's got your head in the clouds?" Jackie asked Nikki.

Nikki's glass was half raised to her mouth. It never took Jackie long to get to the point.

"What are you talking about?" She laughed. She noticed everybody looking at her.

"What?" She said.

"So you're saying this gooey eyed look you've had just recently is just a case of conjunctivitis?" Jackie sipped her beer.

Nikki still said nothing.

"Nikki, we've all noticed something. You seem distracted. Something's on your mind. I know it's not the business. You're focus on that is different, like it was with the shops." Emma added.

"Thank you Emma!" Jackie said triumphantly. "So who is this mystery woman?"

"No one. I mean, there is but…" Nikki stumbled over her explanation.

"Jesus, can we possibly get a hint, a name? Is it someone we all know or not?" Jackie looked at her expectantly.

Nikki took a deep breath. "Trish." She said and saw Emma frown slightly at the mention of the name, as though she was slightly surprised.

"Then what's the problem?" Teri asked.

"I don't think she's interested." Nikki shrugged.

Jackie and Teri and Emma and Jo all looked at one another, then all looked at Nikki.

"Of course she's bloody interested!" Jackie exclaimed.

"Oh Nikki, how can you still be so unaware of the effect you have on a woman." Emma said softly.

"I can't believe that the two hottest women in the whole gang have no idea how they feel about one another!" Now Jo shook her head in disbelief.

"What do you mean?" Nikki frowned.

"Did you never wonder why Trish and Gill split up not long after we did?" Emma said.

"I thought Serena was back!"

"Well she was after Trish sent Gill back to her. Trish never thought you'd be available. Even I knew she was interested." Emma said.

Nikki slumped back on the bench seat.

"Well, we seemed to have cleared that up," Jackie said. "Nikki, you want another beer or something a bit stronger now you know all this?"

"Black Russian please. Make it two!"

Five Black Russian's later and Nikki was over her shock. Knowing what she did now, she was still unsure how to proceed. Everybody seemed adamant that Trish was just waiting in the wings, as equally unsure if Nikki was interested.

If anything was going to happen, Nikki preferred it to take its own course. Something would happen that would be a signal to them both.

Jackie was on her usual good form.

"Ok, here's one for you folks. What kind of bee produces milk?" Jackie asked.

Everybody frowned and no one could answer.

"A boobie."

They laughed, but they laughed even more at Teri's reaction. They would all testify later, that there was at least a ten second delay before she got the joke.


Chapter 22

Nikki caught herself staring at Trish several times as opening night rapidly approached. She now doubted everybody's insistence that Trish was interested. If she was, she was incredibly cool about it.

They had a last minute pep talk with all the staff the night before the club was due to open. They opened some champagne and everybody drank to its success. When everybody eventually left, Nikki and Trish went over some last minute stuff between them in the office and then went and sat at the bar.

They both looked around at their club.

"This is it then?" Trisha smiled.

Nikki exhaled. "Yep. No going back now."

Trisha poured some more champagne into the glasses.

"To the club." She said and raised her glass.

"To the club and a great partnership. To us." Nikki toasted back.

"To us." Trisha agreed.

Trisha looked at Nikki and couldn't stop herself; she stepped off the bar stool, placed her glass on the bar and then planted her lips against Nikki's.

Realising what she's done she stepped back quickly.

"I'm sorry I don't know what came over me. I…"

Nikki interrupted her. "Don't be sorry." She smiled.

"But I…"

Nikki gently grabbed the lapel of Trisha's jacket and pulled her to her, stopping her from apologising further, by kissing her back. Her eyes open, she watched Trish's reaction. The blue eyes closed and she sank against Nikki's body.

Nikki pulled back and saw Trisha swallow hard. A move had been made and Nikki smiled.

"We'd better lock up. Tomorrow's going to be a long night." Nikki suggested.

"Yes, of course." Trisha felt lost, unable to concentrate. Nikki had just kissed her and was now acting as though nothing had happened.

Nikki drove Trisha home and when they arrived at her flat, she asked Nikki if she'd like to come up for a coffee.

"Sure." Nikki said.

Trisha's heart was pounding as she opened the door to her flat. Nikki appeared totally calm.

Noticing the state of the place, Trish suddenly felt embarrassed. A few things were scattered about, but it seemed monumentally untidy to her. She scrambled around, quickly straightening things up, and as she passed her stereo unit, flicked on the compilation of love songs that was in there.

"Sorry about the state of the place." Trisha quickly said.

She was having trouble calming her nerves, and understanding why she felt so nervous. It wasn't the first time she'd invited a woman back to her place, or even Nikki for that matter. But the difference now, was that the situation was different. And the woman now standing in her flat was Nikki

"Ok, coffee" Trisha announced. As she made her way past, Nikki took hold of her hand.

"Trisha," Nikki said softly. "I don't want coffee."

Trisha's legs almost buckled and she was grateful when Nikki's arms circled her waist and pulled her into her body. She clung on, hardly believing this was happening.

The softness of Nikki's mouth captured her own and Trish repeatedly told herself "Slowly, slowly" in an attempt to stop her urge to rip Nikki's clothes from her body.

Nikki slid Trisha's jacket off her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Then she slid her hands under the blouse, stroking Trisha's back, while she let her mouth roam her neck. Trisha's body jerked at the sensation.

"Oh God." She murmured.

Nikki lifted her head and looked at her.

"Are you ok? Do you want me to stop?"

"No. No, I don't want you to ever stop. You have no idea how many times I've imagined this. I've been waiting and hoping. I wasn't sure if you wanted the same. If you would ever be interested."

Nikki continued to softly kiss her face, and stroke her hair.

"I was afraid, that if I came on too strong, you might be put off. I've wanted you for so long, I never thought I'd get you."

"Shush," Nikki whispered. "You've got me."

"Oh Nik." Trish almost sobbed her name. Nikki kissed her passionately and heard Trish moan against her lips.

Trisha had known a few lovers, but none could compare to Nikki. Whatever she had hoped for or imagined, went beyond what she was feeling now.

Nikki had slowly undressed her, taking her time, drawing out the moments, and she continued to prolong them now.

Nikki's mouth sought out every inch of Trisha's body. And what that didn't touch, her hands and fingertips did.

The feel of Nikki's warm, soft wet mouth on her skin, was a tortuous agony for Trish; it was like fingernails being scrapped down a blackboard. She wanted to peel her flesh away, in an effort to reduce the sensation.

"Let me touch you." Trish pleaded as Nikki's hands pinned her wrists above her head on the bed.

"No." Nikki said. She snaked her tongue between Trisha's breasts.

"Please, I want to touch you." Trish begged again, trying to wrestle from the restraint, but Nikki wouldn't release her.

Now the feel of Nikki's warm naked skin against her, her body gliding over her own, was driving Trish insane. She knew she couldn't take much more, but Nikki's insistence on being the giver rather than receiver, was nothing she could stop.

She managed a coherent thought in the midst of losing her mind and voiced it, as the coincidently strains of a song, Killing Me Softly, floated into the bedroom.

"You're killing me." As Trish said it, a tongue flicked over her nipple and a mouth descended on it. She let out a deep moan and let her eyes roll back.

Nikki released her and continued her journey down Trish's body. She felt Trish try to pull her back up, but Nikki laughed wickedly against the inside of her thigh.

Trish looked down and the deepest brown eyes stared back at her for a moment and Nikki smiled, before dipping her chin.

Trish's hips lifted off the bed and she clawed at the sheets beneath her as Nikki's mouth claimed her. The sensation seemed to go on for ever and she had no idea how Nikki was keeping her there. Nobody had ever made her scream before. But Nikki did.

Nikki's desire to be the pleaser, continued relentlessly. Trish found herself manipulated into position after position and fought for dominance. When Nikki finally acquiesced, Trish's uncertainty filled her with dread. She suddenly felt inadequate, unsure, that she could make love to Nikki, as she had done to her.

Nikki saw a fleeting doubt cross Trish's face.

"What's wrong?" She asked gently, looking up at Trish, as she lay against her body.

"I want to make you feel how you made me feel."

"What makes you think you won't?" Nikki stroked her hair.

"Because you're incredible, and I'm worried I won't be able to show you just how I feel."

Nikki placed her fingers against Trish's lips to silence her.

"Just show me."

Trish's breath caught in her chest. The soft smile on Nikki's face and in her eyes scorched their way into Trisha's heart.

She said nothing more, as she felt Nikki willingly hand herself over.

Nikki's response overwhelmed Trish, as she explored her body. Brown eyes watched her every move, and in them was reflected what Nikki was feeling. Then Trish heard her low deep moans as Nikki began to concede to the rush in her body.

"Trish?" Nikki whispered against her ear.

"Baby, what?" Trish looked her, keeping up the rhythm and moving her body with Nikki's.

In a low deep voice, barely audible, Nikki breathlessly whispered again.

"You're so good." Then she told Trish what was about to happen to her.

Trish whimpered. They way Nikki said it was the sexiest thing she'd ever heard. In the coming years together, she never tired of hearing it.

Nikki's heavy lidded, half closed eyes, still gazed at her, and Trish saw the muscles in her neck strain, felt her body stiffen and then undulate with the sensation. As she watched and felt it happen, seeing the ecstasy on Nikki's face, Trish didn't think she'd ever seen anything more stunning; Nikki was stunning. It took her breath away, and in that instant Trish felt herself fall totally in love with her.

Lying on their sides, facing each other, they made love again. A long, slow, deep, creamy hedonistic consummation.

Opening night was a massive success. Nikki's promotional skill had ensured reporters from newspapers and magazines had turned up. Their reviews were favourable and enhanced the clubs reputation. Both at only 23 years old, they had taken a major step as businesswomen.

Nikki and Trish quickly settled into their relationship. It was an easy progression from friendship to lovers. Nikki gave up her rented flat and moved into Trisha's. She was buying it and it was much bigger, allowing room for Nikki's stuff.

There was only one slight problem. Trisha's jealousy. It was fierce and outstripped Nikki's ten fold.

The first time it surfaced, it took Nikki completely by surprise. She'd had no inclination that Trish could feel that strongly.

It was about six weeks after the club opened, that Nikki decided to interview for another DJ. They needed a back up for Josh who was about to go on holiday.

When the young girl arrived, Nikki couldn't believe her eyes. She was tiny, her hair shaved, piercing's on her eyebrows, lip and ears, her jeans were torn and she had a T-shirt with "Anarchy" emblazoned across it. She looked like a throw back to punk and Nikki was dreading her choice of music. But when she started on her set, Nikki was pleasantly surprised and the music was great.

She sat talking to Kim after, asking additional questions and she found her funny and they were laughing. Trisha was watching the interaction intently.

"Well, we'd love to have you join the club and alternate with Josh. Would you be interested?" Nikki asked.

"Oh fantastic. I'd love too.' Kim said enthusiastically.

Nikki shook her hand and escorted her out. Trish was no longer in the bar area, so she went to look for her and found her in the office.

"What did you think?" Nikki asked. "I thought she was great."

"I bet you did." Trish's eyes flashed with anger

"What's up?" Nikki frowned.

"Oh don't play the innocent with me. You know very well!"

Nikki was unable to fathom why Trish was so pissed. She moved towards her, but Trish backed away.

"Trisha? What's going on?" Nikki laughed.

"You might as well have been fucking her, the way you were carrying on!"

"What?" Nikki couldn't believe it.

"I saw you. Laughing and looking at her!"

"Don't be ridiculous. It was an interview. I was just trying to put her at ease."

"Oh really!"

"Darling, come on. There was nothing else to it." Nikki smiled and tried again to move towards her.

"Prove it!" Trish said through gritted teeth.

"Prove what?" Nikki was now completely confused.

"Prove you didn't want her!"

Nikki looked at her and Trish was breathing harder with fury.

"Oh for God's sake Trish. I didn't want her, ok?" Nikki no longer found it amusing and moved towards the door.

Trish got there before her and slammed it shut. Standing in front of Nikki, she grabbed her and kissed her, biting down on her lip.

"Ouch!" Nikki exclaimed. She touched her finger to her lip and saw the red smear of blood. "What the fuck?" She looked at Trish for an explanation.

She didn't get one. Trish took hold of her shirt and yanked it, causing the buttons to rip and fly off.

"Trish…" Nikki's words were suffocated as Trish kissed her again. She found herself being pushed roughly backwards and her shoulders slammed into a filing cabinet.

"Shit." She mumbled as Trish started unbuttoning her jeans.

Trisha's mouth was now nipping at her neck and tugging her jeans down over her hips.

"What are you doing?' Nikki asked, and then moaned slightly at the assault on her neck.

"Waiting for you to prove it." Trish pulled her away from the filing cabinet, turning her before shoving her against the door.

Nikki knew she had two options. One was to stop this, but she now felt suddenly aroused at Trisha's ferocity and her passion won out.

She grabbed Trish, spun her round, and threw her back against the door. She heard her groan, but when she looked at her, Trish's eyes were wide and she was breathing from exhilaration. Nikki gave her blouse the same treatment, and with it halfway down her arms she took a mouthful of breast, sucking it roughly through the lace of Trish's bra.

Trish gripped her hair and began to push her away. They stumbled a few feet, before Nikki crashed into the desk.

From there it was a battle of surfaces, and yelps of pain and pleasure as more clothes were partially removed.

It wasn't gentle and they were vocally loud. Every command asking for pleasure, or exclamation of it, was an expletive. Any concerns over staff passing the door, and the fact it was unlocked, no longer became a concern.

Lying breathless on the floor, Nikki felt battled scarred. Most of her body was sore and her lip was throbbing and felt swollen. She smiled to herself then softly laughed.

Trish lifted her head from Nikki's shoulder.

"Satisfied?" Nikki asked.

"Absolutely." Trish smiled back. When she saw Nikki's lip, she was horrified. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry darling. Does it hurt?"

"Not as much as my shoulder. I think that might be dislocated. And I think a couple of ribs have been cracked. There could also be a skull fracture, but apart from that I feel great."

Trish looked at her sheepishly. "It wasn't that bad."

"Darling, you bounced me off most of the walls in this room. And I took the brunt of the fall, when we both fell off the desk."

"You could have called out for help." Trish suggested.

"I didn't think you needed any. You seemed to be coping admirably on your own."

Trish burst into laughter.

"Seriously though," Nikki gently rolled herself on top of Trish. "I know what it's like to feel that way, but I want you to know, that you will have nothing to worry about. I'm not interested in anybody else. And in the unlikely event that should ever happen, I'll be honest enough to tell you. I won't hide it and I won't lie to you."

Trish knew that Nikki was true to her word. She was honest, often telling it like it was, but also very protective. Trish knew Nikki would do anything, if it was in her power, to protect those she loved.

And also the clubs reputation. One night Nikki was perusing the bar area, stopping to chat to a few people. As she passed one table with a group of young guys, she quickly glimpsed something taking place on the table. She stopped abruptly, and pulled one of the young men back and saw the white lines on its surface.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Nikki said angrily.

"What's it to you?" Came a cocky answer from one of them.

"It's my club and I'm not having that shit going on! Piss off now, before I throw you out!" Nikki yelled at them.

"Oh yeah, you and who's army?" The same individual laughed.

Nikki contemplated counting to ten. She got as far as three, before her arm drew back quickly and she threw a punch, landing it squarely on his jaw. He went down without another word.

Trisha only saw Nikki's punch and the group of young men surround her. Then she watched incredulously as Matt vaulted himself over the bar. Two other regular patrons also rushed over to her aid and they all squared up behind Nikki.

His friends picked up their fallen comrade and hastily made their way out.

The next two years were hard work and long hours, but it paid off. The club was established and they began to reap the rewards of their hard work. Trish sold her flat and they bought a house. Holidays followed and a comfortable life style was affordable to them both, and their friends.

The low point came in the clubs' third year with Emma's tragic death.

There were a few tense times, when each thought in their own minds, they were being a little too attentive to another woman, or allowing one the liberty of flirting. It might lead to a few sharp words and some cajoling, but overall, Nikki knew their relationship was solid.


Chapter 23


The flight was long, but worth it when Helen arrived and Jon practically lifted her off her feet when he kissed her.

He pointed out the sights as he drove to his house and said that if she wasn't too tired from her journey, they would go out to dinner later.

"You have a beautiful home." Helen remarked as Jon showed her round.

"Thank you. Not my doing I'm afraid. Yolande had the good taste." He smiled at her. "Would you like a drink, some wine?"

"Yes, that would be lovely."

Jon headed off to the kitchen and Helen wandered round the spacious lounge. She picked up a picture frame and looked at the two smiling faces. Large brown eyes matching the dark skin.

"Here you are." Jon handed her a glass.

"Is this your wife and daughter?" Helen sipped the wine.

"Yes, that's Yolande and Denise our daughter."

"They're beautiful." Helen smiled softly.

"Thank you." Jon invited her to sit, and Helen placed the photo back on the shelf.

"That must have been devastating for you." Helen said. In the time she had known him, Jon had never spoken about it.

"Yes. A rainy night, a slippery road. They had gone to a movie. I was working. Yolande was killed instantly. Denise was in hospital on a life support machine. The doctor's told me there was no brain activity, but I couldn't let her go. I'd lost one and couldn't face losing the other. It was purely selfish on my behalf."

Helen reached out and took his hand.

"Then I realised I was keeping Denise from her mother. So after three weeks, I finally let her go, so she could join her. It was the only thing that gave me solace; that neither would be without the other."

He smiled to himself and sipped his wine.

"I'm sorry." Helen said.

"I'm not, anymore. I was blessed to have them in my life, as short as it was."

"What did your wife do?"

"She was a school teacher. Friends of mine have a son and I'm his Godfather. He was in her class and they were putting on a play, so I reluctantly went. She was talking to all the parents after and we were introduced. And that was it for me. It took her a while to trust my intentions. I was white she was black. The two weren't supposed to mix. She was concerned. But everybody surprised her, on both sides of our families. We did encounter the odd prejudice, but nothing too severe. We were lucky."

He leant towards her and kissed her.

"Would you like to go out for dinner, if you're not too tired from the journey?" He asked.

"Yes, I'll just go and freshen up."

Dinner was a leisurely affair and so was the drive back. It was the kiss as they sat on the sofa that was the start of something Helen anticipated and had been waiting for, unsure whether Jon would stop as he had done in the past. But this time he didn't.

He stood up and looked at her, holding out his hand. "It's been a long while, I hope…"

Helen stood next to him and put her finger tips to his lips. "You don't have to say anything." She said softly and took his hand.

Jon's only concern, was Helen's pleasure and he saw to it with no regard for his own. He had no wish to feel them together until he had felt every part of Helen. And he did it mostly with his mouth and hands.

Helen lost herself to his touch, as she felt his body against hers. The feel of his shoulders beneath her hands, muscles quivering as she stroked across his skin. The taste of his skin as she kissed it and the passion in their kisses. She didn't know if she could take much more of his deliberate slowness, but when he finally and gently joined with her, she was ready for him.

Helen didn't remember falling asleep. She wanted to bathe in what they had just shared. Lying securely in his arms, she felt his fingers stroke her back and she combed her fingers through the dark hair on his chest, feeling it softly rise and fall as he breathed. It eventually lulled her to sleep.

She was woken later, by the feel of his mouth softly kissing her breast.

"I'm sorry to wake you, I can't get enough of you. I can't help myself." He apologised.

Helen saw the smile on his face. "Then let me help you." She said softly.

Jon wandered into the bedroom with a tray of breakfast. He placed it on a chair and then gently sat on the bed looking at Helen as she slept. The sheet covered the lower half of her naked body, but her back was bare, and he reached out, softly letting his fingers touch her skin. There was a breeze from the ceiling fan and it rippled her hair. Even asleep she was an incredibly beautiful woman. He leaned forward and kissed her shoulders.

Helen stirred, opening her eyes. She smiled as she felt the butterfly kisses on her skin.

"Good morning." She sighed happily.

She turned herself onto her back and saw Jon's face at the sight of her naked breasts.

He cleared his throat. "Would you like some breakfast?" He asked and got up quickly, getting the tray. Helen laughed at his hasty retreat.

"That is just too tempting." He said as he looked at her. She ended his suffering by pulling the sheet up under her chin.

"Better?" She asked. He put the tray in her lap and she sat up looking at the toast, orange juice, fresh strawberries and coffee.

"This looks delicious." Helen said. She picked up one of the strawberries and bit it in half.

"Hmm," She enthused. She offered him the other half before taking another one.

This time she kept half in her mouth and leant towards him. Jon smiled and took the rest into his mouth, and they devoured the fruit together as their lips met.

"You, are going to be the death of me." He said laughing. "I've never suspected that strawberries could be so, sensual."

He kissed her leisurely again. "I'm going to take a shower, before breakfast ends up all over this bed."

Helen laughed as she watched him head for the bathroom. She began to eat some toast, then smiled to herself as she decided that a shower sounded like a great way for them to start their day.

Her vacation was only two weeks but she felt they'd lived a lifetime. And when it was time for her to leave, she was happy in the knowledge that Jon would be back in the UK in another two weeks.

"I'm thinking of taking an Open University course in psychology. I can fit it in, around work and I think it will help. I feel I need to move into another area but still not sure which." Helen announced as everybody sat at her dinning table.

"I think that sounds like a great idea." Jon agreed.

They were sitting with Claire and Peter, Mel and David and Rachel and Richard.

"Plus, it will help me pass the time, when you're not here." Helen smiled at him.

Jon's visits were increasing for business and he was using his large vacation allowance, so that he was able to stay longer each time.

"Why do you want to change career?" Mel asked.

Helen frowned as if trying to think of a way to explain.

"Not so much a complete change, but more in another direction. I've seen so much more than just domestic violence. There are many factors to most cases. Drugs. Many beaten women I've dealt with are at the mercy of men who just use them for the purpose of supply. Most of them end up in jail, whereas no charges are ever bought against the guys."

"What about the prison service," Claire said. "They're crying out for women to fill positions as PO's and higher up the ladder."

"Can be just as tough as what you're already dealing with though," Peter added. "You'd be viewed as the enemy by many, whereas now you can get closer."

"But isn't that because there's still a "Them and Us" attitude?" Rachel said.

"I would imagine that has to be the case surely? There has to be a distance between PO's and prisoners, to uphold a system of discipline and reform." Richard said.

"But some prisoners go on to re-offend," Claire added. "The system doesn't always work."

"But it does the majority of the time. And that's all the matters." Helen mocked Gavin's quote and laughed.

"Sounds challenging. Perhaps it needs a new viewpoint." Jon remarked and smiled at her.

Helen looked at him surprised. "You think I should consider it?"

"Would you get to wear a uniform?" He smiled mischievously at her and everybody laughed including Helen.

The conversation changed and Helen thought nothing more about the discussion.

"He is so totally in love with you." Claire remarked as she, Mel and Rachel helped Helen in the kitchen, clear up the dishes from the dinner.

"I should say!" Mel added. "He's wonderful. He hasn't stopped looking at you all night."

Helen felt herself blush and smiled. She knew all three of them were partly "in love" with Jon in a sense.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we hear wedding bells." Rachel said

Helen was surprised at her comment. The thought hadn't crossed her mind. She felt they were still just at the start of something wonderful, that would get better as time went on.

Jon's visits continued and he tried to stay longer each time. Helen found her course helped to pass the time of their separations. But it was still an emotional parting every time he had to leave again.

It was the happiest year of her life. But it was also about to end.


Chapter 24


Nikki picked up some empty glasses from a table and made her way over to the bar. It was a busy night. Both she and Trisha had been helping the staff cope earlier and Nikki was just helping to tidy up now. She placed the glasses on the bar and they were immediately whisked away to be washed. She was about to turn around when somebody spoke.

"Hello Nicola"

Nikki froze for a moment, closing her eyes. It had been a long while since she'd heard her name said like that and she recognised the voice instantly. She turned around knowing her eyes would be looking at the purest azure colour.

"Hello Natalie." Nikki smiled at her. The woman still looked fantastic. "How are you?"

"Very well. And you?"


"You look it." Natalie smiled.

"So do you."

"So, what do I have to do to get a drink round here?"

Nikki laughed. "Take a seat." She motioned at the bar stool. "The usual?"

Natalie slid onto the stool. "You still remember?"

"Yes," Nikki nodded. "Of course I do." She said if softly and made her way round to the other side of the bar.

Matt made his way towards her, thinking she needed help.

"It's ok Matt. I'll take care of this one. It's on the house." Nikki began to mix the drink.

"This is a great place. Congratulations." Natalie said.

"Thanks." Nikki placed the drink on the bar.

"Is your partner here?" Natalie asked.

"Yes, over there." Nikki motioned with her head to where Trish was sitting with Jackie, Teri, Mandy and Paul and Karen and Sarah and their husbands.

Natalie discreetly tuned her head over her shoulder. She saw Jackie and smiled.

"The blonde?" Natalie asked as she faced Nikki again.

Nikki nodded.


"Yes, she is." Nikki smiled. From her tone, she knew Natalie meant it. "What about you? Are you here with anyone tonight?"

"In fact I am," Natalie spun the stool slightly. "Over there."

Nikki looked over in the direction of a group of people. It didn't take her long to pick out Natalie's date. There was a youngish woman, tall with short dark hair and large brown eyes.

"I appear to have developed a taste for a certain type." Natalie smiled.

Nikki looked at her for a moment. It seemed an ironic comment. She smiled back and then grabbing a bottle of beer, she popped off the top and made her way round to sit on the stool next to Natalie.

"Who's that woman talking to Nikki?" Trish asked. She frowned trying to remember if she'd ever seen her before. She looked at everybody around the table, who all seemed to know, but hesitated in answering.

"That's Natalie Parker." Jackie said.

Trisha flashed her eyes back over to the bar. When she was with Gill, she'd never met Natalie. Serena was Natalie's friend and Gill had avoided any social gathering that Serena might attend. Trisha's shoulders stiffened and she stood up. For the first time in a long while, she felt suddenly threatened by another woman's attention to Nikki. What made it worse was that this was the woman and she had no idea why she was here.

Jackie grabbed her arm. "Trisha? Don't. Trust Nikki on this one. She can handle it."

Trish slowly but reluctantly sat back down.

Nikki sat talking with Natalie for an hour. They caught up on what had happened in the intervening years. Natalie had succeeded in her goal to retire early. She now had a villa in St Tropez and divided her time between there and the UK. Nikki felt extremely relaxed in her company. They laughed and talked like old friends. She'd often wondered what her reaction would be, if this situation ever arose and she discovered it didn't affect her at all. The past was the past and whatever she had felt back then, hadn't followed her to the present.

Natalie's date made her way over and politely said hello to Nikki.

"Nat, we should go. We need to get to the restaurant." The woman smiled at Nikki and made her way back over to the group.

"Oh well," Natalie said and stood up and so did Nikki. "It's been wonderful to see you Nikki."

"You too." She saw Natalie hesitate for a moment.

"Are you happy?"

"Yes. Yes I am. Very." Nikki said softly.

Natalie nodded. "Good. I'm very happy for you."

Then to Nikki's surprise, she continued.

"I never said sorry. It was a stupid, mindless, selfish moment. I will always regret it. But," She stopped and Nikki saw the glistening of tears starting to form in her eyes. "I couldn't have offered you all this."

Nikki felt her heart twist and a pang of emotion surge through her body. She saw the sadness in Natalie's eyes mixed with something else. Love. And it all became clear. She remembered a night, years ago, when she sensed a change in Natalie. She hadn't been sure what it meant back then, but she knew now, that it was the moment Natalie had fallen in love with her. The realisation hit Nikki that Natalie hadn't stopped loving her. And that she still did.

Nikki moved closer, brushing her lips softly across Natalie's and then embraced her.

"Don't be a stranger. It'll always be on the house." Nikki whispered in her ear. She felt and heard Natalie sob, wrapped in a laugh as she tried to disguise it. She held onto her, allowing Natalie the oppourtunity to pull herself together.

Natalie pulled away, dabbing at her eyes then smiled. "Well, how could I resist an offer like that?"

They both laughed and she kissed Nikki on the cheek then turned and walked away.

Nikki stood watching her rejoin her friends before leaving. Then taking a deep breath she made her way over to Trisha.

Nikki stood in the bathroom doorway watching as Trish removed her make up. She smiled and moved to stand behind her, circling her waist with her arms.

"Love you babes." Nikki said and kissed her neck. She felt Trisha stiffen and push against the embrace.

"Does she want you back?" Trish asked coolly, continuing to remove her make up.

Nikki looked at her cold steel blue eyes in the mirror. She knew there were two ways this could end. Taking Trish's hand she stopped it from removing the make up and turned her in her arms.

"No. I don't know. But even if she did, she knows she hasn't got a hope in hell's chance. I'm right where I want to be. With you. You know that."

Nikki stroked Trisha's hair and tentatively made to kiss her, unsure if she would be allowed to. There was no resistance. And there was no resistance when she took Trisha's hand and led her to their bed.

As Nikki slowly and tenderly made love to her, Trisha was left in no doubt as to how Nikki felt about her, and she felt guilty for momentarily thinking otherwise.

After that night, Natalie never did return to the club. Nikki found out later from Jackie, that she had sold her Park Lane apartment and had moved permanently to St Tropez.

"Nikki!" Ryan shouted when he saw her appear in the living room

Nikki just had to time to catch him as he flung himself at her. Next came little Cheri, unable to jump as high as her brother, so she clung to her leg.

Nikki looked down at her smiling face, covered in spaghetti. Mandy appeared with a face cloth.

"Fed and watered then?" Nikki said.

"Yes, although most of it's all over the table. Paul was making them laugh by sucking up the pasta, so of course they had to do it too. I've been chasing this one for the last twenty minutes. Now she seems to have been captured, I can wipe her face."

Mandy tickled her daughter into submission. Paul appeared, wearing a dark grey suit.

"Wow, look at you." Nikki said. "Does your wife know you're going out dressed like that?"

"I did contemplate not taking her, but I suppose I should, as it's our anniversary." He smiled then kissed Nikki on the cheek.

"Where's Trish?" Mandy asked.

"She's on her way. She popped round to her mum and dad's, to make sure they're all set for Tuesday. We're taking them on holiday with us to the Algarve."

Nikki pulled a face at Cheri and she giggled.

"Right, I'm going to get ready." Mandy announced.

Nikki was playing with the children, when she heard Mandy call to her, to come upstairs.

"Come on," Nikki whispered to them, "Let's go and see how pretty mummy looks." She carried Cheri and Ryan followed.

"Mandy? Where are you?" Nikki said as she got to the top of the stairs.

"Bedroom, I want to know what you think of this."

Nikki pushed open the door and stood gob smacked. Mandy was wearing a black Basque and stockings. Her long dark wavy hair and light brown eyes made her look extremely attractive. Nikki had always thought Mandy was pretty when they were younger, and as they had grown up, Nikki had witnessed her transformation even more to a stunning looking woman. Her figure also looked incredible.

"What do you think? Too much?" Mandy asked, unsure.

"Holy fff…" Remembering the children were in the room, Nikki stopped herself.

"That good?" Mandy said.

"Are you planning on conceiving tonight?" Nikki said. "Has Paul seen it?"

"No, I thought it would be a nice surprise for later."

"Nice? That's not exactly the word I'd use. Has he had a medical lately? Otherwise it'll be a great way to go!"

"Well, I like to keep the fires burning."

"Burning? That could cause a bloody inferno!"

"Well, as it obviously meets your approval, I'll wear it then."

Nikki stood looking at her and started to grin.

"If I was a man, you wouldn't make it out of this room." She teased.

"Why would you have to be a man?" Mandy teased back and smiled at her.

Nikki laughed. "Mandy, you're the straightest straight woman I know!"

Mandy laughed aswell as she continued to get ready, while Nikki entertained the children.

Mandy watched her interaction with them. It was always the same when the kids saw her or she babysat them. They absolutely loved Nikki.

"Would you and Trish like to have kids of your own?" Mandy asked as she applied her make up.

Nikki looked up at her from the floor, as the kids tumbled over her.

"I hate to be the one to give you a biology lesson, but it's a medical fact that two women can't…"

"Oh shut up," Mandy interrupted her. "That's not what I meant. There are ways. I just know you would be a great mum. I wondered if you'd ever thought about it."

As Nikki thought about it, she realised that she and Trish never had discussed it.

"No, we've never talked about it. I guess the club took up a lot of our time to begin with. And then we've enjoyed an indulgent lifestyle as time's gone by." Nikki's voice trailed off, and she frowned the more she thought about it.

Mandy was finally ready to go. Nikki thought she looked sensational in the burgundy dress she was wearing.

"Ok, don't let them stay up as long as you always do. " Mandy said.

"I wouldn't dream of it." Nikki replied.

"Yeah right, that's why when we normally come in, we hear you all up here giggling, making out their asleep."

"I know that, but you don't, okay?" Nikki said quietly and winked. "It's their bit of fun, to break the rules a bit."

Mandy smiled.

"You look sensational by the way. We'll make sure the kids are asleep tonight. Give us a couple of toots, so we know you're back. That way, we can be out of here and leave you to show Paul his surprise."

As they went to head downstairs, Nikki spoke again.

"By the way, where did you buy that Basque?"

Mandy raised her eyebrows. "Thinking of getting one for yourself?"

"No, but it would look great on Trish. Wearing that, we just might make medical history."

As her life continued with Trish, Nikki was happy and content. The club continued to provide financial security and she felt there was nothing that could ever happen to change it.


Chapter 25


Helen cooked dinner for Jon's last night. It had been a longer visit this time. Five weeks in all.

After dinner, they sat on the sofa. Helen pulled Jon's arm around her shoulder and cuddled up next to him. He stretched out his legs, resting his feet on the coffee table.

Jon knew Helen sensed there was something different about tonight, in fact he had been trying to edge in a distance between them in the last couple of days, as he prepared Helen for his departure. And what he knew he was about to do would hurt him as much as her. But he had to do it for Helen's sake.

"Are you sure about going to the airport alone?" Helen asked.

"Yes, I have a meeting in the morning and I'll go straight from there."

Helen snuggled into his chest. He was being unusually quiet. She lifted her head to look at him.

"Are you okay?"

He nodded and smiled and pulled her back against his chest. There was silence again for a while.

"I love you so very much Helen. I'd marry you tomorrow, if I thought it would last. If I didn't think it would kill you."

Helen froze and closed her eyes. The lump in her throat began to choke her.

"Because I'm much younger?" Helen managed to say.

"Your age has nothing to do with it. My age I hope, hasn't been an issue for you either. This has nothing to do with age."

He kissed the top of her head and she looked at him.

"Helen, I think you have an extraordinary life ahead of you. You're passionate and driven. You have a deep sense of purpose. You're searching for something to make sense of it all. I don't want to stand in the way of that. I could so easily be selfish and put what I want first. Promise yourself that you won't settle for an easy life, won't stop until you find it."

Helen went to speak, but he held his fingers against her lips.

"You need to be challenged. I'd just want to make your life easy, give you everything you want, and you'd end up hating it. It would suffocate you. I want a wife. You need an opponent. Somebody to provoke and push you. I think it will eventually be someone that you least expect, who will make you re-evaluate everything you think you know about yourself."

Helen couldn't stop the tears as they fell onto her face. Jon gently wiped them away, before he kissed her softly.

Helen knew he was right. Everything he had said was true. As much as she felt she loved him, her life would be so easy as his wife, and it would dull what they had. As she sat there, Helen desperately wished she could change, be the woman that he needed. For his sake. He deserved it more than anything.

"I love you more than I ever thought I could love someone." Helen sobbed.

"I know. But I think you're capable of loving the right person even more."

"Do you regret…" Helen couldn't finish.

"No. Never. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I feel hopeful again. I haven't felt that in a long while. You gave it back to me Helen. One day, you'll bring hope to someone in more need of it than me."

They eventually went to bed and made love over and over, becoming more emotional, culminating in them both crying out each others names, as their tears mingled together.

The taxi arrived early in the morning. They had stayed awake not wanting to miss a moment.

Jon stood in the doorway and grabbed Helen to him, kissing her deeply. Helen couldn't speak; they'd said everything during the night. And she knew they weren't capable of uttering another word now.

She felt him slowly draw away and he held her hand until the strain of his distance broke them apart. Helen hugged her arms around her body as she watched him head down the path.

Jon took a deep breath as his eyes filled with tears. He kept looking straight ahead, not looking back once. He knew if he did, he would never leave again.

And once again, he had made the selfless decision to let someone he loved more than anything, go.


Chapter 26


("Warning! This chapter depicts a scene of an attempted sexual assault")

Nikki vomited into the toilet. They were getting ready to go to the club to cover the last part of the night. Matt was off sick and their other assistant Shelley had opened.

The last time this happened to her was the night she found Natalie in bed with another woman. It had never occurred again after that and she was surprised now by the severity of it.

"Babes, what's wrong?" Trish asked, standing in the bathroom doorway.

"Just menstrual crap." Nikki managed to say.

"This isn't normal for you. Do you want me to call a doctor?" Trish wetted a face cloth and gently wiped her forehead and face.

"No, it'll wear off."

"Baby, you look awful. There's no way you can make it to the club tonight. You should stay here and rest. I'll close up tonight."

"No, I'll be fine. I don't want you locking up alone."

Nikki honestly thought she would be ok, then proceeded to throw up again.

Trish finally helped her to the bed and pulled the duvet over her.

"I'll see you later." Trish said and kissed her.

"I'll be there later. Once I get some rest I'll be ok." Nikki assured her and yawned.

"Ok, but only if you feel up to it." Trish said and left.

Nikki woke with a start. As she looked at the clock, she saw the late hour.


She stumbled quickly out of bed, found her car keys and headed for the club.

When she got there, the front was locked and the sign off. She made her way round to the back and the door wasn't locked. Trisha's car and another one were the only ones in the car park.

Nikki made her way through the back of the club and stopped at the office door. Trish wasn't in there, so she continued through to the bar area. It seemed eerily quiet at first then Nikki heard a sound, like a grunt.

As she came round the side of the bar, she stopped abruptly, unable to believe what she was seeing.

Trish was being held against the bar, her face pushed down on top of it, crushed against its surface. Her skirt was pushed up over her thighs and her underwear were ripped and on the floor. Trish's eyes were wild with fear and pleading when she saw Nikki.

Nikki recognised the man. He was a police officer, DS Gossard that had been frequenting the club over the last four months. They'd had a few coppers over the years, on the take, but he was the worse. More often than not he left stumbling drunk and was aggressive when he did so.

The first time he displayed such behaviour towards them Nikki threw him out. He had swung a punch, but she was able to duck and he missed. They left him laying out in the car park.

Since then he avoided Nikki, and concentrated his attention on Trisha, who tried to appease him, by gently escorting him out when he was plastered. He tried to kiss her one time, but Trish managed to avoid the advance. He was aware of their relationship, but chose to ignore it as anything normal.

Nikki stood frozen as she watched him, standing behind Trish, reach for the fly on his trousers. He was still unaware that she was there. She looked at Trish again and suddenly she snapped out of her shock. She quickly looked around the bar and the only thing she could see as a possible deterrent was an empty beer bottle on a nearby table. She grabbed it quickly and moved toward him.

"Let her go." Nikki said.

His head snapped up and he looked at her. Then started to smile.

"Oh, a threesome. Hang on, I'll get to you in a minute." He still fumbled with his zipper.

Nikki felt her anger rise, overtaking her fear.

"I said let her go!" She gripped the bottle tightly.

"What's your problem? You wanna be first? All right then darling." He let go of Trish and turned to face her.

Nikki stood her ground. "Trish," She said to her softly, without taking her eyes off him. "Come over here baby."

Trish was crying and shaking so much, she could hardly move. She slowly pulled her skirt back down and moved away from her attacker.

Gossard now saw the bottle in Nikki's hand.

"Oooh, feeling hard tonight are we darling?" He grabbed his crotch. "Not as hard as this though. You ain't got what it takes to satisfy a gorgeous woman like her." He motioned at Trish.

"It takes a real man to do a man's job." He was slowly edging his way towards Nikki.

"And you don't have the balls either, to use that little weapon of yours. So why don't you just take a fucking seat and watch the show."

He now stood right in front of her and she could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"I'm gonna make her scream. And there's nothing you can do to stop me." He laughed in her face.

Nikki knew he meant every word. He had no intention of leaving until he was done. She swung the bottle, and smashed it over his head.

He felt his head and saw there was no damage and stood there and laughed harder at her effort.

"You stupid fucking dyke!"

She watched him laughing and her fear and anger escalated. She didn't feel her arm shoot forward, or even realise until a few moments later, that the jagged edge of the bottle was now stuck in his neck. It was only the look of shock in his eyes that made her aware of what had happened.

He stood for a moment then staggered back, grabbing his own throat. He still continued to look at her and then sank to his knees, a gurgling sound coming from his mouth and then a blood covered froth.

Nikki looked at the bottle still in her hand and then back to him.

"Oh Jesus." She mumbled. As he fell onto his side, Nikki dropped the bottle and rushed towards him, turning him on his back.

"Trish, call an ambulance." Nikki said.

Trish was standing wide eyed, with her hand over her mouth unable to move.

"Trisha!" Nikki yelled. "Phone for an ambulance now!"

Trish came to her senses and ran to the phone behind the bar.

"Look at me!" Nikki said to Gossard. She removed his now limp hands from his neck and using her own, pushed hard, applying pressure to stem the flow of blood.

His eyes stayed focused on hers.

"That's it, you keep looking at me. Stay with me. An ambulance's on its way." She said to him.

He was still gurgling. He covered her hands with his own, urging her to push harder.

As Nikki looked into his eyes, she saw his fear and began to shake. A terror gripped her and the realisation of what was about to happen. And that she was the cause of it.

"Stay with me." She pleaded and tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

He legs began to twitch.

"Don't, stay with me, please!" Nikki begged, feeling his life ebbing away between her fingers.

The fear in his eyes disappeared and they become lifeless, open and staring. His hands slipped from hers and the gurgling stopped.

"No!" Nikki cried. "Come on, fight, fight you bastard!"

Nikki thumped his chest, trying to restart his heart. She pulled his head back, wiped his mouth clear and pinched his nose and proceeded to breathe into his mouth.

She was still giving CPR when the police officers arrived. They heard the call over their radio about a stabbing at a club and were in the area.

As they entered the bar area, they saw Nikki desperately trying to revive someone on the floor. Trish was standing watching the whole thing.

As one of the officers moved closer, he saw who it was.

"Fuck! It's DS Gossard!" He said in disbelief. His fellow officer joined him.

"Holy shit! Is he dead?" He asked Nikki.

She didn't reply. She just kept working on him, oblivious they were there.

"What happened?" He now turned his question to Trish. She opened her mouth to speak, but couldn't formulate an answer.

As the officer waited for her to speak, he spied the half broken bottle on the floor.

"What the hell happened?" He bellowed at Trish. It broke her out of her semi paralysis.

"He was trying…to rape me," Her voice quavered as she spoke. "He wouldn't leave us alone. She tried to stop him."

Trish couldn't say anymore and it didn't take any police deduction for the two officers to figure out what had happened.

One of them grabbed Nikki away from Gossard just as paramedics entered the bar. They couldn't testify later, that they saw any evidence of Nikki trying to resuscitate him. Their main objective at the time was administering aid to the man on the floor.

"You!" The officer pointed at Nikki. "What the hell is she talking about?"

Nikki told them what happened.

"Bullshit! He's married with kids!" He snarled at her.

The paramedics could see they were too late. One of them shook their head at the officer.

The two officers descended on Nikki. A foot kicked the back of her knee and she went down, hitting the floor. A boot trod down on the back of her neck, holding her in place, as her arms were grabbed and pulled back and she yelped from the pain.

"What's going on?" She asked. The boot pushed down harder.

"You're under arrest!" The officer said.

"What!?" Nikki said.

"Shut up!"

"Nikki?" Trish looked at her on the floor.

"It's ok, baby." Nikki tried to assure her.

"I said shut up!" This time a boot caught her in the ribs.

The paramedics lifted Gossard's body onto the stretcher and made their way out.

"Cuff that one aswell." One of the officers said.

Trish stood numbly, as the officer fastened them around her wrists. He then pushed Trish towards the way out.

"Where are you taking her?" Nikki asked anxiously as she watched Trish being led away. Nobody answered her.

"Trisha!" Nikki cried out. Trish looked back at her, the same terror in her eyes that had been there earlier during the attack.

Another set of officers now entered the bar. The one holding Nikki quickly explained what had taken place, only it was his version of events.

Then the three of them hoisted Nikki off the floor and roughly escorted her out to the police car. She caught a glimpse of Trish in the back of one car, but they shoved her into another one.

It was the last time Nikki got to see her.

Nikki paced up and down the small police station cell. She had no idea what was going on, or where Trish was. Her shirt, jeans and hands were still covered in blood, and she desperately wanted to wash it away, in the hope that it would erase completely what had happened, make it untrue.

The sound of a key turning in the door stopped her pacing. The door opened and three officers stood there, one holding the door open for the other two.

"Ok, you got ten minutes. Make it quick and no visible bruises." He looked at Nikki and smiled, before closing the door.

"What the hell are you going to do?" Nikki asked and backed away.

"It'll be easier if you don't put up a fight." One of the officers said.

"You can't be serious?' Nikki heard the panic in her voice.

"You can't expect to murder a police officer and not receive some kind of punishment. We look after our own!" He said coldly.

"Murder?" Nikki said in shock.

The beating was swift and expertly executed. Nikki was sensible and didn't put up a fight. She just covered her head with her arms and let her body take the assault. There would be no one to believe her anyway. Any report would say it was down to self inflicted injuries.

As she lay on the cell floor, she managed to mumble a question.

"Where's Trish?"

"We're off to visit her next." One of them said.

Nikki tried to move. "No, please. Don't. She didn't do anything. Please?" She pleaded.

They just laughed and pounded on the door for the desk sergeant to let them out.

"Don't worry, we'll make it quick for her too." Was the passing remark, as the officers left.

As Nikki pictured them beating Trish, she curled up tightly and began to cry.

She had no idea that they never laid a finger on Trish once. Nikki was the one they were going to break.

"So, let's try this one more time." The Detective walked around the room, as Nikki sat at the desk, now in prison clothes. Her own had been taken for evidence. A police woman stood in the corner, and another detective sat opposite her.

"Trish was trying to convince Gossard to have an affair with her. She was bored with you and wanted a normal relationship. When you arrived at the club, you found Trish trying to seduce Gossard and you decided to kill him, to stop her from leaving you. Now that's the truth isn't it Nikki?" He smiled at her.

Nikki sat with her arms folded. This had been going on for hours. She was exhausted and aching. She'd already given her statement of what had happened but it was being ignored.

She had been allowed one phone call and managed to get hold of Jackie. She explained quickly what had happened and that she needed someone to get to the club and find the number for the solicitor that had handled the original purchase of the club. Even if he couldn't help her, he was bound to know someone in the profession. Her last request of Jackie was to demand a visit to see Trish. She still had no idea where she was and what they had done to her. Jackie assured her that everything would be done to get them help.

"Where's Trish?" Nikki said to the detective. It was the only response she would give them.

"Look Nikki, this is hopeless. Trish has already given her statement. She's explained everything just as I've told you. She wanted to get away from you. She said you were controlling and very jealous. She felt suffocated. She fell in love with someone else. Just admit what actually happened and this can all be over with."

Nikki knew Trish would never have admitted to such a thing under normal circumstances, but if they'd beaten her into it, she didn't blame her.

"Where's Trish?"

"Oh well, if you want to do it the hard way. Take her back." The detective looked at his watch. "Concluding interview 5.30 am with Nicola Wade." And he confirmed the names of the officers present.

"Time for breakfast." He said, as the police woman escorted her from the room. Nikki hadn't had anything to drink or eat since before she started throwing up. But her only concern was Trish and when a solicitor would arrive.

The interviews continued then they would stop and then start again. She was becoming more exhausted and less able to think straight.

Finally and what was to be the last interview, a solicitor was present. He introduced himself hastily, as the detectives arrived in the room.

"What about Trish?" Nikki asked him.

"Trish is fine. She's been released without charge." He smiled at her.

Nikki felt herself choke with emotional relief, and she gripped the desk and sat down.

"Right, let's start this shall we?" One of the detectives said as he switched on the recording device and proceeded to gave date, time and people present.

All Nikki could think about was that Trish was safe and away from any danger. Her worry about her was the only thing keeping her half alert and defiant against her interrogators.

The detectives took it turns wearing her down, the solicitor doing his best to advise Nikki, but she was losing her battle with emotion, stress and exhaustion. Their accusations continued.

"Come on Nikki, admit it! You were jealous! Trish didn't want you any more. She wanted a man and you couldn't handle it! She'd been throwing herself at DS Gossard, right in front of your eyes. You decided to do something about it once and for all!"

The other officer continued

"He was just a decent guy, minding his own business until your slut of a girlfriend set her sights on him in favour of you! She was gagging for a man to show her a good time!"

Nikki was incensed at another insult thrown at Trish and she'd had enough. Without stopping to think, she responded angrily.

"That bastard was trying to rape her you fucking moron! I put a stop to it alright! I stuck that bottle in his neck and I'm fucking glad I did it!"

The solicitor closed his eyes and the two detectives looked at each other and smiled.


Chapter 27


Nikki's trial was expedited due to the nature of the crime, murder charge and victim's profession.

Trish had been allowed some visits, but they were unable to have any kind of physical contact. Each time Trish left, she was crying uncontrollably, full of guilt at what had happened and the sacrifice Nikki had made on her behalf.

As Nikki stood in the dock and waited for the verdict to be read, she looked at the gallery and saw Trish sitting between Jackie and Teri. Mandy sat with Paul, along side Karen and Sarah and their husbands, and Serena and Gillian completed her supporters.

Nikki looked directly at Trish and saw her hopeful smile.

She didn't physically hear the guilty verdict. She was concentrating all her efforts on Trish, trying to assure her with her eyes that everything would be ok, no matter the outcome.

She became aware of the verdict as she saw Trish collapse as she passed out. Jackie and Teri caught her and sat her down.

But Nikki heard the Judge impose a life sentence and she closed her eyes.

"No!" Mandy screamed.

Nikki opened her eyes and saw Mandy with her arm outstretched, desperately trying to reach her. It was only Paul holding her back that stopped her scrambling over the gallery.

Nikki kept her eyes on her friends as the court officer led her away to begin a life that would bring change in ways she never expected.


Chapter 28


The last of 1995 wasn't good for Helen. She threw herself more into work, putting in longer hours as well as using every spare moment for her Open University studies. It helped to dull the separation from Jon.

The following year was much the same. Claire, Mel and Rachel saw to her social life, ensuring they all met regularly. Helen was kept informed by Claire that Jon was often asking as to Helen's well being, and knowing that he was, gave her peace.

Both Rachel and Mel got married in '96. Claire and Peter were happily living together and didn't want at that time, to jinx their good fortune by tying the knot.

As Helen headed towards her 27th birthday things were once again looking brighter.

Helen looked at the business card she had just been handed.

"Sean Parr Landscaping"

"I thought you looked a little bemused." The owner of the card said.

Helen smiled at him. She'd been wandering around the garden centre for the last hour, not knowing what to pick. She'd read most of the labels, but was still unsure if the plants would still survive. Her previous attempts at being green fingered had only resulted in everything else turning brown.

"Yes, there's so much to chose, I'm not sure if I'll get too much, or end up with too little." She said.

"If you don't mind me asking, what kind of garden do you have?" Sean asked.

"Hmm, how should I describe it?" Helen pondered. "Dead probably sums it up. Concrete, dirt and weeds." She smiled again

"Ah yes, I know exactly what you mean. You're not the only one to have an unruly garden, that doesn't respond to everything you try to do for it."

Helen laughed at his teasing. He could obviously tell she was a hopeless gardener.

"Look," He said. "As it says on my card, free estimates. I'm more than happy to pop round and give you an idea of what plants would suit the type of garden you have. So please feel free to give me a call."

"Okay, thanks" Helen said.

Helen watched Sean from the kitchen window, as he worked away in her back garden. He'd been coming here for the last three Saturdays, digging out the concrete, putting in new soil and was now putting in some plants. The small garden looked amazing. He'd put in a steeping stone path and somewhere to sit which all helped to make the garden look much bigger.

She took him out a cold glass of orange and some sandwiches, both of which he devoured, very appreciative of her hospitality.

He was great fun to be around, easy going and quick witted and even tried to educate her on all things fauna and flora.

It wasn't long before he was coming round for dinner.

Helen and Sean celebrated two years together when her career change finally came. She passed her psychology degree and along with her other degree in sociology, she was snapped up at an initial interview for the prison service.

A conversation form a little while ago had planted a seed that stayed buried until it surfaced when Helen saw an ad in the Telegraph.

She passed the required training easily and then found herself fast tracked into the service.

In 1999, HMP Larkhall was about to get a new winger governor and G wing was to be her charge.


Chapter 29

1999 HMP Larkhall

Greenish eyes flashed so furiously at her, that the intensity of their anger was palpable to Nikki.

Nikki stood there, defiant as usual, as the new wing governor jabbed her finger in her face.

"You, are on rule 43!" The governor said through gritted teeth. "Lock them up!" She yelled out her order to the prison officers and turned on her heels and left.

"Shit!" Nikki mumbled under her breath. She'd done it again.

PO Hollamby and two others descended on her, and roughly manhandled her to the punishment block. Nikki wrestled all the way there, knowing they were being overly rough, just because it was her. There was no thought on their behalf, that if they just let her walk by herself, treat her like a human being, she wouldn't be so obstinate. After all, where the hell was she going to run to anyway?

The punch to her gut was uncalled for at her protestations as was Hollamby's order that she be put in strips. Nikki was well aware that that wasn't part of her punishment, but it happened all the time. There was no use complaining of course. Prisoners had no rights, no voice in this place on their treatment. That was evident from what had happened to Carole

She sat against the cell wall and wondered again, who was the bright spark that thought painting the walls pink was a good idea. Because it was a women's prison and a nice girly colour? Or supposed to be soothing and calming. That's a laugh she thought again. She was actually beginning to like this cell more than her own. At least it was quiet down here, as long as she was the only one. Although she missed her books.

Up on the wing, the noise was constant. No time of day or night was ever quiet in this place. Shouts and loud conversation rang across the cells at night. And she'd lost count of the times, she lay awake at the sound of two other inmates on the wing falling prey to temptation and getting it on. After two years, she still couldn't get used to the loss of silence. Tranquillity. Peacefulness. Privacy.

She missed it along with so many other things in her life, before she ended up in here. Her friends, Trisha, her whole bloody life in general.

Trish was the only one she could bear to see from that life anymore. The first time Mandy visited, was also the last.

When visiting time was over, Mandy wouldn't let her go. She was so over wrought at leaving Nikki, the screws got heavy handed and were so rough in getting her out of the visiting room, that Nikki went berserk. She took two of them out, before four more bundled in and she was marched to the block. Stripped again, she lay on the cot and cried herself to sleep. She ended up writing to Mandy, telling her not to visit. It was too emotional for both of them. It was bad enough having to watch Trish leave every time, without dealing with it from all of her friends. So everybody just wrote now.

"Trish!" Nikki said to herself. "Shit" She mumbled and kicked against the wall.

She would miss their scheduled call tonight being down here. Trish would probably figure out why though. She knew about Nikki's "hours spent in quiet solitude, contemplating life, the universe and Einstein's Theory of Relativity". It became a running joke. But they'd missed a lot of calls just lately. Nikki was having trouble getting hold of her on the phone.

She sighed and rubbed her eyes. She hated this place. Hated the fact that she couldn't really be herself. Hated the fact that she had to put on this hard assed act. Hated who she'd become in here. It wasn't who she was, but it was who she had to be just to survive.

"Oh well, look on the bright side," She told herself. "I'm only 33. Could be out in ten! Wonder if Eastenders will still be going?"

Nikki half laughed as she remembered the look on the new wing governor's face over the rebellion taking place at the time. She thought Helen Stewart appeared out of her depth at that moment, although she at least seemed to be understanding of their grievance.

For a brief flash, Nikki was reminded of three other people, all wrapped up in the diminutive young wing governor. A sense almost, of Natalie's arrogance and confidence, Emma's compassion and Trisha's cool control.

Nikki recalled those fiery greenish eyes once more and was surprised at the small flutter in her stomach. That hadn't happened in a long time.

"Christ!" She mumbled to herself. "This place really is getting to me."

She closed her eyes and pictured Trish. She wished she could talk to her, hear her voice. Wished she could just hold her again. She missed her so much.

Trish was all she'd got now.


Chapter 30

1999 HMP Larkhall

Helen stormed back to her office, furious at the lecture she'd just received from Simon Stubberfield. Basically, she'd been told to back down and find a solution to her cancelling the fashion show on G wing. He offered her no support whatsoever in her initial reason.

"Fenner!" She said as she slammed her office door and slumped into her chair. She rubbed her forehead in frustration.

She knew he was the one that had gone behind her back. It was the old boy's network in full swing as usual. Don't rock the boat. Keep it on course and don't change direction. That's how archaic Larkhall seemed to her. A woman prisoner had lost a baby, but what did that matter? If she'd cared about her baby to begin with, she wouldn't have got herself into the position of finding herself in prison in the first place. Helen knew that thought process wasn't as simple as it seemed. She'd worked around cases like that before.

She was well aware that her presence wasn't exactly welcome. She was only twenty-nine, a woman and in charge of a whole wing of inmates, as well as prison staff. Many, whose years of service, out ranked her. She'd come in straight over the top of them all.

And whether they liked it or not, Helen decided change was coming to Larkhall and she was going to bring it. She knew she had just the right amount of arrogance, self confidence and ability to do it. She was going to shake the old boys right out of their comfy little beds.

But she needed an ally. PO Dominic McAllister seemed to be open to her ideas, but she needed someone else on the wing. One of the prisoners on her side if she was to really shake things up.

Helen pondered for a moment, remembering two women in particular from the morning's incident. She got up from her desk and made her way over to the filling cabinet. She flicked through the files and picked out two taking them back to the desk.

She looked at the small passport photos on each one, and then randomly picked one to read first.

The inmate seemed a model prisoner, despite the incredibly violent act she had committed. A lifer, well respected on the wing by the other inmates. Kept her nose clean, never any trouble. Enhanced status. Helped in the kitchen and PO's office. A glowing report by all accounts from her personal office, Jim Fenner.

Helen snorted at that. She opened the other file.

It read like a rap sheet.

Loner. Trouble maker. Difficult. Insubordinate. Constantly on the punishment block and so it went on. Helen shook her head in disbelief.

Another violent crime lifer, two years into her sentence, making no attempt to settle into the system. Helen knew she should at least be on enhanced status by now. The only thing in the report that gave this prisoner any saving grace was her compassion to other weaker prisoners. The report claimed that she often took them under her protective wing. And that she was also well respected by the others inmates, but the PO's were not so enamoured. PO Lorna Rose's reports left a lot to be desired in their lack of content. Helen knew she would have to have a word about that.

As Helen finished reading the file, she couldn't figure out if this prisoner was just being rebellious for rebellious sake, or whether it was a clever, smart and deliberate attempt to buck against the system and show it up for what it was. She recalled this inmate had certainly taken a very outspoken lead in the events earlier.

Helen felt intrigued. She looked at the two photos again.

"No, not you." She said to herself and pushed Michelle Dockley's file to one side.

"You," Helen had a gut feeling about this one and tapped the photo. "This is going to be the beginning of something. You're going to be the one that helps me bring change to this place. If I can bring about a change in someone like you, perhaps the rest will follow, and they'll see my ideas are worth something."

Helen smiled, happy and confident with her choice. She put the folder on top of the other one and then noticing the time, she got up to leave to go home, deciding she would visit the block in the morning for a "little chat."

She was completely oblivious to the chain of events she was about to set in motion. Something was about to begin, that was for sure. Change was definitely coming.

Helen had no idea however that the change that was coming would effect her, not Larkhall, in ways she could never have imagined. That it would come raining down right on top of her.

And prisoner Nikki Wade was the storm she had just chosen to bring it.

The End

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