DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Zennie for the beta!
FEEDBACK: To promogrrl[at]gmail.com
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
By Inspector Boxer
"Well, that did not go as planned."
Kate looked up from the swirling water buffeting her at neck level to look at Helen Magnus in disbelief. Daylight filtered to them from somewhere high above, but it would soon fade, leaving them in complete darkness. Kate pushed that future worry away for the moment to focus on more immediate concerns. Her boss had a bruise on one cheek and she was soaked to the bone, but her blue eyes held a familiar hint of mischief. "You Brits really have a way with understatement."
Helen smiled, shifting her hold on the rock above her as she watched Kate continue to tread water several feet away. "And stating the obvious," she added. "Are you all right?"
Kate took stock of herself, flexing her hands and toes in the cold mountain water. They'd been cut off from the group when a part of the cave floor had given way, dumping them into a rushing river below. They'd been lucky to tumble into the space they found themselves in now instead of following the river to the waterfall they'd passed on the way in. "In one piece," she declared. "How about you?"
There was a pause, and Kate glanced up, feeling fresh worry bloom in her chest. "Magnus?"
Helen winced and shifted her hold again. The water was still churning a bit where she held on at the mouth to their little inlet. "Mostly," she admitted. "I might have scraped a rock or two on our way down."
Kate didn't hesitate. She swam with easy, powerful strokes toward the older woman, reaching up and gripping the same rock as Helen when she was close enough. She could feel Helen's body heat even through the water and the inches separating them. The smell of the river, rock, and leather filled her senses.
"Hello there," Helen said cheekily.
"Tell me what hurts," Kate ordered, seeing through her boss' attempt to appear nonchalant.
"I'm fine, Kate," Helen promised. "Henry will locate us soon if he hasn't already. We'll be out of here before you know it."
"Tell me," Kate insisted. "Let me worry about you instead of the fact that it's cold and close in here and that we're losing light."
Tipping her head back, Helen regarded the cracks of sky she could see above them. "Ah yes. Another little wrinkle in our day."
"Magnus," Kate beckoned, growing concerned at the other woman's evasions. "Talk to me." Those piercing blue eyes jerked off the ceiling before capturing and keeping Kate's gaze with little effort. Kate felt the same jolt to her system that she always did, and welcome heat flushed through her in reaction. Magnus might be more than a century older than her, she might not even be fully human anymore, but she was damn brilliant and just as beautiful. Kate always felt like something special when Helen's full attention was on her.
"My ribs," Helen finally conceded. "Might have bruised one or two." She sucked in a surprise breath when Kate's hand drifted inside her coat and smoothed over her side. "Why Ms. Freelander, you could have offered me dinner first."
Kate spluttered, losing her grip on the rock and plunging into the water. Surfacing, she wiped at her face before tentatively reaching for the rock once more. Feeling Magnus' eyes on her, she eased her free hand back along Helen's side, feeling gently for any breaks. "Why start with dinner when you can go right for the good stuff?" Kate finally joked, hiding behind street-tough bravado in hopes of regaining her composure and praying that Helen couldn't see her blush.
Helen regarded the bent head before her, startled by Kate's reaction to her teasing. She would never have imagined Kate to be shy when it came to matters of sex, but her flustered reaction was as sweet as it was surprising. Helen continued to watch her, feeling a twinge of guilt for making the other woman uncomfortable. Kate's breathing was rough and fast as it ghosted across the open collar of Helen's shirt.
"Sorry," Helen murmured, sincerely. "Defense mechanism, I suppose."
"You flirt when you're in mortal danger?" Kate asked with a weak smile, peeking up at her boss before focusing again on the water between them.
"Don't you?" Helen rejoined and was rewarded with a strengthening grin from her companion. She shifted, feeling the cold water beginning to cramp her muscles, and Kate moved closer. Even surrounded by rock and rushing water, Helen could smell the scent that was uniquely Kate, and she breathed it in.
"You're something else, Doc," Kate grumbled good-naturally, her fingers continuing to explore the body under her hand. It was hard to stay on task, to not let her touch wander, but a sudden wince and twitch from her boss reminded her of the reason for her exploration in the first place. "There?" she asked, letting her thumb graze the rib in question.
"Quite," Helen said through clenched teeth.
"Sorry," Kate breathed.
Helen's blue eyes sparkled as she watched the shorter woman, guiltily enjoying the heat of Kate's hand through the thin shirt she was wearing. "So what is the diagnosis?"
"You'll live," Kate drawled. She tipped her head back and risked looking into Helen's eyes at close range. The intimacy of their position wasn't lost on her in the least, and she tried not to think about taking advantage of the situation. Reluctantly, Kate withdrew her hand, gripping the lapel of Helen's coat to keep herself from being pulled away by the current. "Nothing feels broken."
"Will take more than a mountain and some water to break me," Helen announced. "I've survived worse and without as good a company."
Pleased by the compliment, Kate felt her blush renew in earnest. "I don't even doubt it," she replied with a smile. They stared at each other, the silence thickening between them. Kate could feel her attraction growing, tempting her to cross the inches between them and kiss that mouth the way she'd dreamed about on more than one occasion. The intensity became too much, the temptation too great, and Kate felt panic rise as her control began to slip. "I um " she stammered before taking an uneven breath and retreating.
Helen watched her expectantly, a slow, knowing smile on her features. She continued to hold on to the rock above with one hand before reaching up with the other to gently cup Kate's cheek. "It's all right, Kate," she promised her.
Kate searched those blue eyes, wondering if Helen meant what she hoped she meant. "You're a little old for me," she murmured.
"I prefer seasoned," Helen teased, not the least bit offended as her thumb eased down the other woman's jaw. "Experienced," she added, smiling in triumph when Kate swallowed hard.
"There is that," Kate allowed, drifting closer, feeling their bodies brush. "Although I'll bet I could teach you a thing or two."
An eyebrow arched neatly as Helen regarded her. "You think so?" she challenged.
Knowing she was far better with actions than words, Kate closed the distance between them and kissed her, tasting the mineral tang of the water on Helen's lips and the flavor that was all Magnus, reminding Kate of fine wine. She gasped softly against Helen's mouth as the older woman's hand curved around the back of Kate's neck and urged her closer still. Their bodies met, eliminating the water between them for heat and curves. Her fantasy realized, Kate fisted her hand in wet leather and kissed Helen harder, nearly delirious when Helen matched her intensity then exceeded it, teasing her way into Kate's mouth with a slow, thorough tongue.
When they finally parted minutes later, Kate felt her whole body shaking, but she noticed Helen's eyes were dilated and the older woman was breathing hard.
"Magnus," Kate whispered, hearing Will's voice suddenly echoing from far away.
Helen licked her lips, the hunger in her eyes evident. She knew her thoughts and desires had to be showing on her features when she felt Kate's hand tighten its hold on her. "We should finish this conversation soon," she urged.
Kate felt her stomach flip at the husky quality of Helen's voice as she nodded. "Somewhere drier," she agreed. "Maybe more horizontal," she added with a smirk, gaining confidence.
"I believe that can be arranged." Helen's lips twitched when she heard Will once more. "Down here!" she called back, her voice booming off the cavern walls. "Told you they would locate us soon."
"You're right about everything, aren't you?" Kate stared at her as flashlight beams began to bounce off the walls around them.
Helen's answering smile was devilish. "I can't wait to find out."
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