DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Nikky for the beta!
The Twisted Hands of Fate
It took Lindsay five minutes to get rid of the agent, another two to get inside and call Cindy on her cell phone. Yes, she needed someone to be there for her tonight, even though she wouldn't tell her about the threat. She wasn't going to tell anybody; it wasn't anybody's business but her own. In time, even the over-zealous Agent Ashe would realize he was wrong, and it would all just go away - no reason to scare the hell out of everybody.
Just tonight, she didn't want to spare one single thought on either her newly-wed ex-husband, or a depraved killer playing games with her. Claire had her family to care for. Jill had her own relationship hell to conquer. But Cindy, she had offered, and Lindsay was going to take her up on it. Now.
"Hi Lindsay! What is it?" She sounded cheerful, and judging from the sound level, she was still at the Illusion Room with Bruce and Thaddeus.
"Could you please..." The moment Ashe mentioned Kiss Me Not, she had gone from pleasantly plastered to stone sober so quickly she got whiplash, but it seemed to have been only temporary.
"I need you."
Lindsay couldn't believe she'd actually said that, flushing hotly with embarrassment. For long seconds, there was silence, making her hope that Cindy maybe hadn't understood her over the noise. Her friend's next words effectively shattered that hope, though.
"Give me fifteen minutes." Cindy didn't even ask. Although Lindsay wished she had worded her request with a little more dignity, it was hard to ignore the relief flooding her, making her knees weak. Okay, maybe she wasn't as sober yet as she'd thought. Maybe she was just a tiny bit freaked out from seeing that picture of herself with x's over her mouth.
Damage control was important now. With a wry grin she remembered Jill's comment about the one-on-one bonding time Lindsay had been supposed to get with Cindy. That would surely do the trick. Just not like either of them had thought.
This case had given Lindsay a lot to think about. Endings and beginnings, and the right moment to start over... she longed to step out of the cold shadow that the killer had cast over her life.
Maybe though, it was too late, and it was already all around her, tainting everyone who touched her.
Between responsibility and need, it was damn hard to make the right decision.
The mere extent of concern in Cindy's gaze made Lindsay wince. She had to be looking bad. "I'm sorry," she said, her face feeling warm. "I shouldn't have called you."
"I'm glad you called," Cindy brushed off her concerns as she walked into the living room. "What do you want me to do?"
That's a dangerous question to ask. She'd almost said it aloud.
Sleep with me tonight?
Because she could fool herself much as she wanted to, that was what it was about. "It's silly," she said instead, irritated with herself. "Jill has had by far a worse night."
"That's why she is with Claire, and a bit of an intact, supporting family is exactly what she needs right now. What about you, Lindsay?" There was a gleam in her eyes, her voice teasing as she continued. "Since we never went spa'ing. I'm pretty good at massages, too. Or if you need a hug that can be arranged." She didn't wait for an
answer, just stepped closer into Lindsay's personal space, arms around her.
Not so bad, but a friendly hug normally didn't have her this aware of soft curves pressed against her own body, or the heat of hands on her back.
"But that's not all, right? It's not the reason why you called me at 2 AM." The teasing was gone, her gaze all serious now, as she studied Lindsay intently. Understanding. Terrifying. She didn't like to be figured out this quickly, but tonight, it was what she needed. A quick fix.
"Cindy..." she breathed.
Well aware that she had come to a point where all pretending seemed pointless. Somewhere at the back of her mind, there was the notion that she shouldn't do this that it wasn't fair to draw... anyone... into the chaos that was her life right now, but she couldn't help herself.
Not when it was so easy to tell that Cindy would be going along with everything she asked of her. Hell, Cindy had been way ahead of her on that road; the way it had been right from the start. She leaned closer, waiting for the span of a breath, then touched her lips again Cindy's, warm, soft, yielding. Welcoming.
Impossible to turn back now.
She deepened the kiss while her hands slid beneath the fabric of the green cardigan, touching Cindy's bare shoulders underneath, and running tenderly over the skin revealed by the neckline of the dress, following a thought that had been at the back of her mind the whole day. Then, just a bit lower. Cindy drew a sharp breath.
Lindsay took one step around her, wrapping her arms around her from behind, as her lips found Cindy's neck, hands exploring further, her intent no longer a secret.
"Wasn't this supposed to be for you?" There was a smile in Cindy's voice though, all pleasant surprise.
"It is for me," Lindsay whispered. For me. The thought made her giddy. Feeling selfish, that too, but it was a heady notion that after all this pain and bad luck and blows to her ego coming her way, that there should be something this good. "Stay with me?"
That easy. It was all the incentive she needed to get just a little bolder, as her hands slid underneath the hem of the dress, fingers brushing over satin and lace, tracing the panties' waistband and then slipping inside.
There was urgency; she wanted this to be quick, not giving Cindy the chance to turn around and change her mind. Not that she would, because Cindy wanted to be here.
And Lindsay hadn't known just how much she had wanted her to, how good it would feel to be in control again, with this young woman in her arms and her orgasm at her fingertips. Lindsay imagined that she could feel Cindy's body flush even through the layers of clothing, and maybe she could, because she felt pretty invincible right now.
"You don't know how long I've been dreaming of this," she confessed, her voice even lower, raw hunger, her fingers never ceasing the rhythm.
"I hope..." Cindy shivered, starting to tense in anticipation. "As long as I have."
Lindsay smiled, pulling her closer against her own body. Neither of them would sleep alone tonight.
"Come," she whispered.
All thoughts of Tom's wedding or a crazy serial killer threat were effectively deleted from her brain when she came into the bedroom to find Cindy sitting in the middle of the bed, not a stitch of clothing on her.
Lindsay stared. Part of her was scared that if she blinked, the vision, her most secret dream of late, would simply disappear.
Cindy seemed to know exactly what was on her mind. "I'm real," she said softly. "I hope you were serious when you said that you wanted me to stay."
Seconds ticked by before Lindsay realized that she was waiting for an answer. "Sure. Of course."
She made herself move forward, sit down on the edge of the bed, feeling surprisingly shy as she reached out to touch a bare shoulder. Not that it was so surprising at all; she hadn't been with anybody but Tom in eight years, which had been familiar and comforting even when it wasn't right anymore. It had done little to prepare her for a red-hot passion that was making her head spin even in her fantasy. Now that it was about to become real, she wondered.
Would her daydreams be enough to be what Cindy needed?
She wouldn't have had to worry; Lindsay realized, as she lay in the dark, holding Cindy close to her, listening to her lover's chatter. "You are not listening to me," Cindy accused, but the affection in her voice betrayed the tiny hint of annoyance.
"I'm sorry. Sorry, I'll do better." Maybe it was the wedding or the alcohol, but today had her in a sappy mood. Lindsay wasn't sure whether to laugh or to cry, but both would have been out of happiness.
"You do any better, I'm not sure I'm going to survive it," Cindy returned. It sounded more serious than Lindsay had expected, and it almost made her carelessly blurt out what she was feeling.
Don't go. Ever.
"Besides, it's my turn now." The tense moment was gone, and Cindy smiled mischievously.
Lindsay wanted to pull her down for another kiss, but it was clear she had something else on her mind. "You know," she began somewhat speculatively,
"I know a little about reflexology, too."
"I wondered if you mind giving it a try."
Lindsay almost laughed at that. "I'm all yours." Like you need any esoteric tricks to make my toes curl.
They did indeed though when Cindy's fingers found all the right pressure points to prove that there was hardly anything esoteric about this.
"You try this... often?" The last word came out in a gasp.
"I read about it," Cindy said, smiling with the obvious success of her ministrations. "Look, this one is connected to your--"
Wow, it definitely was. Her body tensed with the sudden, unexpected flash of pleasure, and she thought that if she was that close to an orgasm from just a foot massage, tonight's outlook was really promising.
"I get it," she said dryly, but the need underneath was easy to decipher.
Cindy's eyes on her were serene, and so loving it made her want to cry, but Lindsay had almost forgotten about the reason. If they both wanted this, who could hold them back?
The pillow being slid under her hips felt cool against her heated skin. She didn't mind having her body handled like this, especially not considering who was doing it.
Cindy sat between her open thighs, hands gently brushing over skin goosebumping in anticipation. She leaned down to follow the same path with her tongue. Lindsay's fingers curled around fistfuls of the sheet, already.
"I know you've had some bad days lately," Cindy said empathetically. "I want to make you feel good."
Enjoying those teasing caresses, Lindsay wondered what exactly she would do, until Cindy leaned in burying her face in her lap. Butterfly kisses turned to more determined licks, and with each second she came closer to that moment when she'd let go of it all.
She thought she might scream for a moment, but she didn't have enough breath left for anything more than a whimper, as Cindy's mouth found her clit and spiraled her body into a near brutal orgasm.
"I guess that worked," Cindy observed quietly before she wrapped herself around Lindsay's still trembling body. "I'll remember that."
In the shower, she turned the water to a scalding hot, her skin reddening and then starting to hurt, but Lindsay didn't care as she leaned her forehead against the cool tiles. She shivered despite the heat, pressing her hand against her mouth to hold in the sobs that wanted out so badly.
What the hell had she been thinking?
The daylight had slammed clarity home brutally. Black on white, the words, her photo, Kiss Me Not's signature. Her name. And in the byline, Cindy's.
Nothing the bastard ever did was meant literally, so Lindsay wasn't really much afraid for herself, no matter what the agent had said. They didn't know the killer the way she did. They'd tried to get into his head, but she was ahead of them, because she'd let him get into hers. She knew the way he thought, and while he might want to shut her up, he wouldn't do it by sewing her mouth shut and killing her like he'd done it with the other women.
He'd search and find for something that would destroy her - and she'd just given him a hint. It wasn't too late to undo that. It couldn't be.
Finally feeling the impact of what she was going to do, the tears fell, mingling with the hot water. There was no alternative, not if she wasn't going to burden her conscience with willingly gambling her friends' lives. Not matter how blurry the lines of definition of friendship had become in this particular case.
For a moment, she'd indulged herself, allowed herself the fantasy of what a life with Cindy Thomas would look like. The girls' friendly teasing. They would love this. They already loved Cindy; it was hard not to. Tom would be rather shocked, Heather would probably be happy for a variety of reasons. She'd imagined their time spent together, outside of working on the same cases, home, waking up next to each other just like this morning. It was a beautiful illusion, she knew now.
She couldn't do this to Cindy, taint her with a world of darkness that Tom, Jill and Claire had only gotten a glimpse of. Obsession. They didn't know half of it, but that had been enough to make them run and never look back. Lindsay couldn't really blame them.
And Cindy, she didn't have enough of a healthy sense of self-preservation, so that was why Lindsay had to make this decision for both of them, didn't matter that it was killing her. It was the right thing to do. She had to stop selfishly following her own needs.
Walking into the kitchen, she found her resolve shaken by the image presenting itself to her. Cindy sitting at the set breakfast table, talking to Martha who sat in the chair next to her, seeming to hang on to every word.
Cindy turned to her with a warm smile that held just a tiny trace of nervousness. "I made pancakes," she stated the obvious. "Here's coffee."
Lindsay sat down slowly as if to delay the inevitable. She accepted the steaming mug, wondering how to approach the subject best without being unnecessarily cruel. She found there wasn't any. "I'm sorry," she blurted out, and from the way Cindy paled, that was enough.
"Is it something I--"
"No!" Everything you did was perfect. You are. "No, it's not you. It's all me. You deserve better," she finished lamely.
Everyone deserved better than to have someone draw a serial killer's attention to you.
"Don't you think you're coming to that conclusion a little late?"
Lindsay flinched. She had deserved this. It still hurt. "I know. I shouldn't have called you, and--"
"Also, shouldn't I have a say in this, too?" Cindy's too brave attempt at a smile was painful. "Look, I know you've got some issues right now, but that doesn't mean we can at least give it a try. You've still got feelings for Tom, I understand, you were married, but I'm willing to--"
"No. Please don't make this harder than it has to be. I'm really sorry."
That moment, though she dreaded the notion of being alone again, Lindsay actually wished Cindy would just leave yelling and slamming doors. Instead her voice and gaze were soft with the pain of her own, and it was understood who was responsible for it. "I am not going to think that it was a mistake. I just can't."
Lindsay didn't know what to answer to that. From her point of view, it was a terrible, potentially dangerous mistake that she needed to do her best to undo. It had also been everything she ever wanted. It wasn't hers to keep.
"I can't be with anybody right now." It sounded too damn much like an excuse. "I can't expect you to wait until I've figured out some things."
Cindy's hand tightened around the coffee mug, reining anger maybe, but her eyes were bright. "I don't get you, Lindsay. It's not such a big secret that I'm..." She gave a sad smile. "Hopelessly in love with you. If some mindless sex was all that you wanted, then just say it, I'll live with it. If there's anything else, God, Lindsay, you should know I'm not going to leave you."
Even if it could get you killed?
"Yesterday was a pretty emotional day for all of us. I'm so--"
"Yes, I know," Cindy cut her off. "Maybe you're right. Maybe you shouldn't have called me."
She petted Martha a last time then got up and turned so abruptly that it wasn't hard to imagine what she was trying to hide. It was on the tip of Lindsay's tongue to blurt it all out, beg her forgiveness, tell her even this vague, subtle threat was scaring the hell out of her if it included Cindy. Hopelessly in love with you. Hold her close again. Make love to her.
Lindsay stayed silent as the door fell shut, then she leaned forward to rest her face in her hands.
Martha whined in sympathy.
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