DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and all its characters are the property of Shed Productions. The author implies no ownership of these characters. They are used in the stories without permission, solely for entertainment and not for profit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is inspired partly by a picture challenge made by Entilzha e at Bad Girls Enhanced (Ezboard) with regard to the settings and partly by the play "Two Women" by David Hare both with regard to settings and the idea of two women confronting each other. However, the twist of the basic storyline is my own inspired by the characters of Helen and Nikki and their history.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Two Women

Chapter 1

The little red Peugeot 306 drove smoothly along the main road from London to Portsmouth in the very early lights of dawn just before the sun would rise. There was not much traffic, and it was a relief for the driver, who had a lot on her mind. The petit woman behind the wheel tried to concentrate on driving, but her mind kept wandering off in all other directions. She had a worried frown on her forehead and her grey-green eyes were staring intensely, not on the road, but on something not visible to anyone other than the woman. Her light brown hair with blonde highlights was casually tucked behind her right ear and framed her face, which by the dark shadows and lines that were beginning around the mouth showed how stressed and fatigued the otherwise beautiful woman was.

The driver, Helen Stewart 36 years old, was a successful lawyer and co-owner of the law firm Stewart & Walker, a company she had started with her long term friend and fellow lawyer Claire Walker 8 years ago. They had met at university and soon became inseparable friends and they both graduated top of their respective classes. Their professional paths had moved in different directions, as Claire had started her career in criminal law as an assistant for one of the best barristers Marion McLoughlin, and Helen had started her career at Larkhall Law, an old company in need of new blood and initiatives, which was a challenge that the young Helen Stewart was more than willing to tackle. Though it had proved much more difficult than she had ever expected, especially when fighting the old-boys-network, but she had come out stronger and more adequate, finding the challenge of starting her own company far more appealing than staying as a junior partner. She had always wanted her own firm and was ready to fight for it. She had talked Claire into joining her, being skilled with extreme persuasive powers.

During her time at university Helen had met Sean Parr with whom she had a relationship for almost five years. She had even been engaged to him for about a year. In the beginning he had been all sweet and caring, but as soon as he had moved in with her, shortly after she started at Larkhall Law, things slowly started to change. He began to be possessive and controlling. When she had an especially difficult time at her work he had been absolutely unsupportive and pretended not to understand how strained things were for her. Instead he had put pressure on her and to keep the peace she had agreed to marry him in a moment of carelessness, something she came to regret profoundly as time passed by. In the end she could not hold it together, realizing that he was all wrong for her. She told him that she did not love him and wanted to break the engagement. He had not taken it well; in fact he had showed up in front of her office at Larkhall Law and publicly humiliated her by burning his wedding suit.

After the disastrous encounter Helen had needed some time off. When she returned to her new life Claire had introduced her to Dr. Thomas Waugh. One of Claire's cases had involved a psychological evaluation of a prisoner accused of pyromania, and Dr. Thomas Waugh had been the psychiatrist to make the assessment. They got a long very well and Helen found that he was as dedicated to his work, as she was to hers, though battling different opponents. He had soon proven to be everything she could ever want in a man. He was kind, gentle, loving, good natured, handsome, caring and very supportive of her career. He had pursued her, courted her and told her that he loved her. She had eventually given in to his wooing and ended up marrying him. They had been married for almost ten years. He had been married before, but it was with Helen that he had wanted a family. Together they got two children, twins, and he was a very loving and devoted father.

Everything should be right and seen from the outside they certainly had what looked like a perfect family, good jobs and a harmonious relationship. However, that was not the entire truth. Lately they had drifted apart. Thomas seemed preoccupied with something else, much to Helen's confusion. Though still being thoughtful and caring Thomas spent more and more time away from home, sometimes even forgetting to call home. Helen had an uneasy feeling about it, but she was unable to pinpoint the reasons for his changes. If there really was any changes at all, or maybe she was just being paranoid. She considered the facts. Thomas was still very loving towards her and definitely adored their children. However, he did spent more and more time away from home, but she knew he had been promoted a couple of years ago which meant larger responsibilities and more work. Helen was nobody's fool and knew that even the larger workload could not account for the amount of time spent away, nor could it explain the distance Thomas had put between them and how distracted he often seemed to be.

There was something amiss and Helen was determined to find out what it was all about. She had tried to ask him, but he always brushed it off and was not inclined to talk about it. That made her angry, resulting in her speaking harshly to him and too often she lost her temper, which she truly regretted, but she could not help feeling utterly helpless because of the changes. She sometimes wondered whether it was her own fault that their relationship seemed to deteriorate. Thomas had once accused her of holding something of herself back from him, but she had changed that… Or has she not? There was definitely a dark side of herself that she had kept so well hidden for the most of her life, a part that she was not willing to acknowledge or even think about. But it had always lingered in the back of her sub-consciousness and somehow shaded her way of thinking and behaving towards her boyfriends and inevitable Thomas. On the other hand she had managed to suppress that side of her so well over the years, and she was convinced that finding Thomas had relieved her soul and made her transformation complete.

So the next logical suspicion would be that Thomas might be seeing someone else. That thought had unsettled Helen beyond reason. The idea, however, was not so unrealistic considering how Thomas had allowed a growing detachment from her. She had many sleepless nights over this, especially when he was not coming home. It tortured her every single moment of her life. The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced that Thomas had an affair. She became obsessed with the thought and tried relentlessly to find some solid evidence of it. Strangely enough she did not feel jealous, as could be expected, only overwhelming anger and a profound feeling of disappointment, not feelings solely directed towards Thomas, but also towards the situation and towards her.

Her efforts in pursuing evidence of his infidelity finally paid off. Usually she would sleep very late in the weekends, but one Sunday morning she woke early. Unable to resume sleeping she went downstairs to find something to drink. She stopped dead in her tracks in the hall way, when she heard Thomas speaking with someone over the phone. Normally she would never eavesdrop on someone else, but her quest for proof made her listen to a telephone conversation clearly not intended for her ears.

Thomas' voice was low and filled with emotions. Some of his sentences were only a mere whisper, but the last sentence was spoken clearly and with affection.

"I love you too, Nikki… Always remember that… I will call you again tomorrow…"

For a brief moment Helen stood frozen to the spot, but when she heard Thomas move around in the living room she quickly made her escape upstairs and hid in the bedroom. He did not come up, but apparently went into the kitchen where he prepared breakfast for the children. She was grateful for the time alone in their bedroom. It gave her an opportunity to recover from the information she had discovered. She was not really surprised as it only confirmed what she had suspected for a long time, yet it had hit her with a force that she had not expected. She had prepared herself for it, but now that she knew for sure, she felt drained and empty, no tears, no hysteria, just an overpowering feeling of loss and profound fear, like standing on the edge of steep abyss where only a minor faulty movement would send her hauling down into a sea of doubt, confusion and fear of the unknown.

Helen knew she did not have the strength to confront him directly, her emotions too raw and her state of mind too frail to sustain the pressure of her anger. She heard him scramble around gathering the children and as he left with them to visit his father, she let out a sigh of relief and rolled out of bed to grab her robe. She walked downstairs and into the living room. Restlessly she walked around trying to figure out what to do. Her eyes fell on the telephone, and on a sudden impulse she dialled 1471. The number popped up and she wrote it down quickly.

Helen was aware that it was not appropriate to go through Thomas' things, but she was overwhelmed with an urge to dig out every little bit of information she could possible find. She went into his study and took a quick look around. Her eyes fell upon an open notebook on the desk. Hesitantly she moved closer still uncertain about whether it was right to peek into his things. But then again if he had left the book open on the desk then it could not hurt having a look, could it? She frowned as the thoughts whirled through her head and she could feel her temples throb at the beginning headache. She quickly went into the living room to grab a vodka bottle and a glass, but returned to the study once more having decided what to do. Helen sat down at the desk, not yet picking up the notebook. Thomas trusted her; that was probably why he had left it there so carelessly in the first place. Could she betray that trust? She gulped down a glass of vodka in one go. Helen was not a nosy person by nature, and even though she might have a very good reason to be suspicious of his honesty considering that she had just heard her husband declare his love to someone else Helen still had the decency to feel pangs of guilt for looking into a notebook that was not hers. She stilled her hand that had reached out for the book. She slumped back into the chair and sat starring out in the room her mind racing ahead of her consciousness.

Darkness surrounded her very existence and threatened to drown her sanity. She struggled to organize her thoughts. It was an unusual experience for her normally sharp and analytical mind suddenly to be thrown of balance and into an uncharted pattern. Helen had fought so hard to get where she was and to have what she had, and she was definitely not inclined to give it all up so easily. Her Scottish stubbornness made her angry and made her want to fight back for what was hers. She knew she had to find out what kind of relationship this mysterious woman had with Thomas. She could not confront him with her knowledge, because she just had a fragment of a conversation and her suspicion as proof. Being a lawyer she knew it would not be enough evidence and she smiled sardonically to herself at the thought. She would have to gather evidence, or maybe she should confront the woman instead?

A plan slowly began to form itself in her mind. For the time being she would carry on like nothing had happened and when she had every detail in her plan worked out she would strike, but timing was essential as was the importance of getting solid evidence of Thomas's affair with this Nikki. So she would wait patiently until the right opportunity would appear.

Helen had finally given in and taken a look both in Thomas's notebook and in his address book, where she found the telephone number again with the woman's last name and her address. The woman was a Nikki Wade she lived on the Channel Island of Jersey. The name held some recognition in Helen's mind, but she was unable to recall why it had struck something in her memory. Helen had continued to monitor Thomas closely, but both his behaviour and his telephone calls. However, she had refrained herself from having him followed by a private detective, even though the idea had occurred to her, but that would have been a little too extreme, even for her plan.

She wanted to know what kind of woman Nikki Wade was. Thomas was going away for a week to a conference in Paris and in a fit of recklessness Helen had called the number and got what sounded like a very well articulated woman on the other end of the phone. She had hastily presented herself as a representative for a trust fund, which had been looking for a Nikki Wade. She seemed to have caught the woman's interest and with the pretence of not being willing to discuss the circumstances regarding the trust fund over the telephone, she had arranged a meeting with the unsuspecting, yet oddly reluctant Ms. Wade using her profession as a lawyer as an excuse.

And here she was with Thomas going away and the children placed with their grandfather, ready to set out on her journey towards the truth, even though it might be an unpleasant experience.

Chapter 2

The fog covered the island like a grey fluffy blanket as the ferry arrived to the harbour in the morning. The sunrays struggled to break through in order to warm the island and its inhabitants. The passengers left the ferry and scattered all over the town that surrounded the harbour. Helen Stewart tightened her coat around her as the chilled air made her shiver. She walked towards the road reaching inside her pocket from where she pulled out a piece of paper. She looked at it reading the address she had written a couple of weeks ago. Helen did not know how to get there, but as she turned her head she caught sight of a couple of old men sitting on a bench in some kind of shelter. Determined she walked over to them and asked for directions. They were helpful and gave her the instructions she needed. Not that it was all that hard to find, since it was the address of the old lighthouse placed a few hundred meters down the road. She thanked them and turned around heading towards the lighthouse.

The lighthouse looked sturdy and old. It was a shade of ghostly white and towered up through the mist surrounding it. The windows looked like dark eyeholes in a skull on the pale face of the lighthouse tower. Helen felt the cold wind blowing directly in her face as to warn her off, but she was not about to back away from her goal. She had a lot of questions and she knew that the answers were to be found with the woman who lived in the old lighthouse. Nothing could prevent her from her mission, no matter how ugly the truth might be. Helen Stewart was prepared to fight for what was hers and nobody was going to take Thomas away from her and their family. It was her prerogative to have his affection and attention; after all she was his wife. Still it was not the jealousy that fuelled her actions but her possessiveness of what was hers.

Making her way slowly towards the lower front building Helen was suddenly filled with a feeling of dread. She felt cold shivers run through her body as she looked at the entrance door with apprehension. Now that she was actually there, she suddenly hesitated asking herself if it was really the right thing to do.

What am I doing here? She thought mentally shaking herself in an attempt to clear her head and focus on the task ahead.

Was it really such a good idea to confront this woman and stake a claim on Thomas? Maybe she would not listen to Helen, but then maybe she would listen to reason, stay out of their lives and leave them alone? However, she would never know unless she spoke with her face to face. She had only briefly talked to the woman over the phone arranging this meeting under pretence of coming on official business. She had sounded reasonable, well educated and intelligent, so what had she to fear? Everything Helen reminded herself.

Taking a deep breath she reached out and pressed the doorbell, which rang out unexpectedly loud and shrilling in the otherwise quite surroundings of the island, only the wind rustling the leafs on the trees. Helen jumped slightly at the sound and had the urge to run away, but stubborn as she was she stood her ground waiting for the door to open and reveal… well, what did she expect to be revealed or rather who did she expect?

She waited for what seemed like an eternity almost loosing her patience, when the door finally opened and a tall, dark and quite beautiful woman peered outside. Helen gasped involuntary in surprise at the sight in front of her while a myriad of thoughts ran through her mind.

So this is the woman. My God, she is beautiful. I don't stand a chance, if Thomas really has fallen for her, she thought ruefully. And if she is half as intelligent as she is good looking then I'm dead in the water.

But she quickly composed herself and tentatively asked:

"Nikki Wade?"

"Yes… and you are?" The woman in the doorway was frowning slightly as she tried to put a name on the face of the petit woman in front of her. Though Nikki did not remember her name or her face, she did remember her low, husky Scottish voice. It could melt her heart in an instant.

"Helen…. Helen Stewart… We spoke on the phone the other day…" Helen stammered and an expression of recognition dawned on the other woman's face.

What a cute accent, Nikki thought My God, I could just listen to that voice all night.

"Ah… yes… Well, come in," she finally said, but when Helen made no attempt to move she continued with a slight smile curled up in the corner of her mouth and an amused glint in the dark eyes. "Unless… You are going to stand out there all the time?"

Her low voice brought Helen out of her trance and snapped her back to reality. Nikki motioned for her guest to step inside and Helen entered the hallway while taking a look around. The walls were bare and white seeming cold and a stark contrast to the terracotta coloured floor, which had a warm glow to it. The ceiling was made of wood and left the rafters free to be seen. She followed Nikki Wade into the living room. It was spacious with light colours, yet very cosy and welcoming. A strange mixture of old and new furniture gave it a unique expression, which Helen found extremely appealing. Helen was intrigued and for a brief moment she allowed herself to drink in the atmosphere and let it envelope her in a soft embrace of comfort.

She mentally shook herself as she remembered the reason for her being there in the first place. The harsh reality of her situation brought shades of darkness to her eyes and the frown on her forehead deepened. The dark shadows under her eyes became more prominent and the lines around her mouth gave her a very troubled look. She tightened her arms, embracing herself in order to seek out some kind of comfort. She looked frail, but only for a short moment before the determination put fire back in her eye and the natural strong aura radiated from the small woman as she turned around to face Nikki Wade, the woman who had turned Thomas' attention away from his wife and family. And for that Helen was an angry woman, her eyes flaring with green rage.

Her host had stayed silent and looked with an intense stare at the petit woman standing in the middle of her living room looking almost forlorn and at a loss. Nikki had a strange feeling that the woman seemed to fit in perfectly in her home, like she somehow belonged there. Nikki frowned at the thought and shrugged her shoulders as to get rid of the sight and feeling, which she could not find an explanation for. For a fleeting moment Nikki thought she saw a glint of… what? Interest? Desire? But when she took a closer look the grey-green eyes were sparkling only with anger and were staring back at her with enough force to thoroughly shake her thoughts back into proper order. Nikki knew she had to keep her cool if she was supposed to face up to the woman standing before her. Unbeknown to her how it was possible she could sense how much turmoil was running through the woman and had an unexplainable urge to learn more about her.

Helen cleared her throat before she spoke in a clear even voice.

"Do you know why I am here?"

"No… not really…. However, I was wondering… You seemed rather vague on the phone…" Nikki frowned slightly, but had otherwise a rather bemused expression on her face.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush… and you will understand if I'm blunt…" Helen hesitated for a brief moment before continuing "I'm not here on official business as I told you over the telephone… I'm here for very personal reasons… I want to know what kind of person you are… and what you are capable of… "

Nikki looked unfazed on the surface, but her eyes told a different story, darkening with her own anger caused by the deception so obviously displayed. She managed to keep her voice clam as she spoke, but there was a hint of bitterness.

"I suppose, it should not really surprise me… Considering my past history…"

"You know Thomas Waugh?" Helen asked looking intensely on the woman in front of her in order to gauge her expression.

Nikki was highly bemused by the question. It was not what she had expected, but then perhaps it was all in her imagination and maybe she was just being paranoid.

"I… know… him…" she said with deliberate slowness keeping eye contact with Helen only to see the grey-green eyes narrowing at the response.

"What is the exact nature of your relationship with my husband?" she said with repressed anger and a twinge of possessiveness in her voice.

"Excuse me?" Nikki's eyebrow shot up giving Helen an incredulous look.

"You heard me…. Why the Hell are you having an affair with Thomas?" Helen's voice shook with anger and her Scottish accent grew stronger with every word. Her harsh tone made Nikki flinch involuntarily.

"I'm not… having an affair with Th…" Nikki tried to say fighting back her anger, but she was cut off before she could finish her sentence.

"Then why is he spending so much time with you? Why does he tell you he loves you? And why don't you even have the grace to be embarrassed about it? " Helen was rambling, spitting out the questions. She fought the urge to step up close to the tall woman and smack her over the face with all her repressed agony of the entire situation. But something else kept surfacing inside her, the unmistakable urge to embrace this strange woman fiercely with an omnivorous desire tearing inside her body. Helen had to use all her self-control to focus on her objective goal and not to let in to the impulses of possible physical closeness.

"Now wait a minute…" Nikki was fuming, but was still able to contain her anger. "What on earth gave you the idea that Thomas is having an affair with me? And how did you find out about me anyway?"

"I heard him…" Helen snapped. She did not want to go into details about how she had eavesdropped on his phone call and how she had gone through his address book and other things in order to pin point the woman he had spoken to. It was actions that Helen in hindsight was not very proud of, but at the same time she could not deny what she had done.

"You heard him…." Nikki said mockingly "And just by that you deduced that he was having an affair… with me… What a detective you are…" She looked with contempt at Helen. In spite of her contemptuous tone this fierce woman intrigued Nikki beyond reason, and things began to make a bit more sense to Nikki, as something suddenly dawned on her. This woman was obviously Thomas' wife; at least if what she had been saying so far was anything to go by. Thomas had never really spoken of his second wife, though they had been married for almost ten years. It was odd, but all Nikki knew about his wife was her first name and how Thomas had met her through a common friend.

However, Nikki did know that he loved his wife much. She also knew that this Helen made Thomas a happy man, though she wondered how considering the spitting monster in front of her. It suddenly occurred to Nikki that she really knew very little of Thomas' present life. She wondered why they had never talked about Helen, since she seemed to be a person with a distinct personality. Nikki actually knew more about his children and his previous wife than about his present wife. She wondered why, but she supposed Thomas had his reasons for avoiding conversations involving Helen. Nikki made a mental note to ask him next time he called.

Well, maybe I am to learn a little more about Helen Stewart myself then… if Stewart is her real name that is, she thought pensively, but keeping her cool demeanour and not letting on what she was thinking. Then mentally Nikki felt a sly grin spreading on her face. Her dark humour had an idea. She could have some fun with this woman, wind her up a bit and shake her to the core. The woman seemed so rigid and pompous, but Nikki was sure that underneath that polished surface something far more substantial in her personality was just waiting to be unleashed. Nikki had seen it in her eyes, the raw power of passion and the depths of possibilities.

The tension in the room was intense and both women were breathing hard as their anger made them rather agitated, sending the adrenalin levels off the scale. They were standing front to front, each glaring angrily at the other woman in an attempt to either intimidate or to evaluate the opponent in this strange game of wills. They were both very stubborn women and not afraid of a verbal fight. None of them would yield to the other woman or show any signs of weakness, but one of them would eventually have to step back, if only for a short time, but for the moment being they were trapped by their own pride and stubbornness.

"What is it really you want?" Nikki finally snapped.

"I want the truth," Helen said with determination "and I want it from you."

Two dark brown pools stared intently back on her scanning her face and the colour of her eyes, finally looking directly into her soul digging out her darkest secrets and prodding her feigned self-confidence, almost stripping it away like an onion shell. It made Helen shiver involuntarily and draw her arms closer around her in a defensive gesture. She gulped in some air at the sensations that were invoked in her body at the dark woman's inspection of her features.

"Are you really sure you are prepared for it?" Nikki's voice was low making Helen feel uneasy.

Yet she felt strangely excited at the same time.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Helens response came a little too quickly and with an edge that did not go unnoticed by Nikki. She also recognized the expression on Helens face and instinctively knew it reflected fear, confusion and anxiety, but not jealousy. But the expression only lasted a faction of a second and did not give Nikki any hints for the actual reasons for those feelings. Though Nikki could not totally discard the possibility that Helen was genuinely worried about Thomas having an affair, she was quite convinced that it was not really about Thomas and her at all, but in fact more about Helen and something that was hidden deep down in the back of her mind. She decided to give it a try and to push Helen a little.

"Do you think you can handle the truth?"

"What exactly are you implying?" Helen was still very curt in her response and definitely not at ease with the situation.

"Are you sure you want to know what Thomas is going through at the moment? Are you sure you want to know about my part in that? Are you sure you want to know about what part you play in all this? Are you sure it is about Thomas at all?" Nikki's voice was calm and even, but had a dark underlying tone that made her sound husky.

"I want the bloody truth… nothing more and nothing less!" Helen lost her temper as the anger surfaced once more making her voice deeper and with a distinctive edge coloured with Scottish tones.

"Do you perceive me as a threat?" Nikki spoke with a mocking tone to her voice. She was not going to let Helen out of her misery just yet.

"No!" The answer had left Helen's mouth before she could even think about it, and the simple statement took her by surprise and obviously it had also taken Nikki with her guards down. It was definitely not what she had expected. Helen looked puzzled as she tried to reassert her initial state of mind by recreating her goal for visiting this woman. She contemplated her real reasons for the journey and found that she lacked the objectivity to fully comprehend the complexity of her actions.

However, Nikki had seen into the core of the smaller woman. She had once more seen the confusion mixed with fear and apprehension in her eyes and the tightness around her mouth as well as the tension in her body. Her intuition told her that much was at stake for this woman, whom she actually found to be very attractive, even beautiful in her own way. Nikki tried to collect her thoughts and find a way to solve the problem presented to her in such an unusual way. She cleared her throat silently before speaking.

"You really do think I'm having an affair with Thomas, don't you?"

"Yes, what else could justify him telling you that he loves you?" Helen looked at the dark woman with a sardonic imitation of a smile. That in turn, made Nikki laugh with an emotionless and rather hollow laughter sending mocking looks towards Helen, who became steadily more furious with her.

"It's not funny…" she snapped.

"Oh, but it is," Nikki said trying not to sound too sarcastic. "You come here to invade my life and house, accuses me of having an illegitimate affair with your husband without having the decency to listen to my explanations…"

"But there is nothing to explain!" Helen said vehemently "I heard him, when he told you he loved you…"

She took a deep breath before continuing a bit calmer. "Do you love him?"

Nikki could not help to curl her lips in something that resembled a cruel smile. She had the urge to tease this presumptuous woman with everything she could.

"Is that what you want to hear?" her eyebrow quirked and lifted slightly at the statement more a rhetorical question than anything else. "Well… It's true… I love him… I love him dearly…" she paused for the effect of the dramatics and satisfied with the impact on the other woman she finally continued in a low and very intense voice huskily with some very raw emotions.

"But only as a sister could love her brother…Thomas is my brother…"

The shock was evident on Helen's face as her mouth opened and closed without any sounds passing her lips and her eyes staring wide at the other woman. This was a revelation she had not been prepared for.

Chapter 3

Nikki watched the shock appear on Helen's face and she almost felt sorry for her, but she kept quiet and allowed Helen to be absorbed in the obvious unexpected information. She seemed to be unable to comprehend the meaning of the words and the facts of the statement. Helen had gone absolutely pale, all colour drained form her face leaving only a greyish tone as small beads of sweat started to break out on her forehead. She slumped rather unceremoniously on to the couch, her body all limp and without any power left to hold her upright. Nikki had for a brief moment been concerned about Helen, but she soon realized that it was better to leave her to digest the turn of events, so she had silently left the house to take a walk into the small garden and to have a cigarette. Nikki was in dire need of one, considering the tension that had built within her body, and smoking was a habit she was not able to put aside.

Helen had been unable to move from the couch. Her mind was totally blank and her body drained of any energy. The constant worries of the last couple of months had taken their toll, and it was evident that she could not take anymore. Her system was simply shutting down as fatigue and weariness overwhelmed her completely and put her into a deep, dreamless sleep. That was how Nikki had found her when she returned from the walk in the garden. She looked at the small, sleeping form of the woman on the big white couch. She seemed so fragile, maybe even helpless and an urge to protect the woman shot through Nikki much to her surprise. She carefully draped a blanket around the woman, trying not to wake her, and then returned to the garden. She had acquired a liking for working in gardens and was enjoying transforming her own garden into a small nursery for all sorts of plants.

The hours went by without Helen even moving the slightest and though Nikki found it a bit odd to have this relatively strange woman lying on her couch she did not have the heart to wake the obviously exhausted woman from her sleep. She was scrambling around in the kitchen trying not to make too much noise when she heard the movements from the living room.

Helen stirred and tried to get her mind to function. She was feeling disoriented and rather bewildered as to where she was and how she had ended up on a couch in a cosy living room with a fireplace from where hot flames where chasing away the chill of the approaching evening. She sat up gingerly and blinked to make her eye focus on the woman, who approached her while speaking with a hoarse voice.

"I must have drifted off… I'm sorry…"

"It's ok…" the tall dark woman said.

Helen was wondering where she was until the fog around her mind abruptly cleared and left her startled and on edge. She nervously fingered the blanket still wrapped around her. Though it was a pleasant temperature in the room Helen felt cold and vulnerable in front of this beautiful woman's intense stare. Maybe it was just something she imagined, but she had the uncanny feeling that the woman undressed her with her eyes.

This is Thomas's sister, she thought. Why would she do that?

"Err… You missed the previous ferry…" Nikki said hesitantly and with what seemed to be a slightly flustered face. "And the last ferry is not sailing because of the upcoming thunderstorm… So you will have to stay here for tonight…" She threw Helen an apologetic look even though it was not her fault that the weather had changed so abruptly trapping Helen on the island against her will.

Helen did not respond, but stared blankly out into the room as though she had not heard what was being said to her. Nikki became a little worried with the lack of reaction to the information she had just given this strange woman, who happened to be her sister-in-law, but who had also awakened some inner emotions and urges that Nikki did not believe she was capable of having, at least not with such an overwhelming intensity that threatened to tip her carefully obtained inner balance off. She mentally shook herself into gear and asked.

"I'm preparing some dinner… You care to have some? It's Indian…"

Helen snapped out of her trance and turned to gaze to the tall woman in front of her, but did not reply at once. Instead she took in the features of the woman. Her lean but shapely body emitting a graceful strength, and the dark expressive eyes looking pensively back at her, every thing was in perfect harmony and stirred some very disturbing emotions in Helen, who felt strangely vulnerable and emotionally naked as well as undeniably physically attracted to her. And it scared her rigid that a totally strange woman seemed to have this enormous power over her. With great effort she composed herself and managed to utter a reasonable well-formulated answer.

"Yes, please… I would like something to eat… Indian would be very agreeable…"

And she realized that she was actually feeling a bit hungry as her stomach decided to rumble in agreement to the suggested food.

Nikki nodded silently in acknowledgement and headed back to the kitchen, where she started scrambling around with pots and pans once more. Helen suddenly remembered her good manners and offered to help her host preparing the dinner. The offer was accepted without hesitation and they started working side by side in silence. Unconsciously they seemed to know exactly how to work together and move around each other in the relatively confined space of the kitchen. There was an oddly familiar feeling about it to both of them, like it was something they had always done. Helen felt at home in the cosy kitchen though not normally a regular user of such a facility. They did not talk, with the exception of a few directions from Nikki, but the silence was not uncomfortable.

After the final preparations were made they sat at the coffee table in the living room, each balancing a plate with food. A bottle of wine was placed on the table as well as a lot of extra food. For a few moments they ate in silence each consumed by their own thoughts. Helen finally broke the silence.

"So… you are Thomas' sister…" It was more a statement than a question, and she continued silently and with a hint of regret. "I didn't know he had a sister…"

Nikki chewed carefully on some chicken while a pensive frown appeared on her forehead.

"I suppose there are a lot of things you don't know about Thomas," she said evenly looking directly and ruefully at Helen with her brown eyes. For no obvious reason it made Helens heart beat a bit faster and it made her catch her breath, but she quickly composed herself shaking off the odd bodily reaction to the other woman.

"I guess so…" Helen managed a short bark of sardonic laughter. "Are you going to fill me in?"

"Maybe… Though I suppose you should really be talking to Thomas instead of me…" Nikki said as a matter of fact more than an actual suggestion.

"He is never home anymore… beside he doesn't want to talk to me… " Helen sounded truly regretful, but a hint of sour bitterness crept into her voice against her will. She hoped that Nikki would not notice the inflection, but Nikki easily picked up on the subtle dryness in Helens statement and said without hesitation.

"He might, if you would just listen to him…"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Helen snapped back in a voice sounding a little sharper than intended before Nikki could finish her sentence.

"Maybe you should pay a little more attention to him, instead of wallowing in your own misery," Nikki said pretending to be oblivious to the hard stare she got from the narrowing green-grey eyes sparkling dangerously in the sparse light from the lamp above the table.

"Is that what he had been telling you that I do?" Helens voice had dropped to low note indicating an imminent burst of anger.

"What do you think we do talk about?" Nikki lifted an eyebrow sardonically and glanced at Helen for a brief moment gauging her expression and assessing the risk of being on the receiving end of full unleashed fury before quickly adding. "Well, Thomas has never really talked about you… I knew he had a wife named Helen and two children, but I didn't know it was you… And we certainly do not discuss you…"

"Nice…" Helen mumbled. She did not look totally convinced by Nikki's assurances, but she decided to give the woman some credit. After all she seemed to be sincere.

"Look, Helen… I will try to fill you in… at least on my connection with Thomas…" Nikki finally said in order to smooth things over. She took a sip of the wine and sat staring out in the air for a very long period of time. She had to organize her thoughts and carefully chose her words so she could convey the essence of what Thomas had been through and also her own part in that, though it was not large it was of great importance. She just had to make sure that Helen would understand what she was saying without jumping to the wrong conclusions. Nikki had a gut feeling, that this fierce Scottish woman was exactly the kind of person who would do just that. No, she had to be very careful.

Helen had almost forgotten the food while waiting for Nikki to speak. Though the food tasted very well, she had no real hunger to sate. Instead she looked with a slightly budding interest on the other woman. She took in her lanky frame with curves in all the right places. Her face was troubled, but nice with full lips, beautiful dark brown eyes and a cute worried frown between the eyebrows. The woman intrigued Helen beyond reason and she had serious trouble understanding, why she was suddenly feeling herself drowning in the brown eyes and why she was studying the curves of this woman's body with an interest that was not platonic curiosity. She had a hard time wrapping her mind around to acknowledge that her body was reacting in some most unexpected ways betraying her inner self to the thoughts that kept creeping into her mind. With all her mental strength she violently pushed them back to the darkest corner of her sub-consciousness where they could be hidden. Helen was jolted back to the reality, when Nikki finally spoke.

"As you know Thomas' father is a widower…" she started hesitantly.

"Yes, he told me his mother died, when he was a child," Helen said feeling glad that she seemed to at least know something about Thomas' background. But the feeling was soon dissolved when Nikki continued her explanation.

"Well… that is not entirely true… his mother is very much alive… but does not want to have anything to do with him… In fact his mother is my mother…"

Helen opened her mouth in order to speak, but no words came out so she closed it again. She sat with an utterly stupid expression on her face, but no sound escaped her lips. If Nikki had not been in such a delicate situation she would have found the whole thing quite amusing, but she could not allow herself to laugh out loud. She just had to stifle her smile into a crooked grimace.

"It all started when the woman, who Thomas thought was his mother died… He was 16 years when it happened… He went through her things and found his own birth certificate… And it was a totally different name that was listed as his mother… He confronted his father, who finally admitted that the woman who had just died was not his birth-mother. For a very long period of time he was extremely angry with his father and decided to find his mother… my mother…" Nikki's voice did not reveal any emotions as she spoke. "It was very difficult for him to find her. She had covered her tracks thoroughly, but he finally managed to find her when he was 24 years old."

"What happened then?"

"He found her all right… but it was not a success… She did not want to acknowledge him as her son… She was… no, she is a cold bitch…"

"Nikki! It's your mother…" Helen was truly outraged by the harsh statement, especially since she greatly missed her own mother, who had died when Helen was only 13 years old. Nikki, of course, knew nothing of Helen's reasons to react as she did, and Helen was not about to fill her in on it either.

"Well, darling, you don't know her as I do," Nikki said with evident bitterness as she quirked an eyebrow and allowed a wry smile to settle on her face. "But I will tell you about her… and her husband… my so called father…"

Nikki continued her story silently, but with much resentment in her voice. Something that did not go unnoticed by Helen, who felt her heart go out to the woman in empathy with her.

"At first she didn't want to admit to be his mother, but confronted with the birth certificate, a marriage certificate and other evidence like pictures and a couple of letters, she finally gave in and admitted to have been married to Thomas' father and to have given birth to Thomas… She told him, he was a mistake… A big mistake that is, and that she had left both him and the man that had been her 'down-fall' at the first possible opportunity to be with someone who gave her better options in life… Thomas' father was not fashionable for the posh girl from a well-breed family… He was a worker and not fit for her ambitions and living standards… Thomas somehow managed to find out that he actually did have another brother and a sister before he was thrown out of her house…"

"Were you present when all this happened?" Helen asked quietly.

"No, she had thrown me out her house... only a half year before… I was just 16 years old… a mere child… just like Thomas when he left his home after a big argument with his father… " Nikki's voice trembled with anger and tears stung in her eyes, but she held them at bay not wanting to let on to Helen how much the story still affected her. She made an effort of composing herself and managed to get both her temper and her emotions under control, before having to answer the inevitable question.

"Why would she have thrown you out like that?"

"You just don't get it do you?" Nikki repressed the urge to roll her eyes. After all she could not expect Helen to fully comprehend the ramifications of her mother's actions. "She is a cold heartless bitch… Nothing is good enough for her… And if her children fail they are not allowed to call her mother…"

"What could possible be so bad that she would disown her own child?" Helen persisted and made Nikki inwardly groan in frustration. Normally Nikki would not have any second thoughts to reveal her reason for leaving home, but somehow Helen made her nervous. However, she did not want to show it so she steeled herself when speaking.

"Well… for one thing… Having a lesbian daughter did not fit into her perfect little world…"

"What?" Helen said not quite comprehending what had been said.

"Helen… I'm lesbian…" Nikki said quietly, and when seeing Helen's facial expression. "Does it disturb you?" Nikki was completely unable to determine exactly what Helen had been thinking at the revelation as several emotions had quickly passed by before she had managed to give herself at totally impassive expression as she said in an oddly controlled voice

"No… no, of course not… Just a bit surprised…."

They had finished their meal while talking. Nikki had explained how devastated Thomas had been by the coldness and dismissive behaviour that his mother had showed towards him. His half-brother, David Nikki's brother, had been even less welcoming than his mother. He had proved to be a disturbingly arrogant imitation of his mother, much to Thomas's disappointment. After some years he had been able to track down Nikki and a strong bond between the two 'outcasts' had developed. He had also finally made peace with his father.

Silence had settled on the two women as they sipped the remains of the wine. The thunderstorm outside the lighthouse was raging and the waves clashing with the cliffs sounded unnaturally close. The fire was sending a warm light into the room making it look cosy.

Nikki kept looking at Helen with interest. There was definitely something about the woman that intrigued her. She also knew that the woman was troubled by something, and again she had the feeling that it was not only because of Thomas and their recent problems. She gathered her courage and swallowed before speaking in a cool even voice.

"So… Why did you really come here? Because as I said earlier today… I don't think it is really about Thomas at all…"

"I… err… of course it was … It is because of Thomas…" Helen started a little too quickly, stumbling over the words.

"I don't think so…" Nikki said calmly and tried with the direct approach. "Why don't you admit that it is more about yourself?"

"What exactly do you mean?" Helen said trying to hide the alarm colouring her voice.

"I can see it in your eyes… in your whole posture… You are hiding something of yourself deep within… Some big dark secret?" Nikki quirked an eyebrow and took another swig of her wine. The expressions that crossed Helen's face were those of profound horror and plain panic. Nikki's comment had been a little too close to the truth. Though Helen managed to compose herself remarkably fast letting her business mask slam down leaving her face totally unreadable, it had not gone unnoticed by Nikki, who instinctively recognized the woman's fears and remembered how they had been rooted in herself about twenty years ago.

"I don't know what you are talking about…" Helen said in an icily voice. The tension was palpable as Helen's eyes narrowed dangerously showing flaring anger. Her temper had suddenly gotten the better of her. She was definitely not going to reveal anything personal to this woman, even though she was oddly familiar to Helen. She felt connected with her in some way, but her fear and stubbornness prevented her from admitting her own need for confiding in this woman, who looked back on her with intense brown eyes that seemed to be able to see right through her. And just to confirm her suspicion of that Helen heard that low, dark voice saying.

"Oh, but I think you do…" Nikki paused slightly while assessing Helen's reaction before continuing. "Just too afraid to admit it…"

"To admit what?" There was an almost imperceptible edge to Helen's voice, the Scottish accent colouring the words revealing her nervousness.

"To admit what you really want a woman…" Nikki stated plainly and without any hint of emotion.

The time seemed to stop. Helen was too stunned for a moment to speak. Her head was spinning, she had stopped breathing and she felt her mouth go dry. Her heat was beating unnaturally fast, as the words sank into her consciousness. She mentally made an exertion to get her mind working and snapped out of her state of being paralyzed as she spat.

"You are all wrong!"

"Am I? I don't think so…" Nikki's voice was cold and even, but her eyes were burning dangerously behind her long eyelashes as she once more pinned Helen with her dark gaze, that seemed to hide so much passion and also compassion.

"You don't know anything about me at all!" Every word came out of Helen with a ferocity that took Nikki by surprise, even though she did not let it show.

"Why don't you tell me what it is about then?" she said barely containing her own annoyance and anger. "Please, enlighten a stupid woman…"

"You know… you make me so angry… You are an infuriating woman." Helen had started to pace the floor in front of the window behind the couch. She walked briskly around flapping her arms in an odd exaggerated impersonation of despairing gestures.

"At least that is a feeling I always seem to be able to evoke in people…" Nikki shot back. She had gotten out of the couch too and was standing beside it. It was impossible for her to keep seated, when Helen was moving around. It unnerved her and made her feel restless herself.

"Even though you are not willing to admit it, I know what I can see in your eyes…" Nikki had finally lost her composure and gave into it. "Why don't you just stick your tongue down my throat and kiss me?"

"You just don't get it, Nikki," Helen shot back as she stopped abruptly, facing Nikki. "I'm not interested in women… not in that way…"

"Yeah, right… Try again…" Nikki rolled her eyes in exasperation. Nikki took a couple of steps, which brought her within a few inches from Helen. Staring down in her face twisted in a mixture of anger and fear. "You are just too bloody scared to face the truth… To scared to give up your control… You're an ice-queen sitting there in your ivory tower, never approaching the common people… Think you know all about other people… Get off your high horse, will you…" she finally growled as she stood

"I don't have to put up with this…" Helen's temper got the better of her and she spat vehemently. "What the Hell gives you the right to judge me like that? You don't even know me…"

"You wanted the truth, but you don't seem to be able to handle it…" Nikki shot back with an even amount of ferocity, all intents of being careful and composed forgotten. "You have forgotten how to love… if you ever had known the meaning of the word in the first place… You are too bloody stubborn, cold and rigid…"

"What is all this about?" Helen had managed to get her temper under control as well as her voice, unlike Nikki that kept reacting on an emotional level.

"You wanna know what this really about? Well, it's about this…" with that Nikki grabbed Helen's hand and put it on her own right breast, pressing it against the soft flesh, as Helen struggled to snatch it away. But she was unable to do so, since Nikki was much stronger, leaving her to verbally chastise Nikki for her actions.

"Jesus! What are you doing?" Helen finally managed to get out of Nikki's strong grip. They stood nose to nose breathing heavily from their physical interaction while starring into each others eyes.

Suddenly Nikki averted her eyes and took a step backward. All the fight had gone out of her. She seemed to mentally shake her head and some realisation came into her eyes. She had lashed out on Helen because of her own frustrations, fuelled both by Helen's denial and her presence. Nikki realised that Helen had stirred some long forgotten feelings in her, and she did not really feel ready to face them, but now Pandora's box had been opened, and it was too late to take anything back or act differently.

Helen was left standing very confused contemplating what had just happened. It finally dawned on her why she had been so strongly drawn to Nikki. It was a very frightening realization for her and she had to approach the situation slowly to get her head around to it. Something fundamental had happened and a process had started within her. Not that it was to be a very pleasant one, nor did she think it would be something that she should look forward to, but it was inevitable.

Chapter 4

Helen shivered as the cold of the night crept in on her despite of the two thick duvets that Nikki had given her. The darkness surrounded her like a velvet blanket and the quietness of the night was unusual for her and made her restless. She was used to the sound of the city and found the small noises from the nature unsettling. It prevented her from sleeping, or maybe it was not the noises, but the thoughts invading her mind that kept her awake and alert to her inner turmoil.

Her interaction with Nikki during the day and especially in the evening had been very disturbing in a way she had not expected. She had come to this woman in order to tell her to stay away from Thomas and out of their life, but the more time she had spent in her company the more she felt connected to her in a way that had taken her with complete surprise. She was suddenly startled by a strange squeaking noise. Helen stiffened and tried to look through the thick darkness. When she turned around her eyes finally noticed a dark form in the dim light from the moon stepping into the room.

Nikki had tossed and turned in her bed, also totally unable to sleep. Her mind could not relax as her thoughts kept returning to her conversation with Helen. Wonderful images of her beautiful eyes and lips invaded her mind and made Nikki sighed deeply. For a brief moment she allowed herself to dream a little about the petit Scottish woman, who had captured her soul. Something else kept her awake too, something far more earthly and palpable: She was hungry. Even though she had eaten plenty of the dinner she still felt a bit queasy and in dire need of some food, since she had a fast metabolism. She knew there was still some food left from dinner, but it was in the living room on the coffee table next to the sofa, where Helen was sleeping. Nikki was not very intent on waking Helen, just because of some food, but her stomach was screaming and she knew that it would be impossible for her to even think about sleeping, unless she could sate her hunger. Finally she made her decision and carefully slipped out of bed and went quietly into the living room. The darkness prevented her from seeing anything and as her foot got caught in the rug behind the couch she cursed under her breath.

"What are you doing?"

Nikki jumped at the sound of Helen's voice and almost stumbled over a chair hitting her knee on the coffee table in the process of regaining her balance, an oath of profane nature escaping her lips at the pain inflicted by the impact.

"Gees, Helen, you scared me! Don't sneak up on people like that," she said with agitation while rubbing her sore knee in an attempt to ease the pain and her heart was still beating hard in her chest as the adrenaline rushed through her body.

"Sorry… I was just wondering what you were doing wandering around in the dark late at night?" Helen had turned on the lamp next to the couch and looked truly sorry, which made her rather adorable in Nikki's opinion, a thought she quickly discarded as she replied in an even tone with a slight hint of mockery.

"It's not that late… Anyway, I was just looking for some of the food…."

"Food? At this time of the night?" Helen's eye widened in surprise and a hint of amusement coloured her voice.

"Yeah… never heard of a night-snack?" Nikki looked back at Helen with mock resentment.

"Sure…. But… Err… Oh, never mind…"

It seemed to Nikki that Helen was about to say some more, but had stopped herself. However, that did not really concern her at the moment as she dug into the food to sate her hunger. She chewed happily on the remains of the chicken and vegetables, but then noticed the puzzled look on Helen's face.

"You want some too?"

"No… no thank you…" Helen said and shook her head. "But you just help yourself…"

The only sound in the room was the fork scraping over the plate as Nikki continued her nocturnal meal. The silence between them was a bit uneasy and awkward. They both felt like they had to say something, but nothing was said. Helen unconsciously fiddled with the selvage of the duvet as she tried to clear her mind. There were so many things she wanted to know about this mysterious woman, who seemed so at ease with herself. Then the reminder of Nikki's name invaded her thoughts and it seeming familiar to Helen, but she could not put her finger on why.

At least that was a place to start, she thought to herself.

"Err… Your name… it seems familiar…" Helen said hesitantly. Her comment made Nikki stop eating, the fork halfway into her mouth. She slowly put the plate down on the table. Suddenly she was not feeling all that hungry. Even though Nikki knew Helen was a lawyer and probably knew about her case, she somehow felt discouraged that Helen might judge her like everybody else did. She carefully wiped her mouth and collected her thoughts before speaking.

"How come?"

Helen hesitated briefly before finding her voice and saying: "My friend, Claire, is a lawyer too… And I seem to remember her talking once about a case with a woman called Wade…"

"What case was that?" Nikki asked evenly, though the inside of her started to crumple. She pushed the plate back on the table and looked squarely at Helen.

"I can't really recall…" Helen was not looking at Nikki, but seemed to be thinking very hard at something as she frowned. "You see… it was during a difficult time… I had a bit of a rough time…" She spoke more to herself than to Nikki and seemed to reach for something inside her mind and heart. Finally she looked up and smiled at bit ruefully. "I am ashamed to admit that I didn't pay much, if any attention to her stories or her life at the time…"

Nikki just nodded in silent acknowledgement and smiled to herself as she saw Helen furrowed her eyebrows even more and pursed her lips in dismay and possible deep concentration on what she was trying to remember.

Damn, she looks so cute when she does that, Nikki thought for a brief moment forgetting their grave conversation.

"However… since she was and is working with criminal law…. It must have been one of her first big cases…" Helen finally concluded and smiled more relaxed at Nikki, who smiled back marvelling at the warmth radiating from Helen at the mention of her friend. Nikki secretly envied that friend, but suddenly a shadow settled over Helen's face and made her look quite pale. Nikki quickly tried to think of a question to distract her with, since she knew what Helen had realised. Why she wanted to distract her was not quite clear to Nikki, as the truth would eventually be revealed, whether she liked it or not.

"Does your friend have a last name?" she asked with what she hoped sounded like true curiosity.

"Yes… as a matter of fact she has…. It's Walker," Helen said and glanced back at Nikki with an intense stare.

"Oh…." Nikki looked pensively.

"Do you know her?" Though Helen somehow already knew the answer to that question, but she wanted to hear it spoken out loud from the woman sitting beside her on the couch. She needed to know everything about her in order to reach in behind the mask of aloofness, cool superiority and obstinacy behaviour that quite frankly annoyed the Hell out of her.

"I guess… I might as well tell you the whole truth…" Nikki said after what seemed an eternity of silence, where only the sound from the sea was heard. "Claire Walker became my lawyer at some point…"

"I see…" Helen answered quietly.

"Do you?" Nikki lifted a brow slightly, but quickly decided to let it go. She then continued with slight hesitation.

"Maybe I should just start from the beginning…" She took a deep breath and sighed while trying to sort out the chaos of her thoughts. She was intending on being honest, but at the same time she wanted to cut her story short. Too many irrelevant details would only disrupt her efforts to make Helen understand her. And she badly wanted Helen to understand it all. She finally seemed to have gathered herself enough to start her story.

"As you know, I'm a lesbian… My girlfriend, Trish, and I ran a nightclub in London… as a matter of fact a rather successful nightclub… We had bought a house and new cars… Everything seemed to be going just fine and very smoothly… It all seemed too good to last… And it didn't…" she paused briefly contemplating her next sentence. "We were harassed… in every possible way… by a police officer no less... He had his eyes set on my girl friend…" her voice had grown lower and a bit husky for every word she spoke. "One evening when I came by the night-club to pick her up after a late night, I couldn't find her any where... I suddenly heard some commotion coming from the main floor in the club and I heard a scream… I was terrified and ran instinctively towards the sound… I found the bastard attempting to rape her," she choked a sob and her eyes were misted with tears as she recalled the dreadful night. After a few moments she had composed herself and continued in a low, but even voice. "I don't know what happened, but something snapped in my head. I launched myself at him in blind rage and pushed him of her. It only made him angrier and he turned against me. I grabbed a bottle that had been left on the counter and smashed it over his head as he attacked me. The bottle broke, but it didn't stop him and when he took another go at me, I stuck what was left of the bottle in his neck. He just stared at me in disbelief with that silly grin plastered all over his face…" she turned slowly towards Helen in order to gauge her reaction to the story, but there was no visible reaction on Helen's face. She looked back on Nikki without repulsion or contempt. Only a hint of compassion shaded her otherwise even green-grey eyes.

As Nikki looked directly into those beautiful eyes she said: "I was convicted for murder… and imprisoned for life…"

There was still no reaction, no judgemental looks, no flinching at the blunt statement. Nikki was surprised by the lack of responsiveness in Helen. Normally most people would have got up and fled miles away long before she could even tell them of the outcome of her time in prison. But this amazing woman just sat there looking back on her with what could possible be described as warmth and understanding,

She is not disgusted with me… How can it be? Nikki thought with sudden uncertainty and bewilderment. Her normally cool demeanour had been shattered by Helen's surprising calmness.

However, Nikki was not aware of the turmoil inside Helen. Against her will she felt her heart reach out to Nikki, and what surprised her even more was her complete understanding of her actions and even perhaps a certain amount of regret that she had never loved anyone enough to defend them in that way. Nikki had protected someone she loved and paid a very high price for her actions. She had paid with her freedom; something that must have been very traumatic on someone who clearly loved her freedom, not only in a physical sense, but also spiritually. It added a whole new dimension to her as a person, especially a person that Helen felt herself irresistible drawn towards with a force that could not be explained in a normal, logical way. She tried desperately to ignore the mounting feelings of connectivity with this enigmatical woman, who she felt was so open and readable to her.

Why would she be so frank and honest with me? I'm a stranger to her, yet I can read her mind like a book, Helen thought puzzled, then with increased unease. I wonder if I'm as transparent to her, as she is to me. That thought made her shiver lightly. Helen then shifted her attention to a very natural question based upon Nikki's previous saying.

"But you are out here now?" It was more a statement than a question, though Nikki recognized it as an invitation to elaborate her story.

"I spent four years in prison. A living Hell… You would probably not believe even half of the stories I could tell… Helen, prison is a terrible place. There are male officers employed at female residential wings; corrupt male guards, who abuse vulnerable women, just to satisfy their own pleasure and need for power. There beatings, drug searches that leaves you without dignity, hatred and jealousy among the inmates which can cost you your life, if you are not careful. But there are also friendships and friends that stand by you when no one else does. I was inspired by one of the other women, who actually got out on appeal… So I asked Thomas to help me find a lawyer who would be willing to take on my hopeless case… He came up with this bright new lawyer he had once worked with… A young rising star… Claire Walker… She helped me formulate the appeal and with the help of the barrister Marion McLoughlin she got me out too… The sentence was changed to Manslaughter and with the time I had already served, I could leave the court as a free woman."

A bit stunned, but nevertheless pleased for Nikki, Helen nodded and smiled genuinely with an expression of what seemed like joy on her face. Her eyes sparkled in the dim light and lit a sudden fire within Nikki.

Once again there was a moment of silence between them, nothing awkward just a silent enjoyment of the lingering warmth from the fireplace. And a recognition of the impact that life in prison had made on Nikki.

Then the inevitable question came, not out of the blue, but certainly with enough suddenness to shatter the cosy atmosphere and chill the room.

"What about your girlfriend?"

Dark shadows covered Nikki's face and made her look like she was going into a blind rage. It made Helen deeply regret she had ever asked, but the question had come out of her mouth before she could stop it.

Nikki visibly struggled to compose herself, and after a while she had enough control of her emotions to be able to answer Helen in what sounded like a very strained voice.

"My so-called girlfriend cheated on me… while I was in prison…"

Helen was dumbstruck. She just stared at Nikki not able to understand what she had just said. Normally she would have said something like 'Oh, I'm so sorry…', but instinctively she knew that would not go down well with Nikki. In fact it would probably set her off, and Helen had no interest in alienate Nikki at this particular vulnerable moment. So she just kept silent.

How could that woman cheat on someone who had protected her and given up her freedom for her? She thought, mentally shaking her head in exasperation.

"Two bloody years in there and then she dumped me… Just like that… Said she had found someone else… It was hurting… It is still hurting…" Nikki's voice had dropped several notches and was vibrating dangerously. Her dark brown eyes seemed even darker and they were a bit glazed making them look like burning fire. Nikki turned to Helen and laughed humourless and with a coldness that sent chill shivers through Helen.

"But you know, what was the most stupid thing about it all? I actually told her I found someone myself inside the prison… Just to make things easier on her… Why did I do that?" She laughed tonelessly again and was shaking her head as she quickly continued. "Monica, one of my friends inside and the one who inspired me to appeal, told me: 'I believe it is called love…' What we won't do for love, eh?"

Helen did not know whether she should respond or not. She reckoned it was rhetorical question, so she kept silent wondering what Nikki was going to say next. She still had a hard time understanding the concept of loving someone so dearly that one would be able to give them up for their own best and to sacrifice ones own happiness for them. She was not sure, that she would ever be able to do that for anyone, not even Thomas. She was pulled from her musings when Nikki spoke again.

"But I survived… No thanks to her, but to all my friends inside… They looked out for me and taught me how to deal with life, both inside the physical prison and the more personal prison of my mind …" She stopped briefly and took a deep breath before continuing.

"After the appeal I just wanted to get away form everything remotely connected with London and my previous life. So I came here to start a new life…"

"Have you never dated since Trish?" Helen suddenly asked.

Why did I just ask her that? She wondered.

Nikki looked quite taken a back too, but quickly composed herself and just shrugged her shoulders.

"Occasionally… Nothing too serious though…"

"Don't you ever miss something?" Helen asked as much herself as Nikki.

Now where did that come from? Nikki thought bemused, but she had enough presence to reverse the question with a precise backhand and a raised eyebrow.

"Do you?"

Helen did not answer, but just sat looking directly into Nikki's eyes. Her gaze darkened, and she carefully controlled her breath, that was about to become too erratic and laboured. Unconsciously Nikki licked her dry lips unable to tare her own gaze away from Helen's eyes.

They were drawn towards each other with a force of nature that none of them could fully comprehend. It was an inevitable conclusion to the instant and undeniable attraction they felt for each other. An emotional bond developing over such short time, yet with a profound uniqueness not encountered before mixed with a strong physical need that was scaring, but also impossible to withstand. They could not deny it anymore, nor were they inclined to do so; at least not for this specific night. They simply had to indulge the passion and to extinguish the flames of desire, even if it was going to hurt them in the subsequent process of getting on with their lives. This was their one and only chance, a whole night without thinking of tomorrow.

The silence was an unspoken agreement of truce. The verbal fights had been strenuous, though they had not been arguing all the time. The almost tangible tension that had lingered between them indicating something more profound than the superficial disagreement was indeed making it hard for them to remain calm and rational.

They were sitting side by side on the large couch. The only sound was their breathing that sounded unnaturally loud, though the thunderstorm outside was still lingering over the island. Unknown how, they had both turned around facing each other, both looking intensely into the other woman's face as to gauge her expression and thereby interpret her mood and feelings. Though it was dark the sparse yellowish light shining from the lamp beside the couch was enough for them to see the outlines of their faces.

Again Nikki looked into the sparkling green-grey eyes that were wide in some kind of astonishment. The pupils were dilated leaving only a narrow band of the green-grey iris. Helen's full lips were slightly parted in a silent plea and her breathing rate had increased perceptible. Something resembling a small incoherent whimper was the last thing Nikki heard before all conscious thoughts left her and she acted only out of instinct as she closed the space between them leaning forward and capturing those beautiful, inviting lips with her own. She marvelled at their heated softness and carefully she nipped delicately along the outline of the mouth, not forcing anything. She was actually a bit surprised when Helen deepened the kiss with a fierce passion urging Nikki's lips apart and slipping her tongue into the welcoming warmth.

It's like coming home, she thought before loosing herself completely in the soft battle between their tongues.

Hands were unconsciously roaming over heated bodies tugging at the restricting clothes. Nikki's hands trembled as she tried to unbutton Helen's pyjamas jacket, fingers brushing impatiently over the satin material caressing soft full breasts in the process. Helen drew a sharp intake of breath when the slender fingers reached her nipples that hardened immediately, almost bringing her pain, but oh what sweet pain. She gasped again as the warm hand cupped her left breast squeezing it carefully. The touch was firm, yet filled with tenderness and very pleasant. It evoked something quite unexpected inside her.

Their lips continued the lingering kisses, taking in the sweetness of the moment. The intoxicating fragrance of their mingled arousal urged them on with a feverish hurriedness in order to feel each other completely, yet their touches were tender and loving. Their movements together seemed natural and easy, like they had known each other for a long time. Hands were fondling heat and wetness with a growing need, but with careful fingers dancing over sensitive flesh, even penetrating the final barriers with no more conscious restraints, only a sensory experience heightened in each by their respective knowledge of the love for the other woman.

Finally Helen felt herself fall into her body's almost violent contractions of desire urged on by Nikki's husky voice demanding in soft tones:

"Come on, let go… For me…"

Helen did not understand what was happening, but at this very moment she did not care. All she could do was surrender to her feelings and to the overpowering sensations running wild through her body and soul beyond her control. She did not even care about it as she let herself indulge in the strong almost primitive instincts that guided her through the sophisticated and sensual actions and reactions to this woman. Nothing had ever prepared her for the incredible encounter that left her more vulnerable than ever with all emotions and nerve endings exposed and raw.

It hit her with a force that left her in a state of shock and panic.

I am in love with her!

Simple, yet so very complicated in more ways that she could imagine. But there was nothing she could do about the feelings that surfaced in her mind. But it was impossible for her to acknowledge it; least at all to the woman she had come to love. Before she could think much more about her revelation, she succumbed to the drowsiness and fell into the merciful darkness of sleep.

Chapter 5

With daylight comes clarity, not that it is always a good thing, but it is inevitable what happens. The magic of the encounter in the night had been broken by the first rays of sunlight. The dreamlike nature of the interaction between the two women had been weaved beautifully into the fogs and shadows of the night, but in the bright morning light, things looked quite different and much more frightening.

Helen woke with a jolt. A wonderful dream had made her sleep well for the first time in months, but something about it had woken her. She blinked sleepily at the sunlight coming from the window, and she was utterly confused of her whereabouts. She did not recognize the room, nor could she remember how she had gotten there. She stretched under the duvet and to her horror she discovered she was totally naked. Then she caught hold of a familiar scent mixed with another strange, but definitely not unpleasant scent.

Oh, my God… What have I done? Helen thought miserably, as her heart skipped several beats and her breath caught in her throat. Sheer panic was rising fast within her, slicing her like knifes of ice, and frantically she tried to organize her thoughts and stop the emerging chaos of emotions that were running wild in her mind.

She pulled the duvet up and around herself in a protective way, while resting her head in one hand, she felt cold sweat break on her forehead. This could not have happened. It should not have happened, she corrected herself fiercely. Yet she knew she had all too willingly yielded to her needs and participated very actively in the consummation of the demands of her soul and body. However, that did not make her feel any better at all. In fact it made her feel more sad and regretful than anything else. Helen knew she was going to hurt someone she had come to love deeply. Not that she wanted to do so, but there could be no other way. She could think of no alternative if she was to keep her sanity and integrity as the person whom she had struggled so hard to become.

Helen suddenly felt numb, both physical and mentally. She was still confused, but had a certain sense of purpose. She knew what she had to do. She was just not sure, if she could manage to do so without losing herself in the process. She had to engage in a very unpleasant task.

Somehow she was very grateful that the bed was empty beside her. She was not sure she would have been able to face Nikki this particular morning. She listened carefully for any sounds and finally reckoned that Nikki was in the kitchen, at least judging by the odd noises coming from it.

Helen slipped from the tangled sheets and found a robe at the end of the bed. She put it over her naked form and started to search for her clothes. She found it on a chair by a door leading to the bathroom. She was immensely happy that she could have a shower and clean up before facing Nikki. The unmistakable scent of their nightly encounter lingered heavily on her skin. Helen did not mind the scent it self, but she had a very difficult time facing what it reminded her about, especially with what she had to do in the back of her mind.

Moments later she stepped into the shower and let the warm water wash away her predicament. It also washed away the proofs of her being loved unconditionally and she herself returning that love. Helen did not notice the silent tears that mingled with the water and slipped over her cheek, as she rested her hands against the cold tiles. All she could focus on was the pain in her chest. She could not afford to give in, so she had to hide the pain deep inside and hurry out of there to hide on her own, where she would then be able to grief freely.

After a while she composed herself with difficulty and stepped out of the shower to get dressed. Helen emerged from the bathroom her hair a bit damp, but otherwise she looked remarkable cool and in control. Only a slight narrow red rim around each of her eyes told the story of distress within her. All she really wanted was to sneak out of the front door and head for the harbour, but she knew she had to face Nikki, to say goodbye and to have just one more look at her before she would be gone for ever.

So Helen headed for the kitchen. Nikki was turned half away from her when she entered. Helen stopped and took in the appearance of Nikki. She was wearing faded blue jeans, a white t-shirt and a loose hanging white shirt. She looked absolutely adorable and completely loveable. Helen felt tears welling in her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away.

"So you're up," Nikki stated without turning around. She continued to pour water into the coffee-machine. "Want some breakfast?"

Surprised by Nikki's indifferent tone and non-committed behaviour Helen just stared at Nikki's back. When she did no answer, Nikki finally turned around to face her. For a very brief moment Helen saw the truth in her eyes before the cold and controlled expression slammed back on her face. Helen acknowledged what Nikki was doing, and decided to play along. It seemed to be the best thing she could do at the moment.

"Err… yes please…" somehow Helen had managed to get her voice back and even to say something vaguely intelligent. She slipped onto the chair at the table in the middle of the kitchen and fingered nervously with the lapel at her jacket. Nikki took a mug, plate and cutlery and placed it in front of Helen as well as on the other side of the table, obviously for herself. She turned her attention back to the eggs and bacon on the frying pan. She worked in silence and Helen was acutely aware of the subtle changes between them. This silence was definitely awkward and things were strained between them in another way than the day before. There was an uncertainty and insecurity merged into every interaction between them. Not at all what had proceeded the previous night, but now things were different. Nikki returned to the table with a full English breakfast and steaming hot coffee. They finished their breakfast quietly even though none of them were really all that hungry. Afterwards they cleared the table together. At one point they almost collided when walking to and forth the sink with their empty plates. To prevent themselves from falling over they had to grab a hold on each other's arms. For a brief moment they both stared into the eyes of the other woman paralysed by the apparent electricity of the mutual gaze. However, the spell was broken as the telephone rang. A bit breathlessly and with profound regret they straightened themselves, mumbling some awkward apologises and Nikki hurried out in the hallway to answer the phone.

Helen felt her legs shaking as she steadied herself by grabbing hold of the kitchen table. She felt her head spin and feared that she was going to faint. Somehow she managed to stay on her feet, and only all her Scottish stubbornness kept her from giving into the sensations that washed over her. She could her Nikki speaking in a very low voice, but was unable to catch the meaning of her words. Nor did she actually care about what was said. She just wished she could escape from… From what? From herself? From Nikki? She did not know, but she knew Nikki filling up the entrance hall cut her route of escape short. All Helen could do was staying in the kitchen dreading Nikki's return.

Eventually Nikki did return to the kitchen shortly after with a deep frown covering her entire face making her look older and more grave than anything else. Something definitely bothered her, but she did not say anything. For a long time she just stared intensely at Helen, who felt unnerved by the expression in the dark and sad eyes. She could not figure out what was going on, but she had a foreboding feeling that she was about to find out.

"It was Thomas…" Nikki finally said in a rather emotionless voice, not diverting her eyes from Helen.

Helen was totally lost for words, and she felt the blood drain from her face. Her skin got a ghostly pale colour and looked like she was going to faint. She wondered why he had called Nikki. She had left no indication what so ever of her visit, nor should he actually have any reason for looking for her, since he was supposed to be at that conference in Paris for a whole week. Then it hit her, that he could simply have called Nikki, just because she was his sister. It was not even likely that he had spoken of Helen at all. Yet, Nikki seemed very disturbed by the sudden phone call. What had he said to her? Her instinct to protect Nikki suddenly rose fiercely, though she did not know from what she was supposed to protect her. Also a surprising feeling of jealousy and possessiveness swept through her body before she could stop herself. However, she was not jealous of Nikki, but of Thomas who suddenly seemed to have the right to interact with the one person Helen could not have. She wanted to have that right to possess Nikki's attention and love and she envied Thomas for having it. Yet she had no claim what so ever since she herself had given up that right by turning away from the love offered to her. It was her decision and no she had to stand by it.

Helen managed to regain control with an effort, and she swallowed hard before she spoke in a strangely detached and raspy voice:

"I have to go… I'm sorry, Nikki…"

For a very long moment Nikki just stared blankly back at Helen not really comprehending what she was saying. Suddenly her eyes focused and started to sparkle dangerously as they grew darker. Nikki narrowed them and her gaze seemed to burn into Helen's soul. Helen felt herself grow weaker, like those dark eyes were drawing all energy from her body. But it was the tone of the voice that almost shattered her resolve totally.

"What did you say?"

"I said… I am sorry… I have to…" Helen stammered in bewilderment.

"Go... That's just it, isn't it?" Nikki interrupted her vehemently. She took a step towards Helen, who involuntarily backed one step backwards. Nikki stopped and stared angrily at Helen. She felt tears threatening to fall, but she blinked fiercely and swallowed the lump in her throat-

"You don't understand," Helen said tentatively. She desperately wanted to convey what she was going through to the woman who seemed to understand her so well only yesterday. But now it all seemed so impossible and totally futile to try and talk sense into her thick skull.

"What do you expect me to say?" Nikki glared at Helen. "That I understand why you are running away? That it is just ok to have a bit on the side, even when you are married to my brother, and that it is ok, that I am that bit of fun? Then you can compare us and mock us." Nikki was very angry, most of all at herself for falling into the entrapment that this devious woman had set up for her to undermined every bit of good that had ever happened to her.

"But I need you to understand…" Helen tried desperately not to show her anger, but it was difficult as she felt it bobble just beneath the surface of business attitude. But before she could continue her explanation she was abruptly interrupted by another angry outburst.

"Oh, but I do understand, Helen… I understand that you are too damn scared of yourself to stay and face the truth…"

"I need to go back…. I need to maintain my family and my job…. I have obligations that you obviously don't have… I need to move on with my life… because there is no way we can have a relationship…" Helen was exasperated. Nothing seemed to get through to this pig-headed woman. Before she could say anything further Nikki cut her off again.

"But that's just it… It's always about what you need… What about what Thomas needs? What about what I need?"

"I… It's just… I can't… I… " Helen stammered, words suddenly eluded her as her ability to speak seemed to have vanished right along with her capability to think in a intelligent way. All the anger inside her had evaporated as well and she felt utterly helpless and vulnerable. She had grown increasingly pale and was not entirely sure that she would be able to stay on her feet. Again she was caught in what seemed like a vacuum where time stood still. But this time it was an unpleasant experience, something that she would not wish for her worst enemy. She was dragged back to the present by a quiet emotionless and detached, yet strangely comforting and familiar voice.

"I believed… I just thought… After last night…that I might have broken through to the woman hiding inside that cold shell of yours… I thought there was more to you than what met the eye… But apparently I was wrong… Maybe it's because there is nothing else than the shell left of you anymore… "

The words were designed to hurt, and they did. But Nikki was beyond caring. The woman she loved had thrown their chance of love away, and by doing so she had destroyed any possibility of happiness for Nikki. Though it was utterly insane to have fallen in love so quickly and so completely, that was exactly what had happened, and though it seemed quite futile to convince the stubborn Scottish woman to put her fears away and see the truth Nikki was determined to try one last thing, when she saw the blood drain from Helen's face and sensed that she might loose her composure.

"Look into my eyes and tell me you don't feel anything for me at all, and I will believe you…" The desperation in Nikki's voice was evident, even to herself. But it was not a time for feeling self-conscious. More was at stake, possible her whole chance of happiness and what was more her unity with her soul mate. Nikki waited, looking pleadingly at Helen, trying to convey all her emotions and love in this one look.

Helen looked into Nikki's dark eyes her lips moving, but the words refused to come and be spoken out loud. She could not deny her feelings, but neither was she ready to admit them openly. She simply could not, no matter what the woman in front of her would ask of her. It racked her soul and made her feel like suffocating. How could she have allowed herself to open for this can of worms? She had to get past these unexpected turns of events. She had to be strong, though she did not know how she could possible manage that, but she had to at any cost. She knew it was going to hurt, not only herself but also this woman, who had managed to get inside her in a way that no one else had ever been able to. For a short moment during the night she had been totally filled with a love so profound that it had scared her. And now she was about to reject that love and deny the effects of it

Helen slowly turned around and walked out of the door, not looking back once. She could not look back, because if she did, she would not be able to leave. So forcing herself to look straight ahead and walking away was the hardest thing she had ever done. She felt Nikki's eyes burn into her back and knew with certainty that just one look from those smouldering eyes would make her resolve crumple all too easily and make her give in to her all consuming craving for the woman. But she could not afford to do so, and she had made up her mind not to look back. As stubborn as she was she walked away in brisk paces, but as soon as she was out of sight from the lighthouse she slowed down and allowed herself a brief moment of profound regret, letting the tears fall freely as her legs carried her further away from the place where she had left her heart. She made herself reasonable presentable before reaching the small harbour and she looked remarkably cool and composed, but inside she was a broken woman, who would never be the same again. The short moment in time, taken out of the context, with this special woman had changed her forever, and there was no going back to what had been before.

Nikki had watched the pain in Helen's eyes, but she was unable to react beyond feeling her own pain that was shattering her heart in a million pieces. For a very brief moment she had experienced the perfect love, fulfilment and total completeness only to have it snatched away with a devastating force against which she had no defence. She had lost control and she had lost herself to this woman, who had waltzed into her life and left it again not looking back even once. How was it possible to fall in love so quickly and so totally with such an infuriating stubborn and reckless woman? Nikki had no answers only more questions that would never be resolved. She hated her for making her weak, and yet she loved her for her compassion and as the door closed behind Helen, Nikki stood paralysed and numb in the hallway not able to comprehend what had just happened. She just stood there for what seemed like an eternity, before the cracks in her composure slowly began to expand making her body shutter violently as she buckled over and crumpled on the cold floor not even conscious of the animalistic cry of pain that escaped her lips. As she rolled into a foetal position the tears flowed all too freely down her cheeks she sobbed helplessly and unable to hold anything back, while her heart shattered into a thousand sharp pieces leaving her with a tangible, physical pain in her chest.

Back on the main land in Weymouth Helen went from the ferry to the parking lot to find her car. She fumbled with the car keys as she tried to unlock the door, because her hands had started to shake uncontrollable. In fact her whole body was shaking and she felt faint. She managed to turn around before she became violently sick. After spilling her breakfast she climbed into her car feeling cold and weary. Sitting in front of the steering wheel she realized that she had thrown away something very precious, something that could not ever be replaced, but it was her choice and now she had to stick by it, even though it was slowly killing her from the inside. She started to sob uncontrollably, but no tears were coming. She wondered if it was possible to die from a broken heart. After what seemed like an eternity in her state of misery, she started the car and drove back to London. Back to her old life that held little appeal to her, but was the only thing she knew and could cope with.

The End…. Or the beginning

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