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Disclaimer:   First, this story is copyrighted to the author as of 4/22/99. This story is an uber story of sorts with characters resembling Xena and Gabrielle in personality only. If I've infringed on Xena and Gabrielle, then let me say that those two belong to MCA. However, Rowan and Jessie belong to me.

Sex/Violence:   There are two women falling in love in this story. And there is a good deal of violence, both of the domestic and street variety. Please be aware of this before reading the story. I don't want you reading if this is something that you can't handle. Also, foul language seems to prevalent as well. I just want everyone to be aware of what they're reading before they start. No surprises.

Feedback:   I'd like it. A lot. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please let me know what you think! E-mail me at


By GabTBard

Chapter 1-6   » Chapter 7-11  « Chapter 12-18 Chapter 19-24


Chapter Seven

The first thing Anne noticed noise: traffic, horns, and shouts of agitated drivers. Slowly she became more aware of her surroundings. The last thing she remembered was being held at gunpoint in the car with that awful man. From the pounding sensations coming from her head, she deduced that she'd been hit over the head.

"Nick, wadda we gonna do wid her?" A rough voice invaded Anne's attempt to take stock of her situation. She could tell by the odor of stale sweat and the lack of grammar that this was the same thug who'd taken her to the car.

"She's bait for a bigger catch." This time the voice was smoother, not smooth like good rum that burns down your throat, but smooth like a snake slithering on the ground before it attacks.

Suddenly, her closed eyes were assaulted with bright light as she felt something being removed from her face. One of her eyelids was forced open, the light in the room invading her darkness, making her squirm away from the obtrusive hand.

"So, you're awake?" The smooth voice was back. "Then we don't have to worry about whether or not Jimmy here hit you too hard." He gave a short cackle. Forcing her eyes open, it took Anne a full minute for her eyes to adjust to the sudden light, blinking in succession against the pain.

Trying to move her hands so that she could rub at her watering eyes, Anne realized for the first time that she couldn't; they were tied to the arms of the chair she was sitting in. Testing her feet, she found that they were also tied to the chair.

"Jimmy tied you tight––we don't want you trying to get away too soon." Again Anne was reminded of a serpentine creature, the slithery quality to the man's voice couldn't be described in any other way.

Finally able to focus, Anne looked at the man before her. She vaguely remembered seeing him in the bookstore before the other man had grabbed her. He somehow knew her daughter.

"You know," Nick spoke again, running his finger over Anne's check bone. "You are very attractive for an older woman." He studied her as her eyes turned to slits, glaring at him. "Yes, you've hardly got any wrinkles. I bet your precious daughter will age well too."

Refusing to be riled by his taunts, Anne looked straight ahead, jaw clenched. However, Nick refused to be detoured.

"Yes, I expect your daughter will be showing up at any time. She'll come searching for her mommy." Anne's eyes flickered and looked at the distorted face of the sneering man.

A knock on the door prevented Nick from continuing to torment Anne. "Nick, we've got company," yet another man announced.

Rubbing two hands together, Nick looked as though he was looking forward to a good meal. "That would be JB, good, good, let the games begin." Moving towards the door, Nick was caught off balance as a huge man stormed through the entrance.

"Who the hell..." Nick started but wasn't able to finish before a beefy hand swept out and took hold of his neck.

Not at all sure what was happening, Anne watched with wide eyes as another man came through the door. This particular man didn't have the slimy qualities Nick did. Graying hair and haphazard wrinkles around his eyes and mouth gave away his age. He seemed elegant, almost respectful. Puffing on a large cigar, he let his eyes rove the room, catching site of Anne and winking. With smooth strides, he walked to where Nick was being held. Nick's face was turning red as he gasped for breath. When he saw the older man, his eyes grew round, fear creeping in.

The older man stopped in front of Nick and with a nod of his head, indicated that the large man holding Nick should let him go. With a thump, Nick fell to the floor, gasping for breath.

"Ah, Nick, you didn't think I'd come here, did you?" The old man's voice was deep with age and years of smoking cigars. It rolled from his mouth, smooth and tasteful like someone who didn't mince words or use them for play.

"Don," Nick gasped out, still holding his throat. "I...I..." he didn't know what to say. He sure hadn't expected Don O'Connor to come waltzing through his door, it wasn't his style.

A benevolent smile appeared on Don's face. "Don't even try to apologize, it's too late for that now." With one hand, Don grabbed the back of Nick's shirt, pulling him up until he was standing on his feet. Moving till he stood in front of the trembling man, he looked directly into Nick's eyes, his mouth bent in a snarl. "You tried to cheat me, and for that I WILL hunt you down." Letting go of his shirt, he took out a handkerchief and wiped his hand on it, as though Nick's foul essence would transfer to him through touch. "I will let you say one thing in your defense. In this case, I am your judge and I will seek the fullest extent of OUR law." The government's law didn't apply to them, they had their own code of right, wrong, and punishment. "If I find you guilty, you will die."

Licking his lips, Nick's eyes darted around the room. If Don got this far into the building, he would have had to take out most of Nick's men. There's no way that they would have gotten through any other way. No one was going to be coming to rescue him. He'd have to talk his way out of this one.

"Don, I didn't know about it until after the fact. See, my men, they arranged it. It was just small business, so there was no need for me to get personally involved. I didn't know that they were buying the merchandise out from under your organization. The seller didn't make that clear, just said he had other interested parties." Clasping two hands together, he did something he'd never done in his life. He suddenly dropped down to his knees and begged. "Please Don, you gotta believe me, I didn't know, I wasn't aware of what was happening! By the time I found out it was too late to do anything!" He didn't mention that the Colombians they'd bought the drugs from let it slip that Don was thinking of starting a market in Chicago.

Pacing as he listened to Nick's pleas, Don stopped, looking down as he put his handkerchief away. "Nick, I believe you." Well, as much as one can believe a drug dealer. Pausing, he turned his back to Nick and walked to the door. Motioning to someone outside of the door, Don turned back. "But, they are your employees, and what they do reflects on you. They messed up, so you take the fall."

Yet another large man came through the door carrying a large case. Flipping the clasps on the case, the man lifted the lid and held it for Don's inspection. Turning, Don blocked Nick's view of what was in the case, but Anne had a perfect seat for the action. Don lifted a large gun from the case and began to screw on what Anne knew was a silencer. She'd watched too many movies with the same action, making everything she saw next feel like a dream sequence.

Nick's dark, murky eyes grew large in fear as he saw what Don was holding. Before he could blink or even raise a protest, Don aimed and squeezed. The bullet was ejected from the gun with a high pitched whistle, moving invisibly through the air, the only sign of impact was Nick's jerking body. Anne watched Nick, not realizing that Don had released another bullet from the barrel of his gun until she saw Nick's body being jerked the other way. In a sick fascination, she watched, unable to close her eyes or even turn her head away. Her stomach lurched as her mind registered what she was seeing.

After his body had been wrenched in one direction and then another, Nick sank slowly to the floor, his hands covering one of the wounds in his chest in an automatic gesture. Not that it would do any good, two hands alone couldn't stop the amount of blood pouring from the separate bullet entry points in his chest.

With precise movements, Don handed the gun to the large man behind him, once again pulling out his white handkerchief. As he wiped at his hands, he turned slowly till he faced Anne. A half grin appeared on his face, throwing Anne off.

"Sorry you had to see that, ma'am, but it had to be done." His voice without sarcasm, he seemed sincerely apologetic. Walking towards her chair with long strides, he easily made up the distance between them. Anne watched as he kneeled in front of her chair and found herself looking into amazingly hypnotic blue eyes. Mesmerized, she didn't even notice that he was untying her until her arms fell into her lap. "You will have to come with us, but I promise that we won't harm you."

Anne could only nod as she stared. It wasn't an attraction that made her stare, just the site of his eyes, drawing her deeply in. Later when she thought about it, it was hypnotic the way his eyes entranced her, forcing her to return his gaze.

Rising from his kneeling position, Don helped her up and then led her out of the room, his hand a constant pressure on her elbow.


Chapter Eight

She was dreaming of Jessie. In the dream she was standing in front of the taller woman, her eyes never leaving Jessie's. With precise movement, she saw herself step forward, moving closer to Jessie. She took in Jessie's full lips, open slightly. Following the lips, her vision moved to Jessie's strong chin, down a smooth long neck. An ache to put her lips to that neck, to suck on the soft skin, leaving marks, overwhelmed her. Restraint, desperate to finish her visual journey, prevented her from moving into action. Now she took in broad shoulders sloping gently to arms, upper chest forming two orbs in an easy continuation of her body's lines. Carefully, her eyes traveled over a smooth, flat stomach and low hips. A growing yearning grew in her as she continued her visual course, down Jessie's hips and strong thighs. Finally, after viewing Jessie's feet, she moved back up to Jessie's face. Hunger for the woman in front of her swelled through her body, settling between her legs, turning into a throbbing desire.

"Rowan? Rowan?" Her name was being called in a completely familiar voice, but the lips of the woman in front of her weren't moving.

"Rowan?" Again, her name was called, this time breaking her dream, dissipating the scene in her mind, and replacing it with black.

Awareness came as she awoke, slowly feeling the edges of her dream creeping away. Opening two heavy eyes, Rowan yawned.

"Woman, you are hard to wake up!" Jessie's voice held a note of teasing, barely hiding the tension. A warm flush came over Rowan has she remembered her dream, but luckily Jessie was too busy concentrating on the road in front of her.

A Madonna song was playing softly on the radio as Rowan registered why she wasn't in her own bed. Sitting up quickly, she rubbed at her eyes.

"Sorry, didn't mean to fall asleep."

Flashing a quick grin in Rowan's direction, Jessie focused again on the road. "Don't worry, it's probably good for you to rest up."

Various old buildings flashed by the car window. Rowan recognized that they were on I–70, on the outskirts of Chicago. "How much longer?"

"About 20 minutes. I wanted to make sure you had enough time to wake up before we got there."

Mouth opening in a large yawn, Rowan stretched her sore body. "Thanks," she replied.

"Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone..." Rowan started to sing along with the radio, rolling down the window before pulling a cigarette out of her pack on the dash board. Lighting it and inhaling deeply, she thought about her dream.

She had been studying Jessie with thoughts of more than friendship in mind. It had excited her in both her dream world and her real one. Shifting in her seat, Rowan put one foot on the dashboard. Starring out the window, she tried to look at it with an unbiased eye. Knowing how much she loved Jessie, her dreams were a chance to look at the woman without qualms of being seen. In her dream, she had been able to study, scrutinize the woman's physique without being caught.

Skeletons of buildings were being uncovered by the morning sunrise, making them look almost inhabitable. Once the sun was completely up, the ruin of the structures would be obvious. Rowan mused on how once a day the buildings had a chance to show their lost grace. She didn't understand why the city didn't renovate the buildings and use them for homeless shelters. Bureaucracy, though she was a part of it, was something that she never had understood. The sight of the buildings, which had once been grand structures, brought tears to her eyes. It was the sight of history being left to fade always struck her heart in a particular way that she was never able to explain.

"They were beautiful, weren't they?" Jessie's voice softly cornered into her mind, expressing exactly what she herself had been thinking. "So sad..." Jessie's voice faded off, nothing more really needed to be said to describe the site.

Turning and looking at Jessie, Rowan saw tears that matched her own. And I thought no one would understand, she thought, giving Jessie a smile that held a shadow of disbelief in it.

They drove on, the city becoming more alive and busier the closer they got to the heart of it. Early morning traffic sped along with them, the jarring horns and screeching tires taking away from what had been a peaceful drive. Rowan stared at one particular near collision, amazed that the two cars hadn't hit each other. She was so immersed that she didn't realized they were getting off the interstate until she felt the curving inertia of the car as it sped on the exit ramp.

When they approached the joining street, she didn't recognize where they were. Not that it was too surprising, she really didn't know Chicago that well. Mostly she was accustomed with ways to get around it, rather than through it.


Her jaw clenching and unclenching, Jessie was somewhat disturbed by the way her hands guided the steering wheel without her thinking about it. It was still very familiar to her.

As Jessie took a second to glance at the woman in the passenger seat she suddenly felt very nervous. What if she couldn't protect Rowan? She'd already been hurt once when Jessie cut her hand, what if something worse happened? No, it won't happen because I won't let it! Worrying about something that wasn't going to happen was pointless.

A hand touched her shoulder, gently rubbing. "We'll get through this." Another glance at Rowan, Jessie saw her friend gazing at her. Forethought and caution left Jessie as her hand left the steering wheel and grasped Rowan's hand gently. She brought Rowan's small hand to her lips, kissing it softly.

"I..." Jessie had been about to say 'I love you' but she stopped herself. "I...I know," she finished lamely.

As Jessie's car wound deeper into the city, she didn't speak. With one hand, she gripped the steering wheel, with the other she firmly held Rowan's hand. The contact somehow calmed them both. Rowan felt warm waves wash over her. If it weren't for the seriousness of the situation, she'd have been grinning.

Weaving through traffic, Jessie eventually signaled and pulled toward the curb. Finding an open parking space in front of a large warehouse, Jessie let go of Rowan's hand and parallel parked with deft skill.

Turning off the engine, Jessie took in a deep breath, slowly letting it out again.

Curiously, Rowan studied the building in front of the car. An old warehouse built decades ago, the structure looked abandoned. Newer buildings surrounded it; all of them towering above it, casting shadow. So this is a drug lord's lair, Rowan mused that it was perfect, no one would suspect this derelict to house a huge drug operation.

"It doesn't look all that secure," She said aloud, studying the doors which had a single pad lock.

Looking at Rowan and seeing where her eyes were focused, Jessie answered. "No, that's not the building." She pointed to the building on the opposite side of the street and a half block down. "That's where Nick operates."

"Oh," was all Rowan could mutter, embarrassed by her mistake.

Smiling at her friend's blush, Jessie explained in a tone that wouldn't add further embarrassment. "I didn't really want to park right in front of the building because Nick's probably expecting us. Plus, it's hard enough to find a parking spot on the street, I wanted to grab this one while I could."

Nodding, Rowan appreciated Jessie's attempt to make her feel better.

"Well, let's go..."



Sneaking into Nick's building should have been hard. Puzzled by the lack of security, Jessie proceeded with added caution. There was a seldom–used back door to the building, and after climbing the fence that ran through the space between buildings on either side, they had gotten to the back door without incident. She was focused on Rowan every step of the way, her senses split between protecting Rowan and listening for the occupants of the building.

Slipping a leather bound case from her back pocket, Jessie opened it, pulling a long thin, pointed instrument out. Inserting it in the lock to the door, Jessie moved the end around until she felt the lock give. Looking at Rowan, she whispered, "Stay behind me as I open the door, okay?" Receiving a nod in return, Jessie proceeded to carefully open the door, stepping away so that she couldn't be seen through the open doorway.

Waiting a minute, not hearing any response, Jessie swung her head around to peer into the building. The hall was empty. Again, waiting before she moved so that the door framed her whole body, she didn't sense any hiding presence in the hall. Signaling for Rowan to follow, she proceeded into the building.



"Two more in here," Rowan called out in a loud whisper. That made six men dead, all shot. Bullet wounds were a tell–tale sign of how they had lost their lives. They had come across the first body as they got further into the building. Following the trail of bodies, they were led up a narrow staircase to the second floor.

"Are they dead?" Speaking in a normal voice, Jessie asked from the room across the hall.

"I'm not touching them, so you'll have to find out yourself!" Having gotten used to the dead bodies, Rowan still couldn't bring herself to probe for a pulse.

A loud sigh, followed by, "Coming," broke the still air.

Jessie appeared at the door, surveying the room before she entered. The bodies of two men were a laying on the floor, blood pooling around them. One was lying on his back, the other on his stomach. Going to the closest body, the one on his back, Jessie careful pressed two fingers against his neck. No pulse. Shaking her head at Rowan, she went toward the second body. "It's Nick," she said, her voice monotone, disguising the flood of despair that invaded her body. After the first dead body, she knew that if she found Nick's, she might not ever get her mother back. Unless, Anne was one of the dead.

Kneeling by Nick's body, she felt for a pulse, shocked when she felt a faint, erratic beat respond. "He's alive... for the moment." Studying the man's creased face, she almost jumped when two eyes opened and starred up at her.

As he recognized her face, a faint smile appeared on his lips. "You're....late." He whispered with difficulty. A cough racked his body, blood forming on his lips as it escaped.

"Where's my mother?" Her voice commanding and cool, Jessie had to get the information out of the man before he died.


"You've always been a miserable bastard, Nick. Even back when I was your boss." She paused as she saw his eyes glaze over, whether from memories or pain, she didn't know. "So, this is your chance to prove you actually have a conscience." Actually, she doubted that he did, but it worked in the movies, so it might work here.

"" He coughed again, his body convulsing as the spasms overtook him. "Don...O'Connor..." Breathing heavily, his body started to convulse again, wildly shuddering. Suddenly, the movement stopped and with a long sigh, Nick closed his eyes and lay still. Placing fingers against his neck, Jessie sighed.

Getting up, she approached Rowan. "He's dead, but we know where mom is."

Nodding, Rowan couldn't say anything. She had never seen anyone die, and she still couldn't get used to the way Jessie casually treated death.

Taking one more look around the room, Jessie saw that Rowan wasn't moving, only starring straight ahead, not focusing on anything. Moving closer, Jessie waved her hand in front of Rowan's face. "Hey, you there?"

There was no response from Rowan. Shock, Jessie realized. Poor woman wasn't used to this like Jessie was –– or had been. She remembered how she felt the first time she saw Davey King –– her former boss, the man she eventually replaced –– kill someone. Trying to appear tough, she acted like it didn't affect her, but later when she was alone, she cried until nothing more would come out.

Wrapping her arms around Rowan, Jessie held her against her body. The catatonic woman easily tucked into her long arms. Jessie let her body drop to the floor. Sitting she cradled Rowan against her, rocking and talking softly to her. She said anything and everything that came to her, hoping that something would help Rowan come back.

Rowan's mind was working even though it didn't appear to be. It was replaying the dead bodies over and over in her mind, flashing them in a fast sequence, always ending with a picture of Jessie laying on the floor dead before starting over again. Her mind flinched as the pictures changed, hoping that one time, the pictures would stop. The only sound she heard was that of blood pumping through her veins, a steady thrum of her heart sending the warm liquid throughout. Sounds like the beach, her mind told her. Darkness surrounded her, filling her senses, slowing her thoughts. Tired, want to sleep, she thought drowsily.

Just as she was about to submit to her desire to sleep, a voice penetrated the darkness.

"Rowan, please come back. I know you're scared, but please come back. Ro, I can't do this without you, I can't. I love you, Ro, I'm in love with you. Please, come back to me, don't leave me alone without you!"

Jess? She remembered Jessie. She loved Jessie. What did Jessie say?

The darkness was receding, filed with just a murky gray. The pictures were slowing down, becoming more blurred each time they passed. A minute more passed before Rowan remembered where she was, and what had happened. She didn't, however, know how she had gotten onto the floor and into Jessie's lap. Opening her eyes, she saw Jessie's concerned face hovering above hers. Relief flooded that same face when she saw Rowan's blue eyes looking back at her.

"I'm...I'm sorry," Rowan mumbled as she tried to sit up. Tightening her grip, Jessie just held Rowan. Feeling incredibly safe, the smaller woman once again closed her eyes, a gentle smile on her face. "I love you," slipped out before she could stop it. Eyes flashing open, Rowan felt a slight pain in her gut.

Jessie didn't laugh or comment, she had a curious look on her face. "How do you mean that, Ro?" They both knew what she was asking. The timing wasn't right, but Jessie had to know. It was a driving force despite the circumstances. She needed to hear it from Rowan before she could admit anything herself. It had to be Rowan that made the first admission. Without that, Jessie would hold her silence forever.

"I...I.." she lowered her eyes, blinking back tears of confusion. How can I tell her? Raising her eyes, she looked again at Jessie, who was looking back at her. Seeing real interest and compassion there, Rowan was infused with a feeling of strength that she had never before experienced. Swallowing any last feelings of wariness, she spoke again. "I'm in love with you," and she once again dropped her gaze, unable to look at Jessie.

"God damn..." she heard Jessie mutter. Thinking that she was angry, Rowan pulled away from the other woman. Finally risking a glance, Rowan saw the other woman's shoulders shaking. Jessie was laughing.

Seeing the puzzled expression on Rowan's face, Jessie laughed even harder. She's laughing at me, Rowan realized with a bitter stab. Attempting to rise, she tried to keep her dignity intact.

"No, no, don't leave..." Wheezing and trying to keep the laughter from bubbling up, Jessie grabbed Rowan's hand in an attempt to prevent her from leaving. It wasn't until Rowan started to struggle that she realized that the younger woman thought. "No, no, I wasn't laughing at you." Sobering quickly, she looked into the blue eyes she loved, seeing the tears that filled them. "Rowan, I wasn't laughing because you're in love with me. I was laughing" she searched for the word that described the feeling welling up inside of her. "Relief."

"Relief?" Rowan didn't understand, but she did stop struggling long enough to listen.

"Do you have any idea how long I've been in love with you?"

"WHAT?" Squeaking in her effort to understand, Rowan couldn't believe what she'd just heard.

With an easy tug, Jessie pulled Rowan back down, making sure that she landed in her lap. Wrapping two long arms around her, Jessie held her tightly. "I love you Ro," she repeated more slowly, and definitely more sensuously.

Shifting within the circle of Jessie's arms, Rowan faced the woman, this time without fear. She didn't say anything as she gazed into Jessie's eyes. Slowly, she brought her hand up and cupped Jessie's jaw, her fingers lightly tracing the planes on the other woman's face. Neither realized that they had moved until their lips were pressed together.

It was a sweet kiss, hesitant and tentative at first, both women taking in the feeling. However it didn't take long for them both to become braver. Passion overtook the need to memorize the moment as the kiss became more heated. Whether it was Rowan who first opened her mouth or Jessie neither could remember. It was such a natural step. Their tongues touched, intertwining as they both fought for space within the other person's mouth.

Jessie allowed the kiss to go as long as she dared. Knowing her own desires very well, she knew that if they didn't stop it could cost her mother her life. As much as she enjoyed this moment, there was too much at stake to really dive into it, cherishing it for what it was.

Pulling back, Jessie slowly opened her eyes. She didn't get a glance at Rowan's face –– she'd already snuggled into Jessie's shoulder. All she could see was the dark mass of hair that softly brushed against her chin. Squeezing tight and holding on for a minute, she didn't want to let go of Rowan. It was almost like letting go of a lifeline. So long as you had it in your hands, there was security. But the minute you let go, you lost that security and you were left to drift aimlessly. Rowan was Jessie's lifeline –– she was the stable force that kept Jessie secure and heading in the right direction.

Not wanting to give up the comfortable nest like quality of Jessie's arms, Rowan knew they had to move. Pulling back, Rowan kissed the long neck she had been resting against before looking at Jessie's face. "We have to go," she said quietly, but not without strength.

"I know," and she did. "Cops will be here soon and I don't want to have to deal with them right now."

Eyebrows knitting together, Rowan realized she had missed something. "Why aren't the cops here already?"

"Probably cause no one called them." Shrugging, she tried to explain what was so well known in the streets; ingrained in everyone who lived in the kind of neighborhood that housed men like Nick Kosta. "Nick's business isn't....wasn't" she corrected her self, " a secret, exactly. The neighbors, they knew they just couldn't ask questions about what went on, or stick their nose into Nick's business. He had enough money and power to shut them up. So, gunshots in this building aren't going to make anyone look up and notice."

Jessie stood up, lifting Rowan with her. "Small town life was never like this!" Rowan said. Grabbing her hand, Jessie led her to the door, a smile on her face.


Chapter Nine

They had been in the limousine a long time, Anne knew that much. She wasn't sure how long it had been, there was no clock visible for her to check. Figuring that it had probably been midday when they had left the other place. She'd seen the sun set and rise once, and now it was brightly shinning even through the tinted windows of the limousine. Don, as she knew his name to be, had ushered her into a stretch limousine parked outside the building on a city street. She assumed the city had been Chicago, but then again, she didn't know how much time had passed between the time she'd been knocked out and when she woke up. Feeling disoriented, Anne leaned back, tilting her head up so that it rested back against the seat, her neck straight.

Don was asleep on one of the long seats, a thick pillow provided for his comfort cradling his head. Even in sleep, he looked oddly sophisticated. He didn't snore, nor did his mouth hang open as he slept. Rather than being sprawled on the seat, he was sitting neatly on his back, hands folded across his chest like an Egyptian Pharaoh laid to rest.

Come on Anne, think! she scolded herself for letting her mind wander. The only time the limousine stopped was when someone had to go to the bathroom, or for the occasional food break, during which one of the beefy men would climb out and come back with bags of food. But, so far she hadn't needed to use the bathroom so...Of course! If they would let her out to use the bathroom, maybe she would be able to escape!

Having a plan in mind, Anne carefully got up and moved towards the partition that separated them from the driver. Her hands being tied once again, this time in front, she brought both up and tapped against the window.

The driver glanced back, a scowl on his face. Finally pushing a button on his right, the window slid down. "What?" He snarled softly.

"I...I..need to use the bathroom." Almost letting herself get intimidated, Anne forced herself to continue with her plan.

"We don't have no bathroom, lady!" Impatient, the driver moved to hit the button again.

"No! Wait!" The driver paused, not wanting the woman to get hysterical and wake O'Connor. Anne saw the break and began to plea. "I really need to go, please! I promise, it won't take a minute!"

Torn between not wanting to upset O'Connor and not wanting to have to scrub the inside of the limousine, the driver finally put on his turn signal and started to switch lanes. There was a rest stop ahead with a Burger King. Pulling off the highway, he pulled in front of the doors into the restaurant.

"Keith, go with the chick."

The man slumped next to the driver perked up. "Luis, I can't go into the girl's bathroom, they'll kick me out!"

Sighing in disgust, the driver rolled his eyes. "No stupid, you don't go into the bathroom with her! You wait outside until she comes out to make sure she doesn't escape, got it?"

"Yeah, sure, I got it."

Getting out of the limousine, Keith opened the back door for Anne to get out. As she started to make her way inside, the man grabbed her elbow, keeping a firm grip to remind her that she wasn't free.

The restaurant was full of families, little kids running everywhere, taking advantage of being out of the car. With a literal buzz in the air, conversations by the dozen were taking place in the same instant.

Going as far as he could without actually walking into the women's bathroom, Keith's face was impassive as he patted the pocket of the windbreaker he was wearing. Anne didn't need anything spelled out for her. Gulping, she pushed the bathroom door open, shutting it quickly behind her.

Like the rest of the establishment, the bathroom was crowded. Built to accommodate the needs of travelers, the bathroom broke up into two long rooms. One room had several stalls on either side of the room. The other had sinks and mirrors on one side and a long bench on the other side.

Legs shaking slightly, Anne made her way to the bench, gratefully collapsing on its hard surface. She'd made it this far, but how long would it take before they got suspicious? Windowless, the bathroom was a jail, but one where she didn't have guns pointed in her face.

"I'll wait as long as I have to!" Anne muttered under her breath, drawing the attention of a few of the mother's in the bathroom who guided their children around the strange woman. But she ignored them, her focus was somewhere else.

*   *   *   *   *

Normally, Luis did everything within his power to keep his boss happy. Since coming to work for Don O'Connor over five years ago, Luis had seen too many times what happened to those that pissed Don off. He actually owed O'Connor a lot. If the man hadn't offered Luis a job as his chauffeur, he would probably still be in Miami stealing cars, in jail, or dead. Never had he thought that O'Connor's anger would be focused on him. But because of that stupid woman, Luis was now the epicenter of O'Connor's rage.

"What the fuck do you mean letting her out of the limo?" O'Connor didn't yell. His voice got deeper the angrier he got, shaking, with malice dripping off each word.

"She said she needed to use the john, so I told Keith to go with her and make sure she didn't try anything. I couldn't let her just go in the limo!" Luis kept his voice carefully neutral, having been slapped too many times by his mamma when his tone of voice betrayed him.

O'Connor knew Luis was right. But, that didn't take away the fact that the woman had been in the bathroom for a half–hour now. They were wasting too much time waiting for her. His face carefully controlled, O'Connor faced Luis. "Not your fault Luis. We need to get her out now, however."

"What do you want us to do boss?" Eager to please, Luis seemed like a puppy waiting for a bone.

O'Connor looked at the non–descript van that was parked behind the limousine. "We need Vamp. That's the only solution."

Nodding, Luis headed towards the van.


Chapter Ten

Rowan offered to drive part of the way to Minneapolis, but Jessie shook her head, a little smile on her lips. "I need to drive. It helps me feel like I am doing something to get us there. A control thing, I know, but I need it right now."

They had just passed the sign welcoming them to Minnesota when Jessie took Rowan's hand in her own. It surprised Rowan, but she found it very easy to get used to the feeling of Jessie's larger hand holding her own. The way Jessie's skin felt against her's, the light feel of Jessie's fingers caressing a very sensitive hand sent small shivers through Rowan's frame.

I can't lie to her, Rowan thought. She wasn't sure if this was the right time to tell Jessie or not. Jessie's emotions were already in turmoil without Rowan adding to them. She had no doubt that Jessie would be furious, but she knew the anger wouldn't be directed toward her.

Taking a deep breath, Rowan turned in her seat so that she could watch Jessie's profile as she spoke. Moving the hand Jessie held, Rowan intertwined her fingers with Jessie's, taking a brief second to admire the way Jessie's long fingers snugly fit her own.

"Jessie, there's something I need to tell you..."

*   *   *   *   *

"MOM!!!!" A girl's voice shrieked, echoing throughout the bathroom. Silence ensued as everyone watched the dark–haired girl who had yelled.

Standing near the door was a girl who seemed to be in her early teens. She stood, legs wide apart as though bracing herself. Her black hair was obviously dyed because of the brown roots that showed. Black lipstick covered both lips, which were in constant motion as she chewed a rather large piece of gum. Dark, almost black eyes peered through the crowd, finally focusing on the woman sitting on the bench. Marching up to Anne, the girl grabbed her arm. "Mom, what the hell is taking so long? We have to get going!"

Astonished, Anne tried to answer, but the girl had started pulling her towards the door. No one tried to stop the girl. Anne finally realized she would have to be the one to do something. Just before they reached the door, she jerked her arm out of the girl's hand, almost falling backwards when the force pulling her was counteracted by her own move back.

"I am not going with you!" Her voice betrayed much of the strain Anne felt, much to her dismay.

Stepping closer, the girl seemed to look directly into Anne's soul. "I know you're afraid," the girl whispered to her. "But, if you don't come out with me they'll come in. And if they do that they'll shoot at anyone who stands in their way." Her eyes glanced at the young kids with their mothers that stood nearby. Anne didn't miss the look and her own gaze took in the site.

Self–preservation wasn't enough. Anne bowed her head with a sigh. "Okay," she whispered.

Fear riddled her body as she followed the girl out of the restroom. Luis was waiting right outside the door, his face flushed red, his failure hanging over him. There was no doubt that he wasn't going to let her get away with anything from this point on.

Taking her arm forcefully, Luis pulled Anne out of the restaurant. "If ya pull anymore shit like that, I will personally see to it that ya don't succeed." As he finished, Anne felt him poke her with something he had hidden in his jacket. If she weren't so scared, she would have laughed at how these "tough" guys were so cliché.

Standing beside the limousine was Don O'Connor. His face was without expression as he watched the trio make their way to him. Only his eyes moved as he studied the woman who had almost escaped him. It was too bad he was going to have to sell her, he had wanted to keep her for himself. He much preferred his women older.

Luis stopped them in front of O'Connor. Letting go of the woman's arm, he backed off slightly. Anne wasn't sure what to expect from the impassive man. She kept wondering until he struck her across the face with the back of his hand. Momentum caused her head to snap to the left, she felt a stinging sensation followed by a bruising pain.

O'Connor's hand swung up again, this time grabbing Anne's chin in a harsh grip, forcing her to look into his eyes. "Before, you were doing good. You were going to have a good life. Now, I will see to it that you experience hell in all its glory." Suddenly letting go and turning away, Anne stumbled a bit when the pressure was released.

Grabbing Anne's arm, Luis yanked her in the direction of a large, white passenger van. Brows furrowing in confusion, Anne saw two more vans exactly like it parked close by. They were Ford E250s, no windows except for in the front, completely white, without writing of any kind on them. Each van had two people sitting in the front, and a partition of some sort separating them from whatever the van was carrying. Anne didn't have to wonder long what the cargo was.

Having walked around to the back of one of the vans, Luis knocked on the rear door and it swung open. Yet another mean, sweaty face confronted Anne. She was pushed to the van, until she was forced to climbing in without comment. The girl, who had been silent this whole time, climbed in after her. Anne only got a glimpse of what was in the van before the door shut, taking the light with it, but that glimpse made Anne's breath catch in her throat.

There were at least a dozen children in the van with her.

*   *   *   *   *

Fear was Jessie's first response. Rowan was going to tell her that she didn't mean what she had said, that she had said what she did in the spirit of the moment. Jessie had been afraid of that. During intense situations, emotions were high and could lead you to thinking you felt something you didn't. How many times had she slept with women in her organization after a particularly good deal? It was a rush, almost always sexual.

Grasping the steering wheel a little tighter, she didn't, however, let go of the other woman's hand.

"I'm listening," and she was, but she wasn't sure she wanted to hear whatever it was Rowan was going to say.

Hesitating, Rowan decided it was something that just had to be said. "I never told you this before because it's something I don't really want to remember, or think about a lot." She paused as she thought about it. It still was painful, although it had been so long ago. How old had she been? Eighteen, nineteen?

Realizing that Jessie was patiently waiting for her to continue, Rowan stopped her roaming mind. "I've...well, I've been with a woman before."

"You....?" Jessie tripped over her words as two different emotions overwhelmed her. One was surprise, the other was a bit of happiness. "What?"

A light red blush spread from ear to ear, as Rowan tried to answer. "Ummm...years ago, when I was 19, I think. I had a...relationship with another woman. A sexual one." Looking down at her lap, Rowan felt as though she were baring her soul. "I never told you because was a very bad relationship, Jess."

"You mean sleeping with a woman?" Jessie had to know for sure what she was saying here.

"No, not that, that part was wonderful. She was...very experienced. In the beginning it was a great relationship. Then, it became very hurtful for me." Her voice was soft now, all the pain seeping through her words.

A burst of anger welled from within Jessie. "Did she abuse you?" The tone was soft, but commanding. One of the reasons Rowan hadn't told Jessie was because she knew how Jessie felt about domestic abuse. It was something that, while she knew the dark side of it first hand, she fought hard against allowing it to happen to anyone if she could help it.

Rowan's dark eyebrows came together as her face reacted to the question. "Yes." She finally admitted in a ragged whisper.

Realization hit Jessie, draining the anger from her, only leaving a hollow feeling of disbelief. " did she hurt you?" She hated to push, but she really needed to know.

Sighing softly, Rowan knew she had better tell Jessie the whole story.


Back when Rowan was a sophomore at the UW, she had already had doubts about her sexuality. Being the reader she was, she started to read about homosexuality from all different view points. Through that reading she found out it was normal to be unsure and scared. But, the more she read, the more she felt herself starting to understand the reactions she had experienced all her life. Her attraction to women from a young age, always having crushes on teachers and other women, always confused by those feelings.

She met Sara when she went to the university's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual center. The center was one room, like most of the campus's activity offices. Old office furniture was scattered around the office. In the center was one lone desk, made of an army green painted metal. A woman had been sitting at the desk, telephone cradled between her shoulder and ear. Loose jeans covered her legs, her dirty blonde hair was shoulder length. An angry phrase caught Rowan's attention, which was soon focused on the woman. Seconds later, the woman slammed down the telephone and growled in frustration.

"I'm sorry, if this is a bad time, I can come back later," Rowan said, backing up in the direction of the door.

Noticing Rowan for the first time, the woman flashed her a brilliant smile, raising one eyebrow in unquestionable interest. Standing up the woman was fairly tall, her legs taking up most of that. "Please, have a seat. My name is Sara." Sara pointed to the chair she had just vacated at the desk.

Rowan sat down and found her self almost touching faces with Sara. Sara had moved so quickly that Rowan hadn't even seen her grab the other chair and place it in front of her.

Leaning back, Sara let her legs move forward so that their knees were touching. With an amused smile she watched as Rowan tried to deal with being so close to this attractive woman. It was different somehow. Rowan figured the woman was gay, therefore, that changed things. However, the change wasn't necessarily unpleasant.

"Sorry, I didn't catch your name?" The smile never changed as Rowan flushed.


"Welp, Rowan, what can I do you for?" This time the smile grew to a suggestive grin.

Flustered, Rowan tried to remember what she was doing here. "I, uh, had never been down here, so I decided to stop in." She winced at how lame it sounded.

"Uh huh," Sara leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees and then her face in her hands. "Let me guess –– you think you might be gay so you came here to find out."

Giving a soft laugh, Rowan realized that her intent must have been obvious. Sara didn't seem to be at all put off with the thought of her questioning herself. "You got it."

This time Sara's smile was genuine. "Let me tell you, Rowan. People like you come down here a lot. We're lucky to go to a school where an organization like this can exist. Don't be ashamed of having questions. And, don't be ashamed of what you find out. Being gay isn't a disease, it's just the way you are."

Rowan listened to all of this. She had read similar things in the books, but it sounded much more reassuring coming from Sara. Looking Sara in the eyes, Rowan found the most gorgeous green eyes she had ever seen. It was her turn to flash a real smile.

That night, Rowan and Sara went out and had dinner at the dining hall together. Sara seemed to know a lot of people. They were constantly interrupted by people who came up and wanted to talk to Sara. Dutifully, Sara introduced them all to Rowan. They would look Rowan up and down and then grin at Sara. Some of them had even flashed Sara a thumbs up sign.

Rowan wasn't stupid, she knew what they all thought. The more time she spent with Sara, the less she cared, realizing that all those people might be right.

A week after they had met, Rowan slept with Sara. It was like nothing Rowan had ever experienced. The intimacy of it, the pleasure they brought to each other overwhelmed Rowan over and over again. After, they lay in each other's arms talking about where they came from, and their life at college so far.

Sara was a sixth year senior, bound to graduate at some point in the future, but she kept changing majors, making it more difficult to leave. She had lived in the dorms all six years, and because of seniority, she had her own dorm room.

They spent many nights together in that dorm room, making love, talking, and just enjoying each other. Sara would tell the strangest tales about her life, leaving Rowan in awe. She spoke of her last girlfriend who had been incredibly abusive. Rowan cried when Sara told her of things that the woman had done to her. It was so hard to imagine Sara in that kind of situation.

Weeks had gone by, fall passing into Wisconsin Winter. Days were spent trying to get warm after the walk to class, and nights were spent together. It wasn't long before Sara was telling Rowan that she loved her, more than she had ever loved anyone else.

Taken aback at first by Sara's feelings, Rowan found herself caught in the emotional turmoil that was Sara. She had never felt this good about anyone in her life, so isn't that love?

However, not long after that, Rowan found out the truth. It started when she heard someone else at the GBL Center talking about Sara. Everyone knew she and Sara were together, but this was a graduate who had come back to see her friends.

"What about Sara?" Rowan confronted the group of women who had come out from hiding to talk to the visitor.

None of them looked Rowan in the face except for the visitor. "She was my girlfriend before I left." Before she could say any more, a very angry Rowan was in her face, pushing her back against the wall.

"She told me all the things you did to her, you bitch!" The other women struggled to pull Rowan off the other woman. Finally separating them, three women held Rowan back.

A sad look entered the visitor's eyes. "I don't know what she told you, but I can tell you, and all these women can back me up on it. I didn't do anything to her. SHE abused ME, not the other way around."

Rowan stopped struggling against the arms that held her. She looked to the other women's faces for answers. Finally, Joyce spoke up. "We couldn't tell you, she'd kill us, or at least try. Get away from her as fast as you can."

After that Rowan left the center. Looking back, she couldn't remember how she got to the door of Sara's dorm room, but she did somehow. Sara should have been at class, but Rowan had to go there and wait for her. Punching in the combination for the lock, Rowan twisted the door handle.

She was waiting in the dark room when Sara came home. Confronting Sara was easier than Rowan thought it would be. Sara made no attempt to hide the fact that she had lied to Rowan. Yes, she had been the one who did the abusing. Yes, she had lied to Rowan about it. Rowan had to ask her why.

"It's simple, Rowan." Her normally pleasant voice had turned condescending. "I like to play with people. I like to make them believe whatever I tell them, fooling them completely."

"So, all this was a game?" Rowan felt as though she were going to get sick. It was as though the world had stopped spinning, and all gravity was gone. She felt like she was floating, the only thing grounding her was the pain in her stomach.

Showing boredom, Sara walked around the room, putting her books away. "Don't tell me you didn't like the sex?"

Catching Rowan off guard with the question, Sara took the opening and swung her arm at Rowan. The punch caught Rowan in the side of the head, sending her spinning away.

Rowan landed on the floor at an awkward angle. Before she could get up, Sara was over her, a possessed grin on her face. "I also get a great rush when I fuck someone without their consent," she said bluntly and demonstrated using severe force.

*   *   *   *   *

After that night, Rowan didn't see Sara much, and when she did, she made sure they were never alone. Her bruises eventually healed, leaving only the emotional scars behind. That spring Sara graduated finally, but memories of her were harder to lose. Rowan found out she wasn't the only one Sara had fooled. There was a handful of other women on and off campus with whom Sara had played her games.

Rowan stopped going to the GLB center, her first experience jading her too much to relax in that environment. It wasn't until after that night that Rowan realized she had loved Sara. The Sara she had gotten to know at the beginning was loving, kind, and very easy to love in return. In essence, someone who didn't even deserve her love broke her heart.



Rowan was quiet when she finished her story. She'd had many years to think about Sara and what had happened. The story was easier to tell now, coming out in almost mechanical tones. Jessie was surprised at the lack of emotion coming from Rowan. Rowan was usually very emotionally driven. She wasn't the sort to break down and cry at the drop of the hat, but her emotions definitely directed her in life. Her surprise soon gave away to anger. Playing games was something she knew and understood very well. But, Rowan was different. How could someone take a woman like Rowan, someone who loved life with every breath, and play with her like that?

Hard as it was, Jessie knew the answer. There was a time back in Chicago when she would have done the same. Maybe not exactly as Sara had done it, but there was some rush in conquest. You would tell someone what they wanted to hear, make them feel what you wanted them to feel, and then use them until you were tired of that game and moved on to another. Because of the way Rowan trusted and loved so easily, she was an easy target.

Feeling the need to say something because of Jessie's silence, Rowan spoke hesitantly. "I...just felt the need to tell you. I mean, I don't know what's going on with us, but if we are going to take this any further, I wanted you to know you wouldn't be my first."

Pulling off the interstate at a conveniently located rest stop, Jessie pulled into a parking spot and turned the car off.

She turned her body till she faced Rowan, an uncomfortable position, but she needed to see the woman's face. Reaching out, Jessie took both of Rowan's hands in her own. "Rowan, listen to me." Rowan turned to look at her.

"I am so very sorry that you had to go through that. But, that in no way changes anything. I have fallen in love with you because of who you are not because of who you haven't or have slept with. Is that clear?"

Tears welling up in her eyes, Rowan could only nod and then throw her arms around Jessie. "Thank you," she whispered.

Folding her arms around Rowan's body, Jessie shivered slightly at the feel of Rowan's breasts being pushed against hers. Thinking about that wasn't going to help matters right now. "Rowan, you've done so much for me. You've made me see that I can be a decent and good person despite what I did in my past. Without you I'd have never made it. You're the one that taught me that it doesn't matter what's happened before, just what happens next."

Jessie felt Rowan's body relax as her tears subsided. "Now, we should get going again, so if you have to go to the bathroom, do it now!"

Feigning a serious expression, Rowan gave Jessie a mock salute which ended in a very warm kiss before she opened the passenger door and got out.


Chapter Eleven

The quiet rustle of shifting bodies reminded Anne of the others in the van with her. Who were these kids and what was O'Connor doing with them? Horrible thoughts flooded her mind of slavery and prostitution, tearing at her until she wanted to scream.

"That's pretty much what's going to happen to them." A voice in the darkness stopped the myriad of images.

Although Anne couldn't see her, she knew it was the girl from the bathroom. Turning her head, she could barely make out the girl's form next to her. "What...?"

"What do I mean?" The tone in the girl's voice reminded Anne of a smirk. "You were imagining what's going to happen to these kids, and I was just telling you that you're right." Smug confidence wrapped the voice in the darkness, but there was something else behind it that Anne couldn't place.


Again, the girl didn't let Anne finish her question. "How did I know what you were thinking?" The voice suddenly grew colder. "Let's just say that I know things that other people don't."

Sensing that the girl had suddenly constructed a wall between them, Anne closed her eyes and let her thoughts wander. Jessie would somehow come for her, she knew that. Whether or not Jessie would illicit help from authorities, Anne doubted. Her daughter in general stayed away from anyone with a badge. At least that was the impression Anne got. Jessie Blackman was a familiar name in some police circles and Anne was sure her daughter knew it.

"JB's your daughter?" The girl's voice again penetrated her thoughts. How did the girl know what she had been thinking about?

"Look lady, don't bother to figure it out, I can read your thoughts." The body beside Anne shifted as the girl tried to find a more comfortable position. "Hmm...JB's mother. She'll be back." The girl's voice lightened, almost seeming excited.

Anne asked, "How do you know Jessie?" at the same time the girl asked, "How do I know your daughter?"

Anne thought she could see the girl's grin, like the fabled Cheshire cat. "Simple, I used to work for JB"

Mind reeling, Anne couldn't comprehend why this girl would have been working for her daughter.

"Before you continue on that train of thought, let me tell you I'm not as young as I look." Her voice was self–satisfied. "I'm actually 18. Your daughter saved my life, accidentally of course, when I was 10. I wouldn't let her get rid of me. I forced my way into her business, knowing that if she didn't take me on, I was dead anyway." The girl's voice faded as she finished her own thoughts consuming her.

"And you can read minds? I never thought that kind of stuff was real." Anne realized that none of her thoughts would be her own. What was it like to be able to read other people's thoughts.

"Yeah, I can hear your thoughts with my own, like you're in my head or something. Runs in my family, which is the reason they are dead."

"What happened to your family?"

"They were all killed."


The girl was silent for a few moments. If Anne could have seen her she would have known the girl was still not completely at peace with what happened to her family. The girl's black coated lips opened and closed as she thought about what to say. Her hands wouldn't stay still, one minute touching her throat, the next running through her short hair, and then rubbing at her eyes.

"I was young when it happened. My family lived in Romania and there was a really bad disease that spread through the town. Everyone in the village lost family except for mine. So, they got angry and went after my family. My brother and I got out, ended up in America and eventually on JB's doorstep. It's never safe for people like me." She finished quietly.

Anne felt her heart extend towards the girl in sympathy. She had been through a lot in her time and yet, here she was, despite all of that.

"I want my momma!" A whimper broke into both their thoughts. One of the kids in the van began to cry.

"Shit, if they hear him they'll stop the van and beat him till he stops."

Both of them came to the same decision at the same time, working their way through the back of the van till they came to the boy who was crying. The girl took him in her arms and quieted him with gentle words and caresses. Anne sat nearby and watched through the darkness, surprised at the girl's tenderness.

The boy stopped his crying and was silent except for an occasional whimper that escaped his mouth. Within a few minutes, he was asleep, cradled in the girl's arms.

"Good, we'll be there soon and he needs to be calm." The girl's voice was low, not wanting to wake the slumbering boy in her arms.

Equally quietly, Anne finally asked the question she'd been trying to get answered for the past day. "Where are we going?"

"To O'Connor's pen. It's where he keeps his property till he's ready to ship them out." Pausing, she considered how much to tell this woman. Deciding that she would trust JB's mother, the girl went on. "They're kept in cages until they're sold to the operation in Canada. Once in Canada, they're sold again to buyers throughout the world, mostly Asian countries."

"How do you fit into this?" Anne was curious. The girl seemed to know her way around, like she had done it a few times before.

"I work for O'Connor. In return, he doesn't sell me. It benefits us both." The girl sounded like she was quoting from the great man himself.

Before Anne could ask anymore, the van rolled to a smooth stop. The girl stood up and went to the back door. It was opened almost immediately and Anne was surprised not to see daylight, but rather to see the stark gray walls of a warehouse. The two men who had been driving the van were standing outside, waiting for something.

The girl jumped out of the back and then turned around again. "All of you, out now." It was a command, but her voice was gentle, taking out the harshness.

One by one the kids, some of them seeming to be as young as seven or eight, climbed out of the back of the van. Anne waited till last, making sure everyone got out safely. She started to follow the direction of the kids, but the girl reached out and grabbed her arm. "You come this way," she said in a quiet voice, her black eyes not meeting Anne's.

Following the girl, Anne took notice of where they went. They went through a door way on the side of the warehouse area, opening into a long corridor. With familiar movements, the girl led her to the end of the corridor, opening the heavy steel door. This door opened to yet another large warehouse storage area. This one was different from the other. The floor was covered with cages standing four feet tall, and maybe ten feet long. The room smelled of human waste and it was clear where the smell was coming from. In about half of the cages were people, all women, laying on the floor of the cages. Some looked up as Anne and the girl entered, others didn't bother. "Hey Vamp, when do we get outta here? I'd rather be sold than be in this damn cage!" The voice was deep and gravelly.

"14, you'll be leaving soon, I'm sure." The girl, Vamp, called back.

Leading Anne to an empty cage, Vamp opened the small door on the front of an empty cage. Looking at Vamp, catching her eyes, she tried to elicit compassion from the girl. The look she got in return held that compassion, but it also held something else –– resolve. "You're now number 24," was all she said and pointed into the cage.

Knowing Vamp was only a victim of what was going on here, Anne didn't resist her when she once again took hold of her arm. Steering Anne into the cage, Vamp appreciated that she didn't try to fight. Black eyes and bruises weren't unusual to Vamp, but she didn't want to have to call in Luis on this one. If Luis had to come then Anne would surely be in for a taste of life in slavery.

*   *   *   *   *

Two of O'Connor's men had run to McDonald's for food. They brought back four bags stuffed with fries and burgers. Grabbing a hamburger and a handful of fries, Vamp sat in a corner and ate her food. The trip to Chicago had almost been normal. The exception was Anne. Why did O'Connor grab her? Vamp wasn't even sure where the woman had come from. He had gone off with a few of his biggest thugs and returned with this woman. Usually, a run to Chicago only meant children. Only having glanced at Anne a few times before they left Chicago, Vamp wasn't sure what drew her attention to her other than the oddity of her even being there. There was something familiar about the woman.

That brought thoughts of Jessie to Vamp's mind. No one around her ever called her Jessie, it was either JB or Boss. Vamp hadn't been lying when she said Jessie had saved her life. She did however exaggerate her efforts to get into Jessie's business. Jessie didn't exactly know what to do with the kid once she found out that taking her wasn't going to provide the results she had sought. Actually, it was Vamp's brother that had made the difference.

For some reason, Jake had hit some kind of chord with Jessie. They had been with her a year before Jake had revealed their family's ability to read minds. He trusted her enough to tell her that.

Jake and Vamp integrated themselves into the organization. He would tell her what to do, and she would, learning his strategy of making them invaluable to the operation. Small things like food runs, preparing the drugs, and bandaging cuts. But it was Jake that had really made the difference.

One night, as Jessie came back from doing business across town, Jake waited as usual outside the building. When Jessie was there, he was her shadow, the faithful servant ready to serve. In truth, she treated him with equal respect, despite his tender age of 16. She would ask his opinion of things and listened with interest. On this particular night, she had come from a very badly handled deal. Usually she didn't get involved with that part of the business, but one of her employees had failed and she had to clean up his mess.

Parking her car behind the warehouse that held her main operations, Jessie was getting out, already looking for Jake. He stepped forward to greet her, when his mind picked up a strange thought not coming from either of them. It was one word, "bitch." He whirled around, catching a glimpse of something reflected in the dark, immediately realizing they were in trouble.

Jessie didn't completely understand Jake's sudden panic, but she knew to trust his instincts. She wasn't prepared when he jumped in front of her. He seemed to be still for a instant after landing before her, she heard a loud sound and saw him stumble backwards.

The noise had gotten the attention of those inside the building, and they came rushing out, armed and ready to shoot anything that moved.

But, Jessie didn't notice them. She held Jake in her arms, one hand pressing against the wound in his chest. Vamp was immediately at her side, holding out a clean rag. Understanding, Jessie replaced her hand with the cloth, and held it firmly as she yelled," Call 911 NOW!"

Jake had been in the hospital for two weeks before he died. During that time, his spirits were high, joking with Jessie and Vamp about how he had thought he was ducking the bullet. When his eyes closed for the last time, Jessie had put her hand on his forehead and whispered, "Goodbye, brother," before getting the doctor.

She and Vamp stuck together, but were never as close as she and Jake had been. Vamp missed her brother, but knew he had died doing what he thought was right. He had worshipped Jessie, and died saving her life.

A year after that, Jessie left Chicago. After Jake died, things had changed. Jessie became more irritable to the point of being harsh to the men. She had always prided herself on the professionalism of her illegal business, but now she had lost all of that. Vamp stayed out of her way, sensing the real anguish behind Jessie's anger. She was helpless to do anything. She was there that night when Jessie tried to overdose on heroin. The next day, Jessie told Vamp that she was leaving Chicago, going somewhere safe to start a new life. She told Vamp that she would take her along. The girl turned her down. Jessie didn't ask and Vamp didn't say, but they both knew that she wasn't ready to leave yet.

And now she's back, Vamp said to herself. This should be fun. She hated O'Connor, his men, and his business. It was merely self–preservation that kept her there. If she were to stop working for him, she knew he wouldn't hesitate selling her. If JB was coming back, then maybe Vamp could help her out a little. There's nothing like an inside person to make getting in easy.

Looking at her watch, Vamp saw that it was only 4 pm. Jessie would surely wait till dark. There was no way to know whether or not she'd be coming tonight, but Vamp decided that she would do what she could to ensure Jessie's success every night until the woman made her appearance.

Continues in Chapter Twelve

Chapter 1-6   » Chapter 7-11  « Chapter 12-18 Chapter 19-24

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