In this week's Telepaths we discover a new layer to Maggie's problems with the serial killer that shares her brain, gain insight into Carl and Lynn's marriage and see what a retired psychiatrist and a senator's staff member do to celebrate.*
*This chapter contains strong language, a cold shower, solitaire and sex.**
**I know what you're thinking. Sex again? We've covered this before, still this time it's between two ladies for variety.
26. Break Out The Champagne
Elise put her hand over my mouth. "We're supposed to be watching the monitor," she managed. We have to stop. Her other hand was on my neck holding my head inches from hers.
I bit the base of her thumb. I could feel the shiver that hit her radiate into me everywhere we touched skin. Through her hand on my neck, my hand against her back and my lips against her palm. It hit me low in the stomach, just where she was feeling it.
She was determined to have willpower. Later, later, later, she told herself, told me, told us both where I swam in her head. When my eyes dropped to her neck she moved her hand from my mouth and tilted her chin in invitation.
When my lips touched her neck there was a second lurch in my stomach. I pulled her against me in response and sucked the skin of her neck between my teeth, hard, making her legs shake. I could feel her legs shaking like they were my legs and Lee's excitement pushed out so that I felt like there were two of me, that I was feeling him with Elise and myself with her at the same time. We both wanted to eat her alive.
Her hand had dropped to my hip and she pulled me closer, her fingers clawed into my belt loops. The sore shoulder I'd been angling back twisted forward.
I broke away and gritted my teeth against the sudden pain. Damn.
"Oh, shit, I'm sorry, are you ok?" Elise asked in a rush, hand on the other shoulder. I didn't mean to, I wasn't-
"It's fine." I cleared my throat and straightened up. The pain had shocked me, Elise was worried and Lee had crawled back to wherever he lived. The abrupt shift made me queasy. "Weren't we supposed to be working or something?" I asked with a weak smile.
"Yeah," she said her voice shaky as she took a step back. "Work. Do you want monitors or employee records first?" You could lie down if you're still tired.
I glanced at the bed and shook my head. "I'll take the records. I'm going to have a shower first."
She raised her eyebrows and fingered the red spot on her neck.
"A cold one," I said and hoped I'd covered my embarrassment. With my equilibrium back I was ashamed at the way I'd let them carry me away.
She laughed and turned away to sit in front of the monitors. Maybe I'll have one after. Then we can play cards sitting on opposite sides of the table.
"Good plan," I agreed and grabbed fresh clothes out of my suitcase. I closed the door to the bathroom with a physical sense of relief.
What are you doing? I asked myself and looked into the mirror. I looked like myself. I always looked like myself. Tired, happy, mad, my face was still my face, my eyes were still my eyes. Lee was never there looking back at me. He wasn't in my eyes, he was buried deep in my head where I couldn't get at him. Tainting things I did, lashing out at people, sticking in his quirks so I tapped my pen on things while I was thinking and had to wonder every time something turned me on if he would be there adding to it.
I looked away from the mirror and undressed. I wasn't wearing the sling and I had been diligent in stretching the joint, but rotating my shoulder enough to get my shirt off made the pain flare again. She said she didn't care. I turned the shower on, twisted the knobs and tested the temperature with my hand. I had been in her head and she didn't care. She was nervous but that was about her family. Which proves that she doesn't get it. If she could see what Lee showed everyone else she'd run for miles to get away from the idea of us touching her.
"Us," I muttered. The temperature was short of scalding when I stepped into the shower. I let it pound into my shoulder to loosen the muscles. It could be worse. He could hate her the way he hated Robin. I put my head under the spray like I could wash away the thought. When I was first echoed he challenged Robin every day. Everything horrible he could come up with he showed her. He showed her until she was anxious about coming home, anxious every time she saw my face. It's good he likes Elise.
What about Elise? Elise was alienating her family to defend me. Was I interested because she was? Was I pursuing it because she wasn't afraid of me? Was I doing this because Lee approved? I dropped my head against the tiled wall. Out there the feeling from Lee had been so strong it was like touching two people at once. It was almost too much, both of them together. He wouldn’t always be there. Lee was unpredictable, that was the only predictable thing about him. I expected him to show up if I was angry, challenged or turned on. He didn't always do it. I didn't expect him to order drinks for me and he did. Do you really mind him there? I cringed. There were things I didn't think about too hard in my life with him. It wasn't like he'd never showed up in the years I'd been alone. I hadn't stopped masturbating because he lived in my head. I sighed and put my head back under the spray, my eyes closed as I wrung the shampoo out of my hair.
With my eyes closed I had a flash of Carl and Lynn. Even though he hadn't projected everything that he'd dumped on me was swimming near the surface. It wasn't the distraction I would've picked but I let myself focus on it. I'd had no idea that they were separated before the baby. I was sure Robin would have mentioned it. She always knew what was going on with the old crowd even out in Colorado. I was waiting for her to call to confirm me and Elise. Carl had told Lynn which meant she'd call Robin. I wonder if she'll try to talk you out of it. In all the times she'd called and told me about her prosaic family life and indicated I should take as long as I needed to start working again, we'd never talked about dating.
And Robin would have an unbiased opinion about that? Elise is never going to see what she saw. It could never affect her the same way. I jumped when the water turned cold. I had to stand, shivering in the far end of the tub, half soapy, waiting for it to warm up again.
The water warmed up and I ducked back under it long enough to rinse off.
It took me longer to get into my clothes that out of them and I was torn between cursing and wondering how much good it was going to do us to look at the Geological Survey Center's employee records. If Andrew was as deep cover as Carl had hinted, all his childhood records erased, then why would they have any paper trail for him? On the off chance that those credit accounts were linked to a real name and a picture that could tie him with Craig's office, we had to keep looking. It gives me something to do anyway. Something other than watching Elise trying not to watch me.
I opened the bathroom door in a puff of steam.
The room looked like a cave after the bright bathroom. With all the thick curtains drawn the light was dim and sepia toned. Even the colors in the vivid bedspread were washed out. Elise looked up from the small tower of cards in front of her. "Cold shower," she said, eyeing the steam. I was about to send a rescue team. You were in there for 45 minutes.
"Keeping a close watch?" I pointed at the cards. How did she get it that high?
She shrugged. "I didn’t feel like playing solitaire and I can see the screen." Unless you want to watch this.
I shook my head. "Oh no, you volunteered to watch. I'm going to go rifle through pointless employee records." I propped myself up at the head of the bed with a few pillows and put my laptop on the bed and a pad of paper on my lap. It was tedious, weeding out the women and the ones that were too old and too young to be Andrew. None of the files had been indexed so I had to look through every page until I found something that disqualified the employee. It took all of my attention and I read on and on through evaluations and hiring records, health screenings and assignments.
"Do you think Carl's going to be ok out there by himself?"
I looked up from the computer, my pen going still where I had been tapping it. Carl was out watching the target in a van with a book on tape and a bag of starlight mints. "What, in the van?" Look at how fast she shuffles. She could be a dealer with those hands.
She turned to look at me over her shoulder. In the dim room her eyes looked dark. "He was pretty tense after that call, whatever he showed you, and then getting pulled over." I was surprised that the censure was gone from her tone. She wasn't mad at him anymore. Did Lee really cut his eyes out? She turned around and ducked her head. Sorry, I didn't mean to bring it up.
What did they talk about when I fell asleep? If they spent the whole ride down talking about Lee I'll kill Carl. I checked myself. If they'd done that Elise would have been thinking about Lee when we were- "Let's say that fight he had with Lynn felt like a threat when he dumped it on me. Carl is going to be fine. As long as Lynn doesn't call back," I added, hoping to change the subject. We'd hear that fight from New York.
She turned her head and I could see her profile backlit by the TV. "Would she do that while he's working?" Her tone judged that as unprofessional. Find anything good in the records?
"No and no. I don't think Andrew's even in here," I admitted, gesturing at the laptop. "And I've known Lynn a long time. I think Carl's in for a least a few solid days of the silent treatment." Which I'd take over her yelling any day.
"I guess it’s better than distracting him while we're on this assignment." I can imagine what Gates will say if another one of us gets hurt. Something about not being cost effective.
You take everything he says so personally. "I was shocked that they were separated. They've always been together, like they came as a set, Carl and Lynn." I didn’t acknowledge her anger at Gates; it always went back to what her mother had said to her when they fought.
"They're together now." He seems too attached to have wanted a divorce. Was it her idea? She asked as she flipped the cards out one by one into the freecell solitaire pattern.
I shook my head and took my pen out of my mouth. I wasn't sure how much Carl wanted this spread around but I wanted to talk about it. If he didn't want me to, he shouldn't have dropped it in my head. "His idea. He wanted kids and she didn't."
"Oh, so when she got pregnant?" Where is that damn ace of spades?
"Yeah. I never knew he wanted kids that much." I leaned my head back against the headboard and stretched my neck. I wonder if we should get something to eat soon.
"Was that their only problem?" she asked. Yes, put the nine over there and open up that cell. Now I can get the ace.
I closed my eyes and thought about it. "I don't know. Carl dumped it on me pretty fast. I think they think it is. All of their fights revolve around him leaving. She harps on it because she's insecure and he feels like he has to prove himself all the time. Anything he does is a measure of how much he wants to stay with her." They're going to self destruct in a year. "No pressure there," I said with a sigh. I had considered them my friends for so long that the idea of them apart didn't sit right.
"It could be the hormones. It can't help that they're both paths, she's worried so he gets to soak that up and feel like she's waiting for him to screw up." My cousin and her husband almost split when she was pregnant with their first. They didn't get that it had been the hormones until after Andre was born.
I found myself cheered by that idea. I wasn't sure I believed it, but it sounded better than Carl and Lynn getting divorced. "The hormones aren't helping, and neither is bed rest. I think I'd want to take my frustration out on anybody that could walk around." I hope her mother is getting a dose about now.
"I can't even imagine the whole bed rest thing." Elise shifted in her seat, uncomfortable, either talking about Carl or talking about his problems. Watch the monitors for me for a few minutes? I want to get a shower before this guy gets home.
I shifted my legs off the side of the bed and got up. "Sure. I can't promise I won't play your cards though."
She stood next to her chair and her eyes narrowed. Her tone was playful. Get your own cards. I-
We jumped when her phone went off.
"It’s Carl," she said with a glance at the caller ID. "Atwood," she answered in her crisp work voice. It's too early for anything to have happened.
I stepped up to her side, feeling out so I could hear what Carl said.
"I got him. I can't believe he did it in the parking lot."
She saw me standing next to her and nodded. You're hearing this? "What do you mean you got him? Steadman was already there?"
My eyes went wide and I moved closer to the phone, shifting to lean against the table.
"There and gone. I got the van heading back toward the highway before I stopped following." Carl panted into the phone like he'd run after the van with both cameras strapped to him. "I'm on my way back now. I've got video and stills. Couldn't get much sound with all this wind, but everything else is solid."
"That's great. How long until you get back?"
"Half-an-hour, maybe 45 minutes. I figure we can catch a flight in the morning. Get a few hours of sleep and then pack up."
"I'll get on the reservations right now." Everything was falling out so fast that she agreed to his suggestions without thinking.
"Great. I'll see you guys in a few."
"Right. Bye," Elise said and closed the phone. She put it down on the table and turned wide blue eyes to me. "He did it." We did it. It's over.
I felt dazed. We'd sat around for five hours and it was all over. No running, no ducking, not even a flicker on the monitors. "We got him." No more Andrew out there. I laughed in relief.
She smiled back. "No one even got shot this time."
"Shot at," I corrected automatically. I wonder if Jerome will let me have another crack at him. If this goes national they won't be able to use pyschotropics.
There was a shift in Elise's eyes and her hand came up to toy with my wet hair. "Nothing to do until tomorrow morning." I can't even send the Senator the images because he doesn't want them going over the web.
"Plane tickets," I said, edgy and waiting for Lee. Do it if you're going to do it, I urged him.
"Tickets," she agreed, fingers against my neck, cold from touching my hair. We could always go standby.
I felt myself melt into the connection. Where are you Lee?
Her fingers worked into the hair at the back of my head, nails against my scalp. A kiss while we're waiting. To-
"Celebrate," I said and let her bring us together. I felt a surge of relief and disappointment when our lips touched and it was only the two of us. I pushed the thought of Lee away and put my hands on her hips. I let the right rest there and used the left to urge her closer so we touched from thighs to lips. Her weight pushed the table into the back of my legs.
Just a few minutes then we can put the cameras away, she thought, one hand against my neck and careful of my arm, the other one working between us, under my shirt. Her hand was cool against my stomach and I felt it overlapping the sensation she was feeling, of my hot skin under her fingers.
I broke away from her mouth and slid down to her neck, raking the skin with my teeth. My breath hitched when hers hitched and hitched again when her hand slid down instead of up, fingers inside the waistband of my jeans. My nails tightened against her hip and her back and she shivered against me in response. Harder, you can scratch harder. I starting working her shirt out of her slacks so I could try my nails on her bare back but it was tucked in tight and I was distracted by the fingers edging under the elastic of my underwear. Tease.
I gave the shirt a yank with both hands and ignored the burn in my shoulder. I slid my hands under and up. I found her nipples, hard through the cups of her bra, and rolled and pinched them when she arched into me, until my chest was shivering at the vicarious contact.
Are you trying to distract me? She was distracted, leaning hard on my leg where I'd pushed it between hers. Her hands worked into my pants, not bothering with the button or the zipper, just sliding in.
I jerked against her, hands at her hips to keep my balance. My fingers slipped into the waist of her pants. She was pressed tight against my leg and I couldn’t quite get my hand between us. I worked my wrist back and forth until I found the right angle. She lifted onto her toes when I pushed into her.
"Oh god." I don't want to hurt your arm. She braced herself with one hand flat on the table to keep from falling without grabbing my shoulders.
I lost my rhythm when she clutched around my fingers. My body found it again, pushing my hips against her, moving my hand, lurching when my thumb rubbed her clit, clenching against her strong fingers.
We hovered on the edge forever, both desperate to get there, rocking against the creaking table, kissing when we weren't gasping for breath. Then it crashed over us, her and then me, almost in the same instant.
We leaned hard on the table, her head against my shoulder, my face against her neck. She twitched around my fingers and jerked when I slid them out.
I didn't hurt you at all, did I?
My shoulder burned. I shook my head. "No, not at all," I said and kissed her neck, feeling her aftershocks mingle with mine through my face and my lips against her skin. I might have a few bruises from the table though.
The rattle of the key card in the door gave us enough time to jump apart.
"One of you grab this thing," Carl said and held out one of the camera bags. He had another one slung over his other arm and several shopping bags dangled from his hand. "Come on-" He pushed the door shut with his foot and turned to look at us. Oh for Christ's sake. You couldn't wait until after dinner?
Elise blushed so red she almost glowed and ducked past both of us to get into the bathroom. I'm going to grab that shower. The door shut behind her. When I looked at Carl he shook his head and dumped the equipment into a chair.
"We were celebrating. Nice work," I said with a straight face. Everything went off without a hitch? No bullet holes? No stab wounds?
He didn't look up from rummaging in one of the shopping bags. "Unlike some people who I don't need to name, I know what I'm doing. I was across the parking lot filming him. Saw him drive in, pick the guy up, and get out." He held up a bottle of champagne and winked. Tell me you weren't celebrating the whole time I was gone.
He could have done a better job hiding his annoyance and we should've waited until we knew we'd be alone. "The whole time. So, that was what? Five hours of non-stop sex. You're lucky you didn't come back earlier when I had the handcuffs and-"
He stopped his careful untwisting of the wire around the cork long enough to flip me off. "Just for that, you get to take the rental car back tomorrow." Think Gates will let us expense this? he asked as the cork flew across the room.
I moved over to the chair and poked through the other bags. "Get any cups? Or are we swigging it out of the bottle?" Sorry we got carried away.
"Not now that I know where your mouth's been," he said, making it clear that he'd be teasing us all night. He opened the white bag and passed me a package of plastic wine glasses. Took me longer to find those at Walmart than it did to get the film on Steadman. I got three cups out of the shrink wrap and set them up on the table next to Elise's scattered cards. "Pour. I need a drink after slogging through those records."
"Lush." He poured each glass to overflowing. He smiled, in a great mood despite his teasing. Hey Atwood, get out here and have a drink. I'm taking you two to dinner if you think you can behave yourselves in the restaurant.
You're an asshole. What do you think it would take to get you back to seething animosity? I drank down half of my glass before I realized it was the good stuff.
Carl tipped back his glass in one shot and filled it again. I'm sure you'll manage. You could always play footsies with her under the table. "You're driving," he said and tossed me the keys.
I shook my head and took another sip of champagne. "We're taking a cab."