Title: Clandestine

Fandom: Xena Uber/Alt/Original

Rating: 18 or NC-17

Summary: A company burned, ex-CIA operative, who seeks absolution in a bottle, is forced into a situation that could be the defining moment of her life.  Burnt-out and long ago thinking herself incapable of feeling, her numb complacency is tested when she meets an innocent woman who must now suffer the ultimate consequences of her bad choices.

Disclaimer: Just in case there is a need to say this because a few of the characters might slightly resemble some cast members of a TV show we know and love, no infringement is intended to the powers that be at MCA/Universal. Other than that, the story, the characters and the fantasy are mine.

Warnings: This story contains lesbian sex. If that offends you but you continue reading anyway, then I take no responsibility if your retinas catch fire. Once again, I must mention that there is one fleeting recollection of heterosexual sex that is nonconsensual but not violent (you can tell from her snoring). There is also another scene that starts out as nonconsensual but changes very quickly.

Big Warning: My Spanish is rusty. Oh, let's not mince words, it sucks. Crossing my fingers that it isn't too far off.

This is for Ren, who really took me to task on this one. Thanks. I needed that.

And for Canna, whose initial reaction to this story inspired me to finish it. ;-)

Archive: Only with permission from the author

Chapter Nineteen

Nothing pleases a little man more than an opportunity to crack a big whip


The Quintessence had been easy to find. Bruce had gone to the pier and rented a boat to get out to the yacht for his meeting with the woman hired to abduct and murder Jody Montgomery. Approaching the craft, he got an eerie feeling as he could see no movement anywhere. The thought that Tia Ramone might have set him up had crossed his mind before he left shore, but he made the trip anyway. If she did have it in her head to kill him, he felt it would be easier to reason with her than Tony. However, he hoped that she was just being covert, not showing herself until she was sure it was really him who was approaching the vessel.

Tying his small motorboat to the aft deck landing and climbing aboard, Bruce looked around as he made it to the top step that led to the bridge. "Hello?" he called out, cautiously, as he walked under the immense radar arch.

"Too early for a beer?"

The voice behind him was confident and well-modulated. He spun around to see a tall, bronzed, dark-haired, striking woman, smirking and holding out a sweating bottle of Corona toward him. "It's never too early for a beer," Bruce commented, relieved, as he focused on the woman who must have hated him with a passion for what he had gotten her into.

Tia removed the cap and handed the bottle to him. "Good. You're my kind of guy. Relatively speaking, of course. Come on," she tilted her head sideways, "let's go to the salon and meet the Mrs."


Bruce felt scrutinized as he stood in front of Jody and between Tia and the settee, looking extremely uncomfortable. He must not have been what she expected with his ruggedly attractive, slightly pock-marked face, his muscular body and his compact, yet intimidating size. She probably mistakenly assumed he would be much less...husky. Everyone else usually did. She also wore an expression as though she had seen him before but she couldn't quite place him. "Where do I know you from, Bruce?"

"I work for your husband, Mrs. Montgomery, I'm his main techie and troubleshooter." Bruce found it just as difficult not to stare at the gorgeous wife of his boss as if it was the first time he ever saw her. He guzzled his beer and found interest in the carpet.

"A little thirsty, are you?" Tia cracked, removing the empty bottle from his hand and replacing it with another cold beer.

"I'm just a little understandably nervous," Bruce admitted as he sat down on the couch.

"I remember where I've seen you," Jody blurted out. "Tony's office, doing something with his hard drive!"

Bruce smiled, mildly bowled over that she had actually remembered the ten second encounter. "Yes, that was me."

Tia sat down next to Jody, pinning Bruce with a probing gaze. "How do you know me, Bruce?"

"I...I don't. Not really." He eyeballed both women, then returned his attention to Tia. "How much does Mrs. Montgomery know?"

"I know as much as Tia knows," Jody told him. Bruce nodded, taking a long swig of Corona.

"And what I don't know is how I got involved in all this," Tia stated. "I'd like to know how that happened and we would both like to know what you know about your boss that makes you also beholden to him."

"How would knowing that help anything?"

"It might not," Tia conceded. "But the more I know about this man - and I mean every dirty little detail you can tell me - the better chance I will have at figuring a way out of this. Because if we can't turn this around, back on him somehow, we're in deep, deep shit." Tia emptied the contents of her bottle with one long drink. "But whatever happens, I want to make a pact with you right now that we save Jody."

Placing her hand on Tia's forearm, Jody said, "I want us to all get out of this alive." She then looked deeply into Tia's eyes. "Which is why I didn't escape this morning."

Bruce definitely got the impression that Mrs. Montgomery was more than just a hostage to Tia. Damn. That happened rather quickly. Not that Bruce could blame either woman for falling into bed with each other. Tia Ramone was as uniquely extraordinary as Jody Montgomery was and he knew his boss' wife could do a hell of a lot better than what she had. And, it seemed to Bruce, that with Tia trying to save Jody and the both of them as well, she obviously wasn't the barbarian Montgomery had made her out to be.

"I promise that whatever happens, I will do what I can to help you save Mrs. Montgomery," Bruce pledged, sincerely.

"Please. It's Jody."

Bruce smiled at the captivating heiress and then took a deep breath. "Where do I begin?" he sighed, frustrated.


Jody sat back in her chair, agape. Who was this man she had been married to? As Bruce unraveled his tale of woe, she shuddered, feeling a chill unlike anything else she had ever experienced before.

While Bruce spoke, Jody observed Tia intently. Her captor turned lover wore a formidable but studious expression. She was clearly interested in what Bruce had to say. She wouldn't understand why Tia was so absorbed until after Bruce had calmed down and was encouraged to relax and go for a swim while the two women discussed the situation. Borrowing a pair of swimming trunks that were on board, Bruce willingly and gratefully obliged.

Resting her head in her hands, Jody sighed, "This just gets worse and worse. Now what?" She glanced back up at Tia, who was smirking.

"I think we have found our legitimate way out of this." She excused herself, rising from the table and disappeared into the master stateroom. When she returned, she held the Trac Phone Montgomery had purchased for her and she dialed a number from memory. Sitting back down, she felt comfortable and confident enough to wink at the more than desirable woman across from her, an action that caused Jody to develop an adorable rosy tinge. "Special Operations Division," she spoke into the phone and waited. "Yes. Javier Zamora, please." When asked to identify herself, she used one of her operative aliases, one she knew Zamora would recognize immediately. "Tell him it's Anna Santiago."

This made Jody sit up and take notice. She mouthed the word, 'Who?'

Reaching over, Tia patted Jody's hand. Suddenly her eyes lit up and she said, "Javier, ¿cómo está?"

"Santa mierda," Zamora breathed, proceeding to communicate with her entirely in Spanish. "Do you know how many people are looking for you?! What the fuck did you get yourself into? Offing a streeter with agency heat?"

"Are you on a secure line?"

"Secure as it can get in this place. Where are you?"

"Let's talk business first. I'm calling in that debt."

There was dead silence on the other line. "You can't do this to me, T...Anna. I cannot get caught up in your little problem. I know what I promised you, I haven't forgotten but you're persona non grata around here. I know I owe you but let's be honest here...it ain't gonna be happening now." He wasn't refusing her by choice, he was refusing her by necessity. His instincts of self preservation had kicked in. "You would have to have a pretty powerful reason for me to stick my neck out for you right now."

"I do. My neck is on the line. If you don't help me, I'm dead. Not only can you save my life here, I have a career-maker for you, compadre. You know the top story on the news right now?"

"Yeah, the heiress thing. You got something on that?"

"You could say that. Actually...I have possession of a certain package."

It took Zamora a few moments to respond. "You - you what?" His tone was one of disbelief. "You mean you actually have...the package?"

"Yes. But, Javi, I have some bartering power to get myself out of this jam -"

"Jam? Jam?! You call what you're in a 'jam'?" He laughed, incredulously. "You always were a good one for minimizing things. Jesus Christ, Anna ...I...I can't believe you are involved in any of this. What were you thinking? Let me ask - is the package damaged in any way?"

Tia smiled, switching to English. "No. The package is perfect. In fact, I'm admiring its beauty right now." She watched as Jody grinned back, blushed again and then looked away. Returning to speaking Spanish, Tia continued, "She is alive and well and pissed off but not at me. Would you like to speak to her?"

He was hesitant, confused. "No. So...you're not...uh...holding onto the package, awaiting payment?"

"No. I'm keeping the package safe."

Another contemplative pause. "What about the prostitute in the car?"

"Unfortunate. But I didn't kill her and I can tie that incident in to this one."

"I knew you'd hit rock bottom but I still didn't think you'd resort to killing someone who didn't try to kill you first. Not your style. So you've really got something for me?"

"Something big, my friend."

"Give me ten minutes and then I want you to call me at this number," he instructed as he provided her with the number of his personal cell phone.

Snapping the phone shut, Tia triumphantly said, "We're in." She had no doubt Javier would come through for her. The Drug Enforcement Administration agent and Tia became close, working on a loose cannon project a couple years earlier and they had sporadically kept in touch. Agent Zamora owed his life to Tia who, the day after the mission had been completed, noticed a laser dot targeting Javier's head as they were leaving their debriefing in Bogota. She tackled him, slamming him to the ground before a host of bullets, in rapid fire succession, pierced the building sign they had been standing in front of, saying their goodbyes. Although there was never any way to confirm her suspicion, Tia would always believe that she had also been scoped that day, and had she not accidentally witnessed the intense, red, pencil eraser-sized spot marking Javier for death, neither of them would have made it to their vehicles alive. Zamora pledged that he owed her and however she needed to cash in on that, he would never deny her. Tia didn't like people owing her and she advised Javier that she would probably never collect on the debt but she never expected to be thrown into circumstances like this. Had Bruce not opened the book on the drug issue, Tia would have still been trying to come up with a way to save them all without Javier's help.

"You want to clue me in there, Anna ?" Jody reached behind her, to the refrigerator, and pulled out another beer for Tia and a champagne split for herself.

"Sure. In 2005, when I was in South America, just before my last assignment in Columbia, by coincidence, I fell into a situation that allowed me to assist the DEA on a project called Operation Flexión. It was a twenty-one month investigation that I came into on the tail end." She pulled back the tab on the can and took a refreshing swig. "Operation Flexión was a task force that targeted major steroid manufacturing companies, their owners and their trafficking associates. Over eighty percent of the steroids seized were of Columbian origin. And, although these companies conducted their business over the internet, these groups also supplied numerous pharmacies along the South American border towns, where U.S. customers could buy steroids and then smuggle them back across the border into the United States. That's where I met and worked with Javier. He and I were selected from our respective agencies to assist the South American Federal Agency of Investigation." Tia took a swig, then drew the cold receptacle across her forehead and touched it to the back of her neck in an effort to cool herself off.

"I didn't realize it was such a problem," Jody popped the cork off the bottle and poured it into a glass with some mimosa remaining.

"Just those nine companies had average combined sales totaling seventy-five million dollars a year. Now, that may be a drop in the bucket to your family but that's pretty big business in the illicit anabolic steroid world...and that was just online."

"I don't consider seventy-five million dollars a drop in anyone's bucket. How did they think they were going to get away with it?"

Tia went on to explain, "The manufacturers we were investigating tried to disguise the marketing of their product by saying it was being developed for use in animals but the 'laboratorios' knew their real customers were anybody from street level dealers to high-end businessmen, like your husband. And they didn't fool the DEA, either. It would be my guess that most of Tony's transactions have been through the internet and, if that's true, the evidence of that will still be on his hard drive. With the help of Bruce, we're going to bring Tony down."

"If Tony had anything illegal on his computer, he is too smart to leave it there. Of that much I am sure," Jody surmised.

"Actually, that's not true," Bruce stated, walking up the steps, toweling himself off. His sculpted muscles and well-defined abs were quite impressive. Even Tia gave his body a second look. "I just barely cleaned up his hard drive the other day. He was afraid the FBI was going to seize his computer to see if they might find anything on there that possibly related to your kidnapping. So he ordered me to make everything disappear."

"I didn't think you could do that...erase the hard drive," Jody skeptically challenged him.

"You can and you can't. You can't really remove data but you can make it extremely difficult for someone to find what they are looking for, even if they know what they're doing. And that's what I did. I wiped his drive and then did a multiple encryption. So if they do seize his computer, all they'll initially find is legitimate, work-related data."

Tia sat up, erect, intensity crackling from her every pore. "Bruce, what did you do with all that information you removed? Tell me that you saved everything, that you did not destroy any of it." Tia held her breath. She might be able to tie Tony into the murder of Trisha and might be able to nail him for being the mastermind behind his wife's abduction but without the evidence on his computer, Javier would have nothing to associate Tony with the purchase, importation and distribution of illegal steroids. With that corroboration, it would be the nail in Montgomery's coffin, without it, it would be the nail in hers.

The look in her eyes was deadly and it went through him like being stabbed by an icicle. He was indebted to the powers that be that he had the right answer. So why he responded with,"I have to tell you, you're expecting a lot. I mean, come on, if Tony ever found out I didn't destroy all of that compellingly incriminating information, I'm a walking corpse." Seeing Tia's fists clenching and her suddenly rising out of her chair, prompted him to clarify. "But I saved it all. I have it in a fireproof safe under some floorboards in my apartment." He shrugged. "I figured if I abruptly disappeared or was found dead during or after this little deal, it wouldn't be in vain. I had a timed message on my pc that would automatically send to the local FBI office if my computer wasn't touched in a three-day period."

Visibly relaxing, Tia sat down with a relieved thump, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Running both hands through her hair, she sighed audibly. "What did your email say?"

"That Tony was behind it all, that he set both you and me up and how he did it and where to find the evidence regarding his illegal drug business."

"So you were pretty sure he was going to kill us, too, eh?" Tia asked, rhetorically.

Bruce nodded, rolling the towel and placing it over his shoulders. "It has always been in the back of my mind but it never really surfaced as a reality until you said it. I mean, I took the precaution but it was honestly just that. The practical me figured it was a probability and the theoretical me kept saying, 'but I'm doing him a favor, I'm working with him on this, he'll leave me alone'. The lure of the money was a big deal for me and that's all I was focused on because Tony made it as impossible for me to refuse as he did for you." He bowed his head and looked at Jody again. "I'm so very sorry. It wasn't personal."

Tia shook her head. "It wasn't personal for Montgomery, either. That's what makes it so wrong on every level."

Jody shook her head again. "I can't believe I have been married to such a monster."

"Neither can I," Tia told her, sincerely, grateful that, by fate, it was she who was chosen to be Jody's executioner and had the presence of mind to realize what an absolute prize she had in this woman. Tony was an idiot. It would give Tia no greater pleasure than to be the one instrumental in destroying his life, thereby saving her own.


Tony's charm seemed to be just the slightest bit off today. Agent Marciano was obviously avoiding him, although, he assumed it was a result of Marciano's not-so-private dressing down earlier and that the agent was still uncomfortable. John didn't seem to appreciate his company either, today, and Sondra never appreciated it, so that was nothing new. She was just as disdainful as ever. The staff was jumpy and, most of all, melancholy. Jody had always been a welcome breath of fresh air in her parents' home and the Wainwright employees loved her. Especially after having to deal with her mother on a daily basis, so the thought of anything bad happening to the lovely and kind heiress created a heavy-hearted atmosphere. Something was amiss with Tony's usual appeal factor as no one seemed to be responding to it. If things didn't improve, it was going to put him in a bad mood. Tony hated bad moods. Somebody always suffered when the mercurial crooked businessman slipped into his dark side.

The news networks were setting up and fine-tuning for the morning press conference where Walt Sanborn would update the media on what the participating law enforcement agencies wanted the world to know. It would be rhetoric, of course, and everyone would know it but, by the end of today, the response of, "We are not at liberty to discuss that at this time," would no longer satisfy the voracious curiosity of the news hounds and when investigative reporters started poking around where their noses didn't belong, that's when things could get complicated for Tony.

Then, just before the daily media feeding frenzy began, as the family gathered stoically behind the assorted public information officers who would take turns speaking and answering questions, Danny Marciano quietly approached Montgomery and told him that they were going to confiscate his office computer and the computer of his secretary. Nodding, telling Marciano, 'no problem,' Montgomery was curious as to why now? Had they suddenly found something or thought they had found something? If it was routine, they should have impounded his computer when they seized Jody's. Since Marciano had previously advised him that they might take possession of his computer at some time, he should not have been suddenly so nervous about it. After all, it was the reason Bruce erased his hard drive because it was pretty much a given that this would happen. But it was the look in Marciano's eyes that made Tony uneasy. Trying to look nonchalant about it, Montgomery still bit his lip, now counting the minutes until the press conference was over so that he could contact Bruce just to make sure the authorities would find nothing suspicious. Taking a couple deep breaths, he swallowed his paranoia and put on his best game face for the cameras.


Marciano was sure they would find nothing of interest on Montgomery's computer, otherwise Montgomery wouldn't have been so accommodating but something tugged at the agent today about the heiress' husband. Maybe Marciano was just tweaked because his co-workers were doing the best they could to bring this situation to a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned, they were doing their job, following standard operating procedure, and he was still getting his ass chewed. He wasn't even in charge of anything and he was taking the heat, even though he knew the reason for that just happened to be because he was there and was convenient as a body at which Wainwright could vent. Not that he blamed the billionaire, the man just wanted his daughter back and Marciano was positive that it had nothing to do with the money. The man seemed to be sincerely concerned about his daughter's welfare and not how much it might cost him to get her back safely. Mrs. Wainwright, however, was just a contemptible piece of work. Even though the result of her polygraph was inconclusive, instinct told him she had nothing to do with her daughter's abduction even though Montgomery tried to direct suspicion her way. The woman just personified the word Bitch and Marciano had no doubt that this woman had no love for anything except her husband's bank account. Her behavior and attitude were clearly reprehensible but, that aside, the agent didn't think Mrs. Wainwright was smart enough to pull this off and not get caught. Plus, it would have required way too much effort on her part.

No, the first rule of thumb was to always look at the husband and Marciano hoped that's exactly what his superiors were doing. They knew that neither Montgomery nor his secretary had been near their office computers since the FBI became involved in his wife's abduction. Although either one or both could have been adding or deleting information from remote locations, he didn't feel there was too much damage Montgomery could do that the FBI technicians couldn't fix and recover, especially since he had not been anywhere physically near his hard drive in days. The ordering of the commandeering of the equipment at this particular time was more for effect and Marciano, especially, wanted to monitor Montgomery's actions and responses. He could not put his finger on exactly what it was he was looking for, nor did he have anything solid to go on but gut instinct was a large percentage of police work and the feeling in his bones about Anthony Montgomery was suddenly not a good one.

Chapter Twenty

The heaviest thing a person can carry is a grudge


Javier Zamora listened patiently and, at first, dubiously as Tia untangled her recent saga to him. If he hadn't known Tia so well, he would have accused her of being overly dramatic and desperate. But what she was telling him was too outrageous not to be true. His enthusiasm grew with each word she spoke, his imagination running wild at how much glory and recognition this would bring him. When she was done and he had written everything down, he asked her, "What do you want out of this, other than the obvious?"

"What's the obvious? To get my reputation back? My job back? It's too late for my reputation, whatever they didn't fuck up, I did and I don't want to go back and work for The Agency. But I do want to be exonerated. And an apology would be nice but I'm not going to hold my hand over my ass waiting for that. And I want immunity for Bruce. Anything else I'll have to think about."

"I'll look into the immunity thing but -"

"Don't 'but' me, Javi, this guy is handing you Montgomery's head on a platter. It's the least you can do for him...other than putting him in witness protection when this is done." She winked at Bruce, who looked astonished and relieved. "You'll probably get a promotion and a big, fat raise out of it, too."

"God, I'm hoping. I'm going to contact FININT, too," Zamora said, referring to Financial Intelligence. "Any idea how he planned on moving the ransom money?"

"According to Bruce, he's been going through offshore accounts over the past couple of years with all the money he has been making from his side business, so he was going to work the ransom money through those same channels so he could make anonymous deposits in Antilles, have it transferred to the Cayman Islands and then transfer it to Singapore but never in any particular order so that he can best eclipse its origins. Singapore seems to be the country he uses the most because the institutions he deals with there allows the easiest routes for transfers, deposits and withdrawals are protected by the bank secrecy laws."

"Ah. They operate outside government control, a trust-based system that leaves no paper trail."


"And people say crime doesn't pay," Zamora snorted. "He could spend all of it and no one would be the wiser. No repercussions."

"Yes. Honestly, Javi? I don't think this is really about the money. Maybe the drugs but not the abduction. He's disgruntled. He's got a grievance against his father-in-law and this is his way of really hurting him."

"At the expense of his wife's life? Cold bastard."

"He really is."

"Tia, we really need something to put Montgomery in that vehicle to connect him, though. Otherwise it's your word against his."

"And Bruce's."

"But Bruce wasn't there so Bruce's word on that is hearsay. I read the report. They found no identifiable fingerprints in the car other than the owner's, who reported it stolen, yours and the hooker's. Lots of smears. And very little blood."

A flash of memory flickered through Tia of Trisha's surprised, lifeless eyes immediately after being shot dead in the heart. The next thing she remembered was Montgomery wiping his chin of blood after the initial struggle when he first entered the back seat of the car. She sat up. "That's it! Javier, have them check the blood found in the car! Montgomery cut himself on the front sight of his gun. It bled a bit. See if any of it got anywhere other than on himself."

"I do believe they found a spot or two of dried blood on the back of the driver's side head rest that had not been identified. I'll see if the FBI has Montgomery's DNA on file yet. If they don't, they'll get it."

"Could you make sure they do this without tipping him off as to why they need it? We don't need him to suddenly disappear on us where we are all looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives. We don't know who he may or may not have on his payroll."

"Don't worry. Just leave it to me."

"If anyone else said that to me, believe me, I'd be worrying. I trust you, Javi, to bring us all home on this."

"With what's at stake, you know I will."

"Call me at this number when you have something."

"Isn't Montgomery tracking your minutes? Won't he want to know if you have used time that wasn't spent talking to him?"

"He might be but he is very arrogant and my guess would be that he will think I have been talking to Bruce. If he asks, I'll just tell him it took us a few tries to get Jody to correctly say what he wanted her to."

Hope he buys it for your sake."

"I don't think it will be an issue."

Zamora sighed. "Okay, let me get started on this and I will call you with updates and keep you posted. Thank you very much, Tia. You have made my day. Hell, fuck that, I think you just made my career."

"Don't get cocky on me, Javi, just nail the prick and let's all get on with our lives."

Laughing, Zamora said, "And you still minimize things."


Snapping the phone shut and placing it on the table, Tia smiled confidently and looked at Jody. "Tell me, does Tony have fire insurance? Because he'll need it where he's going when he dies."

In spite of the gravity of the situation, Jody smirked. "Knowing him, he probably sold a policy to Satan." She shook her head. "Just listening to you makes my head spin. All that shifting of money...it's just all so complicated."

"It has to be. That's the idea. It's not supposed to be easy to trace."

Bruce rubbed his eyes and looked at Tia. "Do you think your friend can really get me out of this?"

"If he can't, with everything I just gave him, no one can," Tia told him.

Tia, I am so sorry I involved you in this. I can't believe you don't want to hang me out to dry," Bruce admitted.

"Well, Bruce, I look at it this way. This was a wake up call if ever I needed one. And, besides, if I hang you out to dry, I tighten my own noose as well."

"Will I owe you now?"

"If we all get out of this alive and things work out the way I think they will, I'd say we can call it even."

Just then, Bruce's phone rang. "Shit. It's Tony. He shouldn't be calling me right now. I wonder what's happened." Bruce stood up and walked away from the women to answer the phone.

Watching him, studying his body language, Jody kept her voice quiet. "Could you personally arrest Tony if your standing with the agency was still valid?"

"No," Tia responded.

"Why not?"

"Because the CIA is a foreign intelligence agency, not a law enforcement agency, like the FBI. The CIA is forbidden to make arrests or conduct investigations of domestic subjects on domestic soil. That's the FBI's job." Seeing the worried look in the expressive green eyes of the woman seated opposite her, Tia slid her hand over and laced her fingers with Jody's. "We'll get him and then this will all be over," she reassured.

Rubbing the inside of Tia's wrist with her thumb, Jody looked down at their joined hands. "All of it?"

Tia squeezed Jody's fingers and reached over to lift Jody's chin with her free hand. When she had thoroughly engaged the heiress' eyes with her own, she said, "I think there is at least one thing that merits pursuing further."

Giving her a silent nod, Jody couldn't stop the grin that lit up her face. "I think I'd really like that."


"Now, you're sure they won't see anything suspicious on my computer..." Tony asked Bruce again.

"No. They may be able to tell that it has been recently wiped down. Just tell them you had an intrusion scare with a hacker. Working in the field you do, they will realize that the information stored on your hard drive is very sensitive and it should make sense to them that you would have to do that. But if they need to know more, that will point them in my direction and I will confirm your story."

"I don't want them anywhere around you, Bruce. I don't want you connected to this at all unless it is absolutely necessary. Those boys start sniffing around you and everything might unravel. I can't take that chance."

Bruce was almost hurt by Montgomery's lack of faith in him. "Well, you may not have a choice."

"Where are you? Sounds like seagulls in the background."

Bruce thought quickly. "I'm at the pier. I thought I'd come down to the beach and have a quick swim and then pick up some fish for dinner. You know Davy Jones Locker has the best fresh catches in town."

"You're buying your fish at Davy Jones Locker? I'm paying you too much." Bruce could hear the smile in Tony's voice.

"Yeah, probably," Bruce concurred, relieved that Tony believed him. His fears were also lessened by the fact that his boss was not computer savvy. He could tell Montgomery anything he wanted regarding the technology and Tony would question him only minimally. As of that morning, he was no longer intimidated by Anthony Montgomery. He realized he now held the hammer that could smash down on his evil boss' head. He wished he never had to leave the yacht until Montgomery had been caught.

"So, tell me, how does my wife sound? Scared?"

"Of course she sounds scared. She has no idea what is going on and she has a psycho watching over her," Bruce improvised. "It took her a few times to get what you wanted her to say right."

"You know...since she's going to be killed anyway, maybe I should visit her one last time. After all, it won't matter whether or not she knows just before she dies."

"Your wife is beautiful, Tony...I don't understand why you need to kill her. It's such a waste," Bruce told him, honestly.

"It's about power, Bruce. It's about who has the most influence and authority. Greatness isn't about being strong, Bruce, it's about how you use your strength."

"Yeah. I guess that makes sense," Bruce replied, hating this man even more now that he had gotten to know Jody a little better.

"Of course it does. Pay attention to me, Bruce, you'll learn a lot."

"I've learned a lot already."

"I need to get back to the main house, see what's happening. I'll be calling you later or tomorrow."

"When are we going to wrap this up?"

"Now you sound like Ramone. Soon. This will be over soon."

Noticing the finality tone to his voice, Bruce shivered, knowing exactly what his boss meant by that.


Bruce walked back to the two women. "They seized his office computer and he freaked out a little," he explained, holding up his phone.

"I'm surprised they didn't do that the first day," Tia said. "What will they find on it?"

"Nothing but MediMont business. But they'll be able to see that it's been messed with recently which will raise a big red flag."

"Does he know that?" Jody inquired.

"Yes. I told him to tell them that they had a hacker intrusion and he had to protect the privacy of his clientele," Bruce smiled.

"You know they won't buy that," Tia commented.

"Yeah, but he did and right now that's all that matters."


Agent Walter Sanborn had received an urgent message to return to his main office several hours after he had arrived at the Wainwright Estate. He could not have been more grateful. It had been an uncomfortable day all around. He had been chewed out in front of his subordinates by John Wainwright and he still hadn't recovered from it and was silently fuming. Agent Danny Marciano, a sharp kid who hadn't been with the Bureau too long, tried to give him a head's up but he had blown him off. Finding out that Marciano had also been humiliated in front of anyone within earshot twenty minutes before him made him decide to give the young agent a break and he requested that Marciano accompany him back to headquarters.

"Sir, may I speak frankly?" Marciano asked, once they had left the estate property.

"Please," Sanborn told him.

"I have a bad feeling about Montgomery."

Sanborn pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. He also didn't have a good feeling about 'the husband' but he could never put his finger on why, especially since Montgomery kept coming up so damned clean. However, he knew that gut instinct was an insight to be nurtured in this profession. Too many people nowadays went by the book and not enough trusted their intuition. Maybe Marciano could put the situation into perspective for him. "Talk to me, Danny."

"I don't have anything concrete, Sir. Honestly? There is just something about him that makes my skin crawl. He's too calm, too smooth. His reactions feel practiced. And today, after the press conference, after I told him we were confiscating his office computer, he took a long walk on the estate grounds and spoke on his cell phone."

"Pull his cell records."

"We did. There were no pings from his personal cell phone. I can only assume he spoke on a prepaid wireless, Sir."

"Well, now, that's interesting. I wonder why he did that?"

"Exactly my thoughts, Sir."

"Let's see what the regional office has to say."


Unfortunately, Montgomery's DNA had not been on record with the government or anywhere else. So getting Montgomery's genetic information to match it with the two spots of blood that had been discovered in a separate location from the rest and had not yet been identified, was going to be a little more complicated than first thought. Javier Zamora already had the paperwork processing to pull all of Montgomery's files, including records from his last medical check up but no DNA. If they arrested Montgomery now, his lawyer would have him out on bail before they could finish analyzing the computer data Zamora had received that afternoon. According to regulations, Zamora did have probable cause as an eyewitness put Montgomery at the scene of the prostitute's murder which then mushroomed into the kidnapping of Jody Montgomery. When Zamora told his supervisor that a new confidential informant had explosive intel on the heiress' husband, he was asked why he did not turn this information over to the FBI and let them deal with it. Zamora advised him that it may be connected to something bigger in the DEA's field and he requested the latitude with which to explore it. With minor restrictions, his boss gave him carte blanche to investigate it. Zamora then called an associate who gave him the name of a trusted higher-up in the Bureau, to which Zamora then contacted him, gave him enough information to get the FBI man to start salivating and told him he needed good people who wouldn't tip their hand in this.

When Zamora, then Sanborn and Marciano reached the dirty, weather-beaten eleven story city building that housed the regional FBI offices, each agent was secretly hoping for the same thing -  a speedy, successful outcome for their individual cases. When the two Bureau agents reached their headquarters' reception area, both had been quickly escorted to their field manager's office. After the door closed, they faced three men; their boss, his boss and Javier Zamora. He was identified as a DEA agent and his assignment required their assistance. Before he told them just exactly what he needed them to know he said, "Mrs. Montgomery is safe. She is in the protection of a colleague." He then glared at Sanborn and Marciano. "But that information doesn't leave this office." He observed the two men intently as their reaction to that news was very important. They looked sincerely relieved, which assuaged any reservation he may have had about them.

"Where is she?" Marciano inquired, feeling a release of anxiety physically exit his body.

"Not important at this time. Just know that she is alive and well and ready to cooperate with us." The last thing Zamora thought this kid would want to hear was that she had been on a boat he had personally checked.

"When was she rescued, Sir?" Sanborn asked his superior.

"She has actually been in the safety of my colleague since the day of her abduction," Zamora answered for the supervisor.

"What?!" Both Sanborn and Marciano said at the same time.

"Why weren't we told?" Sanborn continued, frustration dotting his tone. He looked at his boss, who nodded toward Zamora, deferring to the DEA agent at that time.

"We couldn't compromise her welfare by tipping off the person responsible." Zamora explained. "Mrs. Montgomery has been going along with everything until we have enough evidence to bring her home safely."

"Please, please tell me you suspect her husband is involved," Marciano blurted out.

Looking at him, sharply, Zamora said," Why do you say that?"

Embarrassed at first by his unprofessional outburst, Marciano glanced around the room, only to see inquisitive eyes, not angry ones. He shrugged. "I just don't like the guy. I mean, he's cooperative and personable enough but...I don't know...something just does not set right."

"As well it shouldn't," Zamora agreed, solemnly.

Chapter Twenty-One

If you can't be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.


The sun was setting on the horizon as Jody and Tia silently watched, from the foredeck. The heiress was sitting on the padded bench seat, her body between Tia's legs. Her feet were propped up and she leaned back against the solid body behind her, Tia's arms fastened around her waist, lips occasionally grazing her neck and hair, as the colors of the rainbow reflected in the sunset.

As darkness covered them, Tia was sparking Jody's libido to a full flame. Jody was still amazed that someone, anyone, could instill this reaction within her and this was what made her understand that she needed to explore her attraction to this woman more thoroughly. She never felt as safe and secure as she did when she was in Tia's embrace.

The day had been an awakening for her, for Tia, for Bruce and, hopefully, for her husband. Everything was happening so fast but it didn't make it feel any less right. She felt as though she was meant to be in the arms of Tia Ramone. As Jody allowed Tia's hands and lips to freely explore wherever they could comfortably reach, the two women remained in that position until the full moon was the only thing lighting up the cloudless sky.

"Jody?" Tia whispered in Jody's ear after gently gnawing on her lobe for a while.

"Yes?" Jody responded, breathlessly.

"Let's go downstairs to the master stateroom. I'm aching to make love to you."

"I don't want to go anywhere. Make love to me here, under the stars?"

"Yessss," Tia exhaled, turning Jody in her arms and lying flat, pulling the heiress on top of her. Placing her hand on the back of Jody's neck, Tia looked into Jody's eyes, which were darkened with need and desire, before she brought the heiress' face to hers and met Jody's eager lips with a deep, probing, passionate kiss. It was a kiss which made Jody's body once again respond in ways she never thought possible. The touch of Tia's lips to hers sent a jolt immediately to her center, eliciting a wetness that was instantaneous. She felt a tingling deep in her belly that was almost frightening in its intensity, causing her to quiver involuntarily. She had read about lovers provoking this type of reaction in each other but she thought it was just a fantasy created in the mind of the author. Until now.

As Jody's tongue continued to lovingly spar with Tia's, her mind wandered briefly to speculate what, other than the phenomenal sex, drew her to this woman. They really had nothing in common, their cultural backgrounds were miles apart, Tia was of an entirely different mindset and...ohhh, God...when the hell had Tia slid her fingers there? Breaking the kiss, Jody gasped for breath as Tia expertly worked her fingers over Jody's sensitized clit. It was an awkward position for Tia to be able to manipulate her fingers so knowledgeably and successfully. "Jesus, Tia," Jody panted, as she felt the electricity radiate throughout her nether regions. She could feel her wetness soaking them both.

"All that moisture just for little ol' me?" Tia playfully asked, her voice low and husky.

Jody buried her face into Tia's shoulder, concentrating on the sensation that was building within her. She caressed Tia's neck and occasionally found the focus to nibble on Tia's throat. Just when Jody thought Tia should have been circling faster, her new lover slowed her pace. "Wh...why are you stopping?" Jody wondered, puffing, "I'm so close...so close..." She began rocking her body against Tia's fingers, trying to regain the rhythm.

"I'm not stopping," Tia murmured, thankful that Jody had donned just a bathrobe after swimming earlier and taking a quick shower. She pushed the open robe off Jody's shoulders with her free hand and Jody shed the rest of the terrycloth garment without disrupting Tia's hands, leaving herself completely naked. When the heiress began to sit up, Tia stopped her without altering her cadence. "Don't. I want you close to me when I make you come. I want to see your face, your expression." She pulled Jody to her, locking gazes, neither taking their eyes off the other one except to blink.

"Please. Faster."

"No," Tia whispered, rubbing noses with her gorgeous companion. "I want you slow and steady. I don't just want to get you off, I want it to build within you. And I want to watch that happen in your eyes."

Responding to the impossibly sexy growl in Tia's voice, Jody's breath caught. The feel of Tia's index and middle finger stroking methodically, with just enough pressure to incite her nerve endings to a frenzied state. Her heartbeat accelerated and she was almost there again, when Tia reduced her speed even more. "Oh, fuck, what are you doing?" Jody asked, loving and hating Tia's ministrations at the same time.

"You'll see." Cupping Jody's backside with her other hand, Tia forced Jody's lower body tightly to her own, trapping her working hand between them. She then used the pads of her two fingers to decrease pressure, making the minutest of movement. "Right there?"

"A little to the OH GOD, YES, right there ..." It was as though Tia had pressed a magic button. By using the angle and the leverage Tia was, added to the sudden increased pace and barest of momentum, made Jody's insides erupt. She almost closed her eyes to accept her orgasm but Tia lightly bit on Jody's chin to get her attention. Watching the predatory expression on her lover's face, as Tia took in every nuance of Jody's climax, proceeded to make Jody come harder and longer.


Bruce grabbed one of his laptop computers, a couple changes of clothes and rented a motel room for the night. He wasn't sure what was going to go down and he did not want to be anywhere on Tony's radar when the shit hit the fan. After he had left The Quintessence, he went to his apartment, opened his safe, took out one set of copies of the evidence against his boss to keep with him and then gave his other set of copies to Javier Zamora. The DEA agent had called Bruce to confirm what he had and to arrange a meeting to turn the CDs over. Zamora assured him that even if they could not connect Montgomery to the kidnapping right away, with what Bruce gave him, after reviewing it to sort out the correct charges, they would at least have Montgomery on the drug counts. Bruce also knew, though, that until an investigation could confirm what he had given the DEA, a good attorney would have Tony out of jail within hours and if Tony had already planned to zero him out, with the new knowledge that Bruce had overtly betrayed him, Tony would make it his life's mission to hunt him down and kill him.

He also knew Tony could order to have it done, too. However, he hoped that the FBI and DEA wouldn't jump the gun and, instead, have all their paperwork in order so they could get Tony before he knew what was happening and hang onto him. Then Bruce was sure he could fade into obscurity in the federal witness protection program. He didn't care about the millions his boss had promised him. He just wanted to walk away from this alive, with the promise that he had a good chance of staying alive unless he screwed up again. He was getting a second chance. How many people in the depths of hell that Bruce was in could say that?

Bruce knew his "new life" meant he would have to get off the steroids and return to the skinny, unpopular geek he once was. It was too bad Mrs. Montgomery wasn't going to need the services of a computer nerd at her beck and call. It didn't matter that she wouldn't look at him twice that way. He just suddenly felt that she and Tia Ramone would be the only two people to ever understand and appreciate him.

Tia Ramone. Boy, what a thunderbolt she turned out to be. He'd accessed a majority of Tia's history, he knew what she was capable of, knew that regardless of his strength, she could turn him into cat food with little effort. She should have been so angry with him and yet she was ready to wipe the slate clean if he helped them. Instead of a detonating bomb, she had been the calming force that said, 'together we can save all our asses.'

She would probably never realize what an inspiration to him she had been in just that short time they had interacted with each other. Maybe someday he would have the chance to tell her.

As he stretched out on his hard hotel bed, he clicked the remote until he found a news station. Seeing Tony's fake, grim face on CNN's Headlines News every fifteen minutes gave him an upset stomach. He searched the channels and settled on reruns of Frasier. It was the Valentine's Day episode, Bruce laughing hysterically at the beginning, thinking it was the funniest five minutes on television, ever. Goddamn, that Niles was just hilarious. Yes, watching Frasier was much better than the news.


"Ooooooooh," Jody inhaled as one skilled finger entered her, then another. "Ohhhhhhhhh, God, Tia....faster...harder..." She couldn't take much more of this sweet, exquisite torture. Her body was screaming for respite. She had climaxed repeatedly from Tia's masterful attention to her needs, to the point where she had literally almost passed out once. Jody had to give back at some stage, the thought of Tia's bucking, writhing form underneath hers clearly bringing her to the brink once again. Stretched, well lubricated with her own juices, aching and ready, Jody asked for a third finger. Then a fourth. Feeling it inserted and joining the others, Jody rode Tia's hand only briefly before crying out her release and collapsing into strong, warm arms that enveloped her protectively.

"Madre de Dios, tu es tan seductora." Mother of God, you are so seductive, Tia told her, throatily, holding the heiress to her, kissing whatever flesh was exposed. "Tu tiene un cuerpa tan erótica y un alma tan hermosa. Si podría venir a casa a tu cada noche, juro que yo no sería donde soy. Pienso que yo podría amar tu, mi magnífico."

"God, that is so sexy when you whisper Spanish in my ear like that. What are you saying?" When Tia was silent, Jody lifted her head to look in her eyes. "Tell me. Please?"

Almost embarrassed, Tia repeated it in English. You have such a seductive body and such a beautiful soul. If I could come home to you every night, I swear I wouldn't be where I am. I think I could love you, my magnificent one.

Jody nodded, playing with a strand of Tia's silky, long black hair. "Thank you. So...um...you would really want to come home to someone like me every night?"

The question was asked with such a sense of modesty and humility, it caused Tia's heart to pound. Jody's absence of vanity and lack of self-importance was exactly one of the reasons, Tia was responding to her with such fervency. "Jesus, Jody...are you kidding? Who in their right mind wouldn't want to be with you?"

"Other than my own husband?"

"I said 'in their right mind.' He's a fucking dick. And, come on, you never really loved him anyway. You were accommodating your parents. Now it's time for you. Just because he had his own agenda is no reason for you not to fully explore and take advantage of what you have now discovered and acknowledged about yourself."

"What about you?"

"Me? I want to stop suffering from a severe case of inflammation of the wishbone."

"I think I want my life to include you in it. In fact," Jody gave Tia a heated kiss, accentuated with desire, "I know I do."

"We'll talk about that, okay?  I have a lot to come to terms with, too. A lot to figure out. I don't know how I could possibly be good for you."

"Can I be the judge of that?"

Tia adjusted her position over the heiress, grinding her center into Jody's. "Can we discuss this later? Right now, I kind of have this crisis that only you can fix..."


Zamora had grilled all present and accounted for FBI personnel about everything they knew and had discovered so far about Anthony Montgomery, his in-laws and the case. He, in turn, gave them what he could about Montgomery's involvement with the illegal steroid importation and distribution business. The thrilled look on Marciano's face was nearly worth the wait. Zamora was sure that, in addition to the most important thing -  knowing Mrs. Montgomery was safe - the young agent felt a little rush of self-importance because his gut had been right about Montgomery and that he could also clearly see his advancement within the Bureau.

Finally, somewhere close to seven o'clock P.M., Zamora got the go ahead to arrest Montgomery, and while he was in custody, get his DNA.

Accompanying Sanborn and Marciano to the Montgomery property, Zamora took a Cohiba cigar out of his right breast inside pocket, ran his tongue over the tip he then put in his mouth and lightly clamped down on, holding it between his teeth, not lighting it. It was a four hundred dollar cigar, the purchase of which nearly caused his wife to divorce him. He knew, however, a time would come when his extravagance would pay off and that time was very soon. Smoking it was an honor and a commemorative luxury he would wait for and the bonus and the reward he would receive from this would certainly make up for his self-indulgence.

He would call Tia when Montgomery was safely behind bars. He wondered what she would do to celebrate.


They had still not left the foredeck. Their lovemaking had been so potent, concentrated and reciprocal that time seemed to stand still for hours. They just could not get enough of each other. Although, at one point, Tia wondered what was going on with the investigation, it was a fleeting thought that exited her head almost as quickly as it entered. All she wanted to do right now was satisfy the lovely woman in her arms again and again and again...

It had begun to get chilly and a cool breeze was starting to build but neither woman really noticed right away. Jody had just spent the last thirty minutes, working up a sweat by burying her face into Tia's crotch and just following her instincts to cater to Tia's precise needs. She was learning so much, most specifically that her own gratification was minor compared to what she could cause her lover's body to do. It was wonderful realizing that your own body had the capacity to respond in ways you never thought possible but what power to know that you could coax such reactions out of another human being, that you could literally render them nearly helpless with your sexual capabilities. When Jody finished, her indulging Tia resulting in the woman beneath her becoming momentarily weak, the heiress suggested they continue in the master stateroom.

When Tia advised Jody that her legs felt stable enough to stand on and walk downstairs, she agreed.

Once down in Jody's bedroom, after another drink and some creative making out up against the wall, Jody found herself being thrown on the bed. Lying on her back, looking up at Tia with a coquettishly panicked expression, Jody's breathing was labored by curiosity and excitement. Joining Jody on the bed, Tia looked at her, dominantly, and said, in a husky whisper, "Te la voy a meter de mira quien viene." Grabbing Jody's ankles, she turned her blonde companion over, then yanked her up so that Jody was on her hands and knees. Crouched between Jody's legs, Tia spread her, holding her apart with her knees against Jody's thighs. Gathering an abundance of moisture from Jody's center, Tia rimmed Jody's anus with her middle finger, then entered gradually, burying her finger deeper with each slow thrust. With her other hand, she fingered Jody to an almost violent orgasm that seemed to radiate from two areas at once.

"Oh, Jesus, Tia. Oh, my God, my God, please don't stop..."

When Jody settled down, Tia fucked her again in the same manner. While Jody let her body relax, collapsing on the bed, Tia went to the head and washed her hands. Returning before Jody even knew she was gone, the sable-haired beauty grinned. She turned Jody over so that the heiress was lying on her back "Te voy a hacer la tonto," Tia muttered, as she cupped both Jody's breasts. Positioning herself, she hovered over the reddish-blonde, neatly trimmed curls that sheltered Jody's sex, blowing on the dampness that clung to the soft fringe. Parting Jody with her thumbs, Tia proceeded to feast on Jody's aching center.

This kind of ecstasy couldn't be possible...could it? Jody really felt as though she had died and gone to heaven. She could not, would not lose this woman.


Hours later, Montgomery sighed as he sat out by his artificially lit pool area. With the exception of a few minor glitches, everything was going according to plan. Tomorrow would be the last day of fun and games and the next, would be dooms day for his wife, Bruce and that bitch, Ramone. His father-in-law was at his wits end and was getting the ransom money ready, which is precisely what he thought would happen. The FBI was scratching their collective heads. Bruce and Tia were trapped by their own addictions and his poor wife was just a victim of circumstance. But he knew his father-in-law would cave and pay the money and then he would be free of it all. People were just so predictable, he laughed to himself. As for Tony, he would be so 'grief-stricken' that he would appoint someone to run his company and he would sell this house and move somewhere to mourn. Somewhere tropical, of course.

"Inez, could you get me another Seven and Seven?" Tony asked his downstairs maid, as he held his glass out. "Fresh glass and easy on the ice this time."

"Yes, Mr. Montgomery," Inez responded, taking the glass from him. She stopped before returning to the wet bar on the patio. "Mr. Montgomery?"

"Yes, Inez?"

"May I ask, please, if there is any news on Mrs. Montgomery?"

"No, Inez, I'm sorry. Just that the kidnappers still have her."

"We miss her very much, Mr. Montgomery. And Richard said that a couple of the dogs aren't eating."

"Everything will be fine, Inez. The FBI is doing everything they can and, if all else fails, Mrs. Montgomery's father is willing to pay the ransom. She'll be home soon, I'm sure of it."

"Mr. Montgomery, forgive me but Eeyore and Piglet are sleeping with me in my quarters at night," Inez informed him, referring to Jody's oldest cat and dog.

"That's okay. I'm sure Mrs. Montgomery would have wanted that, Inez. She knew how fond you were of them."

Inez nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Montgomery." She stepped over to the bar to make Tony his cocktail, disturbed by the fact that he just referred to Jody in the past tense. As she handed him his drink, Richard, the houseman, entered the pool area.

"Mr. Montgomery? Agents Sanborn and Marciano are here to see you. May I show them out here?"

"Certainly, Richard." Taking a sip of his drink, he nodded at Inez. "Perfect. Thank you." Standing up, Montgomery smoothed his wet hair back and took a deep breath. Had something gone wrong? Had that maniac Ramone flipped and killed Jody? Had that bitch jumped the gun on him so that he wouldn't get the payoff? Several scenarios were running through his brain at once, most centering on just exactly what he would do to Tia Ramone when he found her if she had fucked this up for him in any way. Facing the patio door that led into the house, Montgomery exhaled, smiled and greeted the two agents. "Gentlemen, what can I do for you? Is there news about my wife?"

"No, Sir, this is about you," Sanborn advised him.

They were joined by a tall man Montgomery had never seen before. He looked to be of Latin descent. He had a different air about him, a streetwise authority that didn't set at all well with Tony. "Me?" He genuinely looked stunned. Bruce had assured him everything incriminating had been taken off his computer and even if they had found something, Bruce had guaranteed that it would take a very long time to decipher it. Could Bruce have set him up? No. Maybe Ramone was insane enough to take things into her own hands but Bruce wanted that money too much. Not only that, he was a follower, not a leader. "Did you need to ask me more questions? I honestly can't think of anything more I can tell you."

"We can, Sir. We need to know about your association with a woman named Patricia Martindale," Walt Sanborn inquired.

Montgomery tried to look confused. "I can't help you gentlemen, I am not personally familiar with anyone by that name and, besides, I am a happily married man, I don't associate with prostitutes."

"How do you know she is a prostitute, Mr. Montgomery?" Sanborn asked, with a lift of his eyebrow.

"I heard about her on the news. It was the only other story making headlines the day the media stopped everything to report my wife's kidnapping. It was almost a relief to hear something other than the press speculating about my wife. So, of course I know the name. She was the hooker found dead in that car. I thought they were looking for some ex-CIA person in connection with that."

Maybe you know her better as Trisha," Marciano suggested.

Montgomery swallowed hard, trying to keep his cool. "I told you, Agent Marciano," he said, trying to remain calm, "I don't associate with prostitutes. I mean, you've seen pictures of my wife, why would I have to?"

Marciano appeared as though he was on the verge of smirking. "Mr. Montgomery, that is like a rapist saying, 'I can get any girl I want, why would I have to rape anyone?' You need to come clean with us, Sir, and you need to do it now." The younger agent's voice wasn't threatening but it was firm.

"I don't like what you are implying," Montgomery spit out, indignantly.

"Then you'll like this even less," the DEA agent was less diplomatic than Marciano. He did smirk.

"I'm sorry...and you are?" Montgomery was starting to sweat even while trying to maintain being offended.

"Agent Zamora, DEA."

"The Drug Enforcement Administration? Why are you here?" Oh, no...no, no, no, no...

"I have a message from Tia Ramone: Looks like your little Scorpion just stung you."

His face fell and drained of all color immediately. "Ramone? I don't know who that is..."

"Funny, you didn't know Patricia Martindale, either, but you remembered her name from the news. Yet you don't remember Tia Ramone's name?" he asked Montgomery,

"Oh...oh, wait, Ramone...that's the name, the CIA person who -"

"Save it," Zamora held his hand up to Montgomery. "What you will remember about Tia Ramone is that she is the one who is responsible for bringing you down. By the way...didn't anyone ever tell you to never underestimate a woman scorned?"

Montgomery's eyes grew wide as three uniformed police officers appeared on the patio from behind the three government agents. Since he was dressed only in a Speedo water polo swimsuit, it was obvious he wasn't hiding anything and didn't need to be frisked. Seeing a pair of handcuffs being pulled from a woven leather holster, Montgomery took a step back. "Now wait a minute! Are you going to arrest me? What in the hell for?"

"Anthony Holt Montgomery, Jr., you are under arrest for Conspiracy to Import Anabolic Steroids, Conspiracy to Distribute Anabolic Steroids, Conspiracy to Launder Money and Criminal Forfeiture. You are also being arrested on suspicion of violating the Federal Kidnapping Act." Zamora purposely omitted the murder charges as that was not his jurisdiction. That was a local police matter and they had yet to match Montgomery's DNA with that of the unidentified spot in the car, although, he had no doubt that they would.

"What?! This is nuts! You can't..." He took deep breaths to calm himself. "Okay. All right. Let me at least get dressed and call my lawyer."

Richard, the houseman, suddenly stepped next to Montgomery, a shirt and slacks slung over his outstretched arm. "Your clothes, Sir." Richard seemed to be irritatingly smug.

Although laughing incredulously, Montgomery was cooperative. He took his clothes and put them on over his bathing suit. "Richard, call my attorney, please. Have him meet me at where? The FBI offices?"

"The police station, the harbor precinct. We'll book you there and transport you following your arraignment," Sanborn said.

Montgomery looked at Marciano. "You guys are making a huge mistake. I didn't do anything, Danny. Don't fuck up your career over this. You are too young to go down in flames like this." Inside, Montgomery was imploding. How could this have happened? How did that fucking bitch, Ramone, find out about the drugs?

Leaning in closely, Marciano squinted at the swarthy suspect, "Honestly, Mr. Montgomery? Nothing gives me more pleasure than to do what I am doing right now."

Montgomery seemed to have regained his composure but the beads of sweat above his lip contradicted that demeanor. "Dan, Dan...I'm telling you, this is a mistake..."

"Tony, Tony," Marciano mocked him, "We have so much against you, you might never see the light of day again."

Losing his 'nice guy' persona, his face contorted in outrage. "You stupid little son-of-a-bitch! You are so going down for this! When my lawyer is finished with you, you won't be allowed to direct traffic...!"

Leaning close to Montgomery's ear, so that only Montgomery could hear him, Marciano said, "Yeah, speaking of going down, a pretty boy like you is going to be very popular in federal prison. When we're finished with you, you're asshole is going to pucker to the size of a pinpoint," Marciano smirked. "But...don't worry, I'll send you a big jar of Vaseline. Where you're going, you'll need it." Placing handcuffs around Montgomery's wrists, Marciano began to recite, "You have the right to remain silent..."


Exhausted, the lovers had fallen asleep wrapped up in each other. Jody couldn't speak for Tia but she was quite sure she would not be able to walk correctly for a while, she had been so thoroughly ravished. The sex had been rowdy, to say the least. And she had enjoyed every second of it. No one had ever excited her as much as the woman in her arms had and Jody held onto Tia tightly in case this was the last time they would be able to be together for a while. She wondered what was going on with the investigation, wondered if she would be home tomorrow, wondered if Tia would be taken away from her or worse, if Tia would leave on her own. She dozed off not fifteen minutes after Tia had started to lightly snore.

Neither heard Tia's cell phone ring some time around four A.M.


"Tia," Zamora's message said, on her voice mail, "It's done. We've got him. Stick that proverbial fork in him. He's done. I'm coming out there to get you two. We're bringing you home."

Chapter Twenty-Two

Anyone who angers you, conquers you


Waking up to use the head, Tia checked her phone for messages. Hearing Zamora's voice telling her they were on their way and why, caused the ex-operative to forget all about her full bladder. The time the message was sent was about twenty minutes earlier. "Shit." Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with a sense of relief she had not felt in a long time, Tia knelt by Jody's side of the bed. "Hey..." She shook the heiress gently, her voice low as not to startle her lover. "Jody, wake up..."

Stretching languidly, Jody reacted to her body's response to her marathon sexual aerobics that had stopped just an hour earlier. "Owwwww. Ooooh." She blinked to focus on Tia's smiling face. "Need more sleep...and a chiropractor..." she mumbled.

"There'll be plenty of time for that. Tony's been arrested and Javier and the feds are on their way out here -"

"They have him!?" She sat up, quickly, and immediately regretted it. "Fuck. And I thought I was in shape," she commented, rubbing her lower back.

Tia leaned over and kissed her. "Oh, you are. Trust me on that." Winking at her, she pulled back. "They should be here any minute. I'm going to go to the room I was originally sleeping in and mess it up to make it look like I spent the night there. I'm also going to shower off quickly."  Her lips pursed into a smirk. "I suggest you do the same. And maybe strip the bed and throw the sheets into the washer? We don't need any possible appearances of collusion to cloud this. I'll be back to help you remake the bed."

Jody got out of the berth and began pulling at the bedding. "Tia?"


"What happens now?"

"You'll be debriefed by the FBI and then-"

"No," she interrupted, reaching for Tia's wrist, "I mean, between us?"

"I...I don't know, Jody. That will be up to you. I have a lot of demons that I need to exorcise before I do anything. I'm not whole right now and you deserve someone who is. These are extraordinary circumstances and under normal conditions, we might not even like each other."

"I doubt that," Jody smiled, fondly.

Tia doubted it, too. She didn't want to leave her new lover but, surprised that Javier wasn't already there, she knew she needed to discipline herself to move. Now. She leaned over and tenderly kissed Jody once more, hopefully not for the last time.


It had turned into a media frenzy. Some department's PIO had contacted the press and suddenly helicopters were everywhere, spotlights illuminating The Quintessence as the federal agents boarded, disappeared inside and returned with the kidnapped heiress. Tia followed, Javier at her side. The 'rescue' was being broadcast live all over the world, as well as the news that Jody's husband had been arrested on suspicion of being connected to the abduction, among other serious charges. As Tia and Javier stepped onto the designated federal water transport, Zamora leaned into Tia and said, "Damn, woman, you're still a ladykiller, aren't you?"

"What are you talking about?" She tried to look innocent but she knew exactly what he meant.

"Jefa, you can take as many showers as you want, you can wash those sheets a thousand times, you can spray all the Fabreze in there that the manufacturers have to offer but that room still smelled like sex." He waggled his eyebrows at her.

Rolling her eyes, a slight blush coloring her cheeks, she said, "Shut up, Javi. You always did have an extra sensitive nose."

Throwing his head back, Zamora let go with a hearty laugh. "Perro." He then gestured Tia onto the lower deck.

Tia seated herself opposite Jody, who was flanked by two FBI agents. At several points, their eyes met, locked, and conveyed so much that words never could. If this exchange had been openly detected, no one made mention of it. The agents were speaking to the heiress the entire thirty minute journey back to shore to which Tia saw Jody either nod or shake her head.

Once they docked, there were cameras and microphones shoved into their faces, questions, insinuations, accusations thrown at them from every direction, pushing and shoving but until they were both safely ensconced into separate SVUs, the only words spoken were, "No comment."


The Wainwrights watched the entire event unfold on live TV. Neither John nor Sondra could speak, both for different reasons. John was nearly bawling like a baby when he saw his beautiful daughter emerge onto the aft deck landing and be courteously assisted onto the government vessel. She looked unharmed but tired. He could not hold his emotions back, regardless of who was in the room.

Sondra remained phlegmatic but found herself, appallingly, choked up, something she would never personally acknowledge or publicly admit to anyone. They had already been informed that Montgomery had been arrested. Sondra had scoffed at John's shock but, deep down inside, she was also surprised that her son-in-law had risked so much. Both she and John assumed it had been about the money and no other reason. Sondra understood revenge but only if it had dollar signs attached to it.

They had not traded any conversation and remained glued to the news networks, while listening intently to each reporter's speculation of what had happened, what was currently happening and what would most likely happen in the immediate future. Staff, acquaintances, assigned media and law enforcement officials alike were all offering their relief and congratulations to Jody's parents. Everyone quietly watched the huge television screen in the entertainment room as film of Jody being escorted into the regional FBI headquarters were intercut with snippets of Montgomery, in shackles, being led into the harbor police station. The trailer seemed to be on a continuous loop while the news anchor narrated over it.


Several hours later, interrogated out but happy to be alive, Jody was escorted by federal security agents into her parents' home. Her reuniting with her father had been tearful, sweet and precious. She knew how much and how sincerely her father loved her. "Daddy, I'm fine," she assured him. "Officer Ramone was very protective and knowledgeable. I was very, very lucky to have had her at the right place at the right time. Without her, I would be dead." That finalization of that last word made them both blubber. Gaining control, Jody freed herself from her father and approached her mother.

Her reunion with her mother was altogether different. She hugged her mother for the cameras, her lips very close to Sondra's ear. For the first time she addressed her mother the way she'd previously never had the guts to. "You cold, insufferable bitch. I watched you on the news. You could not have cared less if I returned safely. Don't worry...I won't lay a straw in your way but if you think, for one minute, I am going to continue to tolerate your insecurities toward me, you can think again. Get your shit together, Mother. I'm warning you. I'm not the little girl who was under your thumb less than a week ago."

There was an authority in Jody's voice that Sondra would not have dared argue with and, despite everything, she almost felt solace that her daughter had been returned safely, revealing a maternal instinct she never thought she possessed. Suddenly, she tightened her grip on Jody. "I'm so glad, so very glad you were not hurt or killed. Please believe that, Jody."

Swallowing hard, Jody slowly pushed back from Sondra. "I wish I could believe that." She turned to face the cameras. "I'm just very grateful to be home. That's all I have to say for now." And, with that, Jody, John and Sondra walked arm-in-arm into John's private study, where there was no press. A line of police officers prevented anyone from following them.


Tia felt being raked over hot coals would have been quicker and less painful. First, she had to speak to the FBI. It took hours to satisfy those agents that she had not been working with Tony Montgomery and that she had been working with Bruce Wechsler and Javier Zamora to bring Tony down. She explained to them that Montgomery had solicited them separately and that they both realized the only way they could bring him down was to work together. What she had to tell them was just too compelling and her story was not only backed up by Wechsler, it was supported by Jody Montgomery, as well.

Bruce was in another room, recounting his tale to a delegation of DEA agents. They already had possession of Bruce's CDs and what he was telling them added up. There were some personnel annoyed that he had been promised immunity but there were others who knew Bruce was the little fish in the Big Pond who could help them catch the current Big Fish.

Later that day, Bruce was snapped up into government protection, Tia was escorted to her residence where she packed all of her minimal belongings and was driven to an undisclosed location arranged by Javier and Jody went home. After a sincerely warm welcome by her staff, Jody checked on all of her animals, praising Richard, his daughter and whoever else helped keep them fed, exercised and healthy.

That evening, Jody took a relaxing swim with her lab/beagle mix, Piglet, who attempted laps with her and Eeyore, her grey Maltese cat, carefully supervising. When she finally went to bed, her faithful companions snuggled in with her, she could not believe the intensity of emotion she felt due to Tia's absence.

Twenty miles away, sipping on a club soda, watching herself on the news with the mute button activated, Tia could not believe how much she missed Jody. It was as though a piece of her had been forever vanquished and the emptiness she felt was almost unbearable. She settled in, propping herself against the headboard and began flipping channels. She took another swallow of club soda. Her head was amazingly clear. She hadn't had a drop of alcohol in more than twenty-four hours. That must have been a record for her. The fact that the CIA had contacted her to praise her on her actions and asked for her forgiveness was one thing. But when they told her they would expunge her 'record' and asked her to come back to work was quite another. After telling them in no uncertain terms to do something anatomically impossible with their offer, she felt better than she ever had in her life.


Montgomery sat in jail, awaiting his extradition to a federal penitentiary. How could all of this have gone so wrong so quickly? He'd had everything under control. Or so he thought. He had to admit that the evidence against him had been pretty damned overwhelming. He had underestimated Tia Ramone's persuasive abilities. Especially on his wife.

Jody. He should have been happy she wasn't dead. After all, she had really only been a pawn in his game. But he wasn't. He felt a fury raging inside him unlike anything he had ever experienced. Ramone had used his wife's innocence and vulnerability against him and it had worked. She should have been loyal to him, yet she wasn't. She had turned against him in the blink of an eye. He still could not believe that she had been so ready to sell him out at the words of Bruce and Ramone. They were degenerates and yet she sided with them. And the worst of it was, Jody was still alive, which meant Wainwright wasn't suffering.

He knew she must have been feeling quite betrayed, to say the least, so when he was informed that Jody was there, requesting a visit with him, he was more than stunned.

They had been seated in a private room with nothing dividing them but a narrow, marked and dented metal table. Guards were everywhere. Clenching her teeth, restraining herself from slapping him across the face, it was Jody who finally spoke first, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "I won't ask you why, Tony, after everything I have been told and everything I have read, it is clear to me why."

"It wasn't about you," he told her, his voice monotone.

"Was it ever?" She asked him, knowing he really didn't need to answer.

"Why are you here?" His voice was undisguised resentment, his attitude one of pure indignation. "You want me to say I'm sorry? Don't hold your breath. I won't because I'm not."

Jody studied the man she had been married to. She didn't recognize him anymore. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing." Montgomery sat back. He expression and posture told her their conversation was over.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Love is an unusual game. There are either two winners or none.


One week later, Tia had emerged from one hundred twenty-eight hours of intense, concentrated rehabilitation. She felt well. A little lost in her sobriety but clear-headed, nonetheless. The first person she called was the heiress, Joanne Dyson Wainwright Montgomery. She wanted to know where she stood. Both women had had enough time to evaluate their lives and situations, especially since they'd had no contact with each other after the rescue. When Jody accepted her call instantly and, seemingly without reservation, Tia's heart nearly burst with emotion for the smaller blonde woman who had surrendered to her so willingly and lovingly a little over a week before.

"Oh Lord, Tia, you have no idea how much I have missed you," Jody breathed on the phone, ecstatic to hear her lover's voice.

"I think I might have a little idea..." Tia grinned, pleased that Jody's tone sounded so sincere.

"When am I going to see you?"

"Hopefully sometime between yesterday and tomorrow."

"Please," Jody begged, "come to me now."

"Ohhhh, as much as I would love to, I think we need to consider your reputation."

"Fuck my reputation."

Tia smiled. "It's not exactly your reputation I'm interested in fucking. Where are you?"

Tia's words, accompanied by a brief graphic visual, caused Jody to tingle all over with an electricity only the former operative could elicit within her. "The Quintessence. I had to get away from everything. I know it must sound silly, but being here makes me feel closer to you."

"No," Tia responded, warmly. "It doesn't sound silly at all. I'm surprised The Quintessence still isn't impounded for evidence."

"They released it back to me yesterday and -"

"Do you have your security person back?"

"Kevin? No. Kevin fell and shattered his leg three-quarters of the way on his climb. Poor guy never made it to the summit. He'll be laid up for a while. I actually had an advanced security system installed. There are sensors everywhere that will alert me if any object comes within twenty-five hundred feet of the yacht. My father insisted that I hire armed bodyguards to be with me because he said a security system is pretty useless if there is no one around to respond to it but then that kind of negates the 'getting away' part, you know?"

"So did you resolve that?"

"I rented them a nice little boat of their own so they are keeping an eye on me from a distance. If any person or object penetrates the perimeter, they are automatically notified and on it immediately. My guess would be until they hear that alarm go off, they're relaxing and taking advantage of that big screen TV in the salon." Jody sighed in anticipation and hesitation. "I can disarm the system until you get on board but the press is still all around here..."

"Unless I can come up with something, we may have to wait."

"The thought of one more day without you in my arms is torture."

Tia smiled at that. "You can't always get what you want when you want it, you know," Tia teased.

"Oh, somehow I doubt that if you were here," Jody teased back.


The first two days following Jody's liberation and after the yacht had been seized, the media flooded the area of the vessel with cameras and crews to do their individual reports but following that, there was little flurry as it no longer seemed relevant to the current story. Yet, there were still residual members of the press who lingered just in case. Now that the heiress had retrieved The Quintessence and taken it back out, there seemed to be more interest in and activity surrounding the yacht again. It did seem the perfect place to reunite with Tia but Jody was concerned about the reunion turning into a salacious circus if reporters found out Tia was there with her. However, she had neither the strength nor desire to tell Tia to wait until a more appropriate time because there would never be a more appropriate time. Tia seemed to have much more restraint which must have come from all her CIA training. Knowing her lover was so close yet seemed so far, frustrated and depressed her. She could take the yacht back in and meet with Tia but there would be no way she could do that in a stealthy manner and not have the news all over it. Suddenly she was brought out of her distraction by a constant beeping from the alarm that indicated a malfunction.

Her phone rang immediately. Answering it as she approached the alarm panel, she saw that the activation light was blinking. "Yes?"

"Mrs. Montgomery, this is Phillip," he announced, unnecessarily. At least the guards were on the ball. "We got a signal that your perimeter protection is down."

"Yes, I'm looking at the panel now..."

"We're on our way over. Stay on the phone with me until we get there. Go back into the master stateroom and lock yourself in until we have checked everything out. Any idea how it could have deactivated?"

Coming up out of the water to board the yacht, the emerging body barely made a sound or a ripple. The intruder could hear Jody, talking on her cell phone, conversing with someone. "No, I can't figure out how it could deactivate, either." When Jody walked into the master stateroom, her shock at seeing there was now another person on the yacht with her was communicated by a large gasp.

"Mrs. Montgomery? What's wrong?" the voice over the phone asked.

Jody couldn't believe her lover was there, naked and toweling off. Green eyes greeted a seductive grin and immediately misted over. "Stop, don't come, everything's fine. I see the problem Let me try to fix it."

"Mrs. Montgomery, you know the code words. If you are in danger, say it, if you are not, say it."

"Eeyore," Jody told them, giving them the password she had chosen to advise them everything was fine. "Listen, I'm resetting it right now. If that doesn't work, I always have my little panic button."

"Are you sure you don't want us to at least do a perimeter check and walk-through?"

"I'm positive. Thanks." Snapping her phone shut, she flew into Tia's arms, nearly sobbing. "I am so happy to see you."

"Shhhh, shhhh, it's okay, baby," Tia cooed, squeezing Jody to her, swaying them back and forth slightly."I'm happy to see you, too." She kissed Jody on the top of the head. "Let's reactivate that alarm system before we have visitors." She watched as the heiress pressed a six number combination on the panel, heard a beep and saw the 'perimeter ready' green light move to the 'perimeter armed' red light. Turning Jody around, facing her, Tia stepped backward, pulling Jody slowly to the berth. They fell back onto the cushioned softness of the bedcovers and began to kiss, intently. Tia rolled over onto Jody, easily capturing the dominant position as Jody buried her hands in Tia's damp hair.

"How did you do that?" Jody asked, between being deliciously assaulted by Tia's lips on hers.

"Does it really matter?"

"Absolutely not."

Being a certified expert diver, Tia had been successfully covert in her mission to get to The Quintessence without detection. She had retained the knowledge to disarm small scale laser and infrared beams connected with alarm systems. She knew that most body temperature of fish were the same as the water they were in and that the system would alert on her warm-blooded form if she invaded the circumference, so she simply used a device she had, leftover from her Agency tools, and neutralized the signal, causing it to read as a deactivation.

Kissing Tia passionately, Jody fit her bare thigh between Tia's long legs, feeling heat and wetness there. Taking a break to catch their breath, Jody stared at Tia reverently as Tia gently traced Jody's facial features with her hand.

"What?" Tia asked, Jody's awed expression stopping her.

"I fell in love with you the minute I saw you, you know," Jody told her.

"I know," Tia smiled, receiving a sharp yank on her hair in response.

"Aren't we just the cocky one?" Jody teased.

"Ow," Tia laughed, turning her head and kissing the inside of Jody's wrist several times until Jody eased her grip. "Come on, you like 'em dangerous and you like it rough but you have to be clandestine about it. It doesn't take being cocky to know I'm the woman for you." Leaning her face down into Jody's again, kissing her, Tia started riding her thigh.

"Tia, let me get undressed..."

"No," Tia told her, her concentration now on her inflamed center as she rocked on Jody's upper leg. "Should have worn your robe," Tia panted.

Jody had unconsciously begun to move in tandem with Tia. "Oh, Jesus, Tia, please..."

"Please what?" Tia breathed, as she pressed her body snugly to Jody's, pushing her thigh into Jody's crotch, causing the heiress to exhale a surprised gasp. "Please what? " Tia forcefully whispered in her ear, increasing her momentum, grinding harder as she felt Jody latch on, powerfully.

"Oh, God, please fuck me, please fuck me right now...!"

It was going to be a long, glorious night.


Jody was ready for this and she wasn't. She'd been dealing with the media all her life but nothing was ever concentrated on her, personally. Usually, any publicity she dealt with had to do with her pedigree or her charities. She had been asked to do exclusive interviews with Larry King and Barbara Walters, among others, but she politely declined. The weekly news and entertainment magazines were also vying in heavy bidding wars to get a print interview with her but again, she wasn't interested. She wanted to forget it and move on but Tia wisely advised her that she needed to give the media something, otherwise she would never get any peace. They would never get any peace. Finally giving in, Jody met with her father's legal team and law enforcement representatives and arranged a press conference.

With Tia waiting in another room, watching the pandemonium unfold on the TV monitors, the taciturn ex-CIA officer admired the aplomb with which the heiress handled the media and, with Jody's host of family attorneys at her side, Jody walked out and sat behind a long desk, equipped with a microphone, facing national and international news and television reporters. She hoped the press would buy into everything she was about to tell them.

With an introduction from Danny Marciano, and a brief statement from the DEA, the floor had been opened to the media.

"Mrs. Montgomery, how are you doing?" A young male reporter she recognized from the network news asked.

"Actually, I'm fine, considering. Thank you for asking." Jody was gracious and charming.

"Mrs. Montgomery, can you tell us how you came to meet Tia Ramone?" He asked, forcing another question through, before the others.

Jody smiled. She was very poised. "Yes, I was contacted by Ms. Ramone the evening of August second. She advised me of my husband's plans to have me abducted, held for ransom and then murdered."

"What made you believe her?" Another perfectly coiffed, well-modulated reported inquired.

"Honestly, I didn't, at first. She advised me that on the following night, August third, my husband would take me out to dinner at The Cypress, which he did, and he would drug my glass of wine, which he did. She further advised me that he had planned out my route and knew I would feel the effects of the drug somewhere near the Dillon rest stop on Dillon Highway and that I would pull over at that location. Which I did."

"You drank the drugged wine?"

"Yes. I initially thought that Ms. Ramone's knowledge of my dinner date with my husband could have been something she may have overheard. Therefore, I drank a glass of wine with dinner, as I usually do. When I began to get sleepy approaching the Dillon rest stop, I knew then that Ms. Ramone was telling the truth. Before I passed out, Ms. Ramone met me at the rest stop and I willingly agreed to accompany her to my yacht until I had a clear head and we could figure things out."

"How did he know you would take Dillon Highway?"

"Because that's the most direct route from The Cypress to my house and the route I have taken many times in the past."

"Mrs. Montgomery, how did you know whether or not you could trust Tia Ramone?"

"In the situation I found myself in, I didn't have much of a choice."

"Mrs. Montgomery, why didn't you contact your parents and tell them that you were okay?"

"I was advised by the DEA agent working on this case to stay silent until they could build a solid enough case against my husband. It was safer for everyone involved if I did."

"Would that be Agent Zamora?"


"Mrs. Montgomery, how did Agent Zamora get involved?"

"When Ms. Ramone uncovered information about my husband's, um, other business, she immediately contacted Agent Zamora, providing him with this information. From that point on, we deferred to Agent Zamora's expertise and direction."

"When did Agent Zamora contact the FBI to advise them that you were alive and well?"

"That is a question you would have to ask Agent Zamora."

"Have you had contact with your husband since his arrest?"

"Yes, I went to see him before he was transferred to federal custody."

"Would you like to expound on that meeting for us?"

"I would not," Jody smiled politely but firmly.

"Are you going to maintain an association with Tia Ramone?"

"Absolutely. I have hired her as my personal security consultant. She will be accompanying me everywhere, which, after the last two weeks, I think is needed."

"Mrs. Montgomery, there is a rumor that you and Ms. Ramone got rather, uh, close during this ordeal. Care to elaborate on that?"

Knowing what the reporter was asking, Jody thought she would be able to turn the subject in another direction. "Ms. Ramone saved my life while putting her own at risk. She had to guard me 24/7 until this case was concluded. There was no one on that yacht except Ms. Ramone and myself, so, yes, I would say you could qualify that as getting close."

"Your husband has said in his statements that you and Ms. Ramone had become lovers. Is that true?"

"What paper did you say you were with? The Enquirer?" That got a laugh from the crowd of reporters. "My husband will say anything right now to take the focus off himself. If he wants to put his little fantasy into the forefront, thinking that will make him look less guilty, then more power to him."

"You didn't answer the question, Mrs. Montgomery," the reporter persisted.

Leveling him with a cool gaze, Jody said, "I believe I did." She pointed to a female on the other side of the room. "Next question?"

"Do you know why your husband thought Ms. Ramone would go along with him in the first place?"

"If you are looking for a specific answer, that is something you will have to ask him. I do know that Ms. Ramone told me that he approached her after the anonymous witness he first approached refused to kidnap and murder me. This witness then provided my husband with Ms. Ramone's name and that's when my husband trapped her -" She heard a lawyer behind her clear his throat. "Excuse me, I mean allegedly trapped her into going along with him."

"How did the anonymous witness know of Ms. Ramone?"

"From what I understand, he had heard her name through a relative. I don't know any more than that."

"Mrs. Montgomery," the tabloid reporter spoke up again, obviously annoying his competition, "Tia Ramone has admitted that she freely went to the vehicle where the meeting took place with your husband with a now deceased prostitute for the sole purpose of having sex. How do you feel about that?"

"I feel that is none of my business." But the idea of it gnawed at her just the same. The thought of Tia with anyone else, regardless of who, tweaked her. Was it just barely what amounted to days ago that Tia had been so self-destructive?

"Mrs. Montgomery, will you expedite the divorce proceedings to your marriage?"

"If I can find a legal way, absolutely."

"Is that so you can be with Tia Ramone?" that rag magazine reporter obstinately asked.

Jody took a deep breath and then put on her most patient smile. She knew she had to choose her words carefully. The last thing she needed to do was jeopardize the case against Tony and cause him to be freed on some idiotic technicality. She knew what she wanted to say but a tirade at this point would have made her look naive and foolish. Well...more naive and foolish than Tony had already made her look. "You heard the list of federal charges against my husband. Those kidnapping and solicitation and conspiracy charges were about me. The evidence and witness statements allege that he wanted to murder me. And you think I want to divorce him so that I can be with someone else?" There was dead silence in the room as she stared down the reporter. "Are there any other legitimate questions?"

Not even having the decency to look embarrassed, he smirked and scribbled something in his little pocket notebook.

"Mrs. Montgomery, are you saying you had no idea your husband was involved in any of this activity?" It was a female correspondent who had pulled Jody's focus away from the tabloid reporter.

"I had absolutely none. Tony and I were married yes but we had different interests and basically led separate lives."

"Are you saying you had a marriage in name only?" It was Mr. RagMag again.

"No. We were married in every sense of the word, what I am saying is the man sitting in federal custody right now is not the man I thought I was married to." This reporter was really getting on her nerves. When he attempted to jump in with another question, Jody ignored him.

This happened two more times before the reporter shouted over everyone, "Mrs. Montgomery, why don't you want to answer my questions?"

"I am answering your questions, Sir, as ridiculously lurid as they are. But when we have limited time here, I think you should give your colleagues a chance to-"

"I am pursuing a legitimate story, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be for you. A good reporter needs to speak up to be heard," he sneered. 

"And shut up to be appreciated. Now, I don't have to be here. I am granting this press conference which means I can just as easily get up right now, thank you all and say goodbye, which would leave you to have to face your peers who didn't get to ask their questions. I'm done talking to you. I'm not answering any questions about my sex life as that is not up for debate."

Tia grinned at the monitor, admiring the way Jody never lost her temper, not once. Tia would have knocked out all his teeth and pounded him into the ground by now. The way Jody confidently took command of that room was just plain hot, Tia thought. This was the public side of her lover, a side Jody had been groomed for since birth, a side Tia was unfamiliar with. A side that made Tia want to whisk Jody out of the conference hall and back to The Quintessence.

When the grueling inquisition was over and Jody entered the back room where Tia was waiting for her, Tia was leaning casually against the wall, smiling at Jody, eyes twinkling, arms crossed. Finding an immediate moment of connection, Tia mouthed the words, 'I love you' to the heiress who was followed by an unwanted but needed entourage of official men.

Nodding slightly, grinning confidently, Jody mouthed back, 'I know.'

Tia's heart lurched and her legs nearly gave out as suddenly it hit her full force.

She hadn't saved Jody's life, Jody had saved hers.

Chapter Twenty-Four

True love doesn't consist of holding hands - it consists of holding hearts.


Three years later.

The Aegean Islands

Jody stepped out onto the private balcony off the forward master stateroom. She could have stayed inside the huge bedroom suite and watched the distant village lights from the panoramic two hundred seventy degree view but she decided she would rather look at the sky in the mildly breezy, balmy, night air. The two hundred foot chartered yacht was anchored off Santorini, somewhere between Athinios and Fira in the Cycladic Sea, so the vista was stunning from any perspective be it day or night.

She and and her new spouse had strolled hand-in-hand from the private dining area on the master deck to the pool with a two-level waterfall, where they stripped and swam naked, savoring the Mediterranean sunset as they leisurely enjoyed the warmth of the late spring evening. In between the sun disappearing into the offing and the full moon rising to illuminate the darkness, they then moved to the king-sized berth and gently made love.

They had not been able to take a honeymoon after the wedding, as Tony's trials only recently ended, following months and months of testimony, resulting in Montgomery being sentenced to more than a century of prison time from being found guilty on all his respective charges. When she wasn't testifying or meeting with several different law enforcement agencies, attorneys, accountants and publicists, she had been busy turning the Montgomery estate into a no-kill pet shelter, helping to hire staff and get the business off the ground. Life the last three years seemed like a whirlwind of passing days, multifarious changes, triumphs and disappointments. There never seemed to be enough hours in a day for the newlyweds to be alone which was why they were now basking in every moment they could spend in each other's presence, as far away from her recent past as Jody could get.

Jody's life had been hectic and complicated, knowing in the end that, infatuation aside, everything had worked out the way it was obviously supposed to. Smiling about the many events that had happened, especially lately, Jody murmured a warm moan as she was approached from behind and, feeling a silk robe placed over her shoulders, she snuggled back into the naked form behind her. "It's beautiful here, isn't it?"

"I've never seen anything quite like it."

"Did you want me to come back to bed?" Jody grinned, hopefully.

"Eventually. The air feels good." Arms encircled Jody, caressing her swollen belly. "Besides, our son needs a break."

"Our son will be fine, he knows you're being gentle and the doctor said we can have sex right up until I deliver."

"He also said your sex drive would decrease the further along you got."

"No, he said it should decrease but so far my desire for you hasn't so..." Hearing a deep, rich laugh in her ear, Jody felt her shoulders being kissed. Jody leaned back, her head resting just under a strong chin. Hands lovingly massaged Jody's stomach. "He seems to like it when you touch me. He always calms down."

"That's because he knows I'm going to be the disciplinarian in the family. I've seen how your pets have so easily wrapped you around their paws, I can't imagine how you're going to be around our baby. You'll be putty in his tiny little hands."

"Oh...and you won't?"

"Only if he comes out looking exactly like you. Then he might be a little hard to resist."

"Just a little? You're quickly losing points here," Jody teased.

"All I'm saying is that he may be being born into one of the wealthiest families in the universe and he may be privileged but I don't want him growing up acting as though he has an automatic sense of entitlement."

"I would never raise him like that," Jody replied, sounding slightly defensive.

The conciliatory voice said, "I know you won't. I know we are in full agreement on this. I also know your parents, especially your father, will spoil the sense out of their grandson and you know it, too."

Nodding, Jody found a smile and patted the strong hand resting on her belly. "Maybe you should be their disciplinarian, too."

"I think it's a little too late for that. Well...maybe it won't be so bad. They did a pretty good job with you."

"Just pretty good? This honeymoon is getting shorter by the minute..." Jody baited, playfully.

Circling Jody without letting her go, Tia was now standing in front of her, hands holding Jody's face and kissing her lips with all the passion and tenderness a soul could possess. "What can I do to make it up to you, to get things back on track?"

"That's a good start," Jody breathlessly responded as she was slowly led her back into the bedroom.

"Admit it. You can't quit me," Tia's eyes sparkled at her.

"You're right. I can't. And don't want to."

In two months, they were going to have a son, a legal Wainwright heir they were going to name Tristan John. Jody had reclaimed her maiden name when the divorce from Tony was final and openly declared her love for Tia soon afterward. It had caused another media feeding frenzy, along with speculation of possible impropriety in connection to the abduction. However, the high-powered, even more highly paid Wainwright family attorneys put that rumor to rest by reissuing statements of actual evidence the government had against Montgomery, which were indisputable. Still, every once and a while, Tia and Jody became the tabloid story du jour, not that it made one bit of difference in their lives or the Wainwright business contracts and arrangements. Even the most conservative and prejudiced businessperson transacting with John or Jody knew where his or her bread was buttered and when it came to dealing with the Wainwrights, they seemed to find a way to put their biases aside because if they wanted to be successful, hate was a luxury no one could afford.

As time passed, Jody became more sure of and cemented in her love of and devotion to Tia, who constantly amazed her with her strength and tenacity. At first Jody's parents were appalled at the idea of Jody being in a lesbian relationship, complicated by with whom. Maybe if Tia's last name had been Trump, Gates or Buffett, it might have been a little easier to digest but a common, former alcoholic, ex-CIA spook who wasn't even White Anglo-Saxon Protestant? Wainwright kept having to remind himself that, despite all that was 'unacceptable' about Tia, she had saved his daughter's life, not to mention that his little girl was obviously and completely head-over-heels in love with Tia. He could try to convince himself that it was a 'phase' all he wanted but the reality was, this was the real thing for Jody and he knew it. Then the more John got to know Tia, the more he recognized that Tia was a much better "son-in-law" than Montgomery had ever been and much more committed to his daughter, realizing that Tia was everything in a person that he wanted for Jody - faithful, devoted, protective and secure. The only thing he could eventually find wrong with the relationship was that Tia could not help Jody produce a Wainwright heir. Leave it to his headstrong daughter to prove him wrong.

The couple had not told John and Sondra that they had been trying to get pregnant, so when Jody conceived through in vitro fertilization, it was as much of a shock to the Wainwrights as it had been when Jody declared a month earlier that she and Tia were actually going to get married. "So much for your phase, John," Sondra had ribbed him. John and Sondra had been invited to dinner on The Quintessence and, after dinner, the two women made the announcement that Jody would be delivering an heir in approximately seven and a half months. Thrilled but curious about the father, the Wainwrights were told that because both Jody and Tia wanted the baby to have half of Tia's heritage, a man named Javier Zamora had donated sperm. He had signed a non-disclosure agreement and a binding contract that he would claim no parental rights to the child and, in return, he and his immediate family would be well compensated for the rest of their lives. With a deal like that, Zamora advised them to not hesitate to call on him again.

Sondra was doing her best to do a one hundred eighty degree turn after the abduction. It was a slow, painful process for her but she was trying. Instead of being icy and detached, Sondra was now almost annoyingly hospitable and solicitous. Of course, as Jody had suspected, she had been threatened by John to start acting like Jody's mother or she would find herself divorced and stigmatized, he would make sure of it. Family interaction was very tense in the beginning but Sondra discovered that once she began spending quality time with her daughter and stopped viewing her as competition, she occasionally enjoyed Jody's company. The relationship would always be strained but Sondra also saw that Tia's presence in her daughter's life was a powerfully neutralizing one and what was once laden with anxiety and hostility was now a few degrees above tolerable. She was actually more friendly to Tia than John was and John genuinely liked his daughter-in-law. Truth be told, Sondra was petrified of Tia, even though Tia had never even uttered a cross word to her. Tia didn't have to. There was a certain look Tia got on her face when Sondra was stepping over a line that stopped Sondra dead in her tracks. Reevaluating her personal ethics, Sondra started to open up once she realized that her daughter wasn't so bad, after all. In the last six months, she was running like hell to catch up with her conscience, hoping to at least make it appear as though she were to make up for all the years she mistreated her daughter. She really didn't think Jody bought it but, fortunately, Jody was a very forgiving person and preferred to live in the present and not in the past.

Tia was hopelessly in love with Jody and found something new every day that made her fall in love with her precious wife a little bit more. However, Tia was also quietly terrified of the responsibility and obligation that went with that love. She told herself that she wasn't up to the challenge, that she wasn't in Jody's league, that she was too ordinary and not special enough to hold on to such a gem. She told herself that she didn't deserve to have a life this good, that she hadn't earned this kind of happiness, that things that seemed too good to be true usually were. But as she cradled Jody to her while the mother-to-be slept soundly against her breast, Tia felt a rush of pride and euphoria surge through her that always amazed and reassured her that this was exactly where she was meant to be.

And that the loudest lies had always been the ones she had told to herself.

The End


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