Thicker Than Water
Copyright © 2004 by Melissa Good
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, trans-mitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters, incidents and dialogue herein are fictional and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
First Printing 2004
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Cover design by Donna Pawlowski
Yellow Rose Books
PMB 210, 8691 9th Avenue
Port Arthur, Texas 77642-8025
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Printed in the United States of America
THE DAY WAS a perfect one for a festival: the sky a perfect deep blue, and the sun mitigated by a cool breeze coming off the aqua and green ocean waters. The infectious rhythm of salsa mixed with voices in a kaleidoscope of languages, moving through air filled with spicy scents and the pungent aroma of Cuban coffee.
One tall, one shorter, one dark, the other fair—but both had the same subtle confidence and the tanned skin of a native, and they rambled through the Latin festival with a sense of comfortable familiarity.
The shorter, blond one stopped at a stall and examined a long, striped skirt in a multitude of loud colors. “What do you think, Dar?” she asked, holding it up to her body. “Is it me?”
Her taller companion studied the effect. “Only if you’re Car-men Miranda on mescaline.” Dar plucked the skirt from the blonde’s fingers and hung it back up. “C’mon, Kerry. I think I see something more your style.”
They walked a little further and stopped in front of a booth selling embroidered vests. “There.” Dar pointed with one hand, her other held close to her body by a sedate muslin sling. “I like the one with the parrots.”
Kerry selected the indicated garment and slipped it on. It fit her neatly, and she buttoned it, then held her arms away from her body. “Yes?”
Dar dug a twenty dollar bill out of her pocket and handed it over to the woman behind the booth. “Yes.” She bumped Kerry, indicating the area where all the food booths were. “There’re a lot more people here this year than last year.”
Kerry looked around. The beach area was packed with bodies, a stage on either end spilled music into the air while the center was filled with arts and crafts exhibits, vendors, and rows of His-panic and Latin inspired foods. “Sure is.”
It was colorful and loud and fun, and a sorely needed break 2 Melissa Good for both of them after a very long week at their mutual workplace.
Kerry took off her new vest and tucked it inside the canvas bag slung over her arm. She was dressed in a tank top and denim shorts, which nearly matched what Dar was wearing save that her partner’s shirt was red and Kerry’s was a light, placid blue.
“How’s your shoulder?”
Dar shifted her arm slightly. Injured several weeks earlier by a maliciously aimed baseball bat, the limb had been slow to heal, and she’d returned to using a sling that morning to try and ease the nagging ache. “Better. Want to go sit down and watch the dancing?”
They walked over to the right hand stage, sat down at one of the few empty tables, and leaned back to watch two experienced salsa dancers giving an exhibition. After a few minutes, Kerry moved closer to Dar. “Can we try that?”
Dar cocked her head. “What, salsa? Ker, you know dancing isn’t one of my many skills.”
“Hm.” Kerry rested her chin on her hand. “It looks fun.
Maybe we could take classes. I think the club on the island has them.”
“I don’t think my hips are structurally capable of doing that move.” Dar pointed. “Without dislocating a major joint, I mean.”
“Mmm…I don’t know, you’ve got some pretty good moves.”
Kerry saw Dar’s eyebrows lift and she relented, chuckling instead.
“Ah, it’s nice to have a weekend off, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Dar answered. “It really is.” The past month had been a difficult one and not what Dar considered entirely successful. In the process of executing a government contract, she’d stumbled on a criminal scandal and the news had been less than welcome. She exhaled. “Glad the Navy’s investigation is under the bridge and we can move on.”
“To the next base?” Kerry asked, inwardly hoping that wasn’t on the agenda. The investigation that Dar had triggered had thrown the naval base where she’d grown up into chaos, along with some old family friendships. It had been tough on her emo-tionally as well as physically, and by extension, tough on Kerry as well.
“Probably not,” Dar answered. “That contract’s on hold right now.”
Kerry straightened in surprise. “On hold?”
Dar shrugged her good shoulder. “I expected it. Waves that big probably washed up on the White House steps. Alastair said there were some questions being raised.”
“Questions? What kind of questions? We didn’t make that Thicker Than Water 3
“I know.” Dar comfortingly patted her on the back. “But it’s a lot of stink, and they’ll probably have to figure out who to blame now. Other than us, of course.”
“Great.” Kerry frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Dar signaled the waitress. “Dos cervesas, por favor.” She half turned to Kerry. “I wasn’t ready to rush into the next one anyway.
Things’ll settle down.” She hesitated. “And I didn’t tell you because Alastair just told me last night. I didn’t want to ruin our dinner with business.”
A nice, romantic dinner out on the boat. Kerry scrunched her face into a wry expression, unable to disagree with the motive.
“You have a point there.”
“Glad you agree.”
The music altered and two new dancers, dressed in flamenco outfits, came up on stage. They danced with a great deal of energy, stamping and kicking with gusto.
Kerry watched them, her mind turning over Dar’s words. She gave the waitress a brief grin as she was handed a cold bottle, then she touched her beer to Dar’s. “Well, here’s to better luck in the next few weeks. I don’t want another couple like the last few.”
Dar clinked her bottle. “You’re on.”
IT WAS VERY late afternoon before they got home. Kerry put her bag of goodies on the couch and wandered into the kitchen, her mind sorting over the possibilities for dinner. “Hey, you in the mood for chicken?” she asked as she passed Dar standing in the open back door.
“C’mon, Chino.” Dar closed the door and allowed their Labrador retriever to precede her into the living room. “Sure.”
She thumped down onto a seat at the living room table and sorted through their mail. “You feel like watching a movie tonight? They have some decent stuff on pay per view.”
“You, me, a movie, and some popcorn?” Kerry grinned. “I think I could handle that. Pick something nice and gory.” She removed a few things from the freezer and set them on the counter before she joined Dar in the living room.
Their mail was a collection of the usual junk she noted as she picked up a few pieces and turned them over. Free software, applications for mortgages, pre-approved credit cards… “Spam.”
She noticed a purple envelope, extracted it from the pile, and turned it over to look at the address.
“Hm.” The envelope was addressed to her and she acknowledged the logo on the top with a grimace. “Ah.”
4 Melissa Good
“What’s that?” Dar looked up from a catalog of geek toys.
“My high school.” Kerry opened the envelope and pulled out the contents. After a moment’s perusal, she shrugged. “Just asking for money.” She turned and wandered off. “I’m going to grab a shower and change. Be right back.”
“Join you in a minute.” Dar continued to flip through the catalog and stopped when she spotted a glow in the dark trackball.
“Oo. Now that has possibilities.” She rested her chin on her fist and considered the thought of the cleaning staff entering her darkened office and seeing it floating on her desk. “Heh.”
KERRY SAT DOWN behind the desk in her upstairs office and regarded the note she’d taken with her. Part of what she’d told Dar was true—her high school was always looking for dona-tions, and this was no exception. However, the second part of the card was an invitation to her high school reunion.
“Ugh.” She exhaled. High school had been a tough time for her and going back there wasn’t something she really wanted to put on the table for both of them, though she’d talked Dar into attending her own reunion. It was different for Dar, or so she’d convinced herself.
Dar had gone to public school. Dar had already been a rebel when she’d attended, and Dar strutting back into the circle of her old classmates, as successful as she was, had been a good thing for her. The black sheep had lifted its hind leg and pissed on them all, so to speak.
Kerry hadn’t gone to public school. Her high school was a very conservative, Christian establishment, and while she was there, she’d been under a tremendous amount of pressure to uphold her father’s image of her. It hadn’t been fun, and save for a very scattered few, she had no truly fond memories of the place.
Having had little choice in the matter, she had done well there. She had kept her nose clean and gotten good grades, and joined the appropriate team sports, avoiding the scandalous behaviors of her classmates. Debating had been her one real outlet for expression, and even then she’d been careful when she’d presented her opinions.