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The Seven Women of Raven's Island

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She was dressed in Levi’s and a blue tank top underneath her lab coat. It was hot outside, the temperature getting close to 85F and it was only 10.30, but it was almost cold in the large marble hallway of the Justice Building.

Phoebe Janeway looked down from the ladder and smiled to herself. Perhaps it was because of all the serious matters that were being handled in these chambers. There were enough people in power suits here to keep the temperature down. Then again, she imagined that the argument in the courts could become quite heated.

She stepped down from the ladder to move it along the large wall where she was painting one of the three murals the city had commissioned her to do.

Taking a step to her left to move a bucket of paint, she bumped into someone. Sighing inwardly she turned to give the person a piece of her mind for having entered the roped off area.

"Oh, I’m sorry," the intruder said and took a step back. "I know I’m not supposed to be inside your work area but I’ve been watching you work for weeks now and …"

Phoebe looked at the elegant woman who was about her own height, with jet black hair pulled back in a full, low bun cradled in the curve of the back of her neck. She was dressed in a black suit, a tailored jacket over a hot pink shirt and a short black skirt.

"You’re not supposed to be in here," the artist explained and motioned towards the red and white plastic ribbon that closed off her working area. "It’s for your own safety and besides you don’t want to get paint all over that expensive power suit of yours." She grinned and wrinkled her nose.

The woman gave her a polite smile and took a step back.

"You’re absolutely right and normally I wouldn’t have … I mean, I don’t really have time for this. It’s just that your mural is taking form and I’m amazed at how you can work so fast and still do such a wonderful job of it."

To her amazement, Phoebe blushed.

The woman obviously worked in the Justice Building, which meant she was probably a lawyer. Still there was something about her, perhaps her unabashed appreciation for Phoebe’s art, or her audacity to just climb into the roped off area, that intrigued the artist.

"I’m Phoebe," she introduced herself and was about to extend a hand when she remembered it was stained with paint.

"Adriana de Leon," the other woman reciprocated. "Nice to meet you." She paused. "May I ask why you chose this particular motif?"

Phoebe turned to look at the images that were forming on the large wall. The mural would be about twenty-five by nine feet when she was done.

"This is the mural that won the city council’s approval when I submitted my suggestions. I’m also scheduled to do two other ones, one in City Hall and another one at Adamson Memorial Hospital. That will keep me in the city for at least six months, maybe more," Phoebe smiled crookedly.

"So you’re not from here?"

"No, I’m a country girl," the artist grinned and began moving the ladder.

"I should let you go back to work," Adriana de Leon said and took a step back. Ducking swiftly under the rope, still holding on to her heavy briefcase, the dark haired woman gave Phoebe a quick smile.

"Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Maybe you can tell me more some other time?"

The artist cocked her head, a broad grin forming on her lips.

"Sure, and if you come dressed more appropriately, I’ll might let you help out."

Adriana de Leon’s eyes widened.

"I think I’d like that," she replied softly.

*****

Janeway had gone up and left the house early. She walked along the path leading towards the tall cliffs on the east side of Raven’s Island. The CEO had arrived with Seven the previous evening; Jacob’s son Josh had taken them in the fishing boat. It had been a moment of truth of sorts for the tall blonde when she entered the boat from which she had been kidnapped two months ago.

Seven had worn a cast on her right foot for six weeks and now she was walking with just a cane. The healing had taken longer than expected and Janeway had been concerned. Now it looked like the young woman was finally on the mend. The doctor had advised Seven to walk as much as possible, but if it hurt too much, elevate her foot and rest.

For some reason, Janeway had not slept much the first night on Raven’s Island. Usually she slept like a log when she was out here with Seven, far from phones, far from the demands of being the CEO of a multibillion dollar conglomerate.

At 5AM she had given up and snuck out of bed, not wanting to disturb the exhausted woman sleeping next to her. She had put on a pair of worn jeans and a grey knitted sweater and gone out.

The sun was rising, casting a mild glow through the clouds over the ocean. Janeway knew why Seven loved her island so much. It was beautiful out here. The island had a small forest, a field that bloomed with all sorts of wild flowers right now when it was high summer. To the east, tall cliffs provided a magnificent view of the ocean. On the west side, there was a sandy beach towards the archipelago right next to the natural harbour.

The CEO wondered why it was that she somehow seemed to require the open view of nothing but the vast ocean. Reaching the tallest part of the cliffs, she sat down, balancing on the edge and stared at the violent waves crashing on the rocks forty-five feet below her. The force of the ocean rushing towards the island matched her inner turmoil.

Her eyes burned with unshed tears. She suddenly saw Seven in her mind's eye, the blonde dressed in a pyjamas, falling towards her death right in front of her … Janeway gasped, pressing a hand against her chest as if to still the thunder of her raging heart. She had almost lost Seven to a man whom she had opted to deal with privately, instead of pressing charges against him when he first showed his true colours by blackmailing Marion.

Marion McDunn had suffered from guilt when Seven was kidnapped, for having plotted together with Avery to undermine Seven’s position at the Stellar Corporation. In Janeway’s opinion, the greatest guilt lay with herself. She thought she had taken the appropriate measures and made sure Avery would not dare go near any of them again.

She had been wrong. Her former employee had returned to kidnap Seven, physically injuring Jacob Henderson, an old friend of Seven, in the process.

Janeway knew that engulfing herself in guilt did not lead to anything productive and now was not the time to fall apart. They had the upcoming trial to get ready for; the DA was preparing as a solid case against Avery as possible. Seven would have to testify which bothered the CEO a great deal. She wondered what reliving the whole ordeal would do to the younger woman.

During those days without Seven, she had lived with the most excruciating fear she had ever experienced in her entire life. The fear of never seeing the other woman again, of Seven becoming hurt or worse … if Avery had panicked and killed …

A sob broke through the CEO’s tightly closed throat. The thought of losing Seven, after all they had been through together, was overwhelming her. Seven had brought more joy, more love to her life than she had ever thought possible. The blonde had unknowingly brought Janeway and her mother and sister back together, making it possible for them to talk and to heal old issues. The auburn haired woman first thought the salty drops on her cheeks were the ocean waves spraying on her but then realised that she was crying.

The mere idea of never waking up next to the tall blonde again, to never hold her close and feel her softness, those full breasts and long legs that could drive her crazy … burying her face into her hands, Janeway kept crying.

Trembling with the emotions rolling inside her much like the ocean waves below, she let herself go, not caring that the panicky feelings rampaged freely. Seven had suffered greatly. She had had to endure the brutal kidnapping, the manhandling by Avery and his goons and it infuriated Janeway that both the woman, Cynthia, and the three men were still at large. The police were looking for them, but so far they had not been successful.

 

I can’t live without her. The thought came out of nowhere and startled the CEO, making her gasp. It was true. Seven was her everything. The Stellar Corporation, everything she had achieved in her life, meant nothing if she could not share it with the woman she loved.

She realised that she would have given her life to save Seven, had it come to that.

Janeway was about to rise and make her way back to the house, when a sound made her flinch and turn her head over her shoulder.

The sight took her breath away.

Seven had climbed a small cliff a bit to Janeway’s right. She stood there, still dressed in her long, white nightgown, looking positively regal with the long blonde hair flowing in the wind behind her. Janeway was reminded of how the younger woman had looked onboard the QE2 when they had dressed for the Captain’s Ball.

Getting to her feet, the CEO tried to surreptitiously wipe away her tears, not wanting her beloved to see her cry. Seven had been through enough as it was.

"Kathryn, I was worried when you were not there when I woke up," the blonde said as she approached. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing, darling," Janeway lied. "I woke up and just felt like taking a walk. You were sound asleep when I left and you still need your rest."

Seven stepped closer and looked at the auburn haired woman with narrowing eyes.

"You have been crying," she observed. "I know something is wrong. Please tell me."

Janeway sighed. She should have known it was futile to try to hide anything from Seven. Tears welled up again and without thinking she took a step back.

"Kathryn!" Seven quickly reached for her, pulling her close into her arms. "You’re right on the edge!"

Looking over her shoulder, down on the crashing waves, Janeway shuddered. As if the close call removed the last traces of her composure, she suddenly found herself clinging to the tall blonde, hiding her face against Seven’s shoulder as she cried.

She felt Seven move them both over to the large rocks and there the other woman pulled gently at her, making Janeway sit down. The blonde wrapped her arms around her fiancée, rocking her gently.

"I came … so close, to losing you," Janeway gasped. "I can’t live without you. If Avery had …"

"Shhh," Seven hushed. "He did not. He is in custody and thanks to your attorneys as well as the DA; he will remain so until the trial. I am sure the police soon will apprehend the people he hired to assist him."

Janeway tried to get a grip of her raging emotions but it was as if a dam had burst. She was making the collar of Seven’s robe wet as she buried her tearstained face against it.

"But I could have lost you …"

"I know. I could have lost you too."

Slowly, the violent sobs mellowed down as the sun rose further on the horizon. Janeway lifted her head and tucked an errant tress of hair behind her ear as she gazed up at Seven.

"I panicked," she confessed. "I thought I was handling it so well, everything that has been going on. Suddenly, when I woke up this morning, being out here, where it is supposedly safe … I felt the walls close in on me and I had to go outside on my own."

"Are you sorry that I followed you?"

"No, darling, of course not. I was just realising what was the source of this … entire well, I guess of all that I’ve been feeling lately."

Seven caressed her cheek, the pale, blue eyes soft.

"I had not let myself quite realise how incredibly lost and alone I’d be without you, Seven," Janeway explained. "As long as I was busy doing things, including taking care of you while you were in that cast, I could keep the feelings at bay … today everything just … exploded."

"My Kathryn," Seven whispered and pulled the other woman closer again. "You are always so collected and you try hard not to let anyone see your vulnerable side. I understand that you need to maintain that image as the CEO of the Stellar Corporation … but never around me. With me, you can freely express any emotion; you do not need to censor yourself in any way."

"In my mind, I know that," the CEO allowed. "I know we should be able to share everything. It’s just that … the thought of losing you, to Avery, to death; it frightens me more than I can say. It’s like being stabbed. I never thought I’d say this; but I’m not sure I could go on if anything happened to you. I’d be lost."

Janeway heard her own voice become husky and frail and hated it. It was not easy for her to confess what she thought were signs of extreme weakness.

Seven pulled her closer, burying her face in Janeway’s hair.

"I feel the same way," the blonde confessed. "I do not know how I could possibly be happy if you were not in my life. Only the strong conviction that you would want me to move on with my life and try to be happy would make it achievable."

Janeway raised her head and saw the serious expression on Seven’s face. The younger woman looked at her with tear filled eyes, her full lips trembling. This was hard on both of them.

"You’re right," the CEO managed. "I would want you to move on and eventually be happy if something happened to me. Right now I just don’t see how that could have been possible for me, had Avery harmed you or kept you."

"I know," Seven whispered. "Fortunately that is something we do not have to deal with. However, we do have to deal with the repercussion of the ordeal we both went through. I would prefer it if we did it together. I … I would like to feel safe again."

The words carved through Janeway’s heart. Pulling the blonde closer she kissed her with as much tenderness as she could muster, feeling new tears sting behind her eyelids.

"Oh, Seven," she breathed against the other woman’s soft lips. "We will get that feeling back. Once this is over and he is permanently behind bars, we will feel safe again."

She gazed up into Seven’s eyes. The blonde did not seem entirely convinced.

*****

Phoebe pulled off her lab coat and headed for the door. She had worked non stop for the last five hours after a late lunch and now the outline of the motif was covering almost two thirds of the large wall. She usually did not work in public like this, as large canvases was not her normal format, but all the encouraging comments and an occasional surprised stare was quite invigorating, she smirked to herself.

Her thoughts went to the conversation she had had with Adriana de Leon earlier. The dark haired woman portrayed a tough, stern personality, but Phoebe thought she had seen more in those dark eyes. It bothered her that she could not stop thinking about the other woman. This was not like her.

She went out towards the parking lot across the street where she had managed to get a parking permit from the city. She was used to having her old pickup truck back home in Indiana, and the small rental car looked pathetic in her eyes as it sat in almost solitude on the parking lot. She checked the time. It was past 7.00 and the sun had begun to set behind the tall buildings around her.

Since the events around Seven’s kidnapping, she had decided to not lease the apartment offered by the city, but moved in to one of Kathryn’s large guestrooms. To her surprise, it was as if her older sister felt more comfortable with her close and she was enjoying a welcomed truce in the sibling rivalry that had been going on for so long – until Seven entered Kathryn’s life.

Phoebe’s eyes darkened as she thought of the ordeal her sister and Seven had been through. The artist honestly loved her blonde sister-in-law to be and had participated in her rescue, only happy to be of assistance. It had brought her and Kathryn even closer and they could now talk without falling into their old pattern of defensiveness against each other.

"You’ve worked late too?"

A deep, husky voice startled her as she put the key into the car door. Phoebe pivoted.

Adriana de Leon stood a few feet away, impeccably dressed in her power suit, holding a briefcase and computer bag in her hands.

"Hi," Phoebe managed, willing her heart to stop pounding in her throat. "I didn’t see you. Yes, I got a lot of work done tonight. And you?"

"Working on a major case that is taking most of my time these days," the other woman said. "Now, I’m in a bit of a jam. My car won’t start."

"Oh, can I give you a ride? Or have you called AAA?"

"Would you believe that my cell phone is dead too?" Adriana sighed. "This has not been my day."

Phoebe unlocked the central lock of her little car and gestured towards the passenger door.

"Jump in," she offered. "I’ll drive you home."

Adriana hesitated.

"Actually, I was on my way to get something to eat. How about I buy you dinner, if you drive me to my favourite restaurant that is right down the street from where I live?"

Phoebe felt her own tummy say yes before she even opened her mouth. She was starving.

"Sure, that’s a great idea," she decided. "Let’s go. I’m hungry."

Adriana gave a tired smile and put her things in the back seat of Phoebe’s car. "Thanks."

They got into the car and Phoebe carefully pulled out of the parking lot after asking Adriana which way to turn.

"I’m not so familiar with the inner city," the artist explained. "I’ve visited my sister many times but I normally don’t drive here so I don’t pay attention to the streets and where they lead to. I love to shop when I’m here though."

Adriana gave a lopsided smile.

"I used to love going on shopping sprees," she offered. "These days, there only seems to be room for work. If I’m not staying late working at the office, I bring the job home with me." She glanced back over her shoulder towards her things in the back seat.

"I know what you mean. When I’m in a particularly creative period, I forget to eat and I just paint at all hours of the day. Only the fact that the light isn’t right during night makes it impossible to paint then. I can still do sketches and outline though."

Adriana nodded.

"So you’re a workaholic like me, sometimes?" she grinned.

"Yes, I guess I am," Phoebe agreed. "I think it runs in the family. My sister holds the title, I can sometimes compete for the crown and my mother occasionally joins in to the madness. Had it not been for my sister’s fiancée, I swear she’d live, eat and breathe her company."

The other woman gave a sigh.

"It can be so fulfilling, work, but it can also be such a curse when it takes over every aspect of your life. Your sister is happy to have someone in her life to balance it."

"She’s more than happy. She is downright fortunate."

Phoebe drove through the busy streets, still filled with people and cars. The sun was setting and she saw the streetlights go on.

"Take a left at the next crossing," Adriana said. "There is a small parking lot next to the restaurant. If we’re lucky it won’t be full yet."

The artist drove according to the other woman’s instructions and congratulated herself on finding the last empty spot just outside the restaurant.

"Here we are then," she smiled. "Is this it? Giovanni’s?"

"Yes, and I promise they have the best lasagne in the city. I’ve eaten here many times and never been disappointed."

"Then I’ll take your word for it," Phoebe grinned and stepped out of the car, taking a cardigan from the back seat.

Adriana reached for her briefcase and computer bag. Straightening her back, the dark haired woman grimaced.

"Are you okay?" Phoebe rounded the car when Adriana paled.

"Yes, I’m fine. It’s just a touch of lumbago. It’s been bothering me all day."

"Let me carry those for you, for now," the artist offered and simply took the bags away from the other woman.

Adriana looked like she wanted to object but relented.

The two women walked into the restaurant and were immediately greeted by a short, chubby man who walked up to Adriana, kissing her on both cheeks.

"My beautiful Adriana," he said, speaking without an Italian accent to Phoebe’s surprise. Somehow she had expected it. "How have you been? It’s been a while since you were here last."

"I know, Giovanni," the elegant woman smiled. "But now I’m here and I’ve brought a new friend. Giovanni, this is Phoebe. Phoebe, Giovanni. Phoebe is an artist and Giovanni is of course the owner of this fine establishment."

Phoebe extended her right hand but was instantly swept into a firm embrace and kissed on both cheeks.

"Welcome, Phoebe," Giovanni beamed. "A friend of Adriana is a friend of ours. Here, let me show you to our best table."

The artist glanced at Adriana and was surprised to see a broad smile on the strict woman’s lips. Her elegant, classical features together with her dark eyes, gave Adriana a solemn expression that completely changed when she smiled.

Phoebe caught herself wondering what the other woman would look like with the neat bun undone. Frowning at herself for the unexpected thought, she hurried after Giovanni and Adriana to a secluded booth in the back of the restaurant.

Giovanni lit two candles and moved a small pot of blue flowers to their table. It was a simple but elegant décor, white linen table cloths and tall glasses together with a nice set of silverware gave an exclusive impression.

Giovanni handed the women their menus and Phoebe browsed it quickly, looking for her favourite Italian dishes.

"I’ll begin with some carpaccio and then I’d like some angel hair pasta with steamed shrimps, please. Oh, and some ice water, please, Giovanni" she heard Adriana place her order.

Phoebe’s eyes grew wide as she peeked at the other woman over the menu.

"Are you kidding?" she blurted out. "That’s what I usually order! I’ll have the same, Giovanni, thank you."

Adriana returned the smile. Placing the white, starched napkin on her lap, she fastened her dark eyes on Phoebe. She let them follow the outline of the artist’s tall and slender frame, the long unruly hair that had escaped her pony tail, and the cardigan she had pulled over her tank top and jeans. Suddenly Phoebe felt self-conscious about being underdressed. She glanced around the restaurant, relieved when she spotted some young people by the window, dressed in a similar way as she was.

"You’re quite young to have been commissioned to do three murals," Adriana suddenly said, her eyes still firmly locked on Phoebe.

"Not that young," Phoebe assured her. "I’m old enough to have twenty years experience as an artist. People usually take me for a lot younger though. Could be my childish ways," she joked.

Adriana smirked.

"Not very childish," she objected. "I get the same reaction sometimes. I too look younger than I am, although after the last six weeks, I feel pretty old. This case I’m preparing is taking a toll on me; there are so many loose ends."

Phoebe cocked her head.

"Are you a lawyer?" she asked.

"Yes, I’m an attorney."

"So you’re in court all day defending bad guys?"

Adriana suddenly tossed her head back and laughed.

"No, not really," she grinned. "The opposite, you could say."

Phoebe was not sure she understood. She began to speak, but was interrupted by Giovanni who apparently had decided to wait on them himself. He placed a decanter of ice water and sliced lemon between them after pouring some into their tall glasses. He then turned around and fetched two large plates of carpaccio. He put them down and the aroma of thin slices of raw beef, with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, capers and Parmesan cheese, made her mouth water.

They both picked up their utensils and began eating with obvious delight. As they sent each other a knowing smile, Phoebe realised that she was thoroughly enjoying Adriana de Leon’s company. It was a long time - since she had had time to socialise with anyone outside her professional contacts. The gallery she had opened in Indiana and her own painting took all of her time.

Now she looked across the table at the stunning woman sitting there. Why did she find her so intriguing? Was it because she had shown such interest in Phoebe’s work? The artist sighed inwardly. She was not going to worry about it.

She was just going to enjoy the moment.

*****

Seven walked up the two steps to the porch. Kathryn was sitting on the railing, her back to one of the columns as she was overlooking the garden in the sunset. The sky was pink behind the blonde as she walked over to her fiancée.

"It is getting chilly," she noticed and folded her arms around the CEO. "Why not come inside and have some coffee?"

"Don’t faint now, Seven, but I don’t feel like coffee. I was just sitting here, admiring the sunset and thinking that a glass of red wine would be nice."

"We have all sorts of wine so that is a wish I can easily grant," the blonde smiled. "Do you want me to bring it out here?"

The auburn haired woman tipped her head back, a lopsided smile forming on her lips.

"No, not yet. You look absolutely exquisite in this light. The pink light makes your skin look like velvet."

Kathryn let her hands run over Seven’s neck, making the younger woman shiver.

Seven rested her hands on the column behind Kathryn. Leaning in, she brushed her lips against the other woman’s, teasing them open with the tip of her tongue. Deepening the kiss, she lost herself in Kathryn’s taste-; familiar, enticing. The CEO raised her hands and rested them on Seven’s hips, stealthily working them in under the loose fitting blue shirt. The blonde gasped when they made contact with her skin, making her shiver again.

"Are you cold?" Kathryn whispered into Seven’s mouth.

"No." Seven’s voice was hardly more than a breath.

Deciding that she wanted to keep the initiative she pulled Kathryn closer, stepping in between the older woman’s legs. Only Seven’s embrace was keeping them from falling backwards over the railing.

"Seven!"

"I have you, Kathryn," Seven murmured against the quickening pulse on her fiancée’s neck. "I will not let you fall."

"I know you won’t," the auburn haired woman said in a breathless voice. "That’s not what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?"

"It’s been a while since … well, since you took charge like this …"

Seven let her tongue trace a frail collarbone underneath Kathryn’s half open shirt. Nudging the shirt off the faintly freckled shoulder, she planted open mouth kisses down towards the swelling of a breast.

"Do you like it?"

"Oh, god, yes …"

Making sure she had a good grip, Seven leaned Kathryn back over her arms, the CEO instinctively holding on tight to her.

"No, no," Seven objected in a low voice, "let go. I have you."

Slowly, Kathryn let go of Seven’s upper arms, not taking her eyes off the blonde.

"Take off your shirt, please," Seven suggested.

The large shirt easily fell off the older woman, folding over Seven’s arms where they laid securely around Kathryn’s waist.

"Now what?" Kathryn raised an eyebrow.

"Take off your bra."

Biting her lower lip, the CEO reached for the clasp between her breasts, unhooking it and letting it fall off her arms, behind her, disappearing into the shadows of the increasingly darker garden.

Seven looked at the two hardening nipples crowning Kathryn’s milky white breasts.

"Since I can not let go of you, you have to hold them up for me."

Breathing short, shallow breaths, Kathryn raised hands that were not quite steady and cupped her breasts, offering them with a shivering sigh to her lover.

Seven leaned down just enough to kiss first one taut nipple and then the other. Kathryn arched and pressed herself closer to the blonde. Opening her mouth, Seven flickered her tongue over a nipple, making it wet. The night then made it cold, causing it to harden even more.

"Seven, please, let me down. I have to …" Kathryn whimpered.

Keeping her grip of Kathryn for a fraction of a second longer, Seven relented and pulled the CEO up and into her arms, kissing her deeply. The shirt fell to the floor.

Naked arms folded around her neck, pulling her down further into the kiss. Their tongues danced, kept in constant contact as Seven pulled Kathryn with her in through the kitchen door. Not bothering to turn on the lights, she opened the buttons in the other woman’s jeans, pushing them down.

Kathryn unceremoniously stepped out of them, now only dressed in panties. Eager to feel her lover, Seven tugged at them, wanting the auburn haired woman to be naked before her.

Gently nudging her lover again, Seven guided Kathryn towards the stairs. When the CEO turned to start her ascent, the blonde stopped her.

"No, here," she husked, not sure why her blood burned so hot tonight. Ever since they had talked earlier that morning, she had been slightly on edge, not sure what she was sensing. Now all she could think of was feeling Kathryn close as it was humanly possible. "Sit down here on the stairs, my Kathryn. Let me make love to you."

Seven slid between Kathryn’s thighs, parting already slick folds with her fingers as she bent down to lavish her attention on a pebbled nipple again. Suckling hard at the puckered area, she began circling the aching ridge at the junction of Kathryn’s legs, making the older woman squirm on the stairs.

"Seven …"

"Yes, I know. You need this, Kathryn. I need this."

Kathryn’s head fell back as the other woman moaned out loud. Seven could feel how ready her partner was, how soaked her own fingers were becoming as they caressed their way down to where all the wetness originated.

Plunging two fingers inside her fiancée, Seven simultaneously bit down gently on the nipple in her mouth. As she had guessed, this drove Kathryn closer to the edge. Curling her fingers up, pushing them in and out in a maddening slow pace, she made the CEO moan.

"Oh, god, Seven … oh, please …"

Strong arms wrapped around Seven’s neck as Kathryn rocked against the persistent fingers inside her. Rhythmic, sensuous movements that left the older woman trembling, clinging to her partner in abandon.

"Oh, Seven … Seven …"

The way Kathryn said her name made the blonde increase the pace, just enough to meet the fire in the smaller body beneath hers. She moved her mouth to Kathryn’s other breast, and as she suckled it into her mouth, she let her thumb find the swollen, slick nubbin again. Pressing down hard on it as she grazed the nipple in her mouth with her teeth, she could feel Kathryn begin to shudder.

Strong internal muscles gripped her fingers, clenched them over and over as Kathryn came. Sliding her free arm around the auburn haired woman, Seven held her close as she knelt between the slender, naked thighs. She continued to massage Kathryn inside until the last shudder had left the compact frame beneath her. She gently pulled her fingers out, and then in one fluid movement, she pulled Kathryn onto her lap.

Tears were streaming down the CEO’s flushed cheeks. Seven was not sure why, but she was certain that those were good tears. She held her partner close, wrapping the old shirt of her father’s that she wore, around them both.

Rocking, they sat on the stairs for a while, until Kathryn’s tears had ceased. She raised her head and looked at Seven.

"How did you know … that I needed something like this?"

The blonde shook her head.

"I am not sure. I saw you sitting on the railing and I could see how tense you were, even if you tried to act casual. I guess I just knew."

"I’m glad you knew. You were right. It was as if I needed to … well, I guess, I needed this to relax. I’ve been on edge since this morning, but now I feel so much calmer. I only have one thing on my mind right now."

"You do?" Seven smiled faintly as it was not all that hard to guess.

"Yes. If you’d allow me the comfort of a bed - now don’t get me wrong, it was very sexy and very exciting to do it on the stairs - then I’d like to take care of you … properly."

A full smile broke out on Seven’s lips. The gleam in Kathryn’s eyes was definitely back.

"Properly?"

"Oh, you have no idea, how proper I can be."

*****

"Are you coming to bed yet?"

Julia Williams stood in the doorway to the study, watching Marion check her emails.

"In a minute, honey." The Stellar Corporation’s sales manager sounded absent minded.

Julia padded over to the large leather chair and planted a kiss on top of Marion’s hair.

"What’s wrong?"

Marion frowned.

"There is something very wrong," she murmured and pulled up an Excel document. "When I compare the figures … it doesn’t add up. Damn!"

Julia jumped a little at the sudden curse.

"I have to get word to Kathryn tomorrow," Marion continued, her voice serious. "If these figures are correct, we have another problem on our hands. A serious one."

"Can it wait until tomorrow?" Julia asked.

"It’ll have to. They are still on the island and it will require that I radio her and arrange for a boat. I’ll get in touch with Jacob’s son tomorrow."

Marion closed her laptop and rose. Frowning again she rubbed her forehead.

"This was not what we needed just when things were getting back on track."

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 2

Chapter Text

Julia stretched her slender arms above her head as she turned around to glance at the sleeping form behind her. Marion was lying on her stomach with her head buried in the pillow. The bedcovers had slipped down and uncovered a smooth, pale shoulder. The interior designer leaned over the other woman and pressed a gentle kiss on the warm skin. Marion stirred but did not wake up.

"Darling?" Julia whispered and kissed the shoulder and then the tousled, chocolate brown hair. "It’s time to go up."

"Mm …"

Marion did not move.

"Come on, wake up now." The younger woman smiled and pushed the hair away from Marion’s neck. Kissing it with gentle lips she let her tongue caress the hairline.

"Mm …"

Deciding that she would need a more decisive approach, Julia pulled the bed sheet down and uncovered a curvaceous body that she knew as well as she knew her own. Cupping her hand around Marion’s bottom, she gave a squeeze and nibbled her neck. She moved away just in time when the sales manager snapped her head up, glaring at her between unruly tresses of hair.

"Julia!" the dark haired woman husked. "What time is it?"

"Seven o’clock. You wanted to radio Kathryn early this morning."

Marion sighed and flipped over to her back, tugging at the missing bed sheet. Frowning, she rubbed her forehead as she pulled Julia closer.

"Oh, right," she murmured. "This will not be pretty. Kathryn won’t like having their vacation interrupted."

"I know," Julia concurred as she snuggled closer, happy that Marion seemed more approachable this morning. Nuzzling the softness just below the other woman’s ear, she planted a kiss there.

"They had looked forward to staying at the island for at least a few weeks and now she’ll want to come back right away. Damn, she won’t have a choice. Poor Seven."

"Yeah, she needed the rest too – and to be alone with Kathryn. They have had a rough time of it. There was a time after the kidnapping when I thought Kathryn would come down with an ulcer or collapse."

Marion pressed her lips against Julia’s forehead.

"I know. That’s why I hate having to radio them but there’s no other way. It is her company after all."

Getting up on an elbow, Julia looked down at her partner.

"You can’t help it; it’s not your fault." She looked into Marion’s eyes, as if to gauge the other woman’s likely response in advance. Slowly, uncertain of how it would be met, she leaned in to kiss Marion.

Half holding her breath, she was pleasantly surprised to feel the other woman parting her lips under her own. Julia’s heart started racing and she gave a muted whimper as her arm gave in. She fell over Marion, deepening the kiss.

Strong arms circled her and held her close as they kissed. Julia could not believe the emotions flooding her, drowning the carefully controlled pain that she had carried with her ever since Seven’s kidnapping.

Marion’s tongue met hers, gently caressing and playing with it. Julia returned the kiss with as much love as relief. Eventually she raised her head and looked down at the older woman whose eyes reflected her own emotions.

Suddenly tears well up, spilled over and ran down Julia’s cheeks. Marion raised a hand and wiped them away, a frown appearing on her forehead.

"Oh, honey," she whispered. "Please, don’t cry."

"I’m sorry," Julia replied, a catch in her voice. "I …"

She swallowed hard and hid her face in Marion’s hair. She had not meant to ruin the first real moment of closeness in months and now she was afraid that her partner would tense up again and become … what she had become after Seven’s abduction. Marion had suffered from a tremendous amount of guilt ever since she had plotted against Kathryn Janeway’s fiancée together with Eric Avery two years ago. The man’s latest illegal endeavours had added to that guilt.

At first, Marion had tried to push Julia out of her life, having decided that she herself did not deserve her partner’s love. It had taken a lot of effort and stubbornness on Julia’s part to convince her lover that they both deserved happiness – and each other. Still, after almost two months, they had not made love once even if they slept in the same bed every night. They had shared quick kisses but Marion had put up a wall, which Julia had not been able to tear down or climb over.

Now that she had briefly felt the old connection with Marion, she was devastated when it seemed to have slipped through her fingers.

"Julia," Marion murmured and pulled the younger woman closer. "Don’t cry, honey. Here, let me hold you. Shhh …"

Unbelievably, the sales manager pulled her close into a warm embrace; placing small kisses on Julia’s tear stained face. Rocking slowly, she whispered terms of endearment in the younger woman’s ear.

"I know it’s been hard on you, Julia," Marion allowed. "It’s been like a night mare that won’t stop. I just wanted to … Oh, I don’t know. Right now, when we kissed, it was as if nothing of the bad things had ever happened. Julia … honey … kiss me again."

Julia gave another whimper and closed her lips over Marion’s, desperate to feel the old, familiar sensations again. Sliding her tongue over the other woman’s lower lip, she felt Marion open her mouth, give in to her, and she deepened the kiss again.

Marion pulled her close and rolled them around, lips still locked as they drank each other’s kisses with abandon. It was as if they were cascading down a waterfall, each stroke of tongue against tongue moved them further into the passion.

"Is this what you want?" Marion growled. "Is this what you’ve been waiting for?"

There was true pain in the older woman’s voice and Julia wanted her partner more than she had wanted anything else. Her own pleasure was raging inside of her, but that was not what was most important. She wanted Marion to finally give in, to surrender to her.

Rolling them again, Julia ended up on top of Marion, allowing her lips to slide down her lover’s neck, placing open mouth kisses as she approached the soft mounds below. Taking a taut nipple between her lips, she flicked her tongue over it, making Marion moan out loud.

"Julia," the sales manager sighed, arching into the touch. "Oh, God, it’s been … so long …"

Julia nudged Marion’s legs apart, settling there as she suckled the breast beneath her. She reached out for the other breast and pinched the nipple with gentle fingers. The other woman wrapped long, slender legs around Julia’s waist, letting her hands slide up; caress the younger woman’s high cheekbones before burying her fingers in her short mahogany curls.

Pushing the two breasts together, Julia let her tongue work on them with long, languid movements until Marion began to squirm beneath her. Pulling back, the younger woman surprised her partner by flipping her over on her stomach and spreading her legs again.

"Julia!" Marion cried out, clutching a pillow as her body began to tremble.

Sliding her body up along the dark haired woman’s back, while settling between the parted legs, Julia put one hand between them.

"There," she hushed, moving her hand in between Marion’s legs, finding her ready. "Right there." She let her fingers caress the slick folds and find the aching ridge of nerves that held the key to Marion’s pleasure.

Marion groaned into the pillow, arching, pressing her bottom up again Julia. The younger woman knew instinctively to press her thumb into her lover, all the time continuing her ministrations. Marion’s folds drenched her hand and it slid easily between them.

"Yes, oh, please …"

Hearing the voice, that was usually so commanding and quite sarcastic, beg for relief was almost more than Julia could bear. She pressed against Marion’s back and let her own body put more weight on her hand, pressing it further into her lover. She undulated against Marion, kissed her partner’s back as she pushed them both against the precipice.

"I always want you, Marion," she said throatily. "I’ve missed you … I’ve missed this …"

Plunging her thumb in and out she rubbed the moisture over Marion’s swollen sex. The other woman moved beneath her, pushing herself up on hands and knees only to half collapse and hug her pillow again, her knees managing to support them both. Julia clung to Marion with an arm around her waist and her hand buried between her thighs.

"That’s it," she murmured. "You’re so close, darling …"

"Julia!"

Marion moved against her hand, impaling herself on her fingers. Julia knew what her lover wanted and let more fingers join her thumb, filling Marion, stretching her.

The sales manager gave a brief cry and bit into the pillow as the orgasm shook her. Slick muscles clenched rhythmically around Julia’s fingers as Marion rode the waves of pleasure, one after another. Feeling the passion releasing inside her partner, Julia only had to press her own sex against her hand moving in and out of Marion, to fall over the edge. As pleasure exploded between her legs, travelling down the inside of her thighs and up her stomach, she moaned and fell over Marion’s back, slowly removing her hand.

"Marion," she whispered as she slid down onto the bed.

The other woman rolled over on her side, looking at the younger woman with dazed eyes.

"God, Julia …" she began and then her voice betrayed her. "You really wanted me."

Julia’s eyes widened at the unexpected comment.

"Of course, I did … I do. I always want you, darling," she assured her partner.

Marion reached out and pushed a curly tress of hair out of Julia’s face.

"You do, huh?" she murmured. "Then maybe there is hope after all."

The comment frightened Julia in a way she could not quite put her finger on. She gazed at Marion whose eyes had taken on the now familiar distant expression. Knowing she would not get any of her questions answered right now, she sighed and cupped Marion’s cheek with a trembling hand.

"Are you okay?"

Marion gave her a quick kiss on her forehead.

"I’m fine. We have to get up; it’s time to radio Kathryn."

Julia slowly sat up as Marion unceremoniously left the bed. Her partner did not so much as glance over her shoulder before slipping into the large bathroom. The interior designer took Marion’s pillow and pulled it close to her chest, encircling it with both arms. It smelled of her lover.

Closing her eyes, Julia wondered if they would ever be able to heal their relationship and turn it back to what it was.

*****

Seven glanced over her shoulder towards Kathryn who sat by the table onboard Jacob’s boat, reading one document after another on her laptop.

Josh Henderson, Jacob’s son, was at the helm navigating through the inner archipelago, having set a new record getting the two women back to the mainland.

"She looks kind of grim," the young man murmured. "What’s up?"

Seven gave him a lopsided smile.

"Business," she explained noncommittally.

"Figured as much. Pity you only got to spend one night out here."

"Yes, as you know we had planned to take a longer vacation. I am grateful you could come at such short notice, Josh."

"Ah, that’s nothing. The way you and Ms Janeway have taken care of dad, I owe you."

"I’m glad he is doing so much better," Seven smiled and patted Josh’s arm. "When is he coming home?"

"In a few weeks, I think. The rehab clinic has done wonders with him and they say that he’ll be back to his old self after some more physiotherapy. You can imagine how relieved he was to hear that. He misses his boat and the ocean."

Jacob Henderson had taken a serious blow to the head and sustained a subdural haematoma, where a blood vessel had put pressure on his brain. The recovery had been slow but steady and Seven had visited her friend, who had also been a true father figure to her all her life, as often as she could.

"I’m so relieved that he will make a full recovery," she offered. "I have been so worried."

"So have we. If it hadn’t been for Ms Janeway, he wouldn’t have healed this quickly."

Seven knew Josh was right. Kathryn had insisted on paying for Jacob to stay at a state of the art rehabilitation clinic just south of Brimmerton where they lived.

"We’ll be back into port in fifteen minutes," Josh informed her as they rounded the last island before Brimmerton.

"Thanks."

Seven walked over to Kathryn and sat down next to her. Her fiancée had logged on to the company intranet by dialling up via her cell phone. Their phones did not work on Raven’s Island; they were only in range when half way back to Brimmerton.

"Are you able to make any sense of it?" the blonde asked.

"No, not really," the other woman murmured absentmindedly. "It’s odd. The numbers don’t add up. Marion reported that there were some discrepancies but this is even worse than I thought. There has been quite the commotion among the shareholders since this business with Avery and now this …"

Seven suddenly felt nervous, a feeling she had battled on and off ever since her rescue. She found it hard to talk about, even with Kathryn, but she also knew it was normal to go through several different stages after such an ordeal.

"What was Marion’s opinion?"

"She said that she had received a number of complaints shortly after we left, and while looking into it, she had found a series of discrepancies that demanded our return. She did not want the full responsibility when it came to something that might turn out to be a major problem."

Seven frowned at the statement. The old Marion would have thrived at such a challenge, but the sales manager’s confidence had been shredded to bits when Avery had struck a third time. Julia had indicated her worry to Seven on several occasions and the blonde knew that her friend was worried.

"We will be in Brimmerton in a few minutes."

Seven leaned over and kissed Kathryn’s temple.

"Thank you, darling." The CEO began to disconnect the laptop. She glanced up and gave the younger woman a remorseful smile. "We’ll come back out here as soon as I know what’s going on. I’m sorry about this."

"It is all right, Kathryn," the blonde assured. "This is not your fault."

The other woman put an arm around Seven’s waist and squeezed her gently.

"Still, this is not what I had planned," she murmured. "I will make it up to you."

Seven wanted to explain to her partner that she did not need to make up for anything but knew how Kathryn’s mind worked and relented.

"I know you will," she replied instead and hugged her fiancée back. "We both will."

 

*****

 

Phoebe put a screwdriver under the lid of the paint can and turned it. It would not budge and she cursed inwardly as the tried turning the tool again. Suddenly her paint stained hand slipped and she felt a sharp pain as the screwdriver sank into the palm of her left hand.

The artist gave a muted cry and dropped the tool as she clutched her hand.

"Damn!"

"God, Phoebe, what happened?" a worried voice behind her exclaimed.

Phoebe turned her head and saw Adriana standing there, today dressed in a cobalt blue trouser suit over a white shirt. The other woman put her bags down and knelt next to her, mindless of the messy floor cover.

"Your slacks," Phoebe croaked as she carefully opened her hand and watched the blood run down her arm. "Oh, no."

"You need to have that taken care of right away," Adriana insisted, reaching into her pocket for a handkerchief and pressed it on the wound. "That doesn’t look very good."

"I have a first aid kit here somewhere," Phoebe objected. "I’ll just put a band aid on …"

"… and get a nice infection. Why don’t you at least bring the first aid kit and come with me to the ladies room. We can wash it properly and then decide what to do."

Phoebe blinked at the assertiveness and command in Adriana’s voice. She realised that these were traits any lawyer would need to succeed in their profession, but it still surprised her.

"Okay, okay," the artist muttered. "I’ll get it."

"Tell me where it is and I’ll get it. You put pressure on that wound and come with me."

"But don’t you have places to go, people to defend, deals to make?" Phoebe tried with a lopsided smile to show that she was joking as she pointed towards a large wooden box where she kept her things.

Adriana rose, casually brushing her knees off and returned the smile.

"No, I was on my way to lunch and I have no meetings for the rest of the day. I have a major case coming up and I was going to spend the afternoon at the library doing some research."

"Oh."

Knowing she was outmanoeuvred, Phoebe relented. Her hand was throbbing badly and she was beginning to feel concern. What if she had damaged her hand more than she realised? What would happen to the time schedule then? She had two more murals to complete for the city and also an exhibit later in the fall. Her newly acquired gallery depended on it.

"Is the pain bad?" Adriana’s voice was soft and worried.

"No, not all that bad," Phoebe admitted. "I was just thinking that I hope this doesn’t slow me down …"

"Well, I’ll take a look at it in a minute," the attorney said and guided the other woman towards the ladies room down the hall. The room was as old as the building, but clean, and with a woman employed to supervise it. Phoebe smiled weakly at her as she and Adriana entered.

"Hi there, Connie. Had a bit of an accident."

"Oh, Madre de Dios, Phoebe," the woman gushed. "How did that happen?"

"Just being clumsy, I guess. This is Adriana, a friend of mine."

"Connie and I know each other well," Adriana smiled. "We both originate from Argentina and we’ve both worked here forever."

"Ah, this is an exaggeration, querida; you are still a young woman. I however, have been here since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Here, take a seat, Phoebe. Let us look at your hand."

The artist sat down on a stool by the wall and held out her hand, feeling decidely silly to have two women hovering over her for a simple cut.

"Oy, it’s deep," Connie said. "We need lots of soap and water."

She went to run the faucet and opened a new bottle of liquid soap. She waved the two women over to the sink.

"Here, rinse it off under the running water."

Phoebe obeyed and gasped at the sting of the water hitting her broken skin. She looked down at her palm and saw that the cut was just between her thumb and index finger.

"Could have been worse," she sighed. "Could have been my right hand. At least I’ll be able to paint."

"This will sting even more," Connie warned and poured some liquid soap over Phoebe’s hand.

The artist whimpered, closed her eyes as she felt humiliating tears sting behind her eyelids.

"Are you okay?" Adriana asked and circled Phoebe’s waist with a strong arm, pulling her close. "Here, lean against me."

"I’ll get the stool."

"I’m such a wimp," Phoebe groaned as salty tears streamed down her cheeks at the burning sensation in her hand. "I guess this confirms any ideas anyone might have about ‘over-sensitive artists’…"

Adriana smiled.

"Don’t be silly. That must hurt like hell. If it were me, I’d cry like a baby."

Phoebe doubted it. She heard Connie put the stool down behind her and sank down on it, weak at the knees. Adriana let go of her waist as she sat down, which left her feeling a bit cold.

"Now, rinse it off properly. Do you have any band aids with you? Oh, I see the box." Connie fetched the box and gave it to Adriana.

The attorney opened it and browsed through its contents. She found the sterile compresses and gauze bandage and after drying off Phoebe’s hand with a few of the compresses she quickly put the bandage on, securing it with surgical tape.

"There, how does that feel?"

"Much better."

"You will have to have someone look at it, if it shows any sign of infection."

"Yes, I promise."

Adriana gave her a sceptical look.

"I’ll hold you to it. Even if I have to come around to check it myself, you know."

Phoebe gave her a surprised look and was even more taken aback by the warm feeling the protective words instilled in her.

"You would, huh?" She rolled her eyes, a faint smile on her lips. "Well, I better behave then or you just might end up suing me for breech of contract or something."

Adriana’s eyes sparkled.

"Yes, that just might happen."

They tidied up the sink despite Connie’s objections and left after thanking the older woman for helping them.

When they stood just outside Phoebe’s work area Adriana hesitantly raised her hand and squeezed the artist’s shoulder.

"Are you sure you’re able to go back to work? Shouldn’t you wait until tomorrow at least, to see how the hand is doing?"

The gentle touch on her shoulder generated surprising warmth. Phoebe gently patted it with her unharmed hand.

"You have an annoying habit of being correct," she grinned. "I can’t do any more today since I won’t be able to open the cans with just one hand. I’ll have another go at it tomorrow." There was a brief silence. "Will I see you around then?"

"You bet. I’ll be in quite early, I imagine."

"So will I."

Adriana slowly removed her hand, sliding it out from under Phoebe’s, making the artist realise that she had kept her hand on the attorney’s as they were talking. Blushing she took a step back.

"Thanks for helping me," Phoebe continued, suddenly out of breath.

"I’m just glad I was here. See you tomorrow then."

"Yes … tomorrow."

Phoebe nodded before turning around to lock her wooden box for the day, all the time wondering how such simple words could hold such … anticipation.

*****

Janeway sat behind her desk on the seventy-ninth floor in the Stellar Building. She was going through one document after another and only briefly glanced up as Marion stepped inside.

"Good, you’re here."

"Have you been able to look over the …"

"Yes," Janeway interrupted impatiently, "and this just doesn’t make sense. Not only are we experiencing a minor stockholder uproar due to the upcoming trial, but also … the numbers just don’t add up."

"I know. I thought I had the numbers duplicated by mistake, but then I realised that there is a serious discrepancy. I just can’t understand how and when this changed."

"Neither can I."

They both sat in silence as Marion flipped open her laptop and docked it with the intranet hub on Janeway’s desk.

Janeway glanced at her sales manager. The dark haired woman looked slightly haggard, with dark circles beneath her eyes.

"You okay?" she asked as she scrolled down a page.

"I’m fine."

Janeway recognised the standard answer to the question for what it was. ‘Don’t ask because I won’t tell.’ She had used it countless times herself.

She kept reading the figures in the document and suddenly she sat up ramrod straight in the chair.

"Marion, pull up the digital version of the stockholder certificates again. Read back to me as I check the numbers again."

Marion complied and after a few minutes they both looked up at each other.

"This can’t be!" Marion exclaimed.

"I know. It seems impossible and I have no idea how this came about. There are far too many stockholders. How the hell did this happen?"

Stunned, Janeway leaned back into her chair, pushing the laptop aside. She rubbed her throbbing temple.

"We have to get the stock certificate books and compare. Why don’t you go down to the legal department and get it, and have Ms Green update us digitally as well?"

"All right."

Marion began to get up when Janeway stopped her by raising her hand.

"Come to think of it … what’s Julia up to? It’s late afternoon and perhaps she could come over and we could withdraw to the penthouse and you two could have dinner with Seven and I, after we go over this."

Marion flinched visibly.

"She’s busy, probably working late," she rushed through the sentence, avoiding Janeway’s steady gaze. "I’ll run down …"

"Marion? Are you still no closer to resolving this? I know Julia wants nothing more than to have things back the way they were between the two of you."

Marion rose from her chair and folded her arms in front of her.

"Things will never be the same," she blurted out. "Too much have happened and no matter how Julia might wish for them to be different – they aren’t! I don’t know what the future holds, but things have changed forever."

"Nonsense!" Janeway exclaimed and rose as well. Rounding the desk, she walked up to Marion, invading the sales manager’s personal space. "Everyone has forgiven you. Seven was the first one to ever plead your case to me, Julia loves you with all of her heart and you have become my best friend next to Seven. You made one bad choice when you teamed up with Avery when Seven was new here. After that – you have done nothing else but stand up for us, for the company, for your friends. The only one that hasn’t forgiven you … is you."

"There can be no forgiveness…"

Janeway’s temper asserted itself.

"For heaven’s sake, Marion, snap out of it! Everything is not about you. Seven went through an unimaginable ordeal and she needs her friend, the woman she admires, sometimes more than me, I think – not a self-pitying wimp!"

The sales manager stared back at her with widening eyes, apparently stunned beyond words.

"You have to hear it from someone, McDunn. We have all been walking on eggshells around you ever since this happened. There will be no more of that! You have a wonderful woman in your life who has sacrificed a lot to be with you, and I can see her growing increasingly thin and pale every time we get together. Have you even noticed that? She is hurting, Marion, and only you can fix that. Seven misses your mentoring, your friendship … and honestly, I miss the way you challenge me, your sarcastic nature, and our mutual warped sense of humour. You are depriving us of yourself. You’re hurting us by hurting yourself. We have a tough time coming up with the trial and now it seems we have a stockholder problem to boot. Get with the program, Marion, and acknowledge that there is such a thing as absolution for mistakes. Had Julia been in your situation, would you have beaten up on her the way you are torturing yourself?"

Marion staggered to the side and Janeway automatically reached for her, steadying the shocked woman with both hands. She wanted to pull her friend into a hug but decided against it, judging that Marion needed ‘tough love’ right now.

"You’re right of course …" the dark haired woman whispered. "I’m stuck in this trail of thought. How do I break free from it?"

"You make a conscious decision. You tell yourself ‘no more’. You decide to forgive yourself and then when you talk to Julia next time, you ask her forgiveness for how you’ve treated her and shut her out for the last two months."

"That easy, huh?" Marion had tears in her eyes.

"Not easy at all. But don’t think so much; just do it."

Marion nodded slowly.

"Can you call Julia and ask her to join us," she asked Janeway. "I’ll go down to Ms Green and get the books. I’ll see you upstairs."

Satisfied that her employee and friend seemed to have found her bearings, at least for now, Janeway nodded.

"Of course."

As Marion walked towards the door, she halted and looked over her shoulder with a tremulous, lopsided grin.

"You drive a hard bargain, Janeway."

"I do," the CEO conceded, "when things really matter to me."

*****

Marion walked into the legal department on the sixty-third floor and up to Amelia Green, the chief secretary. The attractive woman in her late thirties looked up with a polite smile.

"Ms McDunn, what brings you down here so late?"

"Ms Janeway wants the stock certificate books immediately so I need access to the safe."

Ms Green missed a beat but then reached into her purse for a set of keys.

"Of course, Ms McDunn," she agreed. "Come this way."

Marion followed the other woman into the head office of the Stellar Corporation legal department and watched as Ms Green used the first key to open the barred door leading into the safe. Punching in the code, the thick, steel door swung open. Ms Green reached in for several large boxes containing big packs of books.

The sales manager reached for a small cart and began stacking the boxes.

There was a brief moment of hesitation before the chief secretary handed over the last box to Marion.

"Will that be all, ma’am?" Ms Green asked, her eyes darting to the side.

"No. Ms Janeway wants you to assemble an updated list of all stockholders, regardless of the amount of stock they own, right away."

Ms Green paled.

"But I’m on my way home and …"

Marion frowned when she saw the chief secretary fiddle and almost drop the keys. A warning alarm went of inside of her. Something was wrong.

"Is there a problem, Ms Green?" Her question met with no reply. "Amelia? Ms Janeway wants this done ASAP whether you have to work overtime all night to accommodate."

"But …"

A teardrop rolled down the other woman’s cheek and she leaned against the open safe door.

Marion put the box down on top of the others on the cart and closed the door to the safe, taking the keys out of Amelia Green’s listless hand.

"I think you and I need to talk. We can do this while you pull up those updates, don’t you agree?"

The other woman sobbed but nodded. As if every ounce of energy had been taken from her, the chief secretary walked out to her own office, her steps uncertain. Marion followed, pulling the small cart.

Ms Green sat down at her computer and stared blankly at it.

"Go on," Marion urged, instinctively keeping her voice firm, but not unkind.

She just knew that there was more going on than they knew about and this was her chance to find out.

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 3

Chapter Text

Amy Green refused the offer to sit down. Pale and desperate to not fall apart, she forbad the tears welling up in her eyes to fall as she faced the CEO of the Stellar Corporation. Kathryn Janeway sat behind her desk looking up at her with even blue-grey eyes. Her hand lay neatly folded on the empty surface as she obviously waited for Amy to speak.

“Ma’am …” the secretary husked, only to find her voice giving in. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Ms Janeway, there is no excuse for what I have done.”

Kathryn Janeway continued to watch her for a moment and then suddenly rose from her chair. She rounded the desk and then stopped, leaning against it as she studied her employee.

“Ms Green, Amy,” she began, “why don’t you tell us everything and let us be the judge of that?”

Amy looked around the room. Marion McDunn was standing over by the window, her arms folded across her chest. Martha, Janeway’s assistant was sitting on the couch over at the far wall together with Annika Hansen who had arrived at Janeway’s office shortly after Amy. The four women all looked calm but Amy knew they were furious with her; they had to be.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry …”

“Listen to me, Amy,” Janeway interrupted, her voice laced with harnessed impatience. “We know that there is some serious discrepancies regarding the amount of stocks and we have a serious problem on our hands. You seem to know something about it. If there ever was a time to not withhold anything, this is it. Tell us what is going on; you clearly possess some of the information.”

Amy felt her knees surrender and she sat down on the leather chair just behind her.

“I don’t know how it works but there is a computer program installed to duplicate stocks at certain intervals.”

“Go on.” Janeway did not even blink and still Amy knew this must be shocking news to the CEO.

“I have no clue how he pulled it off; he must have more contacts, maybe in the IT department. I assume that this was his goal all along.” Amy knew her information was fragmented and made little sense to the other women; the shock of the events this late afternoon made her close to incoherent.

Marion McDunn walked closer.

“Who are you talking about, Amy? Whose goal?”

The secretary recoiled and folded her arms in front of her. She found McDunn intimidating, more so than Janeway. She knew she had to confess everything to them and that her days at the Stellar Corporation, possibly even her days in freedom, were numbered.

“Eric Avery.”

She had read about his arrest, about how he had kidnapped Annika Hansen and held her captive not far from the Stellar Building. She had been tossed between hope and fear every day since that happened. Expecting him to bring her down with him, she had waited for the axe to fall, and now it had. She did not know if she was relieved or shocked, perhaps both.

“What about Avery?” Janeway asked.

“He … he forced me to give him access to the office, to the computers. I gave him my password and informed him every time it changed. He needed access to my terminal to verify things that went on elsewhere, I think.”

Amy buried her face into her hands. She did not want to break down and cry in front of Janeway and the two other women.

“What does he have on you?” Marion asked in a low tone of voice.

Amy looked up. The sales manager stood close to her chair, looking at her with an odd expression in her dark eyes.

“How did you know?” Amy whispered, hugging herself in the chair. “I can’t tell you. I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

“You have to,” Janeway stated. “We know Avery’s favourite method of operation is blackmail. You’re not the only one that has been subjected to this. You won’t be free of him until you tell us what ever he is using to manipulate you. Once you get it off your chest, he will have no more power over you.”

The secretary considered this. She had lived with her shame, her problem, for so long that it was second nature to her to make sure nobody knew. It would destroy everything she had accomplished over the last few years.

“Oh, god,” she murmured and clasped her hands together. “I can’t, Ms Janeway …”

Soft hands warmed her trembling shoulders from behind.

“Amy, dear girl, Ms Janeway is right. You have to tell us,” Martha said. “We will do everything to help you, but you have to level with us. You and I have been friends for years and had lunch together at least twice a week during that time. I promise you, I’m still your friend, no matter what you have to say.”

Martha’s kind voice finished the struggle against the tears that began streaming down her pale cheeks. Raising a tremulous hand, she held on to one of Martha’s as she mustered all her courage to face Janeway as she told her the truth.

“Eric Avery began coming on to me several years ago,” she explained in a strained voice. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer and when I still turned him down, he became more and more aggressive. I know it sounds so cliché but he would corner me in the copy room, or in the library when I was up on one of the ladders, touch me, say things to me … I threatened to report him if he didn’t stop. I had heard through the grapevine what he had done to other women. One day he followed me after work. I didn’t know of course, and went to my usual … activity that I attend once a week.”

Janeway reached into a drawer in her desk and grabbed a Kleenex, handing it over to the distraught woman.

“Go on.”

Amy wiped her eyes before continuing.

“As I said, he followed me there and …“ Her voice broke and she had to blow her nose. “I … I used to have a problem and I still have to attend AA meetings at least once a week to stay … sober. I didn’t use to go as often but I had been under a lot of stress because of him and was afraid that I’d … start drinking again.”

Marion suddenly kneeled beside her chair, looking at Amy with concern.

“So he followed your there, listened to your testimonies at the AA meetings and used that against you to make you do what he wanted,” the sales manager deducted, her voice strained.

“Yes.”

“Did he force you to sleep with him?” Janeway’s face was expressionless.

“No, he was past that by then. I don’t think he ever really fancied me, he was just out to find something that he could use against me.”

“This man stops at nothing,” Annika Hansen suddenly said as she rose from the couch and walked up to the desk. “He exercised the same despicable behaviour with me when I was new at this company.”

“I wonder how many he did this to,” Janeway murmured. “I have three affidavits that we received from women in the sales department last time he gave us grief. Something tells me there could be more.”

*****

Janeway resisted the urge to rub her aching temples. Amy Green was another one of Avery’s victims and the CEO was beginning to wonder how much damage this man had done to her company, both as an employee and then via his attempt at revenge.

She could not erase the frown that marred her forehead as she listened to Amy’s story. The pain in the other woman’s eyes reminded her of Seven’s and Marion’s ordeals; Avery was to blame for all of them. Impatiently tapping her fingers against the polished surface of her desk, she pressed her lips together.

Janeway felt Seven’s gaze on her and realised that her fiancée probably misread her disapproving look and thought that it was directed towards Amy. The CEO raised one of her hands, palm up towards the blonde and gave her a look saying ‘I know, I know’ and then turned towards the secretary from Stellar’s legal department.

“Amy,” she began, “I want you to know that I don’t blame you for what has happened. The reason I say this is because I know enough of Avery and his method of operation. I will talk to the DA on your behalf and if you give us all the information on him, and what he forced you to do, I think we can work something out for you. You’ll always have your job here – but you have to be honest and tell us everything, no matter how embarrassing or painful it is. Just know this, Avery has hurt all of us and it is still going on.”

“Oh, Ms Janeway, thank you … I don’t deserve it, I should have come to you but I just couldn’t. He knows things about me that …” Amy hid her face in her hands, crying soundlessly.

Martha looked at Janeway and nodded. Their wordless communication, honed through more than fifteen years of friendship and working together, made it easy for her assistant to take the appropriate action.

“Amy, why don’t you come home with me tonight?” the older woman said and stroked the shivering shoulders under her hands. “I don’t think you should be alone.”

Amy glanced up at Martha.

“Oh, yes, please,” she managed. “I’d hate to go home to an empty apartment. I don’t think that I’d trust myself. I haven’t had a drink in two years, but … “

“I know, honey. Come on; let’s go get your coat and purse.”

Martha helped her up.

“I’ll let you both know when we can meet up with the DA, Martha,” Janeway said. “I’ll give her a call in just a moment.”

“Very well, Kathryn. I’ll await your call then,” her assistant said and left the room with a motherly arm around the younger woman.

Janeway gave a deep sigh as the door closed behind the two women.

“This mess just keeps growing.”

“I can’t believe how many tentacles this guy has,” Marion blurted out. “He has sexually harassed several women and managed to get classified information from the legal department. I swear if I had him here right now, I’d …”

“You’d wring his neck,” Janeway filled in. “I know, I have the same inclination.”

Seven walked up to her and wrapped a slender arm around her waist.

“You’re exhausted, Kathryn. Why don’t you make the call to the DA so we can go up and have something to eat?”

Janeway leaned into the touch for a few invaluable seconds before squaring her shoulders.

“All right, darling,” she agreed. “Will you wait here with me?”

“Of course,” the blonde said readily.

Seven sat down on the edge of the desk as Janeway took a seat in her chair behind the desk. Marion slumped down into the visitor chair that Amy had just vacated.

Janeway pulled out her Palm Pilot and found the number to the DA and dialled. As she waited for someone to answer, she gave Marion a tired glance.

“This can be a bigger problem than we realise. He must have a contact in the IT department as well. Damn it! I want to know just how far his infiltration of my corporation goes.”

*****

Adriana de Leon dropped the keys and the large stack of folders she had carried from the cab. Her car was at the garage, being repaired, and she would not get it back for another week.

She glanced at her answering machine, and saw the light blink next to the display that informed her that she had four messages. Bracing herself, she pressed the button.

The first two were work related and the third was from her mother. Carmela de Leon lived two hours north of the city and never gave up hope that one day Adriana would come home and ‘settle down’. Her refined methods of persuasion had yet to wear her career trek daughter down; Adriana had no intention of returning to her sleepy home town. She loved the quick pace of the big city and had quickly climbed to the position she now held.

The fourth message made her pivot.

“Hi, this is Phoebe. I was hoping that we might have lunch tomorrow? I have spent it watching TV in my sister’s apartment and I’m bored. But at least I have rested, as I promised! Anyway … I’ll be back at work tomorrow and if you don’t have any plans … Well, let me know!”

The artist then left her cell phone number and hung up.

A soft glow from nowhere appeared in her midsection. Phoebe possessed an energetic, husky voice that enticed her senses.

Just as she reached for the phone to call Phoebe back, it rang and startled her.

“de Leon,” she answered.

“Ms de Leon, this is Kathryn Janeway. I have new information regarding Eric Avery. It’s vital that we meet as soon as possible. This is undoubtedly something for the DA’s office.”

At first when the woman spoke, Adriana had thought it was Phoebe calling again. She had met with Kathryn Janeway and Annika Hansen on several occasions just after Ms Hansen’s kidnapping and had not realised until now how alike the CEO and Phoebe sounded.

“All right, Ms Janeway,” she agreed. She activated her Palm Pilot and made a face. “I only have lunch tomorrow free this week. Can you make it then?”

“Certainly. I will make good use of tonight and tomorrow morning going through documents that you will find useful and also bring a new witness. I won’t take up your time this evening with explanations; it is far too complex anyway.”

Adriana raised her eyebrows. Janeway sounded exasperated and agitated at the same time. Whatever had happened, it had to be significant.

“See you at noon then,” the assistant DA confirmed.

Janeway acknowledged and they hung up.

Adriana sighed. She would have to call Phoebe and let her know that …

Suddenly a faint memory struck her and she reached for one of the folders in the pile she had brought home. It contained some of the background information and statements taken by the police on the night Eric Avery was apprehended. She browsed through the documents until she reached the last one. Her eyes darted across the text.

Name: Phoebe Janeway. Age: 43. Occupation: Artist.

Of course.

Slowly sitting down on the chair in the narrow hallway leading into her apartment, she rubbed her forehead. Phoebe Janeway was the younger sister of Kathryn Janeway, business tycoon and CEO of the Stellar Corporation. This complicated a sensitive situation further.

Adriana knew she had to hide the attraction she felt towards the artist even more carefully now. Not only were their work ethics to consider but she could not risk anyone finding out about her. She had always guarded her private life and even more so after a disastrous love affair when she was a law student. When she had surfaced after that fiasco, she had vowed to make her career her main goal in life – and never let anyone come close enough to know too much about her.

She rose and walked up to the mirror. Examining her immaculate appearance, she sighed inwardly. She had carefully channelled every ounce of passion and desire, despite its origin, into her drive to succeed in her chosen profession. Calculating every step, every course of action, Adriana had moved swiftly through the ranks and now she was in charge of the most prolific case this year, perhaps this decade. She could not afford to stumble now.

Reaching behind the back of her head she began to pull the pins from her trademark hairdo. Long, wavy tresses of jet black hair tumbled down her back and liberated the tension of her scalp. It was time to cut it again; it was getting to heavy to wear in her usual low bun.

Adriana checked her watch. She had to call Phoebe and let her know that she was not able to make it for lunch. Grabbing the phone she hesitated. If she called Phoebe tonight, it would undoubtedly mean that she would have to explain who she was. Or she could suggest something else … She pondered about it and then put the phone down again. She would need to find her bearings emotionally before calling the other woman.

Adriana walked into the bathroom and ran the shower, eager to get out of the ever present power suit. Catching another glimpse of herself in the mirror before it steamed up, she made a face at herself. ‘Coward’, she chastised herself. When she was in her professional roll she had a reputation of being hard as steel; bordering on cut throat. If anyone at work could read her mind now, they would think they had the wrong person.

Adriana began unbuttoning her blouse. She just had to face it. Phoebe Janeway had rocked her world. 

*****

There was a soft rattle of fingertips against the doorframe. Marion looked up from the large stack of documents piling on her desk.

“There you are,” she said softly and rose from her chair.

Julia halted just inside the door, her eyes widening at the sight of her partner.

“No wonder you had to work overtime. I was a little surprised that you asked me to come, though. Won’t I get in your way?”

Marion easily detected the cautious tone in Julia’s voice. It was as if the younger woman expected to be rejected at any given moment. What had she done to her lover these last months?

Shrugging off the guilt always threatening to overwhelm her, she let her lips form a gentle smile as she walked up to Julia and pulled her into an embrace.

“I just didn’t want you to spend the evening home alone, honey,” she whispered, feeling the other woman flinch at the term of endearment that had not been present much the last few months. “I also wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for how this morning turned out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry we made love, that was wonderful … but I’m sorry for how I acted.”

Julia leaned back and gazed into her eyes as if trying to gauge her sincerity.

“Marion? What has happened? You sounded different on the phone and all this …” Julia gestured towards the desk, “… you said it had something to do with a new break in the case against Avery?”

Marion nodded.

“Yes, it turns out that he has more on his conscience than we ever thought possible. I’ll fill you in later but first of all, I need to do this.”

She pulled Julia closer and found the half open lips of her partner with her own. Sliding the tip of her tongue inside the brunette’s mouth she deepened the kiss, wanting to convey her love, her desire in the most intimate of ways. Julia stiffened for a second but then her body eagerly surrendered to the tenderness in the kiss. Slender arms wrapped around Marion’s neck as Julia kissed her back. Not until their kisses turned salty did the sales manager realise that Julia was crying.

“Oh, honey, don’t cry,” Marion murmured into the kiss. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“No, no … I’m just so happy. You haven’t kissed me like this in ages. Marion …” Julia silenced them both by planting open mouth kisses down the other woman’s neck, her arms still wrapped tightly around her partner.

Marion felt her passion rise to new heights. Reaching behind Julia she pulled the door close and turned the key. She was pretty sure they were alone in the sales department at this hour but she did not want anyone to interrupt them now. This was far too important.

“I love you, Julia,” she whispered and stumbled backwards towards the desk. “I love you so much. I have been driving me … us … crazy these months, I know. I can only say that I’m incredibly sorry. Today was a wake up call for me. I won’t even ask your forgiveness because I know I have it.”

“Yes, you do.” Julia’s hands were busy roaming Marion’s back and hips. “I don’t know what happened to make you see the light, but I’m grateful. I was prepared to wait for as long as it took … but it was getting so hard … and I can’t believe it. It feels like before. You feel like before, yet different.”

“I know, honey, I know. Just hold on to me.”

“You’re work …”

“… will still be there.”

Marion pulled the younger woman’s tee shirt up and slid her hands underneath; massaging the muscles on Julia’s back, surreptitiously unclasping her bra as she did so. Julia gasped when her breasts were freed which made the dark haired woman laugh softly.

“Here?” Julia whispered.

“I can’t wait. I can’t wait a single second longer for you …”

Julia hesitated for a moment but then let go of Marion and reached for the hem of her tee shirt and pulled it off together with the loose bra in one fluent movement. The sales manager stood looking at the fragile beauty of her half naked partner among her strict high tech office furniture and she had never seen anything as beautiful.

“God, Julia,” she whispered and manoeuvred the other woman so she was half sitting on the edge of the cluttered desk. “Let me take care of you, please …”

Julia bit her lower lip and had obvious problems keeping her breath even.

“What if anyone comes?”

“Oh, I think I can guarantee that,” Marion quipped gently, making Julia gasp and blush.

Unfastening the button of Julia’s jeans, the dark haired woman unzipped them slowly. She pulled the worn fabric down over the soft curve of her lover’s hips, baring soft, smooth skin. Julia inhaled deeply and leaned back against her hands on the desk.

“That’s it, honey,” the sales manager husked. She sank down onto her knees and pulled the jeans all the way off together with Julia’s shoes. Looking up at the younger woman she could not get enough of the enticing view of her naked body. “I’m fully dressed; you’re naked … now … how does that make you feel?”

“Vulnerable. Loved. Nervous,” Julia managed.

Marion gave a quick smile and nudged the younger woman’s legs apart. “I just want to make you feel good … no, great. I have missed our closeness, our love games. I have missed us.”

“Me too.”

Marion settled on her knees between Julia’s legs. She raised her hands and caressed them, from the ankles to the elegant thighs. Making slow circles she was careful not to touch the soft centre at their juncture.

“Marion …”

“Yes, honey?” Marion teased gently.

“Oh, god, Marion.”

Relenting, the dark haired woman slid her hands up over Julia’s stomach and then slowly down towards the soft patch of hair below it. With gentle fingertips she combed through the soft curls, making Julia shiver.

“I want you.” Marion used her thumbs to part the slick folds, revealing the rigid nubbin that held the key to Julia’s pleasure. She pursed her lips and blew gently on it, eliciting another moan from her lover. Marion looked up at Julia who had managed to push a few piles out of the way. “All right, honey, lean back,” she encouraged.

Julia complied; bending her legs at the knees as she carefully lay down between the folders. Marion rose, keeping one hand between her lover’s legs and supporting herself on the other as her mouth found a taut nipple as she leaned over Julia. Sucking into her mouth, she allowed her fingers to circle the ridge of nerves over and over. Julia gave a muted whimper and began to rock her hips against the persistent hand.

“Yes, oh, yes,” the brunette moaned.

Marion grazed the nipple with her teeth, nibbling it only to sooth the gentle bites with her tongue. This always drove Julia crazy with lust and now was not any different. The younger woman arched into her mouth as if to increase the contact. The sales manager spread the moisture between Julia’s legs and then entered her with two fingers. She kept up the circular motion over the nubbin with her thumb and curled her fingers up inside the other woman, stretching her. Julia now whimpered with every breath as her peak approached rapidly. Rhythmic convulsions shook her, squeezed Marion’s fingers as she was tossed over the edge.

“Marion!”

Julia’s arm knocked over two piles of folders but Marion did not care. The sight and the feeling of her lover trembling in her arms as passion surged through her was all that mattered. She was so turned on herself that she knew it would not take much. She pulled Julia up in a sitting position and held her close, slowly withdrawing her fingers. Not bothering with how it may look or seem, Marion pulled her own skirt up. She was wearing only stay-ups and a pair of cotton lace panties.

“Touch me, please, Julia,” she whispered. “All you have to do is touch me …”

Her lover had one arm wrapped around Marion’s neck, holding on tight and now she lowered the other hand, pressing it inside the soaked panties of her lover. Plunging her fingers in between Marion’s folds she began rubbing her palm over her drenched sex. The older woman lowered her head and locked her lips on Julia’s, kissing her deeply as she felt her own body begin to soar. Julia’s fingers knew exactly what to do, how to manipulate her aching centre that was on the verge of release.

“Let go, sweetheart,” the younger woman now murmured. “You’re there … just let go … give it to me … come on … “

The voice urging her on sent her flying. Marion slid her mouth down onto Julia’s neck, sucking on the soft skin as the orgasm tore through her, cleansing her, liberating her … redeeming her …

When she could breathe again, they had both sunk to the floor among the scattered folders. She was sitting with Julia curled up against her.

“Julia?”

“Shhh … I’ve got you, sweetheart,” her partner assured her and pulled her closer.

“Yes, you do, don’t you,” Marion whispered. “You never did let go, despite my attempts to push you away. I’m sorry.”

“But you’re back now.”

The sales manager turned her head to look at her partner. Julia’s face beamed in a way it had not done in months. There was a light in her eyes that she had missed and thought she would never see again. Trusting this more than her own judgement, Marion gave a tremulous smile and kissed Julia softly.

“Yes, I am. I’m back.”

*****

“Goodness, what happened to you?” Janeway exclaimed and regarded her sister as she and Seven stepped out of the private elevator that had taken them to the penthouse.

Phoebe looked gloomily at her bandaged hand.

“Oh, trust me to plunge a screw driver into my hand,” she sighed. “It hurt like hell, just so you know.”

“Are you seriously injured? Have you seen a doctor?” Seven walked up to the younger Janeway.

“No, I haven’t seen a doctor. I had help cleaning and bandaging it. I checked it earlier. It looks fine, no sign of any infection. I’ll be able to work tomorrow.”

Janeway gave her sister a quick squeeze around her shoulders. “Poor kid, well, I’ve ordered some food from the restaurant on the second floor, so you’ll be fed momentarily. Seven and I have a lot of work to do tonight so we thought that was a good idea.”

“I’d offer to do the dishes as my part of the deal, but …” Phoebe waved her hand for good measure. “Sorry, guys.”

“Don’t be silly,” Janeway rolled her eyes. “But you might be able to help us go through some computer files, if you feel up to it. There has been some disturbing development regarding Avery this evening.”

“Really? Well, as long as it means that he is going down for more stuff, I’m eager to help.”

“Good. Now do tell me, how did you managed to spear yourself on a screw driver?”

The three women walked out into the kitchen where Janeway and Seven began to set the table while waiting for the food to arrive.

“I was opening a can of paint and the screwdriver sort of skidded to the side and into my palm instead of under the lid as it was supposed to. Fortunately Adriana was there, ‘cause I bled all over the place.”

“Adriana? Oh, is that your art fan at the Justice building?” Seven asked, taking a seat next to Phoebe. “The woman you had dinner with yesterday?”

“Yes, she happened to pass and she helped me to the ladies room where Connie, the nice lady who works there, helped us out. They were very thorough.”

“You’ve talked a lot of this Adriana,” Janeway smiled. She placed the utensils next to their plates and sat down across the table. “She’s made quite the impression on you, hasn’t she?”

To Janeway’s amazement Phoebe blushed a deep crimson.

“Yeah, I guess,” her sister admitted. “She’s my first friend here that I haven’t met through you. We haven’t talked much about our respective jobs but I can tell from her appearance that she is very successful. She dresses to kill and moves around the Justice building as if she owns it.”

The CEO had to force herself not to give a broad smile. If Phoebe could have heard herself talk … Janeway wondered if her sister realised how full of admiration and awe she sounded when she talked about this Adriana.

“Is she a lawyer?” Seven asked. “She sounds nice.”

“Yes, she is a lawyer and well, of course she’s nice but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind.”

Janeway quirked an eyebrow. “No? What is, then?”

“Elegant, stern … I guess she can be quite intimidating,” Phoebe grinned. “She’s beautiful, of course.”

Janeway smiled inwardly, exchanging a glance with Seven. Her fiancée eyes were round with surprise and the CEO realised that she also had picked up on Phoebe’s obvious interest in this woman. The question was if Phoebe herself realised just how interested she was.

“I’m glad you’ve made a new friend,” Janeway could not resist teasing her younger sister, who shot her a glare.

“Are you sure you’ll be able to work tomorrow?” Seven changed the subject after giving Janeway a cautioning look.

“Yes, I simply have to. I’m on a pretty tight schedule with these murals. I also have to fly home to Indiana for a meeting with my partner in the gallery in a week or two.”

“All right, just be careful. If it shows any signs of infection …”

“… I’ll head straight to the closest doctor’s office. Yeah, yeah, I already got that from Adriana.”

“Very astute of her,” Janeway grinned only to get her calf kicked by Seven under the table.

The phone next to the elevator rang and Janeway rose to answer, making a big production of limping.

“What was wrong with her?” Phoebe turned to Seven. “She hurt her leg?”

“No, she is just being silly,” Janeway heard the blonde reply.

“Silly? Kathryn?” the artist snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Shaking her head, Janeway picked up the phone and listened to the male voice informing her that their food was on its way up. The CEO punched in the command for the waiter to use the private elevator and awaited his arrival. When she had signed the check, she rolled the cart towards the kitchen.

“Hey, you two, stop talking about me behind my back and give me hand with this. Well, not you, Phoebe, we don’t want to end up having our dinner on the floor.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose which made them all laugh.

The meal was delicious as always and Janeway was content with listening to Phoebe’s and Seven’s gentle banter as they ate. After a while her mind began to wander, and the thought about Amy Green and the way Avery had taken advantage of the woman’s struggles in life to weasel his way into the Stellar Corporation.

How had he managed to infiltrate her company that quickly? She suddenly felt uneasy and restless, wanting nothing but to start digging through their files for more leads and information regarding Avery. Janeway rose from the table and put her plate and utensils in the dishwasher. Suddenly she slammed her fists into the countertop, tears stinging her eyes.

Seven was at her side in an instant.

“Kathryn, come here,” the blonde said and pulled the auburn haired woman into her arms. Janeway resisted the urge to hide her face at the younger woman’s neck; instead she wrapped an arm around Seven’s waist and gave her an appreciative hug.

“Damn him …” Janeway growled.

“Are you okay, sis?” Phoebe asked, joining them. “You’re thinking of that bastard, aren’t you? Well, why don’t we clean up after ourselves and then go digging after whatever we can find. You still have to fill me in what happened today that made you realise there were more.”

“All right,” the CEO nodded and wiped her eyes. “Let’s get on with it.”

*****
Phoebe was half way through a large tee shirt, one arm out but her head and injured hand still inside, when her cell phone rang. Scrambling to reach it she managed to knock it off the dresser and onto the floor. She fumbled around for it and finally reached it. Her head popped through the tee shirt at the same time, making it possible to answer.

“Hello!”

“Phoebe? This is Adriana. You sound out of breath?”

“Believe it or not but I was stuck in a tee shirt.”

“Goodness,” Adriana de Leon gave a short laugh. “Listen, I know it’s late but I wanted to let you know that I can’t make it for lunch tomorrow.”

The artist could feel a pang of disappointment in the pit of her stomach but tried to shrug it off.

“That’s okay,” she said, keeping her voice light. “Another day, perhaps.”

“I was just thinking … maybe dinner tomorrow night? If you don’t have to work late to make up for lost time, that is?”

A broad smile spread over Phoebe’s face.

“I’d love that. I will probably work as long as I have daylight but after that I have no plans.”

There was a brief pause.

“Wonderful. How is your hand, by the way? Any sign of infection?” the attorney asked.

“It’s okay. I’ve rested it all afternoon.”

“I’m glad. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“I look forward to it.”

“So do I. Goodnight, Phoebe.”

“’Night.”

Phoebe pressed the button to hang up and slowly sat down on the bed. Adriana had sounded content in a restrained sort of way. She could easily picture the elegant Latina, how she had leaned over her, taking care of the artists injured hand. Adriana’s touch had been gentle but firm and her dark eyes full of concern. The other woman possessed such strength and beauty and still there was something fragile about her …

Phoebe flinched, unfamiliar with the path her thoughts were taking. It was not like her to ponder so thoroughly about another woman. It was just that Adriana was special. Suddenly realising that her heart was racing she got up and headed for the bathroom. She ran cold water in the sink and splashed some on her face before taking a good look at her reflection.

With water dripping down her cheeks she could not deny the flustered look that met her.

What was going on with her?

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 4

Chapter Text

Janeway reached for the coffee mug and felt the hot beverage awaken her senses. Seven was in the shower and Phoebe was sitting next to her at the kitchen table, browsing through the entertainment section of the morning paper. Having decided to not rent an apartment of her own, the artist had moved into the penthouse guestroom for the duration of her temporary stay in the city. Janeway had worried that they might get on each other’s nerves but had been pleasantly surprised at how well the three of them got along.

Suddenly Phoebe put the paper down and turned to Janeway with an uncharacteristic look of uncertainty on her face.

"What?" the older woman asked, looking up from the business section. It was not usual for her sister to hesitate.

"Kathryn, can I ask you something?

Noticing the look of apprehension in Phoebe’s eyes, Janeway nodded, "Of course."

Letting her index finger circle the rim of her coffee mug, the younger Janeway sister hesitated a few seconds.

"It’s about this woman I met." Her voice faltered.

"Yes?"

"I … I feel kind of confused," Phoebe confessed. "I have never met anyone like her and I certainly have never thought of any other woman the way I … well, the way she enters my mind. I’m just not sure what’s going on."

Phoebe looked so young and Janeway’s heart had twitched at the mixture of trepidation and hope in her sister’s eyes.

"Are you saying that you’re physically attracted to this woman?" she asked in a low voice.

"I’m not sure. You know me, I’m not the one to beat around the bush and I have had several quite passionate relationships with some great guys in my life. Now it’s been a while since I was involved with someone and … I just can’t stop thinking of her. Don’t get me wrong. I never thought it impossible for me to find a woman attractive – just improbable. It has never happened so I … well, until now, I guess."

The sheepish grin on Phoebe’s lips made Janeway smile broadly.

"You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?" she teased her sister tenderly. "You should listen to your heart the way I did when I met Seven. I acted completely out of character then and took a chance on someone I hardly knew. It was the best thing I have ever done for my personal happiness. I’m not saying that the woman you’ve met will become to you what Seven is to me … but you’ll regret it later if you don’t give yourself the chance to find out. I know it must be hard, especially since you’ve never felt attracted to another woman before, but I’d give this advice no matter the gender of the person concerned."

Phoebe gave her a tremulous smile, slowly shaking her head.

"Kath, if you could hear yourself, see yourself, now," she began. "It wasn’t long ago when you and I could hardly speak to each other without arguing and ending up mad as hellcats. Now you speak to me as an equal, or maybe it’s I who see you as my equal."

Janeway frowned.

"What do you mean, your equal?"

"Flawed. Human."

"Are you saying that you saw me as non-human and perfect?"

Phoebe grinned.

"Far from it! But I thought that was how you saw yourself. Super-human, you know."

 

"Oh, goodness," Janeway groaned, making a face. "Well, I’m glad that you don’t seem to think that I’m anything like that anymore. You don’t, do you?"

Phoebe reached out to playfully yank at the other woman’s hair that lay perfectly coiffed around her shoulders.

"No, I don’t. After last Christmas, so much has changed for the better and I’m especially glad about that now. We need each other in the wake of Seven’s kidnapping – and I need you as a sounding board for both my newly started business and this …"

"And I’m so happy that you, mom and I have improved on our relationship this much. I guess we owe a lot of that to Seven. You’re right; we do need each other, now more than ever."

Phoebe surprised her by giving her a quick, firm hug before jumping off her chair.

"Time for me to get going. Daylight’s a’ coming!"

The CEO smiled and shook her head as the youngest Janeway hurried off to do her thing.

*****

Adriana watched the lithe woman move down the ladder with two brushes and a can of paint in her uninjured hand. There were a lot of people passing her by in the large foyer of the Justice building, but Phoebe Janeway paid them no attention as she focused on her job. The attorney regarded the large motif taking form and was amazed at how efficient the other woman was. She was now working on the focal point of the mural, a female shape that intrigued Adriana.

Phoebe glanced up and gave a bright smile when she saw Adriana standing there.

"Hello, you," the artist said and walked up to her. "Have you been standing there long? I didn’t see you come in."

"Hi … I’m really late but I wanted to stop by and talk to you. I took a cab and it got caught in a traffic jam three blocks from here so I decided to walk. How’s that hand of yours?" Adriana studied the neatly bandage hand that now also was protected by some plastic wrap.

"It was sore last night, but today it feels okay. I’m careful since I can’t afford any time away from this; I have a contract to fulfil, you know. It makes climbing the ladder a tad difficult, though." Phoebe held up a hand as if to forestall the next comment from Adriana. "I know, I know, I’m being careful, I promise."

"I’ll hold you to it," the attorney said in a serious tone of voice, inwardly shuddering at the thought of the other woman falling off the ladder.

Phoebe cocked her head, causing the long, auburn braid to fall over her shoulder.

"I look forward to dinner," she changed the subject. "Any suggestions?"

Adriana gave it some thought.

"Do you like sushi?"

"No, I love sushi." Phoebe winked at Adriana who had to laugh at the mischievous look in the other woman’s eyes.

"Then I know the perfect place. It’s not far from here."

"Can I show up in black slacks and a blue shirt?" Phoebe asked. "I brought some clothes in with me since I thought jeans and tee shirt might be too casual."

"Good thinking. This sushi bar is not exactly casual but it’s not too dressy either. I’ll come by and get you at around six, is that okay?"

Adriana’s heart melted when Phoebe smiled again and nodded.

"I’m looking forward to it."

"So am I."

The attorney began walking towards the elevators, her mind still busy with thoughts of having dinner with Phoebe later that day. She was pleased that they seemed to like the same food.

Entering her office she gave the stack of files on her desk a glance and frowned. Her current case was growing and the way it tied into her budding friendship with Phoebe Janeway made it even more complicated. She would have to find a way to tell Phoebe that still made it possible to stay friends, unless the other woman felt deceived when she realised that Adriana had not told her right away.

Adriana sighed and then used years of practice to mentally shrug her private matters off and focused on her work. Phoebe’s older sister would be here with the new information in a few hours and she had a lot to do before then.

*****

Janeway climbed into the cab together with Marion and Seven. The Justice building was located eight blocks away and since parking downtown this time of day was a nightmare; a cab was a better option. Marionhad asked if they should use one of the company limousines but Janeway had declined, wanting to arrive at the Justice building in as an inconspicuous way as possible.

They rode the cab in silence, Janeway’s mind on all the details that they had uncovered last night and this morning. She had called Martha and let her and Amy Green know when they were due at the DA’s office and learned that Amy had spent most of the previous night crying in Martha’s guestroom. The CEO had asked her assistant if she thought Amy had changed her mind about testifying, but the older woman had reassured her that this was not the case. Amy was distraught and regretful, but determined to do the right thing.

The cab pulled up to the large stairs leading up to the Justice building. They passed through security and then headed for the large wall where Phoebe was working.

Janeway had not visited the structure in several weeks and was taken aback at how far Phoebe had come in painting the mural. She walked up and ducked under the tape used to rope off her sister’s working area. Phoebe was kneeling on the floor by the wall, painting at what had to be … sand? A beach? The CEO searched her memory of the paintings she had seen samples of, the ones that had earned Phoebe the commission to do the three murals for the city. Had she seen one of a female form on a beach? She was not sure.

"Hi, there," she greeted the younger woman who pivoted on her knees.

"Hello! Is it that time already?" Phoebe rose and wiped her hands on her lab coat.

"Yes. I was thinking …" Janeway hesitated and glanced over at Marion and Seven, seeing that they had located Martha and Amy Green. She turned her attention back to Phoebe. "Remember what we talked about this morning about needing each other? Well, I was wondering, if you’re decent under that coat, if you’d come with us. You don’t have to stay long if it drags out, but …" She broke off as Phoebe jumped up and took off her lab coat, displaying well kept jeans and a light blue tee shirt.

"Of course," the artist stated. "Just let me lock up my brushes. You won’t believe how many thieves pass me by every day." She winked.

Janeway snorted.

"Guess it comes with the territory," she rolled her eyes.

The two Janeway sisters joined the other four ladies and Martha introduced Amy to Phoebe. The artist greeted her warmly and shook her hand.

"Are you nervous?" Phoebe was as direct as always. "Don’t worry, we’re all with you. If my sister says she’ll stick by you – it is written in blood."

"Phoebe!" Janeway nudged her sister.

"Isn’t that true, Seven?" Phoebe insisted.

"Very true," the blonde confirmed.

Janeway resisted the urge to roll her eyes again and led them all towards the elevators. Having been at the DA’s office on several occasions the first weeks after Seven’s kidnapping, she knew the way.

They stepped out of the elevator on the fifth floor and Janeway looked around the busy office. She recognised the man she knew was the DA’s assistant and walked up to his desk ahead of the others.

"Good morning, my name is Kathryn Janeway. I have an appointment with Ms de Leon," she introduced herself.

"She’s expecting you, ma’am," the young man replied smartly and pointed towards a half open door down the hall. "Just go in through there." 

Janeway motioned for her companions to follow her. The CEO stopped at the threshold and glanced inside. The woman inside had her back to the door where she sat behind piles of folders, using the computer. Janeway knocked on the doorframe which made the woman pivot on her chair.

"Ms Janeway," she greeted and rose, extending a slender hand. "Please, come in."

Martha and Marion stepped inside followed by Amy. Janeway turned her head to introduce the women accompanying her but faltered when she saw Phoebe stare at the ADAwith widening eyes.

"Phoebe?" Janeway looked at her sister and then Ms de Leon and then realised what was going on.

"Hello, Phoebe." Adriana de Leon’s voice was calm. "I had planned to let you know later today that I’m in charge of the case against Reymers-Avery. I only made the connection yesterday. If I had known you’d be joining us, I would have let you know when I passed you this morning."

Janeway could see her sister bringing on the gallows humour, knowing full well that this meant that Phoebe was completely stunned.

"I guess it’s a small world, Adriana," Phoebe stated, sounding baffled. "Of all the suits that pass me during the day, you had to be the DA. I guess we can talk about that later, though.

"Yes, we have to," the ADA replied, clearly retreating into her professional role. "Let me arrange seating for you all.

The CEO thought she could see a sad expression in the DA’s eyes before she pressed a button, summoning her assistant. "David, we need two more chairs in here, please."

The young man quickly brought the chairs.

"You can go to lunch," Adriana told him. "I can take my own notes."

"Want me to bring you back a sandwich or something?"

"Yes, a sandwich, please – and coffee."

The assistant left and Janeway took the opportunity to introduce Marion, Martha and Amy since Adriana had not met them before. She had met Seven on two occasions. She then reached into her briefcase for her laptop. Marionhad carried the large stack of files in a bag and now she pulled them out.

"Why don’t I update you on how far I’ve come in building the state’s case against Rick Reymers," Adriana began. "First there is the matter of his true identity."

"His real name is Eric Avery," Seven stated.

The attorney shook her head.

"He went by that name while he was employed by the Stellar Corporation but our investigation uncovered that this is just an alias of sorts. His full name is Eric Richard Reymers. Avery turned out to be his mother’s maiden name."

"How is this possible?" Janeway wondered. "I had a private investigator examine his past when he first gave us problems and he did not come across any such information."

"He may not have had access to all the records or not gone back far enough in time. How long was he employed at Stellar?"

Janeway had pulled up all the digital information they had on Avery and browsed through the file.

"He worked in the sales department for eight years before I fired him almost two years ago. He seemed well off and since we encourage employees to own stock in the company, we regarded it as in his favour when he bought a large amount of shares. This turned out to be a problem when I fired him. The company lawyers cautioned me and advised me to tread carefully. In retrospect that was not such a good recommendation."

"No, you should have gone to the police and reported the blackmail," Adriana stated, making Janeway cringe, since she realised that to the attorney, this would be the obvious choice.

"The reason they kept this close hold when he surfaced again, was to help me," Marion interjected. "We’ve brought affidavits signed by Annika Hansen, myself and three other women working at Stellar. He has blackmailed or harassed all of us, to some extent."

The sales manager handed over a folder to the ADAwho opened it and browsed through its content.

"This certainly strengthens an already solid case against this man," Adriana nodded. "Is this what you referred to on the phone last night, Ms Janeway?"

"Please, call me Kathryn," the CEO offered, waving her hand. "I think we’ll be seeing more of each other in the upcoming weeks, maybe months, and being on a first name basis makes it so much easier. And no, this was not what I meant. We found out yesterday that Avery’s … Reymers, tentacles reach much further into my company than we ever thought possible. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he has harassed a number of women on my staff, he has committed fraud. He has blackmailed Amy who holds a key position in Stellar’s legal department and managed to find a way to duplicate digital stock certificates. I have called an emergency board meeting for tomorrow."

Adriana leaned forward on her elbows, scribbling down notes on her writing pad.

"Do you have proof of this?"

"Yes, we have brought CD-ROMs and computer lists that will show you what he has done, but we have yet to know exactly how. I wanted to get this information to you as soon as possible and I have also launched a full investigation this morning. I’m sure you understand what the repercussions could be for the company, the shareholders, and the employees."

"Yes, I do. I appreciate the need for immediate damage control but I also want to urge the importance of not destroying any evidence. We’re about to throw the book at Reymers, but it is vital to get all the indictments organised for any future damage claims."

"I understand," Janeway assured the ADA and sighed inwardly. Her stomach was in knots and the way this could spill over on every aspect of her company was mind blowing.

"Why don’t we let Amy tell her story from beginning to end?" Martha suggested. "I think that might provide a good basis for discussing what we can do next."

"Yes, please go ahead," Adriana agreed.

Amy looked positively terrified but when Martha reached out and put a reassuring hand over her trembling fists, she softly cleared her throat and began.

"Avery, as we know him, started coming on to me about three years ago. I had heard other women discuss him and I thought I could keep my distance. After a while it escalated and I was … well, surprised, I guess. I couldn’t understand why he was so adamant about it and of course I kept turning him down. I could tell that he had a bad temper and there were times when he was quite intimidating. Still, I though I was handling it. Until …"

Amy inhaled deeply and shifted in her chair before continuing.

"When I was in my late teens, I became an alcoholic. I grew up under certain circumstances that made me drink and party a lot with my friends to cope with life. It wasn’t long before I was drinking every day to get by, to keep the pain at bay. I went downhill pretty quickly from there. When I was twenty-two, I had started experiencing hallucinations and that made me realise that I was slowly and painfully killing myself. I went to my first AA meeting and I have kept that up ever since. I haven’t had a drink since then." Amy swallowed hard. "Avery followed me to several AA meetings. I didn’t know it of course and I had started to attend more often since I was stressed out, trying to dodge him all the time. I had felt several urges to have a drink and it scared me. He had listened in on my testimonies, heard some things about me that I could not afford to let anyone know. It would destroy me and the new life I built for myself since I became sober."

"What did he do with the information he had on you?" the ADA asked. Janeway had noticed that the elegant woman was writing everything Amy was saying down in shorthand.

"He confronted me when I was working late. He said he would send out memos with the information to every department manager in the company. He told me that a high profile company like Stellar would see me as a liability and fire me, if they found out."

"He was lying, Amy." Janeway’s voice was compassionate.

"He blackmailed me into giving him my password to the computer. I had to update him on it by sending a letter to a post office box every month. Even after he was fired, and we all knew that he didn’t resign, he made sure I stayed in the fold. He used his own example as a warning, acting as if he was wrongfully accused. He also made sure that I kept certain hardcopy files out of sight of the lawyers at the firm so that no cross references could be made. He once let it slip that he had a contact in the IT department and I guess that is how he managed to upload whatever worm or software that made the duplication process of the shares possible."

Janeway looked over at Marionand wondered if she herself was as pale with anger as her sales manager.

"But the worst thing was …" Amy looked pleadingly at Seven and then at Janeway. "I couldn’t tell you yesterday but I know I have to, Ms Janeway. Avery made numerous phone calls to me the last three weeks before he was arrested. He kept asking the same question, over and over."

Feeling a sense of dread cloak her, Janeway squared her shoulders. "What did he ask you?"

"He wanted to know when you and Ms Hansen were leaving for Raven’s Island." Amy’s voice was strangled; she could barely get the words out.

"Oh, God," Martha inhaled. "And you got that information from me, over lunch."

"Yes."

"That son-of-a- …" Marion growled. "I can’t imagine how anyone can be so callous. So this is how it ties into Seven’s kidnapping. I know he was really furious about how you outsmarted him, Kathryn, and it probably triggered the whole vengeance act. And this … with the duplicated shares? He has been planning a long time, I think. He obviously targeted Amy for her access to the system and for working in the right department. When his so called charm offensive didn’t work, he went for the more hostile approach."

Adriana looked at Amy with empathy in her eyes.

"Amy, the only way he can have power over you, is if everything in your past is still a secret. I can’t force you to tell us what he has on you, but from what I understand, Kathryn is here not only to save her company but also because she cares about her employees. We all have pasts, some more dramatic than others, and what you tell us here will go no further since this is not an official hearing, not yet. If you should ever have to testify in court, I’ll ask for a closed-door hearing."

Amy reached for Martha’s hand and held on to it.

"I have done many things I’m not proud of." Her voice was hardly more than a whisper. "I have gone home with strange men as long as they would pay for my drinks. I have slept with them for money; everything to get my hands on more alcohol. I have lied and cheated on every person important to me and when I thought I had turned my life around and started to make a good life for myself … Avery comes along and all the lying and the cheating starts again. I don’t know how Ms Janeway can ever trust me again …"

"Because you have told me everything," Janeway stated. "He can’t do you any more harm now. No matter what he thinks he had on you – we know about it now and therefore he has no more power over you."

The CEO wished the same went for how this would turn out for her company. She glanced over at her sister who had been very quiet since they entered the room. She had listened and watched everything unfold and now she was looking at Amy with remorse in her eyes.

Janeway looked at her watch. They had been there for more than an hour already and she had more meetings to attend before the afternoon was over.

"Listen," she suggested as she closed her laptop. "I think we have much more to talk about and I for one would like to do it in a more comfortable setting. Adriana, would you like to join us for dinner tonight in the penthouse of the Stellar building? I want to hear more about your findings about Avery … Reymers … damn; I don’t even know what the hell to call the man! That would certainly make me more prepared for the board meeting tomorrow."

She watched Adriana exchange glances with Phoebe. Realising too late that the two women had had other plans, she could have kicked herself. Still, it was important that she get another chance to talk to the ADAbefore tomorrow.

"Why not, Adriana?" she heard Phoebe say. "I can give you a lift."

Adriana hesitated for a few seconds and then graciously accepted. "Thank you, I’d be happy to."

Marionhanded over the rest of the folders and Janeway had to admire the ADA for not even blinking at the workload they were adding to her already enormous case against Avery.

As they said goodbye, the CEO wondered if this was the last of it, or if Avery footprints would turn up in other places when they least expected it.

*****

Seven put her fork down, her appetite deserting her even though the salmon was delicious. She looked around the table in the dining area of the penthouse, watching the serious faces of her dinner companions.

Marion and Julia were sitting together across from her at the round table. The sales manager had been unusually quiet during the meal but Seven thought she had not seen Marionlook as relaxed in a long time. Julia had kept up a light conversation with Kathryn, Adriana and Phoebe and Seven had been content to just listen.

Before dinner, Adriana had been sitting with Kathryn in her study, relaying more of the information she had on Avery. The two women had emerged when Seven had let them know that dinner had arrived from the restaurant; the CEO looking pale but collected.

The blonde was feeling tired after the last two days after rushing home from Raven’s Island to deal with the new situation. She had just started to relax and enjoy the stay on her island when it was time to leave prematurely. Returning to the city and being tossed back into everyday life had made her nervous again.

Seven discreetly leaned down and rubbed her aching lower leg. She was almost as good as new and happy to be without the cane. Her physical therapist had her running on the treadmill and doing different exercises and she was very pleased with her recovery.

"How about if we have coffee over by the fireplace?" Kathryn asked, interrupting Seven’s trail of thought. "Ice cream, anyone?"

"Oh, yes, please," Julia smiled. "I can never turn down ice cream."

"Me neither," Phoebe echoed. "I’ll help you, Kathryn."

"All right, then, ice cream it is."

They all helped carry the china back into the kitchen where Phoebe filled the dishwasher while Kathryn took out the ice cream. Seven carried the bowls and spoons into the living room where she put them down on the coffee table.

Adriana was standing by the window looking down on the evening city lights. The blonde walked up to her, curious about the elegant woman.

"Adriana," she began, "I’m very glad you could join us. It’s nice for Phoebe to have made a friend in the city. I think she misses Indiana."

The attorney turned her head and smiled.

"I’m delighted to be here, Annika, and Phoebe is an intriguing person, quite unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Come to think of it – so are all of you. I have felt very comfortable around you all this evening."

"Please, call me Seven, all my friends do."

"Yes, so I’ve noticed. Thank you, Seven, it’s an unusual nickname and it suits you. Maybe one day you’ll tell me where it comes from?"

Seven cocked her head and gave a wistful smile.

"Oh, that is no secret. I was born on my parent’s seventh anniversary, on July 7th.

"Really? I don’t have to ask what your lucky number is then." Adriana laughed.

The younger woman returned the smile.

"Eleven," she deadpanned and turned when a hand reached around her waist.

"Well, Seven-Eleven," Phoebe grinned and gave her a quick hug, "I think the two of you should come and have some ice cream."

Seven walked over to Janeway who was sitting in the chair closest to the fireplace. The blonde took one of the bowls and sat down on the armrest. Kathryn turned her head up and gave her a soft smile. The blonde leaned down and planted a kiss on the CEO’s forehead.

"So, Adriana, can you let us know some more details?" Marion asked. "I hope you’re going to throw the book at Avery."

The ADAswallowed a spoonful of ice cream and then carefully put the bowl on her lap. She was sitting in the other armchair while Phoebe occupied the couch together with Marion and Julia.

"Pretty much," the attorney answered Marion’s question. "Without becoming too technical, I can say that we’re preparing a long list of charges against Avery-Reymers. Kidnapping, attempted murder, embezzlement, fraud, unlawful threats, extortion/blackmail … and then, from the notes and affidavits you provided us with today, I think we can add tax evasion and computer crime to the equation. Kathryn told me earlier that she has launched an investigation by an independent team of IT experts to evaluate the Stellar Corporation’s computer system. I look forward to their report. Reymers-Avery will receive life in prison just from the kidnapping alone – and then there’ll be additional years added for every other charge he is convicted of."

Seven heard Kathryn inhale deeply and looked down at her fiancée. The CEO was pale and had a white knuckled grip of her bowl of dessert.

"So he’ll never get out?" Marion asked.

"No," the ADA explained. "He is quite unaware of his dire situation, it seems. His lawyers are working hard trying to find mitigating circumstances and apparently Avery thinks this will have an impact on the court. I think he’s in for quite a shock."

Seven regarded Adriana closely when the black haired woman talked about Avery. The beautiful face altered its expression; her face taking on sharper edges, her lips narrowing. The blonde could easily imagine the ADAin court, cross-examining witnesses and defendants.

Kathryn was quietly eating her ice cream. Seven let her hand slide under the auburn hair, caressing the soft skin of her partner’s neck. She could feel Kathryn lean into the touch.

"I for one would love to see this man behind bars. After everything he has done, not only to Seven, but to Amy Green and others like her …" Phoebe frowned and looked at her sister’s fiancée. "Once the trial is over, we can finally put this behind us."

Seven gave a faint smile and disguised the slight nausea at the thought of her kidnapping. The days she endured as Avery’s prisoner lingered with her more than she normally let on. She knew how much her pain bothered Kathryn and how Marionhad blamed herself for the entire incident. Not wanting to add to any of this she had worked hard to come to terms with her ordeal. However, there were days when she wondered if she would ever feel completely safe and whole again; maybe this had left its mark on her forever.

"Yes, that will be a big step in giving us closure," Julia agreed with Phoebe. "He has a lot to answer for, and I for one am glad that people will be protected from him. He has no conscience."

"Or a very spacious one," Marion huffed, sipping her coffee. "I just wish the police would round up the two guys and the woman who did his dirty work for him."

The women were quiet for a while as the mood settled into something less vigilant. Seven watched Julia run her hand soothingly over Marion’s, making the other woman relax against the backrest of the couch. Phoebe seemed lost in thought and Adriana … Seven raised her eyebrows. The ADA was looking at the artist with an unreadable expression in her eyes. She was sitting with her legs crossed, her hands wrapped around the coffee cup and Seven wondered what was going through Adriana’s analytical mind

Seven leaned down and let her fingers graze Kathryn’s shoulder.

"Everyone seems to be relaxing. Should I start a fire or maybe put some music on?"

"Good ideas, both of them. Here, let me take care of the fire while you pick the music."

Seven rose and walked over to the large collection of CDs they kept in a glass door cabinet. Looking through the classical section she picked a piano concert that they both liked. Soon the soft music flowed through the living room and the fire crackled in the fireplace.

Seven looked at the other women, thinking to herself that seeing them like this; you would not think that any one of them had a care in the world.

*****

Phoebe unlocked her car in the underground garage where she had been assigned a private spot when she moved in with her sister and Seven temporarily.

"This is not necessary; I could have easily taken a cab," Adriana stated as she sat down in the passenger seat. "It’s getting late."

"Don’t worry about it. I think Kathryn and Seven needed to talk a bit so this works out well," the artist insisted. "I don’t mind driving you home, or I wouldn’t have offered, I promise."

"All right, I guess this will give us time to talk as well."

Phoebe backed out her car and drove towards the exit, nodding to the man guarding the booth as they passed.

"What’s on your mind?"

Adriana hesitated for a moment.

"Well, first of all, I hope you don’t think I deliberately withheld the fact that I’m in charge of prosecuting Reymers-Avery. I didn’t realise who you were until last night."

Phoebe gave her a curious glance as she manoeuvred the car through evening traffic.

"Why didn’t you tell me when you called?"

"I … Oh, this is going to sound silly, but I guess I was so taken aback that I needed time to think. I know we’re on the same side in this, but there still could be a conflict of interest."

"How so?" Phoebe was amazed that Adriana was so candid. There was something vulnerable about the other woman that puzzled her.

"You have quickly become a good friend and I … I can’t let that get in the way of doing my job. It would be unprofessional."

The artist felt confused, not understanding what Adriana meant.

"How can friendship get in the way of you being professional?"

The ADAgave a sigh and rubbed her palms against her slacks.

"I have to focus on my job, and I have so much to do … and …"

Phoebe pulled into an all-night gas station and parked to the side of the building. She wanted to look at Adriana when they had this talk and that made her an unsafe driver. Switching off the engine she turned to look at the black haired woman next to her.

"You’re babbling, Adriana," she pointed out in a gentle voice. "Why wouldn’t you be able to focus on the job and be my friend at the same time?"

To her surprise, the other woman blushed a deep crimson.

"I’m sorry, Phoebe," she managed, "it’s just that … It’s the way it is." Adriana’s voice had a dismissive tinge to it.

"So what do we do? Pretend that we don’t know each other?" the artist blurted out, taken aback how her heart ached at the thought.

"No, of course not. I don’t want that. I … Oh, God, I don’t know what I want!" Adriana sounded thoroughly exasperated and Phoebe regarded her closely, not sure what was really causing it.

"Can I be frank?" Phoebe asked, her voice careful. She was on foreign ground but true to nature she believed in dealing with things head on. Of course, Adriana might not like that approach.

As if reading her mind, Adriana gave her a cautious glance. "Yes?"

"Ever since we met, I have experienced a whole new set of emotions," Phoebe began. "I’m usually not one to beat around the bush, but I confess; this has rattled me. I might have totally misunderstood everything, and if I have I will make us both very embarrassed."

The ADAlooked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of a racing car. Phoebe cleared her throat.

"I’ve never found another woman attractive before." The artist’s voice was low, barely more than a whisper. "I don’t know what it is about you, but I know this much; you’re the most beautiful, interesting woman I have ever met."

Phoebe tugged at her braid and pulled it over her shoulder, fiddling with her hair like she always did when she was nervous. She desperately wanted Adrianto say something, anything but the attorney only looked at her with widening eyes.

*****

Adriana was certain that she had heard wrong. Surely the auburn haired artist had not said all those things. Was anyone that open, that candid? Did real people take such risks and put themselves on the line that way?

Obviously Phoebe Janeway did. She was looking at her, playing with her hair with slightly trembling fingers. So at least she was nervous as well.

"Phoebe," she breathed. "I don’t know what to say."

She watched the other woman physically recoil. Pulling back towards the door, Phoebe paled considerably.

"I’m sorry, I should have kept my big mouth shut," the artist murmured and blindly reached for the ignition key.

Adriana acted on impulse by reaching out and putting her hand over Phoebe’s.

"Don’t." She kept her hand lingering on top of the other woman’s. "I didn’t mean it that way. I meant I’m not as open as you, not by a long shot. Don’t you realise that this is precisely why I feel I won’t be able to focus on my job?"

Obviously Phoebe did not understand.

"You mean that the fact that I find you attractive makes you so uneasy that …"

"No, Phoebe, no. It’s the fact that I find you attractive that is the problem!"

The words hung between them and only when the other woman relaxed and gave her a lopsided smile did Adriana realise what she had said – and how she had said it.

"You do, huh?" Phoebe’s voice was soft. "Why is it such a problem?"

"Because nothing can ever come of it. It can’t lead to anything and now that we both know …" The DA’s voice trailed off.

"… we can’t take it back."

"Exactly."

Phoebe suddenly turned her hand around and by doing that, turned her palm into Adriana’s. The attorney had not realised that she had kept her hand over the other woman’s and now she looked at their fingers intertwining with burning cheeks.

"Phoebe …"

"Adriana, you must know that I mean you no harm, professionally or otherwise. We’re getting along so well despite the fact that we really don’t know each other – although I have to admit that I feel like we do, somehow. I would never do anything to jeopardise your case or your position. I can’t disregard how I feel but I’m prepared to not mention it again if that is what you’d prefer. I value the fact that we’re becoming friends too much."

Phoebe’s husky voice, not unlike her older sister’s, sent thrills down Adriana’s spine. She could not make herself let go of the soft, faintly paint stained hand in hers, so she just held on.

"So do I," she managed. "I would hate to see it ruined and still …" She quieted, feeling breathless and at a loss for words.

"Still?"

Not sure how it happened, or which one of them moved first, they were leaning well into each other’s personal space. With only the light from the streetlamp about ten yards from the car to light up their faces, Adriana drank in the sight of Phoebe’s pale face. Slightly freckled and with delicate, classical features, the artist looked stunningly beautiful to the DA.

Stopping just a breath away, Adriana held back a whimper of sheer panic. She could not allow this, but had not the willpower or the strength to pull back.

"Shh … don’t be afraid," Phoebe murmured and brushed her lips against Adriana’s.

The incredible softness of lips barely touching and the scent of the other woman’s perfume made Adriana’s heart race uncontrollably. She wanted to pull Phoebe closer, devour her, and hide in her arms but somewhere she found the strength to pull back. Immediately missing the intimate touch, she kissed the other woman again, her breath caught in her throat.

"You okay?" the artist asked when their lips parted, her voice throatier than usual

"Yes."

Cupping Adriana’s cheek, Phoebe studied her closely for a few seconds before releasing her gentle touch.

"Then I better drive you home," she smiled with trembling lips.

She reached for the ignition key again and this time Adriana waited until the motor was running before she put a hand on Phoebe’s arm.

"Are you okay?"

The younger Janeway cocked her head, causing the long braid to fall over the attorney’s fingers like a caress. Phoebe’s lips parted in a broad smile.

"Yes," she answered with unspoken joy in her voice. "Yes, I am."

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 5

Chapter Text

Janeway picked up a blanket from the couch on her way to the patio. The soft wool sheltered her from the early morning chill as she wrapped it around her naked shoulders. Wearing only a silk tank top and boxers, she still shivered in the wind.

It was only four in the morning and after a night of little sleep the CEO had finally surrendered and got up. Seven was fast asleep in their bed and Janeway had leaned over her fiancée, placing a soft kiss on her forehead before leaving the bedroom.

The situation was not unlike how she had reacted on Raven’s Island a few days ago. She had left her partner alone in the house and wandered off to the cliffs, her mind reeling suddenly with unexpected feelings and thoughts. Right now, she was feeling stunned and overwhelmed at the latest turn of events.

Pulling her knees up under her chin, she huddled in the deck chair and watched the city lights. People were active in the city at all hours and even if she could hardly hear the traffic this far up, she knew it was down there, albeit not as busy as during the day.

Janeway conceded to herself that if she had not been involved with Seven, if she had not been influenced by the young woman over the last two years, she would have dealt with this matter in a very different way. She would have armed herself to the teeth, slammed through the procedures necessary to protect her company and not looked back. Now that she had someone other than herself to consider, she felt vulnerable and emotional to the extent that it threatened to paralyse her. Seven had helped connect her to her feelings and now they were rampaging and she was not sure she possessed the skills to deal with it.

The CEO thought about the information she had received from Adriana de Leon and was shocked at the strength of her hatred of the man responsible for it all. Avery … Reymers … Janeway sighed in exasperation at the name confusion, was going to be put away for the rest of his life, according to Adriana, with no chance of parole. The thought should be reassuring but instead it made her sick to her stomach that this man had not only hurt Seven, but also infiltrated her company in a way that she would not have thought possible.

She lowered the backrest of the deck chair and curled up under the blanket. The CEO knew that she was ultimately responsible for what went on in her company. This included all of Avery’s actions, the blackmail, the computer incursion, the sexual harassment of her employees …

She stiffened. What if there were other victims that had been afraid to report it, to come forward? Janeway cringed. She had always taken great pride in providing a safe work environment within the Stellar Corporation and now she knew that had not been true for some of her employees. The CEO was also aware of that some of her staff found her quite intimidating at times – had her professional command mask kept people from feeling safe enough to approach her other than the department managers? She made a mental note to take this up with Martha in the morning.

Yawning, she closed her eyes, the cool wind caressing her cheek as she relaxed inside the blanket. She would go inside in a moment, but she was very comfortable, if a little cold, in the chair.

Soft hands woke Janeway up by stroking her auburn hair from her face.

“Kathryn? What are you doing out here?” Seven asked, sounding worried.

“Mm? Oh, I must have fallen asleep,” the CEO murmured and sat up. The blanket fell down and she shivered in the wind. It was the beginning of dawn, she noticed, and Seven was kneeling next to her, wearing a white satin robe.

“You’re cold,” the blonde observed. “Come with me, I will run you a bath.”

Janeway got up and took Seven’s proffered hand, dragging the blanket after her through the patio doors. The blonde led her into the bathroom and after turning on the faucet she pulled Janeway into her arms, warming her.

“I was worried when you were not there when I woke up,” she whispered. “At first I could not find you, but then I saw the half open door to the patio. You were not easy to detect lying in the chair.”

The last sentence did not pass Janeway by and she wrapped her arms tightly around the younger woman, hiding her face in her neck.

“Did I frighten you?”

“Yes.”

Seven raised her hands and began to pull the tank top off her partner. Janeway lifted her arms to assist, her breath quickening as she stood half naked in front of the blonde. Kneeling, Seven pushed the silk boxers off Janeway’s narrow hips, placing a soft kiss on the other woman’s stomach as she pulled them all the way off.

The tub was filled with steaming water and Seven held Janeway’s hand as the CEO climbed inside, sitting down with a moan of delight. Her frozen limbs began to warm up and when she turned her head to look at Seven, she inhaled audibly at the sight.

She realised that she would never stop being amazed at the sheer beauty of the blonde woman who now let the white robe fall down her shoulders, off her arms only to land discarded on the floor. Standing there naked, all curves, all alabaster skin adorned with golden curls at the apex of her thighs and plump, pink nipples crowning her full breasts, Seven was smiling faintly towards her.

“Join me?” Janeway reached out her hand.

“Of course.”

Seven stepped into the large Jacuzzi and sat down behind Janeway, pulling her close.

“I thought I would assist you,” the blonde murmured in the older woman’s ear. “You seem like you could use my help. Just relax, Kathryn.”

Not sure why the soft alto voice made her shiver as if she was still cold, the CEO leaned back, enjoying the feeling of Seven’s soft skin against hers.

“I’m at your disposal, darling,” she murmured. “That feels great.” She was referring to the other woman’s hands that were roaming her skin under the water, slowly approaching her breasts with each caress.

Her nipples stiffened as Seven cupped her soft orbs and flicked her thumbs over them. Turning her head to the side, Janeway kissed the blonde’s neck and inhaled the familiar scent. Seven gently pinched the older woman’s nipples, making her arch into the touch. Little arrows of pleasure shot from her chest down her stomach. The auburn haired woman parted her legs, feeling the sensation of the water against her sensitive skin.

“Oh, God,” Janeway husked, closing her eyes as Seven’s right hand moved down her front, sliding in between the older woman’s thighs. Not able to restrain herself, the CEO pulled her legs up, spreading them as much as the tub allowed. “Touch me …”

Very slowly, barely touching, quick fingertips danced against her nubbin, driving her insane with desire. Janeway tried to move her hips closer to Seven’s hand but her fiancée moved it away, keeping the same maddening distance.

When Janeway thought she could not take it anymore, Seven shifted her hands and turned her lover around in her arms. Ending up on top of the blonde who lowered them both into the water by sliding down, Janeway dipped her head and kissed the full lips beneath hers.

Seven parted her lips, accepting the passionate assault on her mouth. She reached down and cupped Janeway’s bottom, massaging the twin globes. Parting the other woman’s legs with her left, she pulled it up and Janeway jerked when her intimate flesh rubbed against the blonde’s slick thigh. Seven’s hands on her bottom pressed her against the leg and flames of pleasure rippled through the CEO as she undulated into the incredible sensation. Looking down at Seven, she revelled in the sight of the long blonde hair floating in the water, framing the other woman’s full breasts.

“You’re so beautiful,” Janeway breathed, suddenly trembling all over and not able to move.

Seven sat up, pulling the auburn haired woman with her. Strong arms around her back held her tight as Seven moved both her legs between Janeway’s.

“I love you, Kathryn.” One hand slid between them and cupped the CEO’s swollen sex, the fingers encircling the hard ridge of nerves, making Janeway groan and throw her head back.

“Seven, please … oh, please … go inside …” she managed. “I need you.”

The blonde parted her own legs and by doing that, spreading Janeway’s legs even further. Pushing her fingers deeper, she entered her partner with two fingers. Janeway felt the stretching to the core of her being and wrapped her arms tight around Seven’s neck.

“Go on, Kathryn,” the blonde commanded gently, with a suggestive purr in her voice.

Knowing what Seven meant, Janeway began to move slowly up and down the long digits, impaling herself on Seven’s hand over and over. Riding the waves of passion, she could feel the largest of them approach and suddenly it washed over her, triggering needles of pleasure that arrowed their way through her body.

“Seven!”

Her body arched and she shivered as she sank down on the blonde’s hand, her inner muscles convulsing around the trapped fingers.

“Hold on to me, Kathryn. Just hold on to me.”

Seven waited a few moments and then carefully removed her fingers before moving to the side so she could submerge Janeway’s body in the warm water and cradle her there. Still gasping for air, the CEO held on to her fiancée with weakened arms. She could not believe how her entire being had exploded in an orgasm that almost sent her unconscious.

She kept her face hidden against Seven’s leonine neck, keeping her eyes firmly closed as she waited for her body to calm down, to descend from what ever place Seven’s love had taken her to.

“You will be all right,” Seven offered. “I will not let go.”

“You promise?” Janeway’s voice was small, almost inaudible even to herself.

“I swear.”

They stayed in the bathtub until the water became unpleasantly cool. Seven helped Janeway stand up and they showered together, the older woman taking great pleasure in washing her lover’s long, blonde hair. It reached well beneath Seven’s shoulder blades now and ran through her fingers like fine silk.

They put on terrycloth robes and entered the kitchen just as Phoebe was heading for the elevator doors.

“See you this evening!” she said and pressed the button.

“Wait, did you get Adriana home in one piece last night?” Janeway walked towards her.

“No, I left her by the side of the road to fend for herself. Of course I did.”

“And?” The CEO raised an eyebrow.

Phoebe gave a lopsided smile and paid unwarranted attention to her feet before looking back up at her sister.

“We talked. I mean, really talked.”

Janeway cupped Phoebe’s cheek, her even blue-grey eyes more grey then blue as concern for the other woman rose inside.

“You okay?”

“Yes, I am. We didn’t exactly solve anything but ... I’ll meet her for lunch today.”

“Good, I’m glad. Well, I’ll see you tonight, then.”

“Okay. Ciao.”

The artist stepped into the private elevator and the doors closed behind her. Janeway walked into the kitchen where Seven had a pot of coffee brewing.

“She looked both happy and nervous,” the CEO observed. “I hope they can remain friends when Phoebe goes home to Indiana.”

“So do I,” the blonde agreed. She eyed Janeway carefully. “Are you all right, Kathryn? I know you have the board meeting soon. Are you nervous?”

Janeway opened her mouth, prepared to dismiss her own trepidation but changed her mind when she looked in to Seven’s eyes and saw nothing but love and concern.

“Yes, I’m nervous,” she admitted in a low voice. “I’ll have to walk in to that meeting and disclose everything, lock, stock and barrel. I have to assume full responsibility regarding everything that has happened while Avery was employed at this company; the blackmail, the harassments, the fraud, the computer incursion – everything. I will have to tell them that I’ll hand in my resignation as CEO, if that’s what they deem necessary.”

“Oh, Kathryn.” Seven reached out for her fiancée and pulled her close. “I can not imagine how hard this must be for you. I have a meeting I have to attend, but if you want me to join you …”

“No, darling. Thank you for offering, but this is something I have to do alone. I will be in that meeting for quite a while and you can’t join me since you’re not on the board. When I see you later this afternoon I will be able to tell you if I still am.”

They stood in each other’s arms for another minute and then Kathryn peeked around Seven at the coffee machine.

“I think that mug over there has my name on it,” she said as she smiled.

Seven rolled her eyes at her partner as she reached for the dark blue mug with the name Kathryn painted on it in silver.

“Indeed.”

*****

Seven stepped out of the cab after paying the driver for the short trip to the uptown shopping mall. She looked around for Julia but could not see her yet.

They had agreed to meet to get some very important shopping done and Seven thought it would be a good opportunity to ask her friend how Marion was holding up after the recent development. Marion had also been quiet last evening, although the sales manager seemed a little more peaceful than she had been the last two months.

“Seven! Over here!”

Julia waved to her from the main entrance. Being a very busy interior designer at a prolific, award winning company, the blonde was happy that she had managed to get some of the day off to help Seven pick out the perfect gift.

“Hello,” she greeted Julia and gave her a quick hug. “Have you been waiting long?”

“No, I just got here. So where do you want to begin?”

“I thought we could go to the flower shop first. I would like to order a nice centre piece for the dinner table.”

“Does she suspect anything?” Julia frowned.

“No, nothing. She has so many other things on her mind these days and I hope I can make this day a really special one for her. She deserves it.”

“She sure does. Come on; let’s go and talk to the florist. I used these people when I was in charge of a magazine shoot not long ago – they do beautiful work.”

They walked into the mall and Seven was in awe over its décor of marble and gold. All the most famous and exclusive shops were represented in the mall that had only opened last year. It consisted of four floors and the florist was on the second floor.

Half an hour later, Seven had picked a centre piece and matching ensembles that would decorate the dinner table for the party she was going to hold for Kathryn. There were only three weeks left until her fiancée’s forty-sixth birthday and the blonde wanted to make it special for her.

“So where to now?” Julia looked around as if to judge which the best way to go was.

“I thought we would start with Toulaine’s.”

“Oh, Toulaine’s, huh? Well, Kathryn does have expensive taste, so why not. I think it’s this way.” They walked towards the famous jewellery store that was located on the third floor. “How’s Kathryn doing? She must be at the board meeting right now?” Julia continued.

“Yes, she is. I will go to her office when I come home to Stellar and see how it went. I know she had to brief them on everything that we have learned about Avery. It is important for many reasons.”

The interior designer sighed. “Let’s not talk about that contemptuous man,” she suggested. “Let’s just have fun and find something wonderful for Kathryn.”

Not about to argue with that suggestion, Seven gave her friend a smile and they approached the door leading into Toulaine’s. A doorman held the it up for them and Seven stopped in her tracks, amazed at the multitude of counters displaying jewellery and gifts.

“You have any idea what to start with?” Julia asked, making her way around the closest counter. “Or how much you want to spend?”

“I have been thinking of getting Kathryn a watch with an inscription on the back,” Seven offered. “She has a Rolex but I would like to give her a more feminine type of watch.”

“Sounds like a great choice,” the other woman agreed. “Come take a look over here.”

Julia took Seven by the arm and gently nudged her towards a counter further ahead. Three women attended the customers standing around it. Seven looked at the watches, at first not seeing anything of what she had in mind. She moved slowly around the oval counter, Julia following her, pointing towards a couple of watches here and there, only to have Seven shake her head. Then she saw it; a beautiful, thin gold watch with emeralds framing its face.

“That one!” She looked at Julia who followed her pointing finger and then nodded.

“Absolutely, it’s gorgeous. Oh, but Seven, it costs 3, 500 dollars.”

“I will buy this one.” Seven looked up at the lady that was waiting to assist her. “May I try on this watch?”

“Certainly, ma’am.” The shop attendant unlocked the counter top and pulled out the watch. She handed it over to Seven who put it on, holding her wrist up to see the light reflecting in the emerald.

“Oh, it’s so pretty.” Julia looked at it from all angles. “I think Kathryn would love it.”

“I think so too …”

Laughter from across the counter distracted Seven and her voice trailed off as a blonde woman caught her eyes. There was something about her, something about her eyes that seemed familiar. She had long, flowing blonde hair and Seven could not remember knowing anyone looking like that but there was something about her …

The woman turned her right side to Seven and began to walk away. She was wearing a short sleeve blouse and Seven saw an irregular, reddish scar on her upper arm.

“It is Cynthia!” she exclaimed, making the woman turn her head.

They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity and Seven saw that Cynthia had recognised her as well.

“Julia, it is her! It is the woman that worked for Avery; and guarded me!”

Cynthia had pivoted and was now running through the store. Not waiting for Julia to reply, Seven was hot on her heels.

“What are you doing?” Julia called out, but joined in the chase. “Who is that?”

“It is Cynthia! The guard!”

“Ma’am, you still have the watch! Stop right there or I’ll call the police!” the shop attendant yelled after the running women.

Seven realised that she had the watch, but there was no way she would let Cynthia get away. Not about to take her eyes of the fleeing woman, she called over her shoulder, “I will pay for it later. Indeed, call the police right away!”

Cynthia was approaching the door and desperate to get out, she simply kicked the uniformed guard in his midsection, incapacitating him enough to get through the door. He was still staggering, trying to get to his feet when Seven and Julia came running.

“Call the police!” Julia gasped as they passed him.

Seven could hear the shop attendant approach from behind as they slipped out through the door. Cynthia was running towards the escalator, turning her head over her shoulder as she pushed people aside.

“God, she’s going to hurt someone if she keeps that up,” the interior designer muttered as she had to run around a small crowd that had stopped to see what was happening.

“She is not going to get away,” Seven murmured, not slowing down. She grabbed the railing of the escalator and kept running. People were pressing themselves to the side as Cynthia carelessly pushed her way through. She reached the next level and was suddenly out of sight as she ran to the left.

“Don’t lose her!” Julia yelled.

Seven tried to judge the distance to the ledge next to the escalator, knowing that if she rode it all the way to the bottom, Cynthia might disappear into the crowd. She grabbed the left railing that moved with the escalator beneath her hands. Tossing her legs over, she heard Julia gasp behind her. For a dreadful moment, she hung in midair but then her feet landed securely but painfully on the marble floor, next to a bench. The woman sitting there while having an ice cream gave a sharp yelp and dropped the cone on her lap.

“Really!” she huffed as Seven looked around for Cynthia just in time to see the woman run into a clothes store.

“She is running into Celine’s,” Seven shouted, hoping that Julia heard her.

Pushing the door open she got a glimpse of Cynthia making her way towards the other exit. Several people were knocked aside as she ran past them. Suddenly a woman with a baby pram was in the woman’s way and Seven held her breath, expecting Cynthia to run into them and send the baby flying. To her relief, her former guard threw her to the side, in the process knocking over a clothes stand.

Shop attendants were now approaching from all directions and again there were voices calling out that someone should call the police. Cynthia had temporarily lost her balance but remained on her feet, and kept running. She did what she could to slow her followers down, pulling down furniture and clothes behind her as she ran. Cynthia was now approaching the other exit and people seemed to realise the wise thing to do was to stay out of her way.

Seven glanced over her shoulder and saw that Julia had entered the store. Pointing towards the fleeing Cynthia, the blonde tried to make the other woman aware of what direction she was going and Julia waved back.

Seven felt her foot begin to ache and she knew if they kept up the chase much longer; Cynthia would get away.

Julia caught up with her just as Seven ran through the door and out among the people who all seemed to stop and try to gauge what was happening.

“Look, that’s Annika Hansen!” Seven cringed at the female voice that carried through the crowd followed by a chorus, “Wasn’t she the one who …” … “… kidnapped by a …” … “… Kathryn Janeway’s lover …” … “… in all the papers …”

“Damn,” Julia muttered, “that’s all we need. And where the hell are the police?”

Cynthia had now reached the next descending escalator and Julia was closing in on her. Seven ran as fast as she could despite her hurting foot. She held her breath as Julia almost caught up with the woman, saw her extend her hand and grab for the long blonde hair.

Julia gave a short scream when she stood with her hand full of the long blonde wig. Cynthia was still running full speed ahead down the escalator, with a wig stocking on her head. It took the interior designer a few seconds to find her bearings, and then she kept running with the wig firmly in her hand.

Seven felt someone pull at her sleeve. She pulled free and rushed down the escalator, keeping her eyes locked on Julia and Cynthia. They rounded the railing and were out of sight for a moment but she spotted the other two again when she was on the first floor. Cynthia tried to get away from Julia by moving unexpectedly to the right. This put her right in Seven’s path and the blonde knew that she would not get this opportunity again.

Disregarding the throbbing of her newly healed foot, she leaped forward, grabbing her former guard by her tee shirt. Seven heard the sound of fabric ripping and then they were both falling, skidding along the marble floor in a bundle of arms and legs.

Their tumbling came to a halt when they reached the large fountain in the centre of the indoor square. As soon as they had stopped, Cynthia tried to get up, only to be hit by a smaller body when Julia came plummeting down on both of them.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” the interior decorator growled and wrapped both arms and legs around the struggling woman. “We need the police over here!”

Seven looked around, her eyes widening.

“I think they are here.”

*****

Janeway flipped open her laptop and started going through her files. Her mind was still reeling at the thought of the board meeting that had just taken place. She had walked into that meeting prepared to hand in her resignation, if they had asked for it. They had not telegraphed anything, only let her inform them of the recent events and let her explain how she was dealing with it.

Feeling like she was on shaky ground, but also certain that her chosen course of action was the only way out of this mess; she had talked herself hoarse for more than an hour. She had then told them to buzz her when they had reached their decision, not wanting to remain in the board room when they talked amongst themselves.

She had left the meeting with her command mask intact, but also with an inner turmoil that made her wander the corridors of her company. The Stellar Corporation was housed on the top thirty-three floors of the Stellar Building, as well as the two first floors. In between were other offices, restaurants and residential floors, making the large structure a living entity at all hours.

Passing through one department after another on her aimless stroll, Janeway had stopped to talk to the employees she ran into. She had noticed that after first looking apprehensive and even nervous to talk to her, they had all been quite enthusiastic at the opportunity themselves. The CEO found that it provided her with a much needed distraction at the time and for all she knew, depending on the outcome of the ongoing discussion in the conference room, this could in retrospect be a farewell of sorts. If the board members would decide to renew their trust in her, she would remember this inspiring feeling of meeting staff in the lower ranks and make roaming the hallways unannounced part of her routine.

When Martha had relayed a message to her through the switch board, she had returned to the conference room with a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Donald Caruthers had spoken on behalf of the members of the board when she returned. Janeway had been hard pressed not to shed tears when he spoke about her position as unique, her leadership as groundbreaking, and concluded that she was the heart and soul of the Stellar Corporation. She in turn had disagreed with the last part, stating that the soul of the company was its employees.

Donald had shook her hand and asked her to keep him and the others informed and not hesitate to call upon their service, if she required assistance.

Back at the office, Martha had only to take a look at her to open her arms and wrap her boss into a warm embrace.

“I knew it would turn out all right, Kathryn,” she had whispered. “I just knew.”

“I wish you had told me,” Janeway had replied throatily. “Although, knowing me, I wouldn’t have listened.”

Janeway scrolled down the document and tried to focus on the issue of who had purchased the fake stocks.

“The head of the IT company is on the phone on line one,” Martha buzzed her from the outer office.

Janeway picked up the phone and pressed a button. “Janeway.”

“Ms Janeway, Carl Lindstrom here.”

The CEO recognised the voice of the man in charge of the IT team working to detect any incursion of Stellar’s computer system. They were all working for M & B Forensic Accounting & Investigative Services.

“I hope you have some news for me, Mr Lindstrom.”

“I do. Once we logged onto your system at your IT department, we started making progress. We have come across software that has been installed without the special authorisation codes needed and at first I couldn’t understand how this could have been going on without anyone down here detecting it. It really wasn’t all that hard to detect. Then came the obvious answer to that …”

Janeway sighed.

“… someone in the computer department is involved.”

“Precisely, and it has to be someone reasonably high up the food chain. We have traced all the commands given to keep this software under wraps to a single terminal. I’ll get back to you when we know more.”

“Wait, Mr Lindstrom. Whose terminal is it?”

“The individual, Marlon Davis, is not here. He’s away on vacation and won’t be back until next week, his colleagues tell me.”

The name did not mean much to Janeway since she did not know all her staff personally.

“Have you talked to the IT manager?”

“We have an ongoing dialogue, but as we agreed, I only report any findings we make to you personally, ma’am.”

“Excellent, Mr Lindstrom. Keep me informed, and I want a complete written report when you’re finished so I can implement any changes.”

Janeway hung up and was just about to ask Martha to get her Personnel on the phone when her assistant walked into her office without knocking. The stunned look on the older woman’s face caught the CEO’s attention as her hand hovered above the buzzer.

“Martha?”

“Kathryn, I was listening to the radio and … I think you need to switch on the TV.”

“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Just turn on CNN.”

*****

Julia regarded the media posse that had quickly set up cameras in a wide half circle around her and Seven. Cynthia was still lying on the floor, handcuffed and immobilised by two police officers, muttering passionate profanities.

At first she and Seven had been treated just as roughly until they had managed to provide their driver’s licences. Two units had arrived, weapons drawn and Julia doubted that she would ever forget the feeling of being at the wrong end of the barrel of a loaded gun.

Two policemen tried to hold the crowd and media at bay while another police officer was taking their statements. Julia glanced over his shoulder and cringed at the gawking faces.

“I think we better take this down at the station,” the policeman said after following her glance.

“We would appreciate that.” Seven nodded in agreement.

“Officer! This is the woman that ran off with a very expensive watch!” a voice broke through the noise of the crowd. “Have you arrested her?”

The policeman looked confused at the woman who approached together with a security guard from Toulaine’s. “Excuse me, ma’am?” he said, frowning at the woman.

“She ran off with a 3, 500 dollar watch. Look, there it is, right on her arm.”

Julia wanted to hide her face in her hands. Seven had obviously forgotten about the watch. There was a murmur rippling through the crowd as the media pulled in closer. Suddenly, microphones were right in their faces and questions rained over them.

“Can you tell us what’s going on, Ms Hansen?” … “Does this woman have anything to do with your kidnapping?” … “Is Ms Janeway aware of you taking matters into your own hands?”

Seven gave a sigh, raised her left hand as if to rub her temple, but then hid it quickly behind her back. The blonde turned to the Toulaine’s shop attendant with a polite smile.

“I have every intention of purchasing this item,” she vowed. “I would appreciate it if you do not mention it anymore in front of the cameras, since it will not be a surprise for my fiancée if she learned about it on national television.” She nodded pointedly towards the photographers’ clicking cameras and reporters holding tape recorders as close to them as possible. “Here,” she added, quickly digging through her purse with her free hand, “take my credit card and charge me for the watch. I will be by to fetch it as soon as I can.” Seven reached behind her and managed to take off the watch without looking, handing it surreptitiously to the Toulaine’s shop attendant. “I want you to inscribe ‘To Kathryn with all my love, Seven’, on the back. Can you manage this?”

The shop attendant looked stunned and Julia was hard pressed not to start laughing hysterically. The woman obviously decided to prioritise the commission she would earn and accepted the card and the watch with a stiff nod towards the accompanying guard.

Julia looked at the crowd and cringed at the sight of a reporter breaking through the lines, approaching them. The CNN label around his microphone made her realise that this was being filmed, perhaps broadcasted live. Nationwide.

Seven seemed to draw the same conclusion as Julia.

“I know she is watching,” the blonde said, leaning towards the interior designer.

Julia had the same distinct feeling.

“I think so too.” She fiddled with the blonde wig in her hands. “Oh, Seven, we’re in so much trouble.”

The police officer looked relieved when back up arrived to help keep the fascinated crowd at a distance. He began to round up Cynthia and his witnesses and led them out of the mall.

*****

Martha unwittingly held her breath as Janeway switched on the TV usually hidden behind oak doors in the bookshelf by the far wall. The CEO pressed the buttons on the remote until she reached CNN. A female news anchor came into view.

Today there was an unexpected development in the aftermath of the Annika Hansen kidnapping case that shocked the country two months ago. With only one of the alleged instigators in custody so far and three others still at large, the police have very few leads to work with. I’ll hand over to our reporter on the scene at the Yellow Rose Mall.

There was film footage of a handcuffed woman lying on what looked like a marble floor. Martha recognised the fountain of the famous shopping mall behind the woman.

“What the hell …” Janeway’s voice was cut of when the camera moved up and to the right, showing two familiar women standing together with a police officers.

Martha watched Janeway’s jaw lose cohesion. “Seven! Julia …” the CEO croaked.

The on site reporter continued the narration of what was apparently CNN’s new lead story.

Earlier today, while shopping in one of the cities most exclusive malls, Annika Hansen and a female friend came across a woman they identified as one of the people who were responsible for her kidnapping two months ago. Ms Hansen and her friend soon found themselves in a pursuit on foot, chasing the woman in question down several floors before catching up with her not far from the large fountain just under the sky light. A witness took these photos and managed to catch some of the incident.

Stills were shown of a woman running and Martha could make out Seven and Julia approaching her from two different angles. The next photo showed Seven in midair, reaching for the fleeing woman.

“She’s supposed to be around here somewhere, in the building. She was going to a meeting!” Martha heard Janeway murmur almost inaudibly. “God, what’s she doing?”

The next photo explained that question when a close up of Seven catching the other woman in what could only be described as a death roll.

“What’s that on the other woman’s head? A stocking?” Martha asked, leaning forward towards the TV set to get a better view. “Or is she bald?”

The next still added Julia to the equation. The interior decorator had her entire slender body wrapped around the other two, her lips pulled back in a feral snarl.

The screen changed back to taping and now the camera zoomed in on Seven and Julia standing next to a police officer, having a heated discussion with a third, formally dressed woman.

Janeway increased the volume but they were too far way from the microphone for any words to filter through. Martha assumed that they should be grateful for this.

The CEO reached for her phone and punched in a number on the speed dial.

“McDunn, get up here,” she barked and hung up, not bothering with niceties.

Martha’s squinted. The camera had zoomed in on an unexpected object.

“What’s that in Julia’s hands?” she asked incredulously. “Is that … hair?”

Janeway seemed as if she was at a loss for words. She cleared her throat.

“Martha, would you bring me a drink?” she managed. “Vodka. Make it a double.”

Reluctant to her eyes of the TV screen, Martha poured Janeway a drink from the small bar at the end of the bookshelf. After handing it over to the CEO, she stopped in her tracks.

“What’s she doing, Kathryn?”

Seven had been standing ramrod straight in the middle of the turmoil but it was now evident that she was determined to not show her left hand.

Janeway had downed her Vodka in one large gulp and now she looked positively horrified.

“If that’s the woman’s hair, or wig, in Julia’s hand … you don’t think Seven pulled of something more … sinister?” she hiccupped. “Like an ear, or something?”

Martha started shaking her head in denial but then hesitated. The blonde was looking very ill at ease, all the time glancing at the cameras. She even managed to hand the formally dressed woman next to her an item from her purse without exposing her left hand.

“God, Kathryn … but surely there was no blood?”

She watched in awe as Janeway allowed her head to flop down onto the desk, the disarrayed auburn hair spreading over her documents.

Martha rushed over, grabbing a folder from the desk, starting to fan her boss vigorously.

“Kathryn? Kathryn! Are you all right? Talk to me.”

“Kathryn? What’s happened? Is this about the board meeting? Did they want your head on a platter?” Marion interrupted, as she stormed in through the half open door.

The CEO raised her head and looked dazedly at her sales manager, her face pale and her lips narrow.

“The board meeting went well. This, however, is a … surprise.” Janeway pointed towards the TV screen and then resumed her position, her face flat on her desk.

Marion turned to watch and it took her a few moments to grasp what she was witnessing.

Like Janeway earlier, the dark haired woman seemed stunned, slowly backing up, feeling behind her for the edge of the CEO’s desk. Somehow the sales manager missed it by an inch or two, and Martha watched in total astonishment as the elegant woman disappeared behind the large piece of furniture in a jumble of arms and legs, flailing aimlessly.

A few seconds passed and then an immaculately manicured hand slapped the surface of the desk, to shortly be followed by its twin. The hands felt around, as if to get a good grip, and then Marion heaved herself up, peering over the edge.

Janeway raised her head again, staring right at Marion who met her boss’ gaze with eyes just as wide.

“What on earth are you doing down there?” the CEO murmured.

Marion looked like she was about to offer an explanation when suddenly she gazed up at Martha who stood as frozen with the folder she had used to fan Janeway with, still hovering in the air above the two women.

Looking like she thought the assistant was about to bring the large folder down on them with force, Marion raised a protective hand above her head.

Martha inhaled deeply, gave an innocent smile as she slowly put the folder down onto Janeway’s desk, smoothing it over and carefully aligning it with the edge of the desk.

The sales manager gave the assistant another suspicious look and then rose to her feet. They all watched the CNN reporter at the scene move in closer, directing his microphone closer to the two women.

I know she is watching,” Seven said, leaning towards Julia, looking bemused.

The interior decorator nodded gloomily. “I think so too. Oh, Seven, we’re in so much trouble.

The three women in Janeway’s office watched in silence as Seven, Julia and the unfamiliar woman were escorted out of the building by the police.

“What’s that you’re drinking?” Marion husked, looking at Janeway’s empty glass.

“Vodka.”

“You want another one?”

“Yes. How about you, Martha?”

“I don’t mind if I do,” the assistant sighed and sank down on the visitor’s chair.

Marion walked over to the bookshelf and had begun pouring their drinks when Janeway’s cell phone rang, making them all jump.

Janeway glared at the small piece of technology as if it was a cobra about to attack. She cautiously lifted it and flipped it open. Martha eyed her boss carefully as the auburn haired woman answered. Marion looked like she needed some distance and moved over to the couch.

“Seven? You’re where? The police station.” There was a brief silence. “Cynthia? You sure? I’m … stunned. Yes, on TV. CNN is still showing it. Yes. Seven? Now this might sound odd … but is Cynthia … intact?”

The CEO listened for a while and then said goodbye and hung up.

“They are on their way here in a while. They are just going to talk to Adriana first. They really have captured Cynthia, the woman who personally guarded Seven.”

Bringing her glass, Janeway rose and passed Martha on her way to the small bar. Grabbing the bottle she sat down on the couch next to Marion. She put down the glass and the bottle on the coffee table and ran her fingers through her dishevelled hair for the umpteenth time. Janeway shot the other two a blank look.

“This is turning out to be one hell of a day.”

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 6

Chapter Text

The phone rang, startling the three women sitting in the luxurious office on the seventy-ninth floor. Janeway rose on slightly unsteady legs and walked from the black leather couch over to her desk.

Picking up her cell phone she answered, her voice displaying a faint slur.

“Janeway.”

“Darling, I’m watching CNN and I can’t believe my eyes.” Janeway groaned out loud at the sound of her mother’s voice. “Is Seven all right? And are you?” Gretchen Janeway sounded worried.

“Yes, yes, she’s okay,” the CEO reassured her mother, trying to arrange the syllables in the right order. “She’s on her way back from the police station.”

“What on earth happened? The media seem to contradict themselves. Did she and Julia really catch one of her kidnappers?”

“Apparently so. According to Seven, this was Cynthia, the woman who guarded her.”

There was a brief silence.

“Kathryn? Are you all right? Your voice sounds a bit odd.”

Janeway frowned and made her way back to the couch.

“Honestly, mom, I have had a couple of drinks. Let’s just say, it’s been a rough day.”

“You’re drinking in the office? Alone?” Gretchen now sounded decidedly worried.

“No, no. Well, I am in my office but it is after office hours now and I’m not alone. Martha and Marion are here, waiting with me for Seven and Julia to come home. Besides, I’ve only had … hm … three.”

“I’m glad you have company there. It must have been quite a shock for you. How did you find out?”

“Just like you, mom, by watching CNN. Nothing like watching your fiancée play Riggs and Murtaugh on TV.”

Gretchen snorted. “It was quite the surprise,” she agreed. “Have Seven give me a call when she has the time, will you? I want to hear first hand that she and Julia are all right.”

“I will. Bye, mom.”

Janeway closed the cell phone and put it down on the coffee table. She gave the bottle of Vodka a glance but knew she had had enough. She had not eaten through the day and the three drinks had hit her harder than she realised.

“I take it Gretchen has followed the latest breaking news?” Marion raised her eyebrows towards the CEO. “Knowing her, I bet she was impressed by it all.”

“Very,” Janeway answered dryly.

Marion snorted. “I’m still having problems fathoming it all.”

Janeway sat down on the couch next to the sales manager. “So do I. Can you imagine what the next few days will be like? The media interest had finally begun to decrease and now …”

“Kathryn, since the trial is about to begin, the media circus would have started all over again, anyway,” Martha reminded her. “Granted, this will be the talk of the town, but look at it this way; Seven and Julia will be heroes for what they did. It’s not like it’s bad news.”

The CEO considered this. She could picture Seven going after the woman who had held her captive for several days, leaping towards her, endangering herself in her desire to capture the other woman. Janeway shuddered.

“No, I guess not,” she allowed reluctantly. “I just wish they would get here. I need to talk to her …”

“And make sure they’re okay,” Marion filled in. “I know, I feel the same way. I mean, they looked well enough on TV, but …”

Janeway nodded. “Exactly.”

The three women stayed in Janeway’s office and talked as CNN kept coming back to the surprising events that had taken place at the Yellow Rose Mall earlier in the day. There was little more information, but at one point a police spokesperson confirmed that the apprehended woman had been formally arrested by the police.

“Thank God,” Janeway murmured. “That means it’s really her.”

“Of course it is,” a sonorous alto voice said from the doorway. “I told you I recognised her.”

The CEO quickly looked up and saw Seven standing there, flanked by Julia and Adriana. Getting to her feet, still feeling a bit unsteady, Janeway began to walk towards her fiancée. She stopped in her tracks when Seven approached her, the blonde moving slowly, not putting much weight on her injured foot.

“You hurt your foot again!” Janeway exclaimed. “Oh, god, Seven, you need to see a doctor.”

The younger woman ignored the CEO’s worried look and wrapped her up in a tight embrace.

“I am just a little sore, Kathryn. I have an appointment with my physical therapist tomorrow. That will be sufficient.”

“But you’re limping!”

“I am fine. I just overdid things a little.”

“A little! You were chasing a criminal all over the place and …”

“And we caught her. It was well worth it, Kathryn, trust me.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Janeway saw Julia and Marion embrace and then quietly leave the office together with Adriana and Martha. Grateful for some privacy, the auburn haired woman led Seven towards the couch.

“Nothing is worth you hurting yourself,” Janeway insisted. “Nothing.”

Giving her partner a soft smile, Seven shook her head.

“Listen to me, Kathryn. My foot may be aching, but another part of me is finally beginning to feel … whole.” She slid tender fingertips down Janeway’s cheek. “You know I have had nightmares and that I have been feeling unsettled and lost. Discovering Cynthia frightened me at first but during the chase, I felt invigorated and all I could think of was that I could not let her get away.”

Janeway wanted to object, to admonish her lover for endangering herself, but the spark in Seven’s eyes that had not been there for months was back and she bit her tongue.

“She could have been armed,” the CEO whispered. “She’s a dangerous woman.”

The blonde nodded, looking serious.

“I know that, probably better than anyone,” she conceded. “But Kathryn, Cynthia went through a metal detector when she entered Toulaine’s and I assumed that it would have picked up on any guns or knives she might have carried.”

Janeway realised that Seven had not acted as recklessly as she had assumed. Pulling back to look into the blue eyes of her fiancée, she tried to get her feelings under control.

“All right,” she managed, “if you insist that you are not injured and that you did not take any foolhardy risks, then I guess I have to take your word for it.” The CEO realised that she sounded much harsher than she had intended; the Vodka burned in her stomach and she felt decidedly dizzy.

The blonde reached out and cupped her cheek, her expression softening. “Kathryn,” she whispered, “I know you must have worried when you saw me on TV, not knowing what was going on. I wish it had not happened that way. I also wish I could somehow ask your forgiveness for putting you through this … but the truth is I do not feel I have anything to apologise for.” The younger woman’s voice was filled with compassion, but also an energy that Janeway had not heard in a long time. “I think I took something back today, Kathryn.”

Janeway could see it. There was an aura of confidence around Seven that she had not even been aware was missing before. She had not seen the other woman square her shoulders or raise her chin in this manner since before the kidnapping. How could she have missed that?

“God, Seven,” she murmured. “I think you did.”

Wrapping her arms tightly around Seven’s waist, Janeway hugged her. The blonde immediately reciprocated the embrace, rocking the CEO.

After a few moments, Janeway swallowed hard. “Eh, Seven? Perhaps you better not rock me, I feel … a little queasy.”

“Kathryn?”

“I had a few drinks on an empty stomach.”

There was a brief pause as Seven considered this.

“I think the others are still waiting for us in Martha’s office,” the blonde suggested. “Why don’t we go upstairs and have something to eat? You can tell us all about the board meeting.”

Janeway raised her head from Seven’s shoulder.

“They want me to stay on.”

Seven dipped her head and kissed her soundly and then visually reminded Janeway that it had been several weeks since the CEO had seen her broad, brilliant smile.

*****

Adriana assembled her documents, preparing to leave the penthouse, when the elevator doors opened and Phoebe stepped inside. The artist looked exhausted and stopped in her tracks at the sight of the five women in the living room.

“What’s wrong? I didn’t know you had a meeting today as well,” she blurted out, feeling herself go pale.

“Nothing’s wrong,” her older sister said. “You look like hell, though. How was your day?”

“I was interrupted because of security issues,” Phoebe huffed. “Twice the entire building had to be evacuated and it took the police forever to rule out foul play. That’s why I’m home already. They are still at it.”

Adriana frowned and walked up to the taller woman.

“Are you all right? Is your hand bothering you?”

“A little.”

“Want me to take a look at it?” The ADA seemed surprised at her own suggestion.

“You don’t have to … I can just …”

“Come on, you know I’m good at this.” Adriana gave a quick smile. “Where is your room?”

Glancing at Janeway, Phoebe knew her cheeks were turning an annoying pink. Her sister only nodded absentmindedly, so the artist pointed towards a closed door to the far left of the living room. “Over there.”

The two women went into the spacious room that was cluttered with Phoebe’s belongings.

“Sorry ‘bout the mess,” Phoebe murmured. “I was in a hurry this morning.”

“Never mind that.” Adriana opened the door to the bathroom and walked inside. Phoebe followed suit and the ADA reached for her hand. “Here, let’s get this off.”

She quickly unwound the bandage and then carefully removed the sterile compress. Scrutinising the wound, she glanced up at the artist.

“How much pain are you really in?”

“Not too bad.”

“Phoebe?”

“All right, all right. It kind of stings after a while when I work. I try not to use it too much, but I have to hold on to the ladder when I climb it with brushes and paint in my other hand.”

“I don’t think it’s infected, but it’s definitely inflamed. You’ve been overdoing it.”

Phoebe sighed and rubbed her forehead with her right hand. “I know. I’m on a tight schedule with these murals and I’m behind as it is. Today’s interruptions didn’t help.”

“I haven’t been to the Justice building today. I’ve spent my day at the police station, which turned out well, since I could help Seven and Julia when they were brought in.”

“What? What happened?” Phoebe’s eyebrows shot up and she stepped closer to Adriana.

“They are all right, Phoebe, don’t worry. It’s pretty amazing though. The two of them were shopping and Seven spotted Cynthia, the woman Reymers-Avery had assigned to guard her during the kidnapping. The woman tried to escape, but Seven and Julia didn’t think twice – they chased after her and apprehended her. You’ll see for yourself sometime during the evening, I’m sure.”

Phoebe just stared at the other woman. “What do you mean, ‘see for myself’?”

“It’s CNN’s breaking news story for today. It’s all on tape. You’ll be just as … ahem, impressed, as your sister and Marion were.”

Phoebe could picture her older sister’s reaction at seeing her gorgeous blonde chasing someone on national TV. “And you’re sure Seven and Julia are okay? They weren’t hurt at all?”

“Seven’s foot took some beating, but she swears she’s fine. I know Kathryn will make sure.” The ADA leaned over Phoebe’s injured hand. “Speaking of injuries. Why don’t we rinse this off, just to be on the safe side, and then put a fresh bandage on? Here, let me help you.”

Not waiting for the artist to respond, Adriana swiftly cleaned the deep cut and bandaged it after carefully drying it off. Her hands were soft against the tender skin and Phoebe found herself relaxing, sitting down on the bathtub rim.

“Did you escort them back here?”

“Yes, I had to bring them out the back door since the media posse were all over the place at the front of the police station. Some were clever enough to stake out the back door, but we managed to avoid them. I figured that they had had enough media exposure for one day.”

“Smart thinking. I’m sure Kathryn is very grateful. I can only imagine how her mind is going into damage control mode right now.”

“Actually, she seemed more concerned regarding Seven’s safety and was appalled at the thought that she might have re-injured her foot. Although, I know for a fact that she was flabbergasted when she and the others turned on CNN.”

“How so?”

“She had three large drinks on an empty stomach.”

“Oh, god! Kathryn?”

“Yes.” Adriana smiled broadly. “Don’t worry, we fed her. Seven made omelettes and we all helped out making a salad to go with it. You can have some if you like, I know there were leftovers.”

Phoebe was not hungry. She was still worked up about not getting back on schedule with her work and now this with Seven and Julia. The whole situation was getting to her and even if she had normally possessed a good natured disposition, today she was on edge.

“Maybe later,” she murmured, trying not to seem ungrateful.

Adriana pulled the artist to her feet by tugging at her right hand.

“Phoebe, are you really okay? I can’t help but feel that you’re out of sorts. What’s wrong? Is it because of me?”

Phoebe flinched and looked at Adriana. The black haired woman obviously tried to keep her demeanour neutral but the artist could clearly see stormy emotions being reflected in her eyes.

“I would be lying if I said that nothing of what I’m feeling is because of you.” Phoebe’s voice was little more than a whisper. “I’m just not sure how I feel. I’m under quite a lot of stress to do these murals; a big portion of my income this year will come from this commission. I also want to do a good job of it since these motifs will be there for posterity for a long time. My reputation as an artist is at stake. I have a newly opened gallery back in Indiana which is having its first big show soon and I’ll have several paintings on display there. I have to go back in a couple of weeks to sort some practical things out and if I’m not on schedule then with the murals here … And then there is you …”

To her dismay, Phoebe could see Adriana recoil and realised that she had made it sound as if the other woman was just another burden. Eager to rectify the misunderstanding, Phoebe stepped closer to the DA, reaching out to hold her by the shoulders.

“No, not like that,” the artist moaned, wanting to kick herself. “That didn’t come out right. What I meant was that I would like time to just work out in my head how I really feel. I’d love to just spend time with you and not be interrupted by work, yours or mine. Now I’m just confused and when I’m confused, my gut reaction is to just act on impulse … instinct … And that could get us in trouble.”

Adriana stood frozen between Phoebe’s hands. Dressed in a black trouser suit over a crisp, white shirt, the other woman looked elegant and professional. Phoebe felt the stark contrast to her own faded jeans and sleeveless denim shirt only enhanced her own trepidation.

“What do you mean?” Adriana asked in a low voice.

“I can’t reason when I’m around you. It’s like there’s no room in my head for the pros and cons. You said yourself last night that you thought there was a conflict of interest and I think you meant that the conflict would be more about what to focus on, than on which side we’re on – since we’re on the same side in this case. How can I be around you, feeling like I do, when I never have any time or energy to reason the way you want me to? You want me to take a step back and just be friends until this whole thing is over – and I would love to comply since I value … us. But I’m tired, I’m behind and I’m stressing out. Ask anyone, especially Kathryn, what I’m like when that happens. She’ll confirm that I’m not trustworthy.”

Adriana’s raised her eyebrows but did not withdraw; instead she moved a bit closer to Phoebe.

“Not trustworthy?” she echoed.

Phoebe’s heart hammered in her chest, as if trying to escape her ribcage. Adriana was looking at her with a small furrow on her forehead, squinting a little as she tried to gauge what the artist was saying.

“What is the last thing we should be doing right now?” Phoebe asked, her voice harsh.

“You tell me.”

“This.”

Phoebe leaned in closer, barely brushing her lips over the DA’s mouth, half open in surprise. Wanting to kiss the other woman more than she had wanted anything, the artist fought not to overstep that boundary. She was close enough to inhale Adriana’s soft breath and she could feel Adriana begin to tremble under her hands.

“There, you see …” Phoebe murmured against the incredible softness of Adriana’s mouth. “This is the last thing we should be doing. I told you, I can’t think clearly …”

Slender hands were at the back of Phoebe’s neck, tracing her long braid down her back as Adriana pulled her closer. The artist closed her eyes as the two women embraced, both of them still careful to not actually kiss.

“Adriana …”

“Shhh …”

To Phoebe’s surprise, Adriana’s hands were now on her waist, pulling the loose shirt up. The heat emanating from the ten digits making contact with her naked skin underneath made the artist hold her breath.

“What are you feeling?” The DA’s voice was almost inaudible.

“Oh, god, you have to know that you’re driving me crazy,” Phoebe breathed. “Don’t you realise that this is exactly what I mean?”

“Yes, I do. I just wanted you to know that you’re not the only one who’s confused, stressed out and battling emotions you’re not ready for. I’m right here, with you, in more ways than one.” Adriana rose to her toes and placed a series of small kisses on Phoebe’s temple and up along her forehead. “Please, don’t panic. Give us time. If we should fall into each other’s arms, it’s not the end of the world, even if we think it’s a bit premature.”

The ADA let her hand slide up along Phoebe’s back, capturing the end of her long, auburn braid. Pulling it up to her lips she nuzzled it for a moment before letting it fall back into place.

“But I don’t want to jeopardise our friendship, or cause you to regret anything. And honestly, Adriana, I don’t know how to interpret my own feelings. You’re the only woman I’ve been attracted to, ever. How could I possibly claim to be your friend, and be careless with your feelings, and my own, at the same time?”

The DA’s lips parted in a tender smile.

“You just answered your own question,” she pointed out. “If you’re that aware of what’s at stake, and that in touch with your feelings … I have no worries. No, wrong. I do worry about the fact that you might reach the conclusion that this is a phase, or a fling, or possibly even a mistake on your part. But I also find you very honest so I know you won’t lie to me, or string me along. Let’s just try to not be alone together too much; I think we can make this work.”

Phoebe was amazed at how quickly Adriana understood. She guessed that it was the other woman’s ability to cut to the important things delivered in statements and testimonies that allowed her to make rapid deductions.

Still, the emotions reflected in the incredibly dark eyes looking at her, were not calculating at all. Adriana seemed to see right through her, pierce right through to the core of her being and just linger there, waiting to see what would happen.

“I want our friendship to work and I don’t want to be selfish,” Phoebe breathed. “I also think you’re right. Not being alone too much is probably very smart.”

Adriana gave Phoebe a quick hug. “Then, let’s join the others. I’m on my way home so you can walk me to the elevator.”

“I guess I shouldn’t drive you home today?”

The ADA rolled her eyes. “You catch on quick, Phoebe.”

*****

Marion and Julia entered their apartment, putting down bags and briefcases on the hallway floor. Marion glanced at her partner, not quite over the fact that the slender, seemingly delicate woman had displayed the tenacity of a tigress earlier today when she and Seven went after Cynthia.

Julia had always carried herself with a special grace. Not ever had the other woman given the impression that she was weak, but her slender frame did not suggest that she was physically strong either. Marion guessed that she was one of the few people in Julia’s life who realised the other woman inner and now also outer, strength.

The phone rang and the two women looked at each other, reminded of a previous phone call a few months ago, also when they just stepped inside the apartment.

Dejá vue,” Julia said, making a face as she picked up the receiver.

Marion watched the look on Julia’s face alter as the person at the end of the line began to talk. Even at a distance, the sales manager could make out Deborah Williams agitated voice. Julia’s mother had never accepted the fact that her daughter was a lesbian or her relationship with Marion. After the woman had called her several times at her office at Stellar, Marion had finally told Mrs Williams to not disturb her again.

No doubt, Julia’s mother had been watching CNN today.

Julia waved her over, pointing towards the receiver, wanting her partner to listen in. Marion resisted the urge to roll her eyes and pressed her ear next to Julia’s.

“… spectacle of yourself and not for the first time. This however, takes the cake. You obviously paid no attention to what this would do to your father and me here at home. His business associates watch the news too, you know. Your sisters and their husbands belong to prominent families and now they have to listen to ridiculous comments regarding this latest endeavour of yours.

“Mother, I’m not going to defend myself to you. I did what I had to do, to help Seven.”

Granted your friend’s ordeal was unfortunate, but that only emphasises my point. Had she not gotten involved with this Janeway woman, whom I quickly pegged as an immoral megalomaniac, she would not have been subjected to …

“Stop it, Mother. I’m not going to listen to this any longer. You have no idea what Seven went through or why. You have no compassion or understanding for anyone but yourself. I have not once heard you express any sympathy for what we all went through during the kidnapping and that just proves my point. We don’t have anything to say to each other. Unless you are ready to start seeing this from my perspective and respect how I choose to live my life, do not call me again.”

Not waiting to listen to Mrs Williams' response, Julia slowly hung up the phone. She turned to her partner with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“I can’t talk to her anymore. I just can’t.”

“Come here,” Marion murmured. “Let me hold you. You’ve had quite a day, honey.”

She helped Julia out of her coat and then hugged her close. Guiding her partner to the couch, she sat down and pulled Julia down to her, half lying across her lap. The interior designer buried her face against the base of Marion’s neck.

“Now, tell me what you were thinking while you chased that Cynthia person.”

Julia gave a short laugh in the midst of her tears. “Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. There we were in the middle of the fanciest of jewellery stores; Seven with a 3,500 dollar watch strapped to her wrist, and she yells, ‘It’s Cynthia!’ and the chase is on.”

“Why was Seven trying on a … Oh. Kathryn’s birthday.”

“Exactly, and you can’t say anything. Kathryn can’t know. Seven bought the watch eventually.”

“How’s that possible? They took you straight to the police station.”

Julia sat up a little and wiped away her tears. “Oh, you should have seen her. Our Seven is something else. We were standing in that crowd, policemen all around, Cynthia is howling on the floor and Seven is being accused of shoplifting by the shop attendant – and what does she do? She manages to hand over the watch and her credit card, and tell the woman that she’ll stop by later to finalise the purchase.”

Marion laughed out loud, throwing her head back. “Only our Seven,” she managed.

“I still don’t quite know how we managed to capture this woman.” Julia shifted, settling against her partner’s shoulder again. “I mean, if Seven had not leaped at her, she would have gotten away.”

“And I saw you do a leap of your own,” Marion pointed out. “Had I not known the kind and gentle side of you, I would have been scared. You looked positively ferocious.”

“I did?” Julia blinked.

“You did. And terribly sexy, if I may be so bold.”

“Really?” Julia raised a hand and undid the top button in Marion’s shirt. “Sexy, huh?”

“Yes. What are you up to?”

Julia smiled innocently. “Well, you know what they say; when you’ve gone through something like this, your libido surges to unknown heights.”

“Good lord, woman …”

Julia’s hand had sneaked inside Marion’s shirt and was now cupping her left breast outside of her bra. The sales manager felt a pang of desire erupt in her midsection. She was wearing a tight, short skirt and her stay-ups made a rasping sound when she restlessly moved her legs.

“Well, you did say you found me sexy when I was Wonder Woman,” Julia purred. “Here, let me show you.”

She undid the rest of the buttons and opened the soft, silk blouse, revealing the white lace bra underneath. Julia’s gaze on her body was like a physical caress. Like tender fingers, the other woman’s dark eyes touched her, over and over and Marion in turn could not take her eyes of the slender woman on her lap. Julia’s narrow features made her think of an elf. The interior designer’s nose was narrow and short, pointing slightly upwards and her eyes were large and wide apart. The triangular shape of her face, with a pointy little chin gave her face character. The soft, pink lips were luscious and the sales manager knew only too well how it felt to kiss them, to have them wander over her body. Countless times Julia had kissed her all over, let her mouth, greedy for the taste of her lover, travel from her forehead down to her feet. The thought of how that made her feel, caused her breath to quicken.

Julia unhooked the clasp of Marion’s bra. Pushing it aside, the interior designer examined the soft orbs, rolling the pebbling nipples between her fingers. Marion moaned and arched her back, feeling her desire escalate.

Julia tugged at her nipples, only letting go of them just before the point of pain. Marion closed her eyes and let herself go.

“No, look at me, Marion,” she heard Julia murmur.

Opening her eyes she looked at her partner. Julia shifted again, this time straddling Marion’s legs. She cupped the older woman’s cheeks and kissed her softly.

“How about we withdraw to the bedroom?”

Marion swallowed hard, not sure her legs would carry her that far. “I’d love to.”

Julia rose and helped Marion to her feet. They walked into the bedroom hand in hand, reluctant to let go of each other.

“Let me undress you,” Julia whispered. “I want to look at you, taste you … all over.”

Skilled hands began pushing the shirt of Marion’s shoulders, only to turn their attention towards the bra, sending it towards the floor as well. Naked to the waist, the sales manager willed herself to remain still, allowing Julia to focus on the next piece of clothing.

When the younger woman had unfastened the button and unzipped Marion’s skirt, she pushed it down over the other woman’s curvaceous hips. “I think I’ll let you keep the stay-ups,” Julia husked. “Do you have any idea how the sight of you dressed like this excites me?” Julia nudged her partner towards the bed, not giving her opportunity to answer. “Lie down … let me make love to you.”

Trembling inside, Marion complied. She lay down in the middle of the bed, her eyes widening as Julia gathered some pillows and used them to arrange her body the way she wanted it.

The interior designer placed one of the pillows underneath the hollow of Marion’s left knee, and then repeated the procedure with the other, while nudging the other woman’s legs apart. “I want you to be comfortable. Raise your hips.” Julia pushed another pillow under the Marion’s bottom, making her feel utterly exposed and vulnerable.

Still fully clothed in her black jeans and white tee shirt, Julia knelt between the parted legs of her lover, her hands hot against the soft skin.

“I love watching you like this,” Julia murmured, her eyes roaming the luscious body beneath her. “I love when you’re lying like this, when you can endure being vulnerable and open to me. It makes me want you so much, to please you, to take you.”

Marion gasped out loud, finding Julia’s soft voice so incredibly tantalising when uttering the erotic words. She looked up at her lover, needing her touch so much, she ached inside.

“Hold your breasts up for me.”

The sales director gave a muted whimper but knew she would do as Julia asked her. She cupped her own breasts with trembling hands, presenting the mounds to her lover like a sacrifice. Julia leaned down and licked first one, and then the other. She opened her mouth and let her teeth graze the soft skin around the nipples, nibbling it only to sooth it a moment later with the tip of her tongue.

Marion could hardly believe how the touch affected her. Fighting to keep her breath even, not knowing why it seemed important to not let on just how aroused she was, she moved her hands, lacing her fingers in Julia’s short curls.

The younger woman allowed the tip of her tongue to slide against Marion’s collarbone, up the curve of her neck. Reaching the half open mouth of her partner, Julia pressed her lips on Marion’s, deepening the kiss instantly, making the other woman moan out loud.

These were the kind of kisses Marion adored, when Julia, overcome by love, lust and determination, would devour her, claim her … and allowed for Marion to claim her right back.

The sales manager wrapped her legs around her partner, eager to cradle her, hold her close and for the other woman to take charge and bring them both to that magical moment when their bodies came together and their souls soured.

“I love you, Julia …”

Pressing her hand down between them, not waiting for permission or encouragement, Julia cupped the hot sex of her lover.

“I love you …”

“You.”

“Only you.”

*****


It was past 2AM and Janeway moved restlessly next to the blonde, her stomach upset still, she guessed probably because of the Vodka, but also because of the emotional turmoil during the day.

Janeway rose onto her elbow and looked down at the peaceful blonde. Seven was fast asleep next to her with a faint smile on her full lips. The CEO carefully removed a long tress of hair from the alabaster face, not wanting to wake her fiancée up.

“You were so brave today, and so daring,” Janeway mouthed soundlessly to the younger woman. “I can’t believe you put me through that. Do you realise how shocked I was? Stunned, even?”

Janeway knew that her reaction earlier in the day might have seemed oversensitive to the other woman. The truth was that her world had spun out of control lately and she felt skinless. Seven’s kidnapping, the actions taken by Avery … Reymers … The CEO grimly decided to simply regard the despicable man that was in custody as ‘the bastard’ from now on. There were also other possibilities, such as ‘the lowlife’, ‘the assho …’ … She interrupted her destructive trail of thought when her stomach made a new somersault, making her clutch the sheets and swallow hard.

The bile suddenly rose in her throat and she knew the inevitable was happening. Hurrying out of bed, she padded quickly into the bathroom, trying to close the door behind her before throwing herself to the floor next to the toilet. She pushed the lid and the seat up, before the horrible retching began.

Her intestines felt like they were going to leave her and she was shivering all over. Then there was a cool hand on her forehead, supporting her as a familiar voice soothed her.

“It is all right, Kathryn, I have you.”

After another humiliating minute, Janeway found herself sitting on the toilet lid, having Seven wiping her face with a damp washcloth.

“Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth,” the blonde instructed. “I will return with something to soothe your stomach.”

Janeway rose and stood on wobbly legs and did as Seven had suggested. It felt wonderful to rinse her mouth out and then brush her teeth; the clean taste of toothpaste was a relief.

The CEO walked back into the bedroom and sat down on the bed. All of a sudden she was tired beyond exhaustion. She stifled a yawn as Seven came back with a glass in her hand.

“Here, drink this, but use the spoon. Three spoons at a time and very slowly.”

The blonde handed Janeway the glass and a teaspoon.

The auburn haired woman peeked into the glass. “What is it?”

“It is sugar-salt solution mixed with some apple juice. It will calm your stomach down, Kathryn, I promise.”

Janeway cautiously dipped the teaspoon into the glass and drank small sips. To her surprise, her stomach seemed to tolerate it and after another five minutes she had some more. After repeating the procedure two more times, she was almost falling asleep where she sat on the side of the bed.

Seven had straightened the sheets behind the CEO and now took the glass away from her. “Lie down, Kathryn,” she said in a tender tone of voice. “I will hold you.”

Nodding gratefully, Janeway laid down with a sigh of relief. The pillow was cool against her cheek and she felt Seven spoon close behind her, the blonde’s hand on the older woman’s hip.

“There, Kathryn, I think you will be able to sleep now.”

The CEO yawned again. “I think so to. Thank you, darling.”

“You needed me.”

The words resonated within Janeway, made perfect as she snuggled closer to Seven.

“Yes, I did.” She paused for a moment. “I do.”

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 7

Chapter Text

Kathryn Janeway squared her shoulders and clenched her teeth as Marlon Davis stepped into her office. Martha had announced his arrival in a casual voice as if she knew the fury brewing within the CEO.

Adriana de Leon was sitting in one of the two visitor’s chairs opposite Janeway, regarding the compact man with a stern look on her face. Over on the couch sat a union representative and the head of Personnel.

“Mr Davis,” Janeway began after introductions were made, “are you aware of the reason I’ve summoned you today?”

“No, ma’am, I’m not,” the software expert insisted. “I was still on my vacation when the manager called me and told me to come in today. Honestly, I have no idea, Ms Janeway.”

Janeway regarded the lying man, her eyes a stormy grey, the only outward sign of her anger.

“Really, Mr Davis. Is that so? Well, I will not waste my time or yours. We have recovered evidence of how you have committed a computer incursion. Can you elaborate on that?”

It was as if the air went out of the man in front of her. He looked at the other visitor’s chair, but Janeway had no intention of offering him a seat.

“I … Damn it, ma’am, I needed the money. He approached me …”

“Who approached you?” Adriana asked.

Marlon Davis shot her a look, but then shrugged.

“Eric Avery approached me almost a year ago. He offered me part of the profit he’d make if I installed some software for him. He knew I had security clearance.”

“Was money the only reason you betrayed your employer’s trust?” Janeway’s voice was like a whip and Marlon Davis flinched visibly.

“I owe some people money. I saw a harmless chance to make a little extra …”

Janeway could not believe her ears. Amy Green had been coerced in an awful way and suffered long and hard because of Reymers-Avery and here was this man, only out to swindle her company for money.

“That is a very poor excuse,” Janeway hissed and rose to her feet, leaning on her hands over the desk. “I’m glad you have your union rep here, as well as the manager for Personnel because I have only one thing to say to you.” She paused. “Mr Davis, you’re fired.”

Marlon Davis looked like he wanted to duck to avoid the incinerating glare from the CEO of the Stellar Corporation.

“And then there’s the fact that you have committed a felony offence,” Adriana de Leon added, her voice almost as acid as Janeway. “You will be charged with these crimes.”

After watching the man in front of her almost lose cohesion in his knees, Janeway buzzed Martha.

“Please, send in security. Mr Davis is leaving his position at Stellar, and requires an escort to his desk.”

She noticed her former employee grow paler as a man and a woman in uniform entered the room.

“Come on, Mr Davis,” the woman said and took him by the arm. “Let’s go.”

“There are two police officers waiting in the lobby for Mr Davis when you’re done,” Adriana said. “Do not let him out of your sight until he is in their custody.”

“Certainly, ma’am,” the male security officer acknowledged. “We’ll make sure he’s taken care of.”

The trio left Janeway’s office, followed shortly by the union representative and Personnel manager.

Adriana looked at Janeway as she sat back down again with an odd expression in her eyes.

“Yes?” Janeway raised an eyebrow.

“Are you all right, Kathryn?”

“I’m fine. Maybe a little tired.”

“You look almost as pale as Davis. Your hands are trembling.”

Janeway glanced down. The ADA was right; she could see her hands trembling as she fiddled with a pen. Carefully putting the pen down, she laced her fingers.

“I have a slight headache,” she confessed. “Probably because of the Vodka from yesterday.”

“I knew it.”

Janeway’s head snapped up as she glanced towards the door. Marion and Seven stood just inside the doorway, the blonde with a concerned look in her eyes.

“What do you know?” Janeway retorted, looking at Seven through narrowing eyes.

“I knew you were too tired to come into work today,” the younger woman answer, completely unfazed.

“I had things to deal with and …”

“And now you have dealt with them and you can let Marion take care of the rest. I need you to come with me.”

Janeway rose again from her chair and approached the blonde. Looking up at Seven, she cocked an eyebrow, immediately regretting it since it made her headache worse.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“I know you were concerned that I overextended my foot yesterday. I thought it would be a good idea if you joined me at physical therapy today.”

The CEO frowned looked down at Seven’s feet as if she could x-ray them on the spot, through sneakers and socks. Glancing back up, she saw the blonde smile faintly.

“Please, Kathryn, come with me. I would like you to see my workout program and how much strength I have gained. I think that might set your mind at ease regarding my condition.”

Not about to disappoint Seven if she could help it, Janeway nodded reluctantly. “All right, darling, of course I’ll come.” She turned her attention to Marion. “You’re as up to speed as I am, so I guess you can all cope without me for a few hours.”

“Yes, we can,” Marion agreed readily. A little too readily, Janeway thought bemusedly. “By the way, we saw that you’ve already taken care of the dirty work for today. I guess that guy with the guards is on his way into your tender arms, Adriana.” The sales manager winked at the ADA who was assembling her documents and putting them into her briefcase.

“In a manner of speaking. I have police officers awaiting his arrival in the lobby. I’ll say goodbye now. If you need me, you have my pager and cell phone number.”

“Yes, we do. Now go get the bad guys,” Marion grinned. “Say hi to Phoebe, if you see her.”

The ADA did not even flinch and Janeway had to admire the other woman’s composure.

“I will.”

Janeway turned her attention back to Seven.

“So, are you ready? Where’s your bag?”

“I took the liberty of already putting it in your car. I thought it would be best if you drove, Kathryn.”

“So your foot is bothering you after all?” Janeway’s voice was tinged with concern.

“Not at all. I just know you dislike being in the passenger seat.”

Janeway rolled her eyes at Marion’s laughter at the comment.

“Okay, let’s go then. I’m dying to meet Hans, or what ever his name is.”

“Actually, it is Klaus, and you know that. You did the research before letting anyone near me,” Seven pointed out.

Janeway took her jacket from a chair and put it on. Walking toward the private elevator she shrugged at the comment.

“You’re right, so I did.” She waved at Marion who was making herself comfortable in Janeway’s chair. “See you in an hour or so.”

“Sure, sure,” the sales manager dismissed her boss. “Whenever!”

Stepping inside the elevator, Janeway frowned. She was not sure about Marion’s tone of voice. There was something odd going on.

*****

Marion logged in on Janeway’s stationary computer and began going through her email. She could hardly keep herself from laughing out loud as she thought about Seven’s manoeuvring of her fiancée. She made a mental note to never try to outsmart the blonde.

The sight of more than three-hundred unread emails made the sales manager sigh. Work had been quite overwhelming all summer and now it was even worse because of the case of duplicate stocks. Stellar Corporation worked hard at keeping the genuine stockholders indemnified. So far, the legal department’s investigation had revealed that for every fifth stock being sold – one counterfeit stock had gone to Rey’Va, the company Avery-Reymers owned.

Marion sighed and began with the emails marked urgent. She was making good progress when Martha buzzed her.

“Marion? There is a Mr Williams on line one for you.”

The sales manager froze where she sat, her forehead furrowing. Pressing her lips together she lifted the receiver and pressed the blinking button.

“Marion McDunn.”

“Hello, Ms McDunn, Marion, this is Jonathon Williams, Julia’s father.”

“Yes, of course. What can I do for you, Jonathon?” Marion deliberately kept her voice even and without infliction.

There was a brief pause.

“I … I overheard the conversation last time my wife called Julia.” Jonathon Williams coughed and cleared his throat. “I know my wife’s attitude is unreasonable and I don’t know what could possibly make her change her attitude towards … the two of you.”

“I don’t know either. You must realise this is very hurtful for Julia,” Marion stated, wanting for him to get to the point.

“Yes, I understand that. I would imagine that it puts a strain on you as well, since you love her.”

Marion was surprised how easy the word ‘love’ came over Jonathon Williams’ lips.

“Yes, of course it does. I want to see Julia happy.”

“Her mother’s ways … are not my ways. What I mean to say is … I want Julia to be happy. I don’t pretend to understand her choices in life, but I want nothing but happiness for my daughter.”

“Her choices? Being a lesbian is not a choice, Jonathon.”

“You misunderstand me,” Julia’s father interrupted quickly. “I know that. I’m talking about her going for a career, not settling down … and I guess, moving so far from Michigan.”

Marion rubbed her forehead, trying to stay calm. She thought she could sense that Mr Williams was really trying to reach out and if she blew it now; Julia would be devastated at the missed opportunity.

“Jonathon, I know that Julia would be so happy if she could have some sort of relationship with you. She misses you, and excuse me for saying it this way, for some unfathomable reason, she misses her mother as well.”

There was another silence and then Jonathon Williams sighed deeply.

“I think the chance of my wife coming to terms with your relationship and Julia’s sexual preference is slim to nothing,” he murmured. “She is a very rigid woman and I think it’s pretty obvious that to Deborah, appearances are everything.”

“And for you?”

“I’ve taken way too long to take this step, Marion, and I’m not proud of that. I’ve let my wife set the standards for how we dealt with the situation. That was wrong of me.”

The fact that Jonathon Williams so clearly owned his apology without making excuses for himself, impressed more on Marion than she had expected.

“What is your intention now?” Drawing little stars on her writing pad, Marion held her breath as she awaited the reply.

“I know this will be a crossroads of sorts between Julia’s mother and I,” the man at the other end said in a calm voice. “I want to be the father Julia deserves. I want to show her that I love her and I want to learn to understand. I admit that I’m prejudiced and have had blinders firmly on ever since Julia told us how she felt. I want to rectify all of that.”

Marion only had to consider her options for a moment.

“I take it that you called me as a way to explore the possibilities?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“Jonathon, why don’t you get on a plane this coming weekend and visit with us. If you truly mean what you say, Julia would be ecstatic to have you. And you’re right, what makes Julia happy, makes me happy.”

There was a muted, choking sound as the man on the other end cleared his throat.

“That’s more than I could hope for. I will take you up on your offer, Marion, and you won’t regret it.”

“Call me regarding the itinerary and I’ll send a car for you.”

“I will. Thank you, Marion. I won’t forget this.”

“Just be there for Julia, that’s all you have to focus on.”

They said goodbye and Marion hung up slowly. Glancing around she began to feel a little out of place, occupying Janeway’s office. Staring at the computer screen she saw all the urgent mails she still had to go through. Maybe it could wait just a little bit. Janeway had often suggested several times that she move her office to the executive floor and only Marion’s reluctance to leave her comfortably arranged office a few floors below had prevented her from working in closer proximity to the CEO.

Marion gave in and buzzed Martha.

“Could you get me the mail room, please?” the sales manager asked. “I’ve decided to move my things to that other corner office that Kathryn has been dangling in front of me for a while.”

Good for you!” The assistant sounded pleased. “I knew she’d reel you in eventually.”

“Well, to tell the truth, I don’t want to sit in the big chair in here, just yet. I want my own space up here.”

I’ll get right on it.

Marion logged out of the computer and cleared up the desk before leaving the room. She thought of the conversation she had had with Jonathon Williams. A new start for Julia and her father, and a new office and perhaps a new start for herself.

Things were starting to look up.

*****

Seven looked at her fiancée as she pivoted slowly, showing off the azure blue trouser suit.

“Too colourful?” she asked.

Kathryn was sitting in a chair by the changing booths, and Seven thought the older woman was beginning to realise that she was not going to get back to work today. It had taken Seven all her power of persuasion to convince the CEO to take the day off and go shopping with her. Using the need for some new office attire as an excuse, the blonde had managed to convince Kathryn that she needed her assistance, since she possessed such impeccable taste.

The CEO had given her a glance and stated that she was ‘onto her’ which Seven found humorous since Kathryn had no idea what the blonde had in store for them throughout the day.

“No, you wear that colour well,” Kathryn now said, cocking her head. “Try on the grey one; the one that comes with a skirt.”

Seven wrinkled her nose. “I will disappear in grey. Too bland,” she complained.

“I’m not so sure, darling. Imagine a colourful blouse underneath … Like that one over there? Try that one also.”

Seven followed Kathryn’s hand as the CEO pointed towards a rack over to her right. Pursing her lips she walked over and picked out a deep red silk blouse. She stepped into the changing booth and took off the blue suit that had gone well with her own white shirt. After donning the red blouse and soft grey suit, she checked herself in the mirror before leaving the booth, and was pleased with the result.

Kathryn’s eyes lit up when Seven came out and obediently pivoted again.

“Yes, that one, darling,” the CEO suggested. “And the blue suit. I think you look gorgeous in both of them, so why discriminate?”

“Yes, I think so too,” Seven allowed. “You were right, Kathryn, the grey did not make me look plain.”

To Seven’s amazement, the auburn haired woman tossed her head back and gave a resounding laugh at the younger woman’s comment.

“Plain, Seven? Did you say plain?” Kathryn laughed again. “You couldn’t look plain in a sack cloth, sweetheart.”

Seven’s eyebrows almost left her face at the other woman’s obvious mirth, not quite understanding how a simple statement would encourage such an exaggerated response. Then she glanced at Kathryn and realised that she had not heard her partner laugh in this manner in a long time. Not bothering to consider where they were, she walked up to the other woman and planted a kiss on the auburn hair.

“I love you, Kathryn, but you are quite crazy.”

“Yes, I am,” the CEO readily agreed. “I’m totally crazy about you.”

Seven used one of her credit cards to pay for the clothes and then the two women moved on through the Yellow Rose mall, Kathryn ribbing the blonde in a friendly manner about her adventure inside the structure the previous day. Seven almost expected people to gawk at them but everyone seemed occupied by their own shopping and paid the two women very little attention.

They stopped to look into the windows of Toulaine’s and Seven smiled inwardly when she noticed a team of men fitting what looked like new, armoured glass security doors to the entrance. The guard did a double take, but buzzed them inside.

After passing through the metal detector, Kathryn glanced around the jewellery store with a dawning interest in her even blue-grey eyes.

“I haven’t been to Toulaine’s in quite some time.” Kathryn smiled and did not seem to make the connection with yesterday’s adventure and the store. “Look over there, have you seen the necklaces?”

“Go look at them, I will be right with you,” Seven suggested.

“All right.”

Seven made sure that Kathryn walked over to the far end of the store before she looked around and caught the eye of the shop attendant that had first shown her the watch and then chased her over the mall yesterday.

The woman was busy behind her counter, but lit up with a professional smile when the tall blonde approached her.

“Cathy, can you take over for me?” the woman asked her colleague and directed her attention to Seven. “Ms Hansen, I hope you are all right?” She beamed at the woman.

“I am fine. Thank you for asking. I am here with my fiancée and I want to get this over and done with before she sees what I am doing, or it will ruin the surprise. Where do you want me to sign?”

Within the blink of an eye, the shop attendant had pushed a piece of paper across the counter for Seven to sign and another one for her to write down the text for the inscription on the watch.

“Thank you, ma’am.” The woman gave a broad smile and handed Seven back her credit card. “We’ll have the watch ready in a week for you.”

“Thank you.”

Seven left the counter and looked for Kathryn. To her surprise the other woman was not window shopping for any of the necklaces she had admired just a minute ago. The blonde walked up to her, curious to see what had gotten the CEO’s attention.

“Kathryn?”

The auburn haired woman pivoted on her feet, smiling at her partner as she walked up to her.

“Oh, come and look, Seven! I’m so glad you coerced me into going shopping. I have meant to look at these for some time now and since we’re here …”

Seven regarded Kathryn with widening eyes. There was a joy in the other woman’s eyes that she had not seen in a long time. The blonde knew that her fiancée would rather be back at the office dealing with the situation at hand but that she had conceded to taking the day off to please Seven. Now there was something more, a spark that held promise for the rest of the day.

“What are you looking at?”

Kathryn pulled the blonde with her to the counter, pointing towards a tray of rings just beneath the glass.

“Look at these. Aren’t they beautiful?”

Seven looked at her partner, tears burning behind her eyelids.

“Oh, Kathryn,” she exhaled, “those are wedding rings.”

*****

Richard Eric Avery Reymers looked at his lawyer with disdain.

“You must be mistaken,” he spat. “You have to try again, Max. He can’t do this to me!”

Max Darrel looked decidedly uncomfortable and looked over at his assistant. The paralegal seemed just as pained.

“We have made a number of phone calls as well as written emails and letters to your father, Eric,” the seasoned lawyer tried explaining again. “After the initial attempts to contact him, he has refused to communicate with us.”

“But he must be aware of the conspiracy against me,” Avery insisted. “He must have seen it on TV, read it in the paper, how these women tried to …”

“Eric, we’ve been through this,” Max, tried to calm his client, “and you know that the ADA is putting together a more or less watertight case against you. We can’t fight the facts in this case and you know that my entire staff is working on trying to find something to hang a defence on.”

“What do you mean, something? If you got hold of my father, he would take care of this with one, single phone call! Your people can’t have explained the whole truth to him. You have to try again.”

The attorney leaned back in his chair and rubbed the back of his neck. When Eric Avery became this way, it eventually led to headaches for him and his staff.

“I will, of course, keep trying to get in touch with Mr Reymers, if you insist, but I have to be blunt with you, the trial is approaching and …”

“And you will do as I say. My father will sort this out.”

“All right, Eric. We’ll talk again before the weekend. Try to get some rest.”

Avery nodded reluctantly when the two men rose and grabbed their briefcases. Max knew that it would not matter how many times they tried reaching Sebastian Reymers. The man held a unique, powerful position in the corporate world and if he did not want to be involved, he would make sure that nobody could reach him.

The two men stepped out of the cell and both drew a long breath.

“Is he going off the deep end or is it just me?” the paralegal asked, shaking his head.

“No, but he suffers from two delusions. He thinks his father can save him from this.”

“That’s one, what’s the other?”

Max motioned for the prison guard to open the door for them.

“He is also under the impression that his father cares.”

*****

The phone in Phoebe’s pocket rang and made her jump where she stood at the top of her ladder, painting. Putting the brush between her teeth, she felt in her jeans for the phone, pulled it out, and flipped it open.

Managing to pull the brush from her teeth without falling off the ladder, she impatiently answered.

“Who ever this is; are you trying to kill me?”

“Phoebe? What’s wrong?” Adriana asked at the other end.

“Oh, hi, it’s you. Well, let me climb down. Just a second.” The artist carefully climbed down the ladder, making sure she did not miss a step or drop the phone. “Okay, I’m down.”

“Goodness, are you all right?”

“Sure, I am. I was just rather high up when you called.”

There was a moment of silence before Adriana spoke again.

“Not on the very tall ladder?” The DA’s voice was filled with what sounded like horror. “Oh, God.”

“Yup, on the very tall one, but I’m on the floor now. What’s up?” She put the brush in a jar of turpentine.

“Nothing, really. I’ve just come back to the office after some meetings, one with your sister, by the way. I went in the back door, so that’s why I missed you. I just wanted to say hello.”

There was an unusual vulnerability to Adriana’s voice, which made Phoebe press the cell phone closer to her ear.

“I’m glad you called.” Phoebe’s voice was soft. “I know we saw each other last night, but … and this is going to sound awfully corny, but I miss you.”

“Oh, Phoebe,” the ADA sighed. “I wish this case was over and done with. I really do.”

“Believe me, so do I. This ‘waiting and seeing’ agreement goes against every fibre in my body. It’s damn unnatural!”

“Patience is unnatural?” Adriana laughed.

“Yes, and highly overrated, if you ask me. I think that sometimes life requires that you exercise patience, but it is an unnatural occurrence which I strongly advise against unless it’s a matter of life and death.”

“Like now, with us?”

Phoebe smiled and sat down on her toolbox. “Like now.”

“So …” Adriana cleared her throat gently. “Does this mean that I can hope for a very impatient, unrestrained Phoebe once this is all over?”

Suddenly short of breath, the artist closed her eyes briefly. A mischievous smile spread on her lips. “It depends on how much impatience you can handle. I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you.”

“What if I want to be overwhelmed?”

Her heart hamming in her chest, Phoebe bit her lower lip at the faint sultriness in Adriana’s voice.

“You realise that I’m in a very public place?”

“Is that a problem?” the ADA teased.

“It’s close to disastrous. I’m sitting here blushing and there is a hundred people passing me by right now.”

The spontaneous laughter at the other end was a surprise and music to Phoebe’s ears. It was also quite infectious and the artist found herself joining Adriana in her mirth.

“I hope we will be able to meet soon,” the ADA said when they had calmed down. “I like spending time with you.”

“I hope so too. In fact, I can’t wait,” Phoebe confessed. “Maybe some time during the weekend. We could either eat out of have dinner with Kathryn and Seven.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.”

They said goodbye and Phoebe snapped her cell phone closed. For Adriana to be flirtatious, playful even, was a nice surprise. She gazed up at the painting that was taking form on the large wall. Something caught her eyes and Phoebe tucked the phone into her pocket and began climbing the ladder again. She scrutinised her motif and then started laughing to herself. Phoebe debated if she should change what she was looking at but then decided to leave it be.

All things considered, she found the unexpected deviation from the original motif rather appropriate.

*****

“Are you going to fill me in on where we are going, Seven?” Janeway grumbled half jokingly. “I have taken several hours off work now and it has been wonderful, but we should get something to eat and …”

“Marion is covering for you and you have called her twice to check on things. She assured you on both occasions that nothing new or major has come up.”

“But where are we going then? Why are we driving out of town?”

“Because we are going to do just what you want; we are going somewhere to eat.”

Seven had insisted on driving when they left the mall and taken the interstate, leaving the buzzing city behind them. They were not driving towards Brimmerton, so Janeway had no clue as to where the blonde meant to take her.

“Well, I’m hungry,” the CEO huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Will we be there soon?”

Seven gave her a glance that spoke volumes and Janeway had to make a face at her choice of words. Her fiancée had an annoying habit of being right all the time, lately.

After another ten minutes of driving, Seven pulled off the interstate and drove among billowing fields and small clusters of woods. The scenery was beautiful, but Janeway found it hard to wind down enough to focus on her surroundings. As long as they have kept busy in the mall, she had enjoyed herself but now she was mentally tapping her foot again, eager to get back to Stellar. When the other woman took a left turn and drove down a dirt road through some woods, the CEO’s first reaction was relief that they had reached wherever Seven intended to take her.

The forest opened up into a small clearing that was right next to a creek. Trees surrounded them on three sides and the water rushed rapidly by on the fourth.

Janeway stepped out of the car and looked around. She found that the tranquillity of the place was like fingernails against her skin. She had no idea why this was getting to her. Trying to avoid her mood becoming too obvious, the CEO gave Seven a smile.

“How did you know about this place?”

“Josh brought me here,” Seven replied, surprising her.

“Josh? When?”

“During his visit just before we took off to Raven’s Island. He is thinking of buying this piece of land from his future father-in-law and he wanted me to see it. His girlfriend comes from this area and is very fond of it, so Josh thought it would be nice to have a cottage her.”

“It’s a very beautiful place.” Janeway counted to ten to slow herself down. “Can we go eat somewhere now?”

Seven did not answer right away; instead the blonde studied her fiancée closely. After letting her knuckles brush along Janeway’s jaw line, she smiled faintly.

“I can do better than that.”

With long, determined strides, the blonde walked back to the small trunk of the car. Opening it, she pulled out a cooler bag and a quilt.

Janeway’s heart melted and tears welled up in her eyes. The sight of the Seven standing there, with a hopeful expression in her eyes at the revelation of her surprise made the older woman lose her breath.

Feeling some of the edgy impatience dissipate, she walked up to Seven, she took the soft quilt from her and placed a quick kiss on her full lips.

“Let me help you with that, darling,” she said, her voice soft. “You’ve gone to so quite a lot of trouble, haven’t you? When did you hide this in the car?”

“Martha helped me order it and she stashed it in the car for me while I went to get you. The quilt is new too.”

“So I see. It’s pretty.”

They arranged the quilt on the ground and Janeway sat down, reaching for Seven to join her. All of a sudden the auburn haired woman had forgotten about the food; all she could think of was holding the blonde in her arms.

Seven sat down next to Janeway and turned to open the cooler when the auburn haired woman pulled her close, hiding her face against the leonine neck. Inhaling the soft scent of the soap Seven favoured, she let her heartbeat and her breathing calm down before she spoke.

“I don’t deserve you, darling,” she finally managed. “You know me better than I know myself and I … I seem to constantly underestimate you. Forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive. We are dealing with everything that has happened in the best way we know how. You have been under tremendous stress the last few days. The board meeting yesterday where your entire future was at stake did not help.” Seven kissed the top of Janeway’s head.

“I still should trust you when you’re trying to do something helpful for me. It’s just that when I feel there is so much to do; relaxation is the furthest thing from my mind – in fact, it can sometimes stress me out even more than if I can roll up my sleeves and just keep working.

“I know this, Kathryn, but I took the liberty of discussing it with Martha and we both agreed that Marion could handle the routine business. She would call you in an instant, if something urgent came up. You trust Marion, do you not?”

Janeway looked at the blonde who studied so carefully.

“Yes, these days I trust Marion implicitly. She has proven her loyalty and I know she’s able to handle everything just fine.”

“Then, this is good for you. For us, Kathryn,” Seven assured her, an almost pleading expression in her eyes. “If we do not get through this experience together, as a couple, I am afraid for our future. I need you very much and I know you need me as well.”

“Probably even more,” Janeway confessed, her voice fading. “Oh, god, Seven, I don’t think you realise how much I need you.”

The blonde pulled the other woman close as she lay down on the quilt, one hand tangling in the auburn hair, the other one firmly pressed into the small of the her partner’s back. Pressing her lips onto Janeway’s, Seven kissed her over and over, parting the wine red lips under hers.

Janeway’s head was spinning and she was at Seven’s mercy, not able to do anything but experience the raging emotions at the assault against her senses.

After Seven had kissed her senseless, the older woman tried to pull back a little so she could speak. “Darling, we’re out in the open … anyone can come by … Seven …”

“Nobody will come.” Seven placed open mouth kisses along Janeway’s neck, working her way up to the other woman’s quivering lips. “Open your mouth …” she whispered.

“We can’t … not here.”

“Yes, we can, Kathryn; you need this, you need me. And I … I want you … now …”

The blonde slipped her tongue inside Janeway’s mouth, caressing and exploring it with an unyielding passion. Pushing the older woman’s shirt up, accidentally dislodging two buttons in the process, the younger woman seemed eager to reach the softness of Janeway’s breast.

“God, I want to … I do,” Janeway moaned. “I want to surrender to this, ‘cause you’re driving me crazy … but I can’t …”

The blonde leaned over her, undoing the remaining button on Janeway’s shirt.

“Entrust yourself to me, Kathryn,” she husked, her blue eyes filled with desire. “Give in to your feelings. You want this.”

Simply nudging the bra up, Seven reached her objective. Leaving Janeway’s swollen lips, the blonde moved down and cupping the other woman’s left breast she lowered her mouth to it, sucking it and biting it gently. Janeway arched her back, everything inside her on fire, moaning her fiancée’s name out loud.

“Yes, Seven, oh yes.” Janeway surrendered with a whimper. “Don’t … don’t stop.”

Straddling the smaller woman’s body, Seven devoted her attention to the two soft orbs that soon ached and throbbed almost unbearably. Seven bit down on a nipple raw from the treatment she had just given it and pulled it up, not letting go of it until Janeway was sobbing out loud.

When her over indulged breasts could not take any more, Seven moved down, opening the button and the zipper of Janeway’s slacks, pulling them down and off, together with her shoes. Then she suddenly stopped, looking up at her lover with narrowing eyes.

“Tell me what you want,” the blonde demanded gently.

“Seven …” Janeway’s voice was hardly audible.

“Tell me.”

“I want you.”

“Yes, I know. But what do you want me to do to you? You have to tell me.”

Janeway could not quite believe how stern Seven was acting and it sent thrills down her spine as she tried to put words to her desire, feeling utterly flustered.

“I need you to touch me, to make me yours,” she managed, her voice trembling as she looked up the blonde goddess now kneeling between her thighs. “I love everything you do to me, with me … I need you to take command and do whatever you want with me … whatever you desire … I’m yours …” A muted sob broke free from the Janeway’s throat at the end of her answer.

Seven only nodded. Wordlessly she pushed the slender legs wide apart and upwards. “Hold on to your knees,” she instructed and the older woman complied as she had no intention of denying Seven anything. Sweat broke out all over her body and she was trembling.

The blonde leaned down and parted Janeway’s slick folds, coaxing the nubbin out of its hood and then began to lick it in long languid strokes. The hot tongue against her most sensitive part made Janeway pull her knees closer to her chest and could not help but moan out loud. She began an involuntary undulation against the full lips devouring her, wanting more, needing release badly.

Strong hands held on to her hips, keeping her still as they caressed her bottom, squeezing it together and pressing it apart. The skilled tongue now found her entrance and speared inside her, lapping at the moisture flooding freely between Janeway’s legs. Seven’s fingers gathered some of the moisture and spread it further down, dangerously close to the puckered, untouched area below.

Janeway stiffened, her feelings and her desire flooding her as Seven began to caress the zone that had never been touched by anyone else.

“No,” Janeway moaned and wriggled on the quilt, as if trying to move away. “Oh, god, Seven … no … no one’s ever …”

“Allow me,” Seven murmured against the drenched folds. It was more a request than a plea.

Locking her mouth onto the other woman’s sex she flicked her tongue over it, sometimes penetrating her lover, sometimes sucking the engorged nubbin into her mouth. The busy fingers had now bathed the puckered orifice with enough moisture to begin caressing it more firmly. Janeway wanted to object, but the feeling was so good and the sensations it created drove her insane with desire.

“I will not hurt you.” With that promise, Janeway felt Seven’s gentle, but insistent, fingers start to massage her there. She tensed and felt small convulsions begin rippling inside her at the unexpected sensation. Seven moved her other hand into position and let several fingers enter her lover’s vagina. With strong, steady motions, she took the older woman thoroughly, not leaving room for doubt regarding who was in control in this instant.

The penetration seemed to fill her to the brim. Together, with the massage around her anus and the onslaught of the blonde’s mouth on her throbbing clit, causing Janeway to fall over the precipice and tumble down into an abyss that she had never experienced before.

Convulsing against the other woman, her inner muscles clenched the intruding fingers. Janeway gave a drawn-out cry, her voice husky with desire. Wanting to feel Seven’s arms around her, she reached down and tried to pull the young woman closer. Seven carefully removed her mouth and her hands and aligned herself with her fiancée, kissing her temple as she held her tight.

“Seven,” Janeway sobbed. “Oh, darling, I can’t believe what just happened. You …”

“I made love to you. I made you mine.”

Hiding her face, the auburn haired woman tried to catch her breath. “Yes … yes, you did. How did you know that I needed you to … that touching me like that would ...”

“You were quite vocal,” Seven teased in a tender voice. “I saw a flock of birds leave the trees.”

“Seven!” The older woman blushed deeply.

The blonde kissed her again and rocked her gently, soothing the electrified nerve endings in her lover’s body that still tingled in the aftermath of the fierce lovemaking.

The sun broke through the trees and warmed them both as they were lying on the quilt. The two women exchanged kisses and murmured terms of endearment to each other until Janeway began to shiver.

A moment later Janeway felt Seven button her shirt. When she felt the other woman move away she glanced up and saw that she was fetching the rest of Janeway’s clothes.

Wordlessly, Seven helped her into her underwear and slacks. Reaching into the cooler the blonde took out several wet wipes and cleaned her hands. Handing one over to Janeway, she gave her fiancée a bright smile.

“I imagine you must be starving now,” Seven said.

“You’re correct,” the CEO exhaled and wiped her hands. “I can’t wait to see what’s in that cooler. But what ever it is, it can’t be better than what you just gave me.”

“Oh, I think I have something that can almost match it,” the younger woman said mysteriously and presented a thermos that was attached to the side of the cooler. She unscrewed the top that could be used as a mug and then the cork; the scent of steaming, black coffee hitting Janeway’s nostrils, making her eyes widen.

“Oh, darling, you read my mind,” Janeway grinned.

Seven wrinkled her nose and the look on the blonde’s face made Janeway laugh out loud. The happy sound was interrupted by the cell phone ringing in her jacket pocket.

Winking at Seven, she flipped it open and answered. “Janeway.”

“Kathryn, this is Adriana de Leon. I’m sorry to disturb you on your day off, but I have some news.”

The tone of the other woman’s voice made Janeway and she sent Seven a glance that made the blonde stop her movements unpacking the cooler bag.

“Go on.”

“We have a date, Kathryn. The trial against Avery begins on Monday.”

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 8

Chapter Text

Seven had pushed the button to raise the roof of the car. The air had cooled, making it too uncomfortable to ride without it.

After lowering the backrest of the passenger seat a bit, Janeway was content to let Seven do the driving. She was still in a dreamy state of mind, having spent the rest of the long afternoon in Seven’s arms, sharing their picnic. The way Seven had made love to her still amazed her, resounded through her veins. The CEO could not recall having ever experienced such a pleasure or feeling so loved.

“I love you,” Janeway said out loud, turning her head to glance at Seven.

The blonde smiled while keeping her eyes on the road. “I love you, too, Kathryn.”

Returning the smile, even if Seven could not see it, Janeway settled in the passenger seat.

The thought of the impending trial commencing after the weekend left her feeling both eager to get it over with and nervous what reliving the ordeal again would bring. A thought struck her and she reached for her cell phone. Pressing the speed dial she waited while it rang at the other end.

“Hello,” Gretchen Janeway answered.

“Hi, mom, how are you?”

“Kathryn, I was just about to try your cell phone, since I was unsuccessful with the office and the penthouse.”

“Oh, yes? Well, it just occurred to me that you would have to be here for the trial. It starts on Monday.”

“Yes, I know about it already, I received a call from a nice young man working at the district attorney’s office. When do you want me to come?”

As always impressed by her mother’s good natured approach as well as the older woman’s calm way of dealing with things, Janeway thought of something.

“Why don’t you try to get on a plane this evening, mom? We can arrange to have someone pick you up at the airport and then we can spend the weekend together.”

“I would be happy to pick your mother up,” Seven interrupted.

“It sounds perfect,” Gretchen replied. “I’ll let you know if I can get a last minute ticket. If I’m not mistaken, there is a flight that connects in Pittsburgh that departs sometime after 8PM.”

“Then you should be here just before midnight?”

“I think so. Let me get on the computer and see if there are any seats available. I’ll call you back.”

They said goodbye and hung up. Janeway held the cell phone with both hands on her lap. The thought of her mother joining them later in the evening was soothing in an unexpected way.

The CEO gently cleared her throat and reached for Seven’s idle hand that was resting on the stick shift as was the blonde’s habit.

“Thank you, darling, for a wonderful day,” Janeway husked. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me and how … well, I guess I’m in awe about how you made me feel. How you made love to me …” She held Seven’s hand tight in her own.

“I want to make you happy, Kathryn.” Seven’s voice was quiet but the words came without hesitation. “I want us both to be happy.”

“Are you happy, sweetheart?”

“Yes. I feel better, and stronger, than I have in a long time.”

“You said something yesterday that I’ve been thinking of; that you took something back when you captured Cynthia. I think you took your right of self-determination; your independence, if you like. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be deprived of your freedom.”

Seven nodded.

“It is not a feeling I ever want you to experience. I think what I hated the most about it was the fear and the overwhelming sense of helplessness.”

“You didn’t stay helpless for long, darling. Your ingenuity led to your rescue and Avery’s apprehension.”

“I suppose so.”

“If you hadn’t written the 7 on the window, using the hand cream, we would never have figured it out.”

“There were many coincidences that led up to the resolution, Kathryn. The fact that a lot happened by chance has been hard to deal with. Even seeing Cynthia at the mall was pure happenstance.”

Janeway stroked the elegant hand she was holding.

“The way you reacted when you saw her wasn’t happenstance. You seized the moment and acted accordingly. You surprised the hell out of me, that’s true, but I’m so proud of you, of how courageous you were.”

Seven smiled, her eyes still on the road.

“Thank you. It means so much coming from you.”

Janeway raised Seven’s hand to her lips and kissed every knuckle, every fingertip before placing it on the wheel.

“We’re coming into town; better not distract you before we’re home.”

The sun was setting ahead of them, casting a pink-orange glow across the darkening sky. The red sports car easily overtook the larger vehicles in the inner lane when Seven drove towards the city. Janeway smiled inwardly; soon they would be home.

 

*****

 

“Who can that be at this hour?”

Julia Williams raised questioning eyebrows at her partner when she got up from the couch to answer the door. The fact that the doorman had not called up to announce that they had a visitor indicated that it was someone from their list of close friends. Still, Julia found it odd that nobody had called first.

She peeked through the door viewer and the unexpected slowed down her reaction. Swallowing hard, she unlocked the dead bolt and opened the door.

“Daddy,” she husked. “I had no idea …”

Jonathon Williams looked as nervous as she felt, stroking his neatly kept moustache.

“Hello, Julia,” he greeted his oldest daughter. “I know this is a surprise, but Marion thought you’d be happy to see me.” Jonathon looked like he was afraid she might contradict him.

“Of course I am! But what are you doing here … oh, forgive me. Please, come in!”

“Thank you.” The tall man stepped inside, dwarfing everything in the hallway by his presence. “I’m here to visit you and Marion.”

Julia had reached for a clothes hanger and froze in mid action, turning to look at her father, her eyes wide.

“To visit us? That’s your sole purpose for travelling all the way from Michigan?” Julia remembered what her father had just said. ”Are you saying that Marion knew you were coming?”

“Yes. And yes.” Jonathon gave a crooked smile.

Julia opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She snapped it close when she heard her partner approach from behind.

“Welcome, Jonathon, it’s nice to finally meet you.” Marion’s voice was polite, bordering on warm. “I assume everything worked out with the limousine and the doorman. I told him to expect you.”

“Marion, the pleasure is entirely mine,” Julia’s father replied, shaking the older woman’s hand. “Thank you for having me.”

Having me?’ Julia could just stare. Had Marion offered her father to stay with them in the apartment?

“We have a very nice guestroom, even if it is a little on the small side,” her partner said with a smile, shocking Julia by sounding so easy-going. “I thought it would be a waste of time to travel back and forth to a hotel.”

Wanting to ask her father what her mother thought of this surprise visit, Julia decided not to, not wanting to break the mood, so she just took her father’s coat and put it on the hanger. When she turned to usher him into their living room, she suddenly found herself wrapped up in a bear hug, something that had not happened for years.

“I’ve missed you,” Jonathon whispered, his voice unsteady.

Not sure how to respond, Julia stiffened. As she felt his arms relax, she realised that he was about to let go of her. Julia flung her arms around his neck, hugging him hard, like she used to do when she was little.

“I’ve missed you too, Daddy,” she murmured. “I can’t tell you how much.”

When Jonathon finally let go of his daughter, her eyes, blurred from unshed tears, found Marion who stood smiling like the Cheshire cat, leaning against the doorframe. However, it did not escape Julia recognised the carefully masked cautiousness in her partner’s eyes.

Julia could guess what was going on inside Marion; she was a victim of ambivalent feelings herself. She wanted to believe that her father was coming around, and him coming for a visit suggested that he was, but she had felt rejected for so many years now.

Still it felt wonderful to be on the receiving end of her father’s embrace. Whatever the reason was for him to change his approach, Julia found it encouraging that he was here. She had a lot of questions, but for now, for this evening, they could wait.

 

*****

 

Adriana entered Giovanni’s, her eyes scanning the room, trying to find her dinner date among the large Friday evening crowd.

“Adriana, bellissima,” a familiar baritone exclaimed by her side. “Your lovely dinner companion is waiting over there by the corner table.”

“Thanks, Giovanni,” Adriana replied and gave the proprietor of the Italian restaurant a smile. “Looks like the place is packed tonight.”

“Like every weekend, my dear,” Giovanni shrugged but the ADA could see that the man was pleased. “What can I offer you to drink?”

“I think I’ll have a glass of my favourite red wine, please.”

“Coming right up, consulente.”

Adriana moved among the tables, her eyes on the auburn haired woman sitting alone at the table in the far corner. As if the artist had felt her gaze, she looked up toward the entrance and then smiled broadly as she spotted Adriana.

“Sorry I’m late,” the ADA said as she sat down, at a ninety degree angle to Phoebe, on the chair the waiter pulled out for her. “Thank you.”

“Not a problem,” Phoebe beamed. “I’m glad we found a way to get together in a nice and safe environment.”

Adriana gave a short laugh. “So you think we’re safe here?”

“As safe as we can get.”

“What are you having?” the ADA asked, motioning towards the menu Phoebe had been browsing. She regarded the other woman fondly as the artist threw herself into an elaborate description as to what was on the menu. Phoebe wore her hair up, the thick braid folded and nestled tight onto the back of her head. The strict hairdo drew attention to the woman’s classic, elegant features. Phoebe’s face had a softer, more impish impression than her sister’s. Where the CEO of Stellar Corporation possessed a commanding presence that was clearly reflected in her eyes and posture, the younger Janeway sister seemed more easy, more energetic in an intense sort of way.

“You are studying me,” Phoebe suddenly said. “What are you thinking, Adriana?”

The ADA blushed faintly. “Oh, just how beautiful you are.”

Phoebe’s smiled turned decisively tender and she put a reassuring hand over the dark haired woman’s. “I think it’s you who is beautiful. You look absolutely breathtaking tonight.”

Adriana knew that the cobalt blue suite with the skirt ending just above the knee was becoming, but Phoebe’s unabashed admiration still sent tingles down her spine.

“Thank you.”

The waiter returned with Adriana’s wine. Since Phoebe had already decided on what she was going to order, Adriana decided to go along with that and order the same.

“We will start with the carpaccio, since you do that so well,” Phoebe complimented and kept going. “Then we’ll have angel hair pasta with shrimp, mushrooms and peppers. We’ll decide on dessert later, I think.”

“Very good, ma’am. Thank you.”

The waiter walked off with the menus, leaving the two women looking at each other across their respective beverages.

Phoebe raised her glass. “Here’s to ... looking at you.”

Adriana melted. Something inside her, a long ago tied knot loosened up and disappeared at the sight of the artist smiling at her. “To us.”

Phoebe took a sip of her white wine and then cocked her head.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with your hair like that,” she mused. “I didn’t realise it was so long.”

Adriana wore her hair down, only held back with two large combs.

“I need to cut it, I guess,” she shrugged.

“No, I don’t mean that. It’s like a black satin sheet, flowing down your back.”

Nobody had ever described Adriana’s jet-black hair that way.

“Do you ever wear your hair down?”

“Not often, it’s too unruly and the only reason I keep it this long is that if I cut it, it becomes even curlier.”

Adriana had nourished secret dreams of wrapping the other woman’s long, curly hair around herself and then ...

Chastising herself, the ADA fiddled with the wineglass, suddenly at a loss for words.

The table was elegantly fitted with a long, white table cloth and three light blue candles. A small flower arrangement sat in the middle and the discreet scent made Adriana think of a rose garden.

The dark haired woman felt a small movement of the table cloth against her knee and was about to glance down when she felt a small, determined hand on her nylon stocking clad knee. Hastily swallowing her sip of red wine, she looked at Phoebe with widening eyes.

“Phoebe?”

“Shhh ...”

The hand, soft and barely touching her, moved in little circles around her knee. Adriana shivered and wet her dry lips. To her amazement she saw Phoebe nudge her napkin off the table and onto the floor.

“Oops,” the artist said and leaned down, picking up the napkin. On her way up, she let her fingers trail the back of Adriana’s leg, from her heel to the crease of the back of her knee. Sitting up again, Phoebe leaned forward on her elbow on the table, her fingertips still caressing the other woman’s knee.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Adriana tried to sound stern, but failed miserably. She was tingling all over and could not take her eyes off Phoebe. The other woman was sitting so close to her, the ADA could see the change of her eye colour in the candle light. Turning from blue-grey, they were now only bright blue.

“What do I do to you?” Phoebe whispered.

“You know very well ... You make me want to take you home and ...” Adriana’s voice was hardly audible.

“And do what?”

“Oh, I would take you home with me, hold you close and never let you go.”

Phoebe leaned closer, gently massaging the inside of Adriana’s knee. The ADA hoped that it would only seem to the other patrons as if they were having an intense discussion.

“What would you do to me, if I came home with you?”

Adriana gave a moan that was almost impossible to hear. “What I would do? I would undress you, kiss you all over ... touch you ...”

Phoebe’s lips parted as if they were indeed kissing. The dark haired woman stared at the wine red mouth, dying to kiss it, to part the lips that were so quick to tease, to challenge ... The thought of Phoebe’s lips travelling down her body made her lose her breath.

“God,” she murmured and reached down, putting her hand over Phoebe’s. “If we don’t stop this, I’ll be forced to skip dinner and take action.”

Excruciatingly slow, Phoebe allowed her fingernails to graze against the nylon stocking as she moved her hand away, the soft sound and the tantalising touch setting Adriana’s nerve endings on edge. She missed the warmth of the other woman’s hand, but was relieved that she would have a chance to calm down before the waiter brought them their starters.

As if the young man had read her mind, he showed up at her elbow, presenting them with their carpaccio. Phoebe winked at her, making Adriana smile and then laugh, shaking her head at the both of them.

During their first course, Adriana informed Phoebe of some of the things she needed to know about the trial. Phoebe was of course one of the witnesses for the state and when Adriana told the artist that her mother would need to fly in from Indiana, the artist grinned broadly.

“Yes, mom told me that your staff had phoned her earlier today. She’ll fly in tonight and Seven is picking her up. I think Kathryn must have things to do, people to see, or something; I don’t know.”

Adriana considered this.

“You know, I think your sister has had more than her fair share to deal with this week. To find out that Reymers-Avery not only harassed members of her staff to undermine her company, and also had an accomplice that was in for the money ... I understand that she also had to go through a board meeting where she could have lost everything.”

Phoebe paled.

“I didn’t know. I mean, I know about the meeting and that it has been hard on her, but when you put it like that, I didn’t realise ... “ The artist swallowed hard. “She’s always so strong, so in command, you know? She’s my big sister who has the annoying habit of always being right. She can drive me crazy ... but I know she loves Seven and ... she has changed. I guess that change also means that she’s more vulnerable.”

“You’re like her in so many ways.”

Phoebe’s eyes became round with surprise.

“I am? You’re wrong, Adriana, I’m nothing like my sister – even if I wish I was, sometimes.”

“You may not see it, but you are. You display the same kind of self-confidence, the same aura of authority, just in a different way.”

Phoebe looked like she was going to object again, but then her eyes softened.

“Maybe it is only evident to you,” she offered. “Nobody has ever told me this before. It could be that it’s your ability to look beyond the surface – I mean, being a ADA and all.”

“Could be, but it’s obvious to me.”

“I believe you.” Phoebe gave a crooked smile, not unlike the one her older sister bestowed upon people she genuinely liked.

“I’m glad your mother is able to come at such short notice. The trial date was moved up since another high profile case was delayed.”

Phoebe speared a thin slice of meat. “He is going to be put away, isn’t he?” she asked in a low voice.

Adriana sensed that there was more behind the other woman’s question, but did not prod for any further explanation. “Yes, Phoebe, he is.”

“Thank you.”

They ate in silence for a while and the waiter soon replaced their plates with the main course. Adriana found that her appetite had not diminished; the food was delicious. She glanced up at Phoebe and saw that she devoured her meal in a similar manner.

“I see you hate it,” the ADA teased, wanting to reach the more easygoing mood they had shared just earlier.

Phoebe giggled around her angel hair pasta and nodded. “Absolutely terrible, this.”

Adriana cocked her head. “You, on the other hand, are absolutely wonderful.” The comment passed her lips before she realised what she meant to say.

“I am?” It seemed as if Phoebe was genuinely asking her.

“Yes, darling, you are.”

The soft term of endearment was not planned either, but it felt the right thing to say. The light it ignited in Phoebe’s eyes was all the evidence the ADA needed.

 

*****

 

Janeway looked down on the bed she shared with Seven as she tied the belt to her robe loosely around her waist. Blowing the sleeping form a kiss, she quietly exited the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

For the first time in a while the CEO had slept soundly through the night. Taking a bath after the relaxing day with Seven, and also having a glass of her favourite red wine, she had barely stayed awake to make sure Gretchen and Seven noticed the cold food she had prepared for them when they came home from the airport.

Her mother had embraced her oldest daughter and then ordered her into bed since ‘she could hardly stand up’.

Now Janeway made her way towards the coffee machine in the kitchen. She was not surprised when her mother was already there, making coffee and toast.

“Good morning, mom,” the CEO greeted. “I can hardly remember welcoming you last night.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I was exhausted and not in a mood for a lengthy conversation myself. Seven and Phoebe kept me company over the cheese and crackers you had prepared for us.”

“Phoebe? I don’t remember her coming home either.”

“She came home while you were asleep. I think she was in the shower when you woke up to greet me.”

Gretchen Janeway walked up to Janeway and gave her a hug, only to pull back a bit and held her at an arm’s length.

“I like what I’m seeing,” the elegant woman offered. “You look less stressed and have better colour than I ever would have thought. I think we both know who to thank for that.”

“I guess you’re referring to a certain blonde who uses such calming methods as chasing hardened criminals through exclusive shopping malls,” Janeway deadpanned.

“Yes, Seven told me more details about this infamous chase. We didn’t want to tell you last night, but she was recognised at the airport.”

Janeway felt herself go pale and almost dropped the mug she was pulling down from a shelf.

“What?” She poured herself some coffee before the machine had finished the brewing process. Sitting down at the kitchen table she watched her mother mimic her actions.

“Now, don’t get upset. Nothing bad happened. In fact I think she is becoming a hero of sorts.”

“What are you talking about? What makes you say that?”

“The fact that three people came up individually and asked for her autograph.”

“Oh, God,” Janeway groaned and then had to laugh. “Did she deliver?”

“Of course, she did, but you know Seven; she questioned their motives for wanting one and when they explained that they were impressed with what she had done, she gave them that little smile of hers and signed her name. One young man didn’t have a paper and now he’s the proud owner of Seven’s autograph on his left arm.”

“I can’t believe this,” the auburn haired woman sighed, partly in horror. “Seven is becoming quite the celebrity.”

“She has been quite famous for a while,” Gretchen remarked. “Simply by being engaged to one of this nation’s most famous business tycoons … and in a same gender relationship to boot, has turned her into a public figure. Then when she goes all Nancy Drew on CNN – what can I say? That’s how a star is born.”

“Mother!” Janeway hissed around her coffee. “You have to be joking!”

“I am, to some extent.” Gretchen smiled angelically.

The two women sat in silence for a moment. Janeway knew her mother was only half joking. Looking at the older woman, her heart suddenly swelled with pride to have a woman of such elegance and with such a mischievous sense of humour, for a mother. An idea began to take form.

“I wonder if it’s too early to call Marion and Julia. I seem to remember that Marion, at least, is a morning person.”

“It’s just after nine.”

Janeway rose and walked to her study. Picking up the up the phone she pressed the speed dial and listened to it ring at the other end. After only two signals going through, someone picked up at the other end.

McDunn.

“Marion, it’s Kathryn.”

Is something wrong?” came the quick reply, worry tingeing the other woman’s voice.

“No, no, everything is fine. Listen, mom just flew into town yesterday, for the trial. Would you and Julia like to join us for dinner tonight?”

There was a brief silence.

“You know, we really would love to, but Julia’s father, Jonathon, is here visiting.”

“He is? Was this a surprise visit? Seven hasn’t said anything.”

“Yes, it was a surprise for Julia, but I knew. Jonathon called me earlier in the week and I sensed that this could be a major chance for some understanding and healing for Julia and her father, so I invited him to come and stay with us for the weekend.”

“You are welcome to bring him, Marion. He’d be more than welcome, if he’s come to mend some fences with Julia.”

“Now that you mention it … since you’re mother is here, wouldn’t it be great if Jonathon could watch someone of his generation interact in an open-minded and unprejudiced manner?”

Janeway smiled broadly at the thought of her mother dazzling Julia’s father. She had no misgivings on how such an encounter would turn out.

“I think it sounds perfect,” Janeway offered. “How about if you come around seven tonight, then we can eat half an hour later?”

“Terrific. I know Julia will think so too. I think she’s a bit rattled having her father here. She’s gone through so much with her mother; I guess it’s hard for her to let her guard down. It was just the other day that Julia had to hang up on her mother when she called her about the adventure she had with Seven.”

Janeway sat down on the edge of her large desk.

“Oh, that’s right! That must have hurt a woman who prides herself on being the number one social climber in Michigan.”

There was a sound as if someone was choking.

“Kathryn!” Marion started laughing. “Oh, good morning, Jonathon, I didn’t see you there. Did you sleep well?”

Janeway bit back yet another acerbic comment.

“I’ll let you go for now, Marion. Unless I hear anything else, we’ll expect you at around seven.”

Janeway hung up the phone and rejoined her mother in the kitchen.

“Guess what?” the CEO beamed. “We’re having three guests for dinner, so that will make all in all seven of us … no, maybe eight, if we can persuade Phoebe’s friend Adriana to come. She’s also the ADA trying the case.”

“Phoebe’s friend?” Gretchen blinked.

“She’ll have to tell you, mom.”

Gretchen seemed to take that in stride. Then the older Janeway frowned.

“Eight for dinner? Who’s cooking?”

Janeway walked up to her mother and put an arm around her. Trying her version of an angelic smile, she winked at Gretchen.

“You?”

*****


Seven pushed the door opener next to the elevator, letting three of their guests in. Candles burned in the candelabra’s on the grand piano over by the panoramic window overlooking the city. Kathryn had a fire going in the fireplace, making the living room an appealing sight when you exited the elevator.

The door hissed open and Seven greeted Marion and Julia, kissing them both on the cheek. A tall man waited in the background to be introduced.

“Daddy, this is Annika Hansen,” Julia offered. “Seven, this is my father, Jonathon Williams.”

“Nice to meet you,” Seven replied and offered her hand. The tall, distinguished man was very handsome and the blonde could easily see the resemblance between him and his daughter.

“The pleasure is most certainly mine,” Jonathon Williams insisted. “Thank you for including me in your dinner invitation.”

“It is good to finally meet someone from Julia’s family.” Seven’s voice was calm. “Kathryn and I think very highly of both her and Marion and consider them our closest friends.”

As if that was her cue, Kathryn appeared at Seven’s elbow, extending her hand towards Jonathon, introducing herself.

“Hello, Mr Williams, I’m Kathryn Janeway.”

Julia’s father looked quite impressed at the sight of the CEO of Stellar Corporation. He took her hand and shook it.

“Ms Janeway, please call me Jonathon. I know of your work, of course. As I told Ms Hansen, I’m honoured to be here.”

“Call me Kathryn, please. We’re all family and friends here tonight.”

Seven felt compelled to also let the man into their circle. “You may call me Seven,” she offered.

Doing a subtle double-take, Jonathon repeated, “Seven?”

“That’s her nickname that her father gave her, daddy,” Julia explained. “We all call her Seven.”

“Then I’m very flattered that you allow me to follow suit, Seven.”

Kathryn led them all into the living room where the rest of the dinner guests were sitting on the couch and in the armchairs. She introduced her mother, who just entered from the kitchen, first, and then Phoebe and Adriana.

Seven had studied Phoebe’s facial expression when Kathryn had suggested that her sister call the ADA so their mother could meet her. A strange series of emotions, starting and ending with a broad smile, had travelled across the artist’s features. Adriana had first declined but Seven had overheard Phoebe using a very soft voice saying, “You have to eat, don’t you? Please, come.”

Adriana had arrived half an hour early and withdrawn to the study with Seven, talking over some of her testimony with her. She had also informed the blonde that when it was time to take the stand, Kathryn would go first. When the younger woman had asked why, Adriana had put a reassuring hand over Seven’s.

“I want her to be able to sit behind me, when it’s your turn. I don’t want to lie to you, Seven. It will be harder on you than on anyone else giving testimony, but I also know that you’ll do fine. With Kathryn there to support you, you will not feel alone.”

Kathryn had given her a questioning look when they emerged from the study. Seven had offered a smile, to reassure her fiancée, but the other woman had still walked up to her, wrapping an arm around Seven’s waist, as if by touching her partner the CEO would know for certain that she was all right.

Gretchen quickly made sure everyone had something to drink and then turned to Jonathon Williams with a charming smile, suggesting that he would call her Gretchen. Looking quite dazed at being the only man present, the distinguished looking man raised his glass of white wine and agreed readily.

Seven walked into the kitchen to check on the food. She had gone grocery shopping with Gretchen earlier in the day when Kathryn had taken the opportunity to do some work in her office downstairs. Seven and Gretchen had enjoyed browsing through the multitude of stalls at the indoor market a few blocks down the street. The blonde had then spent the afternoon preparing the meal together with the older woman.

“Can I help you with anything?”

Julia looked a little pale as she entered the kitchen.

“No, it is going to be a little while before it is ready and the dinner table is already set, but thank you.”

“I saw the table, it looks wonderful. Did you do that?”

“Yes, together with Gretchen; she is the artistic one.” Seven studied her friend’s expression, noticing small lines around her eyes, indicating stress. “Are you all right, Julia? You look tense.”

The other woman blushed.

“That obvious, huh?”

“No, not really, but I do know you quite well. Are you not happy that your father is here?”

“On the contrary, I can’t tell you how delighted I am that he has made this effort to mend fences with me. He’s really trying.”

Seven nodded. “He seems a very nice man, but I would guess that it can be difficult for you to trust his intentions after all this time.”

“I think his intentions are honest. What I fear is … that eventually he’ll give in to my mother. She doesn’t share his change of heart.”

“This evening can perhaps set your mind at ease.”

Julia’s forehead furrowed.

“What do you mean?”

“Gretchen will show him a different example than you mother does. Can you imagine anyone not being charmed by her?”

The interior designer shook her head and then a wide smile lit up her face. “You’re right, Seven. Thank you.” She gave the tall blonde a quick hug.

“Is this a private hug party or can anyone join in?”

Phoebe walked into the kitchen, her eyebrows raised and a crooked smile.

“You are most welcome to make this a group hug,” Seven offered.

“I’ll take a rain check, too much mush for me,” Phoebe laughed. “I only came out to get some mineral water for Adriana.” She waved the DA’s emptied glass in front of her.

Seven turned to open the refrigerator. “Here,” she said and handed over a bottle.

They all walked back into the living room, taking their seats in front of the fireplace.

Just as she sat down on one of the large leather footstools, she heard Gretchen say:

“You must be so proud of your daughter, Jonathon, although I understand that you must miss her since love brought her to this city.”

*****


Janeway had to fight to hide a smile as she later ushered her and Seven’s guests to the dining table. Jonathon Williams had found himself the subject of Gretchen’s considerable charm and graciousness, and the CEO was not entirely sure that her mother had not already pegged Julia’s father as being … apprehensive about his daughter’s way of life.

Janeway had to admire how quickly the man had found his equilibrium. He had hardly missed a beat before assuring her mother that he was indeed proud of his daughter’s achievements and that he was here because he did miss her.

Now they were getting ready to enjoy the dinner and Phoebe took her seat on Seven’s right.

“So, Kathryn, mom says you contributed greatly to this meal.”

Janeway raised her eyebrows towards her mother, sitting on her left. “You did? I mean, I did? When did I do that?”

“By promising to stay out of the kitchen, dear.” Her mother winked at Seven who sat, looking absolutely wonderful to her fiancée, dressed in a plum coloured sleeveless linen dress.

Marion and Phoebe started laughing, exchanging knowing glances. Adriana and Julia settled for amused smiles and Jonathon was the only one looking remotely sympathetic at what Janeway regarded as exaggerated.

“Thanks, mom,” she mumbled, rolling her eyes at her mother which did not phase the other woman in the least.

The first course consisted of smoked salmon wrapped around green tipped asparagus served with vinaigrette. The two chefs received unanimous praise as the dinner guests enjoyed the light course. Janeway noticed Seven’s cheeks turning a soft pink as the blonde revelled in the appreciative comments.

“Kathryn, I hear that you snuck down and did some work today,” Phoebe said, spearing an asparagus. “Was that the reason you left the cooking to the ones best suited?”

“In a manner of speaking,” the CEO conceded. “I had to catch up on my emails. Speaking of that, I got caught in something else when I was on the executive floor. Care to explain the boxes outside the formerly vacant office, Marion?” Janeway raised a teasing eyebrow.

Marion had the good taste to smile sheepishly.

“Ah, well, I decided that yesterday was a good day as any to move offices. You have been on my case for quite a while to move from the sales department to the executive floor. I only have to decide on where to hang my art and then … voilá!”

“You didn’t tell me this!” Julia exclaimed. “Oh, sweetheart, I’m so glad you decided to do it.”

Janeway knew the reason Julia became misty eyed over the move but she could see that it was confusing to her father. Jonathon seemed torn between looking at his daughter’s partner in a new light and being concerned for the tears glittering in Julia’s eyes.

“Well, honey, I felt the time was right. It was only because of Jonathon’s visit being much more important that I forgot all about it.”

“Congratulations on your new office, Marion,” the man raised his glass to the sales manager. “I’m impressed.”

“Thank you.”

They all toasted the significant step Marion had taken, but Janeway knew that the personal aspect of the move was greater than what it could mean for Marion professionally. Not long ago, the woman had thought she deserved no further professional opportunities or personal happiness. Now she was becoming her old, feisty self, minus some of the sarcastic nature. Janeway looked forward to working with her employee and spending time with her friend, more than ever.

“Do you remember how you felt once you made your debut on the executive floor?” Gretchen asked her daughter.

“I certainly do. I was in my early thirties, and I had begun to rise in the ranks at Stellar. It went fairly quickly from then on. I replaced Mike Leigh as CEO after he retired. I was thirty-eight then.”

“I’ve followed your career, like so many in my line of work, Kathryn,” Jonathon offered. “Your example is unheard of in the business world and you deserve all the accolades bestowed upon you. Your methods are sometimes unorthodox, but in my opinion, you set a high standard in how to do business that is both ethical and profitable.”

“Well, thank you, Jonathon, but the last week has been quite tumultuous and if I can’t implement the damage control required, you will read quite the opposite of what you just said, in the papers. There are a lot of people out there that are just waiting for me to fail.”

“You will not fail.” Seven’s alto voice was determined.

“Of course, she won’t,” Phoebe agree. “And once Adriana gets through with Avery … Reymers … oh, damn, what’s-his-face … that will remedy some of the scandal of it all.”

Janeway looked at the DA, and she had to admire the dark haired woman for not even blinking. “Reymers will be found guilty. As far as I’m concerned, the scandal will hit his father’s business, more than it will affect Stellar Corporation. Sebastian Reymers is not becoming involved with his son’s defence and he refuses to have anything to do with him.”

“This man is Sebastian Reymer’s son?” Jonathan asked, sounding dumbfounded. “Why would the son of one of America’s richest, most powerful men stoop to kidnapping? Marion and Julia told me some of what has been going on and some I heard for the first time.”

“A very good question,” Janeway allowed. “He was an employee of mine, worked in the sales department in a junior position but also owned a lot of shares.”

“I think if there is anything we don’t know about his motives, we have a good chance of finding out through cross examination,” Adriana suggested. “Reymer’s is still under the impression that his father will fix this for him. He’s in denial.”

They finished the first course in silence. Marion and Julia insisted on clearing the dirty plates while Gretchen and Seven fetched the main course. The grilled tuna with the vegetables was met with the same approval as the salmon.

Janeway looked around the table, pleased to see that everyone was enjoying the food. Her eyes lingered on her sister.

“So, Phoebe, when is the unveiling of your first mural?”

Phoebe swallowed hard and looked suddenly nervous.

“Good lord, Kathryn,” she managed. “Actually, it’s not that far away. I expect to work about a week more and then someone from city hall will decide on the exact day. I’ll get started on the next one, a smaller one at the old city library. They had renovated one of the walls and the old mural was ruined because of some idiot contractor that didn’t know what he was doing, apparently.”

“What is the motif of your mural?” Jonathon asked.

“You will have to come over and give me your opinion,” the artist winked. “I’m always eager to hear how other people interpret it. It’s in the Justice building.”

“I will do that, then,” he replied.

Adriana turned towards Phoebe. “And the mural in the library, will that be a replica of what was there before?”

“God, no! Can you imagine me painting a paddle steamer going up the river? I think not. It will be an original, like the others. The last one will be the largest one, in City Hall.”

Janeway heard Julia’s father inhale deeply and hid a smile as she devoured the meal, feeling utterly relaxed and still very hungry. Jonathon was probably quite overwhelmed at finding out the many various circles his daughter moved in. That, together with Gretchen’s example, would no doubt give the man something to think about.

They ate and talked about several interesting, albeit more neutral subjects. Several times Phoebe’s warped sense of humour or Marion’s and Janeway’s sarcasms would make them laugh out loud, only to be followed by even more laughter at the others’ more subtle remarks.

After the main course, when the table was cleared and the dishes tucked away into the dishwasher, they all settled for just coffee for dessert. Taking their seats in front of the dying fire, Julia was the last to join them. Passing the grand piano, she let her hand slide along the instrument.

“This is such a beautiful old Steinway, Kathryn,” she remarked. “Do you play?”

“No, I don’t, but Seven does. I’m glad someone is finally using it; it’s a family heirloom.”

Marion looked at the blonde with widening eyes. “You play, Seven? Since when?”

“Since I was eight.”

“Why have you never told us?” Marion insisted, still sounding baffled.

“It has never come up in conversation. I am not used to performing.”

“Please, Seven, would you play something for us now? Unless you feel like you are out of practice,” Julia asked.

“I would be happy to and as for out of practice …” The blonde gave her partner a faint smile. “I am sure it will come to me.”

She rose from the leather footstool and walked over to the grand piano. Trying a few chords Seven then began to play the introduction of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from the musical Sunset Boulevard.

Janeway leaned back into her chair, relaxing as she listened to her fiancée play on the old instrument. The melody resonated through the penthouse, the tall ceiling rendering the living room excellent acoustics. Janeway closed her eyes, basking in the warmth of the fire.

Someone began to sing. The words were unfamiliar, but the voice was not. Janeway’s eyes snapped open and the sight of the blonde sitting at the piano, softly singing the lyrics of the song she was playing, utterly stunned the CEO. She had heard Seven play the piano; she had even heard the blonde sing in the shower, or to the car radio – but not like this. To Janeway’s surprise, tears welled up as Seven’s voice wrapped around her heart.

“I don't know why I'm frightened
I know my way around here
The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here...
Yes, a world to rediscover
But I 'm not in any hurry
And I need a moment

The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways
The atmosphere as thrilling here as always
Feel the early morning madness
Feel the magic in the making
Why, everything's as if we never said goodbye … “

The room was silent for several seconds after the last chords had died away. Then everyone rose to their feet, surrounding Seven while applauding enthusiastically.

Comment’s hailed over the stunned blonde. “Goodness, girl, you can sing!” “That was so beautiful, Seven.”

Janeway waited until everyone had quieted and then walked up to her partner. She fought to keep the tears from falling as she leaned down to kiss her. “You never, ever cease to amaze me, darling,” she whispered. “I knew you could play like an angel, and I guess I knew you could carry a tune, but this …”

“I have never done this before,” Seven offered, cupping Janeway’s chin. “I have never felt comfortable enough to try. Tonight, surrounded by our friends and family … I guess I dared.”

“You sure did.” Janeway kissed her partner again.

“Where did you learn to play?” Gretchen interrupted, putting an arm around her oldest daughter, squeezing her reassuringly.

“I am autodidact. There is a piano in the attic at Raven’s Island. I had a lot of time on my hands during my parent’s travels so I decided to teach myself.”

“Now, tell me, Seven, do you take requests?” Phoebe asked, her eyes sparkling.

“Of course,” Seven replied with a smile, her voice calm.

Phoebe leaned down and whispered something in the blonde woman’s ear. “Do you know that one?”

“Certainly. Will you be singing?”

“You bet.” Turning towards the mystified audience, Phoebe gave a broad smile. “Considering the significance of what takes place this upcoming Monday, and what we intend to accomplish, I want to sing this very appropriate song. Hit it, Seven!”

Janeway had to press her hand over her mouth to not start laughing when her fiancée struck very familiar chords and her sister struck an even more familiar pose and began to sing:

The warden threw a party in the county jail.
The prison band was there and they began to wail.
The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing.
You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock …

Only after the two women had taken several bows after their improvised performance, did the rest of them stop applauding and returned to the fireplace. Janeway took Seven by the hand and offered the younger woman her favourite chair, kissing the blonde hair as she sat down on the armrest.

Suddenly, the light conversation was interrupted by Adriana’s cell phone ringing in her pocket. The ADA excused herself for a moment and left the room to talk in private. She returned shortly with a triumphant look on her face.

“I have to leave earlier than I thought,” she explained. “I’m needed down town. Apparently, Cynthia Thorpe has led the police to an address where several arrests have been made. This could be something very good.”

Janeway’s heart skipped a beat as she looked down at Seven, seeing the hopeful expression on her partner’s face.

“This can be the men who attacked Jacob,” the blonde exhaled.

“It is plausible,” Adriana agreed. “Phoebe, will you see me out? I’d like to talk to you before I leave.”

“Of course,” the youngest Janeway replied and rose from the couch. “I can ride the elevator with you.”

Janeway watched Gretchen’s eyes follow the two women as they left after Adriana had taken farewell of the rest of them, a smile playing on her lips.

The CEO directed her attention back to her fiancée. Seven had a dreamy expression on her face.

“You have a wonderful voice … but I guess I knew that already. I will never grow tired of listening to you, whether you talk or sing.”

Seven only gave a slow smile, “I will remind you of that, many, many years from now.”

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 9

Chapter Text

Adriana met them in the marble hallway of the Justice building, close to where Phoebe normally worked. Phoebe automatically glanced at her work area. Large tarpaulins protected the mural when she was not working. The ADA escorted them to the in witness waiting area where a court security officer unlocked the door to a fairly spacious room. Inside were two sofas and several chairs, providing more than enough seating for them all.

Phoebe looked at the dark haired woman, so firmly into her professional role right now, Adriana moved with lithe grace as she exchanged brief words with all her witnesses for the day. After quickly giving Phoebe’s upper arm a squeeze, the ADA walked towards the door. Phoebe listened to her last words of encouragement, but was not seeing this version of Adriana. Her mind was still reeling over what had taken place in the elevator two evenings ago.

 

*****

 

The elevator doors closed behind them as Adriana pushed the button. The dark haired woman put down her briefcase and purse on the small padded bench to the right. She turned and looked at Phoebe with a dark fire in her narrowing eyes.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Phoebe’s mouth was suddenly dry.

“The trial begins on Monday and that means I will have very little free time. I wanted to tell you this so …”

“…so I didn’t think you were deliberately avoiding me. I know better, Adriana,” the artist filled in.

“No, that’s not what I meant. I wanted you to myself for a moment, for purely selfish reasons. After Monday, I won’t have any time to spend with you until the trial is over.”

The other woman’s intense tone of voice, as much as the openhearted confession, surprised Phoebe.

“Oh.”

Adriana examined the controls and then pushed a button, making the elevator stop between floors. Looking over her shoulder at Phoebe, she raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile.

“God, you’re so beautiful. I have dreamed of this.” Adriana moved closer, her hands trapping Phoebe as she put them on the wall on either side of the other woman’s head. Leaning in, she put her mouth to Phoebe’s ear, her breath hot, making the artist tremble. “I have dreamed of this, ever since I saw you the first time.”

Pulling back, Adriana’s hands trembled as she smoothed down errant tresses of wavy, auburn hair that had escaped the strict braid. “Please, allow me?” she breathed.

Not sure what the other woman referred to, Phoebe could only nod, knowing her voice would betray her. She shivered as Adriana reached around her with one hand, pulling the long braid towards her. Eager fingers untangled the ribbon and then combed through the thick hair.

“Oh, god,” Adriana breathed, her voice husky, “it’s gorgeous. I knew it would be.”

Phoebe’s knees weakened and she leaned back against the wall. Adriana let go of the hair, now taking a step closer, framing the other woman’s face with her hands.

“I have to kiss you now, you realise that, don’t you?” she whispered. “I can’t resist.”

“Kiss me, then.”

Adriana leaned in, her lips claiming the other woman’s mouth. Phoebe whimpered and moved her head to a better angle, pulling Adriana closer with strong hands around her waist. The ADA was wearing a silky black dress and it felt cool and smooth to the touch. Slowly Phoebe let her hands slide up Adriana’s back, feeling another pang of desire when she met naked skin at the dress’ neckline. She cupped her hand under the heavy chignon that held Adriana’s jet black hair in place.

“Oh, yes,” Adriana murmured against Phoebe’s lips. She let her tongue trace the other woman’s lower lip over and over.

Phoebe could hardly breathe. Tongue’s danced, explored and tasted, as bodies pressed tighter together.

“This isn’t taking it slow,” she murmured, placing open mouth kisses down Adriana’s neck. “This is … rushing it.”

“Then rush it.”

Adriana pulled at the buttons at Phoebe’s white cotton shirt. Two dislodged and the rest were unbuttoned as the shirt was ripped from the top all the way down. Not wearing a bra, the artist gasped as Adriana’s hands found her breasts. She just held them, the hardening nipples rising to meet her palms.

“Ohhh …” No one had ever caressed Phoebe quite like this. The slender hands began to move in circles on her soft mounds, ending up on the painfully erect nipples.

Phoebe knew that if she did not touch Adriana’s naked skin soon, she would go crazy. Finding the zipper to the other woman’s dress, she pulled it down slowly, all the way to Adriana’s lower back. Feeling the soft, exposed skin under her fingertips, Phoebe snuck her hands further under the fabric. She moved her hands down and could feel the edge of the dark haired woman’s panties.

Adriana moved closer, nudging her stocking clad knee in between Phoebe’s legs. Pressing the artist firmly against the wall, she captured the other woman’s lips again, kissing her deeply. Phoebe parted her lips without hesitation; she could not get enough of the sweet taste of the woman who had backed her up against the elevator wall. Feeling vulnerable and desired all at once, her heart thundered in her chest as if it was about to break free.

“Adriana … oh, God,” Phoebe whimpered. “Please …”

“Tell me what you want,” Adriana commanded. “Tell me, Phoebe …”

“I want you. Your touch …”

“Where?”

“Where? I don’t know … everywhere. I have never felt like this... God, I’m on fire!”

Adriana moved and Phoebe felt the button to her slacks snap open. Nimble fingers unzipped them and pressed inside and down. Cupping the artist on the outside of her cotton panties, Adriana held her hand still, as if gauging Phoebe’s reaction.

“Adriana ...” Phoebe whispered, her eyes widening, only to close as the other woman moved her fingers gently. “Ohhh …”

“You’re wet, querida,” Adriana husked. “Is that for me?”

“Yes, all for you,” Phoebe managed, her voice softening as she repeated the last word. “You.”

The dark haired woman wrapped her free hand around Phoebe’s neck, pulling her closer for another searing kiss as her fingers moved, nudging the damp panties aside. Plunging in between the slick folds, quickly finding the erect nubbin, she began a steady assault. Phoebe held both her hands inside Adriana’s dress, now reaching further, massaging the other woman’s well-rounded buttocks.

Adriana moved her fingers more intensely in between Phoebe’s folds, not penetrating, but pressing harder against the moistness, rubbing the aching ridge of nerves.

“Adriana,” Phoebe breathed between kisses. “You’re going to … make me come.”

“Yes, I am. I want you to come. Now.”

Phoebe heard the urgency in the other woman’s voice and it made her increase the pressure she was applying to Adriana’s bottom as she pulled her closer.

“Ah …” Adriana groaned against Phoebe’s half open mouth. “Yes, that’s it … touch me like that …”

Their tongues met again when the dark haired woman pressed her mouth onto Phoebe’s, her finger’s quickening the pace. Not able to control herself any longer, the artist gave a muted whimper into the kiss, bucking against the insistent hand that pushed her over the edge.

Convulsing, Phoebe came in wave after wave, almost losing cohesion in her knees. “Adriana!”

“That’s it, just like that. Come for me.” Adriana pressed her fingers hard on Phoebe’s twitching sex. “That’s it, Phoebe. I can feel it.”

It took the artist a few minutes to catch her breath. Adriana gently pulled her hand free and zipped up Phoebe’s slacks and buttoned her shirt. Wrapping her arms around the other woman, she rocked her gently, the fire in her dark eyes lessening.

“What about you?” Phoebe managed.

“After the trial is over, when we have all the time in the world … you will be my reward,” the ADA smiled, kissing the tip of Phoebe’s nose. “It will be worth waiting for.”

Phoebe lowered her eyes and then looked up again, a slight frown on her forehead. “I’m not experienced in making love to a woman,” she reminded Adriana.

“I know that,” the other woman replied in a tender voice. “I don’t want anyone else, regardless of their experience. I want you – you are the only one that has made me feel this way in years. As for experience … just think of what you enjoy having done to you. Why wouldn’t that work on me?” She winked at the blushing artist.

Phoebe reluctantly let go of Adriana and they both straightened their clothes. The ADA pressed a button on the control panel to resume their descent.

“It’s a good thing that this is Kathryn’s private elevator. It’s not monitored by the guards in the lobby,” Phoebe teased.

Adriana paled considerably. “Oh, my God, I didn’t even think of that.”

Taking that as a compliment, the artist gave her companion a quick squeeze around the shoulder.

“Don’t worry. The only two monitors are in Kathryn’s office and study. She rarely pays any attention to it and only keeps the tape for twenty-four hours.”

“Tape?” Adriana squeaked.

“I’ll take care of it.” Phoebe smiled.

“You promise?”

“I promise”

 

*****

 

Janeway was called to give the first testimony. A courtroom clerk swore her in and she took her seat in the witness box. Gazing over to where the jury would have been seated, the CEO was still puzzled that Avery had waived the right to be judged by a jury of his peers and instead asked for a bench trial; where the judge delivered the verdict and pronounced sentence.

Glancing at the judge, Janeway recognised the tall woman sitting at the bench. Judge Maryanne Gilmore was old school and renowned for her fair but strict rulings.

The public section of the large courtroom was filled with members of the press and other interested parties. Janeway looked at the empty row of chairs behind Adriana, realising that those chairs were meant for her and the other witnesses for the prosecution. A familiar face sat next to the aisle on the second row; Jonathon Williams. She felt oddly comforted seeing him there and also several of her department managers further towards the back.

The CEO gave a small, lopsided smile as she wondered who the hell was minding the store. Her smile faded as she slowly turned her head and looked at the defendant desk. Next to the defence lawyer, Max Darrell, sat the object of so many worries and nightmares. Richard Eric Avery Reymers was studiously paying attention to a piece of paper in front of him, not even bothering to look when Adriana rose from her chair at the prosecution’s desk.

After going through the standard questions establishing Janeway’s identity, Adriana gave the CEO a reassuring smile.

“Ms Janeway, can you tell us what took place on the day you realised that your fiancée, Ms Hansen, had been abducted?”

Janeway felt all signs of nervousness disappear. Calmly she gave her testimony, telling everything from the moment Seven had tried in vain to reach her via her cell phone to the nerve-wracking rescue in the building owned by Rey’Va. Her voice almost gave out when she spoke about the moment when Seven had almost plunged to her death in the stairwell.

Adriana than guided her through the events that lead up to the charges of fraud, embezzlement and extortion.

“Thank you, Ms Janeway,” Adriana smiled. “No further questions.” She glanced at the defence lawyer. “Your witness.”

Janeway watched calmly as Max Darrell rose from his chair. She wondered what kind of defence the senior partner of Darrell, Smith & Cornell had put together. She was prepared to answer his questions and she hoped she could maintain her calm.

 

*****

 

Julia sat next to Marion on one of the couches in the waiting room. Her mind was not on the testimony she would be called upon to give sometime during the day, but on the fact that her father had offered to stay for the duration of the trial.

“I think you need me here.” The distinguished man’s voice had been cautious, as if he expected his oldest daughter to reject him. “I can stay at a hotel.”

“Of course not, daddy,” Julia had exclaimed. “I’d be so happy if you stayed and I don’t want you to stay at a hotel. We would love for you to stay with us, isn’t that right, Marion?”

Marion had smiled and nodded. “Yes, it is, and we appreciate your support, Jonathon.”

Julia had seen the look on her father’s face alter between being surprised, impressed and genuinely intrigued during the dinner at the Stellar Building penthouse. When they had gone to bed later that night, Marion had commented on how Gretchen had ‘charmed the socks off her father’ and Julia had agreed. The older woman had, by simply being herself, shown Julia’s father a different example than what he was used to. Julia could not remember seeing her father as relaxed and open as he had been around the women last Saturday.

“What’s going through your mind?” Julia was startled as Marion nudged her partner.

“I’m thinking about my father. The fact that he is here, for us, today … so unexpected, and I guess, quite endearing. He seems like he’s at a crossroads of sorts.”

“That’s the impression I got too,” Marion agreed. “When he called me at the office last week, he sounded like he had done some serious soul searching. That was the only reason that made me trust him enough to invite him to our home. From what I’ve observed this weekend; he seems honest about his intentions of reconnecting and mending fences with you.”

“I know, and I think so too. It’s just …”

Marion put an arm around the other woman’s shoulders.

“It’s just that you wonder how he’ll react when he goes back home and has to deal with your mother again.”

“Yes. I so want him to continue down this path, but I also know how she can be. He used to share her views and that wasn’t so long ago.”

“I find it reassuring that his change has been slow, which I think is to be preferred than if he thought he could alter his way of thinking from one day to the next.”

Julia knew Marion had a point.

“I guess we’ll only know with time what his long term stand will be.”

“Yes.” Marion gave her shoulders a squeeze. “Are you nervous about testifying?”

“No, not really. It’s pretty straight forward. Are you?”

Marion frowned.

“In a way. It will be hard to relive all those emotions. I have just started to deal with the guilt and I’m afraid that it will all return. I just don’t want to fall back into that trap of … alienating you again.”

“You won’t. I won’t let you.” Julia took Marion’s hand. “We’ve come far in the last few weeks.”

“All right, I believe you,” Marion whispered with a catch in her voice. “I wish I was as calm as you about testifying.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.”

 

*****

 

After she was excused from the witness box, there was a ten minute break. Janeway had walked up to her staff members that were present and exchanged some polite words, hoping this would distract her from the fact that Seven was about to take the stand. After walking back down the aisle and taking her seat behind the banister, the CEO looked over her shoulders at Jonathon Williams. Motioning for him to join her, she scooted over to the next seat, letting him take the one closest to the aisle.

“You did very well,” Jonathon murmured. “Reymers’ lawyer did his best but he couldn’t very well argue the facts.”

“I’m glad you think so. I felt confident up there but now … “ Janeway swallowed hard. “Now I’m nervous.”

“The prosecution calls Annika Hansen,” they heard Adriana say.

After a moment, the doors opened and Seven came in. Passing the first row, she gave Janeway a faint smile. The CEO looked at her fiancée, thinking that Seven could not have chosen a more becoming outfit. The blonde wore a suit consisting of a turquoise linen jacket and skirt. She had put her long, blonde hair up in a French twist, and had applied discreet make up.

The court clerk swore Seven in and just like with Janeway, Adriana started by letting Seven state her name and occupation before asking the young woman about her ordeals during the kidnapping.

Janeway listened to the soft alto voice speak as Seven relived how the men had attacked her.

“I was standing in the doorway to the bridge of Jacob Henderson’s fishing boat, looking for him, when I sensed something was not right. I then saw Jacob’s feet sticking out behind the wheel and I first thought he had had an accident.” The blonde broke off and cleared her throat. “I had to revise that conclusion when I felt an arm around my waist, tugging at me and another hand pressing an odorous piece of cloth onto my nose and mouth.”

“Did you have time to react?”

“I had already begun to dial Ms Janeway, to ask how long she was going to be, and I vaguely remember dropping my phone as I struggled to free myself. I tried to … to hold my breath, but I was very afraid, and I had to breathe. All I could think of was …”

Adriana waited but then prodded gently.

“What were you thinking, Ms Hansen?”

Seven looked straight at Janeway, her voice barely audible. “I could only think of two things. I thought this person had either seriously hurt or killed Jacob, perhaps to get to me, and also … I wondered if I was ever going to see … my family, again and then I blacked out.”

Janeway inhaled deeply. The pain was evident in Seven’s voice. The CEO was taken back in time, to when she refused to let the fear of never seeing Seven again overwhelm her, keeping the horror at bay by throwing herself into the investigation. When she had thought of Seven being under Avery’s control, Janeway had still only seen it from her own point of view – her fear had been of her losing Seven. Now the younger woman’s fears and emotion rushed over Janeway, coming at her from the witness box in waves. This was Seven’s story, Seven’s trauma, and Janeway could not shy away from it any longer.

“What is the next thing you remember?” Adriana continued.

“I regained consciousness on the floor of a moving vehicle. I was blindfolded and there were at least three men in the car with me. Two were sitting on the seat above me and one was doing the driving. When they realised I was awake, one of them kicked me in the ribs in an attempt to intimidate me. I was very afraid of what they had done to Jacob since they showed no remorse for their brutality.”

Janeway flinched listening to Seven talk about the cruel actions. They had talked about Seven’s experience but to hear it like this, in great detail and without the possibility to embrace her partner, was pure torture and there was nothing the CEO could do to stop it.

“When did you realise who was the instigator behind your abduction?”

“I was taken to a room where I encountered the man we knew as Eric Avery. He was triumphant and certain of his success. He forced me to read a message stating his demands for my release in front of a video camera. He made it obvious that he intended to send it to Ms Janeway.”

Adriana allowed Seven to tell her story in her own time, gently prodding when she hesitated. When the ADA asked the blonde about the dramatic turn of events that led to her rescue, Seven seemed to be at a loss for words, her hands opening and closing on her lap.

“Ms Hansen? Annika?” Adriana took a couple of steps to the left. “Your Honour, permission to approach the witness.”

Judge Gilmore nodded. “Go ahead.”

The ADA walked up to the witness box. “Annika, I know this is hard. Please tell the court, in your own words, what happened once Kathryn Janeway, her sister Phoebe, Marion McDunn and Julia Williams had arrived.” Adriana motioned towards the public section of the court.

Seven’s eyes followed the motion of the DA’s hand, her eyes locking on Janeway. Shocked to see the unexpected darkening of fear in her partner’s eyes, Janeway tried to make her own eyes convey the love and trust she felt for Seven. Somehow it seemed to reach the younger woman because she nodded and swallowed hard before continuing.

“I was balancing on the inside of the railing to the stairs, and had lost my grip of it. If Ms Janeway had not caught me, I would have fallen … and since we were on the tenth or eleventh floor, I think, I would not have survived such a fall.” Seven quieted for a moment. “I was rescued because of the resourcefulness of Ms Janeway and our friends. If they had not happened to see the sign I had painted on the window, I might still be in Avery’s hands … or dead.” She gave the defendant a dark look.

“You have identified the man who held you captive, the man you knew as Eric Avery, to be the defendant, Richard Reymers. Mr Reymers claims he’s innocent. There is no doubt in your mind that this person is one and the same?”

“None. It is him.”

Adriana walked back to her seat, nodding to Max Darrell. “Your witness.”

Janeway saw the colour returning to Seven’s cheeks. As Darrell rose from his chair, the blonde had regained her composure and was looking at the defence lawyer with self confidence.

The CEO glanced over at Avery and was amazed to see the man not even looking at Seven. Instead he seemed amazingly calm, writing, or perhaps just doodling, on the legal pad in front of him. Janeway wondered what could be going on in his mind; did he not understand that he was about to be locked away for good? It concerned her that he looked so calm.

 

*****

 

Seven rose on somewhat unsteady legs and left the witness box. She had easily answered Max Darrell’s questions, not rattled in the least when the defence lawyer had questioned her perception of Avery’s motives for his action. Darrell had tried to make her contradict herself but the blonde had not fallen into any such trap and she thought it must be obvious to the judge that she was simply telling the truth from her perspective.

Adriana gave her an approving smile as she passed her on her way to sit by Kathryn’s side in the public are of the court room. The ADA had not had to redirect and ask any follow up questions, which meant that Adriana did not think that Darrell had asked anything damaging to the prosecution’s case.

As Seven sat down next to Kathryn, the CEO reached out and took her hand.

“You’re cold as ice,” the auburn haired woman whispered. “Are you all right, darling? You did great up there.”

“I am fine. I am just glad it is over,” Seven murmured. “It seemed to go on forever.”

“Yes, I know, but your testimony is the most important one.” Kathryn squeezed Seven’s hand, letting her thumb rub caress it. “I’m so proud of you.”

Seven wanted to wrap her arms around the other woman and hold on tight. She had tried to stay in control while Adriana, and then Darrell, had overwhelmed her with questions, details and yet more details, but it had taken a greater toll on her than she had imagined it would. Now she felt drained and very grateful that it was over.

Seven glanced to her left, looking at Avery who seemed quite oblivious of his dire circumstances; sitting next to his lawyer with a small smirk on his face. She had stopped hating him, now there was only a strange, cold indifference left. Once she had given her testimony and walked off the witness box, her part was over. Now it lay in the hands of the judge. Seven looked up at the striking woman presiding, feeling confident that Judge Gilmore would make sure that Avery never could hurt anyone ever again.

“The court is adjourned until 1PM,” Judge Gilmore decided as she raised the gavel and let it fall with a resounding bang. “Be prepared to call your next witness then, Ms de Leon.”

“Yes, Your Honour.”

 

*****

 

Marion was not pleased that she would have to wait until after lunch to testify, but had suspected that this would happen. She simply wanted to get it over with. As she walked with the others to the lunch restaurant located just behind the Justice building, she knew it was futile trying to eat.

The press had tried to follow them but Adriana had made sure that the court security guards had kept the large media posse at bay while the women and Julia’s father slipped out the back door.

Now as they were seated in the back of the restaurant, nobody was talking except to order from the menu.

“Just coffee, please,” Marion murmured when the waiter turned to take her order. She saw Julia give her a worried glance and managed to smile. “I’m just not hungry.”

Janeway and Seven sat close together at the far end of the table and the sales manager looked at the relieved expression on Seven’s face, hoping that she would feel as reassured when she was done in the witness box. Janeway was unusually quiet and kept a protective arm discreetly around Seven’s waist. Marion wondered if there had been anything new revealed in the blonde’s testimony that had unnerved her boss.

Phoebe sat to Marion’s left, but Adriana had opted not to join them; she had to go back to the office to go over some last minute statements.

Marion felt Phoebe nudge her.

“Isn’t it amazing that they caught the three guys that were at large while we had the dinner at Kathryn’s?” The artist seemed to be able to read Marion’s thoughts. “Adriana told me that the police had no problem picking them up, once they knew where they were.”

“I hope they are talking and that it’s the reason Adriana had to go back to the office,” Marion agreed. “If that’s the case, it ought to be the last nail in Avery’s coffin.”

“Yup, I have feeling it is. He’s going down, mark may words.” Phoebe said with malicious pleasure, looking utterly unrepentant.

Marion had to smile. She was becoming increasingly fond of Janeway’s younger sister and could relate to the other woman’s sarcastic sense of humour. Phoebe was more of a free spirit than she was herself, but there were enough similarities between them, perhaps the tendency to speak before thinking was the most obvious one, for Marion to feel that the artist was a kindred spirit of sorts.

“I’ll hold you to that,” Marion smirked and sipped her coffee.

Gretchen ordered a salad and then turned to Seven, who was sitting next to her.

“Are you all right, my dear?” she asked. “You look a little pale.”

“I am fine, thank you, Gretchen,” the blonde replied. “I do admit that I am relieved that I have completed my testimony. It was more difficult than I thought it would be, to take the stand and do so in front of Avery. I was grateful to have Kathryn present; it was clever of Adriana to think of that.”

Marion realised that she would not have Julia present when she testified and as much as she would have liked to have her partner there for support, she was relieved that she would not be cross examined about her more questionable behaviour in front of her. Julia knew everything, but the thought of repeating it all over again was not appealing.

“Who’s next?” Gretchen asked, looking around the table.

“I am,” Marion offered. “I’ll be happy when it’s over too.”

“I imagine so,” Gretchen allowed. “This is an ordeal we all have to go through to ensure that he won’t do this to anyone else, ever again. I only have a very small part in it and I still feel apprehensive.”

Marion exhaled and tried to relax, knowing that she was among friends both before and after giving her testimony. She felt a hand on her knee under the table and quickly glanced at Julia who was sitting next to her.

“There is nothing that will come out during the trial that will change anything between us or our relationship with our friends.”

“You’re forgetting your father.” Marion made a face. “He’s not going to be all that impressed.” The truth was that she feared that when Jonathon learned everything about her past, he would assume a less benevolent attitude towards her, and perhaps even his daughter.

“Have faith.” Julia gave her a brief smile, but Marion thought she could detect a glimpse of uncertainty in the younger woman’s eyes.

Sipping her coffee, Marion glanced around the table, trying to draw strength from looking at the familiar faces. She was going to need it.

 

*****

 

Phoebe watched Marion leave the waiting area when the bailiff called out her name. The youngest Janeway looked around the room that she now shared with her mother, Julia and Martha, who had joined them when they had returned after lunch.

“’And then there were four’,” the artist said, making Julia smile. “I hope she will be all right,” she continued on a more serious note. “She was awfully pale.”

“This is hard on her as well,” Julia sighed. “She carries so much guilt and has just started to come to terms with it. I don’t think Marion realises that even if the trial is an ordeal; it will be easier for her to deal with things once this is over. When we all can look back at this and see that justice was done … then we can put it behind us and continue with our lives.”

“Honestly, Julia, I understand what you mean about coming clean with whatever … but she looked like she was going to throw up any second,” Phoebe insisted.

“Phoebe,” Gretchen frowned.

“She’s worried that ‘coming clean’ and talking about her past when she teamed up with Avery will affect my father’s opinion or her, or us, in a negative way,” Julia murmured. “He’s staying to support us and I think Marion only realised today what that entails.”

Gretchen moved to sit next to Julia on the couch.

“Julia, don’t worry. Of course, I can’t judge how your father might react, but I know he’s trying. He came of his own volition, set on having an open mind and just the fact that he decided to stay through the trial means he’s a man of his word and more.”

“What if he slips back into his old judgmental way?” Julia whispered. “I don’t want Marion to experience more guilt and hurt. She’s hard on herself as it is.”

“There can’t be any guarantee for that, whether he is put off by Marion’s testimony or not, Julia dearest. He is of my generation, quite conservative as I understand it, but have faith in that he does love you and from what I can see, he is so set on not disappointing you. He loves you.”

Gretchen put her arm around the younger woman, pulling her close. Julia gave in and leaned her head against the motherly shoulder Gretchen was offering.

“Thank you,” Julia murmured, amazed at how good it felt. She could not remember the last time her own mother had embraced her. “I want to believe that you’re right.”

 

*****

 

Marion avoided Jonathon’s eyes when she sat down on the other side of Seven. She had given her testimony and she had been impressed with Adriana’s thorough questions. It was after Max Darrell took over that it became harder. Avery’s lawyer had gone deeper into the working relationship she had shared with Avery before he was fired. The defence lawyer had tried to make it sound as if Marion had betrayed him, letting him take the blame for something she had instigated and planned.

Marion had been brutally honest in her replies, not shying away from her own responsibilities but also clear where Avery was to blame. Adriana had looked fairly pleased when the sales manager stepped down from the witness box.

Only once had Marion dared glance at Julia’s father. He had looked like he was deeply focused on what she had to say but his eyes had been emotionless, or at least she thought so.

“Are you all right?” Seven now whispered. “You did very well, Marion.”

“Thank you. I’m fine.”

It was not true. The turbulent feelings rampaging inside threatened to overwhelm her. She wanted to leave and go back to Julia but realised that her partner was on her way to take the stand. She could not wait for the day to be over so they could all leave. It would be easier to face Jonathon’s eventual questions at home.

Marion watched Julia take the stand a moment later, be sworn in and then the questions began. Her partner gave a calm and collected impression where she sat dressed in a light grey trouser suit over an off white blouse.

Julia began to tell her side of what they all had gone through during the spring. Adriana guided her gently with a few questions here and there, but when they reached the part where Julia was the one who first made the connection between Rey’Va Inc, Avery and Stellar Corporation, there was a sudden noise.

Marion flinched when a chair was knocked over further to the left. A familiar voice was heard, angry and full of accusation.

“That is a damn lie! How can she sit there and tell these lies? She’s not even in the company!”

Judge Gilmore used her gavel repeatedly. “Control your client, Mr Darrell.”

Max Darrell tugged at Avery’s coat. “Sit down, Richard. Let me handle it.”

“You’re not doing anything? How can you sit here without objecting to this … this charade?”

“Sit down and let me do my job.”

“Or I will enforce my right to do mine, by ordering the bailiff to remove you from this courtroom, Mr Reymers!” the judge emphasised, making Avery sit down without even raising her voice. “Please, proceed, Ms de Leon.”

Adriana did a brief recap of Julia’s answer to her last question before continuing to the next.

“So how did you establish a connection between Rey’Va Inc, a company owned by Richard Reymers, and the man you all knew as Eric Avery?”

“When I had found some information that had been overlooked regarding the building that Rey’Va Inc had purchased just recently. It is located near the Stellar Building. When I pointed this out, Ms Janeway, made the connection. Rey’Va is an anagram for ‘Avery’. That’s when it all began to make sense. It gave us something to work with, in order to try and find Seven. We kept in constant contact with the police. They knew everything we knew.”

Marion listened to Julia finish her side of the story and after Max Darrell had asked only a few clarifying questions, she was excused. The sales manager watched her partner give Jonathon a careful glance and then smile shyly. Marion sighed. That could mean just about anything.

 

*****

 

Gretchen’s and Phoebe’s testimonies had gone quickly. Even Janeway had smiled when her sister had described in colourful language and large gestures how she had thought of the idea to present herself and the other three women as call girls to gain entrance to the building where Seven was held captive.

The matter had become more serious when the youngest Janeway sister had retold the part of the actual rescue. Having heard it from four other angles, the CEO hoped that it was enough for the judge to make her ruling on the kidnapping charges, which were the most important ones.

After Max Darrell had informed the court that he had no further questions, Adriana presented a new document.

“I have three new witnesses that the police apprehended two days ago,” the ADA said. “These three men have volunteered vital information that further incriminates Richard Reymers and ties him to this case. We only knew that they had chosen to cooperate a few hours ago.”

She leaned over and handed Max Darrell a paper. “I’m sure your client will see the significance of these names and what their testimonies will mean for him.”

Darrell glanced at the document. To Janeway, it looked like the man was becoming increasingly exasperated but realised that it must be her imagination; the man was far too experienced in his profession to be that obvious.

“Thank you,” he merely said to Adriana and put the paper into his briefcase.

“If that’s it for today, this court will adjourn tomorrow morning. The prosecution will then continue calling their list of witnesses. Good afternoon.” The gavel hit the block as Maryanne Gilmore rose from her chair. Everyone stood and watched the judge leave the courtroom.

“This was the worst part, and I’m so glad it’s over,” Janeway said and turned to Seven. “How about we just go home and send for something from the restaurant. “Anyone want to join us?” She glanced around her friends and family.

“I would love to,” Marion quickly replied. “How about it, Julia?”

“Yes, I think we all could benefit from comparing notes.” She gently put a hand on her father’s arm. “What do you say, daddy?”

Jonathon Williams nodded. “How could I pass up on spending more time in the company of such lovely ladies?”

Janeway watched Marion exhale in what looked like relief and briefly wondered what was going on. She decided that now was not the best time to investigate it, and motioned with her hand for them to leave the courtroom.

*****

 

Marion stepped out into the warm evening breeze on Janeway’s patio. They had ordered dinner from the restaurant in the Stellar Building, but she had had very little appetite.

She walked up to the railing and watched the last of the sun set, soft tendrils of orange laced the darkening sky. Below the city was ever busy, night life beginning even if it was early in the week.

The railing was cool under her hands and the sales manager curled her fingers around it, her stomach still in knots over their day in court.

“Marion?” The male voice behind her made her jump. She turned around, steeling herself and donning a polite smile.

“Jonathon, did you also need a bit of air?”

“Yes, and to talk to you, my dear.” His voice was kind but there was also a certain hesitance about him. “I can see that something is bothering you and I would be blind if I didn’t notice that you’ve been avoiding me for the better part of the day.”

Marion sighed inwardly. Not one to normally shy away from a confrontation, she clenched her teeth for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” she apologised. “I have been upset about my testimony. I had to relive some things that weren’t my finest moments. I didn’t know Julia when I … collaborated with Avery, I mean Reymers, but that is no excuse, I know that.”

Jonathon walked closer, his eyes locked on the dark haired woman. “Marion, surely you don’t think I’m going to reprimand you, or hold you responsible for something that not only took place long before Julia was in your life, but that you also have more than paid the price for?”

Marion opened her mouth to speak but no sound passed her vocal cords.

“Marion, listen to me,” he continued. “They way I’ve behaved towards Julia; I’m hardly in any position to pass judgement on anyone. I don’t pretend to understand the nature of a lesbian relationship, but I know you love my daughter. You have been more loyal to her and made her happier than her mother and I ever have.”

Marion wiped at a treacherous teardrop that threatened to break away from her eyelashes. “I was afraid that my history would cause you to … would make you withdraw from Julia, that I, again, would be the one who inflicts pain on someone who deserves it the least. I did that once to Seven, and this summer, I have been battling those demons at Julia’s expense.”

“And now?”

“You’re not going to abandon her again, are you?”

“No.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that, dad.”

Marion and Jonathon glanced towards the patio door where Julia stood. The younger woman came out on the patio and kissed her father’s cheek in passing. She walked up to Marion and wrapped a slender arm around the sales manager’s waist.

“I think we should head home,” Julia continued. “We have to make an early start tomorrow.”

Marion nodded. Even if they were not required to be present anymore, they were going to join Janeway and Seven to lend support. She looked over at Jonathon who gave her a crooked smile.

Finding that she had taken one big leap towards trusting Julia’s father, Marion returned the smile. “I think we’re entitled to a lazy evening on the couch. How about some pop corn and a video?”

“Oh, that sounds great,” Julia enthused. “What shall we watch?”

Jonathon smirked. “I can go along with just about anything, except … Just not a John Grisham court room drama, okay?”

 

*****

 

Pressing her naked body close to Seven’s back, Janeway basked in the warmth of the other woman, half asleep in her arms. Janeway had one arm under Seven’s neck and the other was stroking along a curvaceous hip.

“Mm, that feels nice,” Seven murmured, her voice drowsy.

“Good. Just relax and go to sleep.”

“Am I squeezing your arm?”

“No, my arm is fine. Shhh … go to sleep” Janeway pulled the covers up over their shoulders. Seven’s soft scent filled her senses, relaxed her. Just as she closed her eyes, the image of a man flickered over her retina.

Snapping her eyes open, Janeway remembered seeing two court officers lead Avery away in handcuffs after the judge had declared the court adjourned. As Avery and the officers had reached the door to the security areas, Avery had pivoted, making the officers grab a firmer hold of his arms. Her former employee had glared at her, his eyes expressing a malicious joy that did not correspond with the facts of his dire situation.

Janeway wondered if she would be able to sleep.

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 10

Chapter Text

Janeway squeezed Seven’s hand as they retook their seats behind the banister at the end of the fourth day. This was the moment they had been waiting for after sitting through four days of testimonies. The CEO inhaled deeply and let the air out slowly, in an attempt to calm her thundering heart.

Adriana had filled three of the four days with people testifying for the prosecution. Max Darrell had then called the witnesses for the defence. Two people from Rey’Va Inc had taken the stand today and also two friends of Avery that Darrell had called as character witnesses. When it had been Adriana’s turn to cross examine, Janeway had watched the ADA literally pulverise their, challenging them from all angles.

The closing arguments had been brief. While Adriana had stated the facts and emphasised the suffering of the parties involved, Darrell had tried to minimize the damage by suggesting that Avery had not intended for things to occur the way they did, that he had not intended to actually hurt anyone.

Janeway briefly closed her eyes while waiting for Judge Gilmore to return after her fifteen minute recess before delivering her verdict. The CEO thought back on the previous day when she had begun to feel certain that Avery would be found guilty.  

*****

Cynthia Thorpe stepped down from the witness box, looking relieved to be out of Avery’s sight. Even if Max Darrell had delivered his best attempt to challenge her testimony, the woman had caused Avery a lot of damage. Now, Adriana de Leon was about to call the next witness, the man who had organised Seven’s kidnapping. 

Janeway shifted in her seat, glancing at the blonde next to her. Seven looked calm on the surface but the CEO realised that it must be hard for her to face the ones responsible for her abduction.

When the muscular and quite overwhelming Cynthia had taken the stand, Janeway had turned her head towards Marion and whispered, “This is the woman Seven and Julia chased?”

Marion had grinned but also given her own partner a look of surprised appreciation.

“Prosecution calls Stephen Harrison.” Adriana’s voice rang out loud and clear.

Janeway regarded the dark haired woman who stood behind the prosecutor’s desk, looking relaxed and confident. The ADA wore a black trouser suit over a crisp white blouse and her hair was tied back in a French braid, revealing white pearls gleaming in her earlobes as she moved. The CEO was impressed with the poise which Adriana had handled the difficult and emotional testimonies the previous day. She had been as compassionate then as she was relentless now.

On the second day of the trial, Jacob Henderson had testified how two men had come onboard his fishing boat, attacking him in order to get to Seven. Next, thepolice officers who were first on the scene in the stairwell, when Marion had held Avery at gunpoint had given their testimonies.

Amy Green had also taken the stand and her testimony had been difficult. Amy had broken down into tears during Max Darrell’s cross examination. The defence lawyer had done his job well, hammering away at Amy until she almost fell apart, questioning her motives for what she had done. He had brought up her alcoholism and the way she had acted in the past, as a way to discredit her. Janeway had clenched her teeth, feeling protective towards her employee who had to suffer through a public humiliation in this manner. She had made a mental not of talking to Marion about the legal secretary later in the day.

Now a bulky man in his early forties took the stand. Janeway was happy that Cynthia Thorpe had taken the DA’s offer of a plea bargain and surrendered information of his and the other two men’s identities and whereabouts. Seven had never seen their faces since she had been blindfolded in the car when the men transported her to Avery’s building. During the rescue in the stairwell, everything had happened so quickly, neither Janeway nor the other women had seen the faces of the men clearly to be able to make a positive identification.

The man identified himself as Stephen Harrison and stated his occupation as a contractor. Janeway huffed inaudibly, pressing her lips together as the man answered the ADA’s questions about what his latest ‘contract’ had entailed.

“A man approached me over the phone. I didn’t know him, but we had mutual friends, I guess you could say.”

“What did this man want?”

“He gave a name that I know well as a reference. He wanted me to deliver Annika Hansen to him as soon as possible. He had contacts in Stellar Corporation that kept him informed of Hansen’s comings and goings.”

Harrison studiously avoided looking in Avery’s direction. The man told the court how he had called two of his associates and carried out his end of the agreement. The callousness with which he told of the assault against Jacob Henderson made Seven gasp and Janeway reached out and patted the other woman’s arm. The older man had put up more of a fight than the two men had expected and Harrison claimed that his partner had panicked and hit the man in the head with the butt of his gun. Harrison continued by describing how the two men had chloroformed Seven and tied her hands and feet. After lowering the unconscious woman into the boat, they had sped out of the marina.

“The police found the boat on a beach not far from the marina. What happened after you reached the shore?”

“We had a van waiting with a driver. We put the woman on the floor in front of the backseat and made sure she couldn’t get up.”

“Describe to the court how you ensured this?”

“We kept our feet on her. She did wake up after a while and I guess she was a bit out of it. We had to subdue her.”

“How did you manage that?”

Harrison seemed at a loss for words for the first time. His voice was barely audible when he spoke again.

“My associate went too far, and against orders. He kicked her in the ribs.”

Janeway squeezed Seven’s hand and closed her eyes. She remembered the large bruise on Seven’s right side and the soreness her fiancée had had to endure for several weeks and a cold fury filled her. Mimicking Janeway’s gesture earlier, the blonde gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. It calmed the CEO to some degree to feel Seven’s hand on hers, but still she wanted to throttle the man in the witness box. She knew he had cut a deal with the prosecution; Harrison and his partners in crime had all agreed to testify against Avery in exchange for a reduced sentence. However, they would still serve several years in prison and so would Cynthia.

Harrison continued to describe how Avery had let them into the apartment where he intended to hold Seven captive. This was also when they met Cynthia for the first time.

When Adriana handed the witness over to the defence, Max Darrell did his best to poke holes into Harrison’s testimony, challenging the man’s credibility.

Janeway kept her gaze on Judge Gilmore, trying to gauge the woman’s response. The judge sat listening intently and the CEO knew that she was seasoned enough to not let herself be fooled. Even from a layman’s point of view, the evidence was overwhelming.

Looking at Avery where he sat at the defence table, Janeway wondered what was going through his mind. There was something oddly confident about him that did not make sense. Had he not been caught red handed, the way he was, she would have understood that their case against him would have been harder to prove, but the way things were, his attitude was unsettling.

The other two men responsible for kidnapping Seven and delivering her into Avery’s hands gave concurring testimonies. There was little Max Darrell could do to challenge their testimony. He had, however, more to say to Marlon Davis’ when Janeway’s ex-employee from the IT department took the stand. After Adriana had led the man through his statement in how he aided Avery in the computer incursion, the defence lawyer had outdone himself and managed to make Davis contradict himself. Janeway had resisted the urge to groan out loud when she saw where it was going. Davis was probably worried about his own upcoming trial and afraid to incriminate himself further, but trying to withhold information had only made it worse.

When Marlon Davis was excused from the witness stand, Adriana gazed up towards the judge.

“This concludes the prosecution’s list of witnesses, Your Honour.”

“Very well, Ms de Leon,” Judge Gilmore replied. “As it is late in the afternoon, I suggest that we reconvene tomorrow morning, 9.00AM. Be ready to call your first witness by then, Mr Darrell. Court adjourned.”  

*****

After they had retaken their seats at the end of the fourth day in court, Seven watched them escort Avery back into the court room when the fifteen minute recess was almost over. She had opted to remain in her seat together with Kathryn and their friends, mostly to avoid the media circus waiting to pounce on them all at any given moment.  

Avery shot her glance and when their eyes met, he suddenly flashed a broad smile. Seven flinched, making Kathryn turn her head to look questioningly at her.

“Seven?”

“I am all right.”

Kathryn frowned, looking at Avery as he stood next to his lawyer.

“He is not looking very nervous, is he?” she murmured.

Seven had to agree. Instead, Avery seemed … confident?

Judge Gilmore entered, and the bailiff raised his voice, “Silence. All rise, please. The court is now back in session, the Honourable Judge Maryanne Gilmore presiding.”

They all rose as Judge Gilmore re-entered the court room. Judge Gilmore studied the man on trial for a moment before she nodded towards the bailiff.

“Will the defendant please rise,” the bailiff requested.

Avery and Max Darrell rose, facing the bench. 

“Mr Reymers, the prosecution has put together a strong case, with evidence beyond question against you. You have acted in a callous manner and subjected several women to a staggeringly inhumane treatment, culminating in the assault of Jacob Henderson and Annika Hansen’s kidnapping. There is no doubt in my mind that all your actions were carefully orchestrated and meant to cause as much harm as possible upon your victims.” The judge paused briefly. “Richard Eric Avery Reymers, due to the overwhelming evidence delivered by the prosecution against you, I hereby find you guilty of all charges.”

Seven had realised that it would come to this, but for a moment it was as if her heart stopped beating and landed in the pit of her stomach with a muted thud.

Glancing at Avery, Seven frowned. The tall, blonde man stood motionless, perhaps with a slightly less confident smile; in fact there was a barely noticeable furrow between his eyebrows that had not been there before. Seven wondered what was going through his mind. She had never seen him this restrained and in control before. When Kathryn had outsmarted him after he had blackmailed Marion, he had lost his temper completely. What did he know that the rest of them did not?

“Because of the serious nature of several of these charges I am going to take time to review them,” the judge continued. “We will reconvene one week from today, when I will pronounce sentencing. Counsels, please approach the bench.”  

Adriana and Avery’s lawyer walked up to the judge and engaged in a brief discussion. Judge Gilmore nodded and raised her head, focusing on Avery once more.

“Court is adjourned until 9.15AM next Wednesday. I will expect to see all parties present. Good afternoon.”

There was a rustle of people rising from their seats. Members of the press pulled up cellular phones from their pockets and pushed each other to get out of one of the two doors in the back of the room, leading to the hallway.

Max Darrell was standing close to Avery who seemed to be either stunned or totally composed. Avery, being the taller of the two, leaned forward and said something that made his lawyer press his lips to a thin line and then shake his head. This seemed to aggravate his client who attempted to fling his hands in the air, but was immediately restrained by two police officers. They put on handcuffs and began escorting him out of the court room.

Seven looked over to her left where Marion and Julia stood next to Jonathon Williams. The young woman reached over and gave Marion’s hand a quick squeeze. The sales manager was pale, but returned Seven’s glance with a crooked smile.

Adriana came around the banister, extending her hand towards Seven. The younger woman took it between both of hers, and took a step closer. “Is it appropriate to give you a hug?” Seven asked, not wanting to commit a faux pas within the court room.

“Of course it is,” Adriana smiled. “The court is in recess.”

Seven pulled the dark haired woman close in a warm embrace. “Thank you, for everything you have done.”

“You’re welcome, Seven. Gilmore will pronounce sentencing next week and with all the charges put together, he’s not going to be out in a long time, if ever.”

Seven pulled back a little, gazing down into the almost black eyes. They sparkled with an energy that she guessed came from being victorious. Suddenly, she could see what Phoebe saw in the other woman.

She let go and let Kathryn shake Adriana’s hand. “Thank you. You’ve done an outstanding job. You look quite relieved that it’s over.”

“I confess it’s been the major part of my workload for the last few months. With the last minute evidence that you uncovered, I had to work around the clock, but apparently it worked.”

Kathryn cocked her head. “This will be quite a scalp on your belt. It’s a high profile case that has been covered relentlessly by the media.”

Adriana did not deny it. “Yes, it’s been an important case for me on many levels.”

Phoebe walked up to them, her face serious. “Speaking of levels, the press is out there, on this one, ready for us to run a gauntlet that I don’t think any of us feels up to. Can you do your magic and get us out in a more inconspicuous way?”

“Of course,” Adriana nodded. “Follow me. I’ll take you out the back way. There might still be media people out there, but hopefully not anywhere near as many.”

After shaking hands with Max Darrell, the ADA motioned for them to follow her. She took them out through a door to the left of the one Judge Gilmore had used. As they left, Seven turned her head and looked at the now almost empty room.

“What is it, darling?” Kathryn asked. “Something wrong?”

Not sure if she would be able to explain how Avery’s expression had affected her, Seven mentally shrugged away the uneasy feeling in her midsection.

“No, I am sure everything is fine. Let us go home.”

Kathryn waited until they were out of the courtroom and standing in an empty hallway, surrounded by their family and friends. Slipping an arm around Seven’s waist, she hugged her briefly.

“We’ll be back here less than a week from now and then it will all be over.”

“I hope so.”  

*****

Julia looked up at the tall man that she had begun to reconnect with over the past week. Jonathon Williams had just gone through the check-in to his flight back to Michigan. He turned around, looking awkward in an odd sort of way when he walked up to her.  

“I’ll miss you, dad,” she said, barely able to hold her tears back. “I wish you could have stayed longer.” It was the morning after the trial and they had stayed up talking most of yesterday evening.

“I know.” Jonathon pulled into a hug. “I know, dear. I promise I’ll come back soon, if I may. I have some things to discuss with your mother when I get home. Our days have been very important to me, not to mention eye opening. Thank you for having me.”

“Will you be all right? I know mother wasn’t pleased that you extended your visit.”

Jonathon gave a lopsided smile. “As intimidating as you mother strives to be, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

Julia swallowed. “I just don’t want to lose what we’ve begun to …” She bit her lower lip when her voice betrayed her.

Her father took a step back and brushed away the threatening tears from her eyelashes. With a familiar gesture from her childhood, he let his finger trail along her nose and then gently tap her chin.

“I give you my word that we won’t lose anything,” Jonathon vowed. “I didn’t fly here only to go back to how I’ve let it slide for years. You’re my first born.” He paused. “I love you, Julie-girl.”

Hearing the old nickname released the last grip she had of her emotions. Throwing her arms around her father, she sobbed against his shoulder. “I love you too, dad.”

After calming down a little, Julia felt Marion’s hand against her back and a tissue was pressed into the palm of her hand. Wiping her eyes, she gave her partner a grateful look.

“You have to go to your gate, dad,” she husked after a glance at the large clock on the wall behind them. “And we have to go to work.”

“I will call you tomorrow. Take care of each other now.” Jonathon turned to Marion. “Thank you for being so generous. I know it was for Julia’s sake, but I would like to think that we might become friends one day also.”

He extended a hand and to Julia’s surprise, Marion leaned forward as she took it in hers, and kissed the Jonathon on the cheek.

The two women stood still for a moment, watching Julia’s father walk through the security check. He turned twice to wave and smile before disappearing towards his gate.

Walking back to the car in the short term parking lot, Julia hooked her arm under Marion’s, needing the closeness.

“Are you okay, honey?” Marion asked.

“Yes, I am, now. I don’t know what came over me. It’s not like me to cause a scene in public …”

Marion stopped dead in her tracks and gave a resounding laughter, turning the heads of every person close by.

“What’s so funny?” Julia frowned.

“Run that by me one more time,” Marion managed between fits of laughter.

“It’s not like me to … “ Julia’s face fell. “Oh. That.” She smiled sheepishly.

Marion’s continued mirth was most unnerving.  

*****

Janeway closed her email software and logged off the computer. Feeling restless, she rose from the chair and walked over to the window. The city was bathed in golden sunlight, making her squint as it hit windows to the west everywhere, reflecting the light towards her.  

The CEO rubbed her temple, frowning as the headache she had battled all morning after a more or less sleepless night, seemed to escalate. She had already had two mugs of coffee while going through her morning routine; it could hardly be lack of caffeine.

Eager to get out of her office for a moment she pivoted and walked out to Martha.

“I’m going down to the IT department,” she informed her assistant. “I have my phone.”

“I’ll keep an eye on things. You don’t have anything until the lunch meeting at 12.30.”

Janeway shot Martha a brief smile and walked over to her private elevator. Punching in her code she rode it down to the IT floor. The CEO walked through the busy corridors, nodding to her employees as they went about their business.

Janeway wondered if she was imagining optimism she sensed in the air. Was this always the case? Was Stellar always filled with such enthusiasm? Stopping to chat with a couple of the programmers, Janeway thought that she had always tried to make her company into a people friendly work place, but she was not sure if she had really paid attention to the signs in this manner. She walked over to a young blonde, who reminded her a little bit of Seven.

“Ms Janeway, I wasn’t aware that …” The young woman blushed. “I’m Paula Dennison.”

“Nice to meet you, Paula. I don’t believe we’ve ever spoken in person before?”

“No, ma’am,” Paula gushed. “I did attend an introductory meeting where you were present, though..”

“How long have you worked at Stellar?” Janeway hid a smile as she noticed that the other young people working in close proximity to Paula were listening intently.

“A little more than six months, Ms Janeway. I really like it here.”

“I’m delighted to hear this.” Out of the corner of her eye, Janeway saw the manager of the IT department approach them. “I won’t take up more of your time, Paula. It was nice to meet you.”

“Thank you, ma’am. It was my pleasure.”

Pleased with the well mannered programmer’s response, Janeway walked with the IT manager through the corridors as he informed her of how the recently implemented security measures were working out. She could see that it had taken the middle age man hard, that one of his most trusted employees had sold out to Avery.

“Oliver,” she rounded off their impromptu conversation, “the last few weeks has been hell, I know. You still have my confidence and with the help of the firm I hired to clean up the mess after Avery and Davis, your department will recuperate. I’ve seen a lot of happy faces today.”

The IT manager stroked his greying beard. “Now, when everything is out in the open, a lot of people are relieved that they are no longer under suspicion.”

“Yes, it must have been devastating to feel scrutinised.”

“It was. When Lindstrom and his crew’s evidence pointed only to Davis, people were both shocked and relieved. He’s a quiet fellow, not the one you’d think would do such a thing.”

“Apparently, he’s a quiet fellow in serious debt,” Janeway sighed. “I will let you get back to work now.”

They said goodbye and Janeway took the elevator up a few floors, to the legal department. The brief talk with Paula had reminded her that she wanted to check on Amy Green.

If the IT department was buzzing with activity and filled with enthusiasm, the legal department was the exact opposite. Janeway’s greeting was met with polite, but less energetic replies when she walked through the corridors. Approaching the part of the floor that hosted the lawyer’s offices, Janeway stopped outside Amy’s room.

Looking inside, she saw the younger woman huddling over a stack of files, browsing through them.

Tapping her fingertips on the doorframe, Janeway announced her presence.

“Amy? Do you have a moment?”

The legal secretary jumped and pivoted on her chair. “Ms Janeway! Of course …” She rose, motioning for Janeway to take a seat on the opposite side of the desk. “Please.”

“Thank you, but I thought you might be able to treat me to a cup of coffee in the staff cafeteria, perhaps?” Janeway said with a smile.

Amy’s eyes grew wide. Blinking rapidly as if trying to hold back tears, she rounded the desk. “Yes, of course. This way, ma’am, it’s further down the hallway. They have installed a new espresso machine that we’re getting very fond of.”

The two women walked down the long corridor, passing several members of the legal staff who looked quite stunned at the sight of the CEO and Amy together. As they entered the cafeteria, Janeway noticed the department manager and his deputies sitting at a table by the large panoramic window. She nodded toward them but walked with Amy to the counter where the pastries were on display.

“Think we should go for one of those?” Janeway asked in a friendly tone of voice. “I really shouldn’t have something sweet this early in the day, but I think we both deserve it, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, perhaps we do,” Amy managed, sounding a bit dazed as she looked down at the Danishes covered with dark chocolate. “Here, allow me.”

The legal assistant pulled out a tray and two plates with pastries and walked over to the young man in charge of the coffee machines. “Hello, Terence,” she greeted him. “You know Ms Janeway, our CEO?”

Janeway almost felt sorry for the boy. He lost all colour only to have it rush back to his cheeks at record speed. Blushing profusely, Terence still managed to ask what he could do for them.

“I’ll have a double espresso, thank you, Terence,” Janeway decided, hoping that the massive shock of caffeine would take care of her headache.

“I’ll have a café latte, thank you,” Amy said.

“It will be ready ASAP,” Terence assured them and threw himself into his task full of young eagerness. “Please, take a seat and I’ll bring it out to you.”

The two women walked out among the tables and took their seats two tables from where the department manager sat.

“How are you doing, Amy?” Janeway asked as they made themselves comfortable. “Have you begun to get things in perspective yet?”

The other woman studied her Danish for a moment and then shook her head as she met Janeway’s eyes. “Not quite yet, ma’am. I think it’s too early for that.”

The CEO considered this. She was just about to comment on it when several men and women entered the small cafeteria for some morning coffee. When Janeway noticed them all giving Amy furtive looks, she suddenly understood.

“It is not so much you putting things behind you, as your colleagues being able to do so, or not?” she guessed. “Am I right? Have they been giving you a hard time since your testimony?”  

The newspapers had published transcripts of the trial in great detail.  

“It has been hard. I know Ms de Leon tried to keep me off the stand, but I realised that it was important that I’d testify to ensure Avery’s conviction.”

“And now?” Janeway looked around the cafeteria, noticing that nobody met her gaze.

“Everybody knows.” The simple words were heartbreaking.

Thinking quickly, Janeway pulled out her phone. Pressing the speed dial she spoke rapidly to the person at the other end.

“Marion? Are you back at the office? Oh, he did? Good. Now, do you remember what we talked about the other day? I think now is a good a time as any. Why don’t you join me in the legal department’s cafeteria?"  She turned her attention back to Amy.

“You did something incredibly courageous,” she emphasised. “I realise that you must feel naked to the world, having to go through Darrell’s cross examination like that. He was only doing his job, though.”

“I know that,” Amy said, her cheeks colouring. “In fact, he called me later in the evening, to check on me.”

Janeway’s jaw was close to dropping. “He did what?”

“Yes. He told me that he did not regret having to cross examining me the way he did, but he was sorry that it had to be done in the first place.”

“Amazing,” Janeway murmured.

Terence arrived with their coffee and Janeway sipped it with obvious pleasure. She looked over at Amy, thinking that the other woman held a certain fragile beauty. Amy Green was a petite woman, ivory combs held her long, honey blonde hair back, accentuating the triangular face that was sprinkled with light freckles.

“Here you are! Mind if I join you?” a voice interrupted Janeway’s trail of thought. Looking up, she saw Marion standing there.

“Of course not. I called you, remember, so quit trying to be funny and pull up a chair.”

Amy looked stunned when the woman who worked close to Janeway on a regular basis and also were a personal friend of the CEO sat down next to her.

“Hello, Amy, nice seeing you under more casual circumstances,” the sales manager greeted her. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, Ms McDunn,” Amy managed.

“Ah, call me Marion; after all, we’re on a break.”

“Thank you, Marion.”

Janeway regarded her friend fondly. She had done the right thing to call her to join Amy and herself.

“Amy just told me that Darrell called her to make sure she was all right,” the CEO offered. “I thought that was rather interesting.”

“Indeed,” Marion agreed, raising an eyebrow. “He’s probably well aware what kind of scumbag he’s representing.”

“I’m sure of it.”

Amy had begun to relax again. The other two women kept up an easygoing conversation and soon the legal secretary was able to smile and join in.

“So how are things on the executive floor working out for you?” Janeway ribbed Marion. “Getting settled yet?”

“I would settle much faster if Celia hadn’t left a week earlier than planned. Celia was my assistant,” Marion explained to Amy.

“Oh, I can imagine that’s driving you crazy,” Janeway offered, sipping her espresso with delight.

“Yes, I have a lot of work piled up that needs to get done. Celia has conducted interviews but so far there has not been anyone who I …” The sales manager suddenly stopped talking and looked at Amy with narrowing eyes. “Hmmm …”

Janeway smirked and changed the subject.

“So, Amy, what are your immediate plans?”

The legal secretary clasped her hands together. “To be honest, I have been living in a vacuum for quite some time, all the time expecting every day here at Stellar to be my last. I was sure I would be asked to leave any day. Now I know this won’t happen, I guess I will try to find my bearings and learn how to get through the days.”

“What if we asked you to leave the legal department?” Marion asked, making Amy pale considerably. “And move up to the executive floor and work for me?”

Amy seemed to stop breathing as she stared at Marion.

“Is that a serious offer, Ms McDunn?”

“Marion. And yes, of course it is. I know some of the work load you legal secretaries pull and I think you’d be happy on the 79th. It’s still hard work, but it will pay better. Will you think about it?”

Janeway admired how Marion cut to the chase and still made it sound casual.

Amy looked around the cafeteria, as if looking for answers in the faces of her colleagues.

“I think I’m ready for a change,” she decided. “I’m overwhelmed that you would think to promote me after all that’s happened.”

Marion gave a crooked smile.

“Amy, you have gone through hell and in a way so have I. All our secrets are now out there, for anyone to read about, gossip about. I know you and I will have a certain understanding for each other that will make a good basis for a working relationship. I know you have learned that you can always come to us, no matter what. You’ve been loyal to the company and that’s the key word. Loyalty.”

“Now, listen to me, Amy” Janeway emphasised. “I want you to know that my door is always open, and so is Marion’s.”

Amy looked at them with tears welling up in her eyes. “Thank you. I appreciate that. These last few days haven’t been … easy.”

“It will get better,” Janeway assured her. “I promise.”

“I hope so. When do you want me to start?”

Marion’s face brightened. “Can you move up on Monday? I have a ton of work piled up and …”

Janeway tuned out her sales manager’s enthusiastic voice and instead scanned the cafeteria, studying her employees at the legal department. Some people nodded towards her, other’s quickly lowered their gaze. The CEO had hoped that her visit would strengthen Amy and her position among her colleagues. It was also her intention that it would send the message that she would do the same for anyone with similar problems as long as they were loyal to her and the company.

“Then it’s settled!” Marion’s enthusiastic voice broke Janeway of her reverie. She watched the other two women shake hands; Amy looking slightly flustered but with a bright smile on her face.

“I’m glad.” Janeway nodded her approval. “Then welcome to the executive floor. I know several people who will be happy to have you there. Martha will be thrilled, and so will Seven.”

“Then you are sure this is not a mistake, ma’am?” Amy asked, several contradictive feelings flickering over her face.

The CEO reached over and patted the younger woman’s clasped hands.  “I’m certain it’s not.”

*****

Janeway and Marion stepped off the elevator on the executive floor. Still smiling at one of Marion’s more outrageous comments, the CEO jumped when Martha was suddenly at her elbow.

“Kathryn, you have a visitor in the VIP lounge.”

“I thought you said I had nothing until 12.30.” She checked her watch. “It’s not even noon yet.”

“I know, but he just showed up and …”

“Well, I have a bunch of documents to go over before my next meeting so I would suggest that he makes an appointment …”

“Kathryn, it’s Sebastian Reymers.”

Marion had waved and begun to walk down the hall towards her office but now she stopped in her tracks. “Avery’s father?” she croaked.

“Yes.”

“I guess I should go and see what he wants, then,” Janeway decided.

“Want me to join you?” Marion asked.

“No, I’m fine. If I need you, I’ll give you a call.”

Janeway walked to the VIP lounge, two doors down the hall, and stopped briefly to find her bearings before she entered. She turned the door knob and entered the luxurious room.

Sebastian Reymers stood over by the window, stirring a mug of coffee. An exclusive coat lay across a chair and partly covered a briefcase.

“Mr Reymers, I’m Kathryn Janeway.” She walked up to him, extending a hand.

She had seen him before, at different functions in the city, but they had never been formally introduced.

“My pleasure, Ms Janeway,” the tall man now said. “I apologise for showing up unannounced like this. I’m glad you can spare me a moment.”

“Of course.” Janeway motioned for her guest to take a seat, noting that he remained standing until she was sitting down. “Forgive me for being blunt, but why are you here?”

“I like someone who’s direct. I’m here to try to undo some of the damage my son has done to your company.”

Janeway resisted the urge to raise her eyebrows.

“And how are you going to manage that?”

There was a gleam of annoyance in Reymers’ eyes that did not escape her. Had he expected her to fall onto her knees in gratitude for his valiant offer?

“I learned only recently of my son’s fraudulent behaviour towards Stellar Corporation and I want to make sure you don’t suffer financially from it.”

Janeway bit her tongue as she considered his statement.

“I don’t hold you responsible for what your son has done. He worked for me for several years using his mother’s maiden name. I would never have made the connection between him and you if he had not kidnapped Annika Hansen.”

Reymers clenched his teeth, putting down the coffee mug. He leaned back into his chair and Janeway got the feeling that he wanted more distance between them.

“That was an unfortunate act on his part. I hope Ms Hansen is getting over her ordeal.”

Astonished at his way of phrasing it, Janeway could feel her eyes turn a stormy grey, but she was not about to lose control of her temper. “Yes, she is,” she merely replied.

“Well, as of yesterday Rey’Va is under my control. All the company’s assets have been frozen by the state. I have instructed my employees to release any illegally obtained Stellar shares as soon as possible. I have also asked an impartial auditing company to evaluate any deals that have been made.”

Janeway laced her fingers together and regarded the powerful man sitting across the table from her.

“Eric used this company as a diversion to obtain his objectives, Mr Reymers. I know I don’t need to explain why we now are reluctant to do business with Rey’Va Inc. I am pleased to hear that you will make sure we will not be held responsible for what your son did. The strain he has put this company under has been difficult to rectify.”

“I understand that.”

“I hope so. My lawyers are working around the clock to be make sure we’re prepared if there are damages not met when it’s time for the sentencing.”

“A wise course of action. I expect that my son will be incarcerated for a long time.”

Reymers’ voice was completely emotionless and Janeway wondered what strange relationship existed between Avery and his father. Not about to prolong the impromptu meeting by asking, she simply nodded. “I believe so.”

“I have taken up enough of your time already, Ms Janeway. Thank you, again for taking the time to talk to me.” Reymers’ rose and reached for his coat and briefcase.

Janeway followed his example and walked him to the main elevator.

“Will you be in court for the sentencing?” Janeway could not refrain from asking.

“I don’t think so.” Reymers answered evenly. “Good bye, Ms Janeway.” He shook hands with her and stepped into the elevator.

After the door had closed behind him, Janeway started walking back to her office. Marion poked her head out of her office and quickly walked up to her.

“What did he want?”

“Oh, I think this was just one of his stops today,” the CEO mused. “He informed me that Stellar would be reimbursed for any financial damages his son might have caused.”

“He’s in damage control mode, then,” Marion deducted.

“Yes, he’s obviously covering his bases. He is the head of a multinational conglomerate of companies and he moves in circles you and I can only dream about. To think that he would show up here makes you wonder what’s at stake for him.”

“His son is going to spend a long time in prison. That would be hard on anyone.”

Janeway nodded at Martha as they passed her, before entering her office.

“I’m not sure about Reymers.” She sat down behind her desk and leaned back, watching Marion take a seat in one of the visitor’s chairs. “He came across as very cold. I’m not sure why he’s not been to the Justice building. He practically admitted that he’s not going to be there when they sentence Avery either.”

“His own son? Well, who knows what their relationship has been like? Could be the chicken and the egg all over,” Marion stated.

Janeway’s eye widened. “What are you talking about?”

“If Avery’s evil, calculating nature was caused by his father’s cold nature – or if his father’s cold nature was caused by his son’s evil, calculating nature.”

“I see. Well, we will never know. I’m glad this is moving towards its end, though. It’s been hard on all of us, Marion.”

The sales manager leaned over the desk and took Janeway’s hand.

“Amen to that.”

*****

The doorbell rang and Adriana straightened her long, black silk shirt that she wore over faded black jeans. Walking into the hallway, she checked the door viewer, a smile stretching her lips as she saw the familiar form outside.

She fumbled with the lock, sighing in exasperation as she finally managed to unlock the deadbolt. Flinging the door open, she startled the woman outside, making her jump.

“Phoebe, welcome.”

“Goodness, you scared me!” Phoebe huffed, giving Adriana a lopsided grin as she stepped inside. “Oh, nice.” She motioned around the hallway to indicate the overall impression of Adriana’s apartment.

“Glad you approve and sorry that I startled you.” The dark haired woman was oddly out of breath. She took Phoebe’s jacket and hung it next to her own coats just inside the door. “Here, let me give you the grand tour.”

Phoebe surprised her by taking her hand. “Lead the way.”

Adriana took Phoebe through her carefully planned apartment, consisting of two bedrooms, a living room combined with a kitchen and a study. There were one large bathroom with a Jacuzzi and a smaller one with a shower stall. The colours ranged from golden to brown, from azure blue to dark midnight sky.  The ADA looked at Phoebe as the artist moved through the rooms, her hand firmly holding on to Adriana’s.

“I love it. I love the way you’ve decorated it. Very calm and tasteful, which I enjoy since I work with colours all day long.”

“I’m glad.” In fact, Adriana was more than glad. It was surprisingly important to her how Phoebe felt about her home.

“I have a casserole on the stove,” Adriana continued. “I hope you’re hungry.”

Phoebe stopped and turned to face her, the artist raising their joined hands between them. She lifted her other hand and softly caressed Adriana’s cheek. “Oh, you bet I’m hungry.”

The dark haired woman inhaled and held her breath, looking into the sparkling blue-grey eyes before her. Phoebe was wearing clothes similar to her own, blue jeans and a soft, thin suede-like shirt. Adriana’s mouth went dry.

“So, shall we go out to the kitchen and eat?” she managed.

“Yes, I better gather some energy before you claim your reward,” the artist agreed.

Adriana raised her eyebrows. “My reward?”

“Don’t you remember?” Phoebe gave a soft smile. “In the elevator, you said … that after the trial was over, I’d be your reward.”

Adriana had to laugh. Suddenly feeling very happy, mostly because Phoebe felt secure enough to joke about what had taken place in the elevator. They had not had a chance to discuss it, or where to take their mutual attraction until tonight.

Adriana led Phoebe back to the kitchen where she had set the table. Phoebe sat down and Adriana fetched the salad she had prepared from the counter and then put the cast iron pot containing the casserole on the table.

“Careful, it’s hot,” she admonished the other woman.

“Yes, ‘mom’.” Phoebe stuck her tongue out. “It smells wonderful.”

“It’s my abuela’s recipe. There is steak, onions, garlic, green peppers, olives … and then the secret ingredient.” Adriana lowered her voice for effect. “Grape juice.”

Phoebe’s eyebrows went up. “Really? Grape juice?” She eyed her plate as Adriana served her. “Sound’s interesting.”

“It is. Try it.”

Phoebe carefully tried the casserole and apparently it met with her approval because she closed her eyes, tipped her head back and moaned. “Oh, this is wonderful. You’re abuela can be proud. Are you close to your grandmother?”

“Thank you. And yes, I was, she passed away six years ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. She always said she had lived a long, happy and blessed life.”

Adriana could not take her eyes off Phoebe as the artist devoured the food, looking more sensual than she ever had before. Suddenly the other woman looked right at her, making Adriana blush when she was caught red handed ogling her guest.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Phoebe pointed at Adriana’s plate with her fork.

“Yes. No. Not really.” The ADA sighed and then laughed. “I guess I was distracted.”

“Hmmm … weird how that happens,” Phoebe concurred. “Well, now that I’ve finished, I can observe you as you eat.” She smiled broadly.

Squirming in her seat, Adriana raised the fork to her mouth. Chewing and swallowing proved to be almost impossible as the other woman was leaning back into her chair, cocking her head as she studied her hostess closely. Forcing herself to act casual, and also fighting the laughter that bubbled under the surface, Adriana finished her meal in record time.

“There. Would you like some ice cream?” she asked as she put her fork down. “Coffee?”

Phoebe considered this. “I would love some ice cream, but no coffee for me.”

“Ice cream coming up then.”

Together they cleared the table before Adriana pulled out some chocolate ice cream from the freezer, scooping it up into dessert bowls. “Should we move into the living room? I’m dying to put my feet up.”

“Good idea.”

There was a large, comfortable couch in the living room and Phoebe immediately occupied one corner of it. Adriana hesitated for a moment and then sat down next to her guest, instead of choosing the other corner. She put her bowl of ice cream down on the coffee table, to let it become creamier as it thawed some. Phoebe followed her example.

Adriana pulled her left leg up under her and sat facing Phoebe, her elbow on the backrest of the couch. Resting her head in her hand, she carefully raised the other and traced Phoebe’s auburn eyebrow.

“Undo your hair?” Adriana husked. “Please?”

Phoebe did not hesitate; she pulled her braid forward over her shoulder and untied the ribbon holding it in place. With slow movements she untangled it, spreading it over her shoulders. “There. You like it like this?”

“Oh, yes.”

Content just to look, Adriana rested her chin in her hand, basking in the view of the beautiful woman sitting next to her. The soft light from the small lamps in the window cast a special glow over them, reflecting in the red highlights of Phoebe’s hair.

“Would you do the same?” Phoebe whispered. “Undo your hair?”

Adriana gave a slow smile and shifted on the couch, turning her back towards the other woman. “Please, help me.” Her jet black hair was still put up in an intricate French twist with a generous amount of hairpins.

Soft fingers touched the back of her neck and head, feeling around the hairpins. One by one, Phoebe pulled them out, loosening the strict hairdo. Finally the thick tresses fell loose and the artist gently combed through them, smoothing the hair down.

Adriana turned around, facing Phoebe again. Her hair was not as long as the other woman’s, but it reached almost to her breasts. Phoebe reached out and caressed the black tress, tracing down to the soft orb just beneath. Adriana’s breath caught in her throat, making her gasp. The other woman kept looking into her eyes as her fingers carried out their examination, barely touching her.

Adriana’s nipple hardened almost painfully, as if striving for contact with the elusive fingertips. Phoebe circled the puckering surface, and then moved away from it, towards the buttons. Just using one hand, the artist unbuttoned the black shirt all the way down. It fell open, revealing a black satin bra and olive skin.

“Beautiful,” Phoebe murmured, lowering her eyes. “Clasp in the front?”

“In the back,” Adriana breathed. “Sorry.”

“I’m not.”

Phoebe scooted closer, embracing Adriana with her hands under the open shirt. Hugging the other woman close, she reached for the clasp and unhooked it. She let go, and then surprised Adriana by reaching all the way up one of her sleeves, hooking a finger into the shoulder strap of the bra and pulling down her arm. Slipping over the dark haired woman’s hand, she then repeated the procedure; softly sliding her hand up Adriana’s other sleeve, but this time pulling at the shoulder strap, making the bra slide off completely.

“Clever.”

“That’s me, counsellor; clever,” Phoebe agreed with a smile. “I like you in that shirt.” She raised her hand, brushing it over the erect nipple that extended the fabric.

Adriana felt her cheeks turn red; it was so obvious that she was aroused. She was not embarrassed, but definitely self conscious. Would Phoebe like her large dark nipples? She was well aware that the other woman had no experience making love with someone of her own sex. Still, Phoebe was an artist, and as such, she ought to be familiar with the human body, regardless of gender.

“You look nervous,” Phoebe interrupted her thoughts. “What are you thinking?” As she spoke, Phoebe moved closer, letting her hand trace a line from the base of Adriana’s neck to the button of her jeans. The soft touch left a blazing trail in its wake, making her shiver.

“I can’t think at all …”

“You have to tell me if I do something you don’t like.” Phoebe flicked her nails over the erect nipples through the silk.

Adriana moaned as shivers went down her spine. “Oh, I like …” she breathed.

“Lie back,” Phoebe instructed, gently pushing the other woman back against the armrest. “That’s it.”

Adriana felt the silk shirt fall back, revealing her breasts to the artist leaning over her. Phoebe looked down at her and then grabbed a handful of her own hair. Slowly she brushed it over the stiff nipples, caressed them until they ached for a firmer touch. Adriana arched, whimpering as Phoebe’s scent flooded her senses.

“Please …”

As if the artist had read her mind, she leaned down, nuzzling the twin orbs, humming against them. “Mmm … you feel wonderful.” Opening her mouth, she closed her lips around one of the nipples, sucking it into her mouth.

Raising her hands, Adriana held Phoebe’s head close to her chest, wordlessly encouraging her to continue. When sharp teeth grazed the nipple, she twitched and pulled Phoebe closer, making the other woman lay on top of her. “Yes, oh, yes …”

Phoebe turned out to be a greedy lover. Her mouth assaulted the dark haired woman, nibbling, biting and sucking her nipples until they burned with an intensity that left Adriana completely out of breath, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She had spread her legs to accommodate Phoebe and the feeling of the artist’s taut stomach against her through the jeans, added to the fire. Adriana could hardly believe that she was getting close to the precipice merely from the attention Phoebe was paying to her breasts.

Again, acting like a mind reader, the other woman pushed Adriana’s breasts close together, making it possible to lick them simultaneously. A twitching sensation began between Adriana’s legs, and she wrapped them around Phoebe, undulating beneath her.

“Now … Phoebe, now … oh …” She inhaled deeply and whimpered as the sensation spread down her thighs and up her stomach where it was fuelled by the assault on her nipples. Adriana convulsed over and over, unable to speak or breathe. Tendrils of fire swept through her body, causing it to break out in a sweat.

As everything slowed down, so did Phoebe. Placing soft kisses on the tormented skin, the artist, pulled back to look at the now tousled and blushing woman beneath her.

“Are you okay?” she whispered, looking worried. “I … I became caught up in the moment and …”

“Shhh …” Adriana pulled her into a long kiss. She was still feeling the aftershocks. “You made wonderful love to me.”

Phoebe’s eyes lit up. “Not too rough?” She looked down at the nipples. “You’re pretty red … I was afraid that I might’ve hurt you.”

“Just rough enough,” the dark haired woman smiled weakly. “You knew just what I needed, apparently. Trust your instincts, Phoebe.”

The two women shifted so they could lie side by side. Reaching for a wool blanket that had fallen onto the floor, Phoebe tucked them in.

“There is one concern,” Adriana said, looking at her lover between her eyelashes.

“What?” The artist eyes widened.

“If you can make me come this hard just by stimulating my nipples, then will I survive it when you gain access to all of me?”

Phoebe laughed, a low sound that was little more than a purr deep in her throat. “I think it won’t be long until we find out.”

Snuggling closer, Adriana could not remember knowing such peace. Phoebe fit so well in her arms and the free spirited woman was quickly getting under her skin. Adriana refused to let the thoughts of Phoebe going back to Indiana enter her mind. Sooner or later they would have to talk openly about what was going on between them, but not now. She wanted to just enjoy this evening, this night.

Rolling Phoebe beneath her on the couch, she smiled as she began to unbutton her shirt.

“Speaking of access … You’re right, it won’t be long we find out.”

*****

The courtroom was again filled with people interested in the case. Seven shared the first row on the prosecution side behind the banister with Kathryn, Marion, Julia, Gretchen, and Phoebe. Martha and Amy were sitting behind them with several other Stellar managers and employees. The press, of course, took up a lot of the space

The sentencing had been harder than any of them could have imagined.

When the judge read the charges one by one, starting with the kidnapping and moving on from there, it was clear to everyone that Richard Eric Avery Reymers would never again be a free man. The sentences were to be served in consecutive order and the kidnapping charge alone made up for life in prison. The rest of the charges added another thirty-five years to the life sentence.

It was at this point that Avery lost control.

“What the hell is going on?” he yelled, pushing his chair back, slamming it into the banister behind him. “Why the fuck aren’t you doing what my father paid you to do?”

“Control your client, Mr Darrell,” Judge Gilmore growled. “I won’t have this in my courtroom.”

Max Darrell tried to calm Avery down but the outraged man broke free, never taking his eyes off the judge.

“You bitch! He has several judges in his pocket and I know he paid you off! You’ve screwed me over …”

“Remove the defendant!” Judge Gilmore slammed the gavel into her desk repeatedly.

The police officers grabbed Avery, who tried to fight them. Kicking and waiving his arms, he kept cursing the judge as he was wrestled to the floor and put in wrist and ankle bracelets. When the last bracelet was clicked in place, Avery went oddly silent.

Seven held her breath. The police officers carried the now completely lethargic man, who hung listlessly in their hands, out of the courtroom.

Judge Gilmore calmly finished her statement and then declared the court adjourned.

Feeling stunned, Seven hoped that she would never have to walk into a courtroom again, as long as she lived. The four days they had sat through one testimony after another the previous week had stirred the memories of the ordeal they had all gone through. After the guilty verdict, it had eased up and she had slept dreamlessly next to Kathryn, but she suspected that her fiancée had not slept much the last few weeks. She had woken up several times finding the bed empty or Kathryn tossing and turning.

Now they would move on with their lives, and Avery would not.

“Want me to help you out the back door again?”

Adriana leaned over the banister, looking at them.

“No, we might as well face the music,” Kathryn said, making a face. “We have two limousines waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs.”

“Going in style, huh?” Adriana nodded approvingly. “All right. Give me a moment and I’ll join forces with you.”

“Will you come back to Stellar with us?” Seven asked.

“I have things to take care of but I’ll be in touch later today,” the ADA promised before returning to her assistant.

Kathryn turned to Seven.

“You look a little pale, darling. Are you all right.”

“You were right, Kathryn. Avery’s father never did show up and now we know why.”

The CEO nodded. “Yes. Avery had expected his father to lean on the judge somehow. That’s why he chose a bench trial. Maybe he had hoped to be acquitted, and if that didn’t happen, to get off very easily. After meeting his father I don’t know how he could have deluded himself that way – there was no love lost from his father’s side, or if there was, he hid it carefully.”

“It might have been smarter of him to choose a jury trial. If he had managed to get one or two of the jurors to hesitate, it would have meant a hung jury, justifiable doubt.”

Kathryn considered this.

“He said something about his father having several judges in his pocket. This could very well be true. Perhaps Avery was sure he would get one of them?”

Adriana joined them again and the eight women prepared to leave the courtroom.

Outside, the ADA, her assistant and several courtroom guards managed to provide a human wall around the women, keeping the media at bay until they reached the front door. As the women made their way down the stairs, the reporters crowded them, pushing microphones into their faces.

“Ms Janeway! What is your comment regarding Avery’s verdict and sentencing?” a female reporter yelled.

Kathryn stopped as the chauffeur of the first limousine opened the door for them. She let Gretchen and Phoebe step into the car first. Out of the corner of her eye, Seven saw the rest of the women get into the second limousine. The blonde watched her fiancée square her shoulders and saw that in this moment, Kathryn was in every way imaginable the CEO, the tycoon leading Stellar Corporation, and very much in charge of the scene.

“Justice has been served.”

“Can you elaborate? What will you and Ms Hansen do now? Do you still plan to get married?”

Kathryn sent the next reporter a glance that Seven guessed made the man cringe.

“Yes.”

With that, Seven entered the limousine, followed by Kathryn.

The car started rolling and the CEO suddenly seemed exhausted. She sat next to Seven, taking the blonde’s hand in hers.

“Kathryn, it is over,” Seven reminded her. “We can go on with our lives now. There is nothing he can do to hurt us, or the company, anymore.”

“I know. When I heard Gilmore read the list of charges, and the sentences … it didn’t hit me, but now it has. He’s never going to get out. I find it quite overwhelming, darling.”

Seven knew what her partner meant. She could still hear the panic stricken, furious man scream and swear at the judge. His voice echoed in her head and she knew it would be a while before it would fade away.

Gretchen also seemed lost in thought and Seven wondered if the women in the second limousine were as taken aback by the short but intense courtroom drama. Somehow she felt that if anyone had taken it hard, it was Marion. She made a mental note to check on her friend once they reached Stellar.

“I know what I want to do now, Seven,” Kathryn said, startling the blonde by sounding surprisingly intense. “If we pack our bags when we come home and make an early start of it tomorrow morning, we can be on Raven’s Island in the late afternoon.”

*****

Continued in "The Seven Women of Raven's Island" - part 11

Chapter Text

The silence, only interrupted by the sound of waves crashing into rocks and seagulls screaming as they dove towards the ocean, had a soothing effect on Janeway as she walked the narrow path around the island.

There was a refreshing breeze that made the hot day bearable. She was dressed in khaki shorts, a white tee shirt and sneakers and had begun to relax.

They had arrived later than planned the evening before and tumbled into bed, tightly wrapped in each other’s arms. After her first dreamless sleep in weeks, Janeway had woken up to this sunny day, feeling energised and free from all worries.

Seven had been seized by a sudden urge to do some baking and fired up the oven. When Janeway had left her, the blonde had whipped the batter like it was her worst enemy. The CEO hoped that this meant that her fiancée was getting things out of her system for good.

Reaching the place where she had sat crying not long ago, Janeway stopped and looked out over the ocean. She was happy they were here for a whole week. She reached for a small rock and was about to throw it over the cliff when the thought dawned on her.

She liked it here.

Having more or less gone out to Raven’s Island for Seven’s sake over the last two years, she for the first time felt at home. The remoteness had, until now, felt stressful and usually after a few days, she was itching to get back to the city and to Stellar.

Now she was looking at the serene scenery in a different way, as a refuge, a haven where she could recharge the batteries and be unavailable. Maybe her outlook on this had changed when she had almost lost everything.

It was still hard to believe that they were free to continue their lives now, without having to worry about Avery and any action he might take. It had been quite overwhelming to listen to the judge sentence the man to life plus thirty-five years in prison. He would never become a free man again.

Janeway sighed and rose to her feet. Continuing her walk, her mind went to Seven, to the way the younger woman had snuggled up to her last night before they fell asleep. Had there ever been a moment when she had not loved her? The way she felt now, it did not seem possible. Seven was as important to her as the air she breathed. Until the blonde came into her life, her work had meant everything. Now it only meant something because she could share her triumphs and achievements with Seven.

Suddenly unwilling to be away from her partner for a single moment longer, Janeway lengthened her stride as she headed towards the path that led back to the house.

*****

Seven looked up as Kathryn entered the house through the kitchen door. Walking up to the blonde, the older woman wrapped her arms around her from behind.

“What are you making?” she asked throatily.

“Oh, I just felt like baking something that we can have with our coffee later on. It will be a surprise.”

“Mmm … smells wonderful.” Kathryn nudged Seven around in her arms. “So do you.”

Seven dipped her head, capturing the red lips beneath her in a soft kiss. Keeping it soothing, rather than arousing, she enjoyed the closeness and warmth of the smaller woman.

“Did you have a nice walk?”

“Yes, I did. I walked out to the cliffs and back. It’s a beautiful day, but I missed you.”

Seven raised her hand and pushed back an auburn tress of hair that had escaped Kathryn’s ponytail. Looking down on the beloved face, she realised that she had not seen her fiancée this relaxed in a long time.

“How about something cool to drink?” the blonde suggested.

“Good idea, I’m thirsty. Do we have any lemonade?”

“We do.”

Carrying a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses on a tray, they walked out on the small kitchen porch. Soft cushions on a wooden swing made for a comfortable place to spend the morning together. There was a soft breeze coming from the ocean and leaving the hot kitchen made Seven feel refreshed.

She had worked both the batter for the short cake and then the dough for the large loafs of bread with a frenzy that had surprised her. Feeling a little tired, she now leaned back against the cushions, pulling Kathryn into her arms. The auburn haired woman gave a soft sigh and settled into the embrace while sipping her lemonade.

“Such a gorgeous day,” the older woman murmured. “It’s hard to imagine that just yesterday we were right in the midst of things. Out here, it’s like we’re the only two souls on the planet.”

“It used to make you restless,” Seven stated.

Kathryn glanced up at the blonde with a crooked smile.

“I know. I was so used to the fast pace at the office and in the city. I just didn’t know how to let go and relax. I freely admit that Stellar was my life.”

“And now?”

Seven smiled when she felt a soft kiss on her arm as Kathryn turned her head.

“Now I live for us. Stellar is still my pride, I won’t deny that. But you, my darling, are my joy.”

A soft glow warmed Seven’s midsection at the tender words. Pulling Kathryn closer, she kissed the other woman’s soft hair.

“I love you, my Kathryn.”

The swing rocked slowly as they dozed together. Seven listened to the sound of the waves and the seagulls. To be alone out here with Kathryn with nothing to disturb them was pure luxury.

She hoped the week would go by slowly.

*****

The only light came from the open area in the middle of the building. The cells were dark and the unfamiliar sounds were unsettling.

Avery had not realised that his papers would be processed so quickly. He could still feel the reverberation of the massive steel gate slamming shut behind him. Shuddering at the memory of the humiliating body search he had had to go through at his arrival, Avery pulled the blanket closer around him. The bunk above him was empty but the warden had assured him that it would not stay that way for long.

Another prisoner yelled something a few cells down the corridor. The rude remarks, some of the clearly directed towards him, the newest addition to the block, made Avery flinch. He wondered how he would ever get used to this. He had every intention to make an appeal, despite his lawyer’s assurance that as long as there was nothing new to add to the case, this would not happen.

Avery clenched his fists. If he could get an appeal, with a different judge, and perhaps choose a jury trial … his father would have a better opportunity to get him off the hook. The unfamiliar sounds from the other cells and from guards patrolling the corridors hammered at his senses, making him nervous. A nagging doubt lurked in the back of his mind. His father had not visited him once in while he was in custody, in fact, Sebastian Reymers had not responded to any of Max Darrell’s attempts at reaching him.

Curling up on his side, Avery huddled under the blanket. He was not ready to face it yet, but deep down he knew the truth. His father had abandoned him.

******

The library was Sebastian Reymers’ favourite room in the mansion he had called home for more than thirty years. A fire burned in the fireplace and his butler had just poured him a glass of Delamain Cognac. Twirling the content of the glass, he stared into the flames.

The fury that had stewed in him since his only son’s arrest had yet to fade away. He had performed damage control around the clock and he realised that his visit to Stellar Corporation and Kathryn Janeway had gone as well as could be expected. Sebastian Reymers knew that the CEO was both brilliant and shrewd. She had not given him an inch and definitely not been impressed by his power or background.

Clasping the glass of cognac tight, he frowned. As long as his companies and his good name had not been tarnished, everything would be all right. Soon, his son’s crimes would fall into oblivion.

Reymers’ mind shied away from where his son would spend his days and nights from now on. Sipping his cognac, he enjoyed the exclusive taste. He was a busy man. It simply would be pointless to dwell on it anymore.

*****

Janeway stirred, not sure what had woken her up. She moved her hand, searching for Seven and made contact with the other woman’s naked skin. Sliding her hand over the softness, Janeway realised that the blonde was sleeping on her stomach and that her large tee shirt had ridden up, baring her bottom.

Smiling lazily, the auburn haired woman let her hand move up along a silken thigh. She cupped the soft globe, squeezing it gently. Scooting closer, she nuzzled the shoulder closest to her. Seven stirred and turned her head, but did not wake up.

Janeway slid down under the covers, pressing her lips to the soft orb she was caressing. She pushed the tee shirt up some more, placing a trail of kisses up along the blonde’s spine. Seven stirred again and this time she woke up.

“Kathryn?” she murmured. “What …”

“Roll over, darling,” the older woman whispered. “Let me take care of you.”

“Mm,” Seven hummed and complied.

Janeway pushed the tee shirt up further.

“Yeah? You like this?” Janeway whispered, leaning down to kiss the plump nipples.

“Yes ...”

Seven arched into the eager mouth, wrapping one long leg around Janeway.

Janeway set out to devour the other woman, suddenly greedy for everything at once. Kissing her way down Seven’s stomach, she was unprepared for the other woman’s sudden movement when she rolled them over.

“Seven!”

The blonde was on all fours, hovering over Janeway, stroking the hair from her face as she dipped her head and kissed her. Parting the older woman’s lips, she slid her tongue inside, bringing as much passion as love into the kiss.

Janeway moaned helplessly into Seven’s mouth, meeting her tongue and wrapping both arms around her neck.

“So you woke up and wanted me,” Seven murmured against Janeway’s neck. “Was this what you desired?”

“Yes …”

Like Janeway had done just before, Seven lowered her head and let her lips surround the taut nipples beneath her. Bathing them in her mouth, she teased the aching tips mercilessly, making Janeway crazy with lust.

Trusting her lover completely, Janeway raised her arms above her head, looking at Seven’s body in the moonlight. The other woman resembled a beautiful, frail forest being and yet her strength was undisputable as she moved further down.

When Seven reached the apex of Janeway’s thighs, there was not one inch of skin not kissed above it. Gentle hands spread the older woman’s thighs and curious fingers parted the slick folds, revealing the source of the wetness.

“God, Seven …” Janeway managed. “Please …”

The soft sensation of Seven blowing on her drenched sex made Janeway jump. Kisses and nibbles showered along her sensitive inner thighs, adding to the fire burning between her legs.

Suddenly, two fingers entered her, pressing upwards until they found the collection of nerves that made her cry out in the night. Beginning a steady pace, Seven took her, over and over, rocking against her, all the time placing open mouth kisses on her fiancée’s soft stomach.

“Seven, yes, just like … that.”

Janeway’s voice was throatier than usual, she wanted to pull the younger woman closer, but could not bring herself to move her arms. Clutching at the pillow above her, she moaned out loud.

This made Seven add another finger, stretching her more. Janeway pulled her knees up further, spreading herself to accommodate the desired intrusion.

Seven dipped her head and flicked her tongue over the nubbin that were painfully erect between Janeway’s thighs. The orgasm hit her like a blow out of nowhere. Convulsing around the other woman’s fingers, she cried out again.

Seven rode the wave with her, keeping her moving towards yet another eruption before even the first one was over. Impossibly, the blonde added yet another finger, aided by the copious amount of moisture. Janeway was now whimpering, tossing her head back and forth on the pillow, already consumed by the onslaught of yet another climax.

“Oh, god, darling … please, please …”

She felt Seven slow down, but still the fingers were there, moving in a twisting movement, in and out, the relentless tongue making it impossible to come down from the plateau she was on.

“Seven … I can’t believe it,” Janeway breathed. “What are you doing to me?

*****

Seven was shivering, on the brink of orgasm, simply by listening to Kathryn’s husky voice as passion rode the compact body beneath her. The blonde’s heart raced as she gently cleared her throat.

“I am taking care of you ... loving you ... making you mine again.”

She moved, careful not to remove her fingers from her partner, straddling Janeway’s head with her thighs, trembling from arousal.

“I want you too,” Kathryn husked. “I want you so much … Yes, come here, darling … Let me taste you.“

Eager hands moved around her thighs, cupping her bottom and pulling her onto Kathryn’s mouth. Seven felt her lover bury her mouth between her folds, devouring her.

Trying to focus on Kathryn’s pleasure, Seven moved the fingers that were still trapped inside the older woman. To her surprise, her fiancée gave a muted whimper against Sevens’ own nubbin, wriggling her hips.

She repeated the motion and watched how the moisture trickled down Kathryn’s thighs. Nudging the other woman’s legs further apart with her elbows, she pressed her mouth against the overindulged sex.

“Ohhh,” Kathryn moaned out loud against Seven’s nubbin. “Yes, darling, yes …”

As if starving for her lover, the auburn haired woman fastened her mouth tightly over Seven, flicking her tongue mercilessly over the sensitive tissue. The blonde felt her own orgasm rush towards her, flooding her, and she moved her fingers faster, wanting Kathryn to come as well.

She stopped thinking when the fire between her legs exploded for those precious seconds before she started her descent. Her fingers were locked into Kathryn’s third orgasm, buried deeper into her lover than she had intended.

Slowly, Seven removed her fingers, and then mustered the last of her strength to move one of her legs over Kathryn’s head, careful not to catch the auburn hair beneath it.

“I will be right back,” she said, moving off the bed after kissing the other woman’s damp forehead. After a quick trip to the bathroom, she returned with a warm washcloth and a glass of water. “Here, my Kathryn, drink,” she offered and held the glass to Kathryn’s lips. The other woman gulped down the entire content and then lied down again.

“Thanks, I needed that.”

“Which part?” Seven smiled, looking at the dishevelled woman. “The lovemaking or the water?”

“Both.” Kathryn’s voice was barely audible.

Seven raised an eyebrow as she moved between her fiancée’s legs. When Kathryn raised an inquisitive eyebrow, she held up the wash cloth. “You will feel better.” Gently she moved the warm cloth over the other woman’s overindulged sex. “There. Does that not feel nice?”

“Yes, you’re right,” Janeway yawned. “Now, come back here and bring the covers with you.”

Feeling warm still, Seven removed her tee shirt and climbed back into bed, pulling her lover close and making sure they were both covered by the sheet. She pulled Kathryn into her arms, feeling the other woman snuggle up to her, kissing along her jaw line.

“Seven, you amaze me. You seem to always know what I want. Maybe one day I’ll become as intuitive when it comes to you.”

“You are doing well already, Kathryn,” Seven offered. “I feel very loved.”

“And so you should, because I adore you, darling.” Janeway nuzzled the younger woman’s neck. “Mm … I’m so tired now.”

Seven rolled her eyes at the understatement and smiled into the darkness of the room as the other woman snuggled closer. Looking at the frail fragment of a new moon through the window, she lay awake for a while, listening to Kathryn’s even breathing.

*****

The sun shone in through the window, tickling Janeway’s eyelids as she tried to go back to sleep. Moving to get out of the bright light, she moaned when she noticed sore muscles of whose existence she had been unaware until now.

Groaning, she sat up, sending the barely visible blonde head a fond look. Leaning down, she placed a kiss on the tousled blonde hair.

“I’m dying for some coffee,” she informed her partner. “It looks as if it’s going to be a wonderful day. The sun’s out.”

“I will join you shortly,” Seven murmured and turned on her other side.

Janeway rose, absentmindedly scratching under her left breast. She heard what could have been mistaken for a giggle coming from Seven, but when she looked at the blonde, she seemed to have fallen back to sleep. Looking for her robe, she spotted Seven’s discarded tee shirt and pulled it over her head. Enjoying the fact that it still held the younger woman’s scent, she rolled her eyes when she noticed it reaching almost to her knees.

Janeway slowly walked down the stairs, feeling delightfully sore and dazed from the passionate lovemaking the night before. Janeway pictured herself in the tub with a large mug of steaming, black coffee; that ought to ease the stiffness in her muscles.

Gazing fondly at the elaborate coffee machine/espresso maker, she pulled down the jar of her favourite coffee. She pulled at the lid, muttering under her breath as it resisted her efforts. Suddenly it came off, sliding along the counter, ground coffee spilling everywhere.

“Oh, shit.”

As she was looking for something to clean the mess up with, there was an unexpected sound coming from the door. Still upset over the delay of her coffee, Janeway found the dishrag and wrung it out under the faucet before wiping the counter. Then she heard the noise again. Someone was knocking at the kitchen door.

Stunned, Janeway walked over to the door, the dishrag still in her hand, and opened it.

“Good morning, darling,” Gretchen Janeway said in a sing-song voice and stepped past her oldest daughter. “And such a beautiful morning, too!”

“What …”

“Good morning,” Marion echoed and entered, shortly followed by Julia.

“Good, you’re up,” Julia smiled as she passed the astounded CEO. “I was afraid we might be too early.”

Janeway found herself looking from one person to the next, feeling utterly perplexed at their unexpected presence.

“Hi, sis,” Phoebe grinned, patting her older sister appreciatively on the cheek as she entered the kitchen that was quickly becoming crowded. “You look great!”

When her sister had passed her, Janeway closed the door, but before it was completely shut, it was pushed open from the other side, almost knocking her over, and Adriana de Leon stepped inside.

“Good morning, Kathryn,” the elegant ADA greeted her. “This is quite a place Seven and you have here.”

Janeway tried to speak, but her vocal cords would simply not cooperate. A thought struck her and she opened the door again, going out on the small kitchen porch. Further down in the garden she saw Jacob Henderson with wife and son approaching together with Martha.

“Oh, God.”

Pivoting so fast, she almost toppled over; Janeway bolted for the door, entered the kitchen and ran up the stairs.

“Hey, nice view,” her hateful little sister laughed as she was almost at the top.

An impeccably dressed and coiffed Seven had begun her descent. Janeway stopped and looked at her, feeling panic merge with bewilderment.

“All hell’s broken loose,” she hissed. “You deal with it.”

Throwing herself into the bathroom she turned the lock behind her and leaned against the door. What the hell was going on? She looked at her reflection in the mirror and had to clasp her hands over her mouth not to give a loud scream.

Her auburn hair was completely dishevelled, standing in all directions. Seven’s large tee shirt had slid off her left shoulder, displaying a hickey the size of Texas. Her lips were swollen, her face flushed and … She sniffed. Of course, she smelled of sex.

Taking one step forward, she grabbed the sink with both hands and thumped her head on the cool surface of the mirror.

After taking a scalding hot shower and blow drying her hair, she applied a light make up while her thoughts whirled. She tried to remember the last tumultuous days before she and Seven had arrived at the island. Had she invited these people and forgotten about it? She could have, during one of their many gatherings lately. God knew she had had her share of things to occupy her mind.

Dressed in khaki pants and a sleeveless light blue top, she gingerly walked down the stairs, in more dire need of coffee than ever. The scent reaching her before she entered the kitchen showed promise.

The kitchen was full of people. Janeway stopped and just stared at the many familiar faces as her mind tried to take it all in. Catching her mother’s attention, she saw Gretchen hold up a pot of steaming, black coffee.

“Coffee, got to have coffee,” Janeway murmured inaudibly to herself. “Everything will start to make sense if I just can get my hands on some coffee.”

With renewed strength, the CEO smiled and entered the kitchen, not willing to take her focus off the pot, but constantly becoming detained by friends wanting to talk to her about anything and everything.

Finally she reached her mother, and the pot. Gretchen had already poured her a large mug and Janeway sipped it gratefully as she listened in to the idle conversation, trying to gauge what was going on.

The feeling of surrealism stayed with her during the morning when nobody explained anything. Everybody seemed happy to be there and when enough time had passed without anyone volunteering information, Janeway decided to play along to see if she could figure it out without losing face.

Before she knew it, she was involved in getting the barbeque going, people were setting up a large garden table and everyone present seemed to really enjoy themselves.

“Where do you keep your table cloths, Seven?”

“In the wooden chest in the living room, Julia.”

“Are there any more chairs, Seven?”

“Yes, in the garden shed, Josh.”

Janeway looked furtively around her, not ready to jump to any conclusions just yet. When she turned towards the garden table, she saw beautiful flower arrangements that peaked her interest. She walked up and saw that they were designer centrepieces, making this whole thing even more of a mystery.

Jacob and his wife had been in charge of barbequing everything from steaks, to chicken and seafood. Obviously the guests had brought food, Janeway thought.

They sat down around the table and the CEO noticed that Seven and Gretchen had set the table with Seven’s mother’s best china and silverware. Crystal glasses, filled with excellent, expensive wine added to the mystery.

When they had finished and Janeway thought she could not manage one more bite of anything, Marion and Julia rose from the table.

“Time for dessert!”

Dessert? Janeway sipped her wine. They better have brought it, she thought, otherwise they would become sorely disappointed.

Within a few minutes, Marion and Julia came back, carrying the well lit dessert. Janeway’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the cake, decorated with more candles than could possibly be called for, and at the same time, everybody rose and started singing “Happy Birthday”.

Janeway’s mind reeled. Quickly calculating today’s date, she wanted to slap her forehead. Of course; her forty-sixth birthday.

Strong arms hugged her from behind. “Happy birthday, Kathryn,” Seven whispered and kissed her cheek. “Were you surprised?”

“Surprised?” the CEO croaked. “Of course not, I have my birthday on this date every year.”

“Liar,” the blonde accused in a soft tone of voice, squeezing her gently.

Now they were all waiting to hug her, to congratulate her and not until her mother wrapped her up in a warm embrace, did Janeway allow any tears to show.

“Thank you, all of you,” she husked. “You really did surprise me. How on earth did you arrange this?”

“We had a lot of time to plan when we were in the witness room,” Marion grinned. “Then of course it took some creative last minute planning since you sprung this trip to Raven’s Island on us.”

Janeway reached for Seven’s hand. “You were the lead planner, weren’t you?”

“I confess.”

“Thank you, darling, this was a wonderful surprise, if a little startling this morning.” Janeway gave a lopsided grin when everybody laughed.

“Oh, it’s not over yet,” Julia beamed. “Here comes the best part – the presents!” The interior designer handed over a small, beautifully wrapped box. “This is from me and Marion.”

Janeway realised that the surprises were not over and accepted the gift, thanking her friends. Unwrapping it, she froze when she saw the content. Inside an antique silver frame sat a picture that she well remembered when it was taken. Marion had used her digital camera and taken a picture of Janeway, Seven, Phoebe and Gretchen in front of the Christmas tree. It brought back memories of how she had found a way back to her mother and sister after years of self inflicted alienation.

“Oh, I adore it. It’s a lovely frame too. I will treasure this picture. Marion, Julia, it’s the perfect gift.”

Her friends smiled towards her, looking delighted that she appreciated the gift. Janeway let her fingers slide over the beloved faces in the picture.

One after the other, the guests handed over their presents. Janeway, still feeling a bit dazed, opened a large box from the Henderson’s containing a large blue glass vase from a local glass artist.

“Seven, we’ll need one of the big boxes in the basement to bring this home with us,” Janeway said.

“So you’re not going to keep this here on the island?”

“No, this is such a lovely piece; I want to take it with me. It deserves to go on the mantelpiece.”

Janeway looked up in time to catch Mrs Henderson’s happy smile.

“Here’s a little something I made when I was in that excellent rehab clinic,” Jacob offered and handed over a smaller package, wrapped in an old newspaper page.

“Jacob, what an awful job you did of wrapping it!” Mrs Henderson exclaimed, shaking her head.

Janeway only laughed and unpacked the gift. Her jaw dropped when she was looking at an expertly carved wooden boat. It was meticulously painted and held a very good likeness to Jacob’s fishing boat.

“You’re such a craftsman,” Janeway insisted, holding the boat up for everyone to see. “I will keep this right here, on the island, because this is part of the relaxation coming here. The whole adventure begins with the journey on your boat, Jacob.”

“Thank you, Kathryn, it is my pleasure,” the fisherman smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

Adriana had brought a small case of three expensive wine bottles and Martha gave her a first edition science fiction novel. She looked down at the rare book from the early fifties. Very few people knew she collected them.

“It’s wonderful,” she praised. “It can’t have been easy to find.”

“Julia and Marion came with me to the bookstores. We had fun browsing together,” Martha said.

“It was great,” Julia agreed. “I found some vintage designer books in the process.”

Gretchen handed over a small box, giving her oldest daughter a broad smile. “I know you will love this.”

Slowly unwrapping the golden paper, a familiar velvet box came into view. “Mom?” Janeway looked at her mother, tears welling up in her eyes. “Is this what I think it is?”

“Yes, Kathryn.”

With unsteady fingers, Janeway opened it and a small gold locket came into view. “Grandma’s locket,” the CEO managed. “I can’t believe it. It’s been ages since I saw it.”

“Open it.”

Janeway managed to get a nail in and open the old piece of jewellery that her grandmother had worn every day for as long as she could remember. Inside were two pictures, not the faded ones of her grandparents, but of her and Seven. “Oh, mom.”

“I knew you would love it, and just so you know, the pictures of your grandparents are still there, behind yours and Seven’s.”

“As if they are with us …” A thought struck her. “But what about Phoebe … it’s not fair to her.”

“Don’t worry, Kathryn,” Phoebe grinned, returning from the house with a large, flat package. “Mom promised me grandpa’s watch for Christmas. Now, this is from me. Happy birthday.”

Reassured, Janeway reached for the large present, realising that it must be a Phoebe Janeway original. She carefully unwrapped it, expecting that it might be one from her last exhibition. When the last of the protective cover was removed, she could only stare. Looking back at her, with love shining from those familiar ice-blue eyes, it was a portrait of Seven, sitting in her favourite corner of the couch in the living room.

“Oh, God, Phoebe … Seven … When did you have time to do this?”

“She has not been sitting for me,” Phoebe explained. “I’ve seen Seven sit there and look at you precisely like that, so many times, it was not hard to paint from memory.”

“Thank you, it is simply wonderful. You’ve outdone yourself, Phoebe. It’s just how I see, Seven, just how she looks at me when …” Choking on her words, the auburn haired woman felt slender arms embrace her from behind again.

“That only leaves my gift,” Seven said and handed over yet another small box. “Happy birthday, my Kathryn.”

Tears still blurred Janeway’s vision as he began to unwrap her last present. When she finally reached the content, she was stunned to see the beautiful watch. Knowing that she would find an inscription, she turned it over, reading on the back.

Our Hearts Entwined

Seven

“I’m not going to cry again,” Janeway vowed, blinking new tears away. “Let me guess … Toulaine’s, huh?”

Seven nodded.

Throwing her arms up around her partner’s neck, Janeway hugged her close. “Thank you, darling, it’s beyond beautiful … and the inscription is so true. You are my heart.”

“And you are mine, Kathryn. Here, let me put it on for you.”

Seven took the watch and snapped it around Janeway’s left wrist. The other guests flocked around them to look at it.

“So this is why you and Julia were at that mall in the first place?” Gretchen deducted. “What a strange coincidence.”

“Yes, I agree,” Marion said. “Julia and Seven are the most reserved and low key among us … and I guess that proves the adage about ‘still waters’ and so on.”

Julia rolled her eyes, making everyone laugh.

Janeway took the opportunity to rise from the chair and give each and everyone an appreciative hug. “Thank you. I will never forget this birthday.”

“Neither will we,” her sister piped in. “It’s not often we get to see the CEO of Stellar Corporation run around half naked and …”

“Phoebe!” Gretchen admonished, but a crooked grin played at the corners of her mouth. “Behave.”

“I propose a toast,” Seven suddenly said and raised her glass. “To Kathryn.”

Everybody walked back to their seats and followed suit. Raising their glasses, they looked at the emotional CEO heading the table. “To Kathryn!”

*****

Martha and the Henderson’s had returned to Brimmerton several hours ago. Janeway and the others had walked them down to the natural harbour where Jacob’s boat was moored. Mrs Henderson and Martha had found they had many things in common and Janeway’s assistant had accepted to stay over at the Henderson residence until the Sunday.

Seven had fought the urge to raise an eyebrow when Phoebe, blushing profusely all of a sudden, had announced that she could share the attic guest room with Adriana, leaving the small guestroom to Gretchen.

Marion and Julia shared the room they normally used when they visited on the island.

After making a fire in the living room when darkness fell, the seven women sat on the couches, and on the soft rug in front of it, not talking much, merely enjoying the sound of the crackling fire.

Suddenly feeling exhausted after a long day, Seven did not object when Janeway rose, extending a hand to the blonde.

“How about going to bed, darling? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m bushed.” Seven nodded and Janeway waved to the other women as she walked towards the door to the hallway. “We’ll see you all at breakfast.”

“Good idea,” Gretchen agreed and said goodnight as well, following them upstairs to the small guestroom at the far end of the upper hallway.

Marion and Julia followed their example, leaving Phoebe and Adriana alone on the couch.

*****

“Your sister seemed to enjoy her day,” Adriana said, holding Phoebe closer. “I certainly did.”

“Me too. I’m glad she loved the portrait.”

“You’ve been very quiet this evening,” the ADA said, pulling back to look into the other woman’s eyes. “Something wrong?”

There was a pause before Phoebe continued. With her hair loose around her face, the artist looked younger and more vulnerable.

“I know it’s a long time from now, and I shouldn’t jump ahead and worry about something that will be months away … but sooner or later, I’ll be going back to Indiana, and I’m sure your workload will keep you busy here. I just wonder if we’re setting ourselves up for heartache.”

Adriana took a handful of Phoebe’s hair, enjoying the silky texture. She looked closely at the other woman.

“I want to be honest with you,” she offered, clearing her throat gently before continuing. “I am falling in love with you, Phoebe. I think about you all the time, whether I should or not. I have never allowed myself to feel this way before. I’ve lived my life as a fairly closeted person and now … I don’t think I can let you go.”

Phoebe frowned and Adriana wondered what she was thinking.

“I have definitely never felt this way,” the artist confessed. “Man or woman, I have never met anyone I have been so attracted to and who has captivated me so completely. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m falling head over heels in love with you too.”

Adriana leaned forward and kissed Phoebe’s lips. “Then trust me when I say we will work it out. I know we both have commitments where we normally reside, but I firmly believe that we can make this work. The thought of losing you is not appealing at all.”

Phoebe gave a half-hearted laugh, shaking her head. “That’s putting it mildly.”

“Try not to worry ahead of time,” Adriana begged. “I want to spend as much time together as possible, as long as you work in the city. In the meantime, we will come up with a plan.”

Phoebe tossed her arms around the dark haired woman and clung to her, her body trembling. “Regardless of how this may appear, I’m really not the clingy type,” she husked.

Adriana smiled, burying her face in the auburn hair.

“Feel free to cling any time you want.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

*****

Janeway and Seven lay snuggled up in the centre of the large bed, the covers pulled up over their shoulders, creating a warm nest.

“Some day,” Janeway sighed. “Wonderful day.”

“So you have forgiven me for throwing a surprise party of sorts?”

Janeway laughed, a low gurgle at the base of her throat. “If you had any idea how I felt when they all started marching into the kitchen … and there I was, in your tee shirt … Oh, God, Phoebe is going to needle me about this forever.”

“You looked wonderful to me,” Seven assured her, kissing the softness of her partner’s neck.

“I did?” Janeway arched into the touch, only to find some aching muscles reminding her of their existence. “Oh, ouch … I really would love to make love … but I can hardly move.”

There was a definite giggle emanating from Seven as the blonde hid her face against Janeway’s neck.

“I’ll get even with you, woman,” the auburn haired woman muttered. “You just wait.”

“Not for long, I hope.”

They kept the gentle banter up until sleep almost overtook the CEO. She was about to drift off, experiencing the nice feeling of floating. Seven felt wonderful in her arms and Janeway allowed herself to relax completely, knowing that the blonde would be there in the morning, and every morning after that.

“We should start planning our wedding.” Seven’s voice was clear in the dark room.

Janeway’s eyes snapped wide open, suddenly she was wide awake.

“What? Yes. The wedding.” Her voice was hardly recognisable.

“Not too long from now,” the blonde suggested.

“Not too long,” Janeway echoed, trying to wrap her brain around the topic.

“It is something we have been looking forward to and I do not think we should put it off any longer.” Seven’s voice was soft as she wrapped her arms closer around Janeway. “I love you, Kathryn.”

Melting inside, overwhelmed by the love she felt for this incredible young woman she was fortunate to have in her life, Janeway nodded.

“I love you, too, Seven,” she whispered. “We can start making definite plans tomorrow.” She raised her left arm, looking at the beautiful watch. “As you so eloquently put it, darling; our hearts are entwined. I can’t wait to make it official.”

“Soon, then.”

Janeway made herself comfortable in Seven’s arms again.

“Very soon.”

*****

The End