“What’s.. uh.. going on?” Carlos yelped, as they slid to one side on the steps and nearly toppled over them. “This isn’t normal, right?”
“Right.” Kerry grabbed the railing and hauled herself upward with fierce determination. “C’mon.. just keep going up.” She grabbed a door handle at the top of the steps and hauled at it, sent sprawling as it opened abruptly and swung inward. “Yah!”
“Hey!” Carlos grabbed at her. “”Hey!”
Kerry scrambled to her feet and got her balance just as the ship decided to assist her and rolled back in the other direction. She and Carlos went catapulting through the door and across the hallway, slamming together into the wall as the door behind them slammed with a huge bang. “Son of a..”
“Hey!” Carlos grabbed for a handhold as the ship continued on it’s roll and went in the other direction. “Whhoooaa!!!
Kerry started up the tilting corridor, gripping the railing along the wall tightly. “C’mon..” She halted suddenly as a luggage cart broke free of it’s bindings and careened across the hall, nearly crashing into them. “Jesus.” She fended it off with some difficulty, then continued to the next doorway that led into the main stairwell.
The tilt made the lunge across the hall almost impossible, but she got hold of the doorframe with her finger tips and pulled herself inside. “Hurry up!” She called back to Carlos. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
“Yahhh!” Carlos had leaped after her, but missed the hold on the door and was now sliding back towards the opposite wall. “Go on.. I’ll catch up!”
Kerry didn’t even think twice. She turned and headed back, hanging on to the frame and extending her arm out across the slanting floor. “Here!”
Carlos gathered himself and shoved off from the wall, only to have the ship tilt suddenly back to center. He was unable to stop his momentum, and he plowed right into Kerry, taking them both to the ground near the bottom step. “Oh!”
Kerry landed on her back, her hands reaching out to grab hold of anything she could in preparation for the next motion of the vessel. Carlos ended up sprawled over her, his head thumping against the riser as he pinned her to the ground. “Oof!”
“Ow.” Carlos winced.
Kerry glanced at the curve of his ear, inches from her nose. She cleared her throat gently. “No offense, Carlos, but this is definitely not my idea of fun.”
“I am so sorry, ma’am.” Carlos rolled off her quickly, his face a brick red.
Kerry sat up cautiously, but the ship remained steady. Far above them, she thought she could hear laughter, and the sound of tinkling glass, and she wondered how many things had broken during the bizarre tilting. “Okay.” She got up, grimacing as she felt her shoulder pop back into place, an uneasy sensation she’d been prone to since she’d dislocated it in the hospital.
It wasn’t exactly painful, but there was motion in the joint she didn’t have in her other arm, and remembering how that felt when it came all the way out always made her inwardly cringe.
“Are you okay?” Carlos asked hesitantly. “I didn’t hurt you or anything, did I?”
“No. I’m fine.” Kerry started up the stairs. “Let’s go find out what the hell’s going on.” She took the steps two at a time, rounding the landing and looking up ahead of her as she started to hear voices, along with the sound of rhythmic footsteps heading in their direction.
Could have been anyone, really. But there was something about the pace and the weight of them that struck a chord of instant recognition with her. She turned the corner on the stairs and had to stop short, as Dar came flying down towards them with fine disregard for her own safety. ‘Hey!” Kerry got her hands out in front of her, ready to jump aside if the dark haired woman couldn’t stop in time.
You really didn’t want Dar plowing into you. She was solid as a rock and with any momentum, you could end up easily on your butt with no effort at all. “Whoa!”
Dar bounced to a halt, taking in both of them with quick, darting looks. “You all right?” She asked crisply. “Mark said you went down to the bottom deck.”
“We’re fine.. just a little shook up.” Kerry nodded. “You?’
Dar waggled a foot. “Banged my damned toes on a door.” She admitted. “Bastards.”
“Your toes?” Kerry took her arm and they started up the steps once again.
“Damn crew.. thought it was funny.”
Uh oh. Kerry could sense the prickling of her partner’s pride, never a wise thing to ruffle. At least in public, at any rate, and she sometimes realized she was treading a fine line even in private with Dar on that. She certainly could be silly at times, and she had a great sense of humor but she really didn’t like being made fun of.
Even by Kerry. “Bastards.” She agreed with Dar’s sentiment. “It’s not funny.. someone might have gotten hurt. We had guys all over the ship carrying heavy stuff.”
“Yeah.” Carlos spoke up somewhat timidly. “I’m sure glad we got that machine installed before that happened.”
“Me too.” Kerry gave him a smile.
“Hey, maybe those jerks ended up against the wall in there, huh?” Carlos went on. “They sure deserved it.”
Dar stopped walking and turned to look at Kerry, one eyebrow lifting. “Jerks?”
“Later.” Kerry urged her forward. “Let’s see if we lost anything.”
Visibly reluctant, Dar peered down the steps before she grudgingly followed Kerry back up. She suspected there was more to it than just a tossed off ‘later’, but Kerry appeared completely undamaged so whatever it was couldn’t have been too bad.
Could it? Dar exhaled, and kept climbing. Her foot, well on it’s way to healing, now was throbbing painfully again and her temper was heading towards the ragged side. She kept that in mind and bit her tongue as she caught up to Kerry, suppressing her desire to find out what the ‘later’ was right now.
No sense in taking it out on Kerry, was there? She put her hand on her partner’s back as they walked up the last set of steps into the atrium, and relaxed a trifle as she felt Kerry lean back into the touch.
Several of the techs were standing in a group, and Mark was just coming down from the next floor up. All of them looked shaken, and they turned in relief as they heard her approach. “Everyone all right?” Dar asked.
“So far.” Mark was sucking on the side of his thumb. “Got my hand caught in a freaking door, that’s the worst I heard so far.” He surveyed the chaos in front of them. “Crap.”
The gear that had been so nicely lined up was now tumbled everywhere, some leaning against the glass wall to the outside, some upside down near the stairs, and the parts that went with them were strewn about haphazardly.
“What the hell happened?” Mark asked. “I thought I heard Shelley Winters singing there for a second.”
Kerry walked over and knelt by one of the machines, tipping it back over and checking the screen for damage. “Yeah, me too.” She called back over her shoulder. “Those must have been some waves.”
Dar put her hands on her hips and frowned, glancing aside as some of the crew appeared behind the reception desk, obviously amused. “Something funny?” She inquired of them.
They didn’t answer, but they didn’t leave either.
Dar’s eyes narrowed. The door from one of the offices opened and the staff captain appeared, smirking as he watched the techs clean up the mess in the atrium.
A thought occurred to her. “Son of a bitch.”
Kerry glanced up. “What?” She got up and walked over. “Not that I thought you were addressing me, hon… but you’ve got the most bizarre expression on your face.”
Dar waited for the staff captain to stroll over. “Morning.”
“Good morning, Ms. Roberts.” The man smiled charmingly at her. “Are you having a good day so far today? I see you have some disarray here. So sad.”
Kerry just barely held herself back from stomping on the man’s foot with her hiking boot. The sudden desire for violence surprised her, but somehow the reaction didn’t seem overly wrong. “The ship nearly turned over. What did you expect would happen? I’m sure you have things in a mess places too.”
The crew behind the desk laughed.
“Not at all, Ms. Stuart.” The staff captain replied. “You should really be more careful with all your machines, yes?” He walked past them and laughed, as the techs struggled to right the gear. “Perhaps we will hit more high seas.”
The techs looked around apprehensively, some of them grabbing hold of railings as though expecting the ship to tilt again. This amused the crew, more of whom had appeared behind the desk, and the laughter rang across the atrium.
Kerry put her hands on her hips. “You know something, Paladar?” She turned her partner. “There’s something not right about this whole thing.”
Dar gave her a wry look, but was spared from answering as Andrew appeared and crossed the atrium to where they were standing. “Hi, Dad.”
The big ex-SEAL was chuckling. “You all right, Dardar? See everything got knocked puss over keester up here.”
“Look out, here she goes again!” The staff captain suddenly yelled.
The techs all scrambled around, trying to hold on to something and their gear at the same time, while they looked around frantically to see which way the ship was going to tilt next.
Now the crew was clustered in the hall, and they all broke up laughing.
Kerry let out a breath. “Dar..”
Dar turned to Andrew. “Stability test?”
Andrew was also chuckling. “Yeap.. it surely was that.” He glanced at his daughter. “Figgred they’d play a little seaman’s joke on ya’ll.”
Dar’s expression didn’t change. “It wasn’t funny.” She looked her father in the eye, her voice quiet. “Especially if you knew about it and didn’t tell me.”
“A joke?” Kerry repeated. “My god.. people could have been seriously hurt!”
Andrew blinked at them. “Wasn’t really that bad..” He started to protest.
“That bad?” Dar’s voice rose now, taking on an edge. She pointed at the gear. “Those weigh sixty pounds. If Kerry had been carrying one when they pulled this stupid little prank she could have broken her neck!”
The rage was very evident, and Andrew was caught completely flat footed by it.
“Jesus Christ. What the hell is wrong with you people?” Dar was talking directly to him. “You think this is some kind of game?” Now she turned and pinned the staff captain with a hard stare. “Mister, you better have a nice bank account, because every piece of broken plastic’s going to be taken out of it.” She headed right for him. “You think it’s funny? You all think it’s funny?” She let her eyes sweep the crew, who had stopped laughing.
The techs stayed very still, even Mark, kneeling at the side of one of the machines merely kept his head down and waited.
Just then, footsteps sounded on the steps above, and they all looked up to see two of the techs easing slowly down the stairs, supporting a third. “Oh man.. glad we made it down here.” One of them said in obvious relief. “I think Darcy’s leg’s broken.”
There was a moment of silence. Then Dar turned towards Andrew. “Funny.” She commented briefly, before she headed towards the stairs. “Okay, get him down here. I’ll go find out how long it’ll be until we get to port.”
Mark shook off his paralysis and got up, hastening over to help the injured Darcy along with a couple other of the techs. “Easy, dude.. just relax.”
Kerry exhaled. “Jesus Christ.” She murmured, gathering her wits. “What in the hell were they thinking.” She turned and looked at Andrew, who was still standing there in something of a stunned silence. “That was really supposed to be a joke?”
Andrew’s face took on an expression Kerry had seen but a very few times on his daughters. It was the one she got when she knew she’d done something outstandingly stupid and it was a look that always touched Kerry’s heart.
This time was no exception. She took a step closer to her father in law and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure they didn’t really mean to hurt anyone.” At least, she sincerely hoped not.
“Scuse me.” Andrew murmured, before he turned and headed off in the direction Dar had gone.
Kerry watched him go, and then she exhaled heavily before she walked over to where the injured tech was, assembling a plan as she walked. “All right.” She said. “I don’t’ think that’s going to happen again. So let’s get the rest of these things where they belong, so at least we get that much done.” She knelt next to Darcy, who was biting his lip in an attempt not to cry. “And don’t’ you worry. We’re going to get you some help if Dar has to get a helicopter out here with it.”
Darcy managed a faint grin. He was a dark skinned Cuban with a faint moustache and dark, curly hair. Kerry knew he had a talent for working with servers and he knew lots of really bad jokes. She put a hand on his uninjured leg and returned his grin. “Just try to take it easy. It hurts more otherwise.”
“Yeah.” Darcy managed to get out. “You broke your leg too? Sound like you know.” He looked down the length of his leg, visibly twisted around the knee under his thick jeans.
“Dislocated my shoulder.” Kerry said. “When I was in that hospital explosion.. if you remember that.”
Several techs made sympathetic noises. “That hurts.” One of them said. “My brother had that happen. He screamed like a..um..”
Everyone chuckled nervously.
“I did too.” Kerry admitted. “When Dar had to put it back in place.”
Wide eyes looked at her.
“In the dark, under a collapsed ceiling, in a building on fire.” Kerry went on. “So you know..” She patted Darcy’s leg. “Things could always be worse.”
“All right.” Mark stood up. “C’mon, you guys. Lets get this stuff moving. You three stay here, with Darcy, all right? Get him some water or something.” He looked at the crew, now standing in silence behind the desk. “From our catering guys. At least we know where it’s from.”
“I’ll stay here.” Kerry told him.
Mark looked at her. “This sucks.”
“This just totally freaking sucks.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Mark led the techs out again, arms full of hastily righted machines. Kerry waited a moment, then she sat down on the cold floor, crossing her legs up under her and leaning her elbows on her knees. She stared at the marble with unseeing eyes, trying to absorb all that had just happened.
“So. Uh. That burning building.. that was scary, huh?” Darcy asked.
Kerry looked up at him. “Yeah.” She said. “Want to hear about it?’ She reasoned anything that would take his mind off his leg would help.
Kerry straightened up and ordered her thoughts, pulling up her memories of that far off, terrifying night. There was something just faintly familiar about the act, some chord the looks in the eyes of the techs struck in her as she got ready to tell her story that almost made her pause.
Almost. Kerry shrugged the feeling off. “Well, it all started with a baby..”
Dar headed down the hallway towards the bridge, feeling her temper simmering as it hadn’t for a long, long time. She was mad at a lot of things, the stupidity of the prank, the possibility of Kerry being injured, her father’s complicity…
Gah. She stiffarmed the door to the bridge open and walked inside, her eyes sweeping right and left in search of the captain.
Two of the officers turned to look at her, startled. “Yes?” One said. “What is it you want?”
“Ah.” Dar spotted the captain in his tiny office. “Found it. Thanks.” She headed for the room. “All right, mister.” She shoved the door open. “What in the hell do you think you were doing?”
The captain, who had been leaning on his desk with both hands, straightened up and stared at her in utter shock. “Pardon?” He snorted. “What is the meaning of this, you bursting into my office?”
“What’s the meaning?” Dar went right up to the edge of the desk and pointed at him. “I’ll tell you what the meaning is, captain. The meaning is I’m going to sue your sorry ass for deliberately endangering my staff.” She let her voice build to a bark. “Got it?”
The man’s jaw actually dropped.
Dar turned. “But that’s not why I’m here.” She glared out at the horizon. “How long until this piece of junk gets into port? I’ve got someone that needs medical help.”
“Ah.. one hour. But Ms. Roberts..” The captain started around his desk.
“Don’t bother.” Dar snapped. “Save the sanctimonious crap for someone who gives a damn about your stripes. Just radio ahead and tell them to have that gangway ready when we get there.” She turned and walked out, slamming his door behind her and leaving him inside.
The entire bridge staff was staring at her in slack jawed disbelief, but Dar didn’t barely see them. She continued on through the bridge and out the door, pulling up short as she almost crashed into staff captain outside.
Maybe her stare warned him. He stepped out of her way and let her go past, then turned to watch her leave. “You really should work on that sense of humor, Ms. Roberts.”
Dar didn’t even bother to answer. She turned the corner of the corridor and headed down the damn steps again, tired of the ship, tired of running up and down stairwells, and very, very tired of obnoxious ship officers with bad hair and worse manners.
Spotting daylight, she got off the stairs at the eighth deck and went out onto the exterior promenade, which circled the ship and gave access to the fresh air. She gripped the railing and stared over it, her guts still churning with anger she had no focus to release on.
Moving around seemed like a good idea. She turned and started to walk down the promenade deck, the wind buffeting her as the ship rocked slightly in the waves. The deck was empty, only the lifeboats swung over her head in creaky counterpoint to the ship’s motion.
Bloody bastards. Dar felt like throwing up. She’d been safe enough when the ship tilted over, having just come back into the atrium and close enough to the stairwell to just grab hold of the railing and hang on. But the thought of Kerry being down in the lower decks, with all that gear, and all those guys…
Okay. Dar stopped and stood near the rail again, gripping it lightly with her hands. Just relax a second, yahoo. Nothing happened. She exhaled. Nothing happened to Kerry, anyway, except for..
Except for the ‘later’.
Dar leaned her head against the metal cross brace, staring bleakly out across the sea.
“What happened?” Ceci knelt down next to Kerry, giving the injured tech a concerned look.
Kerry had just handed him a glass of water and some Advil, all she had to offer for what was surely a tremendously painful injury. “He was carrying one of the terminals when the ship tipped over.. he fell down the stairs.” She gave Darcy a sympathetic look.
He grimaced back at her.
“Ow.” Ceci grimaced too. “I was busy being green in my bunk. That little roller coaster seems to have fixed me up permanently.. what happened? Have you seen Andy?”
Ergh. “Well.” Kerry exhaled. “Apparently the ship was doing some tests.. that they sort of forgot to tell us about.”
Ceci’s brows both lowered. “Forgot?” She snorted.
Kerry half shrugged. “Anyway, looks like only Darcy here got hurt.” She said. “Dar’s upstairs yelling at the captain and finding out how long it’ll take us to get back.”
“Hm.” Ceci pursed her lips. “Sorry I’m not there watching.. nothing like a little deserved tongue lashing to perk up the morning.” She shook her head. “Unbelievable.. someone could have gotten killed.” She glanced at Kerry. “Bet she’s pissed.”
Kerry nodded. “Very.” She agreed. “So was I… but I think she’s more pissed at Dad than she is at the guys running the boat.”
“Andy?” Ceci frowned. “But w..” She stopped. “He knew?”
Kerry nodded again, unhappily. “Dar went off on him big time.”
“Did she? Good.” Ceci announced firmly. “Let me tell you I’ve had my fill of that brotherhood of the sea nonsense.. and if he knew, and didn’t tell her it was going to happen, he deserves a spanking.”
Well, that was probably true. Kerry acknowledged. But she also knew Andrew felt a kinship with these travelers, ratty though they were, that she probably would never understand. “I know.” She said. “But I’ve been at the other end of that tongie lashing and it’s no fun.”
“So have I.” Ceci commented. “But in my case, the real surprise was what it was like when she wasn’t mad.” She got up. “Let me go find my husband.” With a pat on Kerry’s shoulder, she wandered off, heading for the stairwell.
Kerry wrapped her arms around her knees and fought the desire to go with her.
Andrew paused at the doorway, looking out. He waited for a bit, but Dar didn’t seem disposed to move, so after a few moments he gathered his wits about him and pushed the door open.
The warm air blew against his face, a feeling so familiar it raised ghosts that had no place on this ramshackle cruise ship. He dismissed them, needing a clear mind to deal with the trauma ahead of him.
He had seen Dar mad, on many occasions. She had a temper, hell, she had *his* temper and he knew to an intimate degree of what that anger felt like inside. He’d seen her stand her ground fearlessly in front of situations she damn well should have run from, and though he valued his daughters safety above all else, he knew where that courage came from and couldn’t fault her for it.
But he also had never had that anger turned on him before and he wasn’t really sure what to do about it. So, as he always had in all kinds of bad situations before, he just stepped up to it and walked over to where Dar was standing.
As he came even with her, and put his hands on the rail, she turned her head and looked at him. The few things he’d thought about saying died on his lips, and he just stood there looking into those stormy eyes.
He’d seen them before, matter of fact. In a mirror some, but also framed in Dar’s gentler profile every time he’d turned his back on his family and climbed up that gangway to go back to sea.
Specially that last time. There really weren’t no words to say that meant anything faced with that, was there?
So he didn’t say any. He just reached over and put his hand on Dar’s shoulder, his fingers closing over the bone and muscle he’d given her there.
Dar looked away. Then she exhaled and pushed away from the railing. “I’ve got work to do.” She said, briefly, before she eased out from under his grip and headed back towards the doors to the interior.
“Dar.” Andrew called after her.
Dar raised one hand, but didn’t turn around. “It’s all right.” She said, before she pulled the door open and went inside.
Andy leaned back against the railing and folded his arms across his broad chest, turning his head slightly as Ceci wandered up to him from the direction of the front of the ship. “You fixing to yell at me too?” He asked testily.
His wife rubbed her nose, suppressing a wry smile. “She should have kicked your ass, not yelled at you for that, Andrew.”
“Ah did not do anything.”
“Exactly.” Ceci said, seriously. “You should have. You know better.”
Odd, to be on this side of the fence. Ceci mused. “Well, just let her be for a little while. Let Kerry work on her and turn her back into a pile of goo, then you can give it another try.”
Her husband eyed her.
“Or go kick the captain’s ass.” Ceci suggested. “And by the way, I’m feeling much better. Thanks for asking.”
He sighed. “Hellfire day all round.”
“Mm.” Ceci relented and put her arm around him. “And it’s just starting, too.”
Kerry turned her head towards the hall just before Dar appeared in it. Some of the techs were straggling back in as well, and the atrium was becoming somewhat crowded. And yet, when Dar lifted her head and sought Kerry’s eyes for that moment it was as though they were the only two people in the entire place.
“Excuse me.” Kerry got up and threaded her way through the crowd. “Hey.” She reached Dar’s side and walked right into her personal space, ignoring the room full of employees and wrapping her arms around Dar’s waist.
Dar, unsurprisingly, stopped walking and returned the gesture, circling Kerry’s shoulders. “Hey.” She responded quietly. “We’ll be in port in an hour.”
“Darcy’s doing okay. He’s just in a lot of pain.. I gave him what I had, but it’s not helping much.” Kerry said. “Did you see the captain?”
Kerry waited, but nothing more seemed forthcoming. “Did you see Dad?”
“Yeah.” Dar rested her chin against Kerry’s head. “Did all the stuff go out?”
Kerry nodded. “Most of it. They just came back and got the last round. Then we’re done. You want to test it?”
“C’mon.” Kerry nudged her towards the steps. “Let’s just get it over with.”
“To hell with all of them. I hope the damn ship sinks in the harbor.”
Kerry really couldn’t argue with that. “Okay, I really want to just get you alone in a dark room. Humor me?”
That got her a smile. Only a tiny, grudging one, but a smile. It was a start.
Kerry pecked at the keyboard, sparing a glance every few seconds to her silent partner. Dar was standing in front of the server racks, leaning her hands against them and staring into the blinking LED’s with an expression of dour anger. “Well.”
“At least we know the rack mounts all work right.” Kerry commented softly. “You know, Dar..”
Kerry exhaled, and continued typing, shaking her head a little. “Okay, the POS server’s up.” She got up and walked over to where Dar was standing, putting a hand on her back and giving it a little, friendly rub. “C’mon, sweetie.”
Dar glared at the rack a few seconds, then she turned abruptly and slammed her fist into the back of the door, a sudden surge of violence that caught Kerry totally by surprise.
She pulled back, uncertain of what was going on. “Dar?”
“How.” Dar growled. “Could they be that stupid.” She pulled back away from the door and studied the healthy dent her fist had made in the metal. “Son of a..”
Kerry acted before she thought it through. She jumped forward and grabbed hold of Dar’s arm before she could send it doorward again and held it, wrapping both hands around her partner’s wrist. “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
Dar turned and glared at her, but after only a few seconds, her expression softened, and she leaned back against the wall with a thump. “Pah.”
Reassured, Kerry moved up next to her and let Dar’s hand rest on her shoulder. “Honey, take it easy, please. I know you’re really upset, but beating up the ship isn’t going to help.” She put both palms flat against Dar’s belly and looked up into her stormy eyes. “Take it easy.”
Dar drew in an unhappy breath. “I’m just so pissed.”
“I know.” Kerry crooked her fingers and leaned forward. “Believe me, I’m mad too, Dar. It wasn’t bad enough I had some creeps hitting on me in the bar, but then to have… Dar?”
“Hitting on you?” Dar’s mental train jumped tracks without any effort at all and continued merrily along it’s way. “Is that the ‘later? Why the hell didn’t you say something.. I could have..”
The agitation was wearing on her nerves. “Dar.” Kerry repeated, pushing her very gently against the wall. “Would you please chill? You’re giving me a stomach ache.”
Dar sighed. One hand lifted and scrubbed at her face. “Let me go sit down.” She circled Kerry and took a seat in the one utilitarian chair next to the racks, letting her elbows rest on her knees. “Sorry, Ker.”
Kerry knelt beside her. “It really wasn’t that big a deal.” She explained gently. “Just a couple guys who thought any girl would fall for their greasily masculine charms.” She clasped Dar’s hand with her own. “Carlos was with me, and I ended up kicking a pool cue halfway out the window. Nothing big.”
Dar looked up through shaggy bangs at her. “Pool cue?”
“Uh huh. I kicked it out of the guy’s hand.”
Dar’s fingers were chilled. Kerry lifted them and pressed them against her cheek to warm them, her thumb running over the faint swelling on the knuckles from where she’d punched the door. “Hey.”
“Mm?” Dar now seemed exhausted, rather than angry. “Can we just go home now? If we jump overboard as they get to the mouth of the cut, we could swim to the condo in about ten minutes.”
Kerry wished she knew what was really going on with her partner. The violent mood swings were beginning to scare her more than just a little. “Sure.” She combed her fingers through Dar’s hair, encouraged by the way her shoulders relaxed at the touch. “Can I get you a drink or something?”
“Do I look like I need one?” The touch of wry humor was very welcome.
“Yeah.” Kerry told her. “You really do.”
Dar exhaled heavily. “I can’t figure out if I’m more pissed at the jackass captain, the smartass crew, my father, or myself.”
Kerry kept up her riffling. “You? What’d you do?” She asked. “Or is this whole.. tipping over thing a tradition of the sea you knew about and forgot to tell me?”
“No.. well, I don’t know, it might be.” Dar admitted. “Hazing at sea is. I knew that. I just didn’t figure on them pulling a stunt like that on a trip like this.”
“Were you a haze-ee at some point?”
“Everyone was scared of your dad?”
A faint smile. “Something like that.” Dar sighed. “But you know what, he knows better too. I can’t believe he didn’t tip me off they were up to something. Damn, that hurts.”
‘Hon.” Kerry murmured sympathetically.
“I feel like such a jackass.” Dar said, suddenly. “Letting that happen to all of you.”
Ahh. “Sweetheart, its not your fault.”
“No, it isn’t.” Kerry was gently insistent. “Don’t take that on yourself. You couldn’t know what that captain was going to do, and if Dad lost his mind and didn’t tell you.. that’s not your fault. That’s his fault.”
Dar gazed ahead of her. “Ow.”
“You know he didn’t mean to hurt you. Or me. Or any of the guys.” Kerry said. “Dar, he didn’t even know where we were before it happened. Maybe he didn’t think it would be that bad.”
Kerry leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Honey, I love you more than life. Please don’t chew yourself out like this.”
Under this onslaught of mushdom, Dar really had very little defense. As much as she really wanted to stay upset and angry, it was impossible in the face of Kerry’s solicitous endearments. She let her forehead rest against Kerry’s and gave into it, releasing the fury still churning inside her. “Eh.” She uttered. “What would I do without you?”
“You’ll never find out, so who cares?”
That produced a genuine, charmed smile on Dar’s part. They stayed like that, just touching each other, listening to the creak of the deck plates until finally Dar cleared her throat slightly. “Guess we’d better get this done, huh?”
“Before the server guys come trooping in here and find us snuggling? Uh, yeah.” Kerry gave her another kiss on the forehead, before they both straightened up and Dar faced the terminal. She reached over and typed in a few commands, opened her mouth to say something…
And the lights went out.
Kerry slumped against her, and just started laughing.
“How much time do we have left?” Kerry asked, typing away as Dar sat on the floor near the rack’s UPS systems.
They had propped the door to the hallway open, and some small amount of light was creeping in, bending in some mysterious way around the corner from the stairwell. Enough to outline Dar’s profile, and cast a silvery dull shadow across the keyboard Kerry was working on, but not enough to really be useful for anything other than dispelling claustrophobia.
“Um.” Dar poked her flashlight around the front of the panel. “About fifteen minutes.” She announced. “Glad you spec’d out sixty minute runtime models.”
“Me, too.” Kerry wiped the sweat out of her eyes, then dried her hand off on her jeans leg before continuing to peck away. “You know something?”
“Hm? No. What?” Dar seemed content to sit on the linoleum floor with her legs pulled up crossed under her.
“I’m so wanting a glass of cold raspberry ice tea, our couch, and a pair of gym shorts right now.”
Dar reached over and patted Kerry’s leg sympathetically. “How’s it going?’
“Almost done.” The blond woman said. “I just used the demo database we used for the proof of concept on it, Dar. There’s no real point in customizing it, is there?”
“Not really.” Dar replied. “Well, you might want to put their name on the front screen.”
“How about I put S/S Jackass of the Seas, instead?”
Dar chuckled, and scratched her chin. “I dunno, Ker.”
“You could do an animated jackass, right? Couldn’t you have it sort of bucking around the screen while we do the demo?” Kerry mused, as she set up the screens. “I know you could.. this stuff’s in VB.”
Dar scooted over and peeked at what Kerry was doing. The monitor she was in front of was plugged, like the servers, into the UPS and it seemed hard to believe she’d actually finish before the power was drained to the point they had to shut everything down.
“We should almost be in port.” Kerry said.
“Want to go check if we are?”
Kerry kept typing, but a smile appeared on her face. Now that Dar had stopped being furious, she’d subsided into a quiet peacefulness, not really helping Kerry in what she was doing, but not hindering it either. “Do you think you should call an ambulance?’
“Mark did.” Dar replied. “It’s waiting for us on the pier.” She held up her PDA, which was stuttering gently. “They’re done putting the machines out, not that it does one damn bit of good without any power.”
“Okay.” Kerry stopped typing. “I’m done.”
Dar leaned an elbow on her thigh and peered at the screen. “Nice.”
“Pointless, but nice.”
Kerry saved the configuration, and then sat back. “It’s done.” She looked around. “We’re done. Dar, we did this.”
“Yep, we did.”
“Everything’s installed, the servers are up, the pc’s are out… the network works. We did it.”
Dar swiveled around and extended her legs out, letting her head drop back onto Kerry’s thigh. “Uh huh.” She agreed idly. “We did finish it all. Freaking incredible.”
Kerry patted her on the shoulder. “Let’s go congratulate our troops. No matter what happens, they came through for us, didn’t they?”
‘They sure did.” Dar sat up, letting out a sigh as she pushed herself to her feet and held her hand out for Kerry to grab on. “Let’s do it.” She kept hold of Kerry’s hand as they left the server room, walking together down the darkened hallway towards the stairs. “Know something?”
“You’ve had enough of ships for a while?” Kerry hazarded a guess. “When we first started this thing, I was going to suggest a cruise but now….”
“I mean, our boat’s nice. I like it.”
“Glad to hear that.” Dar commented. “I was thinking maybe we could take a ride up the Eastern Seaboard, just check stuff out, see the coast.” She swung their linked hands a little. “Visit New England.. how about it?’
Kerry was momentarily speechless. Dar wasn’t talking about a week vacation, she realized. She was talking about something far more extended. Far more, and though the suddenness of the request shocked her, the fact that she had an eager agreement on the tip of her tongue surprised her even more.
“Just something to think about.” Dar added, a touch awkwardly. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to dump that idea on you right now. Anyway.. we should figure out how we’re going to do this proof of..”
Kerry squeezed her hand, and stopped walking. “Yes.”
Dar stopped also, and looked at her. “Yes?”
“Yes. Wherever you go, I go.” Kerry said. “Wherever you want to be, that’s where I want to be, just so long as wherever we go, we go together.” She felt an enormous sense of peace after she said it, and it was nice just to stand there and absorb the look of absolute delight on Dar’s face on hearing it.
Just let the future happen. She wasn’t going to worry about it. “C’mon.” She started down the stairs towards the atrium, where she could hear a buzz of voices. “We’re done. Let’s get everyone and get the hell off this thing.”
Dar didn’t answer. She merely followed, a rakish grin on her face.
All the techs were gathered in the atrium, with their overnight bags at their feet. Darcy was laying in the center of it, propped up on a pile of folded blankets with two pillows under his injured leg and a set of solicitous attendants nearby.
They all turned around and looked as Dar and Kerry approached, most scooting around so they could face their bosses as the two came to a halt near the center of the atrium. Dar looked around at the darkened space, then at the techs, then she lifted both hands in exasperated appeal.
A soft chuckle answered her.
“How’s the leg?” Dar asked Darcy.
“Well.” The tech said. “It hurts, but I think it may just be cracked or something, cause it doesn’t’ hurt as bad as my arm did when I broke *that*.”
Dar rubbed her elbow in far off memory. “Yeah, that’s pretty memorable.” She agreed. “Well we’re almost back home, so just take it easy.” She produced a grin for the injured tech, who bravely grinned right back at her.
Kerry leaned back against the central marble column, very content to let Dar be the focus of attention. Of the two of them, she was very aware that Dar was the more charismatic. Heck, she’d fallen under that magnetic spell the moment she set eyes on the woman after all, hadn’t she?
“Okay, folks.” Dar paused, considering thoughtfully. “”We’ll be back in port shortly. I want everyone to get their stuff, and get the hell off this damn thing as fast as you can. We’ve got medical waiting to get Darcy off, but after that, just grab and run.”
Everyone nodded, but said nothing.
“I want you all to know how much we appreciate you being here.” Dar went on. “No matter what happens with this contract, we completed the task we were asked to complete and nothing can change that.”
Kerry smiled, but remained quiet as well.
“So I want all of you to take next week of, on us.”
Everyone’s eyes widened, including Kerry’s. She turned and looked at her partner in some surprise. Dar had put her hands behind her back, and was rocking back and forth a bit, pleased at the response to her announcement.
“I think you all deserve it after the last few days.” Dar went on. “So take off, have a blast, and don’t think about this damn ship, okay?” She half turned to Kerry. “Remind me to send a note to Mari.” She added under her breath.
“I’ll send it.” Kerry murmured back. “I only wish we were included on that.” She admitted. “Boy, a week off sounds good right now… that was a nice touch, hon.”
“Thanks.” Dar glanced out the windows, where the port of Miami was beginning to come into view. “Let’s get ready to move out. I’m not too damn happy with the hospitality on this junk barge.”
A couple of the techs got up and went over to the pile of cardboard boxes they’d taken the equipment out of, now neatly flattened and stacked near one wall. “Should we take these, ma’am?” One of the techs turned back to Dar. “Are we going to have to take all this stuff back out again?’
“Leave it.” Dar said. “They’re just getting one big bill for this, no matter how they decide to award the contract.”
“But I thought..” Kerry nudged her.
“I don’t give a damn what he said.” Dar replied. “He’ll get a bill, and I’ll toss it to legal. Let them handle it.”
“Ham’ll love it.” Dar wandered over to the glass wall and looked out as they passed the island they lived on. “Sure you don’t want to just jump?”
Kerry joined her. “Don’t tempt me.”
Dar continued watching the scenery pass. In the windows reflection, she caught sight of her parents entering the atrium, but she resolutely kept her back turned and pretended she hadn’t seen them.
She wasn’t really mad anymore, but now she felt very awkward about the whole thing.
Kerry nudged her. “Dar?” She whispered. “The captain’s heading for you.”
Another mental train derailment. Dar turned the other direction and spotted the officer, who was indeed headed directly her way. “What do you think.. toss him overboard?”
Kerry patted her arm sympathetically. “I want to go home with you today.. not bail you out.”
Dar rolled her eyes, but assumed a mild expression as the captain came up to them. She held back a greeting, however, and waited for him to speak his peace instead.
“Ms. Roberts.” The captain said. “I owe you a very big apology.”
Wasn’t what she’d expected. “Mm.” Dar responded noncommittally.
“Along with some small drills, we had expected that stability test this morning.” The captain continued. “I had instructed my staff to inform you of it. They did not.”
Ah. “Now that’s what I’d call insubordination.” Dar commented.
The captain nodded. “So it was. I am sorry your employee was injured. Of course, we will take responsibility for his medical expenses.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “Please understand… there was no harm intended for any of you.”
Dar allowed herself to be mollified. She’d halfway liked the old salt, and had been very disappointed to think he’d deliberately put any of them in danger. “On your part, no.” She wasn’t ready to let him all the way off the hook, however. “I think your staff feels otherwise.” One hand sketched the air around them. “Was the power going off another.. ‘oversight’?”
The captain remained relatively unruffled. “I wish it was, since I was in my cabin shaving when it went off.” He said. “We managed to burn out our transformer. It’s very old. My engineer’s one of the few men in the world still able to sort it out, but it will take time.”
“How much time?” Kerry asked. “We have to demonstrate this system to your owners… and we need power to do that.”
The captain shrugged. “Impossible to tell. We need parts, and those are not easily obtained. We will do our best, however.” He gave them both a nod then turned and walked off, circling around the techs seated on the floor and heading forward towards the reception desk.
“Hmph.” Kerry put her hands on her hips. “Dar, if they don’t fix that power, we can’t prove our concept.”
“Can we run a huge extention cord from the pier?” Kerry asked. “Or something?”
“Let’s worry about that when the time comes.” Dar took a seat on one of the low benches that ringed the atrium. She noted her parents had done the same nearby, and now she raised a casual hand and waved at them.
Kerry stood by a moment, and then she clasped Dar’s shoulder with one hand. “I’m going to go get our stuff. Be right back.”
“Sure that’s safe?” Dar asked.
“Dar, please.” Kerry chuckled. “Just make sure they don’t tip the boat over again, okay?”
“Okay.” Dar stifled the urge to follow her, and merely watched as she walked through the crowd of techs on her way towards their cabin. They all looked at her too, and Carlos approached her shyly. Kerry paused, then glanced back over her shoulder with humorously accusing look, before she lifted a hand and nodded, and walked on with the young man following her.
Heh. Dar only had a momentary reprieve however, as her father got up and walked over, sitting down next to her on the bench. It creaked a little under his weight. Dar took a breath to speak, and then let it trickle through her lips.
“Paladar Katherine.” Andrew said.
“Yeah?” Dar had laid her hands on her knees, and now she studied them, her eye catching on the subtle sparkle of the ring on one finger.
“That was a damn fool thing to do, and ah was a damn fool not to cotton to it.”
“S’allright.” Dar exhaled. “I don’t really think they were out to kill us. Just embarrass us.” She leaned back against the wall. “Bunch of jackasses.”
“Well.” Her father folded his hands together. “Ah do not think most of them folks wanted to do bad by you all. Ah do think most of them cottoned to you.” He said. “Few bad apples.”
Andrew was quiet for a bit, as they both watched the activity in the room. “Been on this side of the fence a damn long time.”
“Didn’t matter. Ah should have tracked you down and told you.” Her father said quietly. “Instead of being one of them jackasses.”
Dar turned her head and studied his profile. “You can’t be a jackass.”
Andy’s eyebrow cocked and he peered back at her with patent skepticism. “Ah most certainly can be, young lady.”
“Nah.” Dar disagreed. “You’re my dad.” She said. “If you’re a jackass, that make me a jackass too. You calling me a jackass?’
Andy’s lips twitched. “You ain’t no jackass.” He said. “You’re a damn smartass, though.”
Dar chuckled wearily.
“You get all the stuff done you need to?” Andy asked. “Fellers worked hard enough all night. Helped them carry some of them big boxes around.”
Dar hiked one boot up and rested it on her opposite knee. “We got everything in. Problem is, we can’t prove any of it works without power.” She said. “I’ve about decided the whole damn project is just one big curse.. with my name on it.”
Andrew tapped the back of his hand against her thigh. “It’ll work out. Always does.”
Would it? For one of the few times in her career, Dar had to admit that she really didn’t think it would this time. And, for the first time, she had to admit to herself that she honestly really didn’t care. She would hammer right to the end to get it done, get it right, get it proven, because her personal honor demanded that. But if it ended up that ILS lost the contract – well – then they did.
She realized at that moment that unlike every other project before, she had already decided not to ‘make this one happen’.
Dar wondered if she should call Alastair and warn him. She owed him that.
Kerry found she was damn glad to get back on solid ground again, though part of her inner ear was insisting that the pier concrete was still shifting underfoot. She was standing out in the hot sun near the ship, watching as her techs unloaded their gear and themselves, Darcy already having been transported out by a waiting ambulance.
Down the pier, the other ships were also tying up, and the amount of activity around their gangways was roughly three or four times what it was around their own. She spotted Michelle and Shari down there at the next ship, and despite their lack of power onboard, she was glad their part of the task was at last over.
Unlike her rivals, she could now snag Dar and go off to get some lunch, then sit back and wait for the power to come back on so they could sign off on the system and be done with it. Kerry would, of course, have to work on presenting the official bid for the project, but that was just paperwork and it could be done in a pair of shorts and a tshirt with her feet up in her home office.
“Hey, Kerry?” Mark detoured towards her. “We’re all gonna go over to Bayside for some eats.. you up for it?”
“Maybe.. where are you guys going?” Kerry asked.
“Hooters.” Mark had the grace to at least blush. “I know it’s all sexist and corny and stuff but you know they really do m..”
“Make killer chicken wings. Yeah.” Kerry chuckled. “Let me see what Dar wants to do. Maybe we’ll meet you over there.” The irony of it poked her in the butt, and she had to laugh at herself as Mark trotted off to help with a couple of large tool boxes.
She spotted the Herald reported headed her way though, and so she stifled the giggles and assumed what she hoped was a professional expression as the woman came up to her. “Well, good morning.”
“Good morning to you too, Ms. Stuart.” The reporter greeted her with a smile. “I’m guessing it’s a much better morning for you than for most.”
Kerry had a flash of completely inappropriate memory of Dar, their cabin, and a comment about sea motion from the previous night and couldn’t quite repress a blush. “Ah.. yeah, probably.” She agreed. “We got a lot done last night, and now, pending some electricity, we’re ready to show off the results.”
“Really? You finished?” The reporter exclaimed. “Everything?”
“We did.” Kerry agreed. “We put out the point of sale systems this morning, and I finished the server configuration just before we made port. I’m very pleased with how everything turned out.”
“I bet you are.” Eleana said. “That was a pretty slick maneuver you pulled off… getting aboard. I don’t think Mr. Quest really approved.”
Kerry shrugged one shoulder as she watched the gangway. “You know, I think Mr. Quest really wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to control every aspect of this contract bid, and yet he keeps telling us we have to be creative and deal with all the setbacks as best we may. “
“Hm.” The reporter made a note on her pad. “You know, that’s a darn good point.”
“Well, we were creative, and we did what we had to do to complete this project.” Kerry concluded. “So I would hope he has nothing to complain about.”
“Hm.. and now the ship has no power, is that what you said?” The reporter glanced up. “Convenient glitch.”
Kerry had bee thinking that very thing not that long ago. “Well, according to the captain, they blew the transformer. He’s got someone working on it.” She looked towards the gangway as the rude little engineer appeared, furtively peering out and motioning for one of the crew on the dock to come over.
A bit of sunlight hit him, outlining his face, and suddenly Kerry knew where she’d seen him before. “Oh.” She inhaled in surprise.
“Excuse me?” Elena gazed at her in puzzlement.
Was it really the same guy? Kerry focused her peripheral vision on him and tried hard to recall that fleeting glance she’d had outside the drugstore. The man started berating the dockworker, and with that, she was sure. It was that same twisted face, the same sneering expression.
“Sorry.” Kerry collected her wits. “I was just thinking about something.”
“What’s going to happen if they don’t get power on? You do have to demonstrate those gizmos, don’t’ you?” The reporter asked.
“We’ll come up with something.” Kerry assured her absently. “If Dar has to hire three hundred hamsters and make an interlocking power wheel, we’ll get it done.”
The reporter started laughing. “Oh, that’s a quote.” She said. “You know they had a big meeting last night, the rest of the companies bidding and Quest.”
Kerry forced her attention back to the woman. “No, I didn’t.” She said. “What happened?”
“Don’t know. They didn’t invite me in, and no one’s talking.” The reporter said, cheerfully. “I was hoping you’d find out, and let me in on it too.” She looked around, then started backing up. “Matter of fact, I think I see an interview opportunity right now… catch up with you later, Ms. Stuart.”
Kerry turned towards the ship. The little engineer had disappeared back inside, and now she trotted over to the gangway and climbed up it, edging past a few workers coming the other direction. She entered the ship’s hold and looked around, but the man was no where to be seen.
Andrew was, however. He walked over to meet Kerry, his overnight bag slung over one shoulder. “Hey there.”
“Hi, dad.” Kerry greeted him absently. “Hey, did you see a little guy… kinda scruffy looking in here a minute ago?”
“Wall.” Andrew considered. “I think I know what feller you mean. He’s the engine guy on here.”
“Right.” Kerry turned and faced him.
“Believe that feller went off to get the lights on. Said he’s expecting a part or something.” Andy said. “That’s what you all need, right?”
Right. Kerry took a step back and leaned against the wall of the ship. “Yeah.” She agreed. “Guess he’s the one who knows what to do, huh?”
“Yeap.” Andy said. “Talked to him a little bit. Old timer.”
“He looks a little creepy.” Kerry remarked.
Her father-in-law shrugged. “S’allright feller, I guess. Been with this here ship for most twenty years.” He moved closer to Kerry, clearing the way for a flood of electricians and other craftsmen to pile onboard, cursing and shoving.
“Stupid assholes.” One man said. “How in the hell do they expect us to do shit with no power? What a bunch of..”
“Ahh. Shutup.” His companion said. “Who the hell cares? They’re paying us.”
Kerry shook her head. “You know, they’re right. What the heck are they doing to do in the dark, dad?” She asked. “Darn if this entire thing just makes less and less sense the longer it goes on.” Her eyes flicked to the stairs, where a familiar figure was fighting their way down against the tide. “Ah. Good.”
Dar emerged from the stairwell and spotted them. She walked over, shoving her way through the line of workers in complete disregard to the complaints and outrage she left behind her. “You two ready to get out of here? I saw mom get off before.”
“Waiting for you, sweetie.” Kerry told her, setting aside her new revelation for later. “The guys are all going over to Hooters for lunch. You up for it?”
Andrew snickered. Dar cocked her eyebrow at Kerry. “Hooters, huh?”
Kerry shrugged sheepishly.
“You hungry?” Dar asked Andrew. “I’m not sure mom can get anything but celery sticks and French fries there, but..”
“Naw. We’ll head on back home.” Andy responded. “Catch up with you all later.” He gave Dar a pat on the arm, gave Kerry a wink, and ducked under the edge of the shell opening that held the gangway.
“Hooters?” Dar grinned.
“Okay, okay. You win. You were right. Can we go eat now?” Kerry asked. “And, there’s something I need to talk to you about.. but not until we get away from here.”
Dar appeared intrigued, but she refrained from questioning Kerry and instead steered her towards the gangway. They worked their way down past the line of workers and walked together across the pier, both glad to leave the ship, it’s hot chaos, and the busy dock behind them.
They passed through the gates and across the short stretch of grass between the terminals, glad of the shade from the palm trees as they headed for the parking lot. “Should we find Quest and talk to him?” Kerry asked suddenly.
“Want an honest answer?”
“I don’t want to either, Dar, but I think we should.”
“Well, you’re probably right.” Dar amiably agreed. “But it’s a moot point, because the little bugsucker’s headed this way right now.” She jerked her head slightly to the right. “So hustle up your good manners, because mine took a hike and I just might kick him in the groin rather than speak to him.”
“Gotcha.” Kerry slowed her pace and turned, coming to a halt as Peter Quest intercepted them. He was wearing a sweatstained polo and chinos, and he had a very harried expression on his face. “Good morning, Mr. Quest.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” Quest asked.
Kerry decided to take the question at face value. “To get some lunch. Would you like some?” She answered politely.
“What about your project?” He asked. “Giving up?”
“Finished.” Dar supplied dryly.
“We’re done.” Kerry confirmed. “We just need for them to get power back on the ship to demonstrate it to you, and we can close the book on it. You’ll have my financial bid paperwork shortly thereafter.”
Quest looked honestly stunned. “You mean it? He asked. “ You really did finish?”
Quest started laughing. He backed away from them, and then turned and jogged off, still laughing. He waved a hand at them as he went back through the gates, then turned and moved in the direction of Michelle and Shari’s ship.
Kerry turned and faced Dar. “If you at any point figure out what the hell’s going on here, you will tell me, right?”
Dar tipped down her sunglasses and peered after Quest. “Uh.. sure.” She said. “But you know what, I’m gonna enjoy showing off that system to that bastard. Maybe he’ll invite the rest of those jackasses to come see it too.”
Kerry bit her lip, her conscience wrestling with her desire to take the project out on top.
Kerry leaned against the palm tree they were standing under. “Yeah?”
“What’s up?” Dar rested her hand against the trunk. “You all right?”
Should she even tell Dar? If she did, Dar would be as responsible for this decision as she was. Did Kerry want that? Wouldn’t it be better to just keep it to herself, and so, have total control over it?
“Kerry?” Dar moved closer, and her voice dropped in concern.
Did she really want to lie to Dar? Kerry tipped her head up and met her partner’s eyes. No. She didn’t want lies between them. It wasn’t how she’d decided she wanted them to live their lives together. “That guy.” She said. “That little nasty guy… the one we saw in the hall last night?”
Dar cocked her head. “The engineer?”
Kerry nodded. “Remember I said I knew him from somewhere?”
“He’s the guy from the drugstore. That guy, with the car, and the woman in the trunk?”
Dar’s jaw dropped. “Are you sure?” She put a hand on Kerry’s shoulder. “That was the guy?”
“I’m.. “ Kerry exhaled. “Dar, I really think it was. Am I absolutely positive? It was dark, and I just saw him for a minute or so.. but I think it was him.”
Dar removed her sunglasses and studied Kerry seriously. “He goes off the ship, we’ll never get power. Not in time. Not after what I heard about him.”
They looked at each other. “What are we going to do?” Kerry finally asked.
Dar nibbled the inside of her lip briefly. “We’re going to go to lunch.” She said. “This guy’s not going anywhere. Let’s just think it through and then we’ll decide.”
Kerry thought a moment, then nodded. “All right. That sounds good.”
They turned and continued walking towards the parking lot, getting to their car just as a group of people came out of Michelle and Shari’s terminal, arguing. They paused to watch them.
“Ah.” Kerry murmured. “Guess we found out where our little friend Jason from New York went.”
Dar watched Quest apparently make a final point, then walk off, leaving Michelle and Shari standing there with the newcomer, and the Army captain, and the Travel Channel filming crew. “Know what I think?”
“Everything just went to hell.” Dar opened the doors. “So let’s go to lunch, and maybe they’ll all have sunk on that thing before we get back.”
Kerry climbed into the car and almost appreciated the hot leather as it eased the suddenly tense muscles in the back of her neck. Just when she was convinced things couldn’t possibly get any worse…
Kerry smiled, reaching across the console to give Dar’s arm a squeeze.
Hell with em.
Just straight to hell with em.