Firefly Lane Page 26


He pulled her closer and all her good intentions disappeared. She gave herself over to the pressure of his hands, let herself be guided down, down toward his mouth.

The kiss was like nothing she'd ever experienced before: tender and sweet at first, then searching, demanding.

She surrendered to him as completely as she'd dreamed of doing. His tongue electrified her, sparked a new and painful desire. She became greedy for him, desperate. Without thinking, she shoved her hands up under his T-shirt, feeling his warm skin, needing to be closer . . .

Her hands were at his collarbone, pushing the soft warm cotton upward, when she realized he'd gone still.

Her senses were so scrambled it took her a moment to clear her head. Breathing hard, aching with this new need, she drew back enough to look at him.

He lay back against the sofa, his eyes at half mast. He lifted his hand slowly, jerkily, almost as if he weren't quite controlling his own movements, and touched her lips, tracing their contour with his fingertip. "Tully," he whispered. "I knew you'd taste good."

And with that blow to the heart, he fell asleep.

Kate wasn't sure how long she sat on his lap, staring down at his sleeping face. Once again, time seemed elastic between them. It felt as if she were bleeding—but it wasn't blood that leaked out of her, not something that could be so easily transfused. Instead, she was losing her dreams. The fantasy flower of love she'd planted all by herself and tended so carefully.

She climbed off him and settled him onto the sofa, taking off his shoes and covering him with a blanket.

In her own bed, with a door closed between them, she lay awake for a long time, trying not to replay it over and over in her mind, but it was impossible. She kept tasting his lips, feeling his tongue against hers, and hearing him whisper, Tully.

When she finally fell asleep, it was already well past midnight and morning came much too quickly. At six o'clock, she slammed the silencer on her alarm, brushed her teeth and hair, put on a robe, and hurried into the living room.

Johnny was up, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. At her entrance, he put the cup down and got up. "Hey," he said, shoving his fingers through his hair.

"Hey."

They stared at each other. She tightened the belt on her terrycloth robe.

He glanced at Tully's door.

"She's not here," Kate said. "She spent last night at Chad's."

"So you put me to bed on the couch and covered me."

"Yep."

He moved toward her. "I was pretty baked last night. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come by."

She wasn't sure what to say.

"Mularkey," he finally said, "I know I was out of it . . ."

"Yes, you were."

"Did . . . anything happen? I mean, I'd hate to think—"

"Between us? How could it?" she said before he could finish saying how much he would regret a liaison between them. "Don't worry. Nothing happened."

The smile he gave her was so relieved she wanted to cry. "Then I guess I'll see you at work today, huh? And thanks for taking care of me."

"Sure." She crossed her arms. "What are friends for?"

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Late in 1985, Tully got her big break. Assigned to do a live broadcast from Beacon Hill, she was surprised by the flurry of nerves that made her fingers tremble and her voice break, but when it was over, she felt invincible.

She'd been good. Maybe even amazing.

Now she sat upright in the passenger seat of the live truck, a van specifically designed for the technical requirements of a live broadcast, bouncing slightly with enthusiasm. When she closed her eyes, she relived every second of it: the way she'd pushed into the front of the crowd and asked her questions, her flawless wrap-up at the end, shot in front of the well-lit bank, with the red and yellow police lights cutting through the darkening night. Afterward, it had taken forever to load up all the gear and get back on the road, but she didn't care. The longer this night lasted, the better. She hadn't even taken off her earpiece, battery pack, wireless microphone, or walkie-talkie. They were badges of honor.

"Pull over at that 7-Eleven," Johnny said from the back of the van. "I'm thirsty. Mutt, jump out and get a few establishing shots while we're here. It's your turn to make the drink dash, Tully."

Mutt drove into the parking lot. "Cool."

When they parked, Tully collected their money, then got out of the van and headed for the brightly lit mini-mart.

"None of that New Coke for me," Johnny said into her earpiece.

She pulled the walkie-talkie off her belt, switched it on, and said, "You say that to me every time. I'm not an idiot."

Inside the brightly lit store, she looked around for the cooler case, found it, and walked down the medicine aisle.

"Hey, look," she said, talking into the walkie-talkie, "they have Geritol. You need some, Johnny?"

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"Smartass," he answered in her earpiece.

Laughing, she reached for the cooler case's handle when she noticed a shadow move across the glass. Turning, she saw a man in a gray ski mask point a gun at the cashier.

"Oh, my God."

"Are you talking about me?" Johnny said. "Because it's about time—"

She fumbled for the volume on the walkie-talkie and switched it off before the robber heard something. She clipped it to her belt and pulled her jacket over it, hiding her battery pack at the same time.

At the register, the robber swung to face her.

"You! Get on the floor." The masked man pointed his gun at the ceiling and pulled the trigger to make his point.

"Tully? What the hell is going on?" came Johnny's voice through the earpiece.

Tully fumbled with the earpiece cord, trying to conceal it under her jacket. Then she turned up the volume on the walkie-talkie's outgoing message, hoping like hell Johnny would be able to pick up some sound. "Someone's robbing the store," she whispered as loudly as she dared, depressing the outgoing button.

In her earpiece, she heard Johnny say, "Holy shit. Mutt, call 911 and then start shooting. Tully, keep calm and get the hell to the floor. We can go live with this. Turn on your mic. I'm getting hold of the station. They're on air now. Stan, can you hear me?"

A few seconds later, Johnny said, "Okay, Tully. We're putting this through to Mike. He's on air now with the ten o'clock news. Your audio is going on live. You won't be able to hear him, but he'll hear you."

Tully turned on her mic, whispered into it, "I don't know, Johnny. How do—"

"Your mic is hot, Tully," he said urgently. "You're on live. Go."

The masked man must have heard something; he suddenly swung toward her again, pointing his gun at her. "I told you to get down, damn it."

She just had time to process "I've had enough o' this shit" when he pulled the trigger.

There was a loud crack of sound. Tully barely had time to scream before the bullet hit her in the shoulder and knocked her off her feet. She crashed into the shelves beside her, was vaguely aware of colored boxes crumbling and falling around her. Her head hit the linoleum floor hard.

For a moment, she lay there, gasping, staring up at a wiggling snake of fluorescent lighting.

"Tully?"

It was Johnny's voice, in her ear. She eased slowly—slowly—onto her side. Her shoulder throbbed with pain, but she gritted her teeth and kept moving. Keeping low, she crawled to the end of the aisle, ripped open a box of Kotex, and shoved a pad over her wound, holding it in place. The pressure hurt like hell and made her dizzy.

"Tully? What happened? Talk to me. Are you okay?"

"I'm here," she said. "I just put . . . a dressing on my wound. I think I'm fine."

"Thank God," Johnny said. "You want to turn off your mic?"

"No way."

"Okay. You're live, remember? Keep talking. They can't hear me, but they can hear you. This is your big break, kiddo, and I'm right here to help you. Can you describe the scene?"

She got to a crouch, wincing at the pain, and moved forward slowly, trying to gauge when she could actually look up. "Moments ago, a masked man came into this mini-mart on Beacon Hill, wielding a handgun and demanding money from the clerk. He fired once into the air to make his point and once into me." Her voice was as loud a whisper as she dared.

She heard a noise; it sounded like crying. Keeping low, she came around the corner and found a little boy, huddled against the neon candy aisle.

"Hey," she said, holding out her hand. He took it greedily, squeezing so tightly she couldn't pull away. "Who are you?"

"Gabe. I'm here with my grandpa. Did you see that guy shoot his gun?"

"I did. I'm going to go find your grandpa to make sure he's okay. You stay here. What's your last name, Gabe, and how old are you?"

"Linklater. I'm gonna be seven in July."

"Okay, Gabe Linklater. You stay low and keep quiet. No more crying, okay? Be a big boy."

"I'll try."

She tucked her chin toward her chest and talked quietly into the mic. She wasn't sure what the station could hear, but she just kept talking. "I found seven-year-old Gabe Linklater in the candy aisle. He came in with his grandfather, who I'm looking for now. I can hear the gunman over at the register, threatening the cashier. Tell the police there's only one robber." She turned the corner.

There she found an old man, sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding a box of Purina Dog Chow. "Are you Gabe's grandfather?" she whispered.

"Is he okay?"

"A little scared, but fine. He's in the candy aisle. What did you see?"

"The robber drove up in a blue car. I saw him through the window." He looked at her shoulder. "Maybe you should—"

"I'm going to move in closer." She compressed the pad against her wound again, winced at the pain, and waited for the nausea to pass. This time, her hand came away bloody. Ignoring it, she reported in again to the anchor she couldn't hear. "Apparently, Mike, the lone gunman arrived in a blue car, which should be parked outside in front of one of the windows. I'm happy to say that Gabe's grandfather is also alive and unharmed. Now I'm working my way toward the register. I can hear the gunman yelling that there has to be more money and the cashier saying that he can't open the safe. I can see the flash of lights outside. So the police have arrived. They're shining the lights into the store, telling him to come out with his hands up." She scuttled out in the open for just a second and then crouched behind a life-sized standee of Mary Lou Retton eating Wheaties. "Tell the police he's taken off his mask, Mike. He's blond-haired, with a snake tattoo that wraps around his neck. The gunman is extremely agitated. He's screaming obscenities and waving his gun around. I think—"

Another gunshot rang out. Glass shattered. Seconds later a SWAT team stormed through the glass doors.

"Tully!" It was Johnny, calling out for her.

"I'm okay." She stood up slowly, feeling a wave of pain and nausea at the movement. She saw the live truck through the broken window. Mutt was there with the camera, shooting all of it, but she couldn't see Johnny. "Seattle SWAT has just shot the glass out of the window and come in. They have the robber on the ground. I'll see if I can get close enough to ask them some questions."

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