Author's Note: Third chapter is up and ready, and please allow me to apologize for being so damn late with the update. I had one of the worst writer's block ever. Don't know how or why, but hopefully next chapter will prove to be a bit better. Anyways, read on and enjoy.

Soleil Antoinette

On the other side of town, a man contemplated. He sat behind his desk, playing with a long envelope opener, sharp enough to easily draw blood. He paid no attention to the man cowering before him, or his two most trusted employees just waiting for his signal to kill the man. He said nothing, only flipping the envelope opener with ease, always catching the handle and not the blade.

After a few minutes of silence, he asked the cowering man, "What did you say she was enquiring about, Tim?"

Tim gulped down a breath of air. It may be one of his last breaths, he thought morbidly. "J-jus' askin' about th-the company sir, sir, sir." He was sweating profusely and breathing hard.

"We have already established that." The man behind the desk slowly put down the envelope opener and leaned forward. "What exactly was she asking about us?"

Tim looked at the two men on either side of him. They were built like pro-wrestlers, and could easily snap a skinny 110 pound man like himself in half. He thought if he ever made it out of here alive, he would lift weights every single day for the rest of his life. The main key was 'if' he did make it out – alive.

He eyed the man behind the desk. Not many people knew it, but he was the most ruthless murderer if there ever was one. In decent society, he was a well respected, profitable businessman. In the world of prostitutes, criminals, and drug lords, he was not one you even wanted to talk to, for fear of making him angry.

Tim had heard stories of the man. He could kill a man, woman, or child without a second thought – barehanded. He would have no problem killing a 40-something year old janitor like himself. He might even enjoy it.

"She was jus' wonderin' why y-you-the company stayed in the bad part of town if you are makin' so much business."

The man leaned back in his chair. He gave Tim a cold look, almost as if he were sizing up his answer. "And how did she know that we were making so much business?"

The janitor shook his head. "I dunno – she knew you took over this business from your dad, and she knew pretty close to how much you make. She wondered how you are making so much."

The man had a gleam in his eyes that scared Tim more than the 300 pound all-muscle men next to him. "What did you tell her, Tim?"

"N-no, nothin', nothin' at all," Tim replied. He was scared shitless and wasn't afraid to admit it. "I jus' tole' her I dunno and why she just don't call customer service during the day."

The man laughed. A cold, cruel laugh of someone who didn't believe in the goodness any more than the adult believed in the tooth fairy. "Customer service? You really are something else, Tim." He contemplated further, ignoring everyone else in the room. He didn't like people asking questions about his business, and he especially didn't like the newspaper sending a reporter to sniff around. Last time that happened, he got rid of the reporter quickly and efficiently. What he didn't count on was that the reporter was the mayor's nephew. It took almost two years for the matter to completely settle, and a lot of money out of his pocket to keep people quiet. No, he absolutely did not want another snooper.

"What did you say her name was?" the man asked, seeming uninterested.

"I really really can't remember, sir," Tim replied, shaking. He knew this was coming to the end of the meeting – the deciding factor was now.

The man behind the desk picked up the envelope opener, and began tossing it up again. "Alright, Tim," the man replied, "I believe that you said nothing to her." Tim heard the words, and couldn't believe that he might just get out of here alive.

"Yes, sir, not a word," he said, grateful that he might just be spared.

The man tossed the envelope opener up again one more time. "I'll make a deal with you, Tim. You tell me the name of this … reporter, and you can go home freely to your girlfriend or wife or whatever. If you just can't remember the name, you can spend some time with my two trusted employees right next to you."

Tim knew what he meant – give the name or die. You're choice.

He tried to remember that night – it was a chilly evening, and he was just waxing the floor of the front lobby. He wasn't planning on waxing the floor that night – he was supposed to get off of work two hours earlier – but Johnny Bateman who was supposed to have the late shift called in sick half an hour before Tim was supposed to go home.

He had just shut off the machine when he heard a knock on the door. He turned and there was that woman, who just wanted to know some information. He replied he would help any way he could, and thought she was just a harmless journalist going to make an article on the employees of the company.

But no, she wanted information on the company itself. He shook his head. He should never have answered the door. He remembered her introducing herself – what was her name? Black hair, green shirt…he shook her hand…She introduced herself as a reporter for the Waterside Daily… a…

"Her name was Dina or Dana or something like that, and she worked for the Waterside Daily," Tim said triumphantly. He thought he saw a look of recognition cross his boss's face, but it was gone before he could make it out.

The man behind the desk wrote something down and one of his employees took a sheet of paper from him. The man nodded and then turned his attention back to Tim. "Good. You've been good. You are no longer needed here."

For a horrible moment Tim thought that he wasn't going to get out of the office, but the two men just moved aside. Tim ran out of the office and out of the building, never having been so happy for his life. He didn't stop running, panting hard and legs burning, until he was on North Gundy Road, two miles from where he almost lost his life.

Dana arrived to work the next Monday feeling happy. First she had spent Saturday with Gene – and what a wonderful Saturday that was, she thought contented. They had a lovely, relaxing lunch at the café, and then she picked up her car at the grocery store.

As she was about to get out of his car after pulling up beside her own in the parking lot of the grocery store, she turned to him. She saw that his hazel eyes were fixed intently on her, and she felt butterflies in her belly that she tried her best to ignore. Clearing her throat, she said, "I want to thank you again for helping me escape those…petitioners." He smiled at her, and she absently thought that it was a good thing that she was sitting, because she didn't think her knees would hold her up.

His brown hair caught the sun, and he looked just…beautiful. She mentally shook herself – what was she doing? She was becoming a regular 'man-eater', she scolded herself.

"Not a problem," he said, shrugging. "That mob could easily have turned ugly. It's a good thing that you got out of there." If she keeps looking at me that way with those dark, wide eyes, he thought, he wouldn't be able to hold himself back from kissing her.

She opened her mouth to say something, but decided against it. "Thanks anyways, Gene," and she got out of the car. He waited until she was safely in her car and pulling out of the parking space before he drove away.

She sighed. What a weekend. What a man…

"Long weekend?" Carlene asked, passing by with a cup of water in her hand and pulling Dana back into the present. She had just arrived to the office and still had her bag slung over her shoulder.

Dana smirked, "More like it was too short." Would she see Gene again? Did he want to see her again? She shook her head – she had to concentrate on her work.

Carlene nodded, "I know the feeling. Oh, by the way, Lapps informed me that he wants to see you in his office - ASAP." She tilted her head, indicating the door to the office.

"Uh oh, I hope it's nothing too serious," Dana replied jokingly.

Carlene shrugged, "With Lapps you can never tell. But don't worry – you're one of the best news journalists the Daily has ever had."

"Thanks," Dana said grinning, "That's a compliment coming from someone who won the Journalist of the Year Award twice."

Carlene winked, "Just don't get too good and give me too much competition," and laughed. Dana laughed also.

Carlene walked to her office, and Dana headed to the editor's office. Each step closer filled her with more dread – what did she do to entice her boss's anger? She knew that he never called anyone into his office unless he had something serious to talk about. Frowning, she knocked on the door.

Scott Lapps was sitting behind his desk, which was stacked more than a foot high with papers – reports, articles, memos, and letters from the public. "Come in," he barked, not even looking up to see who it was.

"You summoned?" Dana asked, closing the door behind her.

He looked up and put the paper down. "Come right on in, Dana, and have a seat." She sat in one of the two chairs opposite of him. "I wanted to comment on the article that you did on the park."

Dana held her breath. Uh oh. Was this the part where she got fired? Was her article too opinionated? Was it not enough opinionated? Did someone call about a complaint? Where would she find another job?

"Stop looking like I'm going to fire you," Lapps said, clearing some paper away from his desk and leaning back in his chair. He looked more tired than when she had started, and the bags under his eyes were prominent. "All I wanted to say was that it was a great article – one of the best I've read dealing with city issues. That's why I called you in here. I want to assign you to be the representative for the Waterside Daily in issues dealing with the government. Anywhere there is a conference – you're there. Anywhere the Mayor speaks, you're there."

Dana grinned, "Whoa! That's great. What a promotion." The dread instantly lifted off her chest.

Lapps shrugged, "I do what is best for the paper. Now, you'll be taking the place of Martina Stanhope – you know her?"

Dana's groaned. Martina Stanhope was a woman not to contend with. She could rip apart a person with words if she so felt needed. Taking her place as one of the top-ranking journalist for the paper was not going to go well with her. "Sure I know her. The woman who walks around like she's the devil incarnate. Who doesn't know her."

Lapps chuckled. That was another reason why Dana liked working at the Waterside Daily so much – Lapps was laid back and you could tell him things at face-value. "Great. Glad you know her. Now, you want the job?"

"You betcha."

"Good," Lapps replied. "Now I hear that the Mayor is to give a speech addressed to the Police Force of Waterside this Friday. You're invited."

Dana nodded. She knew that he was being kind giving her a heads up, and also that it meant she was dismissed. She got up from her seat, "Thanks."

Lapps nodded. He already had his attention back on his paperwork.

Dana was pleased about the position – more than pleased, but she tried to hide the look of a conqueror when she emerged from the office. Tina, an older woman who had a desk right next to hers and was also a pleasant acquaintance, grinned.

"You look like the cat that just ate the canary," she said as Dana sat down behind her desk. "I assume you still have your job, and by the looks of it a promotion."

Dana chuckled, "So much for keeping it in the bag."

Tina shook her head and laughed, "You'd have to work much harder at your poker face to keep something like that out of the office grapevine. Congratulations."

"Thanks," Dana replied smiling, her mind already on the work ahead. Tina grinned, and then got back to work.

Dana was ecstatic with the promotion, but that's not what was keeping her mind churning. What had her occupied was the information that she got about Phillip's Import Services. She went late one night last week to see if she could find out some more information – when she went during the day, the receptionist was as cold as ice. The janitor was friendly enough, and although he didn't give her the information she was looking for.

It was a cold night and heavy winds. She knocked on the glass door as the janitor came by while waxing the floor inside.

He was startled, and then unlocked the front door for her. "Can I help you?"

"Hi," she said to him, "I'm Dana Holliston from the Waterside Daily. May I ask you some questions about Phillip's Import Services?" The janitor hesitated. "I promise it will be brief and confidential," she said quickly. She didn't even bother asking for his name – that just might make him change his mind into not letting her ask any questions at all.

He nodded, and then stepped aside to let her in.

She took out her notebook and pen. "How long have you been working for Phillip's Import Services?" she asked, getting right to the point.

"'Bout eight years now," he replied gruffly. He was fidgety and nervous, Dana noted. She wondered if they had their employees paid by the amount of work they accomplish.

"And have you ever come across anything unusual while working for this company?" she asked. Again, the janitor hesitated. "Everything is confidential," Dana assured again.

"I can't think of anything right now," the janitor said evadingly.

"Anything at all that aroused your curiosity or sent a signal of 'something isn't right'?" Dana asked hopefully.

"Well," he said, "a lot of the employees notice many things…that're not all right."

"Like what kind of things?" Dana asked.

"Like…" the janitor trailed off, trying to remember. Then his eyes caught something behind her and he straightened up. "I'm sorry, but I have work to do right now, Miss. So, if you'd excuse me…" His abrupt change in attitude caught her off guard, but she sensed that there was much more than what the man was telling her.

"Of course," Dana said, nodding her head, although she was frustrated at almost getting a break through. He quickly moved through the foyer and into an office room, continuing to wax the floors. She turned around to spot what caught his eye, and saw a video camera mounted above their heads – with a red light blinking and recording everything.

"And finally, I would like to present the new Waterside Chief of Police, Sergeant Jonathan Durant," the Mayor said into the microphone. The people clapped half-heartedly – it was a cold evening, and the Mayor had spoken for over two hours on what seemed like nothing of importance to Dana. And to boot, she was seated in the last row, making it hard to hear what the speaker was saying over the wind. She craned her neck to see the sergeant properly.

A tall, burly man came to the microphone. He was clean shaven with very noticeable grey hair. He looked anything but old and kind though, Dana thought, as she wrote down his name. In his uniform he looked as if he could whip a person into shape without batting an eye at how he was doing it.

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I would first like to say that even though I have only been on the Waterside force for five months, I've had ten years of experience in the military, and over twenty years on the police unit. I want to assure Waterside that their police force is in good hands." He spoke about bringing down the crime rate in Waterside, of changing the bad name the police have everywhere, and starting a new project which would help stop the recently found and dangerously expanding drug problem.

"Thank you very much," he concluded, and again there was a half-hearted clap from the crowd.

Even though the ceremony had not ended, the sergeant walked past his chair that was on the stage, and went behind the curtain. Dana hoped he would come back on stage and wait for the ceremony to end because she wanted to ask him some questions, but she couldn't leave the ceremony until it was over – she did have to do an article on it, after all.

Sergeant Jonathan Durant, though, did not seem to be coming back. After ten minutes of waiting restlessly, she decided that she better go after the sergeant. An interview with the sergeant, even if she could only ask a few questions, would be better than sitting at the ceremony and getting useless information.

Excusing herself past some people to get to the aisle, she ran as inconspicuously as she could to behind the stage, and looked for the man. He can't be too hard to spot, Dana thought, scanning the crowd behind. There weren't many people as the ceremony had yet to end, but he was no where to be found. She walked to the street, and saw him walking quickly away almost a quarter mile from where she was.

"Sergeant Durant!" she called after him and jogging to catch up with him. She expected him to slow down, but instead, if anything, it seemed as if he quickened his pace and ignored her yells. She started running to catch up with him, and a few minutes later, she tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, Sergeant," she said pointedly, "May I ask you a few questions?"

He turned around, and steely, grey eyes glittered unmercifully at her. "Sorry, but I'm busy," was all he answered, and started walking again. Dana was taken aback, but was even more determined than ever.

"Excuse me," she said heatedly, "But this will only take a few minutes."

He didn't even stop or look at her when he spoke, "Perhaps some other time. If you could book an appointment with my secretary, that would be a more appropriate time."

"We could do it while you are walking," Dana said smoothly. She had a feeling that if she tried to book an appointment with him, he would make sure she didn't get one. She didn't wait for his reply, but started asking questions immediately. "What did you mean that you wanted to start a project to help the drug problem?"

He didn't answer her right away, but quickened his pace even more until she was jogging just to keep pace with him. After a minute he said gruffly, "The project is to stop the spread of drugs on the streets – especially in the poorer areas of town where they are most prominent."

Dana scribbled down the words onto her notepad. "What type of things will you be doing to stop the drugs?"

"More police patrol along the streets, and harsher penalties for the use, possession and selling of drugs," he replied.

"I see," Dana said. "Would you-" She was cut off as he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to her. She almost tripped over him being stopped so suddenly, but caught her footing.

"Look, Miss..."

"Holliston. Dana Holliston," she said, hoping that perhaps he would be a bit more understanding.

"Look, Miss Holliston," he said, obviously angry, "I do not appreciate being hounded by the media. The last thing I need is to spend hours answering trivial questions when I could be doing work and actually putting my project into motion for the better of Waterside." She had no answer to that. "If you will excuse me then." He strode away, and she stood huffing.

She started heading back to the ceremony a few moments later. The nerve he had, she thought irritated. She had a legitimate reason for asking him questions – the residents want to know what is being done about the safety of their town!

And her questions were not trivial, she thought heatedly. He ought to shove his attitude right up his – she stopped herself and took a deep breath. No sense getting herself all worked up over it. She sighed. At least she had enough to make an article on, but certainly not enough to satisfy the questions of Waterside.

As she reached back to the ceremony, she saw that it had already ended. There were a few people left over who were talking with each other, but the seats and the stage were both empty. Damn that man, she thought. Lapps would have wanted the ceremony covered from beginning to end.

Turning around, she almost ran into someone, knocking herself off balance and sending her notepad and papers flying.

"I'm so sorry about that," she said without lifting her head as she scrambled to pick up the papers before they wind picked them up. Lapps will be already unhappy that she didn't get the whole ceremony, far less for losing the few notes she did have of it!

"Watch it," the person snapped. Dana looked up to see Martina Stanhope in front of her, and not looking happy at all. In fact, she looked down right pissed off. Martina was dressed all in dark colours – with the navy blue jacket to the black pants and shoes. She was a tall, strong-looking woman, and not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley.

"Hi," Dana said, trying to be cordial. She had yet to really talk to Martina – just a few words here and there at the office – but she heard what a pain she could really be if you got on her bad side. She tried to gather the last bits of paper, without help from the other woman.

"What are you doing here?" Martina demanded. "I thought I was covering this conference."

Dana's mouth opened, but nothing came out. Obviously Lapps had yet to tell her she had been replaced. "Well…" What could she say? "I was instructed to cover this one actually," Dana proceeded carefully. "Maybe you should talk to Lapps in the office Monday morning. I'm sure he'll explain-"

"Explain what?" She demanded. "Did I miss something?" She had a cold edge to her voice that kept Dana's guard up. The last thing Dana wanted was to cause a conflict with anyone, especially with a co-worker.

"Look I have to go," Dana said, getting angry herself. "Maybe you should give him a call anyways – tonight." She started to walk away, but Martina grabbed her arm, jerking her back and letting her papers scatter again.

"Hey!" Dana exclaimed as she rushed to catch the papers for a second time.

Martina kept the grip on her arm. Dana turned around, ready to defend herself when Martina said in a low voice, "Just because you're Lapps' new pet, doesn't mean that people are going to drop everything for you. And you especially will not upstage me in doing my job." She let go of her arm, leaving a red mark.

Dana gritted her teeth, "Is that a threat, Stanhope?"

Martina gave her a smile that reminded Dana of a barracuda before it strikes. "Of course not. We are co-workers, after all. It's just a little reminder. See you Monday." With that, she walked away, not bothering to look back.

Dana stood there for a few moments, wondering what she should do when she remembered her papers flying away.

"Oh shit," she muttered, as she rushed to pick up the remaining ones that were left. She ended up with mostly all of the papers she needed, except for a few key ones about the ceremony. She groaned. What was she going to tell Lapps on Monday?

Someone cleared their throat behind her. She turned around to see Gene holding up the last of her flying papers. "Do these belong to you?"

She could have hugged him. He had just saved her yet again. "Thank you very much, yet again Gene. I owe you big time."

She smiled at him, and he noticed not for the first time that he liked the way she said his name.

"No problem," he replied, shrugging his shoulders, not making a big deal of it.

She took in a deep breath, steadying herself. He was definitely attractive, and up close he could be even more striking. He wasn't in his uniform, but in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that outlined his muscles. He looked extremely handsome, Dana thought, and she wondered what it would be like to run her hand under his shirt…and immediately reprimanded herself for thinking such things. She really needed to unwind somehow.

"Thank you," she said to him again, and hoped that he couldn't see her blushing. The last thing she needed was him thinking she was a klutz. He handed her back the papers, and their fingers briefly touched. Her breath caught in her throat as the electricity that she had felt the last time shot through her fingers. Startled, she almost dropped the papers again. His reflexes caught them in time before they hit the ground again.

She smiled sheepishly. That did it, she thought. She was a bonafied klutz and she had to make the point right in front of him.

He chuckled at her blush. He could tell that she had felt the electricity again between them, and she seemed especially sensitive. "You look you've had a hard day."

She shook her head, stuffing the papers into the bag she carried on her shoulder. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you," she said, looking up after zipping up her bag and giving him a tired smile. "When the gods are you against you – you don't stand a chance."

"You can say that again," he said, shaking his head and laughing. "The ceremony was enough to put anyone in a bad mood – the speeches put you to sleep but straight-backed chairs kept you awake. Not to mention the ceremony went on almost an hour later than expected."

"Definitely," she replied, chuckling.

"Oh, since you said that you owe me, I'd like to ask you for a favour," he said, instantly serious. He stopped smiling and looked directly at her.

She sobered immediately and nodded her head. It must be a big favour if he is so serious. She would do everything in her power to help him, she thought. He really did deserve it.

"Then how about letting me take you out for some drinks? It looks like we both need it," he said dead-serious.

It took her a few seconds to realize he was joking about the favour. She laughed, "That would be delightful. I need something to unwind me."

His brown eyes twinkled, and he thought that he wouldn't mind doing the unwinding for her. "There's a great little place right down the road from here. We could walk – it isn't that far."

"That sounds great."

By the time they reached the sidewalk, almost everyone had cleared out of the area from the ceremony, and the sun was dipping behind the buildings.

"You know, it's really strange that all of a sudden the crime wave spikes in the city so recently," Dana said when they reached the restaurant and had their drinks in hand. She wanted to sound conversational, but she was curious as to why the crime rate has increased so rapidly, and she secretly thought the new Sergeant had something to do with it.

Gene nodded. "I know. It came as a complete surprise to everyone. Usually as towns expand, so the crime rate increases with a similar factor. Theoretically, Waterside has yet to expand to fit its growing crime rate."

She nodded thoughtfully, and took a sip from her glass of red wine. They ended up staying to eat dinner. The restaurant served excellent Italian food. For the rest of the evening, the conversation ranged from crime, to world affairs, to literature, and she found that he was familiar with a wide variety of poets not well known to the average person.

"So you liked Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est?" Dana asked, interested. "Personally, I found it captivating yet…gory," she said at a loss for a better word.

"That too," Gene agreed, "but his words and point of view on war are hard to ignore. There is some truth in what he says there."

And again, when the bill arrived, he insisted on paying for it. She was exasperated, and mentally made sure to remind herself to invite him somewhere.

As they were walking out, Dana turned to him and said, "Well, I must thank you again for a very nice meal."

"My pleasure," he replied, smiling. Gene was tempted to kiss her, but at that moment it started to rain – first lightly, and then a downpour. They exchanged numbers and good-byes, and she walked down the street to her car as he crossed the road to get to his. With the rain and it being so late, the roads were mostly deserted, with a couple passing on the other side of the road and going into a building.

She looked back, but through the rain it was hard to see anything past a few yards. It was a nice dinner, she thought to herself. Nice dinner, nice company – hell, who was she kidding – not just 'nice company', more like sexy guy who knows what the hell he's talking about. She sighed. Was he interested in her? Or was he just being friendly? She hated trying to read signals – it was more confusing than revealing.

Suddenly, she felt to hands grab her arms from behind. As she was about to yell out, a hand clamped over her mouth. Her mind stopped working for a split second, and all she could feel was instant fear flowing through all the veins in her body. But she forced her mind to work, and slowly it came back.

She could make out another person in front, coming towards her. He grabbed her bag, ripping the shoulder strap. She struggled to free herself and only felt the hand around her tighten. She was trying to suck in a breath of air, but one arm was around her mid-section, squeezing the air out of her. She moved her mouth against the hand, trying to bite it, but it clamped firmly onto her mouth, and it cut off her breath from her nose.

She was trying not to panic, but when she couldn't breathe, the adrenaline kicked in. She twisted and stepped down hard on the attacker's foot. He loosened his grip for only a second, but that was all she needed to scramble out of the hold. She screamed as she felt the second person in front of her grab her hair and yank it back. She was starting to see black dots form before her eyes. The rain coming down sounded like a waterfall, or was that just her blacking out? The second person grabbed for her throat, and tightened their grip around it. She tried to grab their hands, but they weren't moving. She could vaguely make out a third person that had just arrived.

What surprised her was that the third person seemed to have punched one of the attackers, and took him to the ground. Just as she was about to lose full consciousness, the hands around her throat were immediately pulled away, and she gratefully breathed in a deep breath, coughing. She rolled to her side, trying to get as much air as she could into her lungs.

She didn't even realize it, but she was flat on her back on the ground. She squinted her eyes against the rain, but felt them sting nonetheless. Moaning, she tried to sit up, and felt the world spin around. Strong hands came around her, and helped her to the sitting position. Her throat was sore, and her head ached.

Looking at the face of her rescuer, she shouldn't have been surprised, but she was anyways, to see Gene looking down at her extremely worried. She tried to thank him, but she couldn't get anything out, so she reached out and she hugged him tightly, trying to block out what had just happened.

Gene was surprised at her hug, but he held her anyways, and scolded himself for enjoying it so much. He shouldn't be taking advantage of her in this situation, he told himself. But he couldn't just leave her. Holding her like this, he thought, just felt so right. He did, though, just called for backup on his radio he always carried around, and an ambulance was on the way.

The rain was still whipping around them when a few minutes later three police cars arrived. With their lights flashing and sirens on in the rain, it seemed like confusion, but the police officers knew exactly where to go as Gene flashed them his police badge.

The ambulance arrived a split second later, and two paramedics rushed out. Dana shook her head at them when they wanted to put her in the stretcher. From the few minutes they had alone, she was feeling a whole lot better. She tried to ignore that it just felt so good in his arms, and stood up, albeit a bit shakily.

"I'm fine, really," she said to them. The two paramedics – one was a woman and one was a man – didn't look like they believed her. "Really, I'm just a bit shook up." She looked around for Gene, and saw that he was herding the two attackers into the back of a police cruiser.

"Well, at least let us look at those bruises on your neck," the woman paramedic said. They guided her over to the back of the ambulance, where there was some respite from the rain.

They treated the bruises, and she grimaced every time they touched them. "They look okay, but they'll be tender for at least a couple of days," the male paramedic said. Dana nodded, and Gene appeared. He was soaked, his clothes sticking to him and his hair matted, and Dana thought that he had never looked more tempting.

"Excuse me, ma'am, but could we offer you a ride home?"

Dana turned her head, and realized that two police officers had come to take her home. She didn't know what to say. She really didn't feel like driving home, that was for sure.

Before she could answer, Gene told them, "It's alright guys. I'll drive her home."

They both nodded. "Alrighty, Bryce, be seein' ya. Ma'am," one said to them, and the other tipped his hat to Dana. They both returned to their patrol cars and drove off.

Dana climbed out of the ambulance. They closed up the back of the ambulance, but not before asking her again if she didn't feel better being in the hospital at least one night. She shook her head, and Gene gave a little wave to the two paramedics. He took her arm gently, and guided her to his car. He opened the passenger door for her, and helped her get in.

She told him short directions to get to her home, but said no more as she didn't trust her voice as yet. He arrived at the apartment building within fifteen minutes, and turned off the engine. The rain was still pounding outside, Dana noticed vaguely.

"Th-thank you very much, Gene," she said. "I really don't know how to thank you for all your help."

He shook his head saying nothing, and helped our out of the car. He followed her in the building, and made sure she reached her apartment door.

"Really," she said kindly, getting out of the elevator onto her floor. "I'm not that helpless to have to drag you up to my apartment-" She lost her footing, and he easily caught her before she stumbled to the ground. She blushed profusely, but she didn't know whether it was because she fell or because of his arms around her. "Well, never mind what I just said," she laughed, a bit bashfully.

He walked her to her door, and she turned to him again when she had it opened. "Look, can I invite you in for some coffee?" she said. "I really don't know how to properly thank you for what you did today. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask. Anything in my power…"

He shook his head. "I'd better be going now anyways. I'm just relieved that you're okay."

Dana wanted to say something, but thought better of it. So he was only being so kind because he was doing his duty, she thought dejectedly. Well, she couldn't blame him, she thought. After all, he is a police officer, and that is what he does…

Gene saw the look pass over her face. He mentally kicked himself for saying that. Now she only thought that he was helping a victim as part of his work! He just couldn't explain to her how sick in his stomach he was when he saw those two muggers attacking her.

"Well," she said, trying to be cheery and not look so disappointed, "I guess I'd better let you go, and get on with-" She was stopped in mid-sentence by his kiss. She was surprised at first, but then closed her eyes, feeling it was the natural thing to do. She felt his tongue skim the surface of her lips, asking permission. She opened for him, sighing in contentment.

He slipped his hands around her waist, and he groaned softly when he felt her pressing herself to him. She rested her hands on his shoulders, and felt a shiver go down her spine.

He shouldn't be doing this, he told himself. He knew that the first training you received with a victim of crime was that they were the most fragile after the assault… and the most vulnerable. He knew it was wrong, but when he felt that shiver go through her, he felt so powerful and so weak at the same time. Her mouth was soft and sweet, and ever so innocent.

His tongue did dances in her mouth, and she thought that if he wasn't holding her up, she would have melted to the floor already. She felt him caress her mouth, and she tried to reciprocate, although somewhat shyly. Her body felt like it was on fire, and the heat in her stomach moved lower. She sighed, and this time it turned into a moan.

She felt him pull away slowly, and her eyes fluttered open. Her mind was blank for a moment, and she felt a bit disoriented. Then she remembered that she was in the hallway, where anyone could walk out and see them.

"I'd better go," he said, in a deep, hoarse voice, but he was still holding her.

She took a couple of deep breaths. "Y-yes." He moved away, and she held onto the open door more for support than for closing it. "And thank you…very much."

He gave her a smile that sent her knees wobbling, and he was gone before she could say anything else.