~ Improbable Protector ~
by JM Dragon

Disclaimers: Love/Sex: This story features consensual relationship between adult women, and some implied m/f relations. If this bothers you, is illegal in the State, Province or Country you live or if you are the under age of 18, find something else to read. There are many fine general stories out there for you to read.

Language: Use of some harsh and strong language depicting certain subject matter is utilised to employ and set the tone and behaviour of specific circumstances in the story, as well as some general characterisations.

Violence: There are brief depictions of brutality, references to hostility and both mental and physical violence in this story.

Hurt/Comfort: There is definitely some hurt/emotional discomfort in this one, and some brief scenes of angst and heartache to be dealt with by the characters.

Dedication: This story is for Mel. (Batteries are not included.)

Acknowledgement: Betty thank you once again for your help.


Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Part 1

Chapter One

Scene: First Meeting

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CAR NOW, YOU USELESS BITCH!" bellowed the man who was forcibly pushing the woman hard against the handle of the door, making her wince with pain.

Joanna Lackerly scowled her beautiful face scrunched up with her hatred of the man who was yelling at her.

"SCREW YOU JED. I HOPE YOU ROT YOUR SORRY CARCASS IN HELL!" her voice so loud he winced at the volume.

"Bitch, you'll rot in hell way before me, I guarantee it!" he sneered and revved up the engine of the car in impatient anger.

"Hope I do, that way I get to be the welcome party." Joanna sarcastically threw the words at him.

Pushing open the door of the vehicle, hastily dragging her personal belongings with her as well as her pride and joy, her guitar case. The bastard might speed off and leave her with nothing but the clothes on her back. She wouldn't put that past him.

As she cleared the car by two inches, he sped off at a pace that left behind a cloud of dust that covered Joanna, making her feel even more unclean than she had felt at the earlier conversation with Jed.

There was nothing Joanna Lackerly could do. She was on her own with this one!

Damn stupid really, if she'd thought about it. She hadn't as usual and voiced her opinion, so here she was alone in the middle of this small town with only her guitar and a strong voice to help her make a living. Assuming of course, she could find a local bar or tavern that needed her brand of entertainment. Nothing was guaranteed in this world. Definitely finding work in one-horse towns usually meant she had to consider something less savory to make money and she hadn't done that in a while.

Having pissed off her latest meal ticket, she looked towards the shabby entrance of the motel situated at the end of the town main street called appropriately 'Danvers Town Motel'.

Walking over to the entrance, she opened the creaking door and glanced at the peeling gray paint that looked older than she was and at thirty-five that was some going.

Her steel blue eyes narrowed as she saw the neat looking lobby, which was in total contrast to the outside fascia. Smiling cynically, giving her features a helping hand in making it more beautiful, not that it needed any help, for Joanna Lackerly or Jojo as she was nicknamed by friends was a striking woman. She had classical high cheekbones and a remarkably flawless skin that belied her age with a long aquiline nose that gave the impression with her olive skin tone of being of Latin or Mediterranean descent.

Her father had been a Greek immigrant from one of the smaller Greek Islands and had married an American girl soon after his arrival in New York. They had produced two children a son and daughter. The family had never had much money, but they had always had a happy family life. Her father was still working in the local bakery and her mother was an excellent seamstress, her brother who was younger by five years was a police officer who was married with a two-year-old daughter, who she hadn't seen except in pictures.

Joanna was the black sheep in the family. She had dropped out of college on a couple of drugs charges and instead of going home and finding work she had opted to rely on her talent as the front woman in a band. That had worked for five years. Eventually the others in the group had either gone on to better things, or gave up and went back to a more conventional lifestyle. Not something Joanna had wanted back then, but now ten years later with so much experience of living on the road, she was still a vagabond. The disappointments of promises never actioned and dreams shredded by the wayside, she was no more than a drifter without prospects, nowhere to call home and no one to care.

Another prospect passed by as she had argued with her current partner over where she would work and what she would do to get a job! She hadn't wanted to give in this time and without thinking had refused just as they had entered this small town. Jed had turned on her for the final time and now here she was stuck in this small hick town.

Just as well she always traveled light!

Moving inside the neat lobby, she could smell the fresh scent of cut flowers, carnations she thought; gave herself a pat on the back as she saw several vases scattered around the room full of different colored carnations. It looked quite cozy and rather unusual, wonder who owned it? There was two well worn but clean and comfortable easy chairs next to a coffee table that had several magazines neatly spread on it's polished surface. To the left of the motel desk was a long table with a coffeepot full of what appeared by the smell to be the freshly brewed beverage. Joanna was sorely tempted to go over and pick up a china mug that was situated in neat rows next to the machine with what was clearly fresh milk and cream next to it. Along side that was a machine that was just about to sound out it's completion of a fresh brew of tea. From the faint aroma it was a fragrant one also. This was so out of the ordinary it couldn't surely be real could it?

Shaking her head she heard voices getting closer and the door marked private opened slightly and Joanna saw the back of a small woman with short blonde hair waving her arms around as she spoke to an elderly woman.

"Daisy it isn't my decision anymore, it's the banks. What do you want me to do?" The blonde was apparently distressed if her tone of voice was anything to go by.

"I want you to go and tell that good for nothing George Andrews that you need more time! If your papa were alive this wouldn't be happening." The old woman shouted in a voice that was aggressive, but held warmth as she looked towards the opening and saw Joanna standing there watching the scene with interest.

"I?oh I know that but if it hadn't been for papa in the first place none of this would have been happening anyway." the blonde said exasperated by the older woman's words.

"Little girl keep them thoughts to yourself and go see what that tall stranger wants." The older woman gave her pat on the head in affection and turned on her heal slowly and left.

The blonde turned around startled to the stranger in the lobby and was monetarily taken off balance as she turned her green eyes up towards the smiling face of the woman. 'Oh no, why did this always happen when there was a potential customer about?' Walking towards the reception desk, she swallowed a couple of times and then turned on her pleased to meet you polite smile.

"Hello. What can I do for you?" Fleur Danvers asked politely.

Joanna looked at the shorter woman who must be at least five inches shorter than her or maybe more and gave her a thorough examination out of her blue eyes they appeared to Fleur to look right into her soul. "I need a room, nothing fancy. What are the rates?" Her low melodic voice asked as she once again felt the urge to take up the coffee invitation to her right hand side.

Fleur gave the woman an equal examination. She smiled slightly as she took in the worn clothes that were relatively clean, but probably could do with replacing. Her midnight black hair was hanging loosely around her shoulders and that too could do with a trim and washing it looked rather too lank to her eyes.

"Fifteen dollars a night is the cheapest room I have. It's very basic though," the smaller woman said and to Joanna it sounded apologetic.

Smiling wryly she nodded her head, "No problem, I'll take it." Joanna said quickly and thought she had enough money to see her through to the end of the week anyway without work to help.

Fleur looked at the tall woman and wondered about her but politeness stopped her being too inquisitive at least for now. "Would you sign the register for me and how would you like to pay Miss??"

Joanna arched an eyebrow in the other woman's direction and saw the faint blush appear on the younger woman's face. "Lackerly, Ms. Lackerly and cash."

Fleur smiled at the rather dour expression on the face before her, "Well, Ms. Lackerly I'm pleased to have you stay with us and room five will be your allocated room."

Joanna signed the register and looked at the coffee, which was causing her nose to twitch in response to its aroma. Fleur looked up at the moment and a playful smile passed over her lips. "Would you like coffee Ms. Lackerly?"

Joanna looked up into mock serious green eyes and she saw the mirth being hidden in the depths. "Is this the perk of staying here?" she answered sarcastically.

Fleur turned her face towards Joanna and the hurt was evident at her attitude.

"No! If you follow me, I will show you to your room."

Fleur removed some keys from under the counter of the reception and the jangle of them brought Joanna's eyes to the hurt expression on the blonde. 'Damn! I could have used a coffee!' as she followed the woman.

They went down a small corridor, which led to the ten rooms in the motel. Joanna had noticed that point when she looked at the old brochure on the reception desk, the place was certainly well looked after and the decoration was tastefully done. All the furnishings along the corridor looked old and worn, but remarkably expensive in style must have bought them at a house sale or something.

Fleur had been a little hurt at the remark from the tall woman she hadn't wanted to sound overly friendly and obviously that's how it was taken her offer of coffee, oh well one day she'd learn that being friendly wasn't what the customers wanted. Although in the case of the men that stayed here they would prefer the personal touch and a little more personal than Fleur was ever going to offer!

Fleur stopped at the door marked five and placed the key inside the lock and heard the snick as the lock was released on the turn of the key. "I hope you will be comfortable Ms. Lackerly." Handing the key over to the woman who was behind her, Fleur could feel the light breath of the woman on the back of her neck.

Blue eyes searched green momentarily and then the dark head nodded in her direction and accepted the key and moved aside to allow the smaller woman to move by her.

"Thanks." the low contralto voice answered.

Fleur moved quickly by the tall woman and started back down the corridor, unaware that blue eyes watched her retreating back with interest.

Joanna smiled at the woman and then opened the door further and went inside. Her eyes popped out of her head or almost at the sight. She turned as suddenly back to the corridor and shouted. "You've made a mistake!" but the other woman was no longer in the darkening area.


Not really knowing what to do she went back inside and put down her bag and glanced around the room. The decoration was in pale blues and lilacs and it was so light and airy that it made you feel so welcome as if you were coming home. The smell of fresh cut flowers and not surprisingly lilacs were on the small table next to the window that overlooked what seemed to be a small patch of grass and lots and lots of flowers in several stages of growth. The bed was a king-sized monster and it was draped at the headboard with filmy translucent satin of the deepest royal blue with matching bed linen. There was a small TV on a shelve, which made viewing easy from the bed or from the easy chair that was next to the table. The dresser had a large mirror and the local newspaper and a few flyers indicating what was available in the area and next to those was a basket of fruit. Opening the door, she was amazed at the bathroom. It was a Victorian style bath with an overhead shower and a lilac shower curtain. Several toiletries were displayed and fresh smelling towels caused Joanna to smile at the thought of finally feeling soft clean towels, after a long luxurious bath filled to the brim with bubbles.

God she was going to enjoy staying here even if she could only afford it for a short time. 'Thank you God.' Putting out a hand she placed the plug in the bathtub, turned on the taps and watched the water immediately steam and she smiled in satisfaction at the sight? hot, hot water too, what a relief! Walking over to the glass shelve positioned over the wash basin she grinned as she saw aroma-therapy bubble bath and for the first time in ages she laughed genuinely as she saw the names of the two products 'sensual and exciting' hell of a combination! Selecting the one marked 'sensual' she liberally poured it into the flow of water and watched in pleasure as the bubbles began to rise. 'Wonder if I can get work around here, if this is what you get for fifteen dollars a night, I would stay here forever.'

Stripping off her clothes, which she noticed needed the laundry badly along with all the other things she had in the bag of her personal possessions. Did she even have clean underwear? Shaking her head at the depressing thought, but couldn't let the opportunity of having her body clean even if she couldn't quite manage to extend that to her clothes, that was a task for later. Right now, she was going to soak in that old bath, which had her name written all over it. Joanna lowered her lean body into the hot water and was surrounded by bubbles and the strangely familiar aroma. A decadent purr escaped her lips as she settled down into the depths and closed her eyes to everything. Everything that is, but the pleasure of the next half-hour or more.


Chapter two:

Scene: A confrontation

Fleur looked around the small lobby and placed a couple more old issues of Time magazine on the coffee table. It wasn't a bad place? Danvers town, she was born and raised here. But something intangible was missing in her life. She didn't know what and if she didn't know what, how was she ever going to find it? Sighing heavily she failed to notice the door open and the portly well-dressed man enter by the side door.

George Andrews watched the blonde woman from his position at the side door. She obviously hadn't heard him enter the building. He looked at her side profile and felt a stirring in his loins as he relished the fact that shortly, very shortly he would have her regardless of her protestations. He practically owned her motel. He knew that Daniel Danvers had been distraught at having gambled away the last of the Danvers property. Had it not been for his sincere love for his daughter, he would have gambled her away too. It brought a wicked smile to his lips as he recalled the look of horror on Danvers face at the suggestion and he knew had he lived a little longer he would have relented. But the stupid bastard had been killed in a car accident? but it was a very strange car accident. So much so, that the insurance company still hadn't paid off on his death policy and probably never would.

He mopped his sweaty face with his less than clean handkerchief and smiled as he looked at her trim and enticing figure, although the olive green shirt she wore was not in itself revealing. The number of buttons open at the neck gave a very enticing view of pale flesh, which had him, sweating even more but not from the heat of the midday sun this time.

Moving forward, he was behind the woman who was his height before she could notice his entrance. He gave a devilish smile as he saw her shiver at his presence.

"My dear Fleur, surely you can get that old woman who you keep around to do the menial tasks of putting out the literature. She's surely capable of that at least." He stated sarcastically.

Fleur was disconcerted not only at him surprising her, but also at his very presence. What the hell did he want?

"Mr. Andrews how I allocate tasks in my motel is my concern not yours. I'm sure you have far better things to do than worry about how my staff spend their time?"

Andrews looked the woman over and couldn't decide if she was being sarcastic or not and decided that she probably didn't have the where with all to be sarcastic.

"My dear Fleur, please after all these years, we can dispense with the Mr. and call me George?"

Fleur knew he was a snake in the grass. He had that slimy attitude and how her father had ever been duped to believe he was a friend astounded her, but he had and now, they were all paying the price.

"Mr.?Andrews what brings you here today? Surely the bank needs you? It is still open at this time isn't it?" Fleur had almost given in and said his first name, however she decided she wasn't completely dead yet, at least as far as the business and this town were concerned. The town wasn't named after her great grandfather for nothing!

George Andrews gave her a speculative look and shook his head, but kept his smile in place. This bitch was going to pay up eventually and when she did it was going to be on his terms!

"I thought I would pay a social call and check on how you're doing? As you know the bank has invested heavily in the motel."

Fleur heard the sarcastic tone and wished she could say the place was full, but it wasn't. All she had was a woman who looked like nothing more than a drifter and who had only been prepared to pay the lowest possible rate. Not that she had been given a down graded room, she hadn't, but to hell with Andrews!

"Actually I have a customer and she's going to be long term and?she's paying the best rates." Fleur said in a defiant tone.

George Andrews looked at her shrewdly to see if she was lying to him. She could be there hadn't been anyone in town for weeks and to pay top dollar, this he had to know.

"Who is it?"

Fleur looked at his ruddy complexion and his pugnacious features, he had the look of a boxer who had been in too many fights. He was also overweight for his height and his fat stomach came out to meet you before his hand did, or so she thought anyway.

"She's a traveler."

Andrews looked at her suspiciously. "What kind of traveler?"

Fleur never at a loss for words related distinctly. "Ms. Lackerly wasn't that talkative about her personal life to a stranger, but she implied she would be staying a time."

Fleur had her hands behind her back and her fingers crossed as she spoke the words. She didn't want to lie exactly, but stretching the truth? maybe that could be forgiven in the circumstances, just this once!

George Andrews looked at her and wondered if she was telling the truth. Why would she lie? It would not solve her problems.

"I see. So how long will that be?"

"How would I know? She didn't say?" Fleur responded quickly.

"You're right then, she isn't talkative." Andrews alleged with a malicious tone.

"No. No, she isn't. There again, would you be in a strange town?" Fleur countered, her fingers were crossed twofold at her blatant lies.

Andrews shrugged his shoulders and gave her another long look.

"Perhaps not." He conceded.

"So, Mr. Andrews, I have things to do. Do you want me for something in particular?" Fleur countered in an amiable tone, her smile forced, but he would never know.

"No. No, I will let you carry on. But Fleur, would you consider going to the local dance on Saturday with me?" Andrews asked for the first time tentatively, his ruddy complexion becoming redder still.

Fleur didn't like to hurt any ones feelings, but she seriously didn't want to go with him. What could she say?

"Sorry, but I have other plans."

Andrews once again glanced at her. Was she really telling the truth? He had to concede; he would not know otherwise until she turned up at the function with another party. He would wait. He had waited ten years, so he could wait a couple of months more.

"No problem. I will be over soon to see you." He gave her another long look and then disappeared out the side door he came from originally.

Fleur watched his retreating back and let out a sigh of relief. God what was she going to do if he did take over the motel? She had nothing to fall back and no qualifications!

Looking towards the corridor where the woman she had been talking about resided, she hoped she would stay at least to make credence out of her claim. Only time and a miracle would tell.


Scene: A bar like any other bar.

Jojo Lackerly felt decidedly better than she had two hours ago. In fact she was glad she was rid of Jed. He had been a fucking pain anyway. He hadn't been that good in bed either. His only merit had been his ability to talk the owners of the bars into giving her a chance to sing. Only problem with that was Jed usually took umbrage at a punter who made a play for her and they ended by wrecking more than one bar with the fight that ensued. Eventually they were thrown out of more towns than they left of their own accord.

Walking swiftly towards the sign which indicated what must be the only bar in this small town she was at the entrance within seconds. As she placed her hand on the wooden door she noticed it needed a paint job. 'The whole town could do with a make over!'

She opened the door and sauntered in as if she didn't have a care in the world. With her guitar case slung over her back for ease of transport, she saw the bar tender look her over in speculation and he grinned. 'Good start.'

"Hi." Jojo addressed him amenably and gave a wide smile.

"Hi yourself. New in town?" the bartender asked in a friendly open manner.

"Yeah. Wonder if you have any openings for entertainers hereabouts?" Jojo looked him straight in the eye as she asked. She would know before he said the words, if he wasn't interested? eyes had that kind of way of letting you know.

John-Henry Bascome returned eye contact and his brown ones had a serious expression in them clearly indicating he was weighing her up.

"What kinda entertainment?"

The woman before him was certainly beautiful and if she could play that guitar as well as she looked then he wouldn't mind letting her play some for the customers.

Jojo gave him a keen glance and pointed to the instrument on her back. "I sing some and play this some too."

"Wanna let me hear you and decide if 'some' will please the customers?" John-Henry remarked quietly.

"Sure, why not?" Jojo reached behind her and set free the clasp that held the guitars harness in place and it dropped into her waiting secure hands and she removed the casing deftly.

"The people hereabouts like country music." John-Henry supplied affably.

"Country it is then. Have a request?" Jojo strummed absently on the strings of her beloved guitar, it had cost her a fortune way back when she was playing to larger towns and making money, not just enough to live.

"Surprise me." The bartender settled his elbows on the bars smooth clean surface and waited for her to begin.

A soft strum of the strings brought about an intro to something he'd not heard before and she started to sing.

I'm a travelling girl; I travel the world to find you. One day I will and you and I will be together forever.

When you walked away you didn't know, how much you'd come to mean to me. It wasn't easy then to tell you and now you're gone and I can't find you.

I watched you go, never thinking I'd never see you again. It would never be the same when you went away, it would never be the same until you're home.

I'm a travelling girl; I travel the world to find you. One day I will and you and I will be together forever.

Experience tells me that you will never come back to me, but I'll search for eternity. There's always the chance that I will see you looking out for me and when you do, I'll be there to tell you, I love you.

I'm a travelling girl; I travel the world to find you. One day I will and you and I will be together forever.

As I sit here singing this song for you and look upon the sea of faces. The only face I want to see starring at me is you and I will; I will one day and have you back to stay.

I live to love you again and will never fail to seek you out. And one day soon you will know how much I miss your smiling face.

I'm a travelling girl; I travel the world to find you. One day I will and you and I will be together forever. I'm a travelling girl?.

Jojo softly finished the ballad and as she glanced up, shook the dark hair out of her eyes as she gave him a small smile as she waited for his verdict.

John-Henry was impressed. He had come across far too many men and women who had called themselves entertainers, but this woman surely had the voice and she could play that guitar well also! Wonder why she wasn't in some fancy town that she could make money out of her talent? Still why should he worry, the folks around here would be in for a treat for however long she wanted to play to them.

"Lady, I can't pay you much, but the package you have on offer, I'd be a fool to let pass. How does fifty dollars a night and all the drinks you want are free?" he offered, waiting for her answer.

Jojo didn't give much away, but she was happy. It meant she could afford to easily stay at the motel, have a decent meal and still have change. Jesus that was better than sharing with Jed and she got to sleep on her own if she wanted too.

"Works for me. What time do you want me?"

John-Henry raised an eyebrow and she gave him a wicked grin in return which he returned. "Be here at seven this evening. I'll expect my monies worth. If you need a place to stay I'd recommend the local motel. Might not look much, but believe me it's worth going inside."

Jojo heard the warmth behind the words he relayed on the motel.

"Already been there. Yeah you're right, it's not what I expected from the outside."

"No. Well sometimes nothing is exactly what it appears to the outside world." He replied enigmatically.

"Yeah, I guess." Jojo reflected and then decided that she needed to get some of her stuff cleaned if she was going to be performing in a few hours.

"I'll see you later boss." Jojo began to replace her guitar in the case and slung it over her back with practiced ease and clipped it in place.

"The names John-Henry, see you at seven sharp!" He went back to polishing the surface of the sparkling bar top, whistling an out of tune song that Jojo couldn't recognize.

Walking out of the bar and into the afternoon sunlight, she glanced around for the nearest laundry and crossed her fingers they had one. There wasn't one in view and she was desperate to find someplace to clean her clothes. She surmised she would have to go looking, but with the size of this town, it wouldn't take that long.

Chapter three:

Scene: Poles apart

Fleur gazed over the small yard out behind the motel. It brought tears to her eyes as she contemplated losing this final family possession.

Her family had been the pioneers of the area and had been the largest landowners for a thousand miles. Death duties, gambling and silly forays into unsuitable investments over the last couple of generations had left her father the only Danvers left alive in this area with nothing but the ranch, motel and the local bar. Then he had succumbed to the gambling fever a common trait in the family line and lost first the bar to the bank, then the ranch and unless she could come up with the mortgage payments, they would have the motel too!

Her father's death hadn't helped at all! He'd been drinking heavily she'd been told that evening he left the town to visit a sick friend, or so that's what his friends had said. Her father hadn't had a sick friend that she was aware of and his car crashing into the ravine ten miles from town had been senseless and totally unlike her father. Whatever condition he was in, he would never have hit the ravine, it was just too far away from the road.

The insurance company hadn't paid out on his death, saying the circumstances had been suspicious and when the autopsy revealed that he'd been drinking too, that had sealed the case as far as the insurance people were concerned. If it had been her father's decision to end his life and leave her with the insurance money, it had backfired in a big way!

She heard the door to the entrance of the motel open and upon returning to the lobby saw the tall back of the woman who was residing in room five, reach for a cup and pour out the dark steaming liquid.

"Have you settled into your room Miss Lackerly?" Fleur asked politely. She couldn't help a smirk crossing her face as she saw what appeared to be a guilty start from the otherwise poised woman.

Steel blue eyes captured hers as she turned to face the person who had given her a start. She was puzzled at the feeling of familiarity as she gazed monetarily into the green eyes a couple of yards from her.

Mentally shaking away the image, she nodded her head and waited to see if the blonde would say more.

Fleur saw the nod and inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Will you be staying in town long?"

Jojo saw the woman hesitate before she asked the question. For some reason it was important to the woman that she stays, but why?

"Might be longer than the end of the week that I had originally planned." Shaking her dark locks away from her eyes. She sipped on the coffee and found it refreshing after her couple of hours in the smallest laundry on earth. That and only one machine was working. Then she had to wait until the rather talkative young man had finally finished.

"I see. Obviously I would need to know if you planned a lengthy stay." Fleur knew the statement was ridiculous and the other woman would know it also. Nonplused she stood her ground and waited for a reply.

Jojo wanted to laugh! 'Jesus the crummy motel didn't have any other guests as far as she could tell. What the hell difference would it make?'

"I've a job at the local bar, if it works out I can stay longer if not?."

Fleur wasn't sure what to make of that John-Henry rarely employed strangers and she wondered exactly what the woman's role in the bar would be. Then she tried to think sensibly, what did it matter to her anyway? She was a drifter and could do what she wanted and probably did regardless of advice.

"John-Henry is a good man, he wouldn't have employed you if he didn't think you'd work out. What exactly do you do, if you don't mind me asking?" Fleur requested quietly, but her tone reflected a genuine interest.

Jojo wasn't sure if she wanted to tell the woman and yet as she saw the genuine expression of interest on her face she thought, what the hell!

"I sing and play the guitar, entertainer of sorts, I'd guess you'd call it." Jojo once again sipped on the cooling beverage, this woman was sure inquisitive.

"Are you good?"

"Depends on your taste."

"I like country music, Cissy Lenard style." Fleur found talking to this woman difficult. She didn't exactly answer anything with any clarity.

"Then I could sing a few that you'd like I guess." Jojo was getting bored with the conversation. All she wanted to do was go rest up for an hour prior to her first session at the bar.

"What do you prefer to sing?" Fleur persisted for some reason; she wanted to know what the other woman preferred.

"My own compositions. I need to do a few things if you don't mind Ms??" Jojo realized that she didn't know who the blonde was and fairs fair on the question and answer stuff.

"You write your own songs you appear to be very talented?" Fleur asked tentatively. She had seen the change of stance of the woman from mildly interested to bored.

Jojo raised her eyebrow to the smaller woman. She hadn't answered her question.

"Oh, sorry my names Danvers, Fleur Danvers. I own the motel." Fleur colored slightly at her oversight.

Moving away from the coffee machine and it's enticing aroma, Jojo started towards the corridor and her room and Fleur looked disappointed that she wasn't going to get an answer.

Jojo turned and saw disappoint etched in the pale face and she was once again drawn to the woman for some strange reason. "I have many skills. You would have to hear them to decide for yourself."

Fleur was taken aback by the rejoinder, which had been unexpected. She smiled slowly as she watched the retreating back down the corridor. 'Perhaps I will, perhaps I will.'

Her eyes once again strayed towards the yard and the colors that presented themselves in their displays. Her tears this time stayed away. She might be poles apart from the woman she now had as a customer, but perhaps her luck was turning and if Miss Lackerly was paying and became a long term resident who knew what else might change in her favor!

Idly thumbing through the guest register, she saw the bold and precise signature of her only paying guest and mused, 'I wonder what the J stands for?'

Scene: First night

Jojo was seated at the corner of the bar and was pleasantly surprised to find that the bar was busy. The punters appeared to be local ranch hands and men from the town in all walks of life she surmised. There was a distinct lack of women, but that was usual in small towns and even the larger ones too!

John-Henry had watched his new singer enter the bar and heads had turned at her appearance. She was dressed in faded denims that had seen better days, but who cared! She was wearing a heavy denim shirt that had studs everywhere and on the back you could make out the name JOJO. The shirt itself was open to reveal a cleavage that would keep the customers happy even if she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. That wasn't true though, so maybe just maybe, it might bring in more customers. What the hell, if she failed tonight, it would only cost him fifty dollars and free booze. He would just chalk it up to experience.

"You ready to go on?" he asked her as he walked towards her position.

Jojo looked at him then the small crowd and putting a hand behind her neck to ensure that her hair was securely tied, she moved off the stool and went towards the area John-Henry had cleared for her and where her guitar was waiting.

Her movement across the room hadn't gone unnoticed by some of the younger men and it made the bartender chuckle as he heard the wolf whistles as she mounted the slightly raised area, picked up her guitar and began strumming it. Ignoring the whistles as she concentrated on her craft, she commenced her first set.

When Fleur entered the bar shortly before nine, she was amazed at the excited buzz that appeared to be coming from the normally reserved bar. The only sound usually reserved for the potting of pool balls. The guitar sounds amplified by a speaker system playing an upbeat tune and she felt the excitement of the evening and the music start to pound in her own body.

John-Henry watched Fleur Danvers walk into the bar. Now this was a rare occasion. He hadn't seen her enter his establishment since her father died eighteen months ago. Then she'd only done so to pick him up off the floor and take him home and that had been no exaggeration at times for her he surmised.

As Fleur moved to a stool at the end of the bar and away from the mass of people that were surrounding her guest, she looked at the way the woman casually played to the audience and clearly knew exactly what would excite them. The chanting of Jojo around the room made Fleur look around to see exactly who Jojo was.

"Ms. Danvers nice to see you, would you like something to drink?"

Fleur turned her attention to the softly spoken man and smiled. She liked the man, for he had always been civil with her. She'd found out recently that he'd paid over the top for the bar deeds and had been subsidizing her father's drinking habits for some time prior to his death.

"Thanks John-Henry, I'll have a beer, a Lite. One has to keep the figure." Fleur gave him a dazzling smile as he went on his way to bring her a bottle of ice cool beer.

Fleur turned her attention back to the woman who was making the men in the room whistle and shout and generally enjoy themselves. The music had changed tempo. A tune she'd never heard before was being played and as she shifted her glance towards the woman about to sing. She was amazed to come into direct contact with those steel blue eyes. They pierced into her soul Fleur was sure of it. She caught her breath, as they seemed to ask her a question. Mesmerized by the eyes, she didn't see John-Henry place the bottle of beer at her elbow. He smiled and walked towards another customer.

Innocently I loved; it was real for me, another notch for you. One day you just never returned and I cried for the innocence that left me that day.

As you ride the waves of this life, you go through the barriers of the heart and hide.

When you reach that part of your existence that asks you to trust again, you look at it and cynically laugh, for you say never again.

As you ride the waves of this life, you go through the barriers of the heart and hide.

In every season of your life you ask the same question, it's just presented in another form. All that's gone is the innocence lost so long ago.

As you ride the waves of life, you go through the barriers of the heart and hide.

When you're old, you might live to regret the chances that came and you did refrain, but never forgot the pain, of the stain of the love that remains buried deep in the cavern that once was your faith, and innocent love was safe.

As you ride the waves of this life, you go through the barriers of the heart and hide.

The song plaintive in tone and sung with a melancholy that gave it a truth beyond the words, or so Fleur thought, as she tried and failed to catch the other woman's eyes when she had finished.

Fleur's attention was diverted as a slurred voice at her side caught her unawares. "Msss Danv..ers you want to dance?"

Politeness an overriding character trait of hers, Fleur gave the man a wary smile and shook her head. "No. Thanks anyway." she quickly grasped her bottle of beer and drank from it thirstily, normally she would have asked for a glass, but hoped this would put the man off.

"Ah, a lady after my own hear?t John-Henry over here and ship us refills will yah." The young man shouted arrogantly down the bar towards the older man.

"That's okay. Please, I only came in for one drink, I need to go." Fleur stated desperately and looked around for a means of escape. The man was rather tall and bulky. He wasn't to be trifled with she suspected.

"Little lady, I'm buying." He clipped out and placed a heavy hand on her shoulder and effectively stopped her flight from him.

"Really, I don't want another drink. Please, if you wouldn't mind taking your hand from my shoulder, I need to go." Fleur didn't want to sound weak, but she certainly wasn't used to this situation. She never wanted to be either. Of course she had seen the man around, but she didn't know his name and now didn't want to, he was no gentleman. Looking uncertainly round for some help, she noticed that the only one who could help her was John-Henry and he was engrossed in trying to stop a fight that had started at the other end of the bar.

"I say you do, and if Tony Reed says he's buying, that's reason enough." Reed placed his other hand on her opposite shoulder and tugged her closer to him; he smelt of whisky and was none to sober that was for sure.

"The lady said she didn't want a drink, so beat it!" a low carefully controlled voice responded from behind Fleur. It's nuance so neutral she didn't know if it was a man or woman.

"You her keep?er?" the man slurred heavily as he was surprised by the action of someone coming to Fleur's defense.

Fleur heard the hesitation for a brief moment and then he received his answer. "Yeah! Going to make an issue of it?" the voice had taken on a vicious quality that made the smile on the man's face turn to a scowl.

Releasing Fleur's shoulders, the man moved menacingly towards the person who had spoken in her defense. Quickly jumping from the stool she moved so that she could see her defender and her mouth dropped open as she came face to face with those steel blue eyes of the woman who it would appear was invading not only her thoughts, but all her life too.

"I'd like to see you stop this!" he lunged forward with a fist and was easily side stepped and he cannoned instead into a post, his face flat against the surface.

Jojo Lackerly laughed cruelly as the man staggered away from the post with a bleeding nose.

"Wanna have another go?" she taunted him.

"You bitch! I'm gonna make you pay for this, see if I don't." Reed snarled at her and was about to pounce again when one of his friends intervened.

"Tony-leave it! Andrews would kill you if you?." He trailed off looking first at the evil menace in the form of Jojo Lackerly and the rather startled Fleur Danvers.

He dragged the man away without a further word.

Jojo turned to the smaller woman and gave her a quizzical glance then said quietly. "You alright?"

Fleur had to laugh for the situation was laughable. Here she was in a bar she'd not set foot in unless her father had been inside, being manhandled, then saved by a six-foot woman, who she'd met only hours before and had scarcely passed the time of day with. Well, the situation was almost laughable?

"Yes, thank you. I?that is I'm not?." Fleur gave her an apologetic glance and then turned her eyes to the shining toecap of her black shoes.

Jojo smiled, the woman was positively enchanting in her embarrassment. It was amusing. "No problem Ms. Danvers, maybe next time, you should bring a protector?"

Fleur heard the amusement in the voice and turned an even brighter shade of pink than she knew she had been. Did the woman find her funny?

"Thank you for your help. I'll leave now." Fleur finally gained her composure and with as much decorum as she could manage quickly exited the bar under the amused gaze of the taller woman.


Jojo spun round to her new boss who was grinning at her. "For what?"

"Well, it would have been a little grim for Ms. Danvers had you not stepped in to help her out. She's not exactly the most experienced person around here." John-Henry supplied trying not to make Fleur Danvers sound like a complete innocent.

"I noticed. I told her to get herself a protector next time." Jojo sat at the stool that Fleur Danvers had vacated.

John-Henry laughed a deep belly laugh and indicated the cooler and she pointed to a beer. He selected the one she'd indicated and put it down next to her. "She needs one too, for she left without paying for her beer."

Jojo looked at the half empty bottle of beer close to her left hand and smiled wryly at it. "That's okay I'll pay. Seems I got the job by accident this evening."

The man looked at her with a deep concentrated expression at her words and then smiled at her. "Looks like she could do with someone like you to protect her around here."

"Why would that be? It was only some drunk out for a good time. She probably won't come back here." Jojo was interested, regardless of her usual make no friends attitude in strange places she usually maintained.

"Tell you what, after we close up here, I'll tell you a short story. Now drink your beer and go slay'em girl." he chuckled as he saw her startled expression.

Jojo wasn't sure she'd heard right, a story? Fucking hell she had not been read a bedtime story since she was eight years old. Then she had never listened. Better be some story if it wasted her sleep time!

Taking a long drink from the bottle, her lips twitched in a small smile as she placed it next to the half empty one of the blondes, then smirked as she recalled the embarrassment as she'd left the bar. Sliding gracefully off the stool she went back towards the makeshift podium and another set.


Chapter Four

Scene: Tentative Understanding

Jojo couldn't be certain, but she was sure she heard faint sobs coming from the room next to hers. One thing she'd always been grateful for, was her acute hearing. It had proved excellent, not only for her chosen career path, but also, when situations got a little crazy and she had needed to bolt out of town quickly.

Listening intently now that she was wide-awake, she heard the muffled sounds of crying once again, but she was positive this time around. Pulling the pillow over her head she tried to shut out the sounds, but they persisted and she thumped the pillow in annoyance.

Jojo had been staying in the motel for over three weeks now and knew that the owner Fleur Danvers occupied the room in question. Although she'd seen Danvers occasionally in those ensuing weeks, they had barely passed more than polite short sentences after the situation in the bar. The blonde appeared to be avoiding her and it hadn't been a problem for Jojo. They had nothing in common anyway!

Giving up any chance of sleep until the woman stopped crying, Jojo went over and made herself an instant coffee. It was easier than setting up the small percolator. Ten minutes later the sob had far from decreased. To Jojo's sensitive hearing it had, in fact, increased in volume.

Making one of her impulsive decisions that she usually only ever equated to when she landed herself with another man, she picked up her shirt and partially buttoned it, slipped on her boxer shorts that she had discarded earlier, as sleeping in the nude was a given in her book. Opening her door she went over to Danvers door and knocked decisively and waited.

At first she wasn't sure if the woman could have heard her, but then she heard a shuffle within the confines of the four walls and a small voice ask tentatively who it was.

"Ms. Danvers it's Lackerly. I heard noises, just checking to make sure you were okay." Jojo wasn't sure what to say without causing the woman any embarrassment.

The door opened slightly and both women seemed uncomfortable at that moment. "I see, thanks for asking, but I'm fine."

Jojo hadn't missed the red swollen eyes that indicated that the woman had been crying for some time, not to mention the green eyes welling with tears as they stood looking at each other. That woeful childish expression was Jojo's undoing. She moved a fraction closer and put out a hand gently lifted Fleur's chin and looked into the green eyes with serious steel blue ones.

"Pardon me for saying so, but you don't look fine. Can I help? Sometimes talking to a stranger releases the tension." Jojo stated quietly and waited as she saw the expression on the blondes face change to astonishment.

"I appreciate your concern Ms. Lackerly, but there's nothing you can do. Thank you for your offer." Fleur didn't want to open her heart to this woman. There was something about her that she knew was familiar, but she didn't know if it was good or bad. It was confusing her.

"Suit yourself, but can I ask you to keep the noise down then. Some of us paying guests want to get some sleep!" the words harsh as she retreated back to her own room and slammed the door. So much for her good intentions!

'Fucking great! Try to help someone and they throw it in your face. That's the last time she was going to come to the aid of the frigid bitch in the future.' Jojo sank down on the bed and looked up at the cream ceiling.

Jojo had discarded her shirt when the door to her room burst open and in marched a furious Fleur Danvers shouting as she got closer to Jojo. "What do you mean keep the NOISE DOWN?"

The small woman had obviously lost touch with reality in her anger at the comment. It quite triggered Jojo's wicked streak and she looked at the woman and stood up to her six-feet and was inches from her.

"Ms. Danvers didn't anyone ever tell you it's polite to knock?" Jojo watched the realization of her actions cross Fleur Danvers face and it made Jojo smirk in satisfaction.

Fleur not only didn't know what to say, but she was facing a semi naked woman and this woman was definitely well endowed in the cleavage department.

"I usually invite people in my bedroom when I'm in this state of undress, not have them forced on me."

Jojo watched in fascination as the pink shade she'd seen in the bar now turned a beetroot red. It made the younger woman appear to take on a childish expression.

"I'm sorry, truly I'm sorry. I?I don't know what could have possibly got into me?" her voice broke and she put a hand to her mouth and stifled the sob that threatened to engulf her.

Jojo watched once again, the multitude of emotions that passed over the other woman's face, and knew now was not the time to push the younger woman. "Hey, sit down Ms. Danvers and I'll make you coffee. How do you take it?"

Fleur sank gratefully onto the side of the bed and gave the tall woman a watery smile of thanks. "White, no sugar."

"Coming up." Jojo set to work on providing the coffee and once she handed Fleur a cup filled with the hot liquid she sank down opposite her on the bed and drank from her own cup.

Fleur kept her eyes averted from the other woman, she was still naked from the waist up and for some reason that sent a shiver down Fleur's back and she didn't know why. The tall woman didn't seem to be embarrassed that a virtual stranger was seeing her half undressed.

Silence descended on the two women as they sipped from their respective coffees for several minutes. Finally Fleur broke the silence.

"I had some bad news, I'm sorry if my?my crying woke you up, I apologize." Fleur continued to avert her eyes from the other woman.

"I'm a light sleeper. If the cat was crying outside the window I'd be awake, curse of having acute hearing." she shrugged her well developed shoulders and smiled as she realized that the woman opposite her wouldn't look her straight in the eyes. Then she looked down at her state of undress and a smirk replaced the smile.

"Thank you, I'm sincerely sorry for breaking into your room." Fleur really couldn't believe she had actually done it, but she had she was sitting on the edge of the bed, and that proved it was reality.

"Well, I wouldn't call it breaking into the room. Let us say you thought there was a fire that needed to be taken care of." Jojo moved closer to the blonde and lifted her chin and smiled into the shy green eyes and as she did so, she thought she saw more behind the gaze. Ridiculous!

Breathlessly Fleur couldn't take her eyes from the steel blue that had captured hers. Her heart raced within the confines of her chest as she felt the heat of the woman so close to her.

"Why?why are you being nice to me?"

Jojo considered the question and she was about to answer sarcastically, but the look of trust she received from the green eyes convinced her otherwise.

"Let's say until you find another protector, looks like I'm still on the payroll and it's part of the contract to be nice." Jojo smiled engagingly at the younger woman and was rewarded with a dazzling one from the blonde. It quite took her breath away with its intensity.

"Who says I need a protector?" Fleur challenged half-heartedly.

"I do!" Jojo released the hold on the woman's chin. For some reason she felt as if her hand was burning where their skin touched, it was quite disconcerting.

"I can't afford to pay you." Fleur finally answered in a tentative voice.

"Who says I want payment?" Jojo felt slightly offended at the offer.

"Most would, and do." the woman's voice this time changed to a tone of bitterness not in keeping with the view that Jojo had of her.

"Not this time, it's free. Ms. Danvers take it while you can, why look a gift horse in the mouth?"

"In that case you better call me Fleur." She held out her hand to the taller woman in acceptance of the offer.

Jojo looked at the outstretched hand and smiled warmly, "Sure and you better call me Jojo. It stands for Joanna, but most call me Jojo."

"Do you mind if I call you Joanna, it's a beautiful name?" Fleur felt the heat stain her cheeks again this woman certainly did have a strange effect on her, but it wasn't an unwelcome effect.

Jojo was perplexed at the question and she shrugged her shoulders again. This time Fleur couldn't help but watch the large well-formed breasts move and the nipples had grown in their smooth brown background with the coolness of the room. It made her mouth suddenly go dry and she needed to leave the room quickly. Her body felt out of control, not to mention the thoughts that were going through her head at this moment.

"No, my mother is the only one who calls me Joanna. Haven't heard it in a while." Jojo saw the heightened color stain the blonde's cheeks. It gave her a cute look and made something in Jojo feel even more protective of her, not a feeling she was familiar with.

"I will leave you now and?and perhaps tomorrow you would maybe join me for breakfast?" Fleur asked her breathlessly as she moved away from the bed and placed the coffee cup next to the small machine.

Jojo gave her quizzical look at her haste to leave the woman was at the door as if she was being chased by a raging bull.

"I guess?what time is breakfast? I don't usually?well I work late," she trailed off and looked at the blonde who had partially opened the door to leave.

Fleur heard the hesitation from the tall usually confident woman without turning back to her she answered quietly. "As I've disturbed you, how about I say ten-thirty?"

Jojo was surprised that she was talking to the woman's back, but refrained from commenting. Maybe she would tease her in the morning at breakfast. "Sure, I'll see you at breakfast. Any particular venue you have in mind?"

"How about I meet you in the lobby and we take it from there?" Fleur said as she exited the room and turned slightly so that the door effectively shielded her from the woman's naked form.

"Works. Fleur will you be able to sleep now?" Jojo didn't want to pry into the reasons why the woman was so upset earlier, but that had been the reason for this get together anyway.

Fleur gave her a bright smile and nodded her head hearing a soft 'yes' to her question. "I'm glad." Jojo spoke quietly.

"Goodnight Joanna." Fleur replied in a soft tone as she closed the door to the room and went to her own, full of emotions that appeared to be crashing like waves within her mind and body.

"Goodnight Fleur Danvers." Jojo softly spoke to the empty room and sank down onto the bed and contemplated the ceiling once again. This time her mind full of the woman as previously, but the thoughts were remarkably different.

"A protector! Who the hell would have seen me as a protector? Breakfast as well, wonder if my hormones are telling me to settle down at last." Jojo said to the empty room, then chuckled as she thought of the alien concept of staying in one place. As sleep gradually claimed her, her mind drifted to a scene, comprising a figure with green eyes waiting and what it must be like to come home to someone who loved you, everyday for the rest of your life!

Scene: Breakfast

Fleur was pacing up and down the lobby it was nearly eleven. She wasn't sure if Joanna Lackerly had overslept, forgotten her, or decided against the invitation. What should she do? Should she go and knock on the door and ask? Should she just get back to work in the garden?

Stopping her pacing, she stared at the empty corridor that housed her guests room, she shook her head and gave a slightly bitter laugh and murmured to the empty lobby, "Why would the woman want to spend any time with me anyway? She was obviously popular with the men in town and that wasn't surprising, she is a very beautiful woman."

Her stomach was grumbling and Fleur felt a little sick. Normally she had eaten by eight in the morning, but she'd been far to nervous about this breakfast appointment that she had been unable to eat anything and had only managed one cup of coffee.

Finally making a decision, she retrieved a coffee from the lobby's small coffee urn and went over to a door marked private which led to her personal office and the outer door to the yard. Putting the coffee cup on the small table close by a wrought iron fancy chair, she sat down with a heavy sigh and looked around the yard full of blooming flowers and the sound of birdsong and little else. It created an area in Fleur's mind for relaxation and peace away from her problems. Closing her eyes, she tried to rid herself of the hurt she felt at the rejection from Joanna Lackerly, for that is exactly how it felt to her.

Jojo Lackerly skidded to a halt in the lobby and was disappointed that Fleur Danvers wasn't around. "Shit, I'm too late," she murmured.

Looking around the room, she couldn't help but feel angry with herself. She had awakened around ten and decided to snooze ten minutes more. That ten minutes had turned out to be forty-five and a quick shower and dragging on clothes still hadn't made up any time it was now eleven fifteen!

As she smelt the enticing aroma of the coffee that was always freshly brewed in the lobby, she had often wondered why Fleur Danvers would provide the service. For to the best of her knowledge she was the only guest. There hadn't been another soul in the place in the three weeks she'd been a resident here. It appeared to her a luxury that the woman could well do without considering her circumstances. Or at least, the circumstances that had been explained briefly to her that night she had rescued the younger woman in the bar. Moving over to the coffee maker, she selected her black coffee and added sugar, it was her necessary addition. Especially in some of the places she'd drunk coffee, but here she had to admit that she could give up the sweetener, but who cared? It wasn't as if she was overweight, far from it!

Sipping from the cup and relishing the taste of her first drink of the day, her eyes caught the blonde head of the woman she was suppose to have breakfast with sitting outside in the yard. It looked like she was also drinking coffee. Looking around for the door that led to the yard, she was frustrated to see nothing that would lead her there.

Then she decided that her only option was to knock on the glass pane that overlooked the yard. With a gentle strength she tapped on the pane of glass hoping that the woman would hear her. She wasn't too keen on hitting the pane harder. Knowing her luck, she might break it.

Fleur had been contemplating her aborted breakfast meeting. It had made her feel deeply melancholy. The drifter had certainly gotten under her skin and in a really big way.

Her upbringing had been reasonably stable and happy. Her mother had left her father when she was ten years old. Seemed she ran off with a 'salesman'? as her father had always called him. Her father had loved her dearly and he'd tried to make up for his only parent status. Sending her to the best schools in the county and eventually to the nearest University, not wanting her to leave home, but wanting her to develop her education. Unfortunately his gambling and drinking had brought about his ruin and they had quickly lost everything but the motel. When her father died, she'd been told that it was heavily mortgaged and George Andrews was ready to foreclose on the debt very soon. Her one hope had been as calculating as it may sound the insurance money from the lifepolicy her father had taken out. Her hopes had been dashed yesterday when the insurance company said they would not pay off the claim.

Now what did she do?

The sound of rapping on the glass of the lobby swiftly brought her head round to look at who was trying to get her attention.

For Fleur it was like the sunshine coming out after a rather gloomy dark start. She was starring into the steel blue eyes of the most improbable protector you could possibly hope to have. It brought her heavy heart soaring into the air.

Moving out of her chair hastily, she went back through the exit of her private office and into the lobby.

Jojo had watched the sadness on the blonde's face leave as soon as she'd locked glances with her. It was a profound feeling of relief that went through Jojo's chest at the resulting sweet smile she saw returned to her as the woman left the yard and within seconds appeared in front of her.

"Hey. I'm sorry I'm late. I overslept." Well that had been a partial truth anyway. She didn't exactly want to look stupid by saying she'd been lazy and decided to go back to sleep.

"That's OK. That's fine, I kind of wondered if that was the case. I did keep you awake after all didn't I?" Fleur was just so relieved that the woman had slept in and not ignored her invitation.

"I guess." Jojo smiled at her wryly and drank the remaining contents of her coffee and placed the empty cup on the counter.

"Would you still accept my invitation to eat? It might be more lunch now, but I'm sure that's more in keeping with your routine anyway?" Fleur asked tentatively.

Jojo looked at the nervous woman in front of her and subjected her to close scrutiny. There was something that drew her to this woman. She wasn't exactly sure why, but it wasn't an unpleasant feeling? more a familiar one, as if she'd always felt this?this protective mode over her. Weird, for she was sure they had never met and certainly she had never offered to protect anyone else in her life before.

"Lead the way Fleur. I could eat a horse." Jojo smiled engagingly at the smaller woman and watched in fascination, as the blonde seemed to lose her nervousness and gain confidence at those few words.

"Lucy's Diner is three doors down. How about there?" Fleur turned anxious green eyes to the blue ones to gauge her response to the suggestion.

"Great idea. I go there everyday. I think Lucy knows all my likes and dislikes in the food area by now." Jojo chuckled and went to stand by the smaller woman as she did so.

"Let's go then. Can't have you starving to death. Especially as you are my only paying guest." Fleur chuckled along side the beautiful woman and turned a faint shade of pink as Jojo held open the door that led to the outer street. Not only was she being protective, but she was chivalrous also.

As they walked amiably to the Diner, Fleur saw several local people, mainly men looking in their direction. One of them seemed to be especially interested as he watched them walk the few yards to the Diner. As they entered, Fleur saw him out of the corner of her eye move with speed towards the bank. Sighing heavily as she thought, 'That's all I need, another visit from George Andrews. It would only give me indigestion.'

"You okay?" Jojo had heard the heavy sigh as they entered the building and speculated as to the cause. Fleur gave her a weak smile in agreement.

Lucy Evans was a plump middle-aged motherly figure that had been the sole owner of the Diner for the last ten years since her husband Kent died of a heart attack. They had never been blessed with children. So everyone who used the diner frequently became a member of the family to her. She was also a very good cook as well.

When Jojo Lackerly had appeared in her establishment three weeks ago, she had looked the younger woman over and saw the arrogance and self-confidence that she exuded. Normally that type of person didn't do well in towns like this, but John-Henry had hired her to sing. From what she heard from others in town, she was certainly good at that. Although in this town, which was kinda starved of young women, she certainly did make a very stunning sight. Within a week, Jojo's eating habits had been deciphered and over the days, they had developed a friendly rapport.

Now the woman, who had all the young men champing at the bit to take her out on a date, was talking amiably with Fleur Danvers, the motel owner. Obviously they would know each other this being the only place in town that catered for guests? but to socialize?well now, that was a different matter altogether. No one had ever been seen socializing with Fleur Danvers in all the years she'd lived in the town. It was obvious that Andrews the banker had staked a claim on her and warned off the other men in town, but had anyone told this tall stranger that!

Chuckling at her thoughts she beamed at the two of them as they headed for the counter. "Hi girls. What can I do for you today?"

"Hi backatcha Luce. I'm having an early lunch with Ms. Danvers here?" Jojo said smiling at the friendly expression she received from the older woman. Her hand rested unconsciously on Fleur's shoulders as she did so.

Fleur was astonished at the friendliness that emanated between the two women. She was surprised, but happily so when she felt the larger hand of Joanna's rest with what seemed a natural occurrence on her shoulder.

"Well, I have the steak special that'd I'd recommend, but if you girls need something lighter well I can?."

"No. No that sounds good to me." Fleur jumped in to the conversation. She was starving and when Joanna had mentioned a horse it wasn't far short of what she felt she could eat too.

Jojo looked at her and smirked at the younger woman's speed at accepting the meal offered. "Then count me in also."

"How do you want the steak Ms. Danvers?" Lucy asked the blonde. It was rare she came into her diner. When she did, she always sat in the far corner away from prying eyes and scribbled in a notebook as she ate two helpings of apple pie and drank her coffee.

Fleur turned her green eyes to the older woman and grinned, "Well done for me Mrs. Evans."

"Well done it will be then. I don't need to ask you Jojo, medium rare about cover it?" Lucy sassed the taller woman.

"Yep. That about covers it. If you need me to help with the serving, give me a holler." Jojo said and guided the blonde over to the empty table in the far corner, strangely enough; it was the same table Fleur would have used had she come in on her own.

Intrigued Fleur posed the question. "Why did you choose this table?"

Jojo scanned the occupants of the room, three ranch hands it looked like, and Joey who washed glasses for John-Henry. "Ah, well I like to see everyone in the room? don't like surprises, but I also like my privacy and this affords both."

Fleur was astounded it was exactly why she liked the booth also.

"Yes, you're right about that. I sit at this booth when I come here also." Fleur mentioned and seated herself opposite the taller woman.

"Great minds then." Jojo said laconically and sat down with ease into the confined space that must be a little uncomfortable for her tall frame.

"Can I ask you a question?" Fleur tentatively asked.

"Sure, I can always refuse to answer if I don't like the question." Steel blue eyes pierced hers waiting for the question.

Fleur cleared her throat as she replied. "How old are you? When did you become a singer? Where are you originally from? Have you any family? Have you ever?." A slim finger was put to her lips to stop the questions and Fleur looked into twinkling blue eyes.

"I thought you said a question, not twenty?" Jojo couldn't help but laugh softly at the chagrined expression that crossed the blonde's face.

"Sorry, I guess I got carried away," she sheepishly replied.

"Yep, you sure did." Jojo traced a pattern on the cotton tablecloth and then smiled gently at the rather crestfallen face in front of her. This woman was cute, just like a child.

"I'm thirty-five. I've been singing since I could talk. Probably before then if you listen to my mother. I was born and raised in New York and have both parents living and a younger brother. I'm single, never been married and never likely to either with my track record." Jojo replied lightheartedly.

Fleur grinned at her, "Thanks."

"No problem. Now your turn." Jojo saw the trace of pink that shaded the otherwise pale cheeks.

"I'm twenty-nine, my parents split up when I was ten. My father's dead and my mother remarried and ironically lives in New York. I'm an only child. I can't sing to save my life. I'm single and have never married either." Fleur answered in a light tone reflecting her own ease with which she could talk to this woman.

"That gets the preliminaries out of the way at least. So what do you do for fun around here?"

"Fun? Fun well I?I suppose I write." Fleur answered self-consciously.

Jojo was interested now, "Write about what exactly?"

Fleur looked down at the table and picked up a napkin absently and twisted it as she answered. "Poetry and short stories, nothing very good? I tinker."

Jojo saw the nervousness reassert itself in the smaller woman. She smiled at her lack of esteem over her work.

"In that case would you allow me to read some of it so I can be the judge of it?" she asked quietly, and watched the blonde's head move. Jojo wasn't sure if it was a yes or no movement. Placing her larger hand over the one that had destroyed the paper napkin, "Can I take that as a yes?"

Fleur felt the warmth and surprising comfort of the hand on hers and it felt to her that it was right that she should trust her compositions to this woman.


"How about I buy lunch tomorrow and you can bring something along for me to read? What do you say?" Jojo pushed home her advantage.

Green eyes tangled with her blue and there was a message passed between them that neither woman understood. It wasn't threatening, but understanding in its content. "Okay I'll look forward to that."

Jojo grinned, "So will I."

Lucy chose that moment to call Jojo over to help with some of the dishes that accompanied the meal. Reluctantly she rose and did so. For the next hour they chatted together as old friends. When they left the diner it was clear to both women that no matter what happened next they had found within each other a friend, without a doubt, a good friend!


Chapter Five:

Scene: Unwelcome Visitor

George Andrews sat down heavily on the worn, but comfortable sofa in this surprisingly elegant motel that with a lick of paint on the outside would be very welcoming indeed. Not to mention, it might bring more people into town and stay rather than pass by and travel another thirty miles to the next town. Reniville was little better than here, but the motel was functional and it at least looked like it wasn't suffering from the depression.

Some of the local folks had wanted to help Fleur Danvers out and paint up the place when her father had died. However, he had used all his powers of persuasion to block any help to the woman. He had used devious methods, but effective nonetheless. The local folks had been mute on that point after he had some of his friends indicate that the bank might call in all the loans if help went in that direction!

Smirking as he remembered the faces of a couple of them notably John-Henry Bascome and Lucy Evans, both had supported the motion to help the young woman. At first others had agreed, but gradually and without explanation they had all withdrawn the offer of help. He couldn't touch either of them from the bank angle, but he sure could make it difficult for them to get help in this town.

Fleur Danvers was his! No one and nothing would get in his way to have her!

What aggravated him further was that she was eating with that whore singer from the bar. Why John-Henry had employed a drifter was beyond him, but he had an idea in that direction too! That bitch wouldn't get in his way either; no Fleur Danvers would marry him, and marry him soon it was cut and dried to him now.

The door to the motel opened and he heard the harsher tones of the drifter before he heard the tinkling laughter of the woman he was waiting for. That annoyed him further, what did that bitch do to make 'his' woman laugh?

"Who told you all those jokes?" Fleur had her face turned to the taller woman so she didn't see the portly figure of George Anderson watching her with an angry expression on his ruddy face.

Jojo had seen the expression and having the experience of seeing it aimed in her direction from others in the past, she knew exactly what it meant. Although, she seriously doubted the innocent woman in front of her did.

Smiling gently at the blonde she shook her head. "That would be telling, now wouldn't it?"

"Oh please Joanna?" Fleur asked with pleading green eyes and Jojo wanted nothing more than to answer her, but she knew that the man who had been pointed out to her by both John-Henry and Lucy was the 'bastard banker' as she termed him.

"You have a visitor." Jojo pointed out quietly to Fleur who turned as she saw where her friend's eyes had tracked. Smiling as she did so the smile froze on her face as she saw who her visitor was.

"Mr. Andrews what a pleasant surprise." Fleur said politely and her body posture suddenly became tense.

Jojo looked at the man as he moved slowly out of the comfortable chair. He appeared to roll out of it and she had to stifle a giggle as he did so. Then she discreetly glanced at her new friend and saw the tenseness emanating from her.

"Fleur my dear, I need to speak to you, privately." The last word resonated around the lobby area has his voice moved up a tempo.

Fleur knew she had little choice but to comply. However, she didn't want to upset her friend either, they had talked about having coffee in the yard together. Her body sagged at the thought of spending time with the man when she could be spending it with her new friend. Why was life being so unfair to her?

"Go ahead, we can take a raincheck on the coffee." Jojo supplied for her and was about to leave her and go to her room when she made a swift decision.

Placing a warm hand on Fleur's shoulder, she bent and whispered into the blonde's ear a few words. Saw the smile she wanted to see and left her to the man and his private words.

Fleur watched the receding back of the woman and she smiled gently at the sight. Joanna's words had made her feel safe and happier about the situation she was in. All she had said was, 'Remember, you have a protector,' simple words that had soothed her troubled spirits at the sight of the town banker. In her heart she felt that everything was going to be okay. If Joanna Lackerly was around, she knew she was safe and protected. What more could she want? 'She wanted-Love!'


Scene: A Proposal

George Andrews was watching the young woman nervously shuffling papers on her desk as he sat opposite her. This was something he was used to in his line of work. but to actually consider making a proposal of marriage in this environment was to him fitting.

"Fleur, I think it's time you considered your options in light that you will receive no further financial backing from any other party." Andrews said laconically.

"I don't understand." Fleur looked at him with innocent green eyes.

George Andrews shifted in his chair and gave her a shrewd glance.

"Fleur, I know that the insurance company has refused to pay out on your fathers death policy. That was obviously your final source of finance that could have saved the motel from the bank." Andrews said in a smooth smarmy overtone.

Fleur didn't like the man in front of her. She was polite primarily because he owned the bank and with that most of the town. But she disliked the way he greased round people. It made her skin crawl pretty much as it was right now.

"How would you possibly know that Mr. Andrews, as I was only informed about that yesterday myself?" Fleur was angry that he knew. And how did he know that was the most aggravating thing?

George Andrews cleared his throat and wiped the perspiration from his face. "That my dear young lady is my secret, but words travel fast in this town. So, Fleur what will you do to pay the bank back now?"

Fleur knew she would struggle. She didn't have any weapons left. She only had herself. Although she had ignored all the signs and the taunts from others, she knew that her body was all she had left.

"How long do I have left?"

"No time. In fact you should have paid up or been throw out months ago! There is a solution to all this of course." Andrews's piglet eyes looked at her and they strayed from her face to her full breasts and remained there.

Fleur snorted softly in disgust. " What solution would that be exactly?"

"Why my dear you know of course that I have always thought you a very beautiful woman. I have often asked you out on a date, to which you have refused so far. In the circumstances I propose, yes that's the correct word," he looked at her directly now and saw the expressive face take on a trouble look. "I propose that if you marry me the debt will be paid and you may keep the motel in the family so to speak."

Fleur knew it was coming. Hell, he didn't even need to marry her, he could use the mortgage on the motel for her bodily favor's if he so chose.

"If I said no?"

Andrews, swiftly for his size came around the desk and was so close to her, she could smell the faint cologne, he used, which in itself wasn't unpleasant, but with his perspiring body odor it was a very pungent smell. That made her stomach churn and she wasn't sure that she wouldn't release the meal she'd enjoyed with Joanna. 'Joanna?' the woman's offer of protection was a lifeline and she felt a sense of strength from her earlier words of support.

"Fleur, I would throw you out of here with the click of my fingers. After all, other than the drifter woman, would it really matter if the place closed temporarily? I think not. What would you do then? You have no money. Nowhere to stay. No means to earn a living except perhaps for?well my dear I would imagine my proposal is far better a fate than that!" Andrews sneered as he watched the green eyes fill with tears that she was trying desperately to hold within.

"Can I have the rest of the day to think about it?" Fleur finally managed to gasp out. She needed time to think.

Andrews saw that she was struggling and knew that she would say yes. He had wanted it to be now, but he could wait until this evening. "As you wish. But Fleur, please join me for a drink and dinner at the bar this evening. I will expect you at eight, please don't disappoint me." He reached out a sweaty palm to caress her cheek and she flinched at the gesture, he noticed it and gave her a smile of devilment.

"I will meet you at the bar at eight this evening and you will have your answer." Fleur said tersely.

Andrews nodded his head and walked out of the room without another word leaving the emotionally drained woman to dwell on her predicament.

Moving out of her chair she went over to the door that led onto the yard area and she went outside. Her mind was in turmoil. So it had finally come this; the only asset left of the Danvers heritage to be decided on her decision to marry the banker or not! Her mind and heart rejected the proposal as archaic and outdated, but her sense of family heritage was asking. No, pleading for her to consider the possibility to keep it in the family line as she may oneday have children.

Fleur let the hot tears cascade down her cheeks at the abhorrent thought. It wasn't the children, but who the father might be that was abhorrent to her. She simply did not see herself as the mother of George Andrew's children, nor did she see herself as his wife. For that matter, she did not see herself as the wife to any man. There just had never been anyone to touch her heart and she knew they would have to reach her heart for her to consider marriage.

Sinking into the seat in the yard that faced the wonderful array of beautiful flowers, she failed to notice a figure that watched her silently from a distance.


Scene: A decision of the heart

Jojo Lackerly watched the young blonde woman, who less than an hour ago had been bubbly and happy in her company, sharing jokes and stories without a care in the world. Or so it had appeared! The 'bastard' banker had turned up and wiped that beautiful smile immediately from the blonde's expressive face.

Jojo had never felt this protective about anyone ever in her life and she wondered why she did so now. In particular, what was it about the woman that called to her without words? Shrugging her shoulders she had starred out of the window onto the small yard with it's cascade of color and brimming over with the numerous pots and troughs of flowers in every imaginable shape and size or that's what it seemed to her. Not that she'd ever experienced this type of natural beauty in recent years. Her mother had green fingers and was always growing something or other in their small house. The very thought made Jojo smile as the memories of far of events that had rarely if ever invaded her thoughts before tumbled around in her head. She couldn't stop the trace of a smile they brought along with it.

Gazing over the yard, she noticed Fleur Danvers quickly made her way through the yard and after looking over her personal domain for a few minutes sank down heavily into the chair in the center of the yard and from her vantage point Jojo saw the woman begin to cry. Her face had the haunted look of someone who had the whole world on their shoulders and no one to share the burden with.

Hadn't she promised to be the woman's protector for the moment? So? why was it that the woman was crying? She felt helpless and unable to make the move to invade the smaller woman's privacy and ask why?

Jojo thought back to the previous night and her attempt to do just that, but this was different. Fleur had opened up to her, hadn't she?

Fleur had accepted her offer to protect her, hadn't she?

If that fucking bastard excuse for a man had laid a finger on Fleur she would see him in hell!

Then again what had it to do with her? She was a poor man's protector, but certainly not Fleur's keeper? that wasn't part of the deal.

Sometimes events that appeared simple to the eye could have the most far-reaching results on a person. You didn't even know about it until way after it had taken effect? and this was such an event.

Joanna Lackerly felt her heartbeat react with a fierce thumping in her chest. She realized that Fleur Danvers was a piece of the puzzle that she had missing in her life. She was the friend that Joanna had been looking for all her life. Who asked nothing of her other than to be around, and they could share things together. No pressure, no recriminations if things went wrong, nothing but a companionship and bond that would take them into the future together.

Watching from her distance, Jojo saw the tracks of tears on the pale features of the younger woman and the trembling lips that barely suppressed the sobs that a short time ago had been tugged into smiling broadly at her jokes. The profound sadness that secreted from the woman made Jojo heart sick on her behalf.

Not really knowing what to do, she picked up her guitar, which she had been idly strumming earlier and again took up that posture, her fingers going over the frets with the expertise of years of practice. A tune began to sound in the room as she quietly hummed along with it until unconsciously she started to sing along with the notes that emitted from the instrument.

You will not be defeated my love. Together we can vanquish the flames that want to set you ablaze.

I will always protect you no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. For you are the prize that I long to claim. You are the love that I continually crave.

You will not be overwhelmed my love. Together we can tame the waves that threaten to wash you away.

I will always protect you no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. For you are the prize that I long to claim. You are the love that I continually crave.

You will never be subjugated my love. Together we will safeguard the hope deep within and never loose faith.

I will always protect you no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. For you are the prize that I long to claim. You are the love that I continually crave.

You will never be humiliated my love. Together we will battle the rage that threatens to send you over that jagged edge called hate.

I will always protect you no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. For you are the prize that I long to claim. You are the love that I continually crave.

You made me your protector, your keeper of faith, to have your sanity whole. Together we travel the path that is set, never once with regret. For your love will always be the reason I step over hell itself to be there by your side.

I will always protect you no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. For you are the prize that I long to claim. You are the love that I continually crave.

The words died on Jojo's lips as her eyes had strayed repeatedly to the blonde crying in the open as she sang. With the final words, the picture that had been faint suddenly gained clarity and with a heavy sigh, she sank down into the depths of the bed and contemplated exactly what it meant to the rest of her life.


Chapter Six:

Scene: Revelations

Jojo hadn't seen Fleur since she'd fled the yard minutes after she had made a decision to see her. By then it had been too late and she had only encountered the old woman that had been with Fleur that first day she'd arrived at the motel.

Daisy eyed the tall stranger as she called her with a wary expression. "You want something Miss?"

Jojo looked at the small wiry figure in front of her and she wanted to laugh at the distinctly antagonistic stance the old woman was taking. Surely she knew that with the simple push of one arm she could knock the woman over.

"I was looking for Fleur?Ms. Danvers." Jojo saw the raised eyebrows at her familiar use of Fleur's name. Hell she thought that kind of attitude had died in the sixties, obviously not in this backwater.

"Miss Danvers is not to be disturbed?by anyone." Daisy answered and watched the younger woman with veiled interest.

"I was hoping that I was better than just anyone?" Jojo answered curtly and gave the old woman a keen glance.

"What makes you think that stranger?" Daisy was most definitely interested now.

Shrugging her shoulders Jojo decided that it was stupid to continue this conversation. Why should she explain herself to the hired help anyway? She would catch up with Fleur later. Perhaps after her set was finished and she had John-Henry let her leave early. "Doesn't matter. I'll catch up with Fl?Ms. Danvers later."

Daisy watched a disappointed expression cross over the beautiful if often-sullen features of the woman. There was no mistaking it, she was very beautiful. But it needed more than a beautiful face and body to make a beautiful person. Fleur Danvers had both a beautiful personality and the looks to go with it, and it had been an in-built beauty for her daddy sure didn't contribute to the woman's effervescent attitude, and that wayward mother of hers hadn't help any either. "She won't be in later, she has a date."

Jojo was taken aback by that fact? so much so, that she was speechless for a short time and had to shake her head at the thought. Suddenly realizing that the old woman was watching her like a hawk, she turned her blue eyes towards the woman and smiled slightly. "Well, in that event, I will catch up with her tomorrow." Jojo turned her back away from the woman; her mind was reeling at the thought that Fleur was going out on a date. But why should it?

"You give up easy stranger." Daisy spoke softly as she saw the tall back stiffen at the comment and the woman stopped in her tracks.

Turning back to face the old woman Jojo was astounded at the remark. " I don't know what you mean?"

"You not interested in who she's going out on a date with, especially if you think you are a friend?" her voice quietly inquiring.

"Sure?sure I am, who?" Jojo wanted to run to the room she had allocated and work out why her mind and body were sending her these strange signals. It didn't make any sense.

"George Andrews, do you know who he is?"

Jojo laughed scathingly. "Yeah, the fucking bastard banker!" The venom that was behind every word made the old woman not only cringe at the words used, but the power behind them.

Daisy managed to compose her laughter at the remark; it had been fairly accurate if a little too crude for her ears. "I wouldn't go so far as to call him that but?in the eyes of the beholder they say."

"I thought he was just a banker, not a suitor?"

"George Andrews has wanted that little girl since she was out of school. He will get her if she can't find a fitting suitor who can go up against him soon." Daisy supplied without prompting.

"Fleur can do better than that sorry ass!" Jojo replied with conviction.

"Ahh, yes. She could, but not all have George's assets shall we say." Daisy realized that she was perhaps saying too much and that she should for decorum's sake stop the gossiping. After all what could this woman do?

"What's that exactly? Wouldn't consider him much of a catch myself." Jojo said disparagingly as she gave the old woman a searching look.

Daisy gave back the searching look and what she saw in those blue eyes convinced her that the woman really didn't think much of him. So money obviously had no credence to the woman in her peripheral vision. "You have lots of money?" Daisy replied and watched the tall woman color up faintly.

"Who me?' At the nod from the old woman she smiled wryly. "No, otherwise I wouldn't be stuck in this town now would I?" Jojo said flatly and turned away again intent on heading to her room.

"Like I say you give up easily." The old woman's words rang in her ears, but this time she refused to return the challenge.

'Fucking money. So Fleur only went for the ones with money! She looks so sweet and innocent, but really she's just another gold digger.' Jojo thought as she open the door to her room and slammed it behind her in pent up frustration.

Daisy had watched the tall woman retreat to her room and by her very stance it was clear that the conversation had rattle her in a very profound way. Wonder why? Fleur hadn't mentioned that she knew the stranger with any familiarity, or that they had even passed more than a civil word. She would need to talk to Fleur and soon. If George Andrews had his way, Fleur would be whisked away and married to him by the weekend.

"Seems like we have a dilemma before us and in this town? it could get nasty." Daisy spoke softly to the empty lobby and went on her way to talk to her friend Lucy. Together they might come up with a solution.


Scene: If looks could kill

The bar was teeming with people, but it was a Friday evening. Once Joanna Lackerly had been installed as the resident singer at the establishment, the place was full, even some of the evenings during the week that traditionally were slow, now grossed a healthy sum.

John-Henry was glad he'd listened to the woman sing rather than pass her off as another hopeless drifter. She was very good and he wondered why she didn't try out in a much larger community, for he believed she would do very well. He had an idea about that and was waiting for a phone call.

Just at that moment the door to the bar opened and in walked the woman he had been thinking about. She was by far the tallest woman in the room and very possibly the most beautiful with her classical beauty. Only outshone in his eyes by Fleur Danvers, who was sitting pensively eating if you could call it that with the asshole banker Andrews. He shook his head at the melancholy thought of what her father had let his daughter suffer in the last few months. Perhaps she would suffer for the rest of her life if she ended up with Andrews. No other solution was at hand that he could see!

"How you doing tonight Jojo?" John-Henry asked with a smile, which changed to a frown as he saw the scowl that marred her face.

"No problem with me!" She spoke stiffly, defying the statement.

John-Henry had been impressed with this woman's sense of dry humor. However, something told him that tonight she wasn't in any good kind of humor? totally the opposite. He glanced to where her eyes were focused. If looks could kill, Andrews would be a dead man for sure.

"You got a problem with that corner?" The bar owner asked laconically.

Steel blue eyes turned to his he tried not to flinch at the glacial look that was set in his direction.

"No! Why do you ask?"

"Just wondered why you seemed so interested that's all?" The man continued to wipe at a beer stain that wasn't really there, as he felt those blue eyes bore into his neck.

"You told me that Fleur Danvers didn't like Andrews, that he had caused her nothing but trouble. And yet she is happily having dinner with him and I'd call that a date." Jojo spit out the words tinged with absurd hatred of the situation.

John-Henry paused in his inspection of the gleaming bar surface and considered what the woman before him had spit out. It made him smile slightly at her attitude and not only that, her very feeling in the words spoken sure smacked of 'jealousy, green eyed jealousy' to him.

"Yeah, that's true. Andrews has gone out of his way to make sure Ms. Danvers didn't get any help from anyone around here with her property."

"Did you offer to help her?" Jojo asked accusingly.

"Sure did! So did Lucy Evans at the diner. But we don't have the cash to help her and neither one of us is young enough to offer any physical help in the restoration of her place. It kind of petered out after some of them got threats from Andrews front men." John-Henry spoke softly and ensured that only she could hear the conversation. He wasn't that dumb as to let his own dislike of Andrews and his ways become common knowledge in town.

Jojo considered the words spoken and then turned her piercing blue eyes back to the corner table and was immediately looking directly into the black, or from this distance that was how they seemed, eyes of Andrews who looked her over with a taunting glance. The message he issued for her to see was plain, 'my property keep off!'

Jojo shrugged her shoulders at the glance and returned one with equal measure, 'She's no one's property, so fuck you!' The man turned away in disgust the message evidently hitting its target.

"I need to leave early tonight John-Henry. OK with you?" Jojo turned back to the man as she picked up her guitar ready to walk to the podium for her first set.

"Sure, but don't let the customers know or there will be a riot. And I can do without that you know." He gave her a wide grin and she smiled back at him.

"They will get their monies worth I promise you that." Jojo returned and then walked quickly to the podium to resounding handclaps from the young men standing close by.

Fleur Danvers turned her head slightly and saw her new friend walk onto the podium that had been erected for her. Joanna Lackerly was really quite stunning as she strode confidently towards the stool that was perched on the podium and settled her tall frame, then absently strummed a few chords. Her long hair falling over her face and it to Fleur made her fingers itch to move away the bangs that fell in front of her eyes.

"Your only guest appears to have charmed most of the men in this town." George Andrews said to Fleur as he saw where her eyes now focused and it certainly wasn't on him.

Fleur gave him a distracted look and then turned her eyes to the audience that had enclosed the woman. "Yes, it does appear so." She replied softly.

"My dear, you have my company now. What more do you want but that?" George Andrews replied in a semi-flippant tone.

Fleur found swallowing hard as she tried to digest what the man opposite her had said. He was right there really was no contest. What she wanted was to be standing watching the woman who was about to start singing not looking at his satisfied smug face. "I'd like to listen to Ms. Lackerly sing George. If you don't mind of course?" Fleur replied politely.

George snorted and gave her a shrew glance and then nodded his head, "Yes, good idea my dear. I hear she's quite tolerable."

"I hear she's very good." Fleur remarked sharply and turned away from him to watch Joanna as she began her intro to the first song.

"Someone once said that a friend was worth a fortune if they remain a friend through the good and bad, well this song is about that very thing," Jojo stated and the echoes of the guitar rang out in the room.

When you said you would be there for me I believed you. When the darkness came and no one was around to shed the light you brought a torch and showed me what it was all about.

You support me, you have faith in me, you hold my hand and you will cry with me. And when the time comes, you will provide a smile for me. You are my invaluable friend.

When you saw me fail, you picked me up, dusted me off and told me to try again. You never talked, you just grinned and made me smile all over again.

You support me, you have faith in me, you hold my hand and you will cry with me. And when the time comes, you will provide a smile for me. You are my invaluable friend.

When I told of my loves you listened and gave your approval with a glance. Never wavering in that look, no matter if the love never took, it was there unfailingly just for me.

You support me, you have faith in me, you hold my hand and you will cry with me. And when the time comes, you will provide a smile for me. You are my invaluable friend.

As I grow older I know that no matter where in the world you are, you will always be the shoulder that I cry on, the shoulder that I laugh on, the shoulder that I rely on. You will be the one thing that remains constant; you will be simply my friend.

You support me, you have faith in me, you hold my hand and you will cry with me. And when the time comes, you will provide a smile for me. You are my invaluable friend.

Jojo sang to the crowd and never let her eyes stray to the table that held her thoughts. She had no idea that the blonde woman was watching her in fascination and had tears brimming in expressive green eyes.

As she struck up a much faster tempo, Jojo sang several songs that appealed to the general crowd. At one time during her strutting around the podium, she glanced in the direction of the table that housed the woman she couldn't get out of her mind and saw her deep in conversation with the man that brought nothing, but hatred to her gut.

She turned away and sang to some of the regulars.


Chapter Seven:

Scene: Answer to the question

Fleur had been entranced by the sultry voice of her friend and it made her wonder what she was doing here opposite this man. Who if she really admitted it to herself, she didn't like in the slightest as a person, never mind as a potential husband. God she felt like laughing and she had always known her father had a keen sense of humor, but did he have to continue it after his death?

"My dear Fleur, I asked you a question earlier, which I'm sure you recall. It was after all a very simple question that needs a very simple answer." George Andrews had watched the young woman before him simply take on a glow as she watched that whore drifter sing? it had made his blood boil in anger.

Fleur had made a decision as she left the motel that evening and it had been all cut and dried. Yet, now, now! She didn't know what to say. It really wasn't that cut and dried after all.

"Yes, it does require a simple answer." Fleur replied her voice held a desolation that would have tugged at most people's heartstrings.

But not Andrew's, he had anticipated this moment for so long now that it was better entertainment than the woman singing, although he grudgingly admitted that she was good.

"Well, I'm waiting?" he said and leaned his hefty body towards her.

Fleur felt as if her whole life was hanging by a thread.

Minutes ticked by and the sounds of the up tempo music did nothing to relieve the eerie silence that surrounded the table that Fleur was seated at. Fleur felt like a trapped animal that had no chance of escaping. She gulped and closed her eyes before she finally answered the question.

"As this is primarily to do with a business proposition, would the marriage be a business situation also?" Fleur finally asked grimly.

George Andrews gave her a crooked smile and his small indented eyes looked her body over with a calculated look. "If you wish to view it like that Fleur than yes?yes in many ways, you could consider it so. You get to keep your precious motel and I?I get to have a wife in my bed? a willing wife, not a frigid one I might add."

Fleur turned her attention momentarily to her new friend who was singing and moving among the men who certainly relished the attention. "Will the deeds be in my name only?"

Andrews shifted a little in his chair at the question; he had hoped she wouldn't ask that particular question. "But of course my dear, of course." he lied.

Releasing a heavy sigh she turned none to bright eyes to him and stated simply. "You have a deal Mr. Andrews," her tones flat and totally devoid of any emotion that should have been present at the acceptance of a marriage proposal.

George Andrews was a little disappointed by her cold answer. But he had the result he'd been craving for months, or was it years? "Thank you Fleur and in the circumstances I would prefer you to call me George. Whatever would people think if you still called me that now that we are engaged."

Fleur considered the remark and shook her head slightly giving him a small smile, her thoughts very clear on that particular question. "They would think I didn't much care for you MR. Andrews!' "As you say George."

George Andrews called over on of his entourage that always appeared with him when he wasn't in the bank's premises. It so happened to be the very man that had tried to buy her a drink a few weeks ago. "Tony see Bascome and get him to bring over the champagne and two glasses, we have an engagement to celebrate. Ah, and Tony have Bascome give everyone a free drink in the place. The rounds on me, especially the singer? most definitely the singer. Better still, get Bascome to invite her to our table to celebrate our good fortune once she's done." He watched the man retreat at the words then turned his attention to his new Fiancée.

"My dear, I'm sure your new 'Friend' will want to toast your happiness now wouldn't she?" his voice sarcastic as he gave her a keen glance.

Fleur kept her head down. She didn't want Joanna to hear about this from anyone but her. Now that was out of the question. It made her heart feel as if it was breaking. 'Joanna wouldn't understand. No she wouldn't and if I really analyzed my own thoughts, I don't understand it either. My god what have I done!'

George Andrews wasn't interested in the answer anyway and placed his hand over the small woman's hand on the table and felt its fragility. He could crush it under his with ease. But that wasn't his aim. No, now, to crush her spirit that was more appealing to him. Oh, yes, very appealing. He continued to smile in satisfaction and waited for the champagne.

John-Henry Bascome was astounded that Fleur Danvers had given in to Andrews's intimidation, for he was pretty damn sure that was what is was. He retrieved the ice-cold champagne and the two flute glasses and placed them on a silver tray that he had polished for special occasions. He supposed this warranted it, but something definitely wasn't right at all.

"Hey, John-Henry get a move on, the boss will be roasting my nuts if you keep him waiting. If he does that I sure won't let you forget it either!" Tony Reed said nastily and slammed his fist on the polished bar to make sure the bar owner understood the point.

"Keep your hair on Tony, Andrews will want it presented just so, if I know him. Waiting that extra couple of minutes isn't going to change things any is it?" John-Henry looked over at the smiling man and the averted face of the young woman who had finally said yes to his proposal. Damn shame? if he'd been twenty years younger!

"Oh! Get on with it will ya? Can't understand why he bothers so much with the frigid bitch. Let's face it she isn't exactly the warmest woman in town. Her and that singer you have make a fine pair if you ask me. She's about as accommodating as an icicle." Tony Reed jeered and turned his narrow gaze to Jojo Lackerly who was finishing up the set to great applause.

John-Henry couldn't help the small smile that graced his worn features at the comment; never a truer word said they say. "Could be, but then again icicles under the right temperature are known to thaw. It depends who holds the right temperature I guess." The older man spoke obscurely and the younger one just shook his head and scowled.

"Come on John-Henry, I haven't got all day. Oh! And talking of icicle lady over there, the boss said to get her to come over to the table for a drink with them after she's done. Boss doesn't take kindly to a no. You might tell her." He picked up the tray and sauntered back over to Andrews table leaving John-Henry slightly disconcerted at the request.

Jojo Lackerly leisurely walked over to the bar and sat down on a stool vacated by an eager ranch hand hoping to impress her. She gave him a smile that didn't reach her steel blue eyes and sat down heavily upon it. "I'll have a beer and then I'm out of here John-Henry if that's okay with you?"

The bar owner smiled at her briefly and finished serving a couple of people who had heard there was a free round of drinks being given, then came over to her and tugged at his chin. "Ok with me Jojo, but I've had a personal request for your company."

Jojo looked at him with raised eyebrows. "I don't DO personal requests for anyone. Thought you knew that?" her tone scathing.

"Yeah, sorry. Wrong choice of words. Andrews the banker would like you to join him and Ms. Danvers to celebrate over a glass of champagne." John-Henry replied softly and watched the blue eyes cloud over momentarily and shift to the corner table her eyes glaring with dislike.

"As I said, I don't do personal requests?for anyone!" Jojo moved from her stool and was close to the young man who had vacated the seating for her only minutes earlier.

"You never asked what they were celebrating?" The man said softly.

Jojo snorted and turned a glacial expression to his concerned one and raised her eyebrows. "Okay. What are they celebrating?"

"Andrews and Ms. Danvers have just become engaged this very evening. Wonderful news wouldn't you say?" He waited for her reaction.

Jojo felt that someone had punched her in the diaphragm and it was difficult to breathe. 'No way! No fucking way was Fleur engaged to the bastard. She didn't even like him.'

"Pull the other one John-Henry, what would she want to marry him for?" Breathing ragged and finding the bar claustrophobic she wanted out as quickly as possible.

"I explained the situation to you remember?" The man said softly. He saw hurt and disillusionment in the steel blue eyes. Maybe Fleur Danvers was the temperature that Jojo (Icicle) Lackerly responded to, now that was interesting. Wonder if the same could be said the other way round.

"Yeah, yeah sure you did!" Jojo stammered giving him a strange vacant look.

"He doesn't take kindly to people saying no to him you know." John-Henry reminded her about the invitation gently.

Jojo looked around in a disinterested fashion and her eyes met the young man's who was had gallantly offered her the stool. He couldn't be more than a boy really. Barely out of diapers in the adult world anyway, but he'd do.

"Hey, want to join me in celebrating a 'friend's' engagement?" Jojo flashed her impossibly long lashes at the man who beamed at her. Was this the invite all the men in town had been angling for and he was finally on the receiving end.

"Sure?sure." He stuttered out and looked at her with a devoted expression.

'Jesus, did men only ever think with their dicks?' Jojo thought as she snaked a long arm around his shoulders and placed a warm kiss on his surprised lips as she led him towards the corner table.


Scene: No words would ever be enough

Jojo had practiced at keeping men attentive and the wolf whistles that accompanied her and the young man as they made a very public display of kissing on the way towards the corner table, made for a very interesting sight. Not the least of which was to the young man himself who was astounded at the sexual attack of the woman dubbed 'icicle'. He for certain was never going to call her that!

"I see your new 'friend' is proving the old saying about how free and easy these singers are with their favor's." George Andrews said with I told you so smug expression on his pudgy face.

Fleur turned to see where he was looking and her heart stuck in her mouth as she saw Joanna Lackerly kissing a man as they made their way towards the corner table, it was a very passionate kissing session too! She didn't know how to answer that and yet she wanted to refute the situation as ridiculous.

Jojo and her man arrived at the table and those steel blue eyes glanced coldly in Fleur's direction and then gave the man opposite her an even colder look if that were possible. "You wanted to buy me a drink according to John-Henry."

"Yes, that's right. As you and my future bride appear to be friends, I thought you might want to toast our good news?" Andrews said slowly and watched the tall woman for any change in her expression.

Jojo gave out a howl of laughter at the words and smiled sickly sweet at the man as her hand clutch around the boy she still had her arms around. If she had been watching his face, she would have seen the grimace of pain he gave at the strength of the grasp.

"Whatever gave you that idea, Ms. Danvers and I are merely acquaintances as we share the same building at night." Jojo said sarcastically.

"Well, in that case, what's your poison?" Andrews said quietly, knowing that something had rattled the tall woman, it was in her very stance and he was pretty sure that he was responsible. It made him feel even better than when Fleur Danvers had finally succumbed to his wishes.

"If I tell you that, I'd be dead tomorrow, now wouldn't I?" Jojo stated, giving him a piercing glance.

"If you say so, but I was merely asking what drink you would like to celebrate our engagement. Isn't that so darling? Now, what will it be?" He gave her a shrewd glance and then turned towards Fleur, who refused to look in either of their directions.

Fleur cringed at the words and wanted to do nothing more than crawl into a ball and hide away somewhere safe. She felt ashamed that she had finally given in to the pressure of this man, and that she had let down the only person who had backed her up and wanted nothing in return. It wasn't fair! What had she ever done in the past to make her go through this? It really was so unjust. "Yes, Mr. An?George, yes George that's correct." Her voice sounded very small to her ears. She doubted that she had even been heard.

Jojo had heard and looked at the small woman who looked far from the happy woman who had just accepted an offer of marriage. 'Why? Why was she marrying for money? If John-Henry's meager explanation was anything to go by, she was marrying this bastard to keep her motel. What a fucking waste. Couldn't she just go do it someplace else and not marry someone she didn't love? and by the looks of it didn't even like much.'

"Sorry but?.' she turned to the young man at her side. "What's your name?" She whispered into his ear, but it was clear that all around the table knew what she'd asked. He whispered back to her and she smiled at him and gave him a swift kiss on the mouth. "Sam and I have other business. Maybe another time." Jojo turned away quickly and pulling the startled young man called Sam with her left the bar.

George Andrews turned to Fleur and with a wicked smile said, "Told you so my dear. The woman didn't even know his name. She will probably not even waited to get to a bed before she has her way with him."

Fleur couldn't help it, but her eyes filled with tears at the thought and she brushed them aside quickly. Not bothering to answer the man opposite her, she drank from the champagne and wondered if getting drunk would make her feel better. She didn't much think so, but it was worth a try.


Jojo sank heavily down on her bed half an hour later and tried to understand why she cared so much about Fleur Danvers engagement. It wasn't as if they were good friends was it? Hardly more than strangers really, but she had thought the woman had more backbone, she really had.

Sam Castor, the boy she had used as a ruse to get her out of the bar had been diverted from what he thought was going to be a long night, into a serious of long kisses and some hollow promises. Jojo knew that she wouldn't be going through with any of them. He'd been a nice kid though and he was too wet behind the ears to know any different. Well, he was going to get an education in fickle women without a doubt.

What she really needed about now was some strong liquor. She'd been keeping a bottle of scotch in the bottom of the wardrobe for such an occasion. She had been kind of pleased with herself that she hadn't hit the bottle before now. But things had been going well, too well obviously.

Pulling out the new bottle, she twisted off the cap and immediately her nose wrinkled at the aroma. She actually hated the smell, but once you got over the first drink, it grew on you.

After her fifth shot of the scotch, she heard the soft footfalls of the woman she had been thinking non-stop about since arriving back in her room.

The steps slowed and Jojo was sure that Fleur was going to knock on the door and explain what the hell was going on. After all, she had offered her services as protector and she was pretty damn sure Fleur needed protecting from Andrews.

Then the steps proceeded onwards the few short yards to her room and the door creaked opened and was closed slowly.

Jojo closed her eyes at the sound of the door being shut on any conversation between the two of them. 'Damn woman was playing with her and she didn't even know it!'

Reaching for the half empty glass, she filled it to the brim and swallowed it in one go. The scotch burning her throat, but having the dulling desired effect.

Jojo refilled the glass and looked at the bottle in her hand that was now three-quarters empty, with the next glass she was bound to sleep.

It was time! Time to leave this hack town and it's residents! Or was it one resident in particular? What did it matter it was time to leave!


Continued in Part 2.

The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive