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Chapter 18

Jamie started putting in extra hours at the publishing company and took on an extra night, driving the limo. One night she overheard her clients talking about a courier service and the good money it paid. All though it was unprofessional of her, she had asked for more information from the gentlemen, which they gladly provided. Jamie went to see the person in charge and after a lengthy question and answer session, she was offered the job. The work was simple; she would make three hundred dollars a trip to transport packages to different locations throughout the country, usually to the bigger cities like DC, New York, Chicago and Dallas. The airline tickets were paid for by the company, business class but she didn’t really mind. Even though the seating was cramped for her tall frame, she had a method of passing away the uncomfortable hours. She would close her eyes and think of her little, Irish beauty and the life that every dollar she was making, brought them closer to.

Erin was delighted that Jamie was once again concentrating on her goal, because she knew it had been neglected since they had met. She encouraged Jamie as much as possible, but she didn’t realize that this new job was going to consume every Saturday. That drastically cut into their time together. Jamie wouldn’t return to the beach house until late on Saturday night and be so exhausted, that all she could do was take a quick shower and fall into bed. Several times she had fallen asleep under the warm, relaxing stream of water and was caught by a deceptively strong pair of arms and guided into bed.

After seven straight weeks of holding down three jobs, the toll on her health was beginning to show. There were dark circles under her eyes, her skin lacked its normal healthy glow and lack of time on her exercise regiment had caused her strength and energy level to dwindle. She continued to proclaim that she was fine, even after hearing not only Jamie’s concerns, but also Bridgett’s and those from a co-worker at the limo company.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving was the final straw for Erin. It was 10:35 and Jamie still wasn’t home. She always called from the airport to say she was on her way, but this time she hadn’t. Erin was nearly frantic. She had contacted the airport and was told that the flight had arrived on time. But that didn’t mean Jamie had even been on the plane. She could still be in Dallas. Maybe she’s hurt, she thought nervously. Erin knew she was Jamie’s emergency contact, so she would have heard something by now surely. But still she could have been... Erin’s frightened mind, went through half a dozen horrible scenarios from auto accidents, to kidnapping, to violent crimes and each one made her heart beat faster, threatening to leave her chest in a bloody burst. Artemis picked up on her human’s anxiety and joined her in the pacing, near the front door.

Suddenly she heard heavy wheels roll down the gravel and stop in front of the house. A giant exhale of breath signaled her relief and she waited for Jamie to get to the front door, so she could read her the riot act. Several minutes passed and her nerves went on alert again. A terrifying thought struck her. What if that wasn’t Jamie’s car? How do I know who could be out there waiting. Erin grabbed her aching chest and took several very deep breaths. Her options were to stay inside her secured house and wait for Jamie to arrive, if she was coming at all. Option two, call the police, but that too, and would take time. Artemis was the third option. The dog was highly trained to defend her human against any threat and Erin trusted her implicitly. With the decision made, Erin flipped on the extra floodlights outside the house and bent down to give her faithful friend, instructions. "Arte go check outside for intruders." She opened the door just wide enough for the big dog to squeeze through and gave the formal command, "Search!"

The canine barreled down the stairs and briefly sniffed around the bushes in the small front yard before moving on to the car. She circled the large vehicle, keeping her nose to the ground, smelling for danger. Approaching the driver’s side, the big dog reared up and put two huge paws against the tinted window, which was half way down. She couldn’t quite reach the occupant inside, but she took many thorough sniffs then barked loudly, three times. The driver merely groaned and pivoted their head to the other side. More barks.

Inside, Erin listened for a sign. The responses she heard from Artemis didn’t indicate any trouble, but she was still cautious, once again cursing her blindness. When she heard Artemis return, she opened the door and let her in. "What is it girl? I know someone’s out there." Erin drew up her courage, grabbed the dog’s collar and opened the door. She shuddered when the slightly chilled air hit her skin, unexpectedly. The wind was particularly strong and the rustling of nearby bushes and trees contributed to the eeriness. She crept down the five stairs, keeping a tight hold on her friend, as they moved on to the driveway. Artemis pulled harder, determined to take her human where she was needed. Erin’s hip soon touched the front bumper and she felt along the side of the car. When she reached the door handle she hesitated. She pulled back for a second to reign in her nerves. Arte gave an urgent bark and nudged her hand again. As if a heavy cloak had been removed from her inner self, the fright slipped away and that freedom allowed her to immediately sense Jamie’s presence and the trouble surrounding her. Erin dropped the leash and tore the door open with both hands. "Jamie! Jamie! What’s wrong?" She practically climbed onto the woman’s lap. The steering wheel was digging into her lower back as she searched for first a pulse, then any injuries the tall woman might have.

Jamie moaned and groggily pushed the intruding hands away. "Leave me alone," she mumbled. "Haven’t I hurt you enough. Stay away from me."

"Come on Jamie, it’s me Erin. Talk to me sweetheart. Hear my voice, please. You’re burning up," she said upon landing on a hot forehead. She lightly slapped Jamie’s face to rouse her from her delirium.

The sweet, angelic voice slowly penetrated the feverish haze, clouding Jamie’s mind. "Erin? Is that really you?"

Erin smiled and pulled the big woman into a crushing embrace. "Yes, sweetheart it’s me. Come on, we’ve got to get you inside." Erin pulled the older woman up and out the door.

With her first step, Jamie’s knees buckled, but her lover’s strong grip saved her from a fall. "I love it when you call me that," she murmured as her warm face rested against the sweet smelling, blonde hair. "When you call me sweetheart, my insides melt. No one ever called me that before and meant it. I love you Erin."

"I love you too, sweetheart." Erin walked slowly toward the house. She needed both hands to hold onto her weakened partner, but Arte stayed glued to her human’s side and guided them to the stairs. "Jamie, honey we have to climb the stairs now. Can you do that?"

"Honey, I’m not drunk, just tired. I’m sorry I fell asleep in the car. I must have scared you. I’m really sorry."

The three managed to navigate the stairs with only one small misstep. Once inside the house, Erin’s confidence returned and she took them straight up to the bedroom. Jamie limply fell onto the bed, like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Erin pulled the sweaty clothes from the tall body and bundled her up in the blanket. When she felt the shivering emanating from the huddled mass, she retrieved another heavier blanket from the closet and piled it on. She reached down to kiss a warm cheek. "I’ll be right back, sweetheart." Erin returned from the bathroom with a thermometer, with audio reading, a glass of water and a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. She managed to get the groggy woman into a semi-upright position and got two of the capsules into her with only a tiny amount of spilled water. She then placed the hand held device into Jamie’s ear and waited a few seconds for the beep. The number, while still cause for concern, wasn’t as bad as she had feared. In spite of the late hour, she called her personal physician.

"Hello," answered the tired voice.

"Anne, its Erin. I hope I didn’t wake you."

"No, actually I was just trying to wind down from a long day, before trying to sleep. What’s up, are you sick?"

"No, but my partner is. She has a temperature of 101. She’s been working herself to the extreme for the last several weeks. And I know she hasn’t been eating right or sleeping well. I gave her something for the fever and she’s sleeping right now, but I’m still worried about her."

"I know, I can hear it in your voice. It sounds like its just exhaustion, but she may have picked up a bug in her run down state. Keep giving her the Tylenol every four hours and watch her temperature. If it goes any higher call an ambulance and then call me back. Get her to drink as much liquids as possible and keep her warm. I’ll come out to your place tomorrow about eleven and check her over. If you have any more questions please call me. And get some rest yourself. I’ll see you tomorrow Erin."

"Thanks a lot Anne. Bye." She hung up the phone, flopped back onto the bed beside Jamie and just lie there a while, recovering from the events of the evening. She wasn’t afraid of falling asleep. In spite of what the doctor had said, her concern for her sick lover would see to that. A few minutes later she got up, secured the house, praised Artemis with a treat for her good work and changed into her pajamas. She slipped under the covers after setting the alarm. The heat, Erin felt radiating from the other woman, still scared her and she was tempted to wake her just to hear her voice, but she settled for curling around her and placing a protective hand across the warm stomach so she could feel every breath.

The alarm rang. The tall woman hadn’t moved a muscle in four hours, neither had Erin’s hand. Jamie’s breathing was steady and she seemed a little cooler. A quick check and the thermometer confirmed that her temperature had dropped to 100. Although she hated to bother the sleeping woman, Erin gently caressed her face and called out her name. It took several tries before the glazed, blue eyes twitched open.

Confusion wrapped around Jamie as tightly as the blankets covering her over heated body. But through the lethargy, she felt the comforting presence that soothed her. "Erin?"

"Yes sweetheart, it’s me." Since Jamie’s confession the night before, Erin was determined to use the endearment as often as possible.

"What’s going on? How did I get here?" asked Jamie, peeling away the confining material.

"Honey, you’re sick. Don’t you remember passing out in the car, when you got here last night."

The dark head shook. "No, I didn’t pass out, I just fell asleep."

"No sweetheart, you passed out. You were exhausted and that didn’t help, but you had a temperature of 101 and you still have a fever." Erin pushed the thin blanket off of herself and reached to the nightstand. "Here." She handed two more pills and a glass of water to the sick woman. "Take these. I’m going to go get you some juice."

Tired blue eyes glanced at the clock by the bed, as she swallowed down the medicine. The slightly unfocussed numbers read 3:05. "You don’t have to do that baby. It’s late just come back to bed."

Erin fluffed up the pillows behind the tired woman and gave her a quick kiss. "Yes, I do. I’ll be right back."

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